U.S. Financial Sanctions on Cuba within the context of the Pandemic COVID-19

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On March 12, 2020, the World Well being Group declared COVID-19 a pandemic.  Shortly after that, on Friday, March 26, throughout his participation in a digital summit of leaders from the G20 international locations, UN Secretary-Common António Guterres appealed for the waiving of sanctions that might undermine international locations’ capacities to reply to the pandemic. A couple of days later,the UN Particular Rapporteur on the Proper to Meals, Hilal Elver, made the same name for the fast lifting of worldwide sanctions to stop starvation crises in international locations hit by the pandemic:“The continued imposition of crippling financial sanctions on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, and, to a lesser diploma, Zimbabwe, to call probably the most distinguished situations, severely undermines the atypical residents’ basic proper to enough and ample meals.”She continued to emphasize that “it’s now a matter of humanitarian and sensible urgency to raise unilateral financial sanctions instantly.” Two months later, in Might, as COVID-19 unfold to all corners of the globe, the World Well being Group made a plea “within the spirit of unity and solidarity, intensification of cooperation and collaboration in any respect ranges to comprise, management and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a report submitted to the UN Common Meeting in mid-October, Alena Douhan, the UN Particular Rapporteur on the unfavorable impression of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, discovered that unilateral sanctions are making it more durable to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and that humanitarian exemptions are “ineffective and insufficient” on this disaster.

All these calls have had no impression on the U.S. financial sanctions in opposition to the island nation of Cuba that began within the early 1960s and have advanced right into a complete financial blockade. The U.S. system of financial sanctions on Cuba remains to be in pressure in 2020 and contains each main technique obtainable to a sanctioning state: commerce management, suspension of assist and technical help, freezing of the goal’s monetary property, and the blacklisting of overseas corporations concerned in commerce with Cuba. These restrictions are significantly damaging in mild of the worldwide pandemic.

Since June 2017, the Trump administration has taken financial sanctions to unprecedented ranges by way of their “extraterritoriality,” that’s, the interference in Cuba’s commerce with third international locations. The tightening of financial sanctions on Cuba by the Trump administration is explicitly geared towards each bankrupting the Cuban state by concentrating on the Cuban economic system’s areas of strengths, akin to tourism and the export {of professional} companies, and exploiting its vulnerabilities, akin to the necessity to entice overseas direct funding and its power dependence. All of this has had an impression on Cuba’s financial efficiency and the dwelling requirements of all Cubans. The Trump administration has intentionally tried to cease oil imports, thus affecting public transportation and electrical energy provide, and has disrupted the move of remittances and drastically decreased touring between the 2 international locations. U.S. sanctions have even blocked using essential cyber platforms in Cuba through the pandemic, akin to Zoom, that may in any other case be employed to facilitate coaching for medical doctors and telemedicine companies not solely in Cuba however world wide.

Regardless of these sanctions, Cuba has been fairly profitable in controlling the pandemic.  As of November 26, 2020, the island nation of 11.5 million individuals had roughly 8,075 confirmed instances and 133 deaths, a restoration fee of 92.Eight % of all confirmed instances and a fatality fee of 1.6 % of all complete instances.  These optimistic outcomes have been potential partly as a result of entry to well being care is common and offered by the state.  There are 9 physicians per thousand individuals in Cuba, one of many highest ratios on the planet. The island is famend for its deal with prevention, community-oriented well being care, and preparedness to battle epidemics. Cuba’s profitable response to the illness can be because of the longstanding growth of its biotech trade, which allowed it to develop appreciable experience and to provide medicines to help its healthcare system.

Internationally, Cuba has responded to requests for collaboration on the COVID-19 virus by sending fifty-two medical brigades to thirty-nine totally different international locations and territories affected by the illness—a complete of three,800 cooperation employees. These specialists have joined Cubans who had already been providing their companies in fifty-nine international locations world wide previous to the outbreak of the pandemic, not solely in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean but additionally in Europe and the Center East. Inside Cuba, COVID-19 was contained by way of the implementation of various insurance policies that went into impact shortly: tourism was suspended and the borders had been closed from March 24 to October 15 (the nation’s main airport just lately reopened on November 15), medical college students and social employees had been despatched door to door all through the nation to test for individuals who had been symptomatic, and neighborhood medical doctors monitored their sufferers carefully.  Bleach and extra cleansing provides, which are sometimes in brief provide in Cuba, had been made extra available together with fundamental meals and family items offered at backed costs.


