LA 2010 - Beating the blockade seminar report

Campaign News | Wednesday, 8 December 2010

CSC Campaigns Officer Dan Smith reports from the Latin America 2010 Conference

In a lively discussion on the US blockade of Cuba, Steve Ludlam, lecturer at the University of Sheffield, denounced the embargo as the “relentless strangulation of Cuba”. As Ludlam contended, the blockade of Cuba constitutes just one facet of a dirty war against the island which includes US-sponsored terrorist groups attacking the Cuban government and the persecution and imprisonment of those defending Cuba’s right to self-determination, such as the Miami 5.

Bob Oram, Unison NEC, affirmed that the US blockade has been tightened and intensified since 1962 to “asphyxiate the economy and wear down the Cuban people”. The blockade and associated legislation has been expanded extraterritorially to adversely affect other countries trading with Cuba. As Oram postulated, US-initiated restrictions on banks, companies and shipping mean that it is practically impossible for most businesses to trade with Cuba, whilst those that do often face penalties from the US.

US pretext for the blockade asserts that Cuba fails to promote human rights but, as both the United Nations and Amnesty International have recently testified, the blockade disproportionately affects the most vulnerable people in Cuba. Luis Marron, Political Counsellor at the Cuban Embassy, described how a two year-old girl was denied medical treatment because the required medication was only available in the US. As Marron concluded, “the little girl wasn’t a communist and didn’t know who Castro was, she just happened to be born in Cuba”. Marron and Oram both rejected the US declaration that Cuba requires the blockade to justify internal economic conditions and referenced the Cuban Foreign Minister’s challenge to lift the embargo and normalise relations.

Both Ludlam and Luis Marron cited three obstacles to the removal of the blockade. Firstly, there is a lack of political will within the US to end the blockade as the political establishment seeks to demonstrate to Latin America and the developing world that “resistance is futile”. Secondly, the authority to remove the embargo is no longer held by the President and instead has to be passed by Congress. This further entrenches reactionary legislation and makes it harder to revoke. And finally, the influence of Cuban nationals in Miami prevents any repeal of the blockade. Florida is a key state in presidential elections and Barack Obama is the first President since 1959 to not have the electoral support of the ex-patriate Cuban lobby within Miami.

As a result, any policy change will not come from within the US political system. It requires solidarity across Latin America and real pressure from Europe. Ludlam heralded the work of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign working with the trade union movement within the UK to champion the Cuban cause whilst Luis Marron acclaimed the amazing support which Cuba has received - both politically and materially - and declared all solidarity as victory over a blockade which seeks to isolate Cuba. As Marron affirmed, “Cuba has survived 50 years without the US and will continue to exist and advance with or without the US”. Despite constant harassment and persecution, Cuba has met Millennium Goal targets in education and health - just think what would be possible without the blockade.

Report from Latin America 2010 Conference seminar - Cuba: Beating the blockade - advancing the Revolution


Steve Ludlam, Sheffield University

Luis Marron, Political Counsellor at Cuban Embassy

Bob Oram, Unison NEC

Chair: Rob Miller, CSC Director

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