Letter to the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
29 October 2017
The Rt. Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office King Charles Street London SW1A 2AH www.gov.uk/fco
Dear Sir Alan Duncan MP
Subject: GoFundMe and Stripe block funds that ‘benefit’ Cuba or Cubans
I am writing to draw your attention to another violation of an elementary right of Cuban residents in the UK to help our country of origin.
For the second time our community project ‘Send a piano to Cuba’ has been victim of the extra-territorial implementation of sanctions of the United States Blockade against Cuba, and companies operating in United Kingdom, such as Eventbrite, GoFundMe and Stripe have obstructed our fundraising campaign.
On 19 March 2016 our association Cubanos en UK (Cubans in the UK) wrote to the Foreign Secretary and the FCO to report the confiscation of £360 by the company Eventbrite from the sale of tickets for a fundraising classical music concert. Eventbrite argued that this was: ‘pursuant to US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) regulations and sanctions program’.
In a letter dated 5 July 2016, Jonathan Williams, Head of the FCO’s Mexico, Cuba and Central America Team Americas Directorate replied to Cubanos en UK:
‘The UK, along with the rest of EU, has consistently voted in the UN General Assembly against the embargo. We also support the EU’s position that US sanctions should not apply extraterritorially, including here in the UK.
On 19 April, FCO Minister of State, the Rt Hon. Hugo Swire MP, raised our objections about the extraterritorial effect the US embargo on Cuba was having on trade and investment between the UK and Cuba, with US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson. In January FCO and HM Treasury officials met the Financial Conduct Authority to discuss what we could do to support British entities, such as Cubanos en UK, experiencing difficulties conducting financial transactions with Cuba. We will continue to raise our objections with the US, and to discuss this issue with officials at HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.’
HAVANA — Cuba is not China; that, we all know. What’s to explain, then, the unusual interest of U.S. companies in the Cuban market?
A U.S. producer of grain gave me an answer years ago: “It’s the only country in the world that delivers the daily bread to 11 million people.” Nevertheless, as true as this assertion is, it’s insufficient to explain what goes on. The matter is a lot more complex.
In a world where the development of commerce depended in good measure on the military domination of territories, the United States — during the first century of its existence — tried to expand within its own land borders. Attempting it beyond the seas was barred to the U.S. by the scant development of its naval force.
British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond with his counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla in Havana, April 2016.
Letter sent to Philip Hammond
Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH
22 May 2016
Dear Philip Hammond
Eventbrite UK confiscates funds that ‘benefit’ Cuba or Cubans
During your official visit to Cuba in late April you confirmed the British government’s opposition to the United States blockade. Consequently, we are calling on you to intervene in this important issue directly.
On 12 March 2016, British-based Cuban pianist Eralys Fernández held a classical music benefit concert, with support from an association Cubans living in the UK, as part of a fundraising project to donate a piano to a music school in Havana. The concert title was: A piano for Cuba – Fundraising Classical Music Concert. To sell tickets for the concert we opened an account with www.eventbrite.co.uk, through which we sold 36 tickets at £10 with an extra £1.74p charged by website for each ticket. Note that while Eventbrite is a US company this website is based in the UK, so its status is not clear to its customers.
Following the concert, Eventbrite informed us that: ‘We were contacted by our bank to let us know that the pay-out we initiated on 17 March 2016 for £360 has been temporarily held’. They wanted to know of ‘any direct or indirect benefit to Cuba or a Cuban in this transaction’. This is blatant discrimination against Cuban people living in Britain, being denied access to services or products based on ethnic or national origin.
A month later, Eventbrite confirmed that the ticket money was withheld ‘pursuant to US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) regulations and sanctions program’ – in other words the US blockade. ‘In order to have the funds released’, advised Eventbrite, ‘you will need to obtain a license from the US Treasury Department’. Why should we, as British citizens of Cuban origin, apply for a licence from a US institution? There are no sanctions against Cuba in Britain.
