Globe, Latin America, Politics

Cuba, beyond the embargo

The North American intervention, the ideological battle, the manipulation of the Western media and the contradictions of the Cuban regime are some of the elements which depict an uncertain future for the Latin American country.


Juanjo Andres Cuervo


The end of the Cold War was seen as an economic, political and ideologically victory of capitalism against communism. Nowadays, just a few nations can still be considered to be under a socialist regime. Cuba is one of them, and yet, in the last years the Cuban leaders have shown a willingness to open the economy to the world-wide markets.

According to the chairman of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba and Editor of the International Journal of Cuban Studies, Stephen Wilkinson, “if Cuba is going to develop economically, it needs a massive amount of foreign direct investment.” But at the same time, “this growth is going to be a very slow process, because the US embargo is preventing it from going any faster.”

Since the Revolution of 1959, Cuba has suffered the constant sanctions implemented by the US blockade. This situation has created an evident paradox. While the USA could facilitate the integration of Cuba in the capitalist system, it “is very difficult for Joe Biden to alter the policy or ease the embargo.”

The ideological aspect is fundamental to understand that juncture. Since 1959, Castro and his followers ignited the flame of social revolution, and the embargo tried to extinguish that fire to avoid that other countries could follow the example of Cuba.

US’ aim was not just to impoverish Cuba, but also to delegitimise the ideas of the Cuban Revolution.

The heated rhetoric and the media propaganda that have taken place in the last 60 years in the United States against Cuba have created an ideological barrier which makes it difficult the cooperation between the two countries.

As Wilkinson puts it, “the current administration in the USA cannot lift the embargo without being accused of being soft within this supposedly terrible regime in Cuba.” In that sense, “the United States are trapped in its own policy.”

After analysing the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and the subsequent decades within the context of the Cold War, in this third and final part of his conversation with The Prima, Stephen Wilkinson explores the current geopolitical situation of Cuba, its prospects for economic reforms, the perspectives of young people and the demonstrations on the 11th of July.

In your article “A perfect impasse? Cuba’s move towards the market and the U.S. move towards Cuba”, you argue the economic reform process of Cuba is the best way for becoming a democracy. Is this process feasible in the context of a blockade?

If Cuba is going to develop economically, it needs a massive amount of foreign direct investment. However, this growth is going to be a very slow process, because the US embargo is preventing from going any faster. If the US embargo is not lifted, Cuba cannot develop.

Aside from that, without economic prosperity is almost impossible for Cuba to change politically. It has to the remain as a single party system to sustain itself. It cannot afford to have political opposition, otherwise it will lose the benefits that attains.

Therefore, the United States has to remove its embargo to create prosperity in the island. Obama was trying to do that and it was in the process of working, but Trump came along and reversed it.

Therefore, if there is a genuine intention to liberalise Cuba, the embargo must be lifted.

Are the people in Cuba willing to lose its socialist identity and embrace the free-market system?

Most Cubans prefer to remain in the current situation, as they do not want to give up their health care and the education system.

Even if they wanted to have more freedom in terms of civil and political rights, that would create situation that would lead to the collapse to the welfare system.

Because if the idea of liberalising the economy is to make Cuba as it was before 1959, it must be understood that, in that period, there was no universal health care or free education. Furthermore, the life expectancy was 57 years old, comparing with the current 78 years old. The question is which price would Cubans be willing to pay in exchange for democratic freedom.

Are there any evidences that the blockade might be eliminated?

The leaders and the media in the United States have been using the rhetoric about Human Rights and freedom to attack China, Cuba and communism for a long time.

Hence, the current administration in the USA cannot lift the embargo without being accused by some people, especially from the right-wing ideology, of being soft within this supposedly terrible regime in Cuba. In that climate is very difficult for Biden to alter the policy or ease the embargo. Thus, the United States are trapped in its own policy.

How is the current economic situation in Cuba?

Cuba has a universal free health system and provide free education for everybody, but people’s lifestyles are very poor. The level of consumption is low and they do not have access to commodities or luxury. Life is difficult for people and the majority do not have disposable incomes.

Young people are growing up in a society where there are not too many prospects, and at the same time, they know that there are people elsewhere with access to more opportunities, particularly in the United States. These young Cubans want to experience the lifestyle of other countries.

Many of them are migrating, and when they get a job, they send money back to help their families in Cuba. There are around 2,5 million people from Cuba living abroad, most of them in the United States and based in Florida.

Due to the animosity of the US government towards Cuba, these migrants are getting benefits, and they can help their families living in the island. This dependency has been developing along the years.

Trying to understand the reality of Cuba through the mass media tend to be misleading. While the supporters of the country emphasise its international solidarity, including the provision of health professionals to 40 countries during the pandemic, the enemies of Cuba highlight the demonstrations of the last summer. How relevant were those protests to comprehend the social and political situation of Cuba?

The demonstrations on the 11th of July were not big enough and are not going to change the system. When it was shown that the United States were engineering the protests, the vast majority of Cubans turned against those movements.

As the United States have always tried to imposed its will in Cuba, the people in the island will resist and suffer poverty and hardship rather to surrender to the North Americans. This is part of the legacy of the Cuban Revolution and its national character.

At the same time, the people who are more willing to bring a political change in Cuba, such as removing communism and establishing a multi-party democratic system, are not living in the island.

To bring a political change in Cuba the economic prosperity is necessary. If this happens, the Cuban migrants who are now living in the United States may decide to go back to their homeland and create a civil opposition to the Communist Party.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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