The George Brathwaite Column – Need to End Embargo

George Brathwaite (Ph.D)

Since December 8, 1972, Cuba and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have had formal relations. The countries are ‘thrust together by geopolitical realities and common regional and global challenges’, and the CARICOM-Cuba relationship has been sustained ‘by mutual respect for the right to self-determination and to the development model of their choosing’. In the name of justice, and given the 45 years of regional solidarity with Cuba, all CARICOM countries must again register their full support for Cuba within the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN).

On Wednesday, November 1st, 2017, at the 72nd session, for the umpteenth consecutive year there will be a resolution for the ‘need to end the economic, commercial and financial blockage imposed’ by the United States of America (USA) against the sovereign nation of Cuba. Adoption of the resolution in the UN to end the outmoded and perilous economic embargo has become an annual ritual. When it first passed in 1992, it received 59 yes votes and three votes against. Last year, there were two abstentions, the USA and Israel and no country voted against the resolution. This gradual shift to a near-unanimous vote by the international community in favour of ending the blockade is a clear sign of the widespread and global disapproval of the USA embargo on Cuba.

Indeed, between the years 2015 and 2016, President Obama made amendments to some of the regulations of the blockade policy, and modified its aggressive posturing and application. The progress made in showed that Cuba and the USA can live together in a civilised way, respecting their differences and cooperating for the benefit of both countries and their people. This was a step in the right direction by President Obama, aimed at adjusting, if not eliminating, an anachronistic policy that remains unjust and almost universally rejected by the international community. Even within the USA, 73% of Americans and 63% of Cubans living in that country support the lifting of the blockade.

The USA introduced and has repeatedly extended the economic blockade of Cuba based on its ‘Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917’ which was created to restrict trade with countries hostile to the USA. The blockade qualifies as an act of genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. Relatedly, some argue that the blockade is an act of economic war, in accordance with the Declaration on the Law of Maritime War adopted by the Naval Conference of London of 1909.

Nonetheless, Cuba and the USA are not at war. Cuba has never organised or carried out military aggression against the USA from its territory; nor have violent acts against the American people been promoted by the Cuban Government. Cuba, like the CARICOM countries, believes in the right of sovereignty and self-determination. Cuba speaks out against misguided forms of hostile USA imperialism being mounted against its nation. Indeed, the evidence is there from the Obama administration that Cuba continues to reaffirm its willingness to hold respectful dialogue and cooperation on issues of mutual interest. Cuba remains a willing actor ready to negotiate pending bilateral issues with the USA.

Most important, Cuba’s relations with the USA can become advanced if based on equality, reciprocity, and respect for Cuba’s sovereignty and independence. There is no doubt that the blockade or economic embargo by the USA against Cuba is fallaciously being continued after being unilaterally imposed 55 years ago. Several international law scholars contend that the USA has ‘breached the acceptable standard of conduct between states and is engaging in an illegal economic blockade’ of the Republic of Cuba. Additionally, the economic blockade is more than a simple embargo because it is extended to imports, and it is more than a modest boycott because the USA attempted to control actions of third party states in their relations with Cuba.

From a humanistic perspective, the economic embargo impedes the economic development of Cuba and, therefore, constitutes a flagrant violation of the human rights of the Cuban people. There is ample proof that death has come to thousands of the Cuban people over the past few decades which could be linked to the USA’s cruel posturing. For example, the economic blockade meant that specific medications and/or equipment and technologies to diagnose the illnesses could not be obtained. A Cuban official noted that: “There is not, and there has not been in the world, such a terrorizing and vile violation of human rights of an entire people than the blockade that the US government has been leading against Cuba.” This damaging action by the USA against Cuba is nothing less than an injustice that threatens to completely rip apart the lives of the Cuban people.

To date, more than 70 per cent of the Cuban population and at least three generations were born and raised under the application of this inhumane policy. The social, economic, and human damage to Cuba by the USA’s prolonged imposition of the economic embargo has been severe. The blockade has caused the Cuban people for almost six decades, accumulated damages that amount to well over $1 trillion dollars. This is considering the depreciation of the dollar against the value of gold in the international market.

