Why has the US blockade on Cuba been lifted?

EMBARGOS TO AMIGOS: Obama with Cuban President Raul Castro

EMBARGOS TO AMIGOS: Obama with Cuban President Raul Castro

by Bill Bonnar It will come as a relief to the peoples of the world that Cuba has now been removed from the list of ‘rogue nations sponsoring international terrorism’. This gesture from the United States; a country which virtually invented international terrorism; is another sign of the collapse of the US strategy of trying to isolate Cuba and another victory for the Cuban revolution.

In fact, the term, ‘rogue nation sponsoring international terrorism’ is an almost perfect description of the modern history of the United States role in Latin America.

Whether it be the promotion of right wing death squads in places like Nicaragua in the 1980s or its support for violently repressive regimes conducting reigns of terror against their own people; the United States stands accused of being the largest exporter of international terrorism in history.

The change in US policy towards Cuba in recent months has been dramatic. Up to this point the strategy was to isolate the Cuban Revolution preventing it from spreading and infecting the rest of the region and ultimately to overthrow its government and restore freedom, democracy and capitalism to the island.

It is worth recalling what capitalist Cuba was like before the revolution. A country was ruled a succession of American sponsored brutal military dictatorship which stayed in power by violence and repression.

A country reduced to colonial status with most of the economy owned by American companies and tied into humiliating treaty arrangements with Washington. A country rife with poverty, inequality and corruption lacking in even the most basic social services and a base of operations for gangsters from all over the United States. No wonder there was a revolution.

To restore the country to this capitalist paradise US intervention over the years have included the following. An economic embargo which has cost the Cuban government an estimated sixty billion dollars.

Terrorist attacks ranging from the blowing up of a civilian airliner to numerous assignation attempts on the life of the President to the bombings of economic targets and a failed invasion.

Also the beaming of counter-revolutionary propaganda into the country and an international campaign of disinformation to turn world opinion against the revolution. And it has all failed.

In recent years this strategy has left the US more isolated than ever with the Cuban Government winning new friends and allies all over Latin America.

This is why American policy towards Cuba has changed. By engaging with Cuba the United States hopes to influence developments in that country and end its own isolation in the region.

This at a time when a tidal wave of progressive change has swept across the continent. Since 2000 a number of left of centre governments have come to power across Latin America.

They range from the mildly social democratic as in Argentina to the overtly revolutionary as in Venezuela but they have a number of things in common. One is a complete and total rejection of the kind of neoliberal, free market economics which so devastated the continent in the 1990s; in fact the election of those governments were a direct political response to that experience.

Another is the refusal to accept the Munroe Doctrine which gives the United States carte blanch to intervene in the affairs of Latin America if its interests were threatened. This resulted in a century of military interventions and brutal right wing dictatorships which have scared the continent.

Another is that the problems of poverty, inequality and under development cannot be resolved by free market policies; in fact these policies have proved to be the problem rather than the answer.

Only government intervention can change the lives of the people for the better. This intervention has ranged from massive public spending on health, education, social care and measures to directly increase living standards, bringing key industries into public ownership and establishing far greater level of state control, regulation and planning.

Another has been the drive to bring about far greater economic, social, military and political unity across the continent. For these governments and the people of Latin America the US treatment of Cuba is an affront to their sense of dignity and solidarity and a graphic example of everything that has been wrong with the US attitude to the continent. It is this anger and hostility which has caused the change in US policy.

We should be clear however that this does not reflect a change in the objectives of Washington. Their aim is still the removal of all ‘anti-American’ governments and a return to the status quo.

They have been actively supporting the counter-revolution in Venezuela, given massive support to the brutal regime in Columbia, supported the rigging of national elections in Paraguay and Mexico and have doubled the size of the American 7th fleet which is positioned to attack any country in the region.

In fact, the Obama administration’s biggest criticism of the previous Bush government is that it allowed these governments to come to power in the first place.

Many of the developments in Latin America in recent years have been a cause for celebration by left and progressive forces around the world but we also have to realise that real threats remain.

In particular in Venezuela where the possibility of counter-revolution and civil war are very real. Our solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela and the rest of a continent struggling to throw off the shackles of imperialism and build a better future has never been more important.

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