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Cuba, die wohl wichtigste Entscheidung von Obama

Dezember 29, 2014 1 Kommentar

Cuba: Barack Obama, while repairing an anomaly from another time, has probably made the most emblematic decision of his presidency

 

Salim Lamrani

Opera Mundi

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/salim-lamrani/cuba-barack-obama-while-r_b_6379450.html

 

With the respective release of the American Alan Gross and three Cubans, Havana and Washington have opened a new era of rapprochement.

 

More than half a century after January 3, 1961, when diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States were ruptured, the two governments have announced a process of normalization of bilateral relations. Both Havana and Washington have responded positively to a request from Pope Francis, who urged them to set aside their differences, differences that date from another period, and to restore the links between the US and the Cuban peoples. Contacts between the two sides were facilitated by the Vatican and Canada, both of which offered the two delegations the discretion necessary for a dialog that lasted nearly a year and a half.

 

Exchange of prisoners

 

After months of secret negotiations, Cuba and the United States reached a historic prisoner exchange agreement that opens the door to the full normalization of relations between the two nations. Havana decided to release Alan Gross, a US agent imprisoned since December 2009. For providing material support to various sectors of the Cuban opposition as part of a State Department program intended to bring about regime change on the island, Gross had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Cuba also released another US agent, Rolando Trujillo Sarraff, who had been incarcerated for almost twenty years, as well as some fifty other prisoners.

 

For its part, Washington released three Cuban agents, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Gerardo Hernández. Since 1998, the three had been serving sentences that ranged up to life in prison for having infiltrated small groups of Cuban exiles involved in terrorist attacks against Cuba. The details of this exchange were finalized on December 16, 2014, in a historic 45 minute telephone call between the Cuban and the US presidents, the first such official contact since 1959. With their respective gestures, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama have lifted the main obstacles to the establishment of peaceful relations between the two countries. [1]

 

The end of an outdated and counterproductive policy

 

On December 17, 2014, during a televised speech, President Obama informed the United States and world public opinion of his decision to restore diplomatic relations with Havana, „Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. [This is] the most significant change in our politics for more than 50 years [2].“

 

The US president made a clear statement about US foreign policy. By continuing to apply cruel and anachronistic measures which date back to the Cold War, measures that affect the most vulnerable sectors of the Cuban population and which, moreover, are counterproductive since the goal of overthrowing the Cuban government has not been achieved, Washington has been unanimously condemned by the international community. „We will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests. We will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,“ said Barack Obama.

 

The United States hostility vis-à-vis Cuba has completely isolated it on the international stage. At the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in October, 2014, for the 23rd consecutive year, 188 countries voted against the sanctions the US imposes on the Cuban population. Similarly, the United States is the only country in the Americas that does not have normal diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. Latin America, very sensitive to the Cuban question, also expressed its desire to invite the island nation to the next Summit of the Americas meeting in April 2015 in Panama, even threatening to boycott the meeting if Havana is once again excluded.

 

Obama reiterated this fact: „…no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions [and] neither the American nor the Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born. […] So I decided to put the interests of our two peoples at the heart of our policy. […] After all, the last 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It is time for a new approach.“

 

According to the White House, „US policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from its regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba [3].“ John Kerry, Secretary of State, shared this view saying that „not only has this policy failed […] it has actually isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba“ [4].

 

Restoration of dialogue and easing of economic sanctions

 

Washington has decided to restore the diplomatic relations with Cuba it had unilaterally broken off in 1961. Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, will visit the Cuban capital in January 2015 to formalize the opening of an American embassy. Both nations have expressed their willingness to cooperate on issues such as health, immigration, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking as well as the establishment of a common response to natural disasters. [5] „I look forward to being the first secretary of state in 60 years to visit Cuba,“ Kerry said in a prepared statement. [6]

 

Washington also decided to review its list of the countries it considers to be supporters of international terrorism. Cuba has been included on this list since 1982. In so doing, Obama is responding to the demand of the international community and several American congressmen who consider this inclusion arbitrary at the very moment when Havana’s mediation of the peace process in Colombia is being hailed around the world.

 

The White House has also decided to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba by US citizens. Although ordinary tourist visits remain banned, cultural, religious, academic, scientific, sports and health professionals as well as humanitarian groups will receive favored treatment. Furthermore, Americans will now be able to use their credit cards in Cuba.

 

Additionally, limits on remittances from US citizens to Cuba will increase from 500 to 2000 dollars per quarter and US citizens will be allowed to import goods from Cuba in the amount of 400 dollars. Commercially, the range of exportable products – currently limited to basic food commodities – will be extended to other sectors such as construction equipment, agricultural equipment and telecommunications. In so doing, Washington is responding to a request from US business interests that wish to invest in a natural market that is barely 150 kilometers off the Florida coast.

 

Financial transactions in dollars will be facilitated and US institutions will be permitted to establish relations with Cuba. US entities located abroad may also establish commercial links with the island and conduct financial transactions in dollars. Similarly, the section of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which imposes a six-month ban on entry into US territorial waters by any foreign ship traveling to or from Cuba will be removed, if the trade carried out with the island is of a humanitarian nature.

 

President Obama also called on US lawmakers to adopt the necessary measures for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since 1996, only Congress has the power to put an end to the state of siege imposed on Cuba.

 

Reaction of Havana and the international community

 

Cuban President Raúl Castro welcomed the restoration of bilateral relations with the United States, recalling that Cuba had always affirmed its willingness to resolve disputes amicably. „Since my election, I have repeatedly expressed our willingness to support a respectful dialogue, based on sovereign equality with the government of the United States in order to address a wide variety of topics of mutual interest, without prejudice to the national sovereignty and self-determination of our people,“ he said. He also took the opportunity to welcome the decision of President Obama, a decision that „deserves respect and recognition.“ Nevertheless, he recalled that economic sanctions, „causing enormous human damage,“ should be lifted. „We must learn the art of living together with our differences in a civilized manner,“ said President Raúl Castro. [7]

 

The international community has welcomed this historic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, an accord that puts an end to more than half a century of conflict. The Vatican expressed its „great satisfaction“. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, congratulated both parties and expressed his willingness „to help both countries to develop good neighborly relations“ [8].

 

Latin America has unanimously welcomed this historic moment. Mercosur, through the voice of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, congratulated Washington and Havana for this „fantastic“ news [9]. José Mujica, President of Uruguay, expressed his excitement: „At the Latin American level, this resembles the fall of the Berlin Wall, but from the other side. Throughout the history of mankind, commercial blockades have served only to hurt people but have never resolved anything“[10]. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina, paid tribute to „the Cuban people and its government for initiating a process of normalization of relations with the United States with absolute dignity and on an equal footing.“ Meanwhile, Nicolás Maduro, Venezuelan President stressed the „courage“ of Barack Obama. [11]

 

The Organization of American States also expressed to Washington and Havana its satisfaction „for taking this historic step, so necessary and courageous, to restore relationships broken off in 1961“. José Miguel Insulza, secretary general, said that „the measures announced today open a path toward normalization and there will be no turning back.“ He urged the US Congress to adopt the legislation necessary to permanently lift the economic sanctions. [12]

 

By responding to the call of the international community and public opinion in his own country to restore relations with Cuba, President Obama has probably made the most emblematic decision of his two presidential terms and repaired a fault that dates from another time. History will remember him not only as the first black person to reach the highest office in his land, but also as the one who accepted the olive branch proffered by Cuba, an action that paves the way for the establishment of constructive bilateral relations. It is now time for the United States to put an end to an economic siege imposed since 1960, to allow Americans tourists to discover the island, and to accept the reality of a different Cuba – with its virtues and faults – but independent and free to choose its own social model.

 

 

Translated from the French by Larry R. Oberg.

Original source:

http://operamundi.uol.com.br/conteudo/babel/38901/cuba+barack+obama+a+sans+doute+pris+la+decision+la+plus+emblematique+de+ses+deux+mandats+et+a+repare+une+anomalie+dun+autre+temps.shtml

 

“The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country”