Everyone knows that Cuba has demonstrated its commitment to healthcare beyond its shores. Yet, with the economic blockade still in place, Cuba loses more than 4 billion dollars annually from the potential of foreign investments and other revenues. According to estimates made by Cuba’s Ministry of Economy and Planning, the country requires between 2 and 2.5 billion dollars of annual foreign direct investment to achieve its economic development objectives. In other words, the cost of the annual blockade represents for Cuba about double what is necessary for the total development of its economy.

The recent rhetoric by President Donald Trump is menacing, and is set on rolling back recent gains in USA-Cuba relations. The Trump administration announced measures that will impose additional obstacles to the already limited opportunities for trade between Cuba and the USA. With the reinforcement of the blockade, it will become increasingly difficult for Cuba to acquire technologies and technical equipment that only the USA produces, or that have components manufactured by American companies or subsidiaries. Many of these items are required, for example, in the public health sector in Cuba, where, despite the difficulties, universal and free access to the health services of all Cuban citizens is guaranteed.

Additionally, the economic blockade has a marked extra-territorial character, which is reflected, among other examples, in the financial persecution against third country banks. The USA has proposed the imposition of new fines on institutions suggesting that foreign and transnational companies and countries are violating the USA’s rules of engagement with Cuba. This has led many banking institutions to close Cuban accounts and adopt measures that hinder and complicate the normal functioning of the banking system on the island.

Therefore, implementation of punitive and destructive measures will further restrict the right of Cuban citizens to travel to Cuba, and diminish the chances of the Cuban people to achieve sustainable development in the medium term. The USA must unilaterally and unconditionally end the unjust blockade that has plagued the Cuban people for almost 60 years. It is the most unjust, severe and prolonged system of unilateral sanctions that has been applied in human history against any country.

Moreover, Cuba will not compromise on principle, nor should it cease in its claims for the lifting and total elimination of the blockade. On Wednesday, the Cuban government will denounce the resurgence of this policy and will once again present to the UN’s General Assembly the draft resolution entitled: “Need to end the economic, commercial blockade and financial embargo imposed by the Government of the United States against Cuba.”

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a lecturer in Political Science and political consultant. Email:

26 thoughts on “The George Brathwaite Column – Need to End Embargo

  1. You have made no case for a stronger US-Cuba relationship and missed a few key points.

    Trump needed the Florida votes, he got them on the basis that the Cuban economic refugees living there didn’t want the pressure on Cuba eased. They want back their properties.

    The tourists travelling to Cuba from every corner of the world except USA don’t want the Americans there.

    The hotel owners from every corner of the world except America don’t want the American hotels there.

    The Cuban people who depend on US cash coming into the country from US relatives think they want American business there but don’t travel so they don’t understand how the US McDonalds and Starbucks culture destroys countries.

    The Cuban gov’t blames the embargo for their financial woes when, in fact, it is their own fault for stifling commerce for 60 years. Raul has changed the way Cuba now does business and will net results in not too many years.

    This world, including Bim, does not need American (lack of) culture, ignorance, lack of respect for the rest of the World’s citizens, businesses, fads, warmongering, oppressive foreign-policy or protection from Communism.

    Americans who want to go to Cuba can go there and spend their money. They cannot trade with Cuba. That is the best outcome for Cuba and everyone else.

    Cuba needs to stop pissing and moaning about the embargo and get on with getting on.

  2. This world, including Bim, does not need American (lack of) culture, ignorance, lack of respect for the rest of the World’s citizens, businesses, fads, warmongering, oppressive foreign-policy or protection from Communism

    FB,well stated.

    This should be made mandatory reading and understanding by the political class and its aspirants.

  3. @FB
    The Cuban gov’t blames the embargo for their financial woes when, in fact, it is their own fault for stifling commerce for 60 years.
    How did you arrive at that conclusion?

  4. Bushy, even the Americans who travel to Cuba don’t want other Americans in Cuba.

    3 million long-stay tourists each year, 1 million of which are Canadians, don’t want Cuba culturally destroyed by Americans or American businesses.

