|Volume 51 Number 20, June 26, 2021||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
"Like the virus the blockade suffocates and kills and
it must stop."
Bruno Rodriguez, Cuban Foreign Minister
The cruel and inhuman US blockade of Cuba reveals what the US stands for no matter which administration is in power. And that is the opposite of its claim to act in the name of the people, of its claim to uphold freedom, democracy and human rights. These claims are a complete fraud. In fact, as the Biden administration is revealing, it is the US which makes the rules in a so-called "rules-based international order", and then demands the rest of the world comply with the US interpretation. If they do not, the US is reserving the right to penalise and collectively punish non-compliance. This is creating ever-greater dangers for the world's people struggling to build a human-centred society. It is the US which is responsible for crimes against humanity, and then citing these crimes as values which humanity must share, while at the same time showing contempt for international law. This could hardly be more graphically illustrated than at the vote at the United Nations.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) once again overwhelmingly voted on June 23 in favour of Cuba's resolution demanding the end of the US blockade. Voting in favour were 184 countries, while only two voted against (US and Israel). Three countries abstained (Brazil, Colombia and Ukraine).
This was the 29th vote on the blockade, but the first under the administration of Joe Biden. Although the US president said that he would reverse some of the 240 new sanctions and measures introduced against Cuba by Donald Trump, there has been no change of policy since his election in January 2021.
In an updated report to the United Nations on the impact of US sanctions during April-December 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba said that the intensification of the blockade during this time forced the island "to fight against the most terrible pandemic in decades and against the lengthiest and all-embracing system of coercive measures ever. There is no justification for such gargantuan cruelty."
Cuba Update, from the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, points out: "The cost of the US blockade against Cuba since its imposition almost six decades ago amounts to over 147.8 billion dollars (or $1.3 trillion if the depreciation of the dollar against the price of gold in the international market is taken into account). Between April and December 2020 alone, it cost the Cuban economy more than $3.5 billion. During this time the US government deliberately blocked a delivery of medical equipment and PPE to help fight COVID-19."
The Venezuelan representative at the United Nations declared: "The US uses the blockade as a weapon of war and collective punishment against a people...It is a crime which affects us all as it is a denial of our right to national sovereignty."
The Vietnamese representative said that the blockade ran counter to international law, the United Nations Charter, and was the most unjust and longest blockade inflicted against a country in modern history. "The policy is unjustifiable," they said.
Speaking on behalf of CARICOM countries, the Haitian representative said that despite the UN voting against the blockade every year, the Cuban people still suffer the impact of the blockade: "CARICOM calls for an immediate and unconditional end to the blockade. We consider the lifting of the embargo to be a prerequisite for any meaningful normalisation of relations between the two countries." Despite the blockade, Cuba continued to provide medical aid, and the Haitian delegate noted the doctors sent to Haiti and thanked Cuba for this "brotherly gesture of solidarity and cooperation."
China told the meeting that "US bullying will ultimately backfire", and Bolivia described it as "an act of genocide and of economic warfare".
The South African representative recalled Cuba's contribution to ending apartheid in their country and said: "Cuba's solidarity and internationalism is an inspiration to humanity. Despite the obstacles it faces it shows tremendous resilience. One can only imagine what more this small country could achieve were it able to fulfil its full potential and be allowed to develop."
"Unjustifiable, illegal and illegitimate at its inception, and six decades later this still holds true. It is an anachronistic policy of confrontation and isolation," said the representative from St Vincent and the Grenadines. "Following small yet significant progress under Obama - the blockade has been progressively and systematically intensified," she said.
Many representatives also stressed how the policy hindered Cuba's ability to realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
After more than twenty contributions from regional blocks and countries speaking in support of Cuba, Bruno Rodriguez, Cuban Foreign Minister, addressed the meeting.
"In 2020, Cuba, like the rest of the world, had to face the extraordinary challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. The United States government used the virus as an ally in its ruthless unconventional war," he said.
The vast majority of the US people support the lifting of the blockade and their freedom to travel to the island, he said. He described the shortages that Cuba currently faces with people being forced to queue for food, and shop shelves being empty "despite a Herculean effort by the Cuban government", and lambasted the damage caused by the US measure as a "deliberate aim by the US to punish the Cuban people as a whole. It is a massive, flagrant and systemic denial of the human rights of the Cuban people."
"It is neither legal nor ethical for a powerful country to subject a small nation, for decades, to incessant economic warfare for the sake of imposing on it an alien political system and a government designed by it," he said. "Like the virus the blockade suffocates and kills and it must stop."
The United Nations vote once again shows that the US is isolated in its cruel and vindictive policy towards Cuba. The working class and people of Britain stand as one with the people of Cuba and the peoples of the entire world in opposing the crimes committed in the name of upholding human rights. The blockade must be ended now!
On the weekend of June 18-20, car caravans and other actions were held in 50 cities around the world as part of the global "Bridges of Love" project which calls for an end to the coercive measures against Cuba and the normalisation of relations between the United States and Cuba. The events were part of an international weekend of actions in advance of the United Nations General Assembly vote on the US blockade which took place on June 23.
In Britain, Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) activists took action in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sheffield on June 19-20 as part of the World Caravan against the US Blockade of Cuba.
In London, CSC supporters cycled and walked along the Thames Embankment to Trafalgar Square, handing out leaflets which called for the Biden administration to reverse the 240 measures and sanctions against the island introduced under Donald Trump.
They were joined by Cubans resident in Britain who chanted, "The blockade is hate, send Cuba love." Since July 2020, monthly caravans of car and bicycle cavalcades have been organised under the banner puentes de amor meaning "bridges of love". The caravans have called for US President Joe Biden to allow families to be reunited by ending travel restrictions, opening the US embassy in Havana for visa processing and allowing them to send money home to families in Cuba. Such actions were restricted under Donald's Trump administration and have not been reversed by President Biden.
Supporters in Manchester and Cuban residents in the city organised a car caravan through Hyde. CSC groups in Liverpool, Sheffield and Birmingham also organised walking caravans to call for the end the US blockade
A particularly cruel aspect of the US blockade is that it prevents Cuba from being able to acquire many of the essential medical supplies it requires to address the health needs of the Cuban people, including the need to vaccinate the population against Covid-19.
In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, US sanctions blocked a shipment of vital medical supplies from entering Cuba. It included more than two million masks, 400,000 rapid diagnostic kits and 104 ventilators. Cuba described it as "another twist of this genocidal, inhumane policy".
In May 2021, Oxfam, the international development agency, called for an end the blockade which it said "restricts access to suppliers of medicines, technology, food, and other essential products".
Manchester and Birmingham
East London and Liverpool
"The US blockade will have been in place for 60 years in 2022. It is an anachronistic relic of the Cold War which causes shortages and suffering in Cuba and has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations. British friends of Cuba are taking to the streets this weekend to call for an end to this cruel and immoral policy. It is unconscionable that it has continued throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and has resulted in shortages of PPE equipment in Cuba, and hindered their vaccine roll-out," said Rob Miller, CSC director.
Friendship and solidarity groups in Europe, North America and Latin America have been raising funds with the aim of sending enough syringes to complete the 30 million that Cuba needs to fully vaccinate its population.
In Britain, CSC supporters raised almost £70,000 in the last twelve months to supply medical aid to help Cuba fight Covid-19 at home, treat patients and deliver their vaccination programme. The CSC has also worked with MPs to raise the issue with the British and US governments, and organised events to raise awareness of this policy.
(With material from Cuba Update, June 24, 2021)
World Caravan Against the Blockade - UK actions 19 June 2021 - YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSIArSi18DQ