Cuban Blockade: Cruel & Unusual


It’s time again for the international community to remind the United States how absurd and futile their blockade of Cuba is. The vote to condemn the blockade is a UN affair (equally as absurd and futile perhaps, since the Cuba policy is largely a US domestic issue and UN votes are notoriously toothless) – the 20th of its kind. Last year, 185 countries condemned the blockade, with 2 nations dissenting: the USA and Israel (surprise! surprise!).

For those needing a bit of a primer, the US embargo was first enacted in 1962 – before many of us were even born. The purpose of the policy, then as now, is to isolate the country to such a degree as to foment regime change (seems they’re a bit obsessed up north with the ‘C’ word – in this case Castro). After about 30 years of the means failing spectacularly to attain the desired end, the policy was strengthened through the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts so brutally that today, it violates the most basic human right of 11 million Cubans – the right to self determination.

This chaps my ass. What also irks me is when analysts, academics, and others somehow hitching their wagon to Cuba’s star call the policy an ‘embargo’ when it is, in fact, an economic, commercial and financial blockade. Semantics you say? Not for those of us here suffering under it. And not for those who understand the difference between the two. It’s one thing to prevent your own government, people, and businesses from dealing with Cuba, it’s something entirely, extraterritorially else to penalize other countries for doing same.

Consider this explanation by Peter Schwab in his book Cuba: Confronting the US Embargo:The embargo blockade disallows Cuba from using US dollars in international trade, costing the country additional money for exchanging currencies. US regulations also disallow the export of US products from a third country, while products even developed through the use of US technology or design [emphasis mine] cannot be sold to Cuba.

Not only vicious, the policy is ridiculous in its application: there was the incident at the Mexico City Sheraton, when staff refused rooms to Cuban guests in 2007 in town for a conference; an Oslo hotel owned by Hilton repeated the gaffe with a Cuban trade delegation that same year. In October 2010, Twitter blocked messages originating from Cuban cell phones, citing the blockade as justification. Twitter quickly capitulated, but isn’t the convergence between the “free” market, politics and censorship interesting to consider? Taken together, all the elements petty and severe of the blockade have meant over $100 billion in losses for the island over the years.

What really boggles the mind, however, is the bang-your-head-against-the-wall determination with which the policy has been pursued, despite its failure to reach its stated goal. It puts me in mind of Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Yes, folks, this is an insane policy. What policytroublemakers in South Florida, Jersey, and D.C. doggedly ignore and don’t want you to know is how this policy lowers quality of life, separates families, and kills people on both sides of the Straits. Before I rant about the specific ways in which this policy makes life harder here as well as there, allow me to extend my deepest condolences to all the families, Cuban and otherwise, who have suffered under the blockade. I’d also like to voice my deepest respect and admiration to all those working towards a change in policy and the 11 million Cubans – 70% of whom have only known life under the blockade – affected daily as a result.

So you might better understand how this translates on the ground, I offer these snapshots of how the blockade has affected me and my loved ones.

I can’t hear you! Can you hear me?! – Phone calls originating from the USA get routed through China, Argentina and who knows where and cost upwards of $1/minute (except to the US naval base at Guantanamo, adding insult to injury). Getting a call to actually connect may take half a dozen attempts and forget wishing someone well on Christmas, New Year’s or Mother’s Day, when over 1 million Cubans living off island are all trying to do the same.

When the call actually does come through, it sounds like my sister is underwater and my mom is in a cave so deep, her voice is echoing off the walls. My PBS producer, meanwhile, may as well be talking into a Dixie cup on a string the delay between what she says and I hear is that long. To give you an idea how severely this affects communication, consider that in almost 10 years living here, only two friends have called me a total of three times – and I have some very devoted, (albeit poor), friends. For all these reasons, you can understand why I maintain my PO Box here, though even letters from the USA sometimes don’t leave domestic soil due to blockade politics. Thankfully, FaceBook and other social media aren’t blocked by either country.

Can I connect? No, you cannot – Recently PayPal threatened legal action and said my account would be blocked for trying to access the site from an ‘embargoed country.’ This is more serious than it may seem: like many freelance writers, I receive earnings from some clients via PayPal, and this prevented me from collecting payment for services rendered. Only I after I enlisted my own counsel and provided voluminous paperwork proving that I’m a journalist with US Treasury permission to be here (another absurdity: the US prevents it’s residents and citizens from traveling freely to the country of their choice, in this case Cuba), did they reinstate my account. I still can’t access it though and so only have use of my funds when I’m off-island. Other sites blocked for the same reason are iTunes and Tiger Direct. LinkedIn is also LockedOut thanks to US embargo.

