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Oxfam calls for an end to US sanctions against Cuba in the face of the country’s COVID health emergency

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The population in Cuba is confronting an unprecedented health emergency in the midst of a social and economic crisis exacerbated by the US blockade.

As the streets in many parts of Cuba have seen citizen mobilizations uncommon in the country, Oxfam reaffirms the human rights of all people on the island and the urgent need to end unilateral US sanctions against Cuba hardened by the Trump Administration and remaining in effect under the Biden Administration. These policies are only exacerbating an unprecedented health emergency in the midst of a social and economic crisis and are impeding an effective response to address the increasingly dire humanitarian situation on the island.

While many countries across the world are experiencing a new and more dangerous wave of COVID-19 infections, Cuba is the only country blocked from accessing the means needed to address the pandemic. Nevertheless, the country has been able to develop its own vaccines but still needs syringes, ventilators, reagents, diagnostic kits, as well as other medicines, to ensure mass vaccination and treatment on the island as soon as possible.

“The US blockade was wrong before the pandemic, and it’s even worse during the pandemic,” said Elena Gentili, Oxfam representative in Cuba. “Oxfam has experienced directly how the US blockade affects the daily lives of Cubans, having worked in the country for over 25 years. It’s an unjust policy that has only achieved human suffering, separated families and exacerbated inequalities over the last sixty years, with particular negative impacts for Cuban women.”

According to a recent Oxfam report, “Right to Live Without a Blockade”, US sanctions have adversely affected Cuban families and their livelihoods, limiting progress toward a more fair and inclusive society.

“Continuing to maintain these unjust sanctions is an assault on the Cuban population and an obstacle to controlling the pandemic,” continued Gentili. “Changing these policies would enable the island to more effectively address the COVID health emergency and procure the goods needed to improve the individual and collective wellbeing of Cuban women and men.”

Oxfam is calling on the US to end all sanctions, beginning most urgently with actions to lift restrictions on family remittances, eliminate banking restrictions, and remove restrictions and licensing requirements to send products to meet the basic needs of the population. In addition, Oxfam is urging President Biden to remove Cuba from the ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list, suspend application of Title III of the Helms-Burton law, and repeal the 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the US Toward Cuba. Taking immediate action to this end would avoid more human suffering.

“Oxfam calls for dialogue and collaboration among all parties to ensure respect for human rights during the current mobilizations of Cubans on the island, which are drawing attention to the debate over lifting the blockade, “concluded Gentili. “At the same time, we emphasize the urgent need for humanitarian aid. It is necessary now to prioritize attending to those affected by the virus, while ensuring massive vaccination of Cubans on the island, without further delay.”

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