I believe very few Americans realize what our country
is trying to do down there -- starve people into submission and
deprive children and old people of medicine.
Dr. Benjamin Spock
From "Dr. Spock Takes Aid to Cuban Kids,"
American Medical News, February 22, 1993
Letters to the Editor
San Jose Mercury News
750 Ridder Park Drive
San Jose, CA 95190
The recent initiative by the Clinton administration to ease the Cuban embargo terms is intended to placate and sidetrack the calls for real relaxation of the embargo. The allowance of additional remittances has been a reality for a long time already, without the "blessing" of Washington.
Even more farcical is the new opening which allows non-governmental organizations to purchase food and medicines. Thereby, churches in Cuba will be permitted to buy medicines but not Cuban hospitals (all governmental). So now the churches can do diagnoses, treatments and surgery. In turn, the hospitals can lead the prayers - for the patients who are treated by the churches.
Your recent editorial calling for a real end to the embargo is commendable.
Very truly yours,
David Wald Project USA/Cuba InfoMed
(Sending donated computers to Cuban hospitals and clinics for use as terminals in the national medical information network - InfoMed)
The U.S. government is now almost alone in the world with its blockade of Cuba. In the last UN General Assembly vote condemning the U.S. blockade of Cuba, only the U.S., Israel, and Uzbekistan shamefully rejected the voice of world opinion. (And while there are three countries in the world that have not condemned the U.S. blockade, as a practical matter, the United States stands alone with Uzbekistan, as Israel continues to actively trade with Cuba).
The US embargo of Cuba causes shortages of food, medicine and other important supplies for eleven million people. The embargo is an immoral policy that uses hunger and disease as political weapons.
For the fourth consecutive year, the General Assembly of the U.N. approved a Resolution condemning the economic blockade that the U.S. has applied to Cuba for more than 30 years. Votes in favor of the Resolution have grown from 59 in 1992 to 117 in 1995.
Year: In Favor: Against: Abstentions: 1992 59 3 71 1993 88 4 57 1994 101 2 48 1995 117 3 38
See also: Article on the most recent U.N. vote condemning the US blockade.
By Dalia Acosta
HAVANA, Jan 20 (IPS) - The possibility of Cuba making medical purchases from the United States will remain a ''fantasy'' as long as the 37-year embargo is in place, according to the government of Fidel Castro.
Under the current circumstances, given the absence of normal commercial relations or transportation mechanisms between the two countries, ''it is not practical or viable to speak of such transactions,'' said Cuban Minister of Public Health Carlos Dotres.
How to get purchased products to the island seems to be a never- ending saga, since there are no commercial flights between the two countries, and because any ship that docks in Cuba is prohibited from visiting U.S. ports for the following six months.
Meanwhile, the regulations accompanying last May's decision to streamline procedures for licensing purchases of medicine, supplies and health care equipment, rather than making trading more flexible, have in fact created more obstacles, according to local experts.
The seller, for example, must oversee the product until it reaches its final destination, which according to U.S. policy may not be linked to the Cuban government or be used in biotechnological production under any circumstances.
Dotres noted that the U.S. companies that Cuba has contacted often back away from completing the sale when they realise that they must account for the destination of their exports and who they will benefit.
Although the Ministry of Public Health has not stopped seeking products from U.S. companies, Dotres said his ministry could not take part in any business deal that imposed conditions on medical supplies.
Cuba spends 2.5 million dollars on insulin, which is provided to all diabetics - ''active members of the Communist Party as well as non-members'' - Dotres underlined.
The debate on the flexibilisation of trade in the health sector, announced by President Bill Clinton as a gesture to the Pope after John Paul II's historic visit to the island a year ago, was reignited after a new set of measures was approved by Washington.
On Jan. 5, the U.S. government rejected the idea of creating a bipartisan commission to review its Cuba policy and its aim of fomenting the development of civil activities independent of the Castro government on the Caribbean island.
The measures passed included raising the cap on money remittances that can be sent to residents of Cuba, the establishment of direct flights from any city in the United States to any city on the island, authorisation for the sale of food and agricultural implements to private entities and farmers, and the restoration of direct mail between the two countries.
Clinton told the world that the blockade would remain in effect and that the U.S. would continue its strategy of ''undermining us from within,'' said the president of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon.
Havana argues that the latest decision, along with the measures passed on Mar. 20, 1998 - which included the flexibilisation of sales of medical products - could be considered a new phase of the ''economic, political and ideological war against the island.''
