South Africans condemn Helms-Burton Bill


South Africans condemn Helms-Burton Bill

The following statement was issued on May 31 by the alliance of the African National Congress, South African Communist Party and South African Congress of Trade Unions.

In the face of worldwide condemnation of the 35-year US blockade of Cuba, right-wing Republican senators, led by Jesse Helms, have now introduced a bill into Congress. The Helms-Burton Bill is designed to tighten up and internationalise the blockade.

Amongst other things, it aims to prohibit the import of sugar, molasses, syrups and products containing these items from countries which, in turn, import them from Cuba. In this and other ways the bill seeks to punish third countries and non-US companies trading with Cuba. The bill is in gross violation of World Trade Organisation rules — a fact that has been forcefully stated by European Union, and by UK, Canadian, German and French government spokespersons.

The bill also prescribes in detail the kind of "transitional" political institutions that are required in Cuba. It grossly interferes with Cuban sovereignty and is prescriptive in ways that the US was careful not to be in the recent South African transition process.

Our ANC-led movement and our newly elected Government of National Unity have consistently condemned the US blockade. Last year in the UN General Assembly, South Africa was one of 101 countries voting against the blockade. Only two (the US and Israel) voted for its retention.

The Helms-Burton move to strengthen this Cold War anachronism is absolutely unacceptable. We call for the normalisation of US-Cuba relations. Over the past year, there have been some promising signs that the beginnings of normalisation were in prospect. We now call on the Clinton Administration to firmly resist the retrograde move by right-wing Republican senators.

As for Senator Jesse Helms, South Africans have good reason to be suspicious of his deep concerns for democracy in Cuba. Over the past 15 years, Helms has been the most outspoken and unabashed defender of white minority rule in our country.