Some lawmakers want new approach
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
WHEN THE United Nations General Assembly meets on October 29, Jamaica will again join more than 180 countries around the world that will ask the United Nations (UN) to condemn the United States (US) economic embargo against Cuba.
The House of Representatives last Tuesday voted for Jamaica to use the stage at the UN to unequivocally declare its support for the lifting of the embargo.
It will be the 22nd consecutive year that Cuba will be using the floor of the UN to seek the lifting of the economic embargo.
Jamaica, last year, voted with 188 nations at the UN General Assembly condemning the embargo. Only the US, Israel and Palau supported the embargo.
Addressing the House of Representatives last week, Anthony Hylton, Jamaica's industry, investment and commerce minister, pointed members to a Bloomberg report which said that from 2000 to 2006, the US opened almost 11,000 Cuba sanctions investigations, versus almost 7,000 for all other countries combined.
Hylton noted that the US last year imposed a US$619 million fine on Dutch bank ING for carrying out transactions with Cuba using United States currency.
ING, headquartered in Amsterdam, agreed to forfeit the money to the Justice Department and the New York County District Attorney's Office for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act and for violating New York state laws by illegally moving billions of dollars through the US financial system on behalf of sanctioned Cuban and Iranian entities.
Hylton said the fine, which is the highest imposed on a foreign bank for doing business with Cuba, indicates an intensification of economic measures of the blockade policy.
national interest affected
He told legislators that Jamaica's national interest is adversely affected by the blockade imposed by the US, mainly due to the extraterritorial application of US laws regulating transactions between Jamaica and Cuba.
Hylton noted that companies which do business with the Cuba using US dollars, which is the currency of trade, are exposed to sanctions.
"The time is far gone when the (US) administration needs to yield to the voices, to the concern of the overwhelming majority of the international community," declared Hylton.
Pointing, for example, at the Helms-Burton Act, Hylton said there is an urgent need for the removal of the blockade.
The Helms-Burton Act is a US federal law which strengthens and continues the US embargo against Cuba.
The act extended the territorial application of the initial embargo to apply to foreign companies trading with Cuba, and penalised foreign companies allegedly "trafficking" in property formerly owned by US citizens but expropriated by Cuba after the Cuban revolution.
The Cuban government has calculated that since the blockade was enforced in 1960 the total financial damage to the country's economy is around US$3 trillion.
Last Tuesday, Opposition member of parliament (MP) and former foreign minister Dr Ken Baugh told legislators that in order for the region to move forward, "we have to get rid of blockage against Cuba".
Government ministers Phillip Paulwell and Horace Dalley also spoke in favour of lifting the resolution.
However, while supporting the resolution, North Central Clarendon MP Pearnel Charles said Jamaica should consider using some other means such as dialogue and negotiations for the lifting of the embargo.
He said the current approach is going no further than the Hansard record of Parliament.
Similarly, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said Jamaica should consider taking positions on the many issues involved in the dispute between Cuba and the US.
He pointed, for example, at settling on how properties taken from US companies during the revolution led by Fidel Castro are to be settled.
"While it is good to do this symbolically, maybe there are some things that we could add our voice to in negotiation and mediation to move the process forward," Holness said.