PayPal blocks RATB's account (again) - Smash the US blockade of Cuba!

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Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) is a campaign of the Revolutionary Communist Group in solidarity with socialist Cuba, which uses its example as part of the struggle for socialism and against imperialism here in Britain and worldwide. This month RATB celebrates its 20th anniversary.

The US blockade has cost the Cuban economy an estimated $1.126 trillion since 1961. For 23 consecutive years the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the blockade, with 191 out of 193 nations voting against it this year. On 11 September this year, in contradiction to hypocritical US rhetoric about 'normalising relations', President Obama signed a document to extend Cuba's designation as an 'enemy' under the 'Trading with the Enemy Act' for another year.

RATB uses PayPal to process payments and donations via our website, www.ratb.org.uk The funds raised from merchandise sold go towards our activities in Britain. RATB organises political and educational discussions, film showings, street rallies and cultural celebrations, about Cuban socialism.

Without warning or communication, PayPal has blocked our account, for the second time in two years.

 

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Cuba dictates terms for normalisation, as US loosens trade restrictions

We are beginning a new, long and complex stage on the way to the normalisation of ties, which will require finding solutions to problems that have been accumulated over five decades

Raul Castro, July 2014

Two contradictory steps taken by the US administration on 11 September exposed the hypocrisy and cynicism of its new position on Cuba. First, a US government delegation sat down with its Cuban counterparts in Havana for the first ‘bilateral commission’ to advance the process of rapprochement between the two countries. Second, President Obama signed a document to extend Cuba’s designation as an enemy under the Trading with the Enemy Act for another year. The Act dates back to the First World War (1917), and Cuba was initially included by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. An ‘enemy’ is defined as a country at war with the US. Cuba is the only country listed since North Korea was removed from the list in 2008. Andrew George reports.

 

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Pope Francis visits Cuba

On 19 September, Pope Francis arrived in Cuba for a four-day, three-city tour. The visit marks the third papal visit to Cuba in just 17 years, ‘a remarkable record for any country, much less one with such a small observantly Catholic community’ (Washington Post, 19 September). It is particularly significant given Pope Francis’ role since 2013 in facilitating secret negotiations between Cuba and the US which led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. During 18-months of secret talks, the Pope sent personal letters to Obama and Castro and hosted high-level meetings at the Vatican.

 

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Diplomatic relations restored between Cuba and the US

On 20 July, seven months after Cuba and the United States announced plans to restore diplomatic relations, embassies were opened in Havana and Washington. They were closed 54 years ago, in 1961. In 1977, ‘Interest Sections’ were opened up to function as substitute embassies but with fewer staff and functions. The restoration of embassy status, along with the removal of Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list in May 2015, marks the official re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

 

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Cuba first with meningitis B vaccine

Scientist Concepcion Campa Huergo led Cuban efforts to produce a Men B vaccine

From 1 September 2015 all babies in the UK will for the first time be offered a new meningitis B (MenB) vaccine called Bexsero, as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme. According to the NHS Choices website, this ‘makes England [sic] the first country in the world to offer a national, routine and publicly funded MenB vaccination programme’. However, 27 years ago, socialist Cuba’s Finlay Institute, under the personal direction of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, developed a MenB vaccine also as part of its national immunisation programme. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was proud Britain ‘will be the first country in the world to have a nationwide MenB vaccination programme’ (The Guardian, 29 March 2015). So who was the ‘first’ country to the MenB vaccine, Britain next September or Cuba in 1988? Charles Chinweizu explains.

 

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Building solidarity with Cuba – upholding the ideas of Che Guevara

On our visit to ICAP, the brigade spoke to Kenia Serrano who, as a member of the UJC in 2002, participated in Rock around the Blockade’s speaking tour across Britain. More recently, in March 2014 and in her current post as President of ICAP, she spoke at RATB’s rally for the Cuban Five in Trafalgar Square, London, which was organised in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five. Kenia told us:

‘The significance of international solidarity is something that constitutes a principle for the Cuban revolution. To see that people all over the world are in solidarity with the Cuban revolution is something that really constitutes a commitment for us, we are committed to continue in solidarity with other peoples because Cuba has been a recipient of world solidarity actions…

 

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Socialist Cuba ‘Revolution is permanent change’

