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Dying Shibboleths

Journalism and the Cuban Embargo

by MATEO PIMENTEL

One of the biggest rags in Boston printed an article on Cuban-American relations two weeks ago to the day. It re-presented the origins of the 1960 US embargo on Cuba, declaring that the island nation owed private US interest billions of dollars after decades of simple interest accrued. The piece implicated Castro in the expropriation of nearly $2 billion worth of assets, which occurred during the nationalization process of the post-revolution Cuban economy. After identifying Castro’s unprecedented action as the lynchpin for the embargo’s conception, the article then summoned the legal obligation of the United States to defend private US property claims that were allegedly preyed upon by the Cuban government following the wake of revolution. Thus, the piece treated the US economic retaliation against Cuba, its embargo, as little more than a reasonable, obligatory legal action, a policy ultimately leveraged in specific defense of the American people and the securities assailed by Castro and his cadre of revolutionary guerrillas in Cuba.

Many informed readers doubtless shook their heads while digesting the shibboleths contained in this recent article. The conclusion readers are supposed to surmise from many of the contemporary pieces on Cuba is precisely that Cuba bears all culpability for the perennial rejuvenation and continuation of the Yankee embargo against it. The gambit is that Cuba has wrought the embargo on itself through thievery, and so the US is not at fault for the unneighborly economic sanctions it has been obligated to enact against Cuba. If only Cuba would give back the land and repay its debts! is the cry of many articles still published today. Truly, nothing is gained by such paradoxical thinking. How can this still be a mainstay in the rubric for normalizing relations between the two nations? The embargo has invariably robbed the Cuban people of an enormous amount of money – certainly a lot more than the $7 billion it supposedly owes private US interest!

The depiction presented by many articles on the topic in question are not entirely representative, or even mostly representative, of the facts undergirding Castro’s economic actions, the whole of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, or especially the truth about the embargo and its raison d’être. Even so, the truth is not necessarily at stake when it comes to journalism pieces written on Cuba and the stranglehold that the US seeks to maintain around its economic neck. No. Any article that seems to “get at the truth” has a good possibility of being little more than smoke and mirrors, theatricality and props which ultimately serve to maintain the popular paradigm concerning America’s right to uphold the embargo for having been economically violated. Nevertheless, what certainly does hang in the balance is the unthinking permission that the US government needs in order to sustain its aggression, and without serious obstruction from popular opposition within the walls of its own house. Furthermore, pieces such as the one written two weeks ago in Boston become especially important to Washington as the majority of Americans now favor lifting the embargo altogether.

The most predominant and modular conclusions about the US embargo on Cuba teeter on the brink of absurdity, never mind how many times the story gets re-spun from the pen of one lazy journalist to the next. The fact remains that Americans are still presented with disingenuous literature galore when it comes to Cuba. Washington knows that if the masses acquiesce, then their government can continue to properly terrorize Cuba and to avenge its botched attempt to subdue the island nation into indefinite servitude via the wholly illegitimate Batista regime (a puppet government it trained to torture the Cuban body politic for the purpose of control and subjugation). For that matter, purporting the innocence of each American presidential regime since Eisenhower happens to be part of the old think that requires ceaseless perpetuation in order for America to reap the benefits of its endless, embargo. This train of thought also attempts to endear the American people to their political leadership, deafening them to the cries for solidarity that ring out from the voices of their Cuban brothers and sisters across Gulf waters. And the rhetoric engulfing Cuba in popular American newspapers does nothing more than float imperial agendas a little while longer.

However sad and unfortunate it may yet be, much of the literature on the embargo will continue amounting to little more than the hackneyed victim blaming of past decades. It will continue to infuse the rote journalism that so often pretends to authentically probe Cuban-American relations. But the Cuban Revolution endures and the majority of American people now trend toward a much stronger solidarity with Cuban people, a solidarity that spells the end of embargo. As Americans have increasing access to information on Cuba, the floodgates open a little bit more, and popular sentiments change. Still, imperium does not want truly informed readers when it comes to Cuba or the embargo, and they will rage against the new literature. Empire abhors that more and more people can now see its embargo for what it really is: a pathetic, aging attempt at the economic repression of a sovereign Latin American nation that hinges on profit and pride alone. Thus, a large albeit dying part of US statecraft depends on whether or not the same story gets retold. But the American people see that can take a different road, and they are starting to do so. It is time to start writing new articles on Cuba and how the American people said No! to empire, and No! to the embargo.

Mateo Pimentel lives in the southern Andes region of Peru.