1 Votes
“The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country”
By Cuba Si France
            CSF: You’ve just published a new book under the title État de siège? What exactly do you cover in it?
            SL: As the book’s subtitle suggests, it covers the unilateral economic sanctions that the United States first imposed upon Cuba at the height of the Cold War. The goal of these sanctions has been the overthrow of the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, the social and economic reforms of which did not sit well with the Eisenhower administration of the period. More than a half century later the Soviet Union has disappeared and the Cold War is only a fading memory, still the United States persists in maintaining an economic state of siege that is suffocating for all levels of the Cuban population, although it  primarily effects the most vulnerable sectors: women, the elderly and children.
It is important to note that the diplomatic rhetoric used by the United States to justify its hostility towards Cuba has changed from period to period. Early on, it focused on nationalizations and their compensation. Later, Washington invoked the alliance with the  Soviet Union as the principal obstacle to the normalization of relations between the two countries. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, it cited Cuban intervention in Africa–more precisely in Angola and Namibia. Those interventions, designed to aid the national liberation movements fighting to obtain independence and to support of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, were cited as justification for the maintenance of economic sanctions. Finally, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Washington brandished democracy and human rights as an argument for maintaining its stranglehold on the Cuban nation.
            CSF: What exactly is the impact of these sanctions on the Cuban population?
            SL: The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country and all sectors of the society are affected by it. It is important to note that the United States, for evident historical and geographic reasons, has always been Cuba’s natural market. The distance separating the two countries is less than 150 km. In 1959, 73% of all Cuban exports were destined for the U.S. market and 70% of its imports came from the States. There was, therefore, a significant dependance upon Cuba’s northern neighbor. Between 1960 and 1991, relations with the USSR had softened the sanctions, but this is no longer the case.
Thus practically, Cuba is unable to sell anything to the United States, which remains the world’s primary market. Nor can it buy anything from it other than, and since 2000 only, a few primary agricultural products that it is forced to purchase under severe restrictions, for example, Cuba is required to pay in advance in a currency other than the U.S. dollar–something that forces Cuba to shoulder the additional costs engendered by the exchange rates–all of this without the possibility of contracting a loan. This limits enormously the island’s commercial possibilities, forcing it to pay a much higher price to a third country.
            CSF: You also emphasize the effects of the extraterritorial economic sanctions.
            SL: Indeed, since 1992 and the adoption of the Torricelli Act, these sanctions apply equally to third countries that might wish to trade with Cuba. This constitutes a serious violation of international law which prohibits any national legislation from being extraterritorial, that is to say, from being applied outside of national boundaries. For example, French law cannot be applied in Spain and Italian law cannot be applied in France. Nonetheless, United States economic sanctions remain applicable to all countries that trade with Cuba.
Thus, any foreign ship that docks in a Cuban port finds itself forbidden to enter U.S. ports for a period of six months. Cuba, being an island, is heavily dependent upon maritime transport. Of the commercial fleets that operate in the Florida Straits, most conduct the bulk of their activities with a clear understanding of the importance of this market and do not run the risk of transporting merchandise to Cuba. When they do, however, they demand a higher tariff than that applied to neighboring countries, such as Haiti or the Dominican Republic, this in order to make up for the shortfall that results from being banned from U.S. ports for having done so. Therefore, if the standard price for transporting merchandise to the Dominican Republic is 100, this figure that can rise to 600 or 700 for Cuba.
            CSF: You also comment on the retroactive nature of the economic sanctions.
            SL: Since the adoption of the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, all foreign enterprises that wish to invest in Cuban property that had been nationalized in 1959, risk prosecution in the United States and seeing its U.S. investments frozen. This law is a judicial aberration because it is both extraterritorial and retroactive–in other words, it applies to events that occurred before the law was adopted, something that is contrary to international law. Take the case of the anti-tobacco law in France. This law was promulgated on January 1, 2008. But if you smoked in a restaurant on December 31, 2007, you would not be prosecuted, because the law cannot be applied retroactively. The Helms-Burton Act applies to events that occurred during the 1960s, something that is clearly illegal.
            CSF: The United States maintains that the economic sanctions are a simple bilateral question that does not concern the rest of the world.
            SL: The example that I have already cited demonstrate the exact opposite. I’ll give you another. In order to sell on the U.S. market, a German, Korean, or Japanese automobile manufacturer–in reality the nationality matters little–is obliged to demonstrate to the U.S. Treasury Department that its products do not contain a single gram of Cuban nickel. It is the same for all of the agribusiness enterprises that wish to invest in the U.S. market. Danone, for example, must demonstrate that its products contain absolutely no Cuban raw materials. Cuba cannot sell its natural resources and its products to the United States, but in these exact cases, neither can it sell them to Germany, Korea or Japan. These measures deprive the Cuban economy of much needed capital and Cuban exports of many markets around the world.
            CSF: The economic sanctions have also had an impact on healthcare.
            SL: Indeed, nearly 80% of all patents applied for in the medical sector belong to U.S. based multinational pharmaceutical companies and their subsidiaries, which puts them in the position of being a quasi-monopoly. It should be noted that international humanitarian law forbids all restrictions on the freedom of movement of foodstuffs and medicines, even during wartime. And officially, the United States is not at war with Cuba.
Here is a clear example: Cuban children could benefit from the Amplatzer septal occluder, a cardiac plug manufactured in the United States, that allows one to bypass open heart surgery. Dozens of children are waiting for this operation. In 2010 alone, four were added to this list: Maria Fernanda Vidal, five years old; Cyntia Soto Aponte, three years old; Mayuli Pérez Ulboa, eight years old, and Lianet D. Alvarez, five years old.
Are these children responsible for the differences that exist between Havana and Washington? No! But they are paying the price.
            CSF: In your book, you also talk about the irrational nature of certain restrictions.
            SL: Indeed, it should be noted that since 2004 and the strict application of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) rules, any American tourist that smoked a Cuban cigar or consumed a glass of Havana Club rum during a trip abroad risks a fine of a million dollars and ten in years in prison. Another example: a Cuban living in France theoretically cannot eat a hamburger at a McDonald’s. Of course, these measures are irrational because they are unenforceable. The United States does not have the material and human resources to put a U.S. agent on the trail of each tourist. Nonetheless, it illustrates the United States’ obsessive desire to economically strangle the Cubans.
            CSF: Your book contains a prolog by Wayne S. Smith and a preface by Paul Estrade, both well known Cuban specialists, but no doubt without a large audience. Remind us of who they are.
            SL: Wayne S. Smith is a former U.S. diplomat and currently a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC. He was the last American diplomat with the rank of ambassador to be posted in Cuba, this between 1979 and 1982. Under the government of Jimmy Carter, he distinguished himself through his politics of dialog and rapprochement with Havana. He is a partisan of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States and his preface takes stock of the anachronistic, cruel and ineffectual nature of these economic sanctions.
As for Paul Estrade, he is a professor emeritus at the University of Paris VIII and, without a doubt, the best Cuban specialist in France. His works on Cuban issues are standard references in the academic world. In his preface, he points to the way in which the state of siege against Cuba is voluntarily obscured by the medias when they report on the economic difficulties of this country.
A new book by Salim Lamrani
État de siège; les sanctions économiques des États-Unis contre Cuba (State of Siege; The United States’ economic sanctions against Cuba).
Prologue by Wayne S. Smith, preface by Paul Estrade.
Paris, Editions Estrella, 2011. 15 euros.
Translated by Larry R. Oberg, Québec City, Québec.