Alarcon said on Jan. 7 that the claim that the measures would facilitate the process of trade in the public health sector was ''a monumental lie,'' since ''Cuba has not been able to acquire even a single aspirin'' because ''it is not possible to do so in the United States.''
To back Alarcon's argument, state-owned television transmitted a report on two newborn babies whose lives were in peril due to the lack of medicine from the United States.
However, U.S. sources said that at least five licenses were approved between June and August of last year for the sale of medicinal products to the island for more than 14 million dollars.
Dotres recognised earlier this month that a few purchases of medicine for specific use among newborns and of equipment had taken place, but said that they were bought from subsidiaries of U.S. companies located in third countries.
The Cuban government estimates at around 60 billion dollars the total losses suffered by the local economy due to the sanctions applied by the United States over the past 40 years, 1.2 billion dollars of which correspond to the health sector.
But the effects of the embargo could be calculated as even higher, considering that any impact on the macro-economy necessarily has repercussions on a sector that is subsidised by state funds.
According to the Ministry of Public Health, the government of Fidel Castro channeled 10 percent of the state budget and 8.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product into the health sector last year, while it follows a policy of continual budget increases.
Cuba, with a population of 11.1 million inhabitants, ended 1998 with an infant mortality rate of 7.1 per 1,000 live births, 6.7 percent underweight births, 3.8 maternal deaths per 10,000 live births, and a life expectancy rate of 75 years.
But although the majority of the island's inhabitants see free of charge health coverage as one of the major achievements of the Cuban revolution, many complain of the deterioration that these services have suffered over the past decade.
A report issued in December acknowledged the ''physical deterioration of many institutions,'' the necessity of a technological renovation, and a general scarcity of medicines and resources for dentistry and optical services.
But availability of medicine in pharmacies, one of the most pressing concerns of Cubans, could rise 25 percent this year based on an increase in national production.
According to Dotres, the pharmaceutical industry will cover more than 90 percent of demand for medicine in 1999, at a total cost of more than 70 million dollars. (END/IPS/tra-so/da/mj/jmb/sw/99)
Friday March 15, 1996
Strasbourg-- The European Parliament condemned the United States Yesterday for its approval of a new law that seeks to outlaw foreign investment in Cuba.
The parliament asked the European Commission , the executive branch of the 15-state European Union, "to investigate the effects of the law on European business" and strongly considered challenging them "as a serious infringement of the GATT, World Trade organization (rules) and international law.
Noting that for over 30 years the United States has maintained an embargo against Cuba, an embargo further tightened by "The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992" that prohibits foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to trade with Cuba
and bars merchant ships that stop at Cuban ports from the U.S. market for six months after they leave Cuba;1
Noting further that the tightened U.S. embargo extends to trade in food, medicines, and medical supplies, which at the time of the bill's passage comprised over 90 percent of Cuban trade with U.S. subsidiaries;
Realizing that with the termination of favorable trade relations with the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, which forced Cuba to drastically reduce all trade, and the tightened U.S. embargo, there is a severe shortage of food and medical supplies in Cuba;
Aware that Cuban health personnel report an increase in some infectious diseases, an increase in iron-deficiency anemia among pregnant women and young children, and a rise in the incidence of low-birth-weight babies, changes that the Ministry of Public Health attributes to problems in importation of food supplies; and that the neuropathy epidemic which appeared in late 1991 in Cuba is probably partly the result of nutritional deficiencies;2
Concerned that the impressive advances achieved over the past three decades in the health of the Cuban people are in jeopardy due in part to the U.S. embargo;
Recalling that the United Nations General Assembly in November 1992 by an overwhelming vote expressed concern over "the promulgation and application by member states of laws and regulations whose extra-territorial effects affect the sovereignty of other States and the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction, and the freedom of trade and navigation" and called upon all countries "to refrain from promulgating or applying" such laws and measures "in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law" and urged states that have such laws to repeal them;3
WFPHA Resolution No. 94-3
adopted by WFPHA General Assembly at 28th Annual Meeting 2 May 1994
1United States Public Law 92-102484.
2Kuntz, D. The Politics of Suffering: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on the Health of the Cuban People. American Public Health Association, 1992.
3Krinsky, M. and Golove, D., ed. United States Economic Measures Against Cuba: Proceedings in the United Nations and International Law Issues. Aletheia Press, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1993.
