About the Criminal Blockade against Cuba OFAC Stands for Cruelty

PEDRO DE LA HOZ

It’s hard to believe that a health institution classifies as an objective of the policy of destabilization orchestrated against a small nation by another country, which doesn’t intend to subvert the order of the latter or impose its ideas on its neighbor.

But it’s true: the cardio-center of Havana’s William Soler Children’s Hospital appears on a list for three years now, under the weird and evil label of “denied.”

The list was prepared by the US Department of the Treasury, specifically by an office that has, among its main missions, to prevent -and chase- US companies, institutions and citizens from establishing commercial links with Cuba.

In this way, if a seriously ill Cuban child needs a medication or special equipment available only in the US market to alleviate his ailment, he can die, since precise supplies are subjected to a system of special licenses issued as exceptions and after a lot of consideration.

Now, if a US supplier, because it seems fair and profitable for him to sell the medication or the equipment to the Cuban health authorities, as he does around the world, then he’s risking being found out by the aforementioned office, called OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) and subjected a punishment beyond belief for trading with the enemy.

In order not to leave room for doubt, the OFAC, on its Web page, warns the following: “No product, technology or service may be exported from the United States to Cuba, either directly or through a third country, such as Canada or Mexico, without a specific license from OFAC.”

And, it also reads: “Criminal penalties for violating the Regulations range up to 10 years in prison, $1,000,000 in corporate fines, and $250,000 in individual fines. Civil penalties up to $65,000 per violation may also be imposed.”

The OFAC’s obstinacy in the fulfillment of a blockade that has been in force for over half a century hasn’t changed a bit in recent years.

The report that the Cuban government will present at the UN General Assembly on October 26 to back up the resolution rejecting the blockade, explains how in 2009 the OFAC fined seven corporations for a total of 315,503 dollars, while punishments applied to individuals and other entities amounted to 340,678 dollars. In the first semester of 2010 only, fines on enterprises added up to 2,221,671 dollars.

Cruelty goes beyond US borders. On December 19, 2009, they pounced on the Credit Suisse Bank, one of the most reliable entities of its kind in the world, for carrying out operations with “enemy nations,” Cuba among them. For the OFAC, finding out that the bank had made 32 electronic transactions somehow involving branches located in US territory was a mortal sin.

I can’t help but tell you an anecdote. When I asked, a few weeks ago, a US colleague –whom I won’t identify for obvious reasons- the reasons behind so much obsession, he confessed with an ironic look: “If you asked that question to any bureaucrat of the Department of the Treasury, he would tell you that he’s following orders, that he’s not in a position to question whether a law is fair or not. But if you run into that same guy at the smoking area of a bar in Washington and offer him a Montecristo cigar, like I have done, and then warn him that it’s a cigar made in Cuba, he will shrug his shoulders and respond: ‘I have nothing against it, but don’t tell anybody.”’

 

October 18th, 2010

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