Cuba has an exemplary record of coming to the assistance of people who are in need. Whether it’s earthquake victims in Haiti or Pakistan or Ebola sufferers in West Africa, Liberation fighters battling apartheid in Southern Africa or the Palestinians resisting Israeli settler fascism, Venezuelans, attempting to build 21st century socialism, pushing back against American aggression or Vincentians reeling from the ravages of a volcanic eruption, Cuba’s revolutionary leadership is always the among the first responders.
Normally, the world calls and Cuba responds swiftly. On October 31, 2018 the tables turned. Cuba called, the world answered. The United Nations voted 191 to 2 to demand an end to the American blockage of Cuba. Every independent country, with the exception of USA and its satellite Israel, condemned the Blockage as an illegal infringement on the right of the Cuban government and people to chart their own course.
To the USA, cardinal international principles: sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non interference into the affair of others seem not to have meaning. But these are bedrock principles of international law. These principles undergird the United Nations charter. Only on arrogant, aggressive, immoral, unprincipled country will attempt to strangle and impose its will on a small, yet resilient, bold, assertive, audacious, principled country whose people, as Michael Manley said are determined ‘to walk on their feet and not on their knees.’
The repudiation of the United States at the United Nations marks the 27th consecutive year that the resolution was brought to the world body. This year’s vote yet again found the United States completely isolated. This year’s vote mirrors the vote last year’s where 191 countries voted to condemn Washington’s outdated policy toward our sister isle.
Before the vote, US ambassador Haley Barbour declared the vote a sham since the United Nations could do nothing to change American law. Utter arrogance! She disregarded all of the international law principles that the American government violates when it imposed a unilateral blockage against a member of the international community of nations.
There was a brief thaw in relations towards the end of Obama administration. The US and Cuba governments decided to re-establish diplomatic relations in 2015. President Obama visited Havana in April, 2016. Then Donald Trump won the American presidency, increased his hostile rhetoric towards Cuba and rolled back the small steps President Obama initiated.
Last year, Trump signed a presidential memorandum toughening U.S. policy toward Cuba, prohibited U.S. companies from doing business with firms associated with Cuba’s military, and restricted U.S. citizens’ travel to the Caribbean nation. Against the objection of the entire world, including its major allies Canada, European Union, the US administration maintains that Cuba is a terrorist state.
Because of the ways in which the western media presents its news, people tend to forget that it is Cuba that has had to resist the terroristic assault from the United States. There was the Bay of Pigs military invasion in 1961, the numerous attempts to destroy Cuban agriculture through the bighting of its cane and tobacco crops as well as the introduction of African Swine Fever that ravaged pigs and other animals, the CIA sponsored bombing of the Cubana Airline in 1976 when 73 persons were blown out of the sky minutes after takeoff from Barbados, the bombing of Cuban hotels to destroy its tourism sector, the assassination attempts on the Cuban leadership especially Fidel Castro, as well as the military, economic and financial aggression that Cuba has had to withstand since the revolution triumphed in 1959.
Each year in preparations for the United Nations vote on the resolution, Cuba compiles a dossier detailing the tremendous harm the blockage does to its economy. In its 2018 report to the UN, Cuba demonstrated that the embargo costs Cuba heavily, losses totaling more than 4.3 billion U.S. dollars between April 2017 and March of this year. The Cubans have pointed out that through the life of the blockage, Cuba lost more than US$100 billion.
Too often the error is made to compare Cuba with the most advanced countries. We forget that Cuba is a developing country under siege since the revolution. Cuba’s education and health standards have been praised by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and World Health Organization.
Cuba sits literally in the eye of the storm and has been repeatedly credited with one of the best civil defense systems in the world. In 2015, the World Health Organization recognized Cuba as the first country to eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child. Cuba’s infant mortality rate has dramatically lowered to less than 5 per 1,000 births, according to the 2012 UN study. That is just under the 2014 rate in the U.S. of 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the U.S Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology has developed an innovative lung cancer vaccine called Cimavax. The drug has been approved for a phase I safety and efficacy testing in the U.S. by the FDA. The country has developed systems for vaccination that are among the best in the developing world, In 1989, Cuba produced a vaccine for meningitis B while it took until 2014 for the U.S. to approve one. Cuba also has a vaccine, Herberprot-B for diabetic foot ulcers, which is the reason behind some 80,000 amputations a year in the U.S. and scores here in SVG. In Cuba, the vaccine has reduced amputations by 70 percent. Cuba is also working on a vaccine for cholera.
It may sound improbable that a nation isolated for decades by the U.S. blockage, a land perceived as home to old cars and crumbling ruins, might have scored such a sought-after medical breakthrough and best practices.
If Cuba has been able to make so much strides against the odds, imagine what the socialist beacon would have achieved had it been allowed to develop in peace.
The US policy of aggression and blockage of Cuba should be seen as a war crime and crime against humanity. The US actions are unconscionable and illegal. It is time the US heed the cry of the world and end its hostilities against Cuba.