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The Labyrinth Of The Minotaur

Pedro Prada and Luis Martin
January 19, 1998

Early in 1997, US congressmen willing to improve relations with Cuba, presented a bill before the House of Representatives that would end the US embargo of food and medicines on Cuba, The Cuban Humanitarian Relief Act, HR1951.

The bill was a response to a law passed in 1992 eliminating the ability of Cuba to circumvent the embargo by purchasing products, including food and medicines, from foreign companies and US subsidiaries abroad. Aware of likely worldwide condemnation and rebuke, the promoters of the law made sure it would not absolutely ban the sale of medicines and food from Cuba, but instead create a maze of conditions, regulations and reprisals that would in effect establish a de facto prohibition of such sales.

Authored by Democratic Congressman Robert Torricelli and cheerfully approved by President Clinton, the draconian law imposed severe penalties on its violators, American or not. The sanctions were later reinforced by the Helms-Burton law passed in 1996.

The Cuban Humanitarian and Relief Act has provoked vociferous denials from the US State Department and Cuban- American congressmen that the inhumane ban actually exists. Now that the bill enlists the support of the US Chamber of Commerce, churches and other influential groups and individuals, the government has taken on the rhetoric of a typical scammer-consumer dispute in which a company is caught unscrupulously cheating the public. According to the State Department, the US government has done nothing to prevent Cuba from obtaining medicines and food; whatever shortages exist on the island is the fault of the Cuban government and the direct result of a "dysfunctional economy".

To illustrate some examples --among many-- that shed light on the truth of the matter, some time ago Cuba received a message from Siemens Elemac in Sweden saying that it could not continue to supply Cuba with pacemakers. The traditional supplier of that vital device had been sold to a US firm.

The news would not be so dismal if JBIW, another supplier of pacemakers to Cuba, had not also been sold to a US firm; or if Teratronics, another pacemaker exporter attempting to expand its sales in the US, would have to submit to the condition of ending its deliveries to Cuba because its product contained components "Made in the USA".

With an annual demand of about 600 pacemakers, priced in the world market at $900 t0 $1000 each, Cuba has found itself placed in an artificial and premeditated crisis situation that risks the lives of hundreds of human beings.

Yet pacemakers are not the only headache for Medicuba, the most important import-export state enterprise of medical products in Cuba. Under the island's current situation, it is not easy to sort the challenges of the blockade and work with a budget that, being less than half of the previous figures, also faces a weakening state of affairs.

THE LABYRINTH Knowing that it is necessary to trade with those who are free of US pressures and have solvent capital to resist any blackmail, Cuban buyers face the dilemma of finding and acquiring the medications set by the country's health parameters, at the lowest possible price.

The damages to Cuba have not been worse because the nation is respected for its demonstrated commercial responsibility in the last 20 years, for the international prestige enjoyed by its health care system and its demanding pharmacopoeia certifications which have remained at a difficult time when unscrupulous individuals would have offered inferior substitutes.

Sometimes it is impossible to avoid traps worse than the mythical Minotaur. Medicines could be bought in the immediate geographical area, for example in Venezuela. However, those medicines must instead be purchased in Europe by paying 5 times as much for air freight because the Venezuelan suppliers are owned by US-controlled pharmaceutical transnationals.

So it happens that Cuba can only obtain 1 lot of medications for the same amount that would normally buy 5 or 6 lots. The lower availability results in therapeutic instability, health damages, citizen frustration and insecurity.

Those are only the visible consequences on the people and the practitioners. At the financial level, Medicuba must pay higher air freight from Europe incurring losses of more than 50 percent. The result is rising debts with commercial firms.

While some are understanding of the precarious situation of their Cuban clients, others have suspended their transactions with Cuba until the debts are paid.

The field of choice for Cuba's commercial buyers is narrowed to choosing among subsidiaries that won't sell, the ones pressured not to sell, the ones whose costs are beyond our means and the resellers who charge extra for risks.

Medications such as Fentanil and Talemonal, world exclusive US anesthetics and the only ones used in Cuba, can be obtained as an exception of the Treasury Department only at risk and with delays in delivery of up to 8 months.

