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    The Blockade Hurts the Blockader

    By Manuel Yepe
    An unusual analysis that reaffirms the absurd nature of the U.S. blockade against Cuba has been written by U.S.-based, Mexican educator, writer and journalist Margot Pepper, who contends that Washington's blockade against Havana is costing the northern superpower more than the harm it causes the Caribbean island. Initially published in the digital magazine Dollars & Sense and reproduced on the Internet by other publications, the article states that, although the blockade constitutes an enormous economic burden for the Cuban people, its cost for the American people is greater and the gap continues to grow. "Given the economic meltdown," Pepper writes, "it is only fitting that a growing chorus of diverse voices is calling for an end to the costly vendetta."

    The author reminds us that the pretext for the blockade, formulated in 1962 by the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, was that it was a response to Cuba’s expropriation of “some $1.8 billion worth of U.S.-owned property.”

    "Today, U.S. public opinion is turning against the embargo. A majority-- 52 percent -- wants the embargo to be lifted," she writes. "Recent polls have even shown that a majority of Miami Cubans now support lifting the embargo." The percentage "might be even higher if the U.S. public were aware that the blockade is actually costing them more than the Cubans, something that is finally beginning to dawn on the U.S. business community," the writer says.

    As she tells it, "representatives of a dozen leading U.S. business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, signed a letter in December urging Barack Obama to scrap the embargo. The letter pegs the cost to the U.S. economy at $1.2 billion per year."

    The Washington-based Cuban Policy Foundation (CPF) estimates the annual loss to the U.S. in sales and exports caused by the "embargo" to be up to $4.84 billion. That figure far exceeds Cuba's estimates of the loss to Cuba: about $685 million annually.

    Beyond the economic costs for those who impose the blockade, it has deprived U.S. citizens of Cuba’s medical breakthroughs. "Cuba has developed the first meningitis B vaccine; treatments for the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa; a preservative for unrefrigerated milk; PPG, a cholesterol-reducing drug gobbled up by foreigners for its side effects [...and] CimaVax EGF, the first therapeutic vaccine for lung cancer," the article tells U.S. readers. Citing research data from the Johns Hopkins Institute and Cuba's Institute of Economic Research, Pepper maintains that although the blockade has always cost the United States more, the gap has widened considerably, and that Cuba’s diversification and increased trade with other countries has widened the gap between the costs to the blockaded nation and the costs to the blockader.

    Pepper points out that Cuba has suffered a greater economic hit relative to its size and resources. And she predicts that, although lifting the blockade will inevitably boost Cubans’ living standard, the nation's economy will still be saddled with its colonial legacy as a monocrop producer. Unequal trade terms enforced by treaties and organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund weigh on the semicolonial status of poor countries. "It is useful to remember this uneven playing field whenever making U.S.-Cuba comparisons," the article says. The author also points out that "regardless of all these obstacles, the socialist island has managed to provide its inhabitants with what the United States, one of the most affluent countries in the world, so far has not: free top-notch health care, free university and graduate school education, and subsidized food and utilities."

    The article also provides data about several aspects where Cuba compares favorable with the United States, despite the effects of the blockade:
    -Housing: In Cuba, 85 percent of Cubans own their own homes; Mortgage payments can’t exceed 10 percent of the combined household income.
    -Joblessness: Cuba’s unemployment rate is only 1.8 percent, according to CIA data, compared with 7.6 percent (and rising) in the United States.
    -Literacy: The adult literacy rate in Cuba (99.8 percent) is higher than the United States’ rate (97 percent).
    -Infant mortality: Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate (4.7 per 1,000 live births) than the United States’ (6.0).
    -Prisons: Cuba's rate of incarceration -- about 487 per 100,000, according to the United Nation's Development Program – is considerably lower than the U.S. rate of 738 per 100,000.

    The author ends her article with a question: "If the only concrete threat the Cuban Revolution poses to the United States these days is the threat of a good example, isn’t it high time we bury the blockade?"

    Translation from Spanish, published in Progreso Weekly, Miami, Fla., U.S.A., April 2-8, 2009.

    *Manuel E. Yepe Menéndez is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba’s ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.

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