Is the U.S. in a position to maintain the embargo upon the pretext of bringing democracy to Cuba with its record in destabilising secure states, even those upholding democracy?
Economic sanctions against Cuba were discussed in April 1960 by the U.S. government. If the U.S. found it impossible to counter the Cuban Revolution, a memorandum with the subject “The Decline and Fall of Castro” stated, economic hardships should be imposed on the island. “If such a policy as adopted, it should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth 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 memorandum noted that the lowest estimate of support for Fidel Castro in 1960 was 50%, and that the majority of Cubans supported their leader.
On February 3, 1962, ignoring the Cuban popular support for the revolution and influenced by the defeat the U.S. and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suffered at the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the trade embargo between the United States and Cuba, stressing that the U.S. “is prepared to take all the necessary actions to promote national and hemispheric security by isolating the present Government of Cuba and thereby reducing the threat posed by its alignment with the communist powers.”
The U.S. loss of influence in Cuba and later in the region is one major reason why the blockade was imposed. Grassroots support for the Cuban revolution long before it triumphed existed, as the July 26 Movement took up the fight against the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Sixty years later, U.S. President Joe Biden shows no sign of revoking even the restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, let alone broach the subject of the illegal U.S. blockade on the island. The international community fares no better. As long as the majority of UN member states vote annually against the illegal blockade, passing non-binding resolutions that have failed to dent U.S. policy towards Cuba.
On the 60th anniversary of the blockade, the National Security Archive (NSA) has published a selection of declassified documents, among them a CIA document which states, “In our judgment, the U.S. and OAS economic sanctions, by themselves or in conjunction with other measures, have not met any of their objectives. We also believe that western economic sanctions have almost no chance of compelling the present Cuban leadership – mostly guerrilla warfare veterans in power since the late 1970s – to abandon its policy of exporting revolution.”
Indeed, the Cuban revolution remained a reference to emulate in the region, later eclipsed by then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s concern that Chile’s example – socialist revolution through democratic elections – would pave the way forward in Latin America.
In 1992, the U.S. Congress passed the Cuban Democracy Act, which outlined U.S. plans for Cuba and specifically stipulated that the illegal blockade would only be lifted once Cuba holds democratic elections and moves towards a free market system. It also made a provision for U.S. interference in Cuban affairs through a so-called “assistance, through appropriate nongovernmental organizations, for the support and organizations to promote nonviolent democratic change in Cuba.”
Two years ago, in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the world lauded Cuba and temporarily called for a lifting to the blockade. Briefly, the world hailed Cuba for thriving under such restrictions, its medical interventions became mainstream news, while the medical brigades brought much needed help to severely impacted countries, including in Europe. When the vaccine race commenced, Cuba was left in the margins even as it developed its own vaccines under difficult circumstances and secured provision for its citizens and countries in the region. The cry to end the blockade was forgotten, diplomacy once again followed the Western model of capitulating to U.S. interests, and Cuba was left once again to fend on its own, as it also did when the U.S. once again attempted to destabilize Cuba through protests and the world ignored the blockade in its haste to appease the U.S.
Is the U.S. in a position to maintain the embargo upon the pretext of bringing democracy to Cuba with its record in destabilising secure states, even those upholding democracy, such as Chile under Salvador Allende for example, and more recently, Bolivia? Proclaiming human rights through atrocious acts constitutes subversion and it is unlikely that Cubans, with or without Fidel Castro, will forget the U.S. treachery in a hurry.