On February 3, 1962, former President of the United States, John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 3447, which stipulated the total trade embargo on Cuba. By doing so, the government of that country made the blockade against the Cuban State and people official.
Executive Order 3447 was conceived in line with the provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act of September 1961 and the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. It intended to prevent and hinder all economic and commercial activities with Cuba, a country that had already overcome all kinds of aggression coming from US soil, including the armed invasion of Playa Girón.
Kennedy, in his proclamation, authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to enact all measures and regulations aimed at making effective the prohibition of imports to the United States of any product of Cuban origin. Likewise, he ordered his Secretary of Commerce to continue with and expand the measures for restricting all export from the United States to Cuba, including foodstuffs and medicines.
However, that decision was not the first measure of economic aggression by the United States against the Cuban Revolution. After the implementation of the Agrarian Reform of May 1959, the United States threatened to reduce the sugar quota, prohibit US private investment and eliminate all economic aid. In 1960, that government boycotted a loan worth 100 million dollars made to Cuba by European banks, cancelled the sugar quota and in that context, President Eisenhower himself stated that his country would take other economic, diplomatic and strategic measures.
A few days before signing the executive order, the 8th OSA Meeting of Consultations of Foreign Ministers was held in the beach resort of Punta del Este, Uruguay where, under the pressure of the US government a resolution was passed that excluded Cuba’s participation in the inter-American system and prohibited the sale of weapons to our country. The United States intended, through its strategy, to isolate Cuba in the international arena.
After the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the Socialist Bloc, the US far right promoted the approval of legislations, which not only increased the economic harassment against Cuba, but also enacted into law all the blockade regulations. In 1992, the Cuban Democracy Act was signed (Torricelli Act) which, among other regulations, prohibited US subsidiaries in third countries to trade with Cuba and established that foreign merchant vessels would have to wait six months, after calling on any Cuban port, to enter US territory.
On March 12, 1996 and with the purpose of further isolating and asphyxiating the country’s economy, President William Clinton enacted the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (known as the Helms-Burton Act), intended to: impose pensive conditions to the possible normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, including the lifting of the blockade; promote subversion and programs for regime change; and discourage commerce and foreign investment from third countries in our country. In addition to other prohibitions, the Helms-Burton Act enacted into law all the regulatory framework of the blockade against Cuba.
In 2000, the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act authorized the sales of agricultural commodities to Cuba, but with limitations. However, this same legal norm prohibited the authorization of travels to Cuba for tourism purpose.
All these laws have turned the blockade into a wide-raging and complex legal framework, where the main motivation of the US circles of power is clearly translated in the words of Lester Mallory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in 1960 “to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government”.
Fifty-five years after Kennedy signed the Executive Order, the blockade is considered to be obsolete and immoral by the international community and the complete fiasco of successive US administrations in their core purpose of destroying the Cuban Revolution. However, it continues causing damage to the Cuban people and hindering Cuba’s economic and social development.
On twenty-five occasions, the UN General Assembly has passed a resolution condemning the blockade, which was supported by 191 states in 2016. None other topic arouses such world unity against a US policy. In our continent, that overwhelming claim was reaffirmed during the Fifth Summit of the Latin American and Caribbean States held in the Dominican Republic. A presidential order by former President Obama, on October 14, 2016, acknowledged also that the blockade has failed.
Even though in the past two years regulations have been enacted that partially modify the blockade, the obstacles, restrictions and limitations on the Cuban economy remain in place. Despite the modifications implemented by the former government, the extraterritorial effects in the field of trade, banking and finances persist. Likewise, the fines worth millions imposed by the Department of the Treasury still provoke fear in banks and companies from the United States and third countries, to establish economic and commercial ties with Cuba. In the period after December 17, 2014 only, that agency enforced fines worth 2 thousand 842 million dollars.
Although lifting the blockade is an exclusive prerogative of the US Congress, the President of that country has wide executive powers to continue modifying its application.
In the Fifth Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, President Raúl Castro stated that “Cuba and the United States may cooperate and coexist in a civilized manner by respecting the differences and promoting everything that benefits both countries and peoples, but it should not be expected that for this to happen Cuba should make concessions inherent to its sovereignty and independence”.
Lifting the blockade would be a significant contribution to achieving a civilized coexistence and undoubtedly would benefit the peoples of Cuba and the United States, but also the international community.
Havana, February 2, 2017