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Health workers measure the body temperatures of passengers as a precaution against the coronavirus in Qom, Iran on March 17, 2020. (Photo: Fatemah Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Economists Demand Trump Immediately Lift Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela Sanctions That Are 'Feeding the Coronavirus Epidemic'

"This policy is unconscionable and flagrantly against international law. It is imperative that the U.S. lift these immoral and illegal sanctions."

Jake Johnson

A group of economists and policy experts on Wednesday called on President Donald Trump to immediately lift the United States' crippling sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and other countries, warning that the economic warfare—in addition to being cruel in itself—is "feeding the coronavirus epidemic" by hampering nations' capacity to respond.

"This policy is unconscionable and flagrantly against international law. It is imperative that the U.S. lift these immoral and illegal sanctions to enable Iran and Venezuela to confront the epidemic as effectively and rapidly as possible," Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs said in a statement just hours after the Trump administration intensified sanctions against Iran, which has been devastated by COVID-19.

"Economic sanctions, as the U.S. is applying against Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries, cause immense harm."
—Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), said "there is no doubt that Iran's capacity to respond to the novel coronavirus has been hampered by the Trump administration's economic sanctions, and the death toll is likely much higher than it would have been as a result."

Weisbrot warned that continued sanctions against Iran could have devastating consequences for other nations in the region as they work to stop the spread of the virus.

"There can... be no question that the sanctions have affected Iran's ability to contain the outbreak," said Weisbrot, "leading in turn to more infections, and possibly to the virus' spread beyond Iran's borders."

"If the U.S. government is going to assist other countries, let alone provide some kind of leadership role during this global crisis, the first thing it should do is 'cause no harm,'" Weisbrot added. "Economic sanctions, as the U.S. is applying against Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries, cause immense harm."

Pressure on the U.S. to lift its international economic sanctions came as the official coronavirus death toll in Iran surpassed 1,100. Meanwhile, Venezuela remains on lockdown after dozens of people tested positive for the virus and Cuba confirmed its first cases of COVID-19 last week.

Economist Francisco Rodríguez, a leading expert on the Venezuelan economy, said that U.S. sanctions against Venezuela and other nations have severely hindered their ability to respond to the pandemic, which has infected nearly 220,000 people worldwide.

"This has dramatic consequences on the lives of their citizens and exacerbates a major global health risk," said Rodríguez.


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