WI Cuba Coalition: Statement in Support of MPS Resolution for Normalizing Relations With Cuba

From Art Heitzer of The Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba. The motion passed unanimously by the Committee on Legislation, and will be considered by the full Milwaukee Public School (MPS) Board of Directors next week Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 at 6:30 P.M. start time, and also to be broadcast on  WYMS, 88.9 FM.

From: Arthur Heitzer

Date: Thu, Feb 18, 2021

Subject: For Committee on Legislation, Agenda Item 2: Statement in support of MPS resolution for normalizing relations with Cuba

To: Governance <governance@milwaukee.k12.wi.us>

Statement in support of MPS resolution for normalizing relations with Cuba

My name is Arthur Heitzer.  I live in Milwaukee, WI 53233. I have been active in the Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba for many years and submit this in support of both the general purpose and factual statements contained in the resolution. I have been an employment and civil rights lawyer in our community for over 45 years, and authored a law review article on U. S. sanctions against Cuba in 1998.

US policy towards Cuba for some 60 years has been done in the name of our people but largely without our knowledge; it has been inhumane as well as illegal under international law.

Since April 1960, US policy, adopted in secret at the time, assessed that because the Cuban revolution was clearly supported by the majority of the Cuban people, the only way to dislodge it was to adopt measures “to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government“ in Cuba. (April 6, 1960 State Dept. memo by Lester D. Mallory, Deputy Asst. Secty. of State for Inter-American Affairs, approved; designated & kept “secret” for decades, at: https://bit.ly/2NFgHTW.)   According to a 2007 study done by the US government at the request of Congress, the measures which followed were the most comprehensive set of U.S. sanctions imposed on any nation. (GAO, Nov. 2007, https://bit.ly/3dsH3n5) Many additional restrictions have been added or tightened since then, to make it difficult for our people to interact with people in Cuba.

It is important to understand that this includes not merely an embargo, by which our country would not buy or sell goods or services from or to Cuba, but is also extraterritorial, meaning that it actively prevents trade between many other countries and Cuba. As such, it violates international law, and hais been repeatedly condemned by almost unanimous votes including almost all of our allies as well as the rest of the world in the United Nations general assembly for over 20 years. (https://bit.ly/3kc9mYb)

The severity of this US policy has waxed and waned depending on the president in office, but it has never been abandoned. Hopefully that will change now.

Here are a few examples, only in the field of food and medicine, although this affects virtually all attempts of Cuba to trade with the world:

US fined company over $160,000 for supplying vaccines to infants in Cuba (2005 OFAC announcement)

In 2020 US extracted fine against US company because its foreign subsidiary provided non-US agricultural commodities to Cuba ($257K OFAC fine for selling food to Cuba produced overseas; vs. BIOMIN America, Inc.

U.S. Department of the Treasury bulletin, 05/06/2020, https://bit.ly/3pBuVT8)

US sanctions caused foreign shipper to refuse to send medical supplies to Cuba, which were donated by the founder of Alibaba of China to most of the nations of the world to fight COVID-19. (https://bit.ly/3bsrRDY)

Our people can benefit from normal relations and exchanges with our Cuban counterparts

Cuba has developed an effective medicine to prevent the growth of stage III lung cancer, which a factory owner from West Bend WI traveled to Cuba illegally to be treated and his Appleton oncologist said showed remarkable success. PBS’ Nova featured a one hour documentary on this medicine in 2020, at https://to.pbs.org/3uezlmu

Another Cuban medicine has helped prevent up to 70% of foot amputations in people suffering from diabetes, used in many countries of the world, but US restrictions on trade with Cuba make it unavailable here (see Heberprot-P: a novel product for treating advanced diabetic foot ulcer, https://bit.ly/3aB4QPH).

Cuba’s leading role in assisting over 40 nations in fighting COVID-19, in every continent except Antarctica, can be seen from this one page summary, https://bit.ly/2OTI11s

The BBC reported recently on Cuba’s COVID-19 vaccine development, and its hopes to share a successful low cost vaccine with much of Latin America, “Optimism as Cuba set to test its own Covid vaccine,” https://bbc.in/37wqzX7

As was shared with the staff at a predominantly Spanish-speaking MPS school, as well as with Laubach Literacy Center, Cuba has developed a program to combat illiteracy which has been used very effectively worldwide, including with indigenous people in Australia. This followed its iconic mobilization of tens of thousands of its educated youth to virtually eliminate adult illiteracy in Cuba in one year, which simultaneously empowered especially the female student teachers to expect more in their lives and from their society. See http://www.maestrathefilm.org/

As part of Cuba‘s program of international solidarity, it is currently educating two women from Wisconsin to become medical doctors, tuition free, in return for their commitment to work as debt-free doctors in an underserved area in the US, and please see their statement as separately emailed to you.

These are just a few of the reasons, and facts, why we urge the Milwaukee board of school directors to adopt this resolution and share that with our elected representatives.

Thank you for your consideration,

Art Heitzer, on behalf of the The Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba


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