Globe, Latin America

Salim Lamrani: the embargo constitutes an act of genocide

A hostile policy implemented by every North American government since the 1960s; the United States embargo against Cuba impacts on health, and punishes the very American citizens and businesses that oppose it.

Carmen Esquivel Sarría

PARIS – A professor at the Paris Sorbonne University and a specialist in Cuban-U.S relations, the analyst maintains that the North American embargo is the primary obstacle hindering the development of the the biggest island of the Antilles.

Lamrani is the author of various books on the subject the most recent of which, entitled, “State of Siege: The United States Sanctions against Cuba”, was published in France less than two months ago.

The book looks at this hostile policy, which has been in place since the 1960s and continues under the current Obama administration, from both a legal and an historical perspective.

It deals with the extraterritorial nature of these sanctions; the adverse impact on health and the punishment imposed on American citizens and corporations that do not comply.  The book’s author also dedicates a chapter to highlighting that the embargo constitutes an act of genocide, as defined by the 1948 Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of this type of crime.

In an interview with Prensa Latina, Lamrani stated that, “this book exposes how, over the years, the United States has changed its rhetoric with a view to justifying the continued implementation of the embargo”.

According to Lamrani, the nationalisation of American-owned businesses and some American property by the newly-formed Revolution, following an alliance with the Soviet Union, was the first pretext; Cuba’s support of the national liberation movements in Africa provided the second.  For Lamrani, who is also a journalist and political analyst, if this had any truth to it, the embargo would have been lifted following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

What occurred, in fact, was quite the opposite.  In 1992, the embargo was reinforced by Washington with the Torricelli Law, and in 1996 with the Helms-Burton Law; two Acts that violate international law on account of their retrospective and extraterritorial natures.

Although the Helms-Burton Law was passed in the 90s, it applies to measures which were taken in 1959 and 1960, and set out sanctions against third-party countries that traded with Cuba.  This contravened basic legal principles, such as the prohibition of extending the jurisdiction of a nation’s laws beyond their geographical territory.

As an example, a car-manufacturing company in any country cannot sell cars on the U.S market, if any of its components contain Cuban nickel.

Lamrani is also the author of other books, including titles such as, “Fidel Castro, Cuba  and the United States”; “US Terrorism against Cuba and the Case of the Cuban Five” and “Cuba against the Empire”, to mention but a few.

His most recent publication came as a result of a lecture that he gave at the French National Assembly on the 4th June 2011 about the economic sanctions.  Lamrani explained that although he had initially set out to write an article, he realised midway through that he had a lot to say and made the decision to write a book.

When asked his opinion on what he thought the greatest impact of the embargo is, he said that he considered it the greatest obstacle facing Cuba’s economic development.  Instead of trading with a market located just 90 miles away, Cuba must instead trade with other nations.

This involves a huge cost, especially given that Cuba is an island and therefore relies on sea transport. Furthermore, Cuba is not only prohibited from selling to or buying from the United States, freedom of trade with third-party countries is also hindered by the extraterritoriality of the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Laws.

The economic cost of the damages inflicted upon the majority of the Caribbean by this policy rose to 975 billion dollars in 2010.

Lamrani considers that the United Nations’ recent vote, condemning the embargo for the twentieth consecutive time, is a call to the international community to put a stop to this state of siege which affects all of society, particularly the most vulnerable.

This act of aggression is also rejected from within American territory.  The business sector opposes the embargo because it prevents investment into this natural market.

It is also rejected by public opinion because North American citizens cannot comprehend why they can go to North Korea or Vietnam and not to Cuba, which is 90 miles away.

The French researcher concluded that the measures are anachronistic, cruel and ineffective since the United States has not succeeded in overthrowing the Revolution.

We can only hope, he added, that if Barack Obama succeeds in securing a second term in office that there is some consistency between his words and his actions and that he repeals these senseless sanctions once and for all.

(Translated by Emma Hartgen (

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