What is the US blockade on Cuba?

The economic blockade on Cuba is a measure planned by the imperialist administrations of Eisenhower (1953-1961) and Kennedy (1961-1963) to defeat the 1959 Cuban revolution.

By Ricardo Ayala and Roberto Herrera

In the final phase of the anti-dictatorial struggle against Fulgencio Batista, the 26th of July Movement (M-26) gained the sympathy of a sector of the US establishment, which decreed an arms embargo against the Batista regime on 14 March 1958.

The imperialist measures and counter-measures regarding the Cuban revolution led to the blockade as of 19 October 1960, which is considered the starting point of the embargo against the current Cuban regime.

Eisenhower proclaimed the embargo in response to the Cuban government’s expropriation of 376 companies. On 3 January 1961, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, which would not be re-established until 20 July 2015, under the Obama administration.

After the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion on 7 February 1962, former President Kennedy imposed a comprehensive blockade aiming at breaking all trade links with the island. In 1959, Cuba imported 70% of its products from the United States and shipped 73% of its exports to that country. Kennedy intended to economically suffocate the nascent Cuban revolution.

After the fall of the USSR, the trade embargo evolved into a broader policy combining several different laws, such as the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, also known as the Torricelli Act; the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (known as the Helms-Burton Act) and the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.

During the five years of the Obama administration’s “thaw”, the blockade was relaxed and diplomatic relations and embassies of both countries were re-established, commercial flights resumed, US travel to Cuba multiplied and the trade embargo was loosened. This allowed companies such as Airbnb, Google, Verizon and Marriott to do business on the island.

The Trump administration put an end to Obama’s “thaw” and adopted 243 measures to reinforce the blockade, but four of them are the central ones: the application of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, the restriction of remittances, the restriction of “non-personal” travel, such as for academic cooperation, and the prohibition of US citizens from doing business with nearly 200 Cuban companies, most of them linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces (RAF) economic group.

The Biden administration has basically maintained Trump’s policies towards the island.

Is it all the blockade’s fault? For a revolutionary policy in Cuba

The economic blockade on Cuba has been and is an imperialist crime that must be defeated. Whether it is against Cuba or any other weaker nation, the only ones who suffer from the lack of medicines and basic goods, as a result of the blockade, are those at the bottom. However, this struggle should not mean political support for subjugated governments and regimes, be it Cuban, Iranian, or other [1].

However, the debate on the US blockade against Cuba has taken on a truly unusual character. At the end of June, the UN General Assembly passed a motion to end the blockade on Cuba, 184 to 2. Only the United States and Israel voted to maintain it. Only the governments most staunchly loyal to US imperialism, such as Brazil, Colombia and Ukraine, abstained [2].

Concerning the debate on the economic blockade on Cuba, the conclusion drawn by the mouthpiece of British imperialism, the magazine The Economist (18/06) is: “Joe Biden should draw the obvious conclusion… So far he has left Trump’s policies on Cuba intact so as not to anger the most bellicose Cuban-Americans. Instead, he should return to Obama’s strategy“.

The first conclusion we should draw here has to do with the deadly farce that the “United Nations system” represents and all the honeyed speeches about “humanitarian law” and “international law” that come out of the UN are a make-up of the real workings of the imperialist system and its policy of plunder and “crude” and “harsh” interests.

We are facing the fact that 184 states of the world oppose the blockade, the European Union as a whole opposes the blockade, even the majority of the Americans are against the blockade. By 2016, 62% of Americans considered that easing the blockade was beneficial for themselves[3], and even among Cuban-Americans, the blockade does not have majority support. By 2019, 80% of Cuban-Americans believed that the blockade had failed and 49% opposed the blockade, a figure that dropped from 63% two years earlier [4].

And yet despite this overwhelming data, US imperialism applies its own unilateral policy, which is to maintain the blockade. Both parties of the US establishment, Democrat and Republican, maintain the blockade exclusively for electoral calculations, so as not to lose the support of the powerful Cuban-American business lobby that can often define the elections in Florida and in the country (for example, George Bush’s election in 2000 was decided in Florida).

Why is this happening and what does it mean?

But what do these facts really mean, why is the infamous blockade still in place and what are its real consequences for the Cuban people?

