Hands Off Cuba!: Biden’s Use of Trump’s Punishing Sanctions Denounced as ‘Cruel’

July 18th, 2021 - by Jake Johnson / Common Dreams & US Peace Council

“The embargo is absurdly cruel and, like too many other
US policies targeting Latin Americans, the cruelty is the point.”

AOC Slams Biden Administration for Upholding ‘Absurdly Cruel’ Cuba Embargo

Jake Johnson / Common Dreams & US Peace Council 

 (July 16, 2021) — Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday condemned the Biden administration for upholding the United States’ crippling embargo against Cuba, where people have taken to the streets in recent days to protest food and medicine shortages exacerbated by the decades-old economic restrictions.

“The embargo is absurdly cruel and, like too many other US policies targeting Latin Americans, the cruelty is the point,” Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said in a statement Thursday night. “I outright reject the Biden administration’s defense of the embargo. It is never acceptable for us to use cruelty as a point of leverage against every day people.”

In late June, just weeks before the protests in Cuba began, the Biden administration joined the Israeli government in voting against a United Nations resolution calling for an end to the longstanding US embargo, which — according to a 2018 UN report — has cost the island nation’s economy $130 billion since it was imposed in the 1960s. The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the nonbinding resolution by a vote of 184-2, with Colombia, Ukraine, and Brazil abstaining.

Last October, the Cuban government estimated that the US embargo cost the country’s economy more than $5 billion between April 2019 through March 2020, the month the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a global pandemic.

In her statement on Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez expressed solidarity with Cubans protesting for better economic conditions and criticized the Cuban government for what she described as “anti-democratic” responses to the recent street demonstrations. But the New York Democrat added that “we also must name the US contribution to Cuban suffering: our 60-year-old embargo.”

The Biden administration is currently in the process of reviewing the US policy of economic warfare against Cuba, which the Trump administration intensified by tightening sanctions and declaring the country a “state sponsor of terror” — a designation that inflicted additional damage on the Cuban economy.

President Joe Biden has yet to reverse his predecessor’s damaging policy moves toward Cuba, despite growing pressure to do so. During a press conference on Thursday, Biden said he does not intend to ease a policy barring people in the US from sending money to their Cuban relatives on the island.

In recent days, Biden administration officials have downplayed the role of the US embargo in causing acute food and medicine shortages in Cuba, issues that the coronavirus pandemic has made substantially worse. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price dismissively referred to the embargo as the “so-called embargo” and refused to say whether the ban on remittances is harming the Cuban economy.

Price went on to claim that current US policy “allows humanitarian goods to reach Cuba,” but The Intercept reported last month that US-imposed trade restrictions have contributed to the island nation’s struggle “to obtain critical foreign-made medical supplies to treat its own population” and other necessities.

William LeoGrande, professor of government at American University in Washington, D.C., wrote in a column for The Daily Beast on Thursday that the protests in Cuba “should be a decision-forcing event for the Biden administration.”

“In the next few weeks, Biden will have to make a fateful choice,” wrote LeoGrande. “He can slide Cuba to the back burner of his agenda once again in the hope that the crisis on the island will subside without any US action. Or he can act decisively, announcing a policy aimed at reducing the suffering of the Cuban people by lifting Trump’s sanctions — as he promised to do during the presidential campaign.”

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Hands Off Cuba! The US Peace Council
Stands in Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution!

US Peace Council 

(July 14, 2021) — The recent protests in Cuba over deteriorating conditions have a material basis that cannot be dismissed. No matter how heroic a people may be, socialism must provide for their material needs. The US blockade of Cuba is designed precisely to thwart that and to discredit socialism in Cuba and anywhere else where oppressed people try to better their lot. 

Cuban President Díaz-Canel warned in 2019:
“The US began to intensify a series of restrictive measures, a tightening of the blockade, of financial persecution against the energy sector with the aim of suffocating our economy and expecting that this would provoke the desired massive social outbreak, which sows the possibilities for the entire ideological campaign that it has done, to be able to call for humanitarian intervention that ends in military intervention and interference, and that affects the rights, sovereignty and independence of all peoples.”

Whatever the alleged problems of Cuba, it is being attacked precisely because that small island nation promises a humane alternative to the decaying neoliberal order of present-day capitalism and its pending crisis of legitimacy.

If a critical spotlight is needed, it is not on how the Cubans with so little should have done better, but on how the imperialists with so much must be defeated. This is especially the case of those of us privileged enough to take for granted potable water coming out of a tap and 24/7 access to electricity, which is not the condition of much of humanity. 

From Eisenhower to the present, US policy on Cuba has been an unbroken continuation of economic sanctions, active support of regime-change activities, and occupation of Guantánamo. All illusions should be disabused that somehow a change in the Oval Office occupant would bring about a more humane US imperialism.

The specific tactics may vary from president to president, but the goal of strangling socialism has always been the guiding principle. 

The cold, calculating cruelty of US capitalism was exposed when it seized on the COVID crisis as an opportunity to further punish the Cuban people with increased illegal sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and continued by its successor. 

Despite feints to the left on the campaign trail, Biden has, instead of discontinuing Trump’s deportation policy, intensified it. Instead of opening dialogue with the democratically elected government of Venezuela, Biden has embraced the puppet-president Guaidó in the name of “sovereignty.”

And instead of accepting the prerogative to the Nicaraguan people to choose their own leaders, Biden has slapped new illegal sanctions aimed at undermining their upcoming elections in the name of “democracy.” Trump’s “Troika of Tyranny” — targeting Cuba (with 243 new sanctions), Nicaragua, and Venezuela — is Biden’s as well … and our challenge.

Since its triumph six decades ago, the Cuban Revolution has of necessity resisted the assaults of the US and its allies. That Cuba has successfully not only persisted but has been an international model for the accomplishments of socialism does not mean that it will always be so.

The Cubans can resist, but it is us, who — in the words of Che Guevara — live in “the belly of the beast,” who must defend the revolution by ending the siege against it. This is not a time for complacency. The intensified US interference in Cuba is a wakeup call for greater efforts at solidarity.

We call upon all supporters of peace, peoples’ sovereignty and social justice in the US and around the world to join hands to put an end to US criminal, anti-human sanctions and illegal interventions in the affairs of Cuba and other sovereign nations.

The US Peace Council stands in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution!
— Hands off Cuba!
— End All Criminal Sanctions Against Cuba and other Sovereign Nations!

US Peace Council • PO Box 3105, New Haven, CT 06515 • (203) 387-0370 • USPC@USPeaceCouncil.org