(United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Universal Periodic Review Briefing )
26 February 2023
Cuba Support Ireland was established in 1991 as a member-owned and run non-governmental organization dedicated to defending Cuban sovereignty against the aggression of the United States and its global allies.
With branches throughout Ireland, the organization seeks to educate Irish people about the organization of Cuban society, its culture, peoples, and their achievements. It promotes trade and exchange between Ireland and Cuba and has organized cultural, educational, medical, and agricultural study groups from Ireland to visit Cuba.
We seek to ensure that Ireland resists the pressure to become an active global asset in the war of coercion being waged by the United States of America against the people of Cuba. Our efforts are not up to the task, Ireland has fallen into line as an instrument in the global imposition of the illegal blockade of Cuba. A succession of right-wing governments followed by an economic collapse and the implosion of the banking system has ensured that US commercial interests in Ireland take primacy over all national imperatives, particularly the exercise of an independent foreign policy.
In this document, we will give evidence of this and outline our broader issues.
2 US Blockade of Cuba: Impacts in Ireland
The bank accounts of Cuba Support Group Ireland were closed at short notice by the Bank of Ireland in 2014. Cuba Support Group has been unable to have them reopened, even temporarily, and has been unable to open another account in another bank in Ireland. This is a direct result of the blockade of Cuba orchestrated globally by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a branch of the US State Department which is located in Washington DC.
This action is in breach of Irish Law (Irish Regulation SI 217/97), it is in breach of EU Directive (EU Council Regulation 2271/96) and it is contrary to International Law. We have no legal recourse in Ireland to vindicate our rights because of the inaccessibility of the courts in Ireland to NGOs. We have corresponded with the Irish Government through our public representatives in an effort to vindicate our rights and had our complaints summarily dismissed by the Minister of Finance, without investigation.
This is the situation of an NGO in Ireland suppressed by the actions of the US Government and its global power to pervert national, intranational and international law. How then are the people of Cuba, the ultimate target of this use of financialised coercion by the United States, impacted by these policies and practices? They are impacted fundamentally, systematically and universally on an individual, communal and national basis. In other words, genocidally.
The US policy is genocidal in concept, structure, operation and intent.
At this point, the word CUBA is being blocked, not just the country. For example, transactions from the UK to Europe are investigated and blocked if the word “Cuba” is used in the reference or the account name, even where the transaction involved no financial transfer to any Cuban entity located inside or outside of Cuba. And there is no minimum transaction amount threshold to trigger the blockade infrastructure. Cuba Support Group Ireland has documented many transactions for as little as €0.01 (1 cent) which have been intercepted by the SWIFT bank transfer system working on behalf of the US Government. All of these have been blocked.
To carry out any solidarity action in Ireland requires Cuba Support Group Ireland to collect membership fees and to pay for printing, room hire, purchase of materials for banners, posters and the like. All such are banned by the US blockade. Cuba Support Group Ireland is forced to operate its finances in ways which would be recognisable to criminals and tax dodgers, depriving us of the right to carry out legitimate and legal activities and to operate freely in accordance with the Constitutional Law of Ireland and the Treaty Law of the European Union. In this way, the effects of the unilateral coercive sanctions illegally imposed on Cuba by the United States, with the full, but secret, collaboration of the European Union and the Government of Ireland deprive ordinary Irish citizens of their fundamental human rights, their Treaty rights, their constitutional rights and their legal rights under statute. The US coercion degrades the integrity of the democratic institutions of the Irish Republic and brings the Irish political leadership into disrepute. Trust is destroyed, deliberately, and the systemic corruption of our politics is institutionalised. All of this is in direct conflict with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Of course, the trashing of our democratic institutions and the corruption of our financial system is a minor reversal when compared to the widespread criminal damage inflicted systemically on the people of Cuba and on Cuban society. There, sanctions are experienced daily as a deliberate systemic genocide inflicted on the civilian population who pay with their loss of universal freedoms, their hunger, their health and, ultimately, their lives. It is only the heroic defence mounted by their uniquely competent elected government and their highly effective public services that stands between the Cuban citizens and the genocidal intent of their bellicose neighbour. The continuing failure of the United Nations to end this genocide, in the face of a near universal annual mandate from the General Assembly to do so, is eloquent testament to the UN’s moral and institutional bankruptcy.
