A Rerun of the Embargo Show / Oscar Espinosa Chepe

Cuban authorities, as has been their custom for years, have launched a new campaign against the U.S. embargo, taking advantage of the start of high-level United Nations General Assembly sessions. The worn-out script began with a press conference by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in Havana on September 20. The only thing that could be called new was the announcement that the cumulative damage to the economy is now calculated to be one 1.76 trillion dollars. It is not known where he got this figure or how it was calculated.

Of course, the minister omitted the fact that the United States is one of Cuba’s principal commercial trading partners and that, according to official statistical annuals, supplied more than 4.1 billion dollars in food products from 2001 to 2002, making it the main provider of these commodities during this period.

He also forgot to mention that, thanks to President Obama’s easing of restrictions, approximately 400,000 members of the Cuban community arrive in that country annually. They provide substantial help to their families and friends, and their remittances constitute 85% of one of the chief sources of hard-currency earnings for Cuba. There has also been an easing in restrictions limiting the direct shipment of packages and money meant to aid family members. All this disproves the fallacy that the embargo has stiffened under the Obama administration.

If the Cuban government is not purchasing medications, it is because of its perennial financial insolvency. All the world’s other countries are willing to sell Cuba all the goods its requires — including products from the United States — provided it can pay. This is the real problem for the Elder of the Antilles, now a parasite state.

In addition to the damage brought on by the embargo, it would be appropriate to evaluate the disasters caused by a regime which for fifty-three years has destroyed the very foundations of the nation.

It is worth asking how much the destruction of the sugar industry, the backbone of the economy, has cost the country. Or the destruction of the livestock sector, another national treasure, now devastated to the point of not being able to guarantee that children over seven years old have a liter of milk or a piece of meat, something Cubans hardly recognize anymore.

One should consider the destruction of coffee and cocoa production, and the fact that a prominently agricultural country now imports 80% of its food, including such staples as yucca (cassava) to supply the tourism industry, as has been recently reported in the official press.

Perhaps the American embargo is responsible for the poor quality of new construction, which develops leaks immediately after completion and has many other problems. Are U.S. administrations responsible for Cubans not having access to the internet and the human knowledge to be gained from it?

Is the United States responsible for the continued decapitalization of Cuba, or for the fact that it invests half of what other Latin American countries do, causing it to sink progressively into backwardness?

Can external factors be blamed because people in the principal inland cities have to get around in wagons and carts pulled by horses, or because farmers have access only to old hoes and mule teams?

Have external factors caused the destruction of a large part of the roadway infrastructure and the housing supply? Are they responsible for the insignificant amount of housing construction, which has led to overcrowding for generations of Cubans? Or that 50% to 60% of piped water is lost due to the poor condition of water mains and the inadequate state of plumbing in homes? Or that the nation’s electrical energy system is showing signs of collapse due to obsolete Soviet and Czech thermo-electrical plants, most of which have been in use for forty years without adequate maintenance, and some of which are fueled by high-sulfur heating oil?

Is it because of an imperialist plot that the health care system is falling to pieces, as Cuban doctors recently claimed? Or that Calixto García Hospital finds itself in a calamitous state, with only ten of its thirty operating rooms even able to function. Or that, meanwhile, the other great “achievement” of the revolution — education — is marked by a drop in the quality of instruction?

Perhaps it is because of a sinister CIA scheme that Cuba will have an unsustainable population base by 2035, with more than 34% of the populace over 60 years of age, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

One might mention the many calamities resulting from completely irrational decisions taken over the course of the last fifty-three years which have cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars. These would include programs such as the character deforming country schools, the Cordón de La Habana, the Revolutionary offensive of 1968, the Harvest of Ten Million, the social workers, the emerging and comprehensive teachers, and many more of the mad ideas that seem to have been schemes intended to ruin the country.

Was it an international plot to fragment Cuban society by separating families and causing personal upheaval by forcing people to abandon their homeland? Who is to blame for the growing marginalization of society, the runaway growth of corruption at all levels, the fifth largest rate of incarceration in the world, or the acceptance of new moral and ethical codes which justify any actions as means of survival in the the jungle that Cuba has become? All this has resulted in the greatest loss of moral values of all time.

It is clear that, by the time he realized that the country was on the edge of a precipice, President Raúl Castro was already aware of many of these problems. However, his commitment to the past seems not to have allowed him to take effective measures to rectify, at least in some way, all the damage caused to the nation that was unrelated to external factors.

It is hoped that the resolution on the embargo, which is scheduled for a vote on for November 13, will once again condemn it. We have never supported the embargo, which has been used by the Cuban government as a justification for all its failures and repression.

However, to condemn only the embargo is a decision that would not take into account the most important aspect of the Cuban experience, which is the blockade imposed by authorities preventing the people from realizing their potential and from enjoying their rights. We, therefore, feel it would be fitting that the resolution to be approved, in addition to condensing the American embargo, also demand that the Cuban government take the following steps:

That it promote freedom for Cubans, respect for human rights and the introduction of real economic reforms to allow them to fulfill their creative capabilities;

That the National Assembly of People’s Power ratify the the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, endorsed in writing by the government on December 10, 2008.

Democratic countries would make a great contribution to the Cuban people if a balanced resolution were approved in the current session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Translated from Cubaencuentro

Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Havana
25 September 2012