Cuba: Is There Really a U.S. Embargo?

While the communist revolution was nourished by huge annual subsidies from the USSR during the height of the cold war, no one spoke of the embargo. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia, 3 February 2022 — With regard to the embargo, which the official Castrist press has converted into a lightning rod, it is interesting to share some reflections which, for obvious reasons, will be very different from those launched by communist propaganda.

The truth is, taking advantage of the 60th anniversary of the provision that marked the beginning of this United States policy, which has been maintained for a long time though few remember its origins, the official press has organized a coven of propaganda that never fails to attract attention.

For this reason, without wishing to pontificate on a topic on which thousands of articles, books, reports, statements, etc. have been written, my proposal for this blog entry centers on a simple and easy-to-explain decalogue related to the embargo.

1. From 1960 to 1990 no one remembered the embargo.

While the communist revolution was nourished by huge annual subsidies from the USSR during the height of the cold war, no one spoke of the embargo or blockade, except for those days around the time the Soviet missiles arrived in Cuba, which the U.S. Marines forced to be sent back. When the millions dried up, then, with the Special Period in tow, the old embargo argument was dusted off. And so it is today.

2. There is a much more severe internal embargo.

It is the embargo practiced by the communist regime against Cubans, preventing them from having a modern and efficient economic system in which the right to property can be exercised, free elections, the accumulation of assets and wealth, the market as an instrument of resource allocation and free enterprise. This embargo is the one that keeps the Cuban economy impoverished and without a future.

3. An embargo, as such, does not exist; Cuba maintains economic relations with the whole world.

One only needs to observe the data on commercial relations, exports and imports, foreign investment, tourism, etc. Cuba is not limited in establishing economic relationships with whomever it wants,as long as it has a need and can offer something in return. Even with the United States, in the form of food and medical equipment for $200 million a year, and more importantly, remittances, valued at $5 billion, from Cubans who had to flee the regime. That has nothing to do with an embargo or a blockade.

4. There has never been an acknowledgment of the events that gave rise to the claims. 

One could argue that the revolutionary regime offered to pay legitimate owners for their confiscated property in “junk bonds” backed by the sugar quota provided to the United States, which at that time, could not be met. That is why there has never been a recognition of the damages caused to the legitimate owners by the confiscation of property and much less a willingness on the part of the regime to pay the value of the expropriated assets, as in any other country in the world. The property rights which were the object of nationalization have not died and without a doubt, the claims and acknowledgment of the original owners or their heirs will be fundamental for the return of democracy to Cuba.

5. The United States continues to be the only defender of democracy in Cuba.

The United States has staunchly provided refuge to almost two million Cubans who fled the lack of freedom and prosperity of the communist regime, making it possible for many of them to realize their dreams. Thanks to the United States it is possible to tell the regime in Havana what it is, and what it represents, while observing the shameful and fickle behavior of other democracies, like those of Europe, which sometimes are against and sometimes in favor of the regime. The United States has always stood its ground and that should be recognized. Even bringing Cuban-Americans to the nation’s political institutions, which instills pride and recognizes the value of minorities in that great nation.

6. Three generations of Cubans have grown up with the embargo and they know why.

Escaping the country has been the only outlet for those who detest a forcefully imposed economic and social model which is resistant to change and evolution. For that reason, as soon as people are able to leave the country, they establish themselves in the United States, because despite having been educated about the evils of imperialism, the United States still is and will continue to be, the main reference point for many Cubans. As much as it pains the communist regime.

7. Ideology and propaganda are less and less capable of arguing against the embargo.

The official discourse is being extinguished. The new generations of Cubans do not believe the official language and the obsolete propaganda it exudes. Despite the continuous attacks on the United States and its institutions by the official Cuban press or whomever desires to unburden themselves, Cubans dream of living in the neighboring North, where in addition, they have acquaintances, family, and friends who can help them get ahead. It’s interesting, but it doesn’t occur to any Haitian, Honduran, or Salvadorean to migrate to Cuba; everyone aspires to establish themselves in the United States.

8. The histrionics at the United Nations results in hilarious and irresponsible calculations.

If the calculation of the damages caused by the embargo were actually $144 billion, the revolutionary regime would be making the ridiculous even more absurd by proposing this figure. Let’s think about what that represents, in 60 years, $2.4 billion annually, which is less than one-third of what Cuba receives annually in remittances from the United States. If they wanted to provide figures, they could have put more effort into it.

9. The embargo exists because that is how the communist regime wants it.

There is no room for doubt. It has generated rivers of ink that have allowed Cuba to have something to say to the world, occupy a media space in some newscast. And, above all, to be heard by those who want to fall for it. The David and Goliath of the Bible function in politics and if we consider that neither the end of the cold war, nor globalization, nor the fourth industrial revolution have altered the messages, there is no doubt that the conceptual authors of the embargo, who had an exceptional teacher in Fidel Castro, have been successful in adapting the concept to the times. The regime needs the embargo, just as it needs to identify the United States as an enemy. It is profitable.

10. The embargo served so that some Cubans live much better than others, within Cuba.

There is no doubt about it. The top leaders live oblivious to hardships of an unproductive economy and their pay is more than sufficient to justify the false submission to orders of the singular party. Those with access to dollars, around 30% of the Cuban population with family abroad, may live even better and the regime’s creation of MLC stores [stores that sell goods in hard currency] clearly indicates that it wants to make them privileged so as to access that hard currency.

All these considerations could raise the primary question, which is none other than, is there really a United States embargo on Cuba? Review other similar situations throughout history and you will see how much difference could be produced and which masterful techniques could be used to take advantage of things. The best thing about this is that the embargo, if it exists, has an expiration date: a democratic and free Cuba. And this has never been recognized by the communist revolutionaries. Why would that be?

This article was originally published in the author’s blog, Cubaeconomía.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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