While so many folks like to blame U.S. sanctions for the misery suffered by the Cuban people, few if any will mention the communist Castro dictatorship’s sanction on the Cuban people being able to fish.
A Sanction Worth Lifting in Cuba
Under the island’s military dictatorship, it’s illegal to fish for dinner.
Reprisals carried out by storm troopers and secret police against participants in Cuba’s July 11 uprising have been widely condemned, including by President Biden. But the international left is trying to help Cuba’s military dictatorship recover from this public-relations disaster by blaming the U.S. for the island’s misery.
A petition circulating among supporters of the regime calls on Mr. Biden to lift sanctions imposed by President Trump. The petition alleges that shortages of food and medicine are the fault of the sanctions, which have restricted the flow of dollars to Cuba. But the real reason for Cuban privation is totalitarianism.
The petition, titled “Let Cuba Live,” is aimed at recovering dollar flows to the regime. But it’s not a solution aimed at helping the Cuban people. “Let Cubans Fish”—as recommended by the Center for a Free Cuba in a July 29 brief—would be infinitely more beneficial.
This is no joke. A Caribbean sea teeming with marine life contains abundant protein. Yet it’s nearly impossible for Cubans legally to reel in dinner to feed their families. This is more proof, as if we needed it, that socialism is for morons.
Trump sanctions scaled back American travel to the island and capped remittances that may be sent from the U.S. Without gringo visitors and large monthly dollar remittances—captured by the regime and kept offshore—revenues enjoyed by the military elite are slumping. This pinches their lavish lifestyles—and the budget for repression.
The regime wants to end the embargo so it can get in on grants from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank and secure borrowing from U.S. banks. After defaulting on hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from other countries, Havana is looking for new suckers willing to extend it credit.
The shortage of dollars that the military dictatorship is now experiencing is the point of the sanctions. The policy is designed to tilt the balance of power toward the Cuban people by weakening the regime.
Havana is feeling the heat. The petition signers—including Code Pink, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Corbyn and Oliver Stone —are worried too. But they have a friend in Emily Mendrala, deputy assistant secretary for Cuba issues at the State Department.
Before landing the job in the Biden administration, Ms. Mendrala served as executive director for the leftwing Center for Democracy in the Americas, where she blamed Cuban misery on efforts by the U.S. to weaken the police state. On July 29 a regime trade specialist tweeted a photo of Ms. Mendrala in her current job, smiling alongside activists who want the embargo lifted.
Cuba suffers from a mix of lingering Soviet ideology and Castro crime-family despotism. For example, as the Center for Free Cuba’s brief noted, a July 2019 fishing law requires “a cost-prohibitive license and carries additional restrictions and penalties.” Boat ownership is forbidden too, lest the slaves flee the plantation. The upshot is that “most citizens are not permitted to fish for their supper from a shoreline or fresh water source.” If fines are not paid, perpetrators face prison.
Why is this simplest of tasks a crime? Because if it were legal, Cubans would have agency, and that would be the end of the regime. With this in mind, I’d ask whose side the petitioners are on, but I think we already know.
Ms. O’Grady is the Journal’s Americas columnist.