Genocide and the latest anti-Cuba propaganda show

By Maria Julia Mayoral, Havana

The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States for 50 years is the main obstacle to Cuba’s development, the well-being of the Cuban people and, under the current circumstances, all the work involved in recovering from the extensive damage caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike, stated Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque in Havana.

He affirmed that, since its implementation, the blockade has resulted in more than US$93 billion in losses, which at current dollar values is the equivalent of $224.6 billion. He noted that this figure is based on conservative estimates, including only duly documented losses; there are many direct and indirect effects that have not been quantified. Last year saw the most brutal implementation of the blockade, the foreign minister said. At today’s prices, economic damage in 2007 totaled $3.775 billion. Irrational persecution of businesses, banks and citizens of the United States and other countries continues, including the obstruction of internet sites related to Cuba, he noted.

At our country’s proposal, this coming October 29, a draft resolution will be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade. It will be the 17th time that the issue has been put to the consideration of that important body and, last year, Cuba’s demand received a “yes’’ vote from 184 of the 192 member nations. Cuba is confident that it will once again receive the overwhelming support of the international community, Perez Roque affirmed. “The blockade is a violation not only of our rights but of the sovereignty of third countries and the rights of their businesses and citizens. It flagrantly violates the rights of the US people and Cubans who live there, and according to the Geneva Convention, qualifies as an act of genocide’’, he affirmed.

In response to questions from reporters, the minister said that, in the wake of the disasters caused by Gustav and Ike, more than 20 countries have offered Cuba humanitarian aid, donations and cooperation projects, and another dozen have sent messages of encouragement and their willingness to cooperate. This contrasts with the attitude taken by the United States.

‘Information’ sheet

A US State Department information sheet published a few days ago confirmed an attempt to launch a propaganda campaign in order to try to divert attention from the broad debate and the reiterated appeals of the international community to lift the blockade on Cuba, Perez Roque noted. That information sheet, titled “Humanitarian Assistance to the Cuban People after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike’’, says that after Gustav’s passing, the US government granted licenses for $250 million in agricultural sales to Cuba. This is an attempt to present the bureaucratic process imposed on US companies — which includes obtaining licenses from the State and Treasury departments, plus other agencies — as proof of that government’s willingness to sell food to Cuba, when in reality, the obstacles to that process still prevail.

That distortion was described by the foreign minister as “blatant manipulation’’, because everyone knows that food sales are not new; they have existed for several years, and they are not aid. Cuba must buy these products and pay for them upfront, in violation of regular international practices, but that was a stipulation of the US government. Neither Cuban nor US banks can participate in payment transactions; they have to recur to banks in third countries. This is not a question of trade, because it is a one-way operation. Cuba is prohibited from exporting to the US market, and the ships that come to our countries return empty to the United States.

The State Department document also says that the US government provided immediate emergency aid of $100,000 to non-governmental organizations participating in humanitarian aid operations in our country. “We don’t have the slightest idea of where that money ended up’’, Perez Roque said, “and we never asked for it.’’

The information sheet states that the United States is willing to provide up to $5 million. It has already made itself clear about the Cuba issue, Perez Roque noted. This is a US propaganda operation to try to make itself look like the “good guy’’, as Fidel [Castro] commented in a recent “Reflection’’ column [in Granma].

The State Department sheet also says that the US people are the greatest providers of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people; this is based on the manipulation of the following figures: According to the US claim, last year, $20.6 million in non-agricultural humanitarian aid came to Cuba, along with $40.5 million in medical donations, making a total of $61 million. “We can confirm that during 2007, Cuba received donations from US NGOs worth $6.1 million; in other words, 10 times less.’’

In 2000, before President Bush entered the White House, more than 160 US NGOs were participating in that humanitarian effort. They were institutions of diverse types from virtually every US state and had licenses from the government of the time. Due to persecution by the Bush administration, today there are only 21 NGOs with licenses, Perez Roque commented. “For us, the main value of those deliveries is not based on figures but the nobility of the gesture, and we appreciate the efforts by US NGOs who carry out that work in a noble and friendly way that speaks to the best values of that country’s people and is done from a position of respect for and sympathy toward Cuba.’’

‘Insolent’

According to the State Department, last year the people of that country sent humanitarian aid to Cuban people in the form of gifts worth $179 million, taking into account shipments from residents in that country to their relatives in Cuba. “The idea that the United States would try to present this as an effort by its government is insolent, because President Bush intensified the regulations and prohibitions related to this issue, reduced the value of permitted packages and changed the content of what can be sent, the frequency of deliveries and the category of those who may receive these packages, because they arbitrarily redefined the concept of family’’, he said.

“It is our duty to clarify the truth for public opinion, while that propagandistic aberration is being pursued with the goal of diverting attention from the main issue: we have not asked the United States for help because we cannot accept donations from a government that is blockading us; we are prepared to buy indispensable materials that US companies place on the export market; we are requesting authorization for the supply of these resources and the normal credits used in commercial operations.

“If the US government does not wish to do so definitively, Cuba has requested that it authorise these measures for the next six months, taking into account the damages caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the fact that the most dangerous months of the hurricane season are yet to come.’’

To date, the US government has not responded to the request officially reiterated for the third time a few days ago, Perez Roque noted. This is still pending a response, but meanwhile, that country is mounting propaganda shows of rhetoric, of ill-intentioned publicity, at a time when our people are facing a situation of danger and pain.

Referring to imperialism’s real intentions, Perez Roque noted that this year, the US government is spending — through just one of its agencies, USAID — $46 million on its mercenary groups in Cuba, with the aim of promoting internal subversion, and $40 million on maintaining its illegal, anti-Cuba radio and television broadcasts. “This is not even taking into account the CIA and other agencies.’’

While the two hurricanes caused enormous devastation, the Cuban people and government are confident that we will continue moving forward, Perez Roque stated. “Despite all of the adversities, including the ruthless and prolonged blockade, our country will continue moving forward and will do so with the united strength of all of its sons and daughters, without leaving anyone abandoned. We will demonstrate once again what a popular revolution and a people in power are capable of doing’’, he affirmed.

In response to a question about relations with the European Union, the foreign minister observed that some progress has been made on normalisation in recent months, especially since the EU finally decided to renounce its attempts to impose sanctions on Cuba. The EU made a proposal for political dialogue which Cuba accepted, but first it will be necessary to discuss and establish its foundations, and that means this must be done between equals, with respect for the independence of nations, the principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs, and of the sovereign equality of countries, he emphasised.

[From granma.cu, September 19. Translated by Granma Internacional.]