HAVANA, April 21st “NOW we have a chance to show solidarity with Cuba and help the Cuban people in their fight against coronavirus at home and abroad”
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary
There is a growing worldwide demand to end the US blockade of Cuba to help the international battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Politicians, international organisations, governments and millions of people across the globe are now calling on the United States to lift its blockade of Cuba at this time of worldwide crisis. The central demand is a humanitarian one — it is now time for co-operation across borders, not aggression and blockade.
Trade Unions in Britain and across the world are leading the demands for a lifting of the unjust US blockade at this time.
McCluskey said: “Despite suffering the effects of a 58-year-old brutal blockade by the United States, Cuba has always shown solidarity to others in need. The blockade should be suspended immediately on humanitarian grounds to allow for vital medical equipment to be delivered to the country, but it should end permanently on moral grounds.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, added: “This horrible virus does not see borders. We need to respond to it mobilising resources from every country. End the blockade on Cuba to aid the fight against the virus.”
Thousands of trade unionists have been signing and leaving messages on the online open letter organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign which now has around 15,000 signatures. The letter calls on the British government to make urgent representations to the US government to temporarily suspend the blockade of Cuba to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Long live Cuban solidarity and internationalism. No to the commercial and economic blockade of Cuba,” wrote Luzmila Sanchez Cosio, the international secretary of the Panamanian Trade Union Confederation, who sent a message of solidarity praising Cuba for sending medical brigades abroad during the pandemic and sharing its scientific knowledge with humanity.
Many general secretaries from major British unions have also added their names including Dave Ward (CWU), Mark Serwotka (PCS), Chris Keates (NASUWT), Matt Wrack (FBU), Mick Whelan (Aslef), Mick Cash (RMT), Steve Gillan (POA) and the Trade Union Congress has also promoted the letter to its members.
In addition, 51 British MPs also sent a separate letter to Foreign Secretary and acting prime minister Dominic Raab on April 15 asking that he raise the issue directly with counterparts in the US government.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya has called for the end of sanctions so countries can acquire medical supplies amid the worldwide pandemic.
“I support the efforts of the secretary-general of the United Nations to make an appeal so that those countries that have sanctions, such as Cuba, Iran or Venezuela, can acquire sanitary material, sanitary equipment,” he noted.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres had called for any existing international sanctions to be bypassed at this time and allow for “mechanisms for the humanitarian exception to be arbitrated and for the necessary medical supplies to reach sanctioned countries as well.”
However, in a stark reminder of the brutality of the blockade, a shipment of urgent medical equipment donated by the Alibaba Foundation to countries across the region was blocked from reaching Cuba.
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is now asking people to make the call for an end to the blockade in the face of Covid-19 pandemic even louder. They are calling on more people to sign the online petition and help get others to sign also.
They are also asking people across the globe to contact politicians in their own countries calling on them to demand an end to the blockade of Cuba at this time and for their own governments to take independent action and bypass the blockade to send much-needed funds and medical equipment to Cuba.
In Cuba the national federation of trade unions, the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), is calling on workers to celebrate international workers day this year by organising initiatives that “recognise the extraordinary effort that health workers around the world are making.” The CTC has suspended Cuba’s annual May Day public celebrations this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Over 900 Cuban health workers have already travelled to 17 countries in response to requests for help in the struggle against coronavirus. Cuban medical brigades are now working in Italy, Andorra, Jamaica, Belize, Angola and countries across the globe in a wonderful example of internationalism and solidarity.
In contrast, the United States government has responded to the crisis by attempting to tighten the blockade further and undermine Cuba’s medical brigades, calling on countries to think twice before accepting Cuban medics. US blockade policy also stopped delivery of ventilators and Covid-19 test kits from being delivered to the island on April 1.
The CTC calls on friends of Cuba “to join our fight and demand the lifting of this unjust and criminal blockade, which affects not only all Cubans but also other peoples who need our solidarity. The planet is one, let’s defend it! The virus does not distinguish between rich and poor, black and white, men and women, therefore we all have an obligation to fight, united, with the resources we have and to share them.”