Extending the US Embargo on Cuba & Hurting the People

Marjorie Cohn calls out the hypocrisy of the U.S. hitting Cuba with new travel restrictions in reprisal for “destabilizing the region.”

Cruise ship in Havana. (Chad Sparkes via Flickr)

By Marjorie Cohn
Truthout

Escalating his policy to economically strangle Cuba, President Donald Trump has imposed new restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. persons. The Office of Foreign Assets Control will no longer allow the popular “people-to-people” educational travel and they will deny licenses to cruise ships, the most common way people visit Cuba.

“While this further escalation of the Trump administration’s economic war on Cuba is very harmful to the people of Cuba and its private sector, it also directly impacts U.S. people,” Art Heitzer, chairperson of the National Lawyers Guild Cuba Subcommittee, told Truthout. “It will limit their freedom to travel, disrupting the lives and jobs of many Cuban-Americans in south Florida.”

Rubio: At the heart of Trump’s Cuba strategy. (Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

Ironically, it is the voters in south Florida — many of them expatriated Cubans — whom Trump seeks to please with his shameful Cuba policy. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has long been angling for regime change in Cuba. The New York Times called Rubio “a virtual secretary of state for Latin America.” Early in his presidency, Trump told administration officials that his strategy on Cuba was to “Make Rubio happy.”

In an unprecedented move last month, Trump, egged on by Rubio, decided to allow potentially thousands of lawsuits that will depress tourism and investment in Cuba.

When announcing the administration’s new restrictions on travel to Cuba, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “This administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime. These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”

Havana, 2017. (Pedro Szekely via Flickr)

Extension of Embargo 

But it is the Cuban people who will suffer from restrictions on tourism, which is critical to Cuba’s economy. This is an extension of the economic embargo the United States has maintained against Cuba since the Cuban Revolution. A secret State Department memo written in 1960 proposed making life so miserable for the Cuban people, they would overthrow the new Castro government. The memo advocated “a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” The economic blockade continues to hurt the Cuban people although it has failed in its goal to overthrow the Cuban government.

Mnuchin also claimed, “Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes.”

In fact, it is the U.S. government that is fomenting instability in Latin America. Team Trump is trying to illegally change Venezuela’s regime. The U.S. blames Cuba for its  own failed attempts to overthrow the Nicolás Maduro government in Venezuela.

Trump threatened Cuba with “a full and complete” embargo if it didn’t “immediately” stop supporting the Maduro government. But Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez stated at a news conference, “This is vulgar calumny. Cuba does not have troops nor military forces nor does it participate in military or security operations of the sister Republic of Venezuela.” Rodriguez’s denial was confirmed by the CIA, which concluded that Cuba’s assistance is much less critical to Venezuela than U.S. officials had claimed, according to The New York Times.

April 1959: As Cuba's new premier, Fidel Castro visits D.C. (U.S. State Department)

Fidel Castro visits D.C. in 1959 as Cuba’s new premier. (U.S. State Department)

Nevertheless, the Trump administration continues to escalate its economic warfare against Cuba. Now it has eliminated the people-to-people travel license, and prohibited cruise ships and private aircraft from traveling to Cuba, effective June 5, 2019.

New Rules

Congress has established 12 categories of people who can lawfully travel to Cuba under a general license. They include the following:

  • Family visits;
  • Official U.S. business, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations;
  • Journalistic activity;
  • Professional research and professional meetings;
  • Educational activities;
  • Religious activities;
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
  • Support for the Cuban people;
  • Humanitarian projects;
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials;
  • Certain authorized export transactions.

Only Congress can omit or add to any of these 12 categories. But different presidential administrations redefine what is permitted under each category. Trump’s newly announced policy narrows the purview of one of these categories. Now “people-to-people” travel will not be licensed under the category of “educational activities.”

General licenses had been allowed for travel that facilitated “people-to-people” contact. The Treasury Department defines a “people-to-people” license as “an authorization, subject to conditions, for persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in certain educational exchanges in Cuba on an individual basis or under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact.”

Trump’s new policy “kills the people-to people category, which is the most common way for the average American to travel to Cuba,” according to Collin Laverty, head of Cuba Educational Travel, one of the biggest companies in the United States that handles travel to Cuba.

Blocking Boats and Planes

Under the new rules, passenger and recreational vessels (including cruises ships, fishing boats, sailboats and yachts) and private and corporate aircraft will no longer be licensed to visit Cuba. Most people who travel to Cuba arrive on cruise ships.

