Obama and the US Embargo against Cuba
The economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba 50 years ago is the most elevated expression of a cruel and inhuman policy, lacking in legality and legitimacy and deliberately designed to create hunger, illnesses and desperation within the Cuban populace. Nothing has changed through ten successive US governments other than a tightening of this policy. Nothing essential has changed either since the new US government was inaugurated in January 2009.
With the absolute compliance with Resolution 63/7, adopted by the UN General Assembly on October 29, 2008, in a vote of 185 nations in favour and only 3 opposed, the government of the United States, far from lifting the economic, commercial and financial embargo it had imposed on the Republic of Cuba, has maintained in effect the laws, regulations and practices that sustain it. It has continued to reinforce the political, administrative and repressive mechanisms for it’s more efficacious and deliberate implementation.
The present US government has continued to rigorously apply the embargo against Cuba. It has made no declarations, not to mention taken any steps, directed towards the removal of the complex maze of laws and administrative regulations that make up the legal bases and the regulations of the embargo. Neither have the foundations upon which that policy has been erected been modified. This can be demonstrated by the laws and regulations described below.
Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA). It was enacted as a war measure in 1917 in order to restrict trade with nations considered to be hostile. Subsequently, its application was expanded to authorize the president to regulate ownership transactions that involved any of its nationals in a foreign country, both in time of war as “during any period of national emergency declared by the president”. The first regulations of the embargo against Cuba in 1962 are based on this act.
Foreign Aid Act. By means of this act, enacted in 19671, the United States Congress authorized the president of that country to establish and maintain “a total embargo on trade between the United States and Cuba”. It also prohibited the granting of any aid to the government of Cuba.
Export Administration Act (EAA). Adopted in 1979 as the result of the review of controls over exports. It authorized the president to control, en general, the export and re-export of goods and technology and, in particular, to restrict those exports that would contribute to the military potential of any country, detrimental to US national security.
Cuban Democracy Act (CDA). More widely known as the Torricelli Act, it was signed into law by President Bush (father) in October 1992. With it, the US government reinforced economic measures against Cuba and provided normative support to the extra-territorial dimensionof the embargo. It prohibited companies that were subsidiaries of US companies in third countries from carrying out transactions with Cuba or Cuban nationals and the entry into US territory, during a term of 180 days, of vessels from third countries that had put into Cuban ports, just to name a few of the restrictions.
Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act.Known as the Helms-Burton Act, it was approved by President Clinton in March 1996. It sought to discourage foreign investment and to internationalize the Cuban embargo. It codified the regulations of the embargo, limited the presidential prerogatives to suspend this policy and broadened its extra-territorial scope. It refused entry into the United States of executives of foreign companies (and their families) who had invested in “confiscated” property in Cuba and established the possibility of taking them to trial in US courts.
Export Administration Act (EAA). Adopted in 1979 as the result of the review of controls over exports. It authorized the president to control, in general, the export and re-export of goods and technology and, in particular, to restrict those exports that would contribute to the military potential of any country detrimental to US national security.
Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Among these, there is the prohibition on exports from the US to Cuba, other than exceptions that are specified in the regulation itself or those that are authorized by licences issued by the US Bureau of Industry and Security of the Department of Commerce. Said regulations are protected by the Trading with the Enemy Act and the Export Administration Act.
The extent of legislation and regulations mentioned above demonstrates, moreover, that there has never been such a wide-ranging and brutal embargo against a people like the one the US is maintaining against Cuba. On the one hand, this classifies as genocide by virtue of Section c of Article II of the Geneva Convention of 1948 on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and, on the other hand, as an act of economic war, according to the stipulations of the declaration regarding Maritime War adopted by the 1909 London Naval Conference.
The embargo against Cuba is not a bilateral issue between our country and the United States. The repeated extra-territorial application of US laws and the persecution against the legitimate interests of companies and citizens of third countries significantly have repercussions on the sovereignty of many other States.
Protected by this policy, sanctions continue to be applied on US and European companies that do business with Cuba. Persons who are ill in Cuba cannot in many instances benefit from new diagnostics, technologies or drugs, even though their lives depend on it because independently of the fact that these were products or were available in a third country, the embargo laws forbid that Cuba acquires even just one single component or program that comes from the United States.
