Cuban dictator Raúl Castro issued a warning to his country, already facing significant food and goods shortages, on Wednesday to prepare for the “worst case” economy in light of a campaign by the Trump administration to undermine the communist regime.
Castro made a rare public appearance to speak at an event implementing the new Marxist constitution, which the regime accepted through a referendum vote on February 24. Police used violence to block Cubans from publicly expressing support for voting against the constitution and actively prevented dissidents from using the opportunity to rally opposition to the communist regime.
Raúl Castro remains the head of the communist regime, maintaining the titles of commander in chief of the armed forces and head of the Communist Party of Cuba. He handed the subordinate title of “president” to Miguel Díaz-Canel a year ago.
“Before the turbulent scenario before us, we have defined as undeniable priorities the preparation of country’s defense of the national economy,” Castro said, according to text of his speech published in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. The dictator vowed that the government would “adopt a series of measures to direct the development of our economy and resist and defeat the new obstacles that the exacerbated economy and financial siege imposes on us,” referring to American policies meant to weaken the regime.
“We have been warning of the aggressive conduct the American government has taken against Latin America and the Caribbean,” Castro said. “It does so in the name of the Monroe Doctrine, with arrogant, McCarthyist disdain towards socialism. … the current American government and its hegemonic ambition towards the region present the most imminent threat within the last five decades to the peace, security, and wellbeing of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly condemned the Castro regime, embraced the Cuban dissident community on the island and in the United States, and taken measures to keep American money out of the hands of communist leaders. Most recently, the administration placed new sanctions on trade between Cuba and Venezuela and forced the cancelation of a deal between the Castro regime and Major League Baseball that would have allowed the regime to fully control its players, making defections much more difficult and jeopardizing the human rights of the players.
Castro addressed growing concerns that Trump policies would trigger a new “Special Period,” the term for the abject poverty that struck Cuba after it could no longer exist as a parasitic state to the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
“It is necessary for us to be alert and conscious that we are facing additional difficulties and the situation could worsen in the next few months,” he conceded. “It is not going to be like the acute phase of the Special Period in the 1990s … but we have to always prepare for the worst case.”
Cubans have endured months of shortages in food and key goods, leaving many to spend hours on bread lines seeking their rations, often left empty-handed when the food runs out. In December, the Cuban government revealed that it had a 70,000-ton flour deficit, but only budgeted to fill a gap of about 30,000 tons, leaving the nation with a shortage of 40,000 tons. Those in charge claimed that, somehow, most of the nation’s grain mills were malfunctioning and in need of spare parts Havana could not procure. Díaz-Canel blamed Donald Trump.
Since then, Cubans have continued to suffer shortages of eggs, rice, milk, and other basic goods, triggering protests that have targeted Díaz-Canel personally. A paper shortage has also forced the government to print shortened versions of Granma and other propaganda newspapers.
The Castro regime has consistently blamed American officials for the shortages. In reality, Cuba’s economic downturn, like the “Special Period,” is the product of Cuba depending on a foreign economy to feed it free money, oil, and other resources. Cuba’s economy collapsed following the fall of the Soviet Union and only recovered at the end of the 1990s, when Venezuelan socialist dictator Hugo Chávez took over, initially democratically, as president. Today, dictator Nicolás Maduro has left the OPEC nation so destitute it can no longer afford to support the entire Cuban economy, though it has continued to provide oil and other aid at the expense of the Venezuelan people.