Cuba under threat: CSC briefing paper on the new US sanctions

Campaign News | Friday, 18 June 2004

What the new Bush sanctions mean

Cuba Under Threat

The implications of the economic and political measures against Cuba contained in the report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba appointed by President George W. Bush

1. On 6 May 2004, the US Government announced new measures to further tighten its hostile policy against Cuba. With these measures, the US Government is trying to increase the difficult conditions already imposed on the Cuban people by the illegal economic trade and investment blockade it has enforced for 45 years. This blockade, which has cost Cuba over US$72 billion, is already a violation of the human rights of 11 million Cubans. The new measures, by increasing hardship, are a further attempt to subdue the Cuban population through hunger and disease and as such constitute a flagrant breach of international law. They are also an unprovoked and dangerous escalation of tension between the two countries that has increased the possibility of a military confrontation. On 18 May, the Cuban Foreign Minister told journalists in Havana that the measures could be a prelude to a US invasion of the island.

New measures pertaining to travel

2. The measures announced on 6 May are also a violation of the rights of the Cuban-born citizens living in the US, who, from now on will face new restrictions on travelling to Cuba and spending money on their families there. The new measures pertaining to travel that come into force from 1 June include the following:

· The General Licence for Cuban Americans to travel to visit relatives is suspended. Individuals must now apply for a specific licence to visit relatives and must wait for three years after their last visit to apply

· There are no longer any exceptions for extreme humanitarian need (a sick or dying relative, for instance) as there has been previously.

· The definition of family visits now only constitutes visits to, or by grandparents, grandchildren, parents, siblings, spouses, and children only.

· Family visits will be limited to 14 days

· Permitted spending allowance for visiting relatives will be $50 per day as opposed to $167 per day previously. It will not matter if the relative is staying at a hotel instead of with family

· Most visits of colleges and universities are prohibited (except semester long programs which apply to a very small number of programs). Very limited exceptions for shorter length programs if such programs 'directly support US foreign policy goals' and are approved by OFAC.

· All high school visits are prohibited

· Limit baggage allowance to 44 lbs except for specifically licensed humanitarian donations, food, and informational materials

· Limit gift parcels to medicines, medical supplies, and receive-only radios - not to exceed $200 in value and limited to one household per month

· Abolition of provision allowing $100 worth of Cuban goods to be purchased in Cuba by licensed travellers

· Abolition of General Licence for amateur athletic teams competing in international events. Must now apply for specific licenses

· Abolition of specific licence for clinics and workshops

· Increased inspections of all travellers and shipments to and from Cuba and continue training all inspectors at all points of departure and entry.

· There are no plans to hire additional personnel to process the expected thousands of applications for specific licenses from relatives.

3. These measures clearly disregard the interests of the American people, the overwhelming majority of the Cubans living in the US, most of the members of the US Congress and extensive sectors in the US that are trying to normalise relations with Cuba. They are also a threat to other countries in the Caribbean and Central America and are clearly not in the interest of any country that has, or has had, colonies in the region since economic hardship in Cuba will inevitably lead to migration which impacts on the economies of the whole area.

4. The blockade, which already included 8 major prohibitions, is now tightened further.

i. The new travel measures are intended to deprive Cuba of the revenues from travel by Cuban residents in the US and the remittances they send to family members in Cuba. If implemented as listed above, they will reduce the amount of currency that Cuban families receive.

ii. With the intent to discourage foreign investments in Cuba, the measures include steps to study the feasibility of implementing Title III and fully enforce Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act. Title III, if implemented will allow for those who formerly owned nationalised property in Cuba to sue individuals and companies that are now investing in those properties. Title IV will stop directors of companies that are investing in Cuba from visiting the US.

iii. Another set of measures will increase and intensify activities aimed at subverting the Cuban government by increasing the funds provided to counter-revolutionary groups, enhancing the broadcasts by the so-called Radio and TV Martí propaganda stations and developing a global media campaign to undermine Cuba’s image at international level. To this end, some US$ 59 million will be spent in the next two years. Most worrying is the provision to create a worldwide disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting the Cuban tourist industry and thereby affecting the Cuban economy.

iv. Of particular concern to the Cuban authorities is the decision by the Bush administration to start using C-130 military aircraft to overcome the jamming of the Radio and TV broadcasts to Cuba. This will entail warplanes flying close to or even entering Cuban airspace and civilian air corridors around the island. In response Cuba’s armed forces are already placed on alert. The Cuban government has expressed serious concern that this move could provoke an incident involving the military of both countries.

v. Governments and NGOs from third countries are also to be encouraged to join the US policy of overthrowing the Revolution with money to be made available to them for this purpose

vi. The Commission’s report devotes hundreds of pages not only to denying all the social accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution but also to describing the promises for assistance that the US would be willing to provide to a “post-Castro government.” In view of recent events in Iraq, it is clear that this will be nothing more than a crude attempt to recolonize Cuba.

vii. The new measures are also part of the electoral plans by George Bush aimed at pleasing the demands of the Cuban-American far right, which controls the Florida vote. This group of extremely rich, anti-Communist ideologues, the remnants and offspring of the Batista-era Cuban bourgeoisie have never given up their desire for revenge against Fidel Castro. Recently they have increased their attempts at blackmail against the Bush Administration, threatening to remove the support of the Cuban vote if no decisive measures are taken to destroy the Revolution.

