CubaBrief: Castro dictatorship stops accepting U.S. dollar cash deposits in Cuba and blames the United States. Cubans prepare to protest Castro regime outside the UN on June 23rd

U.S. repeatedly tried to reach a rapprochement with Havana only to be sabotaged by Castros

U.S. repeatedly tried to reach a rapprochement with Havana only to be sabotaged by Castros

On June 23, 2021 at 10:00 a.m., in the General Assembly hall, the UN General Assembly is scheduled to hold a “plenary meeting on the Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”

The Castro dictatorship that took Cuba hostage in 1959, and over six decades destroyed the Republic of Cuba and ruled it by force, does not represent or speak for the 11 million Cubans on the island.

To highlight this point at the same time a group of Cuban dissidents will be gathered outside of the United Nations demanding freedom for all Cubans, and for an end to the category of prisoners of conscience in Cuba. The protest is being organized by S.O.S. Cuba and ProActivo Miami.

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Inside the United Nations will listen to the fabrications and half-truths of the Castro regime in its attempt to portray itself as a victim. This necessitates ignoring what Castro’s troops and spies are doing today in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and other countries.

The Castro regime now claims that the U.S. economic embargo has been hurting Cuba for six decades, but that was not what their maximum leader said during the first 30 years of the Cuban dictatorship. Here are a few of the many comments made by Fidel Castro between the 1960s through 2000 related to the economic embargo.

“We are going to have, within ten years, a milk production higher than the Netherlands and a cheese production higher than France. That is the great goal that we propose to achieve. By that date we think that the amount of 30 million liters of milk will be exceeded. So there will be to export … you can imagine.” said Fidel Castro, in an interview with Eddy Martin from the official Hoy newspaper on March 2, 1964.

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“The great battle of the eggs has been won. From now on the people will be able to have sixty million eggs each month,” said Fidel Castro in a speech on January 2, 1965.

“In 1970 the Island will have 5,000 experts in the cattle industry and around 8 million cows and calves that will be good milk producers” ….  “There will be so much milk that the Bay of Havana will be able to be filled with milk,” said Fidel Castro in his December 1966 speech during the Assembly of the Federation of Cuban Women, a mass organization of the dictatorship.

First CCP Congress in December 1975

First CCP Congress in December 1975

Fidel Castro, speaking at the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in December 1975 bragged about the unimportance of economic sanctions saying,“at first (the United States) their cancellations were quite annoying … but when luckily, we did not depend on them for anything, neither in trade, nor in supplies, nor in anything. If we are already victorious now, after victory, what can they threaten us with? With canceling what … what? ”

“The United States has less and less to offer Cuba. If we could export our products to the United States, we would have to start making plans for new production lines … because everything that we produce now and everything that we are going to produce in the next five years has already been sold to other markets. We should deprive other socialist countries of these products in order to sell them to the United States. But the socialist countries pay us much better prices and have much better relations with us than we have with the United States. There is a popular saying that goes: ‘Don’t trade a cow for a goat.'” said Fidel Castro in his interview with Playboy published in April 1985

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“Cuba will not buy an aspirin or a grain of rice. They have put a lot of restrictions (on the permission to sell food and medicine) that make it humiliating for the country, but also make it impossible in practice, ” said Fidel Castro, in front of the United States Interests Office, in Havana, Cuba on October 18, 2000.

The Castro regime would go on to purchase billions in American agricultural products between 2000 and the present, but to do so they defaulted on what they owed to others. The peak year of trade was in 2008, the last full year of the George W. Bush Administration.

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U.S. policy towards Cuba has not been static since January 1, 1959 but has been changing and driven by various interests, including U.S. national interests. There is a lot of disinformation about how the U.S. Embargo was first imposed on Cuba, and how and why the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Havana. Here is a brief breakdown of what happened between January 1, 1959 and January 3, 1960.

Fidel Castro overthrew the Fulgencio Batista regime on January 1, 1959 following a U.S. arms embargo being imposed on the military dictator in the spring of 1958. The United States had actively pressured Batista to leave office since 1958. On January 7, 1959 the United States recognized the new Cuban government ushered in by the Castro brothers. It took just seven days to recognize the new regime.

