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The blockade is a virus, too, eliminate it!

Cuba vs bloqueoToday, the resolution presented by Cuba demanding an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on our country will be put to a vote at the United Nations. Granma offers readers a summary of its impact during the period between April and December of 2020. This data was added to the document previously submitted covering April 2019 through March of 2020, which was not presented last year given the restrictions implied by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this period, the blockade continued to serve as the central axis of U.S. government’s policy toward Cuba, opportunistically reinforced in the context of the pandemic.

During the course of the year, this system of unilateral coercive measures has remained intact, with a severe impact on national efforts to contain the virus and mitigate the economic and social repercussions of the health emergency.

Cuba has lived for almost 60 years under the siege of a virus as ferocious as the one that today plagues humanity. Over the six decades of its existence, the blockade has been intensified at times of greatest vulnerability for the Cuban people. Its tightening in the current context has obliged our country to battle the most devastating pandemic in decades, while simultaneously fighting the longest and most comprehensive system of coercive measures in history. There is no justification whatsoever for such cruelty.

The U.S. government identified in the crisis generated by COVID-19 an ally to back up its hostile policy against Cuba. The malicious intention of strengthening the blockade at this juncture reveals its particular inhumane nature and the marked interest in taking advantage of the economic deceleration that accompanies the pandemic to promote social instability and force the Cuban people to surrender in the face of hunger, hardship and need.

The blockade is real and is the principal obstacle to progress in our efforts to promote prosperity and the well-being of the Cuban population. To ignore its existence is not only dishonest, but an insult to a people who have known no other paradigm of development than that marked by the most brutal blockade ever imposed on any country.

-Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917
-Foreign Assistance Act (1961)
-Treasury Department Foreign Assets Control Regulations
-Export Administration Act (1979)
-Export Administration Regulations (1979)
-Cuban Democracy Act or Torricelli Act (1992)
- Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity or Helms-Burton Act (1996) (Currently, 34 suits filed under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act remain in effect)
-Section 211 of the Supplemental and Emergency Appropriations Act, which prohibits the recognition by U.S. courts of the rights of Cuban companies to trademarks associated with nationalized properties
-Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (2000)

The psychological impact generated by the blockade in the context of COVID-19 far surpasses any monetary estimate.
It is impossible to quantify the anguish of Cubans who cannot access a specific medication because a U.S. company refuses or is denied the ability to sell our country the necessary supplies for its production.

It is not possible to measure the impotence felt when donations and purchases from abroad to confront the pandemic, because companies involved in their transportation have a U.S. company as a shareholder and fear being subjected to punitive measures.
There is no way to quantify the risk faced by anyone attempting a financial transaction to import food that could be frozen or denied by a foreign entity that fears a million-dollar fine for not complying with arbitrary U.S. laws.
There is no way to justify the desperation of an engineer who cannot obtain the software he needs for his professional activity.

The losses in this arena amounted to 198,348,000 dollars between April and December of 2020, alone. This figure, although covering a shorter period of time (only nine months), exceeds by 38 million that reported between April 2019 and March 2020.
The U.S. government deliberately created obstacles to the importation of inputs needed to address COVID-19.
More than 50 countries have joined mobilizations against the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Photo:

On November 18, the Department of Transportation, at the direction of the State Department, denied a request by IBC Airways, Inc. and Skyway Enterprises, Inc. to operate flights to Cuba carrying humanitarian cargo.
The blockade prevents Cuba from accessing expeditious logistical transportation routes, obliging our enterprises to negotiate transferring medical supplies through several countries at a high additional cost.

Increased refusals by financial and banking institutions in several countries to process Cuban operations, preventing timely financial transactions with suppliers of purchased supplies, as well as the delivery of donations offered by different organizations to combat the pandemic.

The German companies Sartorious and Merck, as well as Cytiva and other usual suppliers of laboratory material, reagents and supplies, ended their relations with Cuba in 2020 due to the tightening of the blockade.

The country was unable to access a total of 32 pieces of equipment and supplies related to the production of anti-COVID candidate vaccines and the completion of clinical studies of these products, including equipment for the purification of the candidates, attachments for production equipment, filtration tanks and capsules, potassium chloride solution, thimerosal, packaging and reagents.

Given the impossibility of contracting directly with manufacturers, Cuba was obliged to seek other suppliers as intermediaries, increasing costs between 50 and 65% of those historically established.

