Blockade Still Very Much in Force

Screen shot 2015-01-25 at 2.20.39 AMHAVANA._ Towards the end of 2014 the United States and Cuba announced an end to more than 50 years of fractured relations, but the main issue is still to be solved: lifting the economic, commercial and financial blockade against the island. Cuban president Raúl Castro has alerted that attaining the cessation of that policy would involve a lengthy struggle, international mobilization and demands from within U.S. society.

Speaking at the closing session of the fourth Ordinary Period of Sessions of the Parliamentary Legislature, the president said that the Cuban people appreciated President Barack Obama ́s just decision to re-establish relations, which removed an obstacle to relations between both nations. He also recognized the willingness expressed by Obama to debate with Congress the lifting of the blockade and his wish to secure a better future for both nations, the hemisphere and the world at large.

The Cuban leader pointed out that all the data indicated that the majority of U.S. citizens, and an even greater majority of Cuban emigrants, supported the normalization of bilateral relations, adding that there was also growing opposition to this policy within Congress. Global rejection of the blockade policy was reaffirmed in the United Nations last October when 188 countries voted in favor of lifting the restrictions, two against and three abstained.

As in 2013 the U.S. an Israel voted against while Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands abstained. The vote has been repeated annually since 1992. According to a Foreign Ministry report entitled “The Need to Put an End to the U.S Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade against Cuba,” losses suffered by the island as a result of that policy exceed, on the basis of current values, 116.88 billion dollars. The report shows that this figure rises to one trillion and 112.5 billion dollars when valued against the price of Gold. This unilateral measure, imposed in 1961 and subsequently reinforced by extra-territorial laws, is manifest through the persecution of companies and financial institutions from other countries that do business with Cuba.

Screen shot 2015-01-25 at 2.21.34 AMAmong the most damaging regulations are the 1996 Democratic Solidarity and Cuban Freedom Act (Helms-Burton Law), signed by democrat President William F. Clinton, which further broadened the scope of the Toricelli Law, passed by George H.W. Bush in 1992. In recent years, after a supposed flexing of Cuban policy, the blockade imposed ever more severe extra- territorial sanctions. The report confirms that the principal characteristic of the U.S. action is their insistent punishment of other countries for maintaining normal relations with Cuba.

It cites as an example that between January 2009 and June 2014 alone, the Barack Obama administration obliged 36 U.S. and foreign companies to pay almost 2.6 billion dollars for engaging with Cuba and other countries. Of 130 registered cases of extra territorial harassment in recent years, 81 relate to the financial services sector.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry insists that the blockade constitutes a transgression of the right to peace, to development and to security of a sovereign state and is in essence and purpose a unilateral act of aggression and a constant threat to the Caribbean island ́s stability. It furthermore recalls that the blockade violates the sovereign rights of many other States, therefore meaning that it is not solely a US-Cuban issue.

By Nuriemde Armas, The Havana Reporter, p.6

January 2015

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