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Cuba’s Protests And The Long Crisis Of US Intervention

Above photo: A demonstrator carries a banner with an image of late Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara during the commemoration of May Day (Labour Day) to mark the international day of the workers, at Havana’s Revolution Square, on May 1, 2022. Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images.

63 years after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, US attempts to suffocate the Cuban Revolution are stronger than ever.

Yet corporate media seeks to blame Cuba alone for its crisis.

Protests against shortages of food and fuel in Cuba’s eastern provinces on March 18 brought the corporate media spotlight back to the island, which is currently experiencing a major economic crisis. True to form, much US reporting on the protests attempted to construct a familiar narrative of Cuba as a failed state on the brink of collapse, with no mention of the 62-year US blockade. This is particularly striking given how Cuba’s current crisis is a direct outcome of the intensification of the blockade under Trump—which President Biden has upheld throughout his term despite promises to relieve the strangulation of Cuba.

So what’s really going on in Cuba today? How severe is the crisis, and where did it come from? What sort of future do the Cuban people envision for themselves, and what role does the US have to play in it? To address these questions and more, The Real News speaks with Manolo de los Santos of The People’s Forum, and Liz Oliva Fernandez of Belly of the Beast.

Transcript

The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Ju-Hyun: Welcome back one and all to The Real News podcast. My name is Ju-Hyun Park, engagement Editor here at The Real News and your host for today’s episode where we’ll be talking about the current challenges facing the Cuban Revolution with two very special guests, Liz Olivia Fernandez of Belly of the Beast and Manolo De Los Santos of The People’s Forum.

Since the COVID pandemic, Cuba has been thrust into an acute economic crisis that is among the worst in its history. The economic turmoil of the pandemic was intensified by the isolation imposed on Cuba by the decades-long US blockade, which then-President Trump strengthened by slapping Cuba with an additional 243 sanctions during his first term. The Biden administration has refused to loosen the noose that’s been placed around Cuba. The result for the people of the island has been years of crisis, oil and food shortages, power outages, shocks to the medical system, and a crisis of emigration that is steadily draining Cuba of talented youth.

On March 17th, a rare series of protests broke out in Cuba’s eastern provinces. In typical fashion, the international media shone a harsh spotlight on the protests as a rare visible sign of dissatisfaction with the socialist government. Little has been done however to explain the roots of the crisis in the US’s Long War on the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban people, or to highlight the ways that Cuba continues to try and provide for its people while advancing its socialism. Today we’re fortunate to be joined by two deeply knowledgeable guests, both of whom can be described as among the leading public communicators on Cuba in the English-speaking world.

Liz Olivia Fernandez is an award-winning Cuban journalist with Belly of the Beast, a US-based outlet dedicated to covering Cuba’s untold stories. Manolo De Los Santos is a popular educator and organizer as well as the founding director of The People’s Forum, a movement incubator in New York City for working-class communities to build unity across historic lines of division at home and abroad. He also collaborates as a researcher with the Tri-Continental Institute for Social Research. Liz, Manolo, welcome back to The Real News.

Manolo De Los Santos: It’s a pleasure. I’m happy to join back with Liz.

Liz Oliva Fernández: The same here.

Ju-Hyun: Amazing. Thank you so much again for joining us. Let’s start with the basics. Could you give our audience a very brief overview of what happened during the recent protests and what the issues were that were at the center of these mobilizations?

Liz Oliva Fernández: Well, recently Cuba has facing the different protests by the situations. Most of them are because of blackouts, scarcity of food and medicine. This is not new. This is something that is starting in 2019, even before the pandemic with Trump administration sanctions against Cuba, that went from bad to worse and this situation is going to be like that from that. After that, we have facing the Covid pandemic and Cuba has been trying to survive from there to now and the situation is going to getting worse and worse with the time. So even in, well in the city I live in Havana, so you can feel in the sensation of desperation and frustration that people have. So in rural areas that this is where the most recent protests break down was the situation is worse because we barely have access to fuel. They have facing blackout for more than 18 hours.

Some of them have 20 hours of blackout in a day. The scarcity of food is getting worse because the government barely have access to buy the most basic food. I was reading the other day the report that they have about the sanctions on Cuba and they say that even because… I don’t know if you know about the rationalized food, the Cuban government give to the people in order to have… They have the basic. Well even in that kind of things has been delayed because the government is not allowed, they don’t have access to food or card or credit or nothing because of the sanctions. So the situation of the food and the medicine, of the fuel in Cuba and basic things has getting worse on worse with the time.