Cuba Vive 2015

Eyewitness accounts from the Cuba Vive Brigade 2015

With contributions from all the brigadistas, compiled by Sam McGill

Between 20 April and 5 May, Rock around the Blockade (RATB), the Revolutionary Communist Group’s campaign in support of socialist Cuba, sent its 13th solidarity brigade to Havana for two intensive weeks of exchanges and visits. The Cuba Vive 2015 brigade was there to stand in solidarity with Cuban socialism, gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and achievements of 56 years of revolution and explore the implications of recent changes in Cuban-US relations.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of RATB’s foundation and of our first brigade, which visited Ciego de Avila in 1995. That was one of the worst years of the ‘Special Period’, Cuba’s deep economic crisis resulting from the loss of 35% of its GDP and 85% of its trade following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. All of our brigades have been hosted by the Union of Young Communists (UJC).

 

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Participation and elections in Cuba – a lesson in democracy

Visit to the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) in El Cerro, Havana

On 19 April, just before the brigade arrived in Havana and two weeks before the British general election circus, Cuba held nationwide municipal elections. The Municipal Assemblies of people’s power represent the dynamic base of the revolution. We met with Osmani Castro from Havana’s Provincial Assembly who explained how the process works; ‘In Cuba, nobody is without protection. We have a system of civic protection and social assistance from the state and in this system, the municipal delegate is the core of all decisions large or small. It is up to the delegate to analyse the situation of people who are ill, are alone, or are very old, and ensure these people receive the care and attention they need. So if my house is on fire or hit by a hurricane, I am not alone, I am not going to live under a bridge. Cuba is a safety net. It is the responsibility of the delegate, not personally to solve everything for people, but to gather the community and try to involve them in the process of finding a solution.’

 

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Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

Fernando Gonzalez from the Cuban Five meets the brigadistas

During our visit to ICAP we were joined by Fernando Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five. Rock around the Blockade campaigned for the freedom of the Five throughout their imprisonment, so when Fernando entered the room he was greeted with spontaneous applause; an emotional standing ovation in recognition of the Five’s principled stand throughout a long, harsh, unjust incarceration. Fernando, who is now Vice President at ICAP, said:

‘It’s good to see you, it’s good to have a group of very young people here. There are few things that you miss when you get out of prison; you leave that experience behind and you basically don’t miss anything. If I miss one thing it is receiving your newspaper (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!), every issue. It’s true! It was very interesting reading every time. Let me tell you something – it is a newspaper that is circulated around the whole prison; many people were interested in what the newspaper had to say because it is a view that is not common in the United States. So much for the freedom of press! Views like the ones expressed in your newspaper you never find in what you call the mainstream media.

 

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I am here to learn from the Revolution

2 May 2015 by Juventud Rebelde written by Enrique Milanes Leon 

Translation by Rock Around the Blockade. Edited by Walter Lippmann

A young communist from Britain, coordinator of the Cuba Vive solidarity brigade, talks to JR about the struggle ‘in the belly of the beast’ and confesses her admiration for the island that gives hope, even in her country.

Samantha explains about the newspaper "Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism". Photo: Calixto N. Llanes

To overcome the 7,493 kilometres that separate London from Havana, for the third time,  young Samantha Cordery had to make sacrifices. She even participated in a 25,000 metre race looking for sponsors who would understand that she was a special competitor, collecting donations because her real "goal" was much further away, in Cuba.

Samantha is the coordinator of the Cuba Vive brigade and the Rock around the Blockade campaign, and joined the Revolutionary Communist Group in Britain a decade ago. "We are nearly 20 young people and this, our 13th solidarity brigade. Among us are students and unemployed people" – their history reminds us that not all the foreigners who walk our streets are mere tourists; some are more: friends.

 

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Co-operatives to boost productivity

Over the past year the number of approved non-agricultural co-operatives in Cuba has grown to 498. With the aim of increasing productivity and efficiency, these workers’ associations are an important aspect of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution approved in April 2011.

Whilst agricultural co-operatives have existed throughout the Cuban revolution, the first non-agricultural co-operatives (CNAs) were created by temporary law decree in December 2012. They fall into two main categories, ‘self-effort’ co-operatives established by the initiative of three or more people, and ‘conversions’, where the state is shutting down an enterprise and gives its workers the option to form a co-operative. CNAs can also be formed by the association of two or more co-operatives, whereby, for example, one co-operative organises transportation or adds value to another’s goods and services. With a new General Law of Co-operatives anticipated in 2016, the CNAs will complement the agricultural co-operatives which currently organise 66% of agricultural workers.

