Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez announced on Sept. 9 that Cuba will submit a resolution to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting titled “The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
The Workers World Party Presidential and Vice Presidential Campaign joins with the Cuban people and millions globally who declare #YoVotoVsBloqueo — “I vote against the blockade.” We reiterate our party’s longstanding support for revolutionary socialist Cuba and respect for its sovereignty and self-determination against the imperialist bully to the north.
There is now a commonly held, but false and dangerous, illusion that the genocidal financial noose around Cuba has ended. This illusion is fostered by the U.S. government’s positive agreement on Dec. 17, 2015, to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, which it broke in 1961. President Barack Obama visited Cuba and commercial flights to the island began on Aug. 31. The unique restriction banning U.S. travel to Cuba has been reduced to a computer check box. However, Cuba’s 2016 report states that the blockade has in fact been toughened.
In its 40-page document, Cuba details the large, small and even new ways the web of U.S. laws and regulations that make up the blockade hurt the Cuban people, while touching every continent with their extraterritorial reach. The full report can be read in English at cubavsbloqueo.cu.
Here are a few examples.
Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) has exported pharmaceuticals to Thailand for many years. An order from PharMaLand pharmaceuticals for 60,000 bulbs of Cuba’s HeberBiovac HB Hepatitis B vaccine could not be filled because the bank in Thailand handling the order received a warning it should not enter into transactions with Cuba due to U.S. sanctions.
Payment for work in Ecuador and Ethiopia by Cuban technical and professional teachers was held back because that would violate U.S. sanctions. In Guatemala, Cuban sports technicians could not provide services because there were no banking channels through which remittances could be sent to Cuba. The bank subsidiaries there have relations with U.S. banks.
Between April 2015 and April 2016, the U.S. imposed 61 measures against foreign banks because they had relations with Cuba. These included closing bank accounts, holding back funds, refusing to provide banking services and to process letters of credit, delays due to the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control requiring permits to process documents and turning back bank transactions in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Cuba offers more than 200 internationally recognized, quality medical programs in 47 health institutions serving 15,000 foreign patients annually. But medical treatment does not fall into the 12 categories of travel permitted by the U.S. government. In short, it is illegal for a U.S. resident to seek medical treatment in Cuba, even though Cuba has developed effective treatments like a vaccine for lung cancer and Heberprot-P, which prevents more than 70 percent of diabetic foot ulcers. These treatments reduce medical costs and markedly improve quality of life, yet are out of reach for U.S. residents.
Cuba constitutionally guarantees free education and health care as well as access to culture and sports. The well-being of the people, not profits, is the purpose of its socialist organization of society. The blockade hurts all aspects of Cuban society, from construction to food import and production to the right of development itself.
President Obama has not done all that he could to dismantle the blockade of Cuba. He continues the Medical Professional Parole Program, a brain drain that offers special benefits to Cuban medical professionals who abandon international assignments.
According to Cuba’s 2016 document, Obama could allow Cuban banks to open accounts in U.S. banks; authorize direct exports of U.S. products to Cuban companies; permit imports of Cuban services or products like biotech products, including those manufactured in third countries containing Cuban raw materials; authorize U.S. companies to invest in Cuba; and allow ships that have docked in Cuba to dock in U.S. ports, eliminating the present six-month waiting period.
As the vote against the U.S. blockade in the United Nations General Assembly nears, the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) has begun days of action under the title, “We remember: Solidarity against the blockade and terrorism.” On Sept. 4, ICAP began by commemorating the 1997 bombing of a Havana hotel that killed the young Italian Fabio di Celmo. The days of action will end on Oct. 27 with the twenty-fifth consecutive United Nations vote calling on the U.S. to end its blockade of Cuba.