Latin America

Cuba slams ‘cruel’ US sanctions amid coronavirus pandemic

Cuba has blasted the United States for its “cruel” blockade against the small island nation, joining other countries to slam US sanctions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The United States’ economic-financial blockade is the most unfair, severe, prolonged system of sanctions of all time by one country against another,” said Cuban Health Ministry’s International Relations Director Nestor Marimon on Friday as the Caribbean nation struggles to acquire medical supplies as it has recorded 564 Covid-19 infections and 15 deaths so far.

“The [US-imposed economic] blockade is even more cruel and genocidal than it normally is … when we don’t have an epidemic,” Marimon insisted, noting: “The health system is the most affected because it affects the well-being of our people.”

Originally imposed on Oct 19, 1960 in response to Havana’s nationalization of US-monopolized Cuban oil refineries, the harsh economic embargo – censured by the United Nations for 28 consecutive years — marks a persisting legacy of the Cold War hostilities between the two countries.

Other nations currently being harmed by US sanction despite the highly contagious virus pandemic — notably Iran, Venezuela, Syria and North Korea – have also condemned Washington’s inhumane measures.

The United States has also been harshly criticized by close allies — namely Canada and Germany — for intercepting the shipment of masks and other medical supplies destined to the respective countries and diverting them to the US.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has escalated the anti-Cuba sanctions ever since taking office in 2017, making it even more difficult for other countries to ship supplies there.

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Havana recently complained that a shipment of test kits, masks and respirators donated by China’s Alibaba group never made it to Cuba because the American company tasked with transporting the supplies was fearful of breaching US sanction rules.

“It’s very difficult to buy equipment, supplies, medicines. We’re forced to buy them in far away markets that double, triple the costs and on many occasions they arrive late,” the Cuban health ministry official said.

He further asserted that US sanctions caused “$160 million in damages to the health ministry” between April 2019 and March 2020 — $60 million more than the previous year, noting that total losses suffered by the nations since the American embargo was first imposed in 1960 amounted to three billion dollars.

The Kenya-based international charity group, Oxfam, recently slammed the US over its sanctions and demanded their removal. It further predicted on Wednesday that the coronavirus could plunge half a billion people into poverty.

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