Ju-Hyun: Thank you for that. Manolo, I’m curious if you want to jump in here and add anything to Liz’s addressing of the situation.

Manolo De Los Santos: No, I would think I would start from the same place as Liz that protests in Cuba are not something new. They’re not like an exceptional phenomenon. That’s actually something that’s happening quite regularly. It doesn’t often make it to the news, but people are protesting across the island in different ways, in different moments over what is the continuous pressure of what US sanctions mean in people’s lives on the island. It’s not about the numbers. Yes, we could cite that Cuba loses about 4.8 billion a year due to sanctions and due to the US blockade, but concretely in terms of people’s lives right now it means major shortages that are essentially creating a food crisis in the fact that Cuba not only is it able to import major food commodities, but it’s not even able to import raw materials that allow them to produce basic things like bread for example.

Eastern provinces like in Santiago, but also in Guantanamo and others, you have the added element that because of also the scarcity of fuel, it becomes even harder for the country to transport most of the food that does come in and the supplies that do come in that arrive usually through the port of Mariel, transporting them to the other side of the island is already a major endeavor that makes it even difficult. So it affects the rationing system. It affects even just the basic life, daily life of millions of people on the island.

Ju-Hyun: Thank you. I think this background context of the blockade and the multi-level crisis that Cuban society is undergoing currently as a result of that is some pretty crucial information for us to have before proceeding further. I think focusing in on that a little more finely, it’s often said by supporters of the US embargo or the blockade against Cuba that because it doesn’t officially include food and medicine, therefore the reality of food crisis in Cuba is not something that can be attributed to the blockade. How would you respond to or counter these claims?

Manolo De Los Santos: Well, I think the US often claims several things. One, that food and medicine are exempted and at the same time they claim that the US is one of the largest exporters of food to Cuba. And I think there’s not just a question of the fine print that is missing in these declarations, but I would say overall context. I mean the reality is, and I can share a personal experience about it in a few, but the gist of it is that even with certain exemptions, the conditions on which Cuba is allowed to purchase food or medicine in the US are quite onerous. Primarily Cuba is the only country that is forced to purchase goods from the United States directly having to pay fully in advance with no guarantees or security of being able to receive the product that they’ve paid for. This is one major element and we have to raise it that this is an anomaly on the international trade.

No other country on the planet has to actually engage in trade on these terms. Most of it is done through credit. Most of this is done through legitimate banks that are able to guarantee to both the vendor and the customer that goods will arrive. And in the case of Cuba, it’s almost like a lottery. Cuba is forced to pay in cash many times and then left wondering if they will receive what they paid for. That happens often in the case of Cuba-US economic exchange. But then there’s another element which I think is even more prevalent in the last five years, which is that because Cuba was placed on the state sponsors of terrorism list, most banks around the world are very much unwilling to do the financial transactions necessary for Cuba to make these purchases. Automatically seeing Cuba in any transaction already creates a series of red flags that banks are in fact required to investigate and look deeper into and often stalls the process of any purchases.

And I’ll just tell you from a very personal experience, for the last four weeks I’ve reached out to 16 different grain distributors in the United States asking them we’re willing to buy at market price over a thousand tons of flour, of wheat flour to send to Cuba and not one of them was able to give a positive response to our requests. Most of them mentioned immediately the limitations that they face and the fear that they face of engaging in any trade of this type of Cuba. Even if there could be an exemption, just the state of paranoia and the state of fear that even if they were to do this somehow they would be fined like many companies have been by the US government is enough to impede this so-called exemption from actually allowing Cubans to buy.

Liz Oliva Fernández: And I would like to act is because it’s funny. They say, okay, food and medicines, they are under sanctions. Have you tried to send food and medicine from United States to Cuba? The people who said this have been trying to send food and medicine to Cuba, it’s easy, but they have to hire someone from a Cuban-American enterprise in Miami who are making a lot of money, a lot of profit with that kind of business. I’m asked to the people that are trying to send to Cuba medicines equipment, to trying to give a little bit of solidarity. A lot of groups are trying to get food and medicine in Cuba are facing so many stuff. Also, senators and congress people in the US to say, “Okay, but Cuba spent 3 million dollars in 2023 for just food in Cuba.” Okay, that’s true. $300 million, that’s true, but how much percent? How much represent that kind of money in terms? And this is because as Manolo said and explained a few minutes ago, is because exemptions. Why give any exemptions to processing food or medicine or whatever to the United States?

