50 Painful Facts about Sanctions, Blockades & Embargoes


1Confederate Cotton Blockade

Confederate Cotton Blockade

President Lincoln's blockade of Confederate cotton caused famine in English mill towns. Suffering Manchester workers nevertheless sent a letter of support to Lincoln and he responded with thanks and a gift of food. A statue of Lincoln in Manchester displays excerpts from both letters.

2. Because of international sanctions, the North Korean government relies on human feces collected from people in the cities for crop fertilizer.

3. While United Kingdom’s blockade of Africa was largely successful in stopping the Atlantic Slave Trade, United States was a long-term hold-out and refused permission for the British to search their ships for slaves. Because of this, many slavers flew fake American flags to continue with slave trade.

4. Bosnia was put at a great disadvantage due to the arms embargo it was put under during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). U.S. Allies in Europe blocked proposals to remove the embargo as they considered including Bosnia in European Union to be "unnatural," as it would have be the only Muslim nation in union.

5. Towards the end of World War 2, Japanese troops resorted to using hand grenades made out of porcelain due to steel shortages they were facing from Allied bombings and naval blockades.

6Coca-Cola Embargo

Coca-Cola Embargo

North Korea and Cuba are the only countries that don't sell Coca-Cola due to trade embargoes imposed on them by the United States. Cuba has been under long-term trade embargo since 1962 and North Korea since 1950.

7. During the 1973-1974 oil embargo, national highway speed limits were lowered to 55 mph in an attempt to force Americans to drive at speeds deemed more fuel-efficient.

8. During World War 1, Germany refused to feed occupied Belgium, which was blockaded and unable to fulfill its food demands. In response, Herbert Hoover established the Commission for Relief in Belgium. The commission shipped 5.7 million tons of food and fed 11 million Belgians between 1914 and 1919.

9. About 99.9% of Americans have never tasted the blackcurrant berry due to sanctions put in place by the US government in 1911 because of its role in spreading disease among white pines, which at that time was a principle industry of the growing American republic.

10. Sugar beet, one of the world's main sources of sugar, was first put into large-scale cultivation by Napoleon Bonaparte after France lost Haiti in a slave revolt and was blockaded by the British.

11Havana Club Embargo

Havana Club Embargo

The Havana Club brand of rum manufactured in Cuba cannot be sold in the US due to the Cuba embargo. "Havana Club" sold in the US is produced by Bacardi, causing an ongoing trademark dispute. The world has two types of Havana Club, one which is the US product and the other is the non-US product, produced by different companies.

12. In 2007, when the US threatened an embargo against Sudan for the human rights violations in Darfur, the Sudanese ambassador to the US threatened to stop exports of gum Arabic, the main ingredient in Coca-Cola.

13. During World War 1, to get around British blockades, the German Lloyd company built a merchant submarine to trade with then neutral America. It made 2 trips before America entered the war after which it was converted to a warship and it went on to sink 42 ships on 3 patrols.

14. In 1969, France embargoed Israel while navy ships sold to Israel were still in France. The Mossad set up a fake oil company that bought the ships from France and covertly sailed them to Israel. Upon discovering this, the French defense minister ordered an air strike to sink them, but his order was overruled.

15. Pistachios in the US are no longer dyed red as a result of the Iran Hostage Crisis (sanctions against Iran). The red dye was used to cover the staining that picking methods in Iran left. US production increased after the sanctions and quicker harvesting eliminated the shell stains and the need for the dye.

16Cuban Trade Embargo

Cuban Trade Embargo

John F. Kennedy requested his head of press, Pierre Salinger, to get him 1,000 Cuban cigars. Seconds after he brought the president 1,200 cigars, Kennedy signed the Cuban trade embargo.

17. After the Russians invaded Afghanistan, Jimmy Carter imposed a grain embargo on the Russians, boycotted the 80' Summer Olympics, and funneled cash and weapons to the Mujahideen who were fighting the Russians.

18. The US embargo on Cuba does not prohibit the trade of food and humanitarian supplies and the US is actually the fifth-largest exporter to Cuba.

19. During World War 2, the Dutch, British, and the US governments embargoed oil to Japan. Japan only had 1.5 years of reserve oil. The Pearl Harbor attack was an attempt to eliminate the US Pacific Fleet, so that Japan could have a clear path to conquer the East Indies and get more oil.

20. President Jefferson was a slaveholder who refused to recognize Haiti after the Haitian Revolution and imposed a trade embargo on them to ensure their economic failure, for fear that a successful slave revolt in the West Indies would inspire slaves in the US.

21Yank Tanks

Yank Tanks

Most people in Cuba still drive old American cars from the 1950s. There are about 60,000 classic American cars in Cuba today and if the Cuban trade embargo were to be lifted, people there could make a fortune off of these "Yank Tanks."

22. The Battle of Chuenpi (First Opium War) started with British ships firing warning shots at other British ships. The British Superintendent of Trade in China, Charles Elliot, had ordered a blockade to prevent trade and other British ships attempted to defy that ban.

23. During the Japanese occupation of Wake Island, the American blockade made food so scarce that Japanese soldiers hunted a local species of bird to extinction.

24. During World War 1, no foreign coaling stations were available to Germany, and its coast was blockaded. So the Germans outfitted a sailing ship as a commerce raider and disguised it as a Norwegian wood carrier which sailed past the British blockade and captured 15 ships over the next two years.

25. During the Leningrad Blockade of World War 2, citizens were only rationed 125 grams of stale bread a day, and in the first 2 months of the siege, 200,000 people died from cold and starvation.