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  • The hands of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro during a news conference in Havana March 21, 2016.

    The hands of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro during a news conference in Havana March 21, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Even though U.S. President Barack Obama has announced an end to trade restrictions, it is still illegal for U.S. companies to do business with Cuba.

After announcing an easing on trade restrictions with Cuba last month, the United States government imposed a fine of almost US$6 million on a U.S.-based company and two subsidiaries for doing business with the Caribbean island, reaffirming the devastating, internationally-rejected blockade and suggesting it could remain in place for the foreseeable future.

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Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, issued a fine of US$5,976,028 on U.S.-based multinational oil company National Oilwell Varco, or NOV, and its subsidiaries Dreco Energy Services and NOV Elmar.

Between 2007 and 2009, Dreco Energy Services made 45 commercial transactions to sell products to Cuba that were valued at more than a million dollars.

Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2008, NOV Elmar made two related transactions to sell products and services to the island at an amount of US$100,000.

This is the fourth fine imposed by OFAC this year in relation to the Cuban blockade.

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In December 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a normalization of relations after more than 50 years of hostilities. The two countries reopened their respective embassies in July 2015, but the blockade remains in effect.

After Cuba presented a report this year to the United Nations General Assembly indicating that the U.S. blockade on the island nation has cost it US$4.7 billion over the last year and US$753.7 billion over the last six decades, 191 of the 193 nations at the UNGA voted to condemn the blockade, with only the U.S. and Israel abstaining.

The blockade was imposed in 1960 after the 1959 victory of the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro which overthrew the regime of Fulgencio Batista, a U.S.-backed dictator.


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