But for example, DR. In the same period of time, 2023, DR spent 1.3 thousands, millions of dollars for such in food in the US. And just in food, and this is just in food. What is the difference between $300 million and 1,300 thousands million dollars? That’s DR. Guatemala, just in food and also I’m trying to remember the data, 70,000 millions of dollars just in for the same, and these are countries that they have even less population like Cuba. So what that kind of money represents to a government in order to get food to all the families in Cuba to all the people who live in Cuba, that’s nothing. They use the number and this is the things that people in US doesn’t know about math. What percent that in a country that have the populations of 11 million Cubans living in the same place. So okay, you can get food and sometimes medicine to the United States, but at what cost?

What cost? Because it’s not about money, it’s about time, it’s about obstacles. It’s about overcoming things the entire time. So what… Ask the farmers in the US, it’s easy for them to try to sell food or whatever to Cuba? Chicken, everybody’s talking about how Cuban people are consuming US chickens. It’s not US chickens, it’s blacks. It’s because in the US doesn’t like legs. You enjoy more breasts. So the kind of chicken that is so cheap for Cuba to buy that kind of chicken in the US, they don’t have any popularity at all to pursue that kind of things. And we can pay it, but we can pay it and we have to pay in advance for a product that we haven’t seen and for a product that is going to take maybe two weeks to ship to Cuba. So the people who already said that kinds of thing, they really understand the complexity of everything. They really understand how difficult is the amount of obstacles that people have to face in order to deliver or to ship to Cuba food or medicines or they just are repeating as usual.

Ju-Hyun: Thank you. I think you’ve both really effectively demonstrated how the sanctions’ regime is not about just a simple list of products that are not allowed in Cuba. It’s really attacking Cuba’s ability to make any transactions at all to be able to engage in trade in a timely and smooth way which is required in order to maintain its systems, in order to have inputs that are going to go into the mouths of the people, into their cars, into generating power and things of this nature. I want to pivot a little bit to talking a little about the political situation, particularly with the Biden administration, which has made several promises on different occasions to reverse Trump sanctions on Cuba, particularly reconsidering Cuba’s placement on the state sponsors of terrorism list.

That’s a promise that is yet to be fulfilled and with time running out in the Biden administration, it doesn’t seem like it’s something that’s going to be a priority for this presidency. Liz, I know that you and Belly of the Beast are coming out with some new documentaries that approach this topic, so I’m wondering if you can educate our audience a little bit on why exactly the Biden administration has adopted the stance as it has and Manolo, I’m curious as well if you can speak a little bit from your experience in attempting to get this current administration to change its policies.

Liz Oliva Fernández: Well, I can’t talk about why the administration is keeping Cuba in the states sponsor of terrorism list because I don’t know why, because they haven’t explained why. They say the thing is on their review, but has been on the review since the beginning of the Biden administration. And also they don’t have any proof, any evidence that Cuba actually sponsored terrorism. And the excuse that they give to journalists, they’re really big and they’re talking about US political prisoners that Cuba gave them asylum in the 80s. And Cuba as any other country around the world is privileged to give asylum, whatever citizen and asking for, we consider that this is the right things to do. And we did in the 80s. So back of now, from them to now we haven’t given asylum to any other US citizens and they never explained.

But in fact, it is something that is funny and I say funny because the last year I was covering the cooperation between Cuba and the United States, I have the opportunity to interview the Coast Guard, the person who represent the US Coast Guard and US Embassy here in Havana, and they talk wonderful about Cuba. In fact, if you review the documents from the state department to talk about the counterterrorism support cooperation between Cuba the United States they have, they give Cuba excellent qualifications because Cuba is the main allies to the United States in the Caribbean, the South America in order to fight terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking smugglers, everything.

So how is possible that you start collaboration and cooperation with a country that supports terrorism is the same country that are helping United States to fight terrorism? Is not an irony of this? Is not something that is lack of argument when you asking someone what is going on, you are collaborating, you have cooperation with someone that you say that is terrorism and support terrorism but are helping you to fight against terrorism? I think the biggest question that Biden administration has to answer in some point, but because so far we haven’t listened a single argument that really put an evidence about why is Cuba in the states sponsor of terrorism list.

