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ON SUNDAY July 11 a number of street protests took place in Cuba against power cuts and the scarcity of food and medicine.
The protests were widely reported across the international mainstream media, with news reports running all day on TV networks including the BBC.
The central narrative was that these protests were a call for freedom by the oppressed Cuban people.
News reports and social media posts have been full of US-funded misinformation, from the quite unbelievable failure to even mention the blockade, to the falsifying of photos and other evidence.
The shortages on the ground on the island are certainly severe and daily life for the Cuban people at this time is particularly difficult.
There are long daily queues for food items, there have been increasingly regular power outages and there are concerns over medical supplies and the containment of Covid 19 which has seen large spikes in cases and fatality figures over recent weeks. The vast majority of the protesters have genuine concerns.
However, it is important that we are clear on the root cause of these problems. The current emergency is a result of the ongoing cruel and illegal US blockade, the additional 243 sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and, of course, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In response to the protests and a call from Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel thousands of Cubans took to the streets to support their government and defend the revolution.
Now right-wing, pro-blockade and pro-regime-change politicians and groups in the US are seeking to further manipulate the situation. They have called for a so-called “humanitarian corridor” (a pretext for US intervention) to be set up.
Such calls are disingenuous and fraudulent to say the least. They come from the same people who have been the most vociferous supporters of blockade policies which have caused shortages of food, fuel and medicines.
It is immoral and dangerous to seek to exploit the current struggles of the Cuban people to serve the political objectives of a few hardliners in Miami. It is like complaining to someone that they are not breathing properly when you are at the same time strangling them.
Indeed the blockade itself was set up to do just that, as set out in the 1960 US State Department’s justification:
“The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba … a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”
The US has “intervened” over many years for so-called “humanitarian reasons” in countless countries across the globe, mostly with disastrous results, from Libya to Iraq, from Chile to Grenada.
It has of course already spent millions of dollars and caused thousands of deaths through its various “interventions” in Cuba over the past 60 years, from the invasion at the Bay of Pigs, to the endless mercenary attacks on the island, including killing international tourists through hotel bombings and the hundreds of attempts to assassinate Cuban leaders.
The litany of death and destruction unleashed through a history of US “interventions” across the globe should really make anyone think twice before backing any such calls.
On July 14 Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez made a call for air strikes on Cuba on Fox News.
“What should be contemplated right now is a coalition of potential military action against Cuba,” he said, while citing the 1989 US invasion of Panama that deposed General Manuel Noriega.
That intervention, where between 2,000-3,000 people were killed, was condemned as a violation of international law by the United Nations.
More rational voices are prevailing in Britain where 30 MPs have already made clear in a recent Socialist Campaign Group statement that “the quickest and easiest intervention would be for the US to lift its unilaterally imposed and inhumane near 60-year blockade.”
On Twitter, Diane Abbott MP wrote: “The overwhelming majority of the world’s countries and people oppose the illegal US blockade of Cuba.
“The blockade is the source of all Cuba’s economic difficulties. Those difficulties are for the Cuban people to resolve. No foreign intervention. End the blockade!”
In June 184 countries, including Britain, voted at the United Nations general assembly to end the blockade, with only the US and Israel voting for its continuation.
While the effects of the blockade are at their worst, Cuba, like many countries across the world, is experiencing increases in Covid-19 cases.
Severe outbreaks in some cities such as Matanzas have stretched capacity in hospitals and isolation centres to the limit.
Yet it is important to note that while the situation is severe, the numbers of cases and deaths are far below those in most other countries in the region, including the US itself which as of July 10 had a death rate of 1,870 per million, compared with Cuba’s 139 per million.
With the onset of Covid-19, Cuba has of course also lost the vital income from international tourism, which was down 94 per cent in the first four months of 2021.
Last year the US blockade even prevented delivery of a consignment of Covid-19 medical aid, including PPE, ventilators and testing equipment.
Despite having two home-grown vaccines, Cuba’s vaccination rollout programme is hindered by a lack of syringes and raw materials, a direct result of the blockade.
Solidarity organisations around the world have had sites raising money for Covid-19 medical aid closed down because of blockade measures.
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) itself receives numerous inquiries from people who can’t find a way to transfer money to friends and family in Cuba.
CSC members, affiliates and supporters have already raised over £80,000 so far for our Covid-19 emergency appeal for Cuba.
Working directly with the Cuban Ministry of Health we are using the money to buy much-needed emergency medicines and raw materials for vaccine production as well as cryotubes and syringes to help the vaccine rollout.
Yet even our humanitarian programmes are hindered and made more expensive by the extraterritorial impacts of the blockade.
Of course, the US could take immediate action to relieve the situation.
President Joe Biden could suspend, or indeed end, the US blockade. He could ease US restrictions on the remittances that Cuban-American families can send to Cuba.
Instead, Biden prefers to court the Miami mob that delivered the Florida vote to Trump in the recent US election and revert to the failed cold war policies of the past 60 years.
In the wake of Sunday’s protests and with seemingly no understanding of the hypocrisy of his position, Biden stated: “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.”
Cuba has shown incredible resilience in the face of six decades of economic warfare by the US government.
It has worked tirelessly against all the odds to build a society with much-lauded and impressive health, education and social care for all its citizens.
Cuba really is a miracle and an example that is well worth defending. One can only imagine what the Cubans could achieve with their society if allowed.
CSC has issued a full statement on the current situation which condemns those in the US and internationally who are cynically using the situation to destabilise Cuba and supports Cuba’s right to self-determination.
Anyone genuinely interested in helping the Cuban people at this time should be calling for the US government to ease the crippling sanctions.
Individuals and organisations can directly help by becoming members of CSC. Donations can also be made to CSC’s emergency Covid-19 Medical Appeal.
Rob Miller is director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign — visit www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk for more information.
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