Uncle Sam Uncle Sam. Photo: Public Domain

Cuba’s economic and health crisis is a result of crippling US sanctions - the only solution is an end to the blockade, writes Jonathan Maunders

Thousands of Cubans have been protesting against the country’s spiralling economic and health emergency. Many are angry at shortages of food and vaccines, while the prices of everyday necessities rocket.

The main cause of the crisis is the vicious sanctions being imposed by the US, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, government austerity measures and crippling sanctions from both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Emerging in the towns of San Antonio de los Baños and Palma Soriano, demonstrations soon spread to the cities of Santiago and Havana, demanding change. Protesters were aggressively subdued by police, with several arrested, including notable leftists critical of the government, who have since been released.

Naturally, the majority of Western media and political forces have tried to present the protests as uniformly anti-socialist as opposed to anti-government. Yet, while such right-wing elements were present, left-wing activists also mobilised, independently, calling for an end to government repression and austerity.

What has caused the protests?

The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified Cuba’s largest economic recession in three decades. The resulting food shortages, combined with the government’s austerity measures and poor handling of the pandemic has created growing anger throughout the country.

However, it is impossible to explain Cuba’s ongoing economic crisis without acknowledging the role US imperialism has played in creating it. In addition to the US embargo choking Cuba for generations, Donald Trump’s presidential reign saw an additional 200 sanctions placed on the country, designed to further decimate the Cuban economy. Furthermore, while some had hoped the election of Joe Biden would result in de-escalation, his administration has sustained the sanctions.

The UN has estimated that the US embargo has cost Cuba $130 billion, a sum sufficient to provide everyone in Latin America with a vaccine. This economic pressure has been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic, depriving the island of over three million tourists in the last year and leaving many Cubans unable to work.

Despite producing an effective Covid-19 vaccine, Cuba’s ability to administer it has been hampered by a shortage of syringes and other necessary medical supplies, caused by the US sanctions.

US President Biden responded to the Cuban protests by calling for ‘freedom’ from communism. This is despite the fact that his country’s sixty-year embargo was borne out of opposition to a people reclaiming its independence from US imperialism. Further still, for 29 years successive US administrations have ignored annually approved UN motions calling for the embargo to end.

With one hand the US government demands ‘freedom’ for Cubans and with the other damns them to poverty. The reality is that mentions of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ are simply smokescreens for US imperialism, as seen across the globe, from Cuba and Bolivia to Palestine.

As well as demanding an end to the blockade, we must reject any attempt at further US interference under the guise of a “humanitarian corridor” as is being pushed for by some Republicans.

Cubans have the right to protest against austerity and poverty but the blame for the situation must lie in Washington. If the US genuinely cared about freedom and democracy, it would end all sanctions immediately.

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