Unblocked / Unembargoed?
By Martin Guevara
HAVANA TIMES – When the Revolution triumphed in Cuba, a blockade was the least that was expected. In fact, once the socialist nature of the Revolution had been announced, a furious attack was the great expectation. Nobody thought about complaining about owners of companies, banks, money, hotels, all kinds of confiscated businesses, or speaking out against the Revolution in some way or another.
Everybody would have signed on the dotted line too, because it was just a blockade without an invasion or bombings. The Revolution had overthrown Batista in the beginning, then Capitalism, and Imperialism in its superior phase, just 90 miles away, its currency being its representative and symbolic blazon: the dollar. It was crystal clear that they weren’t going to give every Comandante a Cadillac, after such a slap in the face.
The idea was to industrialize the nation and not depend upon the inflow of goods and currency from either of the two superpowers. However, amid all of this, they got used to being aligned with the Socialist Bloc, under the USSR’s command. The reality was it was too good an offer, an offer like Don Vito would make, an offer you couldn’t refuse. Oil, arms, food, consultants, all kinds of supplies, in exchange for only total acceptance of “recommendations ordered” from aunt Moscow.
Over the decades that Fidel Castro lived, hidden strategies and politics for little exchanges were interwoven. There were non-aggression pacts and one or two more details, with the Capitalist bloc.
Ironically, a country that never cut trade and diplomatic ties with the island was Francisco Franco’s fascist and genocidal Spain. Mexico was always its greatest support, as were Japan and some other European countries. However, every time that easing trade relations with the US seemed like it could be put on the negotiations table, something would always happen, by chance, that would force the US to tighten the embargo even further.
Like when Bill Clinton had worked on a proposal to put to Congress, so that relations would be civilized. But when two private planes were shot down by Cuban jets, he was forced to apply the Helms-Burton Act which the Republican wing of Congress demanded, wanting to make the siege of the Cuban economy an international practice, and he couldn’t oppose it.
The elite on both shores of the Florida Strait benefitted from that climate of threats and surface-level hostility, without going any further and resulting in any concrete attacks. It served to whip up their bases with gut-level arguments.
Insisting on keeping the island under economic siege is a crime. Howeverr, lifting the embargo without any kind of negotiation (even if it would always be better for the Cuban people) would also be foolish. This is because if the Cuban people are to directly benefit from this, they can’t be stuck in the super-structure. Well-oiled mechanisms need to be put into place to allow independent workers, entrepreneurs to develop.
Likewise, giving Cubans freedom of movement, without neglecting attention to the poorest and least-prepared groups in society to take on a new model of society. This has to be a priority because if the country is to make progress at a dizzying rate, they will sink into the deepest misery. Humanist principles derived from socialism should be held onto tightly, offering protection to the weakest, to the least adapted.
Something seems to have changed today. No matter how you want to see Fidel Castro, one thing we’ll always have to say is that he was anti-US imperialism until the day he died. He got serious with his brother for having such a good time with Obama, in his article “The US brother” published in Granma.
However, there’s time even for mammoths. Different groups within the new leadership are still using the same slogans, but they don’t have the same interests and are seeking closer relations with the US more and more.
Cuba is bleeding dry between an economy that is subject more to Yoruba’s pantheon of saints than any concrete economic plan. And a blockade that doesn’t make any sense in a world with freely-moving capital, as well as COVID-19 and a stubborness that has got the country tangled up in the algae on the seafloor.
A solution needs to be found, one that doesn’t compromise the country’s sovereignty, or its people, who are being suffocated more every day.
Ironically, the blockade/embargo is the furthest thing from a capitalist market economy. It’s a State intervening in the natural development of business at any level. Its spirit is more in line and closer to the protectionism in Communist 5-year plans, than the free market.
So, both parties competing for the US blockade/embargo against Cuba, is justifying the opposite of the principles they both supposedly defend.
The Cuban government has asked the US to remember its capitalist and liberal essence and nature. It is begging for the Empire’s raw materials and foreign currency, which refuses it with less and less convincing arguments, it must be said.
Meanwhile, the GOP and Cuban community in Miami demand greater State intervention in the free movement of capital and people, just like true closed centralized Communist models.