A dangerous escalation

5. This new escalation of the aggression of the Bush Administration against Cuba, would be worrying enough if it were the only action that the Bush administration has taken, but when it is added to other recent actions, the picture becomes more alarming.

For example, the Bush administration has already cancelled the migration talks that were instituted by Clinton to regulate the operation of the bilateral migration agreement between the two countries. Members of the Bush administration have made allegations that the Cuban Government is trying destabilize other countries of the region. They have also persistently attempted to link Cuba to the development of biological weapons and said that Cuba poses a terrorist and bioterrorist threat to the US. In addition there has been an increase in the number of visas denied to Cubans wishing to visit their relatives in the US; there are seemingly ever-increasing prohibitions for Cuban scientists, academics, artists and athletes to enter US territory. There was an attempt recently to refuse the right to publish articles and works of Cuban artists, intellectuals, scientists and academics in US journals. There has also been a worsening of the persecution and the enforcement of sanctions against those American citizens who allegedly violate the blockade regulations and travel to Cuba without an official licence. In addition there has been the flagrant and systematic breach of the terms of the so-called lease by which the US illegally occupies Guantanamo Bay in order to use it for a prison camp and torture centre.


In their attempt to destroy the Cuban Revolution, successive US Governments have resorted to all kinds of illegal means - from acts of sabotage, assassination plots against Cuba’s main leaders, terrorist actions, diplomatic isolation, biological warfare and economic blockade, all the way to direct military invasion, the danger of which is now resurfacing.

In response to these measures the Cuban government has announced the austerity measure of limiting the amount of goods that can be bought by the Cuban population in hard currency, and increasing the price of petrol. It has warned the population that there may difficult times ahead.

On May 14, more than 1.2 million people took part in a demonstration in Havana against the Bush measures. There is no doubt that the move has served to unite the Cuban people in rejecting the policy. This demonstration was preceded by a million-strong march on May 1st under the slogan of defending socialism.

These two demonstrations show emphatically that the premise upon which US policy is based is fundamentally flawed since it presupposes that the Cuban socialist government is unpopular and that the Cuban people are the unwilling victims of a tyranny. By insisting upon this misconception the US is not only dangerously deluding itself but also leading the region towards conflict since the measures have not had the effect of weakening the Cuban government but strengthening it. If the Bush administration is serious in its intent of bringing about regime change in Cuba then it is now obvious that this will only be achieved by the use of force.

The new Bush measures have therefore been taken extremely seriously by the Cuban government. They should be taken equally seriously by all governments who are concerned to preserve peace and stability in the Caribbean. In his speech to the demonstration on 14 May Fidel Castro made it clear that the government does fear that these measures are a prelude to invasion.

On 12 May, in Madrid, the Spanish and Mexican foreign ministers issued a joint statement denouncing the Bush measures. This is significant as currently Mexico is having its own diplomatic argument with Cuba over a bilateral matter. A day later, the Spanish minister announced that he was to try and start a process by which relations between the EU and Cuba could be improved after months of deterioration. In addition, noted Cuban so-called dissidents such as Osvaldo Paya and Elizardo Sanchez have made statements denouncing the Bush measures.

The British Government’s position

As Washington’s closest ally, the UK government should make it clear to the US that this policy is fundamentally flawed, it is illegal, inhumane and simply will not achieve its stated aim of causing the downfall of the Cuban government.

The UK should use its influence on the US to urge a change in its policy towards Cuba and normalise its relations.

In addition, the UK should support moves in Brussels to alter policy towards Cuba away from its present appeasement of the US to one of outright opposition.

As far as possible, the UK should work to make the EU normalise its own relations with Cuba and work to prevent the US policy from worsening the economic situation of ordinary Cubans.

The UK and the EU should cease their policy of siding with so-called dissidents in Cuba who are on the payroll of the United States.

The much vaunted current UK position of ‘constructive engagement’ is not compatible with the latest US measures which are clearly not about any kind of positive engagement and are rather about pre-emptive measures towards forced regime change. The UK Government should therefore urgently distance itself from a US policy towards Cuba of aggression that can only lead to conflict.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign has launched the Hands Off Cuba Campaign which calls on Members of Parliament to oppose any US military aggression against Cuba. To date over 300 MPs have responded and the vast majority have stated their opposition to any US military action against Cuba.

For full details on the Hands Off Cuba Campaign visit

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