The mentality that dominates U.S. policy towards Cuba
There are two recent events that offer clues as to the logic that inspires U.S. policy toward Cuba. On the one hand, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made public the annual report on human trafficking which places Cuba at the worst possible level, and highlights its alleged condition as a violator of the rules that govern this matter. On the other hand, the House of Representatives, in a 260 to 163 count, voted against an amendment that advocated for the sale of food to Cuba. All Republicans (211) and 57 Democrats (26%) voted against the amendment.
The report on human trafficking is one of many that the United States government prepares to proclaim itself as judge for the rest of the world. Cuba has appeared in this report since its first editions, almost 20 years ago, and has been accused of every possible crime, including promoting child prostitution through tourism. During the Barack Obama administration there was a relaxation in this classification. Cuba was placed at level 2, where even the United States itself appears, but after Donald Trump, it was reinstated to level 3, with emphasis on the accusation that the Cuban missions abroad, especially those made up of health professionals, were organized based on “forced labor,” equivalent to a kind of “modern slavery.”
The first Cuban medical mission was sent to Algeria in 1963, after its liberation from French colonialism. Since then, it is estimated that some 400,000 Cuban professionals have carried out tasks of this nature in 164 nations. To face the Covid-19 pandemic, they assisted fifteen countries, including two European nations, Italy and the Principality of Andorra, which were going through the worst moments of the disease.
The Henry Reeve Contingent, designed to act in disaster situations and serious epidemics, was created in 2005 to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States, but the George W. Bush administration did not accept the offer despite the horrible circumstances surrounding this disaster and the lack of care received by many of its victims. In contrast, the performance of these professionals during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which occurred between 2014 and 2016, was praised by President Obama, who highlighted the collaboration that took place between Cubans and Americans at that time. In 2017, the contingent was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the World Public Health Award, established in memory of Dr. Lee Jong-wook, and the Contingent has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on several occasions.
For a long time, these collaborations, as well as the training plans for doctors from other countries in Cuba, including the United States, were inserted into the concept of Cuban internationalist solidarity, especially with poor Third World countries. Neither Cuba charged for this aid, nor did the Cuban internationalists obtain additional remuneration for it. When the Cuban economic situation became complicated, as a consequence of the end of the European socialist camp, agreements were established with some countries for the financing of these missions, which became one of the country’s main sources of income. From that moment on, the collaborators also began to receive a part of these benefits.
Cuban doctors, nurses and other collaborators join these tasks voluntarily, for reasons of professional interest, economic improvement or simply to live the experience of life in other countries. Also for the moral commitment to serve populations with little health care, as well as victims of natural disasters or epidemics in the most inhospitable places on earth.
It is true that they do not earn salaries or live like doctors in other countries, but precisely in the cult of human solidarity and the commitment to contribute to their country lies the economic viability of this type of enterprise. Cuba is the only country in the world capable of producing these types of professionals and providing collaboration at a recognized level at low cost. Stimulated by U.S. plans or simply by other interests, some have abandoned these missions, but this has not prevented the fact that currently more than 30,000 doctors and nurses work in 67 nations, especially in Africa and Latin America.
The proposed amendment to facilitate food sales to Cuba sought to authorize the granting of private credits and eliminate other provisions, only applicable to Cuba, that hinder trade between the two countries. It is an old claim from sectors that oppose the economic blockade for humanitarian reasons, but also from the U.S. agri-food business community interested in gaining more competitive access to the not inconsiderable Cuban market. The paradox of this situation is that it is one of the most conservative sectors of U.S. political life and its main representatives belong to the Republican Party, all of whom voted against the amendment that would facilitate these sales.
The question that arises is what could be the causes that inspire U.S. politicians to act in this way against Cuba, even against the grain of the interests of important sectors of American society, such as the victims of a hurricane or the food producers.
The answer has a long history that stems from the anti-neocolonialist nature of the Cuban Revolution and its implications for the model of domination that the United States established in the world after the Second World War. To this is added the role of Cuba in the course of the cold war and its influence on the national liberation movements, which spread throughout the world in the second half of the 20th century. Subverting and discrediting the Cuban revolutionary project has been a constant in U.S. policy for more than six decades and the culture of rejection of Cuba, even visceral hatred in some cases, has permeated broad sectors of U.S. society to the point of justifying any type of aggression against the country.
This matrix of opinion turns the Cuba issue into a resource that is easily manipulated by the U.S. right to delegitimize its domestic opponents, even though they are far from sharing the ideology of the Cuban political system. Whoever promotes an improvement in relations with Cuba is designated as an “agent of socialism” in the United States. As a result, Cuba has become one of the components of the renewed McCarthyist current promoted by the government of Donald Trump and the ultra-conservative sectors of that society. The Democrats have fallen into the trap and this has meant not only a setback in the policy towards Cuba, considered one of Obama’s legacies in foreign policy, but also another cause of the alienation of the most progressive sectors of the party, essential for their electoral aspirations in the immediate future.
This story uses a very negative media construction of the Cuban reality, practically defined as hell on earth, together with the forecast that the days of the Cuban government are numbered and all that is needed is one last push. The intensification of the U.S. blockade, designed with surgical precision to suffocate the people of Cuba; the lack of a solution to structural economic problems and errors in the economic management of the country by the government; the existence of a school of thought in some political instances that has served to hinder reforms proposed by the country’s leadership itself; and a pandemic that triggered existential agony and economic insecurity in the daily life of the population, with unprecedented manifestations of popular dissatisfaction in the history of the revolutionary process have shaped a perfect storm that triggered apocalyptic appraisals about the future of the Cuban Revolution.
Some officials in the Biden administration share this prediction and would not want to miss the opportunity to point to the outcome, since it would be a great victory for the liberal hawks. This explains the continuity, almost a carbon copy of the Trumpist policy against the country. However, predictions of this type have been recurrent in US evaluations of Cuba’s future, undervaluing other qualities that explain the country’s demonstrated capacity for resistance.
For now, in extreme economic conditions, with its own resources, taking advantage of the scientific development and human capital the nation possesses, the Cuban government was able to produce the vaccines and medical care protocols that made it possible to control the pandemic at levels that compete with the best in the world. This constitutes an unquestionable success of its management, and creates the conditions for economic recovery, which is essential for the stability of the country and its relations with the rest of the world, including the United States.
The success of this enterprise depends on the wisdom, will and capacity for consensus of Cubans. This is viable despite the difficult conditions imposed by the international economic and political scenario and the neo-fascist currents that are gaining strength in U.S. society. Doing so with full independence and in exercise of the country’s sovereignty constitute the main strengths of the system.