Feature: Tightened U.S. sanctions make life harder for Cubans

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HAVANA, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. economic blockade against Cuba, the longest embargo in modern history, has deeply affected every aspect of life on the Carribean island. It has damaged Cuba's economy, hindered its development, and isolated the country from the global community.

In recent years, increasingly tightened U.S. sanctions, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic and the staggering global economy, have made the lives of the Cuban people even harder.

Last week, Washington decided to extend for one more year the "Trading with the Enemy Act," a law that justifies the blockade imposed on Cuba for over 60 years.

Pedro Martinez, an electrician in Havana's Playa neighborhood, is facing hardship amid the stepped up U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. The 60-year-old said stiffer sanctions make it increasingly difficult for the average Cubans and the government to acquire basic things.

The U.S. extension of sanctions came less than a month after a devastating fire erupted at the supertanker base in the Cuban province of Matanzas, consuming nearly half of the island's oil depot and causing massive blackouts across the country.

But even before the fire made things worse, millions in the country's provinces were already facing power outages because the lack of new equipment and technology prevents proper maintenance of the country's aging energy grid.

"If the U.S. government had stopped persecuting the financial transactions of the Cuban energy sector, we would not have suffered power outages across the country," Martinez said.

Washington's extension measure has sparked a new wave of anger and opposition in Cuba. Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez criticized successive U.S. governments for maintaining and supporting "the policy of abuse against Cuba and its people, which is rejected by almost all members of the international community."

The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) is organizing a variety of activities from Sept. 2 to Oct. 10 to uphold peace and fight against the U.S. blockade.

Victor Gaute, deputy president of the ICAP, describes the embargo as a form of genocide that violates Cubans' human rights. "We firmly oppose the criminal U.S. blockade against Cuba, which is designed to suffocate the Cuban people," Gaute told Xinhua.

Olga Machado, a 43-year-old entrepreneur in central Havana, says the blockade prevents Cuba's private sector from having access to foreign markets.

For example, she said, "I would like to buy raw materials from the United States to support my family-run business, but it is impossible for the moment. The U.S. blockade is inhumane."

The United States first imposed an embargo on arms sales to Cuba in 1958. In 1962, the embargo was extended to include almost all exports. The UN General Assembly has adopted the resolution urging Washington to end its embargo against Cuba for 29 consecutive times. Enditem

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