US urged to lift embargo against Cuba to save lives

GENEVA – United Nations human rights experts have called on the United States to urgently lift its long-standing trade and economic embargo against Cuba or risk many lives being lost to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The human rights experts emphasised that the more than six-decades-old sanctions are impeding the supply of medicine, medical equipment, food and other goods essential to surviving the pandemic.

The joint statement by UN special rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups, calls on the US administration to withdraw measures aimed at establishing trade barriers, and ban tariffs, quotas, non-tariff measures, noting that they are obstructing humanitarian responses to help Cuba combat COVID-19.

They said the US has ignored repeated calls to waive sanctions that undermine the capacity of Cuba and other countries to respond effectively to the crisis and save lives.

“In the pandemic emergency, the lack of will of the US government to suspend sanctions may lead to a higher risk of such suffering in Cuba and other countries targeted by its sanctions,” the experts said.

The UN said COVID-19 is not only deadly, but it also “inflicts enormous physical and psychological suffering, especially in countries where medical personnel are unable to perform their professional duties due to a lack of adequate equipment and available medicine”.

A chorus of voices across the UN system have emphasised, since the onset of the pandemic, that bringing the virus under control will only be achieved through multilateralism, cooperation and solidarity.

In their statement, the UN experts voiced alarm that the US embargo on Cuba – along with sanctions imposed on other countries – seriously undermines efforts to build that much-needed solidarity.