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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Is the U.S. trade embargo risking lives in Cuba?

Is the U.S. trade embargo risking lives in Cuba?
BY FRANCO ORDOÑEZ
fordonez@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON
Despite the improved ties between the United States and Cuba, the United
Nations is expected to again condemn the American trade embargo against
the communist island.

For the 25th year in a row, Cuba has called for the United Nations to
issue a resolution against the U.S. "blockade," as the Cubans refer to
the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

"We hope again – we cannot anticipate the vote, we will see on Oct. 26 –
that the international community will be on Cuba's side and call for an
end to the blockade," Josefina Vidal, who heads the U.S. Department at
Cuba's Foreign Ministry, told students last week during a conference at
Havana University.

In what is expected to be a telling display of the international
perspective on the United States' continued application of the embargo,
the U.N. General Assembly is expected to overwhelmingly pass a
resolution Wednesday calling for end to the U.S. policy that restricts
trade between the countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls the embargo the "most unjust,
severe and long-lived system" of sanctions ever applied against a
country. The U.S. government has sought to end the embarrassing ritual
against the United States, but the Cuban government has declined to stop
or even tone down its scathing account of how the island has been affected.

The Cuban government estimates the U.S. embargo has cost the island more
than $125 billion over the half-century that it's been in place. Cuban
leaders document the impacts in great detail, from the somewhat trivial
to life-threatening, in a blistering 42-page report. They raise
questions as to whether the U.S. government has put Cuban lives at risk
because of sanctions that restrict access to diagnostic equipment for
leukemia patients and devices crucial for pediatric heart surgery.

It's not a new report. The language has long been harsh. But what's
significant is how little has changed despite the warming relations
between the nations, as well as the U.S. administration's reported
requests to soften Cuba's anecdotes.

"I think the Cuban view is this is an important point of political
pressure on the United States to move faster to lift the embargo," said
professor William LeoGrande, a specialist in Cuban politics and U.S.
foreign policy toward Latin America at American University School of
Public Affairs in Washington. "And they don't want to do anything to
relieve that pressure."

Since Dec. 17, 2014, when President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl
Castro announced that they would take steps to normalize relations, the
United States has issued six rounds of regulatory changes to ease trade,
travel and financial restriction with Cuba. But the Cuban government
said the administration needed to go further.

Cuban officials say the administration can do more to create
opportunities for Cuban companies to open up financial accounts in U.S.
banks, to direct exports of U.S. products to Cuban companies and to
direct U.S. companies to invest in Cuba.

"President Obama recently reiterated in the presidential directive
signed last Friday that the blockade should be lifted, but the reality
is that he has not exhausted all his executive powers to contribute
decisively to the removal and dismantling of the blockade," Vidal said.

State Department officials said they were looking into questions
regarding the U.N. vote.

The list of items Cubans want and can't get from the United States is
long. The government says the impacts are far-reaching and go beyond the
obvious. The Cuban government can't buy Louisville Slugger baseball bats
or Wilson baseballs. Because Cuban schools couldn't buy $79 beginner
violins from the United States. they had to pay nearly three times the
cost for violins from a third country.

Ban applauded Obama's calls to end the trade embargo. But he said the
administration's efforts were insufficient considering the ongoing
"financial persecution" of Cuba. In his own 175-page report, he
documented how the island government still cannot freely export and
import goods and services from the United States or have direct banking.

"The embargo against Cuba must stop," Ban said. "It is the most unjust,
severe and long-lived system of unilateral sanctions ever applied to a
country."

Email: fordonez@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @francoordonez.

Source: Is U.S. trade embargo risking lives in Cuba? | In Cuba Today -
http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article110245497.html
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