The day I was writing The Little Country That Could, thousands of people were in the streets of San Antonio de los Baños (near Havana), Alquízar, Guanajay and Güira de Melena (Artemisa), Güines (Mayabeque), Palma Soriano (Santiago de Cuba), Luyanó and Centro Habana (Havana), possibly also in Pinar del Río, Villa Clara, Camaguey, Holguín, Granma and Guantánamo. WTF is going on there?

Disinformation and propaganda

What happens is definitely not what the stupid American Fake News machine is saying. Here’s CNN:

Yeah, sure. Find me a country where the people demand more COVID-19 vaccines in the streets!

Another typical manipulation is to use images from past, unrelated events:

El bloqueo

As much as Cuba has always blamed the US embargo as the only reason of the economic difficulties experienced by them, this embargo is very real and totally disabling for Cuba. It consists of a network of several acts that are totally ridiculous in contents, and contrary to the international laws. Especially the Helms-Burton Act has been condemned by the Council of Europe, the European Union, Britain, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and other U.S. allies that enjoy normal trade relations with Cuba. The European Union even complained to the World Trade Organization, but the issue remained unsolved. The EU introduced the Council Regulation No 2271/96 declaring the extraterritorial provisions of the Helms–Burton Act to be unenforceable within the EU, and applying sanctions against US companies and their executives for making Title III complaints. The United Kingdom had extended its Protection of Trading Interests Act 1980 to counter-act the Helms–Burton Act, and to include criminal sanctions for complying with the extraterritorial provisions of the Helms–Burton Act whilst in the UK. The United Nations General Assembly has condemned the embargo as a violation of international law every year since 1992 (except for 2020), Israel being the only country that always sides with the US.

The US arrogance is unparalleled in that it’s the only country to claim extraterritoriality for some of its laws. Nominally, the extraterritorial provisions of the Helms-Burton Act and of the other acts that form the pseudo-legal framework against Cuba prohibit foreign-based subsidiaries of US companies from trading with Cuba, but in practice the embargo also applies to foreign companies trading with Cuba, to the extent that no foreign company that has a subsidiary or a branch office in the US can have trading relations with Cuba!

The same arrogance can be seen in the American embargoes against countries such as Iran. As a matter of fact, there’s a prominent case regarding an alleged breach of the Iran embargo by Huawei, which led to the arrest in Canada in 2018 of Huawei’s deputy chair of the board and chief financial officer (CFO), Meng Wanzhou. Key facts:

  • Huawei is a privately owned Chinese company, not a US one.
  • The alleged “business with Iran” couldn’t have been made by Huawei’s US branch, as it makes no sense. Everything is made in China anyway, Huawei is headquartered in China, and Canicula Holdings, allegedly used as an intermediary with Iran, was a Syrian company. Skycom Tech, the other company that tried to sell Huawei equipment to Iran, is headquartered in Hong Kong.
  • Meng Wanzhou was never a US citizen, and she never had the residence in the US. She only had a permanent residence in Canada and then in Hong Kong.
  • HSBC, despite having US branches, is a multinational British company with dual listings at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the Hang Seng Index and the FTSE 100 Index. No matter what “lies” has Huawei told HSBC told to disguise the dealings with Iran and make them invisible to the US, this is none of US’s business, even if HSBC’s US branches have to report to the US financial authorities.
  • And yet, under the orders of Uncle Sam, Canada has arrested Meng Wanzhou, and the extradition would eventually go through. You see, Uncle Sam now is accusing her of theft of trade secrets! Really? You’re a Chinese company selling Chinese equipment to Iran, your bank has among others a US branch, and all of the sudden you’re a spy for the ayatollah?!

Of course, almost everyone agrees that trading with Iran is bad, unlike trading with Cuba, but this shows you to which extent the US is keen to impose its laws to the entire universe. Now you can see why no company that has a branch in the US or that makes business with the US dares to do any trade with Cuba!

Even if Cuba, while still having a single-party system, would have all the economic freedoms companies have in China (PRC, not ROC), prosperity would simply be impossible, for lack of relevant trading relations! After the fall of the USSR, Cuba enjoyed some benefits from its deals with Venezuela, but you can figure out that Cuba is now on its own, and the US is simply murderously criminal.

The current dire situation in Cuba

From the truly independent Havana Times:

👉 June 21, 2021: High Inflation Exacerbates Crisis in Cuba (using data from: Elevada inflación agrava crisis en Cuba)

Cubans without dollars can buy products “at even higher prices in pesos from resellers,” Cuban economist Omar Everleny said.

