Ten-point summary to understand the brutal tightening of the blockade against Cuba

Cuban report to the United Nations indicates that damages caused by this aggressive policy exceeded five billion dollars, between April 2019 and March 2020

Author: Yisell Rodríguez Milán | informacion@granmai.cu

Our economy destroyed and our people divided. This is the objective of the U.S. government, which went to great lengths in 2019 and 2020 to exhaust and besiege Cuba.

Totally disregarding the impact of COVID-19, the White House stepped up its attacks… and limited, hindered, threatened, persecuted or sanctioned all those who aspired to do business with the island, intimidating and questioning even those who dared to think of Cuba’s Henry Reeve international medical contingent as a solution as their people faced a pandemic that strained health systems around the world.

But Cuba is Cuba.

In an October 22, 2020, online press conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented its report on damages caused by the U.S. blockade during the period between April 2019 and March 2020.

During this time span, the blockade caused losses to Cuba of an estimated 5,570,300,000 USD. This represents an increase of some 1.226 billion dollars over the previous period.

As if the damage suffered over almost 60 years were not enough, total damages caused by the policy, in just one year, exceeded the five billion dollar mark.

At current prices, accumulated losses over almost six decades amount to 144,413,400,000 dollars, which means that, considering the depreciation of the dollar as compared to the value of gold on the international market, the blockade has caused quantifiable damage of more than 1,098,008,000,000 dollars.

Granma offers our community of readers a ten-point summary to support better understanding of the policy’s brutality, over this last period.  

1. The objective of the blockade policy is to destroy the Revolution, at any cost

Between April 2019 and March 2020, the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce introduced regulatory changes under the blockade.

Producing a significant intimidating effect on Cuban partners, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed 12 penalties on U.S. and third-country entities for violating Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The amount of these penalties exceeded $2,403,985,125.

Specifically targeted was the oil sector, with 34 Venezuelan vessels and as many other foreign shippers sanctioned. The banking sector was also highly affected with companies in Germany, Austria and Italy facing fines totaling 1.3 million USD.

In 2019, the Department of State updated the List of Restricted Cuban Entities, by including 12 new targets, bringing the total to 223.

Thissame year, in June, they announced regulatory changes in policy toward Cuba, which primarily affected the travel sector and included the elimination of “people to people” trips and the implementation of a policy denying licenses for maritime passenger travel (cruises), recreational vessels, and private aircraft.

The new rules also stipulated that U.S. travelers arriving in Cuba under any of the 12 authorized categories could not conduct direct financial transactions with companies on the Cuban Restricted Entities List.

During 2019, a general policy was also approved which rules out the awarding of licenses to lease aircraft to Cuban state airlines; prevent the export to Cuba of items produced in other countries which contain more than 10% U.S. made components; and revise the Licensing Exception “Support to the Cuban People” eliminating the possibility of making donations to the government or Communist Party of Cuba.

Likewise, authorization for the export of promotional articles was eliminated and new restrictions were placed on the export of goods related to telecommunications.

2. The blockade’s extraterritorial reach is illegal

This system of sanctions represents a threat both to Cuba’s sovereign interests and rights and to those of third countries. Examples of its extraterritorial application abound, starting with the Air France KLM Group which, in April of 2019, communicated the decision to cancel its agreement with Cubana de Aviación.

Among other examples are Petrobras Uruguay which refused to offer its services to Cubana de Aviación due to the blockade; Viajes Falabella, a partner of Havanatur, faces limitations in directly or indirectly marketing Cuban hotels; and the International Air Transport Association suspended BSP service for our offices in Mexico, Italy, and France, given possible repercussions of blockade regulations.

The Cosco shipping company, based in Asia, suspended all shipments to Cuba, strongly affecting Cuban medical supplier Medicuba, and in November 2019 the company Trivago, a German technology company specialized in hotel and accommodations services, removed all Cuban hotel facilities from its Internet search platforms.

