Joe Biden must not be let off the hook as his electoral promise to abandon Trump’s hostility has come to naught, argues KEN LIVINGSTONE
COUNTRIES around the world have again demanded at the United Nations that the United States lift the blockade of Cuba that it has been imposing since 1962.
On June 23 2021 in the 29th vote at the UN general assembly on the issue of the US blockade, 184 countries supported the Cuban resolution calling for its end.
Only the US and Israel voted against, while three other countries — Brazil, Colombia and Ukraine — abstained.
All of Israel, Brazil, Colombia and the Ukraine can best be described as US “puppet” states when it comes to international affairs.
The debate on the resolution allowed Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, to set out before the assembled nations what the impact of the US’s illegal blockade has been.
Since its inception, Cuba has incurred losses of £107 billion. The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a particularly devastating effect on Cuba’s economy as tourism has dried up, contributing to a £2.5bn shortfall in revenue and leading to critical shortages in food, medicines and other basic goods.
The blockade, in Rodriguez’s words, could only be seen 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.”
Pinpointing the US’s government’s goal as “regime change,” he argued: “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.
“Like the virus, the blockade suffocates and kills, and it must stop.”
The blockade has, of course, been intensified in the last four years as part of president Donald Trump’s goal of achieving “regime change” in Cuba, but Venezuela and Nicaragua have been subjected to similar illegal treatment.
In Cuba’s case, under Trump’s presidency, a total of 242 coercive measures were applied against the country to tighten the hold the US could exert over its economic, commercial and financial activities.
In the last 10 days of his administration, Trump placed Cuba on an arbitrary list of countries that are allegedly sponsors of terrorism.
President Joe Biden’s vow during last year’s presidential campaign that he would overturn some of Trump’s sanctions, which he argued had “inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights,” has so far come to naught.
In fact, in May Biden renewed the Trump administration’s resolution that Cuba is “not co-operating fully with United States anti-terrorism efforts.”
This decision may owe much to satisfying reactionary Cuban-American voters in Florida, but it indicates little presidential enthusiasm for a more enlightened approach to Cuban policy.
But progressive Cuban-Americans want to see change, organising bike and car caravans against the blockade and for family unification.
Many US cities joined these acts of solidarity before the UN vote, as did activists in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield taking part in the World Caravan Against the US blockade of Cuba.
Democrats in Congress are also lobbying for a shift, ranging from modest to fundamental, in the US administration’s position.
In January, US Congressman James McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee, urged Biden to reverse Trump’s measures and “immediately end the application of any sanctions against food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to Cuba,” but to no effect.
In the Senate in February, Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden with three co-sponsors introduced his “United States-Cuba Trade Act of 2021” which would end the blockade and establish normal trade relations with the country.
And a letter to Biden in March from 80 House Democrats called for an immediate end to restrictions on travel and remittances but has brought no response.
Cuba’s predicament is urgent. The blockade’s impact on the lives of Cubans has been enormous over the years but has accentuated as a result of the current unprecedented heath crisis.
Cuba faces huge and in some cases insuperable difficulties in securing the range of equipment — mechanical pulmonary ventilators, face masks, diagnostic kits, protective goggles, suits, gloves, reagents and other supplies — required to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the short supply of reagents and laboratory materials, Cuba’s investment in its biotech industry since the 1980s has paid off with the development of five kinds of Covid-19 vaccine, enabling it to plan and start delivering an immunisation drive.
But the country is critically short of syringes, with the blockade preventing it from importing them.
Solidarity organisations are seeking donations to buy supplies and ship them to Cuba.
Venezuela, too, is suffering the harsh impact of a US blockade as it tries to tackle the pandemic.
It is reliant on the Covax vaccine-sharing initiative backed by the World Health Organisation for its immunisation programme, but Swiss bank UBS has recently blocked payments to Covax worth over £3.3 million, as requiring “investigation.”
Now more than ever it is vital to step up our expressions of international solidarity in defence of national sovereignty and make it clear that the US’s coercive measures against Cuba — but also Venezuela and Nicaragua — are not only illegal but also unjustifiable and unacceptable.
You can join the Cuba Solidarity Campaign at cuba-solidarity.org.uk/get-involved/join.
This article originally appeared in The Morning Star