Amidst catastrophic sanctions compounded by a six decades long criminal embargo, the United States government has waged unceasing economic warfare and hardship onto the Cuban people and their government. The Republic of Cuba under the leadership of Miguel Díaz-Canel has the right to affirm its national sovereignty and political autonomy from Washington’s neo-colonial ambitions without threat of further interference and imperialist destabilization. In fact, the current economic crisis and unrest in Cuba can be traced to an intensification of strangulating and illegal U.S. sanctions, along with the economic blockade that was recently condemned by a vast majority of the United Nations General Assembly, and its ongoing impacts during a deadly pandemic. The explicit purpose of the 1960’s imposed U.S. embargo was to “deny money and supplies to Cuba, decrease monetary and real wages…bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow[al] of the government.” This was the cruel logic behind President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy toward Cuba, that strengthened the blockade by adding over 240 new measures to subjugate the island and make it as unlivable and miserable for the people as possible to incite regime change. These additional Trump era sanctions brought about fuel shortages, restriction on remittances, tourist revenue, and sought to rollback any Obama era normalization to enforce a stark Cold War “troika of tyranny” neo-conservatism with overt nostalgia for the Monroe Doctrine. This policy severely punished Cuba for their support and geopolitical alliance with other leftist governments in Latin America, particularly the democratically elected Bolivarian government in Venezuela against an illegitimately imposed U.S. backed puppet, Juan Guaido.
Despite a new administration and its promise to restore pre-Trump Obama era engagement with Cuba, the Biden presidency has kept these draconian Trump era sanctions in place as well as designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” while refusing to lift the blockade. Even with the monumental obstacles of this unilateral and externally imposed economic sabotage by the world’s most powerful capitalist empire, Cuba has had one of the strongest responses to tackling the pandemic, creating 5 vaccines, investing heavily in primary care, and exporting doctors through their medical internationalism. But their response has since been hindered through shortage of medical supplies, necessary imports for vaccine distribution, food and other basic necessities that has created mass turmoil for Cubans during a spike in COVID-19 infections.
In the city of Miami, the right wing Cuban American political establishment has used protests on the island to call for a range of intervention, with the mayor Francis Suarez urging U.S. airstrikes or direct military invasion, ignoring feelings of Cubans on the ground. The more economically privileged and less racially diverse Cuban American hardliners in Miami have been protesting feverishly for the toppling of the “communist regime” and their demonstrations have been accompanied by white supremacist/neo-fascist groups such as the Proud Boys with the explicit intent to “destroy communism.” Along with signs like “SOS Cuba” have been “Patria y Vida” (“Homeland and Life”-a subversion of the revolutionary slogan “Homeland or Death”) and thin blue line/Blue Lives Matter flags waving with the American flag in support of the Miami police who escort and protect them. The far-right governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis has deemed these demonstrations exempt from his anti-riot law he created in response to “Marxist” Black Lives Matter demonstrations. In fact, the same “SOS Cuba” factions violently counterprotested the wave of anti police brutality rallies in Miami in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Predictably, the “Hands Off Cuba” rallies held in Miami were met with state repression, arrests of anti-imperialist organizers, and assault by far-right Cuban American counter-protesters.
What’s ironic is that these extreme reactionary and fascistic elements of white Cuban American hardliners in Miami with a long history of systemic oppression and marginalization of Black communities in the city, have found alliance with liberal voices in mainstream media and the academy that exploit vestiges of colonial socio-ethnic hierarchies and contradictions of Cuban society to give progressive cover to U.S. intervention and minimize harms of the embargo or gains made since the socialist revolution. It is important to acknowledge that the people who would be most harmed by U.S. intervention and ongoing economic terrorism of the island, are Afro-Cuban workers and that easing the suffering of the Cuban people requires lifting the blockade and imperialist economic sabotage in line with principles of self-determination. Hands off Cuba!