3. Activation of Titles III and IV of the Helms-Burton Act in no way benefit Cubans, as the U.S. government cynically asserts

Enacted in 1996, the Helms-Burton strengthened the extraterritorial impact of the blockade, affecting companies in third countries that have conducted business with Cuba in the past, or are doing so at this time.  

This Title III allows former owners of nationalized property in Cuba to file claims, in U.S. courts, against those who had contact with such properties, a provision that had been suspended since the law’s inception by Presidential order, a step taken consistently every six months, for years. But, for the first time in 23 years, on May 2, 2019, legal proceedings were initiated under this Act and by March 31, 2020, a total of 25 lawsuits had been filed, of which three were withdrawn and 22 are still pending.

4. The U.S. government flagrantly violates the rights of the Cuban people

In terms of health in Cuba, from April 2019 to March 2020, the blockade caused losses on the order of $160,260,880. Accumulated damages over almost six decades in this sector have reached $3,074,033,738.

This policy denies our country access to medical technology of U.S. origin and that from any place in the world with more than 10% U.S. components.

Medicuba S.A. contacted seven U.S. suppliers and 50 other companies to request purchases. Their elusive responses or silence generated serious shortage of drugs and significant additional expenses to procure critical items elsewhere.

Affected in particular were supplies to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, different types of cancer, as well as progesterone, used in the Assisted Reproduction Program to prevent premature births and miscarriages, and Abiraterone Acetate for the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Cuba is denied the opportunity to acquire hearing aids with state-of-the-art technology, including batteries and spare parts, since these have U.S. components.

5.   Alleged flexibility in the blockade’s implementation in the food sector is largely non-existent

During the period analyzed, damages of approximately 428,894,637 dollars were recorded in the food sector. Many of these losses could have been avoided if Cuban companies could have accessed the U.S. market.

The food importing company, Alimport, registered significant effects due to high prices of frozen chicken in distant markets, compared to those in the U.S. market, which was impossible to access during this time.

The prices of this product in markets to which the Cuban entity resorted were between 350 and 600 dollars higher per metric ton than the U.S. price.

Difficulties in guaranteeing fuel supplies in Cuba caused interruptions in the productive cycles of several food processing enterprises, and disrupted the cultivation of crops, as well.

At the Los Portales beverage factory, located in Pinar del Río province, production was paralyzed for 77 days, since warehouses were full of finished products that could not be distributed as a result of fuel shortages, causing the loss of at least two million crates of soft drinks and water, valued at 10.9 million dollars.

In the months of November and December 2019, due to the unavailability of fuel, 30,130 tons of rice and more than 195,000 tons of food were not produced, and more than two million liters of milk and 481 tons of meat were not collected from farmers for processing.

6. Cubans abroad are also impacted by this hostile U.S. policy toward their homeland

For Cubans living abroad, blockade regulations present obstacles on a daily basis. They are prevented from opening bank accounts, using certain credit cards and conducting financial transactions normally, simply because they are Cuban.

With regard to airline flights, an issue that significantly affected Cuban families, all operations by U.S. airlines to and from Cuba were suspended, with the exception of flights to Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

The measure took effect on December 10, 2019, and on January 10, 2020, also suspended were charter flights between the U.S. and Cuban destinations, with the exception of a reduced number to Havana.

Another limitation that affected Cuban families, both inside and beyond the island, was the imposition of a limit on remittances of $1,000 per quarter, the elimination of donor (non-family) remittances, and the suspension of Cuba-related transfers to and from the U.S.

On October 25, 2019, Western Union Canada made public the decision to limit the amounts of remittances that can be sent to Cuba, abiding by the restrictive measures of the U.S. government.

In February 2020, the U.S. company Western Union implemented new regulations and eliminated the sending of remittances to Cuba from third countries.

7. Intimidation and persecution against those who trade with Cuba is standard practice for the current U.S. administration

Total damages caused by the blockade to the external sector of the Cuban economy during this period amount to 3,013,951,129 dollars.

The dissuasive and intimidating effect of the blockade on businesses and entities in the United States and third countries, aggravated by activation of the Helms-Burton Act’s Title III, has led to the cancellation of commercial operations, cooperative work and foreign investment projects that were at different stages of development.

