Thursday, 16 May 2013

Book Review: The Economic War Against Cuba by Salim Lamrani

Salim Lamrani - French academic and expert in US-Cuban relations - will be touring the UK in May to discuss his new book The Economic War Against Cuba. Full details of the tour can be found here and you can buy a copy of his excellent academic study ahead of his visit online now.

Salim Lamrani presents a comprehensive and systematic study of the United States’ economic sanctions against Cuba and the harm they cause the Cuban people. Lamrani delicately combines a heart-rending catalogue of human suffering with robust analysis – including the examination of official U.S. government documentation – as he considers the origins, provisions and legality of the blockade. He exposes the farcical nature of blockade legislation, one example being that the export of pianos to Cuba was deemed detriment to the interests and security of the United States.

The introduction expertly shows that the blockade is unique in terms of its length, thoroughness and sophistication. Whilst Washington has normalised relations with China and Vietnam, the blockade has been strengthened and applied retroactively and extra-territorially.

Lamrani exposes the ideological nature of the blockade and demonstrates how it originates from the United States’ historical desire to subjugate Cuba. The blockade’s initial justification was a dispute over compensation following the nationalisation of U.S. multi-national corporations after the triumph of the Revolution. Cuba agreed compensation with France, the UK, Canada and Spain – only the U.S. rejected the compensation process which adhered to all international standards and laws.

Throughout its fifty-year history, the validation for the blockade has changed. Reasons cited include: issues over compensation, Cuba’s alliance with the Soviet Union, Cuban intervention in African liberation movements and fabricated concerns over democracy and human rights. The chapter on economic sanctions from Eisenhower to Obama – which considers each President’s tenure individually – skilfully shows how the blockade has evolved and multi-layered sanctions have been imposed despite growing international condemnation. 

Further chapters consider the impact of sanctions on Cuban healthcare – which documents how the blockade causes the deaths of thousands of Cubans every year – and the extra-territorial application of the blockade. Lamrani references numerous examples of foreign banks and businesses being fined by the U.S. for trading with Cuba and showcases the various cases where U.S. law has superseded domestic law which makes it illegal to discrimination on grounds of race and nationality.

The extra-territorial nature of the blockade means an American tourist that smokes a Cuban cigar or drinks Havana Club anywhere in the world, “could be fined a million dollars and sentenced to ten years in prison” whilst a Cuban living abroad “cannot, theoretically, eat … at McDonald’s”. 

Finally, Lamrani highlights the growing American opposition to the blockade – whilst recognising the continuing influence of the vitriolic Cuba-American lobby – and considers the Cuban claim that the blockade is a “genocidel policy” with reference to supporting Articles from the Geneva Convention.

Lamrani’s book presents the concealed reality of an economic blockade which has cost the Cuban economy more than $751 billion and which particularly affects the most vulnerable people in Cuba. Over 70% of Cubans have lived in a climate of permanent economic hostility and the blockade remains “the main obstacle to Cuba’s national development as well as contrary to the UN Charter and international law”. 

At just under 100 pages, Lamrani’s study is accessible and engaging, however its relevance and erudition make it a timeless reference book and compulsory read for all activists. Lamrani expertly demonstrates that sanctions have totally failed in their objective, which is nothing less than the overthrow of the Cuban government.

Buy the book online now for just £12:45  (inc. p&p)

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