Refer also to the specific evidence presented in Section 6 below.
3 The human rights that Cubans currently enjoy
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights seems to be unaware that the democratic system in Cuba is exemplary. It is based on the principle of “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” This principle is operationalized through the direct participation of the people in the exercise and their active control of the organs of power, through their political and civil institutions, and within a framework of the existing constitutional and legal provisions. Cuba is an independent and sovereign state of peasants and workers, organized with, and for the good of, all. It is a democratic republic in which citizens enjoy political freedom, social justice, individual and collective well-being, and human solidarity. Where restrictions on individual freedom occur, they are put before the parliament and voted on by all public representatives. This legitimizes them as entirely justified under the constitution of the Republic, which imposes a duty on the government to protect the citizens against the impacts of the ongoing war of aggression that has prevailed against Cuba since 1962.
The people of Cuba enjoy extensive rights guaranteed by its constitution and its government. These rights include freedom of opinion and expression. Indeed, Cubans we have spoken to inside and outside Cuba hold a wide range of well-informed opinions on most subjects and typically hold a wider range of views on any given social or political topic than would be found among Irish people. This is due to their access to a plurality of media sources from many different countries and a vibrant national media with high journalistic standards. Indeed, Cuban media is highly sought after around Latin America and further afield because of the accuracy of its reportage. Much of what passes for journalism in Europe is little more than state-funded propaganda, aided by official government censorship of views that contradict the official narrative. Such government-imposed censorship of media is not evident in Cuba where citizens, in addition to access to their own national media, have access to US-based media, media from other Latin American and Caribbean nations, and access to European, Russian, Chinese, and African media.
FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA
One notable censorship of media widely experienced in Cuba is that imposed on Cuban citizens by the denial of access to web-based media imposed by US web-based media corporations, at the insistence of the US government, that refuse access to all Cuban subscribers, unless by special arrangements reserved for mercenary operatives in the pay of the hegemon.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION and ASSEMBLY
Cubans also enjoy freedom of association and assembly and have the right to protest peacefully. Cubans have a proud tradition of standing up for their rights and of supporting each other to overcome injustice, whether the source of injustice is internal or external. They have a well developed system of participative democracy where social organisations like trade unions, student representative bodies, women’s organisations, etc., have direct access to parliamentary structures through which to influence government decision-making. The widespread consultation processes undertaken by the Cuban Government in the lead-up to votes of changes to constitutional provisions or the modification of major pieces of legislation demonstrates the power of ordinary people to influence the political agenda and hold their public representatives to account. We can only dream that we in Ireland will someday have similar powers in terms of the exercise of collective grass-roots people-power over major government decisions. Someday we may even get the Cuban right to replace corrupt politicians via recall elections which can be triggered by grass-roots organisations at the mid-term of any elected public representative’s electoral mandate.
Local street level organisations, called CDRs, organise self-directed local community activities like neighbourhood clean ups, gardening clubs, assist with food distribution to vulnerable people and provide support to older people. Community support enables the proper socialisation of children and provides mechanisms to resolve anti-social behaviour, reinforcing social cohesion and pride of place. These neighbourhood committees have representation at government level through elected parliamentary representatives and receive exchequer funding to support their activities at grass-roots level.
RIGHT TO FAIR LEGAL PROCESS
There is one place in Cuba where human rights are systematically violated, the illegally occupied US Naval Base, infamously known to the World as Guantanamo. Here, the USA continues to use it as a base for torture, the king-pin in a systemic global enterprise of human rights violation including torture, kidnap, indefinite detention and the denial of familial visitation rights. Even access to legal representation is denied as is the right to fair legal process. The US Naval Base of Guantanamo is the only place in Cuba where torture is legal. The Commission has rightly condemned this.
RIGHT TO HEALTH CARE
All Cubans enjoy free access to health care in a health care system which remains one of the best available anywhere, in spite of the denial of access to critical international drugs and medical equipment imposed by the unilateral coercive sanctions imposed on Cuba by the USA. Those sanctions saw a large donation of PPE (masks, scrubs, gloves, aprons, etc.) prevented from landing in Cuba during the early stages of the Covid pandemic. This was a very public illustration of the US attempt to ensure the maximum possible deaths of innocent Cuban men, women and children from Covid at a time when preventing transmission was the only available response to the virus. The USA weaponised the virus in order to inflict as much suffering on the civilian population of Cuba as possible. The US authorities also blocked Cuba’s access to ventilators from EU manufacturers and blocked Cuba’s access to spare parts when their oxygen production machinery broke down. These are just a few examples that expose the repeated lie promoted by the US government and their media assets that US sanctions don’t apply to medicines. They do, and the more suffering and death the USA can inflict on the civilian population of Cuba by weaponising its sanctions on medicines the better the US government likes it.
In spite of the coercive sanctions, Cuba was the first country to vaccinate its entire population. The Cuban Government knew that if it had waited on the international system to deliver vaccines, it would still be waiting now, because the USA would weaponise the access to the vaccines in order to inflict the greatest possible suffering on Cuban civilians. This is why it invested heavily in producing its own vaccines, which have proved themselves to be among the most effective vaccines in the world against Covid 19. Cuba has also developed the most effective treatments available for those who contracted the illness, ensuring its death rate is among the lowest anywhere. Other countries that are also subject to unilateral coercive sanctions imposed by the US have not fared so well. Many have yet to receive access to vaccines in sufficient quantities or to vaccines compatible with their local medical infrastructure. This is an example of the exemplary prioritisation of the rights to universal, effective health care that the Cuban Government delivers for the Cuban population. Such rights to exemplary health care do not exist for many citizens of other countries, including the 30 million Americans who currently have no access to healthcare.
Cubans are in the process of selecting their candidates for the forthcoming general election to the Cuban Parliament to be held on 26 April 2023. Any Cuban can stand for election if they get the majority support in a local constituency selection vote. Each constituency selects a minimum of two and a maximum of eight candidates who stand for election, the candidate who is elected by the popular vote must secure at least 50% of the vote to be returned to the parliament, so, if necessary, run-off elections are held within each constituency. No political party is allowed to stand in a Cuban election, all candidates stand as independent public representatives. All elected parliamentarians can also be recalled mid-term and voted out of office if they fail to secure at least 50% in the recall ballot. Voting is voluntary and participation rates in general elections regularly top 90%. Cuba has a vibrant participatory democracy overseen by an independent electoral council.
Under the Constitution, General and Municipal elections are held on 3 and 4 year cycles. These elections are characterised by their smooth running and high turnouts, even though voting is voluntary. International observers attest to the secrecy of the ballot and the transparency of the process of voting, vote counting and results communication. Arnold August, a Canadian academic, has written extensively on the subject and is the global authority on the subject. He says we in Ireland have much to learn from the Cuban electoral process. He has characterised the system as similar to our Parliament where all the deputies are independents: there is no political party organising for electoral advantage. The growth of independent deputies (non-party deputies elected by popular vote) in Ireland has mirrored the decline in party politics which are seen as the basis for the corruption of the political process and the disenfranchisement of the voter. In future, we may see a 100% independent chamber which would be similar to the current Cuban People’s Parliament.
That Constitution, was amended in 1976 by a popular referendum on a “yes” vote of over 97% of the total number of voters with the participation of nearly 9 million people in more than 163,000 local meetings held to discuss the Draft Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy; and the discussion of the preliminary draft Labor Code with the participation of over 2,800,000 workers, in some 69,000 trade union assemblies. This enshrined Cuba’s commitment to the organisation of society along socialist principles. A similar referendum was held in 2022 to introduce a Family Code granting exemplary rights to children, protection against coercive control and sexual identity rights, rights to form non-binary relations and for such unions to enjoy full constitutional protections as family groupings.
It is complete dis-information to suggest that the Communist Party of Cuba wins the elections: it doesn’t, it is constitutionally barred from standing or taking part in any election in Cuba, as are all political parties. This is a necessary protection from the impact of foreign influence which discredits elections all over Latin America and has led to generations of corrupt administrations throughout the region.
We hope to host a visit to Ireland in 2023 by Arnold August when he can report back on the latest general elections in Cuba which will be held in April 2023.
CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS
Cubans enjoy cultural and educational rights not available in Ireland. Free, or low-cost, access to cultural events is guaranteed by government funding of the arts, music, theatre, dance. Cubans have free access to high quality education at all levels up to doctoral level. Cuba is among the most literate nations on Earth and Cuban scholars score among the highest in each age group and each subject. The United States bars access to academic, cultural and professional exchanges via international conferences, denying Cuban academics visas for access to conferences in the USA and denying US experts access to Cuban conferences through a travel ban. Cuban researchers experience considerable additional difficulties in having the academic papers published in international journals, due to the US sanctions.
Cuban children and adolescents have recently gained additional, legally enforceable, protections under the 2022 Family Code amendment to the Cuban Constitution. Rights extend to respect for gender diversity, the right to a secure home life, to protection against coercive control and to a nurturing home environment. The family code also provides for legal recognition of non-binary family unions. These rights are in addition to already world-leading rights enjoyed by Cuban women. Gender reassignment surgery is also freely available in Cuba.
4 UN Sustainable Development Goals
The only thing standing between Cuba and the achievement of all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is the US blockade. Cuba had already achieved the Millennium Sustainable Goals in advance of the 2000 deadline. Since then, the deliberate intensification of the US blockade has caused a reversal in access to energy, food, employment, health care, at the population level. A global pandemic and a war in Ukraine have also added to the difficulties with inflation reducing Cuban’s purchasing power and sanctions on fuel supply chains increasing energy bills and reducing access to electricity. The Cuban Government has struggled to mitigate the worst effects of the blockade and ensure the equal distribution of the reduced resources available. Significant support has also been offered by other countries to alleviate the current difficulties with the Russian Federation providing access to emergency crude oil supplies and China providing solar power installations.
Yet, in spite of the US genocide, Cuba leads the world in sustainable development and was rated the ONLY country developing sustainably in the 2006 World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report. Since then, Cuba has developed a “Life Plan” (Tarara Vida) to address climate change and meet its responsibilities under the UN Climate Change Agreement signed in 2018. Significant progress is being made in reafforestation, renewable energy, active travel, and defences against extreme weather events. Cuba is a tropical island which experiences significant hurricanes and droughts and the intensity of such extreme weather events is increasing, and is predicted to increase further. Cuba, in common with island communities all around the World, is reliant on the commitment for all other nations to deliver on their promises to achieve the 1.5degC target to mitigate climate change. Cuba has provided significant leadership to encourage that goal through the COP processes. Other countries are less engaged and the United States is a notable dissenter, laggard and disruptor of international action to curtail the use of fossil fuel. Its armed forces are the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet and it has no record of intent in the stated ambition to reduce those emissions.
Cuba’s biodiversity is uniquely rich and heavily protected both at an institutional and a community level.It is continually being enhanced through active management and stewardship. The replanting of mangroves as a natural defence against coastal flooding and storm surges is being undertaken on a wide scale, expanding the habitat of native coastal species whilst protecting coastal populations from adverse weather impacts. Nature-based solutions feature highly in Cuba’s “Life Plan” because they are deliverable from local resources not subject to interference from the US sanctions. Elsewhere in Cuba, exposed coastal communities are being actively relocated to higher ground. The “Life Plan” is a 100 year plan for the sustainable development of the country in the context of climate change. No other country has such a long-range plan in place to deal effectively with climate change. This provides the Cuban population with ecological security and underpins their long-term economic, cultural and social rights.