Cash on the barrelhead – If you’ve been to Cuba, you know US credit and debit cards don’t work here. When I first moved to Havana in 2002, I thought my HSBC card would work. Silly me. Despite being a London-based bank, HSBC has offices in the USA (like most banks worldwide), and therefore cannot do business with Cuba under the terms of the blockade. I love how globalization works for those holding the reins. For the rest of us? Salsipuede.

Think of all the things you do with plastic funds. How would you live without debit and credit cards 24/7/365? How would you pay for webhosting or buy a plane ticket or god forbid, get money in an emergency? Anyone from the USA who travels or is based in Cuba has to do everything in cash – no exceptions (see note 1).

You’re sick and will stay that way – Of the more than 300 major drugs on the market since 1970, nearly 50% are of US origin and effectively blocked from export to Cuba (see note 2). The stories of people on both sides of the Straits who are denied life-prolonging or -saving medication due to the collusion between US big pharma and politics are heartbreaking. There’s the US drug Prostaglandin E1 – used in children born with congenital heart defects – is denied to Cuba. In fact, 90% of the products used to correct these malformations are manufactured by US multinationals or their subsidiaries and therefore are not available here due to the blockade. Anesthesia, diagnostic equipment and parts, and the latest in antiretrovirals to treat HIV are likewise unavailable. Cruel? You tell me.

But sadly, the policy affects US folks too. A dear friend of mine recently died of lung cancer. Had the breakthrough Cuban therapy Cimavax-EGF been available to her, she could have lived up to 5 years longer (if recent clinical trials in Europe are any indication); even if she didn’t respond optimally to the treatment and lived another half decade, the therapy certainly could have improved her quality of life at the end. The same holds true for meningococcal B outbreaks in college campuses across the country. Were the Cuban vaccine for the disease VA-MENGOC-BC available, these outbreaks could be averted. These Cuban therapies and vaccines, along with Heberprot-P, used to treat diabetic foot (a major cause of morbidity in diabetics) and blue scorpion venom used in cancer patients, are unique in the world. Thanks to the blockade, if you’re in the USA, you can’t have them.

The blockade causes pain, suffering, and grief. But it also strengthens our resistance, creativity and resilience. To Obama on down I say: stick with your failed blockade policy. Over here, we have 52 years proving unequivocally that Yes We Can!Notes
1. The Canadian company Caribbean Transfers issues debit cards for use in Cuba and American Express Traveler’s Checks work in some banks here, but for the overwhelming majority of us, we’re forced to live entirely in a cash-based economy. This means carrying drug dealer type wads of cash on any Cuba trip.
2. See The Cuban Cure by S.M. Reid-Henry, pp 39.

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61 Comments

Filed under Communications, Cuban economy, Cuban Revolution, Living Abroad, Uncategorized

61 responses to “Cuban Blockade: Cruel & Unusual

  1. Dan

    Hi Conner- I bring medicine to cuba each year and will continue to do so BECAUSE of the aforementioned blockade- for myself and other like-minded travelers, what medicines could be most useful in Cuba? any specific suggestions? Thanks for the inciteful writing!

    • Awesome Dan. Just today, one of my favorite little old ladies asked for Vitamin C. Other over the counter stuff in short supply/high demand is:
      Multivitamins, calcium, Ibuprofen, childrens cold medication

      I recently helped coordinate a donation to a local church and in addition to that listed above, they requested (they have many older adults in their congregation)
      - Glucosamine-Chondroitim
      - Acetaminophen
      - Voltaren (diclofenac sodium; injectable and tablets)
      - Claritin
      - Cough medicine (for children & adults)
      - Vicks Vap-o-Rub (or equivalent)
      - Vicks cough drops (or equivalent)
      - Anti flu medicine
      - Mucosolvan (Chlorpheniramine)
      - Atorvastatina (Lipitor)
      - Tea tree oil/balm
      - Atenolol
      - Isosorbide mononitrate
      - Triamcinolone
      - Flufenazin
      - Murine ear drops
      - Omega 3
      - Ipatropium bromide inhaler (asthma)

    • Timoney Ambrose

      Okay, I have lived in Key West for 61 years and know all too well of what you speak and I agree totally but it’s a hard pill to swallow and say we “the USA” have made a mistake especially when 99.9% of our politicians depend on the Cuban vote. I have yet to meet a Cuban National that is for the ending of this fiasco. Though they have family’s still in Cuba their hate of the Castro Politics is stronger than the thought of ending this completely. Just sayin

      • I hear Key West is beautiful – hope to make it there some day.

        99,9% of our politicians depend on the Cuban vote? How do you figure?

        Cuban National – you mean people living on the island or people in the diaspora? Either way, I can introduce you to scads of Cubans in every corner of the world who want an end to this policy. Tip: try talking to a Cuban emigre under 60.

      • The 99.9% comes from the fact that Florida has become a “must win” state in the Presidential election, and even those running for Congress and Senate in Florida have to tip their hat to the Cuban emigres. When you consider that older people vote at a higher rate than younger, the anti-Castro community ends up throwing around a disproportional amount of weight.

        However, just like the next generation of Jews has formed J Street to counter AIPAC’s weight in U.S. Politics in order to find true peace with the Palestinians, many of these younger people are starting to organize and lobby – and the emigres are “aging out”. The result is a way too slow but inexorable push towards more openness.

      • OK, sounds reasonable. Except did you know that Cuban emigres donate EQUALLY to both parties, at all levels? Even my District 17 long-incumbent (and anti-Cuba) representative Eliott Engel has his finger in the pot. Giving to both sides is so cover-your-assets, typically Cuban, I love it, but just goes to show: there is only one party in the USA, the party of green ($$$, not Nader).

  2. Ole

    Well, you have finally come fully out of the closet, Conner.
    You state that it is Helms Burton which “violates the rights of 11 million Cubans” without a tip of the hat to the biggest violaters of any Cuban Citizen’s rights- Two Despot brothers, who are the long lived Champions of such violations for 53 years now.

    And medical supplies and food do not fall under the provisions of that Act.

    If you are saying end the embargo-you as a journalist should know the difference between an embargo and a blockade- then I am with you. It is a failed policy which allows the Castros to attribute every failing of the ill thought out programs of the communist system to its existence. It is a crutch for them, and should be Gone.

    But you are disingenuous to the extreme when you bypass who is really responsible for the suffering of the Cuban people.

    I expected better from You.

    • Sweetie, I was never in the closet, all the boys and girls know that!

      You are correct in one thing: not only medical supplies, but also medicines, and food CAN be sold to Cuba but (there’s always a but, ain’t there? es la vida mi hermano) according to terms so distorted it makes it not worth it (more so for medicines than food due to inputs. subsidies and a host of other factors that warp food production in the US)and, Cuba can’t export to the US, of course. Sure, we’re talking small potatoes: rum, cigars, nickel, biotech, but it adds up.

      My point, put differently: level the playing field, get your boot off the neck for a second and see what Cubans can do. I’m sure it would be nothing short of amazing.

      • Max

        Never been to Cuba, guess I’m what someone like Ole would call “naive”. “Disingenuous” is a polite way of calling you a liar. But I can add: If the Castros were such ogres and Communism were so bad, Cuba would have collapsed long ago. If the Castros had a fleet of Mercedes, or a gold plated yacht, or a huge mansion, pics would have been on the Drudgereport before you could say Joseph Stalin! One needs only read the venom sprayed on the Castros by the Miami press, couched in one unctuous cliche after another, to ask oneself “Hmm, they protesteth too hard. I wonder why?”

        I read a profound statement from a Cuban, quoted on yahoogroups Cubanews(you should link to it!): They cry, You’re drowning! while holding your head underwater.

      • CubaNews is a terrific aggregator of Cuba items and reporting. I rec’d subscribing for anyone interested in news and developments on the island.

        Max: you seem so passionate on the topic. I suggest you come for a visit to see exactly what gets you so hot under the collar/keyboard.

  3. Ole

    This post was inciteful, indeed Dan.

    Just not too insightful.

  4. Ole

    Well, I see your reply to Dan, so I guess you have decided not to post my comments.

    Perhaps you could get a job with Granma? It seems you are comfortable with only one side of a story being presented.

  5. “The American Obsession”. That is what they call U.S. policy towards Cuba in Europe, and they are right. America is incapable of admitting mistakes in foreign policy, even across parties and administrations. It is this thinking that explains why no one is being investigated for lying us into the Iraq war. It is why we stayed in Vietnam long after our own military had concluded we could not win.

    vHowever what makes our Cuba policy even worse is the blatant hypocrisy. We engage with China based on the concept that open engagement with a nation that doesn’t really need our help will be changed from within by our open dialog. Yet at the same time Cuba, a nation that can both benefit from and be a benefit to the USA is ostracized because engagement would be “condoning” Castro.

    I am no fan of Castro, but on his worst day he does not violate the rights of the Cuban people to anywhere near the level that the Chinese government does routinely to their people. Our behavior towards Cuba is inexplicable and, yes, obsessive.

    • The OCD Policy (Obsessive Compulsive or Over Castro’s Dead body). I like it!

    • Max

      “No fan of castro.” Why not? He strafes, bombs, robs, incinerates no one. Nor does he hire others to do so. His people grumble but don’t rebel despite their poverty. He doesn’t have a villa on the Adriatic or a Swiss bank account. There isn’t a whiff of the contempt for the underdog that oozes from your well-coiffed “liberal” “democrats” as from an open wound.

      Say it with me: Yo corazon Fidel mucho!

      • Why not? The active squashing of any dissent or disagreement with his policies, leading to hundreds if not thousands being imprisoned for simply believing differently. For not giving the Cuban people the basic right to CHOOSE him as their leader. That is why.

