Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Marc A. Thiessen: BLM supports exploitation of Cuban workers

Marc A. Thiessen: BLM supports exploitation of Cuban workers

  • 0


As the Cuban people — up to 75% of whom have Afro-Cuban ancestry — rose up to demand their freedom, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation issued a statement praising the brutal regime that oppresses them and calling on the Biden administration to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba. It seems that Cuba is the only country where police officers can beat unarmed Black protesters and Black Lives Matter sides with the police. Furthermore, lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba would allow companies to employ slave labor in Cuba. Here’s why:

Most Cubans work directly for the state. While the regime has grudgingly expanded some limited areas of private enterprise, as of October 2018, there were are only about 588,000 self-employed Cubans in a country of 11.3 million people. Almost every profitable sector of the economy is reserved for the state: manufacturing, mining, construction, tourism, energy, tobacco and sugar production, financial and insurance activities, real estate, architecture, engineering, education, health care, journalism, entertainment, art galleries, casinos and sports, among others. Even the “repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles” is officially designated an exclusive preserve of the regime.

What this means is that about 9 in 10 Cuban workers are dependent on the Cuban dictatorship for employment. They cannot change jobs without permission. Their salaries are set by the regime. They cannot negotiate to improve their wages or working conditions — because the only trade union is controlled by the state, which is also their employer. This is a form of social control: Cubans know their livelihoods can be taken away in an instant for the slightest expression of “counterrevolutionary” sentiment.

If U.S. businesses were allowed to operate in Cuba, they would have no choice but to participate in the regime’s exploitation of Cuban workers. Under Cuba’s foreign investment laws, foreign investors in Cuba cannot do business with private citizens; they can do business only with the regime. Foreign businesses are also not allowed to hire Cuban workers directly or pay them in dollars. According to a report from the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS), foreign investors “have to turn to state owned work agencies to provide them with workers. These labor agencies are owned and regulated by the state. They choose and assign workers to the various joint venture companies. They pay workers in Cuban pesos while receiving payment in Dollars and/or Euros.”

The Cuban regime literally steals their paychecks. Miguel Castillo, Cuba’s former vice minister of foreign commerce, and Jesús Marzo Fernández, a former official in the Cuban Ministry of Economy and Planning, explained to the ICCAS how the theft works: If a foreign hotel chain wants to operate in Cuba, it must pay the Cuban state employment agency $550 a month in hard currency for the services of a general manager. But the general manager doesn’t get that money. Instead, he receives just 400 Cuban pesos, or about $17 U.S. dollars. This is because the government pays him the national average salary set by Cuba’s labor ministry for that specific job, not what the foreign company paid for his services.

What happens to the rest of the money? The regime pockets the difference. As the Economist explains about Cuban workers, “The agency and the government take 95% of their wages.”

That’s not all. The regime also engages in human trafficking of Cuban workers, forcibly sending tens of thousands of health workers on medical missions abroad and seizing approximately 70% to 90% of the money they earn. According to the State Department’s 2020 human rights report on Cuba, medical workers “described how they were forced to join the program and were prevented from leaving it, despite being overworked and not earning enough to support their families.”

This theft of wages, at home and abroad, constitutes modern-day slavery. Most Cubans have no choice in where they work, for whom they work or how much they are paid. Those who work for foreign corporations see their hard-earned wages taken from them by their Cuban communist masters without recourse or remorse. Some foreign investors, out of guilt, provide Cuban workers with gratuities under the table. Hotel workers get some tips in hard currency. But they are effectively slaves of the Cuban state, who are being trafficked out to unscrupulous foreign businesses that are willing to go along with this system of human exploitation.

When the Black Lives Matter organization demands that the United States lift the embargo, it is arguing that America should go along with it as well. BLM is effectively advocating the use of slave labor — including Afro-Cuban slave labor — by U.S. corporations. That’s an odd stance for an organization that claims it wants America to account for the slavery in its past.

Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.


Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News