The Trump administration is now ramping up aggression against Cuba
YOU might not have read much about in the so-called “mainstream” media, but the increasingly hawkish Donald Trump administration has recently announced the most severe economic sanctions against Cuba since the illegal US blockade was first introduced in 1962.
As part of this, speaking in Miami in April on the 58th anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion (April 17 1961) where the Cuban people heroically resisted the island being invaded, National Security Adviser and warmongerer in chief John Bolton announced the end of virtually all non-family travel to Cuba and new limits on the amount of money Cuban Americans can send home to family.
Astonishingly, and taking a step even other right-wing administrations shied away from, he also confirmed that the US government would fully implement Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.
This is a very dangerous step in Washington’s aggressive policy, aimed at discouraging companies from other countries to invest in Cuba.
Specifically, this allows Cuban Americans to sue foreign companies with investments in any property nationalised after the 1959 Revolution.
Prior to this announcement, for 23 years, Title III of the Helms Burton Act had been suspended by every US president as a result of opposition from foreign governments. When Helms Burton was enacted in 1996, the EU filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and passed a law prohibiting EU members from complying with it.
While this may sound quite technical, its economic and political effects are major.
Previously, lawsuits had been limited to US citizens with claims to nationalised properties. From May 2 2019, Title III includes Cuban Americans who were Cuban citizens at the time, despite these not being recognised as legitimate claims under international law.
Following the Revolution, Cuba paid compensation to many other countries with claims against nationalised properties in accordance with international law, but the US government rejected this offer. Legal experts anticipate there may be as many as 200,000 cases to follow.
Even before these new acts of aggression from the Trump administration, the US blockade already constituted the longest economic sanctions against any country in history.
It has cost the Cuban economy more than £735 billion since 1962 and the US has continued to pursue it despite nearly unanimous opposition in the international community, as confirmed by an overwhelming UN vote every year against the blockade. In November 2018 the UN backed a resolution for an end to US embargo on Cuba by 189-2, only US and Israel voted against.
These new policies also confirm a major shift away from the small steps forward taken during the Barack Obama presidency.
In response to the measures Ben Rhodes, the White House official who had been responsible for former president Obama’s Cuba policy, tweeted “the only real consequence of Trump’s policy will be to hurt millions of Cubans — denying them resources, drying up remittances, choking off the foreign travel they depend upon to make a living. It’s an immoral end achieved by Trump’s actions.”
The extreme nature of this aggression from the Trump administration perhaps explains why it has elicited opposition and concern from the EU, the British government, Canada, China, Mexico and others.
The British government was reported as saying it considered Title III sanctions to be “illegal under international law [and] threaten to harm UK and EU companies doing legitimate business in Cuba by exposing them to liability in US courts.”
Other aggressive announcements towards Cuba from the Trump administration have included the implementation of major new travel restrictions on visits to Cuba by US citizens, including a ban on educational and cultural trips known as “people-to-people” travel. Such measures could cause severe damage to Cuba’s tourism sector, and like the rest of the US blockade will only serve to damage the living conditions of ordinary people.
Despite the heightened levels of aggression and hostility from the Trump administration aimed at forcing illegal “regime change” in Cuba, it’s important to remember that Cuba has defeated the US before, and this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.
Despite being just 90 miles away from the world’s largest imperialist power, the Cuban Revolution has not only survived, but made major achievements in areas such as health, science, education and developing environmental policies, alongside incredible internationalist efforts in providing health to people in need around the world.
The need for solidarity against the US blockade continues, supporting Cuba’s right to self-determination. It must be part of our campaigning work against Trump’s broader reactionary agenda in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean, which has also included war and coup threats against Venezuela, a new hostility to the Evo Morales government in Bolivia and continuing to prop up the reactionary coup regime in Honduras.
Trump is a threat to peace and stability not only in what he sees as the US’s backyard, but around the world. More than ever, we need a Jeremy Corbyn-led government that will stop outsourcing our foreign and security policies to the erratic, right-wing White House and be a force for peace and international co-operation in the world.
First published by the Morning Star.