Monday, September 7, 2009


By the time I was born World War II was finished by a couple of years so I had to wait to the Cuba crisis before I had the very real sense of fear of pending war.

At the time I was at boarding school in Lancashire and I remember standing outside in the dark getting some air after the evening meal. We were all fully aware of the pending nuclear Armageddon as we scanned the night sky wondering if the small light passing overhead was an aircraft or the first of the missiles that would signal our end. Would our world still be there in the morning?

Well that was a long, long time ago - for it was in 1962 that the USA imposed stinging sanctions against the Castro regime under the Trading with the Enemy Act and they are still in place to this day. They totally failed to bring down the Cuba government and in 2009 do more political harm to the USA than the Caribbean Island. Indeed given the evils we face in this modern world there can be no justification for the on-going crusade against Cuba.

On September 14 President Barack Obama is due to renew these sanctions. Amnesty International is calling on the president to take the first step towards dismantling the US embargo against Cuba by not renewing them.

Amnesty has just published a report – “The US embargo against Cuba: Its impact on economic and social rights”. In it the human rights group concludes that the sanctions are particularly affecting Cubans’ access to medicines and medical technologies and endangering the health of millions.

Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Irene Khan said:

“This is the perfect opportunity for President Obama to distance himself from the failed policies of the past and to send a strong message to the US Congress on the need to end the embargo.

“The US embargo against Cuba is immoral and should be lifted. It's preventing millions of Cubans from benefiting from vital medicines and medical equipment essential for their health.”

Amnesty International states that Cuba faces severe restrictions in importing medicines, medical equipment or technologies from the USA or from any US company abroad because of the embargo. The sanctions also limit other imports to the island and restrict travel and the transfer of money.

Products patented in the USA or containing more than 20 percent US-manufactured parts or components cannot be exported to Cuba, even if they are produced in third countries.

Further more according to data from the United Nations, Cuba’s inability to import nutritional products for consumption at schools, hospitals and day care centres, is contributing to a high prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia. Some 37.5 per cent of Cuba’s children under three years old are affected according to UNICEF.

Children's health was also put at risk by a decision from US syringe suppliers to cancel an order for three million disposable syringes made in 2007 by UNICEF’s Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation when it became known that the units were destined for the implementation of a programme in Cuba.

Similar situations have affected the implementation of UN programmes to prevent and fight HIV/AIDS on the island.

Irene Khan continued:

“Although responsibility for providing adequate health care lies primarily with the Cuban authorities, governments imposing sanctions such as embargoes need to pay special attention to the impact they can have on the targeted country's population.”

Amnesty International in Spain, where for historic reasons the plight of Cuba has a higher profile than in the UK, is asking people to urgently add their signature to a letter to President Obama. You can do that by clicking on this link:

As a human rights organisation Amnesty International is not blind to nor has it been silent on the abuses that have taken place on the Caribbean island. However two wrongs do not make a right and viewing Cuba as “the enemy” has no place in the modern world.

(Photo of medicine rationing queue in Cuba - Amnesty International)

1 comment:

Prospero said...

The US has just lifted travel restrictions to Cuba for 'family members'. In April, the US Treasury Department allowed unlimited amounts of money to be sent annually, also to 'family', whereas before, the amount was limited to $1200 annually, and only one visit per annum was allowed. (See
This will undoubtedly help individual families on the island, but above all will bring millions of dollars into the Cuban economy, which is much needed. In whose pockets they will end up, however, does not need much guessing. Castro himself is alleged to have very large accounts in Switzerland, not to mention his many cohorts and cronies.
True, Castro's dictatorship practically got rid of illiteracy and has 'given' medical coverage to everyone. Without medicines, though, that is a fairly empty thing. I have personal experience of urgent medication sent from the US via Costa Rica ending up in the hands of top Cuban customs officials, the intended recipient dying in dreadful pain months later. The sender was never advised of the fact until three years later.
Not everything in Cuba is as one might like to see it, as Amnesty International, and you, say in your article.