Cubans Are Protesting the U.S. Embargo, Not the Communist Government

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I awoke this morning to reports of Cubans taking to the streets of Havana in protest. Of what exactly? “Food shortages and high prices,” say mainstream news outlets like the Associated Press, before describing the outburst as “one of biggest [sic] anti-government demonstrations in memory.”

Anti-government“? If Cubans are protesting food shortages and high prices, then it isn’t the Communist government they want gone, but the U.S. embargo. Maybe socialism on its own is a failure in Cuba, but there’s no way of knowing that for sure, considering U.S. efforts to hobble and sabotage the socialist project in Cuba for the last 60 years. If socialism is such a pipe dream, if it’s so unworkable, then the U.S. government should gladly leave Cuba alone and watch the socialist program collapse on its own.

But Washington has done the exact opposite, taking a fervently hands-on approach to toppling the Communist government in Cuba. As journalist Ben Norton, editor of The Grayzone, reminds us, the U.S. government’s own stated goal in implementing its embargo against Cuba, as laid out in a 1960 State Department memo, is to “alienat[e] internal support [for the Communist government] … through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.”

“Every possible means should be undertaken promptly,” the memo continues, “to weaken the economic life of Cuba. If such a policy is adopted, it should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government” (emphasis mine).

If this has been America’s plan all along, if Washington has been hoping to bring Cuba to its knees by suffocating it through sanctions—which severely limit its trade and deny it access to international lines of credit, among other things—the current protests in Havana merely indicate that, though it’s taken 60 years and counting, the U.S. embargo remains close to fulfilling its purpose.

Mainstream outlets will keep playing videos of the protests in Cuba on loop, painting them as “anti-government” to drive home the false narrative. What you’re unlikely to see are the Cubans who have taken to the streets in defense of socialism, chanting “I am Fidel!” and “Viva la revolución!” And if you do, then there will be plenty of apologists for imperialism explaining them away as being forced to march by the Communist government, or brainwashed.

But read that memo again, because if anything is forcing the Cubans to protest, or brainwashing them, it’s the embargo. Again, since it clearly bears repeating, the goal of the U.S. embargo is to force Cubans into the streets in protest of the lack of “money and supplies”—brought on by the embargo itself—and to dupe the Cubans into believing that the Communist government is to blame for their economic troubles, not the meddlers in Washington.

Featured image: “Cuba Libre” by flippinyank is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hector is the editor of MANO. He's also the host of Latinish and Hits from the Brain. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's a former deputy editor of Latino Rebels, as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He has contributed to RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, TIME and other outlets, and his writing was featured in Ricanstruction, a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Hector studied history (for some reason) at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his focus was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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