The US Embargo: Cuba’s Ally or Enemy?

February 17, 2014 | Print Print |

Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES — Friends of the United States, political leaders who are not revolutionary in the least and many people who stand at a considerable distance from communism stand out among the vast majority of individuals, presidents and governments that oppose Washington’s obstinate policy towards Cuba. Many are of the conviction that, to date, the blockade/embargo has actually been an ally of Fidel Castro.

Such a conception of an “alliance” maintains that the socialist economic model established in Cuba relies on the US blockade, as an excuse it can invoke in order to justify its failure. It would indeed be hard to renounce such an “excuse”, particularly when we recall how unmatched the adversaries are and the evident damage that US aggression has caused in my country.

If we’re to talk of the blockade as an “ally”, we should, however, bear in mind another way of understanding this, namely, that of discerning that the establishment of capitalism in Cuba has been set in motion, slowly but irreversibly, and that the policy of isolation is best replaced with one of collaboration which can help hasten such changes as are considered inevitable.

In this light, Havana’s authoritarian government needs the continuing blockade, on the one hand, to justify its constant economic failures and, on the other, prevent radical changes within the country. I am also referring to political changes – the United States’ aggressiveness as a superpower strengthens the strong all-powerful leader system which still prevails in Cuba’s political practices.

At any rate, it is at most a circumstantial alliance, because Cuba’s revolutionary leadership has invariably condemned Washington’s posture, despite the unpredictable twists and turns of history over the past fifty years.

The logic behind this could well be: “you imposed the blockade on us; you have to take it away. Whether you do this or not, your actions will benefit me anyways.”

Lifting the blockade would, first of all, entail an avalanche of tourism to Cuba, multiplying the States’ incomes with a direct inflow of dollars – of cash – and giving the country’s battered economy (in much need of hard currency) considerable impetus.

Such a step would necessarily entail others, such as ending the persecution of Cuban commercial activities abroad, affording the country every facility to trade in US dollars and access to credit (hitherto denied the island).

Can anyone actually be unaware of the great benefits that the lifting of the blockade would bring the Cuban State?

Whether such a decision would benefit the majority of the population to the same degree is another question entirely. Here, opinions tend be divided along the course of political passions. Sincerely, I am convinced that the Cuban people also stand to benefit immensely from it.

For those who abhor the socialist state, which has been authoritarian to date, the current tendencies of the country’s reform process, impelled by the lifting of the blockade, would give considerable impetus to the non-State sector, such as cooperatives and the self-employed.

The State monopoly would of course reap the greatest benefits, but let us not forget that such a State is bound by socialist tenets and it will have to honor these, even if the corrupt bureaucracy gets in the way. We also must not underestimate the experience acquired by Cuba’s working class over time. In the worst of scenarios, to recall the dandy of the game Monopoly, dollar bills will flutter downwards towards the underprivileged.

I am in no way suggesting we should content ourselves with breadcrumbs. I am merely pointing out the options we have, on the basis of our experiences so far.

The last resort would be to return to capitalism, as “manifest destiny” dictates. If that were to happen, we would become the chief tourism emporium in the Caribbean, a den of gambling, prostitution and drugs, “protected” by Washington, with money flowing at full speed. It is an old project, thwarted when “the Comandante stepped up and shut everything down.”

I will continue to oppose this ever happens in my country. Those seeking revenge would return to reclaim what the revolution took from them when it brought Capital to its knees, and the dream of any form of socialism would vanish, because property owners are implacable – Miami’s obstinacy proves this.

To date, those who are set on maintaining the blockade have triumphed. They are after the complete victory of capital, the destruction of the revolution – it is a question of taking the punishment imposed on us in 1961 to the end. These past 55 years, however, have sown profound ideals (today the subject of frank debate among us). The defeated bourgeoisie does not lay its bets on a possible and gradual transition to a market economy in Cuba.

What history teaches us is that, if a dictator capable of returning this vanquished bourgeoisie its properties were to appear, their tired demands for human rights would immediately disappear.

By the looks of it, given today’s circumstances, the far-right in the United States believes it is better to leave the blockade in place, even if it’s an ally of the government, in order to deny the Cuban people different options in terms of social progress. Explicitly or tacitly, there is the fear we will be able to attain the miracle of a new form of socialism.

Vicente Morín Aguado: morfamily@correodecuba.cu


What's your opinion?

  • John Goodrich

    THANK YOU !!
    That was a superbly written and explained piece.
    I found the last two paragraphs most pithy.
    They sum up the reason for the embargo in very few words, words that are well worth remembering. and quoting.

  • Moses Patterson

    For the umpteenth time, lifting the embargo on Cuba has little to do with Cuba. (Read this sentence again if you support the Castro regime). Vicente, like so many others, fails to establish a compelling reason as to why the US should spend the political capital to repeal the Helms-Burton law which codified the embargo. A Republican-controlled House has no interest in putting dollars in the pockets of communist dictators. No sitting President can afford to sign legislation that would align him with Fidel Castro. The ONLY way the US Congress will pass legislation that lifts the embargo and any US President can sign that bill into law is if Cuba has made measurable steps toward democracy. That’s the political reality that seems to escape those who would rather believe that pressure from the Castros and their international sycophants will lead to forcing Tea Party members to go soft on communism. Ain’t gonna’ happen.

    • Terry Downey

      “The ONLY way the US Congress will pass legislation that lifts the
      embargo and any US President can sign that bill into law is if Cuba has
      made measurable steps toward democracy.”

      What a load of crap. Delusional, self-serving, arrogant, garbage. Democracy as a political system is NOT the be-all-to-end-all to join the club of American favored nations. If that were true, then why does the US have no problem doing business with communist China and/or communist Vietnam?

      Let’s face it, Moses…you’re just as hypocritical as your government. Money is what controls American politics…and corporate America controls your government. It’s not the lack of democracy, nor purported abuses of human rights, nor a lack of freedom of speech…and it’s certainly not communism as an opposing political system either. If there’s a buck to be made, America will turn a blind eye to anything and jump in bed with any form of authoritarian government. America has proven this time and time again around the world.

      So instead of continuing to insist that democracy needs to come to Cuba first, why not more accurately spell it out truthfully…America needs to have a means of exploiting Cuba economically, and to America’s satisfaction, to make it possible to do business with the current Cuban government. America needs to make money. Unfortunately for the most part, Cuba only has cheap labor to offer, some nickel, sugar, tourism, cigars, cheap pharmaceuticals, and medical services. But if Cuba discovered significant cashes of recoverable oil within their territorial waters tomorrow, how long do you think it would take your hypocritical puppet government, working in co-hoots with corporate America, to strike down that Cuban embargo? It would happen so fast that it would make your head spin.

      • Moses Patterson

        Oddly enough, I mostly agree with you. I would simply differ by saying democracy does matter to the US. It matters a lot. With democracies, the US businesses are more comfortable doing business. However, non-democracies who are willing to work with the US and our interests are acceptable as well. Everyone, not just the US, seeks a world that fits together nicely within their interests. The US is simply more successful at creating such a world.

        • Terry Downey

          Moses, thanks for that. I mostly agree with your last entry as well. Democracy matters to me too by the way. But it’s not a perfect world we live in of course. There’s room for everybody as long as a concerted effort is being made to try to better the living conditions of the masses. That’s first and foremost the most important thing to me…everything else important can follow that in time. I see Cuba that way. And I think the US is now starting to see Cuba that way too. I know Cuba still needs help…a lot of help. I just hope the US and Cuban governments can get together and find a way out of this mess without further confrontation. I know that when opposing political systems are joined economically, it can only help to stimulate constructive dialogue and the softening of hard-line attitudes to be more unconditional. That alone can lead to very positive change. That would be good for everyone.

