British Virgin Islands – Citizens Urge Lifting of Cuba Blockade

Global chorus calling for end to US instigated sanctions includes many Caribbean voices

Residents in the British Overseas Territory of the Virgin Islands submitted a petition to Governor John Rankin addressed to United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, urging the politician to use his Government’s Special Relationship with the United States to lift that country’s blockade of Cuba in the interest of humanitarian assistance. The petition, which will be sent to the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office highlights the Covid19 surge Cuba has been experiencing since June, where almost 600,000 cases have resulted in more than 5,000 deaths.

The embargo is enforced mainly through several pieces of legislation, some of which have roots in sanctions imposed on Cuba since the successful Revolution led by Fidel Castro which defeated the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. These punitive laws include the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Cuban Assets Control Regulations of 1963, the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, the Helms–Burton Act of 1996, and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. Coordinated by the US government’s Office of Foreign Asset Control [OFAC] – part of the infrastructure of the blockade/sanctions policy to prevent financial collaboration with Cuba – sanctions can also be imposed on countries that trade with Cuba; a consequence which has impacted the island’s ability to source hospital gowns, syringes and other items needed to combat the Covid 19 pandemic. In addition, the blockade policy intends to restrict shipping or airline links by deterring companies and corporations with threats of financial penalties.

“Cuba was the one country that supported the anti-apartheid struggle in southern Africa with both arms and soldiers,” said one of the petition’s organizers, Eugenia O’Neal. “They were the first country to respond to the Ebola crisis some years ago. We feel that it’s our turn now to show solidarity and do what we can to help the people of Cuba.”

Cuba sent more than a hundred health workers to West Africa following the 2014 Ebola outbreak and fought the South Africa military, inflicting several defeats on apartheid forces which resulted in their withdrawal from Angola, and ultimately led to to the defeat of the racist regime. Cuba’s internationalism has also seen thousands of Haitians receive free medical care from Cuban doctors in Haiti and the donation of goods and assistance to several countries of the region following natural disasters. Thousands of students from throughout the region have also received medical, engineering and other scholarships to study in Cuban traing and educational institutions.

“Cuba has been a good friend to the Caribbean and is now a friend in dire need so we must respond,” says Mohammed Tarabay, a co-organizer of the petition which was delivered to the Governor’s Office on 31st August. “No other country is subject to the level of sanctions the US has imposed on Cuba and no other island has been as consistently internationalist and humanitarian in its outlook.” He added that “we want to thank all those who quickly agreed to sign and who drafted others to sign. We hope that the petition brings more attention to the punishing effects of the blockade on a country that has done no harm to others.”

Signatories to the petition include political activist, Cindy Rosan, businesspeople, David Penn and Albert “Pop” Stevens, writers, Patricia Turnbull, Verna Penn Moll and Richard Georges, as well as BVI’s Deputy Premier Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Dr. the Hon. Sowande Wheatley.

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