No aspect of life in Cuba escapes the blockade’s impact, which goes far beyond the economic hardships it creates
According to a document entitled “Economic Sanctions: Agencies Face Competing Priorities in Enforcing U.S. Embargo on Cuba,” published in November of 2007 by the United States Government Accountability Office, the embargo is “the most extensive set of U.S. sanctions against any country, including the rest of the countries designated by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism.”
This proud note, coming from an official government source in the nation with the greatest economic power in all of human existence, a country that in more than a few productive and/or financial arenas, worldwide, exercises decisive control (at times dominant and even overwhelming) is enough to make clear the enormous disparity and asymmetry between the Cuban nation/social system and its aggressive opponent. I will attempt here an explanation of how I understand, adjust, manage, experience, survive, think, love, breathe, and believe, within this habitual violence.
2. The blockade/embargo is possible thanks to the monstrously asymmetrical relationship between its organizer/leader and its receiver/subject, a difference so disproportionate that it makes no sense to imagine any condition of equality or close to comparable options between Cuba and its “blockader” in economic or military terms, or in access to the mass media, digital networks and all components of the cultural industry, in general.
For this reason, it is practically impossible for any aspect of our lives to escape or be immune to its presence or pressure, be it development projects or spiritual discussions. This is the reality because the embargo/blockade affects, compromises, deforms, diminishes, damages, contaminates, prevents any possibility of access to resources the country could enjoy under conditions of “normality” – not under the exceptional conditions of one that is “sanctioned,” marked, excluded, persecuted, forced to comply with rules exclusively established for it.
3. The above allows us to imagine the blockade/embargo’s fabric and reach as an interweaving flow of forces that, by far (in fact, in an almost immeasurable way) goes far beyond economic sanctions.
Although we must understand these latter measures as decisions made by political bodies within the apparatus of the government in question, this, which we call “political decisions,” cannot be separated from the consequences and downward refraction of the political discourse/law in an infinity of actions of all kinds meant to insult, degrade, manipulate, lie, hide and create hatred for anything that might mean success, benefit, unity or simple tranquility within the space/time of the Cuban Revolution.
4. The vision of a downward spiral (just as the steps of a staircase are descended), added to the many derivations from a central body and, finally, the refraction (as happens with light passing through a prism) serve us to understand the embargo/blockade as a great hard core, in which political dictates are immediately translated into laws, and then refracted, divided, splintered, into the widest conceivable range of threats, obligations and calls to hatred in each and every aspect of life.
In this sense, the embargo/blockade must be understood as the impact of an enormous force exerted downward from the very pinnacle of power, savage pressure that, within its fundamental target, (the nation) strikes, obstructs, damages or changes the destinies of those who oppose it.
5. While the type of economic injury that the embargo/blockade causes is meant to hinder, deform, impede or destroy any development (of whatever type: productive, scientific, cultural, sports, industrial, agricultural, etc.) that may be generated within Cuban socialism, its collateral effects poison the notions of solidarity, brotherhood, family, friendship among Cubans in the country and their fellow citizens around the world.
This happens not because an emigrant must choose whether or not to help relatives and/or friends suffering the effects of the embargo/blockade in Cuba (even if he/she believes that there have been government mistakes and failures), but exactly because the implicit ideological purpose of the embargo/blockade is to extend the fusion of ideological-cultural patterns of individual salvation, demonize collective solutions, undermine authentic empathy and erase the existence of the embargo/blockade as such.
In this way, it is possible to send money to a given relative, and at the same time, applaud the embargo/blockade or politicians who support it, and continue to believe such behavior is just and supportive of the people living in the country.
6. Along with undermining empathy, the embargo/blockade masks (and promotes) a sense of naturalness that intends to convey the (terrible) message that the kind of absolute exceptionality involved in the extension, globalization and intensification of the policy, for almost six decades, is something “normal.”
In this way, while a country and its people are obliged to live under conditions that cannot even be compared with any other in contemporary history, a paradoxical reality for which (strictly speaking) tools to conduct analyses are not even available. What does it mean to live this way? How are projects for development designed? What does it mean for hope, fulfillment, plans to build a family, the raising of children? Is there another reality with which Cuba’s can be compared?
