Decades have passed and the United States maintains its unilateral embargo on Cuba — damning the island to a life only known as despair. To the U.S., Cuba is an outlier. It does business with other communist regimes such as in China, Vietnam, and Russia — until the invasion of Ukraine that is. Yet, it treats Cuba worse than all three, listing the island as a state sponsor of terror.
More than sixty years later, generations of Cubans have come and gone; lived and died under the overbearing nature of its imperialist neighbor to the north. If you were to ask anyone from JFK to George H.W. Bush to Joe Biden, they’d likely tell you that six decades of death and despair are worth it while simultaneously pointing to what they claim Castro did or didn’t do.
Meanwhile, what you never hear about are the steps Cuba has taken forward despite being shut out from world markets and international banking. A new constitution in 2019. A new family code that acknowledges same-sex marriage, trans rights, and parental rights for members of the LGBTQ community. Economic reforms are being implemented and the agricultural sector is growing.
Since the power outages, shortages of medical supplies, and waning access to food that sparked protests in the summer of 2021, power plants on barges have been brought in from Turkey. Japan has donated shiploads of cars and metro transit buses along with parts and supplies for both. Latin American countries have taken up the slack in ensuring Cubans have what they need in terms of more access to food and medical supplies.
However, simple medicine like Tylenol and Ibuprofen are still hard to come by as are many other supplies directly due to the unilateral U.S. embargo. Inflation has gripped the nation leading to many deciding to leave. According to U.S. immigration statistics, the influx of Cubans jumped from 6,000 a month at the end of 2021, to a whopping 16,000 in February and 32,000 in March.
A number that is expected to continue rising every month.
Yet, the vast majority of Cubans I talk to — regardless of what side they’re on politically — all say the government still enjoys majority support. With data being so hard to come by due to U.S. policies of isolating the Cuban people, the little data we do have in concert with talking to the actual people on the island (not in Miami), confirms that notion.
However, Cubans in the U.S. and abroad now have a great influence on Cubans on the island through social media. They perpetuate narratives signaling to Cubans that they must overthrow the regime. Social media activity (outside of bot networks) also indicates how much support the regime has not just in major cities but also in rural Cuba. Cubans routinely clap back at ideas that would throw the country into a constant state of turmoil.
And despite political differences among Cubans, one thing they won’t do is go to war with each other over the interests of U.S. corporatocracy — what we call an oligarchy in Russia. When we get down into the deepest parts of U.S. and Cuban society and compare the two, we see there aren’t many differences between us. Something I recently discussed at Latino Rebels.
Why Cuba is Important
I write about Cuba a lot. As a first-generation Cuban American, I feel it’s my duty to report in English what’s happening on the beautiful archipelago just 90 miles south of the United States. Cuban culture is important to me. I consider myself a cultural accelerator in that I share our family’s culture with my kids. Something I promised mi abuela I would do.
It’s obvious why Cuba would be important to Cubans. But it is also of vital importance to U.S. citizens. For a country just minutes away by plane, it sometimes astounds me how little people in the United States know about the island or its citizens. Many in the U.S. believe Cuba is represented by Cubans in Miami, thus erasing the largely Black and Mulatto Cuban population.
Since the white flight of the 1960s and 1970s, Cubans coming to the United States have been more diverse than ever. That’s because after over a million white Cubans left the island, they took future generations of white kids with them. Similarly, the Black and Mulatto population, who are all too aware of what Cuba was like before the revolution, only continued to grow.
The racial makeup of Cuba is a topic of debate in the United States. Sadly, if it wasn’t for Enrique Tarrio, the Afro-Cuban “chairman” of the Proud Boys, many wouldn’t even know Afro-Cubans existed. But, whatever it takes, right? In reality, Afro-Cubans make up a majority of the population on the island. They also broadly support the government which has become more diverse in recent years. Cuba was never intentionally about white supremacy.
In fact, the opposite is true.
While Cuba made great strides in terms of civil rights years before the United States did, Castro failed to address discrimination and racism in the everyday lives of Cubans. Gone were laws that segregated the population and treated non-white Cubans as brutes. But there were no laws or systems in place to address discrimination in the workplace or otherwise.
That said, healthcare became available for the non-white population. As did housing. Privatized infrastructure built with tax dollars was returned to the people. Agriculture was taken from U.S. corporations who controlled the near-destitute Afro-Cuban population as capitalists profited from exploited labor. If you’re in the U.S., you don’t have to look far to see it. Chances are, you’re one of the exploited someone else is getting rich from.
