Let's Show How Much We Care About The Cuban People By Lifting The Stupid Embargo
Throughout yesterday and this morning, Americans have been smugly posting videos of the protests in Cuba, talking about how they are protesting for their "freedoms" and against the "communist government." The narrative promoted by right-wing media is that they are all desperate for capitalism, and that is definitely what this whole thing is about. They've been leaning particularly hard on the "This is what the Left wants! Look at the Cuban people protesting it! They wish they had your freedoms" schtick.
Americans please look at what is taking place in #Cuba. Now remember AOC and Bernie Sanders promote that kind of id… https://t.co/zQQLHqU5nc— George Santos (@George Santos)1626047211.0
The sight of one single American flag at the protest led the Right to believe Cubans were flying it as a symbol of liberty, which thrilled them to no end, given the July 4 discourse about people on the Left feeling gross about the American flag because we associate it with, well, them.
But even Democrats, frankly, are being a little iffy about it. President Joe Biden has issued a statement and it is ... kinda bullshit!
We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba's authoritarian regime. The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.
It's bullshit because one of the main goddamned issues right now in Cuba is that the nation can't get any syringes for vaccines due to the US's embargo against it. A ridiculous Cold War relic that, quite frankly, only exists because Florida is a swing state.
If not for the lack of syringes, if not for the embargo, it is unlikely Cuba would have had the massive uptick in COVID cases it's had recently. Cuban scientists developed their own vaccines, which they had to do because of the embargo. At the height of the pandemic they even sent their Henry Reeve Medical Brigade to countries all over the world and have been nominated by the governments of several countries for a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.
As Danny Glover (yes, that Danny Glover!) wrote in The Nation this June:
It makes little sense that a country so advanced in biotech and pharmaceuticals should have trouble sourcing syringes. This reality is a consequence of what amounts to US economic warfare, which makes it extremely difficult for Cuba to acquire medicine, equipment, and supplies from vendors or transportation companies that do business in or with the United States. Syringes are in short supply internationally, so no company wants to be bogged down navigating the complicated banking and licensing demands the US government places on transactions with Cuba.
There is just something so grotesque about this desire to use what is happening in Cuba as some kind of pro-American, anti-Communist propaganda, given that the United States embargo has caused so much economic strife in Cuba for so many decades.
While people in the streets are chanting that they want vaccines, there are other issues there as well, issues we'd probably understand a little better if communication lines were open. But we do know that COVID has hurt the Cuban economy, which relies heavily on tourism, and that the people have been enduring power outages for the past week.
The United States does not stand with the Cuban people. At least not the Cuban people who are actually living in Cuba. This June, the United States once again voted against a United Nations General Assembly resolution to end the embargo against Cuba — a resolution that had 184 votes in favor, with only two countries abstaining and two voting against. Because every other nation on the planet knows this makes no sense.
Even if the goal was to hurt the Cuban government so deeply that it agrees to do whatever we say, that's not what happened. It's not the government that's hurt by the embargo, it's the people, who can't get access to food, medicines, and other necessary things from the outside world. The very purpose of the embargo is to hurt the Cuban economy, so it seems odd to put the blame for that entirely on "communism" and the government. What economic system would allow the economy of any island nation to thrive without the ability to trade?
It would be a lot easier to believe the "Oh, we're doing this because they're a dictatorship" line if the United States had not literally gone around befriending dictators on the regular for the last 60 years, and even had a hand in installing several of them. Here is a map of all the places we did that, in Latin America alone.
We spent the entire Cold War leading coups to replace elected left-wing leaders with right-wing dictators and training literal death squads through the School of the Americas. Now we act shocked and surprised that the nations those right-wing dictators destroyed are now kind of a mess and those people want to move here.
For years, China — coincidentally also a communist nation with a not-great track record on human rights — was our number one trade partner. There is not a single thing Cuba has done that a nation we are friendly with hasn't. In fact, the United States was perfectly friendly with Cuba while the nation was being ruled by Fulgencio Batista, also a brutal dictator. Hell, we backed him up.
It is extremely unclear where our moral high ground is supposed to be located here.
We've been doing this embargo shit for 60 years. One would have to think that if it were an effective strategy, it would have worked by now. Clearly it has not. And it's because of that embargo that we can't even actually do anything to help the Cuban people other than offer empty platitudes about how bad their country is, which they probably can't read because they have no power right now.
It's time to end it.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse