Cuban President Díaz-Canel Explains His Theory About the ‘Blockade’ in Another ‘Two-Voice Monologue’ With Ramonet

The journalist presented the interview in three “blocks,”,domestic policy, economy and foreign policy, but the three merged without remedy or distinction

Ignacio Ramonet and Miguel Díaz-Canel, during the interview, which took place on May 11 at the Palace of the Revolution / Estudios Revolución

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 May 2024 — The word “blockade” was uttered a total of 62 times in the interview that Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel held with Franco-Spanish Ignacio Ramonet on May 11 at the Palace of the Revolution. In the long conversation, published this Wednesday in the official media, both reiterated that the United States embargo is the main cause of the evils that afflict Cuba.

“Many people ask, if there has been a blockade for so long, what distinguishes the blockade in the current moments?” Ramonet asks Díaz-Canel, renowned hagiographer of the regime and author of the “two-voice monologue” One Hundred Hours With Fidel, to which the hand-picked president responds: “Today the blockade has a qualitatively different characteristic; today we are talking about a tightened blockade.”

Although Ramonet presented the interview in three “blocks” – domestic policy, economy and foreign policy – ​​the three merged without remedy or distinction.

The mass protests of July 11, 2021 (’11J’), appear halfway in the dialog and undervalued

One of the most important events that has occurred on the Island in recent years, the mass protests of July 11, 2021 (commonly referred to as ’11J’), appears halfway in the dialog and undervalued. The Spanish communicator calls them a “sociological phenomenon” and considers that “although they have not been massive, they have surprised because this is not common.” Díaz-Canel avoids at all times the hundreds of protesters who ended up with long prison sentences and insists that his government “does not have a repressive response.”

What happens, as he continues alluding to 11J and other protests that resulted in arrests, is that “they commit acts of vandalism and attacks against state property, against social property, they alter public order, and that then does lead to a response that is not due to ideology… It is a judicial response, a legal response like they would happen in any other country.” In short, that day was once again to blame for the supposed “unconventional war” carried out by the United States against the Island.

Regarding the economic debacle, Díaz-Canel marks the start date as “the second half of 2019”, when the Administration of then US president, Donald Trump, “applies more than 240 measures that intensify the blockade. They suddenly cut off all our sources of income in foreign currency” and “an enormous energy and financial persecution is organized.”

Among the consequences, he also mentions that “remittances are cut off, which was an important source of income for the country.” Independent studies estimate that, in fact, since 2019, there has been a 45% drop in remittance income, although in no case has it disappeared.

Without the president ever remarking on it, in September of that year an energy crisis began to occur on the Island that, with peaks and valleys, that continues to this day. However, at that time, Díaz-Canel did not allude to the embargo, and defined the energy situation as “temporary,” resolvable with the imminent arrival of a ship full of oil.

 Before that second half of 2019, “we had a stable supply of fuel based on agreements with friendly countries”

Before that second half of 2019, “we had a stable supply of fuel based on agreements with friendly countries, with brother countries, which meant that under those agreements we did not have to spend almost nothing of the foreign currency income that we received on fuel, because all of this had compensation from the services that we provide to those brother countries,” the president argues in the conversation with Ramonet, referring, without saying it clearly, to the exchange of favors with Venezuela.

The delivery of oil from Caracas began to decline precisely that year, coinciding with an energy crisis in Venezuela itself, something that Díaz-Canel does not allude to at any point in the interview.

The president continues outlining the idyllic world that the Island was living in before the aforementioned date: “Under all those conditions we had income in foreign currency that allowed us to import raw materials to develop our main productive processes to the extent that we could have those things with the limitations of the blockade. We could buy food to satisfy the basic family basket, we could even buy food and other merchandise that we put in the stores.”

Later, at the beginning of 2020, “when there were only around eight or ten days left for Trump to leave the White House,” Díaz-Canel laments, the United States included Cuba on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. “And then, suddenly, all the banking agencies and all the financial institutions stopped giving us credit,” he says.

The consequence, as Díaz-Canel puts it, always a product of external factors, is to have become “a country that lives off the current account, that is, what you earned this week and how you distribute it among a tremendous amount of priorities that the country has that cannot be covered with the income of a single week.”

This Wednesday, however, the State Department removed Cuba from the list of countries that “do not fully cooperate” with Washington’s efforts against terrorism. It is not the list from which Havana aspires to get off, but rather a smaller scale list. Many have seen in the announcement, however, a first step by the Biden Administration to consider that Cuba does not sponsor terrorism.

With regards to why the current US Administration has maintained sanctions on the Island, the president, who blames the United States for prioritizing “the interests of a minority, which is the Cuban-American mafia,” omits that the measures taken against the regime by part of Joe Biden’s Government occurred precisely after the repression following the 11J mass protests.

“We no longer have the same capacity to cover and honor our commitments to pay dividends to foreign entities in a timely manner,” he details about the country’s external debt, ignoring that in 2015 the Paris Club forgave Cuba 8.5 billion dollars of the 11 billion that it owed to the countries grouped under that organization. (The rest was restructured into payments until 2033 and investment projects on the Island).

The lack of availability of foreign currency, Díaz-Canel concedes, caused the “creation” of an illegal market, which he blames for the rise in prices: “It almost becomes an element that imposes prices and that also contributes to the issue of inflation”.

Another unavoidable issue was the “destabilization” of the national energy system, which also has its origin, according to the president, in the lack of fuel

Another unavoidable issue was the “destabilization” of the national energy system, which also has its origin, according to the president, in the lack of fuel. “We have not been able to [operate the entire] national electricity system for 24 hours for more than five days, which means that at all times we have had some level of blackout, and that, successively, undoubtedly damages, complicates the situation, causes discomfort, causes misunderstandings and hardens the lives of Cubans,” Díaz-Canel acknowledges. And he adds: “More than $300 million a year is needed to maintain this national electrical energy system, and that availability has not existed.”

Last April, the technical director of the Cuban Electrical Union, Lázaro Guerra, told the official press that the total amount the country would need to repair its thermoelectric plants is in the range of 10 billion dollars.

To the proliferation in Cuba of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), presented by Ramonet as the “emergence of a market economy space,” Díaz-Canel immediately provides “some clarifications”: the economy is planned and will continue to be, as required. “The main means of production are in the hands of the State and are represented by state companies. Therefore, the greatest weight of the economy is in the state sector.”

The private sector will continue to expand, he says, with around 10,000 registered MSMEs, but “it will be a sector that will not be an enemy of the Revolution,” despite, he asserts, “a very direct intention of the Government of “the United States of trying to turn this sector into an opposition sector.”

The last part of the interview focused on international relations. Regarding the renewed approach to Russia, a country that he visited last week , he assured that “it is not about entering into a new alliance, it is an alliance that we have been in for a long time.”

Beyond Moscow, he made it clear which are the “friendly countries”: López Obrador’s Mexico, Maduro’s Venezuela, Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua, Xiomara Hernandez’s Honduras and Lula da Silva’s Brazil.


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