Cuba is important because it simultaneously exposes the evils of capitalism and single-party ideologies in one fell swoop. Make no mistake, Cuba is technically a democracy. They have elections for municipal leaders, their parliament, and for the president. Many argue that Cubans don’t have a choice in who to vote for. To them, I ask, do we?
Remember when Hillary Clinton helped promote Donald Trump because he would be easy to beat? What about when each respective committee of both parties decides for us who we’re supposed to vote for with their corporate dollars? What about when the Democratic party shut down on every other Democrat with their dollars except for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden?
What is the actual difference?
Just like you’d never win an election as a capitalist in Cuba, you won’t win one as a socialist in the United States. Cuba has leftists, progressives, liberals, and conservatives just like we do. The difference is our candidates are capitalists and theirs are socialists. People argue Cuba can’t be a democracy because of its one-party system. But what about ours? We have a nearly identical system.
The U.S. is one party (capitalist) under the guise of a two-party system. You may think you see a difference, but the rest of the world does not. We’re all narrow-minded capitalists to them.
This is where corporate media comes in. They’re not interested in what’s actually happening in Cuba or sentiments among the population. But, when there are protests happening, the media is all over it. Even during the protests of July 11, 2021, major media stunk up the narrative by using images of pro-government counter-protesters and portrayed them as anti-government actors starting some kind of new revolution. They grossly missed the mark.
The media constantly gets it wrong because it would seem they aren’t allowed to (or don’t want to) report on the actual situation in Cuba. That’s why they only talk to exiles. Whether intentional or not, what the media parrots are Department of State talking points. To find truth in a sea of propaganda by both countries’ respective media outlets, we must rely on data and personal stories from Cuba.
There is no doubt that the situation in Cuba is becoming intolerable. Just as access to food and resources became more available, inflation is taking its toll. The U.S. is actively taking measures to exacerbate the problem with additional sanctions. After more than six decades, it’s become abundantly clear that U.S. intervention in Cuba has only hurt the Cuban people.
Similar to U.S. policy in other countries. The idea is to isolate nations, starve the people, make them suffer, and convince them to lead a revolution that opens the door for U.S. corporate interests. The plan is obvious. It’s not to spread democracy. Its motivations are to generate wealth for U.S. oligarchs.
To franchise the shit out of everything and make people fat.
However, an Americanized Cuban whose motivations are questionable tells Cubans on the island that capitalism is the answer to everything. They don’t tell them how expensive things are. Food, clothes, housing, and even religion are driven by the almighty dollar. Nothing comes cheap or free. Everything that’s exploitable is exploited. From your health to your home to your kids.
Speaking to a couple of Cuban women last year, one mentioned that the two most shocking things to her when arriving in the U.S. were access to goods and homelessness. Obviously, access to goods would come as a shock to Cubans who are locked out of the world’s markets. But, homelessness is not something Cuba has a problem with. I’ll never forget when she said, “how does the richest country in the world have homeless people?”
We’re still trying to figure that one out too, mija.
Despite record numbers of Cubans leaving for the U.S. and other countries, it’s unlikely you’ll ever see any kind of revolution. If 60 years of resolve hasn’t proved that, nothing will. The reality is, Joe Biden is at the helm and he has an opportunity to give Cubans a chance. Let’s not act like we can’t hold the regime accountable if we were to liberate Cuba. Because we totally can.
Barack Obama’s visit to the island was contingent on the release of more than 1,000 political prisoners and the regime obliged. Joe Biden can do the same and more by using the lifting of sanctions to force Cuba into making some concessions. Even further, he can push Congress to repeal the Helms-Burton Act which is outdated, inhumane, and only serves to confine Cuba’s growth.
There is no justifiable reason to continue the hostile posture towards the island nation. More than 11,000,000 people are struggling and Washington simply shrugs its shoulders. Cuba has a right to self-determine its chosen style of governance. The U.S. cannot claim to be a proponent of democracy if they are denying the vast majority of Cubans what they want.
Exploiting the current conditions of the impoverished island to overthrow a government that a small minority of Americanized Cubans refuse to support is imperialism. To do so at the behest of U.S. corporate interests and to exploit the island and its people is colonialism. What the U.S. wants for Cuba is what it has in Puerto Rico, an island paradise for tax evaders.
As tensions rise, largely due to inflation and the slow progress on economic reforms, what the Cuban people seek are continued reforms, not revolution. If the United States were to unleash the island from economic sanctions, the Cuban people would prosper and that’s what it fears: a successful socialist experiment with elements of capitalist ideas at its front door.
And we can’t have that, can we?
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