[act-ma] Today--Call your reps: End U.S. Sanctions that deepen global health crisis

Charlie Welch cwelch at tecschange.org
Mon Mar 23 05:38:46 PDT 2020

Please make sure you read the "What about Cuba?" section near the bottom 
of this section.  Also at the bottom is a Science for the People 
Statement: Fighting COVID 19 in Cuba, China and the United States

Facebook event:https://www.facebook.com/events/2889348981140661/


As the world reels from the COVID-19 pandemic, all nations must be 
joined in the struggle to contain the outbreak.

U.S. sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba prevent those countries 
from importing vital medicine and healthcare supplies from reaching 
their populations. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, this has had 
devastating health impacts for people living under U.S. sanctions. As 
the UN reported last year, sanctions against Iran have “drastically 
constrained the ability of the country to finance humanitarian imports, 
including medicines, causing serious hardships for ordinary Iranians and 
threatening their right to health.” 

The U.S. government has not moved to lift or ease sanctions since the 
outbreak of COVID-19. In fact, the Trump administration is even treating 
the crisis as an opportunity and has announced that it will expand the 

To get through this crisis we must stand for our brothers and sisters 
abroad the same way we would stand for our friends and neighbors.

Please join us Monday, March 23rd, in calling on all Massachusetts 
representatives in Washington to publicly denounce US sanctions, and 
call for the immediate end of sanctions during this pandemic. That means 
placing calls to:

 1. Senator Warren - Washington: 202-224-4543  - Boston: 617-565-3170
 2. Senator Markey - Washington: 202-224-2742 - Boston: 617-565-8519
 3. Your representative in congress which you can find here:
 4.   Not from  Mass --House switchboard: (*202*) *224-3121*;

While we encourage each caller to make their call as personal, you can 
find a script to guide you here:

COVID-19 and U.S. Sanctions

Script for calling legislators: Monday, March 23

(Feel free to modify this script to your liking. It’s best if not 
everyone uses the same exact words.)

Hi, my name is [NAME]and I’m calling from [TOWN]. I’m extremely worried 
about the impact of U.S. sanctions on the ability of Venezuela 
Cuba, and other countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintaining 
sanctions, especially under the circumstances, is criminal and immoral – 
as well as counterproductive if we hope to limit the global spread of 
the virus.

U.S. sanctions cripple the ability of vulnerable countries to save 
patients’ lives. All sanctions must be ended immediately so that all 
countries can import the medicines, equipment, and food they need to 
prevent mass death.

I’m asking ______ to do 3 things:


    Issue immediate statements via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
    condemning the sanctions against all these countries. Senator Bernie
    Sanders <https://twitter.com/SenSanders/status/1240322260218646529>,
    Representative Ilhan Omar
    <https://twitter.com/Ilhan/status/1238454463284875264>, and others
    have recently issued statements on Twitter condemning the Iran


    Sign on to Rep. Omar’s “Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act.” -


    Initiate Congressional hearings on the impacts of sanctions by the
    first week of April.

Can I count on ______ to do these 3 things?

(If applicable):    When can I expect a reply from ______?

Additional background for callers (FYI):

How do sanctions affect these countries’ response to COVID-19?In two 
major ways: 1) Sanctions legally prevent imports. While they sometimes 
contain vague exceptions for food and medicine imports, foreign banks 
and exporters tend to over-comply 
sanctions so as to avoid legal risk. 2) Sanctions block countries like 
Venezuela, Iran, and Cuba from exporting goods and accessing credit, and 
thus deprive them of the money needed to import life-saving essentials 
(think lab tests, respirators, masks, antiviral drugs, etc.). This means 
that even ifsanctioned countries are legally permitted to import food, 
medicine, and medical equipment, the lack of export revenue deprives 
them of money to do so. For both these reasons, the “exception for food 
and medicine” is a lie.

