Resolution opposing Cuba blockade moves ahead in New York City Council
A resolution opposing the blockade against Cuba is now making its way through New York City Hall. | Wikipedia Commons

NEW YORK—A resolution of the New York City Council calling for an end to the blockade of Cuba, Resolution 1092, has been officially introduced and is moving through the legislative process. After the resolution’s initial introduction, it was referred to the council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations. On Thursday, Oct. 31, it was formally brought before the committee which is chaired by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens, who is also one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

At the committee session, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, a co-sponsor of the resolution, spoke of the context for the new resolution, particularly the recent re-introduction of harsh restrictions against Cuba by the Trump administration. Rodriguez said that the economic blockade of Cuba is a relic of the Cold War which now only serves to hinder travel and cultural exchange between the two countries. He said it has no benefit for any social or economic interests. Calling on the U.S. Congress to lift the blockade, Rodriguez said that Congress owed it to both the Cuban and U.S. people.

The resolution was formally introduced by its main sponsor, Council Member Inez Barron. In her remarks, Barron also said that the blockade was a Cold War leftover that has achieved nothing positive over the last nearly 60 years. She called on President Trump to lift the blockade, formally known as an “embargo,” saying that the only thing the harsh measures have succeeded in doing was imposing hardships on Cuban families and having a negative economic impact on some economic sectors in the United States. She particularly mentioned recent measures that negatively impact the cruise ship industry. She also mentioned the benefits that could accrue to the U.S. in terms of medical research—something that Cuba is known for—if trade and contacts between the two countries were expanded.

Chairmen Van Bramer then opened the hearing for public comment, first speaking in favor of the measure, saying, “the embargo only hurts people.” He said “the President is wrong on virtually everything,” and the blockade against Cuba “is one of those things.”

Speaker after speaker repeated earlier comments made by the legislators, referring to the blockade as a “Cold War relic” that harms the Cuban people and achieves no legitimate foreign policy aim. Speakers urged the committee to vote in favor of the resolution and present it to the full city council.

Gilberto Villa, who was born and lived in Havana but who is now living in New York, spoke not only of the economic losses caused by the blockade but also the immense but personal costs. Villa particularly mentioned his desire to connect to his family and to the Cuban people in general and called for an end to the U.S.’ aggressive stance toward Cuba.

Some of the speakers who participated during the public comments section of the hearing. From left: Dr. Damian Suarez, Pat Fry, Emily Thomas of Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, and Tom Gogan of U.S. Labor Against the War. | Stephen Millies / SLL (CC)

Peace activist Pat Fry pointed out that the blockade violates international law and is immoral. She mentioned how the attempted coup in Venezuela served as a pretext to tighten restrictions on Cuba even though Cuba had nothing to do with the coup’s failure. She also pointed out that the economic impact of the blockade, estimated at $3 trillion, is massive.

Of note also were the remarks of Dr. Damian Suarez. Suarez related how he received his medical training in Cuba at no cost and pointed out that such training could be affordable, and thus accessible, for students of low or modest means like himself if the blockade was lifted. Suarez said he worked in a public hospital in the Bronx and that other doctors trained in Cuba were working in underserved neighborhoods across the U.S. There could be many more, he said, but the blockade limits this, thus preventing communities in the U.S. from getting this service.

Stephen Millies, an Amtrak retiree, spoke in a related vein about how two of his co-workers had died from meningitis even though an anti-meningitis vaccine has been developed in Cuba but which they could not access. The experience made it clear that in this particular case, and also in a larger sense, people in the U.S. are literally dying because of the blockade.

After the conclusion of the public commentary portion, Van Bramer closed the hearing while once again expressing his support for the resolution.


CONTRIBUTOR

Gary Bono
Gary Bono

Gary Bono is an activist and retired transit worker writing from New York.

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