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Cuban Americans March From Miami to DC to Protest Against US Embargo

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – A group of US Cuban activists are marching throughout the country to protest against Washington’s longtime embargo on the island nation and draw attention to the suffering it has caused, group leader Carlos Lazo told Sputnik.

The White House has slammed the Cuban government for its crackdown on protests amid the country’s economic crisis and on Tuesday even threatened to sanction officials. President Joe Biden last week said the United States will not allow Americans to send money to relatives in Cuba.

“We are walking from Miami to Washington, DC 2,000 kilometers (1,300 miles) to protest against the embargo,” Lazo said. “In this journey, we are contacting and talking to every American that we can.”

Embargo Causes Suffering

US restrictions on trade with Cuba date back to the island nation’s communist revolution in the late 1950s and involve at least a half dozen different American laws. President Barack Obama took steps to normalize bilateral relations with the island, but the policy was reversed by the Trump administration.

“Most regulations have hurt overall Cuban people. For example, during the last two years, the Trump administration implemented sanctions and tightened sanctions that create suffering of the Cuban people,” Lazo said.

He accused former President Donald Trump of cutting programs that allowed ethnic Cubans living in the US to send money to their relatives in the island.

“Even the American embassy in Havana was closed, and now, if people want to get a visa and visit families, they have to deal with the difficulty of going to other countries to try to get those visas,” he said.

Lazo, 56, was born and spent half of his life in Cuba. He said he was imprisoned after the first failed attempt to run to the US, and came to Florida after his second in the late 1980s.

The decorated US Army veteran of the Iraq war noted that despite differences with the Cuban government he supports the people of Cuba.

“I have been the witness of all this suffering that the embargo has caused to the Cuban families during many years,” Lazo said. “The embargo was established with intent of overthrowing the Cuban government, but all the measures implemented by the embargo really hurt innocent Cuban people. I have seen that for so many years.”

In fact, the activists see the embargo as a major cause of the recent protests in Cuba.

“I think, these protests are fueled by the fact that this embargo has created desperation on the Cuban people [and] hunger,” Lazo said. “That made people to get desperate and go to the street because they do not have food, medications.”

Lifting the embargo will allow Americans to provide real support for the Cubans, he added.

Regular Americans Support Us

Speaking of the march itself, Lazo said they have serious support from everyday Americans.

“In our way, we have found support from many Americans, who find this blockade as something very unhuman and unjust,” he said, adding that the group of six activists does approximately 60 miles per day.

The activists are going to churches, local organizations and communities, explaining their position on the embargo. They already visited Orlando, St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Raleigh and other big cities and small towns, Lazo said.

In North Carolina they were able to meet with members of the state Senate, he added.

“We are trying to talk to different organizations, people from different backgrounds, and Democrats, Republicans, veterans, peace activists,” the activist said.

While being in Washington, protesters plan to organize a peaceful rally in front of the White House and send a petition with 26,000 signatures to Biden urging him to lift the blockade, he added.

Death Threats

Lazo has emphasized that the group did not face problems with police on the way, but received some “warnings,” including death threats, from opponents.

“We have a peaceful march and do not see any opposition from the police on the way. We received only support from Americans,” he said. “However, in Miami in the beginning we got several threats, especially from those Cuban Americans who oppose our efforts.”

Some tried to hit group members with their car, other opponents sent death threats online, with many accusing them of sympathizing with communists.

Lazo said these accusations are not true.

“We are doing this rally as a work of love,” he concluded.



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Delta COVID Variant Reportedly Draws Biden’s Attention, Resources Away From Other Priorities

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Despite high overall rates of vaccinations in the US, more and more Americans are getting infected with the new, rapidly spreading ‘delta’ variant of the coronavirus, once again testing the limits of hospitals and reportedly sparking talks about new mask-up orders from authorities.

