Cuba after the End of the Soviet Union

By | December 16, 2021

The fall of the USSR (1991) led Cuba to a strong isolation, which together with the fall in the price of sugar and the continuation of the US embargo caused serious economic difficulties, with serious repercussions on the standard of living of the population, forced to face significant problems posed by the shortage of food and other basic necessities (electricity, medicines, fuel). In 1992, important constitutional amendments were passed, any discrimination on religious grounds was prohibited, allowing believers to join the single party, and direct election of the members of the National Assembly was authorized. Convicted of non-respect for human rights by a special commission of the United Nations (March 1992), the regime continued to repress dissent (often linked to the US and Cubans in Miami, and sometimes leading to violent actions and terrorist attacks), but managed to guarantee the government a high level of consensus, the result of the social gains achieved by the revolution (including the others a completely free health service and a level of education unknown to the rest of Latin America). In this the regime was also helped by Washington’s obstinacy in maintaining a rigid trade embargo against the island, which was further strengthened starting in October 1992, when the US Congress adopted the Cuban democracy act. This measure was contested by the European Union and condemned by the UN General Assembly, with only the United States, Israel and Romania voting against (Nov. 1992). In February 1993, elections were held for the renewal of the National Assembly (for the first time with direct suffrage, but still reserved exclusively for candidates chosen by the CCP) which the following month unanimously confirmed, in the respective positions of president and first vice president. of the Council of State, F. Castro and his brother Raúl. In the same year, Castro launched a package of economic reforms that put an end to the thirty-year ban on owning foreign currency and authorized the creation in numerous sectors of private companies subject to monthly taxation.

The legalization of the use of the dollar favored foreign investments and the emergence of numerous joint ventures, but it also opened up new contradictions, extending the black market area. The other government concession, the possibility of setting up privately run commercial, craft and service activities, led to the rise of numerous family businesses. Meanwhile, the share of cooperative and individual ownership of the land increased (state ownership decreased to about 30%) and the cooperatives were allowed to sell on the market a small part of the production exceeding the share transferred to the state. On the international level, despite the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Colombia, Chile, Haiti, Paraguay and Grenada, Cuba continued to remain excluded from the main Latin American economic and political institutions, as well as from the possibility of accessing World Bank or World Bank funding. International Monetary Fund. Relations with the United States, which remained unchanged even after the advent to the presidency of the Democrat B. Clinton (March 1993), experienced new reasons for tension in the summer of 1994, following the attempt of a few thousand Cubans (on this occasion unhindered by the authorities) from reaching the Florida coasts on makeshift boats. With the intention of discouraging the exodus, the US administration changed the attitude traditionally held towards Cuban exiles (who until then had automatically obtained political asylum and permanent residence permits), providing for the indefinite internment of refugees intercepted at sea at the Guantánamo naval base. Migratory flows from Cuba could only be regulated thanks to the agreement between the two countries (September 1994, May 1995), according to which the United States would guarantee a maximum of 20,000 visas per year for Cubans, while Havana pledged to prevent further escapes. Unavailable to a reform of the political system, despite international pressure and those exerted internally by dissident organizations (most of which had met since October 1995 in the Cuban Council), the regime passed, in September 1995, a law on foreign investment which opened up almost all sectors of the economy even to companies with totally foreign capital. However, the timid signs of recovery recorded by the economy had to collide with the further strengthening of the embargo: in March 1996 the US Congress approved the so-called Helms-Burton law, which included the imposition of sanctions on countries that traded with the island. To the repeated international condemnations of the embargo (in Nov. 1999, for the eighth consecutive year, the UN General Assembly asked for it to be lifted), there were therefore added the criticisms that the countries of the European Union, but also Canada and Mexico moved to the new law, which was considered a blatant violation of international law. The negative reactions aroused by the provision led Clinton to postpone the entry into force of the most controversial articles by six months in six months. In the summer of the same year, Havana was shaken by a series of bomb attacks against hotels and public places, aimed at undermining the tourism industry, the fastest growing sector of the Cuban economy. and to create difficulties in view of the imminent visit of John Paul II.

The mobilization of the CCP and the organizational effort of the local episcopate ensured an enormous popular participation in the papal visit (21-25 January 1998), during which the pope, in addition to renewing his condemnation of the US embargo, criticized the government on issues such as abortion and divorce, and asked for greater freedoms for the Cuban people. After Castro’s confirmation in the elections that took place in the same month of January, in February the government, partially accepting the requests of John Paul II, ordered the release of 299 prisoners, about seventy of them in prison for political reasons; the following month Washington made a relaxing gesture towards Cuba easing the penalties (direct flights between the United States and Havana were then restored and the sending of cash remittances was again allowed). On the diplomatic level, the consequences of the papal visit were not long in making themselves felt: in April 1998 the UN Commission on Human Rights rejected (for the first time since 1991) the resolution condemning Cuba presented by the United States. In the same month, Canadian Prime Minister J. Chrétien visited the island, while full diplomatic relations between Havana and the Dominican Republic were re-established, after about forty years, and those with Spain were normalized. Relations with the USA, on the other hand, remained tense: in the Sept. 1998 five agents of intelligence Cuban, on a mission to Miami to investigate anti-Castro terrorist groups, were arrested and sentenced to harsh sentences (three of them to life imprisonment). In January 1999, some Washington measures signaled a first opening, which culminated in the October 2000 Senate vote in favor of lifting the embargo on the sale of medicines and foodstuffs. During 2001 the United States showed new cautious signs of détente and in July President GW Bush announced a further delay in the entry into force of some articles of the Helms-Burton law. New signs have come from the new President B. Obama. However, the embargo was never lifted. In the meantime, Cuba participated in the processes of alternative economic and political integration underway in Latin America. In December 2004 Castro and Venezuelan President H. Chávez signed the preliminary agreement for the establishment of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), with which Venezuela guaranteed Cuba the supply of 96,000 barrels of oil per day at very low prices. favorable, and Cuba sent 20,000 doctors and thousands of teachers to Venezuela. Subsequently, various other countries will join the ALBA, which in 2009 had 8 member states. Meanwhile, in 2006 Cuba achieved the best results in its history in other social indicators such as life expectancy (reached 77.4 years on average) and the infant mortality rate (down to 5.3 per thousand). In the same year F. Castro for health reasons left the presidency to his brother Raúl, a handover ratified by the 2008 National Assembly.

Cuba after the End of the Soviet Union