7. We can disaggregate the impediments to economic development given how evident they are (because of their openness and nature), cases such as those involving refusals to grant credit, the disruption of a purchase attempted by a Cuban foreign trade company or fines on banks that agree to transfer funds to the island, among many other possibilities.
But the brutality of a series of rejections encourages the emergence of a mentality trained to resist pressure under survival conditions (convinced that this or that will never appear), as well as the most widespread creativity (in a situation in which to invent is to stay alive), and the introduction into the economy of the precarious, the intermittent, the casual, the random and/or discontinuous, which distort projects and remain “seeded” (performing a sort of structural weakening), waiting to sprout/explode at some future moment.
8. At the same time that the energy devoted to change and transformations within the space/time of the Cuban Revolution is great – to the point of leading us to consider resistance as normal, now and permanently – the blockade/embargo exists and its effects impact the foundations of Cuban national life.
Since it operates 365 days a year, in every inch of the national geography and for all citizens, it is a continuum, a network or fabric that (in the manner of a living organism) grows in the direction of tightening its grasp; that is to say, with the intention of capturing the entire organism/country it wishes to encapsulate and then asphyxiate.
As for its effects, these are experienced simultaneously in three temporal dimensions: in the country’s collective memory (as a defining element in the life stories of all Cubans); in our current reality (directly linked to the possibility of a better/worse life for the people); and as central to the aspirations and expectations of all inhabitants – since both the tightening of the blockade/embargo and its relaxation and/or disappearance would completely and immediately change the quality of life and/or personal projects of all Cubans.
9. Although the blockade/embargo arose at a precise moment (the year 1962) with the basic intention of preventing any imaginable development within the Cuban Revolution, as well as reversing the transformations it brought, the fulfillment of this objective is inseparable from a return to the conditions of economic, military and political subordination, as well as cultural penetration of Cuba, in accordance with the designs of U.S. political-economic elites.
In this sense, it is a clear expression of hegemony and imperial voracity disguised (and thus presented by the aforementioned elites and their ideologues) as a dispute between two countries that takes place on large international stages, in the manner of a supra-structural fence, with hardly any impact on the quality of life, dreams and projects of the island’s common citizens. This dissociation between the violence of discourse and its presence in concrete efforts to destroy the economic life of the island and any sense of “normality” in any field whatsoever, plus the distancing or inability to feel the extent and depth of damage caused to everyday people, illustrates the essentially sociopathic condition of those who crafted this policy, those who have reinforced it over the years, those who publicly sustain and applaud it ,and even, in the most bitter of cases, those who do not denounce it and do not oppose it in any of the many imaginable public spaces available or where a palpable impact could be achieved.
10. What we see from the perspective of small, individual lives must be projected globally to help us understand the way in which the embargo/blockade is always implemented as an international device that – on the basis of tension between pressure and obedience – is meant to absorb, reformulate, dissuade, crush, divert, and punish any attempt to establish “normal” relations with Cuba.
At the same time that in our country all lives are affected by the embargo/blockade, the same occurs in the lives of all those who – outside the island – support the Cuban Revolution or, simply, oppose the embargo; this less apparent truth becomes more obvious the closer we get to the “hard core” of message emission and policy making attacking the Cuban socialist project.
In these environments of ideological-political toxicity, the public, articulated defense of Cuba’s revolutionary project implies risks (the more intense the positioning) that the subjects experience in terms of promotion and, in general, opportunities for present and/or future realization.
The key here lies in the identification, with an equal sign, of government policies in Cuba or citizens’ way of life, with the stigma and negativity associated with socialist ideology; thus, the vilification of anything socialist (as the absolute opposite) functions as a curtain that serves as an impediment to recognition of the Revolution’s anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and Third Worldist transformative potential.
11. Politicians, ideologues and defenders of the blockade need to erase, hide or reduce the embargo/blockade’s anti-human and destructive impact on the entire collective; for this reason, they must spread the idea that their actions are, above all, exclusively political gestures with no real effect (no kind of appreciable damage) on the daily life of the country’s people.
This refusal to recognize and accept the capacity to injure that is possessed and put into practice (with full awareness of the damage caused), accepting that the embargo/blockade can bring someone to the point of death, illustrates the perverse nature of an act that must hide behind an original lie to avoid questions about one’s own alienation, pain and inhumanity.