    Their ‘time-warp’ condition gives them the best opportunity for the greatest historical and cultural tourism in the Caribbean.

    What Cuba needs is more infrastructure that can only come from privatisation. There are queues of foreign business people trying to do business in Cuba, all waiting for Fidel to pass.

  5. Vincent, USA’s brief rise to the height of international respect after WW2 was quickly undone by Kennedy’s invasion of Viet Nam.

    USA’s international credibility has never recovered from that invasion and all that went with it.

    Everything else the USA has done since has been at the point of the same bayonet.

    Cuba should have sought a UN mandate to kick their asses out of Guantanamo Bay decades ago. It is not too late.

    Chinese currency will soon dethrone the US Dollar as the international trading standard and then their FATCA oppression of foreign banks trying to do business with the rest of us will mean nothing.

    Not a day too soon.

  6. FB at 8 : 33 AM

    I agree 98% with you. Substitute Barbados and I will give you the other 2% which I, grudgingly ,withheld.

  7. If we had any creative thinkers with balls managing this country we would have followed Barrow’s hallowed ‘Singapore model’ of governance and development decades ago, including pegging our currency to either Singapore’s or an identical ‘basket of currencies’.

    Our national problems are small, especially compared to Cuba’s. We just have no willingness to solve them.

    There was never any chance of economic recovery under Fumble’s Fools.

    Not long now.

  8. Sarge, watch a documentary called Cuba Libre and we’ll chat again.

    Not everyone is privileged to travel to Cuba but a trip there would be self-explanatory.

    The law of natural Selection cannot be defeated. Communism tried to defeat the Free Market System (natural selection of currency, labour, goods and services) and failed. All it did was create massive inefficiencies and more corruption than free market economies ever had. This was partially due to the fact that to hold on to un-democratic power requires control of the press which should be a nation’s corruption watchdog (not our CBC, obviously).

    Cuba’s policy (now changed) on foreign investment has stifled growth. The new policy should help tremendously by getting the state disengaged from private enterprise other than land ownership.

    That just leaves corruption, which is rife. Also expected when people are barely affording subsistence living and all working for the state. Just like Barbados’ gov’t and civil service.

    When the communist system collapses, as they all do, the cream will rise to the top and Cuba will move forward.

    The US embargo has nothing to do with it. If Cuba as a state was trading with the USA they would still be manifesting the same problems, but with more US cash.

    Ironically, Fidel was never a communist, Raul and Che were the die-hards in the revolution. Fidel suppressed foreign participation in Cuba due to his military/revolutionary paranoia, now Raul is pulling Cuba into the business world bit by bit.

    We shall see how long it takes but it is a surety.

  9. Frustrated,
    What was the Barrow Singapore model? Which year was it when he announced his adoption of the model, and when he did visit the Asian City-State?

  10. @ Frustrated B
    Skippa, for an albino-centric businessman you are something real special yuh!!!

    All Bajans should make an effort to actually visit Cuba before talking shiite. In many ways, they have succeeded where we have failed miserably in Barbados…..particularly when it comes to national self-image and self reliance.

    On at least two notes however, Bushie will respectfully disagree.

    Barbados’ national problems are NOT small.
    Our problems are deep-rooted and fundamental in nature. They go to basic epistemological concepts of righteousness and values. There appears to be no understanding or appreciation of these ROOT flaws, and hence all the lotta shiite talk revolves around basic symptoms such as economics, crime and poverty.

    Secondly, While true that ‘there was never any chance of economic recovery under Fumble’s fools’ …there is equally no chance of recovery ..or any future success, under Mia’s morons.

    The key to any success for Barbados resides in justice, integrity, transparency and indeed, righteousness….. and this is the last item on anyone’s agenda as we sink……

  11. Hal Austin at 10:39 AM

    My version of the story is that Singapore enacted the Barbados Model within the context of a Chinese culture. The then PM of Singapore sat beside Barrow on an airplane flight and discussed their respective development plans. At the end of the discussion , Mr Lee was reported to have said” Barbados is a singular country”. Mr. Lee was ?more successful because of a submissive less contentious culture.