According to very conservative figures, the direct harm inflicted on Cuba as a result of the embargo, until December 2008, surpasses 96 billion dollars, a figure that would reach 36 thousand 221 million dollars, if the calculation were to be made using today’s value of the US dollar. It is not difficult to imagine the progress Cuba would have been able to achieve and how much progress has been denied it if it hadn’t been for these 50 years of being submitted to this brutal economic war.
In open defiance of the growing demands both inside and outside the US that this policy be eliminated, the new American government has reiterated gain and again its intention to maintain the embargo against Cuba. US Vice President Joseph Biden declared: “The US will maintain the embargo as a tool to apply pressure on Cuba”.
In the chapters of this report, the real scope of the measures regarding Cuba adopted by the new US administration are sketched out and the repercussions of the embargo on Cuba between March of 2008 and April of 2009 are recorded.
Declarations made in the framework of the Summit of Progressive Leaders in Chile, March 28, 2009.
2. The New US Administration. Measures Adopted.
The media and diplomatic offensive unleashed by the US government could erroneously lead one to the belief that the embargo against Cuba has started to be dismantled. However, nothing is further from the truth, as we shall demonstrate:
Elimination of restrictions on family visits –to the limit of third degree of consanguinity – for Cuban residents in the United States.
Elimination of restrictions on Cuban-Americans sending remittances to relatives in Cuba with the limit of up to the third degree of consanguinity and excluding “members of the government of Cuba” and “members of the Communist Party of Cuba”.
Widening the range of articles that may be sent in packages as gifts.
Granting of licences so that American companies can broaden certain telecommunications operations with Cuba.
These measures, if they indeed make good in part for a serious injustice, by returning to Cuban residents in the US their right to visit family in Cuba –have been taken away from them by the George W. Bush government – they are insufficient and have a very limited scope since they go no further than the intention of returning to the situation family relations existed in the year 2004 when the economic embargo was already fully in effect and being applied.
Likewise, even though the limitations on frequency and duration of visits mentioned above are taken away, that a broader concept of family members who may be visited be restored even with restrictions, and that the limit on daily expenditures be increased for the visitors, the prohibition on Cuban residents in the US who do not have family in Cuba travelling to Cuba still remains.
The measures referred to also do not at all look after the restitution of the constitutional right of American citizens to travel freely to Cuba, the only country in the world that they are forbidden from visiting.
As for the eventual granting of licences so that American companies can broaden certain telecommunications operations with Cuba, we must emphasize that this measure is not a new one. The Torricelli Act established a legal framework that allows, since 1962, telecommunications services to be provided to Cuba. However, from that same era, the different administrations limited that possibility to telephone communications and they even restricted the type of service that the American companies were able to provide. None of the recently announced measures indicates that those limitations or restrictions are going to be modified. Until the present moment, its nature is essentially a media gimmick. There has been absolutely no announcement about the regulations that ought to accompany the measure.
3. Repercussions of the Embargo on the Most Sensitive Social Sectors
With the purpose of defeating the Cuban people through hunger and illnesses, the public health and food sectors have continued being prioritized objectives of the embargo policy.
Between May 2008 and April 2009 repercussions on the public health sector add up to 25 million dollars.
The economic damages are basically due to the need of acquiring products and equipment in markets that are further away, using intermediaries for such purposes and the subsequent increase in the prices that such procedures bring with them.
The damage caused Cuba by the embargo is particularly cruel in this area, not only for its economic effects, but in particular because of the suffering this creates for patients and their families and for the direct incidence on the health of the Cuban population.
Some examples that demonstrate the damages caused in the area of health during the reference period are:
Since 2003, el National Genetic Medicine Centre has been trying to acquire Analyzer Equipment for genes with the capacity for automatic sequencing and fragment analysis, something that is essential for the study of the origin of high incidence diseases in the population and which are among the prime causes of death: breast, colon and prostate cancers; arterial hypertension; asthma; diabetes mellitus; mental disorders, etc. Cuba has not been able to acquire this equipment yet since it is exclusively manufactured by companies under a US patent, such as the company Applied Biosystem (ABI).
The Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery Institute, via Empresa Alimport, requested the American company Cook Vascular Inc. holding the sole patent, for the purchase of equipment for the extraction of permanent electrodes. The use of this equipment is essential for patients with septic complications in an implanted permanent electrode or in any other malfunction of the electrode. If this procedure cannot be carried out, an open thorax operation must be performed, implying a serious risk for the life of the patient. This company did not respond to the Cuban request.
Empresa MEDICUBA, via Empresa Alimport, made a request to buy vascular prostheses from BARD, forceps for endomiocardiac biopsias from CORDIS and implements for inflation to be used with balloon catheters from BOSTON SCIENTIFIC. Only a negative reply was received from the Bard Company along with notification that they could not provide Cuba with a quote on the product requested because of the embargo law. The other companies did not even reply to the requests, for fear of eventual consequences from the embargo policy.
Sistema Integrado de Urgencias Médicas (SIUM) was affected by the US government prohibition, not allowing the Pastors for Peace Caravan to donate three Ford ambulances to Cuba; their second-hand value on the market is around 24,000 dollars each. As a result, the ambulances could not arrive in our country.
The health of Cuban children has also been negatively affected by the brutal embargo policy:
Children’s hospitals face serious obstacles when it comes to acquiring materials suitable for small children, such as better quality and more durable vesicular, digestive and tracheal probes, Huber needles for tracheotomies and lumbar injections, most of which come from the US.
Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemia cannot use Erwinia L-asparaginasa, a medicine commercially known as Elspar, since the US pharmaceutical company Merck and Co. refuses to sell this product to Cuba.
The William Soler Pediatric Cardio-centre cannot acquire devices such as catheters, coils, guides and stents that are used to diagnose and treat children with complex congenital cardiopathies via catheterization. The US companies NUMED, AGA and BOSTON SCIENTIFIC are not permitted to sell these products to Cuba. The list of children to have open-heart surgery last year increased by 8 new cases:
1.-Osdenis Díaz, 30 months old, P. del Río, HC 684805
2.-Leinier Ramírez Pérez, 9 months old, Camagüey, HC 686901
3.- Leidy Reyes Blanco, 2 years old, Camagüey, HC 684376
4.- José Luis Sanamé, 13 years old, Ciego de Ávila, HC 687071
5.- Yusmary Rodríguez Márquez, 12 years old, C. Habana, HC 686546
6.- Pedro P. Valle Ros, 5 years old, Matanzas, HC 685014
7.- Osniel Pérez Espinosa, 5 years old, C. Habana, HC 679922
8.- Roilán Martínez Pérez, 3 years old, Pinar del Río, HC 685449
All of these children do not have much hope of receiving the immediate health care they require as a result of the cruel impact of the embargo.
The following cases are examples of the extra-territorial effect of the embargo on the health sector.
The Cuban company GCATE S.A., specializes in the purchase of technological equipment for the health sector; it has faced serious difficulties with the Dutch company Philips Medical since after a series of equipment was bought and installed, the Dutch company refused to provide spare parts and this forces us to buy them through third countries; this increases the price and makes maintenance an even more difficult task. The justification for this discriminatory treatment is said to be the regulations of the embargo on Cuba.
HITACHI, which is not a US company, refuses to sell Cuba an electronic microscope, of the kind used in pathological anatomy. It is alleged that the embargo is to blame for this. This situation obliges us to look elsewhere for alternatives and that makes the final price of the product much more expensive.
TOSHIBA, which is not a US company either, because of the embargo restrictions, refuses to sell Cuba high technology equipment such as the gamma chamber, used to do studies with radioactive isotopes in nuclear medicine, magnetic resonance and high precision ultra-sound. As a result, health services for the Cuban population have been affected.
Besides facing up to the adverse consequences of the global crisis in areas such as food, energy, the economy and finances, Cuba had to overcome the restrictions imposed by the embargo policy, with the purpose of being able to meet the food needs of its population.