We the undersigned, representatives of various Cuban institutions, Health Care workers and Christians state that:
Access to information is an essential necessity for health care workers. The difficult economic situation facing Cuba after the fall of the Socialist Bloc, particularly the Soviet Union, added to the brutal tightening of the US government blockade has had an extremely negative impact on the country's ability to provide the necessary information to support the efforts being made to maintain and improve the public health standards of the Cuban people.
The right information in the right hands at the right time SAVES LIFE'S, even more effectively than any medicine or new techniques.
The National Center for Medical Sciences Information is coordinating a national network which encompasses libraries and other kinds of information centers serving of the health system. The economic difficulties the country is experiencing have obliged us to seek out alternative information sources to make it possible to provide the level of information necessary to support the work of doctors and other health professionals.
INFOMED has been one of these alternative methods. The medical science electronic information network is the most developed alternative. It's development is due to the support given by the Ministry of Public Health, aided by international organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations Development program, and the Caribbean and Latin American Medical Science Information Center.
The Network has been extending it's coverage over the last few years and today is in every province of Cuba. It has 24 hour service seven days a week and offers a growing number of information services which make up for the lack of information received through traditional channels.
These computers which represent a humanitarian gesture of solidarity are today held up at the US border. They were coming to support our efforts to allow specialist who provide primary care, workers in intensive care wards where children's lives are saved and specialists in general medicine to begin to take advantage of the new possibilities opened up by information and communication. In a world where all recognize the importance of information as a resource essential for improving the living standards of our peoples, especially their health standards, any attempt to hamper efforts to achieve this objective infringes the rights of states and of humankind. From the basis of our Christian faith moreover, we have continuously and commitedly opted for life and for each and every way which helps to improve and extend the quality of life. The way shown by Jesus Christ in his relations with disease and the sick lights our way and gives us courage in this undertaking.
Signed by: Cuban Council of Churches Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center Cuban Worker-Student Baptist Congress Christian Student Movement Brotherhood of Cuban Baptist Churches Oscar Arnulfo Romero Reflection and Solidarity Group Kairos Christian Center for Arts and Liturgy The "El Fuerte" Reflection and Discussion Center The Latin American Union of Ecumenical Youth The christian Medical Commission Dr. Noemi Gorrin- Pediatrician and President of the Christian Medical Commission Dr. Flina Ceballos- Neuro-Pediatrician Angel Lorenzo Gonzalez- Intensive Care Nurse Dr. Marianela de la Paz- Family Doctor Dr. Loida Sardinas- Family Doctor Yamila Laura Lee - Nurse Dr. Roberto Ohoa- Family Doctor Dr. Amaryllis Castro- Family Doctor
February 1, 1996
Several things have become clarer about the downing of the planes piloted by members of the Cuban exile group from Miami. Similar incursions of Cuban airspace evoked warnings from the Cuban Government, which clled them provocative acts, but they continued.
The Clinton administration in effect justifies the incursions by accusing Cuba of being "violent" and "scornful of international law" (front page, Feb. 27). This brushes aside several aspects of the past relations between the two countries.
The United States embargo on Cuba, imposed 35 years ago, has hurt the children and adults of Cuba. It has been condemned by the United Nations General Assembly as contrary to international law. Medical and educational personnel who chose to stay in Cuba under the Castro Government have had extraordinary success in providing health care, free, for everyone and schooling for all children. The Government has built new housing. By contrast, other Latin American countries with which we have cordial relaions have been military dictatorships that have made no such efforts.
President Clinton is supporting the provocation of the Cuban-American group in Miami, which will win votes in the election. We are in no position to call Cuba violent or scornful of law.
Benjamin Spock, M.D. Camden, Me. March 1, 1996
On May 6 last, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives of the United States passed ten drafts aimed at reinforcing the blockade against Cuba and fostering domestic subversion in Cuba. While in a number of cases, these amendments are additions to the Helms-Burton Law and in others they modify legislation, all these actions may be considered as yet another expression of the same scheme of aggression against Cuba which characterizes the Helms-Burton Law.
Approved sections were included as amendments to the Foreign Service Reform Law. This Law includes resources for foreign aid, the budget of the Department of State and other international, programs, as well as the restructuring of the U.S. foreign service. Several of the ten texts adopted, the main features of which are attached, are additions to the Helms-Burton Law and other modify previous legislation, but seen as whole they are part and parcel of the increased hostility and interventionist intentions codified into lay by means of the Helms-Burton Act.
