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US blockade of Cuba

Dear friends and supporters of RATB,

In late September 2016, US President Obama extended the Trading With the Enemy Act, the principal law that the United States unilateral blockade against Cuba. Almost two years since announcing the intention to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and ‘normalise’ relations, his fine words about ending an ‘updated and failed policy’ ring hollow. The Obama administration has taken only small, strategic steps to dismantling the apparatus of hostility built up by US imperialism against revolutionary Cuba. The objective of US policy remains regime change in Cuba. Formally, a vote in the US Congress is necessary to lift the blockade, but Obama could use his Presidential prerogatives to remove many more elements of the blockade than he has done. Using his executive powers decisively would enable him to virtually dismantle the blockade.

Meanwhile the US blockade continues to have a severe detrimental impact on every aspect of life in Cuba, some of which are summarized in Cuba’s 2016 report to the United Nations General Assembly. On 26 October, for the 25th consecutive year, the General Assembly will vote on Cuba’s motion to condemn the US blockade. Last year, the US voted against the motion, backed by its reliable ally, Israel, and opposed by 191 countries.

The international solidarity movement must now step up its demand for the end to the blockade. You can vote against it on this website: http://www.cubavsbloqueo.cu/en.

On Friday 30September at 9pm UK time (4pm in Havana) there will be a Q&A about the Blockade and Cuba/US relations with Josefina Vidal, head of Cuba-US relations in the Cuban Foreign Ministry. You can contact Josefina via @JosefinaVidalF. This coincides with the 4th Bilateral Commission meeting between the US and Cuba.

Cuban youth have launched a twitter campaign for 17 October using the hashtags #Cuba #CubavsBloqueo #YoVotoVsBloqueo (I vote against the Blockade). All RATB supporters are urged to join in, highlighting both the human rights impact of the blockade: both in imposing suffering on the Cuban people and impacting on the rest of the world through its extraterritorial nature. Some of the enduring impacts of the blockade are summarized below – taken from a Cuban document:

 -      Despite the restoring of Cuban-US diplomatic relations, the reopening of embassies over a year ago, and President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba in March 2016, the US economic, commercial and financial sanctions against Cuba remain in place, as do the laws which support them, while the restrictions they generate continue to be applied. The blockade constitutes a basic obstacle to the process aimed at normalizing the relations between the two countries.

-      The amendments made in 2015 and 2016 by the US Treasury and Commerce Departments, to some of the regulations of the blockade policy in order to modify their implementation; while they constitute steps in the right direction, they are not enough.

-      The US continues to ban exports to Cuba of products and equipment important to key sectors of the economy, while the persistence of the blockade prevents Cuba from freely exporting products and services to the US; it cannot have direct banking relations with the US or, except in the case of telecommunications, receive US investment in other sectors of the economy.

-      Despite the March 2016 measure authorizing use of the US dollar in our international transactions, there are still no normal banking relations between the two countries. Cuba is banned from opening correspondent accounts in US banks and has been unable to make either deposits or payments in cash in US dollars in third countries. Among international and US banks, a climate of fear and hostility remains, as to involving themselves in legitimate operations with Cuba.

-      The deterrent and punitive elements of the blockade, and extraterritorial in scope, continue to operate to the detriment of Cuba. They are still blocking transfers of funds, still withholding payments, even in currencies other than the US dollar; they deny us services of all kinds, even where sought by our diplomatic missions and offices abroad, while foreign banks and other entities with links to Cuba continue to be fined.

-      Examples include the decision by the German Commerzbank to cease operations with Cuba following a fine of US $1,710 million imposed on it by the US in March 2015.

-      More recently (August 2016), it proved impossible to pay for Cuban medical services in Algeria, in the maternal & child and ophthalmology areas, because two correspondent banks - Commerzbank and the Belgian KBC Bank - refused to action a credit transfer of €12,527,945 ordered by the Bank of Algeria.

-      While authorization is being granted for visits by US citizens to Cuba under a general license in the 12 categories permitted by US legislation, and scheduled flights between the two countries have been restored, US citizens are still banned from vacationing freely as tourists in Cuba, under a law which can only be repealed by Congress.

-      The economic damage caused to the Cuban people, based on very conservative estimates and taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against gold in the international market, amounts to $753,688,000,000, despite the decline in the price of gold compared with 2015. At current prices, the cumulative cost of the blockade to the Cuban people totals $125,873,000,000. Between March 2015 and March 2016, the cost to Cuba of the sanctions amounted to $4,680,300,000 at current prices.

-      The president of the United States still possesses wide executive powers, which he has not used, to continue modifying the application of the blockade regulations beyond what has already been done to date. These would enable him, if used decisively, to virtually dismantle the blockade policy (although its complete elimination requires a decision by Congress).

-      The scope for significantly amending the application of the blockade by the exercise of executive powers is self-evident from the measures taken by the Treasury and Commerce Departments in 2015 and 2016, and from the removal of Cuba, in 2015, from the list of states sponsoring international terrorism, on which Cuba should never have been included.

-      For its part, the US Congress has yet to approve any of the 20 bills with bipartisan support proposing the lifting of some of the blockade sanctions, and even the lifting of the entire blockade.

-      At the same time, Congress has received some 51 anti-Cuba legislative initiatives, many designed to reinforce basic aspects of the blockade’s application, prevent the President from passing new executive measures, and blocking the implementation of those already passed.

-      The blockade against Cuba must be removed unilaterally and unconditionally. It is the most unjust, severe and prolonged system of sanctions ever imposed on any country, and remains a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people.

-      The blockade constitutes the greatest obstacle to developing the full potential of the economy and wellbeing of the Cuban people, and to Cuba's economic, trade and financial relations with the US and the rest of the world.

-      Given all the above, for as long as it remains in force, Cuba will maintain its demand for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US.

-      The draft resolution we will present reflects the current status of bilateral relations between Cuba and the US; we reiterate our appreciation of the restoration of diplomatic relations and the US President's expression of willingness to work towards the lifting of the blockade, reaffirmed during his historic visit to Cuba this year.

-      The mobilizing role of the international community as regards the removal of the sanctions against Cuba is an essential one, and is an important factor of support for President Obama and his successor, and also for those members of Congress who second the elimination of this cruel policy, in the face of their opponents and critics.

-      The international solidarity and support enjoyed by Cuba during these long, difficult years has been a key factor in the in the change in the US policy towards Cuba.

-      Cuba reiterates its gratitude for the permanent support of your country to the demand by the Cuban people for an end to this illegal, genocidal and extraterritorial policy, which will never prevent the Cuban people from defending its sovereignty and its unfettered right to choose its own future.

-      We hope to enjoy again your country's support in the forums at which this issue is raised, especially at the UN General Assembly during the general debate, and your country's vote in support of the resolution against the blockade, on which action will be taken on October 26th, 2016.

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