As the annual vote in the UN General Assembly on Cuba’s resolution “Need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” approaches today, October 26, across Cuba, in Canada, and around the world, actions were being held to once again send a clear message to the U.S. government to end its illegal blockade of Cuba immediately. Many of these actions took place on October 17, as the 2015 Panama Summit of the Peoples has declared the 17th of each month a day to fight the U.S. blockade. Meanwhile, on social media, tweets with the hashtags #MyVoteVsBlockade #YoVotoVsBloqueo and #CubaVsBloqueo along with selfies of people holding up slogans opposing the blockade continue to spread.
Internationally, governments from all continents have been adding to the positive momentum for another overwhelming vote in Cuba’s favour by issuing statements and declarations to demand an immediate end to the blockade. Last year’s vote was 191 to two (the U.S. and Israel).
For decades, the unjust blockade has attacked the Cuban people’s human rights, including their right to choose their own destiny free from outside interference, in the name of defending human rights. Like the rest of the U.S. policies aimed at undermining Cuba, the blockade has failed to deter the Cuban people from their conviction in their principles that created their human-centred society and permit them to carry out unprecedented acts of internationalist solidarity. The blockade remains a major outstanding impediment to normalizing relations between the two countries, which the U.S. has committed to do.
On October 14, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a directive to consolidate the changes being made to the U.S. policy on Cuba, and to make the new policy irreversible. In a press release, the diplomatic mission described the directive as positive and significant, but qualified its assessment, saying that the directive is very limited in its nature and in general, the new measures are more beneficial to the United States than to the Cuban people. It denounced the persistence of the blockade and reiterated the need to end it once and for all.
On October 17, youth and students across Cuba held a day of actions entitled, “Swarm Against the Blockade.” The University of Havana hosted the main events.
Prizes for the winners of the #YoVotoVsBloqueo Selfies Competition promoted on social networks via @cubavsbloqueo were also awarded. Meanwhile, three new related cell phone apps, developed by students and staff at the University of Computer Sciences, were launched. Cuban television provided live coverage of the events in Havana.
Jennifer Bello, National President of the Cuban University Student Federation (FEU) said the actions “voice our condemnation of such a monstrous policy and demand its total elimination.” She spoke to the Cuban News Agency about the program at the University of Havana. Nearly all university facilities were turned into tribunes for the day for the youth to condemn the U.S. policy, in coordination with other Cuban universities. Visual arts were a major activity with students painting colourful messages against the blockade on a huge panel. Sports, audiovisual presentations, book fairs, a camp set up by the children’s Pioneer organization, and other events were also part of the program.
The student leader highlighted the conversation with the general director for the United States at the Cuban Foreign Ministry Josefina Vidal. Parts of the exchange with Vidal were uploaded to social media networks.
“We want our message to multiply and reach millions of youths and honest people around the world, so that they join in, because like in many other battles already waged, unity and solidarity will lead to our victory,” said Bello.
A week earlier, on October 12, the 13th Forum of Organizations of Cuban Civil Society, adopted a statement rejecting the blockade. The forum included representatives of youth, student, scientific, cultural and social organizations, as well as religious and fraternal groups. Sponsored by the Cuban United Nations Association, the meeting was held in the Raúl Roa García Higher Institute of International Relations, with the participation of more than twenty speakers.
Solidarity activists and friends of Cuba held pickets outside U.S. diplomatic missions on October 17 to call for an end to the blockade and the immediate return of Guantánamo. In particular, activists from Ottawa and Gatineau continued their monthly pickets at the U.S. Embassy, while activists in Vancouver held their monthly action at the U.S. Consulate. Members of the Table de concertation de solidarité Québec-Cuba rallied in Montreal that same day.
(With files from Granma, Cuba vs Bloqueo, Prensa Latina, ACN. Photos: Cuba vs Bloqueo, TML, Granma, Cubadebate)
TML Weekly, October 22, 2016 – No. 41
U.S. president issues directive consolidating changes to Cuba policy
On October 14, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a presidential policy directive aimed at consolidating changes adopted with regard to Cuba, and making the new policy toward the island irreversible, Prensa Latina reports.
According to the document, “Under the new policy, the United States expands and promotes authorized engagements with Cuba to advance cooperation on areas of mutual interest, and increase travel to, commerce with, and the free flow of information to Cuba,” although the more than 50-year-long economic, financial and commercial blockade remains in force.
The text disseminated by the White House notes that “Since the United States announced on December 17, 2014, that it would chart a new course with Cuba, we have re-established diplomatic relations and have made progress toward the normalization of our bilateral relationship,” including the opening of embassies, among other actions.
“This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we’ve already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and our people,” reads a statement issued the same day by President Obama, regarding the new policy directive.
The document continues, “Consistent with this approach, the Departments of Treasury and Commerce issued further regulatory changes today, building on the progress made over the last two years, to continue to facilitate more interaction between the Cuban and American people, including through travel and commercial opportunities.”
According to the U.S. President, “These changes are representative of the progress I saw firsthand when I visited Havana,” last March. The new measures announced by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce, which are set to enter into effect on Monday, October 17, include new avenues for joint cooperation projects in the fields of scientific research, and U.S. imports of Cuban manufactured pharmaceutical products.
Meanwhile, U.S. citizens permitted to travel to the island under the 12 authorized categories will be able to import, for their personal use, unlimited quantities of Cuban rum and cigars in their luggage.
The U.S. agriculture sector will be able to export items such as pesticides or tractors to Cuba; transactions which will no longer require the island to pay in advance and in cash.
The restriction which prevented hundreds of foreign ships which had docked in Cuba from making port in the United States in order to load or unload for a period of 180 days, is also being lifted. The U.S. Department of the Treasury also announced that scholarships for scientific research and religious activities will be made available.
U.S. has fined 49 companies for violating blockade against Cuba
During Barack Obama’s presidency, a total of 49 fines have been imposed on U.S. and foreign entities for violating the U.S. blockade against Cuba, according to the records of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Government.
The cumulative value of the fines is $14,397,416,827, an unprecedented figure in the history of the U.S. blockade against Cuba, despite the fact that both countries reestablished diplomatic relations almost two years ago. After more than half a century without hosting each other’s embassies, the U.S. economic, financial and commercial siege against the small Caribbean country is still in force.
Since the December 17, 2014 announcement of the process of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, eight entities (five U.S. and three foreign) have been fined a total of $2,836,681,581, with a chilling effect on the banking and corporate sector.
The entities that have been fined by the United States since December 17, 2014 for violating the U.S. blockade are as follows:
- Commerzbank (Germany): $1,710,000,000
- PayPal (U.S.): $7,658,300
- Navigators Insurance Company (U.S.): $271,815
- Crédit Agricole (France): $1,116,893,585
- Gil Tours Travel, Inc. (U.S.): $43,875
- WATG Holdings, Inc. (U.S.): $140,000
- CGG Services S.A. (France): $614,250
- Halliburton (U.S.): $304,706
Clearly, the blockade persists. It harms the Cuban people as well as those of other countries.
(Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations)