THE US EMBARGO ON CUBA: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
by Ricardo E. Calvo MD PhD
In the last few years there has been a persistent demand by US political and financial figures to lift the embargo of the US on Cuba.
They claim that the termination of such embargo is necessary for the American and Cuban people to interact and thus bring “democracy” to Cuba since American visitors and businessmen with dollars, with “democratic” ideas and notions of “liberty and enterprise” will become a formidable influence on the transformation of Cuba out of Marxism. They also claim that the end of economic sanctions will help American farmers to obtain access to the Cuban markets and sell their products to new customers.
1.7 million visitors from all over the world (including around 200,000 americans) went to Cuba in 2001 bringing with them $ 2.2 billion dollars. It is logical to wonder how a population of tourists in a ratio 8:1 with respect to the Americans and spending almost 10% of the GDP of Cuba was not able to make inroads into “democracy”. What special characteristics whether worldly or divine will posses the new American visitors who supposedly will convert the rigid communist system still under the original Marxist leadership after 43years?
How will the Cuban government pay for the traded goods? What will the Cubans offer the U.S. merchants in exchange for their articles? What could represent to the U.S. markets the initiation of trade with Cuba?
In 1993 the dollar was legalized in Cuba and its influx has produced a two tier society in the Island: those with dollars who can acquire goods in the official and only authorized State shops and those without them who are condemned to obtain products through the official rationing books. The real consequence: “economic apartheid”.
There is absolutely no private property in Cuba and the distribution of future U.S. products will be directed exclusively by the Party. There is no law of supply and demand in Cuba and the trade of U.S. goods will have no relation to the needs of its citizens but rather follows the dictates of the ruling class. Under communism there are no independent labor unions and Cubans workers in foreign joint adventures are contracted by the State which pays them in devalued Pesos corresponding to only a small fraction of the “original dollar salary”.
Today the sugar cane industry is in shambles with a dismal production 50% of the pre revolutionary epoch and there are strong rumors the government is planning to dismantle 40% of the existing sugar mills. The production of nickel is in the hands of the Canadians and its price is quite low, the production of copper has been closed for a while and the unpaid principal external debt with several countries and the Paris Club is believed to exceed $39 billions dollars and climbing. (553).
The Cuban government had its credit frozen by Spain, France, Italy and Japan for now due to lack of payments to their banks and the shipping of oil from Venezuela has been suspended since April as a consequence of outstanding receipts for $127.7 million. These shipments represent 33% of Cuba’s daily energy requirements and consequently the Marxist government is utilizing its cash reserves to buy oil from international traders on the spot market at a much higher price.
If the Cuban government is pressed to pay cash for merchandise from the U.S. agricultural markets it will buy only food products if given the “necessary financial means” by the U.S. as expressed by Cuban officials to (D-Cal) Representative Farr during his recent visit to Havana (2/02 AP). This can be easily interpreted to result in further agricultural subsides paid by the American taxpayer.
The official annualized income per capita in Cuba is barely $1500 (less than every Western Hemisphere nation except Haiti). If the embargo were lifted the U.S. could only export around $1 billion in foodstuff to the Island representing barely 1 to 2% of the U.S. overall food exports (IBD 5/22/02).
There is no need of American business or tourists to bring “notions of liberty” – ask the Cubans about their reasons to escape from the Island on dangerous flimsy rafts: to gain freedom. There is no need of U.S. citizens appearing in Cuba carrying “notions of enterprises” – ask the Cubans who trade goods illegally daily in the “black market” to ensure their subsistence.
Why is it that the advocates to terminate the embargo expend more efforts denouncing it than calling for the end of the existing totalitarian regime in Havana? Liberalizing trade with Cuba will produce a windfall for the Communist Party to support repressive forces at home and international guerrilla activities overseas.
What really motivates the anti embargo lobby? Liberty or the perpetuation of socialism while obtaining profits?
The existence of the Soviet block in Europe benefited greatly from the material support it received from the West mainly from the US until an american President decided to strangle it economically and then the “evil empire” came to a quick and decisive end. Let us replicate the successful experiment.
If the embargo is lifted we all shall be responsible for the continuation of communism in the Caribbean Island: some for hailing it and others for remaining silent.
Ricardo Calvo MD PhD
This and other excellent articles from the same AUTHOR appear in the GUARACABUYA MAGAZINE whose electronic address is: