By Gustavo A. Maranges / Resumen Latinoamericano
Last week, US President Joe Biden extended for one more year the sanctions on Cuba, arguing the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. This mechanism has been used for the last 60 years to back the countless sanctions that make up the US blockade against Cuba.
This time, Biden only limited himself to saying that it was a “matter of interest to the United States.” By a stroke of the pen, he condemned the Cuban people to continue to suffer all the economic shortages caused by the blockade. Sanctioning and playing with the welfare of millions of people, with their very lives, seems to be a reflex action of US political class.
For Biden, it was just one of the hundreds of documents he signed last week. Although, for Cubans, this one is a critical signature that has a direct impact on their health, food for their families, working conditions, possibilities to enjoy their country, and everything they do to see their country flourish. The blockade is, without a doubt, the main obstacle to Cuba’s development.
Many of our readers know about all the scientific and social achievements of the island despite the sanctions. Meanwhile, Cubans only think of how much more they could have done without a blockade. The annual losses to the Cuban families’ economy are estimated at billions of dollars, but this is not nearly the worst damage. Enjoying a full childhood or further progress in gender equality or women’s empowerment is hindered by the sanctions, something recognized by UNESCO and NGOs such as OXFAM.
Today, Cuba is going through the worst economic crisis in decades, which is the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deficiencies of the national business system, and the so-mentioned US sanctions. It is not possible to explain Cuba’s reality without understanding the effect of the blockade, since it catalyzes every mistake or wrong internal decision while inhibiting any loophole of development.
However, it has been a long time since the blockade, based on an archaic Act, ceased to be only economic aggression; it now includes the psychological level. This is no coincidence since it was its main objective, as the State Department official Lester Mallory clearly stated in a memorandum: the blockade main’s intention is to “(…) provoke hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.”
The Trading with the Enemy Act was the legal basis found by the Kennedy administration in 1962 to sustain sanctions against Cuba by considering it a “hostile state.” Despite the Cold War scenario, it was not true then, and it still is a lie now. A lie repeated many times becomes truth, the saying goes, although this is the exception that proves the rule. No matter how often they repeat it, no one can believe in such absurdity.
A country that sends doctors to the poorest places in the world, offered assistance to Americans after Hurricane Katrina, fought cholera in Haiti and Ebola in Africa, and sent doctors to over 56 countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, cannot be a foe. How can Cuba be so hostile if there are eight bilateral cooperation agreements in force since Obama’s administration?
Cuba’s response was not long in coming. President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, as well as several high-ranking Cuban diplomats, criticized Biden’s cowardly decision and ratified Cuban’s will of not kneeling down before the extortions of any foreign government. Cuba is socialist because we decided so in 1961 and ratified it after every Constitution.
Today, despite Cuba’s complex economic situation, those who continue fighting for their social and political project are more than those who abandon it. The US government thought it was impossible to survive without its help in the sixties, then they got ready to return during the special period. They thought everything would end after Fidel Castro left his government position or later when he passed away. They bet on breaking us during the COVID-19 pandemic, and today, they continue to do everything possible to achieve the long-standing goal. All this shows the Machiavellian character of the US policy towards Cuba and its shameful historical amnesia.
Biden has maintained his predecessors’ bet, which confirms his memory is not the best. Perhaps his case is even more reprehensible, not only because it goes against his electoral promises, but also because his long years in politics have allowed him to see all these failures with his own eyes.
Ratifying Cuba as a “hostile state” says more about the current administration than about the Caribbean island itself. If someone sees Cuba as a “hostile state”, it is because they feel threatened by its example, by what it means to Latin Americans and many Americans who want a fairer US. Cuba has never been hostile to Americans and they will never be. Only those seeking to crush their neighbors’ sovereignty, stand for imperialist policies, and this profoundly unequal world order, can see Cuba in that way. For Democrats and Republican administrations alike, Cuba has always been a thorn in their side.