Enigma - Episode 4: When everyone thought the Cuban Revolution ended
Episode four of Al Mayadeen's Enigma documentary series recounts an important period in the history of Cuba, starting with the dissolution of the USSR, up to the arrival of the remains of Che and his companions in Cuba.
Al Mayadeen broadcasted the fourth episode of its Enigma documentary series on Sunday, aimed at introducing the Arab and Islamic world to the Cuban Revolution, its origins and role, and the most important figures that were at its vanguard.
The new episode shed light on the post-Soviet period, the economic crisis that afflicted Cuba, and the boat crisis, which is one of the many immigration crises between Cuba and the United States that forced the US government to sit at the negotiating table with Cuba. The episode also mentioned Ernesto Che Guevara's role and martyrdom.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union
On December 25, 1991, the hammer and sickle flag was lowered from the Kremlin building, and the old flag of the Tsars was raised. The Soviet Union ended, and the world in the form known until then turned into something completely different. The 90s were a very difficult period for Cuba.
Facing the hostile policy of the US since the victory of the Revolution, Cuba had to rely heavily on the contributions of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries in order to pursue development and be able to carry out the necessary transformations in each of the economic, financial, scientific, and technological fields. Cuba's trade exchange with the Soviet Union reached 63% in the first 30 years of the Revolution up until 1989. However, things were about to change.
The critical period in Cuba began a year and five months before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The barter dealing agreement was abolished, and the preferential agreements under which Cuba used to participate in the CAME Council were terminated.
Cuba considered that the crisis had begun, and between 1990 and 1991, trade between the Island and the Soviet Union declined by 48%, as Russia plunged into the transition to capitalism, where the method of shock treatment was applied by the most strict neoliberal court.
Economic crisis in Cuba
The economic crisis in Cuba was so drastic, and its repercussions were evident in the overall economic status, as well as in the income of families. Accordingly, families had to invent the most bizarre ways to survive. The strategy used in this special phase was based on resistance. In the 1990s, for the first time in its history, at least since 1510, Cuba had to be completely self-reliant.
Fidel Castro had always been at the center of the economic policies that were implemented without neglecting other tasks that he held as Head of State and Government. Castro was always very clear, saying that certain concessions must be made for the country's economy to survive. He also said that these concessions can never affect the basic principles of the Revolution and stressed that national sovereignty is never subject to negotiation.
Although the whole world changed, the US policy toward Cuba did not. In fact, it became more hostile against the Caribbean nation. The Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which was passed under the administration of William Clinton, tightened the blockade against Cuba and approved seizing assets of any company or individual, even from a third country that establishes any commercial relationship with a Cuban company built on US property previously nationalized in Cuba in the 60s.
Migration crises between Havana and Washington
Following the acute economic crisis that battered Cuba in the 1990s, the boat crisis of 1994 came as the tipping point. It was one of the many immigration crises between Cuba and the United States, which forced the US government to sit down at the negotiating table with Cuba. The crisis was another episode in a long battle in which Cuba sought to regulate immigration, while the United States sought to use it as leverage over the island.
One case that made the headlines in the late 1990s was that of Elian Gonzalez; a child whose mother illegally smuggled him from Cuba on a dinghy that saw all its passengers perish at sea, except for him.
Encouraged by the Cuban-American mafia in Florida, Gonzalez's relatives in Miami refused to return the little boy to his father in Cuba, who was not aware that his mother was leaving with his son. The father demanded his son's return and was supported by millions of Cubans who eventually succeeded in returning Elian Gonzalez home to his father.
The first semester of the 1990s was marked by a severe economic crisis and the deterioration of the Cuban standards of living after the collapse of the socialist states in Eastern Europe. In 1997, Ernesto Che Guevara's remains returned to Cuba and were a turning point in consolidating the steadfastness and resilience of those who remained on the island to preserve the Revolution against all odds.
Che's remains returned to Cuba, along with those of six of his comrades in Bolivia, nearly 30 years after his martyrdom on the night of July 12, 1997.
On July 17, a colossal memorial was erected in Santa Clara, where Che's remains rested definitively.
With the advent of the new millennium, the liberating spirit of Che swept powerfully across the continent, leading Latin America, which once turned its back on Cuba when it decided to build a socialist system in the western hemisphere, with the exception of Mexico, to experience years of flourished progressive ideas in the world led by men and women who draw inspiration from the heroes of independence in the American continent.