          • Griffin

            Terry wrote: ” I just hope the US and Cuban governments can get together and find a way out of this mess without further confrontation.”

            Do you not see that Castro regime intentionally sought confrontation with the US, not as a consequence of their policies, but as a means to their ends, that is the obtainment and consolidation of their grip on power?

            So long as that clique rules in Havana, there will never be a reconciliation with the US, no matter what Washington does or does not do.

            Have you also failed to notice that the relaxation of various elements of the embargo which have occurred over the last 10 years have resulted in more, not less, oppression by the Castro regime directed against the Cuban people?

            The idea that lifting the embargo entirely will lead to liberalization of the Cuban system is contrary to all available evidence. All evidence points in the opposite direction. Historically, dictatorial governments have always become more oppressive whenever changes were introduced which threatened regime survival.

            The example of the reconciliation between China and the US is often mentioned as an example for Cuba-US relations to follow. OK, so then you will recall that the contacts between Mao & Nixon began as a means to play-off Russia vs China (for the US) and US vs Russia (for China). No such dynamic exists for Cuba. Also note, the real change in US-China relations only came about after the old dictator Mao died and his banished rival Deng Xiao Ping returned from political oblivion.

            I do not see any similar change for Cuba. Yes, the Castro’s will sooner or later die. But who among the surviving regime elite will lead the country back from the wilderness? Is there a Cuban Deng lingering about? I have not heard of one. Have you?

          • Terry Downey

            Griffin, you’re one of those. You’re one of those hard-liners who just can’t see the forest for the trees. I’ve not failed to see anything. What I see is a very proud island nation continuing to struggle for their independence. I also see that the relaxation of various elements of the embargo have resulted in many freedoms that the Cuban people were not enjoying before…immigration reforms, the private sale of houses and automobiles, the establishment of a growing private business sector, cell phones, email and internet access, hotel access, etc., etc., etc. Is there still room for improvement? Of course, but I see a country and a government that is headed in the right direction…regardless if whether they ever become a democracy as we know it. Where you get the notion that there is MORE repression than 10 years ago is a mystery…and I think it’s just part of your over-all delusional attitude about the potential for reconciliation and the bigger picture for cooperation and mutual economic success together.

          • Moses Patterson

            Are you joking? You want us to give the Castros CREDIT for allowing Cubans to go to hotels, own cellphones, travel without exit visas, access email, etc.? This is simple sh*t to give because it should not have been taken away in the first place. Credit will come when Cubans can speak their minds freely and without fear of imprisonment or death. Credit will come when Cubans can freely assemble and seek redress against their government and so on. The reforms you speak of are child’s play. What Cuba needs is real freedom.

          • Terry Downey

            Moses, they won’t acquire more freedom with the current lack of help the American government is providing. You can’t FORCE democracy or the lifting of various restrictions by enforcing economic exclusion. You can’t force change, short of invading and setting up another puppet government like Batista. Failing that (thank God), by continuing to support the embargo, you’re supporting a continuation of the status-quo in Cuba. And I know that’s not what you want. It’s time for a new approach. 50 + years have proven that. It’s really that simple/stupid…but sometimes it’s too difficult to see the obvious. And again, before you get completely back up on your high-horse…may I remind you again about China? Considering the latitude bestowed on communist China, why should the US continue to be so cruel to little Cuba? You can’t have your Chinese cake and eat it too if you want to maintain any kind of a credible argument about Cuba. Otherwise, it’s all sheer hypocrisy again…and absolute BS from you. I can’t take you seriously anymore. Why don’t you promote something positive…something creative as an alternative instead of the same old crap that promotes nothing but a continuation of pain and suffering for the vast majority of the Cuban people. I’m starting to think you’re a bit of an idiot really. I mentioned simple/stupid earlier…that’s you in a nutshell. For all your intelligence (and I truly believe you’re an intelligent person), you can be so stupid and arrogant to the point of ridiculous.

          • Moses Patterson

            I would urge you to resist personal attacks. The ‘positive’ of my position includes diplomatic engagement. It includes a package that would include financial assistance. It would require that the Castros leave town, all political prisoners be released, open and democratic elections scheduled, and free speech and assembly guaranteed. Cuba needs tens of billions of dollars in capital investment. Allowing foreigners to invest in Cuba while retaining majority ownership will inhibit large private investors. A golf course here and there won’t cut it. The embargo is not Cuba’s most serious problem. The Castros need to retain control is the biggest problem facing Cuba.

          • Terry Downey

            My position also includes diplomatic engagement…on a level playing field. I don’t think financial assistance will be necessary, because the US always holds the recipient hostage to any monetary assistance. The Castros will not leave town…at least not at the demands of the US government. The Cuban government will never cow-tow to US demands…period. Nor would I. You don’t get it…that’s the very thing that is holding up the entire process of recociliation….America dictating the future of Cuba.

            You’re right…the embargo is not Cuba’s most serious problem. It’s America’s need to REGAIN control of Cuba that is the biggest problem facing that nation…the embargo is merely a symptom of that, and proof positive why the Cuban people should never trust that America has their best interests at heart. As long as America is intent on regaining control, the Cuban government will be intent on retaining control. The revolution will continue, because it must. The key to ending hostilities and beginning a new chapter rests with America. It’s not rocket science. End the embargo and lets see what happens. The embargo can always be reinstated if necessary. But until it’s lifted, paving the way to further negotiation on a level playing field, everything else is simply speculation.

          • Moses Patterson

            OK, fine. So we wait to see who blinks first. I have all the milk I want to have on my table, the buildings in San Francisco where I live are not falling down and my children don’t dream of taking a styrofoam raft to Cuba, so time is on my side. Raul steps down in 2018 so what’s another four years anyway.

          • Terry Downey

            The revolution will survive the Castro’s well beyond 2018. When Raul steps down and retires, Raul’s hand picked successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, will then take over. Perhaps that is when the US will come to their collective senses, strike down their demonstrative embargo, and enter into further negociations for a mutually beneficial economic future with Cuba. In the mean time, you can’t sit in your kitchen while smugly drinking your glass of milk without also taking your fair share of blame for Cuba’s lack of financial resources to properly maintain their infrastructure. Cuba’s crumbling buildings are a direct result of insufficient economic activity on that island…insufficient economic activity brought about by the strangle-hold your government has cruely placed upon Cuba for more than 5 decades. No Moses, I suppose YOU COULD sit in your kitchen contently drinking your your milk because you have no conscience. Meanwhile you continue to profess that you care about the Cuban people…but by definition, your embargo is also supposed to create conditions so intolerable for the Cuban people that they will rise up to over-throw their government. So don’t tell me that your embargo is not the cause of Cuba’s hardships. If it isn’t, than by it’s definition, there’s no need for it to be there, because it hasn’t fulfilled it’s mandated purpose for over 50 years.

          • Moses Patterson

            And you can also sit idly by, professing to care for the Cuban people while hundreds of them are beaten and arrested on a weekly basis simply for their outspoken disagreement with the tyrannical Castro dictatorship. I am acutely aware of my actions because of my personal stake in Cuban affairs. I understand how my position on the embargo may or may not have an effect on life in Cuba. Every month when my wife returns from the Western Union office, I file away the receipt she gives me from having sent hundreds of dollars to her family in Guantanamo. You, on the other hand, seem to turn a blind eye to the plight of those Cubans who struggle to exercise basic human rights that you can thankfully take for granted. If it was your wife or daughter dressed in white who chose to march from church service on Sunday armed with a gladiola to peacefully show her support for a more democratic Cuba, would you continue to passionately defend the Castro regime that beats and arrests her? I hope not.

