‘IT IS accurate to say that the US is weaponising the coronavirus against these countries (Iran and Venezuela),’ film director Oliver Stone has said.
‘As a number of religious scholars have warned: “Plagues expose the foundations of injustice” in our societies,’ Stone wrote in an opinion piece on Saturday, exposing the United States government’s ‘profound lack of human decency’ amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
In the piece, published by the New York Daily News, Stone denounces the US government for refusing to remove murderous sanctions on Iran and Venezuela in the context of a global health crisis.
He urged a ‘serious moral self-reflection,’ and warned that countless lives are at risk unless there is an ‘immediate change in course’.
The award-winning filmmaker highlighted the differences between the government of the US and those of Cuba or China which have sent doctors and medical supplies to a number of countries around the world to help fight the pandemic.
‘These actions represent the type of international solidarity and show of humanity that the world needs right now,’ he said.
‘Sadly, the federal government in Washington is demonstrating the very opposite at this time … It is accurate to say that the US is weaponising the virus against these countries.’
Due to the illegal US sanctions, Iran has been paying a heavy price because of the pandemic. The Islamic Republic is ‘reportedly the only country in the world that cannot buy medicines needed to fight the pandemic.’
According to reports from Iran, one person is dying every 10 minutes, while Iranians, along with international health experts, fear that millions could die.
‘If this happens, the US government will bear a great deal of moral and legal responsibility, for it is knowingly contributing to the spread of the pandemic in Iran,’ Stone said.
Likewise, the outspoken film director condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision to maintain, and in some cases to increase, economic pressure on countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua as the virus strains healthcare systems across the planet.
In the case of Venezuela, US ‘coercion’ led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to refuse the South American country a $5 billion loan to help fight the pandemic, Stone recalled.
Moreover, the US has increased its pressure on Caracas amid the global health crisis, accusing the government of drug trafficking and calling for a ‘transition government’ to replace President Nicolas Maduro.
Iran has registered nearly 3,500 Covid-19 deaths, with 19,700 confirmed cases, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, while Venezuela has so far 159 confirmed cases and seven deaths.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has penned an open letter to the US public.
In the letter, issued on Sunday and read out by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, Maduro warned the Trump administration against making any unwise military decisions against the Bolivarian Republic.
The head of state told the the people of the US: ‘In Venezuela we do not want an armed conflict in our nation, we cannot accept war threats,’ and urged the American people not to believe in the reasons that Trump claims for attacking Venezuela.
Maduro urged them not to believe Trump’s statements about ‘fighting drug trafficking’, calling these claims by the US leader false and unfounded.
In the text, President Maduro also rejected ‘the threats of the Trump administration against Venezuela that seek to lead the region to an expensive, bloody and indefinite armed conflict.
‘We in Venezuela do not want an armed conflict in our region. We want fraternal relationships, cooperation, exchange and respect,’ he said.
He stated thatVenezuela cannot accept war threats, or blockades, nor the intention to install an ‘international guardianship’ that violates sovereignty and ignores the advances of the last year in the political dialogue between the government and a large part of the Venezuelan opposition.
After showing solidarity with the US people who are suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic, he called on them to hold their leaders accountable and compel them to focus their attention and resources on the necessary and urgent fight against the pandemic.
Furthermore, he requested the cessation of military threats, the end of illegal sanctions and the blockade that restricts access to humanitarian supplies, which are so necessary today in the country to combat this virus.
‘I ask you, with your heart in your hands, not to allow your country to be drawn, once again, into another endless conflict, another Vietnam or another Iraq, but this time closer to home,’ the letter stresses.
- The United States government has seized 20 ventilators destined for Barbados, the island’s Minister of Health and Wellness Jeffrey Bostic revealed on Sunday.
‘They were seized in the United States. Paid for, but seized, so we are trying to see exactly what is going to transpire there,’ Bostic said, explaining that the ventilators donated to the Barbados government were barred from export.
‘Ventilators are one of the most in-demand items in the world today and Barbados is merely wrestling with the other 203 countries and territories around the world seeking to secure as many of these pieces of equipment as possible,’ the official added.
The Health Minister did not disclose the US city or state where the seizure took place.
The government reassured that the 48 ventilators that are currently available ‘appear to be more than enough with only three of the country’s 56 Covid-19 patients in need of ventilators.’
However, Bostic informed that over 150 ventilators had been ordered and paid for from more than five different sources and stressed that Prime Minister Mia Mottley had made an ‘open cheque’ available for the purchase of such critical supplies.
Meanwhile, five devices donated from Barbados-born international pop star Rihanna will reach the island soon.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump enacted the Defence Production Act (DPA) to block exports of surgical masks manufactured by the 3M company to Canada.
By implementing this Korean War-era national security law, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are able to apply measures that allow the Trump administration to secure any medical supplies it deems necessary.
The DPA may also compel a private company to prioritise requests from the US federal government.
Described by analysts as a ‘modern form of piracy,’ the hoarding of medical supplies by the United States is also affecting other countries’ capabilities to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) last Friday urged the United States to lift its blockade against Cuba and Venezuela, saying it is vital at a time when the Covid-19 is ruining the prospects of all Latin American economies.
‘It is solidarity time. It is not time to exclude,’ ECLAC said and stressed that US sanctions prevent those countries from buying food and medical supplies.
‘This solidarity among nations occurs at a time when US President Donald Trump maintains Navy warships, surveillance aircraft, and special forces teams deployed in the Caribbean Sea near Venezuela.
This is one of the largest military actions by Washington in the region since the invasion of Panama in 1989 to overthrow General Manuel Antonio Noriega.
Last Friday, ECLAC Secretary Alicia Barcena presented ‘Latin America and the Caribbean in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic: economic and social effects,’ a report that analyses current scenarios and recommends policies for countering the impacts of the crisis.
To flatten the disease curve without flattening the economy, ECLAC calls for governments to tackle the health emergency, the social emergency, and the economic emergency.
‘Unlike 2008, this is not a financial crisis but rather a crisis of production and welfare,’ Barcena said.
‘A war-economy situation is much too important to leave to the markets. Governments are having a core role to suppress … risks affecting the economy and social cohesion.
‘Before the pandemic, ECLAC predicted that Latin America would increase production up by 1.3 per cent in 2020.
‘Today, however, it anticipates that production could decline at least 1.8 per cent. If sound policies are not adopted, the region output could contract by four per cent.
‘Both the world and the region face a recession that will have short and long-term effects. The question is how to minimise costs and resume growth.’