By Shubhangi Sood

Edited by Anandita Malhotra

Recently, US-Cuban ties were plastered all over the news. Obama’s plans of melting the hard bitter relationship with Cuba raised lots of eyebrows in the international community. What their trade restrictions couldn’t do, Obama is hoping a softer better relationship might do. Back in 1942, American President, John F Kennedy, severed ties with Cuba as Fidel Castro’s communist regime started winding up American corporations in its country. Since then, this relationship has been marred with hot and cold decisions of the American government. Sometimes the trade restrictions are made lenient, sometimes the strictest they ever have been.

It would have been a surprise if the US government had not come up with this decision of normalizing ties with Cuba. In the wake of generation change in Cuban government, ideological changes are expected to occur. It’s in the best interests of US to try and influence these changes in their favour. Besides, Cuba has made it clear that communist government is here to stay. USA has often been slammed for sidelining Cuba like it has, while it has been entertaining Chinese trade relations,even though both the countries are communist regimes. If nothing else, Cuba has a better human rights record along with free medical care for the citizens. Then why, international community questions, Cuba is being neglected like it has been? Venezuela is a bigger threat to US, with the country often opposing US through OPEC and in recent times by offering asylum to Edward Snowden. But US still carries on trade relations with it. However, Freedom House’s  annual rankings on Civil Liberties and Political Rights place Cuba ahead  of North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Eritria, Equitorial Guinea,  Somalia, and Sudan. From this list, only North Korea and Sudan are subject to any U.S. economic sanctions, with the other countries enjoying normalized trace and diplomatic relationships with the United States. Why is the country still stuck in the past-where they followed Monroe’s Doctrine to ban Cuba when Soviet Union started building its missile base there?

What is wonderful to notice though is that even under a period of economic slowdown, the health of Cuban citizens improved significantly, according to a recent survey. It is a typical paradox. But the reason is quite simple and scientific. As the variety of products available to Cubans plummeted, they switched to home-grown supplies. They started eating whatever they could grow, hand-pick or catch. The fiber intake increased, with more of them consuming corn, bean, fruits, etc. Cubans, who were walking and bicycling more after their public transportation system collapsed, and eating less (energy intake plunged from about 3,000 calories per day to anywhere between 1,400 and 2,400, and protein consumption dropped by 40 percent). They lost an average of 12 pounds. Most of the Cubans turned vegans as meat and protein based products almost vanished in the wake of US embargoes. These things in fact helped them decrease their infant mortality rate, increase their life expectancy considerably. In a way, embargoes came as a blessing in disguise for Cuba.

Even with the isolation it was met with at the hands of US government, Cuba has done considerably well for itself. Its health facilities is the best in Latin America, and also great in the international circuit. Every few miles, you would find health service centers, which are provided free to all the citizens. 80% of the medicines the country requires are home-produced, which is a matter of great pride for the Cubans. Although their economy has been staggering, but haven’t been all the economies? If relative comparison is carried out, of Cuba with many other third-world countries, it has been doing phenomenally well in most of the sectors. But the pressing issues of concern for Cubans are the secret police, censorship of Internet, less international trade ties, but it seems the country is managing to breathe even amidst such hindrances. Time will tell how well will the Cuban government respond to the lifting of few sanctions by US government, and whether Uncle Sam get what he has his eyes set on.

Shubhangi is currently pursuing Economics for undergraduation from Shri Ram College of Commerce. She has an insatiable desire for reading novels of all the genres world has to offer. Writing since she was a 12-year old, her ambition of life is to get published and share the stories that her mind can’t stop weaving. Primarily, her interest lies in foreign policies, culture, meeting new people from different cultures, and music

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind