The question in the title is one that the newspaper Juventud Rebelde should ask itself. A few days ago it published a bitter complaint leveled by the regime: because of the "blockade," and restrictions on travel, Cuba fails to take in $1.5 billion a year in tourism revenue; between April 2016 and June 2017, it supposedly lost 1.702 billion.
The question that begs for an answer, then, and which should be posed to Raúl Castro, his military cronies, and Juventud Rebelde, is how many US tourists the island could be welcoming if he and his brother had not implemented Communism on it.
Fidel Castro planted in Cuba's national consciousness, with considerable success, the fallacy that the US "blockade" is responsible for all the country's hardships. By repeating this lie so often, many ended up believing it was actually true. This is a law of propaganda and psychology that the Nazis' Goebbels exploited very ably.
Castro I, failing to follow through on his allegedly socialist, democratic and pluralist agenda, or to hold elections, or to restore the Constitution, resorted tothe claim that "History will absolve me." He only honored the promise made to Celia Sánchez in the Sierra Maestra, in June of 1958: "When this war is over, a much longer and bigger war will begin for me: the war that I am going to wage against them [the Americans]. I realize that this will be my true destiny. "
By quashing the private sector and imposing a Marxist-Leninist system, the commander crushed the only force that creates wealth in this world. And Cuba, one of the nations with the highest standards of living in Latin America before 1959, lost the capacity to support itself.
The Cuban economy, absolutely parasitic, became a kind of mendicant, kept afloat only by money given to it. It survived thanks to subsidies, oil and cash; and, now, with remittances from "enemy" territory.
Moreover, the commercial and financial embargo was provoked by Castroism: it was a response, in 1960, to the expropriation of American property. Food and medicine were first excluded, and in February 1962 the administration of John F. Kennedy made it comprehensive.
Castro I needed an "enemy" at all costs
Upon confiscating US property, Castro I cared little that in 1959 73% of Cuban exports had been received by the US, and that 70% of Cuba's imports came from its nearby neighbor, only 140 km away. The dictator had his project all ready to convert to Cuba into a satellite of the USSR, to be able to remain in power ad infinitum.
Whether or not American intelligence knew this, or whether it was a mistake for Kennedy to impose the total commercial embargo or not, is another story. The truth is that the first blow was dealt by Fidel Castro, and Washington responded. Of course, this is not what they teach in Cuban schools.
More than a few Cubans thought - and continue to believe - that the embargo was a mistake, for it gave Castro the pretext to blame the US for his Communist, totalitarian disaster. But, upon closer scrutiny, it is easy to see that under Castro I's hare-brained "revolutionary" project, there never was any room for a normal relationship with the United States. In fact, attacking it was the central Castro-Guevarist objective.
The strategy of the Cuban dictator - and his entire political philosophy - required constant confrontation. Mussolini, whom he admired, had already demonstrated this tactic. When there is no real enemy for the "cause," one must be invented.
It is inevitable to wonder what would have happened in Cuba if the embargo had not been imposed in 1962. I think that, in any case, Castro I would have provoked it, or perhaps something worse, because he needed a powerful and relentless "enemy," and for another three reasons:
- Normal relations with the US would have prevented, or made it extremely difficult for him, to export the revolution, to "Cubanize" Latin America (what his brother Raúl is trying to do in Venezuela).
- Even if Cuba had been able to trade with the US and receive loans, Castroism's appalling lack of productivity would have generated very few goods to export to the United States and pay for the massive imports of everything (including food) that the country needed, because it produced so little, and items of such poor quality. That is, the model established by Castro I needed to be subsidized, and only the USSR was willing to do this. And they did so not to promote "proletarian internationalism," or any other nonsense alleged by propaganda, but rather because Moscow wanted to have a platform in the Caribbean to expand its influence and interests in Latin America, and to spy on Washington, right under its nose.
- When the Moscow-Havana political-ideological alliance became entrenched, the Cold War was expanded to Latin America. The Cuban regime had to square off against Washington, politically and diplomatically. Because it had to pay Moscow for its subsidies, and because that was the dictator’s central aim.
It was not that Cuba fell into the hands of Moscow because of Washington's ineptitude. Rather, Castro really had to subordinate himself to the USSR in order to savor the "honey of power", as he called it, applied to others.
If the embargo had not been imposed, the centralized Stalinist-Guevarist economic system, implemented in 1961 before the embargo was imposed, would not have had the accommodation capacity to receive millions of Americans. The revenue obtained through socialized tourism would not have been able to sustain the Cuban economy, which received Soviet subsidies of up to 5 billion dollars annually.
Other questions: Would the US have paid 45 cents for a pound of sugar imported from Cuba when the price on the world market was just 4? Would it have given the regime the 115 billion USD that Moscow lavished on Cuba between 1961 and 1991? Would it have given the country billions of dollars in armaments of all kinds, including airplanes, tanks, ships, rockets, vehicles, etc.? And, in the 80s would the US have given the Castros an additional three million tons of oil per year, which it was able to re-export, making more money off it than from its sugar exports?
All this having been said, what kind of "blockade" are we really talking about today? Cuba now depends more than ever on the money that comes to it from the USA, after the drop in Venezuelan subsidies. Between remittances, packages, and travel, in 2016 more than 7 billion dollars flowed from the US to the island, a figure that surpassed Venezuelan subsidies, tripled tourism revenues, and nearly doubled the value of Cuban exports.
Today the US is one of Cuba's main trading partners, and one of its largest food suppliers. Since 2000, the island has imported $4.636 billion worth of rice, frozen chicken, pork, dehydrated milk, corn, flour, soybeans, apples, wheat, preserves, etc. from its neighbor.
And there is one last uncomfortable question that Juventud Rebelde and the dictatorship should be made to answer: what would happen to Castroism and Cuba if the US really decreed a total embargo - as the international community did with the South African regime - and did not sell it anything, or permit remittances, packages, or travel to the island?
If due to Trump's policy, or new sanctions in response to the attacks on US diplomats,the flow of tourists from the "empire" to the island has dipped, the question is the same: would the same thing happen if there were no Castroism in Cuba?