The U.S. blockade deeply affects every aspect of life in Cuba: Infrastructure projects are delayed, housing can’t be built, hospitals cancel elective surgeries, agricultural cooperatives struggle to rebuild after hurricane damage, factories can’t acquire supplies, and school materials are hard to come by for students.
For more than 59 years, the United States has imposed a criminal blockade around the socialist island, denying Cuba access to banking institutions and preventing them from working and trading with other countries.
The author took part in a political delegation to Cuba earlier this year, where they met with a multitude of representatives of Cuban society: the provincial government of Villa Clara, an agricultural cooperative, a medical polyclinic, and the federation of students at a local university. Every facet of life is negatively affected by the blockade, and this is by design. The U.S. wants to weaken and crush the Cuban Revolution through economic war on the people, and the blockade has cost Cuba’s economy and its people over US $933 billion.
It is abundantly clear that the blockade needs to be lifted immediately. The United States has no business determining the destiny of the Cuban people.
The blockade is a war on the People! End the U.S. blockade of Cuba!
The Cuban people have struggled to build socialism despite tremendous odds. From the moment of the triumph of the revolution, Cuba has been under attack and sabotage by the United States. The CIA attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro on more than 600 occasions; the U.S. unleashed terrorist forces into the island that bombed hotels and tourist facilities, who transmitted biological weapons –– infectious diseases –– to attack the Cuban people and the agriculture.
In 1991, Cuba lost 85 percent of its trade with the demise of the socialist Eastern European bloc and the Soviet Union. National production fell by 34.5 percent. This ushered in a time of severe hardship, as well as resistance by the whole population, known as the Special Period. Our translator recounted her own memories during the Special Period where she had to carry buckets of water up 23 flights of stairs, when the water pumps of her apartment building failed and no spare parts were available.
Contrary to public perception, Obama’s 2015 rapprochement with Cuba did not end the blockade in any form but rather loosened travel restrictions while maintaining the goal of imperialist counter-revolution.
The blockade distorts every facet of life, yet through all of this, socialism in Cuba continues to advance.
People in the United States may be unaware that a blockade even exists, or they may think that it is an embargo. An embargo would mean that trade between Cuba and the U.S. is prohibited, but a blockade means that the U.S. prevents Cuba from trading with any other country.
Cuba nunca renuncia sus sueños: Cuba never gives up on her dreams
Our delegation met with leaders of the provincial government, Poder Popular, in Villa Clara, and they explained to us the difficulties they have had to navigate in growing their economy to provide for their population.
With virtually every other economic avenue closed to them, tourism is the most important component of the Cuban economy. To drive the growth of tourism, the Cuban provincial government undertook an ambitious project: connecting the Cuban mainland with the keys in the north, a prime vacation spot renowned the world over.
The first stone was thrown into the ocean on Dec. 15, 1989, and today El Pedraplen is one of the world’s longest ocean causeways at 30 miles and 46 bridges. Despite the difficulties of the Special Period, the Cuban government kept building the road until its completion in 2003: “Cuba nunca renunca a ses sueños; Cuba never gives up on her dreams.” Construction trucks made more than 900,000 trips to carry 6 million cubic meters of stone.
All construction was conducted with sound environmental oversight and specific care to not disturb the flora and fauna. International collaboration played a major part, with 4,511 specialists from 14 organizations helping on the project. Ecological exchange of seawater is guaranteed by the many bridges dotting El Pedraplen, and in fact fish biodiversity has increased from the project.
As the government officials noted, environmental regulations are strictly enforced. New laws mandate that any new factory must clean the waste that is generated. Permanent oversight boards monitor each province, and any enterprise caught polluting or breaking the law is immediately prosecuted and dissolved.
U.S. blockade hinders rebuilding after storm damage
When Hurricane Irma made landfall on Cuba last year, “the damage was huge,” recounted a leader of Poder Popular. “We never had such bad weather. None of the meteorologists saw anything this bad. Winds were more than 150kmph (93mph), and the hurricane passed very slowly through Cuba. More than 150,000 houses were affected.”
