U.S. fines company for violating blockade

Granma | Wednesday, 3 February 2016 | Click here for original article

First such fine levied in 2016, for $140,000

The United States government has imposed a fine on a company for allegedly violating the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba, according to a statement released by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex), January 29.

This past January 20, just before new regulations modifying some aspects of the blockade were announced by the Treasury and Commerce Departments, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) fined the design company WATG Holdings $140,000, for failing to comply with U.S. sanctions of Cuba.

According to OFAC, a WATG subsidiary in the United Kingdom, Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo, worked with a Qatari company on the design and architectural planning of a hotel projected to be built in Cuba, for which it received three payments totaling $356,714 - between October of 2009 and May of 2010.

This is the first such fine levied in 2016, and reaffirms the continuing extraterritorial implementation of the blockade, despite President Obama’s stated opposition to the policy, according to Prensa Latina.

The Minrex statement notes, “The continuing U.S. government policy of economic-commercial persecution of our country is contradictory to the framework of the new process initiated December 17, 2014.”

On this date, President Raúl Castro and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama announced the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations and initiate talks to move toward normalization of bilateral ties.

Since that time, the Obama administration has fined six U.S. and foreign companies, for a total of more than 2.8 billion dollars, Minrex added.

During the period 2009-2016, 47 fines have been levied for supposed violations of sanctions against Cuba and other countries, reaching a total of more than 14.39 billion dollars.

Cuba and the United states reestablished diplomatic relations July 15, 2015, and their respective Interests Sections became embassies.

Yet Cuban authorities have reiterated that in order to normalise relations between the two countries, Washington must lift the blockade, return territory occupied by the Guantánamo Naval base, end illegal broadcasts directed toward Cuba, and suspend undercover actions to subvert the country’s internal order.

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