A Guide to the US Blockade on Cuba

A Guide to the US Blockade on Cuba

Introduction 

July 2021 caught many on the US left slipping. While the US exploited relatively small protests in Cuba for round the clock coverage of what was being called “the day of reckoning for the Cuban revolution”, true colors were exposed as so-called leftists in the imperial core struggled to model what anti-imperialist solidarity actually looks like. For more than 50 years, the call from revolutionary Cuban citizens and organizations has been to end the US blockade on Cuba. For more than 50 years, this has been the most important contribution that the US left could make toward the island. But in the face of protests encouraged by conditions created by the blockade, across the board there was a failure to attack the primary contradiction. 

We can only attribute this to the lack of political education that exists within the US concerning what the blockade is and how it impacts the day-to-day life of Cuban citizens. Cuba recently announced that it is reopening for travel in November, and with those announcements have also come warnings. Warnings that counter-insurgent activity, in the form of a general strike and more planned protests are expected to re-emerge throughout October and November as antagonisms toward the Cuban government. 

We offer the following guide for all serious minded Africans and anti-imperialists in the US and the West in general. It is a great resource for better understanding the relationship between Africa and Cuba, the impact of US/EU sanctions, the many advances Cuba continues to make even under harsh and illegal circumstances, and how we can best support them in these times. Don’t let October and November catch you slipping again. Read and share within your network. 

The Basics 

What is the blockade? 

The blockade is a set of policies that controls how Cuban can get things they need to survive (Sanctions).

What does that look like? 

  • All financial transactions with Cuba and Cubans are prohibited, except as specifically authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury (§515.201)
  • Cuban Americans are blocked from sending cash remittances to their families (no CashApp, Paypal, Venmo, etc).
  • Heightened threats and multi-million-dollar fines on foreign banks that engage in transactions with Cuba 
    • The restrictions of the U.S. embargo on Cuba apply not only to U.S. businesses but also to foreign businesses that are “owned or controlled” by a U.S. person(s)
  • Harassment of shipping companies that transport oil from Venezuela to Cuba
  • The first ever implementation of Title 3 of the 1996 Helms Burton Act enabling US companies and Cuban Americans to sue foreign companies operating in Cuba.  

Continue reading to learn more about how we got here and what it all means. 

Cuba Reads From Hood Communist 

Recentering Internationalism: An Analysis of Economic Sanctions

by Erica Caines

“As maintained in the October article, Failures of the US Left, “what should be largely understood by the ‘US left’ is that fascism and capitalism rely on and support imperialism—- seeking out to exploit nations we’ve come to view as Underdeveloped for labor, benefiting only the most privileged few within the Western nation”. During this year’s African Liberation Day virtual broadcast, this point was exemplified through discussions centered on imperialist sanctions against sovereign nations like Zimbabwe, Cuba, and Venezuela, reiterating the point that “one can not be a revolutionary socialist and not also be an anti-imperialist.”

Sanctions Kill: The Devastating Human Cost of Sanctions

by The All African People’s Revolutionary Party 

“Despite the blockade, Cuba provides low cost housing, an excellent free education from nursery school through university, exemplary free medical care, and systematic eradication of privilege and the racist, and patriarchal structures that existed before the revolution. Additionally, Cuba provided consistent material and human service support to other nations struggling against colonialism and neoliberalism. The U.S. has been intent on bringing down the Cuban revolution in an effort to halt its generous support to other nations struggling against imperialism, and to prevent the success of a socialist state that other nations would model, but the Cuban people have stood tall.”

The Cuban Drug Fighting Coronavirus

by Onyesonwu Chatoyer

“Here I’ll quote a Cuban comrade, Jose Perez: “Cuba could end its economic woes right now just by trademarking and marketing the drug. The world is desperate for it so – from a greedy arse capitalist point of view – they could make a lot of money. But we both know why Cuba is not doing that.” 

Why is Cuba not trademarking, marketing, and selling a drug they could be making bank off of right now? Why is Cuba choosing to make it freely available instead? The same reason why it’s sending doctors into quarantine zones all over the world with no expectation of payment or reciprocation: because Cuba is not interested in profiting off a crisis. Because Cuba understands we’re all in this together. Because Cuba understands life and revolutionary international solidarity are more important than money. Because Cuba is fucking socialist.”

Cuba and the Struggle for Black Liberation

by Brandon Sanchez

“The Cuban revolution of 1959 brought a never-ending battle of socialism pitted against capitalism to center stage and the US was determined to succeed. Their strict sanctions did little from stopping Fidel Castro to send thousands of troops to fight in Angola and other countries in Africa eventually bringing apartheid to an end in South Africa. The success of the Cuban revolution inspired Black radicals in the US and Cuba’s connection to it’s Black heritage further strengthened their bond in fighting the same enemy—US imperialism. Ultimately, struggle is always going to exist, especially against this capitalist imperial power that is the US, but one will never stop fighting until the liberation of all subjugated people in the world is achieved.”

African Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution

by Onyesonwu Chatoyer

“Cuba and its revolution are not perfect or error free – no such nation or struggle has ever existed on this planet. But the remarkable thing about Cubans and their socialist revolution is that they have institutionalized a practice of collective self-criticism, learning, and collectivism on a society wide scale. In doing so they have managed to slowly and systematically create a new type of human and a new type of living and relating to each other and to the earth. Cubans don’t expect perfection of each other or their revolution,  but rather they expect and come with honesty, transparency, and accountability that can be used as a means to move forward collectively, even under seemingly impossible circumstances. They have transformed themselves into a resilient, honorable, and inventive people. When they fall short they say so and then they investigate why and then they do better. It reads so simple typed but coming from a context in which as El Hajj Malik el-Shabazz aka Malcolm X says “they won’t even admit the knife is there” it’s revelatory. Imagine a whole nation owning it’s shit. Before the Brigade I’d never seen it before.”

Pan-African and International Solidarity will Break Sanctions

by The All African People’s Revolutionary Party 

“After Cuba lost most of their trading partners in 1991 following the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the effects of the blockade were intense. The Cuban people pulled together and not once in these lean years did the Cuban socialist system suspend free health care and education. The crises were met by the people, the Cuban Communist Party, and their friends and allies. They grew food everywhere – on porches, raised beds, parking lots and throughout the countryside.

There was also international support. IFCO Pastors for Peace challenged the U.S. blockade by taking shipments of supplies to Cuba through Mexico. IFCO continues solidarity annually with a travel challenge, coordinated with Cuba solidarity organizations Venceremos Brigade and African Awareness Association. The A-APRP is in solidarity with Cuba globally but in the U.S., the A-APRP chapters work with the National Network on Cuba, a network of more than 35 solidarity organizations in the U.S. challenging the blockade.”

The World Condemns US Attacks on Cuba

by Onyesonwu Chatoyer 

“With the election of Joe Biden as US president, there was some hope that US and Cuba relations would return to the thawing of the Obama era. Biden signaled as much on the campaign trail during the 2020 election,  promising to re-evaluate some of the most draconian measures imposed by the Trump administration during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror and heavy restrictions on trade, travel, and remittances. However, once in office, Biden surrogates immediately signaled that a re-evaluation of US-Cuba relations was no longer a priority for the new president. 

Since then, we have seen the US State Department under Biden reinforce the Trump administration’s designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and no re-evaluation of travel restrictions or heightened sanctions imposed during the pandemic. The ‘no’ US vote on the UN resolution condemning the blockade, a step back from the Obama administration’s first time in history abstention on the resolution at the General Assembly in 2016, represents one of the clearest signs yet that Cuba should not expect warmer relations from US President Biden.”

Historic Press Conference With Cuba’s Ambassador to the UN

by Hood Communist 

“It is very unfortunate that the current administration has decided to engage in some way the accusations from President Trump’s administration that everybody knows was with the purpose— the intended purpose— to cut resources by Cuba. Everybody knows that the international health cooperation that Cuba provides to a number of countries is sustained by bilateral arrangements and bilateral agreements signed with countries that are interested in Cuban cooperation. All of those professionals involved in those cooperations decide freely without any governmental pressure on their participation and they sign contracts for engaging in these cooperations. This is slander and a smear campaign that we have denounced and will continue to denounce. And it’s only during times of a pandemic, which is quite a coincidence, that the US engages in this politic of trying to deprive people of having assistance in other countries that otherwise they can not have because the work that Cuban professionals do engage in those countries can not be easily supplemented by national professionals in those countries or any other foreign professionals. This is an unsustainable campaign that Cuba has denounced and will continue to denounce. And we have a proven history of dealing in cooperative relationships with the UN mechanisms that work in the area of trafficking persons. The US can not sustain those accusations against Cuba.” 

US Empire: Get Out Cuba’s Way

By Obi Egbuna Jr. 

“The recent pro-regime change disturbances in Cuba are the latest illustration of a political  culture of hatred and antagonism towards the Cuban revolution and people. The question is  how far back do we want to go? The terrorist activities of Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando  Bosch missed their marks. The 635 assassination attempts on the life of Commandante Fidel  Castro missed their marks. The false and unjust imprisonment of 5 Cuban patriots missed its  mark. The kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez missed its mark. The Bay of Pigs missed its mark. The formation of the Cuban American National Foundation and its terrorist cells Brother to the  Rescue and Alpha 66 missed its mark. The only thing left on the menu are regime change  activities in Cuba and false claims by US Imperialism that Cuba is involved in human trafficking.”

