1.3 Adverse effects of the blockade on cooperation with multilateral organizations
Under the Obama administration, the adverse effects of the blockade as part of the US’s policy against Cuba have increased in the framework of international multilateral organizations.
In January 2011, the US government seized 4,207,000 dollars of funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria earmarked for the implementation of cooperation projects with Cuba to combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
This deliberate act to prevent the implementation of three projects whose significant impact on the affected population is well known has absolutely no legitimacy or foundations other than to continue to harden the policy of blockade in one of the most vulnerable sectors for the Cuban government and people.
Cuba has condemned this measure as an illegal action that also has aims to seriously hinder international cooperation provided by the United Nations System through its agencies, funds and programs. This action is even more significant given that it affects funds earmarked for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis training, prevention and patient assistance, especially to buy medicine, antiretrovirals and food. The Cuban government and the international community have prioritized their greatest efforts towards eradicating these pandemic diseases as part of fulfilling one of the Millennium Development Goals.
As a result of Cuba’s formal complaint, the US Department of the Treasury decided to issue a general license in May 2011 to release these funds that are set to expire on June 30, 2015. Nevertheless, even with this decision, the US government is —arbitrarily and selectively— allocating itself the right to control resources destined for Cuba via multilateral cooperation.
In another incident, Cuba could not purchase an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer at a cost of 193,000 dollars that was required as part of a project implemented by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “Strengthening Official Control of Chemical Residues and Contaminants in Fishery Products, CUB/5/018.” This piece of equipment is used in the fishery industry to verify and guarantee the quality and innocuousness of all fishing products and for the control of chemical residuals and contaminants in aquaculture products.
As an alternative, the country has had to contract out large volumes of analytical services to foreign companies, which has caused significant difficulties especially related to high costs (70,000 dollars so far), sending samples and the possible risks of losing the confidentiality of the results.
Similarly, from late 2006, Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse, the holders of the bank accounts of the majority of the international organizations with headquarters in Geneva, have refused to directly receive bank transfers from Cuban institutions such as the Cuban Office for Industrial Property (OCPI) and other law firms with headquarters in Cuba, for payments to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) according to international treaties on registering and renewing Cuban patents and trademarks, or patents and trademarks with Cuban capital. Both banks have subordinated themselves to US orders and taken part in the application of extraterritorial laws.
As a result of this same policy, aimed at disrupting Cuban cooperation with international organizations, the Center for Environmental Research in the province of Cienfuegos (CEAC) was unable to buy the AXIOVISION software used to process microscopic images since it has US components. The CEAC had previously acquired a Carl Zeiss Axiovent-40 microscope (which relies on the AXIOVISION software to process the microscope’s images) through the IAEA financed project RLA 7/014 “Designing and Implementing Systems for Early Warning and Evaluation of the Toxicity of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Caribbean Region.”
The US Department of the Treasury froze 8,375 dollars earmarked to pay a foreign supplier of computer equipment and supplies contracted by the Cuban company EMED in the framework of a UNDP Local Human Development Project in the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio.
CHAPTER II: ADVERSE EFFECTS OF THE BLOCKADE ON THE MOST VULNERABLE SOCIAL SECTORS
2.1 Adverse effects in the areas of health care and food
The public health and food sectors continue to be priority targets of the blockade policy.
From May 2010 to April 2011, negative impacts on the public health care sector are estimated at 15 million dollars, primarily due to costs incurred by having to buy from far-off markets and the increased import prices for disposable material and medical instruments, as well as medicines, reagents, spare parts and equipment.
The damage caused to Cuba by the blockade in this sector is particularly cruel, not only because of its economic effects, but also because of the suffering caused to patients and their relatives by not having the ideal medicine to treat a disease.
Although the Torricelli Law (1992) and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (2000) authorize the export of medicine, and medical accessories and devises to Cuba, significant restrictions are maintained. The sale of health products do not benefit from the license exemption (or automatic license) provision established for agricultural products by the US Department of Commerce. A specific license is needed, which is granted on a case by case basis, with a limited period of validity.
The products that can be authorized must meet control and classification requirements established by the Export Administration Regulations at the Department of Commerce, which establishes Commerce Control Lists, in accordance with regulations set according to national security concerns or those related to the biotechnology industry.
The granting of licenses is conditional to the United States being able to monitor and verify, through in situ inspections or other means, that the product is being used for the purpose it was authorized. As a policy, the sale of state-of-the-art technology is not authorized in this sector.
So far, imports made directly from the United States have been insignificant and are mainly of disposable material.
Among the many examples that demonstrate damages caused to the health care sector are the following:
The Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery has planned some 400 surgeries for 2011. Of them, 70% are aorta-coronary revascularizations, which will use from 24 to 30 mammary clips per patient. If Cuba could buy this product from the US Horizon firm, its price would be from $ 0.30 to 0.40. However, buying the product from third countries raises its cost to $ 0.78.
Likewise, after the St. Jude Medical company that sells mitral and aortic valves closed its operations in Cuba, the Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery was forced to acquire these supplies in third countries at a cost of 1,200 dollars each. The same happens with the acquisition of heart stabilizers, which are used to carry out surgeries without cardiac arrest. Cuba is denied the right to buy these items from Medtronic Inc.
The Frank Pais Hospital, specialized in orthopedics and traumatology, has been forced to find other markets to buy the components needed as part of maintenance given every three years to their Hyperbaric Chamber, bought from the Mexican company REMISA, after the US AMRON company, with headquarters in California, refused to sell them these parts. Likewise, the US KAPACK company refuses to supply the Frank Pais Hospital, the only hospital with a bone tissue bank in Cuba, with high-density polyethylene bags used to package processed tissue, causing countless difficulties.
The Cuban National Institute of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases has not been able to buy a Gamma Radiation Detector from the US company Perkin Elmers or spare parts to repair a Gamma Radiation Detector bought in 1974; therefore, these must be purchased on the European market at a considerable cost increase. This equipment is used to process hormonal analysis results used to diagnose endocrine and metabolic diseases.
The Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology, in its Oncopediatrics services, has not been able to use extendable prostheses to replace bone parts as part of tumor surgery. As a result, it has not been able to use conservative or functional treatments in children and adolescents who suffer from malignant bone tumors, because these treatments are sold by US companies. The institute’s Radiotherapy Department has also faced serious difficulties in acquiring parts and accessories after the US Company Best Medical bought the Canadian company MDS Nordion.
As stated in previous reports, Cuba is still unable to purchase new cytostatics produced by the United States such as liposomal adriamycin and nitrosoureas, used to treat encephalic tumors.
The same dilemma occurs with the newest generation of antibiotics, particularly oral, for children under one year of age. Sometimes substitutes are acquired, but often not in a timely manner or in the required amounts, limiting the use of complete treatments over the necessary time period and at the precise moment.
The Institute of Oncology is deprived of a flow cytometer used to study cancerous cells, because when the US Company Becton Dickinson found out that the final destination was Cuba, it refused to sell its flow cytometer to an intermediary company.
The Cuban National Kidney Transplant Program requires high-quality, anti-Histocompatibility (HLA) serological reagents to carry out its research on HLA from a solid scientific and ethical base. For years the program bought this product from the One Lamda Company through third countries. The tightening of the blockade has negatively affected the purchase of these reagents, which could either completely halt the National Transplant Program or lower its scientific standard.
The blockade has a negative impact on the food sector and is directly detrimental to the Cuban population given the great importance and potential vulnerability of this sector.
From March 2010 to March 2011, damages are estimated at nearly 120,300,000 dollars.
The need to buy food in far-off markets results in increased costs for insurance and transportation and is often carried out under unfavorable conditions. These are some of the elements that characterize the effects caused by the blockade in this sector.
Despite being able to import agricultural and food products from the United States, the ALIMPORT Company faces several difficulties caused by the onerous and highly regulated conditions under which these purchases have been made beginning in 2001, in addition to negative economic effects and the loss of logistical opportunities in other markets. Its impact is estimated at 90,800,000 dollars. This amount is equal to having bought one of the following products based on the average price in 2010: 325,000 tons of wheat, 380,000 tons of corn or 125,000 tons of chicken.
A complex licensing mechanism is still in place for travel to Cuba by US businesspersons, contract signing, transportation and derivative payments of these transactions. In addition to these determinants, OFAC has the power to cancel these licenses without previous warning and without providing a detailed explanation.
The following examples illustrate this situation:
The CORACAN S.A. Company, a producer and marketer of instant food products, lost 162,100 dollars in 2010. This company has faced serious difficulties in acquiring artificial low-calorie sweeteners —especially the neotame sweetener, the sweetening capacity of which ranges from 8,000 to 13,000 times that of sugar— because US companies monopolize the production and commercialization of these products.
The Comercial Caribex Company has been unable to sell lobster tails to the US market where these are sold tax free; while in the European, Canadian and Chinese markets they are taxed 4.3%, 5% and 10% respectively, which has resulted in a loss of 573,100 dollars.
For the Cuban rum industry, the lack of access to the US market, especially for the leading Havana Club brand, equates to sale losses of 2.6 million cases of rum, which, based on the average cost of Havana Club International in 2010, represents an economic loss of 106,132,000 dollars.
The CUBAEXPORT Company was negatively affected after two European clients mistakenly paid 270,000 dollars for more than 140 tons of honey in US currency rather than in Euros and Swiss francs. The money was frozen and has not been returned. The company has only been able to collect a part of the money owed.
The QUIMIMPORT Company is unable to purchase agricultural fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from the US market because of the blockade. During the period analyzed, it was unable to import Diamonic Phosphate (DAP) directly from the United States, due to the supplier’s compliance with the blockade, and had to import it from other markets for an additional cost of 197,600 dollars.