Sunday, April 19, 2020

US Attacks on Cuba During Covid 19 Morally Bankrupt

Personal thoughts
I was in Cuba just before the self imposed lid came down.  The official St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration were canceled by the Cuban and Irish governments.  However I was lucky to enjoy on the day itself a program at the Provincial Library on the Plaza de Armas, the original US embassy.  An Irish Franciscan priest based in Havana taught children some basic dance steps.  He also talked about the shamrock as an illustration of the Trinity.  You can feel the spirit here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umtmbeR5AFU


There are lots of things to be angry about in the way the Trump Administration has handled the corona virus crisis.   Especially unconscionable is their position on international sanctions, and in particular their aggressiveness against Cuba and Venezuela.  The sophistry that US sanctions do not block medical supplies is itself not always true.  But more important at a time of profound world wide crisis, a common sense of humanity dictates that we should suspend embargoes and other forms of punishment that damage daily life for entire populations and undermine the ability of their governments to purchase supplies and equipment to enhance normal existence.   That does no geopolitical harm as foreign investors are not going to initiate large scale projects with the knowledge that sanctions are temporarily lifted for humanitarian reasons. 


For me the same moral logic applies to all countries sanctioned unilaterally by the US.  However, the most outrageous blows have been directed at Cuba and Venezuela.


Anonymous trolls in the  Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor @StateDRL   tweeted nasty and unwarranted attacks on Cuba's provision of medical teams to assist countries afflicted by Covid 19.
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Mar 24
#Cuba offers its international medical missions to those afflicted with #COVID 19 only to make up the money it lost when countries stopped participating in the abusive program. Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for #COVID 19 should scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses.

Mar 25
The government of #Cuba keeps most of the salary its doctors and nurses earn while serving in its international medical missions while exposing them to egregious labor conditions. Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for #COVID 19 should scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses.
Cuban medical teams have been a long term target of Miami hard liners and their right wing allies in US politics.  Not only do the doctors and nurses earn good will politically for Havana but their work has been a major source of national income from countries that needed the aid and could afford to pay for it.  Cubans volunteer for assignments and in normal times receive economic and professional benefit over counterparts at home.  That the government which completely funded their medical education receives compensation seems reasonable and analogous to Americans who undertake lower paid military or public health service work in return for our government paying for their education.  There is no reason to believe that Cuban government initiatives and participation in anti-Covid work are any less motivated by compassionate feelings than U.S. government assistance to afflicted countries.

As a former Peace Corps volunteer, I have often wondered whether we or Cuban doctors received lower compensation.   I was particularly struck by the irony that while the U.S. government was criticizing Cuban assistance, Washington had abruptly forced all PCVs to return to the US and terminated their service with no regard for their host country role or personal committment.


For whatever it is worth, this was my tweet to Assistant Secretary Robert A. Destro
 

@DRL_AS Your department is disgraced by the tweet against Cuba sending doctors to assist with corona virus at same time as Peace Corps withdrew and terminated all volunteers. US looks small. For us to look large help people by suspending all unilateral sanctions worldwide.

On a larger and more dangerous scale was US exploitation of the Covid-19 crisis as a justification for provocative military escalation in the Caribbean. Unexpectedly on April 1 the first part of the widely watched daily White House press conference on the virus was devoted to publicizing military patrols to combat sea borne drug smuggling.  It suspiciously followed by a few days a politically motivated dubious indictment of President Maduro and other Venezuelan leaders on drug smuggling charges.   It was hard not to fear a parallel to the use of drug related accusations against Manuel Noriega to justify the invasion of Panama during the Reagan Administration.

The Washington Office on Latin America did an excellent brief on the issue.
https://www.wola.org/analysis/us-counterdrug-caribbean-venezuela-factsheet/

My own thoughts are here https://cubapeopletopeople.blogspot.com/2020/01/venezuela-update-14.html

Wiser heads than mine doubt that this was a wag the dog plot to create a military diversion from the Administration's Covid-19 debacle, but I am still worried.

Anthony DePalma has written a good Op Ed for the New York Times  "
Trump’s Pandemic Tactics Hurt Cubans, Too"  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/17/opinion/cuba-coronavirus-trump.html


In any case, here is a more uplifting approach to the life changing situation that afflicts every person on the planet.  https://vnpeacecomm.blogspot.com/2020/04/a-covid19-meditation.html

Stay safe and stay well,

John

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John McAuliff
Executive Director, Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Coordinator, Cuba-US People to People Partnership

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