Bread, Salt, and Everything Else
Published: Thursday 27 February 2020 | 11:48:01 pm. Updated: Friday 28 February 2020 | 12:16:12 am.
By Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The pressure valve resonates and they keep adding fuel to the fire. Let the pot explode. This is what the American circles of power want every time they announce a perverse measure against this small archipelago which, at the cost of sacrifice and resistance, pays the price of being independent.
My generation was born under the effects of the blockade. Perhaps at that time its economic impact was not so visible, thanks to the mutually advantageous relations and agreements established with the socialist camp. Until I was seven years old I fully enjoyed my childhood, playing bowling or watching dolls and adventures in an old Krim 218 at the house of my friends in the neighbourhood. But then the 1990s came and the scene took a traumatic turn.
The fall of Soviet socialism cracked our economy and left it without 80 percent of its foreign trade. Transportation collapsed, factories were shut down, “gossip” lamps replaced incandescent bulbs during long hours of scheduled blackouts.
In the face of the irresistible heat, people slept on the rooftops, with their mattresses uncovered. Publications disappeared. Juventud Rebelde, for example, changed its daily frequency to a weekly newspaper. Faced with a shortage of soap, I remember my mother washing with maguey fibres. Chinese bicycles became fashionable… At that age I couldn’t really understand what was going on around me.
In the book No hay que llorar (Let’s not cry), Santa Clara writer Aristides Vega Chapú compiled testimonies from 34 Cuban authors about this period. About the difficulties of that time and how we overcame the onslaught, each Cuban can tell his own story of ingenuity and resistance. The work would be a book of many volumes.
During all this time, what was the “help” of the American rulers? Was their intention to extend their hand so that the people would overcome the crisis?
In July 1991, months before the “de-escalation,” the U.S. Senate passed several amendments imposing a number of conditions on the Soviet Union to be eligible for U.S. foreign aid. These requirements included the cessation of military and economic assistance to Cuba.
And in 1992 the US government, led by Bush senior, signed the Torricelli Act, after the Democratic candidate, William Clinton, publicly endorsed it as a result of an agreement with Jorge Más Canosa, president of the Cuban American National Foundation. The objective: to asphyxiate us economically in order to provoke social chaos and, consequently, to overthrow the political order established on the island. Illusioned by a supposed domino effect, they openly proclaimed “the end of history” for the “Castro regime”.
In that same year, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) prohibited third-country nationals from introducing tobacco and rum from Cuba into the United States, even when these were for personal consumption. They had not yet approved the unfortunate Helms-Burton Act of 1996.
In their speech on humanitarian aid to the Cuban people, they always put one condition in advance: “If Cuba holds totally free and fair elections under international supervision, respects human rights and stops subverting its neighbors, we can hope that relations between our two countries will improve significantly,” are the words of the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, in March 1990.
Thirty years later, the goals remain the same. We are asked to make political concessions as a condition for taking the pressure off the pot. In the face of Cuba’s dignified and unchanging stance, they resort to arrogance and overkill. These incluse the 85 aggressive measures of various kinds that they applied only in 2019 and which have been rejected by our people and by many in the world, who also suffer the consequences of imperial arrogance.
The writer Eduardo Galeano illustrated this act of genocide with an emphatic and sentimental style: “The blockade against Cuba has multiplied over the years. A bilateral affair? So they say; but nobody ignores that the US blockade implies, today, the universal blockade. Cuba is denied bread and salt and everything else. And it also implies, although many people ignore it, the denial of the right to self-determination. The asphyxiating siege around Cuba is a form of intervention, the most ferocious, the most effective, in its internal affairs.
In the face of this policy of permanent aggression, made worse by the Trump administration and his perverse advisors, aim9ing to make the pot explode, the best response from every Cuban is to do things right. And that the result of daily work neutralizes every plan that the enemy cooks up. In short, “emancipate ourselves by ourselves and with our own efforts,” as Fidel explained it to us in his concept of Revolution.