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Progressive International Calls on Biden to End Illegal US Sanctions Responsible for 'Untold Death and Devastation'

"Biden must take urgent action to restore the right of all countries to have sovereign relations with the world, untrammeled by U.S. interference through their sanctions policy."

An Iranian citizen reads a newspaper in Tehran following U.S. President Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election, which many hope will lead to a restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal and a lifting of economic sanctions. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

An Iranian citizen reads a newspaper in Tehran following U.S. President Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election, which many hope will lead to a restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal and a lifting of economic sanctions. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

global coalition fighting for a more egalitarian, democratic, peaceful, and sustainable society on Wednesday demanded that newly sworn-in U.S. President Joe Biden put an end to unilateral, illegal, and deadly economic sanctions on the first day of his presidency.

In a statement issued ahead of the inaugural ceremony in Washington, D.C., Progressive International called on the Biden administration to "take urgent action to restore the right of all countries to have sovereign relations with the world, untrammeled by U.S. interference through their sanctions policy, which is in violation of all norms of international law."

"U.S.-backed economic sanctions impact nearly one-third of humanity in some 30 countries, causing untold death and devastation by denying them access to global markets, restricting the ability to generate wealth, stabilize currency, and provide basic human essentials for their people," Progressive International explained. "For the past several decades, the U.S. has used its considerable institutional power (over finance and diplomacy) to strangle countries who don't fall in line with its global political and economic agenda."

Cuba is "the most dramatic case," the coalition continued, pointing out that the small island nation has endured for six decades a "blockade that the United Nations General Assembly votes annually to dismantle." In addition, unilateral sanctions against Iran and Venezuela "have destabilized these countries and have led to a deterioration of health, education, nutrition, and the overall quality of life in both countries."

Rather than lifting or weakening the punitive measures in 2020 given the challenging circumstances accompanying the global coronavirus pandemic, "the U.S. has tightened its sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, hitting these countries hard with a full spectrum attack on their medical institutions and their welfare institutions," the coalition noted.

The demand for Biden to lift U.S. sanctions comes one day after Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) urged Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen to use sanctions even more aggressively than the Trump administration did, calling them an "economic tool" without acknowledging how they create misery and suffering for ordinary people living in countries on the receiving end.

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Although their pleas were ignored, several world leaders in 2020 advocated for terminating warfare of all kinds, including the "economic warfare" exemplified by sanctions policy. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said last March that Covid-19 exposed the "folly of war" and called for a global ceasefire, as Common Dreams reported at the time.

In addition, as Progressive International noted, a number of U.N. special rapporteurs and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also urged the U.S. to bring its illegal sanctions to an end in 2020.

"At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended," Bachelet said last March. "In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us."

Progressive International also cited Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo of Guyana, who said the following last April: 

The Group of 77 and China considers that at this juncture, the enactment and application of unilateral coercive economic measures will have a negative impact on the capacity of states to respond efficiently, specifically in the acquisition of medical equipment and supplies to adequately treat their populations in the face of this pandemic. Ultimately, these measures also affect the essential cooperation and solidarity that should prevail among nations. We therefore call upon the international community to adopt urgent and effective measures to eliminate the use of unilateral coercive economic measures against developing countries.

Instead of repeating former President Donald Trump's refusal to lift U.S. sanctions even amid a devastating pandemic that has killed more than two million people globally, Progressive International is urging Biden "to heed these calls" from around the world, recognize the lethal effects of economic sanctions, and stop imposing them unilaterally in violation of international law.

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