During the closure of the National Assembly’s fourth period of ordinary sessions, December 21, President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez said: “In the 61st year of the Revolution they threw us to our deaths and here we are, alive. Without a doubt, 2019 was a year of great challenges, with an escalated imperialist offensive meant to provoke the economic collapse of the nation.
It was the year in which, in the month of April, with the mandate to re-impose the Monroe Doctrine in our hemisphere, then White House National Security Advisor John Bolton openly declared his determination to accomplish what the mercenary invasion at Playa Girón could not achieve in 1961, when U.S. imperialism was crushed by the Cuban people in a resounding victory, within less than 72 hours.
The U.S. has always considered Cuba its possession. Powerful sectors and interest groups have shown, over two hundred years, a stubborn inability to accept the independence of our country, or the right of Cubans to sovereignty, self-determination, and the freedom to decide our own destiny. Current generations of Cubans have faced the hostility of the United States government and the hardships imposed by the economic blockade, throughout their entire lives, or at least most of their existence.
The blockade has been the most persistent weapon and the central axis of hostility toward Cuba since the revolutionary victory of 1959. Its objectives were defined early on, with clear genocidal objectives, as reflected in the infamous memorandum of April 6, 1960 by the Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs of the State Department, Lester D. Mallory, which stated:
“The majority of Cubans support Castro…The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship… a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”
It is an act of economic warfare that, over six decades, has had an increasingly significant impact on all spheres of society – further intensified in 2019 – with an extraterritorial impact in virtually every corner of the planet.
The United States government is lying when it repeatedly states that coercive economic measures are aimed at depriving the government and armed forces of resources. Their objective is to hurt the Cuban people, with the intention of breaking the political and patriotic will of the entire nation, in order to reverse the revolutionary process and undermine the foundations of the society we have built.
The blockade is an act of genocide against our people, according to Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, defined in paragraph B, as “serious injury to the physical or mental integrity of the members of a group,” and C, “intentional subjection of the group to conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction as a whole or in part.”
The blockade creates scarcity, material shortages, the interruption of public services, in an effort to sow discouragement and dissatisfaction, while attempting to portray the Revolution as responsible and discredit its leadership. The United States has the audacity to present the government of the attacked people as inefficient in the management of resources, and to blame for modest growth of the economy.
It is important to reiterate that the economic blockade is the main obstacle to the Cuban economy’s development, and to the full enjoyment of human rights by the Cuban people. There is not a single Cuban family or sector that has not been a victim of its effects.
A review of the most notable facts regarding this aggression is useful.
The damages accumulated over six decades amount to 138,843,000,000 dollars, and the latest calculations show that, from April of 2018 through March 2019, the blockade caused losses on the order of four billion dollars, that is an average of 12 million dollars a day.
If the cost of the blockade could be transformed into available resources, the country could have an important source of financing to undertake economic, social and productive programs and policies with greater dynamism, and to achieve higher and more sustained rates of growth in the Gross Domestic Product, and greater well-being for our people.
In 2019 alone, the U.S. government adopted 85 aggressive measures of various kinds to damage Cuba, 43 of which were coercive economic measures to extend and strengthen the blockade, some unprecedented, and all with the express objective of increasing pressure on our country to extract political concessions.
In the area of foreign trade, the greatest impact is seen in lost export revenues that would exceed $2.34 billion in one year.
Products of recognized exportable quality and proven demand cannot be marketed in the U.S. Such is the case for cigars, and Heberprot-P, a unique medicine for diabetic patients, with proven effectiveness in tissue regeneration, thus reducing the need for amputations and consequent disability.
The United States prohibits export to Cuba – from any country in the world – of any product containing 10% or more components of U.S. origin, that is, raw materials, parts, technology, software or intellectual property, regardless of the country where the good or service is produced, or the nationality of the producer. Thus, an additional, significant limitation is imposed on Cuba’s ability to acquire goods and services from any country in the world.
This extraterritorial measure affects the availability of consumer goods, machinery and technology required for production, raw materials needed by industry and the services on which the well-being of the population depends, with an impact on such sensitive sectors as health, medicine, transportation and food.
As a result of the tightening of the financial blockade, there has been a sharp decline in the country’s ability to access external financing that would make possible the acquisition of inputs and raw materials needed by the economy.
The hostile measures reduce the country’s capacity to meet financial commitments, which in turn undermines willingness to provide new resources required for the functioning of the economy.
The combination of these constraints on trade and financing causes, for example, serious damage to the health sector, given limitations on the acquisition of medical equipment, reagents and drugs, among other goods. The prohibition imposed on U.S. companies, and their subsidiaries in other countries, preventing them from supplying inputs to Cuba, deny our people technologies that make the difference between life and death.
Cubans who suffers from severe heart failure, for example, cannot benefit from ventricular support equipment that can maintain bodily functions until a transplant can be performed.
It is impossible to access novel drugs for the treatment of cancer that are only produced by U.S. pharmaceutical companies.
