Key Facts About the US Blockade of Cuba

Presented to the UN General Assembly on September 30, 2004

The more than forty long years of suffering by the Cuban people, caused by their sovereign decision to stand up to the blockade imposed on it, to preserve their independence and to not renounce their right to build their own development model, is something that President George W. Bush’s administration treats with contempt.

The UN General Assembly’s condemnation over 12 years ago – which today is almost unanimous – of this murderous mechanism that the US authorities euphemistically label 'embargo' is continually ignored.

Neither does President George W. Bush’s government pay any attention to the reservations about his Cuba policy that exist in broad sectors of US society, sectors which, in an increasingly insistent fashion, demand changes to that policy; a policy that not only seeks to suffocate the Cuban people and affect their relations with third countries but also bans and restricts some of the American people’s basic freedoms, including some that are enshrined in the constitution. The period analyzed by this report (the second half of 2003 and the first half of this year) will go down in history as one of the periods when the colossal crime which goes by the name of 'The Blockade' was at its most virulent.

The new measures the United States government implemented during this period are one more cog in the machinery of laws and regulations that have controlled the blockade against Cuba for over forty years; they are proof of that government’s desperation caused by the failure of its attempts to isolate and subjugate the Cuban people through hunger and disease. Their aim is to put into practice the plans to dominate the Cuban nation that have inspired the way some sectors of the US ultra-right have behaved for more than a century.

The ultimate aim of these measures, moreover, is to satiate the hatred and thirst for vengeance of a Cuban-born extremist minority which has no qualms about resorting to terrorism against the people of our island and to whom President George W. Bush owes a debt of gratitude for the direct role it played in organizing and pulling off the fraud in the year 2000 elections in Florida.

The most relevant events which characterize the period covered by this report include: 30 September 2003 , the US Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) passed a regulation to ban publication of scientific articles from regimes subject to sanctions by the United States government: Cuba is one of these. The OFAC did this under the pretext that the editing process, that is, 'revision, changing and publishing' would constitute a 'service' which would add value to the articles in question, and would therefore violate the Trading with the Enemy Act. Following intense pressure from the US academic and scientific community, the measures was repealed on 5 April 2004. 10 October 2003 , President George W. Bush made an announcement from the White House about the establishment of the so-called 'Committee for Assistance to a Free Cuba' and an increase in controls on and greater rigor in applying the ban on travel to Cuba. 9 February 2004 , the US secretary of the treasury, John Snow, made an announcement in Miami about a new extraterritorial measure which involved the OFAC immediately freezing the assets in the United States of 10 companies of 'Cuban ownership' or controlled by the Cuban government or Cuban nationals, which specialized in promoting travel to Cuba and in sending gifts. This included companies organized and located in Argentina , the Bahamian, Canada , Chile , Holland and the United Kingdom . That same day, the aforementioned functionary gave an account of the degree to which the president’s decision to tighten controls on travel to Cuba had been applied, listing the number of flights inspected, the fines imposed and the goods seized. 26 February 2004 , President George W. Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 7757 which bans vessels intending to enter Cuba from leaving US ports. The regulations for putting this into effect, issued by the Coastguard Service on 8 July 2004 , openly declared that the aim of these was to 'improve the way the embargo on the Cuban government is applied'. The regulation establishes fines of up to $25,000 or five years in prison or both and the confiscation of violators’ vessels. In this period, the US government brought fierce pressures to bear on banking institutions in third countries to have them place obstacles in the way of and hinder Cuban financial operations. Cuba uses this income in hard currency for importing medicines, food and other consumer goods and to buy the inputs needed if its economy and essential social services are to function. Recently the US government fined the Swiss bank, USB, $100 million for making financial transactions in dollars with certain countries, including Cuba. 6 May 2004, President George W. Bush gave his approval to all of the report from the so-called Committee for Assistance to a Free Cuba. This contains some 450 recommendations and suggestions for new measures to topple the Cuban Revolution and install a puppet regime which would have total control over the Cuban nation and would be under the absolute control of the United States. Finally, on 30 June 2004 , the regulations which tighten the measures announced on 6 May became effective. The measures themselves are a violation of Cuban independence and sovereignty and an unprecedented escalation in the mass, flagrant violation of the human rights of the Cuban population, of Cubans living in the United States and even of US citizens themselves. The economic, financial and trade blockade which ten US administrations have imposed -and intensified- on Cuba and which is today a complicated apparatus of laws and regulations, is a part of a policy of hostility and aggression towards the very existence of the Cuban nation. By the Cuban nation we mean the undertaking to build a sovereign and independent Cuba for Cubans.

The United States’ voracious appetite for Cuba and its natural and human resources dates back to the very birth of the American Union when efforts to annex Cuba began, using all sorts of different methods ranging from encouragement and support for annexationist forces within the Spanish colony to direct military intervention and occupation.

No 19 th century American government ever recognized the Republic of Cuba in Arms. On the contrary, on several occasions they put obstacle in the way of and interrupted the channels that the American people and Cuban émigrés in that country used to send the aid they had obtained for the Cuban people’s cause to win their freedom.

After the 1898 US military intervention, which robbed Cubans of the right they had won through 30 years of unequal struggle, a 'republic' was born in Cuba, a 'republic' made dependent by a constitutional amendment, the Platt Amendment, which legalized the island’s neo-colonial status. For more than 50 years, US governments subjected the Cuban people to their imperial control and to having their national wealth exploited by US monopolies, thanks to the complicity and spinelessness of successive corrupt puppet governments. They also installed brutal military dictatorships when they found it necessary to shed blood to silence the justified claims of the Cuban people and quash their deep-rooted anti-imperialist sentiments.

A Cuban-born oligarchy, dependent on and benefiting from the country’s neo-colonial control apparatus, showed itself incapable of leading or even of going along with a plan for genuine national development.

When a profound social revolution was victorious in 1959, the imperialist cliques in the United States who exercised control over the island and who very soon saw the Cuban Revolution’s example as an open challenge to its plans for hegemonic domination, decided to use their power, through successive Republican and Democratic administrations to launch, maintain and, as the years went by, step up an undeclared war aimed at re-installing their control over the Cuban nation and, if that was impossible, to simply exterminate it and its rebelliousness.

The economic, trade and financial war against Cuba began even before the revolutionary government took any measures which affected the US companies controlling the country’s economic life.

A complex, shadowy web of measures, laws and programs, which is today the US unilateral blockade on Cuba, began to take shape at the same time as they were encouraging, organizing and financing a mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs, countless acts of terrorism -including sabotage on economic and social targets, plans to assassinate the top revolutionary leadership, armed attacks on defenseless settlements and families and even germ warfare- media campaigns filled with rabid lies about the Revolution, encouragement for subversion and funding for the overseas and domestic counterrevolution and cruel incitement to emigrate illegally.

The Torricelli Act was passed in 1992; this abruptly cut off trade in medical drugs and food between Cuba and subsidiaries of US companies based outside US territory. It also instituted a strict ban on maritime navigation to and from Cuba , thus giving legal status to provisions which were clearly extra-territorial in nature.

Applying the Torricelli Act delivered a heavy blow to the Cuban people. It was conceived with the criminal and cynical aim of dealing the coup de grace to the Cuban economy, thus destroying it. (The economy was going through serious difficulties following the abrupt cessation of its economic, trade and cooperation relations with the former Soviet Union and the East European former socialist countries). Since this wager on the collapse of the Cuban Revolution turned into yet another failure of the policy of anti-Cuban hostility followed by successive US governments, it was then decided to escalate the economic, political and diplomatic war against the Cuban nation to levels never before seen in the history of US foreign policy.

In 1996 the Helms-Burton Act was passed. This, among other things, fine tuned the repressive mechanisms affecting the infinitesimal economic, trade and financial ties between US companies and Cuba, increased the number and scope of the extraterritorial provisions in order to persecute any transaction or business that might benefit the Cuban economy, persecuted and punished foreign investors in Cuba; authorized funding for hostile subversive, aggressive actions against the Cuban people -these included the media disinformation war, improving the broadcasts by the ill-named Radio and Television Marti, drew up a program aimed at destroying the constitutional system the Cuban people has created for itself and at imposing a 'change of regime' which would ensure that the US imperialist cliques´ schemes to take over the Cuban nation are brought to fruition.

From that time on, a long list of new actions and measures of hostility and aggression were added one after the other, in an attempt to stop any hole or gap detected in the cordon or wall of sanctions set up to blockade Cuba.

According to figures updated in 2004 by the Cuban National Statistics Office, 69% of the population was born after 1959, which means that approximately seven out of every ten Cubans were born and have lived under this regime of unilateral sanctions that is the American blockade.

An economic estimate -made by the National Institute for Economic Research with the collaboration of experts from several ministries, companies and other Cuban institutions- of the direct losses suffered by the Cuban people because of the blockade indicates that these amount to over $79,325,2 billion.

It should be pointed out that this estimate takes into consideration only direct damage to our economy and thus does not include the greater part of the indirect economic losses resulting from this. If the country had been able to avail itself of these resources, they would have improved the population’s standard of living through the multiplier effect.

For example, the estimate does not include the value of goods that ceased to be produced because of restrictions and onerous conditions Cuba has to face when applying for investment, trade, banking and international credits. Had it been able to have access, at average rates and under average conditions, to the financing granted to other countries in the region with a similar level of economic development, the country’s economy would have reached a much higher level of development.

