Senator Bob Menendez’s office has recently received a letter from economists who claim that his position in Congress regarding the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes represents such cruelty to the people of those countries that it forces them to migrate to the United States.

Both Emilio Morales -vice president of Cuba Siglo 21 and president of The Havana Consulting Group– and the author of these lines -as academic and president of Cuba Siglo 21-, considered it an ethical and intellectual duty to respond to their allegations.

Let’s review some key points.

Curiously, the letter accuses U.S. sanctions against these regimes of provoking the wave of migration to the United States. However, it does not refer to the three that receive substantial U.S. aid, investment and trade and are the main sources of emigrants from 2020 to date: Mexico (2,323,278), Honduras (690,888) and Guatemala (683,031). Cuba and Venezuela contributed only 5.81% and 5.57%, respectively, of the total number of migrants in that period.

We are once again faced with the intellectual lightness of academics who confuse mafia regimes with revolutionary leftist governments and believe they are defending the cause of the people, like a modern Quixote attacking a windmill. They are “do-gooders”, always prone to preach from some pulpit the solution of serious and complex problems based on “simple common sense” formulas that ignore reality itself. In this case, they squander any prestige eventually associated with their names in demanding the lifting of sanctions against the power elites of two mafia states: Cuba and Venezuela.

Did these academics know that of the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who came out to protest on July 11, 2021, none of them – not even one in Cuba’s 15 provinces – carried a sign against the U.S. sanctions? What they were shouting for was for “Freedom”; that is, to be freed from the Cuban government’s internal blockade on the exercise of their rights and freedoms by the totalitarian regime of governance in force. To be able to exercise the right and have the freedom to pursue happiness in their country. This is certainly a simple, common-sense demand.

Why then does the letter of these academics not call for the release of the more than 1,000 political prisoners who have been languishing in Cuban jails ever since? Is their sacrifice belittled because they have asked to be freed from the internal blockade of the Cuban regime and circumvented the U.S. sanctions? [1]

According to an official memorandum addressed to Gorbachev by the KGB and the Prosecutor’s Office of the disappeared communist state,[2] in the USSR there were 288 political prisoners in 1987, a country that then had 284 million inhabitants. In Cuba today there are 100 times more prisoners per capita than in the USSR that Gorbachev wanted to reform.  However, protests continue to be expressed in multiple ways and are growing month by month. Last June, the Cuban Observatory of Conflicts counted 414 protests in all provinces of the country. If these academics wish to protest the Cuban government’s repression on the island, there is still time to do so.

In 2020, amid the pandemic, the Cuban government invested $4.138 billion in building five-star hotels and only $538 million in agriculture according to official figures. What makes them think that this situation will change if they release the new military oligarchy and its holding company GAESA from the current sanctions? That opaque entity -sanctioned by the United States- controls 70% of the wealth, 95% of the financial transactions and cannot be audited by Cuban state institutions because its main corporations are registered as private limited company in Panama. Is it a bad idea to sanction it?[3]

Did these economists know that with what it costs GAESA to build a room for a luxury hotel in Cuba, 12 houses could be built in a country with a deficit of 862,000 and where 40% of the existing ones are in fair or poor condition?[4] Do they believe that if the sanctions on their companies were lifted and more money were available, they would invest it in building low-income housing?

Did they know that in that same year 2020 the League of Independent Peasants and the Cuban chapter of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR) announced that a famine was looming due to the internal blockade of private peasants’ production and presented the government with a five-point program to produce food, which was met with silence and arbitrary arrests? [5]  Mrs. Michelle Bachelet also received a letter from those peasants, but in Geneva they were more occupied at that time with analyzing the impact of the external economic sanctions than with the internal economic and social consequences of a totalitarian regime and they did nothing. Today, food shortages, even for those who receive remittances from abroad, are reaching critical levels. [6]

Did those who believe that sanctions negatively impact the medical care of the population know that in 2017 the export of doctors (from whom the military corporations that traffic them snatch 70 to 90 percent of their salaries) earned revenues totaling $11.379 billion, but of that only $428 million was invested in the national health care system? [7]

Do they really believe that if sanctions are lifted, these resources will be devoted to food security, housing construction and public health? What research, statistical data and scientific works support such a belief?

