ORLANDO, Fla. – Since the country witnessed the uprising of thousands of Cubans in the Caribbean island, one of the issues much talked about on social media and by politicians is the U.S. embargo on Cuba. So, what exactly is it, and does it in fact play a role in what is currently happening within the island?
“Every time something goes wrong, every crisis, the Cuban government and, by the way, the friends of the Cuban government throughout the world, blame it on the U.S embargo. That is nonsense. Cuba could trade with any other country,” said Dr. Luis Martínez-Fernádez, a UCF history professor who has studied the Cuban revolution. “In Cuba, they call it a blockade. It is not a blockade. Cuba is free to trade with other countries. The problem is that Cuba does not have either the cash to do it or the credit.”
The U.S. embargo was placed in 1960, a year after Fidel Castro came into power but according to Marcos Marchena, a Cuban exile and attorney in Orlando, the main part of it began in 1962 that says no one in the U.S. may purchase Cuban-made goods.
“It essentially started when the Cuban government began to take from U.S. citizens and U.S. companies, properties and businesses around the island without compensation,” said Marchena, who left Cuba 50 years ago. “It also prohibits anyone from the U.S. from selling products to Cuba with two major exceptions and that’s something that people forget or intentionally leave out, and that is food and medicine.”
In fact, Marchena says anyone in the U.S. with a special permit can sell food and medicine to Cuba, but payment has to be in cash.
“The current situation has nothing to do with the embargo. The current situation relates to an inept government a failed system, a dictatorship, and a system that does not allow Cubans to express themselves either politically or artistically and also in the economic way,” Martínez-Fernández said.
For 21-year-old María Castellón, who left Cuba when she was 11 years old, it’s important she sheds light on what is happening in her country so that her generation is better informed. Castellón is a health sciences major at the University of Central Florida and a historian with the Cuban American Student Association at the university.
“I want them to shine, I want the entire world to see that Cuba is much more than a beach and much more than tourism. It’s science and it’s culture and it’s art, you know; people are passionate in Cuba and they want to be able to show that passion through what they love,” the 21-year-old said.
“It’s important to know what’s really happening and the truth behind it, not just what’s being shown to you in one little picture in one little video,” Castellón said. “You have brilliant people in Cuba that could do so much for our society that could do so much for themselves for their own country.”