A team of 85 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Peru on June 3 to help the Andean nation tackle the coronavirus pandemic. That same day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced another tightening of the sanctions screws.
This time he targeted seven Cuban entities, including Fincimex, one of the principal financial institutions handling remittances to the country. Also targeted was Marriott International, which was ordered to cease operations in Cuba, and other companies in the tourism sector, an industry that constitutes 10 percent of Cuba’s GDP and has been devastated globally by the pandemic.
It seems that the more Cuba helps the world, the more it gets hammered by the Trump administration. While Cuba has endured a US embargo for nearly 60 years, Trump has revved up the stakes with a “maximum pressure” strategy that includes more than 90 economic measures placed against the nation since January 2019.
Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, called the measures “unprecedented in their level of aggression and scope” and designed to “deprive the country of income for the development of the economy.” Since its inception, the embargo has cost Cuba well over $130 billion dollars, according to a 2018 estimate. In 2018-2019 alone, the economic impact was $4 billion, a figure that does not include the impact of a June 2019 Trump administration travel ban aimed at harming the tourist industry.
While the embargo is supposed to have humanitarian exemptions, the health sector has not been spared. Cuba is known worldwide for its universal public healthcare system, but the embargo has led to shortages of medicines and medical supplies, particularly for patients with AIDS and cancer. Doctors at Cuba’s National Institute of Oncology have had to amputate the lower limbs of children with cancer because the American companies that have a monopoly on the technology can’t sell it to Cuba. In the midst of the pandemic, the US blocked a donation of facemasks and Covid-19 diagnostic kits from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.
Not content to sabotage Cuba’s domestic health sector, the Trump administration has been attacking Cuba’s international medical assistance, from the teams fighting coronavirus today to those who have travelled all over the world since the 1960’s providing services to underserved communities in 164 countries. The US goal is to cut the island’s income now that the provision of these services has surpassed tourism as Cuba’s number one source of revenue.
Labeling these volunteer medical teams “victims of human trafficking” because part of their salaries goes to pay for Cuba’s healthcare system, the Trump administration convinced Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil to end their cooperation agreements with Cuban doctors. Pompeo then applauded the leaders of these countries for refusing “to turn a blind eye” to Cuba’s alleged abuses.Medea Benjamin, "While Cuba helps," The News. 2020-06-19.
Keywords: Economics , Financial institutions , Medical assistance , Economic impact , Trump administration , Economic measures , Human trafficking , Medical teams , Tourism , Cuba , Chile , Canada