The Limits of “Lived Experience”

by Erica Caines

“Anti-communist rhetoric from self-identifying socialists/communists is not new, but the relatively recent trend of rejecting revolutionary theory in favor of “lived experience” shows a lack in our processes for political education. The discourse following the protests that took place in Cuba on July 11th offers us a concrete example of this lack. Inside of the US, as anti-imperialist organizations and individuals worked to develop principled positions in response to the protests, counter-revolutionary forces, ranging from borgouise media, university academics, and anti-communist Cubans in Miami, were able to push their own narrative by abusing the device of “lived experience”. The demand was that everyone should “shut up and listen to Cuban voices”. However, at no point was a distinction made among which of those voices we should be listening. Should people listen to liberal Cuban voices? Should people listen to socialist Cuban voices? Should people listen to Cuban voices in Miami? More often than not, the answer to those questions is covertly the latter.”

Videos

Unpacking US Attacks on the Cuban Revolution

Unpacking US Attacks on the Cuban Revolution

The New Mexico Regional Committee of the Venceremos Brigade hosts a panel unpacking the why & how of the USA’s attacks on Cuba and the Cuban revolution and what those of us in the Belly of the Beast can do to resist. Featuring a panel discussion of organizers active in the Cuba solidarity movement: Malcolm Sacks of the Venceremos Brigade, Stella Frank of the New York regional committee of the Venceremos Brigade, and Howard Ehrman of the University of Illinois College of Medicine. 

The War on Cuba

The War on Cuba

This is a three-part docuseries about the US blockade on Cuba that is incredibly accessible and easy to understand.

Comparing Women’s Health in Socialist Cuba compared to the Capitalist U.S.

Comparing Women’s Health in Socialist Cuba compared to the capitalist U.S.

Focusing on HIV, cancer rates, maternal mortality, and covid 19, Cuba has placed the backward and capitalist U.S. in the dust when it comes to prioritizing people over profit.

Imperialists Weaponize Hip-Hop Against Cuba | Unmasking Imperialism Ep. 12

Imperialists Weaponize Hip-Hop Against Cuba | Unmasking Imperialism Ep. 12

Exposing Cuba’s so-called “dissident hip-hop movement” in San Isidro, Havana. In this episode, Ramiro discusses how Yankee imperialism weaponizes music against Cuba’s revolutionary government. He also talks about the shady forces supporting artists like Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Alexander Delgado and Randy Malcom. Featuring special guest and Hood Communist editor, Onyesonwu Chatoyer, a cadre with the All African People’s Revolutionary Party and the All African Women’s Revolutionary Union, and member of the National Coordinating Committee for the Venceremos Brigade.

Celebrating Fidel Castro & the Cuban Revolution

Celebrating Fidel Castro & the Cuban Revolution

The New Mexico Venceremos Brigade celebrates the legacy and contributions of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. We got a lot of lies about Castro in the US, but this event will be featuring the truth. They screen an interview with Alice Walker, womanist and author of The Color Purple, discussing her experiences in Cuba and her perspective on Fidel Castro. They also show a brief video discussing how democracy works in Cuba.

For more videos like these, check out this Cuban Solidarity playlist on Youtube.

Ajamu Baraka on Cuban Protests, Black News Channel

Ajamu Baraka on Cuban Protests – Black News Channel

Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) National Organizer Ajamu Baraka participated in a panel discussion Marc Lamont Hill hosted on July 19, 2021, on Black News Channel. Baraka explained why despite media coverage of Cuban protesters, people inside the United States must oppose the U.S. blockade on Cuba and support the Cuban revolutionary process.

Podcasts

Blowback Podcast, Season 2

Blowback is an anti-imperialist podcast that looks in depth at the dealings of the amerikkkan empire around the world. Its entire second season covers the US war on Cuba. If you have time to spare, sit with the entire season. If not, the bonus episodes are a great place to start. 

The Black Myths Podcast, Did Racism in Cuba Ignite the Jul. 11th Protests?

In this episode, TBMP presents a myth as a question regarding the recent protests in Cuba and the subsequent newfound interest in Afro-Cubans: Did racism in Cuba ignite the July 11th protests? “Ignite” as in not just what started the protests but what was the main element driving them? The mainstream US press is increasingly giving the impression that there is a racial revolution happening in Cuba. They discuss this veiled notion while attempting to understand what’s happening in Cuba without romanticizing or demonizing its government. Features journalist Liz Olivia Fernandez of Belly of the Beast 

Books 

Race to Revolution: The United States and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow, Gerald Horne 

In order to understand the necessity for the Cuban Revolution of 1959, it is important to understand the history of Cuba leading up to that moment. In this book, Gerald Horne walks through the experience of African people in Cuba from the moment we arrived there en masse and the relationship between Cubans and the African diaspora. He spends several chapters unpacking how the US exported the system of Jim Crow onto Cuba’s shores and analyzes the material conditions of Cuba which made it ripe for revolution. 


More from this Writer

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth