The United Nations General Assembly considers every October since 1992 –or November, according to the agenda– a resolution presented by the Cuban delegation with the title Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba. For more than 20 years it has been approved, year by year, with the support of the vast majority of countries represented in this important international organization.
The resolution is a brief draft, where the title expresses the most important idea. In the text can be read: [The General Assembly] «Reiterates its call upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures of the kind» of «unilateral application of economic and trade measures by one State against another that affect the free flow of international trade».
The session where this resolution is considered has a special connotation in the United Nation’s system: it is one of the very few moments when the General Assembly room is full of delegations and one of the very few moments when most delegations can accuse the United States for its foreign policy. At the same time, it is also one of the very few moments when the US delegation feels more isolated in the United Nations, with a speech that is rejected by almost everyone.
The last opportunity, on 13 November 2012, the resolution was approved by 188 nations; only 3 countries voted in favor (USA, Israel and Palau) and 2 abstained (Marshall Islands and Micronesia). At the end of the voting process, there is a very long line in front of the Cuba chair, to congratulate the highest representative of the island for its victory. But it is not the Security Council: the General Assembly resolutions are not mandatory; they only express a political will.
This political conflict began much earlier, when President Kennedy signed on 7 February 1962 the regulations of the embargo policy towards Cuba, as a continuity of pressures against the Cuban government to destroy its revolutionary process. Many people believe it was a result of Soviet support and Cuban declaration of a “Socialist revolution”, but the reality is that this declaration happened on 17 April 1961 and the United States was using economic pressures even before: limiting the “sugar quota” in 1960 –from which Cuba was totally dependent– until its elimination on 31 March 1961 and reducing all ties with Cuba, until braking diplomatic relations on 3 January 1961.
The objectives of the embargo policy are clear in a 1960 State Department memorandum on this regard: «Most Cubans support Castro. There's no effective political opposition (...) the only foreseeable means to alienate internal support is by creating disillusionment and discouragement based on lack of satisfaction and economical difficulties. We should immediately use any possible measure to cause hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the Government».
As a result, in this more than 50 years there hasn’t been normal trade or tourism between the two countries, the prohibition for Cuba to use US dollars in any international transaction has caused several damages to the Cuban economy, the same as –among others– the prohibition to import any product that contains at least 10% of American components and vice versa, that has created great problems for the Cuban foreign trade.
The strengthening of this policy, with the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 –known as Torricelly Act– and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 –Helms-Burton Act–, leaded to bigger problems as they contained the prohibition to any American subsidiary all over the world to trade or invest in Cuba, the prohibition to any ship entering to Cuba to stop in any American harbor 6 months before or after it, the extraterritoriality of the embargo and its codification.
Because of this codification, included in Section 102 Title I of the Helms-Burton Act, the US administrations have lost their possibility to change any regulation of the embargo. As it became American law, it only can be changed by the Congress, where they have some congressmen –basically of Cuban origin, who respond to the rich extremists Cuban-Americans based in Miami– whose main political agenda is not to change it and to jeopardize as much as possible the relationship between the two countries.
Those people claim that Cuba needs the embargo because it helps to justify its failure. It is true that sometimes it’s been used by some cunning managers to hide their inefficiencies… but nothing better to go against this excuse than lifting it, as soon as possible. The best demonstration that the Cuban government fights hardly against the embargo is the 22 resolutions approved by the UN General Assembly, with the great support of the international community.
What is a reality is that this policy has caused to the Cuban economy the waste of more than 900 billion US dollars in these 50 years and its consequences are faced by normal Cuban people in their daily life: there are huge problems to receive advanced medicines for patients in their universal and free health care system, Cubans create all kind of parts and pieces to repair equipments, work strongly to find funds to restore buildings, have developed an incredible ability to avoid the US restrictions to find markets for their products... and a long etcetera.
But limitations go beyond their borders and many Cubans traveling and living abroad have felt its consequences, as well as foreign companies and persons trying to do business with Cuba; such as the difficulties applied by Austrian BAWAG Bank in 2007 to Cubans living there and having a bank account with them, or the 619 million fine imposed to the Dutch ING Bank by the US Treasury Department in 2012.
Even the American economy is affected by this policy, not only because of the people who want to travel to Cuba and those who would love to have normal ties for their businesses, only 90 miles away: according to the US Chamber of Commerce the American government wastes 1.2 to 3.6 billion dollars per year to implement the embargo.
Too much money and pain –at both sides– for too long because of a policy that has demonstrated to be obsessive, obsolete and a failure, taking into account its original purposes.
More than 50 years later, it hasn’t had important effects on the social support of the Cuban government, even when it has been accompanied by armed threats, terrorist actions, manipulation of information and propaganda campaign, organization and support of fabricated groups to destabilize the country.
It is time to #StopUSembargovsCuba