Michèle Barry, MD
Barry M.; Economic Sanctions and Embargoes. Ann Intern Med. 2000;133:311-312. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-133-4-200008150-00026
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2000;133(4):311-312.
TO THE EDITOR:
I appreciate the courage of Annals in devoting attention to the morally complex subject of embargoes and how they may affect health (1-3). I humbly take issue with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's position that the U.S. embargo has permitted generous donations of medical sales and medical equipment to Cuba.
Ms. Albright carefully uses the word “licensed” with regard to “$45 million in medical sales in 1998 and the first half of 1999 and more than $100 million in humanitarian donations” (2). In actuality, licenses do not equate to material sent to or received by Cuba. The complexity of the on-site verification process required by the United States after a license is obtained (verification that materials are not being sold for Cuban government use) has made donations difficult to deliver. Indeed, Disarm, a peace and social justice organization that has been granted licenses for more than $191 million in humanitarian aid to Cuba over 5 years, specifically noted that Cuba has been able to receive only a fraction of Disarm licensed material ($47 million over 5 years [Schwartz R. Personal communication]). Moreover, humanitarian aid does not necessarily reflect actual Cuban needs. Indeed, in 1991, before the Cuban Democracy Act limited trade in food and medicine, business with U.S. subsidiaries had reached $718 million; thus, $45 million in medical sales in 1998–1999 is a fraction of Cuba's needs even if 100% of materials are received (4). At the recent United States–Cuba trade conference, the president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, Hector Perez, was quoted as saying that despite the U.S. State Department's claim of $45 million in licensed medical sales, “zero” had reached Cuba (5).
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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