For more than 40 years, the blockade has deprived the peoples of the United States and Cuba of the valuable cultural expressions of both nations by limiting or prohibiting the presence in Cuba and the United States of the principal exponents of their art and literature. The negative consequences caused by the application of these absurd sanctions on the cultural development programs carried out by the Cuban government have been significant.
The damages to this sector are reflected, among other aspects, in the impossibility of access to the U.S. market of cultural goods and services for the acquisition of the necessary resources for artistic creation and training, as well as for the functioning of the cultural industries. They are also felt in the obstacles to the enjoyment of the exercise of the intellectual rights of our creators, and in the exclusion of Cuba from hemispheric meetings of Ministers of Culture.
One of the most ridiculous measures applied by the U.S. government is the prohibition on performances by Cuban artists in that country for commercial ends. Cuban artists are not allowed to sign commercial work contracts in the United States, and thus cannot receive fees for their performances, not even through the agencies representing them, despite the interest of impresarios, producers and institutions in marketing Cuban cultural and artistic productions.
The United States was historically a regular venue for performances by Cuban musicians and a primary market for the Cuban recording industry. Between May of 2002 and April of 2003 alone, there were 497 performances in the United States by 32 Cuban artists or groups, whose artistic level, quality and audience popularity should have garnered over 13 million dollars.
Copyrights and royalties are recognized by almost all of the countries of the world. Nevertheless, Cuban intellectuals are denied these in the United States because of the restrictions of the blockade.
Despite the fact that in 1994, the U.S. Congress modified the "Free Trade in Ideas" Act through the Berman Amendment, which recognizes that Cuban composers should receive royalties for the public performance and radio play of their works, U.S. institutions continue to refuse to establish negotiations or working relations with our music publishers.
Due to this situation, payments to Cuban artists are frozen in U.S. banks and have been illegally placed at the disposal of U.S. entities, depriving the true copyright owners of their enjoyment.
At the same time, U.S. banks delay transfers of funds under the above-mentioned act using the pretext of avoiding the risk of committing a violation of the regulations established by the blockade and monitored by the OFAC, with a consequent loss in monetary value.
A particularly significant effect is the lack of Cuban institutional participation in the U.S. art market. It is impossible to take part in auctions like those at Christie's or Sotheby's, or in art fairs like Art Miami and Art America, or to hold commercial exhibitions. Taking into account that the United States is home to the world's most important galleries and fairs, the damages incurred by our artists through this exclusion are incalculable.
Cuban writers of recognized international prestige have found it impossible, to a great extent, to be published in the United States, which has resulted in significant cultural and economic damage, not always quantifiable.
The Spanish-language book market is one of the most important in the United States. Being cut off from this market, or participating in a limited manner due to enormous bureaucratic, tariff and transportation obstacles, means that Cuban books are either excluded or unable to compete.
Commercial relations undertaken with potential distributors of Cuban books have been adversely affected as well. Well-known are the pressures and sanctions applied against counterparts in the United States and even in third countries, affecting relations and participation in book-related events, such as the Miami Book Fair. An example is the cancellation of negotiations for publications to be sent to Miami through Lecturum, a company with headquarters in Mexico.
The higher prices of supplies imported for the art industry, given the impossibility of purchasing them in the United States, and the accompanying increase in freight costs, have a particularly strong impact on our national culture.
Not a single sector of the Cuban cultural sphere is spared these effects. Among the most significant examples is the National Ballet of Cuba, an internationally renowned institution, which is prohibited from purchasing ballet shoes, costumes and set design materials from the United States, which generates difficulties in staging performances and major additional expenses.
For the Cuban Cultural Fund, the impact of the blockade on this institution's imports is one of the principal problems it faces. An illustrative example is the purchase of Spectrum glass, used by stained glass artists to create windows, lamps and other decorative works. The opaline glass used for lamps can be purchased for 12 dollars a square meter in the United States, but in order to acquire this same material, Cuba must pay 41 dollars a square meter in Italy or 36 dollars in Spain.
The same is true for a wide range of other art supplies, including oil paints, acrylic paints, gesso, linen and cotton canvases, brushes, varnishes and others.
Cuba has lost major distributors in other countries through the absorption of these firms by U.S. companies. This was the case in the financial losses suffered by the Cuban record company EGREM when it was forced to find a new distributor in Spain, after Distrimusic S.A. was bought out by Warner, and the latter was not prepared to continue working with Cuba.
Obstacles to access to Cuban art for U.S. collectors affect not only Cuba, but citizens of the United States as well. Many dealers and gallery owners could enhance their collections with Cuban art, and even open up new commercial channels with the works of the talented and broad movement of Cuban visual artists and craftspeople. However, given the restrictions imposed by the blockade on this market, any access must be achieved through third parties, resulting in doubts and uncertainty over the authenticity of works and the legality of ownership.
Another of the most visible effects of the blockade is the fact that the OFAC prohibits U.S. citizens from participating in movie co-productions with Cubans. Likewise, the OFAC prohibits U.S. citizens from entering into co-productions with third countries for the production of informational materials involving transactions with Cuba or Cuban nationals. This ban has had a particularly negative impact for the Cuban Cinema Institute (ICAIC), due to the impossibility of providing services for a number of productions planned to be filmed in Cuba.
A project on the life of U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway had to be cancelled as a result of the prohibitions of the blockade, depriving Cuban institutions of three million dollars in earnings.
For the same reasons, another project dealing with the life of a historical figure of the Americas was cancelled when it was determined that the "hostile climate" of the United States towards Cuba would entail risks for the participants. The proposed budget for the project was around 50 million dollars, and it was estimated that Cuba would have received half of it.