Cuba is unique in having developed a system of agroecological food production starting in the mid 1990s as a result of the collapse of its main trading partner, the Soviet Union. 20 years later, more than 80% of Cuba’s food is organically produced in locally based “organoponicos”, many of which are located in urban areas.
5 UN Conventions on Exclusion and Discrimination
DISCRIMINATION ON THE GROUNDS OF DISABILITIES
Cuba’s disabled population receives individually tailored support appropriate to their abilities in a free, comprehensive and universal system of health care which is the envy of many countries around the World. Irish medical professionals who visited Cuba in the 1990s were embarrassed to be unable to offer their Cuban counter-parts a return visit to Ireland because no similar provision existed for Irish people with disabilities, particularly in the realm of provision for intellectual disabilities. Since then it is widely recognised that Irish provision in this area has gone backwards due to a rapidly increasing population and a reduction in the relative number of staff employed by the health service. Cubans of all ability ranges enjoy one of the highest patient/doctor ratios anywhere with medical services delivered, the population is stable, the number of people born with disabilities has declined due to improved access to health care and the skill level of Cuban medics has increased. Innovative biopharma derived treatments, new drugs and improved surgical procedures have reduced the dependency of people with disabilities on residential care settings. This has been enhanced by a national program to provide improved access to buildings, public transport, education and paid work.
DISCRIMINATION ON THE GROUNDS OF RELIGION
Religion is practised freely with around 30% of Cubans professing themselves to be Roman Catholics. African-origin religions form another large demographic as do Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religions. However, the majority of Cubans do not hold to any religion. The Cuban state funds the upkeep of religious buildings and facilities the building of new church buildings where there is a local demand. The Cuban government enjoys good relations with all religious leaders in the country and with the heads of major religions around the world including Pope Francis, in particular. Restrictions on religious groups from the United States were introduced in the context of an influx of evangelical organisations for CIA-funded destabilisation operations, which were balanced and proportionate to the risk presented.
DISCRIMINATION ON THE GROUNDS OF RACE
Racial discrimination has been a feature of Cuba’s colonial history and Cuba operated the largest slave market in the World during the British and Spanish occupations. Racism was constitutionally enshrined in the segregationist laws imposed on Cuba during a succession of US-backed dictatorships which ended in 1959. Since then, major and continuous progress has been achieved in securing equality at all levels of Cuban society with discrimination on racial grounds actively prosecuted under criminal law. Education and re-education programs stress the equality of Cubans on racial, sexual, gender, ethnic origin, grounds. Cuba does not have a recognisable indigenous population, such was the slaughter inflicted on the indigenous population by military subjugation allied to the multiple simultaneous introduction of European diseases against which the native population had no natural immunity. 65 years is a short time to reverse the indoctrinated prejudice of centuries, but the Cuban government has not been found lacking in its efforts to stamp out racism and Cuba has delivered an enviable level of racial integration, far better than most countries in the region and well ahead of the United States where the racially motivated murder of black people by police goes largely unpunished and where the incarceration rate for black people is six times that of white people. No similar racial discrimination is evident in the police-orchestrated murder rate or the incarceration rate for Cuba.
DISCRIMINATION ON THE GROUNDS OF GENDER
Rights enjoyed by Cubans extend to respect for gender diversity, the right to legal recognition of non-binary family unions. These rights are in addition to already world-leading rights enjoyed by Cuban women. These gender equality rights have led to majority representation of women among university graduates, in many professions, and in many of the legislative and administrative bodies of the state. 53% of Cuban parliamentarians elected in 2021 were women, second highest in the World. In Ireland this figure struggles to get to 23% and in the USA it reaches to 28%. Cuban women have access to reproductive health care, abortion on demand and free contraception. In Ireland and in the USA, women continue to die in the absence of safe, legal and accessible abortion.
6 The illegal extra-territorial application of US law to Ireland
The removal of banking services from Cuba Support Group Ireland in 2014 provides first-hand evidence of the illegal application of US unilateral coercive sanctions against the legitimate activities of Irish citizens, wholly operating within Ireland. This clearly demonstrates the secret collusion of the Irish Government and the EU banking regulator in supporting the illegal blockade of Cuba. It exposes as a lie the hypocritical act of Ireland voting against the US blockade annually in the United Nations General Assembly.
