Statement & basic analysis in response to the events of Sunday, July 11, 2021 in Cuba and US responses, as adopted on July 13 by the Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba.
The emergence of demonstrations in Cuba over food and related shortages should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been able to filter through US media and follow the basic facts re US and Cuba relations. Essential to understand the dynamics there, one must realize these simple facts:
1. US policy since April 1960 has been to “bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of government“ in Cuba (https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v06/d499).
2. The severity of this has waxed and waned, but under Trump has been made more severe than ever, adding 243 additional restrictions, including over 50 during the pandemic alone. Combined, this has prevented much international trade and investments, and virtually cut off all remittances between families in and to Cuba, and also blocked travel in both directions. This is in contrast to Cuba‘s dropping virtually all international travel restrictions years ago.
3. The pandemic has severely affected Cuba‘s economy and increasingly the health of its population. Although its total rate of infection and death is less than (c.10%) that here at home, it has increased sharply, especially since the temporary opening of travel late last year when many people from Florida especially brought much infection to Cuba. The rates of infection are now high by Cuban standards, and even basic supplies such as syringes needed to inoculate the population with Cuba’s own vaccines are hampered as a result of the US economic blockade. (See #syringes4Cuba campaign, and how you can directly help.)
4. Cuba has taken a defensive approach to minimize the infection of its population which is disproportionately elderly and at risk, given its limited access to many medicines and ingredients to manufacture same domestically. Foreign visitors must quarantine for five days in addition to serial testing, so tourism income has dried up, at the same time that remittances have stopped and Western Union has shut down.
5. Even though Trump’s Secretary of State Pompeo openly boasted that the goal was to “starve” the island, and Biden promised to reverse those policies and return to the Obama approach, Trump’s restrictions and edicts are all still 100% in place. The Biden administration also reversed Obama’s approach in the UN, and followed Trump in opposing the rest of the world which adopted on June 23, 2021 a resolution declaring the “necessity” of ending the US’s internationally imposed financial and trade embargo on Cuba. (The vote was 184 to 2, with only the US and Israel in opposition.)
6. The US officially budgets tens of millions of dollars every year to foster and build opposition within Cuba, not counting unreported CIA/intelligence operations. Any similar activities by foreign agents in the US are either illegal or highly restricted.
7. The food shortages are severe, Cuba’s rapidly expanding vaccination program is hampered by the inability to get a sufficient number of syringes and other medical supplies as documented by Oxfam and others, and constant frustration, disappointment and complaints are widespread and inevitable. There is little if any evidence that this has resulted in any indigenous movement for any alternative political formation however.
8. Assuming the Biden administration, commentators, politicians, or anyone else in this country really care about the health and welfare of the Cuban people, they would follow the decades long demand of the international community, reverse the unilateral Trump actions immediately, and promptly allow humanitarian and other trade, remittances and travel — rather than pointing fingers while taking no action to reverse a policy specifically designed to bring about these severe hardships to the Cuban people.
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