Salim Lamrani

How does US pursue ‘regime change’ in Cuba through ‘normalization’?

Barack Obama can lift the economic sanctions without the agreement of the U.S. Congress but he refuses to do so. Normalization of relations happens if Washington lifts economic sanctions, gives Guantanamo back to the Cubans, put an end to the financing of an internal opposition on the island and abrogate the Cuban adjustment act. These reasons are clearly indicative that the normalization of relations are just a continuation of the past policy of ‘regime change’ in Cuba.

Salim Lamrani, in an interview with, talks about the US-Cuba relations and how these relations are the continuation of the past painful US policies against Cuba.


Salim Lamrani has a Phd in Iberian and Latin American Studies at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne and is a senior lecturer at the University of La Réunion. His latest publication is Cuba, the Media, and the Challenge of Impartiality.


- How do you think the US uses sanctions and negotiations to infiltrate its enemies? Can you give examples of how US has used these tools to infiltrate Cuba?


The main goal of U.S. policy toward the island has been to overthrow the Cuban Revolution. From 1959 to 1991 this was a hidden goal. Since the implementation of the Torricelli Act in 1992, it has become public. Washington wants a “regime change” in Cuba. One of the tools used to achieve this end is economic sanctions. These are sanctions that affect all categories of the Cuban population and constitute the main obstacle to the island’s development.


-Speaking to VOA you addressed how US tried to isolate Cuba internationally, but in reality, the sanctions have isolated the US; would you further explain this?


Washington imposed sanctions designed to damage and isolate Cuba. During the Cold War it was effective in isolating the Island. But today this has become an outdated policy. The United States is virtually alone in its position against Cuba. The international community condemns the United States’ foreign policy towards Cuba. In 2015, for the 24th consecutive year, 191 of 193 nations voted against the economic sanctions imposed on the Cuban people during the United Nations General Assembly. Even the most loyal allies of the US asked for a policy change towards Cuba.

Domestically, 70% of the U.S. population favors a normalization of relations with Cuba because they do not understand why their government forbids them to travel to the Caribbean island, while it allows them to go to China, Vietnam or North Korea.


U.S. corporations oppose economic sanctions because they see a natural marked of 11 million people, only 90 miles away, surrounded by international companies.


- In the book “The Economic War Against Cuba: A Historical and Legal Perspective on the U.S. Blockade”, you describe US economic sanctions as cruelly designed for their harmful impact on the Cuban people. How has the US harmed Cuban people through economic blockade?


More than 70% of the Cuban people were born under this economic state of siege. The impact has been disastrous. Let’s just take the health sector. Nearly 80% of all patents granted in the medical sector are issued to U.S. pharmaceutical multinationals and their subsidiaries, which gives them a virtual monopoly. Cuba cannot get access to these medications due to the blockade imposed by the government of the United States.

Some specific cases will permit us to understand the many difficulties faced by Havana in order to maintain a functioning health system. For example, Cuban ophthalmological services are not able to use transpupillary thermotherapy in the treatment of children suffering from cancer of the retina. Indeed, Cuba is prevented from acquiring the surgical microscope and other equipment needed for its treatment because these products are sold exclusively by the U.S. company, Iris Medical Instruments. Thus, without this technology, it becomes impossible to effectively treat this tumor.


A study made by the American Association for World Health (AAWH), whose honorary president is Jimmy Carter, notes that the penalties “violate the most basic agreements and international conventions that have been put in place to protect human rights, including the Charter of the United Nations (Article 5), the Charter of the Organization of American States (Article 16) and the Articles of the Geneva Conventions that regulate the treatment of civilians in wartime." A "humanitarian catastrophe was averted only because the Cuban government has maintained" a health system that "is considered uniformly as the preeminent model of the Third World."

And this is just one example.


-Speaking to VOA you argued that despite the normalization of ties with Cuba, the sanctions are still in force; can you discuss this in details?


We cannot talk about “normalization” so far. There is a process towards normalization that started on December 2014. There is still a long path to travel. Economic sanctions have to be lifted. Steps have been taken towards this goal, but the network of sanctions is still in force.

As President of the United States, Barack Obama has the executive power to lift 90% of the economic sanctions. For instance, he could allow U.S. companies to trade with Cuban companies. He could allow Cuba to buy goods on the international market goods that contain more than 10% of U.S parts. He could also allow sales to Cuba by credit for non-agricultural products.

There are very few sectors that Obama cannot reach without the agreement of the U.S. Congress. There are actually four:

1. Obama cannot allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba as simple tourists.

2. He cannot allow the sale of U.S. food products by credit.

3. He cannot allow subsidiaries of U.S. companies located in third countries to trade with Cuba.

4. He cannot allow the trade with Cuban companies that were once U.S. companies before the nationalization process of the 1960s.

For point 1, there is a solution: He can broaden the definition of the categories of U.S. citizens allowed to go to Cuba. There are 12 categories of trips allowed, such as cultural, academic, professional, diplomatic, sport ones, etc.. For instance, he could broaden the definition of a “cultural trip” and say that all U.S. citizens who go to Cuba and visit a museum are to be considered as “cultural travelers”.

For point 2, Obama can allow the sale of all other products by credit.

For point 3, if Obama allows normal trade between U.S and Cuban companies, Cuba won’t have to buy, let’s say, Ford trucks in Panama if it is possible to buy them directly in the U.S.

For point 4, the obstacle is not particularly significant because only a few of the companies that were once nationalized are still operating in Cuba. In a word, Barack Obama can lift the economic sanctions.

On the other hand, other questions will have to be solved such as Guantanamo, the Cuban Adjustment Act, the financing of the dissidents, etc.


-In reality, would it be possible to normalize ties with the US government that once and for long tried to harm Cuban people through sanctions?  


It all depends on the U.S. It is important to remember that this is an asymmetric conflict with a hostile power harming a small country that had never attacked it. Washington has imposed economic sanctions since 1960. It also illegally occupies Guantanamo. The U.S. government finances an internal opposition to achieve a “regime change”. It also encourages illegal emigration through the Cuban adjustment act, a law that stipulates that any Cuban who can manage to get to the United States automatically receives permanent residency.

So, if Washington were to lift the economic sanctions, give Guantanamo back to the Cubans, put an end to the financing of an internal opposition on the island and abrogate the Cuban adjustment act, it would open the road to full normalization of relations

Washington has to abide by international law and base its relations with Cuba on three fundamental principles: equal sovereignty, reciprocity and non-interference in internal affairs. The United States also has to accept that Cuba is an independent country with a different political system and social model and that it is free to choose its own domestic and foreign policy. These conditions are not negotiable for Cuba.


-How can scientific and technological innovations diminish the power of economic sanctions?


Research can, in certain circumstances, allow us to find alternatives to sanctions. But it is not possible to underestimate the cruelty of economic sanctions, particularly on vulnerable people, such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. Everyone knows that sanctions hurt the people and not the government. For this reason it is immoral to impose them on civilians.


-How independent countries can combat US policy of economic blockade?


A good way is to show the tragic impact of economic sanctions on civilians. The most dramatic example is Iraq where international organizations report that over two million people, among them one million children, died because of U.S economic sanctions.

I repeat, it is absolutely immoral to impose sanctions upon an entire country as the first to suffer will be the groups that are the most fragile.