BY NICHOLAS AYALA
In 1959, the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista was overthrown in an armed struggle led by a few hundred guerrillas with the support of millions of Cubans.
The revolution advanced as a nationalist struggle until 1961, when Fidel Castro, one of the leaders and organizers of the revolution, declared it a socialist struggle. This transformation of the Caribbean nation crossed the line for the imperialist interests of the United States. After the success of the revolution, Washington unilaterally decided in 1962 to implement a blockade against the island that continues to this day.
What makes the Cuban blockade so despicable is its intentional targeting of civilians. It seeks to strangle the Cuban nation economically, politically and socially, by killing and threatening the lives of millions of people. The blockade prohibits U.S. companies and its foreign branches from doing business directly with Cuba. U.S. citizens are banned from going to the country as tourists. The precarious economic situation that has resulted, created by the United States, incentivizes Cubans to emigrate, often in life-threatening ways.
These are the facts.
This blockade has cost the Cuban government and people over $800 billion over six decades, according to the Cuba vs. Blockade 2017 report. We must understand the blockade as the Cuban people understand it: an act of genocide. Even the United Nations has described the blockade as an “an act of genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948,” making it the longest genocide in history.
Between 2016 and 2017, the blockade cost the Cuban people over $4 billion. It is clearly “a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of all Cubans,” as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide explains in the report. “This blockade continues to be the only obstacle to the development of the Cuban economy and the full enjoyment of all human rights by the Cuban people,” it goes on to say.
In addition, the blockade forces the Cuban government to rely on subpar medicine as better drugs are blocked by the United States. Food is harder to obtain and the Cuban government must prioritize securing primary goods to ensure survival rather than consumer or luxury goods. The impoverishment of the country as a whole by the blockade affects the everyday lives of the Cuban people. The island’s artificially-weakened economy means less wages and security for the people.
This tension can be felt in even the most routine things many in the West take for granted. In Cuba, many art collectives build community by working with children and seniors. Due to the blockade, the resources given to the children have to be closely regulated. Common supplies used in art like glue have to be substituted with flour as there is often little-to-no glue on the island. These issues are a source of constant worry and restriction upon the Cuban people affected by the blockade while those in the West freely have access to whatever goods are desired.
However, this genocide did not start with the blockade. The United States has a long history of attacking Cuba through the utilization of paramilitaries, terrorist attacks and biological warfare. During the Literacy Campaign in Cuba (January 1, 1961 to December 22, 1961), when millions of Cubans learned to read and write, many young activists traveled from urban areas to rural ones to teach illiterate communities. During this time, counterrevolutionaries trained by the United States were sent to the island to kidnap, torture and kill many of these young teachers and students in rural areas.
Top: Portrait of Conrado Benítez García. Middle: Volunteer literacy teachers preparing before their departure to the countryside. Bottom: Materials used by Cubans during the Literacy Campaign. | Source: Nicholas Ayala, National Museum of Literacy in Havana, Cuba
One of the first victims of this U.S.-orchestrated terrorism was Conrado Benítez García (pictured above). García was an 18-year-old teacher in the countryside who was kidnapped along with his student, Eliodoro Rodríguez Linares, a 31 year-old peasant farmer. They were both tortured and brutally killed by CIA-backed counter-revolutionaries. More than 20 students, teachers and campesinos were also murdered by these terrorists during the Literacy Campaign, according to Escambray.
Artwork depicting La Coubre explosion. | Source: Nicholas Ayala, Memorial de la Denuncia in Havana, Cuba
Many other attacks at the hands of the U.S. imperialists occurred. One was La Coubre explosion in 1960. La Coubre was a French freighter ship that exploded in the port of Havana, killing more than 100 Cubans and wounding many more. The attack was a national tragedy for Cuba. Fidel blamed the U.S. imperialists for the attack, which sought to prevent Cuba from acquiring the necessary munitions to adequately defend itself.
The attacks continued with over 800 arson fires destroying 300,000 tons of sugar cane between 1960-1961, according to the Museum of Denunciations. Other maneuvers such as Operation Peter Pan separated more than 14,000 Cuban children from their parents. By the 1990s, the U.S. government was utilizing biological warfare to attack Cuban agriculture and plantations, creating $32 million worth of damages.
These attacks form only party of the intentional genocide Washington has carried out and continues to perfect against Cuba. U.S. politicians have shown no signs of easing the blockade and continue to impose this unjust and inhumane policy targeting the Cuban people.
However, this has not stopped the socialist movement in Cuba. The country continues to provide free healthcare, education and housing to all its citizens. The tiny island is still making major advancements for the rights of Black people and women with some of the largest representations of both groups in government. It has continuously shown solidarity with Third World people across the globe.
Despite violent assaults launched against Cuba, Havana sent military aid to organize, train and fight alongside freedom fighters in Angola and Mozambique during the 1960s and 70s. When Ebola struck Africa, Cuba was the first to send doctors there to provide aid. When Zika struck Latin America, Cuba sent thousands of doctors across the region to combat it, expecting nothing in return. After hurricanes Irma and Maria, Cuba sent doctors and resources to several Caribbean islands and even offered to rebuild the Puerto Rican electrical grid in a month. This aid was, of course, denied by the U.S. government and to this day, Puerto Rico struggles to recover from the disastrous effects of Hurricane Maria.
Despite the ongoing genocide Cuba faces at the hands of U.S. imperialism, it continues to struggle forward and advance its revolution. Revolutionary Cuba is an inspiration to all people who value equality, autonomy, justice and a society dedicated to the human good. Their solidarity with anti-imperialist forces across the Third World allow them to be leaders in internationalism and proletarian solidarity in the face of imperialist attacks.
ANTICONQUISTA, the Communist Party of the Latin American and Caribbean Diaspora, offers its unconditional support to the revolutionary Cuban people against U.S. imperialism and its genocidal blockade.