          • Terry Downey

            Moses, we’re really not that far apart. We both want change in Cuba. But we differ greatly on the means of effecting change. The embargo is a dinosaur. It doesn’t do anything to help the situation…if anything, it makes the situation worse. I’m proposing a different strategy. End the embargo and give peace a chance. Do something positive. Demanding change is not the way to go. The US could be doing far more to help the Cuban people by entering into serious negotiation with their government to effect change….post embargo. Ending the embargo will not show weakness.

          • Moses Patterson

            Tyrants such as the Castros, like so many others before them, have no interest in negotiations. Appeasement will not work. The Castros will perceive US concessions as capitulation. They will make speeches extolling the will of the Cuban people and the revolutionary spirit. The very same day, dissidents who disagree will be beaten and arrested. Increased revenues owed to unrestricted American tourism and investment will be used to bolster Castros military and suppress dissent. While I do believe that we are more or less agreed on the need for change in Cuba, I heartily disagree that “post-embargo” negotiation with the Castros will work.

          • Griffin

            Miguel Diaz-Canel is a place holder. If he does keep his job, he will be but a puppet. The true power behind the Cuban government has always been the military, and since Raul took the top job, their influence has grown even further. When the Castros finally exit this world, the regime (for the “revolution” has been nothing but an exercise in maintaining power for the regime) will be on a death watch.

            “Después de nosotros, el diluvio.”

            It is historically true, the embargo was imposed to put pressure on Cuba so as to cause the collapse of the Castro dictatorship, or at least to pressure them into moderating their system. So in that sense, it has caused hardship on the Cuban people. However, Fidel Castro was adept at finding benefactors to subsidize his regime and keep him in power, thereby perpetuating the misery of the Cuban people.

            So if the US embargo is partly to blame for the sad economic conditions in Cuba, so are all the tourists, foreign corporations who have invested in Cuba and Hugo Chavez for providing all that cheap oil. By keeping the Castro regime afloat for 5 decades, they have all contributed to the suffering of the Cuban people.

          • Griffin

            Who gets standing rights on this “level playing field”? Just the US corporations and the Castro regime? What about the Cuban people, don’t they have any right to a level playing field of their own, such as are normally provide by democracy, human rights and freedoms?

            The Castro regime is determined to deny such rights to the Cuba people: they get no level playing field. Relaxing the embargo does nothing for them. It only makes the regime wealthier, while the police repression by the state security forces gets worse.

          • Terry Downey

            Griffin, your glass is half empty. Mine is half full. Where I see potential for more negotiation, collaboration, and reconciliation, including much more change for the better…..post embargo, you speculate that there will be no progress. Nada! Griffin, there hasn’t been any meaningful progress for 50 years due in large part to the embargo. It’s only common sense to at the very least recognize that it’s time for a change of strategy…perhaps something a little more a kin to cooperation from the US government, instead of confrontation? Continuing to brow-beat and isolate the Cuban regime will only entrench them further and pose a very real life and death situation for the Cuban people. If the embargo is meant to over-throw the Castro government, then what anyone who supports the embargo is really saying is that their quite happy to see thousands of Cuban killed in a bloody uprising….where there’s also no guarantee of success. The US government not only has the ability to avoid that happening…they have the ability to play an extremely valuable role in peaceful negotiation to transition change over time….post embargo. That’s where progress will be made. And it’s the only humane alternative to the inhumanity and insanity of the embargo.

          • Moses Patterson

            History is replete with examples of peaceful nations initiating negotiations with tyrants and despots and, in the end, the tyrant either ignored the agreement and continued on the path as before or forced the peaceful nation into war. What makes you believe that the Castros will willingly initiate political reforms AFTER they have been given everything they want? What is their incentive to give away their power at that point? Especially after Raul stated publicly in a recent speech that he has no plans for political reform. Can you really be that naïve?

          • Griffin

            I certainly do not want to see a violent uprising in Cuba, nor the inevitable violent repression that would follow. Keep in mind, the Cuban people have been subjected to violence at the hands of the Castro regime for the past 55 years. The violence will continue so long as the regime stays in power.

            I have not yet heard any reasonable explanation of exactly how lifting the embargo will lead to positive political change in Cuba, including an improvement in human right. How would the US have any influence or pressure on the Cuban regime to transition toward democracy if the US had already lifted the embargo, thus giving up the only bargaining ship they have before the negotiations begin? Why would the Castro regime do as the US asks, if they already have what they want?

            Obviously, the embargo has failed to overthrow the Castro regime, for a number of reasons, chief among them being the ability of the Castros to keep a string of benefactors sending money to them.

            The bottom line is this: if the Castro regime had any interest or intention of providing the Cuban people with freedom, democracy and human rights, they could do so anytime. They don’t need the US to do anything to make that happen. Raul could simply go out and make a big speech announcing that from this day forward, the government of Cuba will allow freedom of speech, legalize independent political parties, and schedule free elections. As a bonus, the US would move quickly to lift the embargo.

            So why doesn’t the Cuban regime do that? Because they are a dictatorship who intend to stay in power whatever it takes.

          • Griffin

            What direction do you see the Castro regime headed? Raul has stated clearly there will be no political reforms to go along with the limited and highly contained economic reforms he has introduced. He is leading Cuba toward a system that will look and feel exactly like Fascism. I don’t see that as an improvement. Do you?

          • Terry Downey

            Griffin, your wild speculations about the future of Raul’s Cuba are just that….wild speculations. Try a little less fear-mongering. You’ll seem more intelligent.

          • Griffin

            Terry, either you open you eyes and see what’s happening, or you can resort to insulting the intelligence of people you disagree with. It makes no difference to me, I merely state the facts as they are.

            It’s no speculation to report what Raul Castro declared that there will be no political reforms in Cuba. None. Since he came to power, the dominance of the FAR on the government has only grown. The FAR’s control of the Cuban economy has also grown, through the rapid expansion of the FAR owned corporations, GAESA and CIMEX. Meanwhile, the state funded social services have declined, as a new class of rich Cubans with access to the dollar economy rises. These new rich Cubans are, naturally, well connected to the regime elite. There is rising economic inequality in Cuba today.

            So what do you call a collectivist single-party dictatorship, dominated by the military, exercising a state-corporate monopoly of the economy? That’s the text-book definition of fascism.

            So Terry, if you have any evidence that Cuba is moving in a different direction, by all means, please share it! But do try to avoid any wild speculation that democracy of any style is part of the plan.

          • ac

            Griffin, Castro went for the US blessing before he was rebuffed so he didn’t have other choice than fall into the Soviet sphere of influence as means of survival. They did not “intentionally sought confrontation with the US”, had the US been more reasonable with the new Cuba government they could have solved all bilateral issues before escalating to a full scale confrontation.

            The Cuban case is a typical example of the arrogance and short-slightness of the US exterior policies. They simply thought themselves the owners of Cuba and saw Castro as a minor issue they would solve using the dirty tactics popular at of that time.

            They made a big mistake and as result of that mistake the world went to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

            Also, your last point is ridiculous, the US has no business dictating what other country should or shouldn’t do, specially since they have been proven beyond doubt capable of toppling democratic governments and instating military dictatorship whenever it serves their interests.

