Amnesty International urges Obama not to extend blockade law

News from Cuba | Tuesday, 17 August 2010

For the second consecutive year, Amnesty International, global advocacy group for human rights, is calling on President Obama not to extend the Trading With the Enemy Act with respect to Cuba. Such a step would not amend or repeal the embargo, but "would surely be welcomed by many U.S. citizens keen to travel to and engage with Cuba" and send a "clear message to Congress, that after 50 years of tension, new avenues should develop in the relationship with Cuba," Executive Director Larry Cox said in a recent letter sent to the White House.

Full text of the letter is reprinted below:

August 12, 2010

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington DC, 20500

Dear Mr. President, I am writing to urge you not to extend the Trading With the Enemy Act with respect to Cuba. As you are aware, September 14, 2010 is when it is scheduled to terminate. I strongly urge you to depart from a five-decade-old policy that has proven detrimental to human rights in Cuba.

Amnesty International urges you to seize this opportunity to change the position the US government has maintained regarding Cuba, for decades. Our organization is aware that the US embargo is grounded in legislation that only the US Congress has the power to amend or repeal.

However, your rescinding of the economic sanctions provided by the Trading With the Enemy Act and implemented by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations would surely be welcomed by many US citizens keen to travel to and engage with Cuba. It would also send a clear message to Congress, that after 50 years of tension, new avenues should develop in the relationship with Cuba.

Amnesty International’s monitoring and research on human rights concerns throughout five decades, indicates that human rights in Cuba have not been advanced in any way by the imposition of unilateral sanctions. On the contrary, in September 2009, Amnesty International shared with you a report in which it outlined the negative impact of the US embargo on the right to health in Cuba, and particularly on the most vulnerable groups in Cuban society.

Amnesty International considers that the US should unconditionally lift the embargo against Cuba, as it is highly detrimental to the human rights of Cuban people and is contrary to the spirit and letter of the Charter of the United Nations.

The embargo limits Cuba’s capacity to import medicines, medical equipment and the latest medical technologies, some of which are needed for the effective treatment of life-threatening diseases. It also imposes illegitimate and unnecessary barriers hindering the provision of medical care that is accessible, adequate and benefiting from the latest advances in medical research and pharmaceutics. The US embargo also hampers efforts by United Nations’ agencies and programmes operating in Cuba, including those mandated by the international community to pursue the protection and promotion of human rights, such as UNICEF, UNDP and UNAIDS.

Amnesty International has consistently denounced human rights violations suffered by the Cuban people, including through illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Cuban authorities have recently started a process to release 52 individuals adopted by our organization as prisoners of conscience. This has to be welcomed as a step in the right direction, though clearly much remains to be done to achieve human rights reform in Cuba.

The Cuban government has sought to justify failings in the protection of human rights by pointing to the negative effects of the US embargo. Amnesty International considers that the lifting of the embargo is necessary for the promotion and protection of human rights in Cuba, therefore we strongly urge you not to renew the Trading With the Enemy Act on September 14, 2010. By doing so, it will also contribute to refuting the Cuban government’s excuses for limiting civil and political rights.

I thank you for your serious consideration of this matter.

Sincerely, Larry Cox

Executive Director

Amnesty International USA

Cc: Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton

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