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As UN Condemns Cuban Embargo, Trump Administration Announces New Sanctions

Nov 2, 2018 | By Peter Kornbluh
As UN Condemns Cuban Embargo, Trump Administration Announces New Sanctions
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As the United Nations issued its yearly condemnation of the 56-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba on Thursday, the Trump administration announced new economic sanctions against the island nation. In a speech in Florida, National Security Advisor John Bolton said the State Department would add more than two-dozen businesses to the Cuba Restricted List—a list of more than 200 entities administered by the Cuban military, among them hotels, corporations and rum companies with which U.S. businesses and travelers are prohibited from any financial transaction.

In his speech at the Liberty Tower in Miami, Bolton recalled language of the Cold War in denouncing Cuba, along with Venezuela and Nicaragua. “The troika of tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere,” he declared. Bolton threatened additional sanctions against Cuba’s post-Castro leadership in the future and predicted that U.S. pressure would eventually bring down the government in Havana, along with leftist governments in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Bolton’s announcement of new Cuba sanctions was timed to offset news of the annual U.N. condemnation of the U.S. trade embargo. Members of the General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to support a resolution, titled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” by a vote of 189 to 2 on Thursday in New York. The United States and Israel were the lone nations to cast votes against the resolution.

The vote marks the 27th year in a row that the U.N. has condemned U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba; the tally is nearly identical to last year, when then-U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley denounced the U.N. for even considering the resolution. 

This year, the Trump administration introduced eight separate amendments to the resolution that condemned Cuba’s human rights record, forcing a vote on each one. All eight were overwhelmingly rejected by the U.N. General Assembly. In his speech before the U.N., Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez characterized the ongoing embargo as “an act of oppression and an act of war.”

Bolton’s “Trinity of Tyranny speech,” American University Cuba specialist William LeoGrande told Cigar Aficionado, amounted to “sanctions aimed at regime change—a formula that hasn’t worked in half a century and that no one outside Miami still supports.”  

The administration issued the original Cuba Restricted List one year ago this week, as part of an effort to restrict the commercial opening that began under the Obama administration’s effort to normalize diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba.  But the list of prohibited entities, which had 182 Cuban businesses on it before Bolton’s announcement, does not appear to have significantly slowed U.S. tourism or U.S. business interactions.  After a significant drop off in travel in 2017 and the first half of 2018, travel groups are reporting a surge of U.S. tourism to Cuba, with U.S. airlines flying new non-stop routes, and the cruise ship industry adding Cuban ports as destination stops. Just this week, Richard Branson’s new cruise company, Virgin Voyages, announced that the first port of call for its inaugural voyage would be Havana. Branson said he couldn’t wait “to see our iconic [cruise ship] Scarlet Lady gleaming in the Havana Harbor,” which he called the perfect place for Virgin cruisers “to go and experience a city that exudes an irresistible energy and passion.”

As this story was published, the names of the new restricted entities added to the Cuba Restricted List had not yet been released. 

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