Cubans in Tanzania denounce US blockade

Thursday November 8 2018

Cuban ambassador to Tanzania, Prof Lucas

Cuban ambassador to Tanzania, Prof Lucas Polledo (centre), flanked by Husna Roussos (left), a member of the Tanzania-Cuba Solidarity Committee, and Vietnamese ambassador to Tanzania Nguyen Kim Doanh (right) listen to a presentation at a function last week to condemn the US blockade against Cuba. Photo | Khalifa Said 

By Khalifa Said @RealKhalifax ksaid@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. Coinciding with the UN General Assembly’s annual condemnation of the US blockade on their country, Cubans living in Tanzania met last week to express their support for the Island and denounce what they called the new US manoeuvers against their compatriots.

In a function which took place at the residence of Cuban ambassador to Tanzania in Oyster Bay on October 27, 2018 the Cuban citizens, who work in Tanzania’s health and education sectors, condemned the blockade saying that its purpose was to silence the Island’s example of dignity.

“The criminal blockade of [the US] against Cuba, which was established almost 60 years ago and has been maintained by the continuous US administrations,” reads the statement by the Cubans living in Tanzania, “has not managed to make the Cuban people surrender despite the limitations [Cuba] has had to face.”

Deteriorated relations

US-Cuban relations have deteriorated sharply since Donald Trump became president in 2016, returning to Cold War characterizations of Cuba and tightening trade and travel restrictions that had been eased by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Under Obama and former Cuban President Raul Castro, the United States and Cuba had restored diplomatic relations and forged a closer relationship.

Cuba presented at the U.N. General Assembly last week for the 27th year calling for an end to the U.S. economic blockade on the country.

However, the US media reported that the Trump administration planned to counter the resolution with a series of amendments calling out Cuba’s human rights record. The US was expected to put forward several amendments to balance the U.N. General Assembly’s annual condemnation of the U.S. blockade on Cuba.

Last week the US presented a campaign on the plight of Cuban political prisoners at the United Nations but protesting Cuban and Bolivian diplomats drowned out the launch by shouting, chanting and banging their hands on desks.

The United Nations has traditionally voted overwhelmingly to condemn the blockade. Last year, for example, the resolution was adopted by the 193-member General Assembly with 191 votes in favor.

Only the United States and Israel rejected the resolution which, though non-binding, it can carry political weight. Only the U.S. Congress can lift the full blockade, put in place more than 50 years ago.

Cuba’s ambassador to Tanzania Prof Lucas Polledo said that the US only tries to justify a behavior that counts on the almost unanimous rejection of the international community, and of large part of the North American society.

Unfair and severe sanctions

In his address during the function, Mr Salim Msoma, who is Chairperson of the Tanzania-Cuba Committee, said that the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the US against Cuba for six decades is the most unfair, severe and longest-enduring system of unilateral sanctions ever applied against any country.

Msoma holds strongly that it is not only that the blockade violates the UN Charter and international law. But also, due to its stated purpose and direct effects, the blockade qualifies as an act of genocide, pursuant to Article 2 of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.

“It is the principal obstacle to the growth of the Cuban economy,” he shared sounding rather indignant. “It constitutes a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people. It transgresses on the sovereign rights of many other states because of its extra-territorial nature. In its essence and by its objectives, the blockade is an act of unilateral aggression.”

Mr Msoma theorized in his address that the main purpose of the blockade in Cuba is to create social and economic difficulties which could ultimately incite anger among Cuban population so that they can one day rise up and revolt against their government.

This opinion seems to be backed by a declassified State Department memo of 1960 which stated the objective of the blockade against Cuba as to: “creating disillusionment and discouragement through economic dissatisfaction and hardship weakening the economic life by denying money and supplies to Cuba in order to reduce nominal and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow the government.”

“But this is a forlorn hope [for] that day shall never come,” thought Msoma. “The Cuban people remain as resolute as they have always been.”

Economic and financial harassment

In his keynote presentation, Mr Isaack Katanda, retired Tanzanian Colonel, with a wealth of experience in peace-keeping operations, said that new measures are currently applied to restrict even further the right of Americans to travel to Cuba and to impose additional obstacles on the limited opportunities of the American business community in Cuba.

He explained that the intensification in 2018 of the extra-territorial application of the blockade has unleashed the irrational persecution by the US government of Cuban commercial and financial transactions, with reprisals against business people and banking and financial entities having ties with Cuba.

“The tightening of the blockade has been accompanied by aggressive, menacing, disrespectful rhetoric and conditions coming from the most senior levels of the US government,” Katanda pointed out sharply.

For him, what’s to be blamed is the President Trump’s policy of economic and financial harassment which he said seeks to satisfy his political commitments with the extreme anti Cuban right-wing in Florida State and it ignores the support of the majority in American public opinion, in the international community and among Cuban immigrants in the US, to lift the blockade and normalise relations between the two countries.

Readiness for peaceful co-existence

In his closing remarks, Cuban ambassador to Tanzania Prof Lucas Domingo Hernandez Polledo reiterated his government’s willingness to maintain a respectful dialogue and co-operation on topics of mutual interest with the US government.

In a gesture that intends to portray that Cuba is not a notorious neighbor to the US, Prof Polledo offered that his country is convinced that the two countries can co-operate and coexist in a civilised manner, while at the same time respecting their differences and promoting everything that benefits both nations and their peoples.

But he warned that it should not be expected that, in order to achieve these ideals, Cuba would make concessions inherent to its sovereignty and independence, or accept preconditions of any sort.

“Any strategy aimed at changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, either through pressures and impositions or by using more subtle methods, shall be doomed to failure,” he uttered in a firm voice.

“We know that the way ahead is long and difficult, but the Cuban people’s capacity of resistance to the aggressions of any type has been proven over [the past] six decades.”

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