NO AL BLOQUEO:
World Condems United States’ Criminal Blockade Against Cuba
By Tamara Hansen
Crime Against Humanity: History of US Blockade on Cuba
Fifty years ago, the path that Cuba was following was the same as most countries in Latin America. Cubans’ rate of illiteracy was very high, the level of prostitution was high and many of the Cuban people lived in poverty and hunger. Ninety percent of Cuba’s telephone and electricity services, over 50% of Cuba’s railways, and over 70% of its land were owned by American institutions. The United States had supported a series of brutal dictators in Cuba which ensured that resources and money were siphoned off the island at the expense of poor and working people throughout Cuba. In December 1956, when Fidel Castro and 82 other revolutionary fighters arrived in Cuba from Mexico on their small ship, the Granma, their aim was to end this abuse by the United States.
In 1959, when Fidel Castro and the revolutionary fighters had spread their vision to millions of people throughout Cuba, they defeated the US imposed dictator Batista and were brought to power in the country. One of the first things their new government implemented was land reform. First, in May 1959, they expropriated all farm lands that were larger than 1,000 acres and then redistributed it to over 200,000 Cuban peasants. Second, in July 1960, they nationalized all US companies and properties, which meant that profits would no longer be funnelled off the island, but could instead go to funding literacy programs, a healthcare system and education.
It quickly became clear that the US would not be able to use Fidel Castro as a pawn in their game. In March 1960, US President Eisenhower called for a US ban on Cuban sugar, oil and gun imports. During this time, the US also tried to intervene in Cuba militarily, with the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. This US backed and funded invasion was a dramatic and desperate attempt to overthrow Cuba’s new revolutionary government. The plan called for Cuban exiles (mainly rich Cubans and beneficiary of the previous colonial Cuba, who fled after the revolution) to attack Cuba and attempt to overthrow Castro’s revolutionary government. Within only 72 hours, with the direct leadership and guidance of Fidel Castro, this attempt failed and the US and its reactionary allies embarrassingly and shamefully were sent home with their tails between their legs.
The failed Bay of Pigs invasion led the US to cease both economic and diplomatic relations with Cuba, leading to the official declaration of a full economic blockade against Cuba in 1962. With cutting imports from Cuba, the US government hoped to cripple Cuba’s economy and force the new government to bend under US pressure. Despite the United States aggression and attacks against the newborn Cuban revolution, the Cuban people rose up to this challenge and changed the course of their own history.
Since the beginning of the inhuman US blockade against Cuba, the US has prevented Cuba from importing and exporting everything from food, to medicine and even sports equipment. The blockade has been tightened and loosened tactically at different times but has always remained firm and vicious. There were two important increases in the blockade during the 1990s: the Torrecelli Act of 1992 (ironically, the US government officially named it the “Cuban Democracy Act”) declared that ships of any nationality that dock in Cuba or are transporting Cuban merchandise cannot dock in the US for 160 days afterwards. The US again updated its hostile policy towards Cuba in 1996 with the Helms-Burton Act. This act not only forbids American companies from trading with Cuba, but also seeks to criminalize foreign companies who trade with Cuba. These acts both stopped many tonnes of food, medicine and supplies from reaching the Cuban people - because really, look at the size of the two countries: if you were a company looking to make profit, where would you go?
US Intensification of Blockade Against Cuba: 2004 - Today
“For nearly 50 years, the regime of Fidel Castro has condemned the people of Cuba to a tragic fate of repression and poverty…to accelerate the demise of Castro’s tyranny, President Bush created the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.”
- US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, July 2005.
What is this commission? The US Department of State website clearly identifies the objectives the commission by stating,
“United States policy towards Cuba is clear:
Created in May of 2004, this commission initially promised $59 Million over two years towards securing these objectives. When that money ran out this year the commission published its second report in July, now requiring $80 Million over the next two years. This new report from the commission contained the same objectives as quoted above, but also contains a secret section, sealed off from the public. We must ask, if you are already stating publicly that one of your objectives is to, “bring to an end the dictatorship” then what could you possibly need to hide?
- Bring an end to the ruthless and brutal dictatorship;
- Assist the Cuban people in a transition to representative democracy; and
- Assist the Cuban people in establishing a free market economy.
To achieve these objectives, the President created the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba with a mandate to identify:
- Additional measures to help the Cuban people bring to an end the dictatorship;
- Elements of a plan for agile, effective, and decisive assistance to a post-dictatorship Cuba.”
Part of the commission’s money is for sending “aid” money to right-wing anti-Cuba groups in Miami. At least a few million dollars of the commission’s money will go to USAID. In mid-November 2006, a report from the US Congressional auditors concluded that at least 30% of the exile groups who received USAID grants showed questionable expenditures, including “aid” like chocolate and cashmere clothing.
Why does the US have a Blockade on Cuba?
