Globe, Latin America

The US blockade on Cuba: unnecessary and inhumane

The measure, taken on political and economic grounds and imposed by the US Government on Cuba over half a century ago, has incurred losses of $1 trillion on Cuba and ‘inestimable’ humanitarian damages.

Waldo Mendiluza

According to Cuban Foreign Secretary Bruno Rodríguez, this cost of the full economic impact of the embargo was reached after rigorous and conservative calculations, considering the fall in the dollar against the price of gold in the international market.

“These effects are a heavy burden for an economy like ours to shoulder,” Rodríguez commented, during the presentation of his report on Resolution 66/6 to the UN General Assembly, ‘Declaration on the need to put an end to the Economic, Trade and Financial Blockade of the United States against Cuba.’ He reiterated that the framework of the sanctions put in place by the White House represents the principal obstacle for the socio-economic development of the Caribbean nation and its 11,200,000 inhabitants.

Barack Obama, presidente de EE.UU.

No sector on the island escapes the effects of the embargo, which has been maintained by successive North American administrations and become only more restrictive under the current one, which has amped up bullying and persecution of any financial transactions with Cuba, Rodríguez stated.

The report will be presented to the UN General Assembly in the coming weeks, where the country has been backed since 1992 and where in October last year it received 186 votes in favour of the embargo’s abolition, with only the US and Israel voting against.

According to data found in the document, between April 2011 and April 2012 Cuban foreign trade suffered losses of some $3.55 billion, up 15% compared with the same period the previous year.

Raúl Castro, presidente de Cuba.

The impossibility of entering the American market is the part of the blockade which hits hardest, by continuing to weigh down the exportation of goods and acquisition of technology and consumables.

Another sector badly hit is foreign investments in key areas for the Caribbean nation such as petrol, tourism and biotechnology, the document reveals. Transport, education and industry also present severe losses as a result of Washington’s sanctions, despite calls from the international community to end it.

Irreparable damage

In the presentation of the report, Rodríguez considered the humanitarian impact of the blockade to be ‘inestimable’.

This is a blockade which affects access to raw materials, food and medical supplies, all of which is prohibited by humanitarian conventions even in times of war, he added.

Rodríguez gave examples of the detrimental effects it had on vulnerable sectors of society, where “it causes suffering, difficulties and shortages which affect every Cuban woman, child, family and elderly person.” Between May 2011 and April 2012 the health sector suffered losses to the tune of $10 million, which were caused by the distancing from the markets and the price rise in importing medicine and medical supplies.

Children on the island are among those paying dearest for the blockade, with the report mentioning cases such as the William Soler Pediatric Cardio Centre, which has no access to the drug levosimendan, employed in the treatment of low cardiac output and manufactured solely by US-based Abbott Laboratories.

A further example is in medical company St. Jude’s pulling out of Cuba, thus depriving the island’s Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery of vital equipment used in non-fluoroscopic 3D body mapping, key to procedures that detect complex arrhythmic ablations.

Negative consequences in the areas of Obstetrics and Gynaecology where also raised in the report.

These ranged from difficulty in supplying the reagents used in areas such as HIV/AIDS control, to the cancellation of the contract with a North American company to sell HIV/AIDS diagnosis kits to children of mothers with the virus, which occurred when a Canadian intermediary company found out the kits’ final destination was Cuba.

The food sector reports damages of more than $131.5 million in the period between March 2011 and March 2012. The rise of financial costs, the use of intermediaries to pay for products and the search for distant markets are some of the difficulties highlighted.

The attack on the social sector caused by the blockade is felt by the growing hunger and discontent on the island, an argument put forward by Washington since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on 1 January 1959.

The world’s rejection of the blockade

According to the Minister of Foreign Relations, there is no doubt that under the Obama administration there has been a tightening of the blockade, namely stricter persecution of any financial transactions related to Cuba regardless of the currency or the valid banking rules of the countries involved.

In fact, fines issued by the current US government went from $89 million in 2011 to $622 million in 2012. In June 2012, the US announced that Dutch bank ING would be subject to a fine of $619 million, the highest in history for a foreign entity for its trade connections with Cuba. The fining of French shipping company CMA CGM for lending its services to Cuba and investigations into Spanish bank BBVA for its presumed participation in investments related to the island are others.

The Cuban Foreign Secretary also mentioned the pressures put on the management of the Trinidad and Tobago branch of the Hilton Hotel chain by the US, as it was forced to abandon plans to host the 2011 Cuba-Caricom Summit in view of the blockade.

However, it is not just larger organisations that suffer from the wide reach of the blockade, proved by cases such as that of a Danish man who was fined 137 million Danish kroner (some $24,000) by US authorities in February of this year, after buying Cuban cigars in Germany.

The unilaterality of the embargo prevails, despite global outcries to end it from dozens of countries in the UN General Assembly since 1992 and by various international bodies and forums.

In this sense, the Cuban Foreign Secretary recalled that it was only in 2012 that the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, organisations which comprise some 120 nations, announced themselves in support of the overturning of the blockade.

(Translated by Rachel Eadie – Email: racheleadie@hotmail.com)

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