On November 3rd, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly once again condemned, with a vast majority of 185 votes, the economic siege that Washington imposes on the Cuban population since 1960. Only the US and Israel voted against the annual resolution, while Brazil and Ukraine decided to abstain.
As of three decades ago -the first resolution was presented in 1992- the international community demands the end of sanctions which affect every category of Cuban society, especially the most vulnerable, and which constitute the main obstacle to the country´s development.
Imposed in 1960 by president Eisenhower with the objective of overthrowing Fidel Castro´s revolutionary government, the different administrations have kept and even reinforced the sanctions. The entire world rejects them due to their illegal character, according to public international law.
In fact, the sanctions have extra-territorial characteristics, especially the 1992 Torricelli Law, which means they reached beyond national borders to all countries. Thus, any ship, regardless of its origin, that enters a Cuban port is banned from entry to the US for six months.
The sanctions are also retroactive with the 1996 Helms-Burton Law which punishes foreign companies that invest in Cuba in properties that belonged to American citizens in the 60s, which is illegal because no law can be applied to events that took place before it was adopted.
The objective of the sanctions -which offends Cuba´s sovereignty and that of the countries that want to have normal relations with the island- is to hinder the development of Cuba´s international trade and block foreign investment in the island.
The US diplomatic rhetoric to justify this hostile policy against Cuba has evolved throughout time: nationalization of properties, alliance with the Soviet Union, support for revolutionary and independence movements in the world, and now, the subject of democracy and human rights. The US justifies its policy by declaring to “stand by the Cuban people in their quest for freedom, prosperity and a more dignified future”, and insisting on its interest in their “political and economic well-being”.
But these dubious arguments did not convince the international community, including Washington´s allies.
The United Nation said:“The General Assembly again demands the lifting of the blockade on Cuba” and the repealing of several legal texts contrary to its Charter.
In effect, 80 per cent of the Cuban population was born under the regime of sanctions, which has cost the country the astronomical sum of one billion 391 thousand million dollars since its establishment. Only in the first 14 months of the Biden Administration the sanction blocked the island from receiving some seven thousand million dollars, or 15 million dollars per day. What would Cuba be like if it could benefit from these resources?”, asked Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba´s Foreign Minister.
The European Union, through the Czech Republic, rejected the US policy and voted unanimously for the “lifting of the blockade”: “The sanctions imposed by Washington impact not only in Cuba but also in the EU”, because they “also violate agreements signed between the EU and the United States in 1998”.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) emphasized that the “blockade still causes substantial and unjustified damage to the well-being of the Cuban people and constitutes a major obstacle to the development of Cuba”.
The Group of 77 worried about “the risk of strangulation of the economic and human potential of the island”. The Group of African States expressed its condemnation of the blockade imposed upon Cuba”. The Group of Friends of the Defense of the UN Charter denounced it as “one of the longest violations of the UN Charter”.
China emphasized that “the US coercive unilateral measures against Cuba (…) attempt against the rights of survival and development (…) and violate the objectives and principals of the United Nations Charter”. South Africa insisted on the “immeasurable damage the unjustified coercive unilateral measures cause Cuba and its people”. India pointed out that the siege “undermines multilateralism and the prestige of the UN”.
Mexico also criticized the American policy: “Every unilateral measure conceived as a means of political pressure from the exterior to promote changes in the internal decisions of another State is contrary to the UN Charter (…) Mexico condemns in the strongest terms the trade and finance blockade imposed on Cuba during the last six decades”.
Donald Trump, during his administration (2017-2021), imposed no less than 240 new sanctions against Cuba, including 50 of them in middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, which deprived the island of vital medical material, such as breathing equipment. Contrary to his electoral campaign, president Joe Biden has not cancelled these coercive measures which are still in force. During the first six months of his mandate, the sanctions, also applied in the health sector, affected around 160 thousand patients. In fact, Cuba cannot acquire medical technology or medicine produced in the US. Likewise, Cuba has prohibited access to medical technology or medicine produced in other countries if they contain more than 10 per cent of US components.
Unanimously condemned by the international community during the last three decades, the US economic sanctions against Cuba are anachronic, cruel and illegal.
Principal obstacle to the country´s development, these unilateral coercive measures violate the fundamental rights of Cubans and have a strong impact on their physical and moral well-being. They illustrate Washington´s inability to recognize the independence of Cuba and accept the fact that the island has chosen a different political system and social-economic model.
Only a respectful dialogue, based on equal sovereignty, reciprocity and non-interference in internal affairs, will permit the solution of the asymmetric conflict which opposes Washington to Havana.
*Independent journalist, member of Investig’Action group.