According to Sigma and Talgrex International Export catalogs, the extra charges paid by Cuba in the fields of health are in the millions and range from 80 percent to 140 percent above the prices paid by any regular buyer.

WASHINGTON DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS In 1991, Leonor Dominguez, Deputy Director of Alimport, wept with anger and helplessness in Moscow when Soyuzplodexport, a baby food state enterprise, suddenly canceled its contract with Cuba, following the visit of Secretary of State James Baker to the still Soviet capital. At the same time, contracts with other state enterprises for the purchase of Cuban sugar were annulled and the Soviet officials who had signed the agreements mysteriously disappeared.

Leonor healed her wounds and searched for other opportunities and offers while her colleagues searched in other markets for raw materials that would enable Cuban industry to fill the baby food void. Although in lesser quantities, Cuban infants never lacked that source of nourishment.

But Alimport carries a $70 million per year debt in losses and other commercial failures. Among some examples are the witch-hunt carried out by US officials against Venezuelan exporters of frozen chickens to Cuba, or against powder milk merchants in Spain.

The latter product, being among the highest priorities on the list of food imports, incurs expenditures of approximately $80 million annually for shipping and risk transactions.

Cuba has paid as much as $80 per ton of milk imported from Europe. With the same money, Cuba could have acquired from 2 to 2.3 tons in the subsidized US market, or at least, in the Latin American or Caribbean markets.

Cuba could spend less in milk if it could better invest its resources in grain for cattle. But grain comes from the Gulf states of the US --the Corn Belt-- which produces most of the world's feed. When the Soviet option vanished, the grain had to be purchased in Asia and South America.

The same holds true for agricultural seeds that are not produced in Cuban laboratories and fields, pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, fuel for agricultural machinery, repairs and replacements of imported equipment and even the coal necessary for the smelting and casting of hoes and plows used in animal traction.

These causal relations, added to our administrative, organizational and agricultural work stimulation problems, sheds light on the drastic reduction of our food production and its effects on the tables of Cuban homes.

"FREE" TRADE AND "FRIED TRADE" Without access to the largest world market and the inability to buy from enterprises with competitive prices, established trade marks and products, prestige, communication channels and reliable transport, Cuba confronts a market that pretends to be free but is, in reality, significantly restricted.

Although the prices that Cuban importers pay to finance an operation opens access to a market, it also increases the price of the product.

The lack of liquid assets worsens the situation. To be able to buy today also presents the paradox that money may not be available when a market suddenly opens for Cuba. Many Cubans are not aware of the anguish experienced at the Assets Central Commission, where counting, establishing priorities, and dividing the scarce hard currency of the nation goes on through the night until the early morning hours.

At an international level, this phenomena coincides with the insertion of Cuba's economy into the world market, in the huge economic spaces where Europe, Japan, the US and all of North America are concentrated.

When the seller is aware that the buyer does not have access to the competition and lacks solvency, the tendency is to impose conditions with elevated prices and difficult regulations. In spite of the attraction posed by commercial relations with Cuba and its multi-million dollar consumer market, a diabolical combination of blockade and internal crisis "fries" our trade possibilities.

Day by day Cuba learns her lesson. Perhaps by some twist of fate, the foreign economic relations of the nation have depended always and in different phases of her history on one market: either the US, Spain, or the Soviet Union and the socialist block.

Hence, the necessary search for markets, investments and fresh capital from different parts, as well as the integration into regional and subregional blocks of economic cooperation and the exploration of new horizons. This new task of diversification will ensure that "never again shall Cuba place all of its eggs in one basket".

But it will not be easy to accomplish under the implacable harassment and persecution of the countless agents and officials at the service of the US. Nor will it be easy for interested countries that must either evade US intelligence operations, threats, and pressures or have solid capital at their disposal to withstand the battering of the Empire.

Some widows of the Ministry of the Exterior in Havana still bear the following words from the 60's: "Careful, the enemy listens". It would seem paranoia, but it is not.

