Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez claims that the United States embargo of Cuba has done $108 billion in damage to Cuba’s economy, and has also violated the constitutional rights of Americans.
Cuban officials believe that if the United States chooses to lift its half-century old trade embargo, both countries would benefit. However, President Barack Obama has increased sanctions and fines related to the embargo since beginning his term in office.
Rodriguez blamed the trade embargo for Cuba’s limited economic growth.
“The blockade is, without doubt, the principal cause of the economic problems of our country and the essential obstacle for (our) development,” Rodriguez told reporters. “The blockade provokes suffering, shortages, difficulties that reach each Cuban family, each Cuban child.”
Rodriguez’s comments were part of a press conference staged by Cuba every year as part of an appeal to the United Nations. The UN will vote on a resolution condemning the embargo next month, in what has become an annual event. Last year’s vote saw 186 countries opposing the embargo, with the United States and Israel standing as the only dissenters. Rodriguez went on to refer to the embargo as a “massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights.”
The embargo also includes restrictions on travel, forcing Americans to apply for government clearance to visit the country, and preventing American companies from setting up shop in Cuba.
“In a moment of economic crisis, lifting the blockade would contribute to the United States a totally new market of 11 million people,” Rodriguez said. “It would generate employment and end the situation in which American companies cannot compete in Cuba.”
Obama previously stated that he hoped to reconcile relations between the U.S. and Cuba, but fines on companies and individuals caught violating the embargo have reached $622 million this year, far surpassing the $89 million figure last year. Rodriguez would not comment on how the upcoming presidential election could influence U.S.-Cuba relations, but reiterated his call for a lift on the embargo.
“Any American president would have the opportunity to make a historic change,” he said. “He would go into history as the man who rectified a policy that has failed.”