In comparison it had taken the United States 17 days to recognize the government of Fulgencio Batista following his March 10, 1952 coup. The United States had not been consulted ahead of time about Batista’s plans and this led to the delay in recognition.

In April 1959 Fidel Castro visited the United States on an eleven day trip that concluded with a three hour meeting with Vice President Richard Nixon on April 19, 1959.

Within three months of U.S. recognition of the revolutionary government in Cuba the new regime began targeting American interests on the island and allying itself with the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and plotting the overthrow of several Latin American governments. It is important to revisit why the embargo was first imposed, and why it remains relevant today.

  • Fidel Castro visits Caracas on January 23, 1959 and meets with Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt, a social democrat, “to enlist cooperation and financial backing for ‘the master plan against the gringos.'”

  • On March 3, 1959 the Castro regime expropriates properties belonging to the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, and took over its affiliate, the Cuban Telephone Company.

  • On May 17, 1959 the government expropriated farm lands over 1,000 acres and banned land ownership by foreigners.

  • Havana beginning in 1959 sent armed expeditions to Panama, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic to overthrow their governments.

  • On February 6, 1960 talks began publicly between the U.S.S.R and Fidel Castro. The Soviet Union agreed to buy five million tons of sugar over five years. They also agreed to support Cuba with oil, grain, and credit.

  • On July 6, 1960 the Castro regime passed a nationalization law authorizing nationalization of U.S.- owned property through expropriation. Texaco, Esso, and Shell oil refineries were taken.

  • In September 1960 the Cuban government diplomatically recognized the People’s Republic of China.

  • On November 19, 1960 Ernesto “Che” Guevara heading a Cuban delegation in Beijing met with Mao Zedong between 4:20pm and 6:30pm and discussed revolutionary objectives in Latin America.

The Eisenhower State Department in response to the above actions imposed the first trade embargo on Cuba on October 19, 1960, and it “covered all U.S. exports to Cuba except for medicine and some foods.”

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Tens of thousands of Cubans were lined up outside of the U.S. embassy in Havana seeking visas to flee the communist dictatorship, and this became a source of embarrassment for the communist regime. Fidel Castro communicated with the Eisenhower Administration on January 3, 1961 and demanded the expulsion of 67 U.S. diplomats, within 48 hours, reducing their number to 11, the same number at the Cuban embassy in Washington DC. The Americans had over 50,000 visa applications to process when the ultimatum was delivered.

On January 3, 1961 at 8:30 p.m. EST President Eisenhower issued a statement stating: “There is a limit to what the United States in self respect can endure. That limit has now been reached,” and severed diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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President James Earl Carter in 1977 would warm up relations with Cuba over a four year period that led to the establishment of Interests Sections, in Havana and Washington DC, that operated as Embassies in all but name, but the detente failed due to Cuban incursions in Africa, including participating in a genocide in Ethiopia to establish a Marxist regime there, and Fidel Castro personally sending rapists, murderers, and the criminally insane to South Florida during the Mariel exodus in 1980. This same pattern of opening up to the Castro regime followed by negative consequences were repeated by the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry in a September 2020 interview with Andres Oppenheimer observed that: “It’s fair to say that everybody shares a little bit of disappointment about the direction that the government in Cuba chose to go” after the normalization of U.S.-Cuba ties, Kerry told me. He added that, “Cuba seemed to harden down after the initial steps were taken.”

Advocates for returning to the 2009 – 2017 Cuba normalization policy need to consider some difficult truths within the historical context outlined above.

Tourism had unexpected and negative consequences for Cubans. Loosening sanctions benefited the Cuban military that expanded its role in the national economy, while engaging in repressive behavior at home and abroad, especially in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Human rights violations worsened in Cuba during the Obama detente, and the promise of Havana’s increased engagement with the International Red Cross did not translate into visits to Cuba’s prisons.

The New York Times in 2016 reported that the impact of nearly 3.5 million visitors to Cuba in 2015 had caused a surging demand for food that led to “soaring prices and empty shelves” with basic food staples “becoming unaffordable for regular Cubans.” The paper of record concluded “tourists are quite literally eating Cuba’s lunch.”

Unintended consequences extended into other areas.