            Yes, Cuba has some human rights issues, but those NOTHING compared to Saudi Arabia (to pick just an example), yet the US is more than happy to be in friendly terms with them. That is hypocrisy: either impose the same sanction to EVERY non-democratic country in the world or don’t impose sanctions based specifically on that criteria. Ditto with human right violations.

            http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/saudi-arabia

          • Moses Patterson

            Insisting that the US use a cookie-cutter approach to foreign policy is childish. We engage Saudi Arabia to help stabilize the Middle East. Cuba lacks wealth, lacks resources and lacks political leverage. There is no reason to respond to Cuba in the same way we respond to the Saudis or to the Chinese. This is not hypocritical. This is simply foreign policy for grown-ups.

          • ac

            With is all nice and dandy, but the undermines the reason for the embargo. You are tacitly recognizing that the reason for the US embargo has nothing to do with lack democracy or human rights violations. Those are paltry pretexts that anyone with a functioning brain will recognize as BS excuses.

            The reason for the embargo is that Cuba do not have any strategic or geopolitical value whatsoever, so the US government can bully them indefinitely without consequences, so they choose to do so.

            So, cut the crap and accept things as they are. Is not about upper moral ground, is not about caring for the people, or freedoms or democracy or anything of the sort. Is simply punishment for been disobedient to the closest superpower.

            As the folks say: truth makes you free, so stop with the inane apologetics, embrace it and face the consequences.

          • Moses Patterson

            You are half right. Cuba is ONLY 90 miles from the homeland. As a result, they do pose a geographic threat profile different than is posed by China. That said, they are still a small poor island country. Unfortunately, the Castros chose to fall in with a dastardly crowd of anti-freedom despots and keeping Cuba weak does help to limit the POTENTIAL threat a more potent Cuba could pose if they were free to exercise their anti-US shenanigans. A free and democratic Cuba eliminates the possibility of an al-Qaeda training camp or an Iranian submarine base being located so close to the US. But honestly, the overriding reason for the continued tension coming from the US is owed to the political influence of the anti-Castro community here in the US. They are well-funded and organized and well able to influence US policy. It would serve people who wish to see improved relations to encourage the Castros to negotiate in good faith with their homegrown dissident community and while they are at to make kissy-face with the exiles in Miami. Once these groups have resolved their differences it will be a cakewalk to get folks like me to sign on.

          • Terry Downey

            “We engage Saudi Arabia to help stabilize the Middle East.”

            In other words, you kiss their ass and turn a blind eye when ever it’s convenient and lucrative to do so… basically, you sell-out your ideals and prostitute yourselves for money…in this case, for oil. Obviously by contrast, America’s heavy-handed position regarding Cuba then warrants absolutely no respect or credibility whats-so-ever.

          • Moses Patterson

            You can’t have it both ways. You wish that a superpower like the US comport itself in a diplomatic fashion and when we do you call it ‘ass-kissing’. Yet, when we demand human rights for the people and stand on principal as we do with Cuba, you grumble about respect. We could ‘bully’ the Saudis but we choose to work with them and make incremental changes. On the other hand, Cuba refuses to make political concessions and worse, sells arms to fellow rogue states like North Korea. Finally, in the real world, as opposed to that world that exists in your livingroom where the good guys wear white hats, foreign policy is messy and inconsistent. Americans want our government to keep us safe and secure our way of life. How to make that happen involves ‘dealing with the devil’ sometimes. At the end of the day, the end justifies the means.

          • Griffin

            You are mistaken, Fidel Castro never sought US blessing for his revolution. The official story is bunk.

            In their respective memoirs, Carlos Franquis and Norberto Fuentes, both of them 26th of July Movement members who knew Fidel & Raul very well during the revolution and after, each wrote about the Castro brothers’ intentions with respect to the Russians.

            Fidel told Herbert Matthews he was a democrat & not a communist, to keep his true intentions hidden. However, Raul was in contact with the Soviets since his trip to the Eastern bloc in 1953 where he established a relationship with Soviet KGB agent Nikolai Leonov. They met again in Mexico in 1955. Through Raul, Fidel was able to facilitated Cuba’s close ties with the Soviets after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Leonov would later become the USSR’s KGB man in Havana.

            Interestingly, Leonov is still alive, a member of the Russian Duma, and a close advisor of his former protégé, Vladimir Putin.

            Fidel went to the US in 1959, not to seek support for his revolution, but to play for time. He even brought a couple of Cuban Communist party members along with him, although they travelled under false names. He may have fooled the New York Times, but VP Richard Nixon was a more shrewd judge of character and immediately recognized that Castro was lying.

            Shortly after Fidel obtained power in January, 1959, he contacted the Soviet Union through Leonov. Fidel quickly placed members of the old Cuban Communist party, the PSP, into key positions in the new revolutionary government, (ie. Osvaldo Dorticós as President in July 1959, and others) even before the US embargo was imposed. This is historically very curious, as the PSP did not join the 26th of July Movement and had denounced Fidel’s revolution against Batista. In fact, the PSP had openly supported Batista up until 1957.

            Yet still, Fidel placed several top PSP members into the new government in 1959. Why would he do that? As he explained to the others in his inner circle, “Only the Communists understand how to make socialism work.” (see Franqui). It was because of these appointments that Huber Matos publicly denounced Fidel Castro’s turn toward the communists, in July 1959.

            It’s a myth that he only turned to the Russians after the US started attacking him. Fidel believed the US would never accept the kind of revolution he had in mind, and therefore he crafted a strategy to draw Cuba into the Soviet sphere as a means to preserving his revolution. Perhaps he was correct in that assessment: the US would never let Cuba establish a Marxists state, and the only way he could do that would be to have the USSR in his corner. It was Fidel’s intention to enlist the military & economic support of the USSR as a means to keep the US at bay. Fidel never wised to subordinate himself (or by extension, Cuba) to the will of the Soviet Communist Party, but he saw in the Soviet ideology, propaganda, methods and institutions a means to establish and preserve his power. (see Fuentes)

            The timeline of events of the Cuban revolution, as well as Fidel’s own words in public speeches and in private conversations as recorded by those who knew him well during those days, do not sustain the official story that Fidel only turned to the Soviets after the US rejected him.

          • dani

            I think that is all too much of a conspiracy theory. If you follow that logic you would have to also say that Castro joined the Orthodox Party as a front to his true intentions, that he also helped create the M-26 fooling the rest of the members and that he consistently avoided mentioning communism in all his early speeches with a view that this could all come handy in later years to fool the US. Is it credible that he organized the Moncada baracks and did his jail sentence and organized the rebellion in Mexico all without once letting it slip his true intentions. And how did he know that all this would bear fruit, so that he could then let the truth come out. It seems all a bit too elaborate. My view is this. Fidel came from a nationalist background with some left wing influences, but was mainly influenced by Marti. The revolution stated with no real idea about what was going to happen after they gained power, because they didn’t know they were going to. It was just a matter of getting rid of Batista and the old regime and ideas for land reform and ending the violence and corruption. During the revolution, communistic ideas gained ground as Che moved from being a medic on the outskirts to becomming a commander (was this also preplanned by Castro?). After Batista fled the revolution could still have taken several different paths. Castro brought the Communists into the government for some of the same reasons that Batista did. They were a large party, had strong following in the unions and had experience of government, whereas the 26th were more of a ragtag outfit who had none of these qualities. The reason the revolution turned out as it did was due to US attitude. They were first of all totally unreasonable about the compensation for nationalisation and land reform. They refused to hand over Batista to be put on trial. They constantly complained about human rights when they had kept quiet throught the Batista regime. They kept on pestering Castro about being a communist because of the land reform. They complained about Communists being in the government even though Batista had done the same. The final straw came with the visit to America, the meeting with Nixon and where Roosevelt went to play golf when he was supposed to meet the Cuban delegation. But the door wasn’t totally closed on reapproachment even after the Bay of Pigs. For some reason the US took the olive branch offered as a sign of weakness.