The possibility of negative repercussions has led banking and financial institutions to refuse to work with Cuban entities, for fear of being subjected to sanctions.

The greatest impact is seen in lost income from exports of goods and services, valued at $2,475,700,000.

Tourism continues to be the most affected sector in this regard, accounting for 72.6% of the total, reaching 1.798 billion dollars, which represents an increase of 260 million over the previous period analyzed.

Given the impossibility of exporting to the U.S. as a result of the blockade’s restrictions, the Cuban agricultural sector is reported to have been affected to the tune of 184 million dollars.

Of this figure, 84.3% is attributed to exports lost by the cigar enterprise group Habanos S.A., while the remainder, some 26.5 million, reflects potential exports of marabou charcoal, pineapple, honey, coffee and fresh products, purchased mainly by cruise ships, before stops in Cuba were eliminated.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, the ban on the use of the dollar has affected Cuban foreign trade causing losses of some $92,883,153, while the increase in the cost of financing due to country risk ratings is estimated at $ 25,841,716.

8. Essential sectors for Cuban society as the main targets of aggression

The provision of inclusive education, free of charge, to which the Cuban state allocated 23.7% of its social budget for 2020, was made more difficult by shortages and inadequacies that limit the teaching and learning process. Between April 2019 and March 2020, the impact on this sector is estimated to have been $21,226,000.

The fuel deficit seriously impacted education, affecting 52 institutions and leading to readjustments of curricula and teaching schedules.

In sports, the company Cubadeportes has seen its ability to import sports equipment from U.S. companies sharply limited, denying athletes access to items of obligatory use, as stipulated in official regulations of international federations. The negative impact on sports is estimated at approximately 9,995,000 dollars.

Likewise, in the cultural sector, damages are on the order of 22,150,000 dollars.

The U.S. blockade hampers the circulation of Cuban art around the world, persecuting and censoring the efforts of our creators, while extending its strategy of isolation to the international corporate media and established circuits for the distribution of art.

Among the blockade’s effects are obstacles created to the commercialization of Cuban film, given the impossibility of screening our cinematographic works in the United States. The recently escalated hate campaign against our cultural sector, orchestrated by the United States, has been brutal.

In the communications and information technology sector, including telecommunications, losses are estimated at $64,274,042.

By making connectivity in the country more difficult and expensive, placing conditions on access to platforms and technologies, and using cyberspace in attempts to subvert Cuba’s political and legal system, this policy has negatively affected the development of communications in Cuba.

Etecsa, Cuba’s telecommunications company, continues to be the entity suffering the greatest impact, suffering approximately 97% of the total amount calculated.

9. The COVID-19 pandemic has produced no “loosening” of the blockade

The negative impact of the blockade is aggravated and even more cruel in the current context of COVID-19. In March of 2020, due to U.S. restrictions on shippers, delivery was prevented of a donation including mechanical ventilators, diagnostic testing kits, face masks and other medical supplies from the Chinese company Alibaba.  

The Swiss companies IMT Medical AG and Acutronic medical systems AG, recently acquired by a U.S. company, cited the blockade’s sanctions when refusing to sell Cuba advanced technology ventilators for COVID patients in serious and critical condition.

In April 2020, it became known that the Swiss banks UBS, Banque Cler and the Cantonal Bank of Basel refused to transfer donations made by the Swiss solidarity organizations MediCuba-Switzerland and the Switzerland-Cuba Association, since the name of the island was mentioned in records of financial transactions.

The blockade’s impact on bilateral agreements signed by Cuba with several countries in the Americas has seriously limited medical attention available to some 67 million people.

10. Support provided by voices raised against the blockade is much appreciated

Numerous petitions have called on the President of the United States to use his executive powers to lift the blockade.  

After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, many actors in the international system spoke out against the blockade and unilateral coercive measures in general.

During the period under review, 256 actions by organizations in solidarity with Cuba took place in 87 countries.

Source: Granma