It is beyond belief that, at a time when the international community is combining its cooperation efforts to meet essential not-to-be-postponed development goals for all nations, the country with the greatest military and economic power, for petty domestic political reasons and from a desire for world domination, should insist on begrudging the tiny amount of resources that could improve the wellbeing and speed up the progress of a country which has irrefutably demonstrated its willingness to unconditionally share its modest achievements and victories with any other country in the world.

Cuba represents absolutely no threat or danger to the United States . The world and large sectors of US society are perfectly well aware of this. There are also very few people who are still fooled by the false, pharisaical way they invoke the alleged defense of human rights to justify their ferocious hostility towards the Cuban people.

How could the government which is responsible for the most atrocious and premeditated attacks on policies and programs designed to promote economic and social development and the wellbeing, the safety and the right to life of Cuban men and women lay claim to the title of defender of the Cuban people’s human rights?

How could the government which uses lies as a pretext for its 'pre-emptive wars' -which are in fact imperialist wars to gain control of resources and geographic regions of great strategic importance- hasten 'democracy' anywhere in the world?

Who could be convinced of its adherence to the 'rule of law' by the government that tramples on the basic canons of international law and shows its contempt for agreements reached in multilateral for a of the importance and universality of the United Nations General Assembly and the World Trade Organization. Who could be convinced by the government that claims its exemption from the provisions of the Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in order to ensure that it will go unpunished for the brutal and inhuman way its authorities treat prisoners in Iraq or those who are still arbitrarily detained in concentration camps built in territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba?

How could a government that has made the inequalities and injustices in US society worse and has supported the dismantling of affirmative action programs that favor underprivileged, forgotten minorities -such as its own Latino and Afro-American citizens- and which, with its social and fiscal policies in favor of the rich, has added million people per year to the number of Americans who have no medical insurance help the advancement and wellbeing of the Cuban people?

There is no way the Bush administration can maintain that its policy of hostility, blockade and aggression against Cuba is based on the hypothetical need to promote and protect human rights in the island. The government that has made the largest contribution in the shortest time to the disintegration of and loss of prestige by the international system for promoting and protecting human rights has neither the credibility, moral right or any other right to do so.

The Cuban people reject the model of political and social organization that the US government is attempting to reinstall in their country with a view to re-imposing its apparatus of control and interference and to following its neoliberal recipes for reorganizing and managing the Cuban economy. Cuban men and women think that the schema the power circles in the superpower are offering them provide no solution to the problems, needs or historical interests of the Cuban nation nor to its desire to continue building a fairer, more democratic and more equal society.

As per paragraph (c) of article II of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, of 9 December 1948 , the US blockade against Cuba qualifies as an act of genocide and is, therefore, a crime under international law.

The condemnation of any act of genocide and the need to put a stop to it allow no room for ambiguous positions. The Cuban people cannot condone any attempt whatsoever to influence the degree to which they are opposed to the brutal blockade imposed on them.

Cuba trusts that an overwhelming majority of governments in the world will continue to recognize -as the peoples and honest, worthy men and women from the four corners of the earth have done- the vital importance of opposing the prolongation of an unlawful policy of hostility and unilateral aggression which is undermining the very foundations of multilateralism.

Although the Cuban people know perfectly well that the best guarantee for its existence and development as a sovereign, independent nation lies in its will to unity, its determination to resist and conquer any threat or attack, it is sincerely grateful for the support and solidarity shown by the international community. Such support, as well as serving as moral, ethical and justified encouragement, shows that the battle it is waging today has universal importance and moves us all forward towards that common goal of building a better world, which is not only possible but essential if humanity is to survive.

This report devotes a long chapter to the new measures announced May 6 and to the regulations for applying these which were released on 16 June. It does this because of the great importance these have in making the blockade worse. Similarly, in six other chapters it provides a set of examples which irrefutably prove that the blockade is a monstrous creation which grievously affects the day-to-day lives of the people of Cuba .

A study made by the Center for Research into the International Economy (CIEI) and the Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy (CEEC), when trying to estimate the approximate amount of direct US investment not made in Cuba in the period 1990 to 2002, concluded that, in the first three to five years, investment could have been at least $100 million per year, and might have reached a level of over $400 million annually. The research looked at the value of US investment in Cuba at the end of the 50s and at the flow of direct US investment in Caribbean countries (the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica ) which served as a comparative reference for the Cuban economy. The abovementioned amount is almost equal to that invested by other countries in the Cuban economy from 1990 on. This investment has allowed important sectors such as nickel, oil, tourism, telecommunications, etc., to develop. Meanwhile, a 2001 report from the US Trade Committee included an estimate of the net flows that would have accrued to the Cuban economy 'in the absence of US sanctions'. In spite of the fact that it underestimates the Cuban market, this committee calculated the annual value of the flow of direct investment from the United States to Cuba to be between $20 and 40 million annually. The flow of investments not made in a ten year period, even using this base, would stand at between $200 and $400 million.

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