Spotlight: Cuban youth demand end to U.S.-led trade embargo

HAVANA, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Cuban university and high school students on Monday demanded Washington lift the half-century trade embargo that has cost their country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and productivity.

The day of protest, organized by the Federation of University Students (FEU), aimed to raise the pressure on the United Statesas the United NationsGeneral Assembly readies for its annual vote on a resolution that condemns the embargo and calls for it to be repealed.

Last year's vote could be summed up as "the world vs. the United States," as only Washington and its stalwart ally Israelvoted against the resolution, while 191 UN member nations voted in favor.

As part of the tech-savvy protests, organizers set up a website where anyone can vote against the embargo, which Cubans call a "blockade," since the web of sanctions effectively blocks the small Caribbean country from doing business with the outside world.

As of early Monday afternoon, the site, www.cubavsbloqueo.cu, had gathered 17,268 votes.

Students found a range of creative ways to protest the outdated policy, such as taking part in rallies, painting murals with anti-embargo messages, and participating in a selfie contest by posting photos of themselves with the day's rallying cry: #YoVotoVsBloqueo, which roughly translates as "I vote against the embargo."

"The U.S. blockade against Cuba limits the future prospects and dreams of the youth, so it has become another cause to fight for," Raul Palmero, a student leader at the University of Havana, told Xinhua.

"Younger generations must continue the struggle to end this unjust policy," he added.

In the area of education, the blockade prevents Cuba from easily acquiring tools that are taken for granted in other countries, such as laboratory equipment and instruments, and audio-visual material for foreign-language learning, not to mention accessing online educational sites.

These limitations are especially damaging for a country that depends on its talent for development.

The sanctions force Cuba to turn to more distant countries that are nevertheless willing and able to deal with its socialist government despite the threat of U.S. retaliation, state daily Granma noted on Monday.

However, importing materials around the globe has proven costly for a government already short on cash.

Juan Carlos Hernandez, a second year student of international relations, said "the majority of university students are here today to reject Washington's policy towards our country."

He added, "this isn't a tactic of the Cuban government to hide its faults and mistakes, it's a law that affects our people, all sectors of Cuban society and particularly the young."

Students posted thousands of messages on Twitter and Facebook, demanding a clear stance from U.S. President Barack Obamaregarding the blockade.

"The U.S. has never accepted the word blockade, they call it an embargo," said Tania Corrales, a 19-year-old University of Havana student. "My generation and others have lived their entire life in a blockaded country and it imposes many restrictions on our daily lives from an economic standpoint, but also technologically and socially."

Cuba's head of U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, who has led Havana's negotiations with Washington since the two countries agreed to normalize ties in December of 2014, took part in a question-and-answer session with students outside the university in Havana.

The blockade, she said, negatively impacts every sector, from public health to transportation.

Tylor Norris, a U.S. student in Cuba studying Spanish, told Granma his stay had opened his eyes to the impact of the sanctions.

"I knew about the blockade before coming to Cuba to study, but I wasn't aware of how much it affected the people," Norris said.

Cuba is set to request a UN vote on the blockade on Oct. 26.

[ Editor: meng ]
 

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