        • ac

          LOL, either you care about democracy or you don’t. US businessmen don’t care about the specific governments, they care about who is better for the business, regardless if they are democratically elected or ruthless dictators like Pinochet.

          Is not just that the US “is ok with non-democracies”, in the last century the US is well known for toppling democratic countries and installing military dictatorships as long as it suits their interests

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covert_United_States_foreign_regime_change_actions

          • Moses Patterson

            Chile, for example, is a country where the US is accused of helping to topple the ‘democratically-elected’ Allende government so that General Pinochet could take control. It wasn’t that simple however. The US was at the time embroiled in a bitter cold war against Communism and Allende was an avowed socialist who was aligned with Castro and the USSR. He ran and finally won his election on a program of cooperation with the right-wing of his country but quickly announced widespread nationalization programs which set off calls for his resignation. Again, other governments around the world also seek to manipulate circumstances to serve their national interests. What Cuba has done in Venezuela and what Russia is doing in Ukraine are examples. The US is no more ‘evil’ than any other country in this regard. We are simply better at getting what we want.

          • ac

            Which is irrelevant, since socialist or not he was the result of the democratic process. Or are you simply suggesting that democracy is only good if it serves to US interests?

          • Moses Patterson

            Not at all. I am suggesting that while democratic elections are very important, more important are maintaining democratic principals. Allende took no time in abandoning the democratic principals which helped him get elected. As a result, he generated an internal opposition which arguably created an opening to be exploited by US operatives. Another current example of this point is what we see happening in Venezuela. Elected by the thinnest margin, Maduro has done everything to erode the democratic checks and balances that exist in Venezuela towards his goal of turning back the clock and creating a Cuba Version 2.0.

          • ac

            Thats utter BS, Allende WAS a socialist from the beginning and was elected on that premise. There was no abandonment of democratic premises whatsoever, his only sin was the nationalization of Chilean property according to the will of their citizens. Isn’t democracy precisely about that?

            Besides, US hostility towards them began even before he was confirmed as president, after all the commander in chief of the Chilean army (a professional general with neutral stance on politics, as it should be) was killed during a CIA operation

            Quote:

            “Viaux’s kidnapping plan had been supported by the CIA, although the then U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger claims to have ordered the plans postponed at the last moment. Evidence points towards CIA director Richard Helms following orders directly from President Nixon to do whatever was necessary in order “to get rid of him”, referring to Allende. Nixon handed over a blank check to Helms, which allowed him to use full discretion in ridding Chile of Allende’s presence and “making the economy scream”. Schneider was a defender of the “constitutionalist” doctrine that the army’s role is exclusively professional, its mission being to protect the country’s sovereignty and not to interfere in politics.”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende#Election

            So, in short your hypothesis is false since the hostile position from the US government started even before Allende assumed presidency and had time to do ANYTHING whatsoever. For the US, it was simply unthinkable of a socialist government in power in Latin America, regardless of how they get to power and as in the case of Cuba, that open hostility could have been the root cause of their radicalization.

            The same applies to Venezuela: the US supported failed coup de etat against Chavez was the MAIN cause of the erosion of checks and balances of their democracy and the open US hostility the reason of the radicalization. Had the US been neutral and avoided intervention, Chavez government would had restricted themselves to the limits imposed by the Venezuelan constitution, instead he acted as cornered animals do and holed up bracing for the attack of a large predator, constitution be damned.

          • Moses Patterson

            Allende indeed ran as a socialist but brokered a deal with the Christian Democrats to form a winning coalition. Once elected though, he chose to appeal to his own base and began a program of nationalization. This was seen as a betrayal to his coalition members and fomented the internal opposition to his administration. Your comment on Chavez is a stretch. The old “the Devil made me do it” defense won’t’ fly. Chavez (and his idiot successor Maduro) have instituted numbskull policies that have nothing to do with the coup attempt or perceived external threats. The coup took place 16 years ago!

          • ac

            Again, not relevant since as I pointed out before, the US started openly hostile actions against his government even before he assumed presidency. And not hostile as “I don’t like you” but “I just assassinated the commander in chief of your army”. That kind of hostility.

            Besides, you are missing the point. We are talking of open hostility ranging from sponsored coups de etat and leader assassination to open military intervention. And to make things worse, so ineptly executed that not only failed in many cases, but did so in a way that left no doubt about WHO was behind it.

            Under those circumstances, there is virtually no other resource but kick the companies from the offending country from the national territory and radicalize your government, otherwise they are going to keep financing revolts and planning mischief until they fulfill their goal.

            And yes, under such circumstances ANY member of the opposition receiving support and financial resources from the offending country is working for a foreign power against their own democratically elected government and as such, are guilty of treason.

    • luis segui

      USA/Cuba Embargo=Terrorism American Style.

      • Griffin

        Very good Luis. Have a bone. You have posted that same comment, no more an no less about a hundred times. You really earn you salary at MININT. Keep up the good work.

    • ac

      First of all, there is no “loss” of political capital if virtually everyone agrees that is obsolete and counterproductive (as the current consensus is). Only a minority of Cuban congressmen are vocal about the embargo, the rest simply don’t care enough a way or another.

      Second, some of the provisions of the embargo (like the arbitrary restrictions to freedom of movement to US citizens) are unconstitutional and generally frowned upon amongst the US population while others (like sanctions to nationals of third countries) are illegal under international laws and because of the potential side effects and counter measures have never been fully implemented, yet the US is awfully alienated on this topic, even amongst staunch allies and satellite states (as the annual UN vote on this issue proves)

      Third, there is a lot to win for the US from lifting the embargo. From increased business opportunities that translate directly in increased revenues and jobs, to good will of the international community, in particular Latin America (one of the fastest growing markets) that sees the US embargo and isolation of Cuba as the continuation of archaic imperialistic policies.

      Finally, instead of fulfilling the desired result, the Embargo an open hostility from the US has resulted in the entrenchment of the Cuban government and a convenient scapegoat for all their own failures. Also, it has explicitly made illegal for any Cuban citizen to collaborate with US hostile policies, thus providing legal coverage to crush all forms of political dissidence, moving them further away from democratic processes (although in the case of Cuba thats technically incorrect)

      • Griffin

        There are seven Cuban-American congressmen. All but one are staunch supporters of the embargo. Only Representative Joe Garcia (D) has called for the embargo to be lifted.

        • ac

          Yep, 7 of 535 members of the congress. And based on recent polls, even in their home districts voters in general (particularly those of Cuban descent) seems to favor normalizations with Cuba.

          The “staunch supporters” are either dying pretty fast or getting progressively senile, while younger generations overwhelmingly supports normalization and in the big scheme of things worry, more about other issues.

          If those congressmen keep alienating themselves from their voter base, they are going to lose their seat sooner or later and they know it.

          • Griffin

            You wrote, ” Only a minority of Cuban congressmen are vocal about the embargo, the rest simply don’t care enough a way or another.”

            You are in error. 6 of the 7 Cuban-American congressmen support the embargo. That is not a minority. Furthermore, there is a Cuba Democracy Caucus, with 18 active members. They continue to support the embargo.

            The Atlantic Council poll was a fraudulent push-poll. The questions asked were obviously slanted, and full of errors, designed to elicit a predetermined response.

            But you might be correct, the trend over time seems to be a growing ignorance of the true nature of the Castro regime and an indifference toward the suffering the Cuban people endure at the hands of the Cuban police state. So your position is, let’s all forget about human right and join the race to make a buck on Cuban slaves?

