April 04, 2021

Cuba on the Go

R Arun Kumar

ON March 28, caravans marched in Havana, Cuba and another 50 cities around the world demanding an end to the US-imposed blockade on Cuba. In addition to demanding an end to the blockade, the caravan in Havana was dedicated to thanking the world for the solidarity and opposition to the hostile policies of the US government. The caravans began in Miami, US and were held in many cities in the US and in other continents on the last Sunday of every month, since the last nine months. These ‘caravan protests’ concluded on March 28.

Greeting the protest and thanking the world for its solidarity, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel stated that it is the fight for the just cause that united all of them. Diaz-Canel pointed that Cuba’s youth are not waiting for the future, but are fighting for their country now, in the present, and reiterated his confidence in younger generations with the phrase, “Cuba Va!” (Cuba is on the go). Foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez and leaders of the Communist Youth of Cuba, various Olympic medal winners participated in the concluding caravan rally in Havana. Slogans, ‘No more blockade’, ‘Cuba for life’ reverberated throughout the day.

It has to be remembered that during the last days of Trump presidency, US administration tightened the sanctions on Cuba and tried to strangulate the country into submission. It had enforced Title III of the Helms-Burton Act and also placed Cuba in the list of the States sponsoring terrorism. According to a count, the US had used false pretexts and arguments to adopt more than 240 measures that tightened the blockade on Cuba. All these were attempts to subjugate the socialist country and force a change in its social system.

The US used the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to intensify the attack on Cuba. Enforcing Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, more than 28 cases were filed in the US courts against Cuba in order to penalise firms trading with the country. With these legal actions, the US wants to threaten all those firms and entities that trade with Cuba, in spite of the sanctions.

Travel and tourism, which are one of the main revenue earners for Cuba, were specifically targeted. US banned the voyages of cruise ships and also suspended ‘educational trips’ to Cuba. More than 422 hotels and rented houses were placed under the ‘List of Prohibited Accommodations in Cuba’, leaving people wanting to travel to Cuba with no option to stay in that country during their visit. Not satisfied with these measures, regular and leisure flights to Cuba were canceled. Only a few flights were allowed to fly to Havana. These restrictions on movement have severely affected the travel of US citizens and also Cuban families.

Another measure was intended to directly target the economy of Cuban citizens, who are also dependent on remittances. The US limited remittances to Cuba to only $1000 per quarter and also prohibited firms like Western Union to transfer money from even third party countries to Cuba.

Most draconian among the measures were the sanctions on medical cooperation. US administration threatened many countries that were having medical cooperation agreements with Cuba and forced them to curtail them. Brazil, Ecuador and other such countries from Latin America were forced to send back Cuban doctors working among the poor communities in those countries. This had a direct impact on the health conditions in those countries with the pandemic spreading fast and resulting in high mortality rates. Apart from these human costs, the tightening of sanctions prevented Cuba from importing many essential raw materials for its pharmaceutical industry and develop medicines for various diseases. This step, when viewed in the background of the acknowledged efficacy of Cuban medicines even in controlling Covid, brings forth the inhuman character of US imperialism.

It is another matter that despite all these attempts, Cuba was most sought after by various countries to render assistance during the Covid pandemic. The long list of more than 51 countries assisted by Cuba during this period includes not only countries from Latin America and Africa, but also advanced countries like Italy. Capping all these achievements, Cuba is now in the process of developing not one, but five vaccine candidates to control the Covid pandemic. Out of these five, two are now in the third phase of trials. Another vaccine candidate, jointly produced with China is also in the pipeline. Cuba has already started its vaccination drive and plans to vaccinate all its citizens by the end of this year. Further, Cuba is supplying its vaccines to Iran, Venezuela and other needy countries. Such are the achievements of socialist Cuba, overcoming all odds. It is for this reason that Cuban doctors and medical personnel working as Henry Reeves Brigade were recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Stung by the resoluteness of Cuba, US threatened all the firms and business entities that are supplying products to Cuba with sanctions. US re-imposed the rule preventing the export of any product that contains more than 10 per cent of US components to Cuba. This is a real obstacle to acquire necessary inputs for various machines and even food products. Above this, US has imposed ban on the export of world famous Cuban rum and cigars and firms trading these products from Cuba are also sanctioned. US has prepared a list of 231 Cuban companies and threatens any firm trading with them, from any country, with sanctions. US intends to create a climate of fear and uncertainty about Cuba and prevent foreign firms, not only US firms, from trading with Cuba.

Apart from these measures, banking with Cuba is placed under the list of sanctioned items. Exporting fuel to Cuba is sanctioned. The US wants the Cuban economy to completely collapse and discontent to rise among the Cubans. In order to flame this discontent, the US administration is openly encouraging subversive activities against Cuba. It funds and encourages the Cuban mafia based in Miami to carry out acts of subversion aimed to topple the socialist State. Cultural propaganda plays an important part in this scheme of things. Recently a heavily budgeted film against socialist Cuba was released in Miami and immediately uploaded on all social media platforms. The internet which is now made increasingly accessible all over Cuba is used to carry out such propaganda.

As a result of the attacks on Cuba and also the pandemic, Cuban economy contracted by 11 per cent in 2020. The Cuban government noted this contraction and is taking steps to ensure that the country is back on the path of progress. The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) stated that it should plan for the future considering the most negative factors that would confront them, including the continuation of the economic embargo. It is with this vision that it had taken up the ‘National Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030’ for discussion.

Braving these relentless attacks, Cuba is marching forward to ensure that the fruits of socialism reach every citizen in the country and the entire country progresses on the path of socialism. The eighth Congress of the PCC scheduled from April 16-19, is tasked with discussing all these aspects and also plan for the future. The PCC has already prepared the necessary drafts to be taken up for discussion in the Congress. These were circulated to the elected delegates and are now being discussed at the local and provincial levels. 

It is going to review the economic and social achievements of the last five years, as well as the projections for the future in order to guarantee the continuity and irreversibility of socialism. The basic crux includes steps to renovate socialist planning and advance in close relation with long-term strategic planning. The emphasis invariably is on ‘strengthening the socialist State enterprise as a fundamental agent within national economy’. Along with it, ‘cooperatives would be improved and developed and other new economic actors encouraged’. The principle of social justice of the revolution will be ‘strictly adhered and the achievements in social development would be consolidated to increase the quality of basic services to the population and to improve the consumption and living standards’. These steps would go together with the ‘necessary formation of ethical and political values among the citizens’.

As well-wishers of Cuba, our solidarity means demanding the Biden administration in the US to take steps to normalise relations with Cuba and immediately lift the economic embargo. It also means supporting the efforts of PCC in strengthening socialist construction in Cuba. We should lend our voice in support to ‘Cuba Va’.