In addition, we have been advised by US Attorney General of Iowa, Tom Miller, that:
‘Under current US Government regulations any humanitarian projects with respect to Cuba do not require a specific license from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Treasury. Pianos can be donated to Cuba under a "General License", which does not require permission. Furthermore, US laws do not apply to Britain, so there would be absolutely no prohibition for an organization in the UK or Europe donating pianos to Cuba.’
As you are aware, both British and European law regulates against the extra-territorial application of the US blockade. In 1996, the European Council adopted Regulation (EC) No. 2271/96 on ‘protecting against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom.’ Also in 1996, the British Parliament approved Order No. 3171 relating to the Protection of Trading Interests Act on ‘The Extraterritorial US Legislation’, which enables the British government to penalise any natural or legal person complying with extraterritorial aspects of US blockade on British territory.
In December 2015, the British Treasury responded to a question by Lord Hutton, about the ‘advice…given to UK banks regarding business and personal financial transactions between UK individuals or UK-registered companies and Cuban counterparties based in Cuba.’ The answer was: ‘There are no UK, EU or UN sanctions regimes restricting transactions between the UK and Cuba. The US has economic sanctions against Cuba. EU legislation (Council Regulation [EC] No 2271/96) provides protection against and counteracts the effects of the extra-territorial application of US Cuba sanctions within the EU.’
On 15 March 2016, just prior to President Obama’s visit to Cuba, OFAC announced amendments to controls on financial transactions, including permitting US banks to process Cuba related US dollar denominated transactions where neither the sender not the beneficiary of the transactions are subject to US jurisdiction.
In a similar case very similar to our own, on 20 April 2016, a district court in Dortmund, Germany, issued an order against US payment system PayPal for applying US laws in the country. This legal precedent should be emulated in Britain. We would like to see British institutions finally take a legal and political stand against the extra-territorial application of OFAC regulations, which affects any British citizen or resident attempting to relate to Cuba via any US-linked entity, no-matter where it is based.
Eventbrite have now refused even to return the ticket money to the purchasers. In other words, that money has been stolen. Clearly this is a violation of our rights. We urge you to take action and look forward to hearing the results of that action.
When guitars and generations combine: Cuban guitarists Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas & Eduardo Martín launch a new album called The Bridge - BUY HERE
Release date 29.04.16
When Cuban guitarist Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas first heard the music of fellow countryman Eduardo Martín he felt euphoric. Martín’s style has an expansive sense of freedom that taps into pre Columbus traditions, jazz, flamenco, pop, Afro and traditional Cuban. The guitar is his favored instrument to mirror the melodic and rhythmic intricacies of the Americas’ cultural diversity.
Before moving to England, Dickinson Cárdenas took lessons with Eduardo and their friendship, idiosyncratic empathy and mutual respect has since transformed into a vehicle that connects, incorporates and juxtaposes their different generations, their musical ideas and ultimately the spiritual journey that drives this unique record.
The album is a compilation of some of Eduardo’s most alluring works for two guitars, where rock merges with son montunos; old Yoruba chants, feel-good rumbas, funk- boleros, new age tunes and cinematic pieces sit alongside Cuban tumbaos with slap bass.
The Bridge is a wondrous display of fluidity, a continuous study of the Latin guitar, past and present.
Almost some hours ago, I had the opportunity to listen to all your speech through our national television channels, and I should recognize, that precisely your words motivated this letter that now, right after I have reflected on what you have said, I decided to write you.
I speak to you from the respect that a young Cuban feels for a man who has been able to change the history of his country, regarding its foreign policy toward Cuba, which will be an indelible merit during all his life, and the best is that it will be a multilaterally attained merit.
It pleases me very much that this new stage is openings itself in our countries, when in Cuba we still have the historic leadership of the Revolution, because you should know, that if it were not so, this process would be much more complicated for United States, because Cubans would still be more distrustful.
Berta Soler together with notorious terrorists in the Casa del Preso in Miami
Following the public announcement about the visit to Cuba by the President of the United States, Berta Soler travelled to Miami to receive instructions from her bosses in the anti-Cuban mafia about what actions the Ladies in White should take during Obama’s trip.
Among those instructing the leader of the Ladies in White in ‘civil disobedience’ were no less than terrorist experts Santiago Álvarez, Fernández Magriñá, Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat y Rodolfo Rodríguez San Román.