Manolo De Los Santos: Well, I think that the US to begin with has over two centuries long obsession with dominating Cuba. It has been a premise for almost every US president in one way or another to seize Cuba, dominate Cuba, occupy Cuba, control Cuba, confront Cuba, all on the basis that it’s seen to be as a territory that should always be in the sphere of influence of the United States, if not directly a part of it. I mean there’ve even been attempts at annexation in these last 200 years. But if we were to look at what’s been happening in the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, I think there was this false idea that the Cuban revolution was on its last legs, that if there was enough of a push, the Cuban government would fall. And again, 200 years of dreams of dominating Cuba could be finally realized. And therefore there’s been for the past five years, I would say a bipartisan consensus on maintaining harsh, I would say quite cruel and inhumane strength in sanctions against Cuba.

I don’t think anyone in Washington on either side of the bench Republicans or Democrats really believe that Cuba actually belongs on the state sponsors of terrorism list. I don’t think anyone actually, even people who hate Cuba or anti-Cuba within Congress don’t actually believe that Cuba is engaging in any activity that supports terrorism. But ultimately the state sponsors of terrorism list, not just from regards to Cuba but to any of the countries that are listed on it, has always been used as a political tool in order to campaign publicly against the so-called enemies of US interests. The bigger question I think that’s yet to be seen is regardless of what Biden does in this new period is when will us politicians realize that the Cubans do not want to give up on their political independence?

That no matter every attempt that the US has made over the last six decades to overthrow the Cuban government, to starve its people, to create so much deprivation and so much suffering that people have no other option. Even in those circumstances, even among Cubans who do not agree with the Cuban revolution, who do not agree with the socialist project, there’s a strong fervor for maintaining their political independence, and that should always be the basis for any serious conversation between the Cuban government and the US government. When will the US government actually wise up to this? That is the question that is yet to be seen.

Ju-Hyun: Thank you both so much for setting that up for us. I want to briefly detour to bringing up this memorandum from the State Department from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Interim American Affairs, Mallory to his colleague [inaudible 00:22:19]. This was outlining the program for the sanctions regime or the beginning of the blockade against Cuba. This is a memo from 1960 and it very clearly states out that the goal of the blockade was to decrease monetary and real wages to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government. So really just highlighting that last point that you’re making here Manolo, that this is part of a longstanding political project with very specific goals from the United States in terms of establishing influence over Cuba in terms of undermining its independent project. I want to pivot a little bit as we reach a good halfway point in this conversation to talk about what the efforts of the Cuban people and government look like in the face of these challenges.

We’ve outlined what exactly the challenge is, where it comes from in the form of the blockade and talked a bit about how it’s quite unlikely that we’re going to see a sudden and about face from the US government given the conditions that are prevailing at this time. So can you tell us a little bit more about the efforts that are being made by the Cuban people, by the Cuban government to establish resilience to resolve the issues of hunger and energy that they’re facing and maybe if you can also tie in some of the work that you are doing as well to support those efforts, that would be great.

Manolo De Los Santos: So I think considering the difficult circumstances that the Cuban people and the government face in which essentially their hands are being tied behind their backs to be able to respond to any of these challenges is incredibly difficult. But what I have noticed consistently, and I think it is remarkable when you compare to other countries around the world who have gone through similar situations is that the first premise of the Cuban government and its people has been to not engage in any internal neoliberal package to dismantle the state of social welfare that has existed on the island for 60 years. The pressure always in these circumstances is to privatize. The pressure is always to leave as many people out of a project that has prided itself on including everyone in its provision of healthcare, of education, of housing and so on for so many people.

Of course Cuba has had to deal with all these provisions but with many severe limitations. But you could say for the most part that it has provided for the well-being of its people, and I think the fact that it wants to continue doing that at all costs, even with the delays, even with the severe limitations under these cruel sanctions is remarkable. I think the other challenge that it faces is finding partners on the world stage that are willing and able to take sacrifices and actually challenge US hegemony in providing alternative sources of development for Cuba. And I think this is the case of countries like China and Russia that are actively now working with Cuba to build alternative sources of renewable fuel that allow Cuba to sustain itself without having to depend as much on the import of diesel and oil and other source of fuels.

