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Viva Cuba! Viva Palestina!

By Sarah Cotte, BSc Politics, Philosophy, and Economics  

Since the start of this current period of conflict between Palestine and Israel, most states have had no choice but to take a stand on the matter. Some have stood with the Palestinians – Cuba is one such state. The Island’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canal, has led marches in support of Palestine in November, something no other head of state has done. When South Africa’s claim that Israel was committing genocide against the Palestinians reached the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Cuba supported it unconditionally. On February 21st 2024, in a presentation to the ICJ, Cuba denounced the pivotal role played by the United States in facilitating and funding the genocide of Palestinians, as well as their occupation. This is a well-documented fact, perfectly summed up in Biden’s famous one-liner from 1986, “If there were not an Israel, we’d have to invent one” referring to the USA’s strategic military and economic interests in the Middle East, which Israel acts in defence of. 

“It is not on the primary basis of International Law that Cuba defends Palestine, nor that of liberal values, rather it is on the basis of international solidarity between all oppressed peoples.”

Cuba’s support for Palestine is no coincidence, nor is it a recent position taken by the country. It is not on the primary basis of International Law that Cuba defends Palestine, nor that of liberal values, rather it is on the basis of international solidarity between all oppressed peoples. Ever since its revolution in 1959, which saw the defeat of the dictatorial and violent Batista regime, Cuba’s socialist leadership has made a point to support the fight of oppressed peoples against their oppressors everywhere; to uphold the principles of self-determination, freedom and equality for all. This was the case in Angola and Mozambique, where Cuba supported the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO), both of which were victorious in their struggle. It also, of course, is the case in Palestine. Che Guevara’s visit to Gaza in 1959, where he witnessed firsthand the effects of the Nakba and Zionist Occupation, made it clear that Cuba and Palestine had a common goal of seeing an end to imperialist aggression. 

Cuba’s solidarity with oppressed peoples is first and foremost informed by its own experience of imperialism, first under the Spanish till 1898 and then under the Americans. With the elaboration of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ around the time that most Latin American countries were gaining independence, the USA sought to extend its sphere of influence over the entirety of the Americas and the Caribbean, including Cuba. It was inconceivable for the American capitalist class that a socialist country could exist in its ‘backyard’, leading to the implementation of JFK’s 1962 economic blockade. The goals of this blockade were made clear in an April 1960 memorandum by Lester D Mallory, US Assistant Secretary of State: “to weaken the economic life of Cuba… to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government,” in order to protect the USA’s national and hemispheric security. This is without taking into account the insecurity the United States has propagated in South America, with countless coups and covert operations having taken the lives of hundreds of thousands and bereaved millions more. Cuba, on the other hand, is not a menace to the people of the United States, but only to capitalism and imperialism.

The blockade has put Cuba through periods of incredible hardship. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the country’s main trading partner, Cuba has been forced to take on special economic measures to get access to vital imports and capital. The blockade, on top of being illegal, is genocidal. It withholds medicine from ill patients, and food from the hungry. It is a policy of economic asphyxiation. The USA seeks to squeeze Cuba dry, twisting the negative effects of the blockade to make it appear as a failing state. The re-placing of Cuba on the list of ‘State-Sponsors of Terrorism’ by former US President Trump in 2021, and the COVID-19 pandemic, have worsened already difficult conditions on the island. 

Despite this, Cuba has one of the best-ranked healthcare systems in the world, far ahead of the United States, and on par with the UK. Cuba sends its medical professionals to countries all over Latin America and Africa, sharing its expertise with the rest of the developing world, even and especially so during public health crises like COVID-19. Cuba has also offered free schooling for hundreds of Palestinian medical students, all of whom are encouraged to go back to serve their communities after their education, and in 2014 sent a six-tonne shipment of medical equipment to Gaza. 

Ever since Che Guevara’s initial visit to Palestine, there has been a shared network of solidarity between the two nations. Cuba has helped Palestine on all fronts – whether it be militarily through training or politically by helping it obtain observer status in the United Nations. United in their fight against imperialism, the Palestinian and Cuban struggles are one and the same: against the imperialists and the capitalists, against those who drive the destruction of our environment, the occupation of our homelands, and the killing of our peoples.

Photo Caption:  “Long Live the Friendship between the Palestinian and Cuban peoples,” poster by the Palestinian-Cuban Friendship Society, 1990 (Credit: Palestinian Museum Digital Archive )


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