The Value of the US Embargo on Cuba

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

The Havana Libre Hotel. Foto: Elio Delgado Valdés

HAVANA TIMES — It looks as though the US blockade/embargo policy towards Cuba is going to be relaxed considerably in the near future. This policy, set in motion by President John F. Kennedy, was aimed at bringing about the overthrow of the Cuban government, and came into place following the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion carried out by Cubans equipped and trained by the CIA. The aims of the embargo are summarized by the well-known State Department document drawn up by Lester Mallory:

“The majority of the Cuban people support Castro. There is no effective political opposition (…) The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection and hardship… every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba (…) a line of action which (…) makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

These actions, undertaken by US imperialism, would have serious consequences for Cuba and the rest of the world. Now that the winds of change seem to be blowing, we should draw up a balance of their results. The decision to do away with these policies made by US President Barack Obama will be seen by many as proof of their failure. This will be underscored by pro-government politicians and philosophers in Havana, who are congratulating themselves for their “victory.” US sources that speak of “changes to failed means” will concur with them, from a different perspective.

People who consider themselves left-wing, however, ought to be slightly less triumphalist and avoid falling into the traps of the Right. The latter knows how to renew itself incessantly and conceal the successes it secures through the most sinister methods.

From an alternative and entirely plausible point of view, we could regard the embargo as a successful policy. The fact its most visible components are being dismantled could be interpreted from the perspective that its main aims have been reached and it is disadvantageous to maintain them under current conditions.

The United States began plotting the overthrow of the Cuban government as of 1959. US properties on the island were nationalized in a conflict-ridden process. Havana snatched the ability to exploit the island’s resources from US imperialism. In addition and with the far from selfless support offered by the Soviet Union, Cuba became an international bastion that was held up as an example of the anti-imperialist struggle and defiance of US power. Given the circumstances, US capitalism was not interested in negotiating compensations similar to those obtained by other powers with interests that were nationalized in the country. Cuba had to be “punished”, such that its failure and misery could serve as an example for the rest of the world.

What happened with the objectives of the embargo as time went by?

Let us revisit that objective: “alienating internal support through disenchantment and disaffection and hardship.” Cuba’s current migratory outflows are depriving the country of the most capable and motivated generations, discontent with their local prospects. Cuba’s political and grassroots organizations have been worn down immensely, as the official newspapers acknowledge. State employees are not as productive as the State would want, and they make up for their low incomes through dealings in the black market. It seems the aim of decreasing “monetary and real wages” was also reached.

Needless to say, the ineptness of Cuba’s leadership in terms of governance and economic planning contributed greatly to these disastrous results. We will never be able to agree about which of the two factors had a greater impact in this regard. We should also not forget that many of the disastrous decisions were made under the noxious influence of this hostile environment. A rather significant part of the population, in fact, accepted policies that repressed their liberties on noting the latent threat of US intervention on the island.

Clearly, the US government didn’t care about the Cuban people one bit, willing as it was to subject it to “hunger and despair.” That was acceptable to Washington as long as this prompted the overthrow of the government. What people actually did was board makeshift vessels and risk their lives crossing the Strait of Florida. Ninety miles away, marvelous conditions for immigrants existed. It would seem this last objective, that of overthrowing the government, was not reached…or was it?

What capitalists are interested in is not what a neighboring government calls itself but the ability to reap the fruits that grow in that “backyard.” A government that closed the doors on Washington had propped up in its backyard, but, if that government kindly reopens those doors, the main reason to seek its overthrow disappear. In addition, the blockade policy was making Washington look bad, what with the story of David and Goliath and things of the sort. Now that David has made all of the desired concessions and reopened the country to foreign exploitation, offering its resources and workers, now that it no longer supports revolutionary class movements around the world, Goliath no longer needs to wield such an ugly-looking club. The government that came to power in 1959 was not overthrown, but its initial policy was.

The blockade/embargo should never have been established in the first place, for it prolonged a long-standing US policy of intervention in Cuba. It led to an unjust and genocidal hostility aimed at causing human suffering in the name of political ends. This has been recognized by most important diplomatic organizations in the world, but the United States has never acknowledged its faults in this regard. If the blockade were to come to an end now, will it be because it failed, or because most of its objectives have been reached? That is not such an easy question to answer.

14 thoughts on “The Value of the US Embargo on Cuba

  • January 13, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    The blockade was simply an order that any products and services provided by a U.S. company HAD to be paid in full before shipment left the U.S. port!!

  • January 12, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    There is strong desire for democracy in Iraq and Egypt, but it is a hard struggle. Not only must the people confront their own rulers, they must confront the power of the imperialist countries that have always supported the corrupt rulers in Iraq and Egypt.
    For those who are interested, I recommend The People Want, by Gilbert Achcar.

  • January 10, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Iraq and Egypt are overwhelmingly Muslim states and as such will never be democratic.
    Islam requires total obedience and Islam is a way of living life and not just a go-to-church-on Sunday religion .
    Its totalitarian ways carry over into the Islamic nuclear family structure as is plainly evident .
    They are also strongly pro-capitalist and not only have never experienced democracy but really have no use for it.
    In this they are much like the preponderance of U.S. citizens.

  • January 10, 2015 at 10:13 am

    This is an excellent article and probably the most perceptive that has been written on the subject. But I would like to add the other factor which is the larger picture. When the embargo/blockade was created Cuba was incredibly isolated within Latin-America but this has changed dramatically. Many presidents by now have pictures of Che Guevara on their walls. Even the countries that elect right wing parties are no longer the quisling governments they were once. The US has had to change and adapt to this situation. It is too early to say what will happen in Cuba but one possible outcome could be as follows. Latin America moves towards Cuba – Cuba moves more to the right and rejoins the rest of the continent. The US reconciles with Latin America and gains some new markets. In this scenario no real losers.

  • January 9, 2015 at 7:14 am

    There is no blockade. there are – by now limited – trade sanctions.
    2014 saw the lowest level of US-Cuba trade. All experts agree that the decrease in the purchases from the US was a political and economical decision of the Castro regime.
    The sanctions – like those on Myanmar – serve there purpose and especially in the current economic situation – Venezuela’s ruler failing – it is a good means to achieve what Obama nearly squandered: more freedom in Cuba and compensation for those expropriated by the Castro regime.

  • January 8, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    An Iraqi friend of mine said that maybe in 50 or a hundred years, Iraq will be a democracy. For now it is torn between tribalism and religion.

    An Egyptian friend said that for Arabs, democracy means only, “My tribe gets everything now!'”. He didn’t believe his country would ever be a democracy.

    So yes, a fools errand.

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