CubaBrief: U.S. Ambassador explains why the Cuban embargo is good policy in 2023 at the United Nations General Assembly. Why Cuba is rightfully on the list of state terror sponsors.

“The United States has less and less to offer Cuba. If we could export our products to the United States, we would have to start making plans for new production lines … because everything that we produce now and everything that we are going to produce in the next five years has already been sold to other markets. We should deprive other socialist countries of these products in order to sell them to the United States. But the socialist countries pay us much better prices and have much better relations with us than we have with the United States. There is a popular saying that goes: ‘Don’t trade a cow for a goat.'” said Fidel Castro in his interview with Playboy published in April 1985 ( Similar quotes here. )

Communist Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism that has used narcotics smuggling to fund terrorist and guerilla groups, while maintaining relations with terrorist groups throughout the world, including with Middle Eastern terrorist groups Hamas, and Hezbollah, and state terror sponsors Iran and Syria. These relations continue to the present day, as does the harboring of terrorists wanted by the United States. In 2023, high ranking members of the Cuban dictatorship met with Hamas, Iran’s foreign minister, and Iran’s president. Hezbollah has a base in Cuba. Cuban soldiers are now in Russian uniforms fighting for Vladimir Putin in his illegal war in Ukraine.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric on November 2nd met with President Joe Biden in the White House and discussed a number of foreign policy issues. During the meeting Boric called on Biden to lift sanctions on Cuba and remove it from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. On the same day the UN General Assembly for the 31st time in a non-binding resolution called on the United States to lift the embargo on Cuba. 

Ambassador Paul Folmsbee, Senior Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs, explained the US vote, that is included in full in this CubaBrief, but the excerpt below addresses the purpose of the US embargo, a series of measures that have changed over six decades.

“Sanctions are one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba. We therefore oppose this resolution. We recognize the challenges the Cuban people face. That is why U.S. sanctions include exemptions and authorizations relating to the exports of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods to Cuba. The United States remains a significant source of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people and one of Cuba’s principal trading partners. In 2002* alone, U.S. companies exported over $295 million worth of agricultural goods to Cuba, including food, to help meet the needs of the Cuban people. The United States opposes this resolution. We encourage this body to urge the Cuban government to adhere to its human rights obligations and listen to the Cuban people and their aspirations to determine their own future.”

Christopher Simmons, retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency with over 23 years of experience as a counterintelligence officer, presented the following analysis of Cuba in a 2012 Congressional hearing.

“In many respects, Cuba can be accurately characterized as a violent criminal organization masquerading as a government. The island’s five intelligence services exist not to protect the nation, but to ensure the survival of the regime. … Transitioning to the issue of terrorism, Havana takes a three-tier approach to its involvement in terrorism: Regime-directed, regime-supported, and finally, alliances with state sponsors. For regime-directed activities, we’re looking at specifically bona fide acts of terrorism, Cuban Intelligence Service targeting of the U.S. war on terrorism, and ‘Active Measures.’ ”

President Boric in his meeting with President Biden underscored “sanctions are not targeting just a government; they are affecting a whole population. When a people suffer, it should concern all of us.” What happened to the Cuban people when U.S. sanctions were loosened, and the Cuban dictatorship felt free to act?

Beginning in 2009, the Obama Administration repeatedly eased sanctions on Havana, with the results being the polar opposite of what Cuba experts predicted. Trade between the two countries fell to $185.7 million in 2015, from a high of $711.5 million in 2008, the final year of the Bush Administration. Furthermore, during President Barack Obama’s détente with Cuba, the Cuban military expanded its role in the tourist economy and centralized economic control even further. Raul Castro restarted economic liberalization in 2008 out of necessity, prompted in part by US sanctions. The 2009 detente with Havana and the 2015 normalization of relations relieved pressure and increased international support for the dictatorship. This coincided with the rollback of economic reforms and the expansion of the Cuban military into previously civilian sectors of the economy in 2016. The internal blockade was tightened on the Cuban people, not loosened by the Obama thaw.

Explanation of Vote After the Vote on a UN General Assembly Resolution on the Cuba Embargo

Ambassador Paul Folmsbee
Senior Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs
New York, New York
November 2, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you members of the General Assembly.

The United States stands resolutely with the Cuban people. We strongly support their pursuit of a future with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Approximately 1,000 political prisoners remain behind bars in Cuba – more than at any point in Cuba’s recent history. Nearly 700 of those detentions owe to the historic July 11, 2021, protests during which members of civil society including human rights defenders, as well as minors of age, exercised their freedom of expression and right of peaceful assembly. We share the Cuban people’s dream of democracy in Cuba and join international partners in calling for the Cuban government to immediately release all those unjustly detained.

