International Cuban Solidarity Caravan

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Peter Lansiquot, First Vice President, Humanistic Solidarity Association (Saint Lucia - Cuba)

The following is HSA (Humanistic Solidarity Association (Saint Lucia – Cuba) solidarity message, delivered by Peter Lansiquot, First Vice President, on Sunday, April 25, 2021.

By Peter Lansiquot

Background

For six decades now, the United States of America has been implementing the draconian provisions of its economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. The embargo, which is more correctly referred to as a blockade, given its very aggressive provisions, restricts Cuba’s ability to have normal trade and other relations with the rest of the world.

To all intents and purposes, the blockade represents a financial, commercial and political war of aggression against Cuba, and violates many United Nations conventions and norms. Even countries that want to maintain normal trading and other relations with Cuba, are not free to do so, without many impediments, through the provisions of the Helms-Burton Law.

Basically, if any country has trade and other friendly relations with both Cuba and the United States, then that country will face United States sanctions and other forms of punishment, for trading with Cuba. My sisters and brothers, let that sink into your minds for a moment, and you will see that the United States is saying to independent and sovereign countries all around the world, that if you are Cuba’s friend, then you cannot be our friend; if you do business with Cuba, then you cannot do business with us, the United States of America! Just imagine for a moment what would become of our tiny Saint Lucian economy, if we had to wear the shoes that Cuba is wearing.

Barack Obama

Former president Barack Obama, the most visionary United States president since president Dwight D. Eisenhower, was able to see through the myopia of the 60-year-old embargo. The economic, commercial and financial embargo had been designed to frustrate and hinder Cuban economic growth and development, as well as other social development programmes of the Cuban Revolution, and ultimately, the failure of the Cuban economy and the fall of the Cuban revolution. President Obama argued that a policy that had not worked for 55 years, was a failed policy, and needed to be discontinued. On December 17, 2014, Cuba and the United States signed an agreement to begin normalizing relations, and in March 2016, president Obama visited Cuba, becoming the first US president to visit Cuba in 77 years. President Calvin Coolidge had visited Havana in 1928. Obama also became the first sitting US president to visit Cuba since 1959.

During his visit to Cuba, president Obama said that it was “time to lift the Embargo.” He said, to his eternal merit, that: “Since 1959 we’ve been shadow boxers in this battle of geopolitical politics and personalities. I know the history but I refuse to be trapped by it.” These are the words of a man doing something that most of humanity stubbornly refuse to do in their daily endeavors: “look outside the box.”

The reality is that the regular born and bred American citizen, in states all over the Union, has no major qualms about relations between their massive United States economy and the Cuban society. The United States chambers of commerce have complained for many years about the fact that American businesses are unable to benefit from trade relations with Cuba’s eleven million people. The fundamental difficulty resides in the hearts and minds of certain narrow-minded politicians, who have a greater interest in the votes of Cubans and Cuban descendants in the State of Florida.

The crux of the problem between the United States and Cuba resides in a largely manufactured political problem, nurtured among Cubans who had originally migrated to Florida, some fleeing from the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and claiming anti-Fidel Castro political sentiments, and others, essentially economic migrants, seeking employment opportunities in the wealthiest economy on earth.

Hopeful new beginnings

As well all know, the nature of democracy in the United States does not allow for a single individual to demand and implement whatever he or she wants to implement. President Donald Trump learned that the hard way. Many laws and numerous regulatory mechanisms have to be dealt with, for any substantial change in US economic and political policy changes to take effect. So, while the United States restored diplomatic relations with Cuba on July 20, 2015, the old dinosaur, the Embargo of 1961, continued to languish in the room. By October 2016, president Obama had taken decisive steps to restore economic relations with Cuba, implementing a number of changes, including:

  • Easing of restrictions to create mutual economic opportunities;
  • Regulatory changes for scientific, humanitarian & commercial opportunities;
  • The promotion of joint medical research;
  • The sale of Cuban pharmaceuticals in the US.;
  • Banking opportunities for Americans in Cuba;
  • Scholarships for joint scientific research;
  • Projects for the improvement of Cuban infrastructure, etc.

