Written by Cáit Ó Pronntaigh.
A new bill before the United States Senate titled “Cut Profits to the Cuban Regime Act of 2020” is targeting Cuba’s medical missions, and proposes that nations accepting Cuban medical aid should be subject to penalty.
Nations in the South Pacific have benefited from Cuban medical aid and medical training programmes for their people, including Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Nauru. If this bill passes, it would effectively empower the United States to threaten these nations into cutting ties with Cuba, to the detriment of their people. Access to healthcare and education is a human right, and the USA, apparently not content to deprive its own population of these rights, is now attempting to inhibit access for Pacific Islanders and peoples globally.
This bill has drawn harsh criticism from Caribbean nations. During Covid-19, there was a lack of medical support from richer countries such as the United States. Global Americans reports that “The decision of CARICOM states to invite, at one point, more than 500 Cuban medical personnel into their respective countries, was pragmatic.” It is their right to decide who to accept support from, and not the right of any other nation to dictate that.
New Zealand is a Pacific Island nation that has played an ongoing role in colonising and underdeveloping the Pacific, extracting resources, cheap labour, and dictating the terms for economic and diplomatic relations. We have a responsibility to right those wrongs, and stand up for Cuban and Pacific self-determination. To do that, NZ must do more than passively vote against sanctions at the UN, and we can do more.
The NZ government must insist that local banks, financial institutions, and transport companies refuse to apply these sanctions.
The United States occupies a dangerous role as the global hegemon. If its power and influence in world affairs continues to go unchecked, our own self-determination and democratic rights could be at risk in the longer term. Any meaningful efforts to decolonise this land, affirm tino rangatiratanga, and socialise the economy, would land us in very hot water with an imperialist superpower that has a long track record of funding and instigating regime change operations in countries that don’t play ball with them. By playing their game on their terms, we risk losing what rights we already enjoy, including access to cheap off-brand medication that undercuts the profits of US pharmaceutical companies. But we all have so much to gain through socialism. We gain a future that we’re in control of, and not just those who can afford to buy influence, where profit will never take priority over the people. We gain democratic communities, democratic control of our workplace, housing, food security, and community infrastructure for the benefit of everyone. Socialism strengthens our bonds with each other, with our communities, with our society, and with working people all over the world.
By standing up for the self-determination of people in other countries resisting imperialism, we’re standing up for ourselves and for the future we want to build and live in together.