The US has waged an unethical economic war against the island of Cuba for half a century. Credit: Artist's rendering.

In an action sure to be condemned by the majority of members of the United Nations, the US government of president Donald Trump continues to block humanitarian Covid-19 aid to Cuba at a crucial time during the global pandemic.

While more than 30 Chinese enterprises have either donated or supplied anti-virus materials to Cuba since the coronavirus outbreak began, only a small number of them have successfully arrived, the Cuban Ambassador to China told the Global Times.

Ambassador Carlos Miguel Pereira said that the medical supplies previously donated by the Alibaba Foundation to help Cuba combat Covid-19 are still stranded in China due to Draconian sanctions imposed by the US.

The Cuban diplomat said that they are currently in close contact with Alibaba to work out other possible solutions, including replacing the US company that was responsible for transporting the medical supplies to Cuba, The Global Times reported.

According to the official Weibo account of the Cuban Embassy in China, the Jack Ma foundation and Alibaba Foundation donated medical supplies, including face masks, test kits and respirators, to 24 Latin American countries including Cuba.

But these supplies were unable to reach Cuba as scheduled because an American company that was responsible for shipping them rejected the order at the last minute, The Global Times reported. 

“The reason was that the US government tightened its policy of economic, commercial and financial embargoes imposed on Cuba, thereby thwarting the enterprise from ­shipping the equipment to Cuba ­despite the fact that these medical supplies are urgently needed to fight the virus,” said the embassy on Weibo.

The post went viral and soon became a trending topic on Weibo, with many Chinese netizens expressing sympathy and support for the country, The Global Times reported.

Pereira told the Global Times that the unilateral sanctions the US imposed on Cuba have had a negative impact on the country’s fight against Covid-19, and he is worried that this may cause the situation to further deteriorate.  

The number of Covid-19 infections in Cuba reached 766 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The diplomat said while the country has a sound healthcare system and made many preparations in the beginning, the lack of medical supplies compounded by the US sanctions could hinder its ability to fight the virus. 

The US has required all countries and companies not to sell or donate materials which have 10% or more American technology to Cuba. Many medical companies around the world are US companies or have some form of US involvement, The Global Times reported.

The ambassador said another obstacle to moving the medical supplies from China to Cuba is that most flights now need to go through the US, which means they will not be able to successfully arrive in Cuba. “It’s also difficult for Cuba to arrange chartered flights to pick up these medical supplies,” he said. 

Pereira said Cuba placed an order with two Swiss companies that produce respirators with which it had a long-term partnership.

But recently, they were suddenly notified that the two companies had decided to terminate their contracts with Cuba as they had been purchased by a US company. As a result, they are no longer allowed to provide supplies to Cuba.

He also noted that Cuba has a good medical system and the government will spare no effort to ensure the health and safety of its citizens, The Global Times reported. But he admitted that with the necessary medical supplies not reaching Cuba, the US sanctions are making the situation more and more difficult.  

Even as the country faces multiple challenges, it is still trying to offer a helping hand to other countries that have been severely hit by the pandemic. 

Pereira told the Global Times that Cuba has sent 19 medical teams to other countries, including two to Italy, where the outbreak is much more serious.

“Cuba shares the same thinking as China — only international cooperation can defeat the virus,” he said.