Cuba: From the ‘Blockade’ to the Emigration Crisis

Cubans during the 1980 Mariel boatlift. (FLORIDA HISTORICAL SOCIETY)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Economist, 22 April 2022 — There are two phenomena that have affected the life of the Communist Regime in Cuba for six decades. The two are closely related and have also been used for the Cuban government’s own benefit every time it wanted to.

To interpret both processes over such a long period of time can cause forgetfulness, intentional or not, which makes it difficult for the general public to understand what’s being discussed. Is it enough to read an article in the State’s flagship newspaper Granma entitled “Who benefits from creating a ’migratory crisis’ between the U.S. and Cuba”? The article goes to the heart of the matter by recounting facts that seem taken out of a fairytale.

It was enough to read that, already in the Fifties, Cuba wasn’t receiving immigrants and that what was really happening was a massive exodus of Cubans to the United States, where, the article says, 100,000 Cubans were living in 1958. This has nothing to do with the more than 2 million in 2022. But it’s all the same; when It’s a matter of distorting reality and creating a nonexistent alternative, the Communists have no rival.

And there’s no other way to look more ridiculous than to be determined to do the same thing over and over again. The only thing you can do is to go to the ONEI, the National Office of Statistics and Information, and consult the annual statistics for 2020, the latest published in the historical series of population by sex, annual rate of growth, and ratio of male to female.

If you take the figures from 1950, which show 5,876,052 inhabitants, and compare it to 1960, with 7,077,190 inhabitants, there is an increase in population of 1,201,138, or 14%, the highest in the historic data. Later, in the decade of the Sixties, the relative growth was lower, some 13%.

To think that this increase in population in Cuba in the Fifties was due only to birth and death is naive. A half-million Europeans came to Cuba in those years to realize their dreams, because in their countries of origin it was impossible. But be careful with the data, because they’re a boomerang that can come back to hit you.

Starting from this observation, reality confirms that the Cuban population is affected by the massive exodus of Cubans to the Exterior, a flow that hasn’t slowed since 1959 and that the Communist regime has managed at its will, encouraging every 15 years, more or less, massive population departures: 1965, Camarioca; 1980, Mariel, 1994 Guantánamo (Balseros).

The data exist for anyone interested, and there’s no need to invent them. This continual exodus of six decades has made Cuba the world leader as the country that has a larger percentage of its citizens living in the Exterior, nothing more and nothing less than 20%. Not even the levels of migration in the Third World reach these numbers.

Cubans have turned their backs on the Regime that requires them to live a certain way, a way they don’t want, and with the impossibility of democratic changes, they leave the country, because in Cuba it’s impossible, with the Communist Party in power, to open a space for a democratic process and freedoms, or for economic reforms that improve prosperity and a better quality of life.

So now we have the second result. The U.S, throughout this traumatic history, has received more Cubans and “prevented” them from living in their country because of the “embargo/blockade” (as Fidel Castro branded it), which certainly doesn’t exist. The U.S. has to face, every day, a political regime that presents the ’blockade’ to the international community as the cause of all Cuba’s ills.

But the argument creates many scandalous votes in the United Nations, with claims that Cuba is owed billions of dollars because of the embargo, and other absurd nonsense. The embargo has become wishful thinking that has no common sense. Trade between the United States and Cuba reaches 200 million dollars annually, and Cuba receives from the United States around six billion dollars in remittances each year that now other countries will want.

And in spite of the evidence, the leaders in Havana play the embargo card every time things get complicated in Cuba, as is happening presently, above all since they launched the ’Ordering Task’ in 2021* with disastrous consequences for the country.

So now we face a new cycle in which the Communist leaders can expect another massive exit from the country to reduce the internal social tensions provoked by poor management of the economy. They can blame the U.S. for everything under the heading of “blockade/embargo” and encourage it through some worthless negotiations, which end up with the U.S. welcoming those who want to abandon the Island in search of a better future.

In this way the ’blockade’ and the immigration crisis are two sides of the same coin which the Regime plays with. And it gets advantageous results in the international sphere at the same time it rids itself of many problems that it doesn’t recognize or, worse, that It doesn’t want to fix. And thus for more than 60 years, they fall into the same trap.

*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento, the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’, is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and other measures. 

Translated by Regina Anavy


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