A look back: In 1959, Fidel Castro drove Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista out of the presidential palace with a successful revolution. Castro installed a socialist economic system with visible success in the fight against hunger, in education, which was now open to the children of the poor population free of charge, and not least in the health sector. Unfortunately, his own leadership style also became increasingly autocratic. In 2006, Fidel Castro withdrew more and more for health reasons and handed over the country’s political leadership to his brother Raul Castro. Fidel died in 2016.
In 1960, the United States, which had to accept the expropriation of U.S. companies in Cuba through the introduction of the socialist economic system, imposed the first economic sanctions on Cuba. In 1961, her attempted invasion of the Bay of Pigs failed miserably. In the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, US President john F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev agreed that the Soviet Union would refrain from installing missiles in Cuba and, in turn, the US would abandon its missile launch pads in Turkey (with the US now deploying missiles in Turkey via NATO’s back door).
Economically, Cuba was repeatedly hit by severe crises, from 1960 mainly because of us sanctions, later additionally due to climatic disasters, then after 1990 by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had meanwhile become Cuba’s most important trading partner, and the financial crisis of 2008/09 did not pass without a trace to Cuba. With a number of reforms and never-failing popular confidence, however, Cuba has repeatedly managed to weather the crises and improve its own economic situation without introducing a neo-liberal US or EU-style economic system that brings the profits of successful economies, especially to the upper classes. (*)
In an interview with the German newspaper “Die Junge Welt” at the beginning of April 2020, in the middle of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the well-known Swiss doctor and former Ticino National Councillor Franco Cavalli commented on Cuba: “In Cuba, there are additional difficulties – for example, that people have to queue in front of the shops. It must be borne in mind that the general living conditions in Cuba have deteriorated in recent months because the US blockade has become much stricter. US President Donald Trump had already tried to starve Cuba before the outbreak of the pandemic.”
Franco Cavalli: “an incredible solidarity”
In the same interview, Franco Cavalli said of the current social system of Cuba: “In Italy, and later in France and Spain, it has become apparent that these insane austerity measures and the fact that they wanted to keep the state as small as possible have destroyed the public hospitals. In the capital of imperialism, in New York, people die on the streets because there is not enough space in the hospitals. According to the WHO, we will have to expect further pandemics in the future. We need a different social system for the future for various reasons. Despite all the difficulties, despite a nearly 60-year blockade that would have broken any other country, Cuba remains true to its attempt to build a different society. Despite the billions of dollars in damage caused by the blockade, Cubans still have the longest life expectancy in Latin America, the best schools, the best hospitals.”
And when asked why he, Franco Cavalli, is so committed to Cuba, Cavalli replied: “I have always been impressed by the incredible solidarity Cuba has developed with its medical missions all over the world. If you meet a doctor (wherever in the world, Red.) in a slum, he is probably Cuban or a physician who was trained in Cuba. If you bump into a doctor at the end of the jungle, it’s certainly a Cuban doctor. For me, this is a living demonstration of human solidarity. (**) I believe that this is something that we have now learned: even if we have to keep our distance at the moment, we cannot live without solidarity. Someone has to shop for the older people who are not allowed to go out of the house. Man is a social being, he depends on society and solidarity if he wants to survive in this world. And Cuba shows us how to make this happen.” – In fact, Cuba, with its 11 million inhabitants, has weathered the Covid-19 pandemic relatively well compared to other countries in that region.
The U.S. sees it very differently
The US, not just Donald Trump, sees it very differently. Every social and economic system that aims to distribute property evenly is, in their eyes, the devil. This view is not only a consequence of immigration from Europe, in which every single immigrant was on his own and had to take an offensive position against the indigenous population with his own weapon. It is also the result of the very popular “philosopher” Ayn Rand (1905 - 1982), who tried in her speeches and writings to convince the US people that selfishness was the only honest mindset – and with considerable success. Not a well-known US politician who has not read or even internalized Ayn Rand.
But is one’s own wishful thinking about how a state should function a legitimate reason to intervene militarily against another state that works differently, wants to function differently? Or to weaken it with economic sanctions, or even destroy it? The United States has done so time and again in Latin America and is still doing so intensively in Venezuela and Cuba. And this is just new in the last few weeks. In October, for example, the US banned two charter flights with relief supplies from Florida, where many exiled Cubans live, to Cuba. And most importantly, from 27 November, they have banned the Western Union, the company that allows international transfers of money to people who do not have their own bank account, from transferring money from other countries to Cuba. This particularly affects those Cuban families who are existentially dependent on the money that relatives send home from abroad. So above all poor people, old and unemployed.
“Switzerland is part of it
A case for neutral Switzerland to protest loudly against US economic sanctions against Cuba? The sad reality is that the “official” Switzerland – and to name a name: Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis – has publicly stated that Swiss banks, including state-owned PostFinance, do not make money transfers to Cuba on the instructions of the US authorities, and is not the Federal Council’s problem. It is a private matter between the banks and their customers, Cassis said.
Us sanctions against Cuba are a good indicator of how much the world is specifically dependent on the US – to be dependent. Cuba is a beautiful country, an island, almost three times the size of Switzerland. However, the so-called gross domestic product per inhabitant, GDP, is almost exactly ten times smaller than that of Switzerland. Cuba, without oil or other mineral resources, needs normal, functioning relations with other countries for its economic prosperity. Anyone who tries to prevent this from the outside or tolerates such economic machinations violates human rights and would have to answer to an international court – including Switzerland.