“The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country”

“The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country”
By Cuba Si France
            CSF: You’ve just published a new book under the title État de siège? What exactly do you cover in it?
            SL: As the book’s subtitle suggests, it covers the unilateral economic sanctions that the United States first imposed upon Cuba at the height of the Cold War. The goal of these sanctions has been the overthrow of the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, the social and economic reforms of which did not sit well with the Eisenhower administration of the period. More than a half century later the Soviet Union has disappeared and the Cold War is only a fading memory, still the United States persists in maintaining an economic state of siege that is suffocating for all levels of the Cuban population, although it  primarily effects the most vulnerable sectors: women, the elderly and children.
It is important to note that the diplomatic rhetoric used by the United States to justify its hostility towards Cuba has changed from period to period. Early on, it focused on nationalizations and their compensation. Later, Washington invoked the alliance with the  Soviet Union as the principal obstacle to the normalization of relations between the two countries. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, it cited Cuban intervention in Africa–more precisely in Angola and Namibia. Those interventions, designed to aid the national liberation movements fighting to obtain independence and to support of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, were cited as justification for the maintenance of economic sanctions. Finally, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Washington brandished democracy and human rights as an argument for maintaining its stranglehold on the Cuban nation.
            CSF: What exactly is the impact of these sanctions on the Cuban population?
Kategorien:Geo Politik Schlagwörter: ,

Cuba: The United States has removed all restrictions on Cuban-American travel

April 1, 2012 1 Kommentar

The Cases of Alan Gross and the Cuban Five

Posted on 01/17/2012
By Salim Lamrani, with contributions from Wayne S. Smith
Center for International Policy
http://cipcubareport.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/the-cases-of-alan-gross-and-the-cuban-five/

The way may be opening for increased U.S.-Cuban ties. The United States has removed all restrictions on Cuban-American travel from the U.S. to Cuba and all limitations on Cuban-American remittances to families on the island. Coming at a time when the Cuban government is encouraging the establishment of small private enterprises, this opens the way for importantly increased ties between the two communities-as one observer put it: “for an inflow of capital from the U.S. to Cuba.”

There is, however, the proverbial “fly in the ointment” and that is the case of Alan Gross, arrested on December 3 of 2009 and since then representing a major obstacle to improved relations–along with the case of the Cuban Five on the other side (but more on that later).

Who is Alan Gross?

Alan Gross is a 61 year-old Jewish U.S. citizen from Potomac, Maryland who is an employee of Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a subcontractor of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) which itself is a dependency of the State Department. In December 2009, when Gross was about to leave Cuba with a simple tourist visa–after his fifth visit that year–Cuban state security authorities detained him at the International Airport in Havana. An investigation discovered links between him and the internal opposition to the Cuban government. Gross had been distributing among the opposition portable computers and satellite telephones as part of the State Department program for “promoting democracy in Cuba.” [1]

A long-distance communications technology expert, Gross has great experience in the field. He has worked in more than 50 nations and set up satellite communications systems during the military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan to circumvent channels controlled by local authorities. [2]
Possession of a satellite phone is strictly forbidden in Cuba for national security reasons and telecommunications are a state monopoly with competition forbidden. [3]

Aid for the Cuban Jewish Community?

The State Department, demanding the release of the detainee declared, “Gross works for international development and traveled to Cuba to assist the members of the Jewish community in Havana to connect with other Jewish communities in the world.” According to Washington, Gross’ activities were legitimate and did not violate Cuban legislation.[4]

In October 2010, during the annual session of the UN General Assembly, Arturo Valenzuela, then assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, met with Bruno Rodríguez, Cuban minister for foreign affairs, to discuss Gross. This was the most important diplomatic meeting between representatives from both nations since the beginning of Obama’s era. [5]

Alan Gross’ family also said that his frequent trips to the island were to allow the Jewish community in Havana to gain access to the Internet and to communicate with Jews all over the world.[6] His lawyer, Peter J. Kahn, endorsed their words, “His work in Cuba had nothing to do with politics; it was simply aimed at helping the small, peaceful, non-dissident Jewish community in the country. [7]

Gross doubtless had contact with some members of the Jewish community in Cuba. Leaders of the Jewish community in Havana, however, contradict the official U.S. version of his relationship. In fact, leaders of the community affirm they did not know Alan Gross, and had never met with him despite his five visits to Cuba in 2009. Adela Dworin, president of the Beth Shalom Temple, rejected Washington’s statements. “It’s lamentable […]. The saddest part is that they tried to involve the Jewish community in Cuba which has nothing to do with this.”

Mayra Levy, speaker of the Sephardic Hebraic Center, declared she didn’t know who Gross was and added he had never been to her institution. The Associated Press said “the leaders of the Jewish community in Cuba denied the American contractor Alan Gross […] had collaborated with them.” [8] In like manner, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that “the main Jewish groups in Cuba had denied having any contracts with Alan Gross or any knowledge of his project.” [9]

Reverend Oden Mariachal, secretary of the Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba (CIC) [Cuban Council of Churches] which includes the [non-Catholic] Christian religious institutions and the Jewish community in Cuba, confirmed this position at a meeting with Peter Brennan, State Department coordinator for Cuban Affairs. On the occasion of the General Assembly of Churches of Christ in the U.S., held in Washington in 2010, the religious leader rejected Gross’ allegations. “What we made clear is what the Cuban Jewish Community, a member of the Cuban Council of Churches, told us, ‘We never had a relationship with that gentleman; he never brought us any equipment.’ They denied any kind of relationship with Alan Gross.”[10]

In fact, the small Cuban Jewish community, far from isolated, is perfectly integrated in society and has excellent relations with the political authorities in the Island. Fidel Castro, although very critical of Israeli policy in the occupied territories, declared to American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that in history “no one has been as slandered as the Jews. They were exiled from their land, persecuted and mistreated everywhere in the world. The Jews had a more difficult existence than ours. Nothing can compare to the Holocaust,” he said. [11]

Cuban President Raúl Castro attended the religious ceremony for Hanukkah-the Festival of Lights–at the Shalom Synagogue in Havana, in December 2010. The visit was broadcast live on Cuban TV and published in the front page of newspaper Granma. He took the opportunity to greet “the Cuban Jewish community and the fabulous history of the Hebrew people.” [12]