From January to April of 2019, 142,000 Americans stopped in Cuba while on cruises, compared to 114,000 who traveled by airplane. The ban on cruises will be “devastating to the travel industry and the Cuban people,” said Tom Popper, president of the travel company insightCuba. Cruise Lines International Association, a cruise industry group, estimates that the new prohibition will affect approximately 800,000 passenger bookings.

Private and corporate aircraft will not be permitted to travel from the U.S. to Cuba. But commercial flights will still be allowed.

The Trump regime has threatened more sanctions against Cuba. It is not clear whether they will impose additional travel restrictions.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.”

This article is from Truthout and is reprinted with permission.

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30 comments for “Extending the US Embargo on Cuba & Hurting the People

  1. June 13, 2019 at 18:17

    “These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services” This would be not the whole truth for sure, seeing how this is one component of the penetration operation (which every country not full absorbed into the US-led Corporatocracy will experience) that is carried out against Cuba, by which I mean a socialist or cilivized Cuba, where the ruling class is in solidarity with its own people rather than foreign investors and governments.

    James Corbett has a show that looks at the New World Order and China, which was interesting and helped me to better grasp what’s going on. He draws our attention to the way you have elites saying good things about ‘enemy’ States (like China), with a high degree of R & d following (which results in Western style ‘development’). While that’s going on, there’s the bellicosity from the political class and its media partners, with threats of war and sanctions and demonization of the leader and/or country. (William Greider talked about governments, working hand-in-glove with corporations, that play market access games, in which governments, like China’s, allow foreign investors into the country and the opening of its market in return for r & d (value added trade if you like). As I noted in a comment on this on the Mint Press News website (Whitney Webb’s article about Israel acquiring, improperly, so much hi tech from the US), While capitalists want at the Chinese market, higher level planners also want to destroy the Chinese system but keep the worst – from the abused people’s standpoint – features of it. Noami Klein (who I believe has gone over to the dark side) looked at this phenomenon long ago (“China’s All-Seeing Eye”). There’s a never ending, ongoing pacification (counterrevolutionary) program underway, designed to permanent keep the people sidelined. Consumers aren’t the direct target (although they may as well be when bosses can’t pay them enough to buy their crap products). Rather, the target is: the social and political innovators – who must not be allow to threaten the neoliberal status quo.

    Grasping that helps me to understand how this article can look at the war-making American State’s belligerance toward Cuba, while anther journo, Bill Van Auken, can report, correctly I’m sure, that the Cuban ruling class is slowly but surely steering Cuba into a submissive, pro USA position (via betrayal of course). The two reports are not contradictory. Why would the capitalist class in the US, and allied powerful States, wait to refashion targetted countries? The creative destruction, and shock therapy approach, of the lawless, violent capitalist class, like war planners who don’t leave any area of the battlefield unattended, will be found to be actively transforming (bribing and indoctrinating police, students, military officers, CEOs), while at the same time preparing to smash the country, which, when they rebuild it (which in a sense they had already started to do in the above way), will have all of the (capitalist and pacification elements) features that they desire the new country (and sought after ‘new’ world order) to have.

  2. DJ Anderson
    June 12, 2019 at 13:18

    Oh, “hurt the people” is this article’s emotion based cry for pity. What about helping the Cuban people get freedoms instead of cheap tourist travel money? Americans should not go to Cuba and spend money to support one of the world’s most repressive governments. I support the travel ban. We opened up to Cuba some years ago without demanding and getting greater concessions to help the Cuban people.

    • Felix Rodriguez
      June 12, 2019 at 15:47

      You want repressive try going to Saudi Arabia…. we don’t dictate to them how to live or govern the country I cannot think of a country with more political prisoners and executions… it’s Cuban money to politicians like Marco Rubio that keep the Embargo intact. We do business with Saudi Arabia murderous because of oil and money… so when it comes to Cuba we become moral and righteous… give me a break

    • June 13, 2019 at 11:22

      You mean freedom to die without health care because they can’t afford to support the crooked insurance industry with their absurd deductibles, copays and premiums? You’re barking up the wrong tree buddy.

    • Anonymous
      June 18, 2019 at 22:18

      Way to belittle a valid point with a simplistic, misused smear. Do you see how completely barren your post is from any form of logic and how ironic this is, to boot?