There has been a rare unanimity, ranging from the mouthpiece of British imperialism, The Economist, to the European Union establishment, to Latin American businessmen that oppose the blockade to expand their investments. They are joined by the CP of Cuba, the São Paulo Forum and other Stalinist organisations, which continue to consider Cuba as “the last stronghold of socialism”, blaming all the island’s ills on the blockade. In this bloc are those who repressed or support the repression, or imprisonment, or jail sentences of activists, as well as those who hypocritically declare their legitimacy for their own imperialist ends. But both sides justify their positions on the grounds of the infamous blockade.

There are, on the other hand, several organisations which, while supporting the mobilisations of the Cuban people and condemning their regime, the repression and demanding the release of prisoners, also consider that these have occurred fundamentally because of the effects of the blockade. In other words, the blockade is the meeting point of directly opposing political positions. So, is this an unusual fact that explains “everything”? There is something that does not fit at all.

The truth is that those who defend “the end of the blockade” considering that this will save the “conquests of the revolution” live in a past that no longer exists.

The European and Latin American capitalist states and companies are more realistic than those who speak of Cuba and the CPC as a “stronghold of socialism” or a “workers’ state”. The overwhelming opposition of European and Latin American capitalist states to the blockade is not because they have become “socialist”, but because since 1990-1994 Cuba has been open for business.

On the other hand, capitalists all over the world are not interested in the kind of political regime of a country but in political stability to make their businesses prosper and multiply their profits.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Raúl Castro, centre, at a celebration of the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution-Yamil Lage/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Our stance is that the Cuban state is a capitalist state, its main function is to promote, protect, organise and deepen capitalism and imperialist plunder in Cuba. Therefore, the only way for the Cuban masses to defend their life and freedom is to fight against the Díaz-Canel dictatorship, which is the political vehicle of colonisation.

Actual capitalism in Cuba

Let us look at some examples of capitalist groups that have seen their profits flourish in association with the Cuban capitalist state: the Ibex 35 Spanish Melía group’s revenues in Cuba reached 3.664 billion dollars in 20 years. Miguel Facusse, who was until his death one of the richest and most hated businessmen in Honduras, owner of the Dinant Corporation and of a 17,000 hectares plantation of African palm, responsible for the agrarian counter-reform in Bajo Aguán, which has left nearly 150 peasants dead, became rich when he invested in African palm during the special period (1990-1994) in Cuba. [5]

And so we could go on with examples of big capitalist companies that have taken advantage of “business opportunities” in Cuba, for example, Sherritt (Canadian nickel producer), Imperial Tobacco (English tobacco), Nestlé (Swiss dairy products). Currently, 280 foreign companies from 40 countries are operating on the island. [6]

Furthermore, the Mariel Special Development Zone, a free trade zone, “has achieved the establishment of more than 50 users among which are the companies Brascuba, Unilever Suchel, Devox Caribe, Womy Equipment, Richmeat, Nescor, Mariel Solar Energy, Grupo BM Internvest, Profood, Vidrios Mariel, Suchel TBV, Grupo TOT Color, and the ViMariel Concessionaire (Vietnamese capital) which is developing an industrial park.” [7] Despite the existence of the free trade zone to house foreign investments with tax exemptions (a simulacrum of the Chinese Special Export Zones set up in the early 1980s), we can point out that neither Cuba nor any other Caribbean or Central American country is part of the export production chains of imperialist capitalism, pre-existing in Southeast Asia before the Chinese Communist Party opened its “export zones”.

It is very important to understand that the different cycles of Cuban economic reforms (those of 1994-1995, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and the recent ones of 2019-2021) have done nothing more than amplifying the surrender of Cuban resources, labour and intelligence to foreign capital, increasing the semi-colonisation of the island, which suffers from the same social ills as Latin American countries: dependence on foreign currency, debt and the surrender of natural resources to imperialist monopolies.

Thus, for example, in an announcement on 9 December 2020, spurred on by the pandemic crisis and the measures of the Trump administration, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca pointed out that: “In tourism, biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry and in wholesale trade, joint venture projects can have an equal or even minority participation for the Cuban side.” Furthermore: “In the financial sector we are promoting the participation of investment funds and also allowing totally foreign capital companies to set up in science and technology parks such as the one that already exists in the capital”. [8] In August 2021, the Cuban government has even authorised the existence of private companies with up to 100 employees. [9]

All these data show that for more than 30 years the social relations that the Cuban state has been promoting, organising and defending are capitalist relations of production and exchange. These capitalist relations go hand in hand with subjugation to European and Canadian imperialism, therefore, with an increase in the process of the country’s colonisation, and deepening and intensifying all the evils of capitalist societies: hunger, unemployment, forced migration, racism [10], homophobia [11], authoritarianism [12], cultural censorship [13], sacrificial and fundamentalist religiosity [14] and so on.

