“Cuba is our neighbor!” campaign urges Biden to lift sanctions

Prominent figures across the US left have signed an open letter demanding that Biden lift sanctions on Cuba to facilitate humanitarian aid after Matanzas fire

August 10, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch

While the devastating fire in the Cuban province of Matanzas continues to burn through oil tanks that were critical for Cuba’s energy supply, US activists extend their solidarity. “Sanctions fuel the fire”, an open letter declares, urging US President Biden to lift sanctions against Cuba so that humanitarian aid and funds can flow freely to the island. 

The letter was released August 9, and as of August 10, a growing list of prominent figures in the US and international left have signed on, including Cornel West, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Noam Chomsky, and Jeremy Corbyn. The letter is part of the “Sanctions Fuel the Fire” campaign, spearheaded by the People’s Forum, the ANSWER Coalition, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, and CODEPINK. 

“Despite the words of condolence and the offer of technical advice, the US government has done very little to aid the people of Cuba in their greatest moment of need,” reads the letter. “Unfortunately, US sanctions fuel the fires that rage in Cuba! Despite assurances by the US Embassy in Havana that the law authorizes US entities and organizations to provide disaster relief and response, Trump’s 243 sanctions continue to prevent urgently needed aid from arriving in Cuba.”

The United States has not offered material aid to Cuba thus far, unlike nations such as Mexico and Venezuela who have sent personnel and materials to fight the fire on the ground. Simultaneously, the US continues to impose cruel sanctions, some of which are held over from the Trump era, like Cuba’s inclusion in the US’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list. The US has also subjected the island to a cruel blockade for over 60 years. 

“Due to the sanctions, there are long, complex processes to get licenses to send aid, usually taking months for approval,” wrote the campaign organizers. “Additionally, Cuba’s inclusion in the State Sponsors of Terrorism List means that banks in both the United States and abroad are reluctant to process humanitarian donations, making it essentially impossible to send desperately needed funds.”

The open letter concludes: “When your neighbor’s house is on fire, the normal human reaction is to rush next door to help. To save lives. To extinguish the flames. Cuba is our neighbor!”