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Leaders from sanctioned countries condemn U.S. sanctions amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Autumn Lake |
May 12, 2020
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Minneapolis, MN - Over 1000 people attended an online panel hosted by the United National AntiWar Coalition, May 9. In a panel entitled, “U.S. Sanctions During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a Global Threat” leaders representing six countries facing harsh U.S. sanctions highlighted the leading role of the United States in undermining the healthcare infrastructure of sovereign states in order to foment regime change.

U.S. imposed economic sanctions currently impact 39 countries, representing one third of the global population. These sanctions result in chronic shortages of basic necessities and have inhibited the ability of affected countries to acquire the medical supplies and equipment necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“I am 53 years old, and I have lived all my life under the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States against Cuba,” explained Ana Silvia Rodriguez Abascal. Abascal is the Charges des Affaires of the Cuban Mission to the United States. She elaborated that since 1962 the U.S. has created an increasingly complex array of laws that intensified the sanctions against Cuba and require both U.S. executive and congressional power to be undone.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is underscoring the malice and the cruelty of the U.S. blockade against Cuba,” Abascal continued, “Despite the attempt by ranking officials of the U.S. government to deceive the world by saying that the sanctions are aimed to do harm to the government and not to the people of Cuba, it is clear that the economic, commercial and financial war against Cuba is aimed at killing the people, bringing about hunger, disease and desperation, in order to make people blame the [Cuban] system for their hardship.”

Due to technical difficulties during the pane,l Omowale Clay, a member of the secretariat of the December 12th Movement, spoke on behalf of the Secretary for Administration in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, Dr. Frank Guni. Clay explained that U.S. sanctions create a day-to-day crisis in Zimbabwe that is used by the West to sow dissent and disrupt Zimbabwe's national independence.

“At a time when the international community is coming together to talk about harmony, interdependence and cooperation, here is the West, led by the United States, still on its mission to undermine and seek regime change in governments whose only crime to them is that they want a free and independent country for their people, determined by their people,” Clay continued.

Francisco Campbell, the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United States, highlighted the fact that the U.S.'s frequent use of human rights rhetoric to justify economic sanctions ignores the economic and political reality of targeted countries. “With the fight against poverty [the Nicaraguan government's] main priority, this policy, which is sustained by a strong participatory democracy, has been successful in promoting economic growth with social inclusion,” said Campbell, “The various social programs being implemented have dramatically reduced poverty and malnutrition in Nicaragua. Free healthcare throughout the country is guaranteed. Free public education has been restored. Highways are being built.”

Campbell went on to say, “At a time when the world is being afflicted by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that these sanctions that are intended to cause suffering and destruction be eliminated, allowing our countries to deal with the myriad challenges to our healthcare systems as well as the effects of the coronavirus on our national economies.”

“This requires real synergy of the efforts of all governments without exception,” said Dr. Bashar Ja’afari. Dr. Ja'afari is the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations. He lamented that the lack of cooperation from the U.S. and other Western powers, including vicious sanctions, diminished the ability of the Syrian government to acquire the medical supplies necessary to meet their goal of having the supplies necessary to empower the Syrian healthcare system to provide COVID-19 prevention, checks and treatment for all Syrians without exception.

Dr. Ja'afari also explained the U.S.'s hypocritical approach to providing aid, which often includes weapons and funds, leads to, “the delivery of this aid to areas that are controlled by terrorist armed groups, who in turn take over this aid […] with the aim of supporting the position of these terrorist groups.”

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela Carlos J. Ron Martinez, explained the extent to which U.S. unilateral coercive measures impact the day-to-day functions of the country, inhibiting their ability to import and export natural resources, freezing their national funds located in international banks, and declaring that any funds that come from the state of Venezuela may be considered funds that were involved in drug trafficking.

Martinez went on to illustrate that these measures are especially cruel given the global pandemic, such that U.S. lawmakers feel the need to act, stating, “There was a letter issued by 11 U.S. senators in which they say that, precisely because of COVID-19, that sanctions against Iran and Venezuela should be lifted.” Referring to how Venezuela seeks to combat the pandemic despite the challenges the country faces, Martinez concluded, “Against the virus of unilateralism, we have the vaccines of multilateralism and solidarity. We have worked with Cuba, China and Russia, who have shown extreme solidarity with Venezuela. We have also had the support of the World Health Organization!”

Continuing the thread of international solidarity, the permanent Iranian representative to the United Nations, Dr. Majid Takht-Ravanchi, said, “In our common fight against COVID-19 all of humanity is on the same front, and to succeed quickly and sustainably we must ensure that no community or nation is left behind. Therefore, any action which limits the ability of a nation to tackle this crisis will help the disease spread like wildfire.”

Dr. Takht-Ravanchi explained that the unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran are, according to U.S. officials, the most extensive sanctions imposed on any country, and that these sanctions have limited the ability of Iran to contain the spread of COVID-19. He said, “the immediate removal of all sanctions on banking, insurance, transportation, medical, industrial, energy, exports, imports, and the like is a must, as it would enable the targeted countries to use freely and fully their own resources to effectively suppress the pandemic and address its short- and long-term impacts.”

The panel is available on the Popular Resistance YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kW894e6zMg

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