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Russia-Ukraine War

Castro's support for the invasion of Ukraine will aggravate shortages in Cuba

The international sanctions against Russia will not only affect Cuba in terms of tourism, but also as regards loans and collaboration in industry and transportation.

Los Ángeles
Raúl Castro and Vladimir Putin.
Raúl Castro and Vladimir Putin. AP

Cubans are greatly ashamed that their country has been dragged as a State, by the Castroist dictatorial mafia, into line with the new imperial czar of "all the Russias", Vladimir I (with the same imperial aspirations of Ivan IV, or Peter the Great) in his invasion of Ukraine. It is as if in September 1939 the government of Federico Laredo Bru (controlled by Batista) had shown solidarity with Hitler when he invaded Poland and unleashed the most devastating war in history.

Flying in the face of all reason, given its location in the heart of the West, and its culture, Raul Castro has placed Cuba on the wrong side. In doing so, the dictatorship has betrayed Cubans, Latin America and the West, and has isolated Cuba in a move that evokes the betrayal perpetrated by Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Finland when, together with Fascist Italy, they sided with Nazi Germany.

This time Castro II did not have any ideological pretext like the one his brother Fidel pulled out of his sleeve when in 1968 he supported the Soviets’ invasion of Czechoslovakia to quash the economic and political liberalization backed by President Alexander Dubcek. Castro I argued then that the Soviet occupation was necessary to prevent Czechoslovakia from returning to corrupt and decadent capitalism.

Now, having no excuse, the Raulist leadership simply parroted Putin's excuse that this move is an "operation provoked by the Ukrainian authorities themselves" aimed at the "demilitarization and denazification of Ukrainian territory." He also officially blamed the "US?s determination to continue NATO's progressive expansion towards the borders of the Russian Federation."

The Nazi here is Putin. His pretext of invading Ukraine to reclaim the Donbas region, where there is a Russian population, is akin to the one Hitler wielded in 1938 to occupy the Sudetenland, the Czechoslovakian region on the border with Germany inhabited by ethnic Germans, before he proceeded to annex 30,000 square kilometers of Czechoslovakia.

Castro's naked hypocrisy regarding "national sovereignty"

NATO did not invade East Germany in 1977, or Czechoslovakia when Leonid Brezhnev deployed  SS-20 nuclear missiles with a range of 5,500 kilometers there. Nor was there an invasion when Western Europe was surrounded by the USSR, with its 14,000 fighter planes, 69,000 tanks, 2,000 warships and 6.1 million soldiers, since 1955, under the umbrella of the Warsaw Pact, invented by Moscow as a counterpart to NATO, an alliance imposed on its seven Communist satellites: Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania.

Castro’s justification of the criminal attack on the Ukrainian people lays bare the hypocrisy of his political rhetoric, which since 1959 has touted Cuba's "national sovereignty" as the cornerstone of its propaganda to inspire patriotism on the island and to portray itself as a little David confronting the American Goliath.

What defense of national sovereignty can Castro II or his subordinate Miguel Díaz-Canel claim now? In Ukraine, in 1991, 93% of the population voted in favor of the creation of a sovereign state, and finally freed themselves from the Russian yoke. We are talking here about a country that, covering 603,628 square kilometers, is the largest in Europe after Russia; and, with 44 million inhabitants, is the eighth most populated.

A pawn of Russian imperialism —but without the 30 silver coins

For Cuba this alliance with the Russian invader will mean a worsening of the socio-economic crisis due to the international sanctions that have been imposed on Moscow. Russia has already been barred from using the air space of the European Union and Canada, so it has had to suspend flights to Cuba and all Latin America. As a result, tourism from Russia, today the largest source of vacationers to the island, has plummeted: in 2021, 146,151 Russian tourists traveled to Cuba, and 68,944 from Canada, which used to be the largest source of visitors to the island.

In other words, this time Castroism is not even going to receive the 30 silver coins that Judas did in the Bible for betraying Christ. For 31 years (1960-1991) Moscow used Cuba as a Soviet beachhead for subversive political-ideological proselytization in the Americas, and snubbed Washington up close. In exchange, however, it maintained the dictatorship economically and militarily with subsidies, oil and free armament worth no less than 150 billion dollars today.  

Now, however, Czar Vladimir I will not be giving Cuba anything in return, because he neither can nor wants to. To make matters even worse, the international sanctions against Russia will hit it very hard. J.P. Morgan analysts are already saying that the Russian economy will shrink by 20% in the second quarter compared to the first. The ruble has been devalued by 30% against the dollar and the Euro. stock markets have plummeted, so have oil exports, and investors are fleeing Russia.

This will affect Cuba not only in terms of tourism, but also as regards loans and collaboration for industry and transportation. Russia is not giving it any free weapons either; to modernize Castro's obsolete armament, post-Soviet Russia has only given Cuba a 50-million-dollar loan to buy (nothing for free) Russian arms, but a single Mig-35 plane costs more than 40 million.

A major sanction against Russia has been the banishing of major Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system, which is used by more than 11,000 banks and financial institutions in 200 countries or territories to send secure payment orders, and is key to the movement of funds for Russia's oil and gas sector.

Even before these sanctions Moscow was in no position to give Cuba, or anyone else, aid. Russia is an atomic giant whose real might is a mere mirage, as it is, in reality, not part of the First World. It is still an exporter of raw materials, just as it was 200 years ago. California's economy doubles that of Russia: in 2021 Russia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $1.4 trillion and California's was $3 trillion. Russia's GDP is lower than Brazil's ($1.5 trillion) and similar to Mexico's. The Russian economy is classified by the UN as "emerging" at the same level as Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

The "thaw" with the U.S. is over

By aligning itself with the genocidal Putin, Castroism loses out. The possibility of a new detente with the U.S., which it had been trying to achieve of late with proposals for the sending of remittances and mellifluous messages transmitted to Washington, has evaporated, which truly a squandered opportunity, as pressure from Havana was already enticing Biden's most left-leaning advisors, who were insisting on a new rapprochement with the dictatorship so that it wouldn’t be "so bad."

Support for the Castro dictatorship by the less fanatical international left, and by some populist leftist governments, will also wane. Except for the tyrannies of Venezuela and Nicaragua, Latin American governments have condemned the invasion of Ukraine, including the leftist governments of Argentina, Mexico, and Chile's president-elect Gabriel Boric.

The blow to the Russian economy will exacerbate shortages and the poor living conditions of Cubans. Even if the war ends and Russian and Belarusian troops withdraw from Ukraine after negotiations, many of the sanctions on Moscow will remain in place. In short, Russia's relations with the civilized world will not be normal for quite a while.  International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan has already announced that he will be opening an investigation into the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Siding with the attackers of the Ukrainian people, the Castroist mafia is aggravating the shortages and the living conditions endured by Cubans, which were already abysmal. Now, worst of all, as I said at the beginning, its political decision is among the most mortifying that Cubans have had to tolerate in a long time.

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