Oxfam urges Biden to normalize ties with Cuba

Havana (AFP) –


Global charity Oxfam on Tuesday urged US President Joe Biden to work towards normalizing ties with Cuba and lift sanctions, as the communist nation battles its worst economic crisis in 30 years.

Unveiling a report entitled "Right to Live without a Blockade", it said the sanctions imposed by the United States on the island nearly six decades ago were a "severe obstacle to development for the Cuban population."

"Today, in the face of the health crisis, Oxfam considers it even more urgent to change this policy," Oxfam Cuba director Elena Gentili told journalists in Havana.

US sanctions have been in place since 1962. Cuba's relations with the United States have been at a low since then-president Donald Trump reinforced the measures following an historic but temporary easing of tensions under Barack Obama between 2014 and 2016.

This, along with the coronavirus epidemic, contributed to Cuba's economy declining 11 percent in 2020 -- its worst performance since 1993.

In his final address before stepping down as leader of Communist Party of Cuba last month, Raul Castro affirmed a "willingness to conduct a respectful dialogue and build a new kind of relationship with the United States."

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the time the United States was not planning any immediate change in its policy toward Cuba, which would continue to focus on "support for democracy and human rights."

On Tuesday, Oxfam urged Biden to "take measures as soon as possible to normalize ties with Cuba."

Under Trump, said Gentili, the US imposed more than 240 sanctions, of which 55 were applied during the global pandemic.

Cuba says Trump's measures had cost it an estimated $20 billion.

"Oxfam has witnessed how the US embargo limits Cubans' capacity to recover from these setbacks and curtails access to needed inputs, medicines, technologies, and materials to rebuild," said the report.

The US embargo, it added, "hinders Cuba's efforts to stop the spread of the pandemic."

Last week, Havana said it regretted that Biden had not budged "one millimeter" on the United States' Cuba policy since arriving in the White House.

On the campaign, Biden had promised to bring back some of Obama's policies to seek a normalization of ties, but as president, he has yet to make an announcement.