So, when those like Atilio Borón or CLACSO cynically point out that “If Washington maintains the blockade it is because it knows very well that without it the Cuban economy would flourish like no other country in the region” [15] or that the blockade is the “main obstacle to development and the improvement of the living conditions of the [Cuban] people,” [16] what they are doing is raising false expectations in actual capitalism in Cuba, not in socialism.

Blockade, revolution and restoration

The currents that speak of Cuba as a “workers’ state” (e.g. the Trotskyist Fraction) do not dare to explain: What are the nationalised means of production in Cuba? Is there a central economic plan in Cuba? If the enterprises can import and export directly from the world market where is the monopoly of foreign trade? And, above all, how does a workers’ state exist if for 30 years it has done nothing but promote, organise, develop and protect by force of arms the capitalist relations of production on the island?

Without answering these questions, it is impossible to correctly assess the blockade in Cuban history, which is key to the current political debate in Latin America.

The first thing is to understand the trade embargo and why they occur. Trade embargo is one of the ways by which the ruling classes have fought among themselves and against the peoples. They are more modern than medieval sieges and, in the modern capitalist era, are designed to ruin a country’s trade and wealth to break it.

The French and Haitian revolutions were besieged and trade blockades were imposed on them, as was the Russian revolution, but more modest changes such as the transformations promoted by Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico or Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala were also harshly opposed by British and US imperialism.

Trade blockades are cruel because they have the philosophy of starving and decimating a people aiming at defeating them politically and/or militarily, and even in their “progressive” moments, such as during the Napoleonic wars (e.g. the continental blockade of Britain in 1806), the bourgeois military used trade blockades. Today, for example, the are different forms of blockades and sanctions: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Syria. In the past, Nicaragua also suffered one.

The bourgeois trade embargo contrasts sharply with the proletarian internationalist tradition that always conceives of international struggle as effective and militant international solidarity with the peoples and their causes; it contrasts the bourgeois and imperialist blockades with the international solidarity of the Paris Communards or Soviet Russia in the early years of the Russian revolution.

But the fact is that it is illusory to believe that for any humanitarian or democratic reason imperialism and the bourgeoisie will not make use of trade blockades just in case democratic and national independence measures are taken, not to mention the attempt of social revolution. The only nations that have never been sanctioned are those that voluntarily remain colonies.

So the discussion is not whether the blockade exists or not or whether it is unjust or not, it is obvious that it is unjust. The debate is: What measures must be taken to respond to it to avoid the asphyxiation and economic disaster that it intends to produce?

And here is the big difference that most of the world’s left has not noticed: the response to the blockade of 1959-1961 cannot be equated with the response to the blockade that the Cuban leadership has been giving since 1968-1972, up to the present day.

This is important because the Cuban revolution is a direct child of the embargo policy.

It is well known that the Cuban leadership in its origins had a programme and an orientation away from socialist ideas. As “Che” Guevara said: “The movement was the direct heir of the Orthodox Party and its central slogan: ‘Shame on money’. In other words, administrative honesty as the main idea of the new Cuban government.” [17] It was during the march and counter-march process between imperialism and the Cuban leadership that it became more radical, since national independence – or “administrative honesty” as Che put it – was impossible without expropriating the imperialist enterprises. Finally, Cuba is transformed from a capitalist state into a bureaucratically deformed workers’ state. [18]

Just to recall this march and counter-march process [19]: in February-March 1959 electricity bills and house rents were reduced, on 17 May the Agrarian Reform Act was decreed and all properties larger than 402 hectares (with compensation based on land values as assessed for tax purposes) were confiscated. [20]

This law provoked the first reactions from the U.S. government; the Cuban leadership initially wanted to compensate the landowners and according to its official version the nationalisations were legal. [21] Although the Canadians and the British accepted the compensation, the Americans rejected it and increased the siege.

By 13 October 1960, the revolutionary regime had nationalised 376 Cuban enterprises and by 24 October 1960, it had nationalised 166 properties wholly or partially owned by U.S. citizens. The blockade as we know it today began on 19 October 1960.

Up to this point, the force of events and circumstances pushed the Cuban leadership towards transformations in the social relations of production, but this was not enough. Social transformations cannot be purely national, they also imply the international triumph of other revolutionary struggles and the deepening of the revolution in the sense of a greater democracy of the direct producers, of a greater workers’ democracy.