Even though US sales of food to Cuba have been allowed since 2000, they are governed by the application of strict measures of supervision and a complicated and bureaucratic process of granting licences, in each case, by numerous American institutions. Despite the announcement by the new American government last March 11 in regards to the issuing of general licences for the export of food, the reality of the situation is that the United States government continues putting up obstacles for Cuba’s purchases and there has been no action in sight directed towards carrying out these sales according to the norms, channels and regular practices of international trade.
In 2008, because of additional costs coming from the obstacles to transactions with the United States, ALIMPORT suffered losses of 154.9 million dollars. With those resources and in the same American market, at those year’s average prices, Cuba could have bought 339,000 tons of wheat, or 615,000 tons of corn, or 126,760 tons of chicken for the tables of the more than 11 million Cubans included in the “Canasta Básica” (basic shopping-basket) programme.
In the period between April 2008 and March 2009, the agro-food sector, so sensitive for the food security of the country, suffered losses on account of the embargo to the tune of 121.8 million dollars.
The following examples will illustrate this situation:
As a result of the embargo, Cuba must put into refrigerated storage around 3.79 million eggs on a monthly average in order to ensure stable delivery to the population and avoid sudden shortages that could affect the supply of raw materials of the fodder that comes from the United States. The refrigeration costs for this purpose represent an expenditure of 5.2 million dollars per year.
In the fishing industry, during the period in question, losses amounted to 5.4 million dollars for the payment of greater tariffs in the markets to which the goods were going, as well as the increase in the cost of transportation, types of exchange and the increased risk in the transportation of the goods as a result of having to make longer trips.
Some examples showing the effect of the extra-territorial dimensionof the embargo in the foods sector:
Joint Enterprise CORACAN S.A. (Cuban-Canadian capital), established for the production and commercialization of instant foods, has suffered economic losses of more than 146,000 dollars as a consequence of the embargo affecting its relations with companies located in third countries. Some examples:
In December 2008, the Canadian company SENSIENT FLAVORS, supplier of raw materials for powdered orange flavouring, communicated that the head office in Indianapolis, Ohio, U.S.A. was forbidding them to sell supplies to Cuba.
The Canadian Sethness Products Company informed the directors of CORACAN that they could not continue supplying the powdered caramel colouring as per instructions from the head office in Chicago in the US. Without being able to count on a supply of these raw materials the CORACASN soft-drink factory had to stop production for 15 days; in addition, they had to look for a new supplier and face the corresponding price increase.
Joint Enterprise Los Portales (Cuban-French capital), established for the production of water and soft-drinks, signed a contract with the American subsidiary LATAPACK-BALL, located in Brazil, in order to supply cans and aluminium lids, quoted an FOB price 25% less than the world market price. In February 2009, this company verbally informed the directors of the company that it was not authorized to supply Cuba with those containers, even through the intermediation of the Nestlé Group. This agreement would have allowed a reduction of 4.4 million dollars in importing costs for the Cuban-French company.
In March 2009, LACTALIS USA, US branch of the French giant Lactalis, producer of cheeses and dairy products, was sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury Department (OFAC) with a fine of 20,950 dollars because they had not fulfilled the embargo regulations of “making electronic financial transfers in which Cuba, or a Cuban citizen with interest, between February 2004 and March 2007”. This was the first penalty imposed by the OFAC since President Obama’s arrival in the White House.
Others Sectors of Social Impact
The sectors of education and culture have been heavily impacted by the embargo during these 50 years.
The embargo has negative repercussions on all levels of schooling. In spite of the efforts being made by the Cuban government to ensure quality education for all, the effects of the embargo translate into daily shortages that affect the learning process, research and scientific work in general.
Some examples follow:
During the period between May 2008 and April 2009, the total cost of products imported for the sector ran to a value of approximately 40 million dollars. Of this sum, 8.7% went towards paying freight charges in the cases of products coming in from the Asian markets. If Cuba would have been able to make these purchases in the American market it would have only had to use 3.9% of the same value to pay for freight charges. The additional cost totals 1.39 million dollars which might have been used to buy 40 million pencils, a million boxes of Plasticine for primary schools and nurseries and 550,000 boxes of wax crayons.
Cuban teachers and professors have no access to an up-to-date bibliography of US writers or research centres since the publishing houses of that country and the branches in other countries refuse to sell them to Cuba. The acquisition of these materials in distant markets adds high costs for freight charges.
It is impossible for Cuba to acquire a group of psycho-educational instruments corresponding to the WPPISI, WAIS and GRACE techniques that are used to determine levels of intellectual, emotional and motor development in children, adolescents and young people with special education needs, due to the fact that said instruments come from the United States.
In the period of time which we are analyzing, the higher education sector has suffered losses totalling 3.8 million dollars affecting production and services, income other than for goods and services, lack of access to American technology, cancelled academic programmes, bank transfers and projects that could not be carried out.
Access to the Internet, an essential tool for universities, is limited due to the fact that the American government prohibits Cuban access to undersea cables and the technologies that would allow the broad band to be available to a significant extent in the country.
The educational sector has not escaped the effects of the extra-territorial dimensionof the embargo.
The School of Economy at the University of Havana needs to renovate three elevators. To do so it needs to acquire GAL and ECI parts from Canada. During 2008, negotiations went on with a Canadian firm that sent an offer for the amount of 11,318 dollars. However, after signing the contract and opening a letter of credit, the purchase could not go through because 100% of the components originate in the USA and the manufacturer refused to make the sale to Cuba because of the embargo. The operation was carried out later with another supplier, at a cost of 200% more than the earlier offer.
Application of the embargo policy on the cultural area has deprived both countries of cultural exchanges that have been intense throughout history. The embargo has prevented our peoples from enjoying the best of artistic, literary and cultural expressions that both the nations have to offer.
In May of this year, the famous Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez was refused a US Visa after he received a special invitation to take part in the concert for the 90th birthday of the famous American musician Pete Seeger.
ARTEX was seriously harmed in its record selling rights. The embargo prevents the proper promotion and distribution of musical talent, significantly decreases sales prices and limits the enjoyment of Cuban music. In the period between May 2008 and April 2009, we estimate losses close to 130,000 dollars for sales that could not take place.
The Instituto Cubano del Libro (Cuban Book Institute) (ICL) was affected in commercialization of Cuban literature due to the impossibility of being able to cash cheques or receive transfers in dollars from foreign publishing houses with which they sign contracts. The NORMA Publishers of Puerto Rico have not been able to make the corresponding payments for contracted works by the authors Nicolás Guillén, Dora Alonso, David Chericián and Roberto Fernández Retamar.
Activities of the Fondo de Bienes Culturales (Cultural Assets Fund) have been particularly affected by the lack of raw materials and the essential materials needed to develop the visual and applied arts. As in other areas, Cuba is forced to acquire materials and media originating in the US at prices incomparably higher in markets that are further away in Europe and Asia. During the period we are analyzing, losses for this concept are estimated to total 636,990 dollars.
Cuban sports also offer numerous examples where we can see the application of the embargo.
It has been impossible for Cuba to buy liquid chromatography equipment which goes along with Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) that nowadays is essential for anti-doping control since the American government forbids American companies and their subsidiaries in third countries from supplying Cuba. Likewise, the authorities in Washington refuse the right to acquire reactives and referencial substances for work in the anti-doping laboratory.
Conservative calculations on losses for equipment that is unable to be used because of lack of spare parts that cannot be bought in the US indicate a total of 781,000 dollars.
Despite the enormous efforts made by the Cuban government to encourage the sector of transportation and to repair roads for the benefit of the population, the embargo continues to hold up the country’s development plans. During the period between March 2008 and April 2009, this sector was affected to a total of 357 million 802 thousand dollars.
Last March, the American ASTEC Industries Inc. refused a request sent in by a Cuban body for the acquisition of equipment for the rehabilitation of flexible pavements. The answer was based on the criteria that because of the existence of the embargo regulations, they could not begin any discussion on the subject.
Last March 20, General Cable Inc., a company selling electrical materials, indicated that it could not establish commercial relations with Cuba because it had not been informed about any change in the trade relations between Cuba and the United States. With that, they backed up their answer saying that “(…) unfortunately, due to the international laws established by the US State Department, it is not allowed to establish commercial relations with Cuba at this time”.