      • OK guys, I’ll let you duke it out (for now), but will correct errors.

        Not “any dissent or disagreement” leads to imprisonement. Ladies in White? Dissenting, actively, weekly, not in jail. Eduardo de Llano? Pedro Pablo? And The Pablo (Milanes)? Disagreeing, publicly, actively. None in jail. During natl debates last and this year leading up to 6th Party Congress, millions of Cubans were disagreeing (and debating) about how to move the country forward. I participated in these debates and while the culture of debate is nascent (to put it mildly), it’s happening and without imprisonment as far as I know. So, if the issue is imprisonment for dissenting views, let’s keep it to current events – ie those imprisoned in 2010 onward and let’s also underscore those dissidents who were released.

        Little known fact: Cubans do choose their leader, in regular, monitored elections. In many ways it is more democratic than the way it’s handled in the USA (think: redistricting to suit needs and PACs to start). True there is only one party here in Cuba, but to even have such a discussion, we’d have to agree on: what constitutes democracy? what constitutes free speech? What is Cuba doing better/different? What could it do better/different?

      • The following links are to reports from Amnesty International of the arrests without charge of 11 dissenters and 3 family members, as well as a crackdown on the aforementioned “Ladies In White” over the last four months.

        As for the definition of democracy, yes that is debatable. There is a strong argument to be made that we, the USA, are no longer a true democracy. However, one of the basic tenets of any democracy is the right of the people to form their own political parties and run for office. No nation that lacks this basic right can be considered democratic. If you can only vote for one party – even if it nominates more than one man for leader (correct me if I am wrong – but this is NOT the case in Cuba) can consider itself democratic.

        http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/005/2011/en/f1325a4e-4f3e-458d-84f4-679d41d6ab6b/amr250052011en.html

        http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/004/2011/en/2559286a-0a6d-43d8-b38d-23bf0fb81ab4/amr250042011en.html

      • thanks for the links Dave. As far as I know, Amnesty has never been allowed into Cuba to observe, so this second hand info must be taken with a grain of salt (yes, I understand the irony there). Im not saying these reports are not necessarily true, just asking that readers consider the possibility that they are not true.

        Also, Cuba has never proclaimed itself a “democracy” but does lay claim to being “democratic” in some areas. Semantics? Perhaps. But what isn’t??

      • In Amnesty’s defense they are VERY careful about their sourcing and confirmations. For example, there numbers for political prisoners in Cuba are 90% lower than those claimed by most Cuban anti-Castro groups. It is highly unlikely that their numbers or information is false.

        It is worth noting that until these recent arrests Cuba had made outstanding progress in this area, but with a caveat. Between January and May of this year the number of political prisoners in Cuba, according to A.I., dropped from 39 to 0. Of the 39, 27 were released in a deal between Cuba, Spain, and the Catholic Church on the condition that they go into exile in Spain. The other 12 refused the deal and were initially still held, but were released provisionally in April. Provisional release means that they are subject to re-arrest based on the previous charges at any time.

        So is it progress? Yes, quite a bit no doubt. Is it enough? No, it is still not true freedom if you have to either shut up or leave. Claims to being “democratic” are questionable at best. That said, I still believe strongly that the U.S. should lift ALL sanctions. They are not productive and, given our behavior elsewhere in the world, amazingly hypocritical. China, anyone?

      • Thanks for the data Dave.

        Sourcing from family members of dissidents and the dissidents themselves is a shaky, at best, evidence-base, especially because dissidence in Cuba is a cottage industry with cash on the barrel head awards and intl funding (ie: there’s an economic interest added to the political axe they’re grinding). Saying AI is more reliable than anti Castro groups is like saying Britney Spears is more talented than Snooki (ie they both suck, one just royally more than the other). Im not saying AI info is false to their knowledge. But I do know Cubans and how they manipulate others – particularly foreigners – when there is $$$ at stake. The bottom line (was a club in the village): no one really knows WTF goes on with these dissidents but I do know they collect their rations, and live in and off of subsidies provided by the government. In other words: they’re shitting where they’re eating and that’s unattractive, to say the least. I did not know there were conditions placed on those released this year…..nor did I know of their “provisional release”

        True freedom exists only on paper (and in our minds – if we’re lucky).

        thanks for following up on this.

  6. mojito

    Funny dating back to Trudeau, there is occasional rumbling about Canadian companies trading in Cuba. I have met with Americans that Canadian have Cuba to themselves when it come to the Agricultural trade and American would like in. Canada proudly has said F.U. to American pressure selling to Cuba and the U.S. has meekly protested. Gotta love all those McCain French fries in Cuba. PEI and Atlantic Canada has a 200 year history trading with Cuba.

