By Al R Suarez
I dedicate this article to my late uncle, Percy Suarez, who would have turned 70 today.
On September 4th, 1961, during the Kennedy administration, Congress passed what was in effect the Cuban embargo. President Kennedy described it as a quarantine, that was temporary, and would only assure Soviet arms would not be shipped to the island. In fact shortly before his assassination in 1963, Kennedy was making moves to end the embargo, he did not like how it prevented Cuba from developing, and wanted to end the Cold War. Not until December 17th, 2014, did the restrictions of the embargo begin to ease, 53 years later. Obama and Raul Castro in Havana made history, the remaining 3 political prisoners (2 of them already were released and went back to Cuba) known as the Cuban 5, were sent back to Cuba, and an easing of the restrictions on Cuba commenced. This was not a total lifting of the embargo, that would need an act of Congress and Obama did not have the votes to do that, but what was constitutionally permitted as president he did to ease these restrictions. Therefore, Americans could travel there not as tourists but for other reasons such as educational or cultural purposes, so our freedom of movement was increased (not anymore). This included trips by boat, or cruise lines, and flights to different airports in Cuba.
In the summer of 2017, as I reported on my blog, I went to Cuba, that was days after Trump gave a speech in Miami (I was present at the protest to this speech) stating he wanted to reverse Obama’s policy on Cuba. He did not actually do it till the following year, the same year he made increased sanctions against Venezuela. The reason he gave for the 243 new laws on Cuba increasing the embargo, is that Cuba dared back Venezuela, as if to be an ally to someone the US government considers an enemy is justification enough for an act of war under international law, an embargo is in fact a form of economic warfare. So I decided to travel for the first time to the land of my late godfather, Jose Garcia. I never knew my godfather, he knew me as a baby, was close with my father, but he lost touch with my family and we later found out he passed away. Despite of that I have many Cuban friends I knew from my time in Miami and Tampa (the latter the Cuban liberator Jose Marti spent time in), many of them progressive, and many of them among the 80% polled in 2019 in Miami who said the Cuban embargo does not work.
That figure today with the pandemic is probably higher. Who are these people blocking traffic on the streets of Jacksonville and Miami? They are waving Trump signs, ignoring the effects of the embargo, and telling lies. Just recently a comrade of mine, Medea Benjamin, of the anti-war and feminist group, CodePink, went up to Cuban-American protesters in DC and simply asked them how many have been killed in the protests in Cuba. They started inventing numbers and telling all sorts of lies. Not a single protester has been killed. These are the type of people that are involved in these so-called protests, some, like City Mayor of Miami, who unfortunately has the same last name as me, have even called for a bombing of Cuba. Mayor Suarez being of Cuban descent, such a statement to me is an act of treason against his own people. Anyone with one iota of knowledge of the history of US “interventions” knows what these bombings do to the population.
Why is it 6 months into the Biden administration today and not a single of the 243 laws have been lifted? Could it be Biden is against his own legacy with Obama and wants to use the pandemic and the embargo as a means to push for regime-change? When Trump first instituted the embargo increase, it was before the pandemic, some could argue he was too busy dealing with the pandemic and a reelection to worry about easing the embargo on Cuba, now with vaccines reaching most of the US public, why is it Biden has not lifted a finger? He only need do a stroke of the pen to lift those laws, he does not need Congress for it. Is Biden worried about the Dems getting power in midterms? We are only talking about the probably less than 20% of Cubans in Miami who are still in favor of the embargo, the extreme right minority who would rather kiss Raul Castro’s feet than vote for a Dem. Some are as even insane as to call Biden a Communist. Why is Biden, Miami County Mayor Levine Cava, and other Dems silent on the effects of the embargo?! Why do they keep this policy? Val Demings, a right-wing Dem, recently said the US needs to carry out “swift action” on Cuba. What action does she mean? Does this not sound like Iraq rhetoric in the run up to war there in 2003? As my comrade Bobby Cuomo said, silence on this is violence. Cuba, with their Socialized medicine, was among the best countries in Latin America when it came to tackling COVID-19, now because the US will not permit them to buy vaccines or bring in medical equipment, this is tragically being reversed, this is Nazi level cruelty, the US showing its true face as the empire that it is. What threat is an island of 11 million people 90 miles from our shores to us? Perhaps a political threat, with the gains of Socialism, them having a higher life expectancy than us and lower infant mortality rate. But a military threat? No person in their right mind can really care about Cubans in Cuba while not condemning the embargo, which 184 countries in the UN voted against last month, only the US and Israel voted in favor, and a few client regimes abstained, like Colombia, who are actually repressing their people, with full US support. Who are we to impose our ways on Cuba? It did not work for the over half a century of embargo.
I think this is the one issue that can bring back the massive protests from the left, like the ones we saw and I took part in, in the summer last year. We need drastic action by progressives, to pressure the liberals in Washington, to bring back Obama’s policy while Obama is silent. We also need to consider organizing flotillas out of the Keys to Cuba to break the blockade by any means necessary! This godson of a Cuban, this anti-imperialist journalist, will not let it go! We need progressives running for upcoming midterms to promise they will vote for an end of the Cuban embargo itself so this can never happen again.