Anti-communist protests recently sprung up in Cuba. Factions of protesters condemned the government for repression and violence. A large part of the manifestations also called for an end to scarcity of food, electricity, and medical supplies, including syringes for COVID-19 vaccines.
Western imperialists immediately pounced on the opportunity to blame Castro and the Communist Party of Cuba for these shortcomings. They charge the government with seizing the nation’s riches to distribute amongst themselves. According to them, scarcity in Cuba has been manufactured by a totalitarian regime that suppresses its people.
These mighty accusations stem from American politicians and Cuban exiles in Miami. First, one must examine the interests of these groups. American politicians, such as Republican representative Anthony Sabatini, have called for immediate intervention and the execution of communist officials. Like many other Southern white conservative politicians, Sabatini subscribes to the notion that anything left of fascism is communism. He donned blackface and brownface, labeled Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization, and called for the arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment of protestors in the United States. Hence, one might not think much of his statements. After all, fear mongering about communism is the Republican Party’s bread and butter.
But similar echoes can be heard from Democrat politicians. US President Joe Biden tweeted, “We stand with the Cuban people as they bravely assert their fundamental and universal rights, and as they all call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering.” He even warned the Cuban government to refrain from violence or attempts to silence the protests; this statement comes from a man that called on the National Guard to suppress protesters of racism multiple times (in Minneapolis following the murder of Daunte Wright and in the capitol prior to Derek Chauvin’s trial verdict).
Evidently, his issues lie less with police violence than regime change. For over 100 years, the United States has had an imperial strangle on Cuba. Prior to Cuban nominal independence, five US presidents (Polk, Pierce, Buchanan, Grant, and McKinley) attempted to purchase the island from Spain. Under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, American soldiers entered the battle for independence in the Caribbean. The military victory resulted in the American acquisition of Puerto Rico and protectorate status of Cuba. A protectorate state is controlled by another sovereign state. In this case, the US controlled elections, owned the sugar and tobacco industries, overtook Guantanamo Bay, and launched military occupations for 22 years.
American politicians have always prioritized control of Cuba in their imperial dreams. Settler colonialism birthed manifest destiny. As mainland colonization neared its course, the empire looked overseas to continue expansion. Cuba and Puerto Rico were two principal targets. The islands’ people rebelled in numerous occasions, but only Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in Cuba succeeded in exiling the Yankees. Obviously, the revolt caused dire consequences. The US launched an invasion at the Bay of Pigs and a hostile embargo.
Eisenhower’s and Kennedy’s administrations designed the embargo to suffocate the Cuban people into overthrowing Castro. As Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lester Mallory wrote in 1960 memorandum, “The majority of Cubans support Castro (the lowest estimate I have seen is 50 percent). There is no effective political opposition […] The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.” The blockade bars other countries from trading with, investing in, or giving aid to Cuba. Companies face the option of either working with the United States (the global power with the largest trading network and concentration of capital) or Cuba (an impoverished island).
The blockade uses the hegemonic global alliance to trap Cubans into surrendering to imperialism. In Mallory’s words, the blockade attempts “to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” The claim that Cubans are being starved is not false, yet the blame is misplaced. Monocropping of sugar and tobacco has made Cuban soil largely infertile; hence, Cubans rely on imports of food and other necessities. When a country cannot import food, its citizens face the consequences. Still, the government implemented rations to evenly distribute the food it did have access to, and consequently managed to prevent widespread famine. All economic sectors are impacted by the embargo. Seed patents prevent farmers from mass production. Vaccine patents deny Cubans the opportunity to receive the Pfzier, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. And, though the Cuban medical field developed its own vaccine, trade restrictions prevent access to syringes necessary to carry them out. The blockade similarly prevents new construction, leading to decaying infrastructure. The repercussions are endless. And it all comes at the courtesy of the United States.
Hence, Biden’s cries for the end to economic suffering in Cuba come off as rather insincere. If he truly wanted to end the economic plight of Cubans, he would immediately lift the embargo. Instead, he and other Westerners have placed all responsibility on communism, not the systems actually responsible for this depravity – capitalism and imperialism. Cuban American exiles clamor for the United States to save Cuba. But what does this saving look like? How does the captor save its captive? History has proven this simply does not happen. Humanitarian concerns veil a heinous call for intervention. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez even called for immediate airstrikes in Cuba, citing previous administrations bombings of Panama and Yugoslavia.
Not all calls are quite as unabashedly violent, but, with or without hawkish language, intervention remains the main objective. White House spokesman Andrew Bates assured: “[Biden]’s committed to forming his policies toward Cuba based on two principles: That standing up for democracy and human rights is paramount, and that Americans — especially Cuban Americans — are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity in Cuba.” The United States attempts to instill its brand of disingenuous democracy in all parts of the world, with the desire of securing capital for the ruling class. American “democracy” brought Afghanistan an endless war and innumerable civilian casualties. American “democracy” brought Puerto Rico an endless cycle of poverty and debt. American “democracy” brought Libya an open slave market. American “democracy” brought Americans mass incarceration, along with manufactured starvation and homelessness amidst food and housing surpluses.
What do the Cuban people stand to gain from intervention? The same unequal conditions that created the Cuban revolution? An anti-imperialist lens should inform our answers to these questions. Americans often fail to recognize the state’s imperial apparatus in their analysis. They feed into the trap of advocating for interventionist foreign policy that extrapolates resources and decimates native populations. Do not fall for the deception. The end of imperialism is the one true solution.
Gaetano is a Venezuelan socialist and digital content creator. He graduated from Florida International University with a BA in Political Science, focusing on history and the racial class struggle throughout the Americas. He now spends his time meandering through Instagram.