Four main characteristics may be identified in this process:
First: The secrecy with which it has been carried out, even in Congress itself, where several legislators linked to the Cuban issue were not even aware of their approval. The press, with exception of what regards the International Atomic Energy Agency, has totally silenced this process.
Second: The intention to constantly keep the Administration in a defensive position by demanding the submission of periodic reports, thus depriving it of the already narrow margin of discretion which it enjoyed regarding its policy towards Cuba.
Third: Its contradiction with the "understanding" reached with the European Union, including the U.S. promise of seeking the modification of the Helms-Burton Law, giving it a larger degree of flexibility, specifically with regard to Chapter IV.
Fourth: Linked with the above, the clear message it entails that the forces which sponsored the Law are not ready to allow its softening and are only in a position of modifying it in order to make it more intrusive and extraterritorial.
The tactics of silence, previously used by the anti-Cuban lobby, facilitate the final approval of the amendments, as the arguments that may be raised against them will have to face a fait accompli, only after those amendments had already passed with a certain level of approval most of the bodies of the cumbersome Congressional legislative process.
On the other hand, anti-Cuban lawmakers are already boasting that they are working on a new initiative to widen the effects of the Helms-Burton Law, by allowing the levying of taxes in the United States to third country companies doing business with Cuba, and that those in non-compliance would be prosecuted in U.S. courts of law.
Two additional draft legislations prepared by the Foreign Relations Committee and addressed at strengthening the Helms-Burton Law with regard to the power of the U.S. President to apply "waivers" to the legal demands embodied in its Chapter III, have also been circulated:
1.- One of them totally removes such a power as of June 1997.
2.- The other, continues to allow it provided that US trade partners comply with seven specific conditions, including the withdrawal of any present or future challenge to the Helms-Burton Law before the WTO. The other conditions are of a similar extraterritorial nature and also violate the sovereignty of third countries.
The aim of these new actions, is to upgrade even further Washington's offensive against Cuba by increasing the control already exerted by Congress over decision-making with regard to the US policy towards our country. These intentions, if successful, would make the extraterritorial effects already imposed against Europe and the rest of the world more offensive, and allowing no possibility whatsoever for both the present as well as future Administrations to introduce changes in such policy.
No reaction by the Administration is yet known with respect to these Congressional measures, nor has there been a response in complying the commitments the US entered into with its allies.
Cuba denounces these developments before the international community, as they are once again a demonstration of the arrogant and hegemonistic character inherent to U.S. foreign policy of the United States, to the detriment of the key principles of international coexistence, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and International Law.
This policy against Cuba, to which the United States is attempting to make others join with baseless pretexts, is today the greatest and most present danger facing the sovereignty of all States.
AMENDED SECTIONS OF HR-1486
FOREIGN POLICY REFORM ACT
1.- Sec. 308: Withholding United states assistance to countries that aid the Government of Cuba.
It defines with further details what they consider as engaging in "nonmarket based trade" with the Government of Cuba, which poses a reinforcements of the restrictions sanctioned in Title I of the "Helms-Burton" Act and furthers the restraints to trade with our country.
It decrees that not lather than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Act, the President shall withhold assistance to any government providing economic development, or security assistance, or engaging in nonmarket based trade.
2.- Sec. 506: Availability of amounts for "Cuban Liberty and democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1986 and the "Cuban Democracy Act of 1992".
It allocates "not less" than 2 million U.S. dollars for 1998 and 1999 each, for the enactment of both acts, which will be made available, to a large extent, for financing counterrevolutionary groups bent on domestic subversion.
3.- Sec. 513: Requirement on assistance to the Russian Federation.
It conditions assistance to Russian Federation to refraining from assist Cuba in nuclear matters. To be able the assistance , the President must determine and report to the Congress that the Russian Federation has terminated all official cooperation with, and transfers of goods technologies to Juragua project.
4.- Sec. 577: Withholding of assistance to countries that provide nuclear fuel to Cuba
Withholding of allocated amounts to countries that in the future sell nuclear fuel to Cuba, for an amount equal to the aggregate value of nuclear fuel, related assistance and credits provided by that country to Cuba.
5.- Sec. 705: Local assistance to human rights groups in Cuba.
