Rock around the Blockade has fought off an attempt to use the US blockade to obstruct our work in solidarity with socialist Cuba. Without consultation or warning, the US-based company PayPal blocked our website payment account citing ‘possible trade with Cuba’.
RATB uses PayPal to process payments and donations via our website, www.ratb.org.uk. The money goes towards our activities in Britain (political meetings, educational discussions, film showings, street rallies, cultural celebrations and so on). We do not use PayPal to make financial transactions to Cuba (which is anyway impossible because of the US blockade) and the merchandise we sell is not sourced there.
On 26 May 2013 we received an email stating, ‘PayPal’s Compliance Department has reviewed your account and identified activity that may be in violation of United States regulations administered by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)’.
After numerous emails and telephone calls we were able to confirm that this meant there was a ‘potential violation regarding possible trade with Cuba, a country that is sanctioned’. We were told that ‘PayPal can't benefit a sanctioned country or anyone in it.’
Eventually, by providing details of our ‘business model’, the recipients of PayPal accrued funds and a list of our products and services offered via PayPal we were able to get the block on our account lifted.
The fact that the account of RATB, a small not-for-profit solidarity campaign, was blocked before any questions were asked shows how strictly the blockade is enforced and how scared US companies are of violating it. PayPal has recently been clamping down on any activity related to Cuba, for example, in August 2011, shutting down the PayPal account of a British foundation that accepts donations to support students to study medicine in Cuba.(http://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/mar/12/paypal-cuban-connection)
Indeed, PayPal has good reason to be scared. Over the past few weeks OFAC has intensified enforcement of the blockade. On June 28, Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A, was fined nearly $3 million USD for processing 53 transactions with Cuba between 2004 and 2008.
On July 22, OFAC issued a fine of $5,.2 million to American Express Travel Related Services Company– the fifth and largest fine so far this year. OFAC asserts that the company’s foreign subsidiaries and offices abroad sold 14,487 airline tickets to travel to Cuba from countries other than the US. Both these examples illustrate the extra-territorial nature of the blockade: regulations are routinely applied to prevent Cuba trading with countries around the world, not just the US; in violation of the sovereignty of the rest of the world.
Since 1960 the blockade has cost the Cuban economy an estimated $1 trillion USD. For 21 consecutive years the General assembly of the UN has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the blockade. In the 2012 vote, 188 countries voted for the lifting of the Blockade, with just three(the US,Israel and Palau) voting against and two (the Marshall Islands and Micronesia) abstaining. It is time to end this unjust and overwhelmingly unpopular economic bullying. The Cuban people have the right to chose socialism and to live without fear of the US government punishing them for doing so.
See: US blockade ‘attempted genocide’ from the current issue of FRFI for more details about the history and scope of the US blockade.
Now that our PayPal is up an running, please donate and help RATB continue it’s work