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36 Sustainable Agriculture, Environmental Organizations and Farmers Deliver Letter to Biden Urging for a Change in Cuba Policy
For Immediate Release: May 5, 2021 Washington, DC — Today, 36 US sustainable agriculture and environmental organizations and farmers delivered a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately make good on his campaign promise “to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families.”They also call on Biden to use his executive power to fully remove the six-decade old economic blockade against Cuba, the longest trade embargo in modern history. Administration officials have signaled that Biden will backtrack on his campaign promise, ignoring a groundswell of public opinion, including an unprecedented letter to Biden by 79-Members of the US Congress, in favor of resuming Obama’s policy of normalization of relations with Cuba.
Signatories of today’s letter represent a diverse set of US grassroots, civil society organizations and national alliances that include BIPOC & family farmers and farmer associations, agroecologists, environmentalists, academics, and frontline environmental and climate justice leaders. Their work spans a diversity of issues and approaches that seek to build more climate resilient, socially just and economically fair communities by promoting and defending regenerative economies, agroecology, food sovereignty, water rights, renewable energy, racial and gender equity, and environmental justice. Many of the signatories actively collaborate with Cuban colleagues or have participated in learning exchanges that seek to mutually learn and support each other in finding solutions for the multiple social and ecological crisis we face as a global community.
Over the past 30 years Cuba has become a global leader in agroecology and developed forward-looking, integrated policies and practices for climate mitigation/adaptation, increased resilience of socio-ecological systems, and “re-localized” food systems governance and economies. Their National Climate Plan, known as “Tarea Vida” (Project Life), has been hailed by international environmental groups. However, the US continues to block Cuba’s ability to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis and severely limits the development of sustainable food systems, and Cuba’s right to food. Just last month, Cuba was approved funding by the Green Climate Fund for their project, “MiCosta” (My Coast), which aims to increase climate resilience among coastal communities. Of 24 votes, only 1 voted against project approval: the US.
“The White House Press Secretary recently said that ‘human rights will be a core pillar of US policy’ towards Cuba. Food, agriculture and the climate crisis are all human rights issues. A policy guided by human rights needs to address the fact that US sanctions severely limit the rights of Cuban citizens to food security, climate resilience and dignity. A truly bold rights-based approach would be to lift the embargo altogether,” says Dr. Margarita Fernandez, Executive Director of the Caribbean Agroecology Institute and coordinator of the Cuba-U.S. Agroecology Network (CUSAN).
Dr. Leidy Casimiro, a Cuban agroecologist and farmer, Finca del Medio, stated "I know first-hand how the US blockade directly impacts Cuba’s agriculture sector. The US market is ideal for us given its proximity, efficiency and affordable prices to purchase equipment, tools and other technologies that can contribute to the efficiency of agroecological farming systems. But we are blocked from doing so. Worse, we are limited from acquiring these resources from other countries. The blockade also hinders scientific exchange that could strengthen the methodological bases for climate resilience and the necessary agroecological transition, especially in midst of this global pandemic and climate crisis.”
The letter outlines four key policy recommendations:
Take executive action to return the regulations governing trade and travel to Cuba to their status as of January 20th, 2017;
Immediately end the application of any sanctions and restrictions against food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to and international cooperation with Cuba, including restrictions on financial transactions;
Restore a fully functioning US embassy and consular services in Cuba and re-launch the bilateral working groups, especially on environmental, civil society and scientific cooperation; and
Use executive authority to not renew the annual determination to impose sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act. In doing so, the President, through direct executive action, could effectively end the embargo.
During the Trump administration, more than 200 restrictions were imposed on Cuba, 50 of which were introduced during the pandemic. These measures have tightened the 60-year blockade and have further isolated and crippled Cuba’s economy and brought hardship to the Cuban people.
This letter is sent on the heels of President Biden’s 100-days in office, noting that his administration has made absolutely no movement on rolling back even the cruelest of the recent Trump measures. As we approach June 23rd, when the UN will consider Cuba's annual resolution condemning the US blockade, will the Biden-Harris Administration listen to the majority of US Americans and UN member states who overwhelmingly vote in support of Cuba and in favor of lifting the embargo, every year since 1992? Signatories to this letter believe strongly that we must come together as a unified global community to confront the common global threats of COVID-19 and the climate crisis.
The Caribbean Agroecology Institute (CAI) works to catalyze knowledge exchange, build capacity, and support transitions to resilient agroecological systems that provide for sustainable livelihoods rooted in justice and equality in the Caribbean. CAI coordinates the Cuba-U.S. Agroecology Network.
The Cuba- U.S. Agroecology Network (CUSAN) was formed in 2015 to connect people, institutions and movements in Cuba and the U.S. to build more ecologically resilient, socially just and economically fair farming systems through agroecology. CUSAN aims to foster partnerships between our countries for mutual learning and support. CUSAN helps raise awareness about what’s happening in Cuba on food, agriculture and environment issues through a monthly news brief, the latest inresearch and publications on agroecology in Cuba, and facilitating agroecology exchanges in Cuba.