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The United States embargo of Cuba has so far lasted 60 years, and continues. Does a 60-year embargo make sense? Has the U.S. complied with the law in imposing it? Has Cuba’s attitude toward the U.S. resulted from U.S. aggression? These questions deserve to be discussed.

The Cuban Revolution of January 1959 toppled the government of Fulgencio Batista, who tortured many Cubans and murdered 20,000. Batista had been supported by the U.S. since 1940. While President Eisenhower strongly supported Batista, the Cuban people hated him and were elated when Fidel Castro took over the government.

The first social and economic measure undertaken by the revolutionary government, in May 1959, was agrarian reform. The latifundia system, under which very few people owned all of the land, was replaced with a new law giving every farmer a piece of land large enough to grow food for their families. American properties were expropriated, and the U.S., under Eisenhower, deeply disliked this reform.

Was this expropriation of the lands legal? Article 24 of the Cuban Constitution authorized, subject to compensation, expropriation for the public good. Article 90 prohibited latifundia. In December 1952, United Nations General Assembly special resolution 626 legalized the appropriation of properties owned by foreign companies. So Fidel Castro was acting according to Cuban and International Law.

In March 1960, less than a year after the agrarian reform, Eisenhower formally decided to overthrow the Cuban government. This highly aggressive and unlawful new US Cuban policy was built on four disgraceful measures: (1) The cancellation of the Cuban quota; (2) the end of oil deliveries; (3) institution of a campaign of terrorism and sabotage; and (4) organization of a paramilitary force designed to invade the island and overthrow Fidel Castro government. All of these unlawful, aggressive, and disgusting measures were indeed applied to Cuba.

In July 1960, the sugar quota was abolished, a devastating move given that sugar accounted for 80 percent of all Cuban exports to the U.S. and provided employment to almost 25 percent of the Cuban population. In response, Havana passed Act 861, authorizing the nationalization of all U.S. properties in Cuba.

In June 1960, Texaco, Shell and Esso (Standard Oil) stopped oil deliveries to Cuba. As Cuba could not survive without oil, it turned to the USSR for oil in exchange for sugar. Responding to a new order from Washington, the oil companies refused to refine Soviet oil in their Cuban facilities, automatically triggering the nationalization of the refineries on the island.

The U.S. attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in April 1960, known as the Bay of Pigs, resulted in the Cuban army defeating U.S. trained counterrevolutionaries, with well over 1000 Cubans, enemies of the revolution, taken prisoner.

In September 1961, the U.S. launched the “Mongoose” campaign of terrorism and sabotage directed at Cuba by the CIA. The same month, the U.S. Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act which prohibited foreign aid to the government of Cuba and authorized the President to impose a total embargo on trade with the island.

In February 1962, President Kennedy imposed a total embargo on Cuba. Included in the embargo was a ban on drugs and food products in violation of humanitarian international law. Indeed, Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (August 1949) clearly states that in case of war “the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuff, clothing and tonics intended for children under 15, expectant mothers and maternity cases” must be permitted. Article 23 was ratified by the U.S., so the Kennedy administration knew that they were acting against international law.

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The U.S. Embargo had a devastating effect for the people of Cuba. Almost all industries were dependent on the banned products. Many factories were paralyzed. Only space constraints prevent me from detailing the depth and range of suffering and devastation the embargo imposed on the people of Cuba.

Over the years, the U.S. has also inflicted various petty insults on the dignity of Cuba and Cubans, including:

1. In 1964, under President Johnson, 2500 employees at Guantanamo, Cuba, were forced to live and spend their income on the base.

2. The George W. Bush administration severely restricted academic, cultural, scientific and sports exchanges with Cubans. All Cuban scientists were banned from publishing articles in U.S. Journals. Again much more could be said about Bush’s pettiness.

3. In February 2004, the famous Cuban singer, Ibrahim Ferrer, was denied a visa to come and receive the Grammy award he had won for his work in Buena Vista Social Club.

The rest of the world can see how wrong our policies and behavior toward Cuba are. The United Nations General Assembly for the last 30 years has voted overwhelmingly to adopt a resolution calling for an end to our policies towards Cuba.

Two quotes from representatives of the United Nations General Assembly clearly illustrate the disgust of the world with our country:

1. Jorge Valero (Venezuela) declared that the blockade was not an “abstract devise imposed against a government but it has direct impact in the lives of women, men, and children. Let us stop allowing the condemnation of the weak” he stressed, “and the toleration of violations committed by the imperialists of the North.”

2. Le Huaitrung (Vietnam) declared that “The basis of the U.S. policies and measures is a violation of the rights of people to self determination,” adding that Cubans “had the right among other things, to determine their political system and path of development.”

This writer passionately agrees with all the General Assembly representatives who criticized with disgust the policies and measures of our government in its relations to Cuba. None of them — nor I — can understand why the US has worked against international laws to behave with such cruelty, abuse and lack of humanity toward a small country who has the right to have any type of government they want including communism.

Dr. Magdalena Usategui was born in Cuba and currently resides in Shaftsbury, Vermont. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.