Current shortages of some medications in the country are the result of the blockade’s impact on access to financing and suppliers that produce raw materials.
Similarly, limitations on the acquisition of spare parts, raw materials and other important inputs prevent improvements in the technical availability of production, industrial and transport equipment, hindering or halting progress on high-impact social programs, such as housing construction.
Also affected is the communications and information technology sector, including telecommunications. The blockade is the main impediment to the flow of information and to greater access to the Internet, inasmuch as its regulations make connectivity more difficult and expensive, and place conditions on access to platforms and technologies.
In the tourism sector, additional restrictions are imposed on the already limited possibilities for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. The abrupt suspension of cruise ship travel, and the arbitrary interruptions of regular and charter flights to several Cuban cities, caused a significant decrease in the number of travelers arriving from the United States in 2019, and will do so this year.
In addition to erecting obstacles to the development of mutual understanding and natural exchanges between the peoples of the two countries, and limiting contact and communication of Cubans with their families and relatives in the United States, the measures are meant to restrict income in the hospitality industry, with direct damage to both state and non-state sectors of the economy.
The consequences impact not only the foreign exchange earnings of this sector, but also produce transversal damage at all levels of society. In other words, not only hotels and related services are damaged, but also entities that produce goods and services, whether they are state enterprises, cooperative or private businesses.
The unprecedented decision to allow claims to be filed in U.S. courts under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act against Cuban entities, U.S. and third-country entities with commercial operations in Cuba, is intended to intimidate foreign investors in Cuba and to threaten potential partners in various commercial or investment projects.
It is not possible to calculate the current and future economic damage of this measure, but it undoubtedly poses a very significant challenge for our country in the strategic objective of attracting the foreign capital and technologies that every developing country requires for its economic growth.
Several foreign investment opportunities have been frustrated in such sensitive sectors as food production, communications and transport infrastructure, which would have made it possible to provide a greater supply of goods and services to the population.
Recent non-conventional aggressive measures, unprecedented in international affairs, intended to deprive Cuba of its fuel supply, have led to an extremely difficult situation that impacts the daily lives of ordinary citizens and the entire economy.
For example, of every 100 Cubans who need public transportation on a daily basis, some 30 are unable to use these services, since schedules are impacted by reduced fuel supplies – representing more than 200 million passengers a year.
The transportation of goods to supply the country’s network of retail stores and other services is one of the causes of shortages of products much demanded by the population, in spite of the fact that these are available at various shipping points, both inside the country and abroad.
The generation of electricity and the availability of gas have been limited. In order to minimize the impact on the population, productive activities vital to the economy have been halted, and many workers have also been harmed due to work interruptions that have an effect on their personal income.
Added to all this is the infamous slander campaign being waged to discredit Cuba’s international cooperation in the area of health services. This crusade is basically aimed at depriving Cuba of the legitimate income it earns from the export of these services, which, thanks to the efforts and training of tens of thousands of professionals and technicians, are intended to cover part of the cost of the country’s public health system, and that of the altruistic cooperation provided to a significant number of developing countries free of charge.
The United States uses lies, threats and coercion to force sovereign governments the break signed bilateral cooperation agreements with Cuba to bring life-saving care, cure disease, combat epidemics and achieve a healthier life for the neediest populations in their countries. With this vindictive strategy, the U.S. government deprives millions of people access to a fundamental human right.
Given its illegal and immoral nature, the United States economic blockade against Cuba is rejected by the international community every year at the United Nations General Assembly, almost unanimously.
The tightening of the blockade serves the electoral and opportunistic interests of the current U.S. President, and of the Cuban-American right wing, which for decades has profited economically and politically from the business of aggression against Cuba. These policies are not supported by the majority of the U.S. people, or by most Cubans living in the country.
Despite its clear impact on Cuba’s potential for development and well-being, and success in harming the daily lives and aspirations for prosperity of several generations of our people, the blockade has been a resounding failure for the imperialist pretense to erode the will of Cubans and undermine the foundation on which a socialist revolution has been built in our country.
There can be no hiding or diminishing the accomplishments of the Revolution which, despite the harassment, has been able to maintain its vocation for justice, and is striving to build a future of material and spiritual well-being for all citizens.
Only the sure leadership of Fidel and Raúl, and of the generation of historical leaders who accompanied them, the heroism, resistance, sacrifice and unity of the people around them and their vanguard Party, and the capacity shown in the defense of the Revolution and socialism, have made possible the miracle that we exist and are today fighting for a future of prosperity and to continue achieving “all justice.”
Every Cuban must understand these realities, and be able to identify our historical enemy, because we must advance together, “in tight ranks, like silver in the bedrock of the Andes,” as José Martí said.
We must remember the phrase spoken by the historic leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, in 2002 in reference to the President of the United States: “The criminal blockade, which will surely be tightened, expands the honor and glory of our people, against whom their genocidal plans will fail. I can assure you of this.”
Nothing will stop us. As always, we will triumph.