It amends Section 109 of the "Helms-Burton" Act by adding formal specifications providing a better coverage in the use of funds to those purposes. It enacts a process of certifications by U. S. Interests Section in Havana providing the Yankee representative powers to monitor illegal activities.
6.- Sec. 1106: United States Informational, Educational. And Cultural Programs.
It endows more than 22 millions of U.S. dollars in 1998 and 1999 to the Radio and Television Broadcasting to Cuban Program .
7.- Sec. 1261: Reports to Congress concerning Cuban emigration policies.
It establishes that the Secretary of States shall prepare a report every subsequent 6 months accounting for the fulfillment of the United States-Cuba Migratory Agreements of September 1994 and May 1995. Thus the Congress is entitled to monitor one of the few areas that the executive has under its control.
8.- Sec. 1412: Authorities of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
It introduces a formal technicality in the " United States International Broadcasting Act" on the broadcast of Marti Radio and Television to Cuba.
9.- Sec. 1705: Reports on determinations under Title IV of the "Liberty Act".
It amends Section 401 of the "Helms-Burton Act" in order to exert a harsher control on the denials of visas to those "trafficking" in expropriated properties. The Secretary of State shall submit a detailed report, every three months thereafter, on the implementation of Title IV, providing a list of data on the subjects of penalties, and specifying the paragraphs to be reported in a classified or unclassified way.
10.- Sec. 1709: Programs or projects of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Cuba.
It conditions the authorization of U.S. shares of assistance to IAEA to the determination of its assistance to Cuba and sets forth the opposition of the Secretary of State to such projects in our country, as well as the submission of annual reports on the issue to the Congress.
Canada has launched its strategy aimed at challenging Washington's anti-Cuba Helms-Burton Law, within the context of the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. The Canadian government today sent an official note to U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, demanding the convening of obligatory, bilateral talks on the Helms-Burton provisions that violate NAFTA. Canadian authorities say two initial areas of dispute are: 1) the NAFTA accords that stipulate the disappearance of national borders, allowing for the free flow of persons between the signatory countries, and 2) the issue of sanctions against Canadian companies investing both in Cuba and the United States.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien plans to meet later today in Egypt -- the site of the anti-terrorism summit -- with Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini. Canada has expressed interest in coordinating an anti-Helms-Burton offensive with Italy, which is currently presiding over the European Union. The Canadian government has received unanimous support from the country's business and labor sectors and will also be supported by Mexico, the other NAFTA member.
Brussels, March 13(RHC)-- The European Union's Foreign Trade Commissioner, Leon Brittan, is slated to travel to Canada next Sunday. According to sources from the European Commission, the EU's Executive Body, Brittan's visit was already scheduled, but his agenda will now also include the Helms-Burton Law. The European Commission is still studying the implications of the anti-Cuba measure, saying that no decision will be made until all the measure's details have been thoroughly examined. Nevertheless, member-nations of the European Union have reaffirmed their opposition to Helms-Burton, calling it "a dangerous precedent."
Brasilia, March 13(RHC)-- In a strongly-worded statement, the South American regional organization Rio Group has rejected the Helms-Burton legislation, signed into law yesterday by U.S. President Bill Clinton. The Rio Group, in a declaration released in Brasilia, expressed its energetic rejection of the new law, urging Washington to reflect on the negative effects the legislation will bring.
The document affirms that the Rio Group's member countries are concerned that the Helms-Burton Law ignores the fundamental principles of respect for sovereign states. The law's implementation, the statement continues, means extraterritorial application of domestic law, which is in conflict with international law.
The communique, released by Brazil's foreign ministry, cites previous statements by the Rio Group that condemn all attempts to establish economic sanctions and restrictions. The group adds that the Helms-Burton Law goes against the United Nations Charter and the Organization of American States, as well as principles established by the World Trade Organization and against the spirit of friendship and cooperation that should characterize relations between nations of the hemisphere.
Havana, March 13(RHC)-- Cuba's Minister of Education, Jose Ignacio Gomez, said today that Helms-Burton will rally the patriotism of Cuban students, since many of the confiscated properties targeted by the law are former mansions converted into schools. Gomez said one reason why Washington is blockading Cuba is because of the island's exemplary achievements in education, which is free and universal, with one teacher for every 45 students.
The Cuban education minister pointed to one large mansion
in the old sector of Havana that belonged to a murderous army
colonel during the Batista dictatorship who sought refuge in the
United States. Now, he said, that criminal can reclaim the property
-- converted into a school -- by filing a claim in U.S. courts.
