Cubans took to the streets in cities around the island in the largest protests in nearly 30 years. Although hunger and other shortages helped to spark the protests, the protesters are not demanding handouts. They are demanding freedom. Ending the trade embargo is the best way for the United States to support these protesters.

The Cuban economy contracted by 11 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The contraction led to shortages of food, medical supplies, and other necessities. But much like the drop in oil prices that preceded Venezuela’s collapse nearly a decade ago, the external shock is not the real problem. Like Venezuela, Cuba’s underlying socialist economic system is the problem.

Socialist economic systems are defined by government ownership and control of the major industries and businesses, empowering government planners to allocate scarce resources. State ownership and management, from tourism and cigar-making to sugar milling and oil refining, has made a mess of the Cuban economy for decades.

The emergence of COVID-19 necessitated millions of adjustments to the production and delivery of goods and services. In market economies, the bulk of these adjustments were made by entrepreneurs responding to price signals and scarcities.