 

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Cuba and the US - Breaking bread with the beast

Obama and Raul Castro shook hands at opening of the Americas summit in Panama

Following the historic announcement on 17 December 2014 that Cuba and the US would ‘normalise’ relations, representatives of both countries have met three times.

Prior to these talks in January, US President Obama announced a number of significant measures in relation to Cuba. By contrast, the talks have produced nothing concrete. Cuba has made it clear that the restoration of diplomatic relations must be preceded by several measures, notably the removal of Cuba from the US ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list. The US has publicly stated that the objective of its policy toward Cuba remains regime change. James Bell reports.

 

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The Summit of the Americas: Latin America resists!

Raul Castro and Barack Obama

Between the 10 and 11 April, the much anticipated seventh Summit of the Americas saw US President Obama meet with Cuban President of the Council of State, Raul Castro in Panama City. This was the first such meeting since Cuba’s exclusion from the Organisation of American States (OAS) in 1962. Following the summit the US has conceded to remove Cuba from its heinous list of states sponsors of terrorism, a massive victory for Cuba and tribute to it’s principled stand of negotiation on sovereign terms. However, far from repairing US relations with Latin America, the Obama administration's attack on Venezuela has left it increasingly isolated.

 

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Cuban 5 freed and reunited in Cuba

On 17 December, Raul Castro welcomed Ramon Labañino, Gerardo Hernandez and Antonio Guerrero back onto Cuban soil after 16 years of incarceration in US prisons. They were reunited with Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez who were released in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The return of the Cuban 5 is an historic victory for Cuba. It also represents a defeat for the corrupt US justice system and for the right-wing Cuban exile community whose political leverage is weakening.

 

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US opens talks with socialist Cuba

On 21 and 22 January, Cuba and the US held direct talks about restoring diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961. The meeting in Havana took place one month after the historic announcements made simultaneously on 17 December 2014 by Presidents Obama and Raul Castro about a thaw in US–Cuban relations. This included a prisoner swap which finally freed the remaining Cuban anti-terrorist agents imprisoned in the US, known as the Cuban 5. This followed 18 months of secret talks facilitated by Canada and the Vatican. The tactical change by the US administration reflects the failure of its Cuba policy, and economic and strategic developments which put competitive pressure on US capitalists who do not benefit from the blockade. Helen Yaffe reports.

 

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Message from Revolutionary Cuba

The Revolutionary Communist Group, which founded Rock Around the Blockade, a campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba is delighted to receive this message after the release of the Cuban 5:

Dear Comrades,

Many thanks for your letter of congratulation from The Revolutionary Communist Group in support of The Cuban Revolution. I take this opportunity to convey to all of you in the Party this message from our Cuban Communist Party.

In Comradership, Jorge Luis, Cuban Embassy

MESSAGE TO PARTIES AND POLITICAL AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND FORCES IN THE WORLD

 

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Leading Cuban biotech product now available in Europe

On 29 September 2014 Granma International reported that the Cuban- developed Heberprot-P, the only drug of its kind in the world capable of enhancing the healing process of ulcers in diabetics and reducing the risk of amputation, was officially registered in Turkey. Through Turkey it will now be available on the European market. This could have a huge impact on diabetics in Europe. Various multinational companies had previously resisted the registration of the drug in order to protect their profits and comply with the US blockade.

 

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Socialist Cuba makes advances in renewable energy

Cuba plans to generate 24% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, including 14% from the sugar industry. Wind power will account for 6%, solar 3% and hydro-electric 1%. 

Sugar mills have long produced their own power using bagasse – fibrous sugar cane remnants. Bagasse biomass is an efficient and renewable energy source. Liobel Perez, spokesman for Azcuba, the state run enterprise which replaced the Ministry of Sugar in 2011, notes ‘The carbon dioxide produced in the generation of electricity is the same amount that the sugar cane absorbs when it grows, which means there is an environmental balance.’ Azcuba is tasked with increasing sugar production and developing industry from its by-products. Production is steadily rising – last year 1.6m tonnes of sugar were produced.  Currently 3.5% of electricity is generated from sugar. The plan is to install bioelectric plants in 20 of Cuba’s 56 sugar mills, generating 755 megawatts for the national grid. This will cost $1.29bn, from government loans and regulated foreign investment. The first plant will be built near Ciro Redondo sugar mill as a joint venture between Azcuba and British firm Havana Energy.  It is due to open in 2016, producing energy using bagasse and marabou, a woody shrub cleared from arable land.  