  3. Vera Gottlieb
    June 12, 2019 at 12:15

    The only country that keeps destabilizing the entire Latin region is the USofA. If it were humanly possible, all Latin countries should ban together and impose restrictions on Americans.

  4. Ann Garrison
    June 12, 2019 at 11:52

    Someone should anthologize State Department memos like that.

  5. old geezer
    June 12, 2019 at 01:48

    Cuba should encourage more tourism from Venezuela.

    And perhaps the author should just move there. Maybe help with the sugar harvest, take a break from that menial paper pushing excuse for a day job she does. Besides, the health care is free.

    • Josep
      June 12, 2019 at 18:57

      No amount of ad hominems will diminish the veracity of her article(s) or the legitimacy of her viewpoint(s). Instead of personally insulting her, feel free to tell us what it is you disagree with her about.

  6. June 11, 2019 at 23:14

    Just an apolitical note: I’ve always loved this Consortium site, but now love it even more because the photographs it is posting recently are breathtakingly beautiful! For me they add to the pleasure of reading the enlightened articles – and the thoughtful comments.
    This site is a true blessing!

    • Dan
      June 12, 2019 at 04:26

      agreed!

  7. Victoria
    June 11, 2019 at 23:03

    My family had the a truly homble experience of Visiting Cuba. USA should not be apart of such depression on the Humanity. The truth is it’s all Politically sad. Cuban Mob Political

  8. Kiwiantz
    June 11, 2019 at 22:32

    The shameful, petty, vindictive behaviour of the US & its ridiculous treatment of Cuba & it’s people, defies rational belief? What has Cuba done to warrant America’s disgusting actions over the last 60 yrs?? Is it because Cuba cherishes having its own Sovereignty & Independence & being in control of its own natural resources which is the fundamental human right of a Country’s right to determine its own future & freedom! Just as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Nth Korea, China, Russia, Venuzuela & every other Nation who cherish their own Sovereignty & control of its own resources? And the patriotic Cuban people have defiled everything that the pathetic, cronyistic US Empire has thrown at it, in a defiant, Bay of Pigs, flip of the bird to the Global tyrant & bully! What God given right does America have, to dictate to other Nations, like Cuba, on how they should live, trade or manage their own Country? The sooner this Global bully disappears from the World scene & collapse’s into the blackhole of debt it has amassed, the better off the World will be!

  9. Tom Kath
    June 11, 2019 at 19:57

    At least the Yanks have had a humiliating defeat in Venezuela ! Guaido now door to door selling AMWAY.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      June 12, 2019 at 12:17

      Don’t hold your breath. Remember the saying…if at first you don’t succeed…

  10. Curt Bender
    June 11, 2019 at 19:01

    Scumarquito Rubio is an incompetent fool just like his mentors Trump and John Bolton. The fact that Trump has Scumarquito running Cuba policy is deplorable, to say the least. Americans can still travel to Cuba under the “Support For the Cuban People category.

  11. Jimmy G
    June 11, 2019 at 16:59

    If we’ve accomplished anything by restrictions on Cuban travel from the US, it’s that we have saved the Cuban people from being forced to live in an amusement park. That’s what US commerce has done to Mexico, Costa Rica ad the D.R.
    Cuba does well to remain clear of US. Cuba does business with the rest of the world, just leave them alone, and stop worrying about a cruise line company.

    • Victoria
      June 11, 2019 at 23:06

      I traveled to Cuba may 29th you are dead wrong. They need alot of tourists.

  12. tom earls
    June 11, 2019 at 15:17

    I have lived since before Castro came to power and I have never been afraid of Cuba or any Cubans. Can’t we just leave them alone?

    • Victoria
      June 11, 2019 at 23:09

      You should worry 90 miles hello Russia can put missiles in Cuba. USA truly should be really good friends with them.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    June 11, 2019 at 13:33

    The functional definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different outcome. It is telling that one of the complaints is that Cuba provides a communist foothold in the Western hemisphere. Oh, puleeze! This focus on communism is soooo 20th century. Furthermore, the world needs to take some pages out of Vladimir Putin’s play book. The US and their vassals, the EU, sanctioned Russia. Russia said fine, we won’t buy from you. They actually put a small fishery in Norway out of business because most of their sales were to Russia. If the rest of the world stopped buying products made by firms wholly or partially owned by Americans, it would certainly get Washington’s attention.

    • Josep
      June 11, 2019 at 19:40

      If the rest of the world stopped buying products made by firms wholly or partially owned by Americans, it would certainly get Washington’s attention.

