Every month – across Canada in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal, as well as around the world in New York and Kiev, Ukraine – Cuba solidarity activists, organizers, and supporters are demanding an end to the cruel and unjust U.S. blockade on Cuba. In Vancouver, Friends Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver (FCAB-Vancouver), with the support of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) join in front of the U.S. consulate to hear speakers, to picket, and to engage with passersby.
At least once a month, someone passing by will ask, “End the U.S. blockade on Cuba?! … But didn’t President Obama do that?!”
The short answer is no.
The fact that the blockade continues full force against the Cuban people is recognized in an annual vote at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). For the past 27 years in a row, the United States government has been summarily condemned by the International community when it votes alongside Cuba in favour of the UNGA resolution on “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
On October 31, 2018, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tweeted, "RT @USUN: Every year Cuba puts forth a resolution that blames Cuba’s poverty, repression, and lack of freedom on the United States. Tomorrow the UN will hear what we have to say about that and countries will have to vote between Cuba or the US. Who will vote with us?" With her tweet on October 31, the day before the annual vote, it seemed Ambassador Haley was preparing to lose yet again at the United Nations General Assembly.
Also contradictory in Ambassador Haley's tweet – if the Cuban government is exaggerating the challenges they face due to the blockade (as she claims) why not end the blockade tomorrow?
On November 1, 2018, the world answered Nikki Haley’s question, “Who will vote with us?" when 189 countries voted against the U.S. government and in favour of Cuba’s resolution to end the blockade. Who voted with Nikki Haley? Only the government of Israel – securing another landslide victory for the Cuban government and Cuban people!
A Brief History of the U.S. Blockade on Cuba
After the triumph of the Cuban revolution on January 1, 1959, the U.S. government imposed a series of sanctions on Cuba. A full trade embargo (or blockade) was announced by Democratic President John F. Kennedy on February 3, and formally established on February 7, 1962. The U.S. government claims these sanctions are meant to punish the revolutionary government of Cuba, not the Cuban people. However, over 55 years under this unjust and cruel U.S. policy has demonstrated that these sanctions are hurting all sectors of Cuban society: cutting access to medicines, school supplies, construction materials, and the list goes on. There is also strong evidence that the blockade hurts people living in the United States: imposing travel restrictions, international legal/financial penalties on U.S. companies, the sale of Cuban medicines to the United States, etc.
Of course, the blockade is only one element in the U.S. government’s campaign against Cuba and its revolutionary people and government.
First, the U.S. military has continually occupied the sovereign Cuban territory of Guantanamo Bay with their criminal naval base since 1903. Within this U.S. naval base is their infamous torture prison camp opened during the U.S. government’s so-called “war on terror” in 2002. According to CNN, the U.S. Defense Department spent approximately $445 million to run the Guantanamo base in 2015. According to a May 2018 U.S. Department of Defence press release, 40 detainees from the war on terror remain at the Guantanamo base. Due to this expensive and illegal U.S. naval base and prison camp, the name “Guantanamo” remains synonymous worldwide with illegal detentions, hunger strikes, force-feeding by tubes, water-boarding, torture, violations of human rights, lack of access to due legal process, and the hypocrisy of the U.S. "war on terror". The territory on which the Guantanamo naval base sits, clearly belongs to the island of Cuba- so why does the U.S. government continue to occupy it illegally? Would the U.S. allow the Cuban government to have a Cuban military base in Florida or somewhere else in the United States?
Secondly, the U.S. government also invests millions of dollars every year into destabilizing regime-change campaigns in Cuba – what the U.S. government officially refers to as “democracy-building” projects. American taxpayers help the U.S. government finance these made-in-America propaganda campaigns with so-called news outlets like “Radio Marti” and “TV Marti,” as well as other bogus programs run by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
President Trump & the U.S. Blockade on Cuba
The need to continue pushing against the U.S. blockade and other U.S. aggression against Cuba has been clear due to the Trump Administration’s numerous attacks on Cuba. Most recently, the Trump administration organized a publicity stunt at the United Nations just weeks ahead on the annual vote on the blockade.
On October 16, U.S. government officials used the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council chamber to host a forum titled, “Jailed for What? The plight of Cuba’s political prisoners.” According to the Digital Journal, "Cuba had formally protested the meeting, sending a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting that the event is cancelled because it was in violation of UN rules about the use of its premises. UN rules are vague and specify only that meetings and events held on UN premises must be "consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations" and be non-commercial."
Cuban and Bolivian delegates attended the meeting and banged desks loudly as U.S. Ambassador Kelley Currie (an alternate representative to the UNGA) attempted to give her opening remarks to the event. Throughout the event, Cubans and Bolivians peacefully shouted “Cuba Si! Bloqueo No!” (Cuba Yes! Blockade No!) and sang Cuba’s national anthem in protest of the event.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley wrote a ludicrous letter of protest to the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres after the event which was published by Fox News. She explains that the U.S. government event about Cuba was disrupted by what she deems a "mob scene," however she acknowledges that Cuban and Bolivian representatives banged desks loudly to disrupt their event. Haley also claims that there was so much damage done (to the desks) that the U.S. was asked to pay for repairs – of course, she produces no evidence of this – then claiming she was later told it would come out of the U.N. budget. Ambassador Haley further reminds Secretary General Guterres, "The United States pays 22% of the regular UN budget. That means the U.S. would pay 22% of this cost. That is completely unacceptable." Holding U.S. funding of the U.N. over Guterres’ head demonstrates that the U.S. believes that its financial contributions to the United Nations give it special privileges and rights to throw their weight around. This is a favourite tactic of the Trump administration in many of the international institutions in which the U.S. government participates. Fox News published two photos for the hilarious "evidence" against the Cuban and Bolivian delegates, two slightly blurry pictures of slightly scratched desktops, with minor damage which could obviously have happened at any time from regular use.
In an article for Granma International News, Cuban journalist Daina Caballero Trujillo explained Cuba’s perspective on the U.S. organized event. She writes, "What the United States attempted appeared almost a comedy. How dare the U.S. government speak of human rights violations when it commits torture in jails like those in Iraq or Guantánamo? When it forcefully separates children from their immigrant parents; when it encourages the use of guns, which have taken the lives of many adolescents in its own schools. Washington is running out of pretexts, and what happened October 16 in the UN was a sign of its desperation, its lack of arguments. The U.S. knows that the biggest and most flagrant violation of human rights is the blockade, which it imposes on Cubans. It should not attempt to divert attention, to go from the accused to the accuser. It has not managed to defeat Cuba with the blockade, nor with its threats, lies, or defamatory campaigns."
The World Stands United Against the U.S. Blockade on Cuba
Despite the U.S. government’s best efforts: from Ambassador Haley’s tweets to Ambassador Kelley Currie’s speech, to over 55 years of blockade on Cuba – the Trump administration and previous U.S. administrations have all failed to turn the tide at the United Nations General Assembly against the Cuban government and Cuban people.
For the 27th year in a row, the world community stood together to condemn the United States' unjust and cruel blockade on the people of Cuba, with 189 voting in favour of ending the U.S. blockade on Cuba. Once again in voting against the resolution to end the blockade, the United States and Israel stood on the wrong side of history. The world continues to stand united echoing Cuba’s demand, “¡Cuba Si! ¡Bloqueo No!”
Follow Tamara on Twitter:@THans01
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