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Denying the blockade of Cuba is madness

That the US blockades Cuba for political reasons is recognised and opposed at the UN at a rate of 187 nations to 3 — even Britain votes against it. Denial is impossible, writes TARIQ ANDERSON

TO suggest that “Cuba is not suffering under a blockade,” as Ileana Fuentes of the Center for a Free Cuba did in a letter to the Morning Star (November 19), flies in the face of basic facts and mainstream global opinion.
 
Even a cursory look at the nature of US policy towards Cuba over the past 61 years demonstrates that it goes far beyond a “trade embargo,” imposed by one sovereign nation against another.
 
The economic, commercial and financial sanctions imposed on Cuba cumulatively amount to a blockade of the country as they have a far-reaching extraterritorial impact that severely restricts Cuba’s relationships with countries all over the world, not just the US.
 
The key pieces of US legislation underline this fact clearly.
 
The 1963 Cuban Assets Controls Regulations had the stated goal to “isolate the Cuban government economically and deprive it of US dollars.”

The 1992 Torriccelli Act forbade subsidiaries of US companies from trading with Cuba, sought to “encourage the governments of other countries that conduct trade with Cuba to restrict their trade and credit relations” and sought to impose “sanctions on any country that provides assistance to Cuba.”
 
Title I of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act aimed at cutting Cuba’s trading relationships with third countries and opposing Cuba’s membership in international financial institutions.
 
Title III allows US nationals to sue foreign companies deemed to have gained from investments in property that belonged to US nationals prior to the revolution’s nationalisation programme.
 
While every US president since Bill Clinton suspended the enforcement of Title III, in 2019 president Trump decided to activate it.
 
Trump’s decision came in the context of a further 243 new sanctions and measures directed against Cuba during his presidency, including reinstating Cuba on the US government’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
 
The immediate impact of this designation? Forty-five international banks immediately terminated relations with Cuba (visit cuba-solidarity.org.uk to take CSC’s campaign action against this).
 
The legislation’s stated aims, and its effects, are to isolate Cuba from the rest of the world. The vast majority of the world recognises this fact and, every year, the UN general assembly votes on a resolution to end the blockade.
 
In a report compiled by the UN secretary-general ahead of the vote earlier this month, which saw 187 countries vote in favour of the resolution and just the US and Israel voting against, the British government condemned “the extraterritorial effects” of US policy which act to “prevent and restrict the conduct by foreign companies, including British companies, of legitimate and lawful business in Cuba.”

As well as the considered opinion of his majesty’s government, prominent civil society organisations also note and condemn this extraterritorial effect.
 
In a 2021 report titled Right to Live Without a Blockade, Oxfam outlined that US policy has an “extraterritorial reach that hamstrings its [Cuba’s] relationships with third-party countries and detracts from the wellbeing of Cuban women and men.”
 
Fuentes disingenuously claims that the US continues to be a “significant source of humanitarian aid for the Cuban people.” While it is true that US companies can apply for licences for humanitarian food and medical exports, in practice the US government denies many of the applications and makes the process overly complex and difficult in order to discourage bids.
 
This explains the large lobby of agricultural producers in the US who wish to sell to Cuba but are unable to due to the blockade.
 
The CSC itself has years of experience of the extraterritorial impact of the blockade, from the difficulties in procuring medical aid from European suppliers during the Covid-19 pandemic, to the closure of our Co-op Bank account, and the campaign to overturn the Open University ban on a Cuban student — examples that clearly refute the assertion that there is “no US blockade on Cuba.”
 
Readers of the Morning Star will no doubt have their own examples too. Whether it be the difficulty in transferring money to Cuba from British banks to discovering some travel insurers won’t cover holidays to the island.
 
It should come as no surprise then to learn that the “Center for a Free Cuba,” the organisation which Fuentes was writing on behalf of, is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
 
The NED, which was established under the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s, has been more a tool to promote US foreign policy interests than an independent vehicle for the promotion of democracy.
 
In fact, the NED has been described as an instrument for overtly carrying out the kind of operations the CIA ordinarily had to do covertly. Together with USAid, the NED has been funding disinformation campaigns to undermine Cuba for many years.
 
While they are rife throughout the mainstream media, they have until now, not found their way into the Morning Star. Hopefully they won’t again.
 
Tariq Anderson is campaigns officer for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign — Cuba-solidarity.org.uk.

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