Cuba denounced this Wednesday that the restrictions of the U.S. embargo thwarted the donation of masks, ventilators and tests to detect the coronavirus sent by the Chinese electronic giant Alibaba to the island.
“For Cuba, things are always more difficult. Even in times of pandemic, we Cubans are not allowed a breather,” said the Cuban ambassador to Beijing, Carlos Miguel Pereira, who tells how the transport company hired by Alibaba decided to not call at Cuban ports.
— Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios (@JuantonioFdez) April 1, 2020
The U.S. entity “declined at the last minute the shipment” for Cuba hindered by the regulations of the “blockade,” as Havana calls the economic, financial and commercial embargo that Washington has maintained since 1962, strengthened since the arrival of President Donald Trump to the White House in 2017.
The siege prevents, among other restrictions, the island from using the dollar in international transactions, prohibits Cubans from purchasing a product with more than 10% of U.S. components, and establishes a penalty of 180 days before entering the United States for ships calling at Cuban ports.
The Trump administration has tightened restrictive measures against Cuba to try to suffocate its already fragile economy in retaliation for alleged aid to Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
Help for all, except for Cuba
The aid announced by Alibaba founder Jack Ma includes two million facemasks, 400,000 rapid tests and 104 ventilators for 24 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Peru.
Ma, one of the richest men in the world, had already sent similar humanitarian shipments to the United States, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain, among the countries most affected by the pandemic, through Alibaba and the foundation that bears his name.
Soon after, donations would also go to African and Asian countries.
However, “one of those shipments could not reach its final destination,” confirmed the Cuban ambassador to China, who thanked Ma “for having thought” about the Cubans and “for the efforts that he’s still making to make his foundation’s contribution to finally reach its destination.”
“The noble, enormous and commendable effort of Jack Ma, who had managed to reach more than 50 countries around the world, was unable to touch Cuban soil, no matter how necessary those resources might be in support of the battle that is being waged by the small besieged and blockaded island,” the diplomat stressed.
Solidarity in times of pandemic
Many voices are being raised to call for the lifting of U.S. restrictions on countries like Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is affecting healthcare systems and economies around the world hard.
An online campaign on the citizen activism platform Change.org, started by Cubans residing in the United States, already has more than 15,800 signatures to ask the Trump administration to lift the embargo.
The Cuban and U.S. Councils of Churches also called for the cessation of the “blockade” in a joint statement, where they demanded that “all manipulation and use of political and economic interests stop” in the face of the current global humanitarian crisis, exacerbated and made visible by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until Wednesday Cuba registered six deaths and 212 confirmed cases of the disease, while keeping more than 2,700 people isolated in sanitary facilities.
This Tuesday the Cuban government announced the total closure of borders and reinforced measures to confront the epidemic, including the suspension of the massive May Day parade on May 1.