That mansion is currently a school for 300 elementary school students.
San Diego, March 13(RHC)-- Five activists from the U.S. religious/solidarity group Pastors for Peace are on the 22nd day of their "Fast for Life," demanding the return of 400 medical computers by U.S. Customs officials. The computers were seized when the group attempted to cross the border into Mexico and, ultimately, donate them to the Cuban health care system. Several of the fasters reacted to yesterday's signing of the Helms-Burton Law by U.S. President Bill Clinton. Andrea Saenz, spokesperson for Pastors for Peace, read several of the statements.
Brian Rohatyn, who is a Canadian, said: "I hope that the U.S. government will reconsider, in time, the moves they have taken to punish Cuba and revoke the bill."
Jim Clifford, who is from Louisville, Kentucky, said: "History will find that Clinton had the best opportunity of any U.S. president to make progress with Cuba, but lacked the nerve to act courageously. Ironically, Clinton will never win Florida, although he embarrasses himself in trying to curry favor with the well-healed, racist and ambitious Mas Canosa. And sadly, the Cuban people -- with whom Clinton feigns such new found concern -- are once again the victims of more abuse from the nation that calls itself, quote, `the champion of human rights.'"
Lisa Valenti, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, gave this statement: "It is dark day in our system of democracy when the Commander-in- Chief abdicates his foreign policy initiatives to a Congress controlled by an opposition party and sets a dangerous precedent in our system of checks and balances as set forth in the Constitution."
March 17, 1996
To President Clinton
Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin
Secretary of State Warren Christopher
This is to advise you that SPAN/--Shoestrings & Grace has vowed to continue to oppose the immoral U.S. blockade against Cuba and to support the five Pastors for Peace volunteers who are fasting at the U.S./Mexican border in San Diego for the release of computers destined for a Cuban health network.
In the last week, our representatives have appeared twice on local television in opposition to your immoral Cuban policy and have made two other presentations before religious groups to foster support for the Pastors for Peace fasters and the lifting of the blockade. We have also begun to circulate petitions addressing these two critical dimensions of moral life.
Further, we are grateful that our two local U.S. Representatives to Congress -- Democrat Maurice Hinchey and Republican Amo Houghton -- have also opposed your policy through their negative votes against the Helms-Burton bill which you, President Clinton, have immorally signed into law. We also are thankful that Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of N.Y. also opposed the Helms-Burton measure.
We are also grateful that Canada, Mexico, Carecom, the Rio Group and the European Union, to mention a few international representatives, have also vigorously opposed your immoral policy against Cuba and your "extraterritorial" aims against other members of the international community.
We wish you to know, decidedly, that we will continue to educate local people in our communities about the steps you have taken in the name of "liberty," steps which are oppressive and hegemonic in the worst sense and far from any fair and just conception of freedom.
We also wish you to know that a number of us throughout upstate New York will also be joining the publicly declared March 22 24-hour fast in solidarity with all the aims expressed by the five members of the "Fast for Life," all the aims, as enounced by Pastors for Peace/IFCO and by ourselves in solidarity. Further, we know from personal experience in Cuba that such aims are supported in churches there, where we have worshiped, and by vast numbers of Cuban people.
Be advised that we are a material, spiritual and moral force.
Wes Rehberg, Ph.D.
cc: Pastors for Peace/IFCO, Global Exchange, Infomed, media, U.S. Representatives
18 March 1996
Dear Sir, Louis F. Desloge, co-founder of the U.S.-Cuba Foundation, a conservative non-profit organization that favours normalizing relations with Cuba, presents an interesting analysis of the Helms-Burton bill in the March 17, 1996 Guardian Weekly, taken from the Washington Post.
Desloge notes that the bill allows only owners of property valued at more than $50,000 in 1959 to sue foreign companies doing business on their land. He argues that, rather than discouraging foreign investment, the bill is already causing rich Cuban Americans to line up at the courthouse to threaten corporations with legal action while preparing to negotiate lucrative out of court settlements in exchange for a piece of the economic action in Cuba. Desloge details how former owners, managers and lawyers for Cuban sugar and tobacco conglomerates have already told the press that they have their eyes on British American Tobacco (BAT) and Pernod, in the hope of getting a share of profits from sales of Cuban exports of cigarettes and rum.
