Cuba: embargo, not blockade

Submitted by AWL on 27 July, 2021 - 6:11
Woman in Cuba

I agree with much of what Sacha Ismail wrote in “Cuba: support the protests…” in Solidarity 601. His claim that “the US blockade has clearly made the situation for Cuba’s working class … far worse” is more doubtful.

The language of “blockade” is that of the Cuban government. It blames its problems on el bloqueo, as do pro-Cuban-government activists. “Blockade” suggests a sea and air cordon around Cuba preventing goods moving in and out. There is no such blockade. What has been in place since 1960 is a US embargo making it illegal for American companies and individuals to trade with Cuba.

That was a response to the nationalisation of American land and other holdings in Cuba. The Cuban government had every right to nationalise that property. For that and many other reasons, the embargo should be opposed.

Its economic consequences are difficult to quantify. It helped drive Cuba into an alliance with the USSR after 1960. Since 1991 Cuba has relied on international trade. Being cut off from the large market of the US for exports and as a source of tourism has had some impact. The biggest consequence is likely to be that US capital has not been able to invest in Cuba as Canadian and Spanish capital have.

But the US does not (on the whole) force third parties to join the embargo, as with Iran. The embargo does not stop Cuba buying food or medicines on the world market, and is not a primary cause of shortages in Cuba.

Matt Cooper, London


Submitted by AWL on Fri, 30/07/2021 - 14:23

In this insightful article Sam Farber uses the term "blockade", but says:

"While the criminal blockade has been very real and seriously damaging, it has been relatively less important in creating economic havoc than what lies at the very heart of the Cuban economic system: the bureaucratic, inefficient and irrational control and management of the economy by the Cuban government. It is the Cuban government and its ​“left” allies in the Global North, not the Cuban people, who continue, as they have for decades, to blame only the blockade."


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