Note: Pedro Padra is a Cuban journalist living on the island. Luis Martin is a writer for the Cuban-American National Alliance living in the US. Alianza Nacional Cubano-Americana PO Box 15753 Rio Rancho, NM 87174 t/f (505) 994-0863

From: Cuban-American National Alliance

P.O. Box 6674
Beaverton, OR 97007-0674
(503) 526-9570 (tel/fax)

April 20, 1996

It's again an election year in the U.S. and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is meeting in Geneva. In the world calendar these events mark a political Halloween in which the enemies of the Cuban Revolution haunt the world with the frightening screams, chain rattles and horror stories of human rights violations in Cuba. Two such recent stories tell of a repressed Concilio Cubano and the alleged castration in a Cuban hospital of a captured terrorist.

The history of the Republic of Cuba is a history of unceasing intervention of the U.S. in the internal affairs of the island nation. This meddling did not end with the abrogation of the Platt Amendment in the 1933 revolution. It continued throughout the decades through the manipulation of stooges in political parties, the army and outright control of Cuba's economy. This state of affairs abruptly ended with the triumph of the 1959 revolution.

In more recent times, the U.S. government attempts to recapture its control of Cuba by supporting the return of exiles loyal to U.S. interests and financing dissenting groups within Cuba. This strategy is termed by U.S. policymakers as the "Nicaragua Model".

The Cuban government has responded by limiting the political activities of groups inside Cuba known to be manipulated by the U.S. Because these dissenters lack support from Cubans, Washington has confer them with legitimacy as victims and defenders of human rights. One such entity is Concilio Cubano which attempted to coordinate a national meeting with exile subversive activity. Conversely, the Cuban government has permitted open political activities by organizations that have rejected foreign manipulation and subversion.

Given the history of U.S. aggression, sabotage and terrorism sponsored from abroad, the measures adopted by the Cuban government are a mild comparison to measures implemented by the U.S. in war and in peace to protect its national security.

Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

"In search of a better world in all matters, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations proclaims: To seek the creation of conditions of economic, judicial, political and social equality for all human beings...The right of all inhabitants of the planet to life, liberty, personal security, privacy, family integration, individual or collective property, freedom of thought, opinion and expression; to be elected and able to participate in the government of one's nation...

...That every person has the right to social security, to the satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights indispensable to one's dignity and the free development of one's personality...

...Every person shall have the right to work, protection against unemployment and to an equitable and satisfactory compensation that assures that person and family an existence in accordance with human dignity...

...Every person has a right to an adequate standard of living that will assure that person and family health, well-being nutrition, clothing, housing, medical assistance and necessary social services...

...All children shall have the right to social protection, education, etc." Leading a country that for 37 years has endured a formidable enemy bent on its destruction, the revolutionary government of Cuba deserves world praise -not condemnation- for its human rights record. Where else in the world has any government displayed more restraint towards the perpetrators of the most infamous and heinous crimes against the people and the sovereignty of a nation? What country in the world can claim to have done more for human rights in fighting disease, illiteracy, poverty, underdevelopment, colonialism and the tyranny of the elite?

The "Poet " Cops

Armando Valladares has been the leading figure in directing the human rights offensive against Cuba. On his release from a Cuban prison in October 1982, he was hailed as a hero by western media and the Right. During his internment, Valladares complained of being tortured and mistreated by his Cuban jailers. His punishment was so severe, he claimed, that he had lost the use of his legs and was unable to walk. His supporters were therefore quite embarrassed when they met him with a wheelchair at the Madrid airport and he walked off the plane looking healthy.

Valladares has been characterized by the press as a "poet" and "artist" of deep religious conviction. In fact, he was actually a police officer in the Batista regime. The honors that he received were for his work as a cop and never as a poet. He was not arrested after the revolution first came to power, but was later jailed when he was caught red-handed in a plot to overthrow the new revolutionary government.

Human Rights In The Western Hemisphere

Worldwide the crusade for human rights exhibits a clear pattern of indictments that flows in only one direction: from the western industrialized nations to the largely underdeveloped nations. In the Western Hemisphere an examination of record on human rights violations demonstrates that Cuba has been singled out by its enemies to create a climate of intervention.

Other Figures About The Subcontinent:

Chronology Of Terrorist Actions Against Cuba

May be reproduced in part or in full citing the source: Cuban-American National Alliance P.O. Box 6674 Beaverton, OR 97007-0674
(503) 526-9570 (tel/fax)

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