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Hurricanes and the Blockade Against Cuba

Photo by MODIS on board Terra satellite | CC BY 2.0

Although the blockade of Cuba officially began on February 7, 1962, in practice it began in 1959, barely after the triumph of the popular revolution against the pro-American dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. The recent tragedy that Hurricane Irma has meant for Cuba and several other countries in the Caribbean reminded me of a discussion I had exactly ten years ago with an American friend visiting Cuba. He maintained that Fidel Castro should be grateful to the US government for the blockade it had imposed on Cuba for half a century.

In that American friend’s opinion, it would have been extremely difficult, almost impossible, for Cubans to maintain the unity in action they have shown for the achievement of their great social, cultural, educational, scientific and economic advances, “had there not been the ferocious and stupid hostility against the island” of its powerful northern neighbor.

For this reason, he speculated, the Cuban government has acted very cleverly by not doing everything in its power to get the United States to suspend the economic blockade and normalize its relations with the island.

I argued against such speculation. I reminded him of the staunch position of the Cuban government against the blockade, the promotion it has been making for many years in favor of international agreements condemning it and Cuba’s permanent willingness to negotiate fairly all disputes with Washington.

It is unquestionable, I remarked, that the persistent pursuit of a dozen successive US governments of the blockade against Cuba has contributed to national unity. Similarly with Washington’s its policy of open and covert threats and aggressions. These have promoted Cuba’s popular unity policy which has, in turn, served to encourage the enthusiastic support of the population to the Revolution’s political project.

Similarly, hurricanes provide significant benefits through the torrential rains that enrich the water table, fill the reservoirs, and even renew the forests by knocking down old trees. Alas, their aftermath also strongly harms the population, with great damage caused by their wind, rain, tides and sea waves for the sake of such presumably beneficial effects.

Cuba is frequently hit by the powerful hurricanes that characterize its geographic location. Sometimes they do it with very short intervals to allow an effective recovery, but, every time this happens, I remember this exchange with my American friend.

Cubans are proud to belong to a people that offers such extraordinary demonstrations of unity, discipline, solidarity and creativity in facing these natural phenomena. Our avoidance of fatalities and intangible material effects, compared to other countries that do not have a similar organization based on solidarity, is a source of our pride.

I cannot avoid comparing this action by Cubans, which this people demonstrates in confrontation with the effects of the blockade, and against the hostility that the US has practiced against Cuba for almost 60 years.

Hurricanes bring water for sowing and dams; the blockade contributes to the firmness of the agreement by Cubans for national defense. But when one considers the magnitude of the material damage, the suffering, and the  scourge that flows from the hurricanes and the blockade, everyone understands why hurricanes are so undesirable.

I hope meteorological science will someday be able to dissolve or divert hurricanes to uninhabited places. And that scientists will find ways and means to obtain the water they provide by other means.

Until that happens, it would be desirable if good sense moves the government of the United States to reject the blockade that it has exercised against Cuba.

Cubans will be able to find and improve –on increasingly democratic and permanent foundations– the mechanisms necessary to make the revolutionary project dreamed by Marti and Bolivar for our America irreversible.

Unfortunately for Cubans, to return to normalization after Irma’s devastating atmospheric phenomenon, also means living again under the conditions of the no less-devastating criminal phenomenon that is the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba in its useless effort by to make the island return to the imperialist fold.

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Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana.

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