Highlights of Atilio Boron’s interview with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel

By Gustavo A Maranges on April 26, 2022 from Havana

photo: Alejandro Azcuy

Cuba is a very particular country on the continent. The existence of a socialist revolution makes it the focal point of the harhest criticism from mainstream media. Last weekend, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel was interviewed by the Latin America political analyst Atilio Boron. The exchange lasted for about 30 minutes and was broadcast by the radio stations Madres de Plaza de Mayo and the National Avellaneda University.

Diaz-Canel proved how the US blockade is among the causes of the country’s main problems. That’s why it is an always-present topic in every analysis about Cuba, even when some people may see this as a rhetorical issue. It is not just a matter of political speeches but about our reality.

According to the Cuban president, the last five years have been the harshest in the six decades of the blockade and it grew after Trump’s 243 repressive measures, causing more tensions in the Cuban economy and, consequently, in Cuban society.

“These measures have deprived us of fuels, remittances; they have affected Cuban foreign trade, access to finance, more expensive imports, and the ability to attract investment. They also have affected the availability of energy, food, medicines, and spare parts for transport (…) In other words, this policy of maximum pressure has social consequences,” the president said.

Many people inside and outside Cuba may see the blockade as something ethereal, but it is not. There are countless life stories about how it hinders our daily lives, sometimes to the extent of ending it. This extreme and heartbreaking situation just happened once again a few days ago. A 13-year-old girl died waiting for a knee prosthesis that was just 90 miles away. She died not because she was poor or has nobody to take care of her but for being Cuban. Sadly, it is not a unique tragedy. It rather continues to happen by the evil will of a foreign government.

Nobody has the right to cause such suffering to a child and his/her family, only because someone does not like the social and political system they have chosen.

The president talked about how the effects of the blockade turned more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. US governments, both Republicans and Democrats, saw the opportunity to take the Cuban Revolution to its limits, disregarding the immense human cost it would have. They took the sanitary and economic crisis as allies to increase non-conventional warfare against us.

Miguel Diaz Canel mentioned that the US went beyond the traditional financial harassment and even refused to sell Cuba oxygen during the pandemic’s peak caused by Delta strain, when the only plant in the country was out of service for technical matters. It is important to note that this situation was not related to the lack of supply in the US, but to its intention to torture the people so they would get angry and blame the government. Thousands of Cubans died because of this Machiavellian act.

Due to all the obstacles and the economic strain, Cuban scientists gave their best effort to develop home-grown vaccines, and they did it. The Cuban president talked about how the country managed to have three COVID-19 vaccines (Soberana 02, Abdala, and Soberana Plus) and two more underway (Mambisa and Soberana 01). He also mentioned that Cuba was the first country to vaccine children under 18 years old, and today it ranks top 3 among countries with at least one dose applied (99% of the population), and top 10 among those with a full scheme of vaccination (89.6% of the population). Likewise, Cuba has also vaccinated over 60% of its people with a booster dose (the fourth dose of the treatment).

Despite all these shortcomings, Cuba did not stop spreading solidarity all around the world. Cuban doctors fought COVID-19 in more than 50 countries, both developed and third-world countries. This enormous solidarity act ratified that Fidel Castro’s phrase “we don’t give what’s left but the little we have” is not only words but a philosophy.

Diaz-Canel also criticized neoliberalism by saying: “COVID-19 has demonstrated the deficiencies of the neoliberal model. It has shown how fully resourced First-World countries do not have the capacity to carry out public policies that are truly inclusive to protect people’s lives.”

Amid this harsh international and internal context, and as part of the non-conventional warfare against Cuba, the US anti-Cuban sector threw a tremendous campaign on the digital scenario to capitalize on the social discontent they fiercely fostered. NGO, Florida-linked politicians, together with their political operators, and intoxicating media network acted coordinately to take people to the streets, which finally happened on July 11, 2021.

Díaz-Canel has talked specifically at length and on this issue ever since it has been used to discredit our government internationally. He acknowledged that police forces acted to stop the July 11 protests, but it was nothing like disproportioned violence, as mainstream media have said. He also went on and assured there is not a single political prisoner or child in prison.

It is true that many pictures showing injured civilians spread on social media, but there were also a lot of police officers in similar condition. Regular police forces’ weapons were taken away in less than 24 hours after the protest started. What kind of “oppressive regime” does this? Has anybody wondered how many people died during the protest? Only one. If we take into account that on July 11th several thousand people took the street, while only one of them died, it is easy to realize that such a “brutal repression” is nothing but a sensational lie. On the other hand, it is important to remark that this specific case is still under investigation to clarify the circumstances and prosecute whoever may be guilty.

If we look around us, it is clear that what happened in Cuba is far from what we are used to seeing in the US or some European countries. Paradoxly, those countries have been the most critical voices against Cuba. In 2021 alone US police forces killed 1000 people although this government insists on calling Cuba a “repressive regime” that violates Human Rights.

On the same line, Cuba has also been accused of having hundreds of political prisoners, including dozens of children under 18 years old. However, the president said only those who vandalized and committed acts of violence or instigated them have been prosecuted, as it would have happened anywhere.

The highest number mentioned by the opposition does not exceed 2000 “political prisoners”. That’s how they called those who destroyed public property and threatened Cuba’s social project. Even if we take this number for real, which it is not, it demonstrates a measured use of the law, especially if we compared it to the region average or the many thousands who took the streets that day. Regarding the minors who were prosecuted, Diaz-Canel said the courts have been really conservative on this issue, and nobody under 18 is in prison. The few who match this criterion are in special schools for this purpose.

Finally, he said the Cuban economy faces many challenges, and many of them are not about the blockade but internal deficiencies. He said his government is aware of it, while working tirelessly to solve those internal obstacles. It is a very good sign, especially when it comes to a country usually accused of not acknowledging its internal flaws. Another good news is that Cuba’s economy is slowly recovering amid the deadly blockade and the harsh international context.

After all this, it is evident that Cubans have not surrendered at all and remain committed to advancing in their task of building a more prosperous, fairer, and socialist country. The President summarized it as follows: “Despite the circumstances, the Cuban Revolution will continue to defend its conquests, will continue to defend socialism. We will never give up, and Latin America can count on Cuba for just causes.”

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English