Moreover, the Cuban Jewish community has all the technological facilities needed to communicate with the rest of the world, thanks to the assistance of other international Jewish entities such as the B’nai Brith and the Cuban Jewish Relief Project, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), the World ORT, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) or the United Jewish Committee (UJC); all of it endorsed by the Cuban authorities. [13]

Arturo López-Levy, B’nai Brith secretary for the Cuban Jewish community between 1999 and 2001, and today a professor at Denver University, is also skeptical about the U.S. version of the Gross case. On the subject, he stated, “Gross was not arrested for being Jewish or for his alleged activities of technological aid to the Cuban Jewish community which already had an informatics lab, electronic mail and Internet access before he got to Havana. [The Jews in Cuba] do not gather at a synagogue to conspire with the political opposition because this would jeopardize their cooperation with the government which is needed for their activities: the emigration to Israel program, the Right by Birth project–through which young Cuban Jews travel to Israel every year–or to deal with humanitarian aid. To protect the most important they detach themselves as much as possible from the U.S. programs of political interference on Cuban internal affairs. Gross travelled to Cuba not to work with any Jewish organization but for USAID.” [14]

Wayne S. Smith, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba from 1979 to 1982 and director of Cuba Program of the Center for International Policy in Washington, said that “in other words, Gross was involved in a program whose intentions were clearly hostile to Cuba, because its objective is nothing less than regime change.” [15]

Illegal Activities According to Cuban Authorities

Cuban authorities suspected Gross of espionage and internal subversion activities. [16]Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban Parliament, declared he had violated the country’s legislation. “He violated Cuban laws, national sovereignty, and committed crimes that in the U.S. are most severely punished.”[17]
Gross, a USAID employee was providing sophisticated communications equipment. The distribution and use of satellite phones is regulated in Cuba and it is forbidden to import them without authorization. On the other hand, Article 11 of Cuban Law 88 reads that, “He who, in order to perform the acts described in this Law, directly or through a third party, receives, distributes or takes part in the distribution of financial means, material or of other kind, from the Government of the United States of America, its agencies, dependencies, representatives, officials, or from private entities is liable to prison terms from 3 to 8 years.” [18]

This severity is not unique to Cuban legislation. U.S. law prescribes similar penalties for this type of crime. The Foreign Agents Registration Act prescribes that any un-registered agent “who requests, collects, supplies or spends contributions, loans, money or any valuable object in his own interest” may be liable to a sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 10,000 dollars. [19]

French legislation also punishes this type of action. According to Article 411-8 of the Penal Code, “the act of exercising on behalf of a foreign power, a foreign company or organization or company or organization under the control of a foreign agent, any act aimed at supplying devices, information, procedures, objects, documents, informatics data or files whose exploitation, spreading, or gathering can by nature attempt against the fundamental interests of the nation is punishable with ten years of imprisonment and a fine of 150,000 Euros.”[20]

On February 4, 2011, the prosecutor of the Republic of Cuba formally accused Alan Gross of “acts against the integrity and independence of the nation,” and demanded a jail sentence of 20 years. On March 12, 2011 Gross was finally sentenced to 15 years imprisonment after his trial.[21] The lawyer for the defense, Peter J. Kahn, expressed his regret that his client was “caught in the middle of a long political dispute between Cuba and the United States.”  [22]
The New York Times remembers that Gross “was arrested last December during a trip to Cuba as part of a semi-clandestine USAID program, a service of foreign aid of the State Department destined to undermine the Cuban Government,” The New York paper also indicated that “U.S. authorities have admitted that Mr. Gross entered Cuba without the appropriate visa and have said he distributed satellite telephones to religious groups. [23]

Since 1992 and the adoption of the Torricelli Act, the U.S. openly admits its objective towards Cuba is “regime change” and one of the pillars of this policy is to organize, finance and equip an internal opposition. [24] USAID, which is in charge of the implementation of the plan, admits that, as part of this program, it finances the Cuban opposition. According to the Agency for the 2009 fiscal year the amount destined for aid to Cuban dissidents was of 15.62 million dollars. Since 1996 a total of 140 million dollars have been dedicated to the program aimed at overthrowing the Cuban government. “The largest part of this figure is for individuals inside Cuba. Our objective is to maximize the amount of the support that benefits the Cubans in the Island.”[25]

The government agency also stresses the following, “We have trained hundreds of journalists in a ten year period and their work is seen in mainstream international media.” Formed and paid by the U.S., they represent, above all, the interests of Washington whose objective is a “regime change” on the island. [26]

From a juridical point of view, this reality in fact places the dissidents who accept the emoluments offered by USAID in the position of being agents at the service of a foreign power, which constitutes a serious violation of the Cuban Penal Code. The agency is aware of this reality and simply reminds all that “nobody is obliged to accept or be part of the programs of the government of the United States.” [27]

Judy Gross, the wife of Alan Gross, was authorized to visit him in prison for the first time in July 2010. [28]She took the occasion to send a letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro in which she expressed her repentance and apologized for the acts of her husband. “I understand today the Cuban Government does not appreciate the type of work Alan was doing in Cuba. His intention was never to hurt your government.” [29]

Judy Gross also accuses the State Department of not having explained to her husband that his activities were illegal in Cuba. If Alan had known that something would happen to him in Cuba, he would not have done that. I think he was not clearly informed about the risks.” [30]

A Way Out?