Recovery in the town of Remedios has only reached 44 percent because of the U.S. blockade against construction materials. “Some houses still don’t have roofs,” the director of the Museum of the Parrandas de Remedios recounted. “We have suffered from the blockade for years. [The May 2018] tropical storm Alberto also affected us, as our groundwater stores are now saturated. We lost many hectares of planted food. The blockade is affecting the recovery of Remedios.”
Last year, Remedios turned 521 years old, one of the oldest cities in the country, and the intensity of hurricanes is increasing as an effect of climate change.
Food cooperative: ‘We lost everything on the ground’
At the nearby agricultural cooperative of small farmers (Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños, or ANAP), coop workers explained the disaster that the hurricane wreaked on the crops. Nebis, the young woman president of the coop’s Young Communist Union, said: “We were very affected by the weather. We tried to save the harvest but we lost everything on the ground.”
The cooperative also serves as a collection point for the area’s 125 dairy farmers to bring and store their milk, which is then distributed to families in the area. Priority is given to the schools and families with small children. Three days’ worth of milk was affected because the roads were blocked. A project from the UN helped to rebuild the cooperative, but what is needed is a lifting of the blockade.
“We suffer directly and indirectly,” Nebis said. “When a campesina is sick, she goes to the hospital. Health care is free for us, but the State is impacted by the blockade.” The impacts resound everywhere, she said. “Every day, every Cuban suffers because of the U.S. blockade. Even feed for the pigs is hard to come by.”
Despite the tremendous setbacks, the coop continues their work of providing for the needs of Villa Clareños. Cuba’s planned economy means that food is produced and distributed according to need, not profit.
Cuban hospital director: ‘The blockade hinders us in every way’
At the Martha Abreu Polyclinic en Villa Clara, the directors gave our delegation an overview of the famed Cuban health system. Before the Revolution, Cuba had a high child mortality rate, a life expectancy of 60 years, and only one medical school in the country. With a privatized education system, pre-revolutionary Cuba had doctors only in major cities, and many common diseases were rampant throughout the poorer areas.
Today, life expectancy under socialism is 78.45 years and increasing. Cuba boasts one of the lowest child mortality rates in the world, 4.2 deaths per 1,000 births. In the United States, on the other hand, the average is 5.8. Most communicable diseases have been eradicated from the island and free, public universities exist in every region.
“This would be a perfect health system,” Director Victoria Lisid explained, “but the blockade hinders us in every way. We are limited to older technologies because the new ones are too costly for us to acquire.”
One of the main treatments for various cancers, Cisplatin, costs Cuba $186 for a small vial. “Patients need 10 of these per treatment,” the doctor said. “The U.S. produces this medicine for $25, yet we cannot buy it because of the blockade. For the antibiotic Amoxicillin, we pay three times more for the value of materials.”
In fact, in the Martha Abreu clinic, elective surgeries have been temporarily suspended for lack of hypodermics.
Yet Cuban doctors continue to travel all over the world, bringing health care to the places in a country where their own national doctors don’t even go. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of the community,” said one Cuban doctor. The province of Villa Clara alone has sent its doctors to 64 countries. “We give what we have, not what we have left over.”
The whole world opposes U.S. blockade of Cuba: Resist the blockade!
The resistance of the Cuban people continues as they build a society based on meeting the needs of the many, and not the few.
Opposition to Washington’s aggression is universal, as most people in the U.S. oppose the blockade. Last year, virtually the whole world –– 191 countries –– voted to lift the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Only the United States and Israel voted against the resolution. This coming October 31 at the UN General Assembly, the resolution on ending the U.S. blockade will once again be voted on.
The U.S. blockade is 59 years of genocidal oppression against socialist Cuba. We must oppose the blockade and fight for its overturn. Let Cuba live!