          • ac

            I was talking about the proportion of Cuban-American congressmen/women compared to the rest of the congress/senate. They are the only ones who care a way or another and they are an insignificant albeit vocal minority.

            Also, how can you talk about the suffering of the Cuban people if the embargo never ever affects the Cuban leaders? The only ones who are impacted with privations are regular Cubans, in particular those without access to hard currency, the government elites, their families and sycophants live comfortably and prosper without any significant privations.

            Also, they work for a pittance, but they are not slaves, and opening Cuba for serious business will improve considerably their standard of living. The ones who are bent in perpetuating their misery and hardship are the ones supporting the embargo, whose explicit goal is increasing economical hardship on the Cuban population to promote social unrest,

          • Griffin

            I agree with you that the regime elite is doing fine right now, but that is due to the relaxation of the embargo which has allowed more US citizens to travel to Cuba and increased the amount of remittances from Cuban-Americans to family members on the island.

            The regime controls the majority of the Cuban economy and therefore any increase in the flow of hard currency will flow into their pockets. Those Cubans with access to the hard currency will benefit, but those stuck in the peso economy are suffering very badly now.

            If lifting the embargo will undermine the regime, why does the regime argue for it to be lifted?

            Cuban workers have no independent labour unions, they work at jobs assigned to them by the State, and they have no rights to free speech, no freedom of association, and with severe restrictions on property rights and migration. That’s as close to a definition of a slave as any you might have. Moreover, there are tens of thousand of Cubans in prison labour camps working exactly as slaves.

          • ac

            Griffin, that argument is stupid. Supposedly, the government elite and co have their dirty hands on the cookie jar and are “appropriating” public money for their own benefit. If thats true, is true REGARDLESS of remittances, US foreign travel, economic situation or anything else.

            In that scenario they are not suffering in any meaningful way, au contraire, the worse is the economy, the more they steal in proportion to what gets to the common Cubans, because there is a hard limit in how much wealth they can display before it becomes a public scandal.

            Notice that the “historicos” make a strong point to showing modesty at least in public and ostentation is a sure method to get ANYONE in trouble.

            As for your question, it is also pretty silly. The Cuban government has been making a point about how evil is the US government by imposing an illegal blockade to a poor country and using that fact as a leverage in the dealings with other countries.

            Also, the embargo is an useful tool for shifting the blame for their own failures to the “evil empire” and serves to rally the population against a common, obvious enemy, but they are NEVER going to acknowledge that fact in public.

            As for your last point, you are wrong in a few points. They do not “work at jobs assigned to them by the state”, the state is the major job supplier and most Cubans work for it, no assignment needed. The ONLY time they do assign jobs is for the so called “social service” to students that graduate from upper education and there is some flexibility on that, the rest can choose where to work at will.

            Also, they DO have rights to free speech, as a matter of fact most of them are quite vocal in their criticism to the government, what they generally do NOT have is access to the media and a lot of restrictions regarding public gatherings.

            Also, there is nothing particularly wrong to their property rights, they DO have the right over their private property and they can own real estate for both personal use and private business.

            Not to mention that you keep hammering on the migration rights. I already told you several times: after the latest migration reform Cubans can travel whenever they want at any country willing to accept them, so there is no violation of any right whatsoever.

            And if you are talking about internal migration, the ONLY restrictions are in the living space in the destination and thats a reasonable regulation. If you do not have a place to live or are trying to live in an overcrowded room, you have no business moving to Havana. As simple as that.

          • Griffin

            Cubans still cannot move about freely inside Cuba. Migrants from Orient are no supposed to live in Havana without permission. And there are still limitations on emigrating from Cuba.

            Cubans are still limited in what kind of property they are allowed to own. Quite a lot of private property was confiscated by the Revolution and until legal ownership of that property is settled, the matter of property rights remains in question.

            It is quite true, the regime uses the embargo as an excuse to shift blame for their failures. At the same time, they know they will benefit when the embargo is finally lifted.

            I do believe the US will eventually do so, but not until after the two Castro brothers are dead & buried. Fidel could go any any day, or he could linger on for a year or more. Raul has not looked after himself so well, and he could punch out anytime too.

            The regime will attempt to continue on as before, but none of the 2nd tier elite have anything like the prestige the Castro’s had. It won’t last long. Of course, if the situation in Venezuela goes down the tubes and Cuba loses their cheap oil supply, the regime could find themselves on the ropes sooner rather than later.

            I would love to see the end of the embargo, but only if it is done in a way that does not perpetuate the dictatorship.

          • ac

            Sigh. Ok, it was a long post, but don’t make me said the same things over and over. The ONLY restriction to free movement in Cuba is a rule that limits the amount of space per capita in the new residence. In order to move to Havana (the only place enforcing that rule) you must

            a) Have a place to live
            b) Have enough space in the new address for you

            Those are reasonable regulations and the need for those arise because of the growing overcrowding issues that probably you are unaware of.

            I’ve been several times in Cuba and I have visited all kind of places, including poor neighborhood and shantytowns and can attest that this is a real issue that is causing a lots of problems.

            As for the issue of property rights, that was settled long time ago as the US refused to accept compensation for the nationalizations. Every other country received payment for the nationalized properties (dunno if fair or not) and it was the same same for properties nationalized to Cubans living in Cuba (although the compensation was a pittance).

            The claims from US citizens and Cubans living in US are legally void after 50 years.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_limitations

          • Moses Patterson

            You are only partially correct. If a Cuban has renovated his home well-beyond that of his neighbors, the State may come in and demand proof as to how these improvements were paid for and from where the supplies were purchased. Failing to justify some bureaucrats envy, this ‘homeowner’ risks being charged with “illicit enrichment” resulting in having his property confiscated and possible imprisonment. Homeowners are limited to one property except in special cases where the elite are permitted to own vacation homes as well. With regards to free speech, you are sadly mistaken. It is widely included as free speech, the right to publish and disseminate printed materials reflecting views which may counter government. In Cuba, you will be imprisoned without trial if you were to publish let alone disseminate anti-Castro material. You are way off base with claims of free speech in Cuba. The right to free assembly is also non-existent in Cuba. Organizing an anti-Castro rally in the Revolution Plaza is also an E-ticket to a Cuban gulag. Finally, Cubans who work for the State have no choice as to where they will work nor how much they will earn. If a Cuban wishes to change jobs, they must receive State approval and included in their request for transfer are reports regarding their attendance at mandatory parades and political events. To wish to change careers is frowned upon and risks possible unemployment. Jobs in tourism are sold on the Black Market. I once loaned a friend $500 so that he could pay a bribe to the bar manager a major Havana hotel to get hired as a bartender. While it took him a few months to do so, he paid me back from the nearly $300 in tips he earned on a monthly basis and the illicit mojitos he sold. Your trips to Cuba should have better exposed you to the reality that Cubans face on a daily basis.

          • ac

            Moses, thats rubbish. Walk any poor neighborhood in Havana and you WILL see renovated houses side by side with crumbling ones virtually everywhere. The government is not knocking out house by house and asking for proof of the resources for the renovation, it usually works in reverse (some neighbor either suspicious or envious of that guy notifies the police, then the police goes to investigate).

            Besides, asking for evidence that the renovation was done by legal means is not particularly evil and and law abiding citizens should be able to provide it, right?

            Also, your assertion about ownership is factually incorrect. EVERYONE in Cuba can own a house in the city and another one in the countryside (aka vacation homes) and it has been like that for ages.

            About your comments on free speech, you are wrong. First of all, freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are different things and although they usually come together (specially the latter two), is not wise to conflate them.

