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Voices / Letters from readers

As an act of mercy, can we lift sanctions on Iran and Venezuela during COVID-19 crisis?

An open letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Pat Leahy, and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch:

In these unprecedented, trying times, I would like you to consider an idea, a proposal that may possibly make you smile at the absurdity that such a notion could ever become a political reality.

As we marshal the vast resources of this country to counter the deadly pandemic, I’m thinking about Iran and Venezuela.

Iran, of course, is undergoing a huge health crisis with suffering that we, in this country — despite all our fears and trips to the grocery stores to stock up — cannot even imagine. Venezuela hasn’t been hit hard — yet — but it may well be in the near future.

Both of these countries, as you well know, are currently subject to crippling U.S. sanctions.

In the case of Venezuela, I’m sure you’ve seen the same news stories I have about the appalling lack of medicine, hospital equipment, testing devices, etc. due to the U.S. embargo. As for Iran, we have devastated its economy by imposing nasty penalties on anyone who wants to buy their main export, oil. The Iranians are, doubtlessly, severely hindered from buying the tests, medical equipment, and other supplies they need to save their population from devastating suffering and a frightening death toll.

Despite all the blather I’m hearing on the radio about “how compassionate Americans are in a crisis, how we help and look out for each other (when we’re not grabbing the last two 12-packs of toilet paper), etc.,” is it politically conceivable that one or all three of you could propose to your colleagues in Washington, in the coming weeks, to at least temporarily lift those sanctions, as an act of mercy during this terrible and frightening crisis?

Probably not, but I just felt compelled to raise the issue, and to ask you, with all my heart, is there anything you might do to help all the millions of innocent people living in these two countries, whose ruling governments we are so hell-bent on overthrowing by drastically squeezing them economically.

Richard Evers

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Originally published in The Commons issue #554 (Wednesday, March 25, 2020). This story appeared on page B2.

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