July 18, 2021

Renewed Attacks on Cuba

R Arun Kumar

THE sights of people on the Cuban streets demanding food, electricity and medicines have startled many. Unlike many governments across the world, the government of socialist Cuba acknowledged the genuine grievances of the people. President Miguel Diaz Canel immediately rushed to the site of protests and discussed with the demonstrators. The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) urged its cadre to listen to the people and explain the reasons behind these hardships. One can neither understand the reasons for these protests nor get a complete picture of what is happening in Cuba without discussing the 60 years old, US imposed economic blockade that is responsible for the economic hardships.

The PCC and the government of Cuba have been warning repeatedly about the disastrous affects of the Title III of the Helms-Burton Act and the addition of 243 additional measures by the then Trump administration, further tightening the economic blockade. Diaz Canel recalled, “We have been honest, we have been open, we have been clear, and at all times we have explained the complexities of the current situation to our people. I remember that more than a year and a half ago, when the second half of 2019 was just starting, we had to explain that we were heading toward a difficult conjuncture”, due to the policies pursued by the Trump administration. As a result, all those countries and companies that intended to trade with Cuba and maintain economic relations are also threatened with sanctions. Restrictions are imposed on the remittances made by Cubans. The number of flights to Cuba are curtailed. On top of that, US has designated Cuba as a ‘State sponsoring terrorism’. A sustained campaign is launched to defame the Cuban medical brigades.

Due to the intensified blockade and the pandemic, Cuban economy fell by 11 per cent last year. Cuban government and the PCC introduced certain measures to put the economy back on track. Because of this intervention, the economy is slowly showing signs of revival this year. Cuba, an island with limited natural resources, is highly dependent on imports, particularly, food and oil. For years, Cuba was cultivating only sugarcane and importing all other food items. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba began diversifying its agriculture. These efforts garnered pace in the recent period, particularly after Trump enforced the Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. Still problems persist.

Import of petroleum products is another major concern. Refusal of many shipping agencies to carry oil to Cuba because of US sanctions has created a major hindrance. Thus, production of electricity was badly hit and in many areas, power cuts were introduced. When the pandemic hit the country, the government began concentrating on ensuring that there is uninterrupted power supply in those places where hospitals exist. As a result, the length of power cuts in other regions increased.

Similarly, due to the limited availability of oil, transportation within the country was also affected. This restricted people’s movement and naturally they were inconvenienced.

Companies all over the world were forced to give an undertaking to the US that they will not trade with Cuba even if they use a minor part in their equipment that is manufactured in the US or by a US owned company. Given the dominance of dollar and US led financial institutions, many companies succumbed to US pressure.

Cuban economy depends heavily on tourism. Many flight carriers and cruise operators were threatened with sanctions if they operate to Cuba. This forced them to curtail their operations, reducing the flow of tourists and adversely impacting the incomes of all those dependent on tourism and associated occupations. On top of all this, the pandemic struck and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods across the world. Not only the number of tourists traveling to Cuba saw a drastic fall, even the limited number of carriers that used to brave the sanctions and operate to Cuba, were affected.

Sanctions severely impacted Cuba’s ability to produce medicines, vaccines and medical equipment.   Raw material for the production of medicines became scarce. Cuba was prevented from accessing almost $2 billion that would be required to acquire medical supplies and import essential equipment that was needed to save critical patients. For instance, Cuba was barred from importing ventilators.

In spite of all these constraints, Cuba offered the services of its medical personnel to various countries when the pandemic struck. Even many European countries like Italy benefited from the services of Cuban medical personnel, not to speak of various Latin American and African countries. It was Cuba which had welcomed a cruise liner that was carrying virus infected patients, when the US shut its ports. While the US based pharmaceutical companies are insisting on patent rights, Cuba declared that it will supply its vaccines to all the needy people around the world. These services earned plaudits from a wide spectrum of people across the globe and many have recommended Cuban medical personnel for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Instead of assisting, US is threatening various countries benefiting from the work of Cuban medical personnel. It deliberately spread canards and forced these countries to send these personnel back to Cuba. Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia (during the short period of military coup) heeded to the US dictates and sent back thousands of Cuban doctors working in the most poor neighbourhoods in their countries. When the pandemic struck, the services of these Cuban doctors were sorely missed.

Diaz Canel stated that all the advanced capitalist countries that were racing towards developing their own vaccines, would not share them with the people of the poor and backward countries. Hence, the Cuban government called all its scientific personnel to concentrate their efforts towards the production of a vaccine. Cuban scientists rose to this challenge and overcoming all the obstacles, produced not one, but five vaccine candidates. Two of them, Soberana 02 and Abdala have an efficacy rate of around 90 per cent. Within weeks, more than 20 per cent of Cubans were vaccinated. Cuba is sharing these vaccines and their production with many Latin American countries, living true to the ideals of its revolution. These acts show how big Cuba really is and how small is the US!

The US is attacking such a noble and selfless country and is bent upon destabilising it. Biden, who ran his presidential campaign promising to undo many of Trump’s policies towards Cuba, failed to act. He is continuing with much of the policies pursued by his predecessor. Over the decades, it is proven that whoever heads the US administration, their policy towards Cuba does not change. The US Memorandum No 499 released in 1960 states that “every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba”; pursue a policy “denying money and supplies to Cuba” in order “to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government”. This remains the guiding light for all the US administrations, irrespective of who heads them. For the last 60 years they are desperately trying in vain to ‘alienate internal support’ to the revolutionary government in Cuba, by creating ‘disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship’. Now we are witnessing their latest attempt.

The US administration found the pandemic as an ‘opportune time’ to take forward its agenda of ‘regime change’. To further this, it is spreading outright lies and canards through the internet and social media platforms. Hundreds of thousands of tweets and posts made from automated sites and bots are used to spread falsities. Even those demonstrations that are taking place in defence of the revolution are being projected as counter-revolutionary demonstrations. The photos of thousands of people supporting the revolution are slyly used to substantiate the lies they are pedaling. Terming this situation as an unconventional warfare against Cuba, Diaz Canel stressed that “the Cuban Revolution is not going to turn the other cheek to those who attack it in virtual and real spaces”.

Many software professionals and internet experts have convincingly proved how thousands of fake accounts were created and operated in concert to spread lies and instigate people. PCC and the government of Cuba reacted to these developments and mobilised people in defence of the revolution. They did not brand all those people who were questioning the government as counter-revolutionaries. They stated that a section of the people are expressing their genuine grievances and they need to be talked to and convinced. On the other hand, there are handful of people, who are carrying on the US project of subversion. These are the counter-revolutionaries who need to be dealt with firmly. Diaz Canel stated: “The revolution is true dialogue and puts truth and ethics before obscenity and perversity. It does not negotiate its existence, it does not legitimise mercenaries, and it acts with security and firmness”.

China, Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Argentina, South Africa are prominent among the States that have reiterated their solidarity with Cuba and condemned the acts of subversion. Cuban officials recounted the assistance rendered by China with its supply of ventilators, medicines, PPE kits, masks and other medicines to control the pandemic. More importantly, the government of China, Communist Party and the people of China also sent tonnes of rice to the people of Cuba.

Many class and mass organisations, eminent individuals joined their voices in solidarity. Indian government true to its changed nature, has not yet responded.

Exposing imperialist US and standing in solidarity with socialist Cuba is what is needed now. Solidarity actions and demonstrations are organised in various countries. We too should join, singing, ‘Cuba, Si, Yankee No’.