In a meeting held in the so-called Casa del Preso [Prisoner’s Home], these experts – old collaborators with the Bin Laden of the Americas, Luis Posada Carriles – set out a programme of provocations for the ‘pacifist’ Soler, to be executed days prior to the North American President’s visit.
According to those mafia instructors, Berta Soler and her Ladies should organise counterrevolutionary acts in places such as the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power [Cuba’s Parliament], Revolution Square and others places with special significance for Cubans.
A clinical trial with Heberferon will begin this year in Cuba in about 300 patients with renal carcinoma, announced Dr. Iraldo Bello, expert who developed the product at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB by its Spanish acronym).
Bello told ACN that this formulation, a synergistic combination of recombinant human alpha-2b and gamma interferons, has been applied with good results against basal cell carcinoma, the most frequent skin cancer.
He added that this year they will also conduct a clinical trial with Heberferon in patients with malignant brain tumors.
Preclinical studies and other pilot research in humans show that the results with this product, unique of its kind in the world, can be very promising in these two indications, said the expert.
The CIGB and the National Cancer Control Group develop workshops in which oncologists, pathologists and other specialists participate to educate physicians about the use of the drug, which has already been applied to 800 Cuban patients with basal cell carcinoma.
Heberferon is one of the leading lines of Cuban biotechnology, and according to Dr. Bello, he spent more than 20 years in the research of this product, which has raised interest in several countries.
Dr. Olaine Gray, national coordinator of Special Working Force on Skin Cancer, told ACN that in the past decades, skin cancer has increased in the world and is among the first locations of this malignant disease.
She warned that Cuba reports about five thousand new cases each year, with a tendency to increase.
Skin cancer´s main trigger is the excess of sun, specifically the ultraviolet radiation, noted the specialist.
The original instrument accompanies the Austrian Federal President on his tour abroad
At the beginning of March Federal President Heinz Fischer undertakes one of his last trips abroad during his term of office and travels to Cuba. Johannes Honsig-Erlenburg, president of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation and Gabriele Ramsauer, director of the Mozart museums, will accompany him on this visit together with an original Mozart instrument, the so-called Costa Violin. Two concerts on this instrument will be given during the Federal President’s stay.
Frank Stadler, leader of the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, will play two concertos on the Mozart instrument, accompanied by the Youth Orchestra of the Lyceum Mozartiano de la Habana in the Oratorio San Felipe Neri. This orchestra was founded on the initiative of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation in 2009. Through its continued support the idea of this orchestra has evolved as an exemplary project of international cultural exchange which has been intensified over the last three years by a subsidy from the European Union. As part of the support for this project, the first international Mozart Festival took place in autumn 2015 in Havana.
The restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States is widely seen as one of Obama's most important legacies as U.S. president.
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Cuba in the coming weeks, a senior administration official said Wednesday, marking the first trip by a sitting president since 1928.
The trip is being viewed as a means to cement what Obama sees as one of his more important legacies as president: the normalization of relations with Cuba after five decades as enemies. The trip to Cuba is also sure to have an effect on the ongoing primary race.
Two of the Republican contenders, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, are of Cuban descent and have vocally opposed the Obama administration's efforts at relaxing the illegal, decades-old blockade on Cuba. Both were quick to condemn Obama's visit.
From 31st January and 2nd February, Cuban President Raul Castro will make an official visit to France, where he will meet with the President of that country, Françoise Hollande. Last May, Hollande became the first French President to visit Cuba. In addition to meeting with his counterpart, he called for an end to the US blockade against Cuba. The blockade continues.
Many Cubans are tired of hearing about the blockade, especially because most of them have lived their entire lives under its impact. The Cuban government has repeatedly tried to explain the difficulties it confronts on a daily basis. Although it appears simple, there are still those who don’t want to understand the magnitude of the problem.
I have personally campaigned against the US blockade and thought that it would be difficult for anything related with this theme to surprise me. That was not the case, however, and I have written a short summary below of a recent experience that occurred when I tried to send a small sum of money to Cuba via the British bank HSBC.