Last year, 185 nations backed the 17th annual version of the resolution. The United States, Israel and Palau voted no.

Two days before, the U.S. government announced that “national interests” mandate the blockade’s continuation. In an annual ritual serving that end, Barack Obama joined previous presidents in issuing an approval required under the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act. He met a Sept. 15 deadline.

That law stipulates two conditions for embargo: one, military engagement; the other, “national emergency.” Necessarily, Obama opted for the latter, in effect validating an emergency lasting 47 years. Presidential action was symbolic. Under the 1996 Helms Burton Act, Congress assumed responsibility for changing blockade rules.

At his press conference, Foreign Minister Rodriguez credited Obama for rhetoric “less aggressive” than his predecessor’s and for advancing specific measures, particularly reversal of Bush rules restricting Cuban-American travel to Cuba and provision of financial support for family members there. “The new President,” he said, “has shown himself to be a well-intentioned, intelligent man and a modern politician.” But “he was elected on the basis of change and there is no change in the blockade against Cuba.”

For journalists, Rodriguez summarized the report to the General Assembly, available at cubavsbloqueo.cu/Informe2009/index/html. He highlighted U.S. isolation on Cuba as unprecedented.

Rodriguez underscored the “political crime” of genocide, citing standards established by the Geneva conventions. He referred to the famous 1960 State Department internal memorandum establishing U.S. objectives as “causing hunger, suffering, and desperation in the Cuban people.”

The report castigates the blockade as “ethically unacceptable,” a violation of the UN Charter and “norms of international commerce,” and a “transgression of rights to peace, development and security of a sovereign state.” According to the Foreign Minister, the blockade represents both a “massive, flagrant, and systematic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people” and “the main obstacle for our social and economic development.” The report indicates that blockade-caused losses to Cuba in terms of current dollar valuation amount now to $236 billion.

Rodriguez detailed “extraterritorial’ operation of U.S. laws putting off limits life-saving medical equipment and medications made in third countries. Still in effect are strictures against foreign products containing over 10 percent U.S. materials or helped along by U.S. financing, rules against foreign banks using U.S. dollars in commerce with Cuba, and prohibition against ships entering U.S. ports for six months after stopping in Cuba.

Referring only to examples from 2009, Rodriguez catalogued instances of abuse, among them childhood cancer drugs blocked, instruments used in cardiac surgery unavailable, telecommunications replacement parts denied, and a $5.75 million fine leveled against the Australia and New Zealand Bank group.

Focusing on damage to U.S. national interests, he mentioned U. S. unwillingness to benefit from Cuban medical discoveries and denial of travel rights for citizens unable to learn “first hand about the Cuban reality.” “Is Cuba the “forbidden fruit?” he asked.

Yet the pot is stirring. In his inaugural speech as new president of the UN General Assembly, Ali Abdussalem Treki registered condemnation. In September, the AFL-CIO meeting in convention resolved that “the AFL-CIO calls upon Congress to initiate legislation that would repeal the economic embargo against the Republic of Cuba and broaden diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.”

 

Since returning from Cuba a month ago, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has outlined possible steps to modify U.S. policies through presidential executive orders. “Let anybody go to Cuba,” he tells audiences. So far, 161 Members of Congress have signed onto the Freedom to Travel to Cuba bill, H.R. 874, and 33 Senators are cosponsoring its equivalent in that chamber, S. 428.

Bruno Rodriguez commented on the then-upcoming Peace without Borders concert organized for Havana on Sept. 20 by Latin music superstar Juanes. The event, he said, “is a reflection of international public opinion that is calling for a change in relations between the United States and Cuba.”

atwhit@roadrunner.com

 


CONTRIBUTOR

W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont and now lives in rural Maine. He practiced and taught pediatrics for 35 years and long ago joined the Cuba solidarity movement, working with Let Cuba Live of Maine, Pastors for Peace, and the Venceremos Brigade. He writes on Latin America and health issues for the People's World.

 

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