The Tightening of the Blockade/Embargo
On February 15, 1970, I participated in a national public television program, broadcast from the University of Miami, which promoted the lifting of the U.S blockade/embargo against Cuba; I used arguments similar to those employed by President Barack Obama in 2015 when he announced the process of normalizing relations with Cuba. Since 1970, I have opposed the U. S. blockade/embargo in many of my writings.
In a recent essay with Cuban economist Pavel Vidal, we take stock of Trump’s multiple economic measures against Cuba:
- Foreign investment. He implemented Title III of the Burton-Helms Act of 1996 (blockade/embargo), which authorizes bringing lawsuits in the United States against foreign companies/individuals that have transacted with goods nationalized by the Cuban government. An estimated $8 billion could come out from certified claims, plus 200,000 uncertified claims worth tens of billions of dollars. There are many established lawsuits, although several investment nations have also brought counterclaims or opposed existing ones. While more than 100 existing investors apparently remain on the island, some large corporations have left and potential investors are assessing all the risks involved in doing business with Cuba, others are postponing their decision until the results of the 2020 presidential election are known. Cuba annually needs foreign investment in the amount of US$2.5 billion hence this sanction will probably cause the worst damage.
- He banned American tourists from staying in hotels and eating at restaurants run by Cuba’s armed forces, as well as cruise and peoples-to-people’s trips that were the easiest ways for American tourists. He recently announced the cancellation of any voyage that is not for family purposes, as well as aircraft routes to several cities in the island. As a result, a loss of nearly US$1 billion in gross tourism revenue is projected for 2019 (a 34% reduction over 2018). Tourism is Cuba’s third largest source of foreign exchange hence these measures are the second most harmful.
- Oil supply. He imposed sanctions on the Cuban import agency and oil tankers; the latter charge up to three times what they used to charge to Venezuela. Cuba has taken recent steps to address the potential oil shortage on the island. Venezuela’s fuel imports have fallen from 105,000 barrels per day in 2012 to about 40,000 in 2019, and domestic oil production declined 17% in 2010-2017, exacerbating the shortages. The cost of maintaining the needed fuel supply is $2 billion annually.
- Foreign remittances. He levied an annual remittance ceiling of $4,000 per person. External remittances are Cuba’s second foreign exchange revenue, but the trumpist measure is very difficult to control, as a person in Cuba may receive remittances from more than one sender and because the set cap is greater than what is currently sent to Cuba as average. However, private micro-enterprises have been affected by this sanction because they often receive larger sums.
- Strengthening sanctions on foreign banks that do transactions with Cuba. Several banks have been penalized by Trump, one of them for $1.3 billion. This creates difficulties for Cuba to do transactions and restricts external credit.
We conclude on Trump’s punitive sanctions: “These actions attack in all directions and regardless who are affected. Not only said sanctions cut revenue from government and state-owned enterprises, but they severely harm the private sector, they threaten companies in countries allied to the United States, the U.S. companies themselves, and above all, the Cuban families regardless of their income levels and political affiliation.”
Trump: Chaotic narcissism
In September 2015, two months after Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency of the United States, in a speech in which he accused Mexican immigrants of being criminals, rapists and drug dealers, as well as promising deportation of 11 million of them and to build the deplorable wall, I wrote a declaration —with Mexican historian Enrique Krause— denouncing the Trumpist hate speech and appeal to the lowest passions, as well as his xenophobia, machismo and intolerance. I warned that his speech recalled campaigns from the past (Nazism) aimed at other ethnic groups that led to the killing of millions of people. I added that Trump’s verbal attacks are not based on proven facts but on his very personal and unfounded opinion; he “exhibits a dangerous attitude against his opponents, whom he calls stupid or weak.” Interviewers “have been accused of having murky motives… he has expelled from a press conference a prominent Hispanic journalist who asked him an inconvenient question… has released grim comments about women… their bodyguards and followers attack peaceful protesters.” The aforementioned declaration was signed by 68 prominent Hispanics, academics, intellectuals, scientists and artists (including two Nobel laureates) living in the United States, Mexico, Spain and Latin America; it was published in English and Spanish in several newspapers.  Just then, I predicted, “Trump appeals to the most petty sentiments, if he wins [the election] it would be a catastrophe for the United States.”
