OFFICIAL NOTE: The possible U.S. measures against Cuba have been anticipated and will be confronted
Year 8 Friday, April 18, 2003
An article in The New York Times on Thursday revealed that President Bush is considering a series of steps designed to punish the Cuban government. "Among the more drastic are the possibilities of cutting off cash payments to relatives in Cuba - a mainstay for millions of Cubans - or halting direct flights to the island, the officials said. "
"President Bush is likely to make a public statement soon about the crackdown," stated the article.
"Administration officials said they were preparing a variety of options for the president, and no final decisions have been made. The harshest sanctions involve restricting or eliminating the transfer of cash payments, called remittances, to friends and relatives on the island. The payments, sent primarily from South Florida exiles, are a lifeline to millions of Cubans and, with estimates as high as $1 billion, a mainstay of the economy.
"Also being considered is a move to limit the number of Americans who travel to Cuba by ending direct charter flights between the countries. Thousands of travelers - mostly Cuban-Americans visiting family - board charter flights each month from Miami, New York and other cities."
Perhaps those who benefit from remittances do not run into the millions that the article suggests, but hundreds of thousands of nuclear families or persons whose number is difficult to exactly determine do indeed benefit. Originally, remittances benefited solely those with family ties in the United States and other countries, allowing them to acquire items in the dollar stores or change them into pesos to buy in stores, farmers' markets and other goods and services facilities. Today, all Cuban citizens have the possibility of buying and selling dollars and convertible Cuban pesos in Central Bank exchange bureaus, which has signified positive progress.
The U.S. president and his advisors among the Miami mafia, his close friends to whom he is indebted to for an election won by outright fraud, start from the idea that remittances and trips to Cuba to help or visit relatives should be prohibited. They subscribe to the theory that these two variants translate into hundreds of millions of dollars for the Cuban economy; while certain persons even put the figure at billions. The reality is however, that with one dollar in Cuba people receiving remittances can buy food and other essential products in quantities superior to those that they would receive in any other part of the world.
Various examples can be quoted: a nuclear family with one child under the age of seven who receives one dollar can purchase 104 liters of milk at an exchange rate of 26 Cuban pesos to one U.S. dollar. In our country the price of milk for children in this age range is 25 Cuban centavos: in other words less than one U.S. cent. On the world market, the price of milk varies from 15 to 20 U.S. cents per liter or is 15 to 20 times more expensive than in Cuba. In the same way, it is possible to purchase through the ration system more than 100 pounds of rice for one dollar. The price of rice is 25 Cuban centavos per pound. The same is true of beans, bread and many other foodstuffs. Pharmacies sell medicines in national currency at half the price they were 40 years ago; those used in hospitals are absolutely free. Recreation is almost free. Entry to a good baseball game is paid in Cuban pesos and costs around 500 times less than in the United States, where the entrance fee is $20 USD. Cinema and theater performances range from five to 26 for one dollar; in the United States each event costs between $10-12 USD. These are approximate figures and vary according to the event and the city. In Cuba, 85% of housing is owned by nuclear families - thanks to legislation introduced by the Revolution - who pay neither rent nor taxes. The remaining 15% of the population pays a symbolic rent that does not exceed four dollars per month. Electricity costs an average half a centavo per kilowatt. Healthcare and education are completely free for the whole population. An excellent 160-hour English language course on television can be subsidized with 20 U.S. cents spent on paper and electricity.
This is possible because each year the Cuban state subsidizes essential imported foodstuffs by $500 million USD and many thousands of millions of pesos for essential services that are freely available to the whole population, including those who receive remittances in dollars.
