By Lisa Valanti
I just returned from a profoundly restorative week in Cuba. I have been going to Cuba since 1971, watching the Cuban experiment’s determination to create a better world. Today, Cuba has radically changed. Yet the inspiration, determination and resilience of its people to defend their hard-won independence and national sovereignty through all adversities has not.
Cuba has withstood over 60 years of never-ending efforts to restore Cuba to US subjugation. It is impossible to condense into 800 words the horrific human consequences and sacrifices experienced daily by over three million people still enduring the longest, harshest, tsunami of sanctions ever placed by one nation against another.
Still the Cuban people retain a living connection to their history, a sense of obligation to the future. They know if Cuba falters, aspiring peoples in the entire world will lose hope they, too, can resist foreign interventionism, a commitment perhaps similar to what many felt in the struggle against Fascism. Failure is not an option.
You and I, the progressive peoples in the US, are also beacons of hope for the world. Hope that our collective efforts will prevail to end these interventionist policies as part of our own domestic struggles.
As for Cuba, all Obama’s rapprochement policies have been eradicated. The US Embassy is open, but gutted like every other institution (even here) that Trump has been able to decimate. His determination to force any nation, especially Cuba, to ‘bend the knee’ to the global empire of US domination, has escalated, reaching unprecedented, almost unimaginable extremes.
Cuba under Trump is a different type of a ‘hot’ war zone. Tactics being employed are the tools of technology invisible because computers carry them out; manipulation of the dollar and international commerce cutting off ALL banking transactions from any country to Cuba – death by a thousand cuts.
It is hard to imagine or react when all financial and commercial transactions are being orchestrated in cyberspace. As an island, Cuba must import the majority of its consumer goods: basic food, industrial and building components, vehicles, toilet paper, soap, fuel, and other necessities. That is where the US blockade is focused, using the invisible hand of international banking to stop all commerce to Cuba.
The US does not allow any bank from any country to make payments to Cuba on behalf of any business, without US approval. Under Trump there is none. Thus even countries that want to do business with Cuba cannot because of the international control of capital by the US.
Trump has stopped cruise lines worldwide from going to Cuba. He cut off all air traffic to Cuba except planes going to Havana, making tourism and family reunification visits nearly impossible, while isolating the rest of the country from goods and services.
Regardless of personal politics, no one escapes the hardships – man, woman, child, even animals. Every person can innumerate how their life, their family is impacted. It is a nation united by universal hardship, resisting being starved into submission by a foreign imperial power.
The majority of people I spoke with anticipated Trump shutting off all air travel to Cuba, creating the loss of thousands of jobs both here and in Cuba, especially among Cuba’s young emerging private business class that mostly depended on services to the tourist industry. With other global partners also under siege, Cubans are anticipating suffering the extreme shortages like they endured when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Despite everything, Cuba has prioritized and achieved free universal health care. While US students drown in student debt, Cubans enjoy free universal education, with the highest literacy rate in North America. Cubans now live on average ten years longer than Americans. While the US government seeks to destroy the Affordable Health Care Act and privatize healthcare for profit, Cuba has now developed medicine that makes diabetic foot ulcers curable, and a new lung cancer vaccine; the Chinese think an antiviral medication developed by Cuba may prove to be the best for use on the new virus. And did I say all healthcare is free?!
What We Can Do:
1. Join the Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister Cities Partnership, an umbrella organization that promotes many diverse initiatives with Cuba.
2. Attend the Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan event on Friday, March 27th to hear John Waller from the Pastors, Lisa Valanti, and other recent travelers to Cuba speak on efforts here in Pittsburgh where we can help. (Time and Place to be announced – call Lisa 412-303-1247)
3. Call your congressional representatives to support legislation to change Cuba policy (Representative Doyle already does but could always use a thank-you). Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121
4. Ask us about upcoming travel to Cuba; we have lots of connections!
5. Attend an International Conference for the Normalization of US-CUBA Relations in NYC March 21-22 2020 (917) 887-8710
For further information email or call me: LisaCubaSi@aol.com 412-303- 1247.
Lisa Valanti is Vice President of the Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister Cities Partnership, the Pittsburgh CUBA Coalition.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 2. March, 2020. All rights reserved.