How is the U.S. responding to the COVID-19 crisis in these countries? 
It’s rejecting their desperate pleas and tightening the screws. On 
Tuesday, March 17, the International Monetary Fund (which is dominated 
by the U.S.) rejected 
request from President Nicolás Maduro for an emergency $5 billion loan 
to help Venezuela fight the virus.

What about Cuba?Cuba’s healthcare system is far better prepared than the 
U.S. system to deal with the virus. The island has a robust 
community-based health system that provides free, universal care. Its 
biotech industry is also among the best in the world. In the early 1980s 
Cuban doctors pioneered 
development of a crucial antiviral drug, Interferon Alpha 2B, that can 
apparently be used against COVID-19, and Cuba has a large stock of the 
drug that it plans to use. Cuba is also sending medical personnel 
to help treat patients. However, the U.S. embargo has put great strain 
on the Cuban healthcare and agricultural systems, and the current global 
crisis and recession will increase that strain. A potential food crisis 
looming, due in part to Trump’s escalation of the embargo. The COVID-19 
crisis and impending global recession will surely exacerbate the situation.

Sponsored by /*Lift the Sanctions Mass*/: Massachusetts Peace Action;  
Bolivia Solidarity Committee of Western Mass; Resistance Center for 
Peace and Justice; Latin America Solidarity Coaliton of Western Mass; 
Boston Democratic Socialists of America; American Friends Service 
Committee; Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador; 
Campaign for Peace, Disarmament, and Common Security. (Organizations 
please contact us to join this campaign)


  Science for the People: *Fighting COVID 19 in Cuba, China and the
  United States*

Posted by *W. T. Whitney, Jr. <https://mltoday.com/author/wwhitney/> *

mltoday.com <http://mltoday.com>

| Mar 22, 2020 |

Governments, according to Thomas Jefferson, are supposed to guarantee 
people’s rights to “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” COVID 19 
has out people’s lives and health in the spotlight now. What kind of 
tools do governments have at their disposal to protect lives and health?

Cuba has the advantages of forward-looking leadership, well-orchestrated 
state planning, and longtime prioritization of health care. 
Additionally, government leaders elevate scientific and technological 
training. They’ve established research capabilities, used results to 
advance health care, and marketed bio-medical products on a worldwide 
basis. The Cuban people and leaders know about disaster planning, as 
demonstrated by preparations prior to hurricanes hitting the island. 
Likewise planning and putting the public good first has enabled Cubans 
to cope with the disaster of a 60-year long economic blockade set up to 
make them suffer.

A survey of Cuban media reports suggests that Cuba’s government and 
people are prepared to handle COVID 19’s visit to the island. At this 
point only seven people there have been identified as infected with 
COVID 19, all having recently arrived from abroad.  Here we highlight 
Cuba’s assistance to China, where the epidemic mushroomed first and most 
dangerously, so far.

Cuban President Fidel Castro in 1965 pushed for the development of the 
National Center for Scientific Research. The Center attracted medical 
graduates aspiring to scientific careers and spawned a succession of 
other biomedical research institutes. Castro in 1981 
<https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/03/05/mundo/026a1mun> learned about 
research in Texas on interferon, a new drug that showed promise in 
treating certain types of cancer and also viral infections. Two Cuba 
researchers soon were studying interferon in Houston. Within months six 
more had gone to Finland, where interferon had been developed. They 
learned about production methods.

In a short time, the Cubans were manufacturing the drug, treating 
patients, and marketing interferon abroad. The ChangHeber company, a 
Chinese-Cuban joint venture for which Cuba provides scientific support, 
has been producing Interferon and other drug products since 2007.  As 
the COVID 19 epidemic progressed in China, Cuba’s government made 
special administrative arrangements and sent experts to China so that 
ChangHeber might be able to serve China’s needs.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of drug therapy, interferon included, 
in treating severely ill patients infected with COVID 19, a new illness, 
has yet to be scientifically validated. (See here 
and here <https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762996>.) 
Even so, for Cuba to lend a hand to desperately ill people in China 
represents another in a series of heroic undertakings Cuba has carried 
out in the name of human solidarity. And Cuba once more has displayed 
dedication to science as an essential human resource.

