The Irish Times view on protests in Cuba: the US embargo must end

The island is in a perfect storm, its crippled economy hobbled fatally by soaring coronavirus numbers

A woman holds a Cuban flag during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, at Versailles Restaurant in Miami on Sunday. Photograph: Eva Marie Uzcategui/ AFP via Getty Images

A woman holds a Cuban flag during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, at Versailles Restaurant in Miami on Sunday. Photograph: Eva Marie Uzcategui/ AFP via Getty Images

 

In June the UN General Assembly voted for the 29th straight year to condemn the illegal six-decade-long US embargo on Cuba – a 184-2 vote that pitted only the US and Israeli governments against the rest of the world, including Ireland and the EU.

Weeks later the island was convulsed by demonstrations fuelled by desperate food and medicine shortages that the regime attributes to the embargo. Its response was predictable and brutal – the few other old Stalinist states still holding out against history, Belarus and North Korea, likewise know no other way than repression. In Cuba some 200 protesters were jailed and internet links closed. Few imagine the protests are over.

The decline in remittances and tourism has deprived the country of hard currency needed to buy the 60 to 70 per cent of the food supply it gets from overseas

But Cuba is in a perfect storm, its crippled economy hobbled fatally by soaring coronavirus numbers. It contracted by 11 per cent in 2020 and is still shrinking, while foreign exchange inflows fell around a quarter.

In office, Donald Trump signed more than 200 directives aimed at tightening pressure, banning cruise ships, pursuing companies that traded with Cuba, putting it back on a terrorism watch list, and curbing the diaspora’s ability to send money back home. That alone cost the economy over €1 billion in four years.

The decline in remittances and tourism has deprived the country of hard currency needed to buy the 60 to 70 per cent of the food supply it gets from overseas and medecines, with many supplies, like ventilators and syringes for its own vaccines, held up by the embargo. Inflation is now running at 500 per cent while electricity supplies are at best intermittent.

The US response has been to ape Trump’s policy. Its hope is that increased pressure will make Cubans overthrow the regime. President Eisenhower explained bluntly in the 1960s: “If they (the Cuban people) are hungry, they will throw Castro out”. Homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, in the same vein last week warned that those who tried to flee to the US would be returned. The mayor of Miami even called for air strikes. The embargo must be lifted.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.