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Sanctions on Cuba, shame on the US

By Xin Ping | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-06-03 09:59

People wear face masks as they walk down a street amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Havana, Cuba, Oct 2, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Galileo's heliocentric theory in the Middle Ages changed the way people looked at themselves and the outside world. The fact that the universe does not revolve around the Earth was a sobering reminder of the limit of human knowledge. Yet centuries later, the US still lives under the illusion that the world pivots on it and that US rules and interests override those of the rest of the world. Moving against the historical trend would only backfire, as US sanctions imposed from "a position of strength" have delivered nothing but shame to itself.

"So far from God and so close to the United States." For Cuba, the waters keeping the US at bay cannot keep away the sweeping sanctions dating back to the 1960s. The US has adopted every major method available to sanction a state, including but not limited to prohibiting imports from or through Cuba, US exports to Cuba, and the travel of US citizens to Cuba. A declassified 1960 State Department memo was surprisingly straightforward about real US intention: "to bring about hunger, desperation", and ultimately, the "overthrow of government".

The type of Cuban government the US tried to subvert is alive and well 60 years later. What also remains in place is the blockade on Cuba despite international opposition. Since 1992 when the issue was first voted on, the UN General Assembly has adopted resolutions for 29 consecutive times,overwhelmingly calling on the US to end the embargo. It is not hard for anyone with compassion to sympathize with Cuban people's lives. According to Al Jazeera, the Cuban government and the UN estimated that the embargo has cost the Cuban economy $130 billion over 60 years. In 2020 alone, the loss was $9.1 million. And the figure is sure to rise amid the pandemic.

The virus knows no borders but US sanctions do, as they cut Cuban people off from medical supplies from overseas. Special rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council warned in 2020 that "In the pandemic emergency, the lack of will of the US Government to suspend sanctions may lead to a higher risk of such suffering in Cuba and other countries targeted by its sanctions." UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed for the waiving of sanctions which could undermine countries' capacity to respond to the pandemic. The World Health Organization also called for "intensification of cooperation and collaboration at all levels to contain, control and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic" "in the spirit of unity and solidarity".

As always, the US has turned a deaf ear to all those voices. To Cuba, US inaction and indifference has reinforced its conviction in self-reliance and self-development. When medical supplies could not reach Cuba's shores, the Caribbean country produced and administered its own vaccines. By May 6, more than 89.8 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated, including all kids aged two years and above. In mid-May, the case-fatality rate in Cuba was 0.77 percent, much lower than that of the US. When the fast-moving Omicron variant caused another record surge in COVID cases in the US, infections in Cuba have been slowing notably with only two-digit cases confirmed per day. In fact, Cuba has always been prepared and even dispatched medical experts to support other countries' efforts in fighting the virus.

Separated by water, the two countries are worlds apart. But it all comes down to the perception of what people needs and what makes us human. Those who strive for nothing but self-interest will dismiss the worth of humanity, while others, though subject to repression, can unite as one and show the resilience and infinity of human capacity. In solidarity with Cuba and indignation with the US practice, regional countries have mounted resistance to the US, which is to host a Summit of the Americas for invited countries only. This time, they warned to skip the meeting in June if Cuba and two other countries the US keeps finding fault with cannot attend.

The US has tried to assuage the resistance by easing a tiny fraction of sanctions on Cuba. But a short relief - again tailored to US interests - cannot make up for decades of suffocation. If the US really wants to pave a #RoadtotheSummit as the twitter hashtag suggests, it should clear all obstacles to basic human survival and development. Otherwise, it will find that the road it paved for hegemony only leads to a dead end.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly  for CGTN, Global Times, Xinhua News Agency, etc.. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com

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