The United States minister of finance (treasury secretary), Jacob Lew, is on record as saying that these steps have the potential to accelerate constructive change and unlock greater economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans.” These initiatives had raised hope in Cuba and the United States, for the beginning of a new era of more progressive relations, until the arrival to the oval office of a man named Donald Trump.

The Donald Trump disaster

Of course, no one was surprised when president Donald Trump, as soon as he entered the oval office, immediately poured cold water on president Obama’s opening with Cuba, and imposed even tougher sanctions against the island, tightening the blockade as never before. And to add insult to injury, Trump saw to it, nine days before the American people threw him out of the Oval Office, that Cuba was put on the United States’ list of States Sponsors of Terrorism. It is very interesting, absolutely ridiculous, and a very grave contradiction, that a country as progressive as Cuba, can be considered a terrorist country, by the same man who incited rioters to attack the US seat of government, the Capitol, when he lost the elections in November 2020.

Obvious contradictions

Only last year (2020), and in spite of anti-Cuba campaigns by the Trump administration and a handful of other countries, Cuba was elected to the following bodies in the United Nations system:

  • The United Nations Human Rights Council;
  • The Executive Boards of the United Nations Development Programme;
  • The United Nations Fund for Population Activities;
  • The United Nations Office for Project Services;
  • The United Nations Population & Development Commission;
  • The United Nations Economic & Social Council;
  • The United Nations Executive Committee of the Office for Project Services.

And speaking of contradictions, the United States government continues to treat Cuba as an enemy, refusing to trade with the island. Yet they trade with China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, among other countries. China is the United States’ third-largest trading partner in the world. Russia is the United States’ 26th largest trading partner in the world, and Saudi Arabia is the United States’ 27th largest trading partner in the world. In these three areas of trade, we are speaking of trade in goods. The US says that one of the reasons for the Embargo is the unsatisfactory status of human rights in Cuba.

I invite everyone here this afternoon to simply Google the words: “human rights in Saudi Arabia” and you will see for yourselves the human rights situation in that country, in particular the dismal situation of women’s rights. Yet the United States is one of the best friends of Saudí Arabia. Let me take just a minute to provide an update on the situation of women in Cuba today, a result of the educational opportunities that every woman in Cuba receives freely, from the cradle to the grave:

  • 48 percent – Directors
  • 54 percent – Parliament
  • 60 percent – Scientists
  • 65 percent – University Graduates
  • 69 percent – Professionals
  • 77 percent – Judges and Prosecutors
  • 78 percent – Health Sector
  • 82 percent – Education Sector

On March 4, 2021, 80 United States Democratic Party members of the House of Representatives, signed a letter to President Biden, urging him to sign an executive order “without delay” to end restrictions on United States citizens’ travel and remittances to Cuba, in the same spirit as president Obama’s initiative for the normalization of relations with Cuba. They reminded the president that, in their words, “with the stroke of a pen” he could re-ignite his former president’s legacy in this matter. These representatives are the voice of tens of millions of United States citizens, and president Biden has a moral and political duty to heed their voices.

“The voice of the people is the voice of God” and the Saint Lucia-Cuba Humanistic Solidarity Association wishes to take this opportunity to echo the voices of these 80 representatives and the voices of hundreds of millions of American citizens, as we ask President Biden to follow in the footsteps of his friend and former president, Barack Obama, to restore the rapprochement and other forms of positive bilateral engagements between Cuba and the United States of America. We also take this opportunity to ask the president to take the brave and history-making steps to finally and permanently end his country’s embargo against Cuba and the people of Cuba.

Long live Cuba!

Long live the Cuban Revolution!

Long live Fidel Castro Ruz!

Patria o Muerte,

VENCEREMOS!

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