Blockade of Cuba – at the edge of logic

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By GILBERTO LOPES*

Although the vast majority of nations oppose it, the US continues with the blockade that subjects the Cuban people to hunger and disease.

Washington “is reaching the limit of logic, including the ethics of the blockade,” said Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, in an interview with journalist Blanche Petrich, published on July 28 in the newspaper The Journey. Faced with a humanitarian crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, “how can you tell a country that it has no right to oxygen?” asked Ebrard. “It seems to me that we are reaching the limit of the foundation of the blockade itself, due to the humanitarian situation, aggravated by the pandemic”.

 unacceptable policy

Four days earlier, in his inaugural speech at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), President Andrés Manuel López Obrador referred to the issue. “The policy of the last two centuries, characterized by invasions, to install or remove rulers at the whim of the superpower, is no longer acceptable. Let's say goodbye to impositions, sanctions and blockades”, declared López Obrador.

The Mexican president returned to the subject on Monday, the 26th, in his usual press conference: he considered it “inconceivable” that, in current times, people want to punish Cuba, an independent country, with a blockade to which the immense majority of nations are opposed. . López Obrador was referring to the last vote on the subject at the UN, in which the US blockade was supported only by Israel. Another 184 nations objected. On Tuesday, he called the embargo an "extreme measure" and a "medieval action" that "shows a great backwardness in foreign policy".

But it is not enough to vote every year at the UN against the blockade, added the Mexican leader, who announced the sending of two ships with essential products to Cuba: an oil tanker with 100 barrels of diesel to supply energy to Cuban hospitals, and another with medicine and food. “We may have differences, but you cannot condemn a people to hunger and disease. How is it possible that oxygen is not obtained because, if a ship of one nationality is going to take oxygen to Cuba, it is punished and cannot enter the United States?”, asked López Obrador, putting the US embargo policy on the ropes, which has already lasts 62 years.

adjust the route

“The General Assembly has been voting on the exact same proposal against the blockade of Cuba for decades and nothing has been achieved. It seems that this declaration has no teeth”, said the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ebrard, in his interview with The Journey. But, he added, “it has a growing impact on opinion, on mobilization, on the way we think about this issue in the world”.

Petrich then asked him if there was a regional strategy to persuade the United States to end this policy. “The first strategy is that they see us together,” replied Ebrard. The second is “that they see us voting together, as they saw us in the General Assembly. The third is a proposal like the one the president made on Saturday in Veracruz. The next step is to see what the United States says and, based on that, adjust our route”. “There was no reaction at all,” he added. "Let's see what the United States and Canada say." “What I can say is that there was a very relevant reaction in Latin America and the Caribbean. There is a lot of interest in being able to move forward on something like this.”

In a note on the subject, the with the BBC consulted Luis Rubio, president of “Mexico Evaluates”, a conservative Mexican NGO. Rubio is a member of the board of directors of two investment funds and of Coca-Cola Femsa, among other things, according to the NGO's portal. In her opinion, there will be no confrontation between Mexico and the United States, "because the Americans (sic) have decided that they are not going to respond." He also believes that "no one will follow the example of a president who lives in the ideals regarding Cuba and the revolution of the 60s and 70s. It would be ridiculous."

But this may not be the case, as evidenced by the failure of an OAS meeting to consider the recent protests in Cuba, which the President of the Permanent Council, Uruguayan Washington Abdala, had convened. The rejection by most member states forced the suspension of the Permanent Council. Opposition from several countries forced the meeting to be canceled, and no new date was set for the consultation.

"The president pro tempore of the Council admitted defeat in a pathetic letter, which offends Cuba,” said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, upon learning of the decision. Despite his opinion that no one would follow the Mexican president in his proposals regarding the US blockade of Cuba, Rubio himself accepted that other countries could join this position. “Argentina?” they asked him. “Perhaps, I don't doubt it. President Alberto Fernández demonstrated an ideological stance similar to that of López Obrador”. But, he added, Fernández “has a vision of the 1970st century, not the XNUMXs”, without explaining what he meant by that difference.

What is certain is that countries like Bolivia and Peru – where recent changes in government also imply a very different international position in relation to previous governments – could add to López Obrador's appeal. In November there are elections in Chile and the new government is likely to represent a change compared to the conservative policies of Sebastián Piñera. And the same could happen in Brazil next year, configuring a political framework very different from the one that prevailed in Latin America until just a few months ago.

The answer

Although there was no immediate response from the White House to López Obrador's proposals, President Joe Biden did not wait to announce his position on the blockade of Cuba. Before ending the week, last Friday, Biden met with conservative representatives of the Cuban exile in Washington – among whom the press highlighted the presence of rapper Yotuel Romero – to announce new measures. Not against Mexico, for having broken the blockade, but against the Cuban police, which they decided to sanction for their behavior during the July 11 protests. "Biden's meeting with Cuban annexationists is a farce to justify a regime change operation in Cuba," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez responded on Twitter. The US government "is only interested in Florida's electoral machinery, while ignoring the demands of the Cuban people, their Cuban and US voters and the world," he added.

