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      The Criminal U.S. Blockade on Cuba & How We Should Respond!

      By Tamara Hansen

      For over 55 years the United States government has upheld its policy of blockade against the people and government of Cuba. Many people in Canada and the U.S. have been led to believe that this out-dated U.S. policy would slowly dissolve after the formal re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba in 2015. However, this notion has been proven false time and time again.

      A recent egregious example was explained in a June 9, 2017 press release written by Cuba's Permanent Mission to the United Nations. It explains that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has charged the American Honda Finance Corporation with violating some aspects of the United States blockade on Cuba. Honda’s supposed crime? A Honda subsidiary company in Canada leased 13 cars to the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa between February 2011 and March 2014. OFAC is slapping a fine against Honda which amounts to $87,255. This example not only shows that the blockade is still in full force, but also how the blockade has an extra-territorial nature, as the business being conducted with Cuba was in Canada - which does not have a blockade on Cuba. However, OFAC has been able to reach across the border and obstruct the work of Cuban diplomats. This is also an intimidation tactic against businesses in Canada who may want to do business with both the United States and Cuba.

      The press release further explains that since the December 17, 2014 announcements by U.S. President Obama and Cuban President Castro, the United States government has fined 11 entities under the regulations of the blockade. Of those fines, seven were against American and four were against foreign companies. The penalties have reached a value of $2,842,429,064. Also important to note is that all but one of these were under the Obama administration, indeed the case against Honda is the first of its kind under U.S. President Trump.

      The international campaign to end the U.S. blockade on Cuba continues!

      The U.S. blockade against Cuba, has been in place since the early 1960s. The U.S. government claims these sanctions are meant to punish the revolutionary government of Cuba, not the Cuban people. However, history has shown that these sanctions are hurting all of Cuban society: cutting access to medicines, schools supplies, construction materials, and the list goes on. There is also growing evidence that the blockade hurts the United States: imposing travel restrictions, international legal/financial penalties on companies, the sale of Cuban medicines to the United States, etc.

      Since September 2015, the organization Friends of Cuba Against the U.S. Blockade – Vancouver (with the support of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba, as well as other groups and individuals) has been organizing monthly picket actions, on the 17th of each month, in front of the U.S. Consulate to demand an end to the unjust blockade on Cuba. These dynamic monthly actions against the U.S. blockade are also happening in two other cities in Canada: Ottawa and Montreal. However, as mentioned in the introduction, each month a passerby, or two, has asked the question ‘but isn’t the U.S. blockade on Cuba already over?’

      There are many reasons we have continued our monthly campaigning in Vancouver and across Canada to put an end to this unjust U.S. policy. First, we continue because the people of Cuba have continued fighting, they have no choice, despite the nice words and rhetoric from Washington, the blockade continues to impact their everyday lives. Secondly, we know our duty as Cuba solidarity organizers is to build up pressure on the U.S. government to uphold its promises and put an end to the criminal U.S. blockade on Cuba. Finally, the need to continue pushing against the U.S. blockade was reaffirmed on June 16, 2017 when U.S. President Donald Trump announced several plans to setback the recent gains made in terms of Cuba-U.S. relations.

      Trump’s June 16th declaration against Cuba

      On June 16, 2017, U.S. President Trump was in Miami, Florida where he met with many right-wing Cubans, some of which have been involved in illegal terrorist actions against Cuba. In fact, last October during the U.S. election campaign the Bay of Pigs Veteran’s association endorsed Trump for president. This is a group of veterans who illegally invaded Cuba with the support of the U.S. government in 1961. On June 16, Trump boasted, "now that I am your President, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime and stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. Because we know it is best for America to have freedom in our hemisphere, whether in Cuba or Venezuela, and to have a future where the people of each country can live out their own dreams." While ignoring U.S. hostility and crimes towards Cuba, Trump further declared that he was keeping his promises, stating, "effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba."

      Despite how it sounds from this quote, Trump did not completely “cancel” all of the gains made under the Obama presidency. Even the mainstream media had to point out that he is leaving a fair number of Obama’s policies in place including:

      - Maintaining formal diplomatic relations with Cuba.

      - Maintaining direct U.S.-Cuba commercial flights and cruise-ship travel.

      - Maintaining the amount of Cuba’s rum and cigars that individual Americans can bring home.

      So while it is an attack on Cuba, and Trump is tightening the U.S. blockade on Cuba, this is not a full cancellation of Obama’s policies towards Cuba, and much of Trump’s drastic language was for show.

      Cuba’s response to Trump

      Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Relations, called Trump’s announcement and choice of venue in Miami, "a grotesque Cold War-era spectacle, made before a small audience, composed of old henchmen and thieves of the Batista dictatorship, mercenaries from the Playa Girón brigade, terrorists, demagogues and lackeys.”

      Rodriguez further explained, "It will not be a Presidential Directive of the United States that will thwart the sovereign course of Cuba, as they have been unable to do in more than 50 yeas of aggression, state terrorism, blockade, media war, and subversion. We have been through it all, our people has already been through it all, and have run the risk. What could they threaten us with today that they haven’t already, and failed? [...] The changes that may be necessary in Cuba will be independently decided by the Cuban people: only by the Cuban people, as they have always done. We will not ask anyone else for their opinion or permission." This strong response to Trump’s declaration on June 16 send an important message to the world. Cuba will not forget the legacy of threats, intimidation and violence by the U.S. government towards Cuba. However, in maintaining their sovereignty and dignity they are also willing to come to the table with the U.S., which is in the interest of working people in both countries.

      What we need to do!

      While Trump stopped short of some of the worst measures he could have reinstated against Cuba, his interest in pleasing the right-wing criminal elements in Miami, rather than listening to the Cuban people, their sovereign government and the world community is dangerous. We cannot be complacent and hope that the blockade on Cuba will just be swept, on its own, into the dustbin of history.

      We need to continue coming together on the 17th of each month in front of the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, as well as in cities across Canada and around the world. We need to create petitions, postcards, t-shirts, and other materials to raise awareness about this unjust U.S. policy. We need to come together on the streets, on social media and in other ways to raise our united voices in solidarity with the people of Cuba against the unjust and criminal U.S. blockade.

      ¡Cuba Sí! ¡Bloqueo No!
      Lift the Blockade on Cuba NOW!

      Follow Tamara Hansen on Twitter: @THans01

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