Naval repairs have also been affected by the embargo. Purchases of materials and the products needed to develop this activity have become 20% more expensive since they now have to be bought in Europe, and this represents 5.52 million dollars.
Empresa Alimport is in charge of processing purchases of foods and medical products from American companies.
4. Opposition to The Genocidal Policy of The Embargo Against Cuba.
In the last few months, international attention to the subject of bilateral relations between the US and Cuba has increased. Clearly the demand that the embargo against Cuba be eliminated and that the policy of hostility cease against a small country is stronger and firmer than ever before.
Last October 29, for the seventeenth consecutive time, the UN General Assembly adopted, with the overwhelming majority of member states the resolution “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” (63/7), with the highest vote that this resolution has reached in that UN body.
The General Assembly, with the favourable vote of 185 of its members, categorically reiterated the call to discontinue this illegal and genocidal policy being imposed by the government of the United States on the people of Cuba. That backing by the international community is consistent with its rejection of the application of economic, commercial and financial measures with extra-territorial effects and that are contrary to international law and to the principles of the UN Charter.
Many voices in the world were raised in favour of ceasing this inhuman policy. During the period this report is dealing with, numerous statements were made calling for the end of this policy. Among these, the most outstanding are:
On May 16, 2008, the declaration of the V Latin America and Caribbean-European Union Summit held in Lima Peru was adopted. In one of its paragraphs the Heads of State and Government in both regions agreed to the following: “(…) We firmly reject all the coercive measures, of a unilateral dimension and extra-territorial effect that are contrary to International Law and the norms generally accepted for free trade. We coincide in the fact that this kind of practice represents a serious threat to resolution A/RES/62/3 of the UNGA, we reaffirm our well-known positions about the application of the extra-territorial regulations of the Helms-Burton Act.”
On October 3, 2008, the Heads of State or Government of the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP), meeting at their 6th Summit Conference held in Ghana, approved the Declaration of Accra in which it “condemned the use of coercive unilateral measures such as illegal sanctions adopted against certain developing countries with the purpose of preventing said countries from exercising their right to determine their political, economic and social system and they reject the application of laws and unilateral and extra-territorial measures contrary to international law, such as the Helms-Burton Act.”
On December 8, 2008, the Heads of State or Government of Cuba and of states making up CARICOM, meeting on the occasion of the Third Cuba-CARICOM Summit, adopted a declaration where it states that “an end should be put to the economic, commercial and financial embargo against the Republic of Cuba and (where it) urges the government of the United States to listen to the overwhelming call from the immense majority of the members of the United Nations, and to immediately lift the unjust economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against the Republic of Cuba and the ceasing of the application of the measures adopted on May 6, 2004”.
Opposition to the embargo is also growing significantly in the very United States.
On May 27, 2008, The Washington Post published an article “The Crazy Embargo against Cuba” by Eugene Robinson, in which he described the policy towards our country as “incredibly stupid (…) childish, irresponsible and counter-productive.””
From September 23 to 25, 2008, Zogby International and Inter-American Dialogue carried out a survey of 2,700 US voters about different subjects that affect Latin America. Regarding Cuba, the survey found out that around 60% of the people surveyed were in favour of the US revising its policy towards Cuba and allowing trade between US companies and that country. Also, 68% supported the idea that all Americans should be able to travel to Cuba.
On October 17, 2008, the US magazine Science published an editorial, signed by the Secretary of International Relations of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba and his peer in the National Academy of Sciences in the US in which they advocate the lifting of the restrictions to a bilateral academia exchange.
On October 24, 2008, the representative of the Canadian medical-pharmaceutical company Cari Med Canada Trading Inc., Alberto Rodríguez, during his participation at the VIII Central American and Caribbean Congress for Anaesthesiology, Reanimation and Pain in Havana expressed that “the permits issued by the US Departments of Commerce and the Treasury in order to sell products to Cuba are extremely restricted, with a very high degree of detail”. According to his declarations, some completely absurd information is requested of the applicants. Likewise, he described that act of putting up obstacles for Cuban access to medical equipment and devices needed to save human lives as “criminal, genocidal and barbarian”.
