On Nov. 1, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to adopt, for the 26th time, the resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” which has gone on for almost 60 years.
On Sept. 13, 2016, President Barack Obama renewed, for one more year, the sanctions against Cuba in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act (1961), which authorized the president of the United States to establish and maintain a total “embargo” on trade with Cuba, and prohibited any aid to the Cuban government.
Presidential Proclamation 3447, issued on Feb. 3, 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, decreed the total embargo on trade between the United States and Cuba, in compliance with Section 620(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act.
The Cuban Democracy Act, or Torricelli Law, of 1992, prohibited trade with Cuba or Cuban nationals by subsidiaries of U.S. companies in third countries. The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act, or Helms–Burton Act, of 1996 codified the provisions of the embargo, broadening its extraterritorial scope. It did this through the imposition of sanctions against directors of foreign companies who engage in business transactions utilizing U.S. property nationalized in Cuba, and through the threat of lawsuits in United States courts (this last provision has not been implemented). Additionally, it limited the authority of the president of the United States to suspend the embargo, although it does establish that his power to authorize transactions with Cuba through the issuance of licenses is preserved.
During 2015 and 2016, the Obama administration put into effect several measures designed to modify some elements of the embargo. While these represented positive steps, they were insufficient, since there have remained important obstacles to their implementation and key aspects of the embargo have remained in force, as well as numerous restrictions derived from this policy.
On June 16, 2017, as part of his new policy on Cuba, President Donald Trump announced new measures escalating the embargo against our country.
The measures are described in the directive signed by the president on that same day, titled “National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba.” Among other measures, it repeals “Presidential Policy Directive -- United States-Cuba Normalization,” issued by President Obama on Oct. 14, 2016.
These new provisions reverse measures adopted by the Obama administration, which for the first time since the enactment of the embargo against Cuba, acknowledged that this was a failed and obsolete policy which should be ended, and called on Congress to eliminate it.
The strengthening of the sanctions regime of the United States against Cuba is a setback in the bilateral relationship. It puts in place additional obstacles to the very limited and scarce economic and commercial links between the two countries. The measures approved by President Trump will not only result in a decrease in the number of trips by U.S. citizens to Cuba; it will also impose new prohibitions and will affect the interests of the U.S. business sector.
On Oct. 26, 2016, the United Nations General Assembly approved, for the 25th time, the resolution titled “Necessity of ending the economic, trade and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” The vote was 191 votes in favor and two abstentions, the United States and Israel. Nicaragua voted in favor and will be once again standing by the people of Cuba in the adoption of this important resolution.
The economic damage to the Cuban people caused by the economic, trade and financial embargo of the United States against Cuba, taking into account the devaluation of the dollar relative to the price of gold on the international market, amounts to $822.28 million. At current prices, the embargo has caused damages of more than $130.17 billion over its duration.
The embargo against Cuba must end. It is the most unjust, harshest and longest-lasting unilateral sanctions regime that has ever been imposed on a country. On 25 occasions, by an overwhelming majority, the General Assembly has declared itself in favor of respect for international law and compliance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.
The author is counselor of the Permanent Mission of Nicaragua to the United Nations.