The Cuban leadership from the very beginning actively fought against any form of workers’ democracy. Robert Alexander points out: “The process of restructuring the labor movement culminated in the XI Congress of the Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba, which met from 26 to 28 November 1961. In the process of choosing the 9,650 delegates to that meeting, the trade union democracy that two years earlier had led to spirited contests in virtually all of the country’s trade unions was ended. There were virtually no contested elections this time. In most cases, there was only one list of candidates […] the Eleventh Congress ‘unanimously’ elected Lázaro Peña, veteran Stalinist, who had been secretary-general during the first Batista period, to that position again.” [22]

The internationalism of the early Cuban revolution had been widely supported by the Latin American left and part of the world left. Between 1961 and 1967, through the building of the OLAS and the Tricontinental, much of the world left, including Nahuel Moreno and Joe Hansen, seriously believed that the Cuban leadership was preparing a continental guerrilla war, similar to the one carried out in Indochina, but this hypothesis was not confirmed by history. In fact, the real intentions of Castroism were different. The OLAS and the Tricontinental were far from being an International as conceived by Marx, Lenin and Trotsky; it was more top-down coordination of political-military apparatuses and national liberation movements, and even that limited character vanished when the Cuban leadership became vertically integrated with Russian Stalinism between 1968 and 1972.

During these years, the Cuban Communist Party was formed, copying the model of the CPSU, and Castro began a diplomatic normalisation with different bourgeois governments such as the Mexican, French and Spanish, as well as unconditional support for the CPSU and the pro-Soviet communist parties, beginning with Cuban support for the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and continuing with the anti-China campaign in 1969.

From 1972 onward, the Cuban leadership’s response to the blockade was to abandon even formal internationalism and serve basically as a rearguard and sanctuary for the Castro-Guevarist political-military organisations, to radicalise the CPC’s monolithic control of the mass organisations and to integrate vertically into the Comecon. This condemned Cuba to be a country that was going to maintain the dependent structure associated with the monoculture of sugar cane. The possibility hypothetically raised by Guevara in 1964 of Cuban industrialisation vanished as a result of the CPC’s own policy.

That is to say, the central element of Cuban isolation that facilitates the aggression of the blockade is above all a product of Castroism’s own policy. The isolation became even more radical when the entire orientation of the Cuban leadership was to convince the Sandinistas not to move towards the construction of a workers’ state in 1979-1981 but to maintain the “mixed economy, political pluralism and non-alignment.” [23]

The meaning of capitalist restoration

Eventually, the end of the USSR and Comecon membership pushed the Cuban leadership to confront the blockade through the restoration of capitalism. In short, just the opposite of the first years of the revolution.

These are the same steps taken by the Chinese bureaucracy in 1978 and by Gorbachev’s Perestroika in the former USSR. That is the meaning of the 1994 dissolution of the Planning Board and the 1995 Investment Law: these measures are the heart of how the Cuban leadership would henceforth confront the policy of blockade by deepening capitalist relations.

Those like Atilio Borón who claim that without the blockade Cuba would be “a paradise” and “a power” is simply a cynical lie or a naïve illusion. With the blockade or without it Cuba would be a capitalist country as well, with class struggle and exploitation, subjected to the colonisation of the multinationals. Without doubt, many of the most acute sufferings of the Cuban people would be partially alleviated and that is why we want the blockade to end, but that does not mean that the profound causes for which the events of June 11 took place would vanish or that the class struggle would somehow stop in Cuba or that the democratic struggle against the dictatorship would not maintain its fullness and topicality.

The blockade as a regulator of capitalist hegemony in Cuba

Now we will look at a less known, finer aspect, but absolutely key to understanding why the blockade is maintained and why the Trump administration decided to reverse Obama’s measures although almost nobody in the bourgeoisie or imperialism wanted to return to a “hard” blockade.

A fundamental difference between the IWL-FI and the rest of the left is the answer to the question: Who restored capitalism in Russia, China or Cuba and when was it restored? For most of the left capitalism was restored by the masses when they overthrew the Stalinist one-party regimes. This analysis is total nonsense and has made most of the left the enemy of the democratic struggles in the former USSR, in Cuba, in China.

