U.S. embargo blocks Cuba finances, musicians
Wed Sep 19, 2007 2:43am IST
By Anthony Boadle
HAVANA (Reuters) – Stricter enforcement of 40-year-old U.S. sanctions
has made it harder for Cuba to do its banking and has seen Cubans
evicted from U.S.-owned hotels around the world, Cuba said on Tuesday.
Even Cuban musicians have been banned from playing for guests at Hilton,
Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels as far as Asia, Cuban Foreign Minister
Felipe Perez Roque complained.
Then there's cigars and rum, Cuba's most famous exports.
Tougher U.S. actions include stripping Cuba of rights in the United
States to its best known trademarks, Cohiba cigars and Havana Club rum,
"Enforcement of the blockade has reached levels of madness and has been
particularly ferocious and cruel in the last year," he said at the
presentation of an annual report to the United Nations on the impact of
The most serious development has been the growing refusal of
international banks to conduct Cuban business in dollars, for fear of
running afoul of U.S. regulators, he said.
"No bank dares accept a Cuban transaction," Perez Roque said. "Our
country wants to pay but can't. The Swiss banks are afraid of receiving
transfers," Perez Roque said.
Cuba has not been able to pay its dues as a party to the chemical and
biological weapons conventions because banks will not transfer Cuban
funds, the minister said.
The trade and financial embargo was enforced by Washington three years
after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959 in a leftist revolution that
steered Cuba toward Soviet Communism.
Every year since 1992, the U.N. General Assembly has told the United
States to lift the embargo against Cuba. Washington insists it will
remain until Cuba moves toward multi-party democracy.
Last year's resolution was approved by a record 183-4 votes, with one
abstention. Voting "no" with the United States were Israel, the Marshall
Islands and Palau.
"World rejection of the embargo is practically unanimous," said Perez
Roque, who will represent Cuba at the U.N. General Assembly next week.
The vote on Cuba is on Oct 30.
TAKING A TOLL
U.S. sanctions cost cash-strapped Cuba $3 billion in extra trade and
financial costs since mid-2006, including higher credit, freight and
insurance rates, and the loss of business, the report said. Cuba is
banned from the U.S. market, the world's largest for premium rum and cigars.
The Bush administration has tightened the screws of the embargo since
2004, restricting licensed travel and cash remittances to Cuba to
deprive Havana of financial resources and press for political change.
Mergers and acquisitions by American companies have also led businesses
from third countries to pull out of Cuba.
The Cuban report said U.S. authorities "admonished" Norway's Norsk Hydro
for joining the search for off-shore oil in Cuba and demanded details of
its investments in Cuba.
Spain's Pullmantour cruise operator stopped sailing to Havana in October
2006 after it was bought by Miami-based Royal Caribbean, the world's
second-largest cruise company.
In January, the Scandic hotel chain, owned by the U.S.-based Hilton
Hotels Corp., refused to book rooms for a Cuban delegation attending a
travel fair in Oslo.
In 2006, the U.S.-owned Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel in Mexico City
expelled a delegation of 16 Cubans to comply with U.S. sanctions against
Cuba, sparking protests by Mexicans.
Cuba also blames U.S. sanctions for the lack of Internet access it
offers its population. The U.S. embargo blocks Cuban connection to
nearby submarine optic fiber cables, forcing Cuba to access the Internet
via costly satellite communications.