            Freedom of speech is specifically the right to express your own opinions and ideas using your own body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. That right is generally withhold in Cuba.

            Freedom of expression is similar, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. Although included in the Universal Declaration of Human rights, this right is ALWAYS granted with limitations and the most common limitations are libel, slander, obscenity, sedition and unnecessary panic. Also, notice that this right DO NOT guarantee in any way unrestricted access to the media.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech

            In the case of Cuba, they consider most opposition groups as seditious, since most explicitly seek regime change and as you can see, thats one of the most common limitations to freedom of expression. Is not ideal, but it is what it is.

            Finally, ask your wife about changing jobs in Cuba. Except for few exceptions (graduated students serving the social service, MDs, military, intelligence personnel, etc) EVERYONE ELSE can leave their position at any time and seek a different one anywhere. Sure, they can’t negotiate their salary in the public sector but thats because open positions are linked to a specific job description receiving a specific remuneration and is not negotiable. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else, thats how it works.

            Your other comments regarding changing jobs are rubbish, there is no such thing as registry of attendance to political activities in your job file and the only time in the past you needed explicit approval from your employer used to be to obtain the white card to travel abroad. Since the migration reforms, thats not longer necessary, you only need to ask permission if you plan to travel abroad and plan to return to your existing position, not to leave your job.

            Your comments about the jobs in the tourist sector and the black market are accurate, is pretty common to buy and sell positions but that has nothing to with your previous topic and if anything illustrates that people can change jobs at will.

          • Moses Patterson

            Do you really fail to understand that opening up Cuba to commerce with the US will increase, at least in the short run, and not decrease the human rights abuses in Cuba? Do you fail to appreciate how the Castro oligarchy has set themselves up and NOT the Cuban people to directly benefit from a ‘no embargo’ relationship with the US. Finally, after 55 years, with the Castros so very close to leaving the public space, now more than ever is the time to maintain the pressure, however misplaced, on the Castro regime.

          • ac

            What I fail to see is you rationale for such inane statement. Without a logical chain from one thing to the other you are simply stating your own opinion and thats not a compelling argument.

            Besides, the HISTORIC evidence suggest that free commerce and normal relations LEADS to increased personal freedoms. Is not an iron-clad rule, of course, but thats how things have worked in the past pretty much everywhere.

            Your last point is pretty silly. You are basically saying that if the US waits a few more years, the Castros will be gone due to their advanced age, so the US can save face and win the pissing contest with themselves. Technically at least.

            Well, congratulations, you just made an excellent parallel between US foreign policy and a high school bully. Not that I think about it, it helps explains some of the childish US behavior in the last half century or so.

          • Griffin

            No, you wrote one thing and then in two subsequent posts you tried to walk it back and say something else. We’ve seen that game too often with you, ac.

            It would be easier for you to admit you goofed on a statistic, and then move on. Instead, you pretend you said something other that the words printed in black & white.

            The first sentence is does not agree with the 2nd and 3rd sentences:

            “Only a minority of Cuban congressmen are vocal about the embargo, the rest simply don’t care enough a way or another.”

            “Yep, 7 of 535 members of the congress.”

            “I was talking about the proportion of Cuban-American congressmen/women compared to the rest of the congress/senate.”

            Whatever, dude.

          • ac

            Sorry, but either you are being intentionally obtuse or you comprehension skills are severely lacking. My original quote was:

            “First of all, there is no “loss” of political capital if virtually everyone agrees that is obsolete and counterproductive (as the current consensus is). Only a minority of Cuban congressmen are vocal about the embargo, the rest simply don’t care enough a way or another”

            I was obviously talking about the US congressman of Cuban origin as a proportion of the entire congress (I was talking about “political capital”, do you know what it means?) and explicitly stating that they are the only ones who really cared about this issue. The obvious intention there was to imply that the vast majority of the congress is indifferent to the issue, thus providing a rationale to the opening line.

            Nowhere in that post I mentioned the number of congressman of Cuban descent (I only called them “a minority” which is the correct term for such small proportion) nor their individual position on the embargo (I only said they were the only ones who cared and the rest was indifferent)

            Even misreading the target demographics for the comment, the only thing you can infer from that line is that the minority I was talking about (whatever it is) were the only ones who cared about the issue. I never mentioned their specific position because it was irrelevant to the point I was trying to make.

            So, in short, it looks like you are having a fun discussion between yourself and some sort of ac caricature. Sure, sometimes I’m careless and post my comments without checking first and I get all sorts of silly grammar errors, but that specific paragraph was not one of those times.

            Not to mention that you are ignoring the core of the argument. As usual.

  • Informed Consent

    Vicente, In your entire essay you only got one word right, Miracle, because it would take divine intervention to make communism work. If it didn’t work in the heyday of the USSR, when Cuba received billions of rubles annually, and when the excuse of the embargo wouldn’t work as they were part of the old soviet block, why would it work now? This is the same band of criminal communists that can’t generate enough food for their own people even though Cuba has some of the most fertile land in the world!

    • John Goodrich

      Informed Consent,
      One of the first things Lenin and Trotsky did upon taking power in the new Soviet Union was to get rid of the “soviets” which were the communist workers councils. run democratically from the bottom up.
      That effectively ended any CHANCE of communism in the Soviet Union.
      What evolved was a state-run economy and communism , by definition, cannot be run from the top down.
      I hope this is helpful .
      And BTW, that totalitarian , non-democratic state-run economy in the Soviet Union brought that nation from near total destruction in 1945 to having the #2 economy in the world just 25 years later.
      Cuba’s state-run economy has enabled the entire population of 11 million to survive and defy the 55 year-old war waged upon it .
      These were two economies that cannot be called communist or socialist but which did use central planning and equitable distribution of essential goods and services .
      You guys are running scared now that so many people and sources are calling for an end to U.S. hostilities and the chances of Cuba going back to capitalism are dying rapidly.
      It says a lot about you that you’d wish the hard life imposed upon all Cubans by the U.S. economic war on the population to continue just so totalitarian capitalism can be restored .
      The almighty dollar means more to you than the lives of Cuban children.

      • Informed Consent

        You just don’t get it do you…. In his book, “Unnatural Deaths in the U.S.S.R.: 1928-1954,” I.G. Dyadkin estimated that the USSR suffered 56 to 62 million “unnatural deaths” during that period, with 34 to 49 million directly linked to Stalin. So don’t talk to me about the importance of lives as you certainly don’t give a darn. How many need die for your communist utopia JG?

      • Griffin

        The Castro brothers did the same thing in Cuba. They eliminated the non-Communist revolutionaries of the July 26th Movement. They also destroyed the independent trade unions, merged all unions into one big organization and installed trusted Communists in charge.

        Whether you accept the label “Communist” or not is irrelevant. The Cuban Communist Party used the label and that is how Fidel Castro referred to them when he explained to his fellow leaders of the Revolution that he was bringing in the Communists,”because only the Communists really understand socialism”.

        Yes, the USSR was for a brief while the 2nd largest economy in the world, before it collapsed due to economic, social and political failure.

  • Informed Consent

    In light of the new revelations by the UN on the atrocities taking place in North Korea (crimes against humanity) I have now changed my mind and believe the embargo should stay in place! And I am sure many who were looking to ease the embargo will now feel reticent to do so. After all Cuba was caught red handed supplying weapons and weapons parts to that very county, enabling the regimes continued enslavement (after reading the UN report there really is no other name for it) of it’s people.