For us, the restoration is the product of the bureaucracy’s own policy of destruction of the workers’ states, of the achievements of the revolution that led to the transformation of the old workers’ states into capitalist dictatorships. This is what happened in the USSR with Perestroika in 1985, in China during the “four modernisations” in 1978 and in Cuba in 1994 during the “special period.” [24]

This gives a whole new meaning to the blockade because behind the inflated speeches about “communism” or “freedom” on both sides, there is a very realistic, very calculated and very rude fight between four bourgeois sectors to see who commands Cuban capitalism and how: the Cuban-American bourgeoisie close to the Republican Party, the imperialist Democrat bourgeoisie, the emergent Cuban bourgeoisie of the RAF (the GAESA group) and European imperialism.

On the other side are the Cuban people and youth, living on the island as well as in exile in Miami, Spain, Italy or Costa Rica, who are the only social force that is really interested in the blockade ending once and for all.

The issue is as follows: the original plan of the Cuban leadership was to compensate the expropriated Americans, this is not new, the Cuban state reached agreements to compensate companies in Switzerland and France (1967); Great Britain, Italy and Mexico (1978); Canada (1980) and Spain (1986). [25]

For a long time the Cuban “hard exiles” believed that they would return to the island through an invasion or a coup d’état, but nothing of the sort happened and time went by. In the end, the Cuban exile ended up fully integrated into the U.S. imperialist bourgeoisie with a strong representation in the Republican Party and a smaller but important representation in the Democratic Party. Jorge Mas Canosa, the leader of the Cuban American National Foundation, until he died in 1997, is perhaps the model of this exile fully integrated into U.S. imperialist politics; Marcos Rubio, Ted Cruz and Bob Meléndez would be other examples.

When the Soviet Union fell, both Democrats and Republicans had the impression that the island would not resist and would implode, which is why the blockade became a bipartisan state policy through the Torricelli Act (1992) and the Helms-Burton Act (1996). Here ideology plays a dirty trick on the establishment, for its diagnosis is that “socialism failed” when what had really happened was that the masses of Eastern Europe had overthrown the one-party dictatorships [socialism had failed before]. Mobilised masses cannot be replaced by embargoes, coups or light aircraft. The dictatorial regime endured the 1990s by restoring capitalism with the help of European and Canadian imperialism which had already received its reparations, normalised diplomatic relations and were ready to do business, in that sense the Cuban military and European/Canadian businessmen turned out to be more pragmatic businessmen than the “hard exile”.

So the issue of the blockade is not just a U.S. economic measure towards Cuba, it is an aspect of U.S. domestic politics, increasingly complicated because Florida – because of its 20 million votes and massive Cuban and Puerto Rican immigration – is a key state in all U.S. elections since 2000 when, that year, a rigged count allowed George Bush’s electoral fraud. The Republicans have only won an election when they have also won Florida and the demographic and generational changes make the political landscape in Florida more and more changing, so the political dominance of the Cuban-American Republicans is at stake.

First because of a massive Puerto Rican migration after Hurricane Maria, then because the young Cuban generation has neither memories of the Cuban revolution nor of the “American dream”. Like all young Americans is part of the American social movements for life and the environment, labour rights, etc.

For example, the 2019 high-school mobilisations against gun violence in Miami and Florida were led by young Cuban-Americans who confronted Trump, the NRA and the Republican Party’s gun lobby.

It was against this backdrop that Obama decided to make a move in 2014-2015 and began a bold policy of “thawing” to put U.S. companies in a better position to compete for the Cuban market. [26]

Agricultural businesses that had already been softening since 2001 gained momentum, with investments by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill, AJC and Koch Foods [27]. Also between 2014-2019, IDT (telecommunications sector) and T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon (mobile telephony) made inroads, as did American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue. Also companies such as Airbnb, Google, Verizon and Marriott.

In addition, Obama lifted the limits on remittances. In 2016, according to the State Department, remittances to Cuba reached US$ 3 billion and, according to Havana Consulting Group (a consulting firm specialising in the island’s economy), the receipt of remittances increased notably between 2009 and 2017, rising from around US$ 1.6 billion to US$ 3.5 billion a year. Obama developed a kind of tolerated commercial and academic tourism (12 different types of travel) that included more than 600 thousand Americans travelling to Cuba in 2018 [28].

Support for ending the blockade reached an all-time high among Cuban-Americans in 2018; 63% were in favour of lifting the blockade.

