Cuban civil society demand end to US blockade

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CUBAN civil society has demanded the US to end its blockade against Havana while declaring the right to self-determination.

Washington’s embargo against Cuba is anchored on 10 laws and regulations to ensure total blockade and extraterritorial application.

More than 220 representatives from Cuban civil organizations, on Wednesday, demanded an immediate, unconditional end to the US blockade of Cuba, which Havana says has caused economic damages valued at more than US $130 billion at current prices since its implementation almost 60 years ago.

The artists, athletes, and representatives of institutions met at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support the 2017 report on the embargo to be tabled for voting before the UN General Assembly on November 1, 2017. The group informed foreign deputy minister Abelardo Moreno that while US President Donald Trump was reinforcing the blockade, Cubans would not cease to demand its elimination.

In the declaration, civil society reaffirmed the Cuban people’s right to self-determination, “to freely choose our own political, economic, and social system”; called for an end to the persecution of entities in other countries which have economic or financial relations with Cuba; and encouraged US citizens to maintain and express their support for an end to the blockade.

In September before the UN General Assembly, President Trump said, “That is why in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has stood against the corrupt and destabilizing regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom.  My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms.”

Cuba’s report on Resolution 71/5 of the United Nations General Assembly entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” indicates that between April 2016 and June 2017, the embargo caused economic losses estimated at US $4.3 billion.

“The damages caused by the implementation of the blockade throughout almost six decades have been estimated at 822,280,000,000 dollars, taking into account the devaluation of the US dollar vis-à-vis the price of gold on the world market. At current prices, the quantifiable damages caused by the blockade have been estimated at more than 130,178,600,000 dollars,” reads the report. “During the period covered by this Report, the damages caused by the blockade to Cuba have been estimated at 4,305,400,000 dollars. Putting this figure into perspective, according to estimates from the Ministry of Economy and Planning of Cuba, this means that the country needs between 2 to 2.5 billion dollars in direct foreign investments to achieve economic development. In other words, the annual cost of the blockade to Cuba is twice the amount it needs to fully develop its economy.”

Cuba says the strengthening of the US sanctions regime against Havana was a setback in bilateral relations, which places additional obstacles to the very limited and scarce economic and commercial relations between both countries. “The measures approved by President Trump would not only lead to a reduction in US citizens travels to Cuba, but also to the imposition of new prohibitions that will affect the interests of the US business sector,” the report states. “The organization “Engage Cuba”, together with a huge group of institutions and personalities in the US that call for the lifting of the blockade against Cuba, issued a report in June of 2017 asserting that the measures imposed by the Trump administration will prevent, in the short and medium terms, the creation of 12 295 jobs in that country, and that the incomes foregone as a result of such actions would amount to more than 6.6 billion dollars.”

Cuba notes that the blockade was the most unjust, severe and longest-standing unilateral sanctions system ever imposed against any country.

The unilateral but extraterritorially applied embargo is implemented by US government agencies, namely the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce, and in particular by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

It is applied by almost 10 legislations and regulations such as the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 (TWEA). Its Section 5 (b) delegated the possibility of applying economic sanctions on the Chief Executive in times of war or in any other time of national emergency and prohibited trade with the enemy or allies of the enemy during wars. In 1977, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act restricted the powers of the President to impose new sanctions claiming the existence of national emergency situations. Nevertheless, TWEA continued to be applied to Cuba even when the White House has never declared a national emergency with regard to Cuba. Since then, successive US Presidents have extended the application of TWEA on Cuba. Under this legislation, the oldest of its type, the US adopted the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) in 1963, by virtue of which US nationals or persons under US jurisdiction are prohibited from carrying out financial transactions with Cuba; Cuban assets were frozen and importing goods of Cuban origin into the US was banned, along with other restrictions. Cuba is the only country against which this legislation is enforced. President Obama renewed the sanctions against Cuba for one more year under TWEA on September 13, 2016. Next is the Foreign Assistance Act (1961): This law authorized the President of the United States to establish and maintain a total “embargo” on trade with Cuba and ban the provision of any assistance to the Cuban government. It establishes that US government funds destined for international aid and sent to international organizations would not be used for any programs related to Cuba. It prohibits the granting to Cuba of any aid anticipated under this act or any other benefit covered by any other law until the President determines that Cuba has carried out actions aimed at paying back to US citizens and firms no less than 50 percent of the value or a fair compensation for the properties nationalized by the Cuban government after the triumph of the Revolution.

The Presidential Proclamation 3447: Issued on February 3, 1962, by President John F. Kennedy, decreed the “total embargo on trade” between the US and Cuba in compliance with Section 620 (a) of the Foreign Assistance Act.

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the United States Treasury Department (1963): They stipulated the freezing of all Cuban assets in the US; the prohibition of all financial and commercial transactions provided they are not approved by a license; and the ban on Cuban exports to the US. These regulations also prevented any natural or juridical person in the US or any third country from carrying out transactions with Cuba in US dollars, among other prohibitions.

The Export Administration Act (1979): Section 2401 (b) (1) “Export controls of national security”, “Policy toward individual countries”, established the Commodity Control List where the US President includes a number of countries that might be subject to special export controls due to national security considerations. Cuba is included in that list.

The Export Administration Regulations (EAR) 1979: Established the bases for general control of items and activities subject to EAR control, according to the sanctions imposed by the US government. They establish a general policy of denial for exports and re-exports to Cuba.

Cuban Democracy Act or Torricelli Act (1992): Prohibits the subsidiaries of US firms in third countries from trading in goods with Cuba or Cuban nationals. It forbids third country ships landing in any Cuban port from entering any US territory for 180 days, other than those having a license from the Secretary of the Treasury.

Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act or the Helms-Burton Act (1996): Codified the provisions of the blockade, broadening its extraterritorial scope by imposing sanctions on executives of foreign enterprises that carry out transactions with nationalized U.S. properties in Cuba and threats of lawsuits in U.S. courts, which has been object of an exemption, renewed year after year. Likewise it limited Presidential prerogatives for suspending this policy even though it establishes that the US President retains his powers to authorize transactions with Cuba by means of licenses. Section 211 of the Emergency Supplementary Appropriations Act for the 1999 Fiscal Year: Prohibits registering in the US any trademarks associated with nationalized products as well as the acknowledgement by US courts of the rights of Cuban firms over such trademarks.

And the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (2000): Authorized the export of agricultural products to Cuba on the condition of cash payments, in advance and without any US financing. It prohibited travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens for purposes of tourism, defining “tourism” as any activity related to travel to, from or inside Cuba that would not be expressly authorized in Section 515.560 of Title 31 of the Federal Regulations Code. In other words, it limited travel to the 12 categories authorized at the time this legislation was passed.

 

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