Clearly, Alan Gross violated the law. Of that there can be no doubt. On the other hand, he seems to have done little harm. His continued incarceration results in no important benefits to the U.S. His release, on the other hand, could be a major step toward improved U.S.-Cuban relations, especially if in the process he were prepared to apologize for his actions.

There is another side to the matter, however, and that has to do with the so-called Cuban Five. Just as the U.S. seems unwilling to move ahead in relations unless there is some movement in the Gross case, so do the Cubans seem reluctant to move without progress in the case of the Cuban Five, who were incarcerated in 1998. They were sent up to the U.S. by the Cuban government to penetrate and develop information about the anti-Castro terrorists groups in Florida after a sequence of bomb attacks against tourist centers in Havana. The idea was then to provide that information to the FBI so that it could take action to halt the exile terrorists. A meeting between representatives of the FBI and the Cubans was held in Havana over several days in June of 1998 and some forty folders of evidence were turned over to the FBI. The Cubans then waited for the U.S. to take action against the terrorists. But none was taken; rather, shortly thereafter, the FBI began arresting the Cuban five. In other words, they arrested those who had provided the evidence rather than the terrorists themselves. The Five were arrested, tried and convicted, though “tried” is not the right word for the trial was a sham. The prosecutors had no real evidence and so fell back on the old standby of trying them for “conspiracy” to commit illegal acts. No evidence, and they were tried in Miami where anti-Castro sentiment had reached such a level with the Elian Gonzalez case that there was no chance of empanelling an impartial jury. Defense lawyers requested a change of venue, but, incredibly, it was denied.

Worst of all was the case of Gerardo Hernandez, who was accused of “conspiracy” to commit murder and given two consecutive life sentences plus fifteen years–this in connection with the shoot down of the two Brothers to the Rescue planes in February of 1996. Never mind that there was no evidence that he was in any way responsible. But there, behind bars, he remains today, mostly in solitary confinement and after all these years not allowed a single visit from his wife.

The injustice in these cases contradicts the reputation of the U.S. for dedication to the rule of law. It must be corrected. Holding these men year after year without real evidence of any crime other than being the unregistered agents of a foreign power was one thing during the Cold War–though unjustified even then. But now, with the Cold War over and every possibility of beginning a new U.S.-Cuba relationship, it becomes morally unjustifiable and counterproductive. It is time surely to undertake a process of reviewing all these cases and then allowing these men to return to their families. One, René Gonzalez, has already been released from prison to serve out his remaining three years on parole, but at the same time, incredibly, not allowed to return to Cuba to be with his wife, who he has not seen in all these years. That, allowing his return, should perhaps be the first step in the process.

And it goes without saying that as the U.S. begins to move in the cases of the Cuban Five, Cuba should release Alan Gross to return to his family.
It should be noted that Alan Gross himself suggested there should be some reciprocal movement in these cases. “Following the recent exchange of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, Gross was clear that he wants the United States and Cuba to make a similar gesture for him and the Cuban Five,” explained Rabbi David Shneyer, who had visited Gross in Havana. [31]

Salim Lamrani, PhD in Iberian and Latin American Studies of the Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV University, is a professor in charge of courses at the Paris-Sorbonne-Paris IV University and the Paris-Est Marne-la- Vallée University. He is a French journalist, and specialist on the Cuba-United States relations. He has recently published: Etat de siege. Les sanctions economiques des Etats-Unis contre Cuba with a prologue by Wayne S. Smith.

