The Economic War against Cuba: A Historical and Legal Perspective on the US Blockade

By Ludlam, Steve | The International Journal of Cuban Studies, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

The Economic War against Cuba: A Historical and Legal Perspective on the US Blockade


Ludlam, Steve, The International Journal of Cuban Studies


Salim Lamrani, The Economic War against Cuba: a Historical and Legal Perspective on the US Blockade (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013) pb 142pp. ISBN 9781583673409

Reviewed by Steve Ludlam

English-language readers of the work of Salim Lamrani, a French academic, will be mainly familiar with his scholarly online journalism, characterised by the combination of richly referenced detail with clear and strong argument. His subject matter has frequently been the unending 'regime change' efforts of the US state against the Republic of Cuba, the terrorism and the dubious claims and morals of many prominent US-supported Cuban dissidents. Lamrani routinely heads straight for the most controversial topics in hostile media coverage of Cuba and offers an alternative perspective underpinned (unlike most of the journalism) by serious investigation and argument. Less well known are his books on Cuba and US and EU policy, published in French, one with a preface by Nelson Mandela. This concise study remedies this wider literary gap in access in English to his writing. Once again the mixture of careful presentation of historical, legal and political evidence with a clear line of argument is characteristic. Despite its subject matter, the tone is measured and its lack of polemical ornament will appeal to a wide readership seeking clear material on the origins, content and impact of half a century of attempts to strangle the Cuban rebellion in the US backyard.

The book assembles primary sources to outline the US embargo legislation that has enforced what the Cubans, because of its extraterritorial implementation, call the blockade. It details effects on: healthcare in Cuba; the persecution of US citizens contravening the embargo; the extraterritorial pursuit of non-US companies legally trading with Cuba or Cubans; the bizarre priorities of the US Government Accounting Office that apparently devotes far more resources to its war on Cuban cigars than to its wars on drugs and terror; and the current state of majority US public opinion against the embargo. The book also explains why the Cuban government refers to the embargo as genocidal, a claim many might regard as overblown. But Lamrani quotes the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, of December 1948, as forbidding action against a national group 'causing bodily or mental harm', alongside a State Department official's explanation of the purpose of the embargo being to 'bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government' (pp. 72-3). The final part of the book reproduces the 2011 UN debate and vote on the embargo, reminding the reader of just how little international support exists, and tabulates the votes since 1992. …

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