Cuba’s 1959 revolution took it out of the US sphere of influence. And Washington was quick to respond with a decades-long trade embargo. This has cost the Cuban economy at least $130bn; and under Donald Trump alone, the embargo allegedly cost Cuba $20bn. The sanctions have also cost the US itself billions of dollars.
Since 1992, UN members have consistently, and overwhelmingly, called for the US to end the embargo. And 2021 was no different. In a UN vote on 23 June, only two countries – the US and Israel – opposed the non-binding resolution. Three others – Ukraine, Colombia, and the United Arab Emirates – abstained.
The global rejection of the embargo is a sore reminder that current US president Joe Biden is, as CNN reported, “following in Trump’s footsteps on Cuba”. After increasing diplomacy under Barack Obama, Trump “became the most aggressive American leader” since John F. Kennedy, pushing 240 measures before putting Cuba back on the “state sponsors of terrorism list” just before leaving office. And Biden has so far failed to reverse Trump’s measures, including the terror designation.
Coronavirus and the embargo
This week, Cuba announced that the Abdala vaccine it has developed to combat coronavirus is 92% effective. This is despite the island facing its “biggest economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union” and the US embargo restricting the importation of medical equipment. The loss of important tourist revenue during the pandemic was particularly damaging.
International organisations have long praised Cuba’s free and universal healthcare. Despite the embargo, one academic wrote in 2014, the island’s health system has managed to “obtain results similar to those of the most developed nations”. And even the BBC has reportedly called it “one of the world’s best”. The country has also consistently sent doctors around the planet to help people in poor and rich countries alike.
Cuba has long faced criticism in terms of political freedom and press freedom. But regardless of people’s opinions about Cuba’s system or rulers, it’s clear to most that the embargo has been a destructive failure. The majority of people in the US, even many who hate the Cuban government, either oppose the embargo or think it’s useless. On his historic visit to the island in 2016, Barack Obama also stressed that the embargo “was not working” and “did not serve our interests or the interests of the Cuban people”.
Every year that the embargo continues, despite international calls for it to end, is yet another stain on Washington’s image in the world.
Main article image via Twitter/Kawsachun News