Wayne S. Smith, now director of the Cuba Project at the Center for International Policy, was chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, 1979-1982, and is the author of The Closest of Enemies, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987).
End Notes
________________________________________
[1] Jeff Franks, <<Scenarios-U.S. Contractor Jailed in Cuba Still in Limbo>>, Reuter, October 24, 2010.
[2] Phillip J. Crowley, <<Statement on Anniversary of Alan Gross’ Incarceration in Cuba>>, op. cit.; Saul Landau, <<The Alan Gross Case>>, Counterpunch, July 30, 2010. http://www.counterpunch.org/landau07302010.html (site consulted on February 18, 2011).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Phillip J. Crowley, <<Statement on Anniversary of Alan Gross’ Incarceration in Cuba>>, op. cit
[5] Paul Haven, <<U.S., Cuban Diplos Met About Jailed U.S. Man>>, The Associated Press, October 18, 2010
[6] Anthony Broadle, <<Exclusive: American Held in Cuba Expresses Regret to Raul Castro>>, Reuters, October 24, 2010.
[7] Juan O. Tamayo, <<Pedirán 20 años de cárcel para Gross>>, El Nuevo Herald, February 5, 2011.
[8] Andrea Rodríguez, <<Judíos niegan haber colaborado con Alan Gross>>, The Associated Press, December 2, 2010.
[9] Jewish Telegraphic Agency, <<Cuba to Seek 20- Year Prison Term for Alan Gross>>, February 6, 2011.
[10] Andrea Rodrígues, <<EEUU pide Iglesias de Cuba interesarse por contratista preso>>, The Associated Press, December 2, 2010.
[11] Jeffrey Goldberg, <<Castro: ‘No One Has Been Slandered More Than the Jews’>> The Atlantic, December 7, 2010. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/castro-no-one-has-been-slandered-more-than-tthe-jews/62566/ (site consulted on February 18, 2011).
[12] The Associated Press, <<Raúl Castro Celebrates Hanukkah With Cuban Jews>>; Juan O. Tamayo, <<Raul Castro asiste a fiesta de Janucá en sinagoga de La Habana>>, El Nuevo Herald, December 6, 2010.
[13] Comunidad Hebrea de Cuba, <<Quienes ayudan>>. http://www.chcuba.org/espanol/ayuda/quienes.htm (site consulted on February 18, 2011).
[14] Arturo López-Levy, <<Freeing Alan Gross: First Do No Harm>>, August 2010. http://www.thewashintonnote.com/archives/2010/08freeing_alan_gr/ (site consulted on February 18, 2011).
[15] Wayne S. Smith, <<The Gross Case and the Inanity of U.S. Policy>>, Center for International Policy, March 2011. http://ciponline.org/pressroom/articles/030411_Smith_Intelligence_Brief_Gross.htm (site consulted on March 13, 2011).
[16] Paul Haven, <<U.S. Officials Ask Cuba to Release Jailed American>>, The Associated Press, February 19, 2010.
[17] Andrea Rodriguez, <<Contratista de EEUU violó soberanía de Cuba, dice alto dirigente>>, The Associated Press, December 11, 2010.
[18] Ley de protección de la independencia nacional y la economía de Cuba (LEY N˚. 88), Artículo 11.
[19] U.S. Code, Title 22, Chapter 11, Subchapter II, § 611, iii <<Definitions>>, § 618, a, 1 <<Violations; false statements and willful omissions>>.
[20] Code Penal, Partie legislative, Livre, Titre Ier, Chapitre I, Section 3, Article 411-8.
[21] William Booth, <<Cuba Seeks 20 Year Jail term for Detained American>>, The Associated Press, February 4, 2011.
[22] Paul Haven <<Cuba Seeks 20-Year Jail term for Detained American>>, The Associated Press, February 4, 2011.
[23] Ginger Thompson, <<Wife of American Held in Cuba Pleads for His Release and Apologizes to Castro>>, The New York Times, October 24, 2010.
[24] Cuban Democracy Act, Titulo XVII, Artículo 1705, 1992.
[25] Along the Malecon, <<Exclusive: Q & A with USAID>>, October 25, 2010. http://alongthemalecon.blogspot.com/2010/10/exclusive-q-with-usaid.html (site consulted on October 26, 2010); Tracey Eaton, <<U.S. government aid to Cuba is the spotlight as contractor Alan Gross marks one year in a Cuban prison>>, El Nuevo Herald, December 3, 2010.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Jessica Gresko, <<U.S. Man Jailed in Cuba Can Call Home More Often>>, The Associated Press, October 26, 2010.
[29] Anthony Boadle, <<Exclusive: American Held in Cuba Expresses Regret to Raul Castro>>, op. cit. ; Jeff Frank, <<Factbox: Jailed U.S. Contractor, Sour U.S.-Cuba Relations>>, Reuters, October 24, 2010.
[30]Anthony Boadle, <<Exclusive: American Held in Cuba Expresses Regret to Raul Castro>>, op. cit EFE, <<EEUU no negocia liberación de Alan Gross>>,  February 8, 2011.
[31] Agence France Presse, <<Contratista de EE UU en Cuba sugiere intercambio de espias>> November 8, 2011.

Kategorien:Ex-Kommunistische Länder Schlagwörter: ,

“The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country”