      Ditching American products won’t be easy.

      Over 89% (?) of desktop computers in the world run Windows, an American-made operating system. Apple’s Macintosh platform is also American-made, taking 9% (?) of desktop OS market share. This means that 98% of denizens worldwide will have to ditch Windows and Mac OS in favor of Linux (also American, but free of charge*).
      What makes it extremely difficult is all that software, especially games, made only for Windows and Macintosh platforms, with support for Linux either absent (no Linux version available) or scant (limited functionality, or just a poorly-written port), and Wine compatibility being a mixed bag.

      Thanks to vendor lock-in tactics (remember Lotus 1-2-3 and Borland?), American-made Microsoft Office is now the world standard for office suites. As part of this vendor lock-in, documents made with the newest versions of Microsoft Office won’t display/render correctly with competitors such as LibreOffice (maintained in Germany, but still free of charge).

      Then there’s the fact that Intel and AMD are American companies, and so are IBM and Motorola. Meanwhile, ARM is headquartered in the UK and VIA in Taiwan, though I dunno if the latter is partially American-owned.

      Outside of PC gaming, there’s also the many Xbox- and PlayStation-exclusive games (in 2016, Sony Computer Entertainment became Sony Interactive Entertainment and moved its headquarters from Tokyo to San Mateo, CA).

      These are a few examples of the stranglehold that America has in the consumer products industry, and until other countries develop products that are just as good as, if not better than, their American counterparts, staving off our reliance on the USA will sound like a pipe dream.

      * I am reminded of a comment on RT saying that it would be best not to buy American, and if it should be American, then it should be free of charge. While I’m not one for boycotting a whole nation (it can unfairly affect companies that oppose the country’s politics), however, I am in favor of dismantling America’s monopoly on computer software and pop culture, allowing other industrialized nations a fair share of the market.

    • Josep
      June 13, 2019 at 18:08

      If the rest of the world stopped buying products made by firms wholly or partially owned by Americans, it would certainly get Washington’s attention.

      Yeah, but sadly, ditching American consumer products like movies, TV shows, software and video games won’t be easy.

      Over 89% (?) of desktop computers in the world run Windows, an American-made operating system. Apple’s Macintosh platform is also American-made, taking 9% (?) of desktop OS market share. This means that 98% of denizens worldwide will have to ditch Windows and Mac OS in favor of Linux (also American, but free of charge*, and some of its distros aren’t made in America).
      What makes it extremely difficult is all that software we use, especially games, made only for Windows and Macintosh platforms, with support for Linux either absent (no Linux version available) or scant (limited functionality, or just a poorly-written port), and Wine compatibility being a mixed bag.

      It’s a sad state of affairs when Microsoft is allowed to get away with forcing Windows even on non-techy civilians like my own parents (every time there’s a problem on their computers, they ask me to help them out. Why can’t they do it themselves?) thanks to a spineless Department of Justice. The incompetence of the American government not only annoys 300 million civilians, but 7 billion others.
      Thanks to vendor lock-in tactics (remember Lotus 1-2-3 and Borland?), American-made Microsoft Office is now the world standard for office suites. As part of this vendor lock-in, documents made with the newest versions of Microsoft Office won’t display/render correctly with competitors such as LibreOffice (maintained in Germany, but still free of charge).

      Then there’s the fact that Intel and AMD are American companies, and so are IBM and Motorola. Meanwhile, ARM is headquartered in the UK and VIA in Taiwan, though I dunno if the latter is partially American-owned.

      Outside of PC gaming, there’s also the many Xbox- and PlayStation-exclusive games (in 2016, Sony Computer Entertainment became Sony Interactive Entertainment and moved its headquarters from Tokyo to San Mateo, CA). As of this writing, Nintendo is the only video game console developer I know of that’s headquartered outside of the USA.

      Many viewers in other countries are fans of American shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, which air in those countries courtesy of their networks paying license fees to the American creators.
      Some viewers of television shows like The Office have compared their American versions to their local counterparts. Depending on the show, the local, non-American version will range from funnier to less funny, even when adjusted for cultural differences.

      These are some examples of the stranglehold that America has in the cultural consumer products industry. With millions of civilians in various countries using, and sometimes swearing by, American-made consumer products and inventions (with the possible exception of cars**), boycotting the USA would be easier said than done.

