The Blockade of Cuba: Hopefully the American People Will Wake Up

By José Pertierra on February 3, 2022

José Pertierra, photo: Bill Hackwell

President Kennedy was a fan of Cuban cigars, specifically H. Upmanns. One afternoon in early February 1962, he commissioned his assistant Pierre Salinger to buy 1,200 cigars. The next day, at 8 a.m., Kennedy had that treasure in his hands. At that moment he took out his pen and signed the first version of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

The blockade has evolved during these 60 years; the Torricelli Act of 1992 internationalized it. It gave Washington the supposedly legal power to sanction subsidiaries of U.S. companies based in other countries if they trade with Cuba. Subsequently, the Helms-Burton Act reinforced that extraterritoriality and also codified the blockade.

The purpose of the Helms-Burton Act is to try to discourage foreign investment in Cuba and to allow companies that have economic relations with properties that were nationalized by Cuba to be sued in U.S. courts.  The purpose of the blockade has always been to overthrow the Cuban revolutionary government (by force or starvation), to impose a transitional government on Cuba and to turn the island into a colony of the United States.

The blockade and its regulations violate the rights of Americans themselves, who are forbidden by Washington to travel or trade with Cuba.  It also violates international law and the right of all Cubans, whom Washington tries to suffocate with sanctions.

Specifically, the blockade is in violation of the Geneva Accords of 1948 against genocide and other fundamental resolutions and legal instruments of international law. In other words, the blockade is illegal and immoral. The United States knows this and so does the world.

That is why, every year, the world votes almost unanimously at the UN condemning and demanding an end to the blockade.  Anyone who studies the relationship between the United States and Cuba realizes that the blockade is the product of the policy of domination that Washington has always wanted to exercise over the island.

To paraphrase José Martí, “I live in the monster and I know its entrails”. I know very well that the government of the United States does not tolerate Cuba as a sovereign and independent country.

For the past 25 years Washington has budgeted more than $25 million a year to try to destabilize the Cuban government and impose a neo-colonial one that favors U.S. interests.  That’s at least $625 million, not counting additional millions for covert projects. Despite this multi-billion dollar budget, some still dare to say that Cuba is not one of Washington’s priority!

The president could direct those dollars to, for example, scientific and medical collaboration between Cuba and the U.S. to combat the COVID pandemic. But, no. They prefer to use the funds to suffocate Cubans and not to save lives.

But the blockade is not the only illegality that the US exercises against Cuba. We have a US military base in Cuban territory, where the US tortures prisoners, who are held in jail without due process of law and without hope of trial. It considers them prisoners of war, despite the fact that the war has ended and it has the obligation to release them. It labels them as criminals, but presents no evidence to prosecute them. Guantanamo is another example of the U.S. ignoring international law.

Obama said the “embargo” is “outdated and should be lifted.” But the world knows that the embargo is illegal and Washington should never have imposed it on Cuba.

Hopefully the American people will wake up. They deserve a government that does not torture its prisoners, that respects due process of law, and the right of all to live in peace. In the meantime, I am confident that Cuba will continue to resist with dignity, producing its own Covid vaccines and guaranteeing its citizens a free education. And, as President Kennedy well knew, its cigars are still the best in the world.

Source: Cubadebate, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English