The rapidly increasing number of new COVID-19 cases in the US caused by the more infectious delta strain of the virus is frustrating the Biden administration, as the problem draws attention and resources away from other priorities that the White House would like to concentrate on, the Washington Post reported, citing several anonymous sources. Among the problems that the administration reportedly had to de-prioritise are Biden’s infrastructure initiatives, voting rights, an overhaul of policing, gun control and immigration.

The White House reportedly hoped that the pandemic would be gradually ebbing by this time, allowing it to focus more on other presidential plans. Instead, the Biden administration is growing “anxious” about the growing number of daily COVID-19 cases, the newspaper sources said. The White House press secretary indirectly confirmed that Biden is currently preoccupied with the pandemic the most.

“Getting the pandemic under control [and] protecting Americans from the spread of the virus has been [and] continues to be his number-one priority. It will continue to be his priority moving forward. There’s no question,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on 22 July.

The administration had reportedly expected new outbreaks in the country, but not as many as they’re seeing. Current analytical models predict anything between a few thousand new cases and 200,000 new infected daily, the Washington Post reported. Washington also fears that daily deaths might reach over 700 per day, up from the current average of 250. However, the White House doesn’t expect the pandemic numbers to return to their 2020 peak levels.

At the same time, the Biden administration is trying to find scapegoats to blame for the current shortcomings in fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the country. Namely, Biden  last week accused the social media platform of failing to combat the spread of disinformation on COVID-19 and thus “killing people”. The statement raised many eyebrows since many platforms mark COVID-related posts and insert links to reliable sources of information regarding the disease and the vaccination efforts aimed at fighting it. The White House also hinted that the Republican-controlled states became the main sources of new COVID cases, while often underperforming in terms of vaccination rates.



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Sierra Leone abolishes death penalty | Global development

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Sierra Leone has become the latest African state to abolish the death penalty after MPs voted unanimously to abandon the punishment.

On Friday the west African state became the 23rd country on the continent to end capital punishment, which is largely a legacy of colonial legal codes. In April, Malawi ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional, while Chad abolished it in 2020. In 2019, the African human rights court ruled that mandatory imposition of the death penalty by Tanzania was “patently unfair”.

Of those countries that retain the death penalty on their statute books, 17 are abolitionist in practice, according to Amnesty International.

A de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty has existed in Sierra Leone since 1998, after the country controversially executed 24 soldiers for their alleged involvement in a coup attempt the year before.

Under Sierra Leone’s 1991 constitution, the death penalty could be prescribed for murder, aggravated robbery, mutiny and treason.

Last year, Sierra Leone handed down 39 death sentences, compared with 21 in 2019, according to Amnesty, and 94 people were on death row in the country at the end of last year.

Rhiannon Davis, director of the women’s rights group AdvocAid, said: “It’s a huge step forward for this fundamental human right in Sierra Leone.

“This government, and previous governments, haven’t chosen to [put convicts to death since 1998], but the next government might have taken a different view,” she said.

“They [prisoners] spend their life on death row, which in effect is a form of torture as you have been given a death sentence that will not be carried out because of the moratorium, but you constantly have this threat over you as there’s nothing in law to stop that sentence being carried out.”

Davis said the abolition would be particularly beneficial to women and girls accused of murdering an abuser.

“Previously, the death penalty was mandatory in Sierra Leone, meaning a judge could not take into account any mitigating circumstances, such as gender-based violence,” she said.

Umaru Napoleon Koroma, deputy minister of justice, who has been involved in the abolition efforts, said sentencing people on death row to “life imprisonment with the possibility of them reforming is the way to go”.

Across sub-Saharan Africa last year Amnesty researchers recorded a 36% drop in executions compared with 2019 – from 25 to 16. Executions were carried out in Botswana, Somalia and South Sudan.

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[Ticker] EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021

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The European Commission announced it is on track to share some 200 million doses of vaccines against Covid-19 before the end of the year. It says the vaccines will go to low and middle-income countries. “We will be sharing more than 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines with low and middle-income countries by the end of this year,” said European commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

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