There are other areas which is on self-sustainability of its agriculture. There are many partners around the world, again, China Russia but many others including movements including the landless workers movements of Brazil who are actively working with the Cuban people to develop the capacity, for example, for Cuba to produce its own fertilizers rather than have to continue to import at such a high cost from other parts of the world. These are many things that ultimately do not fix the whole scenario, but that begin to allow Cuban people to develop at their own pace under these extreme pressures.

And I think our responsibility of people living in the United States is not to provide charity to the Cuban people, but on the contrary to help them in their process of standing up on their own two feet. I think the Cuban people are a proud people. There are people who have proven to the world not once but many times over their incredible capacity to create, to build, to actually show us what an alternative in a future society could look like. But they need our support to get there and any effort of solidarity, whether we’re sending food aid to support, but at this moment but also supporting their biotechnological development and many other areas of their development is crucially important.

Liz Oliva Fernández: And I come back to the beginning when you talk about to protest, if you want to know about what is the situation in Cuba looks like, just see the protest when the people are asking for food and electricity during the process. I think that that shows you the scenario. Also, I can talk about the government, but I can talk about me and my neighbors how it’s difficult even having an incredible healthcare system like we have in Cuba, access to treatments. We have the best doctors and physicians and nurses and all the physicians that we can… We teach and we grow here in Cuba and we can’t have access to treatment. Why? Because we don’t have access to medicines because the biggest pharmacists are in the United States or belongs to someone that is related to the United States. It’s illegal to Cuba to have access to biotechnology.

That’s why we start to develop our own biotechnology in the 90s. And we did it quite a success because we were able to create not one but two vaccines against Covid-19 during the Covid-19 pandemic. I think like for me it’s about why we were paying… For example, why the protest in Cuba make it to the mainstream media outlets? Why the protest in Cuba, even when they’re small or big or medium, no matter the size, make it to the mainstream media? Why they are so hungry about this scarcity and the necessities that we have in Cuba? Why they’re covering that instead of covering Palestine? What is happening there or what is covering what is happening in Haiti and the role that the United States has been playing in Haiti and [inaudible 00:28:48] DR or whatever? Because the situation in Cuba is no different in so many aspects of the situation, the rest of Latin America or the Caribbean. But why they care? Why they cover the protests, but they never care about the sanctions.

They never report about how the sanctions affect us or how these group of Cuban Americans that they have a powerful group in the Congress trying talk about Cubans, but they haven’t put a foot in Cuba so far and they don’t understand our reality here. So why? And I think I don’t have again just one answer for that, but for me it is about the way that they want to portray us. They don’t care about freedom or what is a freedom speech or whatever in Cuba. They don’t care. It’s the same people that are trying to criminalize social justice in Florida. They’re criminalized Black protesting the United States. They’re supporting. They have access to gun and NRA in the United States. They don’t care about social justice or equality or whatever. They’re just trying to portray us as a failed state. They need to portray, and the media is helping a lot about this.

For example, why the ministry are not covering what is happened with the Havana syndrome? Two new studies, two new studies from the NIH say that there is no evidence that these people that were part of the US diplomats here in Havana has brain damage. That’s throw apart the whole theory that they have brain damage and that’s the beginning of a serial of sanctions, increase of sanctions on the Cuban people and on Cuba, and they never are covering that. And we have to watch 60 minutes from the last week and then say that they have new evidence. New evidence from what? New evidence from where? Why media are covering that instead of doing journalists for the beginning and trying to get what is behind of all these policies that United States have been wanting for more than 60 years now on Cuba?

Ju-Hyun: Thank you so much for those explanations. For our audience members who may be unfamiliar Havana syndrome, what Liz was referring to was a theorized syndrome that was exclusively afflicting US diplomatic personnel stationed in Havana. And at the time that this was reported, the State Department alleged that the Cubans were using an unknown sonic weapon to specifically target their personnel. In repeated medical examination since then, it’s been proven time and again that there likely were no such actual physical symptoms that people were experiencing, and consequently, there’s just no basis that these US diplomatic staffs were the victims of a Cuban sonic attack as was described at the time. I want to close us out by looking at this headline from Bloomberg Media, from Juan Pablo Spinetto.

