People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 46

November 18, 2012


Cuba: Standing up against US Hegemonism


Yohannan Chemarapally


THE UN General Assembly once again overwhelmingly voted to condemn the long running American economic blockade on Cuba. In the vote taken in the second week of November, only Israel and Palau joined the US in voting against the resolution. Two countries, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, chose to abstain. The vote once again shows that the US is truly isolated on “Cuba issue.”


There were expectations that the Obama administration would take a more realistic approach to relations with Cuba and at least modify some of the draconian sanctions imposed on the country since the early sixties. In his first term in office, President Barack Obama did remove many restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban American citizens to their motherland. The Cuban government has described the measures taken by the Obama administration as “positive but insufficient and extremely limited.” In fact, however, as President Obama sought a second term in office, he kept pandering to the right wing Cuban émigré groups in his efforts to carry the key state of Florida in the 2012 elections.




The economic blockade started in earnest in 1962 when John F Kennedy was the president of the US. The Clinton and Bush administrations further strengthened the blockade. The Cuban government maintains that the blockade can be qualified as an “act of genocide” under the 1948 Geneva Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Cuba has estimated that the economic damage it has sustained in the last 50 years as a result of the blockade amounted to a whopping 1,066 trillion dollars. But the blockade has dismally failed in its primary goal of dislodging the Revolution in Cuba though it has succeeded in inflicting huge collateral damage to millions of ordinary Cubans in their daily lives.


Cuba, as a result of the blockade, has not been able to achieve its full potential for development. Among the sectors most affected are the health and agricultural sector. Medicines and laboratory equipment, for instance, have to be imported from far away locations at prohibitive prices. Some critical drugs like the inhalant agent, Sevoflurane which is used to extend general anaesthesia to children are only produced in the US and therefore prohibited for sale in Cuba. Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemeia cannot use the life saving medicine Elspar, since the US manufacturer, Merck and Co, is banned form selling the product. The country has even been denied access to medical literature on US Internet sites created to facilitate the free flow of information. In January last year, Washington blocked more than four million dollars allocated by the UN Global Fund to fight AIDS.


In the last financial year, Cuban authorities estimated that they had to spend an additional 131.573 million dollars as a result of purchasing foodstuff from distant markets. Cuba has no access to cheap credit or insurance because of the American sanctions. The US does allow Cuba to import limited amounts of foodstuff and grain but they are subjected to complex licensing mechanisms.   


The Bush administration had given high priority to the ongoing efforts to undermine the Revolution. The economic blockade was tightened, more money was earmarked for “promoting democracy” and the anti-Cuban exiles in Florida, were given a free hand to plan and execute their plots against the Revolution. Among the Cuban exiles living in the US were certified terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles — the man responsible for placing a bomb on a Cuban airliner in 1976 which killed all 78 people on board. The US, instead, chose to put Cuba on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism 30 years ago. Cuba at the time was actively involved in supporting liberation movements like the ANC in South Africa and the MPLA in Angola while the US was backing apartheid South Africa and its proxies in the region.




The inflexible positions adopted by successive US presidents including the current one on Cuba has come in for scathing criticism from many world leaders. The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, speaking at the UN General Assembly in late September, said that the US had unilaterally put Cuba on the “terrorist” list as an excuse to maintain the blockade. Morales said that the vast majority of nations have rejected the US position on Cuba. “The real terrorist is the United States,” he said. “It is not possible that the blockade should continue existing in the 21st century.”


The Bolivian president also called on the Obama administration to release the “Cuban Five,” who have been incarcerated in American jails for the last 14 years. The five Cubans, Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino and Rene Gonzalez, were jailed on spurious charges. The five Cuban intelligence agents had infiltrated a right wing Cuban exile groups in Florida and had exposed their plans to bomb tourist spots in Cuba. Hotels in Havana were targeted in 1997. In one incident, a foreign tourist was killed.


The real crime of the Cuban Five was alerting Havana about the plans of the terror outfits in Miami. Cuban authorities, in turn, used to convey the credible information in their possession to their counterparts in Washington. Many terrorist plans were thus foiled. But the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) never arrested the masterminds behind the terror plots against Cuba. They continue to operate with impunity on American soil.


The Cuban Five were only concerned in collecting information regarding Cuba’s national security matters. Their case has received support not only from heads of governments and national parliaments but also from eminent personalities from around the world, including ten Nobel laureates. President Obama, a Nobel Peace Laureate, has so far refused to use his executive authority to release the five Cubans.


However, there is talk about the possibility of a swap deal between Havana and Washington. An US citizen, Alan Gross, working as a subcontractor for the US State Department, was arrested in Havana in 2010 after being caught distributing lap tops and cell phones to anti-government activists. He has been given a lengthy sentence but Cuban officials have indicated that they would not be averse to a deal that could see the return of the five Cuban heroes back to their homeland.


The Obama administration is trying to put further pressure on Cuba as the government there tries to implement wide ranging reforms to improve the quality of life of a people who have been under an unremitting blockade. The Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, speaking at the recent UN General Assembly meet, said that the real purpose of the US keeping Cuba on the “spurious” terrorist list was to “fabricate pretexts to increase the persecution of Cuba’s financial transactions and justify the policy of blockade.” He said that it was the US which was in fact using terrorism as a tool in its policy of isolating Cuba.




Rodriguez said that US “state terrorism” was directly responsible for “the deaths of 3,478 persons and the maiming of 2,099 of our compatriots.” Rodriguez strongly condemned the US double standards on terrorism, saying that it was “an outrage against the Cuban people and the international community and discredits the cause of battle against terrorism.” When the American ambassador was killed in Libya, Cuba was quick to send in a condolence message and condemn the terror attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. The Cuban government, the foreign minister reminded the international community, has time and again voiced its eagerness to normalise relations with the US “through dialogue, on an equal footing and with absolute respect for our independence.”


The Obama administration has, however, refused to have a rethink on its Cuba policy, despite being in splendid isolation internationally on the issue. A recent opinion poll showed that 70 per cent in America are also for normalisation of relations between the two countries. Since 1992, the UN General Assembly has been passing resolutions condemning the US blockade on Cuba.  186 countries voted in favour of Cuban resolution titled “The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States of America.”


The US is trying to use issues relating to human rights in a desperate attempt to garner support for its policies. The Cuban government insists that “nobody is repressed by reason of thinking differently” in his country. Cuban officials say that it is one thing “to disagree and another to be funded by an enemy state to promote subversion.” The Obama administration continues to allocate millions of dollars to finance a very small group of “dissidents” in the ongoing efforts to destabilise the revolution.