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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Apr 14, 2020, 03:50 PM

3. Covid-19: Cuba Deserves Relief From US Sanctions

Humanitarian deterrence of the virus, not Cold War–era regime change, should be the top priority of US foreign policy.
By Peter Kornbluh Twitter

MARCH 31, 2020

On March 25, as a team of Cuban doctors and medical technicians set up field hospitals in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy to treat thousands of Italians infected with Covid-19, the State Department issued an absurd warning, via Twitter, against accepting Cuban humanitarian support. “Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for #COVID-19 should scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses,” the message stated. “#Cuba offers its international medical missions to those afflicted with #COVID-19 only to make up the money it lost when countries stopped participating in the abusive program,” a reference to right-wing governments, such as those in Brazil and Bolivia, which under US pressure last year kicked out thousands of Cuban doctors providing medical services—a decision that has come back to haunt the populations of those countries as the coronavirus spreads.

Never mind that the 52 members of the Cuban medical team in Italy are risking their own lives to save those of citizens of a major European nation that is part of the NATO alliance. Or that Cuba, with its highly successful track record of developing antiviral drugs and providing rapid-response support for victims of epidemics and natural disasters, is a much-needed ally in the international struggle against the worst threat the world has confronted in recent history. For the Trump administration, scoring political points in Florida with crass, unwarranted attacks on Cuba’s humanitarian commitment remains a top priority.

But in this “dire moment of dread and pestilence,” as the writer Ariel Dorfman has described our current crisis, it is obvious that US political and foreign policy priorities must fundamentally change. With the survival of the world at stake, Washington’s punitive efforts to roll back the Cuban revolution have never seemed so petty, and so abjectly counterproductive to real US national security interests, as they do now. Rather than condemn Cuba’s humanitarian contributions to fighting the virus around the world, Washington should be actively supporting them. The most immediate way to do that is to suspend US sanctions that severely compromise Cuba’s efforts to safeguard its citizens at home as well as bring medical services to so many others abroad.

But unlike most nations, Cuba’s ability to confront the pandemic is hobbled by severe US sanctions that have escalated under the Trump administration. The trade embargo, almost six decades old, continues to hamper Cuba’s financial transactions and its ability to export and import needed materials. Among other punitive measures, the Trump administration has effectively penalized foreign shipping companies ferrying cargo from other countries to Cuba, impeding the flow of oil, foodstuffs, and other commerce critical to the daily needs of Cuba’s citizenry. Even before the coronavirus crisis hit, the Cuban economy was experiencing chronic shortages. There is such a lack of textiles on the island, for example, that the Cuban government has called upon its citizens to manufacture cloth face masks at home to mitigate the spread of the virus.


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