4 thoughts on “Unblocked / Unembargoed?”
Things do not happen in a vacuum. There is a reason for everything.
The same goes with this embargo. It didn’t just fall out of the sky. There are things that happened, things that were said, policies imposed, that led to it in the first place.
So now for it to go away, there will have to be new things that happened, to be said, new policies to be put in place. You cannot keep everything about yourself to be the same, and expect the attitude of the world around you towards you to change.
If the government of Cuba truly wants it to go away, maybe they could make some gestures. Open up the economy a bit. Give a bit more freedom to the people. Let them sing and write the songs they like.
But the way it is now, it doesn’t look like it’s happening. Look at the list of economic activities forbidden to the average Cubans. Anyone not from North Korea looking at that list will find it ridiculous. Why would the state not allow people to record their own music?
It is those draconian restrictions that show the world that the government has no intention of being reasonable to people’s wellbeing. The government loves to defy logic and common sense, and impose restrictions that make no sense anywhere in the world (except North Korea).
If you’re unreasonable and draconian, then you can’t expect others to be reasonable and accommodating, can you?
I’m writing this not because I think the US government is a saint. On the contrary, it is acting in its own selfish interest (to cater to FL voters). But if you want it to be kinder and gentler, the first step is to show it you’re kinder and gentler yourself.
An excellent article as usual from Martin Guevara.
They say the best form of defence is attack. Moses Patterson’s forlorn attempts to defend the USA’s 120 years worth of disgraceful policies toward Cuba is a perfect example of this.
Rather than actually giving any reasoned excuse for his country’s 120 years worth of vile policies toward Cuba which predate Fidel Castro and predate the Cold War, the good Mr Patterson goes on the attack.
Where Moses is actually entirely correct is when he suggests that the USA’s Cuba policy is based on the sub-democratic lust for FLA Electoral College Votes.
This is not an example of democratic principle (as successive U.S. regimes state that their disgraceful policies toward Cuba are based on), it is an example of democratic shortfall.
Martin suggests that Cuba needs the embargo to end more than the USA does.
This is true – but actually, it ain’t just Cuba – the representatives of every country in the world consistently vote against the anti-free market embargo (other than, of course, the USA’s little Middle Eastern f**k-buddy state – Israel).
Why can’t U.S. policy be based on what is gonna making Cuban people’s lives better rather than trying to punish them for the nature of their system (which will be inexorably changing over the coming years) ??
Hopefully President Biden will right this wrong.
I absolutely agree. I wanted to say that officially the US does not want to lift the embargo, and Cuba does, but for decades that hostility was very convinient to Cuba. Not today.
Generally, Che Guevara’s nephew, Martin, is well-balanced in his arguments to promote progress in Cuba towards a more open and democratic society. By balanced, I mean that he recognizes the limits a jingoistic and old-school Cuban government must confront while acknowledging the goals of an independent media and free elections the very same government must achieve if real progress is to be made. This article mostly reflects that balance. But Martin, like many others, just can’t seem to completely shake the Castro cobwebs off. He fails to recognize a major point: the US currently has no incentive to negotiate with Cuba about anything. Now, more than ever, the veil has been lifted. There is no more moral high ground to hold hostage the US’ need to appear fair in it’s dealings with Cuba. There’s no international pressure to lift the embargo. Not from the Europeans, not from Russia, not from Latin America, ni nadie! Even if there were, the Biden administration would be foolish to recognize such pressure. Think about it: we separate immigrant families at our southern border. We put children in cages. What shame could we have by not selling car parts to Cuba? Internally, there is no constituency pressing the Biden administration to ease up on Cuba. On the contrary, if there is any hope that Democrats could win someday in Florida, a tough stance on Cuba is obligatory. Finally, now more than ever, Cuban leadership is as docile and non-threatening as they have ever been. At least with Fidel, there was the implied threat that he was capable of doing anything. Diaz-Canel? Not so much. Bottom line: what Martin writes only makes sense if both the US and Cuba are motivated to negotiate. For the moment, Cuba is the only one who gains by moving from the status quo to a rapprochement between the two countries.
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