D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (Courtesy photo)
**FILE** D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (Courtesy photo)

Since the Trump administration reimposed travel restrictions on Cuba, leaders of several U.S. cities and foreign governments have passed resolutions urging an end to what has been characterized as economic genocide.

A group of activists said they want D.C. lawmakers to take a similar course of action.

Their campaign demands that D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D) bring a Cuba embargo resolution to a council vote before the end of the legislative year. Five months ago, the resolution, introduced by four council members, had gone under Mendelson’s purview without indication of if, or when it would go up for a vote.

“We want people to be able to write Mendelson to have a hearing about this issue,” Nubia Kai, a member of the DC Metro Coalition in Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, told The Informer. She and Mark Ginsburg reiterated that request Nov. 12 on WPFW 89.3 FM’s “Voices with Vision.”

“We’ve been working for over a year on this. They’ve put it on the backburner. If Sacramento, Hartford, and Minneapolis [among nine other cities] can do it, then D.C. can do it. D.C. is supposed to be a progressive, liberal city.”

Mendelson’s office declined to respond to The Informer’s inquiry about when the council chair will bring the Cuba embargo resolution up for a vote. Council members David Grosso (I-At Large), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), and Robert White (D-At Large), all of whom introduced the resolution, also didn’t reply an email asking similar questions.

For more than a decade, the DC Metro Coalition in Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution has organized in favor of amicable diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. Their latest endeavor comes at a time when the Trump administration has taken a stance out of step with the majority of Americans, and the international community, who have expressed a desire for establishing commerce with the island nation.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration cut flights to all Cuban cities but the capital city of Havana while banning cruise ships from traveling to the island. In June, the Commerce Department limited leasing of airplanes to Cuban state-owned airports. These restrictions, in reaction toward Cuban embrace of the Maduro government in Venezuela, deviated from what former U.S. President Barack Obama and former Cuban President Raul Castro solidified.

That 2015 agreement opened the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the staffing of which has been significantly reduced in recent years. The Trump administration has also since ordered 17 Cuban diplomats to leave the U.S.

Kai and her DC Metro Coalition colleague Mark Ginsburg’s Nov. 12 WPFW appearance followed the United Nations General Assembly’s denouncement of the embargo for the 28th consecutive year. In that vote, United States, Israel, and Brazil counted among the only members of the 193-member body that voted against the resolution. Columbia and Ukraine abstained.

The U.S. imposed this economic, commercial, and financial embargo on Cuba in 1960 after the Kennedy administration’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Those restrictions followed the American government’s refusal to sell weapons to Cuba’s Bautista regime in the late 1950s. In the years following, U.S. lawmakers passed more laws further restricting its economic relationship with Cuba, including the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which penalizes foreign companies trading with Cuba.

Despite the hardship that has ensued from its isolation, now-deceased Cuban President Fidel Castro and subsequent leaders haven’t quite acquiesced to the U.S. demands to move away from Marxist-Leninist socialism. During his recent visit to a town near Guantanamo Bay, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel carried on that tradition, telling townspeople and reporters that he wouldn’t bend to President Donald Trump’s will.

Ginsburg echoed those sentiments on Nov. 12, partially by highlighting the feats Cubans had been able to achieve on their own and in solidarity with other nations.

“Cuba came to Liberia during the Ebola crisis and stood ready to do that again, even though the United States and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are pulling back. It’s not just military,” Ginsburg said on “Voices with Vision.”

“In fact, one of the great lies that has come out of the White House in recent months is that the Cuban doctors in Venezuela are somehow soldiers and it’s an act of solidarity,” he said. “I don’t think my Cuban colleagues are comfortable with aid. They are comfortable with collaboration.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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