July 23, 2021
Cuba needs help: The time is now

The street protests which occurred across several cities of our Caribbean sister state of Cuba two weekends ago sent a powerful message to the world and it mattered little how many protestors were on the streets.  We may have differing perspectives on what is happening there but there is no doubt that the Cuban people are hurting, badly.

Given the reality of Cuban politics and the hostility towards the government of that country by its powerful northern neighbour, it is only logical that attempts would be made to foment more public dissatisfaction and unrest. But the protests are a manifest call for help. The Cuban people have appealed to the world.

If ever that global body, the United Nations, wishes to match its many near-unanimous Resolutions of the General Assembly — opposed only by the USA and Israel — for an end to the draconian embargo and economic sanctions, the time is now.  It is this cruel set of sanctions which are at the heart of the current situation.  One must understand that, even when and where there are shortcomings in governance, as occur in any other nation state, these restrictive measures make it practically impossible for the Cuban people to find solutions in isolation.

It is worth noting that the crippling trade and economic sanctions imposed on Cuba do not even respect basic humanitarian principles such as access to food and medical supplies. In fact, they are far worse that the global sanctions imposed on racist South Africa during the worst days of apartheid, sanctions which the same USA violated claiming that they were hurting the African people. It’s more; they are worse than those taken against Nazi Germany during the early days of the Second World War.

There is no other country or people on this planet who have been subjected to such treatment for such a long period, six decades now!  And it is a tribute to the courage and resilience of the Cuban people that the country is still functioning. Indeed it is also testimony to Cuba’s efforts to provide basic health services for its people, without which we would have had a human catastrophe of gigantic proportions.

With the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, in spite of its limitations, Cuba has been able to develop five of its own vaccines not only to protect its people, but to save the lives of millions of others, particularly in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Asia. But now, even the distribution of the vaccines and the implementation of the vaccination campaign are being severely hampered by the embargo, because of the shortage of syringes and needles.

Not only is Cuba prevented from importing needed food and supplies, but third countries face US sanctions if they trade with Cuba! This is in an attempt to starve the Cuban people and force them to change course and accept the dictates of others. Had any other Caribbean country even faced half of what the Cuban people have been suffering, there would long have been widespread rebellion.

The reality is that the hypocritical claims of “democracy” for Cuba do not help those who clamour for a pound of chicken. Cuba needs food and medicine, not doses of “democracy” from those who are busy disenfranchising black and poor people in the USA, criminalizing even the human act of passing a glass of water to a voter standing in long lines.

There is perhaps no other country on earth which has displayed the level of solidarity and humanitarianism as Cuba. We here have been great beneficiaries, from the ‘Vision Now’ programme, to our international airport, to providing hundreds of scholarships which have contributed immensely towards our technical and intellectual infrastructure.

Now is the time for us to reciprocate, on the grounds of human solidarity. The vital action of course would be the lifting of the embargo but we can be of immediate help, rendering assistance to the people in need. Already a group of Vincentian graduates of Cuban universities in conjunction with the local SVG/Cuba Friendship Society, has launched an appeal to send humanitarian supplies to our brothers and sisters in need. We all can support this effort and reciprocate for Cuba’s proven generosity.