400+ former heads of state, politicians, artists, and intellectuals call on US president Biden to “Let Cuba Live”

An open letter signed by over 400 personalities calls on US president Joe Biden to lift the 243 unilateral sanctions imposed on Cuba during the administration of Donald Trump which have greatly aggravated the economic situation on the island

July 22, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Thousands across Cuba have mobilized in support of the revolution. Photo: Minrex

Over 400 former heads of state, politicians, intellectuals, scientists, members of the clergy, artists, musicians and activists from across the globe have issued an urgent appeal to United States President Joe Biden to lift the 243 unilateral coercive measures that were imposed on Cuba by former president Donald Trump. They argue that these measures “have intentionally throttled life on the island and created more suffering.”

The signatories which include former presidents Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva of Brazil, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, intellectuals Noam Chomsky, Frei Betto, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortíz, artists Boots Riley, Chico Buarque, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, and Emma Thompson and hundreds of others, highlight that the country’s ability to buy lifesaving food and medicine has been hindered due to the restrictions imposed by the United States on sending remittances and Cuba’s access to global financial institutions, among other unilateral measures.

The open letter also points out that the majority of world leaders have, for the last thirty years, taken to the United Nations General Assembly to call on the US to take immediate action to end its six-decade embargo of Cuba. According to official reports, between April 2020 and December 2020, the blockade caused losses of 3,586.9 million USD to Cuba. These, including the losses of the previous period, amount to a total of 9,157.2 million USD (from April 2019 until December 2020). The humanitarian damage, suffering and shortages caused to Cuban families during all these years are immeasurable.

During the Obama administration, which Joe Biden was a part of, tremendous strides were made to ease tensions and open-up relationships between the United States and Cuba. Cuba was removed from the US’ State Sponsors of Terrorism list, a diplomatic relationship was resumed with the establishment of embassies in both countries, trade and economic agreements were made, and restrictions on US tourism to the island were also eased. Trump’s entry into the White House saw a reversal of many of these important advances and an intensification of the economic embargo.

The signatories of the open-letter call on Biden to reverse the damage made by Trump to US relations with Cuba and to continue on the path to normalization to prevent the suffering of the Cuban people.

What is happening in Cuba?

The island has become the focus of US domestic and foreign policy discourse following unprecedented protests organized on July 11. The protests saw hundreds take to the streets to raise their complaints over electricity cuts and shortages of medicine and food. Like most countries across the world, Cuba’s economy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially considering that tourism makes up a crucial part of their economic activity.

The small-scale protests received immediate attention from Cuban government officials who not only addressed their demands in speeches and national addresses on television, but also went to the streets to speak to the people and hear about their difficulties. However, longtime far-right opposition activists took advantage of the situation to call for regime change and even US military intervention to ‘save’ Cuba. Carefully planned social media campaigns were activated and the hashtag #SOSCuba became a trending topic internationally for several days accompanied often by false information about the Cuban government assassinating, torturing, and jailing activists (claims which independent journalists on the ground as well as authorities have debunked).

Amid the media campaign against Cuba and the revolution, tens of thousands across the island participated in mobilizations in defense of the government and the revolutionary project. Internationally, people’s movements and civil society organizations also rallied in defense of Cuba. Many highlighted that despite the economic embargo, Cuba has developed 5 anti-COVID-19 vaccines and has sent medical professionals to more than 50 countries to support their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and treat those infected.

US politicians on local and national levels were quick to respond to the situation. Far-right and centrists politicians have taken to social media platforms and news outlets to denounce the “communist dictatorship” and voice support to the “struggle for liberty”

President Joe Biden also released a statement in this context declaring that “We stand with the Cuban people.” The more than 400 signers of the open letter say if Biden and the US stand with Cuba, “we ask you to immediately sign an executive order and annul Trump’s 243 ‘coercive measures.’”

To read the complete letter, organized by The People’s Forum, CODEPINK, and the ANSWER Coalition, see a list of the 400+ signatories, and to sign it, check it out here. It will run as a full-page ad in the New York Times on Friday July 23.