      * I am reminded of a comment on RT saying that it would be best not to buy American, and if it should be American, then it should be free of charge. While I’m not one for boycotting a whole nation (it can unfairly affect companies that oppose the country’s politics, such as that Norwegian fishery you mentioned), however, I am in favor of dismantling America’s monopoly on computer software and pop culture, allowing other industrialized nations a fair share of the market.

      ** These days American cars tend to be crap anyways. I am reminded of a Chinese-American who was murdered after his murderers mistook him for Japanese.

    • Josep
      June 14, 2019 at 16:31

      Sorry for the double post. My first comment did not appear at first and I had to send in a new one just in case.

  14. June 11, 2019 at 13:20

    Just more of the same, screw over the innocent that the US has been doing for the last 70 years.

  15. June 11, 2019 at 13:03

    Washington is nuts. The shamefully replace a just foreign policy for political advantage, i.e., getting elected and the perks that offers to the politicians. National interest, standards of decency, our proclaimed beliefs, all tossed in the garbage bin. Nuts? Not to the politicians or others who benefits from our insanity. Why are we fighting with China, Russia, and Iran? Not for ordinary Americans, that’s for certain. Why try to overthrow the Venezuelan, Syrian, Cuban, Iranian governments.?Not for the ordinary Americans. Why use sanctions to impoverish and even kill ordinary people. Not for ordinary Americans. I guess Pogo has a point. The enemy is us. I think Pogo said that.

    • Sam F
      June 11, 2019 at 16:27

      The US was originally very isolationist, and its Constitution has no strong means to prevent abuses of foreign policy. It appears that we need an Amendment to require referendum approval of foreign wars, military or economic. It is too easy for scammer politicians to make backroom deals that kill or impoverish millions, with no public support. In addition to the Amendments to restrict funding of elections and mass media to limited individual donations. Attempts to buy policy are economic war on the US and should be dealt with as treason.

  16. elmerfudzie
    June 11, 2019 at 12:50

    I feel compelled to restate two of my previous commentaries regarding Cuba.

    First, the only truly genuine “virtual secretary of state(s) for Latin America” assumed the shape of two personages, namely Pascual Ortiz Rubio who brought forth the Estrada Doctrine, in a clear but unintended opposition to the Monroe doctrine. Mexico is important to inject into this discussion. It was Mexico’s RUBIO, who submitted to the UN, the concept(s) of international law, self determination and non intervention and the peaceful resolution of disputes. The Estrada doctrine is still running in the back ground of current Mexican diplomacy, through the good offices of President Obrador (AMLO) Florida’s Rubio is nothing short of a political guttersnipe and stands in shameful contrast to Mexico’s “best and the brightest”

    Canadian commerce is booming in Cuba, visit the Berukoff’s business enterprises on the web and add to this venture, a three billion dollar investment from a myriad of countries from around the world. What pray tell, constitutes the Canadian and American foreign policies towards Cuba today? It’s simple, pick at old scabs, be unrelenting and hostile by holding grudges and carrying on with revenge policies disguised as lawsuits…Why can’t the financial wizards of the U.S. of A. see a potential booming investment in constructing the largest, tallest mega retirement community at Guantanamo instead of those tax draining and useless prison cells. Comm’on Prez, you built a few casino’s and retirement villages in Florida! Some of them collapsed, were constructed atop a swamp. Mr President, you don’t like swamps, right?!

    We need a Tabula Rasa with the Cuban people, no tit for tats, no US military, Intel presence or penetrations, no reinstatement of property seizure law suits, no exchanges of “the most wanted”. I want to witness a formal treaty, debit forgiveness, no passports or visa requirement rubbish, a favored nation status, open use of any and all fiat currencies (with prudence). We will formalize a deal, something to the effect that; Cuba promises not to take monies (directly or indirectly) from Russia or China and everything else is permitted but agree to reject any invitations from the World Bank, lest we all find ourselves back to square one, just as the EU did immediately following the JFK and Alfred Herrhausen assassinations.

    If the Cuban’s are careful not to reintroduce those past errors of President Batista, for example accepting laundered money, organized mob money such as NYC, Texas Bush money and other such compromises, we’ll all have a great time and a small spot on Mother Earth to enjoy sunshine, without the eyesores of military bases, ostentatious Hollywood or Mob wealth. Just the place for us common folk, a one-of-a-kind, not too glitzy anything, four star resort Isle.

  17. Roy A Booher
    June 11, 2019 at 11:29

    That’s what happens when people worship insects as gods.

    • Anonymous
      June 11, 2019 at 18:51

      Um…what?

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