That hypocrisy is multiplied by the block vote of the EU member states, each of which also supports the unilateral coercive sanctions imposed by the United States in private, whilst condemning them in public.
|8 June 2014||Following reports in the newspapers suggesting that Bank of Ireland was closing all accounts relating to Cuba, CSGI telephoned our branch and received reassurance that our accounts were not affected by the recent changes. We rescheduled our next officer’s meeting for 18 September when all officers would return from vacation.|
|11 July 2014||Cuba Support Group received the first letter advising that as of 10 June 2014, Bank of Ireland had decided to withdraw banking services from us and that our CUBA-AID account (used to collect humanitarian donations) would close on 8 September 2014.|
|14 July 2014||Cuba Support Group received a second letter dated 8 July 2014 advising that with effect from 10 July 2014 (2 days notice), Bank of Ireland had decided to withdraw banking services from us and that our CURRENT account would close on 8 September 2014.|
|8 Sept 2014||Closing transactions are recorded in two of three accounts held in Bank of Ireland by Cuba Support Group.|
|15 Sept 2014||Cuba Support Group received a third letter dated 9 September 2014 advising that as of 10 November 2014 (2 months notice), Bank of Ireland has decided to withdraw banking services from us and that our SAVINGS account would close on that date.|
|19 Sept||CSGI contacted Finian McGrath TD, chair of the Friends of Cuba Parliamentary Group to advise of the decision of Bank of Ireland and to seek his assistance in raising the matter with the Minister.|
|22 Sept 2014||CSGI National Coordinator called Bank of Ireland (Swords branch) and asked that the accounts be reinstated as the activities of Cuba Support Group were entirely legal and not subject to US sanctions regulations.|
|22 Sept 2014||CSGI Treasurer, called to Bank of Ireland (Walkinstown Branch) to speak to the manager with a view to having the Cuba-Aid account reinstated. He was told, after 35 minutes or searching the small bank branch premises by the teller, that the manager was not on the premises. He advised the Bank of Ireland official that Cuba Support Group intended to have the accounts reinstated and would use Irish Law to achieve this.|
|22 Sept 2014||CSGI received a call from the Manager of Swords branch, BoI, to say that he was sorry but that the decision to close our accounts had been taken in their US parent office and could not be changed. SMcG advised that Cuba Support Group expected that Irish law would be applied by the Bank and that our accounts would be reinstated as a result of Irish Regulation SI 217/97 which implemented EU Council Regulation 2271/96. He further advised that CSGI would be taking that matter to the Irish Government and the Minister responsible for implementing SI 217/97 and advised Mr Morgan to seek further legal advice on the matter.|
|22 Sept 2014||Bank drafts in the sums of were received by post at Cuba Support Group offices. These were accompanied by a compliment slip and a till receipt for the cost of drawing the drafts against our accounts.|
|29 Sept 2014||AIB, Capel Street, Dublin branch, refused to provide banking services to Cuba Support Group|
The questions we posed to the Irish Government at the time were 5-fold:
- “Is it in accordance with Irish law that a wholly Irish NGO, operating in Ireland and funded by a membership entirely located in the Republic of Ireland, namely Cuba Support Group Ireland, can have its banking services terminated at short notice because of the decision of an American company which Bank of Ireland is using to process financial transactions – financial transactions which are wholly transacted between Irish bank accounts by persons resident in Ireland?
In other words, are payments from a bank account of an Irish citizen in Ireland to the bank of an Irish NGO in Ireland now subject to Irish or to US law?
- If an Irish bank refuses to provide banking services to Cuba Support Group as a result of US banking regulations administered by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, will the Minister of Trade of Ireland act to prosecute them in accordance with Irish and European law prohibiting the extraterritorial application of US law in relation to the illegal US blockade of Cuba?