Three years after that statement, several of my predictions have been fulfilled, although my vision fell short of Trump’s devastating actual performance. I characterized him as “egocentric narcissistic, know-it-all that proclaims himself as the best in any subject, ignores all advice and provokes chaos.”  In a dozen interviews and articles published in the US, Spain and Mexico, as well as on websites, I have systematically analyzed and criticized Trump’s policies and made several predictions that have materialized.
- Reversal of Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba. “If Hilary Clinton had won the presidency, she would have followed the normalization process with Cuba, but Trump won and soon declared that he would revoke all the steps taken by Obama.” “If Trump repeals [Obama’s] 12 categories of U.S. travel allowed to Cuba, it would slow down the current tourism boom with the consequent loss for Cuba.” 
- Tariff Wars. “The anti-China attitude, which Trump claims that ‘robs U.S. jobs’, would lead to isolation of the United States and possibly to heavy tariffs on ‘undesirable’ imports which would raise prices and generate countermeasures by China and other countries punished.” 
- Xenophobia and fascism: A federal judge approved a lawsuit filed against Trump University based on a series of illegalities that eventually closed it; Trump disqualified the sentence because it had been handed down by a Mexican judge, but that judge had been born in Indiana, USA. At the same time Nazi swastikas proliferated, as well as bomb threats in synagogues, the attack on a gay couple because “now they live in Trump country,” the murder of an Indian engineer taken by Muslim to the cry of “get out of my country,” all under the slogan “America First” used by U. S. Nazis during World War II. In 2015, a white supremacist demonstration by Ku Klux Klan members flying Nazi flags in Charlottesville, Virginia led to the murder of an opponent.  Three successive hate crimes occurred in the US: the murder of two African-Americans in Louisville Kentucky, the sending of bombs to Democratic leaders (Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden) and the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history: in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, eleven parishioners were killed and others wounded; the killers in the three attacks were ardent supporters of Trump.
- Attempt to eliminate Obamacare. Trump and the Republicans launched an offensive to wipe out all vestiges of the Affordable Access to Health Act passed in the Obama administration in 2010, without having an alternative project, which would have left millions of Americans without coverage, but the attempt was defeated in Congress.
- Setbacks in foreign policy. Trump has attacked several Western Democratic leaders: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former British Prime Minister Theresa May—Trump supports current Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit—, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Instead, he is friendly with dictators or autocrats such as Kim Jung-un of North Korea, Viktor Orbán of Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Trump refused to sign the global treaty to control global warming and repealed Obama’s measures to protect the environment, canceled the nuclear treaty with Iran, withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and also from the Arms Control accord.
The Forgery of Truth
The above makes clear my critical position of the US blockade/embargo and of Donald Trump’s policies. Astonishingly, the article recently published in Granma, Cuban Communist Party’s official newspaper, the refers to a group of Cuban-Americans in Miami that strongly supports Trump and how he has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to some of those supporters, labeled “employees for hire.” The author of said article then says that “in the midst of this new scenario created by the upsurge of the blockade, the opportunity returns to what the British academic Emily Morris described some time ago as a “group mostly funded and settled in the United States, and overwhelmingly dominated by ‘Cubanologists’…, who are deeply hostile to the Havana regime…” He adds that “such sectarian behavior” is called by Morris “the view of Miami” and that its solutions are “policies focused on opening the economy to global capital flows, privatizing state assets, deregulating prices and wages, and cuts in social spending.” According to Morris,” says the author, “The leading figures since 1970 have included Carmelo Mesa-Lago of the University of Pittsburgh, the ‘Dean of Cuban Studies and author of more than 30 books…” Thus, Mesa-Lago the critic of Trump and the blockade/embargo is transmuted by the author’s alchemy into a Trump-paid employee to bolster his punitive actions against Cuba and promote neoliberal policies in Latin America and Cuba.
This attack is not the first, because in 2014 the same author translated into Spanish an article by Morris and published it on his website.  I fully refuted all Morris’ arguments in an academic and documented way, in an article published in Cuba’s best social science journal.  Neither Morris nor the cited author answered my article, but an old sinister tactic is that, when someone is incapable of refuting the enemy’s arguments, then it must be discredited. Thus, the sneaky author comes back and reaches his apotheosis with the publication of his new and false attack in Cuba’s most important official newspaper. Several friends, inside and outside Cuba, advised me not to answer this second article because it would give prominence to its author. I didn’t follow the advice because, if I have lashed Trump’s disastrous policies why am I going to shut up about unfair criticism of a minion who acts as the relentless persecutor of Les Miserables, Inspector Javert?