Despite Cuba’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council, the Cuban government has delayed responding to requests to send independent experts to Cuba, who would help advance respect for human rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, or belief, and the freedom to assemble peacefully. Some of these requests have remained pending for 10 years.

Sanctions are one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy and promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba. We therefore oppose this resolution.

We recognize the challenges the Cuban people face. That is why U.S. sanctions include exemptions and authorizations relating to the exports of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods to Cuba.

The United States remains a significant source of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people and one of Cuba’s principal trading partners. In 2002* alone, U.S. companies exported over $295 million worth of agricultural goods to Cuba, including food, to help meet the needs of the Cuban people.

The United States opposes this resolution. We encourage this body to urge the Cuban government to adhere to its human rights obligations and listen to the Cuban people and their aspirations to determine their own future.

Thank you, Mr. President.

###


https://usun.usmission.gov/explanation-of-vote-after-the-vote-on-a-un-general-assembly-resolution-on-the-cuba-embargo-2/

Chile’s Boric, after condemning Israel over Gaza, raises concerns with Biden

By Andrea Shalal

November 2, 2023

WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) – Chilean President Gabriel Boric, who this week condemned Israeli military’s air bombardment of Gaza and recalled his envoy to Israel, on Thursday said he told President Joe Biden that Israel’s actions were violating international law.

Boric said he condemned the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the Hamas militant group that killed 1,400 people, and called for the release of Israeli hostages, but added Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of Gaza had been disproportionate and was violating international law.

“These Hamas attacks are without justification, they deserve global condemnation, but the response by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government also deserves our clearest condemnation,” he told reporters after his meeting with Biden at the White House.

“There’s no doubt we can say the response has been disproportionate and is violating international humanitarian law,” he said. “The right of a state to defend itself has limits, and those limits imply respecting the lives of innocent civilians, especially children, and respecting civil humanitarian law.”

Asked about Biden’s response, Boric said it was not his place to speak for the American president.

The White House issued a statement later on Thursday that said Biden had “reaffirmed our continued efforts to urgently increase and sustain the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance – including food, water, and medical care – to civilians in Gaza.”

Biden is facing mounting pressure abroad and at home for failing to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, although the White House is now backing a series of “pauses” in the fighting to allow people to exit Gaza and aid to flow in.

Boric said he and Biden also discussed efforts to safeguard democracy in Latin America, and expressed his appreciation for Washington’s recent decision to lift sanctions on Venezuela.

He said he also conveyed his desire to continue working with Brazil, Argentina and other countries to ensure free elections in Venezuela next year.

Boric called on Biden to lift sanctions on Cuba and remove it from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“We understand that this issue ignites strong emotions in the United States. However, we must consider that these sanctions are not targeting just a government; they are affecting a whole population. When a people suffer, it should concern all of us,” he added.

Boric and Biden shared a few light moments at the start of their meeting, comparing notes about being elected to office in their 20s.

“The only problem I have with you is you’re too young,” Biden told Boric, who is 37 years old. “That’s not a problem,” Boric shot back.

Biden said the two countries have been engaged in a bilateral relationship for 200 years, and the new Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP), whose leaders are meeting at the White House on Friday, would help boost economic prosperity across the Western Hemisphere.

Boric said he looked forward to strengthening ties with the U.S. and said he had a “lot of topics to discuss,” including “the green transition, migration and economic development.”

https://www.reuters.com/world/chiles-boric-after-condemning-israel-over-gaza-raise-concerns-with-biden-2023-11-02/

Reuters, November 2, 2023

U.N. votes to end US embargo on Cuba; US and Israel oppose

Reuters

November 2, 2023

HAVANA, Nov 2 (Reuters) – The U.N. General Assembly called for the 31st time on the United States to end its decades-long trade embargo against Cuba as the communist-run island suffers its worst economic crisis in decades, with shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

The non-binding resolution was approved by 187 countries and opposed only by the United States and Israel, with Ukraine abstaining.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in a speech before the assembly that the “blockade prevents Cuba from accessing food, medicines, and technological and medical equipment.”

Havana is also prohibited from exporting to the neighboring United States, Rodriguez said, curtailing access to a massive market for its goods and costing Cuba nearly $5 billion in losses in 2022 alone.

“The blockade (embargo) qualifies as a crime of genocide,” said Rodriguez, who said the U.S. policies were deliberately aimed at promoting suffering among the Cuban people in order to force change in the government.