  7. Dan

    My thanks Conner for giving us a clear list of stuff we can carry- no matter how people feel about the “embargo” we should all fill our packs to the max with these and other things to bring to our cuban neighbors…..

  8. I couldn’t agree with you anymore! I have been saying the same thing for years!!!

  9. Timoney Ambrose

    Oh Conner, When I say Cuban National’s I mean the wet foot, dry foot Population who risked their lives to escape Cuba via anything that will float. Of course the younger population is all for a change. Most have never been to Cuba or have had a limited experience of the daily grind their people endure. It’s usually a weekend trip to go see Grand Parents and then back to work on Monday. The average Cuban voting age in this part of the world is 53. If it were 40 we would be discussing the wonderful week I had just spent in Varadaro and drinks with the Commodore. As far Key West and it’s beauty, forget it it. They are going to dredge the channel as to accommodate more and bigger cruise ships. Our beautiful Old Town reeks of stale beer and vomit and is littered with cheap drink coupons and cigarette butts. My God I envy you and your place in life and the place you call home.

    Timoney

    • Gotcha. For those who don’t know what the ‘dry foot/wet foot’ policy is, this is another of the US’ deadly tools used against Cuba (and only Cuba mind you, which is just disgusting, seeing as there are people in the world who are suffering real political violence and persecution in their countries and they don’t get this “free pass”): if a Cuban even touches US soil, they get immediate residency, plus a basket of other perks which can include $ to resettle, job training, temporary housing, English-language classes. So what does this mean? Cubans risking their lives to get that toe onto US soil: via speed boats, rafts, and as T says ‘anything that floats’. It also means they hire mules to take them across the Mexico border: while the Mexicanos are caught and herded into a detention center and back across the border, the Cubans are received, welcomed, and given residency.

      The USA also maintains a program for Cuban doctors working around the globe who want to defect to the US. These folks receive even more support (as you might imagine) to get them to go over to ‘the other side’

      • Ole

        Not wanting to be disrespectful, Conner, but I must correct you here- Cubans do not have to be smuggled by mules into the US from Mexico. They simply walk across from Mexico into the US Immigration building and they are granted automatic entry under the Cuban Adjustment Act (wet foot/dry foot) And then they are given the plethora of benefits which you describe, and automatic Permanent Residency in the US after 366 days. At which point they already have their flight booked back Home to Cuba.

      • Not wanting to be disrespectful” This is a case of barn door open, horse already gone Ole!

        I personally know three Cubans who contracted mules to take them across the border. Why? Who knows? They have their reasons, Im sure.

  10. Timoney Ambrose

    Well put Conner but that is only the shiny side of this well worn coin. What about the thousands if not ten’s of that have tried to make it to the U.S. And have failed since the beginning of the embargo against Cuba? They will be faced with only two options in their failure to reach the ‘Dry Foot” status they seek. The lesser of two evils will be that they will be found at sea and still alive by the Coast Guard after only drifting at the whim of winds and currents and hopefully for only a few days. They will be given food, water and emergency medical care. Placed on deck under what is referred to as a “migrant shade” which is a tarp suspended by rope or metal frame to protect them from the sun. They are photographed and interrogated, but not harshly, as well as cataloged as per Coast Guard regulations. These “ Deserters of Cuba” will be most grateful to some extent for the food and shade but they know the worst is yet to come. They will be repatriated back to Cuba, a grim prospect to say the least. Yes they will weep and beg and plead their case to who ever will hear their words but to no avail. You can be sure they will not be given “ A basket of goodies and an ice cold Mojito” by the Cuban government.. When they are turned over to Cuba they will suffer the consequences of their actions against the state, ‘ which I understand is not as severe as it was thirty years ago” and their family will also suffer. All this is still the shiny side of that well worn coin. For the the rest of those that didn’t make it here there was only death. Death from starvation, dehydration, murder and drowning. Yes murder. There are as you know unscrupulous people willing to take a family or a couple of people to America in a fast boat for a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. All they have to do is swim off shore to the waiting boat and after paying for their passage and getting under way they are never heard from again. What kind of Country are we to encourage an other human being to risk their life crossing 93 miles of shark infested open ocean by any means possible with the promise that IF and only IF you can touch this shore by hand, foot or body you are welcome in America. This really pisses me off.. But hey, if you die well you died trying. It ain’t right Conner, nor is this embargo..

    T

    • Yes, if there’s was no guarantee of residency, how many people would risk those conditions to reach the US? There are stories, too, of people jumping ship, “fast boats” engaging in dangerous bob. dodge, and weave high sea maneuvers to avoid being caught by the coast guard, and people dying in the intent to reach a US shore, any shore.

  11. Absolutely. As I said, across parties and administrations.

  12. This absolutely breaks my heart whenever I read about the effects this is having on Cuba. I flat out disagree with the embargo and always have … It isn’t any wonder that us Brits (and most of the world) use generalisations for the USA in thinking they’re nothing but money-hungry apes. I know not all Americans are like this but with cutting off everything to a country who threaten the capitalist society they created in the ‘New World’, it’s just ridiculous and too extreme.

