By Sarah Staggs
For Immediate Release — Feb. 24, 2021
The Chicago City Council passed a resolution today calling on the federal government to end the decades-long U.S. embargo of Cuba. The vote was unanimous with all fifty Aldermen voting to pass.
The vote in the City Council follows a two-year grassroots campaign spearheaded by a group of over 200 Chicagoans from across all neighborhoods who have developed ties to Cuba through work in culture, academia and ecumenical relations, and through family ties and other shared interests.
Sponsored by Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th) and co-sponsored by seven additional Aldermen, the Resolution urges Congress to pass legislation that ends the 60-year-old US embargo of Cuba, which polls show a majority of Americans oppose. The resolution also calls for President Joe Biden to rescind the intensified measures taken against the island by former President Donald Trump.
Trump’s measures included tightening the embargo, creating additional obstacles to U.S.-Cuba travel and sharply restricting the ability of Cuban-Americans to send remittances to relatives on the island.
“With passage of this Resolution, Chicago is the largest city to join 13 other cities across the US who have passed similar resolutions” calling on the federal government to reverse the disastrous policies of the Trump administration and to return to the policies of dialogue and improved U.S.-Cuba relations that had begun under President Barack Obama, Steering Committee member Marguerite Horberg stated.
The Chicago Committee to Normalize Relations with Cuba, the lead organizers of the effort to pass the Resolution urged the Aldermen to consider the tangible benefits of normalizing relations with Cuba. They organized both oral and written testimony presented to the City Council. [See sample testimonial excerpts below.]
“Adopting this resolution is an important public opinion statement by the City of Chicago at a time when President Biden and his administration are reviewing Cuba policy,” said Sarah Staggs, of the Steering Committee.
Copies of the Resolution will be sent to President Biden, US Senators Durbin and Duckworth and the IL Congressional Delegation. A copy of the resolution is below:
A RESOLUTION CALLING FOR AN END TO THE U.S. EMBARGO AGAINST CUBAN TRADE AND TRAVEL
WHEREAS, since March 14, 1958, the United States has maintained the most enduring trade embargo in the nation’s history. Initially embargoing the sale of arms to Cuba during the Fulgencio Batista regime, an embargo on exports to Cuba except for food and medicine was further imposed on October 19, 1960 after a successful revolution led to the deposition of the Batista regime and the installation of a regime by Fidel Castro who ordered the nationalization (without compensation) of Cuban oil refineries owned by United States corporations. On February 7, 1962 the embargo was again escalated to include almost all exports as relations with Castro continued to deteriorate; and
WHEREAS, on December 17, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and current Cuban President Raul Castro executed an agreement to reestablish diplomatic relations and cooperation between the two countries on certain matters of mutual interest. Despite executive decisions by President Obama easing some restrictive regulations, the main portions of the embargo affecting trade and travel continue in force; and
WHEREAS, full restoration of trade and travel between the two countries would be of great benefit to both, particularly in the areas of food production, economic opportunities, education, health care, tourism, the arts, music, and sports along with medical and biotechnological research; and
WHEREAS, the City of Chicago would greatly benefit by the restoration of trade with the Republic of Cuba, through permitting the export of industrial and agricultural products to this neighboring nation of 11 million people and the importation of Cuban products useful to Chicago such as life-saving medicines Herberprot-p and CIMAvax; and
WHEREAS, businesses and institutions in Chicago have expressed a very strong interest in providing their products and services to Cuba, importing Cuban products, and cooperating with Cuban institutions in the development of pharmaceuticals and medical devices as well as biomedical research and procedures. Nevertheless, rather than continuing to move forward toward expansion of the initiatives on Cuba undertaken by his predecessor, the administration of the current President Donald Trump has increased travel and economic restrictions and expelled from the United States the greater part of the staff of the Cuban embassy in Washington, DC; and
WHEREAS, unlike its predecessors, the Trump administration has refused to waive the clause in the Helms-Burton Act which allows lawsuits against foreign companies that do business with formerly private businesses in Cuba that were nationalized after the Cuban Revolution and has threatened to impose even harsher economic restrictions on trade and travel between Cuba and the United States; and
WHEREAS, the current United States policy toward Cuba is a special manifestation of disrespect to many African American people whose roots are so closely intertwined with those of the Cuban people in general and Afro-Cubans in particular. Additionally, these harshly regressive Cuban policies the Trump administration has fomented are hard on families in both Cuba and in the Cuban-American community in the United States, inasmuch as they divide families who have members in both countries. Such actions unfairly restrict the ability of Cuban Americans to send financial help (remittances) to their relatives in Cuba; and
WHEREAS, Chicago’s citizens, institutions, and businesses are also negatively affected by these added restrictions that violate their right to travel and harm economic opportunities that enhanced trade with Cuba would initiate; now therefore
BE IT RESOLVED that we, the mayor and members of the City of Chicago City Council, gathered together this 9th Day of September, 2020 AD, do hereby find that the embargo and travel restrictions as prejudicial to the interests of the citizens of this city, the United States, and Cuba as a violation of the rights of United States citizens and residents to travel to Cuba for educational research and cultural exchange. Furthermore, we urge the immediate restoration of engagement with the Republic of Cuba as initiated by President Barack Obama by promptly rescinding restrictive regulations and allowing the restoration of staffing to the Cuban embassy in Washington DC, as well as the U.S. embassy in Havana.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United States Congress is urged to promulgate and pass legislation that will finally end the unsuccessful and harmful 59-ycar old economic, financial and commercial embargo, as well as the travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and residents to Cuba, and Cuban citizens to the United States
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that suitable copies of this resolution prepared and presented to the Hon. Richard J. Durbin, the Hon. Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois Congressional Delegation, and the President of the United States of America.
Roderick T. Sawyer
Alderman – 6th Ward
For More information contact:
Sarah Staggs, Chicago Committee to Normalize Relations with Cuba, firstname.lastname@example.org