US Blockade against Cuba: Increasingly Absurd

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The damages caused to the Cuban economy by the United States economic, commercial and financial blockade were in excess of 975 billion dollars, Cuban Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Abelardo Moreno reported Wednesday during a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Havana

By: Jorge L. Rodríguez González


2011-09-15 | 13:21:29 EST
The damages caused to the Cuban economy by the United States economic, commercial and financial blockade were in excess of 975 billion dollars, Cuban Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Abelardo Moreno reported Wednesday during a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Havana.

The Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry held a press conference to present Resolution 65/6 of the United Nations General Assembly entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”

Cuban Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Abelardo Moreno noted that the total value of damages takes into account the devaluation of the dollar against the price of gold on the international financial market from 1961 to the present and the more extreme devaluation that took place over 2010.

The Cuban vice minister said that US government has intensified sanctions and the extraterritorial persecution of citizens, institutions and companies in third countries who establish or plan to establish economic, commercial, financial, scientific or technical ties with Cuba. Likewise, the dominant role played by the United States in the global economy and in strategic alliances, mergers and mega-mergers of international companies has continued to have a negative impact on Cuba and facilitated the intensification of the negative effects of the blockade, while further reducing the international economic sphere in which Cuba is allowed to operate.

As an example, Moreno said that in 2010, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury fined four entities for a total of 502,721,671 dollars. The largest fine (500 million) was levied against the ABN Amro Bank in Holland, for having carried out unauthorized financial transactions in which Cuba or Cuban nationals had interests. Another Dutch bank, ING, was submitted to a criminal investigation for suspicion of having commercial relations with Cuba, Iran and Syria in contrary to restrictions imposed by Washington.

Among the other victims of the draconian laws implemented by OFAC was the United Nations Federal Credit Union that was fined 500,000 dollars for having carried out unauthorized financial transactions in which Cuba had interests.

Another example of the reach of the blockade was an incident in 2011. In July 2011 the PayPal eBay company that carries out online bank transferences canceled the delivery of funds belonging to the Cuba Support Group in Ireland that were destined for the Cuban account set up to gather donations for Haiti after the devastating earthquake that ravaged this country. PayPal offered the following statement: “PayPal would be in violation, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, if we facilitated transactions where funds benefit Cuba…and we would be subject to sanctions as outlined by OFAC.”

And there are countless more examples of these illegal restrictions on third country businesses. The United States’ economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba continues to be fully applied. The legal basis behind this policy remains intact and the political, administrative and repressive mechanisms aimed at a more efficient implementation of the blockade, particularly the persecution and harassment of Cuba’s commercial and financial transactions around the world have been intensified. Exports of every sort of goods and services by Cuba to the United States continue to be banned, as have exports of virtually any goods or services from the United States to Cuba, with very few exceptions and under very strict regulations. Merchant ships of any country touching Cuban ports are still forbidden to call on any US port for a period of 180 days.

No company affiliated to or sharing interests with any US company is allowed to trade with any Cuban company, regardless of the relations that may exist between Cuba and the country where the company is based, the laws in force in its country of origin or the norms of international law. Those companies based in third countries that have commercial relations with Cuba are subject to persecution, threats and sanctions by US government authorities no matter where in the world they might be and regardless of their origin, patrimony and whether or not they have ties with the United States.

The persecution of Cuba’s financial transactions with third countries has intensified regardless of the relations these countries may have with Cuba, the currency used in those transactions or the applicable banking norms in the countries involved.

The United States has also arbitrary attempted to control resources destined for Cuba via cooperation with multilateral organizations. Under the Obama administration, the adverse effects of the blockade as part of the US’s policy against Cuba have increased in the framework of international multilateral organizations.

In January 2011, the US government seized 4,207,000 dollars of funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria earmarked for the implementation of cooperation projects with Cuba to combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. This deliberate act to prevent the implementation of three projects whose significant impact on the affected population is well known has absolutely no legitimacy or foundations other than to continue to harden the policy of blockade in one of the most vulnerable sectors for the Cuban government and people.

Cuba has condemned this measure as an illegal action that also has aims to seriously hinder international cooperation provided by the United Nations System through its agencies, funds and programs. This action is even more significant given that it affects funds earmarked for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis training, prevention and patient assistance, especially to buy medicine, antiretrovirals and food. The Cuban government and the international community have prioritized their greatest efforts towards eradicating these pandemic diseases as part of fulfilling one of the Millennium Development Goals.

All these actions, a small sample of the list of violations committed over the last year, clearly demonstrates the extraterritorial nature of the blockade, that has worsened under the Obama administration, said Moreno.

Criminal Foundation

Among the evidence of the criminal nature of the US policy is the effects on healthcare. The public health and food sectors continue to be priority targets of the blockade policy. From May 2010 to April 2011, negative impacts on the public health care sector are estimated at 15 million dollars, primarily due to costs incurred by having to buy from far-off markets and the increased import prices for disposable material and medical instruments, as well as medicines, reagents, spare parts and equipment.

The damage caused to Cuba by the blockade in this sector is particularly cruel, not only because of its economic effects, but also because of the suffering caused to patients and their relatives by not having the ideal medicine to treat a disease.

