14ymedio, Havana, 17 April 2020 — In answer to the Cuban government’s insistent campaign for the United States to lift the embargo during the coronavirus epidemic, on Thursday Washington reminded that the exceptions provided for humanitarian aid remain in force.
“The embargo . . . is aimed at the Cuban communist regime, that for decades has oppressed the Cuban people and has not managed to meet its most basic needs. Although the embargo . . . continues in force, and most transactions between the United States, or people subject to to its jurisdiction, and Cuba continue to be prohibited, the OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control] maintains several general license authorizations designed to permit humnaitarian aid and assistance to the Cuban people,” says the text.
The USA has issued this message specifically with regards to its sanctions of the Island and also other countries, like North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, and Russia. It urges these countries to take advantage of the exceptions for humanitarian aid and ask for help.
In the case of Cuba, it notes that transactions related to medicines, medical devices, and agricultural products are permitted in certain conditions. It is also possible to transport authorized cargo with travellers from the USA to the Island or to send remittances to relatives and NGOs.
The Treasury also maintains the authorization to share transport services by boat or plane related to permitted trips that, it notes, are related to humanitarian projects (among them health or emergencies) or linked to independent civil society groups, as well as the preservation of historical heritage or the environment.
Another of the exemptions affects products or services that allow development of infrastructure or loans that “directly benefit the people,” like those related to public transportation, water and waste management, the production and distribution of electricity; as well as hospitals, homes, or schools
Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations made a public statement in which it accuses the USA of persisting in a blockade that imposes on Cuba “an extraordinary pressure to guarantee the material supplies and equipment that sustain the public health system and specific conditions in order to stop this pandemic.” In this sense the message makes reference to the delivery from China that could not arrive at the Island due to the refusal of Avianca to fly to Cuba.
The message also denounces Washington for trying to impede, they assert, Cuba from sending doctors to support other countries’ health systems that desire it. “Instead of dedicating itself to promoting cooperation and stimulation of a joint response, high officials of the State Department of that country spend their time making threatening statements against those governments that, in the face of the drama of the pandemic, opt sovereignly to seek help from Cuba. The United States commits a crime and their officials know it when, attacking the international cooperation that Cuba offers in the middle of a pandemic, it proposes to deprive millions of people of the universal human right to health services.”
In the extensive text, Havana also makes reference to the universality of the virus and demands by poorer countries for help from international organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), so that economic inequality may not mean an increase in lethality. The petition coincides with the announcement by Donald Trump of the withdrawal of funds to the UN’s health division, a decision heavily criticized by the European Union, the African Union, China, and Russia, because of the repercussions that it might have for poor countries during the pandemic.
Although exports of medical equipment from the USA to Cuba decreased in the last year, exceeding a little more than a million dollars as compared with 3,492,000 in 2018, those related to food continued to rise despite the embargo.
Exports of these products increased by 14% in 2019, according to a report by the United States-Cuba Trade and Economic Council (Cuba Trade) and trade in general rose to 257.6 million dollars last year, as compared with 224.9 million in 2018.
Translated by Mary Lou Keel
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