In an article on CounterPunch, Ricardo Alarcon, the President of the National Assembly of Cuba, describes the origins of the nearly 50-year-old U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. In the spirit of "you can always learn something new," I learned that U.S. plans to cause unemployment, hunger, and "desperation" among the Cuban people began long before Cuba had re-established relationships with the Soviet Union and proclaimed the socialist character of the revolution. Indeed, they started talking about cutting the Cuban sugar quota at a time when many of the estates where sugar was grown and the factories in which it was processed were still U.S.-owned!
Alarcon notes that the attempt to "bring about hunger and desperation" among the Cuban people fits the definition of genocide under the Geneva Convention; the definition is not limited, as you might have thought, to only the widespread murder of a population. He also notes that the majority of Cubans alive today have spent their entire lives under the blockade. In a typical year, that blockade is estimated to deprive the Cuban people of $4 billion of income. Imagine what good could be accomplished with that money, both in Cuba and in other countries where Cuban doctors bring health care to those who might never before have seen a doctor. One thing for sure -- it wouldn't be to fill the pockets of Halliburton shareholders or American politicians and billionaires, nor to purchase more weapons with which to kill more people in countries like Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
An Economic War
The Truth About the "Embargo" on Cuba
By RICARDO ALARCÓN
"To bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government"
State Department, April 6, 1960
A few weeks from now, the UN General Assembly will pass, with practical unanimity, a new resolution, the number 15, condemning the blockade on Cuba, which Washington tries to describe as barely an "embargo". The United States Government will try to justify its policy once again without success. They have been doing this for almost half a century now, concealing the truth behind their fabrications and lies.
The truth is, however, contained in documents that were kept secret by Washington until 1991. More than an embargo or blockade, it is in fact an act of ¨economic warfare¨, as the then secretary of state, Christian Herter, said in 1959. An economic warfare that began with the triumph of the Revolution in January of 1959 and it is still in force today, a war which has always had the same genocidal purpose: to bring about hunger, misery and desperation among the people of Cuba.
Dictator Fulgencio Batista and his main accomplices plundered the Republic's Treasury and upon fleeing Cuba in January of that year they took with them more than 424 million dollars which came to rest in the United States and form the economic basis of a mafia often hailed by the US press as ¨successful businessmen¨ of Miami. For Cuba the situation was critical and Washington knew it. The Department of State described it as such, saying in February 1959 that:
"the serious threat to the stability of the Cuba peso which results from the fact that following the departure of the Batista administration it was determined that the currency reserve of the country is depleted", something which, "would tax the governing abilities of any of the best leaders".
The Central Bank of Cuba sent a team of experts to Washington to seek a modest loan that would alleviate such a crisis. The issue was analysed by the National Security Council on February 12, 1959. The decision was unequivocal: they would listen to the Cubans but offer them nothing at all. They didn't grant any kind of loan. They didn't even promise to look into the matter. Needless to say, not one cent of the money stolen from the Cuban people was ever returned.
The dispossession of Cuban bank reserves, which constitutes a blatant act of economic aggression, took place long before any revolutionary measure was adopted on the Island (the first being the Law of Agrarian reform, passed on May 17 of that year).
On March 26, 1959, the National Security Council also discussed the Cuba situation. At this meeting CIA's director, Allen Dulles, said that: "it was quite possible that the US Congress would do something which would affect the sale of Cuban sugar in the US". Depriving Cuba of its main source of income, sugar exports to the US market, would become a recurrent theme of Washington's secret meetings before, long before, relationships with the Soviet Union were re-established and before socialism was proclaimed to be Revolution's goal. They did that when sugar was still being grown on large landed estates and processed in factories -many of which were US owned- that had not been expropriated and were still in the hands of the Island's oligarchy and foreign companies.
US Government officials were aware of the consequences of such action. A report from the Department of State acknowledged that: "If Cuba were deprived of its quota privilege, the sugar industry would promptly suffer an abrupt decline, causing widespread further unemployment. The large numbers of people those forced out of work would begin to go hungry".
But they weren't just talking about sugar: "if we were to cut the Cubans off from their fuel supply, the effect would be devastating on them within a month or six weeks".
Nobody in Washington claimed to have been deceived. They knew that the actions taken against the Revolution would cause pain and suffering to all the Cuban people. They did it with premeditation and full knowledge of the effect, converting the act of genocide into a malicious political instrument. An analysis from this same Department, dated April 6, 1960 and approved with the signature of Assistant Secretary, Roy Rubottom, offers us explicit proof of this policy.
In this analysis it is flatly affirmed that:
"The majority of Cubans support CastroThe only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardshipit follows that every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba it should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government".
Note that they acknowledged they should act in a manner "as adroit and inconspicuous as possible", something that fits with a criminal behaviour, and not just any crime, but rather one that has been particularly condemned by humankind: the crime of genocide clearly defined by the Geneva Convention of 1948 as any attempt to cause total or partial damage to any human group. What is this if it isn't precisely that: an attempt at ¨bringing about hunger and desperation¨ among all Cubans?
It is probably the most prolonged act of genocide in history. It began before the majority of Cubans alive today were born, meaning that they have spent their entire lives under the blockade.
Soon it will be condemned again by humankind as a whole. Once again the US administration will reveal its arrogance and ignore the demand being made worldwide. When will it end?
NB: All quotes are from the official documents compiled in the book published by the Department of State: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960 Volume VI Cuba, United States Goverment Printing Office, Washington, 1991.
Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada is Cuba's Vice President and President of its National Assembly.