U.S. Sanctions on Cuba in Instances of COVID-19 


Even if the U.S. authorities could authorize gross sales to Cuba of medicines and medical tools, in follow main medical producers in the USA don’t export their merchandise to Cuba.

There are numerous “chill components” that forestall U.S. pharmaceutical corporations from making the most of this risk. There’s a community of ever-changing U.S. authorities laws and corresponding interpretations. The in depth licensing necessities contain a fancy software course of.  There may be then a substantial time lag, and even after making use of, receiving ultimate authorization is unsure. The U.S. authorities permits such medical exports provided that various stipulations are met. These embrace: that there is no such thing as a cheap chance that the merchandise exported will probably be used for the needs of torture or human rights abuses, that will probably be not re-exported, and that it might not be used within the manufacturing of any biotechnology product. As well as, there’s the burden of the applying course of, and the prices of complying with the laws, together with the danger of harsh penalties if the U.S. Division of the Treasury’s Workplace of Overseas Property Management(OFAC) finds any violation, even whether it is inadvertent.  There may be additionally a chilling impact that goes past the precise restrictions: even for transactions which can be apparently authorized, banks and different corporations typically select to not do enterprise in any respect with a sanctioned nation to keep away from any threat of penalties. In sum, the mechanisms for getting licenses, humanitarian exemptions, and humanitarian assist will not be clear sufficient. This historically leads to over compliance by U.S. corporations, all these components actively discourage corporations from looking for licenses.

As Cuba tackled the impression of COVID-19 and worldwide organizations known as for international solidarity and the easing of sanctions, in April the U.S. authorities hinted that it was keen to be extra versatile in granting licenses for medical exports.

Nonetheless, United Nations human rights specialists have famous that U.S. financial sanctions proceed to require a sophisticated licensing course of for the export and re-export of products to Cuba.  This undermines the effectivity of shopping for drugs, medical tools and expertise from the USA, provided that the issuance of licenses or clearance for exemptions can take a number of months at finest. The OFAC Reality Sheet, which supplies steerage on humanitarian exemptions for Cuba, has not eased or modified the burdensome procedures. As UN human rights specialists famous, “U.S.-origin donations of medicines and medical tools to Cuba, akin to testing kits and respiratory units, require a particular license, which takes time and an incredible quantity of paperwork. Moreover, the licensing course of requires onerous end-user verification necessities for the exportation of medical provides, devices, and tools.”


As Cuba Offers with COVID-19, Sanctions Proceed to Enhance and Blacklists Proceed to Develop


Along with the export restrictions, the monetary blacklists have an effect on Cuba’s economic system and healthcare system. Underneath the Trump administration, the Cuba Restricted Record has been expanded ceaselessly, and there at the moment are greater than 200 Cuban entities listed.  U.S. corporations, and lots of non-U.S. corporations and individuals as effectively, are topic to extreme penalties for transacting enterprise with any of those entities. In June, for instance, OFAC blacklisted the Cuban monetary establishment Fincimex, which serves as an middleman for household remittances to Cuba, that are a significant income for the nation. Because of the itemizing, the French financial institution Crédit Mutuel halted companies to Fincimex, thus affecting the move of remittances to Cuba. For that very same purpose, Western Union halted the processing of remittances and had closed greater than 4 hundred places of work in Cuba by the tip of November 2020. On the similar time, OFAC expanded its checklist of Cuba Specifically Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Individuals to focus on Cuba’s banking system by including the London-based Havana Worldwide Financial institution, Ltd. Whereas concentrating on Cuba’s banking and funds isn’t a brand new motion by the U.S. authorities, it has had a selected impression on  the Cuban healthcare system through the pandemic as a result of there are extra prices and burdens wanted to avoid these restrictions in an effort to import the required tools and medicines to cope with the COVID-19 well being emergency.

The blacklisting of Cuban state corporations and the “chilling impact” put pressure on the general monetary scenario of the Cuban state. The state price range should allot assets for imports in all areas. Undermining the state’s general revenue immediately impacts its capacity to purchase the medicines and tools wanted to handle the present well being emergency.