    The old Cuban saying holds true. “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”

  • CUBAQUS

    The time the “embargo” or “bloqueo” was a propaganda ally of the Castro regime has passed. Most Cubans know there is no “blockade” of Cuba. They see US cars, foodstuffs, tourists, remittances, … flowing in.
    Now the trade sanctions are the ally of the Cuba people denying the regime access to US markets to generate more cash for its exclusive survival.
    For decades the impact of sanctions was totally eliminated by the 33% of GDP subsidies by the Soviet Union.
    Now the regime is – with the exception of the Chavez-Maduro subsidies – facing up to reality and is reduced to the use of “indentured labor” by doctors to survive.
    Access to US markets would just prolong the suffering of the Cuban people.

  • http://www.BobMichaels.org Bob Michaels

    I see the embargo as being far less significant than everyone else here. It’s main use currently appears to be primarily an excuse for the failures of the Cuban government.

    The embargo is now a hollow shell of what it once was. The US sells Cuba all the food and medicine they can afford to buy. Americans are essentially free to travel to Cuba. Most importantly, Americans are essentially free to send as much money as they want directly to Cuban people bypassing the Cuban government. This is causing major economic shifts within Cuba and driving changes. While the US residents cannot buy from Cuba, Cuba actually has next to nothing to sell. I see a lot of American products being transported to Cuba constantly on the direct US – Cuba flights. Where does a Cuban get a rebuilt carburetor for their ’52 Ford? Same place they got the tire tubes last month. (A real life personal experience)

    While it remains true that the Cuban government is politically repressive, the majority of Cubans would much prefer an adequate food supply instead of the right to politically protest and cast a meaningful vote. Actions of the US and its residents are causing the Cuban government to become economically unimportant. My frequent travels to Cuba show more and more Cuban people simply ignoring the Cuban government in earning a living. The Cuban government is on the run, realizing they are losing control of the economy to the US.

    I can tolerate the diminishment of the world’s opinion of the US vis-a-vis the embargo as this keeps old hard liners’ eyes from focusing on what is really happening. The pro-embargo folks keep fighting without realizing the changes the US government is currently causing.

    • Griffin

      I believe you are mistaken. The Cuban government, through the state-owned monopolies like GAESA and CIMEX control over 65% of the Cuban economy, and their size is growing, not shrinking. The US money flowing into Cuba in the form of remittances flows by necessity through the state monopolies (they own the dollar stores where the cash has to be spent) and thus into the government coffers.

      Furthermore, well connected family members of high ranking FAR officers and government officials have been opening many of the new successful paladars and businesses recently licensed by the government. In this way, tourist dollars are directed into the pockets of the regime elite.

      So long as the state and their proxies control the economy, they will benefit the most from any relaxation of the embargo. Only those Cuban people with access to the flow of hard currency (legally or illegally) will benefit. Those Cubans outside of the dollar economy are finding life harder than ever as inflation is rising and more items are cut from the ration booklet.

      • http://www.BobMichaels.org Bob Michaels

        Griffin: I must disagree with much of your reply based on what I see in my frequent trips to Cuba. (like 3 trips in the last 3 months). The amount of money being spent on direct Cuban people to Cuban people transactions, totally bypassing the government, is increasing. True, much of it goes through the government but what once was almost 100% is declining rapidly. This is making a real difference. Cuban government reforms, limited as they may be, are reactions to the economy changing no matter if the government likes it or not .

        Licenses for paladars, casa particulars, and other private businesses are simple to obtain. But, the key is having access to investment or start-up capital. This is coming almost exclusively to Cubans who have access to foreign remittances. Four stars on your shoulder and a license means nothing when you have no access to capital to start a business.

        The Cuban government is losing control of the economy. It has not happened yet but they must acknowledge it is in process. The value of foreign remittances is now 4X the total of the payroll of the government and all its subsidiaries. I see more and more Cubans whose income stream bypasses the government totally. Granted this foreign money is not equally distributed. But there is widespread impact of Cuban doctors, dentists, and lawyers putting up with a lot of grief to still struggle on the moneta nacional equivalent of $20-23 while being envious of their neighbors who live comfortably on the $100 remittances their families abroad send them. I know too many Cuban parents encouraging their children not to pursue a professional “career” like medicine as it will destine them to a life of poverty but instead to learn English so they can make good money by bypassing the government.

        I remain firm in my conviction that the embargo is much less important than the large number of Americans visiting Cuba and most importantly, the the very significant amounts of money going directly to the Cuban people. True that some of this money trickles up to the government but that is quite different from it going directly to the government and some trickling down to the people.

        • Griffin

          Sorry Bob, but you don’t understand how the economy works. The Cuban regime controls all the banks, wholesale manufacturers, gasoline stations, and the import & export business. At every stage, the regime gets a cut. All self-employed must pay monthly license fees (…the regime gets a cut), plus income taxes (…the regime gets another cut). When remittances are exchanged, US dollars or Euros for CUCs, the regime gets a cut again. Those Cubans with CUCs in their pockets have to spend the money at CUC stores, where the regime gets their cut, again.

          When the tourists fly to Cuba, the regime owns the Cuban tour companies (cut!) and the Cuban share of the hotels (cut!). The Spanish hotel operators pay $400 per month per Cuban employee, but the employee get only $20. The regime get the $380 cut, off the top. The regime owned tour company buses (cut) drive the tourists to paladars owned by the families of the regime (yet another cut).

          Because they own GAESA and CIMEX, the FAR is now a self-sustaining enterprise, free of dependence on the Cuban state budget. That’s how powerful they have become.

          • http://www.BobMichaels.org Bob Michaels

            Griffin: actually I believe I have a good grasp of how the Cuban economy works from my academic background, a lifetime of work in a related field, research, and most importantly living in Cuba part of the time with a Cuban family being privy to what comes in and where it goes out. Everyday I see favorable economic alternatives bypassing the Cuban government.

            I will not contend that the Cuban government is not a part of the economy. But, I will contend that they are becoming less and less of a factor. This drives many of their decisions. Legalization of private businesses was an acknowledgement that private businesses were growing in importance no matter if they were legal or not. Legalization of the sale of houses and cars were also an acknowledgement of reality in spite of attempted government laws. That list goes on and on. All of those were driven by financial resources given direct to the Cuban people. I continue to believe that the Cuban government is being forced to hand over some economic aspects to the people because they cannot stop it.

            I suspect the US could cause the rapid downfall of the Castro brothers by economically devastating the lives of 10,999,998 Cuban people. But I like to think the collateral damage is not worth the end result. I prefer the ongoing process of the Cuban government becoming more and more unimportant to the everyday lives of the Cuban people.

          • Griffin

            Bob,

            Thank you for taking the time to answer, with gracious manners, my comments. I think I now appreciate the larger context of your point of view. You make a compelling point about the expanding economic activity in Cuba which is slipping beyond the confines of the state. It seems that the state owned corporations are expanding, but so is the non-state sector, which the regime views as a potential danger which must be, if not contained, at least controlled and taxed.

            I recall from my visits to Cuba how the waiters, maids & taxi drivers appreciated tips in goods rather than CUCs. The cost of these simple items was relatively high for a Cuban to have to buy and at the same time, there is no way the government can tax a tube of toothpaste or a box of tampons. The regime can’t get their usual “cut”.

            If you are writing anything more on the topic, an academic paper for example, I would be very interested to read it. Again, thank you for the valuable insight.

          • http://www.BobMichaels.org Bob Michaels

            Griffin: I can assure you than much currency exchange is happening in places other than banks, much gasoline and diesel is being purchased from other than government stations, many CUC goods are being purchased from other than government stores, and that government licenses and income taxes are grossly under reported or evaded. All illegally but common.

            I will agree the FAR is currently self sustaining and powerful. But I see their power being diminished on a continuing basis.