  12. @ Hal

    I am sure there are other persons much closer to Barrow than I could ever be who can confirm this version of the story.

  13. @FB

    The Cuban Gov’t couldn’t overcome the effects of the embargo, any “stifling” was the work of the embargo.

  14. Bernard,
    Party of the problem is the huge amount of speculation that passes as serious debate in Barbados. Barrow is on record as making a speech about adopting the so-called Singapore model, but I cannot find any evidence that this was defined, far less put in to operation.
    We are looking for needles in a haystack, trying to find answers to the decline of Barbados, which after 50 years of constitutional independence is a failed state. Our collective pride is preventing us from accepting this reality.
    But, Barrow aside, what is the Singapore model? At a time when we are discussing a three-year late NIS report, which in itself is a story of failure, and with the chairman, who we are told is a financial/management expert, who has admitted that they do not know how to invest the scheme’s funds – t4his after paying an American fund manager lots of money (the total amount no doubt is confidential). What is the expert advice we are paying for?
    I have said before, there is a Barbadian mind-set that cries corruption all the time; the real problem in Barbados is incompetence. The NIS is a classic example.
    Yet, the chief executive/director remains in post, complete with his salary and pension provision; the chairman remains in post (while also sitting on the central bank’s board); the minister remains in post.
    We have old aged pensioners getting a state pensions of Bds$179 a week, in a world in which pensioner poverty is a huge social problem. But political parties and public intellectuals still prefer to personalise their discussions, to be abusive, foulmouthed and libellous, while hiding behind masks. What kind of society are we.
    When Singapore became independent, a year before Barbados, not even Malaysia wanted anything to do with it. It was a swamp, used by the British for army training. Kook at it now.
    Let us here on BU discuss the reasons why Singapore made this change, why it took off, while Barbados, which was far more developed in 1965/66, has steadily declined.
    There is no excuse, no tip-toeing round the real issues, we have failed as a nation.

  15. @ Hal Austin at 3:53 PM

    While I understand your concerns and share some of your analyses of the situation in which Barbados is now in, I think Barbados is very far from being a failed state. This is the age of fake news and over analyses, that may require some tweaking here and there and some abandonment of solutions that hardly worked in the past and are now totally inadequate to the tasks at hand.
    Do not over-concern yourself with the Singapore Model . It was the Industrialisation by Invitation Model which we used in the first decade of independence. That model was abandoned for several decades by Singapore. What Singapore has now cannot easily be replicated in Barbados because of fundamental cultural differences.

  16. Bernard,
    You are wrong on two points. First, the industrialisation by invitation model, which you term the Singapore model. Wrong.
    The most important feature of the so-called Singapore model is that the people willingly gave up liberal democracy for a form of authoritarianism of unheard of in the Caribbean.
    In exchange for an elective dictatorship by Lee Kuan Yew, Singaporeans of all ethnic backgrounds were quite willing to give up their democratic rights in exchange for economic development. That is a decision that only the citizens of Barbados can make, and to do so the various parties vying to form the government must spell out these choices to the people.
    Second, and even more important, what are the particular features of this development? Singapore has introduced a number of policy initiatives, one of the most important of which is the Central Provident Fund.
    In Barbados we do not discuss social policy, far less create any productive institutions to take us forward in to the 21st century.
    The other important development in Singapore is the per capita income spent on education, not the nonsense of free secondary and higher education a la Barrow, but an educational policy which sits at the heart of national development. Barrow has never discussed any of these policies in public.
    The 1961 DLP government was radical and innovative: filling in the Careenage (which in the long term was a mistake, but at the time very exciting); it benefited from the opening of the Deep Water Harbour, a BLP initiative; it benefited from the opening of the QEH, another BLP initiative; Barrow allowed a number of foreign businesses to benefit from tax-free status, one of the most interesting of which was Texas Instruments, at the very cutting edge of the digital revolution; at the time we also had 15 shrimp trawlers operating out of the Careenage, where are they now? Barrow also promised that he would import from Cuba the technology to make chipboard from bagasse, what ever happened to that idea? He also promised an industry making glass from beach sand, whatever happened to that idea?
    Barrow killed off the Barbados Foundry, the most enterprising and technically advanced engineering works in the Eastern Caribbean, and the home of the Iraqi Gun; I can go on.
    Nothing that any single post-independence government ever went anywhere near the developments in Singapore. In fact, Barbadian cannot even discuss policy in public without falling in to foul-mouthed abuse.
    I will end on this other point: a few years ago, under David Thompson, we started the biennial Diaspora meetings. Someone I know, working at a senior level of regulation in New York, thought he would like to make a contribution to his native land.
    He spend ages drafting a paper to present at the conference, only o have Maxine McClean preaching to the audience about what they can do. A Bajan political disease, preaching to people who know far more than they will ever learn. The guy returned to New York with his paper in his bag and promised never to attend any such meeting again.
    @Bernard, Barrow was no Lee Kuan Yew. That is but another self-deluding Bajan myth.

