WASHINGTON has come under fire for blocking much-needed medical supplies from reaching Cuba for a second time, with Swiss groups branding the six-decade-long economic blockade “a criminal act.”
The aid had been collected by the Swiss solidarity group MediCuba Switzerland and had been intended for Covid-19 patients on the socialist island.
More than 1,200 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Cuba which has recorded 43 deaths.
The group said that banks had stopped the transfer of financial aid to Cuba due to the restrictions imposed on the global banking system as part of the US blockade.
Because of the blockade Cuba is unable to receive vital medical supplies needed to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic including ventilators and masks along with fuel and food for its people.
“The US blockade has imposed an enormous burden on the country’s health system, while also endangering the lives of many Cubans,” MediCuba Switzerland said in a statement.
The group also took aim at Swiss-based companies for refusing to sell essential medical equipment to Cuba.
IMT Medical AG and Acutronic Medical Systems AG were both acquired by US companies earlier this month and immediately suspended trade relations with Cuba, cancelling orders for ventilators citing Washington’s sanctions regime.
The US blockade was branded a criminal act, especially due to the restrictions being in place during a global crisis.
“We demand that Switzerland, by its humanitarian and diplomatic tradition, take measures so that Cuba can acquire from the usual Swiss suppliers the necessary equipment to combat the Covid-19, on the one hand; and on the other hand, that Swiss banks do not prevent the generous donations of Swiss citizens to our associations.
“In more general terms, we demand that Switzerland is not complicit in this illegal and criminal US policy,” the group said.
It is the second time the US has blocked medical aid from reaching Cuba.
Earlier this month a shipment from China including masks, testing kits and ventilators was stopped from reaching the Caribbean island.
The blockade is said to cost around $1.2 billion per year in lost sales and exports, while the Cuban government estimates that the embargo has cost the island itself $753.69 billion over six decades.
Despite US hostility, Cuba has continued to send medical teams across the world in the fight against the pandemic.