Cuban ambassador to Britain says Bush is carrying out an 'economic war'

Campaign News | Saturday, 5 November 2005

'US policy tougher than ever'

LONDON, Nov 4 - In an interview with Reuters news agency the new Cuban ambassador to Britain has said that the United States is trying harder than ever to isolate Cuba and is leaning on countries to back its economic blockade.

The blockade on Cuba has been in place since 1962, three years after Fidel came to power, but President George W. Bush's administration has been tightening the screws harder, ambassador Rene Mujica Cantelar, said in the interview, calling the US steps "economic warfare".

"This is the 10th administration to carry over the blockade measures against Cuba it is certainly the most aggressive and the most explicit about it," he added.

Bush pledged to toughen the US stance against Cuba and pressure Castro shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saying "Cuba must change".

Bush has appointed the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to speed up democratic transition in the Caribbean island and named a Cuba Transition Coordinator in the State Department, which has said it wanted to keep up the pressure on Castro.

"It's a brazen interference in our internal affairs and something which is so clearly, so outrageously in violation of international law ... that one really may ask oneself whether these people are sane, mentally," said Cantelar.

In each of the past 13 years, Cuba has put a resolution to the United Nations calling for the embargo to be lifted. Last year 179 nations voted in favour, with only the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands against.

"This year (the United States) seems to have taken the decision to more actively oppose the resolution and try to pressure other nations not to vote in favour," he said.

Cuba's resolution condemning the embargo is due to be voted on at the U.N. general assembly this month.

Cuba estimates the U.S. sanctions have cost it $82 billion over the past 40 years. Critics of the embargo say it has failed to bring change to Cuba and allows Castro to blame the country's economic problems on Washington.

The US agricultural lobby succeeded in getting food sales to Cuba approved in 2000 and they have been running at $400 million a year but new U.S. measures introduced this year on payments have curbed exports, angering U.S. farmers.

Two of Cuba's more significant trading partners are now Venezuala for oil and China for capital goods. Cuba says the Bush administration is intervening more and more to stop trade between foreign companies and Cuba.

Cuba got a boost last month when leaders from Spain, Portugal and Latin America agreed in Salamanca to call the US measures a blockade, rather than an embargo, and repeated their demand that it be lifted.

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