For the first time in history, the president of Cuba sits down with a US outlet to share his thoughts on the future of Cuban socialism, the US blockade, and the economic difficulties facing the island nation.
30 October 2023 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News
As we are seeing over and over again, the so-called ‘foreign policy’ of USG is largely based not on policies, but retribution for real or imagined ‘issues.’
Israel and Ukraine, for example, are immune.
Cuba, on the other hand, has been living with crippling and ever-worsening US ‘sanctions‘ for 60 years.
Imagine that? Sixty years spent fighting for the ‘right’ to buy medicine or food or migration or just about everything else we all take for granted.
Every year the UN votes to abandon these ‘sanctions’ and every year the US and Israel and one or two lesson countries invoke vetoes.
Why, you might ask? Is it meant to preserve US ‘democracy?’ Or to maintain the ‘beachhead’ against the spread of ‘communism?’
No. It is revenge. It is an abuse of power. It is about ‘saving face’ with the perpetuation of a deadly ‘foreign policy’ that exists solely to punish innocent people for an idea that was DOE 60 years ago.
This has to end. In Cuba and elsewhere. It simply has to stop.
James Porteous | Clipper Media News
In late September, The Nation’s publisher, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and its editor, D.D. Guttenplan, met with Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel for an exclusive interview in New York.
It was the president’s first-ever interview in the United States. They discussed the economic crisis facing his island nation, the future of its socialist model, and the impact of continued hostility from Washington.
D.D. Guttenplan: You are the first Cuban president born after the Revolution. What does the Revolution mean today?
Miguel Díaz-Canel: First, I would like to thank you for doing this interview, which is taking place on the occasion of this visit we have made as part of the Cuban delegation to the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. I thank you for allowing me to address the American public, especially the millions of Latinos and Cubans who live in the United States.
My generation was born with the Revolution. I was born in 1960 and celebrated my first birthday the day after the victory at Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs]. The birth and life of the revolution marked my generation.
From a young age, we were motivated to get involved in all the opportunities afforded us by the Revolution: to improve ourselves, acquire knowledge, partake in culture, science, and sports, and enjoy access to healthcare. We were also aware of the need to fulfill our duties and not just be the recipient of rights but also address the challenges the country was facing.
Of course, the Revolution has gone through different stages. My childhood memories are of very complicated years. Later, we enjoyed a period of greater economic ease in the ’70s and ´80s, when we had closer relations with the socialist camp and, in particular, with the Soviet Union. Then came the Special Period, which was another challenging time.
From 2000 onward, the country entered a new economic growth phase and the outlook improved. Today, however, we find ourselves in a situation you have yourself described as “complex.” International relations are complicated in such an uncertain world, especially with the problems brought on by the pandemic.
As the representative of an entire generation that has come to assume the responsibilities of political life and government, I feel an enormous commitment to the Revolution, to the Cuban people, and to Fidel [Castro] and Raúl [Castro], who have been visionary leaders to whom we owe our gratitude and recognition.
We define ourselves as a continuity generation, although not a generation of linear continuity. Continuity does not mean a lack of transformation, but just the opposite: a dialectical continuity, so that, as we transform, advance, and try to perfect our society as much as possible, we do not abandon our convictions about building socialism in our country with as much social justice as possible.
That is our lifelong commitment and vision. It requires great effort, achievement, and altruism, and this demands much from us, especially under difficult circumstances.
Katrina vanden Heuvel: There are many young people in Cuba today. In that context, I wonder how you envision the future of the Cuban economy. The blockade is brutal, of course, yet there is also a sense among young people that, without change, they may not see their future in Cuba.
MDC: There is something unique about the current moment. We have been living under a blockade since we were born. For example, my generation, that of the 1960s, was born with the blockade. Our children and grandchildren— I have grandchildren— have grown up under the sign of the blockade. However, the blockade changed significantly in the second half of 2019. It became even harsher than before.
The new, harsher blockade was the result of two factors. One was the application of more than 243 measures by the Trump administration, which strengthened the blockade by internationalizing it and applying for the first time Chapter Three of the Helms-Burton Act. In doing so, they cut off our access to foreign capital, international convertible currencies and remittances; North Americans could no longer visit Cuba, and they placed financial pressure on banks and financial groups that had business with Cuba.
And to top it all off, nine or ten days before leaving office in January 2021, Trump included us on a bogus list that says Cuba is a country that supports terrorism—which is absolutely false. The whole world knows about Cuba’s humanist vocation and about how we contribute to peace. We don’t send the military anywhere; we send doctors. And even then, when we send our doctors abroad to act in solidarity and provide services to other parts of the world, the United States claims that we are actually involved in human trafficking.
At the same time, just as the economic situation was worsening, Covid-19 hit and greatly affected Cuba, as it did everywhere. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States government acted in a perverse manner and tightened the blockade. I single out the government and not the people of the United States because we have deep respect and bonds of friendship with the people of the United States.
I believe that the US government thought the Revolution would not survive that moment. The pandemic peaked at a very high level in Cuba and lasted for the better part of 2021. When it began in 2020, we still didn’t have vaccines or even the possibility of obtaining the vaccine.
Then, there was a breakdown at the medical oxygen plant in Cuba. We ran out of oxygen and the US government was putting pressure on companies in the Caribbean and Central America to not supply us with oxygen. We also had to expand the intensive care wards, and the US government responded by pressuring companies that manufactured and marketed ventilators not to supply Cuba.
The situation was critical and came with a huge media campaign to discredit the Cuban Revolution. We turned to our health system—an efficient, free, and high-quality system that considers health a right—and we turned to our scientists, especially younger ones. Our scientists designed the ventilators and developed five vaccine candidates, of which three are today recognized for their efficacy. And that saved the country. However, we emerged from the pandemic with many problems, many of them accumulated since before 2019.
We have shortages of medicines, food, and fuel. We experience prolonged blackouts that harm the population and directly impact people’s lives, particularly the youth. I believe that our education process has impressed on the youth the importance of the situation we are going through. Still, we, as a generation, have an enormous challenge: to ensure that this momentary distancing of the Cuban youth—young people born during the Special Period who have lived all these years in a really difficult economic and social situation—does not lead to an ideological rupture with the Revolution and with the country itself.
It is true that there is a greater migration than at other times. But that has occurred periodically in the history between Cuba and the United States. The most intense migratory events have always been associated with periods in which the United States has applied aggressive policies that have worsened the Cuban economic situation. By means of the Cuban Adjustment Act [of 1966] and other measures, the United States has favored illegal, unsafe, and disorderly immigration of Cubans—while not extending those policies to emigrants from other countries.