Embargo Bogeyman


Some opponents of the United States and supporters of the Cuban people, ascribe the suffering of Cubans to the trade embargo that the U.S. imposed in 1962, for Cuba becoming communist and seizing over $1 billion of U.S. assets. At a rate of interest of 6 % Per annum Cuba would owe the U.S some $7 billion today.

Unmindful of this and of principle opponents of the embargo have blamed it for everything, from a shortage of food, to supplies for hospitals, and agricultural goods which Cuba is sorely lacking. They insist that, all things being equal, if there hadn’t been the embargo, Cuba would be a prosperous country. Is that true though?

Of course such economic sanctions would cost any country something, more so a country of the size and with the resources of Cuba. Cuba puts the cost at billions of dollars, but we can’t trust Cuba, which due to its position with the U.S., finds it in its interest to exaggerate. But the question is given the embargo, has there been any other way that Cuba could have brought itself to progress?

I think so. Opponents of the embargo, talk as though there were only two countries in the world, Cuba and the United States, with the latter the only trading partner; if that were so the woes of Cubans would be ineluctable. But that isn’t so. There are many countries in the world for Cuba to trade with; and it trades with many of them.

The Observatory of Economic Complexity OEC, that provides bilateral trade data for over 190 countries, says on its website that Cuba’s major trading partners are; China with 18% of its trade; Spain 16%; Brazil 8.6% ;Mexico and Canada 6% each and the US 4%. Cuba can buy all the things it needs that it can’t get from the U.S from these countries. It buys some from them. And it buys some from the United States also. This year it bought over $170 million worth of food from America which it paid for in cash; though that isn’t nearly enough for its 11 million people. With the trade with these countries it is still not able to take care of its needs. It has a trade deficit of $4.17 billion.

With the generosity of the U.S. and trade with its many partners by which it could meet its needs, Cuba still lacks basic necessities such as food, supplies for health services and products for agriculture.

The reason is that the ideology and system that Fidel Castro and his regime have imposed on Cubans for over fifty years have denied Cubans exercising the thing that is indispensable to people contributing to their economic success: freedom.

Cubans aren’t free to use their gifts and abilities to enter the professions they choose; that is done for them by the regime. And they aren’t free to bargain with an employer for the reward for selling their services, for there is no such right with the state being the only employer. They are paid a pittance by the state for the services they offer. Doctors are paid the same as housemaids. Hence no desire to produce even for subsistence; for there is no incentive to do so since what is produced is taken by regime which consumes most of it and throws the crumbs to the people.

In such a condition not only is there a lack of production, but an impossibility of diversification of production. For years Cuba has never been able to produce anything significant beyond sugar and tobacco and sales of these have been declining since the Soviet Union collapsed.

The embargo was a way to force the regime to dismantle oppression, thereby giving free reign to a people to determine their own destiny and produce their way toward it. The regime has steadfastly denied doing so with the result that what many Cubans want to do it run away to the U.S. Of course the regime will not blame itself. It must find something else to blame; so it blames the embargo. And it gets great help from its supporters outside. What a great pity.

Ewin James is a freelance journalist living in Longwood Florida.

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