 

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Victory! The Cuban 5 are finally free!

Raul Castro and The Cuban 5

After 16 unjust years of imprisonment, on 17 December 2014, Ramón Labañino, Gerardo Hernández and Antonio Guerrero, the three remaining members of the Cuban 5, returned to Cuba following their release from US gaols. This is a defeat for the corrupt US justice system and massive victory for Cuba, particularly for anti-terrorist Gerardo Hernandez who was serving two life sentences plus 15 years.

The five Cuban heroes were arrested in 1998 and tried in Miami in 2001, in the midst of a hostile media storm whipped up by journalists in the pay of the US government. Denied a fair trial, they were found guilty of charges ranging from spying to conspiracy to commit murder and endangering the security of the United States. These men had been working to foil the persistent attempts by right-wing counter-revolutionary groups in the United States to commit acts of sabotage and terrorism against Socialist Cuba. These attacks included 78 bombings, 61 hijackings of planes and boats, biological attacks of dengue and swine fever, and 58 attacks from the sea, killing at least 3,478 people in total. The Cuban 5 were guilty of nothing more than peacefully trying to protect their country against terrorism. Their case Illustrates the hypocrisy of the US ‘War on Terror’.

 

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New York Times demands a ‘new start’ for US-Cuba relations

In an unprecedented move, the New York Times (NYT) has published a series of editorials demanding the US take bold steps to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba.1 Throughout October and November, six editorials under the title of ‘Cuba: a new start’ praise Cuba’s role in fighting Ebola, detail US subversion against Cuba and demand Obama lift the US blockade and negotiate a prisoner swap, releasing the remaining three Cuban anti-terrorist prisoners in return for imprisoned subcontractor Alan Gross. This is a public emergence of serious divisions in the US ruling class on Cuba policy as sections push for their economic interests over political interests. NICA EVANS and SAM MCGILL report.

 

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World Bank finds Cuban education best in Latin America and the Caribbean

In Britain the rate of illiteracy is rising and education continues to be systematically destroyed by the rise in free schools and academies that are aimed at diverting public finances into private hands. In contrast, socialist Cuba is set to further improve and expand its education system, devoting 13% of its national budget to education, the highest in the world.

 

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Another USAID attack on Cuba

Protest against USAID's earlier 'Zunzuneo' campaing aimed at destabilising Cuba

A new investigation by the Associated Press (AP) reveals yet another covert mission by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) designed to incite political unrest and undermine the Cuban revolution. Documents released in August exposed a project directed by USAID and subcontracted by Creative Associates, which recruited a dozen young people from Peru, Venezuela and Costa Rica and sent them to Cuba as travellers and tourists in order to ‘identify potential social-change actors’ and organise opposition in order to destabilise the Cuban government. Louise Gartrel reports.

 

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Cuba approves new foreign investment law to support development

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

May Day in Havana, Cuba 2014

Cuba’s new direct Foreign Investment Law was implemented on 30 June 2014. Unanimously approved in March by the National Assembly of People’s Power, the law is in accordance with the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution. These guidelines were established by the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in 2010 and discussed and modified across 163,000 consultations with almost nine million Cubans, before being ratified by the National Assembly of People’s Power in 2011. This extraordinary process of participative democracy governs the principles by which the Foreign Investment Law will operate. As the introduction of the guidelines affirms, ‘only socialism is capable of overcoming the difficulties and preserving the conquests of the Revolution, and that in the updating of the economic model, planning will be supreme, not the market’.

 

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Bacardi – new advertising, same agenda

The Bacardi Corporation has launched a new deep saturation advertising campaign, with vibrant videos and colourful images. The adverts brandish the Cuban flag, with slogans such as ‘we survived exile from our own country’ and ‘we thrived during Prohibition’. Bacardi, the richest family-owned business in the world, has an army of lawyers and marketing and public relations professionals to clean up their murky past and obscure their right-wing agenda. Scratch the surface, however, and the truth is there.