The above explains the repeated practice of taking any isolated, strictly limited fact (for example, the photograph of a product in a store) – without adding any comment to facilitate deeper understanding – to give the impression that no embargo/blockade exists, that it is only a maneuver by the Cuban government, for whatever dark reason arguments of this type can muster.
The tasks of fabrication, implantation, maintenance, correction of errors and intensification of the embargo/blockade follow each other, complement and merge the same as a transnational mechanism (as we know) in a dialectical articulation that cannot but, at the same time, construct the subject pursued and promote hatred toward the other who suffers the violence.
This construction of the targeted person (of alleged aggressiveness and intransigence) is accompanied by a system of beliefs (ideology), as well as a set of structured teachings about what that the other, considered an enemy, is.
For this reason, the embargo/blockade could not exist if it did not simultaneously function as an ideological, communicational, cultural scaffold.
12. What we have written thus far is intended to go beyond the political and economic evidence, to analyze the embargo/blockade as a complex of actions that includes and is extended through communicational and cultural spheres. In this sense, communication and cultural production are both battlefields and protagonists in a battery of actions that constitutes a true cultural war.
This labyrinth of actions encompasses express violence, direct and with criminal intent (placing a bomb or shooting at an embassy, as we recently saw), as well as the exclusion of the island from the variety of relations that an organization, person or institution develops to carry out its usual work for fear of direct reprisal, criticism or simple rumors with political undertones; to this can be added any form of self-interested silencing of successes, as well as the exploitation of any type of falsehood and/or distortion about ways of life in the socialist experience on the island and (along with this) the creation of a spectacle around any shortcoming, failure or error (of whatever type) that may exist in the work of any authority in the country.
13. The internal logic of the embargo/blockade is directed toward refracting and multiplying the economic asphyxia in scenarios of social disorder and division, as well as in manifestations reflecting loss of self-esteem, renunciation of national sovereignty (or willingness to negotiate it) and/or weakening of our collective identity.
Any denial of the embargo/blockade and/or its effects on our lives (in all the far-reaching ways we have described) is a perverse action. Any masking of faults and/or failures, as well as any rejection of responsibility, with references to the embargo/blockade (typical of pseudo-communist bureaucrats), is a harmful and perverse act as well.
Any call for exchanges, debates, dialogues and other analytical-critical interventions related to the post-1959 development of Cuban society, as if the embargo/blockade has not existed, as if it were not (right now) a colossal mechanism of economic, social and cultural erosion (which promises to continue into the future) is in and of itself a reflection of attitudes that the embargo/blockade encourages and needs, for its effects to be even more deeply damaging.
Given all this, every example of expanding of knowledge about the world in which we live, as well as the internal dynamics of the Cuban process, are ways of circumventing and/or confronting the logic of the embargo/blockade. This includes every moment of good work, transparency, investigation and public dissemination of truths, every action that fosters national unity, self-esteem, sovereignty, independence and national identity.
Coda: Negotiating is not the problem. Of course, it will be necessary to negotiate (the most dissimilar issues) with corresponding U.S. government teams.
The problem is the connection between the asymmetry of the dialogue partners and the translation that such a difference merits in terms of law; in other words, whether it will be an exchange between sovereign equals or the staging of an interaction between an oppressor and an obedient subordinate.
Those who ignore this perspective fail to realize that the embargo/blockade issue (the persistence of its duration over decades, its accumulated effects and the likelihood of its continuity) projected/projects the Cuban issue as a universal model of radical confrontation between the “natural” order of big capital (as a sort of recipe for small nations in their relationship with the truly “big” ones) and any alternative that intends to move toward anti-imperialism, Third World unity, anti-colonialism and authentic sovereignty.
Cuba matters less than what occurs with Cuba and minds regarding a debate that – far beyond our small territory – encompasses oppositions like those that can be verified (for any subject and/or territory) between one’s own nation and a foreign one, memory and the denial of memory, individualism and collective action, hegemony and independence, sovereignty and regression, unity and disintegration, logics of hatred and resistance.
This is what the blockade is all about.