Submitted by Grenville Phillips II
For the second time in my lifetime, masses of Cuban people publicly protested against the Government – in Cuba. The first time in 1994, protestors called for the freedom to leave Cuba. Castro allowed them. This time, they are calling for freedom from dictatorship. The Cuban Government’s response was disturbingly violent.
The demonstrations have been blamed on the US trade embargo. This is likely true. I join with the member countries of the United Nations, in supporting the end of the US trade embargo against Cuba.
The question is, whose responsibility is it to end the embargo? To answer that question, it is important to understand why the US trade embargo was imposed.
THE CUBAN REVOLUTION.
During World War 2, Fulgencio Batista was the elected president of Cuba from 1940 to 1944. He established a constitution that guaranteed the right to private property, which resulted in massive US investment.
In 1952, Batista led a military coup when he realised that he would not likely get re-elected. He became a US-supported dictator who led a corrupt and unpopular administration. He also repealed the 1940 Constitution.
Castro revolted against Batista in 1953, supporting the peoples’ will to restore the 1940 Constitution. The revolt lasted about six years. In 1959, the popular Castro became the leader of Cuba – which by that time had approximately US$1B of US investments.
Castro replaced the Constitution with the Fundamental Law. Article 24 of this Law prevented the general confiscation of private property. Where the state had to take specific properties, it required the property owners to receive prior cash payments in compensation. US investors were confident enough to invest a further US$63M in Castro-led Cuba in 1959.
In 1960, Castro essentially: confiscated the properties of US citizens, refused to compensate them, and amended the Fundamental Law to make the theft legal – in Cuba.
CUBAN TRADE EMBARGO.
The US citizens, whose property was confiscated, appealed to their political representatives in the US Congress. In response, a complete trade embargo was imposed on Cuba in 1961. The trade embargo, despite being amended several times, remains active to this day.
Relevant questions follow. Should the trade embargo end without any compensation paid to the confiscated properties’ owners? Should countries be encouraged, by not attracting consequences, to confiscate the private property of individuals and businesses without compensation? Is confiscating private property without any compensation fair, morally right, and just?
END THE EMBARGO.
The US Congress is unlikely to end the trade embargo, unless Cuba compensates the US investors. Cuba’s ill-advised actions started the US trade embargo. An opposite action may end it.
Cuba should consider compensating the US property owners. The amount has already been quantified – a present value of approximately US$9B. The Cuban economy (Gross Domestic Product) is approximately $100B. Therefore, Cuba can pay the amount in full, or negotiate easily affordable instalments, but the proverbial ‘ball’ is entirely in Cuba’s court.
OPENING THE DOOR.
Studying history allows an informed presentation of options in many situations, and an analysis of likely consequences. The Cuban Government’s unnecessarily violent response to the demonstrations, has opened the door to the option of a US military response.
US military intervention was not previously an option in Cuba, because it required the violent repression of mass protests by Cubans in Cuba against their Government. The mass protests started in Cuba on 11 July 2021. Following the violent repression, the protestors in Cuba passed the baton to protestors in the US, who have already marched on Washington. US President Biden has responded by declaring Cuba a failed state.
The Cuban authorities should remember that the Libyan government’s violent response to protestors, opened the door for US President Obama to intervene in Libya.
Cuba should also be aware that it took the US less than one week of planning to liberate Grenada in 1983. This was six days after there were mass-protests against the Government, and the repressive reaction of the military. The main persons surprised at the swiftness of the intervention, were those advocating that the mass-murder of Grenadian protestors be treated as an internal matter.
RUNNING OUT OF TIME.
Whenever there is a violent Government response to public demonstrators, the leaders of some countries pledge their support for the oppressors, rather than the oppressed. While this is concerning, it briefly removes the public-relations mask, so that the public can assess what they would do if they had absolute power.
The US may not let this one-in-a-61-year opportunity go to waste. If the Cuban government wants to claim the moral high-ground, ir should pay the US investors for confiscating their property immediately – otherwise, they risk bringing a swift end to their revolution.