Resistance to sanctions: three components

Panelists and participants at the Americas Policy Forum “Burying 200 years of the U.S. Monroe Doctrine,” held April 29, 2023, at American University, Washington, D.C.

Below is a talk given by Sara Flounders to the Americas Policy Forum “Burying 200 Years of the U.S. Monroe Doctrine,” held at American University on April 29. Flounders spoke at a panel entitled “Opposing Sanctions and Unilateral Intervention.”

Our Sanctions Kill campaign is dedicated to explaining how sanctions, as a “Crime Against Humanity,” intentionally target the most vulnerable people and deprive millions of basic essentials.

Sanctions by the U.S. and its allies have caused millions of deaths around the world. I saw this up close in many trips to Iraq during the 1990s. I’ve seen the impact of sanctions on isolated, surrounded Gaza, on Israel-bombed Lebanon, on Sudan during a famine, on former Yugoslavia during the U.S./NATO bombing, and on resilient Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. 

But new forms of resistance are arising. I’ll describe three different ways that resistance to sanctions is developing in the Americas and globally.

First form of resistance: economic self-sufficiency

First, there is resistance by developing economic self-sufficiency. North Korea, having survived 70 years of the world’s harshest international sanctions, calls self-reliance “Juche.” 

I was recently in Nicaragua, which is now 90 percent self-sufficient in food. Nicaraguans coped heroically with COVID-19, providing door-to-door health care even as the U.S. blocked their access to vaccines. Education there is free. The Sandinista government has developed essential infrastructure, especially roads, health clinics and schools. 

Nicaragua now ranks among the top five countries in the world in gender parity. Women fill more than half the seats in legislatures – local to national – and in administration, medicine and the rural economy, from bottom to top. 

Nicaragua was declared by the U.S. to be a “national security threat,” precisely because it provides a good example, an alternative to a neoliberal world order. The U.S. government tries to justify its inhumane sanctions by funding NGOs that interfere in the internal affairs of Nicaragua and other targeted countries.  

In the midst of sanctioning Nicaragua, a biased, sensationalized U.N. “human rights report” was released March 2 and publicized in the corporate media. This report didn’t use well-documented material from the Nicaraguan government that was readily available. The Nicaragua Solidarity Coalition says it “is fatally flawed and should be withdrawn.”

I was in Nicaragua when the latest U.S. smear report was released to justify the Washington-instigated, violent regime change operation of 2018 and its paid operatives. 

The so-called “human rights” that the U.S. so frequently accuses targeted countries of violating are little more than a cynical ploy, a weapon. Our role as activists here in the U.S. is to build solidarity with workers’ struggles and refuse to be part of the U.S. propaganda machine that promises “human rights” – while delivering misery.

I hope everyone here will sign on to a statement at the Nicaragua lit table rejecting this fraudulent report. (Go to tinyurl.com/24d3mbvf to sign online.)

Solidarity with sanctioned countries: a second form of resistance 

Cuba, which provides more doctors to Africa than the World Health Organization,  developed its own COVID-19 vaccines, but didn’t have and couldn’t get syringes to give its own population the shot. That took an international solidarity campaign.

That is the other key part of resistance to sanctions: all of us here building solidarity and aid campaigns with countries under sanctions and not being confused by each propaganda campaign.

The web of thousands of U.S.-led restrictions that strangle economies for the benefit of corporate power is growing. Over the past 20 years the number of U.S. sanctions grew from 912 to 9,421. Now 40 countries, encompassing one-third of humanity, are victimized.  

Sanctions – economic coercive measures – are part of a regime-change strategy to promote hyper-inflation, chronic shortages, and supply chain chaos. These sanctions undermine social progress, such as land distribution, food subsidies, and expanded education and healthcare.

Third part of resistance: coordination among sanctioned countries

What is new? 

Change is coming rapidly with earthshaking implications. A new development is burying the Monroe Doctrine, which has asserted that no foreign power except the U.S. could be allowed in Latin America and the Caribbean. Any intervention in the political affairs of the Americas by foreign powers was considered a hostile act against United States interests.

