The despicable US-imposed financial and economic blockade against Cuba has caused losses for the Caribbean island of $4, 343, 6 million from April 2018 to March 2019.
Speaking to Botswana Guardian this week Monday ahead of next week Tuesday’s press conference, Cuban Ambassador to Botswana, H.E Patricia Pego Guerra lamented that since the departure of former US president Barrack Obama who had relaxed the restrictions of the blockade, current US president Donald Trump has begun a deliberate campaign to reverse all the gains.
Measured at current proces, the six decades long blocakde has caused damage of $1, 38, 843, 4 million thereby hindering the development of the Cuban economy to implement its National Economic and Social Development Plan as well as the country’s prospects to attain Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals.
Ambassador Pego Guerra was fortunate to have been posted to Washington DC on a four-year stint during the Obama administration and was part of the last group of Cuban diplomatic corps that negotiated and lobbied for the relaxation of the blockade with various US-authorities - Congress, Senate and House of Representatives as well as businesses and the Black Caucus. She remembers that period with “plenty satisfaction” as the most fascinating with its attendant achievements including Obama’s visit to Cuba in March 2015 as well as the re-establishment of diplomatic ties in July 2015 and the immediate opening up of business and commeical ties between the two nations, albeit for a fleeting moment.
In the post-Obama period the Republican administration led by Donald Trump has endeavoured to escalate the aggression against Cuba. For instance US has made various attempts to amend the draft resolution against the blockade that was presented to the United Nations General Assembly by Cuba on Novvember 1, 2018. According to Resolution 73/8 of the UN General Assembly titled, ‘Necessity of ending the economic, commerical and financial blocakde imposed by the United States of America against Cuba’- the aim of this meddling was to change the tone of the text and “fabricate excuses”for the continuity and reinforcement of the “genocidal policy”, resorting to false allegations in the matter of human rights.
Fortunately, despite America’s aggression, the international community – Botswana included – has rejected the proposals and expressed its overwhelming support for the lifting of the blockade. The Cuban envoy told Botswana Guardian that even during former president Ian Khama’s tenure she never ceased to express her gratitude to then Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi for Botswana’s fortitude in standing in solidarity with Cuba. Indeed Botswana, as part of the African bloc, has never wavered in its resolve to suppott Cuba. The country is a direct beneficiary of development support in the areas of health, medicine and sports from Cuba flowing from the policy begun by Cuba’s founding leader, Ffidel Castro known as the ‘Internationalist Programme’.
It was thanks to the Cuban soldiers that Angola, and by extension, Nambia and finally South Africa, were eventually freed from the clutches of Portuguiese, Germans and Boers settler colonialism. Africa to this day feels indebted to Cuba for the enrmous sacrifice she made towards her liberation. In anohter instance, Fidel Castro’s right-hand compatriot, Ernesto Che Guevera led a detachment of fredom fighters to help Patrice Lumumba in the fight for liberation against US-backed Mobutu sese Seko back in the late 1960’s.
Once again Botswana and the rest of the world, with the excepetion of Zionist and Aprtheid Israel will stand up in the defence of human rights and human dignity when they vote on November 6 and 7th 2019 at the UN General Assembly in favour of the lifting of the blockade against Cuba.
Report of Resolution 73/8 shows that in the period under review, strengthening the extraterritorial application of the system of samctions against Cuba was demonstrated in the “constant repercussions” on Cuban enterprises, banks and embassies which deal with “colossal obstacles”in their commercial andn financial activities in many countries around the world. The report shows that on three occasions the US Department of State broadened the “Resgtricted List of Cuban Entities and Sub-Entities”, that are the object of additional tax sancions due to blockade regulations. “This measure has caused considerable harm to the country’s economy because of the effect of intimidating the international busines community”.
Aded to this are the provisions of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department and of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Department of Commerce of the United States to eliminate, as of 5June 2019, the general permits for people to people group educational travel and to refuse permits for non-commerical aircraft and passenger ships for temporary stays including cruise ships, thereby having severe repercussions on the number of visitors to Cuba. The most atrocious effect of the blockade is that it has been codified into law through the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act otherwise knownn as the Helms-Burton Act which came into force in 1996 as well as strengthened its extraterritorial reach.
Ambassador Pego Guerra explains that besides pursuing the imposition of a government in Cuba that would be directly surbodinated to the interests of Washington, the Act wanted to internationalise the blockade via “coercive measures against thrid countries un order to interrupt their trade and investment relations with Cuba. To demonstrate the extent of the US agression against Cuba, any ship or aiecraft that has 10% of American components will not be allowed to travel to Cuba. This financial persecution has also affected by the way Botswana relates with Cuba. The Ambassador explains that Botswana agencies often find it hard to transfer money to Cuba as payment for services rendered, for example for the work done in sports cooperation.
“They encounter a myriad of problems when try to pay for services rendered. When Botswana National Sports Commission for example goes to pay at any of the banks they are told to send the money to Cuba through an intermediary bank in Europe. But then the intermediary bank in Europe seldom facilitates any such transactions for feat of being penalised and fined millions of US dollars by the United States. Ambassador Pego Guerra cites this as an example of “financial persecution” that Cuba endures at the hands of the US. But she worries that it is a double-edged sword, since it not only hurts Cuba, but the US as well.
When it argies its case in the UN Genral Assembly November 6 and 7th Cuba will insist that the blockade continues to be an “absurd, obsolete, illegal and morally unsustainable policy”, which has not fulfilled no will it fulfill he purposes of bringing to its knees the “patriotic decision “ of the Cuban people to “preserve their sovereignty and independence”. Meanwhile, America has ignored with “arrogance and disdain all the 27 resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly which condemn the blockade.