It is not possible here to sum up my arguments in my reply to Morris (see my article in Temas), but I am going to answer the absurd accusation that I am a neoliberal, something that will make laugh those who know my 60-year work on Latin America. My publications on social protection on three continents have been characterized by criticism of the policies of the World Bank. I was the pioneer in identifying, in books and scholarly articles, the numerous flaws of pension privatization initiated by the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and extended to eleven other countries in Latin America. My recent work analyzes the return of the state role in the world through re-reforms of previously privatized pensions. In my work on Cuba, I have always made it clear that universal public health, education and pension systems must be preserved, with adjustments to make them more efficient and financially sustainable. In fact, the extreme right-wing sectors in Miami have accused me of leftist and even communist. My economic approach is neo-Keynesian and opposed to the neoliberal ideology.cubanologia-mesa-lago-temas-15
Trump is a pathological liar, 13,435 of his lies have been confirmed in 993 days since he took office, an average of 14 daily.  Moreover, he dismisses as “fake” any true criticism made against him. “In an ominous Orwellian parallel, Trump has urged his supporters not to believe in ‘that crap from people who make fake news: Remember that what you see and read is not what is happening. His personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani went even further: Truth is not the truth.'” This Trump’s despicable feature has been cloned by other politicians around the world such as Jair Bolsonaro and Boris Johnson and, of course, it is also in Cuba, well represented by the author who slanders me.
Some clues I give to that author for future misinformation articles about me:
1) Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a relative of Carlos Mesa, the opposition candidate in Bolivia’s elections, actively participated in the coup that pushed Evo Morales out;
2) It has been discovered that Mesa-Lago made a million-dollar contribution to Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020;
3) Mesa-Lago sent a Twit to Jair Bolsonaro supporting the fires in the Amazon in order to spread capitalist plantations.
Meanwhile, Emily Morris, an opponent of neoliberal policies, a contributor to the New Left Review and an accomplice of the Cuban minion, left her academic post in London and accepted a well-paid position at the Inter-American Development Bank, from which it appears that soon withdrew.
Recall: “truth is not the truth!”
 C. Mesa-Lago and P. Vidal, El impacto en la economía cubana de la crisis en Venezuela y las políticas de Trump, Madrid, Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales, May 2019; new data from my chapter “The Cuban economy after 60 years of revolution,” Cuba in Transition, Vol. 29, forthcoming 2020.
 “Declaración de Intelectuales, Científicos y Académicos Hispanos contra la Xenofobia de Trump”, El País, 3 noviembre 2015. Before that statement I had documented the significant contribution made by Mexican immigrants to the U.S. economy, “El peso de la ideología,” El País, June 30, 2015.
 Interview in Bolsomanía, Madrid, September 16, 2015.
 “Después de Trump el diluvio,” Letras Libres, Ciudad México, March 3, 2017.
 “Cuba es impredecible,” La Vanguardia, Barcelona, November 24, 2015.
 “El porvenir de Cuba con Trump,” Estudios de Política Exterior, Madrid, December 20, 2016.
 Interview cited, September 16, 2015.
 “Después de Trump el diluvio,” March 3, 2017.
 “From Pittsburgh: Renunciation to the rhetoric and hate crimes,” Panoramas, Pittsburgh, November 5, 2018.
 “The defeat of Trumpcare,” Transition, Harvard University, No. 124, October 2017.
 “La no política exterior de Donald Trump,” Estudios de Política Exterior, December 2018.
 E. Morris, “Unexpected Cuba,” New Left Review, No. 88 July-August 2014; translation “Cuba inesperada,” La Pupila Insomne, November 24, 2014.
 “¿Cubanólogos o Cubanistas?,” Temas, Havana, No. 81-82, January-June 2015, p. 158-164.
 Washington Post, fact checker, October 9, 2019.
 Quotes from Mesa-Lago, “De Rusia con amor: la capitulación de Trump y sus efectos,” Letras Libres, June 30, 2018.