ANTIGUA AND BARBUDAS, fEBRUARY 21, 2017.- For many Antiguans and Barbudans the United States economic blockade of Cuba is something that may have been taught in the schools or what they may have heard in the media.
What has life been like living in the shadow of this unprecedented and far-reaching blockade and how has it impacted on the country as a whole? That was the gist of a discussion held with Professor Marlen Sanchez, who made a stop-over visit to Antigua on her way to attend a University of the West Indies-sponsored symposium on the life of the late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. The symposium is being organized as a tribute to Castro, and Prof. Sanchez will speak on the social achievements in Cuba and the Fidel Castor Legacy. Prof. Sanchez head of the Caribbean Studies Masters programme in the Department of International and Economic Research at the University of Havana. She told Caribbean Times that to understand the full impact of the economic and financial blockade of Cuba one has to understand the scope of the US initiative. “Firstly, it is important to understand that the blockade is not merely a problem between the U.S and Cuba; it is an extra-territorial matter as it affects not just people in Cuba and the U.S, but also people and institutions in other countries who may wish to invest in Cuba,” she explained. Prof. Sanchez said Cuba was cut off from the world financial institutions and forbidden to trade in the U.S dollar, the lifeblood of the world’s financial system. “For example, if Cuba had any US currency in any bank to do a particular transaction then that money is frozen. Additionally, banks may be forced to pay huge amounts in fines for violating the law,” she noted. Because of this, she said Cuba has been forced to pay commissions to agents and others to provide ‘middle-men’ roles to enable the island to trade even for necessities. “Cuba has to develop alternate routes to get around the U.S barriers. It’s difficult for some to understand but that is our reality,” Prof. Sanchez stated. Another way that the Americans have sought to cripple the Spanish-island is with its exercise of its enormous influence to bar Cuba from becoming members of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. “The U.S has threatened to withhold funding for these institutions should they give the green-light to Cuban membership. The U.S said it would without its subvention if the institutions do not comply,” she declared.
According to the visiting professor, there have been some slacking of the grip as the U.S has allowed some trade in medicine and agricultural products. However, she noted that the goods have to be paid for in advance in cash. “Nobody pays for anything in advance in cash! Payments are usually arranged through lines of credit; that’s how the international trade takes place,” she declared. Prof. Sanchez said other benefits from what she termed ‘the beginning of the process of normalization’, has been the removal of limits placed on remittances to Cuba. She described this as a major step as remittances are an important source of income for many Cubans. Despite the nearly six decades of the blockade, Prof. Sanchez said Cuba has been able to survive because of the resilience, strength and nationalism of the Cuban people. She added that Cubans have been forced to innovate, create and invent as part of its strategy to maintain its independence.
(CubavsBloqueo-Embacuba Antigua y Barbudas)