In a statement released on Friday, December 18, the Progressive International called for “take urgent steps to put an end to the unilateral. Illegal (primary and secondary) sanctions” imposed by the US on over thirty countries, and in particular against Cuba, Iran and Venezuela. The statement was addressed to United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres, G-77 chair Moses Nagamootoo and United Nations High Commissioner for human rights Michele Bachelet.
The US-backed economic sanctions are causing massive suffering to more than one-third of humanity by blocking their access to global markets and damaging their countries’ ability to provide basic human essentials for their people, the statement adds. Using its hegemonic control over global financial and diplomatic institutions, the US can strangle countries that refuse to follow its dictates and economic and political agenda.
The Progressive International also highlighted several statements and reports published by the UN, G-77 and the UNHCR which point to the negative effects of sanctions on economic progress and human rights. Its statement asks these bodies to take concrete actions to end the sanctions to prevent any further negative impact. The statement also equates the primary and secondary sanctions to a hybrid war waged by the US against these countries, which is as harmful as real war.
The cases of Cuba, Iran and Venezuela, where these sanctions have caused significant damage to people’s lives and overall economic development, have been highlighted in the statement. It notes how the US has kept up its illegal blockade of Cuba for the last six decades, defying repeated annual reprimands by the world community through the votes cast in the UN General Assembly.
In the case of Iran, despite having signed a nuclear deal in 2015 which paved the way for the lifting of decades-long sanctions, the US under president Donald Trump re-imposed unilateral sanctions, violating the UNSC mandate and preventing Iran’s recovery.
In Venezuela, the US has been trying to install Juan Guaido in power as its puppet in order to pursue its imperialist domination in the country’s policy making, much against the popular will. Its sanctions are in defiance of the popular mandate in Venezuela and an attempt to carry forward a coup. This is in gross violation of the UN charter and all existing international laws.
Iran and Venezuela have seen “deterioration of health, education, nutrition and overall quality of life” for a vast majority of their population due to American sanctions. Even during the pandemic, when these countries need international help to fight the crisis, the US has chosen to strengthen sanctions and is waging a full throttle war against their welfare and medical infrastructure. It is depriving them of crucial humanitarian aid and support, which would have prevented a large number of deaths and trauma.
Uphold the UN charter
The statement points to the UN secretary general’s recognition of the need for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
In this context, “members of the Progressive International call on the international community and the United Nations through its Charter to take urgent action to restore the rights of these thirty countries” so that they can restore their “sovereign relations with the world, untrammeled by U.S. interference through the sanctions policy.”
The statement reiterates the need for all members of the UN to “uphold the UN Charter which prevents the use of unilateral sanctions against other member states.”
Full text of the statement:
We call on António Guterres (UN Secretary General), Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo of Guyana (Chair of the G-77), and Michelle Bachelet (UN High Commissioner for Human rights) to take urgent steps to put an end to the unilateral, illegal (primary and secondary) sanctions on over thirty countries in the world, particularly on Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela.
Dear Secretary-General Guterres, Prime Minister Nagamootoo, and High Commissioner Bachelet,
U.S.-backed economic sanctions impact nearly one-third of humanity in some thirty countries, causing untold death and devastation by denying them access to global markets restricting the ability to generate wealth, stabilise currency, and provide basic human essentials for their people. For the past several decades, the United States of America has used its considerable institutional power (over finance and diplomacy) to strangle countries who don’t fall in line with its global political and economic agenda. The most dramatic case is Cuba, which has faced a blockade for six decades, a blockade that the UN General Assembly votes annually to dismantle. In our period, the unilateral (primary and secondary) sanctions against Iran and Venezuela have destabilised these countries and have led to a deterioration of health, education, nutrition, and the overall quality of life in both countries. Members of the Progressive International call on the international community and the United Nations through its Charter to take urgent action to restore the right of these thirty countries to have sovereign relations with the world, untrammelled by U.S. interference through the sanctions policy.
We had thought that in the context of the global pandemic these sanctions would be weakened; instead, the U.S. has tightened its sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, hitting these countries had with a full spectrum attack on their medical institutions and their welfare institutions.
On 23 March 2020, Secretary-General Guterres called for a ‘global ceasefire’; ‘the fury of the virus’, he said, ‘illustrates the folly of war’. This call applied as much to military conflict (such as against Yemen and Afghanistan) as to the hybrid war, whose instrument includes these unilateral (primary and secondary) sanctions. The Secretary-General’s words have been ignored.
Over the course of the past several months, various UN Special Rapporteurs and High Commissioner Bachelet have called for an end to the sanctions policy. The day after Secretary-General Guterres made his call, High Commissioner Bachelet said, ‘At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended. In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us’.
On 3 April 2020, the G-77 and China – headed by Prime Minister Nagamootoo – released a statement saying, ‘The Group of 77 and China considers that at this juncture, the enactment and application of unilateral coercive economic measures will have a negative impact on the capacity of States to respond efficiently, specifically in the acquisition of medical equipment and supplies to adequately treat their populations in the face of this pandemic. Ultimately, these measures also affect the essential cooperation and solidarity that should prevail among nations. We therefore call upon the international community to adopt urgent and effective measures to eliminate the use of unilateral coercive economic measures against developing countries’.
In January 2019, when there was an attempted coup in Venezuela, Ambassador Idris Jazairy the UN Special Rapporteur concerned with the negative impact of sanctions, said, ‘I am especially concerned to hear reports that these sanctions are aimed at changing the government in Venezuela. Coercion, whether military or economic, must never be used to seek a change in government in a sovereign state. The use of sanctions by outside powers to overthrow an elected government is in violation of all norms of international law’.
As members of the Progressive International, we therefore urge:
- That the United Nations members states uphold the UN Charter which prevents the use of unilateral sanctions against other member states.
- That the G-77 and China seek UN General Assembly resolution against these unilateral (primary and secondary) sanctions, which violate the norms of international law.
- That the UN Secretary General works to produce mechanisms to counteract the impact of these illegal unilateral sanctions.
From the Progressive International, we await your response to this request and reiterate our commitment to the UN Charter.