 

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Tweets, terrorists and mercenaries renewed attacks on Cuba

In April and May 2014, news about two US-based attacks on Cuba hit international headlines, demonstrating that as the capitalist crisis intensifies, imperialist attempts to destabilise the popular and revolutionary government of socialist Cuba continue. Louise Gartrel reports.

 

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Cuban double agent reveals CIA machinations in Cuba

Enemigo by Raúl Capote, Editorial Jose Marti, 2011 (in Spanish)

Review by Raidel López

In Enemigo (Enemy), Cuban writer and university professor of history, Raúl Capote, reveals his life as a double agent; agent Pablo for the CIA, and agent Daniel for Cuban intelligence. This is not a work of fiction or a classic spy novel. It is the real experience narrated by the protagonist about plans by the CIA and its allies to destroy the Cuban Revolution. His story reveals one of the many facets of the US war against Cuba. For over half a century plans of espionage, sabotage, terrorist attacks, assassination, subversion, military, economic and political aggression, have been made and executed from the US. Most of these plans have failed, thanks to the work and sacrifice of men like Capote.

 

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Cuba inaugurates new port with international partners

On 27 January, Cuban President Raul Castro and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff inaugurated the first 700 metre section of a container terminal at the port of Mariel, Cuba, in a ceremony attended by the Presidents of Haiti, Bolivia, Venezuela and Guyana and the Prime Minister of Jamaica. Raul Castro declared: ‘This container terminal, and the powerful infrastructure accompanying it, are a concrete example of the optimism and confidence with which we Cubans see a socialist and prosperous future.’ The heads of state were in Havana for a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (see FRFI 237).

 

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RATB hosts international rally for the Cuban Five in the heart of London


Video credit: See Li Photo Capital http://seeliphotocapital.com/

On Sunday 9 March activists from the US, Canada, Latin America, Cuba and Europe joined a rally hosted by Rock around the Blockade (RATB) in Trafalgar Square to demand justice and freedom for the Cuban Five: five Cuban men arrested in Miami in 1998, convicted on trumped up charges and condemned to long prison sentences. They were in fact trying to prevent acts of terrorism against Cuba by infiltrating violent exile groups in Miami. None of the charges against them involved violence, weapons or damage to property. Since 1959, nearly 3,500 Cubans have died and over 2,000 have been injured as a result of terrorist attacks and aggression – mainly launched from Miami.

 

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Free the Cuban Five! International activists rally in Trafalgar Square, London, 9 March 2014

 

 

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 RATB hosts international rally in London - See our facebbook page for more photos

The sun was out in London, as members of Rock around the Blockade (RATB) were joined by activists, writers, musicians and academics from around the world to demand freedom for the Cuban Five and to show solidarity with socialist Cuba. The rally was held in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five, which took place in London over the previous two days.

 

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Havana Summit: building regional solidarity

On 28-29 January 2014, Havana hosted the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC in Spanish), with the participation of the heads of states and other representatives of all 33 independent nations in the region. The Summit ended Cuba’s one-year presidency of CELAC, which focused on combating regional poverty, hunger and inequality. Cuba is part of CELAC’s three member troika, along with Chile, which held the presidency in 2012 and Costa Rica, which takes over in 2014. Over 30 documents were drawn up for discussion and analysis, including a Plan of Action, and standards and principles to govern co-operation. The Summit was preceded by two days of discussions by national experts on 25-26 January and a meeting of ministers on 27 January. Helen Yaffe reports.

 

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Pressure to end the US blockade of Cuba grows – even in the US

On 26 November 2013, the Cuban Interests Section (a substitute for an embassy) in the United States announced that it would immediately halt its consular services – the issuing of visas, passports services and the authentification of documents, except in exceptional or humanitarian cases. Its press release explains that in summer 2013, the New York-based M&T Bank had informed the Cuban Interests Section in Washington and Cuba’s permanent mission at the United Nations in New York that it was withdrawing banking services from foreign missions, and therefore ordering the Cubans to close their accounts. It states: ‘Due to the restrictions still in force, derived from the US policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, and despite the numerous efforts made with the [US] Department of State and several banks, it has been impossible for the Cuban Interests Section to find a US bank with branches in the US to operate the bank accounts of the Cuban diplomatic missions.’

 

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