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.