The U.S. is responsible for Cuba’s economic crisis

The U.S. is responsible for Cuba’s economic crisis
Fecha de publicación: 
11 April 2024
Imagen principal: 

On March 17, 2024, in Santiago, dozens of people peacefully expressed their discontent with the material difficulties of daily life. The generally well-informed US news agency The Associated Press reported the presence of “small groups of protesters”. They were received by the secretary of the city’s Communist Party to air their grievances. Government authorities stressed that the demonstrations had taken place within a respectful framework.[i]

Cuba is in the throes of a serious economic crisis which is affecting the well-being of the population. Power cuts, due to the lack of oil supplies, are common and can sometimes last up to 8 hours. The shortage also affects the food sector, making it increasingly difficult for Cuban households to find basic necessities. For the first time in its history, Cuba has called on the United Nations World Food Program to help cope with the situation.[ii]

The United States, through its embassy in Havana, was quick to respond, highlighting “the lack of food and electricity” on the island. “We urge the Cuban government to respect the human rights of the protesters and attend to the legitimate needs of the Cuban people”.[iii] Havana immediately denounced Washington’s interference and hypocrisy, summoning the US chargé d’affaires, Benjamin Ziff, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[iv]

Indeed, the United States is primarily responsible for the island’s economic situation. Since 1960, Washington has imposed sanctions that affect all sectors of society, especially the most vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women, the elderly and the sick.[v] Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, far from normalizing relations with Cuba, the Bush Sr. administration increased the state of siege by passing the Torricelli Act in 1992, which is illegal due to its extraterritorial scope. His successor, Democrat Bill Clinton, followed suit with the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, which violates elementary principles of public international law due to its retroactive nature. George W. Bush reinforced these coercive measures by passing new sanctions in 2004 and 2006.[vi]

A truce was observed during Barack Obama’s second term when the historic process of rapprochement between the two countries took place, officially launched in December 2014. Constructive measures were adopted by Washington, but the sanctions were not lifted. Indeed, it’s worth noting that the Obama administration was the one that imposed the harshest fines on international companies and banks that had ties with Cuba.[vii]

In 2017, the arrival of Donald Trump to power put an end to this rapprochement. Washington reverted to the policy of confrontation, imposing 243 new sanctions in the space of four years – more than one a week – targeting vital sectors of the Cuban economy, namely the export of medical services, tourism and money transfers. Of these, 50 were imposed in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, depriving the island of vital equipment such as respirators and severely affecting the healthcare system.[viii]

The election of Joe Biden in 2020 did not mean change for Cuba. He has maintained most of the measures taken by his predecessor. The figures are revealing of the impact of economic sanctions on Cubans’ human rights. Over 80% of the population was born under sanctions. These sanctions cost the Cuban economy an average of $15 million a day.[ix] In November 2023, for the 31st consecutive year, 187 countries, including the United States’ staunchest allies, called for “the lifting of Washington’s economic, commercial and financial blockade” against Cuba.[x] Anachronistic, cruel and illegal, the blockade is the main obstacle to the country’s development, and is responsible for the current suffering of the island’s population.

[i] Andrea Rodriguez, « Cubans in Eastern City of Santiago Protest Blackouts and Food Shortages », The Associated Press, 19 March 2024.

[ii] Vanessa Bushschulter, « Cuba Asks UN for Help as Food Shortages Worsen », BBC, 29 February 2024.

[iii] Vanessa Bushschulter, « Cuba Asks UN for Help as Food Shortages Worsen », BBC, 29 February 2024.

[iv] Dave Sherwood, « Cuba Summons Top US Diplomat, Accuses US of Stoking Protests”, Reuters, 18 March 2024.

[v] Salim Lamrani, The Economic War Against Cuba: A Historical and Legal Perspective of the U.S. Blockade, New York, Monthly Review Press, 2013.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Salim Lamrani, « Mettre un terme aux sanctions contre la population cubaine », L’Humanité, 3 July 2021. 

[viii] Salim Lamrani, « Assessing Cuba policy under Trump and prospects for a second term », International Institute for the Study of Cuba, 16 August 2020. (website accessed 23 March 2024).

[ix] Salim Lamrani, « Condamnation mondiale des sanctions économiques contre Cuba pour la 30ème année consécutive », Témoignages, 10 November 2022.

[x] Nations unies, « Assemblée général

e : 187 États Membres demandent la levée du blocus économique, commercial et financier imposé à Cuba par les États-Unis », 2 November 2023. (website accessed 23 March 2024).

  • Salim Lamrani is Professor of Latin American History at the Université de La Réunion, specializing in relations between Cuba and the United States. His latest book is Au nom de Cuba.
  • This article originally appeared on the website, Z, on 29 March 2024, here.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.