But, 200 years after the Monroe Doctrine, the countries of Latin America are no longer alone, facing the continuing threat of invasions, coups and sanctions, and economic strangulation.

China is now South America’s top trading partner. Between 2000 and 2020, China’s trade with Latin America and the Caribbean countries grew 26-fold, from $12 billion to $310 billion. China is among the top sources of direct foreign investment and finance.

Now, sanctioned Russia, Iran and China provide vital lifelines for sanctioned Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. All are sanctioned countries that are determined to survive and thrive.

The impact is wider than trade among sanctioned countries. China is now a dominant trading partner for Chile, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador. 

China, Brazil and Argentina just signed deals for trade in local currencies. 

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) system and its New Development Bank offer an alternative to the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund. 

U.S. strategists, both Democrats and Republicans, are worried sanctions are losing their power as a threat. 

Last week, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, former chair of the Federal Reserve, admitted that Washington’s imposition of unilateral sanctions on countries around the world could weaken the dominance of the dollar. “There is a risk, when we use financial sanctions that are linked to the role of the dollar, that, over time, it could undermine the hegemony of the dollar,” she said. Even she conceded that the U.S. sanctions create a desire to find an alternative to the dollar.

Likewise, Republican Senator Marco Rubio complained: “We won’t have to talk sanctions in five years, because there will be so many countries transacting in currencies other than the dollar, that we won’t have the ability to sanction them.”

Of course, these war criminals are concerned about their almighty dollar, not the human consequences of sanctions.

The imposition of U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russia, based on the U.S./NATO war in Ukraine, has undermined the U.S. use of sanctions dramatically. The sanctions didn’t create economic collapse, which President Biden had predicted. Cutting trade hurt the EU economy far more than the Russian economy, and forced the birth of de-dollarization.

However, ruthless decisions to enforce the Monroe Doctrine will still be attempted. U.S. imperialism is the biggest impediment to development and progress in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the past and the present.

U.S. corporate domination is in a constant alliance with the most reactionary, backward and repressive forces in the Global South. This is not by accident. This is who they cultivate, arm, train and reinforce.

Justice = reparations

Justice demands that we support reparations for sanctioned countries, for damage to their economies and the shortened lives of their populations.

In 1986 the International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. had violated Nicaragua’s sovereignty through the arming and training of the contras and the mining of Nicaragua’s harbor, and Nicaraugua was due reparations. In 2017 Nicaragua revived its claim against the United States for compensation of $17 billion in reparations.

France owes Haiti at least $28 billion in return for the reparations Haiti was forced to pay  for freeing itself from enslavement in 1804.

Consider the wealth stolen – not only from sanctioned Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – but from ALL the countries of the formerly colonized Global South.

Just as descendants of enslaved and Indigenous peoples of the U.S. are due reparations for stolen labor and stolen land, so too are the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean due reparations for past U.S. invasions, expropriations and sanctions.

Free Alex Saab!

In closing, I want to raise the case of Alex Saab. This Venezuelan special envoy is imprisoned in the U.S. because he helped bring desperately needed humanitarian supplies – food, fuel, and medicine – to Venezuela, in circumvention of the illegal U.S. sanctions, but his actions were in legal international trade. 

When Alex Saab was being held captive and tortured in Cabo Verde, I traveled there to help bring attention to his case. Saab has since been kidnapped again and brought to Miami, where he is now imprisoned. His cancer, which had been in remission, has recurred, and he is without adequate medical treatment. In this emergency, I urge this gathering to go on record calling for Alex Saab’s release.

In conclusion, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua in our hemisphere are targeted for regime-change by the U.S. empire, not because of the things that they have done wrong, but for the things they have done right. 

They give us a glimpse of a better world, an alternative vision from the imperialist-dominated unipolar world order. That is why they are being attacked and why we must act in solidarity with them and their right to defend themselves.

Sara Flounders

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