New York, 16 May 2016. The decision announced 17 December 2014 by President Raúl Castro and President Barack Obama on re-establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba marked the beginning of an intense and complex process, showing unprecedented results in the history of bilateral relations such as the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the re-opening of embassies in both capitals.
The main obstacle in this process toward the improvement of relations is the permanence of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, which influences all life spheres of the Cuban nation, affects the American people and other countries’ citizens, and remains in place despite the overwhelming rejection by the international community, which has called for ending the blockade in the United Nations for the last 24 successive years.
The Barack Obama Administration has introduced changes to the implementation of the policy toward Cuba and has urged the Congress to lift the blockade. The changes to the blockade regulations issued during 2015 and 2016 are positive but limited since they do not modify fundamental aspects of such policy.
Particularly, the measures issued 15 March of this year authorizing the use of the United States dollar in Cuba’s international transactions and individual people-to-people educational trips are positive steps though not enough. Significant restrictions that can be removed by the president’s executive action remain in place. These are inter alia:
- The impossibility of establishing direct banking relations between financial institutions from Cuba and the United States, which hinders the transactions with the United States and increases their cost.
- Restrictions to the importation of Cuban goods to the United States so that authorized trade remains basically unilateral.
- Not extending measures like those endorsed for the telecommunications sector to other fields of economy, which allow for exportation, service and investment.
- The prohibition of exportation from the United States to Cuban state-owned companies that generate income for the State – tourism, mining, commodities- which will be further equitably distributed to the Cuban people and the defense, national security and public order sectors.
Despite adjustments to the regulations, the economic, financial and commercial persecution against Cuban transactions has strengthened, showing a marked extraterritorial nature and a significant frequency during the last months. The following are some examples of recent sanctions against entities from the United States and third countries:
- Imposition of penalties to two European banks for maintaining legitimate relations with Cuba and other countries – to Commerzbank from Germany a penalty of 1710 million dollars and to Crédit Agricole from France a penalty of 1116 million. Because of such penalty, the German bank notified its decision to end its transactions with Cuban banks and the Embassy of Cuba in Berlin.
- Penalization of French company CGG Services SA in February 2016 for providing services and equipment of American origin for oil and gas exploration in Cuba´s territorial waters and for seismic research by a Cuban entity in Cuba´s Special Economic Development Zone.
- Blocking of a transfer of 22 thousand euros from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to our Embassy in Kazakhstan by the Bank of New York Mellon. Such funds continue to be withheld regardless of negotiations by the United States Department of the Treasury with such bank.
- Rejection of a transfer from a Cuban nickel trading company by Swiss bank BCGE.
After 17 December 2014, the United States Department of the Treasury has imposed 8 penalties against entities from the United States and third countries for violation of the regulations against Cuba. Such penalties amount to over 2 billion US dollars.
Notwithstanding the recent measure authorizing the use of the US dollar in our international transactions, there are no regular banking relations between Cuba and the United States or between Cuba and banks in third countries. This is a consequence of the environment of rejection and fear of getting involved in legitimate relations with Cuba that prevails in world banks and banks from the United States. In order to eliminate such fear internationally, this measure should be accompanied by a clear policy statement and a legal document by the United States authorities indicating to world banks that it is legitimate to have relations with Cuba and that they will not be penalized by them.
Furthermore, the visit of the United States president to Cuba was a significant step in the process toward the improvement of bilateral relations that can contribute to making greater progress in strengthening ties for the benefit of both nations and the region. We are aware that the strategic goal the United States pursues in its policy toward Cuba has not changed – as publicly stated by several United States government representatives- which is to cause changes in our political, economic and social system, and that it is the tactics to achieve such goal what has been modified. Nevertheless, forging a new kind of relationship is beneficial for both countries and peoples, the Latin American and the Caribbean region and the world.
The Cuban people hopes that the United States head of state’s visit to the country consolidates his will to actively engage in a thorough debate with the Congress aimed at lifting the blockade, and meanwhile continues to use his executive prerogatives to modify its enforcement as much as possible without the need of any legislative action.
It becomes paradoxical that the government takes measures on the one hand, and intensifies the sanctions against Cuba on the other, affecting the daily life of the Cuban people.
The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba must end, and we will so demand it as long as it remains in place, with the nearly unanimous support of the international community. (Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations)