US Blockade on Cuba, Mistake or Wise Move?

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Children of the homeland.  Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Any act of blocking is wrong and can even be a crime depending on the circumstances. Whether that’s between countries, ethnicities or even between people from the same country. Cuba, poor Cuba, who has suffered so many blockades!

There’s the political blockade that the Communists enforce on the rest of the population with a one-party system and elections without a choice. There’s also the economic blockade that the authoritarian State enforces on the private sector and cooperatives. Another well-known blockade is that which INDER enforces on top-level athletes, banning Cubans abroad from playing on our international teams.

And on the list of so many other blockades, the political, economic and social blockade that the pseudo-socialist system enforces on Cuban emigres stands out, who are only recognized in parts and in exchange for stingy temporary interests.

Lastly, there’s the most famous blockade of all: the US blockade on Cuba.

Many people argue whether it is in actual fact an embargo or a blockade. The Cuban government calls it a blockade and the US calls it an embargo. From a conceptual viewpoint, it would be an embargo. However, due to its extraterritorial nature it takes on connotations of “economic warfare” and that’s when it starts being a blockade.

I personally believe that the US should promote a law that revokes the extraterritorial nature of the blockade (mainly the Helms-Burton and Torricelli’s Acts) leaving it just as an embargo, if that is what the country wants, until both countries normalize relations.

The UN’s consecutive resolutions against “the blockade” would justify this action, so as not to be out of sync with international unanimity on this issue. Not everyone in the world can be wrong about this subject except for the US and Israel, who are nearly the same thing.

The newspaper. Photo: Juan Suarez

From an ethical standpoint, the embargo/blockade is wrong. From a legal standpoint, it’s illegal. From a humanitarian standpoint, it’s a crime. And, from a moral standpoint, it’s reproachable. These are new times. If we were still living in the time of the Roman Empire, then nobody would criticize it.

That’s why 191 countries condemn it, which doesn’t mean to say that they approve of the Cuban system. However, that’s how the Cuban government subliminally presents it.  And only two countries approve of the blockade. Coincidentally, these are two countries who still see violent wars as the solution to international conflicts. It’s archaic, belongs in the past and it needs to be overcome.

Both the blockade as well as its effects are fuel for the Cuban system of government. They talk about getting rid of it trusting the stubborness of this US policy and in the preeminence of old-school Cuban politics (historic exiles, where emotions prevail more than caution and strategy). They blindly trust that the US won’t get rid of it. Obama surprised them and got them shaking at the knees with a different strategy.

The Cuban leaders almost had a heart attack, but then Trump came along, advised to follow the old strategy, and their nerves calmed down. Bingo! They can continue to badmouth the US, blaming them for all of Cuba’s problems and continue to hide behind the guise of Imperialism’s victims, their own flaws and the lack of people’s freedoms.

Trump’s measures will set back the changes that Cuba needs by at least a decade. When you suffocate Cuba, you’re not suffocating the government, but the people. And within a Cuban context, this doesn’t translate into popular rebellion and uprising like some people dream about, but into misery and emigration instead.

Trying to catch a collective taxi. Photo: Juan Suarez

It’s not worth complaining about or getting upset with our own people because they don’t react in one way or another. If what is expected doesn’t happen, that’s because the problem hasn’t been objectively analyzed and the right solution hasn’t been found. The blockade and a detente in political relations didn’t fix “the Cuban problem” for 58 years, and it definitely won’t fix the situation now.

This is what I call a political blunder. Those in favor of the blockade always think that by tightening the noose around Cuba’s neck, it will stop breathing. However, they are always wrong: the Cuban government might be inefficient in the economy and anti-democratic in its politics, but it is super efficient in taking advantage of “Imperialism’s” hostility and its binding foreign policy. This is their fuel and Trump, advised by the anti-Castro lobby that is tied to the old and neverending hardline approach, is giving it to them on a silver platter.

On the other hand, estimates of damages caused are always talked about when mentioning the blockade. The figure of over 4 billion USD last year, for example, is made up of many parts, just like the global figure of over 130 billion USD. These estimates are based on real variables as well as some fictitious ones.

