World votes against blockade for 23rd consecutive year

News from Cuba | Tuesday, 28 October 2014

On 28 October 2014, the United Nations General Assembly voted for the 23rd consecutive year on a resolution calling for an end to the illegal blockade of Cuba. Just as in 2013, 188 countries voted for an end to the blockade with just the US and Israel in support.

Cuba presented its annual report detailing the economic and human damage caused by the blockade to the United Nations in September. This year the economic sanctions imposed by the US have cost the island US$3.9 billion in foreign trade, bringing the accumulative total to US$116.8 billion lost over the past 55 years.

The figure of $116.8 billion was expressed in current prices. When factoring in the depreciation of the dollar against the international price of gold, the figure rises to US$1.11 trillion, the government estimated.

" ... There is not, and there has not been in the world, such a terrorising and vile violation of human rights of an entire people than the blockade that the US government has been leading against Cuba for 55 years," Deputy Foreign Minister, Abelardo Moreno told reporters at a press conference following the presentation.

The United Nations has passed the resolution against the blockade for 22 straight years with overwhelming support. In recent years the US has become completely isolated at the United Nations as many of its traditional allies, including those who may be critical of Cuba, speak out against them.

Other US laws have strengthened the blockade over the years, imposing fines on companies from third countries that have business in Cuba and also in the United States. International banks have also pulled out of the country after facing large penalties from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as a result of Cuba ludicrously remaining on the US list of state sponsors of terror.

In September, President Obama extended the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act to Cuba for the 47th consecutive year.

The Trading with the Enemy Act (or "TWEA"), enacted in 1917 as the US prepared to enter World War I, gives the President authority to prohibit, limit or regulate trade with hostile countries in times of war. It is a statutory foundation on which the entire range of US sanctions toward Cuba rests.

Effects on transport

The blockade impacts on all sectors of the Cuban economy. Cuba would have gained an additional US$205.8 million sales of cigars and rum alone without it, according to the report.

Speaking on 2 October the country’s Transport Minister, Cesar Arocha accused the United States of trying to paralyse Cuba's transport system for over half a century with this policy.

“This economic war has affected significantly the quality of life of the people, causing losses worth millions of USD,” he told Cuban news agency Prensa Latina.

“In a one year period this US hostility has caused losses worth US$540.1 million in the transport sector.”

“Rail transport suffered a substantial increase in damages of 77 per cent, compounded by difficulties in the purchase of spare parts and their high prices, hindering repair and maintenance,” he added.

Successive US governments have designed a detailed siege on Cuba's air navigation, making it difficult to perform certain activities including purchasing food from other countries for passengers on international flights.

The minister noted that the blockade regulations prevent Cuban firms from operating in the United States and ban the purchase of spearhead technology, equipment, spare parts and other accessories.

Meanwhile, the US sanctions against ships that arrive in Cuban ports make foreign trade difficult and are an obstacle to tourist cruises docking in the Island.

Those sanctions add to the travel ban on US citizens, causing tens of thousands in losses every year.

Condemnation from Latin America, Africa and Asia

In advance of the vote leaders of Latin America, Africa and Asia criticised the US policy towards Cuba during high-level discussions at the UN General Assembly in September.

During a plenary session of the 193 UN members, the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, called the siege imposed by Washington against Cuba for more than half a century a Cold War anachronism.

"What terrible damage this doomed policy, condemned for 22 consecutive years by the General Assembly, has caused the Cuban people," he said, during a general discussion where 140 heads of state or government were represented.

Meanwhile, the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, called the US blockade the most unjust, severe and prolonged system of unilateral sanctions ever applied against any country.

"It is an act of genocide and colonialism, which must end immediately," he said.

South African head of State, Jacob Zuma, was another government leader who called for the economic liberation of the island.

The president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, said he was deeply troubled by the sanctions, reinforced by persecution and extraterritorial initiatives like the Torricelli (1992) and Helms Burton (1996) laws.

"The blockade is unethical and unjust due to its impact on innocent people," he said.

The first day of the general discussions at the 69th General Assembly session also featured a speech from the president of Chad, Idriss Déby Itno, who reiterated his demand for the siege to be lifted.

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