The problem with those who issue letters like the one sent to Senator Menendez is not only explicable, as many think, based on their possible manipulation by agents of influence from Havana. Conspiracy theories are always attractive because they are often right, but above all because they free us from the responsibility of understanding the complex reasons behind certain weaknesses such as those that in this case afflict the academic world. There are long-standing interpretative distortions in the social sciences that, in addition to conspiracy theories, explain -although they no longer justify by now- these arbitrary interpretations of Cuban reality.

The first is the economism, the assumption that the economy “determines” all political, social and cultural development. Of course, this is an interpretative disease most often found among economists. This analytical inadequacy prevents not a few of them from paying attention to and giving due importance to extra-economic factors – political, legal, social, and cultural relations – which can determine the advance, stagnation or literal blockage of the productive forces.

A second insufficiency reflected in the letter of these academics is that at no time do they consider that the current governance regime is the cause of the deplorable Cuban situation. For them there are only two causes: administrative management errors (which they dismiss in just one sentence) and external sanctions (to which they dedicate their entire letter). The truth is that if tomorrow the members of the Cuban government were to resign and place all their positions at the disposal of a select group of Nobel Prize winners in economics, the situation would not change much.

It is the statist, dictatorial, top-down, and centralized system of governance – also aggravated by the ineptitude of its current managers – that is at the root of this chaos. It is not a natural disaster, but the result of a conscious choice of political decision-makers. The option of the dominant social group that until now has considered it the best system to protect its privileges. When the Cuban peasants warned that a famine was coming, they did not ask for a change of officials in the Ministry of Agriculture to avert that danger, they demanded a substantive change in the agricultural production system.

The third analytical weakness in various areas of academia is the omission of a key question in both economics and sociology: who controls power, who rules, who governs and what interests’ group do they favor?

It is naïve to promote measures to facilitate access to more resources to those in power in Cuba and Venezuela without first asking who they are, what interests they serve and how those resources have been used before. In the case of Venezuela, an embezzlement of hundreds of billions of dollars has already been admitted.[8]

The signatories of the letter ignore the nature of the Cuban or Venezuelan production regime and focus on considerations about the impact of external factors in the field of the movement of capital and goods that they assume – though is not often the case – may be affected by the sanctions.

The moral of this story is that the wisdom of a peasant is sometimes worth more than the education received at a famous university and a university degree is no excuse for making unbalanced assessments because of the ideology of its bearer. José Martí’s intellectual stature dis not prevent him from expressing his respect to the wisdom of the Cuban peasants. We could all bear this in mind. The warning call issued by Cuban peasants three years ago contained as much if not more wisdom than a few Harvard and other prestigious university thesis on the subject of food security on the island.

But while some in open societies can afford the luxury of indulging in academic lightness, whether well-intentioned or ill-intentioned, there are thousands of intellectuals and professionals victims of repression in Cuba and Venezuela -some imprisoned, others exiled- who cannot casually sign a letter and then go off to discuss it among friends over a caffe latte at Starbucks.

The future of Cuba and Venezuela -without a doubt- is in the hands of the latter. Of simple citizens with dignity such as the Cuban peasant Lizandra Góngora, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and the Venezuelan opposition leader María Corina Machado. It also, no doubt, depends on the persistence of decent people who are genuinely supportive of their respective causes, such as U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.

Juan Antonio Blanco (PhD)
President of Cuba Siglo 21



[1] With data as of May 31, 2023, the list of political prisoners in Cuba includes a total of 1,037 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience according to the European NGO Prisoners Defenders.

[2] KGB Secretariat Archives, f.6,, por, no 45, d. 132, l.d. 104-106 (The State within a State, Yevgeni Albats, 1994, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York. Note 5 to chapter 5 Realities of the Glasnost Era).

[3] Morales, Emilio. “GAESA does not manage a remittance business, it manages a money laundering business”. THCG

Business Report, October 2021 No. 5, THCG & TECH.

[4] APNews, June 22, 2022

[5] Under the title “No Farm, No Country”, the initiative demands the implementation of these five measures by the Cuban government:

“Freedom for the production and distribution of our products.

Freedom to set the prices of our products according to the market.

Freedom to import and export directly, even from the United States, where it has been proven that their laws do not prevent it, due to our condition as independent farmers.

Eliminate for ten years all taxes on food producers and processors.

Provide permanent land titles to all agricultural producers.”

[6] We are tired of programs and measures. 14y Medio, July 18, 2023, ( )

[7] More than 250 medicines in short supply in Cuba, Diario de Cuba, July 19, 2023 ( )

[8] How to steal 600 billion dollars in Venezuela and stay in power. El Debate (26, 03, 2023)