Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 27, 1996 issue of Workers World newspaper
When President Bill Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act into law, Sen. Jesse Helms--the bill's co-author along with fellow right winger Rep. Dan Burton--smiled before a camera and waved, "Bye, bye Fidel."
Well, it seems that most of the world is not too politely waving back to the U.S. government: "Bye, bye Helms-Burton." There are almost daily manifestations of hostility to the vicious new anti-Cuba law.
Helms-Burton tightens the economic blockade against Cuba by demanding that corporations doing business with the island submit to U.S. rules or face economic penalties-- including lose the right to do business in the United States.
In short, Helms-Burton tells a country who it can do business with and under what conditions. A more shameless violation of a country's sovereignty is hard to imagine.
On June 12, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo was in Ottawa. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Cretien said he and Zedillo were considering various options to counter the Helms-Burton Act, which is scheduled to take effect Aug. 1.
Cretien said the U.S. law violates NAFTA, which was ostensibly a measure to enhance "free trade" in the Western Hemisphere. NAFTA opponents have always maintained that the agreement is really about U.S. big business consolidating its economic hegemony in the region.
Nonetheless, if the Canadian government uses NAFTA's provisions to fight the anti-Cuba law, it is a welcome step if it in fact helps push U.S. imperialism back.
Washington has already formally warned a Mexican telecommunications firm operating in Cuba that it faces sanctions under Helms-Burton. Mexican Foreign Ministry legal advisor Miguel Angel Gonzalez Felix said that a bill to counteract Helms-Burton will be "enacted during the next special session of the congress," according to a report from China's Xinhua News Agency.
Some 300 Mexican firms currently do business with socialist Cuba.
The Canadian and Mexican pronouncements came on the heels of the June 5 vote by every member of the Organization of American States--except the United States--that criticized the U.S. government for intensifying the blockade against Cuba.
Washington has dominated the OAS since its formation in 1948. In 1962, it got the group to vote to expel Cuba, supposedly because Cuba had developed ties to the USSR. Now this same body has broken history's chains by supporting Cuba--and telling U.S. policy makers to go fly a kite.
Harriet Babbitt, U.S. representative at the OAS, labeled the Latin American nations "cowards" for not bowing to U.S. capitalist interests.
The truth is that these representatives voted in the interests of their own capitalist classes, many of whom see Cuba as a source of lucrative profits.
The Cuban government welcomes trade and business relations from around the world, of course. But Cuba's leaders have also made it clear their country will not be sold to the highest bidder.
There are other signs that Cuba is far from the isolated island Clinton and Helms wish and contend. The socialist nation just signed six economic- and trade-cooperation documents with China. The deal culminated a Cuba visit by Chinese Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Wu Yi.
"China is prepared to enhance its economic and trade cooperation with Cuba for a long time on the basis of mutual benefit," said Wu Yi.
In early June about 50 Spanish entrepreneurs participated in the sixth session of the Bilateral Committee on Spanish- Cuban Economic Cooperation in Havana. They intend to keep doing business with Cuba--although the new right-wing Jose Maria Aznar government recently said Spain wants to break off cooperation with Cuba. Aznar made the announcement at a joint news conference with U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Finally, Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina is scheduled to arrive in South Africa June 20. He is expected to meet with the African National Congress government of President Nelson Mandela and other political and business leaders.
Earlier this year, in a tremendous display of international solidarity, 96 Cuban doctors arrived in South Africa to help fill the shortage of physicians in rural areas.
It's done. The computers are out of the U.S. government's hands, and will soon be on their way to Cuba.
Pastors for Peace announced June 14 that the last of 395 medical computers--which U.S. Customs agents seized when volunteers tried to take them to Cuba in February--had been released to the custody of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.
A coalition of national church groups has agreed to send the computers to Cuba without requesting a license from Washington.
Five activists, led by the Rev. Lucius Walker of PFP, had carried out a 94-day hunger strike to demand the computers' release.
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