Oktober 30, 2011 2 Kommentare

“The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country”
By Cuba Si France
            CSF: You’ve just published a new book under the title État de siège? What exactly do you cover in it?
            SL: As the book’s subtitle suggests, it covers the unilateral economic sanctions that the United States first imposed upon Cuba at the height of the Cold War. The goal of these sanctions has been the overthrow of the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, the social and economic reforms of which did not sit well with the Eisenhower administration of the period. More than a half century later the Soviet Union has disappeared and the Cold War is only a fading memory, still the United States persists in maintaining an economic state of siege that is suffocating for all levels of the Cuban population, although it  primarily effects the most vulnerable sectors: women, the elderly and children.
It is important to note that the diplomatic rhetoric used by the United States to justify its hostility towards Cuba has changed from period to period. Early on, it focused on nationalizations and their compensation. Later, Washington invoked the alliance with the  Soviet Union as the principal obstacle to the normalization of relations between the two countries. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, it cited Cuban intervention in Africa–more precisely in Angola and Namibia. Those interventions, designed to aid the national liberation movements fighting to obtain independence and to support of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, were cited as justification for the maintenance of economic sanctions. Finally, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Washington brandished democracy and human rights as an argument for maintaining its stranglehold on the Cuban nation.
            CSF: What exactly is the impact of these sanctions on the Cuban population?
            SL: The economic sanctions against Cuba constitute the principal obstacle to the development of the country and all sectors of the society are affected by it. It is important to note that the United States, for evident historical and geographic reasons, has always been Cuba’s natural market. The distance separating the two countries is less than 150 km. In 1959, 73% of all Cuban exports were destined for the U.S. market and 70% of its imports came from the States. There was, therefore, a significant dependance upon Cuba’s northern neighbor. Between 1960 and 1991, relations with the USSR had softened the sanctions, but this is no longer the case.
Thus practically, Cuba is unable to sell anything to the United States, which remains the world’s primary market. Nor can it buy anything from it other than, and since 2000 only, a few primary agricultural products that it is forced to purchase under severe restrictions, for example, Cuba is required to pay in advance in a currency other than the U.S. dollar–something that forces Cuba to shoulder the additional costs engendered by the exchange rates–all of this without the possibility of contracting a loan. This limits enormously the island’s commercial possibilities, forcing it to pay a much higher price to a third country.
            CSF: You also emphasize the effects of the extraterritorial economic sanctions.
            SL: Indeed, since 1992 and the adoption of the Torricelli Act, these sanctions apply equally to third countries that might wish to trade with Cuba. This constitutes a serious violation of international law which prohibits any national legislation from being extraterritorial, that is to say, from being applied outside of national boundaries. For example, French law cannot be applied in Spain and Italian law cannot be applied in France. Nonetheless, United States economic sanctions remain applicable to all countries that trade with Cuba.
Thus, any foreign ship that docks in a Cuban port finds itself forbidden to enter U.S. ports for a period of six months. Cuba, being an island, is heavily dependent upon maritime transport. Of the commercial fleets that operate in the Florida Straits, most conduct the bulk of their activities with a clear understanding of the importance of this market and do not run the risk of transporting merchandise to Cuba. When they do, however, they demand a higher tariff than that applied to neighboring countries, such as Haiti or the Dominican Republic, this in order to make up for the shortfall that results from being banned from U.S. ports for having done so. Therefore, if the standard price for transporting merchandise to the Dominican Republic is 100, this figure that can rise to 600 or 700 for Cuba.
            CSF: You also comment on the retroactive nature of the economic sanctions.
            SL: Since the adoption of the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, all foreign enterprises that wish to invest in Cuban property that had been nationalized in 1959, risk prosecution in the United States and seeing its U.S. investments frozen. This law is a judicial aberration because it is both extraterritorial and retroactive–in other words, it applies to events that occurred before the law was adopted, something that is contrary to international law. Take the case of the anti-tobacco law in France. This law was promulgated on January 1, 2008. But if you smoked in a restaurant on December 31, 2007, you would not be prosecuted, because the law cannot be applied retroactively. The Helms-Burton Act applies to events that occurred during the 1960s, something that is clearly illegal.
            CSF: The United States maintains that the economic sanctions are a simple bilateral question that does not concern the rest of the world.
            SL: The example that I have already cited demonstrate the exact opposite. I’ll give you another. In order to sell on the U.S. market, a German, Korean, or Japanese automobile manufacturer–in reality the nationality matters little–is obliged to demonstrate to the U.S. Treasury Department that its products do not contain a single gram of Cuban nickel. It is the same for all of the agribusiness enterprises that wish to invest in the U.S. market. Danone, for example, must demonstrate that its products contain absolutely no Cuban raw materials. Cuba cannot sell its natural resources and its products to the United States, but in these exact cases, neither can it sell them to Germany, Korea or Japan. These measures deprive the Cuban economy of much needed capital and Cuban exports of many markets around the world.
            CSF: The economic sanctions have also had an impact on healthcare.
            SL: Indeed, nearly 80% of all patents applied for in the medical sector belong to U.S. based multinational pharmaceutical companies and their subsidiaries, which puts them in the position of being a quasi-monopoly. It should be noted that international humanitarian law forbids all restrictions on the freedom of movement of foodstuffs and medicines, even during wartime. And officially, the United States is not at war with Cuba.
Here is a clear example: Cuban children could benefit from the Amplatzer septal occluder, a cardiac plug manufactured in the United States, that allows one to bypass open heart surgery. Dozens of children are waiting for this operation. In 2010 alone, four were added to this list: Maria Fernanda Vidal, five years old; Cyntia Soto Aponte, three years old; Mayuli Pérez Ulboa, eight years old, and Lianet D. Alvarez, five years old.
Are these children responsible for the differences that exist between Havana and Washington? No! But they are paying the price.
            CSF: In your book, you also talk about the irrational nature of certain restrictions.
            SL: Indeed, it should be noted that since 2004 and the strict application of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) rules, any American tourist that smoked a Cuban cigar or consumed a glass of Havana Club rum during a trip abroad risks a fine of a million dollars and ten in years in prison. Another example: a Cuban living in France theoretically cannot eat a hamburger at a McDonald’s. Of course, these measures are irrational because they are unenforceable. The United States does not have the material and human resources to put a U.S. agent on the trail of each tourist. Nonetheless, it illustrates the United States‘ obsessive desire to economically strangle the Cubans.
            CSF: Your book contains a prolog by Wayne S. Smith and a preface by Paul Estrade, both well known Cuban specialists, but no doubt without a large audience. Remind us of who they are.
            SL: Wayne S. Smith is a former U.S. diplomat and currently a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC. He was the last American diplomat with the rank of ambassador to be posted in Cuba, this between 1979 and 1982. Under the government of Jimmy Carter, he distinguished himself through his politics of dialog and rapprochement with Havana. He is a partisan of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States and his preface takes stock of the anachronistic, cruel and ineffectual nature of these economic sanctions.
As for Paul Estrade, he is a professor emeritus at the University of Paris VIII and, without a doubt, the best Cuban specialist in France. His works on Cuban issues are standard references in the academic world. In his preface, he points to the way in which the state of siege against Cuba is voluntarily obscured by the medias when they report on the economic difficulties of this country.
A new book by Salim Lamrani
État de siège; les sanctions économiques des États-Unis contre Cuba (State of Siege; The United States‘ economic sanctions against Cuba).
Prologue by Wayne S. Smith, preface by Paul Estrade.
Paris, Editions Estrella, 2011. 15 euros.
Translated by Larry R. Oberg, Québec City, Québec.