Losses relating to what Cuba doesn’t hypothetically produce as a result of the blockade are included in this value, assuming that without it they would be able to produce this. However, the Cuban government doesn’t take its endemic inefficiency into account, which has been proved in thousands of instances when they don’t produce this or they don’t work properly, and this has absolutely nothing to do with the blockade’s impact.

Obama gave an example on his trip to Cuba: if there isn’t good access to pesticides, GM seeds and fertilizer due to the blockade, then why is Cuba not exploiting the growing and lucrative market of organically farmed products?

It would be a good way to show that the blockade is to blame for our backward economy and not the dysfunctional Cuban system: to be able to say, “look, Cuba stopped producing millions of tons of food because of the blockade, but it is the leader in organic farming.” However, far from this, the Cuban government needs to even import food to cover the small demands of international tourism.

Different worlds. Photo: Juan Suarez

Why did we lose our coffee plantations? Why is garbage being picked up in carts in a lot of the country or left to build up on the streets with so many broken trucks despite all the mechanics and workshops? Why aren’t simple hinges manufactured in Cuba, only those independent workers can crank out with extra thin zinc sheets, which is what there is, while the State has two huge smelting factories continuously producing?

Why did they destroy the sugar industry? Why did they destroy the nickel industry? Why are there so many whys, where the blockade isn’t to blame but the failed centralized system is?

Mistakes are made in Cuba and mistakes are made in the US. Cubans and the US are mistaken about the “Cuban issue” and that’s why they are at a standstill. This battle is of ideas and intelligence, and you have to win with both. It isn’t a question about maintaining a policy that the whole world questions, such as the blockade, which will win support for and not harm the false foundations of the Cuban government.

Even people on the island, subjected to media manipulation, see them as the enemy. Who wins with this?

7 thoughts on “US Blockade on Cuba, Mistake or Wise Move?

  • You can’t surmise that EU dropped the case because it didn’t have legal validity. They dropped it because they managed to get concessions from negotiating with the US. Like I say it remains unproven. No I haven’t contacted my elected representatives regarding this matter. I live in the UK so they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

  • Not true, if the EU had a valid legal case they would not have dropped the suit.

    I never disputed Osmel contention that the embargo was counterproductive. In fact, I made a direct statement that my statement the embargo was legal should not be considered as support for it.

    BTW, I communicate directly with my US Senator Marco Rubio about Cuban relations as I am politically involved. Do you do the same with your elected officials?

  • That’s not true. The EU brought a case against the US regarding the embargo. The fact that it was dropped in favour of negotiations means that it wasn’t proven ultimately by a legal judgement. But the fact that they brought it at all means that they had grounds for considering it illegal. Same if an American citizen brought a case against the US government because it contravenes the constitution it would probably succeed. But who has the money to do that when they can circumvent the restriction by going through a third country and not have their passport stamped. So again it can’t be proven definitively one way or the other.

    But I’m tired of discussing this issue. Osmel has made a heartfelt article showing all the reasons why he believes the embargo/blockade is counterproductive in every way. And all we have in this discussion is a computer generated keyword response by Moses that has been said many times before.

  • Agreed

  • Too many believe it must be illegal because they have heard the Cuban government say that for so long. While one can debate the morality or effectiveness, the fact that the trade embargo is legal has never been questioned by international authorities.

    Once again, I point out to those who paint everything with a broad brush using only black or white, the fact that I point out the legality of the embargo is not indicative of my support of it.

  • I lived in Cuba until 1980 when I was able to escape. Before I left Cuba the government hardly ever mention the Blockade the Castro’s have billions from the old URSS and can do business with whoever they wanted after the collapse of the Soviet Union the Castro’s dictatorship bring this polical theater to UN every year in search of sympathy. Mean while still the repression against the dissidents, censorship, restricting Freedon of speech and association. And on. The people of cuban will see prosperity when the Castro’s monarchy is gone.

  • Osmel writes, “From a legal standpoint, it’s illegal”. Simply untrue.

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