Obama’s policy, celebrated by the Democratic party, the Times of London, the European Union, Latin American governments and the Stalinist left, was seriously posing an end to Republican rule in Florida and the development of Cuban capitalism negotiated in a tripartite way between the US, Europe and the Cuban military.

When Trump won, he tried to change the political landscape and to secure an electoral base among the Latinos. It is known that the Nicaraguan, Venezuelan and Cuban migrants voted overwhelmingly for Trump hoping that he would “do something against dictatorships” but Trump was not at all interested in the fate of “shithole countries” as he calls the third world countries, all he wanted was increasing his electoral base and striking a blow against Democratic politics.

That is why Trump’s policy was four-folded: the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which no one had ever used since 1996, the establishment of only one type of flight, the personal one, and making it more difficult to send remittances, one of the most unpopular measures because it only harmed ordinary Cubans.

Why did Trump bet on activating Title III of the Helms-Burton Act? Precisely because the Cuban-American bourgeoisie was losing hegemony of the capitalist process in Cuba. They first thought that they were going to return the properties they owned before 1959 but that did not happen. Meanwhile, the Democrats, the Europeans and the Cuban military kept doing business and gaining political influence and Trump tried to reverse it using Title III.

This title allows lawsuits to be brought in U.S. courts against companies doing business with or benefiting from businesses or facilities “expropriated” by the Cuban government. This clause had never been applied and the European bourgeoisie, seeing the extra-territorial implications it had, made a statute to protect their companies and also reached an agreement with Clinton in 1997-1998 assuring that this clause would not be used.

Trump then decided to break the inter-bourgeois balance, because it is a measure that would bring the support of a sector of Cuban-Americans, but it would harm European companies and defund the Cuban military. For Trump and his “America First!” ideology, it would mean a blow to the Democrats and European “globalists”, as well as a reaffirmation of his reactionary social base and a weapon of ideological blackmail against the new generation of young Cuban-Americans. [29]

It is a crudely realistic measure because it is based on generating illusion for almost 200,000 Cubans and their families who hold claims on property or damages in Cuba since 1959 [30]. That is an illusion to deceive the impoverished middle-class migrants because the possibilities of claims would only be for rich Cubans in Miami. The claims must qualify and, after that, they go down from 200,000 to 6,000. The items to qualify are, among others: “Owners of property valued at more than US$ 50,000 at the time of confiscation (more than US$ 427,000 today, adjusted for inflation) (…) there cannot be ordinary Cubans living in the properties (“because it would affect the most humble families”) (…) the property is not currently an embassy or diplomatic residence (…), pay a fee of almost US$ 6,700 (which is almost 17 times the value of an ordinary lawsuit [to discourage] the filing of “frivolous cases”)”.

So far the measure has been mostly business for Miami law firms: “So far [preparing the lawsuits] has meant more than four million hours of work that the law firms have charged to their clients, 85% of them to the defendants“. Clearly, it is to delude the poor middle-class Cubans who might vote for Trump, but only the rich, very rich Cuban-Americans will be able to afford the costs of accessing this mega-state subsidy, which is what this measure is, a mega-subsidy from the U.S. state and European companies to the rich, very rich in Miami.

There are until now 37 Title III lawsuits against 51 companies from fifteen countries (including the U.S., Cuban and European companies, mostly Spanish). Some of the companies being sued are Amazon, Visa, BBVA, Mastercard, Barceló, Pernod, Meliá, Expedia, Iberostar, Accor, Royal Caribbean, NH Hotels, Trivago and MSC. [31]

Although a barrage of lawsuits was expected, the truth is that there have been few (37), but they have had a corrosive effect on European capitalist investment in Cuba, as European and Canadian companies have to think about what will happen if they are sued or if they have to raise money for it, or if it is worth taking the risk of investing in Cuba if they are charged in the U.S.

So far the only settlement that has been reached is with the Swiss company Holcim: “The multinational Lafarge Holcim agreed to settle the case by paying compensation, the amount of which was not disclosed, to the Clafin family, who had sued it in a South Florida court in October 2020 for doing business using property expropriated from them on the island.” [32] The Clafin family have 12 out of the 37 claims qualified under Title III.