China has its own strengths as mentioned in laudatory editorial comment 
appearing in 
the prestigious British medical journal Lancet. One learns that in many 
countries “health ministers are scrambling … By striking contrast, the 
WHO-China joint mission report 
calls China’s vigorous public health measures toward this new 
coronavirus probably the most “ambitious, agile and aggressive disease 
containment effort in history … China’s success rests largely with a 
strong administrative system that it can mobilize in times of threat, 
combined with the ready agreement of the Chinese people to obey 
stringent public health procedures. …  [T]here are important lessons 
that presidents and prime ministers can learn from China’s experience.”

The United States is not so lucky. Planning ahead to serve human needs 
is not a strong point for the U.S. government. Dealing with the present 
crisis, the government seems to regard science as an afterthought. The 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the face of public 
health in the United States and locus of epidemiologic overview, had 
lost government funding prior to the pandemic. (The word “epidemiology,” 
taken from the Greek, literally says “”study of what is upon the 
people;” the “what” signifies disease.)

Testifying on March 11 before the House Committee on Oversight and 
Reform, CDC director Robert Redfield MD betrayed a casual attitude 
toward science. A scientist himself, the former U.S. Army officer had 
made “several important early contributions 
<https://www.hhs.gov/about/leadership/robert-redfield/index.html> to the 
scientific understanding of HIV.”

Congressman Harley Rouda asked him this: “So, we could have 
people in the United States dying for what appears to be influenza, when 
in fact it could be the coronavirus or COVID-19? Redfield replied that, 
“Some cases have been actually diagnosed that way in the United States 
to date.” The revelation passed without further questioning. The U.S. 
media paid no attention. News services in China pounced on the statement.

Epidemiologists ought to have been interested in the timing of the 
epidemic’s onset in the United States. Vagueness on the matter, as 
suggested by Redfield’s testimony, betrays a remarkable lack of 
scientific curiosity.

What the public knows is that the first case of imported Coronavirus 
showed up on January 21. The first cases of possible community-acquired 
coronavirus appeared on February 26. On February 14 the CDC indicated 
<http://en.people.cn/n3/2020/0223/c90000-9661026.html> persons with 
influenza-like symptoms would be tested for COVID 19 in various U.S. 
cities. The results of any testing weren’t made public, although 
Redfield’s testimony may allude to them.

The possibility emerges that U.S. people were being infected in January, 
not long after Chinese authorities on December 31, 2019 informed 
<https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317175442.htm> the 
World Health Organization of an outbreak of a new form of coronavirus 
infection. Suspicion prevails in China that the epidemic may have 
manifested first in someplace other than China.

U.S. public health authorities seem to be similarly uncurious about 
other information possibly contributing to a scientific understanding of 
the disease origins. They are silent, for example, on the presence of 
280 U.S. athletes 
and assistants in Wuhan, China, in October 18-27 2019. That was six 
weeks or so before people in that city fell ill to COVID-19 infection. 
Wuhan had hosted 9308 athletes from 100 countries 
who were participating in the Military World Games.

Additionally, public health epidemiologists have shown no sign of 
curiosity about the findings of a Taiwanese virologist 
who focused on the multiplicity of COVID 19 strains in the United 
States. He noted that, by contrast, a single strain of the virus 
prevails in other countries. Citing an example pointing to the 
significance of the discrepancy, the expert observed that the single 
strain of the virus active in Taiwan prevailed only in Australia and the 
United States. Australians did not carry the infection to Taiwan. 
Infection in Taiwan, therefore, traces back to the United States, he 

The pandemic has provided, in effect, a laboratory-like demonstration of 
what is known: that people do better when states can plan ahead, apply 
national resources unequivocally to the public good, put science in the 
service of the people, and practice international solidarity. These are 
characteristics of socialist societies.

People do less well, as in the United States, when their health and 
welfare are subjected to the greed of moneyed interests, and when 
science is sold to the highest bidder.

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