  17. @ Hal Austin at 10 :51 AM

    Hal you told the house of BU that you did not know what the Singapore Model was? Now., you described it as I did with substitution of different words. It was Industrialist by Invitation . The added advantage for Lee was the ability to use dictatorial force . That is what I meant by difference in culture. Indeed I did spell out what I meant.

    I agree that Barrow was no Lee Kuan Yew. And I do not think he wanted to be. He was a typical Bajan; quite happy in his skin. I wish they were more like him and Grantley and Tom Adams.

  18. @Bernard,
    Sorry. I was quoting the industrialisation by invitation back at you. That is your interpretation, which you defined as the Singapore model.
    What I said was that the Singaporeans swapped economic development for a brutal form of authoritarianism, the anti-democratic rule by Lee Kuan Yew. That is a decision for the Barbadian people, if they want to substitute their form of democracy for the Singaporean model.
    But, to return to the substantive point, Barrow never offered the people that choice; he never defined a developmental scheme for Barbados.
    In the past, and I am not prepared to go back that many years, I have said that was strange, since Barrow was an undergraduate at the LSE when Arthur Lewis wrote his seminal Theory of Economic Growth.
    Yet, for reasons best known to himself, he has never revealed in public any intellectual curiosity about the work of a fellow Caribbeanist. That is strange.
    If you are a student at any leading university, then or now, and a fellow West Indian is not only a leading theorist in his discipline, but has published a book which has grabbed the discipline globally, whatever you are studying you must get a copy of the book. That is normal human nature – and talk about it.
    There are a number of myths surrounding the deification of Barrow. I remember once going to the Pine for my black pudding and hearing one woman, a lawyer type, holding court and telling the listeners, including at least one ex MP, that Barrow was a top economist. Her evidence: he studied at the LSE.
    @Bernard, Barrow made a statement after a visit that he liked how Singapore was developing, but he never put any meat on the bones; he never defined what he meant.
    It is like hearing politicians talking about the Westminster model when 99 per cent do not have a clue as to what they are talking about.

  19. @ Hal Austin at 1:51 PM

    You should know by now that I do not feel comfortable discussing persons negatively. I always operate on the premise that each of us is doing the best he can with the physical and psychological resources at his disposal.
    I believe that most London University colleges graduated all students from their social science faculties with the designation BSc. Econ. My understanding is that Mr. Barrow specialised in Industrial Relations. But all social science students did a first year course in principles of economics and a third or second year course in applied economics. It is conceivable that Mr .Barrow did more economic courses than the normal requirement. The lady based her statement on the evidence before her. Mr. Barrow never stated that he was an economist as far as I know.

    For the record, Sir Arthur Lewis first degree was a B.Com… not economics. He became an Economist by teaching it at the University of Manchester.

    Enough of the people personal business.