On December 4, 2008, a group of trade, travel and agriculture-related organizations and associations sent a letter to President Obama entitled “Re-examining US policy towards Cuba”; in the letter they requested him to go further than his campaign promises and carry out a broader review of American policy. The letter was signed by the authorized representatives of 12 organizations, among them the US Agriculture Federation, the American Society of Travel Agents, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Foreign Trade Council and USA Engage. That same day, the US Travel agent association, ASTA, asked the president-elect, Barack Obama, to eliminate all travel restrictions to Cuba.
In November 2008, the Group of Studies on Cuba (GEC) and the Brookings Institution, funded a survey carried out by the International University of Florida (FIU) during the three weeks following the presidential election, with the aim of measuring the opinions of Cuban-Americans about US policy towards Cuba.
The survey revealed that, on the subject of remittances, 65% of the surveyed people were in favour of a return to the pre-2003 conditions; 66% supported re-establishing trips for Cuba-Americans, while 67% showed that they were in favour of the elimination of the restrictions imposed on American citizens. 79% considered that the embargo was not working and 55% were opposed to the idea that it continues to be applied. 65% favoured re-establishing diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba and 79% were of the opinion that both governments ought to establish a direct dialogue on subjects of mutual interest.
On February 23, 2009, the document titled “Changing the policy towards Cuba in the national interest of the United States” was released, drawn up by the office of Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and circulated in the Senate plenary and, in particular, to the members of the Foreign Relations Committee.
After acknowledging the failure of the US policy towards Cuba, the report presents a series of recommendations. Among these, the outstanding ones are: replace the conditionality of the US approach by a a rapprochement or progressive commitment; lift the restrictions on trips and remittances for Cuba-Americans; and, review the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts, along with the reports of the Commission for Aid to a Free Cuba. Moreover, it proposed to re-establish bilateral conversations, establish cooperation strategies in the area of migration and the war on drugs and to make more flexible the measures being applied in the economic area.
On February 23, fourteen congressmen signed a letter to President Obama in which they supported “free trade between Cuba and the US”, arguing for the economic advantages that could result for both nations.
As it can be appreciated, in a growing spectrum of US public opinion, the perception of the need for a basic change in government policy regarding Cuba is broadened; the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo would constitute an essential variable.
The conduct of the United States government since October 2008 – when Resolution 63/7 was adopted – until May 2009, confirms that that country has not taken one step to put an end to the economic, trade and financial embargo it imposes on the Republic of Cuba. Quite the opposite; it has flagrantly not complied with stipulations made by the General Assembly since reports were made about numerous actions reinforcing the embargo policy.
The direct economic repercussions on the Cuban people due to the application of the economic, trade and financial embargo by the US against Cuba until December 2008, calculated on a conservative basis, totals 96 billion dollars, a figure that would reach 236,221 million dollars if calculations were made using the current rate of Exchange on the US dollar. That figure does not include direct repercussions on the economic and social goals of the country inflicted by sabotage and terrorist acts that are encouraged, organized and financed from the United States.
The economic, trade and financial embargo, imposed by the government of the United States against Cuba, continues being the prime obstacle to the economic and social growth of the country, as well as for its recovery after the passage of three devastating hurricanes that affected it in 2008.
The embargo violates International Law. It is contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. It constitutes a transgression on the right to peace, development and security of a sovereign state. In its essence and its aims, it is an act of unilateral aggression and a permanent threat against the stability of a country. It constitutes a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the rights of an entire people. It is also in violation of the constitutional rights of the American people since it denies them the freedom to travel to Cuba. Moreover, it violates the sovereign rights of many other states because of its extra-territorial nature.
In spite of the intense and growing complaints by the international community to the new US government to effectuate a change of policy towards Cuba, the lifting of the embargo and the normalization of bilateral relations, the government of President Obama has maintained the embargo policy intact.
Besides being illegal, the embargo is morally unsustainable. There is no like unilateral system of punishments in existence being carried out against any other country in the world for such an extended period of time. Therefore, the United States must lift the embargo, with no more delays or excuses.