|Cuban Interests Section in USA
Fernando Ravsberg interviews Johana Tablada, Deputy Director for North America in the Cuban Foreign Ministry
HAVANA, February 9, 2012.- Johana Tablada, Deputy Director for North America at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, granted us an interview to discuss the United States economic embargo against Cuba, which has just reached its 50th anniversary, under ten U.S. Presidents. Return
Q: One of the arguments given by those who advocate for the embargo is that it is an excuse for the Cuban Government to explain all its failures.
A: If it is an excuse then why not end the blockade, why don´t they lift it and let life tells where the truth lies? They don´t lift it because that way they pressure us, haunt us, to later evaluate us and say: Look how badly they´re doing. It has been this way during 50 years.
P: Which are the major damages caused by the Embargo
A: We could spend the whole day talking about all the damages; summing up, I’d say the essential aspect is that it has prevented Cuba from developing at its maximum capacity. The blockade prevents us from having relations with the United States and interacting with the rest of the World under normal conditions. Because the blockade has an extraterritorial dimension that puts pressure on third countries, aiming at the collapse of the Cuban system just to impose one they prefer.
Q: But, don´t you trade with all countries in the world?
A: The truth is that we cannot trade with all. No product whose components are 10 percent Cuban can enter into the United States, therefore, if a Japanese enterprise whishes to use our nickel, it won´t later be able to export the final product to the United States.
Besides, the blockade keeps us from buying, in any region of the world, products with more that 10 percent of U.S. components. The blockade prevents us from making such purchases, and punishes any company which violates this.
Vessels which enter a port or place in Cuba are prohibited from loading or unloading any freight at any place in the U.S. for 180 days.
Financial transactions are also affected by the blockade; we cannot open accounts in banks that are a branch or subsidiary of a U.S. bank, and with globalization it is hard to operate under such controls.
All vessels entering Cuban ports are prohibited from entering into the United States for 180 days. ¿Who would like to come to the Caribbean with the prohibition to later enter the most important ports in the zone?
There are even laws in the United States penalizing foreign investments in Cuba, punishing them (investors)
Q: Who has been punished?
A: Two examples, the executives of the Canadian company Sherrit were denied visas to the United States after they invested in Cuba´s nickel; Spanish company Sol Meliá had to choose between keeping business in Florida and their investments in Havana.
Q: All this seems contradictory considering the U.S. policy of selling food to Cuba?
A: There is not a “policy”. It is only a window in the blockade resulting from a strong campaign by the agriculture lobby in the United States, together with humanitarian organizations which consider a cruelty the denial of food and medicines.
And it cannot be called “trade” because we are not allowed to sell anything and it is carried out under archaic and unprofitable commercial conditions; there is no credit, we have to pay in advance and in cash.
Q: The oil lobby is more powerful than the agriculture one; could the presence of oil in Cuban waters open a bigger window?
A: We don´t know that yet but there is an increasing consensus among United States citizens to lift the prohibitions on travel, to reestablish relations and also, to authorize U.S. oil companies to participate in the Cuban oil program. Cuba does not discriminate U.S. companies in any way.
The blockade affects all sectors of society
Q: Obama authorized travel by all Cuban Americans and eliminated the restrictions to the remittances. Now, U.S. officials complain that Cuba did not respond with other gestures?
A: We publicly expressed that we are open to dialogue without conditions and in 2009, we presented the United States a draft of an agenda with seven issues. We included the blockade but also less sensitive issues of common interest, a draft of a migratory accord, the reestablishment of the direct postal mail, an agreement for the fight against drug trafficking, cooperation in natural disasters and the strengthening of ties between our scientific communities. They never responded.
Q: Isn´t it too much to ask Obama to end the embargo, when only the Congress can do that?
A: The blockade is a very complex scaffolding of sanctions and not everything has been codified by Congress. Besides, in almost all these restrictions there is a section stating that these can not be applied should they affect U.S. national interest or if the President stipulates otherwise.
The President of the United States has a long list of prerogatives to provide more flexibility to issues like medicines; this way, Cuban children would have more access to medicines, antibiotics and equipments whose absence cause difficulties some surgical procedures.
Q: One of the reasons for the embargo is that Cuba did not compensate the companies that were nationalized in 1959. Is this true?
A: U.S. citizens were not the only ones, at least 15 other countries –Switzerland, Germany, Spain- had properties nationalized. All have been compensated and some of those companies are again in Cuba. The United States was the only one that did not accept the compensation agreement; the Bay of Pigs invasion they were planning at the moment was more attractive to them
Q: What prospects do you see in the future?
A: The vast majority of U.S. citizens woud like to have good relations with Cuba. To many of them, as well as to many Cubans, the idea of working together for a project of social justice is still more attractive than the idea to struggle to have a place among the “famous 1 percent”. Cuba, still poor and blockaded, demonstrated that it is possible to build a society in which all children have a place where to sleep and a school to attend, something that´s still a miracle to many in the world. Just for this reason, Cuba deserves that the blockade disappears. (Cubaminrex)