The directive issued by President Barack Obama, October 14, describes the blockade as an “outdated policy that had failed to advance U.S. interests.” Will Washington ever recognize that the blockade has been an illegal and unjust policy of aggression which has caused Cuba billions of dollars in economic damages and incalculable human losses? Is the U.S. willing to compensate the Cuban people for these losses?
Losses caused by the U.S blockade of Cuba (April 2015 through April 2016):
Health: $82,723,876 Five million dollars more than last year
Food: $605,706,289 The greatest impact is seen in the increased price of seeds, fertilizers, and replacement parts from agricultural and other types of machinery.
Culture: $29,483,800 The U.S. could be Cuba’s main source market for an important group of raw materials, resources, tools and equipment for the country’s artists, artisans and designers, if the blockade didn’t exist.
Education: $1,245,000 The Ministry of Education suffered losses in the cited period, due to the increased cost of sourcing supplies from markets further a field.
Construction: $30,868,200 Key losses in this sector are related to the island’s inability to access more efficient, lighter and energy-friendly construction technologies.
Biotechnology: $171,665,136 Total losses caused by the blockade have reached an enormous figure.
2. If the United States wants to engage “honestly” with the Cuban people, as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Susan Rice, stated… Why does the new directive close the door on returning the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo, one of the sovereign demands of the Cuban people, key to full normalization of relations.
Every year the United States sends Cuba a check for $4,085 to lease the Naval Base in Guantánamo. As a matter of principle, Cuba does not cash these checks, as it doesn’t recognize the occupation of this portion of national territory.
• The Naval Base located on Guantánamo Bay was establsihed in 1903, after
the occupation of the island by the U.S. military.
• The illegally occupied territory covers an area of 117.6 square kilometers (49.4 on
land and the remainder over expanses of marshland and sea).
• Among soldiers and civilians, over 5,300 people work at the base.
• The U.S. maintains an illegal prison facility on the base.
3. “We recognize Cuba's sovereignty and self-determination and acknowledge areas of difference,” and “we are not seeking to impose regime change on Cuba,” are two sentences which feature in the new policy directive. If the U.S. government is really committed to this position in the current context of bilateral relations, why does it continue to maintain the so-called “Democracy Assistance” programs?
Every year the U.S. Congress approves a budget of approximately 20 million dollars to fund subversive activities in Cuba. From 2009 to 2016 the U.S. government has allocated 139.3 million dollars to this end.
Examples include Zunzuneo, a messaging network similar to that of Twitter, which sends seemingly innocent messages to users’ cell phones with the aim of creating a political platform among Cuban youth; and World Learning summer scholarships awarded surreptitiously and without the involvement of Cuban authorities, which aim to create leaders with the potential to undermine the internal order of the country.
"Independent" contractors have been hired to establish illegal covert communications system with the use of non-commercial technologies.
4. What does the directive mean when it says that “democracy assistance” programs will be more “transparent” and “consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies around the world?”
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has played a central role around the world in the work and financing of groups and individuals which participated in the brief coup staged against Hugo Chávez in 2002. Hundred of millions of dollars was funneled to coup supporters through organizations like Freedom House and the International Republican Institute (IRI).
In September 2008, during a wave of protests against the government of Evo Morales, authorities from the Andean nation decided to expel USAID after the agency refused to disclose recipients of aid funds.
Russian authorities expelled the agency from the country in October 2012. In a statement by the Kremlin it noted that USAID’s work "does not always correspond to [its] stated goals…This means attempts to exert influence, via the distribution of grants, on political processes, including elections at various levels and institutions of civil society.”
5. The new directive notes, “We anticipate the Cuban government will continue to object to U.S. migration policies and operations, democracy programs, Radio and TV Marti.” If the U.S. government understands that these issues undermine positive bilateral relations, what sense is there in maintaining Radio and TV Marti, which violate all international norms?
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), responsible for Radio and TV Marti, has an annual budget of around 30 million. The organization has received a total of 193.9 million dollars from 2009 to 2016.
Unsuccessfully attempts at broadcasting TV Marti to Cuba were made via a hot air balloon, EC-130 military plane and G-1 aircraft. Transmissions still continue via satellite and internet.
Radio and TV Marti violate norms stipulated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which states that radio and television broadcasts should be intended to provide a “high-quality national service within the limits of the country considered,” while short wave transmissions should facilitate “peaceful relations, international cooperation among peoples.”
6. The Presidential directive notes that the new policy aims to “help the Cuban people to achieve a better future for themselves.” What, then, is the point of applying measures only benefiting a small part of the population, above all private sector workers, clearly intended to create divisions within the country?
Workforce distribution in Cuba.
At the end of 2014, of the country’s 4,969,800 workers, 76% work in the state sector, and the remainder in the private.
7. Alongside the new Presidential directive, the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments issued a new package measures related to Cuba. Key changes include the ability to import Cuban pharmaceutical and biotechnological products to the U.S. Why maintain the restriction on creating joint ventures for the development and marketing of these products?
Since 2014, Cuba has possessed a novel medicine to treat diabetic foot ulcers, preventing the need for amputation. To date the therapy has benefited more than 230,000 patients worldwide, with over 21 registries and 30 patents. The ability to export Heberprot-P could benefit the 5% of U.S. citizens who develop DFUs annually. This would contribute to reducing the over 70,000 amputations performed on diabetic patients every year in the U.S.
Cuba has the first ever registered therapeutic vaccine to combat lung cancer. After 20 years of clinical trails, the safety and efficiency of the medicine has been proven, with positive reactions to treatment, increased survival rates, and improved quality of life for the patient.
Production costs are relatively low and the medicine produces no significant side effects. Over 5,000 patients have been treated with the vaccine worldwide. Lung cancer is the main cause of cancer related deaths in the United States.
8. Under the subheading Strategic Landscape, the directive notes that Cuba “Cuba has important economic potential rooted in the dynamism of its people, as well as a sustained commitment in areas like education and health care. Does Washington acknowledge that Cuba’s socio-economic model, based on the public control over the fundamental means of production, guarantees such achievements in two spheres strategic for the nation's future?
The Cuban national public health system includes 415 polyclinics; 10,782 community clinics; 151 hospitals; and 1,229 dentistry facilities, providing services completely free of charge - with one doctor for every 127 inhabitants;
one dentist for every 640 inhabitants; and one nurse for every 125 inhabitants. Public resources additionally include 12 research institutes; 707 medical libraries; 147 retirement homes; 49 geriatric service facilities; 265 Older Adults Centers; and 13 universities with 25 medical sciences departments.
Public spending on education has grown from 83.7 million pesos in 1959 to 8.2 billion today.
9. Why are U.S. companies still prohibited from investing in Cuba, with the exception of the telecommunications sector, approved by Obama in 2015?
Foreign investment in Cuba today in evident in many sectors. Of the total amount invested, the largest portion is in tourism (52%), followed by mining and energy at 11%. Other areas include construction; agriculture-sugar; transportation; and food processing.
International Economic Association contracts make up 50% of foreign investment; 45% of the total is invested in joint ventures; while 5% involves projects undertaken with 100% foreign capital.
10. After half a century of stalemate, indisputable advances in bilateral relations have been made over the last 22 months. Is President Barack Obama willing to continue using his executive prerogatives to make the policy change toward Cuba irreversible?
* Sources:2015 Portfolio of Foreign Investment Business Opportunities; 2016 report by Cuba on the blockade; Ministry of Labor, 2015 annual health statistics; Razones de Cuba; Cubaminrex