People who were concerned about the COVID-19 epidemic felt a sigh relief when President Biden was inaugurated in January. After a year of COVID denial, Biden promised to “follow the science” and put more effort into containing the virus than the Trump administration did. However, 10 months later, the virus was still infecting people. new report by the Department of the Treasury makes it clear that “following the science” only applies when it protects the profits of the wealthy class.
On January 21, President Biden issued an announcement National Security Memorandum that, in a section titled, “COVID-19 Sanctions Relief,” ordered various departments to “review existing United States and multilateral financial and economic sanctions to evaluate whether they are unduly hindering responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide recommendations to the President.” This section suggested an interest by the administration in reversing the “maximum pressure” economic warfare campaign waged by President Trump.
Sanctions are restrictions on trade, finance and travel that are technically supposed to be used to punish certain actors — governments, corporations or individuals — only when they are convicted by a body, usually the United Nations, of committing a crime. Over the past decades, the United States has issued more so-called sanctions without any legal process to punish or retaliate against certain actors. almost 40 countriesThey account for a third of the world’s population.
While the United States calls these ad hoc actions “sanctions,” they are more accurately described as unilateral coercive measures — state actions that violate human rights and multiple international laws. These unilateral coercive actions create an economic blockade that stops targeted countries from having access their assets, conducting financial transactions, or transporting products.
Economic blockades are a barrier to countries purchasing essential necessities like food, medicine, and equipment. This creates scarcity and drives up prices. This causes unnecessary suffering and death that are not as visible as when bombs are dropped, but are equally deadly. The Center for Economic Policy and Research is an example. found that these U.S. “sanctions” contributed to the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans between 2017 and 2018. Recent coercive measures by the United States have prevented Venezuela from paying for cancer treatment costs for patients who were sent to Venezuela for specialized care. leaving hundreds of patients stranded.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States’ unilateral coercive measures have blocked the purchase of medical equipment such as ventilators, medications and even vaccinations through the World Health Organization’s COVAX program designed to make vaccines more available globally. This is why the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres wrote to the leaders of G-20 countries in March 2020, stating, “I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion.”
The Trump administration took more coercive unilateral measures as nations around the globe responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by sharing medical supplies and personnel. The Trump administration issued more unilateral coercive measures to force the affected countries to find ways around their economic blockade. Some countries traded in currencies other than the US dollar or used alternative platforms to bypass the U.S.-dominated financial sector. Some — such as Mexico, which used its navy to deliver medical supplies and other necessities to Cuba — have openly defied the U.S. blockade.
Nations are also joining forces to demand that the United Nations adhere to its charter, which prohibits unilateral coercive actions. 18 countries participated in the July Summit. launched the “Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations.” Their initial declaration calls out the United States using diplomatic language, stating: “We also underscore the need to avoid selective approaches and call for the full compliance with and strict adherence to both the letter and spirit of the tenets contained in the Charter of the United Nations, which are at the core of multilateralism and serve as the basis for modern day international law.”
This growing resistance to the United States’ illegal unilateral coercive measures has alarmed the U.S.’s foreign policy establishment and corporate elites. The primary purpose of sanctions is to weaken countries that are unable to resist the United States’ domination. They cause hardship and civil unrest which makes it easier for them to overthrow their leadership. This tactic was admitted by Elon Musk, Tesla CEO when he said, “We will coup whoever we want,” following the U.S.-backed coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia, a country with vast stores of lithium needed for electric car batteries — an essential resource for the largest electric car company.
The Trump and Biden administrations went so far as to kidnap and imprison Alex Saab, a Venezuelan diplomat, while he was trying to negotiate with Iran to purchase food and medication in June 2020. Saab was held illegally in Cabo Verde as the United States tried to get permission to extradite him on the basis of unfounded charges of “money laundering.” When that failed, the U.S. used extraordinary renditionOn October 16, he was brought to Miami, where he is currently detained. The U.S. hopes to use Saab’s example to discourage others from doing the same.
