The right-winged demand for U.S. intervention in Cuba continues the U.S.’s imperialist legacy of a 62-year embargo, sanctions, funded coup attempts, and political campaigns against the Cuban government. 

Citing food shortages, lack of access to medical care, and the Cuban government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuban anti-government protests began in early July, calling for President Miguel Diaz-Canal to step down. These protests have been largely supported by right-wing conservatives, such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, condemning Cuba’s communist government. 

The Republican mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez called for an airstrike against the Cuban government in an interview with Fox News, demanding a “coalition of potential military action in Cuba.” Inherent to this right-winged condemnation of the Cuban government is the idea that U.S. intervention will bring change to the conditions that sparked said protests. But the U.S. has directly contributed to the conditions that protesters are calling attention to, intervening in Cuba through an over 60-year long embargo, hundreds of sanctions and a one hundred-year-long legacy of imperialism. 

On July 20, Marco Rubio proclaimed to the Senate, “There is only one blockage in Cuba and it is the blockage that the regime has imposed on its people,” in reference to the embargo on trade between the U.S. and Cuba. Established at the height of the Cold War during the Kennedy administration to undermine Communist Cuba, the 1962 embargo prevents U.S. businesses from engaging in trade with Cuba. This blockage, counter to Rubio’s point, has been imposed by the U.S. government in the hopes to undermine Cuba’s communist government after it’s 1959 revolution, led by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. 

Nancy Robles addresses a crowd in San Francisco on July 25, 2021, who are calling for an end to the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Photo: James Wyatt

Previous to the embargo, the U.S. has an over 120-year long history of intervention in Cuba, most notably through the 1901 Platt Amendment. The Platt Amendment stipulated that in order for U.S. troops to withdraw from Cuba after the Spanish-American War, Cuba would have to agree to several conditions that would ensure U.S. power to intervene in Cuban affairs, economy, and government at any time. While Rubio argues that the Cuban government has imposed a blockage of goods and services on it’s people, he fails to address the long standing legacy of U.S. control of Cuba’s access to said goods and services. 

For the 29th year in a row, the UN voted 184 to 2 in favor of ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, with just the U.S. and Israel voting against it. Several representatives spoke out against the embargo, citing its impediment to Internet access for Cubans, deep financial impacts to Cuba that total almost $9 billion and inability to access medical supplies and vaccines. While right-winged politicians such as Rubio claim that the embargo has nothing to do with the disparities observed in Cuba, the restriction of goods to the island during a global pandemic surely must be a blockage that the U.S. regime has imposed on the Cuban people, not the Cuban regime on its people. As protesters in Cuba are calling attention to these disparities, right-wing politicians are using this moment to urge for more intervention, when it is U.S. intervention, as backed by over 184 countries, that have further exacerbated these disparities.  

The right-wing rhetoric that U.S. intervention will bring liberation to Cuba, as spewed by Marco Rubio, speaks to the imperialist frameworks the U.S. operates in. This idea that the U.S. would bring meaningful change to another nation posits the U.S. as a benevolent entity focused on bringing freedom and equality, heralding its national model as a humane standard. The question then to be asked is, is the U.S. a benevolent state truly invested in human rights for all? The U.S. has around 22 percent of the world’s prison population yet only 4.4 percent of the world’s general population, extreme wealth inequality as the top 1 percent have 6 times more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, no universal healthcare and it’s creation as a ntaion is invested in the legacies of slavery and genocide. Considering the U.S.’s own need to address systemic racism, wealth inequality, prison-industrial complex, military-industrial complex, lack of accessible healthcare and more, it has no right to intervene in any nation on the basis of morals, especially considering its legacy of intervention in Cuba, exacerbated by the embargo.

A pedestrian reacts in favor of a Cuban flag held by Livan Montoya in San Francisco on July 25, 2021. Photo: James Wyatt

As marginalized communities of color are still in struggle against systemic racism, as wealth inequality grows, how can the United Stated bring “stability” to another nation? The legacies of U.S. imperialism and intervention in countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, the Samoan Islands, the Virgin Islands, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and more have led to extreme destabilization causing devastating economic and social impacts. The U.S.’s hand in sanctions and the embargo insinuates that the U.S. empire needs to have a place in the fight for meaningful change in Cuba, embedded in legacies of anti-Communism and capitalist rhetoric. 

This is not to say that the Cuban government should be granted freedom of accountability from the disparities that the Cuban people are calling attention to. Any group of people must have the right to stand up against their government when it fails to serve them, especially in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the assertion that U.S. imperialism puts forth is that it must be involved in Cuban affairs to bring stabilization, positing the U.S. as a benevolent, utopian nation with ideals that other nations should emulate, rather than an imperialist force with historic capitalist interests.