This is the second part of a two part series on Cuban perspectives on the 50th anniversary of the embargo. Please read the first part here.
The United States embargo (or blockade) against Cuba awakens passionate reactions, debates and reflections that have not subsided with time: the embargo is now 50 years old. Beyond opinions of politicians, diplomats, and strategists, Cubans – inside and outside of the Island – have lived and felt the embargo on the ground.
With this in mind, Global Voices Caribbean Editor Janine Mendes-Franco and I interviewed one blogger from the diaspora and one residing in Cuba to offer various perspectives on the embargo, a very complex and multi-layered issue. Janine interviewed Alberto de la Cruz, managing editor of babalu blog, and I interviewed Elaine Díaz, editor of the blog Polémica Digital, journalist, journalism professor at the University of Havana [es] and Global Voices author [es].
Global Voices (GV): The U.S. embargo on Cuba – probably the longest-running economic ban in history – recently turned 50. Supporters see it as a necessary measure against a communist government; critics say that the policy is a failure that is really not hurting the regime, but instead, the average Cuban. Where do you stand?
Elaine Díaz (ED): Definir una posición puede ser difícil; pero, en este caso, siempre ha sido sencillo ubicarse en un espacio. El bloqueo, que algunos llaman embargo, me parece, en primer lugar, una ofensa a Cuba como nación. Ningún país tiene derecho a imponer sanciones financieras o políticas a otro por estar en desacuerdo con sus sistema político. Cada pueblo tiene derecho a escoger su filiación ideológica, y Cuba no es la excepción. El temor al fantasma del “comunismo” le ha brindado un marco legal a Estados Unidos para imponer este conjunto de leyes que, contestando tu segunda pregunta; no afectan en nada al gobierno, sino al ciudadano común, que se ve privado del acceso a artículos de primera necesidad porque se encarecen las inversiones y nuestro maltrecha producción nacional no da abasto a la demanda actual.
GV: What do you think it has accomplished, if anything?
ED: Creo que ha creado un sentimiento de atrincheramiento, de necesidad de defender la isla, de promover un sistema político autónomo que ha sido capaz de resistir esta hostilidad durante 50 años.
GV: Do you think the embargo, as it stands now, is doing anything to improve the political or human rights situation in Cuba?
ED: En lo absoluto.
GV: Do you see a better alternative?
ED: Respetar el derecho a la autodeterminación de los pueblos.
GV: How do you feel about the recent lifting of travel restrictions and making remittances easier?
ED: Me parece una medida muy acertada. Existen muchísimas familias sufriendo por la enemistad de dos gobiernos. El bloqueo se ha traducido en la separación de familias, de padres e hijos de alguna manera indirectamente. Hasta hace algunos años tener un familiar residiendo en Estados Unidos constituía un estigma; las recientes medidas de flexibilización tanto desde Cuba como por parte de Estados Unidos, sientan las bases, aunque aún insuficiente, para un diálogo entre las dos naciones.
GV: How has the embargo affected the Internet in Cuba? In terms of infrastructure, access, distribution.
ED: Acceso a alguna tecnología en específico. No creo que Cuba estuviese en ningún momento de acuerdo en conectarse a algunos de los cables de fibra óptica que provee Estados Unidos por cuestiones de seguridad nacional
I am not Cuban ( British ) so might be mistaken for having some Agenda regarding the Embargo. Well I do not, but I do agree with the UN and most Nations regarding this Obscene Punishment measured out by the USA on Cuba. Meanwhile, they trade with Vietnam ( still Communist ) Russia ( not really democratic ) China ( Communist Capitalists ) and resumed food supplies to North Korea with Strings attached. I guess this is what the USA hopes to have achieved by the Embargo dragging on, trying to redeem their CHIP on the shoulder, from the Bay of Pigs Disaster and the Association of Castro with the Russians and Nuclear weapons, and influencing Regime Change from within.
The USA condemnation of the Assad Regime in Syria and the subsequent derision of the Veto by Russia and China is bold and righteous. Why should their Veto of the motion for the lifting of the Cuban Embargo by the rest of the world not be held in similar contempt, or named and shamed as Blatant Hypocrisy.
Let’s not forget that Castro & Che Guevara became Heroes, Solely because they Evicted the American backed Government who in turn were in in concordance with the American Mafia. The Fulgencio Batista Government had enslaved the Cuban people to create a “Las Vegas” type of playground for the Rich & Infamous to wallow in at the expense of the people who had even less poverty than they do now.
What do you know about it?, I can hear the Exile community of Little Havana in Florida saying, one of whom is my sister-in-law, Daughter of a General in the Batsta regime, who has pipe-dreams of one day reclaiming all the property the had amassed when they were in power; quite a common theme amongst the Exiles in the USA who use their numbers and Voting Power in the State of Florida to exert influence on every Presidential Election for such a crucial State, as well as in the Senate and House of representatives.
Besides getting some of the inside story from the Exile community of Florida, I have also been to Cuba three times and been overwhelmed by their ebullience and improvisation despite the shortages of materials or finance, together with a disdain for misery or feeling hard done by. Savor is the term they use a lot and dancing in the street for no apparent reason at all is predominant Cuban culture. They are unceasingly festive and happy go lucky on their exterior, despite the hardships they endure partially due to Government control but also manifestly due to US interference in their livelihood from the prolonged Embargo.
However inside the country’s psyche, It is a divided Nation almost mirroring that of the USA who have inflicted an impasse on the growth of a nation both physically and geopolitically. The Socialist side of Cuba, hard-liners of the Castro regime and supporters of the anti capitalist ideology, try to warn the population that America will just bring back corruption and create a rich/poor divide that existed before Castro. On the other hand are the citizens who are not pro USA but wish to have the things that Tourists have in abundance and feel that they have gone long enough without even the basics yet the rest of the world has left them behind as a banana republic.
Who’s to blame for this stagnation of their lifestyle? Half say Castro & half say the USA & it’s belligerence. In America, half the population say let’s bury the hatchet and the other half say; yes, in Castro’s back. When I was in Havana it was quite refreshing to never come across a MacDonald’s, Burger King, Coca Cola or any other obscenely advertised western product built on consumerism and just be surrounded by individualism and a spirit of the Blitz but if I were a permanent resident I am sure my political persuasiveness would be pulled into a more extreme corner depending on the circumstances that confronted me and the outcome of daily survival.
As a tourist one does not really see the unavailability of modern technology to ordinary people since all these things are provided in the large hotels built by the government to raise trade for the imports they have to buy, mainly oil, gas and machinery. Access to the internet is restricted by the Government for fear of all the US media propaganda that would surely destabilise the political system in Cuba. Let’s not pretend that the USA has any virtuous reason to bring down the Castro regime, for the CIA have attempted to assassinate him some 38 times. So their record is not good enough to take the high ground, and keep on extolling rhetoric argument to a wiser Global community who just don’t buy it anymore. Especially since their liaisons with other so-called communist, evil empires; is ongoing and unassuming. Why not the same for Cuba, the result of ” Forgiveness ” and ” forget ” is that the people will ask for more freedoms and eventually ask for democracy which if not forthcoming by the Cuban leaders will be fought over internally.
The USA need to let go of this millstone, and get their own house in order. Close Guantanamo, get out gracefully and assist Cuba to be self-sufficient as much as possible and get on the path of repairing relations with them as they did in Vietnam, Russia & China. It’s about time, USA, Trust in God. Is this your motto, or just borrowed.