Overwhelming opposition to the US blockade of Cuba was shown at the United Nations General Assembly on 25 October 2011. This is the 20th consecutive year that the Cuban resolution condemning the US blockade has won support at the UN. The resolution on The Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade Imposed by the United States of America against Cuba was backed by the votes of 186 UN member states. Only the US and ‘its inseparable ally in genocidal actions’, Israel, opposed the resolution. Three Pacific island countries abstained. Despite worldwide opposition, the US, as a member of the UN Security Council, will veto the vote and continue its brutal blockade against the Cuban people. While attempts to isolate Cuba from the international stage have failed, the negative impact of US policies and the blockade on Cuban living standards is in no doubt. The blockade, which has been tightened in recent years, is estimated to have caused a total $975 billion in damage to the island at present gold prices.
The $4.2 million set aside for Cuba from the Global Fund To Fight Aids was frozen by the US government in January 2011. The supply of medicines to Cuba such as antibiotics for children under one year and those required for the treatment of children who suffer from lymphoblastic leukaemia are blocked by the US. Cuba cannot purchase medical equipment from the US market and so is forced to look elsewhere, which increases costs, or make do without. For example, US firm Becton Dickinson deny Cuba the sale of flow cytometers for the study of cancer cells.
In terms of education, Cuba’s access to the internet is severely restricted as the US administration denies Cuba permission to connect to it’s under water broadband cables which surround the island. This creates problems for universities and other research centres as software updates are unavailable. Fellow member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), Venezuela, is currently working with Cuba to address this problem. The supply of basic educational goods, like medicines, is restricted due to the blockade.
The food supply in Cuba is also affected. In 2008-09, for example, 6,000 hectares of rice could not be planted because delays caused by the blockade meant that pesticides and fertilisers did not arrive on time. Consequently, the 12,400 tonne shortfall for consumption cost Cuba an extra $7.5million to import. This is a crucial area for Cuba as it struggles to increase agricultural production in order to lower food imports and minimise the impact of the blockade and global economic crisis which has seen steep rises in food and fuel prices.
It is testament to the revolutionary commitment and endurance of the Cuban people that they have managed to construct an education and health care system that is comparable, if not better in some areas, to rich imperialist countries such as Britain and the US. They have shown and continue to show in struggle that socialism is the only path forward for the oppressed and deprived peoples of the world.