    The more I read your blog, the more I love how informed I am about this information from the inside. (I had to Tweet a link to this.) I see a big change coming for Cuba in the next 20-30 years.

  13. shane

    Yes, “Money hungry apes”,…is indeed how they are viewed, in the UK.

  14. Cheby

    Hi Coner
    Thanks for putting some real life examples of how the embargo effects individuals both in Cuba and abroad. My feeling is It needs to end.
    I read a local news story with interest this week (I,m from Atlantic Canada) about a young Prince Edward Island man proposing a solution to the closing of their small towns medical center due to lack of Doctors.
    He proposed a “Potatoes for Doctors” type trade deal with Cuba. In his words Cuba has a shortage of Potatoes and small town Atlantic Canada is a hard place to recruit Doctors.
    On the surface I can see the logic..

    Two things concern me about this.
    I fully understand and appreciate the fact that Cuba steps up in times of need in supplying Doctors abroad but it seems to me it is of a humanitarian nature vs a Business venture, It bother me the potential of the Brain Drain on Cuba. I am sure any of the many well qualified Doctors in Cuba could make a “great Living ” in Canada. (If what you consider a “great Living ” to mean lots of money… believe me that would not be my definition)
    How does this however further the efforts or support the fact that as a country Cuba has educated these Doctors for the common good of its people,
    Second.. and this is part of my education about a country I have come to love but struggle to understand, why would there be a shortage of Potatoes or the equivalent starch type food in Cuba, I would fully understand a shortage of processed potatoes or frozen processed fries etc. But I cant seem to rationalize “potato shortage” in what I see as a very lush country”.
    I am proud that Canada “seems” in most cases to set its own agenda in regards to its relations with Cuba, the embargo, etc. I hope that this only improves.

    • Hi there Cheby. You ask some very poignant (and complex) questions. I have written extensively about Cuba’s international cooperation abroad in health and medicine. You can search on that, ELAM (Latin American Medical School), PIS (the program that posts doctors overseas, but in Global South; ie not canada) at MEDICC Review.

      There’s a simpler solution: attract one of the 10,000 grads educated for free at the 6-year Latin American Medical School in havana (founded to turn brain drain into brain gain). These young doctors (all from the developing world, except 140 or so kids from the USA, recognizing that there are ‘third world’ health pockets in the US) make a moral commitment to return to work in vulnerable communities upon graduation and it seems PEI (and Hawaii for that matter; Ive tried to get HI involved w ELAM for a while now!) would qualify.

      Cuba may look lush, but we still import 80% of our foodstuffs. I, for one, would love more potatoes!

  15. Ole – the CAA allows for those rights once the REACH the immigration center. It does NOT grant them passage TO it. Cuban passports and Visas are NOT accepted by US Immigration at Mexican/American crossings. Nothing is more disrespectful then claiming as fact that which is demonstrably not.

  16. Ole

    You are incorrect, Sir. A Cuban does not need a Visa- once his foot hits the American side they are accepted, and a Cuban passport or a carnet will do just fine for INS.
    Automatic entry for any Cuban once his/her foot touches US soil.

    It is entirely possible that what Conner says is true-some Cubans do not want to enter that way for various reasons (all of them Bad), so they cross surreptitiously. But that is because they could not stand up to the scrutiny INS for some reason.

    • Whatever the logistics, I take exception, Ole, on you passing judgement on these folks. How can you judge people’s reasons as “bad”? And draw the conclusion that they can’t stand up to the INS? The decision to leave Cuba is difficult and complex no matter who you are, your circumstances or the “ganas” you may have to leave. I respect that people have their reasons for emigrating and I cannot, in good conscience, judge them for that.

      READERS:any Cubans out there with personal experience emigrating to the USA via Mexico want to weigh in?

  17. Actually, we are both right. Yes, you can cross the border and be processed on the same day. However, depending on whom the INS judge is hearing those cases you can also be thrown into a detention center and exported. Also, Mexico is not supportive of this, so the deadly boat ride to Florida has become a deadly boat ride to Mexico. The attached article is very informative.

    http://www.houstonpress.com/2008-01-10/news/immigration-cubans-enter-u-s-at-texas-mexico-border/

  18. Ole

    Conner- Unlike any other single person on the Planet, a Cuban may just show up on US soil and be given immediate, unconditional entry, and benefits which are nothing to sneeze at. Plus automatic Permanent Residence status after one year.

    Any Cuban who does not enter in this manner, to avail themselves of this sweetheart deal ,is hiding something. A criminal, a Spy- who knows, but that person is up to no good, and you are naive if you don’t know it instinctively.