The Extraterritoriality of U.S. Sanctions Continues


U.S. sanctions have an effect on not solely U.S. nationals but additionally entities from third international locations looking for to do enterprise with Cuba.  In 1992 and 1996, the Torricelli regulation and the Helms-Burton regulation expanded the extraterritorial provisions of the sanctions, partly by asserting authority over overseas subsidiaries of U.S. corporations.

In March 2020, a cargo of COVID-19 assist from Asia’s richest man, Jack Ma, was blocked on account of the extraterritorial attain of U.S. sanctions. On March 21, Ma’s basis introduced that it despatched masks, assist ventilators, gloves, and diagnostic kits to twenty-four international locations in Latin America, and Cuba was one in every of them. Nonetheless, the chosen cargo provider, Colombia-based Avianca, declined to hold the help to Cuba as a result of Synergy Aerospace Corp. (“Synergy”), a majority shareholder, is integrated within the state of Delaware and subsequently falls underneath the legal guidelines of the USA. Avianca had suspended passenger service to Havana since January 2020 for a similar purpose.

In April 2020, two corporations based mostly in Switzerland—IMT Medical AG and Acutronic Medical Programs AG—refused to promote ventilators to Cuba, invoking the business, monetary, and financial sanctions of the USA; each corporations had been acquired by U.S. firm Vyaire Medical Inc and instantly suspended commerce relations with Cuba. PostFinance Switzerland has just lately suspended all cash transfers to Cuba, thus stopping Swiss associations from collaborating with Cuban medical entities. Each Medicuba-Suiza and the Switzerland-Cuba Affiliation denounced the truth that banks akin to UBS, Credit score Suisse, ZKB, ABS, and Migros Financial institution have blocked the switch of donations supposed to help the emergency cargo of medical provides, diagnostic reagents, and protecting tools for well being personnel.

On November 18, the U.S. Transportation Division denied exemptions for 2 constitution flight corporations to ship humanitarian cargo to Cuba, together with private parcels containing meals, drugs, hygiene, and different medical provides. One U.S. operator, Skyway, argued the flights ought to be permitted to handle coronavirus pandemic impacts, as Reuters reported “ The Transportation Division stated the State Division decided the flights didn’t fall inside exemption tips and stated they “wouldn’t be within the overseas coverage pursuits of the USA”


Makes an attempt to Undermine Cuba’s Worldwide Status and Sources of Funding


Cuban medical missions overseas are each a income to fund the common healthcare system for Cuba and a supply of worldwide status for the island. In response to the pandemic, Cuba has offered worldwide help by sending over 3,500 medical professionals to greater than twenty-five international locations in 2020.  On this context, the U.S. State Division has included Cuba on an inventory of countries that don’t collaborate within the battle in opposition to human trafficking and considers the medical doctors who collaborate in missions in international locations coping with the COVID-19 pandemic as “victims of human trafficking.”

As well as, a invoice was launched within the U.S. Senate—the “Reduce Earnings to the Cuban Regime Act of 2020”—that was meant to undercut Cuba’s medical missions program, which sends educated medics throughout the creating world to help typically healthcare companies. The invoice, if handed, would require the U.S. State Division to publish an inventory of countries contracting with the Cuban authorities for his or her medical companies.  It could take into account that as a think about together with stated nations within the Division’s annual Trafficking in Individuals (TIP) Report.  This may open the door for additional extraterritoriality of U.S. regulation within the type of secondary sanctions and different measures in opposition to any nation on that checklist.

It’s clear that the USA authorities is paying little consideration to the calls of multilateral organizations to ease sanctions on Cuba within the context of the battle in opposition to COVID-19. On the contrary, the Trump administration has continued to tighten punitive measures in opposition to Cuba, impacting Cuba’s economic system as a complete, and making it more and more tough to search out buying and selling companions and conduct monetary transactions associated to the supply of healthcare.  Cuba has reached out internationally to help with the pandemic in different international locations; U.S. sanctions have shortly adopted.

—Raúl Rodríguez

Raúl Rodríguez is a full professor and at the moment  Director of   the Heart for Hemispheric and United States Research on the College of Havana . Dr Rodriguez is a member of the working group on US Research of the Latin american Council on Social Sciences and he has been a visiting professor in U.S., Canadian and European Universities    



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