Many products just aren’t being sold in peso stores in spite of there now being billions of pesos in circulation.

The result of dollarizing the economy has been shortages and devaluation. Prices have shot up and inflation will probably reach a minimum of 500% and up to 900%, this year.

“The Government used to sell LED light tubes for 30 pesos,” Ana Rebeca Labrada said, an employee in a state-led bakery. “They now cost somewhere between 400 and 500 pesos on the illicit market, and there’s not a single one in the government’s stores, not even in hard currency.”

👉 July 11, 2021: Concrete Ways to Alleviate Shortages in Cuba

The shortages of basic foods, personal hygiene products and medicines is not something at all new on the island. It has been going on, off-and-on, for six decades.

However, extreme shortages have also occurred, etched in many Cubans’ memories. The ones in the 1990s and the current 2019-2021 shortages stand out as the most extreme for those people born after Fidel took over in 1959.

What’s most incredible to me is that instead of taking bold action the government makes people routinely line up, risking Covid infection, to get something to eat for their families.

To give you an idea of how bad the situation is, when people see a line with dozens or hundreds, they join in to get their place without even knowing what might be for sale if they actually make it into the store.

A major contradiction in discourse/reality is that on the TV news the president and other leaders keep telling people they need to be more productive to produce more food and consumer products. How in the hell does one do that if they must wait 3 to 6 hours in line during the day?

From a Spanish site that’s against the current Cuban regime:

👉 La realidad tras la propaganda de la medicina en Cuba–The reality behind the propaganda of medicine in Cuba, automated translation:

Cuba lives a paradox. It is the country that leads the race for vaccines against COVID-19 in Latin America, but health professionals denounce the negligence of the government and the precarious conditions of the health system amid the worst coronavirus outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, reports Infobae.

“The situation is only getting worse as the days go by,” neurosurgeon Alexander Pupo, one of the most prominent critics of the island’s health system, tells Infobae. “In Cuba, the COVID is really ravaging along with other epidemics, like scabies, and famine, which is criminal,” he says.

“It is total chaos. Here everything has collapsed, the health system of the entire country is in full collapse, “adds Dr. Manuel Guerra, an obstetrician at the Buenaventura Polyclinic in Holguín, also well known for his frequent complaints on social networks.

“They boast of saying that Cuba is a ‘medical power’, that this is not real at all,” says Guerra.

According to Pupo, the crisis began long before the pandemic, although the COVID “made everything worse.”

“People are desperate,” he says. “There are not even pain relievers to relieve headaches.”

The government attributes the shortages to the US embargo in force since 1962, exacerbated by the 243 measures implemented by the Donald Trump administration.

However, the experts consulted assure that the health problems are due to the fact that the Migual Díaz-Canel government decided to prioritize investments in the repressive state apparatus.

“What it allocates to the repressive force is more than it allocates to domestically produced medicines that don’t need anything imported, there are fundamental drugs that were produced in the local pharmaceutical industry and nothing is destined for this,” says Guerra.

Cuba classifies 619 drugs as basic, of which 359 are produced at BioCubaFarma, the state biotechnology company.

“There are ten patrols for each ambulance, so it is a bit difficult to explain that about the medications,” sums up Pupo.

For its part, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) referred to the pandemic as the main cause of the problem of lack of medicines in Cuba.

“Most of the raw materials, spare parts and other components necessary for the production of medicines come from the Asian region, heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has generated delays in the arrival of these goods, both due to the problems of reduced production in these countries, as well as the interruption of air and maritime transport,” the organization told the EFE agency.

The price of questioning official propaganda

Contradicting the official narrative about the benefits of the Cuban health system cost the two young professionals consulted by Infobae dearly.

Dr. Pupo, 31, says that after his complaints he lost “his life”: he lost his job as a surgeon at the Dr. Ernesto Guevara de la Serna Hospital in Las Tunas, he was prohibited from leaving the country and now suffers persecution from the State Security Organs (OSE), the Intelligence of the Miguel Díaz-Canel government.

Guerra, 27, is also persecuted: in November 2020 he was arrested in the middle of the night and, although he did not lose his job, he is constantly watched by the OSEs.

👉 Norberto Fuentes, formerly a close friend of Fidel Castro, currently living in the US: «No aprendieron nada de Fidel»–They learned nothing from Fidel:

If the Revolutionary Armed Forces produce a coup, I think it would be the best thing that could happen to the country. That government must be changed anyway. But not for handing the power to an uneducated and foul-mouthed counterrevolution. It is something that has to come from within. Let’s say, from the remaining internal forces of the Revolution.

I don’t see anything good happening to Cuba in the near future.