Breaking News ! Chicago City Council Unanimously Passes Resolution to End Blockade of Cuba

Feb 25, 2021 by

CONTACT:

Sarah Staggs, Chicago Committee to Normalize Relations with Cuba, sarah.staggs@comcast.net

(773) 539-3476

Breaking News ! Chicago City Council Unanimously Passes Resolution to End Blockade of Cuba
Chicago City Council calls for ending U.S. embargo of Cuba

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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 Alderman 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, Senators Durbin and Duckworth and the IL Congressional Delegation. [Copy of Resolution is linked below]                                                                                                                                                                

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The following individuals provided testimony and are available for interviews: Please call 773-539-3476 for numbers.

Lisa Brock Academic Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Kalamazoo College

Felix Masud-Piloto Professor Emeritus DePaul University

Marilyn McKenna Education Coordinator Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

Marguerite Horberg Executive Director Hot House 312-752-5316

Peter Orris, MD, MPH Professor and Chief  Occupational and Environmental Medicine University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System

David Hinkamp, MD, MPH Health in the Arts Program University of Illinois at Chicago

R2020-612-1.pdf
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Exerpted Testimony
Excerpts of Testimony offered to the Chicago City Council in support of Resolution 2020 – 612 – A Call for an End to the US Embargo Against Cuba Trade and Travel

Dr. Lisa Brock, Academic Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, who lives in the 19th ward, in the Beverly neighborhood, spoke to the importance of Academic and scholarly exchanges, citing her book Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution which was co-edited with late Dr. Digna Castaneda, a professor at the University of Havana. Brock has hosted Cuban academics and cultural figures here in Chicago, who spent time at Columbia College Chicago, the School of the Art Institute, the University of Illinois and Olive Harvey Community College and has taken study groups to Cuba.  “It is so important for us in Chicago and the US to understand what life is like in Cuba and to benefit from collaborative and educational exchanges,” she said.

Felix Masud-Piloto, DePaul University Professor Emeritus, spoke of his numerous trips to Cuba, to visit family and friends, conduct research, to attend professional meetings and to lead groups of students to Cuba.  He was in Havana in December, 2014 when President Barack Obama and Raul Castro surprised the world by announcing that after 50 years of hostility and war  they would begin a new relationship guided by respect and constructive engagement.  But the brief moment of increased travel, economic development and collaboration with Cuba came to a halt with President Trump’s return to cold war policies.  “As a Cuban American, I welcome and cheer for the opportunity to travel to Cuba freely without the limits and regulations of the past.” Masud stated.

Noting a history of medical exchanges between the American Public Health Association and the Cuban Society for Public Health, Dr. Peter Orris, Chief of Occupational & Environmental Medicine at UI Health spoke of the importance of open dialogue and exchange of medical research between Cuba and the U.S. “The Resolution before you could play an important role in renewing the demand to allow and support US Cuba scientific and health exchanges especially in this current fight against the pandemic. It will as well emphasize the need to end the failed embargo of Cuba and open up the possibilities for trade and people to people exchanges between our two historically linked countries,” Orris said.

Marilyn McKenna, Education Coordinator for the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, described how exchanges between Chicago churches and Cuban churches have focused on humanitarian efforts to relieve the dire economic consequences that the U.S. embargo has had on the Cuban people.  Upon learning the State Department goal of the US embargo of Cuba was to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government, McKenna explained: “Our faiths called us to act to end the devastating results of the embargo and so our organization joined with the Cuban Council of Churches, the Cuban Catholic Bishops, The Vatican, The World Council of Churches, The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches in calling for an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba.”

Marguerite Horberg, the Executive Director of the cultural center HotHouse, cited the deleterious impact Trump’s visa policies and travel bans and the ongoing embargo have had on international cultural and artistic exchange. Horberg remarked: “For years the inconsistent policies have disincentivized the entertainment and non-profit arts presenting industry from bringing in touring artists from Cuba – a country that is one of the world’s foremost producers of great music and Afro-Caribbean culture. The financial risk has been persistent for all the years I have been doing this”, said Horberg, one of the lead organizers of the local campaign.

David Hinkamp, founder and co-Director of the Health in the Arts Program at UIC School of Public Health, offered examples of collaboration with Cubans which have furthered prevention and treatment of health problems among workers in the visual and performing arts. Through regular travel and exchange a department devoted to art workers was established at the Cuban rehabilitation hospital. However, the trip to Cuba planned for 2020 was cancelled due to drastic travel  restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.  “Our University of Illinois at Chicago-sponsored programs have offered Cubans and experts from the US and around the world many opportunities to work on common projects in a spirit of collegiality and mutual respect,” he said. He urged the City council to pass the resolution and normalize relations with Cuba.

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