Global calls for US to end blockade of Cuba

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A woman carries a Cuban flag during a rally calling for the end of the US blockade against Cuba, in Havana. File picture: Yamil Lage/AFP
A woman carries a Cuban flag during a rally calling for the end of the US blockade against Cuba, in Havana. File picture: Yamil Lage/AFP

International outrage at the continued US blockade against Cuba are at fever pitch, as protests in more than 50 cities across the world took place on Sunday, including in Pretoria.

Demonstrators have demanded an end to the cruel US economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, which has denied its people basic necessities, medicine and medical equipment to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Events took place in major US cities such as New York, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Seattle and Indianapolis.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla has said there were 243 coercive measures applied by former US president Donald Trump, which remain in force under the administration of President Joe Biden. There is no evidence of any real measures by the new US administration to overturn these measures, which goes against international sentiment that maintains Cuba has the right to self-determination.

Every year for the past three decades, the UN General Assembly has condemned the US economic blockade of Cuba, which is a violation of international law, a flagrant violation of human rights, and goes against the fundamental principles of free trade. Since 1992, every year the UN General Assembly approves by large margins resolutions calling on the US to stop the unilateral and illegal punishment of the Cuban people, which has gone on for 60-years – ever since the US imposed the blockade on Cuba after the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959.

There is no justification for the blockade either moral or judicial. The US has been unwilling to acknowledge the international desire to see the blockade end and for Cuba to be treated with the respect that any other member of the international community is accorded.

What makes the blockade a travesty of justice is also the fact that Cuba is an impoverished developing country, and the blockade has impeded the island’s development for decades. The laws and sanctions that make up the blockade are an illegal attempt at regime change, infringing severe food and medicine shortages on Cuba’s 11 million people.

The Cuban government has quantified the damage done to its country from April 2019 to March last year. According to its study, the damage is estimated to be more than $5.7 billion. The report on such unprecedented damage is to be published and presented to the UN. Cuba’s Foreign Minister has said that Cuba will present a resolution to the UN General Assembly on June 23 to end the US blockade. Rodriguez Parrilla stated that he trusted the international community’s support to put an end to the inhumane policy.

Under the Trump administration, the economic blockade against Cuba was deliberately tightened, despite the fact that the country was trying to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The US blocked the donation of medical supplies to Cuba, including protective equipment that was sent by Alibaba, which never arrived due to US intransigence. Companies that tried to send respiratory machines to Cuba were also blocked. Medi Cuba, which is Cuba’s agency that acquires pharmaceutical products, contacted more than 50 US companies in the hope of trying to import medicine and supplies in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Only three US companies responded.

“Like the virus that causes this pandemic, the US blockade suffocates and damages Cuban families,” Foreign Minister Rodriguez Parrilla has said. The US has implemented the blockade by acting against companies in third countries that attempt to trade with Cuba, making it virtually impossible for Cuba to acquire technology and medical equipment from third countries. Companies which have branches in Cuba have been denied licences by the US administration.

The US has also unilaterally reduced air transport between the two countries, and blocked family allowances going from Cuban Americans to their families in Cuba. Rodríguez Parrilla affirmed that the economic, commercial, and financial blockade against the Island restricted the freedom of travel of Americans, and “its extraterritorial application drastically reduces our income and hinders development”.

Despite all of this overwhelming hardship, Cuba has extended the hand of friendship to many countries beyond its shores, offering medical cooperation to fight the pandemic even when its own citizens cannot access life saving medicine and equipment due to the blockade. This has been a vitally important contribution to the health systems of those countries concerned, but the US has engaged in a slander campaign against Cuba’s efforts at medical co-operation.

It is high time to put an end to the politics of aggression and imperialism, and allow Cuba to function as a sovereign independent country, free to trade and engage with the world.