The work of several Cuban biopharmaceutical institututions, including the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the Finlay Vaccine Institute, AICA Laboratories and the FarmaCuba export-import company, directly involved in the country’s efforts to confront the pandemic.
The prolongation of the media campaign to discredit Cuba’s international medical cooperation was particularly perverse and immoral in this context.

The blockade’s effects on production and services in the agricultural sector include disruption of monetary-financial operations, additional costs due to the geographic relocation of trade and other obstacles to the acquisition of technologies and fuels, serious impacting the production and acquisition of food in Cuba, generating losses of 330,466,000 dollars.

Monetary-financial damages reached 404.2 million dollars, a figure that represents an increase of 42 % with respect to that reported for the April 2019-March 2020 period.

The U.S. State Department on several occasions expanded the List of Restricted Cuban Entities, with which persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited from carrying out operations.
To date, the list includes 231 companies, mostly linked to the country’s retail network, which meets the economy and population’s most basic needs, as well as those of hotel facilities and several institutions in the financial sector.
The inclusion of Fincimex and American International Services (AIS) in June and September 2020, respectively, and the resulting impossibility of their processing of remittances, eliminated the principal formal channels for remittances. The effects of this move, combined with restrictions previously adopted, served to impose even greater difficulties on relations between Cuban families in both countries, already impacted by

Financial persecution has become a ruthless witch hunt, disrupting our transactions with third countries, our ability to pay and collect, and access lines of credit.

The imposition of coercive measures by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on U.S. and third country entities for alleged violations of the blockade continues. Between 2017 and 2020, the total amount of these fines amounted to some 3,761,876,629 dollars.

Travel was also a recurrent target of attack during this period. In addition to measures adopted previously, private charter flights to the entire country were suspended, with the exception of those to Havana, which were significantly reduced.
Likewise, the authorization for persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to attend or organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba was eliminated.

While financial transactions related to public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions, sports competitions and other types of events were specifically prohibited.
The 2019 ban on U.S. cruise ships stops in Cuba; restrictions on flights; the elimination of expedited channels for remittances; suspension of the family reunification program; as well as the closing of consular services within Cuba and their relocation to third countries, have significantly impacted the Cuban people.

Modifications to Export Control Regulations as a result of the designation of Cuba as a “foreign adversary” by the Department of Commerce in 2020, implied the tightening of controls on the export of technologies associated with this sector.

These obstacles, along with those imposed over the last four years, restrict the flow of information and the extension of Internet access in Cuba, make connectivity more difficult and expensive, and limit access to various virtual platforms for Cuban users.

The implementation of previously established agreements has been disrupted, including the submarine cable capacity rental project between Etecsa and Cable & Wireless Networks. The latter requested the required license from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in September 2018, and in October 2020 withdrew the request, since no response had been received.

The cancellation of Cuban media accounts on several digital sites has also been recurrent.
During the pandemic, the presentation of distance courses and participation in online events has been disrupted by several videoconferencing sites which have blocked our country, as is the case of Cisco Webex and Zoom. This has also prevented Cuba’s presence in virtual meetings convened by international organizations, including those of the United Nations system.

Amidst of this storm of coercive unilateral measures, Cuba has not been alone. The Cuban flag has flown in caravans in more than 50 cities around the world, including the United States, have built bridges to demand an end to the blockade, and to call on President Biden to reverse the more than 240 measures that his predecessor Donald Trump imposed on our country.

Like the virus that has caused this pandemic, the blockade separates, asphyxiates and damages. Overcoming the vicissitudes created has been no easy task, an endeavor in which the resistance of the Cuban people and our unwavering decision to defend our free, sovereign and independent homeland has been key.

Every Cuban man, woman and child inside and outside the country, has experienced in the flesh the unjust and disproportionate cruelty of the government of a nation that cannot accept the idea of an alternative model existing under its own nose.
Our government has reiterated Cuba’s willingness to conduct a respectful dialogue with the United States, making no concessions that undermine our sovereignty or independence, and without ignoring the indisputable role of the blockade as the main obstacle to developing and sustaining bilateral relations.

Cuba and the world will once again denounce this policy today, June 23. Its end would be coherent with the demand of practically the entire international community that has voted consistently – on 28 occasions in the United Nations General Assembly- for the elimination of the blockade.

(Taken from Granma)

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