PSL Editorial – Matanzas inferno: The U.S. blockade of Cuba must end now

Photo: Fire at major oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba. Credit: Susely Morfa González

Cuba solidarity activists in the United States are calling on people to send a letter to Joe Biden demanding an end to the blockade. Material to help spread the word on social media can be found here

For four days, Cuban emergency responders have been heroically battling an enormous fire that broke out at a major oil storage facility in the province of Matanzas. The inferno broke out following a lightning strike on Aug. 5, and has since caused explosions at four storage tanks. One person is confirmed dead, and at least 14 others are missing along with hundreds injured.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation expresses our deepest solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, and with the whole Cuban people. Now, it is more important than ever to demand an end to the cruel U.S. blockade that hugely magnifies disasters like this one and causes constant economic hardship. This policy not only prohibits nearly any form of economic interaction between the United States and Cuba, but also aims to block trade between Cuba and any other country in the world.

Because of the blockade, it is very difficult for Cuba to acquire the fuel it needs to sustain its economy and a decent standard of living for its people. The fire at this oil storage facility has dealt a major blow to Cuba’s fuel supply, something that is already rippling throughout the economy.

As a consequence of the fire, a major thermo-electric plant has already had to shut down operations. This adds yet another huge burden to an electrical system already stretched to the brink by the blockade. The U.S. government prevents Cuba from importing spare parts essential to the maintenance and repair of electrical plants and related infrastructure. 

Electrical workers have waged a tremendous struggle in recent months and years to keep the country’s power supply operational despite the lack of resources, but blackouts have become increasingly common. Now with Matanzas’ thermoelectric plant off line and huge quantities of fuel going up in smoke, this crisis appears set to intensify in the middle of the hottest period of the year. 

The situation in Cuba was gravely worsened by the Trump administration’s imposition of 243 additional measures tightening the blockade. These new sanctions targeted financial transactions, the vital tourism sector, remittances, and a wide range of other essential economic activities. Almost all of these measures have been left in place by the Biden administration, which continues to pursue a policy of unmitigated hostility towards Cuba.  

The Biden administration, like all U.S. administrations since Eisenhower, has sought to overthrow the Cuban revolution. They hope to rip up the country’s socialist system, reimpose capitalism and return Cuba to the status of a neo-colony subordinate to the United States economically and politically. The determined resistance of the Cuban people has prevented such a scenario from coming to pass, but U.S. aggression has never let up. 

The U.S. government hopes that the economic suffering caused by the blockade will create fertile ground inside of Cuba for a counterrevolution. It is constantly trying to drum up opposition within Cuba, paying dissident “activists,” spreading propaganda and even going so far as to attempt to set up a sham Twitter-like social media platform to influence public opinion. In July of last year, U.S.-sponsored demonstrations took place in several parts of the country, accompanied by acts of violence that sought to create an atmosphere of chaos and panic. Large pro-revolution mass mobilizations drowned out the counterrevolutionaries, but the U.S. government continues its efforts to promote this type of destabilization. 

As Cuban firefighters along with specialists sent by the governments of Mexico, Venezuela and elsewhere battle to contain the blaze, relief efforts are being hampered by the U.S. blockade. Moreover, this 60-year-long economic war has created an extremely precarious economic situation highly vulnerable to the effects of the oil storage facility fire. 

Every year, almost every country in the world votes at the United Nations to condemn the blockade of Cuba as a violation of the country’s basic rights — a view shared by an increasing number of people inside the United States. The world stands against the blockade, and in this moment of crisis the Biden administration must take the only humane course of action: Let Cuba live! 

Cuba solidarity activists in the United States are calling on people to send a letter to Joe Biden demanding an end to the blockade. Material to help spread the word on social media can be found here

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