Recently in Spain, the courts of Palma, where the Sol Meliá group has legal personality, dismissed a lawsuit similar to that of the Clafin family, but in this case from the family of exiles Sánchez Hill, according to the newspaper El País: “The Mallorcan hotel company suspected that this lawsuit was the preliminary step to a claim in the United States under the Helms-Burton Act, which allows individuals and companies in the country to claim compensation for assets that were confiscated during Castro’s regime.” [33]

Spanish business groups, through the voice of their representative Xulio Fontecha, president of the Association of Spanish Entrepreneurs in Cuba, said that: “The Association is prepared to resist the tightening of the embargo, based on its experience and roots on the island.” [34] But this resistance by Spanish business groups is not “anti-imperialism” but an expression of an inter-bourgeois clash. They are not prepared to subsidise the rich exiles in Miami via lawsuits. In any case, they know that article 6 of the EU Blocking Statute entitles them to: “…recover ‘any damages, including legal costs, caused by the application of the laws specified in its Annex or by actions based thereon or resulting therefrom’. The scope of damages that can be claimed is thus very broad, in line with the protective aim of the Blocking Statute.” [35]

In other words, the fight against the blockade has ended up in a macabre deal that has nothing to do with anti-imperialism but with the fight between imperialist “sharks” and “pirates” who seek to subsidise themselves at the expense of the public treasury of the United States and Europe. Trump, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act and Article 6 of the EU Blocking Statute will allow the rich of Miami to sue the rich of Spain and American laws to subsidise them, while European companies will continue to do business in Cuba and if they have losses they will demand that their states subsidise them.

That means the workers on both sides of the continent will subsidise one group of pirates or the other. In the midst of this shameful spectacle that only serves to regulate who has the hegemony of business and capitalism in Cuba, Cuban families suffer to send medicines, remittances or clothes.

That is why, in the face of the triad of Trump, the European capitalists and the Cuban military, who take advantage of the suffering of Cuban families in their own way, we are betting on a different triad: 1) the Cuban people and the Cuban youth on the island, who took to the streets bravely on 11 June and who today bear the brunt of repression, but who have already tasted the freedom of protest and will no longer back down; 2) the young progressive migrants in Miami, Spain, Italy and Latin America who are part of their mass movements and who actively fight against the blockade and for just, democratic and authentically socialist causes in their countries and 3) the mass movement in the United States, of which the Cuban-American youth are part, who know that a people that oppresses another people cannot be free and that they must fight blockades and embargoes that their own imperialism makes against other peoples in the world.


[1] Ver: https://litci.org/es/66419-2/

[2] https://news.un.org/es/story/2021/06/1493662

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/international/obama-in-cuba/most-americans-support-ending-cuba-embargo-nyt-poll-finds?fbclid=IwAR3tLRLlsRUu_b3XZtVBa0UI-Qev8FU6o3C_iuR5JZu4k3D09pI3hPLhIc8

[4] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/support-u-s-embargo-cuba-increases-among-cuban-americans-miami-n957266?fbclid=IwAR1nubdGQoo76QWozQozzJZMEctcKfHMiYEezk6Us8F3DIKSWNSrol8OfqI

[5] Facusse made these investments, disregarding even the advice of Huber Matos, one of the commanders of the Cuban revolution and exiled in Costa Rica since 1960, who believed that the newly conceived Helms-Burton law would implode the Castro regime. Matos died in exile in Costa Rica and Facusse became one of the richest men in Central America. See https://ipsnoticias.net/1996/03/cuba-huber-matos-pide-a-honduras-frenar-inversiones/

[6] https://www.jornada.com.mx/notas/2021/03/10/mundo/cuba-se-abre-a-las-inversiones-extranjeras/

[7] http://scielo.sld.cu/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0252-85842021000200005

[8] https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/12/09/mundo/037n3mun

[9] https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-58132205

[10] http://ptcostarica.org/alto-a-la-represion-en-cuba-las-vidas-negras-importan/

[11] https://litci.org/es/represion-una-marcha-lgbt-cuba-dictadura-homofobia-regimen-castrista/

[12] https://cubalex.org/category/infografias/

[13] https://www.amnesty.org/es/latest/news/2018/08/cuba-new-administrations-decree-349-is-a-dystopian-prospect-for-cubas-artists/

[14] In 2009, a process of returning Catholic Church properties expropriated by the government in the 1960s “silently” began. The religious authorities only made public some of these returns in 2013 and 2014. In https://diariodecuba.com/cuba/1521844431_38235.html __cf_chl_jschl_tk__=pmd_26b1d0848b254f88cc47550b29dc046e194d9bfa-1627405259-0-gqNtZGzNAfijcnBszQmO

“Pastors and worshippers said the Caribbean nation is in the midst of an unprecedented boom in evangelical worship, with tens of thousands of Cubans attending services without problems, from Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Pentecostals to new apostolic groups. At the same time, the churches – including the Catholic Church – are increasingly involved in social action, ranging from training peasants to supporting citizens in the event of natural disasters and protecting the sick.”