The figures relating to food and services at the prices mentioned serve to demonstrate the degree to which nuclear families or any other Cuban citizens will be deprived if family members in the United States are prevented from sending them just one single dollar. For more than 30 years, the remission of funds from abroad to relatives in Cuba was prohibited, given that it constituted a privilege that the vast majority were unable to enjoy. Visits to Cuba from relatives in the United States were also prohibited given the risks involved for a country that had been victim to thousands of acts of sabotage, terrorism, espionage, subversion and assassination attempts; from the Bay of Pigs invasion 42 years ago to the recent terrorist attacks on hotels and other tourist locations, the work of Cuban citizens resident in the United States.
At a certain point the strength, maturity and experience of the Revolution permitted a relaxation of the policy followed for all those years. It is strange that it is now that country's government that is toying with the idea of this prohibition in order to punish Cuba. More than four decades of Revolution have demonstrated that our country is capable of facing any threat and defeating sinister plans of any kind. Nothing could be harsher than 44 years of criminal blockade and economic warfare, the collapse of the Socialist camp and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the special period, the Torricelli Act, the Helms-Burton Act, the Cuban-Adjustment Act in place since 1966, biological attacks on plants and herds. We have confronted all that without anything impeding our social development, which places Cuba in a high position, above that of many developed nations.
Whatever their plans for punishment may be, the U.S. government does not have many weapons left in its arsenal to use against Cuba. Every possibility has been anticipated and will be confronted. The punishment will fall on many families who have adapted their lives to a certain economic standard and the considerable benefits offered them by those small remittances in Cuba's current condition, as has been demonstrated with irrefutable facts; and, what is far worse, many persons, particularly the elderly, depend on those remittances.
The Cuban economy and its social services can resist the suspension of the supposedly great benefits of remittances and charter flights or any other measure, including the suspension of food sales for which we have paid over $300 million USD without receiving any bank credit, and without failing to cover down to the last cent and without a second' s delay.
This measure has served to demonstrate that, for strictly political motives, the United States is not a secure and reliable food provider. It has limited our purchases that, nevertheless, have grown at a rapid rate due to the efficiency and seriousness of U.S. farmers. Had we had financing, the damage would be far more considerable.
The difficulties involved in prohibiting remittances and travel to Cuba, thus affecting an endless number of people in Cuba and in the United States, will fall on the government of that country. Those affected will do whatever they can for their families in order to prevent their most elemental link and relations from being so unjustly and arbitrarily sacrificed.
And Cuba, where not one citizen is left to his or her fate, will even be capable of protecting those in need of the Revolution as the result of such an inhumane policy.
The warnings made in such threatening language, that the U.S. government will not tolerate an exodus of rafters, is in total contradiction to the huge incentives given by the U.S. authorities to the hijackers of planes and maritime vessels who used firearms and other methods similar to those individuals who crashed aircraft into New York's Twin Towers and the Pentagon by putting knives to the throat of the pilots and crew.
Over 90 percent of illegal immigrants arrive in speedboats owned by person smugglers resident in the United States, who travel with impunity between the United States and Cuba. In conjunction with the absurd and criminal Cuban Adjustment Act and the ambition of traffickers who carry two or three times the person capacity on their vessels, that method has led to the loss of many lives.
It is evident that the awards and privileges conceded by the U.S. government to delinquents who hijack aircraft and vessels by using terrorist methods, contribute nothing to the legal and orderly emigration to which the U.S. is committed. Nor do they contribute to the infamous slander of Cuba for the energetic and legal measures that it was forced to take in order to avoid a wave of aircraft and maritime vessel hijackings.
The announced measures of banning flights and remittances will also stimulate illegal immigration, responsibility for which cannot be placed on Cuba, which is strictly conforming to the obligations accorded in the migratory agreement, without any exception.
It is truly absurd and contradictory that the United States is making threats related to a mass exodus against a country that has repeatedly proposed a cooperation agreement to combat human trafficking, something not even considered by the United States.
We will wait for the pronouncement and punitive measures announced. Meanwhile, we will try to divine and use our imagination to successfully confront, with dignity, firmness and efficiency, any form of hostility and aggression, as the Cuban Revolution has done for over four decades.
April 18, 2003
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