The trade embargo was put in place following Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution and has remained largely unchanged, though some elements were stiffened by former President Donald Trump. The web of U.S. laws and regulations complicate financial transactions and the acquisition of goods and services by the Cuban government.

U.S. diplomat Paul Folmsbee, in a brief speech opposing the resolution, said the embargo was aimed at promoting “human rights and fundamental liberties in Cuba” and that the U.S. made exceptions for humanitarian purposes.

“The United States continues to be a significant source of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people and one of Cuba’s main trading partners,” the diplomat said.

He noted that the United States last year sold Cuba $295 million worth of agricultural products.

The long-running dispute between Cuba and the United States shows little sign of detente, despite some modest gestures of goodwill under the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

Biden has taken small steps to ease restrictions on Cuba, boosting consular services but doing little to repeal the Trump sanctions.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta, editing by Dave Sherwood and Rosalba O’Brien

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/un-votes-end-us-embargo-cuba-us-israel-oppose-2023-11-02/

Sun Sentinel. October 10, 2023

Cuba remains a threat we cannot placate | Opinion

By John Suarez |

PUBLISHED: October 10, 2023

In his Viewpoint essay of Oct. 4, Manuel Gomez writes that the relation between Cuba and the United States is not irrelevant despite it not making headlines recently. He is right about that — but wrong about nearly everything else. The thawing of relations advocated by Gomez and others like him will only embolden a despotic regime that, despite Gomez’s insistence, remains a sponsor of terroristic acts at home and abroad

Venezuelan and Nicaraguan refugees are aware of Havana’s role in bolstering dictatorships in both countries, as well as how the Cuban military and intelligence service torture Venezuelans and Nicaraguans.

President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy increased Cuban suffering, led to increased violence against dissidents, the murder of dissident leaders Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012, the machete attack against dissident Sirley Avila Leon on May 24, 2015 and legitimized General Raul Castro’s dictatorship, but got nothing in return.

In a Sept. 9, 2020 interview, Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “It’s fair to say that everybody shares a little bit of disappointment about the direction that the government in Cuba chose to go” after normalizing US-Cuba relations. Kerry added, “Cuba seemed to harden down after the initial steps were taken.”

Left out of Secretary Kerry’s analysis is that during the Obama thaw migration was weaponized by Havana and over 120,000 Cubans entered the United States. The claim that uncontrolled Cuban migration is caused by sanctions on the dictatorship ignores six decades of history.

During the Carter and Clinton administrations, migration was weaponized by Havana to leverage concessions. During the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, Fidel Castro personally chose rapists, murderers and mental patients to seed the exodus, smearing the Cuban diaspora and causing a deadly crime wave in the United States.

Cuba poses a threat to the US and the wider region

On May 17, 2012, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on “Cuba’s Global Network of Terrorism, Intelligence, and Warfare.” Christopher Simmons, retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency with over 23 years of experience as a counterintelligence officer, presented the following analysis of Cuba.

“In many respects, Cuba can be accurately characterized as a violent criminal organization masquerading as a government. The island’s five intelligence services exist not to protect the nation, but to ensure the survival of the regime. … Transitioning to the issue of terrorism, Havana takes a three-tier approach to its involvement in terrorism: Regime-directed, regime-supported, and finally, alliances with state sponsors. For regime-directed activities, we’re looking at specifically bona fide acts of terrorism, Cuban Intelligence Service targeting of the U.S. war on terrorism, and ‘Active Measures.’ ”

Cuba was first added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism on March 1, 1982. The U.S. State Department had confirmed Havana was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group, which was fighting to destabilize Colombia’s democracy.

Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from this list was a political decision, responding to Havana’s conditions for normalization.

Cuba was returned to the list on Jan. 11, 2021 for having “refused Colombia’s requests to extradite 10 ELN leaders living in Havana after the group claimed responsibility for the January 2019 bombing of a Bogota police academy that killed 22 people and injured more than 87 others.” Secondly, “the Cuban intelligence and security apparatus has infiltrated Venezuela’s security and military forces, assisting Nicholas Maduro to maintain his stranglehold over his people while  allowing terrorist organizations to operate. The Cuban government’s support for FARC dissidents and the ELN continues beyond Cuba’s borders as well, and the regime’s support of Maduro has created a permissive environment for international terrorists to live and thrive within Venezuela.”

Now, Havana is supporting Moscow’s illegal war in Ukraine. Cuban soldiers are fighting in the Russian military on the front lines.

Ignoring this, and pretending Cuba is not a threat, will end in tragedy.

John Suarez is a human rights activist and executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba in Washington D.C.

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/2023/10/10/cuba-remains-a-threat-we-cannot-placate-opinion/