(St. Lucia News Online) — Deputy Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLU) Alva Baptiste is supporting calls for the lifting of sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela on humanitarian grounds as the world combats the coronavirus pandemic.
He said such a move will assist both countries to care of their citizens better.
“First and foremost, lifting those sanctions will place both Cuba and Venezuela in a better position to care for their citizens,” he said. “It is inhumane to sustain sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela, interfering, with their ability to deliver much-needed services to their citizens, especially during pandemics like COVID-19. Notwithstanding their challenges, it is worthy of note, that both countries continue to reach out to global citizens, irrespective of ideology, in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Baptiste, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Laborie, said Venezuela has been assisting some CARICOM countries with testing equipment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“Hence, reviving the logic of the Cold War and using Venezuela as a laboratory for testing the new foreign policies of major geopolitical rivals, is not a valid test in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” he stated.
He described the US embargo on Cuba as a “relic of the Cold War”.
“Despite the embargo (a relic of the cold-war), Cuba has historically assisted and continues to assist countries around the world, including Saint Lucia, with doctors, nurses and medicine to fight epidemics and pandemics such as Ebola and COVID-19,” he stated.
Additionally, the former foreign minister argued that the embargo on both countries must be lifted since the English-speaking Caribbean has experienced a change in the international context since the end of the Cold War.
“The global environment contains the seeds of our country’s continued marginalization. Consequently, CARICOM States are increasingly seeking refuge in regional and sub-regional groupings as a basis for common action and to create a better fiscal and developmental framework to match their basic needs with greater possibilities,” Baptiste noted. “In this regard, our CARICOM States have achieved favourable outcomes in hemispheric organizations such as the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC) and ALBA.”
He stated that it is through these arrangements that Saint Lucia was able to secure support from Venezuela, including laptops for secondary school students.
“The critical importance of ICT in our learning environment has been brought into sharp and urgent focus during this COVID-19 pandemic, as we try moving a lot more of our lives online,” he said. “For example, in our current efforts to continue educating our students online while the school plant remains closed, due to adherence to health protocols to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
He insisted that CARICOM must “continue to utilize and emphasize with one voice, diplomacy as a prime instrument for pursuing normalized relations among all States”.
“CARICOM must continue its call for the resumption of the diplomatic reconciliation between the United States and Cuba, and for improved relations between the US and Venezuela – allowing for a full-scale reconciliation of hemispheric relations,” Baptiste said. “Because all those unnecessary impediments to regional and hemispheric cooperation, simply constitute a barrier to the further development of our countries in the said hemisphere, including undermining our ability to more effectively respond to pandemics in a coordinated manner.”
According to history.com, “On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy issues an executive order broadening the United States’ restrictions on trade with Cuba. The ensuing embargo, which effectively restricts all trade between Cuba and the United States, has had profoundly negative effects on the island nation’s economy and shaped the recent history of the Western Hemisphere.”
For more than a decade, the United States has imposed various sanctions in response to activities of the Venezuelan government and Venezuelan individuals.
However, under the Trump administration, these sanctions have been expanded significantly.
As of January 22, 2020, the US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on at least 144 Venezuelan or Venezuelan-connected individuals. It has also revoked the visas of hundreds of individuals and their families.
Sanctions were also imposed on Venezuela’s state oil company (Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PdVSA), government, and the central bank.