[15] https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/cuba-victima-de-su-exito/

[16] https://www.clacso.org/pronunciamiento-frente-a-la-campana-de-manipulacion-contra-cuba/

[17] https://www.archivochile.com/America_latina/Doc_paises_al/Cuba/Escritos_del_Che/escritosdelche0024.PDF

[18] The definition of the bureaucratic workers’ state is the one used by Marxism to characterise societies such as the USSR, Eastern European countries and Cuba. The concept polemicises with the Stalinists who defined the USSR and Cuba as “socialist states” or “people’s democracies”. Bureaucratic workers’ state means a state whose central characteristic is that there is a monopoly of foreign trade, nationalisation of the main enterprises and central planning of the economy, but the state is run by a privileged bureaucracy that undermines the very social foundations of the state.

[19] The periodisation we use follows the one produced by Daniel Gaido and Constanza Valera, in the following article: https://www.scielo.cl/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0718-50492016000200012

[20]The Agrarian Reform Law established the payment of compensation in the form of Agrarian Reform Bonds, with an interest rate of 4.5% per annum, amortizable over 20 years. Article 5 of Law 851 established that payment for the expropriated property would be made in the form of bonds of the Republic, to be amortised over a period of not less than 30 years from the date of expropriation and with an interest rate of not less than 2%. For the payment of the bonds and their interest, the “Fund for the Payment of Expropriation of Property and Enterprises of Nationals of the United States of America” would be created. This Fund would be fed with 25% of the foreign currency obtained from US purchases of sugar from Cuba each year more than 3 million Spanish long tons and at a price of no less than 5.75 cents per pound.” En http://rpi.isri.cu/sites/default/files/2021-02/RPIDNo9_Diplomacia3_0.pdf

[21] “In an unprecedented case on Cuba, the US Supreme Court ruled on 23 March 1964 in New York that US courts must recognise the validity of nationalisations of US property by the Cuban Revolutionary Government.” En https://www.bc.gob.cu/noticia/las-nacionalizaciones-fueron-legales-y-estados-unidos-lo-sabe/381

[22]Alexander, Robert J. 2002, A History of Organized Labor in Cuba, Westport, CT: Praeger. Robert Alexander’s quote is taken from the article by Daniel Gaido and Constanza Valera cited above.

[23] https://archivoleontrotsky.org/dossies/9

[24] Although this analysis is an integral part of the IWL-FI’s elaboration, it is particularly illuminating to read the work by Martín Hernández, El Veredicto de la Historia.

[25] https://www.tsp.gob.cu/en/node/5660

[26] https://www.france24.com/es/20191217-se-cumplen-cinco-a%C3%B1os-del-acercamiento-de-obama-a-cuba-que-luego-congel%C3%B3-trump

[27] https://panamericanworld.com/revista/economia/que-empresas-de-estados-unidos-hacen-negocios-con-cuba/

[28] It is important to note that despite Stalinist delusions of Cuban success, the truth is that the Cuban economy is very much like the Central American and Caribbean economy, relying predominantly on family remittances and tourism, two unmistakable signs of dependency.

[29] In reality, Donald Trump’s use of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act is consistent with the way he has made his fortune and makes politics. Trump has made his fortune by litigating and counter-litigating all his prosecutions and has made political space for himself by suing and silencing his most inconvenient opponents or whistleblowers in court. See David Cay Johnston’s book, The Making of Donald Trump.

[30] https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-48128428

[31] https://www.lavanguardia.com/vida/20200503/48925571921/el-titulo-iii-de-la-ley-helms-burton-cumple-un-ano-en-vigor.html

[32] https://www.efe.com/efe/america/economia/primer-acuerdo-en-demandas-ee-uu-por-uso-de-bienes-confiscados-cuba/20000011-4550256

[33] https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:0OdckcDOHmYJ:https://elpais.com/economia/2021-05-04/archivada-la-demanda-contra-melia-por-los-hoteles-sobre-terrenos-expropiados-en-cuba.html+&cd=2&hl=es-419&ct=clnk&gl=cr

[34] https://www.france24.com/es/20190417-cuba-ue-estados-unidos-embargo

[35] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=OJ:C:2018:277I:FULL&from=EN