Lifting the US blockade is a victory for the Cuban Revolution

miami 5

Fernando González: one of the ‘Cuban Five’ in front of a poster of imprisoned Cuban intelligence agents

by Bill Bonnar In 2009 I had the great privilege of being part of an SSP delegation to Havana to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. While there two things were striking. The negative impact of a half century of economic sanctions and the outrage at the jailing of the Miami Five; the Five Heroes as they were described in Cuba.

The announcement that the easing of economic and political sanctions and the release of the Miami Five has been greeted with joy and celebration and a great degree of national pride. Make no mistake this represents a victory for the revolution and the Cuban people and a humiliating defeat for Washington.

The blockade, both economic and political, was about isolating the Cuban revolution from the rest of Latin America. Yet in recent years, with the rise a number of left wing governments in the region, it has been the United States which has found itself isolated.

At the same time the economic sanctions were about bringing about the collapse of the Cuban economy and represented a kind of collective punishment against its people.

While the economy did suffer severe problems in the nineties following the collapse of the Soviet Union it has survived through restructuring and is growing again.

Obama’s recent announcement of a policy shift and the move towards ‘normalising’ relations is a recognition of the bankruptcy of this strategy and the belief that they can better influence developments in Cuba by taking a different approach.

The Miami Five were Cuban intelligence agents sent to Florida to infiltrate and report on the activities of anti-revolutionary exiled groups operating in the area.

These groups have a long history of political and economic terrorism directed against the Cuban people. This has included acts such as the blowing up of a Cuban airliner, poisoning water supplies, kidnap and murder.

When the government routinely complained to Washington about these activities on American soil the claims were dismissed as lacking evidence. Hence the decision to send agents to gather evidence which could be presented to both the US Government and the United Nations.

However, the agents were detained by the FBI before they could complete their mission and in a trial condemned as a ‘kangaroo court’ sentenced to life imprisonment with the harshest conditions possible.

Sixteen years and a massive international campaign later, they have been returned to Cuba as the heroes they undoubtedly are.

Cuba is a society very much in transition. While remaining true to the idea of a planned economy based on social ownership they are steadily moving away from the concept that social ownership means universal state ownership.

This is being replaced by the idea that while the state should continue to play the central role in the economy there is room for the development of co-operatives and small businesses and for foreign investment through the model of joint stock companies.

These are enterprises part owned by the state and part- owned by foreign companies. This is already transforming the Cuban economy from one based on complete state ownership to a kind of socialist orientated mixed economy.

One criticism often levelled at the Cuban political system, including from those who should know better, is that Cuba is ruled by an oppressive dictatorship.

This is a million miles from truth although Cuba certainly does have an authoritarian system of government. This has been largely shaped by the experience of the past 56 years and the threat from the United States.

The threat has included the declared aim of the overthrow of the revolution, the return of the wealth and property to the assortment of gangsters and wealthy elite who used to run the country, support for terrorist groups, economic sabotage and outright invasion.

This ever-present threat has made normal government impossible with the need for continuous vigilance. A case in point is the treatment of so called dissidents.

Many dissidents may be well meaning and with legitimate grievances against the government yet all organised opposition is directly or indirectly controlled by a foreign, enemy state which makes these dissidents traitors in the eyes of most Cubans.

Cuba cannot have a normalised political system until the threat from the United States is lifted; something which may lead to a greater democratic transformation.

The continued survival and development of the Cuban Revolution against overwhelming odds is one of the great stories of the last 50 years. Allied to progressive and socialist developments elsewhere in Latin America it continues to be one of the great stories of our time.

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