The first report in response to President Biden’s order in the National Security Memorandum to review sanctions makes this fear of defiance abundantly clear. The Treasury 2021 Sanctions Review, released on October 18, states concern over “new challenges” such as alternative payment systems that skirt the U.S. dollar and recommends greater investment in personnel and technology to overcome these threats and “protect the integrity of the U.S. financial system.” There is no mention of COVID-19 anywhere in this report.
The report also recommends encouraging U.S. allies to support the U.S.’s economic warfare to give it greater legitimacy by, in part, “advocating for UN sanctions when possible.” The United States has a history of pressuring nations to impose sanctions on its targeted countries through the United Nations, which is a legal avenue as opposed to the U.S.’s illegal unilaterally imposed measures. And it recommends more effort to “enhance its public messaging and engagement” to effectively build public support for unilateral coercive measures.
It seems that the United States government is more concerned with protecting the interests and profits its transnational corporations, than it is with rolling back economic blockades that protect public health. The Biden administration has so far only removed a handful of the hundreds of unilateral coercive steps that President Trump imposed.
The U.S.-based team was aware that the Biden Administration would not prioritize health when reviewing sanctions. Sanctions Kill coalition, of which I am a member, released its own report, “The Impact and Consequences of US Sanctions,” in September. This report documented clear examples of how the U.S.’s unilateral coercive measures impair the ability of nations to respond adequately to the COVID-19 pandemic. Iran is one example. unable to purchase necessary medications and other suppliesCOVID-19 can cause preventable deaths. Cuba has not yet developed vaccines to combat the COVID-19 virus. unable to purchase enough syringesDue to the economic blockade, it was not possible to vaccinate its people.
The report cites an October 2020 statement from United Nations Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan, which sums up the overall impacts well: “Targeted countries face shortages of medications and medical equipment, including oxygen supplies and ventilators, protective kits, spare parts, software, fuel, electricity, drinking water and water for sanitation, cannot use foreign assets for humanitarian imports, their citizens and medical personnel cannot get access to information about COVID-19, telemedicine or use communication and educational platforms. In the long-term perspective unilateral sanctions hinder targeted countries’ ability to respond to COVID-19, to implement national response plans; result in breaches of existing regional and bilateral cooperation/integration mechanisms; make populations dependant [sic] on humanitarian aid and prevent the economic recovery of the targeted countries through the development and maintenance of necessary infrastructure.”
UN Secretary General Guterres stated the need for international cooperation to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Everybody is at risk as long as the virus can spread anywhere in the world. There are new variants that are more dangerous and more deadly than the original. Newer variants of the pandemic could emerge that are resistant to current vaccines if it continues. This could mean that we are back at square one.
The United States’ unilateral coercive measures are unquestionably hindering the ability of nations to respond to the pandemic, but this isn’t the only harm they are causing. The unilateral coercive measures, in addition to causing suffering and deaths in the countries that are being targeted by the U.S.A., are also driving the United States out of the global economy. This is because countries shun the U.S. Dollar. They make it difficult for U.S. companies to trade with the targeted countries and increase animosity towards the U.S. They put the United States at high risk of civil and criminal prosecutions that could lead to substantial reparations for the victims.
Instead of doubling down on its “sanctions,” the United States must cease this deadly and illegal economic war on the world. Global resistance to sanctions is growing. As multipolarity emerges, the United States may find itself isolated from the rest of the world and even prosecuted. People in the United States are responsible for stopping this escalation. They must also demand that sanctions be lifted.
The Sanctions Kill coalition is now in existence a sample presentationAnyone can download the document and share it with their local community group or organization to better understand sanctions and the harm they cause. The coalition encourages people to send the new report to their members of Congress and call on them to stop the United States’ illegal coercive measures. The Alliance for Global Justice was also involved in organizing the event. a campaignTo raise awareness about Alex Saab’s kidnapping and to press the Biden administration to release him. The executive office has the power to end the deadly “sanctions” now.