If You Grew Up With the U.S. Blockade as a Cuban, You Might Understand Recent Protests Differently

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Source: Globetrotter

During the early morning of July 17, Johana Tablada joined tens of thousands of Cubans as they gathered along the Malecón boulevard in Havana to stand with the Cuban Revolution. “We are human beings who live, work, suffer, and struggle for a better Cuba,” she told us. “We are not bots or troll farms or anything like that.” She referred to what has been called the Bay of Tweets, a social media campaign developed in Miami, Florida, that attempted to inflame Cuba’s social problems into a political crisis.

The social problems, Tablada told us, derive from the U.S. blockade of Cuba that began in the 1960s but has been deepened by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s 243 coercive measures. “The United States has criminalized Cuban public services,” she said, “including our public health system and our public education system.” These sanctions make it impossible for Cubans to visit their families in the United States. They make it impossible for remittances to be sent into Cuba, and they make it impossible for Cuba to access essential goods and services (including fuel). On top of everything else, Trump designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” a decision which U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy called “frivolous.” The U.S. government claims that the blockade and these coercive measures are to punish the government, but—says Tablada—they “criminalize the country.”

The Miami Mafia

Tablada keeps a close eye on the Cuban policy being shaped by Washington, D.C., and Miami, where right-wing Cuban exiles effectively drive the agenda. She does this in her role as the deputy director-general in the Cuban Foreign Ministry in charge of U.S. affairs. There is a cast of characters in this story that is little known outside the world of U.S. right-wing politics and the Cuban exile community. Of course, four well-known elected officials lead the attempt to overthrow the government in Cuba: Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, as well as Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Representative María Elvira Salazar of Florida. Beside them are other politicians such as Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez and a range of Cuban American businessmen and professionals such as Emilio Braun of the Vulcan Funds and the lawyer Marcell Felipe.

These men are at the core of a set of organizations that lobby U.S. politicians to harden the U.S. blockade on Cuba. Felipe runs the Inspire America Foundation, which Tablada describes as the “heir to the most anti-Cuban, reactionary, and pro-[former military dictator of Cuba Fulgencio] Batista traditions from South Florida.” This foundation works with the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance—a coalition of anti-communist groups that calls for a U.S. invasion of Cuba. At the center of these men is Mauricio Claver-Carone, a former head of the Cuba Democracy Advocates, who was Trump’s main adviser on Cuba and is now president of the Inter-American Development Bank based in Washington, D.C. Claver-Carone, Tablada tells us, “has been nothing short of the leading lobbyist of the groups acting politically against Cuba in the United States, in the U.S. Congress, representing those entities who benefit from this policy of hatred and aggression against my country.” “If you ever mentioned [Fidel] Castro, he’d go berserk,” recalled Claver-Carone’s friend about his attitude in the 1990s.

“The main goal of these people,” Tablada said, “is to overthrow the Cuban Revolution.” Their plan for Cuba, it seems, is to revert it to the days of Batista when U.S. corporations and gangsters ran riot on the island.

Lester Mallory’s Memorandum

In 1960, the U.S. State Department’s Lester Mallory wrote a memorandum on Cuba. Mallory said that most “Cubans support Castro” and there is “no effective political opposition.” Mallory said that there was only one way to go: “The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.” There has been no change in policy. The entire embargo is based on Mallory’s memorandum.

In 2019, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton gave a speech to the veterans of the Bay of Pigs. He said that the U.S. government would use every instrument to suffocate tourism to Cuba. The Trump-era coercive measures are intended to deprive Cuba of any means to conduct normal trade and commerce not only with the United States but also with other countries and firms. Sixt