The U.S. embargo against Cuba has been in vogue for 60 years, and Cuban residents are more or less accustomed to this reality and don’t expect to see it lifted or eased anytime soon.
“I know it’s all due to the economic situation, the lack of products, the lockdown, all that,” Urbano Navarro, a 62-year-old retired carpenter, sighs on a Havana street full of people. in front of the store.
The embargo was imposed on February 7, 1962, in response to a growing atmosphere of confrontation between the two neighbors, which would lead to the missile crisis in October of the same year, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Political scientist Rafael Hernandez reminded AFP that it “appeared in this war as a tool (…), a strategic and military tool”.
Instead, as Fidel Castro put it, Havana never got any concessions from Havana, determined to become communist “under the nose and beard of the Empire”.
Even as times have changed, a recent phone conversation between Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Russian President Vladimir Putin said they wanted to strengthen their “strategic cooperation” reminiscent of the Cold War’s day.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has not ruled out a military deployment in Cuba if the conflict with Washington over Ukraine worsens.
Havana also relies on support from allies such as China, Vietnam and a growing number of leftist governments in Latin America.
– “a virus” –
In fact, the embargo hampered its economic development.
“Blockades are also a virus,” the authorities have been claiming for months, organizing car, bicycle and motorcycle caravans across the country to condemn the sanctions.
Rafael Hernandez explained that even today, America’s “geopolitical interests” determine whether the embargo is relaxed or tightened, emphasizing that Barack Obama brought the greatest relaxation people.
But no one has tightened sanctions to such an extent as Donald Trump, who added 243 measures. Despite Joe Biden’s campaign promises, the latter hasn’t mitigated any impact.
He even issued new sanctions against Cuban officials, condemning the “repression” of the historic July 11, 2021 protests.
According to analysts, the Democratic president hopes his camp will be in a better position after the midterm elections in October.
However, a recent study by Carlos Ciano of the Center for International Politics at Cuba’s National Institute noted that if Republicans gain support in Congress, the prospect of voting is “quite negative for the island and dangerous.” .
The problem is that for a Biden administration, “election calculations are more important than humanitarian responsibility,” lamented James Buckwalter-Arias of the Cuban American Engagement Association (Cafe).
– “Creative Resistance” –
Recently, President Diaz-Canel called on Cubans to show “creative resistance” to the embargo.
But it’s hard to get creative when the island is going through its worst economic crisis in 30 years, 70 percent inflation and growing food and medicine shortages.
For defenders of the government, embargoes are the root of all evil. Critics counter that the inefficiencies and structural problems of the economy itself are more influential.
“There is no blockade, just a partial embargo,” said Cubadecide, an opposition group led by Rosa Maria Paya.
“The real blockade is imposed by the Cuban state” and can only be removed through “transition to representative democracy”.
Since 2000, Cuba has been able to buy food from the United States, which is now exempt from the embargo. Between 2015 and 2020, the island imported $1.5 billion worth of food — mostly chicken — from its neighbors.
But these purchases must be paid in advance in cash, and these conditions are difficult to meet.
Overall, the embargo is “counterproductive,” according to Carlos Gutiérrez, a Cuban-American who served as U.S. Commerce Secretary from 2005 to 2009: “absolutely nothing from Havana”.
He denounced that it was “very cynical policy” if the goal was to cause a social explosion “to get people to take to the streets to bleed” and instead, he recalled, “Obama’s proposed very shrewd policy” by promoting the development of the private sector , Cuba brought “two years of good harvests” to Cuba.