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Reports from Cuba: The Embargo or the Never Ending Story

By Rebeca Monzo in Translating Cuba:

The Embargo or the Never Ending Story

In recent days many of us have been having friendly conversations and discussions about the famous embargo. Some are in favor of lifting it, others for keeping it in place.

What seems to have been forgotten by everyone, or almost everyone, is the actual reason for its existence. Faulty memories and the many decades of its enforcement have sometimes caused us to forget why it was originally imposed by the U.S. government.

Very often we cite the embargo as the reason for all our troubles. I do not see it this way. The real cause of our problems lies with ourselves. It is always easier to blame one thing or another, even though we have had five decades to create mechanisms to counteract its effects, yet have not done so.

What most people do not realize, because the media never mentions it, is that at the time this measure was imposed as a response by the U.S. government to the interference in and appropriation of American businesses and properties on the island by the “revolutionary government” without any sort of compensation, just as it had done with the assets of thousands of Cubans.

Over the years the embargo has clearly been loosened, or “softened” as they like to say. Because of a strong hurricane that caused much damage in all of Cuba’s provinces, several years ago the United States lifted the restrictions on the export of food and medicine with the goal of helping the island’s population. But everyone knows that most of this food ended up for sale in hard currency stores. The same thing happened with medicine, which can only be obtained in certain pharmacies for hard currency, and not the currency in which the Cubans’ salaries and pensions are paid. Similarly, cultural exchanges have been reinstated which previously had been suspended due to the summary execution of three adolescents who tried to commandeer a ferry boat in Havana’s harbor a decade ago. This exchange remains ongoing.

During all these years the island’s government has given no indication that it might demonstrate a sincere willingness to have the embargo lifted. As we all know quite well that, on those occasions when a possible lifting is discernible, the Cuban government has responded with extreme actions such as the shooting down of aircraft operated by Brothers to the Rescue. Such actions make it clear that the “blockade,” as it referred to in official circles, is no more than a fig leaf to cover up its inefficient economic policies.

I am of the opinion that, in order to arrive at fair agreement, both parties have to come to the table with two “suitcases” — one to give and one to receive. Until that happens, this matter will go on interminably, like the old “story that never ends.”

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