A trip to Cuba on the agenda?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

A good many of us in the Pontiac travel south each winter – in non-pandemic times. A big percentage head to Cuba, probably the nearest tropical state. But, as we are constantly reminded, Cuba is a socialist state.
And Canada is not.

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

A good many of us in the Pontiac travel south each winter – in non-pandemic times. A big percentage head to Cuba, probably the nearest tropical state. But, as we are constantly reminded, Cuba is a socialist state.
And Canada is not.
At the crux of this discussion is supposed to be the Western world’s concern for democracy and individual expression, which, by American definitions of "socialism", means Cuba is a non-democratic state. Therefore, the Yanks insist, no one should travel there, since international travel is a significant help for
the island. You’ve heard this argument?
A month ago apparently-spontaneous public demonstrations against the government took place in several Cuban cities, matched by equally-small protests here in Canada; the big ones were in south Florida. Larger counter-demonstrations, in support of the Cuban Revolution and its government, took place across the island, but these were ignored by mainstream media here, including our CBC.   
I wonder if our corporate handlers will convince any of us to go anywhere … except Cuba? They claim
not only that Cuba is non-democratic and oppressive, but that its government is corrupt, authoritarian and terribly inefficient. We’re told ordinary Cubans have few consumer goods, medicines, even food and other necessities. Indeed, anyone who has been there and seen the line-ups will know there are often big shortages. Many Canadian tourists have, for years, been carrying small items to give away – cosmetics, simple medicines, kids’ toys, school supplies, even clothing. They give these to the Cubans working in the hotels … and many of those workers have realized that complaining about the situation brings them, personally, goods to ease their lives or to be sold for extra income.
It is curious that virtually all Western news reports – of Cuba’s dire economic and political conditions – fail to mention the sixty-year old noose the US maintains around the Island: the infamous American blockade. The blockade was originally to prevent Soviet missiles and armaments entering Cuba, sixty some years ago. President Obama loosened many of the strictures; Trump re-imposed them, adding over 300 categories of products not allowed in: medicine, medical equipment, educational materials, plus industrial needs, from gasoline to machine parts. Despite his promises to return to Obama’s lighter list, President Biden has kept the noose as tight as Trump had it. Analysts see Biden’s move as pure politics as he struggles to keep some support in vote-rich Florida, also filled with Cuban "gusanos", those who fled the Revolution and its reforms.  
It’s the American embargo strangling Cuba, as it’s meant to do, and not mismanagement by Cuban officials. The US targets all firms which trade with Cuba, Canadian or otherwise – from banks to medical exporters.
Shouldn’t we consider that Canada’s target be the embargo, the noose, and not the Cuban people themselves? Canadians demonstrated in seven cities last month against our country’s servility to the US hawks; MP Nikki Ashton introduced a motion in the Commons to support the United Nation’s near-unanimous annual condemnation of the US blockade (only the US and Israel supported the boycott).  
This is not an extreme view. Near 100% of UN member states vote every year to end the US blockade. As South American historian Eduardo Galeano has written, "the imperial blockade … strangled the
development of Cuban-style democracy, obligated the militarization of its society, and delivered to the bureaucracy all the alibis it needed to justify and perpetuate itself." It isn’t Cuban mis-management that has
created these shortages, but American hostilities.   
There is something more we can do. We can travel to Cuba. We can take not shampoo and soaps but medications (even Tylenol) and educational supplies to donate. We can seek out other avenues needing support – like one local artist’s transport of art supplies for a Havana artists’ co-op. This is our way of telling the Yanks to back off, solve their own horrible problems at home, and allow Cuba to define and pursue its own destiny. Wouldn’t we want exactly this for ourselves?