It says Communist Cuba is on the brink of collapse. I wanted to bring this in because this is the dominant narrative that we’re seeing from corporate media in this moment that the crisis in Cuba is reaching a point of no return. Shortly after the protests on March 17th or 18th, there were a number of social media accounts alleging that the protests were specifically targeted at getting rid of the socialist system altogether, and some of the other media coverage has also tied in recent price hikes, which were announced in Cuba earlier this year in response to the crisis of food and fuel that is currently taking place. I’m wondering if you two can provide us with a little bit more information, shine a little light on the real situation. What is the real level of political thinking and satisfaction in Cuba at the moment despite all these challenges, and is there any merit to the claims that we are seeing in US-based media that the Cuban government is reneging on socialism, it’s pursuing austerity and that it’s ultimately going to be unable to fix this economic crisis or preserve itself politically?

Liz Oliva Fernández: Well, the level of satisfaction is really low, but I just want to come back to the title because they say like Communist Cuba is about to collapse or something like that. I can’t remember exactly the words that they use. And I say, but I’m so sorry, but I have an opportunity to read the entire article. But I don’t know if they explain why. I always say the situation in Cuba is very bad. People are really frustrated and angry. You can see the numbers of migration, people trying to leave the country if they have the opportunity. If they know they just are angry, we don’t know about the future. We don’t know about what is going on in Cuba and what has happened, is going to happen in the next few years because the most of these answers we can’t answer back here. The most of this question we can answer here in Cuba because it not depends on us.

The situation in Cuba nowadays is not just depend on us. The most of them depends on the United States, on the United States policy on Cuba. That’s the whole thing. That’s the whole question. That was people, and it’s curious because maybe when you go down here and you talk to the people and you ask them, “Okay, what do you think about what is going on? What do you think about US sanctions?” And the most of them, maybe, I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about percent, but maybe small percent of people, they want to talk to you about, okay, this is the way the sanctions affect us because the sanctions is too far away from us. You can point with your finger to the sanctions, you can point with your fingers to someone that is not against Manolo. The sanctions not against Manolo, it’s not against Liz Oliva.

So you need to have the big picture, have the big understanding that how the sanctions affect you and your family. Because they don’t want to point. They want solutions and the solutions, many of them are not in Cuba. They don’t depend on Cuba. So how did you feel if your entire life is someone else because of the actions of someone else? Depends on the actions of someone else. How do you feel? Frustrated, angry? I can’t understand the whole thing. I just want solutions. I just want to start to survive. People now used to say we were happy and we didn’t know. We were happy and we didn’t know because the situation is getting worse. We have always we have been a scarcity of so many things. I think that we live in a [inaudible 00:36:06] because we always have been access to basic things, small things, but is there things that we need to survive, to live, to live a happy life?

Not with many things, with many material things, but we are people that we have a strong spirit and we take care of each other even with the hard menu to offer to the other one. But we are happy. That’s why you understand that so many children in the US have mental problems and so many children in Cuba, even when they don’t have candies or chocolate or whatever or toys, they’re so happy and they laugh the whole time because we have a different society. And to understand that you need to be able to live and to experience Cuba and the whole thing, so now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s the reality and that’s sad.

And everybody is like the people who have the privilege like me to having traveled to the United States and study, taking time to dedicate to study how the sanctions were, how the sanctions has been affecting not just me and my family, but the whole country. Everybody is paying attention to the next elections in the US, who is going to win? Because most of the people, they think that Biden is going to do something in the second term if they have a second term. But oh, is Biden going to win the second term? Is Donald Trump win the second term? What is going on in the United States and how the elections in the United States is going to affect the life of 11 million of people in Cuba?

Manolo De Los Santos: Well, I fully agree with Liz. I mean, I would just add that headlines like that are a sign of Washington’s wishful thinking, but it also has dangerous connotations and it’s a connotation that we have to defeat in many ways. One, the idea that the crisis that Cuba is facing is Cuban made. It is of their own doing. I think that has to be corrected in as much as possible because always these headlines, but generally US mainstream media always seeks to hide the hand of how the empire works day and night to destroy the livelihoods of the Cuban people. And we know of it through US documents. We know it through the Mallory Memorandum, but we see it concretely in the policies that US government takes. The other element that I think is important to clarify is that this is not the first time that the US government and the US media talk about a collapse in Cuba.

