He is one of the “Miami Five”, these Cuban secret agents infiltrated into anti-Castro circles in Florida for an intelligence and counterterrorism mission. Arrested in 1998 like his four companions, he was sentenced three years later to seventeen years and nine months in prison for “espionage”. He was released in 2014. Fernando Gonzalez is now a member of the Cuban Parliament and heads the Cuban Institute for Friendship with Peoples.
The blockade multiplies the effects of the health crisis and places the country more than ever in a situation of economic strangulation. How do you assess the intentions of the Biden administration?
Fernando Gonzalez During the Trump administration, we reached a climax in the economic war waged on Cuba. An economic war which includes this economic, commercial and financial blockade, with obstacles made to the importation of fuels, blocked financial transactions. One of Trump’s last acts was to include Cuba on the US list of states accused of sponsoring terrorism. The objective: to prevent, in the name of an alleged fight against terrorism, all the international banks from carrying out transactions involving Cuba on pain of being sanctioned by Washington.
Cuba has never sponsored terrorism, quite the contrary: it has been the target of terrorist acts instigated in the United States. With a death toll of over 3,000 and more than 2,000 people crippled by these attacks. These measures taken by Donald Trump have complemented an arsenal of 243 measures taken under his mandate to intensify the economic war. The current President of the United States has, for the moment, changed absolutely nothing. Although he made commitments during his campaign, although he participated, as Vice President of Barack Obama, in the process that had for a time been to change the approach of the United States towards Cuba, Joe Biden did not has done absolutely nothing since his election. In turn, he even takes additional coercive measures.
How do you analyze the demonstrations of July 11, in Havana and in several other cities? Do US interference alone explain this surge of discontent?
Fernando Gonzalez There was a wave of discontent. It was the media and social networks that returned such an image, with a magnifying glass effect. There were localized disturbances. Not all of the participants took part in acts of vandalism, but a core of them engaged in acts of violence, attacks on public facilities, including medical structures. Did all the participants have these characteristics? No. But these troubles were generated from the United States. With money that American agencies sent to Cuba through counterrevolutionary organizations based in Miami.
Are there unhappy people in Cuba? Yes. Have we done everything we need to do? No. It has been said by the government leadership: we not only need to communicate better, we also need to listen better.
Now, can we say that everyone who participated in these protests was paid by the United States? No. How do we see these events? In Cuba, the economic situation is very complicated. The blockade has dramatic impacts on the daily life of Cubans. Added to this was the pandemic, which deprived us of essential resources, bringing tourism to an abrupt halt. And, in such circumstances, the country has not given up on allocating the necessary resources to the fight against Covid-19. In the midst of this crisis, the United States government has very cynically tightened the noose even further. They did it with a political motivation: to raise discontent, to instrumentalize it through a campaign on social networks. Are there unhappy people in Cuba? Yes. Have we done everything we need to do? No. It has been said by the government leadership: we not only need to communicate better, we also need to listen better. We have learned from these troubles. Those who participated in these demonstrations on the basis of legitimate frustrations, we must listen to them. We must make an effort to listen to them, to meet their expectations.
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Monetary reform, with the abandonment of the convertible peso, has sparked a phenomenon of hyperinflation that goes beyond the sharp increases in pensions and civil servants’ salaries. What are the consequences ? How to stem the surge in prices?
Fernando Gonzalez The regulation we are aiming for does not only imply monetary reform; it’s also about wage reform, and other changes. It is a very complex process. For a year, we worked, reflected on how to conduct these reforms so that their impact on the population was as minimal as possible. But there is always an impact, when you are engaged in a restructuring of this magnitude. We want to create the environment for a more efficient economy. And this restructuring implies a level of inflation that we had anticipated. However, with the pandemic which has come to combine its consequences with those of the blockade, the country’s income has been drastically reduced. And a considerable part of these reduced resources has been allocated to the fight against Covid. Which accentuated the shortages. With demand far greater than the supply of products we have, inflation is higher than it would have been under other circumstances.
To mitigate these effects, we had opened stores accessible to those who can pay in currencies, in dollars, to allow the country to collect the currencies that would have allowed us to support the supply of other stores, and to contain inflation. . But Trump’s inscription of Cuba on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism closed the doors of foreign banks to us: we could no longer do anything with these currencies. This hampered the scope of our reforms. This is yet another manifestation of the United States government’s desire to suffocate Cuba.
What solidarity do the Cuban people need today?
Fernando Gonzalez Fundamentally, the people of Cuba need political solidarity. Let the world make the US administration hear its rejection of this blockade. We are grateful for all the manifestations of material solidarity that have reached us in the ordeal of the pandemic. For example, friendly countries have sent us syringes. The important thing is also to make people understand why we lack medicines, basic medical equipment, respirators: so many goods whose importation is now hampered by the blockade. This is the meaning of political solidarity.