- What emergency facilities will the Minister of Finance make available to allow Cuba Support Group to operate a functioning Irish bank account with cheque clearing and electronic transfer facilities whilst his colleague, the Minister for trade, undertakes prosecutions?
- What action is the minister of Foreign Affairs proposing to protest at the unilateral imposition of illegal trade sanctions against Irish companies, individuals and organisations by the USA?
- What action is the Minister for Finance proposing to defend Ireland from the imposition of fines and other sanctions for failing to implement EU Council Regulation (EC) 2271/96?
Those questions remain unanswered to this day. When questioned in Parliament on this matter and specifically on what action he proposed to take, the Minister of Finance’s response was a dismissive “no action”.
Cuba Support Group is a long standing and respected NGO which was established in 1991 and has operated a number of bank accounts wherein its members transfer membership subscriptions or donations to fund its work in Ireland and in Cuba. We accept subscriptions in Ireland from Irish people and use it to pay for printing, posters, to organise events and to fund speaking tours in Ireland to advance understanding of Cuba, its culture and its people. We fund Cuban artists to bring their work to Ireland and attend educational conferences in Cuba. We meet with other sister Cuba support organisations in Europe and North America on a monthly basis. We campaign against the criminal and unilateral US coercive sanctions. We fund pharmaceutical production inside Cuba of certain medicines which are banned from sale in Cuba due to the US blockade.
No Cuban entity, individual or group has any control over our finances or our campaigning. We are an entirely Irish owned and operated membership organisation and adhere strictly to Irish law in all of our operations. We have good support among all political parties in the Irish Parliament, Dáil Eireann.
We must have access to banking services to operate effectively. We are entitled to expect that an Irish bank would provide those services on a non-discriminatory basis. EU banking regulation requires that national governments ensure that the extra-territorial application of US law is not permitted, (see below).
Cuba Support Group Ireland has been precluded from using PayPal, Revolute and Stripe to accept donations electronically via our website (www.cubasupport.ie) as these entities need access to the international banking system to enable them to carry on their business. All of these companies have been threatened with sanctions by the Office of Foreign Assets Control if they were to engage in processing banking transactions in favour of Cuban entities, unless these transactions are licenced by the US authorities. PayPal is a wholly US owned financial services organisation offering on-line payments support. This administrative barrier to on-line payment processing was advised to us in writing in January 2010 by PayPal when we sought to set up an account to support the delivery of emergency medical aid by Cuban doctors to earthquake victims in Haiti in 2010. Twenty-three years later we are now prevented from funding a similar Cuban team, at time of writing currently on their way to provide emergency humanitarian medical services in Syria.
BNP Paribas was fined $9billion US dollars for breaching US sanctions against a number of countries, most notably Cuba, in 2014. Previous fines on at least 8 EU banks range from several million dollars to several billion US dollars. Almost two years after the proposed “normalisation” of relations with Cuba, the US administration continues to impose punitive fines on international banks and finance houses for processing perfectly legal transactions which the US administration deems to be “trading with the enemy”: Cuba. One such of those transactions was the donation by cheque of £600 from a Belfast-based trade union group in favour of our Haiti Earthquake Appeal which was intercepted by OFAC when it came to clear through Barclays Bank plc in London. The check was refused clearance. This was a wholly internal funds transfer between an Irish trade union and an Irish NGO on the island of Ireland which was stopped in Washington DC.
- 1996 US Congress passed the Helms Burton Act
- The European Commission quickly agreed Regulations to counteract the effect of the US Helms Burton Law in 1996: Council Regulation 2271/96, 1996 O.J. (L 309) 1.
- This Regulation was duly transposed into Irish Regulations by then Minister for Tourism and Trade, Enda Kenny, in 1997: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1997/en/si/0217.html
- Useful legal summaries of the issues are contained in http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1528&context=ilj
- and: http://www.stetson.edu/law/lawreview/media/u-s-secondary-sanctions-the-u-k-and-e-u-response.pdf
For more information contact:
Cuba Support Group Ireland,
55 Middle Abbey Street,
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