At a news conference in Havana Sept. 27, Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez introduced a 63-page report his country is submitting to the UN General Assembly on the U.S. blockade of Cuba.

For the 14th consecutive year, the General Assembly next month will vote on a Cuban resolution for an end to the blockade. Last year, 179 nations voted in support of Cuba.

The blockade is old news. The Cuban report, however, is significant because it shows how the blockade works and catalogues last year’s additions to the record of suffering and monetary loss accumulated over four decades. The document goes back to the basics: the U.S. government is shown as reducing people in Cuba to the role of tools in an imperial project.

The report cites an April 6, 1960, memo of Lester D. Mallory, assistant secretary of state for Latin American, in which he prescribes a cure for the Cuban Revolution, then one year old. “There is no effective political opposition,” he noted, “The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship … to deny Cuba money and supplies, to diminish [personal] income so as to cause hunger, desperation and the collapse of the government.”

At the time, the United States supplied Cuba with 70 percent of its imports and purchased 69 percent of the nation’s exports. Cuban treasury reserves had dropped from $509 million in 1955 to $7 million in 1959.

Along the way, the U.S. government tightened the screws. With the fall of the Soviet bloc, Cuba lost 85 percent of its foreign trade. The U.S. Torricelli Act of 1992 prohibited foreign companies with minimal connections to U.S. corporations from selling to Cuba. The year before, those foreign affiliates of U.S. companies had sold $718 million worth of goods to Cuba, 91 percent of them food and medical supplies. The law also kept ships out of U.S. ports for six months after docking in Cuba.

By 1994, the average caloric intake for adults had fallen from 2,400 per day to 1,500, and patients in hospitals were dying because of Cuba’s lack of crucial medicines.

The global spread of transnational corporations, almost half of them based in the United States, has broadened the impact of the 1992 law. The United States accounts for 22 percent of the world’s imports and 25 percent of all overseas investment. U.S. hands have touched many of the essential goods and services Cuba needs from abroad.

The report cites the Helms-Burton Law (1996) as another step toward internationalizing the blockade. That legislation allows Washington to threaten legal action in U.S. courts against officers of foreign companies who are bold enough to persist in trading with Cuba.

In 2004, Washington forced over 100 foreign companies to stop trading with Cuba. The result is that people in Cuba go without and Cuban importers buy goods through foreign intermediaries at markedly inflated prices.

The U.S. government last year fined 77 foreign companies a total of $1,262,000. Cuba estimates that over 43 years the blockade has caused an average annual loss of $1.8 billion — $82 billion in all. If the blockade did not exist, Cuba last year would have saved $822,600,000 in its imports.

The report describes U.S. policies that lead directly to shortages and hardship, although Cuba’s enemies are pleased to attribute these to governmental shortcomings. Cuba’s political leadership, however, has been able to advance social justice in the island, develop a Cuban form of socialism, and defend national independence in spite of a U.S.-imposed state of siege.

This report to the UN General Assembly cites long available documentation that the U.S. government, persisting with its Cuba blockade, has violated international law. According to international lawyers, the blockade is an act of war. The report holds that the blockade is the longest in human history and fulfills legal criteria for genocide.

The counter-revolutionary blockade of Cuba, as with war in Iraq and chaos in Haiti, victimizes masses of people for imperial ends. The short shrift given to human needs by U.S. policymakers is of a piece with easy tolerance of death from AIDS in Africa, and from drowning and neglect in New Orleans.

Antiwar activists might recall that U.S. lawlessness and cruelty toward Iraq today has been on display in regard to Cuba for over four decades. “Hands off Cuba” and “U.S. out of Iraq” are the same struggle. We fight in unity for human survival and oppose empire and bullying in all their manifestations.

W.T. Whitney Jr. lives in Maine and is a member of Let Cuba Live.

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