Adam Zivo: The source of Cuba’s ills is a planned socialist economy, not the US embargo

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Voices from the left in particular have been gentle towards Cuba, ignoring recent oppression, obediently condemning it or downplaying the crimes of the dictatorship.

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Cuba’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters was a nasty reminder of the dictatorship’s moral bankruptcy. As condemnation of the regime grows, the silence of the political left in the United States and Canada, for whom Cuba’s failures are a source of concern, has grown deafening.

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The protests were catalyzed by food and drug shortages linked to COVID – a major problem for a country which, during the pandemic, lost the tourism dollars that normally stabilize its economy. Basically, however, the protests were an expression of long-standing frustration with the Cuban dictatorship – a regime which, while rhetorically committed to social justice, has in practice stifled criticism of government failures. . by the incarceration and violence of thugs.

In the streets of Havana and countless other cities, Cubans have not been asking primarily for food and medicine, or even an end to the embargo. It was the dream to get rid of authoritarianism who animated them the most. Basic necessities, while sorely needed, mean little without structural change.

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In response, hordes of police descended on pro-democracy protests – although political expression is nominally protected in the Cuban constitution. The internet was shut down as protesters were beaten, shot and “gone. “The Cuban diaspora reacted with indignation and pain, directed not only against the suffering of their loved ones, but also against the broader global silence that has allowed, and sometimes legitimized, this brutality.

It is the voices of the left in particular that were gentle with Cuba, either by ignoring recent oppression, obediently condemning it or, worse, downplaying the crimes of the dictatorship by deflecting attention from the long-standing US embargo on the Cuban economy (although protesters consider the embargo to be a peripheral problem).

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While the embargo contributes to the unrest in Cuba, its effects are often exaggerated. Estimates of its annual cost vary widely, ranging from approximately $ 700 million at $5 billion per year. Assuming an average number suggests the costs equal about three percent of the island’s GDP – damaging, yes, but not enough to explain Cuba’s economic malaise.

Poverty is best explained by the centrally planned Soviet-style economic system, which Cuban leaders have adopted. spent years promising to reform. When the capitalist market reforms were implemented in China and Vietnam, they lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty (while leaving the two countries only superficially socialist). Cuba did not follow suit, preferring poverty to transformative change that could threaten the regime.

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Embargo hijackings also fail to explain or justify Cuba’s repressive political culture, where opposition parties are banned and artists and intellectuals are jailed for daring to criticize the regime.

Yet the embargo has been a useful scapegoat for Cuban autocrats, allowing them to obscure their failures by blaming a foreign power.

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Tragically, many international leftists have repeated this line – including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Black lives matter, who both used their massive social media presence to downplay Cuba’s authoritarian crimes by blaming the United States.

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In Canada, the Trudeau government initially failed to condemn the crackdown. At first, Global Affairs Canada offered only a statement that ignored state violence and called on “all parties” to engage in peaceful dialogue. Cuban-Canadian communities were outraged, accusing Trudeau of being an accomplice in the crackdown on the dictatorship. A few days later, Trudeau backtracked and condemns state violence against the Cuban people, expressing support for Cuban demands for democracy.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has strongly criticized Cuba’s brutal dictatorship, while the NDP continues to blame the embargo.

The Cuban diaspora continues to be a vital conduit to the outside world, raising awareness of the violence suffered by family members at home while advocating for an end to one-party rule. Opposition to the dictatorship was largely multi-party.

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Yet many non-Cuban leftists tend to delegitimize these voices by implying that the Cuban diaspora only speaks on behalf of a wealthy elite and therefore does not authentically represent the Cuban people. A common accusation is that Cuban emigrants are only the descendants of the corrupt minority who fled after Castro’s revolution.

Rodrigo Barriuso, a Toronto-based Cuban filmmaker and rights activist (whose first film, Un Traductor, was Cuba’s official entry to the Oscars in 2020), disputes this and calls it “80s thinking.” While there may have been some truth to this criticism generations ago, many international Cubans, including himself, were born and raised on the island under socialism.

They experienced the dictatorship firsthand and, like many others, fled when they could. Their exile is rooted in their loathing for autocracy and repression, not wealth and privilege. They maintain close ties with their country of origin, travel frequently and send funds to feed their families (which represents two to three percent of the Cuban economy).

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Diaspora advocacy also comes at a cost, as emigrants who attack the Cuban government abroad risk retaliation when they visit their families on the island.

This state-backed coercive censorship is encouraged by non-Cuban socialists who view the diaspora as ideologically troublesome – socialist twitterati frequently refer to Cubans in exile “gusanos” (“worms”). Progressives rightly rejoice in the importance of centering the voices of besieged communities, but where is that principle now?

Barriuso, who is a staunch leftist, comments: “I think it has to do with the fear of a crumbling or completely lost paradigm; the fear of seeing their Caribbean Communist Disneyland unjustifiably stranding its inhabitants. He points out that many Cubans believe that the Communist Party should continue to exist, but as one of many options – because the Cuban people should be able to choose their own destiny.

Support for human rights should not be a partisan issue. Neither should the right of a people to self-determination. Cubans, above all, should be listened to in conversations that concern the future of their people. Unfortunately, the Cuban people are thrown under the bus to defend socialism – an ideology which, however noble its ideals may be in theory, causes unimaginable misery in practice.

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