It was not the “fledgling private sector” that flourished under the last two years of the Obama Administration but the Cuban military and its conglomerate the “Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group” (GAESA) headed up by Raul Castro’s former son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez. GAESA expanded into sectors previously controlled by civilians in the government.

According to Reuters, “the only hotel deal struck” prior to Trump cooling relations with Havana was between Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (Marriott International Inc) and Gaviota, a subsidiary of GAESA to manage a hotel in Havana owned by the military conglomerate. All the state hotels, stores and eateries in colonial Old Havana were taken over by GAESA in the last year of the Obama Administration.

The reality that the lack of human rights for Cubans also impacts the economic sphere was revealed with a high profile foreign investment that failed.

In mid-February 2016 the Obama administration gave “its approval to the first American factory in Cuba in more than 50 years”, and ABC News also reported that “the move appears to have gained the support of the Cuban government as well.” Official communist publications Granma and Juventud Rebelde published stories praising the initiative.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Saul Berenthal in Havana, Cuba, on March 21, 2016. Credit: Photo by Pete Souza.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Saul Berenthal in Havana, Cuba, on March 21, 2016. Credit: Photo by Pete Souza.

Ten months later in November 2016 the Cuban government said no. Turned out that one of the owners of the company that would set up the factory, Saul Berenthal, was Cuban American, and in his enthusiasm Mr. Berenthal had reclaimed his Cuban citizenship. This exposed an ugly truth. Average Cubans living on the island are not allowed to make large investments into businesses, and this led to the deal being rejected.

“The real reason for the rejection was that Berenthal, a 73-year-old retired software engineer who was born in Cuba and lived in the United States since 1960, had obtained permanent residence in Cuba, according to a knowledgeable source who asked for anonymity to speak about the issue. “Saul got enthusiastic,” the source told El Nuevo Herald. Berenthal’s “repatriation” put the Cuban government in a difficult position: accept the project, even though it would break its own ban on large investments by Cubans who live on the island, or reject it using an indirect argument. Officials chose the second option.”

There was not an explosion of positive change in Cuba, but on the contrary the number of arbitrary detentions against dissidents continued to rise geometrically over 2014, 2015, and 2016 as Human Rights Watch documented in their annual reports, but failed to mention rising acts of violence against dissidents such as the May 24, 2015 machete attack against Sirley Avila Leon. that led to the loss of her hand, and the use of both her knees in a politically motivated attack.

Sirley Avila Leon: In Cuba in 2015 following the machete attack and exiled in Miami in 2016

Sirley Avila Leon: In Cuba in 2015 following the machete attack and exiled in Miami in 2016

Prior to President Obama’s March 2016 state visit to Cuba, “police arrested more than 300 dissidents as part of a crackdown on opposition leaders,” reported Human Rights Watch in their 2017 annual report.

The aftermath of the official visit did not generate improvements.

Two days after President Obama’s visit an official newspaper, Tribuna de la Habana, published an article about his visit titled “Negro, are you dumb?

Eight months later in November 2016 U.S. diplomats in Havana began to suffer brain injuries. Over forty American diplomats were harmed.

On January 2, 2017, Raúl Castro presided over a military parade in which Cuban soldiers chanted: “Obama! Obama! With what fervor we’d like to confront your clumsiness, give you a cleansing with rebels and mortar, and make you a hat out of bullets to the head.”

Today, the Castro regime in an effort to loot Cubans of their savings in dollars, and pressure the Biden Administration “ceased accepting US dollar cash deposits” claiming “financial persecution”. Economist Elias Amor Bravo in the June 11, 2021 essay “The real reason: why the regime is going against the dollar” published in Cubanet reveals that “the regime wants to control and drain the remittances in dollars received by Cubans, and divert them to GAESA, State Security and the hole in the fiscal deficit that does not stop growing.”

It is long past time that people stop confusing the Castro dictatorship that has spent decades repressing Cubans, with the Cuban people. Free Cubans will be outside of the United Nations protesting for their countrymen, and for an end to crimes of conscience in Cuba while the dictatorship will engage in the annual circus of trying to demonize the United States.

Hours before President Obama's arrival in Cuba on March 21, 2016 a member of the Ladies in White taken away by police.

Hours before President Obama’s arrival in Cuba on March 21, 2016 a member of the Ladies in White taken away by police.