Already last week, Biden had announced sanctions against the minister of the armed forces and a military unit, and when asked by journalists if there will be more sanctions, he said yes. Unless there is a "drastic change" on the island, he added.

The problem for Biden, who announced his commitment to human rights, is that the behavior of the Cuban police contrasts with that of the police in countries allied with Washington, such as Chile and Colombia, which, in the face of protests, left dozens of people dead or seriously injured. Like, for example, the practice of the Chilean Carabineros, who shot demonstrators in the eyes, leaving dozens of young people blind or with the loss of an eye with this method of repression. Many are still in prison, both in Chile and Colombia, where the protests are not yet over. Neither of these extremes has been recorded in Cuba.

change of course

Ebrard made reference to these protests in his interview. “We have seen protests and mobilizations in several countries, in some cases related to the pandemic, and in others with other situations: Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador… difficult due to the stagnation of tourism, which is more important for its economy than in other countries,” he said. "Historically, sanctions have proven to be a mistake." “It is ethically questionable,” he stressed. “It is a form of direct intervention that almost never has results, but which ends up causing a lot of suffering. Part of the idea of ​​causing maximum suffering to a population in order to weaken a given government. Did this work somewhere? I don't see where."

López Obrador had suggested to Biden that he change at least one of the measures that are part of the blockade: “that Cuban families be authorized to receive remittances from those who live and work in the United States, just as Mexico receives support from our fellow migrants, who send us four billion dollars a month”.

Something that the US president seems to be considering, but that he is looking for a formula to ensure that this money “reaches directly to their families without the regime taking a part”. In any case, Ebrard considers that the changes may be delayed, but calculated that it is impossible that the almost unanimous vote against the US blockade in the UN “does not end up having some impact on a change of policy”. “We would like another course of action. And I'm not just talking about Mexico, I'm talking about a consensus in Latin America and the Caribbean. I'm not just talking about a gesture towards Cuba, but towards an entire region”.

moral bankruptcy

As part of these changes, the Mexican government highlighted the need to “persuade the US authorities to integrate us while respecting the sovereignty of each country”, but also to create an organization capable of expressing these new policies. López Obrador referred to the possibility of transforming CELAC into such an organization, something similar to the European Union, that replaces the OAS. “The time has come to consider building something new. That's why the president said: 'What if we create a new organization that overcomes the traditional interference of the OAS, that starts from less asymmetrical relations and from a more respectful treatment between us?'”, said Minister Ebrard. “Who sets the agenda?” he asked. “Washington,” was his reply. “We are concerned about Nicaragua, we are concerned about Haiti, we are concerned about political understanding in Venezuela. But in all these cases we have to separate what is interventionism from what is common action”.

Ebrard pointed out that the OAS is morally and politically bankrupt, that it has been absent in the attention to the Covid-19 pandemic, which Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Argentina, have addressed within the framework of CELAC. “Did someone ask us what we needed during the pandemic? Did someone offer to send us vaccines on time? Was anyone concerned that some country did not have enough mechanical ventilators? Nobody. No one will do for us what we don't do for ourselves. Even the most conservative people accept this,” said Ebrard. “If we hadn't worked together, for example, Mexico wouldn't have even a third of the vaccines it now has thanks to the collaboration that was forged with Argentina and AstraZeneca. There are 17 countries that today buy and receive vaccines; the active ingredient is manufactured in Argentina and bottled in Mexico”.

The role of the OAS was also the subject of an editorial by the The Journey of Sunday, July 25, entitled “OAS, a burden for Latin America”. As host of the meeting of ministers of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), President Andrés Manuel López Obrador “recovered the banner of Latin American unity with an appeal to replace the dysfunctional Organization of American States (OAS) 'with an autonomous body, which is no one's lackey' that is a 'mediator' in conflicts between nations, on issues of human rights and democracy, but 'at the request and acceptance of the parties'”. “No one can deny that such a body is not and cannot be the OAS”: since its creation, this body was a mere conveyor belt for Washington's directives, but under the secretariat of Luis Almagro it sank into unprecedented ignominy by orchestrating the 2019 coup d'état in Bolivia; by handing over representation of Venezuela to a burlesque character with no credentials other than State Department approval; turning a blind eye or openly criminalizing the victims of the savage repression by the governments of Chile and Colombia in the last two years, assuming itself as the spearhead of the criminal coup against Cuba, and making clear its lack of scruples and its obscene submission to the designs of the United States by engaging in disputes in which it has lost any sense of decorum,” the newspaper concluded.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). author of Political crisis of the modern world (Uruk).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

 

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