  20. @Bernard,
    Are you saying that all students at the LSE study the principles of economics in the first year, and again in the second or final year? Do you mean the London School of Economics? Barrow studied law at the LSE and there is no requirement at present for law undergraduates to study economics. I have my doubts that it was a requirement then.
    For the record, the BCom was a very common degree at English universities at the time. Lewis did his PhD in industrial economics and taught at the LSE before moving to Manchester.
    By the way, I am not sure what you mean by discussing people negatively. I simply pointed out that Barrow has never on the record defined a vision for the economic development of Barbados, far less the so-called Singaporean model. He did says he admired Singapore.
    In any case, I pointed out that Singaporeans made a choice: democracy or authoritarianism.
    It is the same thing at present: the Asian economies are doing splendidly, but not a single one is a liberal democracy (ignore Australia, which has an identity problem).

  21. @ Hal Austin
    Students in The Social Science Faculties of London University which had many affiliates and colleges in London and The British Empire. No Mr. Barrow graduated with a BSc Econ, designation. He ate dinners at an Inns of court to become a lawyer. But Hal, I thought you were am expert on things Brittish? Do not come back ad ask me if he ate lamb and potatoes at the Inns of Court. I have a supply of brass vases too. Bushie does not have all.

  22. @Bernard,
    You are being silly now. I am not an expert on anything. London University is a federal university, of which the LSE was one of the main colleges (others are UCL, Queen Mary, Goldsmith, King’s College, Birkbeck et al). LSE and many of the other colleges are now independent universities in their own right.
    Whatever degree Barrow got, it is not a requirement that law students at the LSE have to study economics and I doubt if it was then. In fact, actuarial students at the LSE do not have to study economics, which is a closer discipline.
    Dinners at the Inns of Court are something different to undergraduate study. For all I know Barrow might have had cou-cou.
    I don’t know about London University affiliates in the British Empire. I do know that overseas colleges took London University External degrees – the University College of the West Indies used to – a favourite for many of the older teachers.
    Your argument, about what Barrow studied, makes it even more strange that someone who studied economics, no matter the level, did not take an interest in the leading English-speaking economist at the time, and someone who taught in his own university – which at the time was a hell of a lot smaller than the current premises.
    It is an old trick trying to be cynical when you cannot sustain an argument.
    Continue with your myth-making. I am out of any further discussion about Barrow and his studies.

  23. Sargeant October 31, 2017 at 3:44 PM #

    The Cuban Gov’t couldn’t overcome the effects of the embargo, any “stifling” was the work of the embargo.


    No-one but the Americans care about the embargo and the rest of us don’t care about the Americans.

    There are queues of non-American business people tripping over each other to get into Cuba. All that is keeping them out is Cuban Bureaucracy, civil service inefficiency and Cuba’s belligerent communist ideals that have proven to not work.

    Not a Yank is sight to blame for that, only Cubans.

    Meanwhile every other communist state in the world has failed except China which evolved to a Fascist state without anyone really noticing or caring as long as some are making money and the rest have access to cheap Chinese manufactured goods.

    Post-Fidel Cuba has already gotten off the starter’s block. Post-Raul Cuba will make a new 100m record. At our expense.

  24. Wonderful to see countries with huge land masses leading in agriculture.

    “Ethiopia, Kenya,Uganda, Rwanda and to a lesser extent, Tanzania are now the leaders in food production in East Africa and probably all of Africa.

    Their economies are also ahead, thanks to the modernization of their agriculture sectors.

    But Kenya is like the jewel in the crown.

    Major global biotech companies have set up business there. Chinese, European and even US Agrotech companies list Kenya as one of their largest global clients, many of them setting up business there.

    Kenya ranks #4 among the world’s largest producers of horticultural exports, grossing over USD $ 675 Million annually.

    Kenya even produces its own wheat. I have seen fields that easily rival those in the US “wheat belt.”

    Luckily for Kenya, its agricultural development went hand in hand with its infrastructural development. China invested heavily into modernizing its railways taking care of is chronic supply chain management issues.

    Prof. Norman Borlaug, renowned agronomist, geneticist and father of the “Green Revolution” must be smiling ear to ear, in his grave.”

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