Global charity Oxfam on Tuesday urged US President Joe Biden to work to normalize relations with Cuba and lift sanctions as the communist nation battles its worst economic crisis in 30 years.
Unveiling a report titled “The Right to Live Without a Blockade,” he said the US sanctions imposed on the island nearly six decades ago were “a serious obstacle to the development of the Cuban population.”
“Today, in the face of the health crisis, Oxfam considers it even more urgent to change this policy,” Oxfam Cuba director Elena Gentili told reporters in Havana.
US sanctions have been in place since 1962. Cuba’s relations with the United States are at their lowest since then President Donald Trump stepped up measures following a historic but temporary easing of tensions under Barack Obama between 2014 and 2016.
That, combined with the coronavirus outbreak, contributed to the 11% decline in the Cuban economy in 2020 – its worst performance since 1993.
In his final speech before stepping down as leader of the Communist Party of Cuba last month, Raul Castro affirmed a “willingness to conduct a respectful dialogue and build a new kind of relationship with the United States”.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the time that the United States did not foresee any immediate change in its policy towards Cuba, which would continue to focus on “supporting the democracy and human rights ”.
On Tuesday, Oxfam urged Biden to “take action as soon as possible to normalize relations with Cuba.”
Under Trump, Gentili said, the United States imposed more than 240 sanctions, 55 of which were applied during the global pandemic.
Cuba says Trump’s measures cost it around $ 20 billion.
“Oxfam has witnessed how the US embargo limits the ability of Cubans to recover from these setbacks and restricts access to the inputs, drugs, technologies and materials needed for reconstruction,” the report said.
The US embargo, he added, “hinders Cuba’s efforts to stop the spread of the pandemic.”
Last week, Havana said it regretted that Biden had not moved “a millimeter” on Cuban US policy since joining the White House.
During the campaign, Biden had promised to bring back some of Obama’s policies to seek normalization of relations, but as president he has yet to make an announcement.
© 2021 AFP