Among the many examples, Moreno spoke about the effect on The Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology. The institute has not been able to use extendable prostheses to replace bone parts as part of tumor surgery as part of its Oncopediatrics services. As a result, it has not been able to use conservative or functional treatments in children and adolescents who suffer from malignant bone tumors, because these treatments are sold by US companies. The institute’s Radiotherapy Department has also faced serious difficulties in acquiring parts and accessories after the US company Best Medical bought the Canadian company MDS Nordion.

As stated in past years, Cuba is still unable to purchase new cytostatics produced by the United States such as liposomal adriamycin and nitrosoureas, used to treat encephalic tumors. The same dilemma occurs with the newest generation of antibiotics, particularly oral, for children under one year of age. Sometimes substitutes are acquired, but often not in a timely manner or in the required amounts, limiting the use of complete treatments over the necessary time period and at the precise moment.

The Institute of Oncology is deprived of a flow cytometer used to study cancerous cells, because when the US company Becton Dickinson found out that the final destination was Cuba, it refused to sell its flow cytometer to an intermediary company, states the report.

Cuban Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Abelardo Moreno further noted that the the measures announced by the US government on January 14, 2011 —including lifting the travel ban to Cuba for US citizens for academic, educational, cultural and religious purposes; authorizing remittances in limited quantities by US citizens to Cuban citizens; and authorizing US international airports to request permission to operate direct charter flights to Cuba under certain conditions— “are insufficient and limited in scope.”

Essentially these measures are not indicative of the United States government’s will to substantially change its blockade policy, but rather reflect the increasing opposition to the blockade by broad sectors of the US public.

The report states that “By implementing the measures announced on January 14, the US government was aiming to portray a positive image of its failed policy towards Cuba at a time when domestic and international opposition to that policy was overwhelming. However, such measures are fundamentally limited to reinstating some provisions that were in effect in the 1990s under the Clinton administration and were discontinued by George W. Bush beginning in 2003. The constitutional right of US citizens to travel freely continues to be an illusion in the 21st century. They continue to be the only citizens in the world who are forbidden to travel to Cuba.”

Upon announcing these measures, the US government very clearly stated that the blockade will remain intact and that it intends to use these measures to strengthen the mechanisms of subversion and interference in Cuba’s internal affairs.

As a rule of law, the US government prevents its citizens from travelling to Cuba, with very few exceptions and under very strict regulations.

The US government continues to publicly assert its alleged need to preserve the blockade as “a tool to apply pressure” and maintains its conditions regarding internal order in Cuba as a prerequisite to modify its policy towards the island. Evidently, it has no intention whatsoever to bring about a change in its policy towards the Island or abide by the resolutions that have been repeatedly adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that call for an end to this inhumane policy.

Moreno said that the blockade constitutes a violation of international law; represents a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the rights of the Cuban people; and runs contrary to the principle and purposes of the United Nations Charter. The document also describes the United States policy against Cuba as a unilateral act of aggression whose extraterritoriality violates the sovereign rights of many other countries.

More Support

Cuba’s Resolution entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” will be submitted to a vote by the member countries of the United Nations for the 20th time on October 25, 2011.

As has occurred on the 19th previous occasions, Cuba is expecting overwhelming support of its resolution and world condemnation of the US blockade. During last year’s vote, the United Nations General Assembly unequivocally and almost unanimously pronounced itself against the US blockade, voicing the opinion of the overwhelming majority of member states and securing a new, historical victory for the Cuban people, for justice and for truth, when it approved, with 187 votes in favor, 2 against and 3 abstentions, the resolution. Thirty-eight countries, including Cuba, along with several international, regional and sub-regional organizations such as the Group of 77 and China, the Non-Aligned Movement, CARICOM, the African Union, MERCOSUR, and the European Union, participated in the ensuing general debate and discussions of details regarding the vote. The only countries that voted against the resolution were the United States and its ally Israel, with abstentions by the Marshall, Micronesia and Palau Islands.

Abelardo Moreno said that 142 countries and 26 UN agencies, funds and programs will present their position regarding the matter in writing —a record number, representing eight more than in 2010.

This is a clear reflection of the international community’s growing and overwhelming opposition to the US blockade against Cuba, said Moreno. Innumerable voices have been raised around the world to call for an end of this inhumane policy. In the period covered by this report, numerous pronouncements in favor of the immediate and unconditional lifting of the blockade have been made.

Despite the intense and growing demands by the international community for the US government to change its policy towards Cuba, lift the blockade and normalize bilateral relations with Cuba, the Obama administration has maintained the blockade policy intact.

The blockade violates International Law, runs contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and constitutes a contravention of a sovereign state’s right to peace, development and security. In its essence and objectives, the blockade represents an act of unilateral aggression and a permanent threat against the stability of a nation. The blockade constitutes a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people. It also violates the constitutional rights of US citizens by denying them the freedom to travel to Cuba, and encroaches on the sovereign rights of many other states because of its extraterritorial nature.

The blockade continues to be an absurd, illegal and morally unjustifiable policy which has not succeeded and never will succeed in undermining the Cuban people’s patriotic decision to defend its sovereignty, independence and right to self-determination. It has only succeeded in subjecting the Cuban population to shortages and needless suffering, in restricting and hindering the development of the country and in seriously damaging the Cuban economy. It is the greatest obstacle Cuba faces in its economic development, the report concludes.


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