Such legal actions and out of court settlements, while constituting a clear incentive to do business with Cuba through virtual blackmail, are specifically permitted by the Helms-Burton bill, contrary to the bill's supposed intent. This fact will not surprise many observers of Cuba who are familiar with the economic and political interests represented by the Cuban American elite of Miami, who are so adept at exploiting American ignorance of and knee-jerk opposition to Cuba simply because it is a tiny country which has successfully resisted U.S. domination of its economy.
Cuba may not be a Caribbean paradise, but the recent openings to "market socialism" and economic and political pragmatism, combined with an educated populace (2% of Latin America's population and 11% of Latin America's scientists), a comprehensive but battered health system and a healthy experience of self-reliance, make Cuba's future promising - if only they could be left alone to manage their own affairs without brutal and also hypocritical U.S. sabotage.
American Pastors for Peace volunteers are now in their 27th day of fasting in protest at U.S. Customs violent seizure of medical computers destined for Cuban hospitals and community clinics. (Including Canadian donations) Canadian, Mexican and European Community diplomats are gearing up to challenge the illegal Helms-Burton bill. It's time our American neighbours and friends realized that the world is not their oyster to slurp down whenever they wish, mindless of the suffering their hunger and thirst for power and profit create both within and outside their borders.
From: IGC News Desk
Subject: IPS: TRADE: U.S. Remains Isolated In WTO On Blockade Of Cuba /RELATE Date: Sat, 20 Apr 1996 14:38:26 -0700 (PDT) Copyright 1996 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks. *** 17-Apr-96 *** Title: TRADE: U.S. Remains Isolated In WTO On Blockade Of Cuba /RELATE/ By IPS Correspondents ATTN EDITORS: Please relate the following item to 'CUBA: Former Allies Stick with Havana' moved from Havana, earlier. GENEVA, Apr 17 (IPS) - U.S. efforts to strengthen its economic blockade on Cuba by penalising foreign businesses that trade with the Caribbean state have come under strong criticism from member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The new Helms-Burton law, Washington's response to the shooting down of two small U.S. civil aeroplanes by Cuban air force jets on Feb. 24, has been strongly criticised by U.S. allies. WTO delegates from the European Union, Japan, Canada and the Rio Group of Caribbean and Latin American nations voiced opposition to the act at a two-day session of the WTO General Council convoked this week at the request of Cuban ambassador Eumelio Caballero Rodriguez. The Helms-Burton law -- which President Bill Clinton signed in March -- is specifically designed to curb third-country investment and calls on Clinton to seek U.N. action to make the 34-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba global. ''Business people will have to choose between doing business with (Cuban President) Fidel Castro or with the United States,'' warned Republican congressman Dan Burton, the bill's co-sponsor, while visiting Santiago, Chile, last week. The acts would end U.S. aid to countries helping to complete work on Cuba's suspended nuclear power plant plan at Juragua, and allows U.S. courts to sentence individuals or companies from other countries that carry out transactions with Cuba or make investments there involving property nationalised after the 1959 revolution. In Geneva Caballero said the new U.S. law continues ''its uninterrupted escalation of harassment'' against Cuba and ''conditions the commercial interests of third countries''. The Cuban representative said that before taking legal action, Havana preferred to wait until the United States had reached a decision as to how it proposed to implement the law. Cuba reserves ''its rights to protect itself under the pertinent WTO agreements by presenting this case as a violation of the Organisation's norms, since the U.S. law damages and even annuls our rights as a member,'' said Caballero. The Rio Group also ''energetically'' rejected the Helms-Burton law during the debate, added a WTO source. This month EU and Rio Group ministers meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, restated their objection to ''any unilateral measure that has extra-territorial effects which go against international law and commonly accepted trade rules.'' EU members Spain, Italy and France, Rio Group members Brazil and Mexico and U.S. NAFTA ally Canada are all significant investors in Cuba. Havana introduced new legislation in September 1995 codifying foreign investment guarantees as key to reaching a 1996 target of five percent growth in gross domestic product. In 1994 it registered growth of 0.7 percent, up to 2.5 percent in 1995. The government reported 212 investment deals up to May 1995, involving 2.1 billion dollars of agreed capital, though some estimates say funds actually delivered since 1990 come to just 730 million dollars. Much of it went into nickel mining -- strongly backed by Canada -- sugar and tourism, the latter which now generates about a third of annual gross income. Cuba's outstanding hard currency debt stood at about 9.1 billion dollars at the end of 1994 and its trade deficit fell from 900 million dollars in 1993 to under an estimated 600 million in 1995. In Geneva ambassador Dalcy Cabrera