“There’s nothing to eat…”

July 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The phone call came from Cuba, from dear friends there: we have known them for years of going back to the same place: so many Canadians do this.

“We’re worried they will break into our house to see if we have anything to eat. “There’s no food; the people are hungry.”

Cuban scientists have created five new vaccines against Covid-19 and yet, they have no needles; the shops open but have little on their shelves; people are in the streets, angry, yes, but not at their government – they are angry at the blockades set against their country.

Trump, like the worst bully in the playground, swore he would “bring Cuba to its knees.” That bully identity continues with Biden who, along with its bully buddy, Israel, voted against lifting the blockade of Cuba when 182 countries at the UN voted in favour of it.

The whole world capitulated and Cuba starves and suffers because American presidents are still stinging from 60 years ago when Cuba, under Castro, stood up for itself and kicked out a corrupt and destructive American business and mafia. Subsequently, in April of 1961, an American backed invasion of Cuba, at the Bay of Pigs, to overthrow Castro failed. The Cubans beat the invaders and took 1,100 prisoners.

America calls Fidel Castro a terrorist but he was the other shoe: he was a freedom fighter: keeping Cuba independent of the United States.

Barack Obama went to Cuba in 2016, the one American president who could see the futility of the American embargo, like a sulking child having lost the test of strength to a smaller child and vowed to have revenge forever. 

Is there more to it than that? No, and Obama understood the common sense of encouraging good relationships within the Caribbean.

YET, once Obama’s administration was over, the bullies dashed that common sense to the ground and went back to the sulking child approach, which is where we all stand now.

Canadians love going to Cuba. Americans are forbidden to do so but sometimes, they come up to Montreal and fly to holiday in Cuba anyway, asking the customs guards at the Cuban airports not to stamp their passports.

Canadians go to Cuba over and over, over the years and they make friends of families there; they do bring goods to support those families and they become involved; they become godparents, lovers, even spouses. They buy property, which can only be done through a Cuban person or family. They build houses for those people.

They love them.

Yet, here we Canadians sit, where we have everything and more, from where we could do business, trade, benefit our dear friends in Cuba but for the bullies to the immediate south of us and across the ocean in the Middle East.

Our own Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau was genuinely friends with Fidel Castro, who came and grieved at his funeral but Justin Trudeau was denied the right to go to Cuba and similarly pay tribute when Castro died – by whom? His advisors, twitchy and nervous of American opinion.

Perhaps, it is time to move the seat of the United Nations out of New York, out of America. I have thought for a long time that it is time to untangle the whole world from the economic snare of webs American business has woven. There is the whole of the rest of the world for each country to trade with; surely the financial weight of the whole world outweighs that of one country. America yaks on about Cuba’s oppressive government but it trades “big time” with China.

More than once, while in Cuba, they have talked about the good times when Russia was involved in Cuba. There was trade and money and employment. It was only once the Soviet Union fell that this intercourse failed too; once the Americans added to that by cutting off trade to Cuba that people began to have nothing.

Cuba is a tiny island with a population of 11 million people. There is free education, all the way, with an emphasis on medicine that looks to cure, not fill a patient with harm and chemicals. Cuba sends doctors to other countries in times of emergency and when there are shortages of doctors. But for the lack of supplies, Cubans have free dentistry, medicine, even housing, even humble. There is parody in wages in Cuba because Cubans dislike the hierarchy of wealth: they see it happen everywhere: the wealthy become oppressively entitled and forget the value of the people who helped them become wealthy.

We are nothing without each other. We have no privileges but those we are given. We cannot earn friendship and love and, if we buy it, it isn’t either. The growing line of zeros following a dollar sign and a number doesn’t make a person; only the benefit that person shares with the others who put him/her/ there define the human value.

We must press our government to create pressure on America to release Cuba.

And stop being the worst sulking child.

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