The Biden administration has imposed new sanctions on Cuba, adding another layer to the criminal embargo — what Cubans call el bloqueo (the blockade) — that since 1960 has punished the island’s population for daring to overthrow the imperialist-backed capitalist dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. This latest assault on Cuba is couched in cynical “pro-democracy” terms, as a response to the Castroist government’s crackdown against street protests across the country.
Today’s round of sanctions target Alvaro Lopez Miera, a Cuban military and political leader, and the Interior Ministry’s Special Brigade, among others. It is an extension of sanctions put in place by the Trump administration in January. All this was done under the U.S. Global Magnitsky Act of 2012, which authorizes the U.S. government to sanction anyone in a foreign country it designates as guilty of “human rights” abuses or corruption.
But don’t be fooled. Neither Thursday’s actions, nor the legislation itself, is aimed at protecting the Cuban people or anyone or anything else — except for the interests of U.S. imperialism. That explains the reception among leaders of the gusanos in south Florida — the right-wing Cuban exile community. As Sasha Tirador, a top Miami political operative who was briefed on the plans Wednesday night along with other Cuban-American Democratic Party activists, put it, “This is huge. No administration has ever announced that they will hold each individual who violates human rights on the island of Cuba accountable.”
Tirador and other gusanos are champing at the bit for imperialist action that increases pressure on the Cuban leadership. They support the very embargo that is responsible for the shortages of food and medicines, intermittent blackouts, and other deprivations imposed on the Cuban people for more than a half-century — the very people the pro-imperialist worms of Miami claim to be defending and protecting.
The Biden administration’s announcement also includes measures to increase internet access to the island — how is unclear — and a call to other imperialist countries and global institutions to increase their own pressure on the Cuban government.
The Castroist leadership has not helped the situation, of course. The Cuban Communist Party bureaucracy that runs the country has responded to the embargo and every crisis with a failure to encourage the Cuban masses to defend the revolution and its gains through self-organization and workers’ democracy. It has implemented austerity from the top down in the face of shortages, rather than unleashing self-organized workers to address challenges. It has introduced capitalism into sectors of the economy, encouraged foreign capitalist investment that has eroded the planned economy, and maintained its own privileges.
While the recent demonstrations include right-wing elements with strong links to the United States, many of the protesters are demoralized Cubans who want socialism and democracy, not a privileged and entrenched bureaucracy that keeps forcing greater sacrifices on the masses. The brutal crackdown by the Cuban state does nothing to defend the revolution.
Several of the protesters have taken to Twitter and Instagram with posts explaining their “Socialism yes, repression no!” chants at the demonstrations. Some have expressly stated that they have no interest in help from the gusanos in the United States — whom they recognize as interested only in restoring the private property of the former ruling class, not in restoring any of the workers’ and democratic rights that the Cuban people need to take back from the bureaucracy on their own terms.
Still, there can be no backtracking: the fundamental blame for Cuba’s troubles lies with imperialism, and nothing the Castroist bureaucracy has done negates that we must unequivocally support and defend the gains of the Cuban Revolution, such as its nationalized property, its public healthcare and education systems, and its land reforms.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is exploring even further sanctions. More announcements are likely in the coming days and weeks.