  19. Neo – again you are ignoring a basic reality, which is that GETTING your foot on the ground is no easy thing.

  20. ScaredyGato

    Cubans going to the USA via Mexico have other challenges to face: the narco-kidnapping gangs and Mexican immigration. The latter will deport them to Cuba for illegal entry to Mexico. The former will (and have) torture the hell out of you while holding a cell phone connected to your family back in the USA, and demand ransom. Having lived in Mexico for five years, I recommend any Cuban misguided enough to believe that they “must” leave Cuba should take the Florida Strait route. The sharks are more forgiving than the evil narcos in this country.

    Posting anonymously ’cause the narcos have been killing people who so much as tweet about them here.

  21. Here’s a note from Oct 6 about US leveling fines against domestic & foreign companies for “trading with the enemy.” Que mierda.

    U.S. Government Strengthens Commercial Persecution against Cuba
    HAVANA, Cuba, Oct 6 (acn) For the third time in the past two months, authorities from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. government imposed a fine on an enterprise trading with Cuba, accused of violating the laws of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

    The Flowserve Corporation, a worldwide leader in the supply of equipments and services for the energy industry, based in Irving, Texas, was charged with a
    502,000 dollars fine for selling oil prospecting equipments to companies trading with the Caribbean island.

    According to a communiqué by the director of OFAC, Adam J. Szubin, Flowserve Corporation must also pay 2,500,000 dollars to the Bureau of Industry and Secuirity (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce to face the charges of transgressing American export regulations.

    Prensa Latina news agency reports that due to these measures, Flowserve
    Corporation announced the termination of all kinds of business with countries
    subjected to unilateral sanctions by Washington.

    There have been other similar penalties recently, such as that imposed against
    the French container shipping enterprise CMA CGM, which was fined with 374,400 dollars for offering its services to Cuba.

    Nine days after that, the JP Morgan Chase Company was imposed a sanction of 88.3 million dollars.

  22. This just in. Interesting emigration data + that smuggling across the Mexican border business…

    MIAMI HERALD
    Posted on Sun, Oct. 09, 2011
    Illegal Cuban migration, after years of decline, is up again

    By Alfonso Chardy and Juan O. Tamayo
    jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

    Reversing a three-year trend downward, the number of undocumented Cubans intercepted at sea or who reached U.S. shores in the past 12 months soared by more than 100 percent — sparking questions about the reasons behind the new trend.

    About 1,700 Cubans were interdicted or landed in fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30, according to figures compiled by El Nuevo Herald from Homeland Security Department agencies. That compares to 831 in fiscal 2010.

    U.S. Coast Guard interdictions at sea rose from 422 to 1,000, while landings on U.S. shores climbed from 409 to almost 700. Meanwhile, arrivals at U.S. border posts — almost all from Mexico — barely changed from 6,219 to 6,300.

    The figures reflected the first hike since fiscal year 2007, when the total hit 19,710, up from 16,226 for fiscal 2006. The number dropped back to 16,260 in 2008 and plummeted to 8,113 the following year.

    While the uptick over the past year would seem relatively modest, the reversal of the downward trend and the growth of 14 percent in the overall figure has triggered much speculation on exactly what drove the increase.

    Arturo Cobo, a Key West businessman who is in regular contact with some of the undocumented migrants and their families, said that the island’s stalled economy is leading many Cubans to try to seek better lives abroad.

    Havana activist Elizardo Sánchez agreed. “The economy is worse each day. Less money, less food, less everything,” said the head of the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

    Havana blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo said perhaps the uptick is simply a part of “the natural tendency of the Cuban anthropology — to escape — a process in which the numbers drop but the pressures accumulate, and then the numbers grow.”

    Raúl Castro’s government also may be “turning a blind eye to some of the departures as an escape valve for the growing discontent,” Cobo noted, referring to the increasing number of dissident protests over the past two years.

    Also possible, he added, is that the easing of the U.S. economic crisis made it easier for Cuban Americans to pay the fees demanded by smugglers to bring relatives and friends from the island, usually about $10,000 a head.

    The increase in attempts by undocumented Cubans to reach the United States appears to be in line with the Cuban government’s own figures, which show that legal emigration grew by 3 percent from 2009 to 2010.

    With a population of 11.2  million, Cuba recorded 38,165 legal emigrations last year, compared to 36,564 in 2009, according to a report this summer by the National Office for Statistics (ONE).

    Indeed, about 318,000 Cubans arrived in the United States both legally and illegally between 2000 and 2009, according to a recent study by Jorge Duany, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico who tracks the Cuban Diaspora.

    There’s little doubt that large numbers of Cubans want to leave the communist-ruled island, according to a 2009 dispatch written by U.S. diplomats in Havana and provided by WikiLeaks to McClatchy, which owns El Nuevo Herald.

