Washington's 45-year-old embargo has cost Cuba more than US$89 billion to date, wreaking havoc on everything from primary education to pest control and nearly all other facets of island life, the foreign minister said Tuesday
Havana produced a 56-page booklet laying out its latest argument against the embargo ahead of next month's meeting of the UN General Assembly, which has voted 15 years in a row to urge the US to lift trade sanctions against Cuba. Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque said the US policy caused US$3 billion in losses over the past year alone to the economy of Cuba ? which had a 2006 GDP estimated at US$40 billion, according to the CIA World Factbook. The embargo ''has reached levels of schizophrenia and made the last year notable for the ferocious and cruel way the blockade has been applied,'' Pérez Roque told a news conference. Washington, he said, is bent on ''persecuting Cuban interests and attempting to beat our people into submission with hunger and disease.'' Cuban officials came up with the US$89 billion price tag by adding estimated extra costs spent over the decades to buy from third countries many goods that would have been cheaper in the United States. The figure also includes lost income, including tourism from the US. US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez called the embargo a success and said the sanctions are designed to punish Havana, not hurt the island's people. Havana's report said US patents and other provisions of the embargo prevent it from purchasing current medical technologies, pesticides and even materials for blind children because Braille products are produced primarily in the United States. Internet access is also severely limited and expensive, because Cuba must rely on satellites instead of tapping into one of eight major fiber-optic cables that run underwater near the island but are linked to US interests. Cuba's dilapidated public transportation system would be able to handle 20 million more passengers a year if it were allowed to import US-made vehicles and parts. The United Nations General Assembly takes its annual vote in October on support for the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. For the past 15 years, the body has recommended the United States lift the embargo. Last year only four countries voted in support of it, with 183 countries voting against. There was one abstention.