This week’s vote in the United Nations was inevitably to condemn the US Embargo against Cuba.
For most countries, voting to condemn the United States’ decades’ long foreign policy toward Cuba is not a tough choice. Doing so allows countries with equally atrocious imperialist histories such as France to assert moral superiority.
A vote against the United States also allows a variety of countries whose own records on supporting human rights or collaborating with multinational capitalist corporations to appear far more socially democratic, far more Leftist, even far more socialist than they really are or could ever be.
Yet for the six decades that the Communist Party has ruled Cuba, it has collaborated with multinational capitalist corporations and knowingly undermined the Cuban people’s capacity to be capitalists themselves, even on the smallest of scales.
For the last three decades, Cuba has imported the vast quantity of agricultural products Cubans consume, despite the legendary fertility of Cuba’s soils, not to mention the vastness of the island itself. Today, Cuba imports over 80% of its food.
The simple reason for this has nothing to do with the US Embargo. It is because the Cuban government controls both the resources needed to farm and ownership of over 80% of Cuba’s arable land.
Despite post-Soviet, limited reforms, peasant entrepreneurs continue to fill crop quotas (called acopios), even though these quotas themselves go to feed foreign tourists at government-owned hotels, not average Cubans. The majority of Cubans depend on government food rations, just as they did in 1962 when rations were first instituted, to simply eat and get by.
Why can’t Cuba be self-sufficient in foodstuffs like beans and fresh fruits and vegetables as it was before Fidel Castro and the Communist Party took over the democratizing revolutionary state Cubans founded in 1959?
The US Embargo has nothing to do with the reasons why Cuba cannot feed itself. Today, native root vegetables long associated with the diets of the poor, such as yuca and malanga, are not parts of the ration but luxuries rarely eaten by the majority of Cubans, that is, the poor.
Cuban leaders’ domestic policies are entirely to blame. Today Cuba’s leaders, like yesterday, prefer Cubans to depend on the state economically so that they can control their choices, actions and public attitudes politically.
Shame on the United Nations for helping the Cuban Communist Party and the Revolutionary Armed Forces that control its tourist sector and foreign investments to sustain the fiction that Cubans go hungry and flee the country because of US imperialism.
So long as the UN vote against the US Embargo serves the Cuban state and serves the mythology that socialism actually exists in Cuba, there will never be either true people-first socialism nor true political democracy in Cuba.
Lillian Guerra, University of Florida.