They were saying the same thing in the early 90s when I would say Cuba faced an even worse scenario because they had effectively lost their major trading partners in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union, they lost most of their income overnight. The country was reduced in what we now describe as a peak oil crisis, meaning very little to no fuel was entering the country. I mean, in fact, a level of food crisis unprecedented, and yet the Cuban people survived, and I think they survived in part to what Liz mentions, which is a different ethic, a different approach to collective well-being.

A society that ultimately puts human beings first and is despite all the odds and all the challenges, is trying to figure out how to maintain a certain quality of life within the possible for the majority of its people without sacrificing anyone. And I think that makes a difference. I don’t know if in the United States we would be able to respond to a crisis of this type if all of a sudden millions of people in the United States lost access to food, fuel, and medicine at major scale. Talking about, let’s say more than half of the US population, would our society be able to respond so collectively, so calmly, so grounded in their humanity to such a level of crisis? I would think not.

Liz Oliva Fernández: I just want to add that you have your own crisis to resolve, and there is still [inaudible 00:40:23]. Just look at the situation of the Black people in the United States in general, the access to food, to real food, not just snack food, to medicines, to healthcare system, to everything. The mortality of Black moms in the United States. That’s another point you have to face off. That’s the thing for me when people say, “Okay, but what kind of things the United States have to do in order to help Cuba?” And I always respond the same. We don’t need help. We just need that… Leave us alone. That’s the only thing that United States have to do. We have to deal with our own problems or our stuff, but you can’t intervene with us, not for good, not for bad, just don’t intervene at all.

Ju-Hyun: Precisely. And as you’re both saying, we can look at the state of the United States today and see a number of crises that are already taking place. There is a crisis of hunger, there is a crisis, black maternal mortality, there is a crisis of education, of healthcare. And we can also see the ways that our government is actually responding, which is in most cases to simply leave people out in the cold. For regular listeners of The Real News, you’ll be familiar with our coverage of the recent bridge collapse in Baltimore, of the Train derailment in East Palestine, all the ways that the workers and communities that are left behind after those catastrophes have been left to twist in the wind. And that really speaks to the different ethical social approaches that the two of you are talking about. Now, before we say goodbye, I’m hoping that you can close us out by just talking about the work that you’re currently engaged in, how listeners can continue to support you and stay involved.

Manolo De Los Santos: Well, out of The People’s Forum, we’re actively engaging in political education about what’s taking place in Cuba and overall trying to build awareness, not just about Cuba itself, but obviously the history and the context that comes into what we know as US-Cuba relations today. We’re also engaging in major initiatives to support the Cuban people. One of the most latest examples of that is our Let Cuba Live Bread for our Neighbors campaign, which has the goal of sending 800 tons of wheat flour to Cuba within the next month with the aspiration of being able to give at least 5 million Cubans a piece of bread every day for a month in order to help support them through this difficult moment. Not as a sign of charity, but actually as a sign of encouragement to their people as they continue to struggle and fight, but also to raise light on what the Marco Rubios of our world are constantly saying and raising as truth, but that we know are actually lies when it comes to the extent of this blockade and how it affects the Cuban people on a day-to-day basis.

Liz Oliva Fernández: Well, in the case of Belly of the Beast, and Belly of the Beast we are coming with two new documentaries. Hardliner on the Hudson that is focuses Bob Menendez and the role that he played during the Biden administration to support the sanctions against Cuba and all the corruption scandals that are involve him. On the other one is UpHill on the Hill that is focuses in Biden administration and the politics that are having place in Washington. They’re trying to maintain the sanctions in Cuba. We interview Congress people, we interview the people who actually live in Washington DC and what they think about. Not about the sanctions against Cuba, also about Cuba being the states sponsor of terrorism. And what does that mean? If you want to know more about these two new documentaries, you can stay tuned and subscribe to Belly of the Beast Cuba future channel, and you have the premiere in the upcoming months, May.

Ju-Hyun: Wonderful. We’ll make sure to share the links to both of those initiatives that you mentioned in the show notes. So if you’re listening to this, go ahead and jump into the podcast description and you’ll be able to find a link to help support the drive to deliver much needed flower to our comrades in Cuba, and also to keep up with Belly of the Beast in anticipation of their soon to be released documentaries. That’ll be all for today. Thank you so much again, Manolo and Liz. Before we close, I’d like to give a shout-out to The Real News Studio team, Cameron Granadino, David Hebden and Caleb Rivera for making this episode possible. And finally, to you, our audience. Thank you for listening, and we’ll catch you next time here on The Real News.

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