Facing the embargo: 5 ways the U.S. tried to crush Cuba and Fidel

There are many ways in which the United States imposed economic pressure on Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro. A scholarly, pointed exposition of these often-crude methods is found in “The Economic War Against Cuba” by Salim Lamrani (Monthly Review Press). Here are five paraphrased points from the book, which highlight the scale of American hostility and explain the rationale for some of the decisions taken by Fidel.

1 – On June 29, 1960, the oil companies Texaco, Shell and Esso stopped deliveries to Cuba, thereby forcing the island to obtain supplies from the USSR in exchange for sugar. Responding to a new directive from Washington, the U.S. multinationals also began refusing to refine Soviet oil, thereby triggering the nationalisation of the refineries on the island.

This was followed by the Eisenhower administration removing the import quota of 70,000 tonnes of sugar from Cuba, thus eliminating export prospects for Havana, and prompting the Cuban government to nationalise all US properties.

On February 7, 1962, a full trade embargo went into effect under the Kennedy administration, and in violation of international humanitarian law, included drugs and food. Subsequent expansion of the embargo banned trade in any goods that contained Cuban materials including those manufactured in other countries. Ships with commercial relations with the island were banned from docking at U.S. ports.

2. The Torricelli Act passed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union aimed to choke Cuban prospects further. It forbade subsidiaries of the U.S. companies from trading with Havana, which was in any case primarily in the area of food and medicines. It determined the economic and political model for Cuba, including a multiparty system, a reversion to market economy and privatisation of many sectors. Funding for an Opposition was also included.

3. In Bill Clinton’s presidency, an incident occurred involving a plane that was shot down after it attempted to scatter leaflets on Cuba calling for an insurrection. The plan was carried out by a man who was trained by the CIA and took part in the covert war of 1960s against the island. This resulted in the passing of the Helms-Burton Act, on March 12, 1996. It codified into law all the existing trade restrictions, giving only Congress the power to modify economic sanctions.

4. Because of economic sanctions, Cuban hospitals were unable to use transpupillary thermotherapy to treat children suffering from cancer of the retina – the surgical microscopes and other equipment were made by a U.S. company, Iris Medical Instruments.

5. The Helms-Burton Act decided even the school curriculum of the future, requiring foreign instructors to teach Cuban history. It forbade a candidacy for Fidel and Raul Castro, in any future election.

The future of a government in Cuba was defined in the law as one where the U.S.President “will judge whether it meets the requirements established in Section 206”. [Which inter alia calls upon a new government to declare itself committed to a market economy]

Photo: Bryan Ledgard, Creative Commons.

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