The horrific plane crash in Cuba last week in which over 100 passengers were killed is testimony to one outstanding fact: American economic sanctions on that country have cost the lives of innocent people.
But this is not just about Cuba. It is about several other nations, including Russia, that are being attacked by American economic weapons, with human casualties. This barbaric US policy must be condemned and halted.
There is little doubt that the aging 40-year-old Boeing 737 that went down shortly after take-off from the capital Havana was a result of the decades-long US trade embargo on the Caribbean island.
That embargo has been imposed on Cuba by successive US administrations despite numerous resolutions at the United Nations abhorring it as barbaric. It’s a relic of the Cold War, yet Washington callously pursues this cruel blockade of an impoverished country.
A New York Times report quaintly called the stricken aircraft a “hand-me-down plane”, which had been used over its many years by a half-dozen operators in the US, Canada, and Cameroon, before ending up leased to state-owned Cuban airlines.
Cut off from international financing and access to modern aviation, the Cuban authorities have had to make do with renting decrepit planes from regional operators with less-than-transparent safety records. Last month, Cuba reportedly had to ground its entire domestic fleet due to safety concerns.
The six-decade-old trade embargo imposed by the US on the country following its socialist revolution in 1959 is the single biggest factor in determining Cuba’s economic condition. Successive revolutionary governments have coped admirably to give the 11 million population relatively high standards of living despite the economic hardship inflicted by relentless US sanctions. Nevertheless, the US economic strangulation of the country for daring to choose socialist governance has left an onerous toll.
An aging aviation industry struggling to find modern fleets, spare parts and maintenance is one such toll of America’s vicious vendetta. It seems obvious that Washington’s economic hostility towards Cuba is putting lives at risk. The death of over 100 passengers last week is the grim result.
Yet, such a damning connection is not obvious to the New York Times. Its report attempted to fudge the blame with the Cuban government’s alleged “economic mismanagement”. It referred breathlessly to the doomed plane as “a powerful symbol of Cuba’s troubled aviation industry” – while playing down the precise reason for why the country’s aviation industry is “troubled”.
The report went on to declare “Cuba’s economy has long been in shambles” which has been “bedeviled” by “economic mismanagement and the United States’ embargo on the island.”
So, you see, Washington’s decades of blockading the island country is relegated by the New York Times to a somewhat lowly, indirect factor after the government’s alleged incompetence.
This is an unconscionable white-wash of American culpability for the chronic deprivation in Cuba and in particular the loss of life from economic hardship.
Tragically, the Cuban fatal air crash comes as a timely reminder of the criminality of using economic sanctions to punish declared enemies. Sanctions should be viewed as just another form of warfare, which results in deaths among civilian populations. It should be outlawed.
No other nation uses economic warfare as viciously or as rampantly as the United States. At least six nations are currently being subjected to this low-intensity warfare by the US: Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Russia.
Ludicrous Western news media reported this week with outraged disbelief that Venezuelans re-elected socialist president Nicolas Maduro – despite the country being in “economic shambles and facing shortages of food and medicines”. Those media barely tell their audiences that the hardships are largely caused by American sanctions. Instead, the blame is shifted on to Maduro as some kind of crackpot dictator crushing his people.
The case of Iran also seems particularly apt. US President Donald Trump is threatening to reimpose and expand sanctions on Tehran that have been in existence for nearly 40 years since the Iranian revolution kicked out America’s client dictator, the Shah, in 1979. Those latest threats follow Trump pulling out of the international nuclear accord with Iran.
Iran, like Cuba, suffers from an aging airline because of US sanctions. Recent purchase orders by Iran from Boeing and Airbus worth about $40 billion in new aircraft are now in jeopardy because of Trump’s plan to ratchet up the embargo. Again, Washington’s hostile policies are putting lives in danger.
Economic sanctions are not some sterile policy. They are palpable attacks on the lives of people.
Ahmad Noroozi of the charitable Barakat Foundation, based in Tehran, estimates that tens of thousands of Iranians have died from US-led sanctions on the country restricting people’s access to cancer drugs and other vital pharmaceuticals.
Iranian writer Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has said that American sanctions should be called out for what they are: “sanctioned terrorism”.
It is a disturbing sign of the lawless times the world is witnessing that Washington is resorting more and more to sanctions as a coercive instrument in order to subjugate others to its geopolitical demands.
Any country not doing Washington’s bidding is liable to be slapped with financial and trade penalties. Cuba, North Korea, and Iran have long been in the firing line, joined by Russia and Syria in recent years. But now the Americans are threatening their supposed European allies with similar retribution if they don’t toe the US line with regard to trading with Iran, or regarding the Nord Stream 2 gas supply project from Russia.
The criteria used by the US are entirely subjective, arbitrary, and extra-legal, not to say fraudulent. It is the actions of a bully nation that is trying to use sanctions to enforce results which it cannot achieve by fair political or economic means.
As Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently pointed out, the US is using sanctions to project its national interests at the expense of others. Worse, Lavrov, condemned such sanctions as a form of “genocide”.
The Nord Stream 2 gas supply joint venture between Europe and Russia is a classic example. America wants to obviate market forces by displacing cheaper Russian gas with its own more expensive fuel, and to do this economics gymnastics, Washington is using sanctions to enforce its desired result.
If the US gets its bullying way, gas prices in Europe will rocket. How many people across Europe will lose their jobs, or die from hypothermia from not being able to afford to heat their homes in winter? Again, sanctions cost lives. Not as graphically as with exploding bombs. But nevertheless lives are ruined, deleted, albeit in the guise of anonymous statistics.
The majority of nations need to repudiate the use of economic sanctions by the US as unlawful and unacceptable. The practice should be seen on the same sliding scale of aggression as all-out military force. Indeed, history has shown that sanctions often lead to military war.
In a very real way, sanctions constitute acts of warfare. Their consequences are deadly in terms of the loss of human life, as can be seen from the recent Cuban air crash.
No nation should be allowed to unilaterally wield economic warfare on another without itself being sanctioned as an international pariah state. And the United States reached that pariah status a long time ago.