“The Cuban people have had to endure a criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against our country for almost 60 years.''
The Cuban government addressed the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, reaffirming the island’s commitment to delivering social justice, despite aggressive new policies enacted by the United States aimed at crippling the country’s economy.
Cuba’s Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa, a former labor union leader, spoke Wednesday to an international audience of labor experts and trade union representatives from the 187 member countries of the ILO.
At the meeting, he spoke on the Trump administration’s recent decision to begin applying Title III of the Helms-Burton Act as a way to toughen U.S. economic sanctions.
“The Cuban people have had to endure a criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against our country for almost 60 years,'' stated Valdes Mesa.
He also characterized the recent enforcement of the Helms-Burton Act as a ‘neocolonial’ law, with the aim of "depriving the Cuban people of their resources, of their properties and of hundreds of thousands of jobs, ... forcing political concessions from the Cuban nation."
This has been born out by recent consumer sales figures showing sharp drops in consumer sales in Cuba's private sector.
Hector Danilo Rodriguez, a representative for people affected by the law, spoke to Prensa Latina saying, "This (drop in sales) affects the payment of taxes and our families.
"The Helms-Burton Act affects us directly because we do not have access to the raw material we need, nor the production techniques, on top of the fact that it makes tourism impossible," he added.
In 2018, a U.N. agency estimated the total cost of the U.S. siege as reaching US$130 billion in damages to the Cuban economy. Nevertheless, Cuba has managed to meet its Millennium Development goals and maintains a high score on the Human Development Index. Valdes Mesa stressed Cuba's progressive redistribution policies as a factor and reiterated Cuba’s commitment to such social policies.
The union leader suggested that “building an increasingly sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation include strengthening the promotion and protection of workers' rights and trade union freedoms.”