Rios of Bolivia, current holder of the rotating post of Coordinator of the Rio Group, said the Helms-Burton law affects the balance of international trade and the credibility of the WTO itself. Canada made a distinction between political and economic questions in relations with Cuba. It shared U.S. objections on its human rights record and condmened the downing of the two U.S. planes, but said the response of the United States ''is not appropriate''. It also expressed concern about juridical principles of extra- territoriality. Britain says the Helms-Burton law ''contains unacceptable provisions extending the powers of U.S. courts over the activities of non-American companies outside the USA.'' It has also condemned the act's powers allowing bans on third country citizens ''trading legitimately with CUBA under British law''. The Canadian delegtion at the Geneva session said it was prepared to discuss the whole question with the United States, especially in relation to the WTO and its regulations. Representing the Asiatic bloc, the Philippines shared the objections to the new U.S. law, as did representatives from Mexico, India, Nicaragua, Malaysia, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan and Sri Lanka. The U.S. delegation admitted that many governments had expressed concern at the legislation. It asked them to recognise the seriousness of the shooting down of the two aircraft and the unfairness of allowing foreign traders to make deals involving property confiscated from Cubans without compensation. But the U.S. representatives did announced that they would hold consultations with other countries while the precise mechanisms for implementing the law were worked out. (END/IPS/PC/RJ/96) Origin: Amsterdam/TRADE/ ----
Date sent: Sun, 22 Sep 1996 17:07:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: Cuban-American National Alliance
The following policy statement was adopted by unanimous vote at a regular meeting of the Columbia River/Willamete Valley Chapter of the Labor Party by members of the trade union movement in the Portland, Oregon area: Steel Workers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Union, Oregon Teachers Association, Teamsters, Northwest Labor Council and others. The vote resulted from consideration of a report by Luis A. Martin, Federation of Cuban-American Workers, on the Helms-Burton law and motion to adopt the proposed policy by Bill Bates, Green Party.
The formation of a Labor Party is a historic event for all North American workers. For Cuban-American workers it will open a highly welcomed political choice in their communities that opposes the embargo at the same time that it defends their interests as workers.
The Columbia River/Willamette Valley Chapter of the Labor Party, in policy agreement with the The International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union, is firmly opposed to inhumane actions by the United States government against the people of Cuba, and reaffirms its long-standing opposition to the economic embargo against the island nation. Further tightening of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba only punishes the civilian population of our Caribbean neighbor and continues to deprive Cuban workers of non military necessities such as medical supplies, food and equipment.
By signing into law the Helms-Burton bill, which seeks to punish any nation or business that invests in or trades with Cuba, President Clinton has caved in to the right-wing extremists in Congress and the Cuban exile community who have long sought to provoke an international incident through which they could achieve their military and political objective of forcibly removing Fidel Castro from power In Havana. Such provocations inevitably lead to the tragic loss of life, as happened in April 1996 in Cuban airspace. This Labor Party chapter believes that President Clinton's punitive actions against Cuban families will strengthen the resolve of the Cuban people to resist foreign interference in their internal affairs, and that it will also divide us from our traditional allies and trading partners, such as Canada and Mexico.
Not only are these countries already protesting U.S. interference in how they conduct international commerce, they are also pointing out that the U.S. itself would never stand for such interference from another nation, and are threatening diplomatic and legal action to reverse U.S. policy.
That hypocrisy is nothing new in Washington. We note that if the President's concern about democracy and human rights in socialist Cuba was evenly applied, then the U.S. would be compelled to sever ties with allies and trading partners throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even Europe. But in an election year, President Clinton is apparently more concerned about Cuban-American votes in Florida and New Jersey, than in world peace and human decency.
Indeed, we are deeply concerned that the President has repeatedly failed to follow through on matters of vital interest to working Americans, but is apparently quite willing to appease the right wing of both political parties in his quest for re-election.
Distributed by Cuban-American National Alliance P.O.Box
6674 Beaverton, OR 97007-0674
(503) 526-9570 (fax)
There is a very good essay on the embargo contained in a Web Site created by Wm Leler
See also: the Comments & Observations on The Seizure of Humanitarian Aid page
Cuba Solidarity Homepage
Project USA/Cuba InfoMed