World, Americas

COVID-19: Venezuela, Cuba hail UN sanctions-easing call

Michelle Bachelet urges ease of sanctions against countries combating COVID-19 to bolster 'frail' medical systems

Beyza Binnur Donmez   | 25.03.2020
COVID-19: Venezuela, Cuba hail UN sanctions-easing call


Venezuela and Cuba, both under severe U.S. sanctions, welcomed a recent call by the UN for eased international sanctions amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

"The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, joins the righteous, humane and urgent world clamor, considering that: 'at this decisive moment, sectoral sanctions should be reduced or suspended...," Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Tuesday on Twitter.

His Cuban counterpart also hailed Bachelet's statement saying: "No more blockade."

Bruno Rodriguez welcomed Bachelet's support for "the universal and urgent demand of the international community to alleviate or suspend sanctions and blockades before COVID-19 in because of cruel impacts on the health and human rights sector."

Venezuela has been under firm U.S. economic and diplomatic sanctions for more than a year as Washington recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate ruler instead of elected President Nicolas Maduro. The U.S. blockade against Cuba has continued for six decades.

In Venezuela, over 90 coronavirus cases have been reported with no fatalities so far, while in Cuba one person has died from the pandemic with nearly 50 cases in the country, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Frail, weak health systems

Earlier on Tuesday, Bachelet called for the easing of sanctions against Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe to allow their healthcare systems to fight the disease and limit global spread as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

"It is vital to avoid the collapse of any country's medical system -- given the explosive impact that will have on death, suffering and wider contagion," she said in a statement.

"At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended," said Bachelet, warning that "impeding medical efforts" in one country would increase the risk for the entire globe.

"Humanitarian exemptions to sanctions measures should be given broad and practical effect, with prompt, flexible authorization for essential medical equipment and supplies," she added.

Emphasizing that the majority of sanctioned countries suffered from "frail or weak health systems," Bachelet noted that obstacles to the import of vital medical supplies, including over-compliance with sanctions by banks, would create "long-lasting harm to vulnerable communities."

The UN chief stressed that populations in these countries were "in no way responsible for the policies being targeted by sanctions, and to varying degrees have already been living in a precarious situation for prolonged periods."

"No country can effectively combat this epidemic on its own. We need to act with solidarity, cooperation and care," she concluded.

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