Two simple reasons: First, their imperialist economic interests in Cuba. Second, because Cuba is the threat of a good example, socialism against capitalism, humanism against imperialism. It is the example of the battle of ideas of which Cuba and Fidel are consistently the winners.
First, we must look at Chapter 5 of the 2006 report from the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, where we can almost hear the drool dropping from the US government’s mouth. They are hungry for Cuba’s markets and resources. The report states that they will assist a “free” Cuba by: “opening avenues of cooperation between public/private US transport entities and their Cuban counterparts.” Or by “seeking donor assistance from the international community and organizations such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to help…undertake the privatization of utilities, encourage competition in services, and develop regulatory mechanisms for natural monopolies.”
Great, so Cuba can borrow money from the World Bank, and use it to pay US companies to ‘reconstruct’ their country… you know, like all of the reconstruction they have been doing in Iraq? What an alternative for Cuba!
Secondly, we cannot forget the US administration’s accusation that Cuba forces its population to live in “repression and poverty.” Interestingly, by the CIA’s own statistics we can see the great advances Cuba has made despite 47 years of economic blockade by the U.S. Some examples of this are Cuba’s unemployment rate, 1.9%, which is lower than the U.S. at 5.1%. Cuba’s infant mortality rate is also lower than that of the US, and the lowest in all of Latin America. At the same time, Health Affairs (a US policy journal) says, “Currently, 46 million people or nearly one in five non-elderly adults and children lack health insurance in the United States.” Add to this that for most students, getting a post-secondary education in the US means drowning in a huge and unacceptable debt. Then turn your head to Cuba, a third world country, where healthcare is free and universally accessible whether you live in the heart of Havana or up in the mountain ranges. Education is completely free, all the way up to getting a university PhD. This includes not only tuition, but also uniforms, books and in many cases three meals a day. What can the US offer to attract any Cuban?
A Changing Latin America: Making an Example of Revolutionary Cuba, Living with Humanity and Dignity
The US blockade on Cuba is basically an attempt to create poor living conditions for the people of Cuba in hopes that they will lose faith in their government and their revolution due to hunger, illness and other problems, and the US will be able to intervene. The reason? One of the assistant Secretaries of State in the US, Roger Noriega said it best: "The emerging axis of subversion forming between Cuba and Venezuela must be confronted before it can undermine democracy in Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, or another vulnerable neighbour."
While the United States is using its accusations against Venezuela and Cuba as part of the reason for upholding the blockade on Cuba, the US is better known in Latin America as a supporter of the death squads in El Salvador, of dictators from Pinochet in Chile to Batista in Cuba, and of coup d’états in Haiti and Venezuela.
Basically, all countries in Latin America have had the US intervene in their government, land, and resources for many decades. They see what US ‘democracy’ means for third-world countries: exploitation, sweatshops, plundering and the raping of their rich lands for other peoples’ profits, namely those of US corporations and the US capitalist ruling class in general. Cuba is a country that since 1959 has stood firmly against this US-sponsored exploitation and colonial policies. The US cannot afford to have its companies and influence kicked out of any more resource-rich Latin American countries. In other words, the gains made by the Cuban revolution for poor and working people are the threat of a good example for all of Latin America, or more accurately, FOR THE WHOLE WORLD.
With all the criminal and illegal activities against Cuba by US imperialists, their attempts to kill the spirit of the Cuban revolution and its influence are failing. The winds of Latin America are blowing in a very new direction right now. A string of leftist or progressive leaders have been elected to power, with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, the re-election of Lula Da Silva in Brazil, the recent elections of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and the protest rallies of millions in Mexico against the election fraud that prevented the progressive candidate there, Manuel Lopez Obrador, from winning. All of these progressive and leftist leaders have a lot to live up to, because whether they like it or not, the working and oppressed people in those countries are demanding their legitimate share of wealth that they produce. They see what has happened in Cuba over the last 48 years and how Venezuela is following the same path, and yes, above all they know that a better world is possible and necessary, because as Fidel said, there is no other option.
47 Years of Solidarity Against the US Blockade of Cuba!
In November 2006, the United Nations general assembly voted for the 15th consecutive year to condemn the US blockade against Cuba. The vote was overwhelmingly in Cuba’s favour, with 183 countries voting to condemn the blockade while only four voted against the motion, with one country abstaining. This is a huge blow every year to the United States, and if Cuba can convince so many countries internationally to stand with them against the United States, then it is our human obligation, our job to get people in our cities and communities to get on board as well.
US government attacks against Cuba must be taken seriously. Not only because these hostile policies infringe on Cuba’s right to self-determination, but even more, because of what we stand to learn from Cuba - a country that is fighting for real human rights, such as jobs, education, health and housing, and above all, human dignity.
LIFT THE US BLOCKADE ON CUBA!
US HANDS OFF CUBA!
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