Cuban humanitarianism deserves admiration and respect, not sanctions and smears, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE
ONE of the most astonishing expressions of reactionary “Trumpite” politics during the global coronavirus crisis took place recently when three hard-right Republican senators — Ted Cruz, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio — introduced a Bill which calls for sanctions against countries which work with Cuban medical brigades.
Amazingly, it also seeks to classify Cuban medical brigades as victims of human trafficking.
This effectively means that Donald Trump’s US is threatening smaller countries purely for having received — or may yet wishing to receive in the future — medical assistance from Cuba during the current pandemic, which continues to cause death and devastation across the globe.
Not content with presiding over a disastrous response to the coronavirus crisis in the US itself, Republicans also want to deny medical assistance to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people across the world, as if their continuing murderous sanctions on countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and Iran weren’t already doing another humanitarian damage.
Cuba has already sent to more than 30 countries over 3,000 medics during this crisis, saving lives around the globe.
Pictures of Cuban health professionals in Italy were seen across the world, and they have also assisted in places as diverse as Andorra and French Martinique, as well as numerous neighbouring Caribbean and Latin American nations.
This amazing international humanitarian work has led to a growing global campaign for Cuba’s Medical Brigades to be awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, which even has very prominent support in the US itself.
These reactionary demands from the Republican senators to hit the Cuban medical brigades with sanctions are made within a context where only last year the Trump administration announced the most severe economic sanctions against Cuba since the illegal US blockade was first introduced in 1962.
These moves included the end of virtually all non-family travel to Cuba and new limits on the amount of money Cuban-Americans can send home to family.
Taking a step even other hard-right-wing administrations shied away from, at that time it was also announced that the US government would fully implement Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.
Other aggressive announcements from the Trump administration have included the implementation of major new travel restrictions on visits to Cuba by US citizens, including a ban on educational and cultural trips known as “people-to-people” travel.
Such measures could cause severe damage to Cuba’s tourism sector.
Even before these acts of aggression from the Trump administration, the US blockade already constituted the longest economic sanctions regime against any country in history.
It has cost the Cuban economy more than £735 billion since 1962 and the US has continued to pursue it despite nearly unanimous opposition in the international community, as confirmed by an overwhelming UN vote every year against the blockade.
In recent months amid the coronavirus crisis, the illegal US blockade has also stopped shipments of ventilators and personal protective equipment from reaching Cuba.
Despite the heightened levels of aggression and hostility from the Trump administration aimed at forcing illegal “regime change” in Cuba, it’s important to remember that Cuba has defeated the US before and that its revolution has survived for over 60 years.
Despite being just 90 miles away from the world’s largest imperialist power, the Cuban Revolution has not only survived, but has made major achievements in areas such as health, science, education and developing environmental policies.
It has also shared these gains internationally. As Rob Miller of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign recently noted: “Cuba’s history of internationalism goes well beyond the current health crisis and includes Cuba’s role in Africa in fighting against apartheid, Operation Miracle, which has now treated more than four million patients with sight-saving operations, and treating 25,000 children suffering effects of radiation poisoning following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.”
In total over the course of the Cuban Revolution it is thought that 400,000 health workers from the island have responded to natural disasters and helped build health services in a total of 164 countries.
This deserves admiration and respect, not sanctions and smears.
As well as supporting the international campaign for Cuba’s Medical Brigades to be awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, the need for our solidarity against the US blockade therefore continues.
All socialists and progressives internationally must fully support Cuba’s right to self-determination.
It must be part of our campaigning work against Trump’s broader reactionary agenda in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean, which has also included war and coup threats against Venezuela the coup against the Evo Morales government in Bolivia and continuing to prop up the reactionary coup regime in Honduras.
Originally published in The Morning Star