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Children walk to school in Havana, Cuba on January 13, 2021. (Photo: YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Children walk to school in Havana, Cuba on January 13, 2021. (Photo: YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

36 Civil Society Organizations Urge Biden to Reverse Draconian Sanctions Against Cuba

"A policy position guided by human rights needs to address how U.S. sanctions towards Cuba severely limit the rights of Cuban citizens to food security, climate justice and dignity."

Three dozen sustainable agriculture and environmental organizations sent a letter Thursday to U.S. President Joe Biden urging him to follow through with his stated commitment to human rights by ending economic sanctions against Cuba and restoring the United States' diplomatic relationship with the country.

The coalition represents a diverse set of U.S. grassroots and civil society organizations that include family farmers, farmer associations, agroecologists, environmentalists, academics, and frontline climate justice leaders.

"Draconian sanctions against Cuba have always been counterproductive."

Taking note of Biden's commitment to climate justice and human rights in domestic and foreign policy, the letter explains how those values are at odds with the current U.S. sanctions on Cuba, which limit the rights of the nation's people to food security, climate justice, and autonomy.

"Food, agriculture and the climate crisis all qualify as human rights issues. Therefore, a policy position guided by human rights needs to address how U.S. sanctions towards Cuba severely limit the rights of Cuban citizens to food security, climate justice, and dignity," reads the letter, which was signed by groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists and Oxfam America.

Over the past 30 years, Cuba has been recognized for their global leadership in agroecology, innovative policies for climate mitigation/adaptation, and sustainable "re-localized" food systems. Yet the letter explains how the U.S. continues to block Cuba's ability to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis and severely limits the development of sustainable food systems.

The letter implores Biden and his administration to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families.

"Draconian sanctions against Cuba have always been counterproductive," reads the letter. "This is even more evident now. We are facing a moment when ideology and politics must be put aside in order to urgently come together as a unified global community to confront the common global threats of Covid-19 and the climate crisis. We can only do this together through coordination, cooperation, and solidarity."

Outlined in the letter are four key policy recommendations that can be executed immediately by the Biden administration.

The policies include implementing executive action that returns the regulations controlling trade and travel to Cuba to their status as of January 20th, 2017 and removes Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, terminating all sanctions and restrictions against food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance and international cooperation to Cuba—including restrictions on financial and banking transactions—and restoring a fully functioning U.S. embassy and consular services in Cuba.

Lastly, the letter requests Biden exercise his executive authority to reject the renewal of the annual determination to impose sanctions under the Trading With the Enemy Act, putting an end to all existing sanctions and removing the six-decade long economic blockade against Cuba—the longest trade embargo in modern history.

"Instituting the above recommendations are a first step towards realizing a new type of trade relationship with a neighboring nation state," said the groups. "It would be a bold human-nature-rights centered approach to trade and bilateral relations that responds to the need to repair our relationship with each other and with the ecosystems that sustain our economies and societies."

Support for restoring U.S.-Cuba relations has significantly grown in recent years and in March of 2021, 79 members of the U.S. Congress wrote an unprecedented letter to Biden in support of resuming former President Barack Obama's policy of normalization of relations with Cuba.

On June 23, the United Nations will consider Cuba's annual resolution condemning the U.S. blockade. Signatories of the letter encourage the U.S government and the international community to confront the common global threats of Covid-19 and the climate crisis and vote in support of lifting the embargo in Cuba.

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