However there are some facts that are indisputable.

First, prior to the Castro regime, “Cuba’s foreign trade, the overall value of Cuban exports to the United States surpassed her imports throughout the 1950s. Cuba’s exports amounted to $780.4 million while her imports only reached $277.4 million,” reported Professor José Alvarez of the University of Florida‘s Department of Food and Resource Economics in a research publication.

According to the Cuban Studies Institute between 1952-1958 there was “a successful nationalistic trend aimed to reach agricultural self-sufficiency to supply the people’s market demand for food.” Despite the efforts to violently overthrow the Batista regime in the 1950s, “the Cuban food supply grew steadily to provide a highly productive system that in daily calories consumption, ranked Cuba third in Latin America.

All of this came crashing down when the Castro regime seized and collectivized properties at the start of the revolution, and the rationing of food began in 1962 and has continued over the next 60 years with 80% of Cuba’s food now imported.

This included the years when Cuba was heavily subsidized by the Soviet Union, and was part of the East Bloc. This was when Castro was dismissing the economic embargo as a failure that did not impact Cuba. This was also during the peak years (2011 – 2014) when Castro received massive amounts of assistance from Venezuela’s Chavez regime.

Second, between 2001 and 2020, the agricultural businesses in the United States have sold 2.48 million tons of chicken meat worth $2.088 billion dollars to the Castro regime. In April 2021, American Agriculture businesses sold 30,024 tons of chicken to Cuba, compared to 1,892 tons the Castro regime bought from Brazil during the same period. The communist regime in Havana buys the chicken for $1 per kg in the United States and sells it to Cubans for $7 per kg, and then scream about how the blockade hurts Cubans. By comparison in the capitalist United States chicken can be purchased at the supermarket with prices ranging from $2.60 to $3.00 per kg. One should also take into consideration the differences in average salaries for a worker in the United States and one in Cuba. There is a blockade that needs to be lifted, but it is the internal one the Castro regime placed on Cubans in 1959 when communism was imposed at gunpoint.

Central Banking, June 21, 2021

Cuba bars dollar cash deposits

By Ben Margulies

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Cuban banks ceased accepting US dollar cash deposits on June 21. The Central Bank of Cuba, which ordered the measure on June 10, blamed “financial persecution” by the US for the suspension.

In the resolution enacting the policy, the central bank stated that the US “had reignited its economic war against the Cuban people”. US sanctions had “impeded our country’s ability to deposit abroad US dollars collected in the national territory”.

Cuba’s customs agency also stopped accepting US dollar cash. [ Full text here ]

https://www.centralbanking.com/central-banks/currency/7846186/cuba-bars-dollar-cash-deposits

The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2021

Give Peruvians Their Day in Court

Legal challenges to an extremely narrow vote are a fundamental part of democracy.

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

During the Peruvian presidential campaign earlier this year, socialist candidate Pedro Castillo told voters that he would nationalize the assets of foreign investors. He did not say whether this would apply to Chinese corporations that own billions of dollars of Peruvian mining interests. But predicting that it won’t isn’t exactly going out on a limb.

[…]

If Mr. Castillo cheated, with the help of political allies like Cuban-trained Vladimir Cerrón —who heads Mr. Castillo’s Peru Libre Party—then Peruvians deserve to know. If he didn’t cheat and the nation voted, however narrowly, for a candidate who has repeatedly promised to blow up the market economy, they deserve to know that too.

[ Full Article ]

https://www.wsj.com/articles/give-peruvians-their-day-in-court-11624220491

The Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2021

Ortega’s Nicaraguan Power Grab

The comandante lost one fair election in 1990. He won’t let it happen again.

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

Central America’s biggest little country is again in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Since June 2, Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega has rounded up seven leading members of the opposition on phony charges ranging from money laundering to treason. All remain either under house arrest or in jail.

[…]

Yet the only thing that’s surprising about this latest crackdown—in what is now a police state backed by Cuba, Iran and Russia—is that anyone is surprised.

[…]

In recent years the repression has been acute. In 2018 protests hundreds of government opponents were killed by police and other Ortega enforcers—helped by Cuban agents.

[ Full article]

https://www.wsj.com/articles/ortegas-nicaraguan-power-grab-11623616363