UN urged to debate blockade

September 25, 1991

By Norm Dixon

The United Nations General Assembly, which convened on September 17, has been asked to put on its agenda the US government's end crippling 30-year economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba.

The agenda will be finalised following debate in the session's first week. The US is expected to fight tooth and nail to keep the item off the agenda, because a debate would shed light on the real cause of Cuba's severe economic problems and undermine Washington's propaganda that these problems stem from the "failure of socialism".

The Cuban UN delegation described the trade embargo as a "flagrant violation of the principles of sovereign equality of states and non-intervention in their internal affairs" and appealed to the General Assembly to help end this "unjust and illegal" blockade.

Ricardo Alarcón, Cuba's UN ambassador, said the embargo was imposed to punish Cuba for daring to break free of US political and economic domination and in "retaliation for the Cuban revolution's sweeping agrarian reform".

The embargo "continues to include a total prohibition on Cuba's acquisition of foodstuffs, medicine and medical supplies and equipment of United States origin". The ban affects all raw materials, technology transfers, spare parts and manufactured goods. The US even forbids its citizens to travel to Cuba — a breach of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Cuban President Fidel Castro estimates that the US blockade has cost his country over $15 billion in the last 30 years.

The US Congress is soon to vote to tighten the economic noose by outlawing trade with Cuba by foreign subsidiaries of US companies. This will affect 10% of Cuba's hard currency income. The US recently decided that any ship in US waters which had traded with Cuba in the previous 180 days would be seized.

Despite the tremendous economic barriers created by the US, the Cuban revolution has achieved First World standards in health care, life expectancy, literacy and universal education, nutrition, full employment, housing and social welfare. The infant mortality rate in Washington, D.C., is three times as high as in Havana.

In the rest of Latin America, where presumably capitalism is "succeeding", illiteracy is on the rise, more than 30 million children live on the streets, 30% of the workforce is unemployed and 270 million of the region's 447 million people live in extreme poverty. Many Latin American countries cannot even provide safe drinking water, as the outbreak of the first cholera epidemic in the Americas in this century has highlighted.

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