What 62 Years of the Blockade of Cuba Feels Like

By Alejandra Garcia on February 4, 2024 from Havana

photo: Bill Hackwell

The blockade against Cuba is real. It is palpable in the kilometer-long lines of cars that take hours or days in front of the gas stations nationwide, and in the lack of medicines in the national network of pharmacies,  the shortage of medical supplies in hospitals, and the obstacles the country faces to purchase food on the international market.

Cubans abroad also perceive it. They not only face severe procedures at ports and customs for coming from a country that is a “sponsor of terrorism”, they also suffer the consequences of the blockade when they try to carry out basic activities in any society in the world, such as trying to exchange currency at almost any bank worldwide, just because they are carrying Cuban passports. That’s just one example of the long reach of the blockade.

For 62 years, the blockade remains invisible, but it is felt and has had dire consequences not only for the country’s macro economy, but also affects Cubans psychologically. The majority of the Cuban population knows no other reality than this one of shortages, of asphyxia. According to official data, almost 70 percent of the Cuban population was born under the shadow of the blockade.

February 3 marked 62 years since John F. Kennedy’s administration officially established the U.S. blockade of Cuba. From that day, there remains a black and white photo of the late Kennedy signing the presidential proclamation 3447, which decreed into law an economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba as of February 7, 1962.

JFK smoking a Cuban cigar

Cynically, during the few days between his signing the proclamation for the blockade and it becoming law, Kennedy took the opportunity to arrange for his press secretary Pierre Salinger to procure 1200 of his favorite Cuban cigars before the blockade took hold.

The U.S. justified that decision because of the out reach that the Caribbean island was making towards the community of European socialist countries, particularly with the Soviet Union. The imposition of this policy sharpened Washington’s already prominent hostility against the Cuban Revolution, which triumphed on January 1, 1959.

Since the victory, the North American country has imposed economic coercion and declared the rupture of diplomatic relations. And since  then, the government of Cuba has denounced the consequences of this policy of hatred, which seeks to generate a political change on the island through a social outburst generated by hunger, misery and popular discontent.

On this new anniversary, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, once again denounced the blockade, which has caused severe and immoral damage to the Cuban people, although it has not achieved its objective of overthrowing the Revolution. “It is time to put an end to it.”

All the measures implemented have forced Cuba to resort to intermediaries to access certain products, to pay more for insurance, as well as to face the increase in commissions applied by banking and financial entities. This has created a substantial and unnatural increase in the expenses that Cuban companies must assume.

Between March 1, 2022, and February 28, 2023 alone, the damages caused by the blockade are estimated at US $4,867 million, according to the most recent report presented at the United Nations by the Cuban Foreign Ministry. These figures imply an impact on the island of more than US $405 million per month, that is, more than US $13 million per day and more than US $555,000 per hour. At current prices, the accumulated damages for six decades of application of the blockade amount to US  $159,084.3 million.

The blockade has been described by the Cuban government as “the greatest obstacle” to the development of the country. According to the academic Luis Rene Fernandez of the International Economics Research Center, Cuba is the object of an economic and communication war, of intense propaganda aimed at damaging the image of the country, whose sole purpose is to destroy the economic basis and the national identity, in order to achieve their so-called regime change policy and submit the country to the system of neo-colonial domination of the United States.

It has had little influence that, for 31 years now, Cuba has consecutively received almost unanimous condemnation of Washington’s hostility by the international community. The blockade remains firm, immovable, while the people suffer the consequences of a cruel obsolete policy, with little hope of its elimination, with Donald Trump – who intensified hostilities against Cuba during his previous term in office – positioning himself as the Republican favorite in the upcoming November elections.

It’s Sunday, and the lines of cars at Havana’s gas stations are still kilometers long, salaries drown amid inflation and shortages, and the residents of Infanta and Manglar streets, in the Cerro municipality, are still crowded in front of the neighborhood pharmacy, waiting for the arrival of medicines. Sixty-two years later, the blockade is still real. It cannot be seen, but it can be felt everyday, relentlessly.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano-English