Will Barack Obama lift the embargo against Cuba ?
Health is endangered by the blockade against Cuba. This is the main conclusion of the report that Amnesty International (AI) has just presented: "The US embargo against Cuba: its impact on economic and social rights".
Amnesty International (AI) last visited Cuba in 1988, and has not been allowed to enter the country since then. However, based on information from UN agencies operating on the island, the organisation claims that it is impossible to import medicines.
Moreover, not only direct imports from the US are limited, "but also from third countries through companies for example based in Europe that produce medicines whose components have been patented in the US," says Gerardo Ducos, AI's head of research on Cuba.
Among the medicines affected by the blockade, antiretrovirals useful in the fight against HIV and AIDS have not been available, "even if the importation is carried out within the UN programme of agencies such as the Global Fund to Fight HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis", as Ducos points out.
These limitations have left the island on the margins of technological and scientific advances, affecting especially the most vulnerable population, such as women, children and the elderly. It was precisely this population that was the target of a blocked supply of syringes "destined for a programme of vaccination in Cuba for childrenThe report also states that "the only way to provide iron deficiency anaemia in Cuba is through the supply of iron deficiency products, according to information provided by UNICEF in 2007, or nutritional products for consumption in schools, hospitals or care centres for the elderly", Ducos points out. UNICEF added in 2007 that iron deficiency anaemia affected 37.5 per cent of children under the age of three in Cuba.
Impact on civil and political rights
The blockade imposed by the US in 1962 was established for the supposed purpose of democratising the island, but as AI denounces, the result has been the opposite. "In response to the legislation adopted by the US Congress, the Cuban National Assembly adopted the Law for the Protection of the Sovereignty of the Cuban Economy, which has been used in a very drastic way against political dissidents," says Gerardo Ducos.
In this way, the US embargo has a negative impact on Cubans' right to health, but also on their civil and political rights. The blockade has been condemned fifteen times by the United Nations (UN), and although some restrictions have been lifted since Obama took office, such as travel to the island by Cubans living in the US or the sending of remittances, there are figures that continue to be shocking. In 2008, Cuba imported 710 million dollars worth of food and agricultural products from the US. However, imported medical equipment and pharmaceuticals accounted for only 1.2 million dollars.
In light of this situation, AI calls on the US president to take the first step towards lifting the embargo against Cuba. Gerardo Ducos points out that, while it is not up to Obama to end the embargo because "the Torricelli and Helms Burton Acts have to be repealed or modified by Congress", the president can "not renew sanctions imposed against the island, enacted under the Trading with the Enemy Act enacted in 1917".
This law was renewed in 1977 and limited the US president's authority to impose economic sanctions in peacetime. However, presidents since then have continued the application and annual renewal of economic and financial sanctions against Cuba under this law. The last time it was renewed was a year ago by George W. Bush. September 14 is the deadline for renewing these sanctions once again or repealing them definitively. The choice is now in the hands of Barack Obama.