On March 12, 1996, the Congress of the United States of America approved one of the most regressive and draconian imperialist foreign policy initiatives, ironically named the Solidarity Act of Freedom and Democracy for Cuba (LIBERTAD), known as the Helms-Burton Act.
Before the triumph of Cuban guerrilla weapons over the armed forces of Fulgencio Batista’s tyranny, which had been imposed by Washington on Cuba, the United States exercised absolute control. The economy of the island was ultimately subordinated to the interests of U.S. companies involved in relations with the Cuban authorities and entities.
After the victory of the revolution in January 1959, the situation changed completely. Cubans became masters of their country and their economy. Nevertheless, Cuba could not conduct its normal foreign trade relations with the US because US hostility became present in economic relations.
However, before the 1990s, the blockade on trade with Cuba had not been legally established although it started working through so-called “executive orders”.
It was President Kennedy who officially initiated the blockade, euphemistically called the “embargo”, in 1962. He did this on the basis of [U.S. national] self-interest in response to the nationalization of US assets ordered by Cuba following the revolution’s coming to power.
Happily for Cuba, that moment arrived just at the moment when Moscow was in a position to become Cuba’s main trading partner in the New World. There were special incentives from its ideological affinity and a certain economic complementarity that the political alliance would bring about.
It is rightly said that the community’s approach and world public opinion have very little influence on the policy of the United States of America. This perception was fully confirmed by history during the second half of the 20th century.
Every year, Cubans, many Latin Americans and not a few Americans, humiliated by the shame of the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade that their country, the richest and most militarily powerful in the world, has been exercising against this small island. Cuba is a giant in terms of dignity,
The sole justification of Washington’s fear is that the example of Cuba’s successful resistance to unjust abuse will encourage other peoples and governments of the continent to defend their sovereignty, which cannot be renounced.
Once again this year, the most representative body of the international community debated and approved almost unanimously, in a plenary session of its General Assembly, the resolution “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba”.
A few minutes after the conclusion of this most recent session of the UN General Assembly, the whole of Cuba celebrated, as it does every year, “the new victory against imperialism” with as much joy as if it were the first time that it did so as an expression of its condemnation of the unjust blockade imposed on the Caribbean country.
This was the umpteenth time in as many consecutive years that the United Nations General Assembly approved the same resolution. It calls for the suspension of the longest blockade in human history. It has already caused the island more than $100 billion in losses. It could have served to bring Cuba out of underdevelopment through its own efforts, according to the original projects of the triumphant revolution in January 1959.
The Helms-Burton Act was not the only piece of explicitly anti-Cuban legislation circulating in Congress at the time. On February 9, 1995, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) introduced a bill with a diametrically opposed text, the Cuba Free Trade Act. It was aimed at eliminating the blockade and establishing a dialogue with Cuba. In doing so, Rangel sought to draft an agreement on the disposition of expropriated U.S. assets in Cuba.
Congress did not approve that law, opting for a hard-line stance against Cuba and avoiding constructive policies that would transform it.
December 27, 2019
A CubaNews translation by Walter Lippmann.
*Manuel E. Yepe, is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He was a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba’s ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.
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