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ON SEPTEMBER 7, President Joe Biden, amid an escalation of US hostility toward Cuba, extended the Trading with the Enemy Act for another year.
This is the law that serves as the basis of the US blockade and has been renewed annually by every US president since Kennedy first imposed the cruel and punitive policy in 1962.
When the blockade enters its sixth decade in 2022, it will be as stringent and savage as at any time in its history. Arguably more so since the US government chose to intensify it at the peak of a global health crisis.
On Monday September 13, trade union leaders from Cuba and Britain will condemn this economic warfare and make the urgent case for aid, solidarity and an international campaign against US intervention at an online solidarity rally during TUC Congress.
Ulises de Nacimiento Guillarte, general secretary of the Cuban Workers Central (CTC) who joins Monday’s meeting from Havana, was an invited international speaker the last time TUC Congress took place in 2019.
That year, CSC was celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and Cuba’s advances in health, education and internationalism in spite of the US blockade.
Congress passed a motion which celebrated these achievements and called for a reversal of the punitive additional sanctions introduced by the Trump administration.
There was a glimmer of hope that, if elected, Joe Biden would stick to his campaign pledges and lift at least some of the harshest of these measures.
We really couldn’t have imagined that the Cuban people, already struggling with shortages of food, medicines and fuel under Trump, would have to face even greater deprivations as the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The Cuban economy, which relies so much on tourism, has been devastated by the loss of income over the last 18 months.
The Trump administration unconscionably saw the pandemic as an opportunity to inflict even more suffering and hardship upon the Cuban people.
Fifty extra US measures were imposed during the first nine months of the pandemic, and as a cynical parting blow, the island was placed on the US government’s “state sponsors of terrorism” list.
In 2020, US sanctions blocked a shipment of vital Covid-19 medical aid from reaching the island. 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.”
Despite developing its own Covid-19 vaccines and having fully vaccinated more than 40 per cent of its population, Cuban scientists accuse the US policy of delaying their development and rollout programme.
This is on top of the ongoing difficulties in obtaining basic items which, according to a May 2021 Oxfam report, “restrict access to suppliers of medicines, technology, food and other essential products.”
There can be no doubt that the US blockade is the root cause of the current challenges and economic and health crisis that Cuba faces.
In addition to its economic warfare, the US government has increased spending on overt and covert programmes to agitate and create unrest – millions of dollars designated to build anti-communist cultural influencers, news and social media platforms.
In July, thousands of fake twitter accounts exaggerated a handful of protests in the hope of provoking revolts. Fake photos from mass gatherings in foreign countries were circulated as representing Cuba.
While the world’s mainstream media extensively promoted the US narrative, they ignored or downplayed pro-government demonstrations which attracted significantly higher numbers.
The UN, Guardian, Fox News and New York Times all published photographs of pro-government supporters which they incorrectly captioned as being anti-government protesters.
Right-wing Cuban Americans demanded a “humanitarian corridor” – code for US intervention as the history of Latin America testifies.
The mayor of Miami did not bother to hide behind euphemisms, and openly called for military intervention.
It’s clear that as the blockade enters its 60th year, the policy has the same goal today as it did six decades ago when a top US government official wrote: “Every means should be undertaken to weaken the economic life of Cuba” to “bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”
The Cuban people have been heroic in defending their revolution and resisting the onslaught from their northern neighbour. Monday’s solidarity rally will pay tribute to their struggle and fortify the bonds of solidarity and friendship that have been built between Cuban and British trade unions.
Solidarity with Cuba: Resisting 60 years of Blockade & Intervention takes place on online on Monday September 13 at 6.45pm. You can register for CSC’s TUC Congress Rally in advance at bit.ly/CSCzoom19.
CSC’s Medical Appeal for Cuba has raised more than £95,000 and sent four consignments of medical aid to help treat Covid-19 patients and deliver Cuba’s vaccination programme in 2021. You can donate and find out more at www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk.
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