The first ten years of U.S. economic attacks on Cuba

Granma | Wednesday, 6 December 2017 | Click here for original article

The United States has a long history of economic warfare and began its efforts to destroy the Cuban economy immediately after the triumph of the Revolution

The rulers of the United States have a long history of experience in this arena. During WWI, in 1917, the first legal document on economic war was approved by Congress, the Trading with the Enemy Act, which outlined a renovated strategy of financial maneuvers: the creating of difficulties for adversaries in access to banking services and credit; the freezing of funds; prohibitions on sales and purchases, including those involving the acquisition of products produced with U.S. components or raw materials in third countries; as well as coercive measures against ships and crews involved in trade with the sanctioned country, among other tactics.

This economic war included sabotage and other terrorist actions, perpetuated undercover against industry and infrastructure, with 28 types of installations key to the economy cited as potential targets. The deaths of civilians added new levels of brutality to the strategy.

In contemporary world history, Cuba is the country which has been subjected to the longest and most brutal economic war of this kind. These measures, clearly of a genocidal nature, have been consistently imposed on Cuba since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959.

First came the refusal to return assets stolen by the first wave of Batista's corrupt henchmen who escaped to Florida; the suspension of Cuba's U.S. sugar quota as a reprisal following the prosecution of war criminals; and the denial of loans to stabilise the country's internal finances, needed as a result of the difficult economic situation inherited from the dictatorship.

Aggressive economic sanctions of a broader scope began following Cuba's revolutionary land reform in May of 1959, accompanied by other political actions, as important components of subversive U.S. plans, always directed toward overthrowing the Revolution - becoming a part of a hostile policy that remains in force today.

Many phrases to this effect have been excerpted from the declassified State Department document dated April 6, 1960, which included the statement, "Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba."

In the same memorandum, finally made public 30 years later in 1991, the words of then Secretary of State Lester Mallory ring loud and clear, "The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship... (needed is) a line of action which, 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."

It is not contradictory that as the U.S. considered the implementation of undercover operations against the revolutionary government, the most discussed aspect of their strategy was the economic measures that could accompany these efforts, giving rise to a program of economic pressure on the "Castro regime," approved in June of 1960.

These interventionist measures involved cutting off oil supplies to Cuba; the end of bilateral trade; withdrawal of large investment projects; the prohibition of U.S. tourist travel to Cuba; the denial of Cuba's sugar quota; and (in October) the outright prohibition on U.S. exports to Cuba, the decisive step toward the blockade, accompanied by increased efforts to isolate Cuba via the Organisation of American States (OAS).

This plan of economic pressure complemented the Eisenhower administration's scheme of political subversion which included the installation of a counter-revolutionary opposition in Cuba; establishing media based in U.S. territory to disseminate psychological propaganda; organising and training a mercenary army; and committing acts of terrorism within the country.

Between April and September of 1960, the CIA smuggled into the country, by land and sea, 75 tons of explosives and weapons, used to commit 110 acts of terrorism and sabotage, destroying economic and social facilities, to sow uncertainty and chaos within Cuba.

This information was declassified years later, along with that of the CIA's paramilitary plans prior to the mercenary invasion at Playa Girón on the Bay of Pigs. Just days after the Cuban victory, April 27, 1961, the recently created State Department Operations Center proposed to President John F. Kennedy to: "Develop the fullest and most accurate intelligence possible on the attitude of the Cuban people towards Castro. Such intelligence is essential before deciding upon possible courses of decisive action." This new Plan against Cuba expressed that if the results indicated that the majority of the people supported the Revolution, "slower methods such as quarantine and efforts to change the views of the maximum number of Cubans would be indicated."

The quarantine refers to the establishment of the blockade, which became effective ten months later. The other "efforts" are a euphemistic reference to the increased campaign of economic sabotage secretly approved by the administration as part of Operation Mongoose at the end of 1961.

According to these documents, Operation Mongoose included 32 tasks, 13 of which involved economic warfare. The texts explain clearly the intention to make maritime transportation to Cuba more expensive and difficult; cause the loss of food harvests; prevent sales of nickel and other strategic products; and sabotage important economic targets across the entire country.

According to Cuban documents, during a 14 month period, some 5,780 terrorist attacks were recorded. Of these, 716 involved major sabotage of economically important facilities.

Task no.11 of Operation Mongoose led to the emergence of the economic and financial blockade, approved by President Kennedy in 1962, establishing a legal framework for economic warfare against Cuba, which continues to this day.

The U.S. Treasury Department began enforcing the blockade regulations in 1963, to "control Cuban assets," leading to the freezing of all Cuban accounts in the United States. Prohibited were financial and commercial transactions with Cuba not authorised under licenses, along with exports and imports to and from Cuba. No unauthorised transactions with Cuba were allowed, while the country's acquisition of hard currency was limited via a plan to artificially lower the price of sugar on the international market.

On May 14, 1964, all deliveries of medicine and food were stopped, directly affecting the population. An extensive sabotage plan against Cuban ships was implemented, and pressure mounted on U.S. allies who maintained commercial ties with Cuba, to prevent the arrival of imports to Cuban ports. At the same time, espionage was stepped up.

Thousands of doctors and professionals emigrated to the United States, as a result of a sustained campaign to encourage them to abandon the country, and consequently disrupt the economy. In 1961 and 1962 alone, more than 130,000 Cuban citizens traveled to the States, in their majority professionals: doctors, engineers, technicians, professors, teachers.

At that time, Operation Mongoose was at its highpoint, and with the help of internal counterrevolutionaries, an insurrection was planned for August 30, 1962, which was prevented by security forces, with the people's support. The economic war continued with even more impetus throughout the decade, inevitably affecting the standard of living and further stimulating emigration for purely economic reasons, and obliging our country to make great sacrifices to protect the principal social conquests made, and develop the economy in a difficult, complex context, under constant pressure from terrorism and subversion.

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