    “Emigration remains a virtual obsession with many Cubans, especially, but by no means exclusively, with the young,” the cable noted. “Much of the Cuban public [is] still eager to leave the island.”

    Cuba’s emigration flows have varied widely, with massive spikes in 1980, when the Mariel boatlift brought 125,000 refugees to U.S. shores, and in 1994, when the so-called “Rafter Crisis” created 37,191 migrants.

    But it’s much more difficult to figure out why the numbers of undocumented Cuban emigrants rose from fiscal year 2003 to fiscal 2007, started dropping in fiscal 2009 and have now risen again.

    When the numbers were dropping, analysts argued that was due to the U.S. economic crisis and the hardships paying the smugglers’ fees; improved patrolling by the U.S. and Cuban Coast Guards; and stepped up U.S. and Cuban prosecutions of people smugglers.

    The WikiLeaks cable noted that the Mexican Embassy in Havana had reported 31 Mexicans were jailed in Cuba in 2009, “all but a handful convicted on migrant smuggling charges.”

    But the cable argued that the U.S. economic crisis may not have been a factor because Cuban migration “historically has not been strongly influenced by economic fluctuations in the United States.”

    Instead, the dispatch claimed, the main reason for the drop was the expanded opportunities for legal migration created by changes in U.S. visa procedures and Spain’s citizenship requirements.

    The U.S. Cuban Family Reunification Parole program, designed to expedite the issuance of visas and residency permits, cleared a huge backlog of applications for legal entry, according to the cable.

    And a new Spanish law allowed tens of thousands of Cuban descendants of Spanish grandparents to apply for Spanish citizenship — which brings with it the right to leave Cuba without the exit permits required of Cuban citizens.

  23. Pingback: Lost in Translation II: Gringa Says What?! | Here is Havana

  24. Da vote is in:

    LIFT blockade: 186
    DON’T LIFT: 2
    ABSTAINED (ie cobardes): 3

  25. Just discovered ANOTHER site blocked by US: Target. Screw it!

  26. Max

    Well, I can’t “duke it out” directly with David Norman, since the reply button doesn’t seem to descend that far into the thread. But he’s apparently still reading, so I’ll say this:
    1)The Ladies in White are a crass rip-off of an Argentinian group of women who’s children were disappeared. IOW, murdered, at the hands of a US-sponsored military. Go here to learn more, ie, if you’re not in the mood to regurgitate yanqui talking points:
    http://machetera.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/sticky-fingers-at-ladies-in-white-in-cuba/
    2)Cuba is a minnow in a tank with a shark. They can’t be expected to allow traitors to gather in the streets of Havana and spout lies about their own govt.
    3)There’s only one political party in the Home of the Depraved. It has two wings, like a vulture. Only a dolt would believe his vote means anything. Did the American people actually “vote” for the US to wander the world bombing, strafing and looting.

    BTW here’s a pic of a famous “dissident”, at home, in his own apartment with his christmas tree. Yeah, the poor abused soul.
    http://miamiherald.typepad.com/cuban_colada/2010/12/top-news-in-other-news-cuban-dissident-guillermo-fari%C3%B1as-will-receive-in-absentia-the-sakharov-prize-for-free-thinking.html

  27. Just to keep you abreast of how the USA enforces this policy – frequently. Don’t they have bigger fish to fry?!

    Arrival of Cuban delegation forces change of Caribbean summit venue in Trinidad
    By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Cuban President Raul Castro arrived Wednesday in Trinidad for an trade summit with Caribbean leaders, forcing a last-minute change in venue because of the U.S. trade embargo of his country.

    The conference had to be shifted from the Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre because U.S. law bars it from providing services to the Cuban delegation. The hotel is owned by the Trinidadian government but is managed by a U.S. company.

    Trinidad’s Foreign Minister Suruj Rambachan said the government moved the conference to the National Academy for the Performing Arts.

    “Trinidad and Tobago respects international law, and until that is changed, the hosting of the function at the Hilton will not be possible,” he said.

    Delegations from other countries will stay at the Hilton while Cuban officials have been accommodated at the nearby Kapok Hotel.

    Hilton said in a statement that it was not able to obtain a license that would exempt it from a measure that prohibits U.S.-based companies from providing services that would benefit the Cuban government.

    Officials with the 15-member Caribbean trade bloc have not issued an agenda for Thursday’s summit, which is expected to focus on trade relations. The summit began a decade ago to mark the 1972 stand taken by Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana to re-establish relations with Cuba despite strong objections from the U.S.

    Castro received a 21-gun salute shortly after arriving on Wednesday and insisted on inspecting local troops despite heavy rain. He then met with Trinidad’s president and prime minister before placing a wreath at the statue of World War II soldiers.

    Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  28. Love in Cuba

    It’s really very cruel. It made people develop other ways to survive, many no nice ways.

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