In the face of the recent protests in Cuba, the Castro regime and its apologists have once again revived the myth that the U.S. trade blockade of Cuba is what has prevented the island from progressing and not 60 years of communist dictatorship.
The word “blockade” alludes to the collective imagination of a poor Cuba, surrounded by American frigates that hinder any contact with the outside world, preventing it from importing food, medicines and supplies necessary for the development of the country and guaranteeing the well-being of its population. However, the reality is far from the myth that Castroism has spread for years to justify the backwardness in which Cuba has been kept.
There is no trade blockade against Cuba, it is a trade embargo applicable only to the United States
It is not true that there is such a thing as a blockade on Cuba. What exists is a trade embargo that applies only and exclusively to U.S. companies. Otherwise, Cuba is free to trade with the other 85% of the global economy, which is not the United States, and it does so.
In fact, Cuba exports its products to more than 70 countries around the world without being prevented by the United States. Its main trading partners are China, Spain and Germany; although it also has other important partners such as Indonesia, Singapore, Cyprus, Hong Kong and Lebanon.
On the import side, Cubans receive products from at least 60 countries around the world. The countries that export the most to Cuba are China, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Italy and the United States itself. Yes, the United States exports about $277 million worth of goods to Cuba each year, despite the embargo and the fact that Cuba sells nothing to the United States. About $180 million of Cuba’s imports from the U.S. are food.
In spite of the imaginary of Castro’s apologists that the supposed blockade of Cuba prevents the country from having any contact with the rest of the world, the reality is that the U.S. trade embargo admits certain exceptions and American companies can export to Cuba certain goods such as food, medicines, agricultural inputs, certain types of ships and airplanes, software and basic technology such as cell phones or computers.
This does not mean that Cuba is flooded with American products, because in order to trade with the island a special license is required. This shows that the supposed blockade of Cuba is more a fiction in the heads of the regime’s apologists than a reality that keeps it in backwardness.
Would Cuba be much better off if it could have open trade relations with the United States? Surely, but the problem does not lie there. Cuba’s problem lies in its economic model, where the state has taken over all forms of production and punishes innovation.
Cuba’s export basket remains the same as it was during the Fulgencio Batista regime (1959), and even its production methods have not advanced much. By 2019, Cuba’s trade deficit was more than $4 billion, while its exports barely exceeded $1.21 billion. In other words, Cuba imports almost five times what it exports to the world.
Cuba’s problem is not the trade embargo, but its low productivity, caused, in good measure, by 60 years of dictatorship.