ADDRESS BY FELIPE PEREZ ROQUE, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, ON AGENDA ITEM 19 OF THE SIXTY-THIRD SESSION OF THE UNGA, ENTITLED “THE NECESSITY OF ENDING THE ECONOMIC, COMMERCIAL AND FINANCIAL BLOCKADE IMPOSED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AGAINST CUBA”.
New York, October 29, 2008
Dear Father Miguel D’Escoto. Again I salute you on your election and for your presence at this debate. You, here today, embody the voice of the peoples, the voice of the humble. Father, you can rely on Cuba.
As every year since 1992, we appear before the United Nations General Assembly to call for the lifting of the illegal and unjust blockade imposed by the government of the United States against Cuba for the last almost fifty years. Seven out of every ten Cubans have spent their entire lives under this irrational and useless policy which attempts, with no success, to bring our people to their knees. The blockade is older than Mr. Barack Obama and everyone in my generation.
The vote which is going to take place within a few minutes is occurring in very special circumstances, after the devastating passage of two powerful hurricanes through Cuba, when we are just six days away from the United States elections and in the scenario of a profound international economic crisis to which none of our countries is immune.
More than 500,000 homes and thousands of schools and health institutions affected, a third of cultivated lands devastated and severe destruction of the electrical and communications infrastructure, among other damages, are the result of never before seen natural phenomena and which are now proof of the effects of climatic changes for the countries in the Caribbean.
If loss of human lives was minimal, that was the result of the enormous effort carried out earlier by the authorities and the people, enabling evacuation and protection for 3.2 million people to safe locations. After all, it was Cuba and not New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina.
Despite the heavy damages and devastation caused by the hurricanes, no sick person in Cuba lacked medical assistance and all Cuban children and the 30,000 youth from 125 countries who are studying on scholarships in our universities are right now attending their classes. Not one person was or will be neglected.
On behalf of the government and people of Cuba, I would like to express our deep thanks to all those who, in one form or another, demonstrated their solidarity with and support of Cuba in this dramatic situation. To the present, we have received help from 64 countries.
In contrast to the ample solidarity received, and with the statements made here this morning by the United States government representative, to whose words I shall give due response later on, the government of the United States has responded with its customary cynicism and hypocrisy. While they refused to accede to our request to be allowed to buy food and essential materials for reconstruction with private credits from American companies, even for six months, on the other hand they attempted to orchestrate a blatant propaganda campaign with which they tried to accuse our government of not looking after its people.
As for Cuba, it has acted according to its traditional positions of principle. We cannot accept alleged assistance from those who have intensified the blockade, sanctions and hostility against our people.
Cuba has not asked the United States government for any gifts. We have simply asked that we be allowed to make purchases.
The Bush administration lies yet again to the international community. It lies when it declares that it authorized licences for 250 million dollars for agricultural sales to our country after the hurricanes. Food sales exist since 2001, and acquiring these products is only possible under strict supervision measures and after a complicated and bureaucratic process of granting licences, case by case, by the numerous institutions of the government of the United States. Cuba, moreover, must pay in cash and up front. The reality is that they are continuously placing more obstacles in order to limit those purchases.
If the United States government was really concerned about the well-being of the Cuban people, the only moral and ethical behaviour would be to lift the blockade they have imposed on my country, in violation of the most elemental regulations of International Law and the United Nations Charter.
In order for you to have an idea about the magnitude of the effects the blockade policy has each year on the Cuban people, just in economic terms, it would suffice to say that its impact in one year almost equals the estimate of damages caused by both the hurricanes, Gustav and Ike.
Hurricanes are natural phenomena that worsen under the conditions of climatic changes and global warming. Unfortunately, they cannot be avoided. The blockade is a genocidal and illegal policy. Unlike the hurricanes, the American authorities are able to put an end to it and spare the Cuban people their prolonged suffering.
The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba is the main obstacle both for the recovery of the Cuban people after the hurricanes and for our economic and social development.
Very conservative estimates reveal that direct accumulated damages caused by the blockade of Cuba exceed 93 billion dollars, almost twice our GDP. At the current value of the dollar, this would equal no less than 224,600 million dollars. It is not difficult to imagine all that Cuba could have achieved if during these almost 50 years it hadn’t been submitted to that brutal economic war on a global scale.
In open contempt of the express will of the international community and of sixteen consecutive General Assembly resolutions, the United States government adopted, during this past year, new and tougher economic sanctions against Cuba; it intensified persecution against activities of Cuban companies and those of other countries; it unleashed a mad hunt against our international financial transactions, including when we were trying to carry out our payments to the United Nations bodies. Its viciousness has reached such lengths that it blocks Internet sites that have ties to our country.
On the other hand, Washington has increased, to unprecedented levels, its financial and material support for actions to overthrow Cuban constitutional order. To such ends, it has approved 46 million additional dollars towards internal subversion in Cuba and another 39 million to maintain the illegal radio and television broadcasts against our country. Just these funds are eight times greater that the alleged donation offered to Cuban people after the passage of the hurricanes.
In a report drawn up by the Government Accountability Office, published in November 2007, it is explicitly recognized that of the 20 programmes of sanctions applied to different countries, the blockade against Cuba constitutes an ensemble of economic sanctions which are the most extensive of any ever imposed by the United States.
The broad and documented report presented by the Secretary General with the contribution of 118 countries and 22 International Bodies and Agencies, releases me from insisting here on the examples that prove that there is no aspect of Cuba’s economic or social life that is not affected by the American blockade.
From the impossibility of gaining access to consumables and equipment for paediatric cardiovascular surgery, or the tomography essential to modern oncology, to the persecution by fines and imprisonment of American citizens travelling to Cuba and, even, to travel agencies that promote such travel. The United States government ought to explain to this Assembly why it considers Cuban children who are suffering from heart disease to be enemies.
Every year the representatives of the government of the United States lie before this Assembly when they repeat that such a blockade does not exist, and that their measures are not the main causes of the shortages and suffering that the Cuban people have suffered, and suffer, over the course of these years.
The blockade is not exclusively a bilateral matter between Cuba and the United States. Extraterritorial application of American laws and the persecution against legitimate interests of companies and citizens from third countries who try to invest and do business with Cuba, is a subject which concerns all the States assembled here.
The blockade also flagrantly violates the rights of the American people. It destroys their freedom to travel, as established in the Constitution of the United States. The Treasury Department has toughened, in recent years, its strict policy of refusing licences for religious, professional, cultural and student exchanges between the American and Cuban peoples.
The blockade also impedes normal relations between Cubans residing in the United States and their relatives in Cuba.
In a few hours a new president of the United States will be elected. He should decide whether he will admit that the blockade is a failed policy, that every time causes greater isolation and discrediting of his country, or if he persists, with stubbornness and cruelty, to try to defeat the Cuban people through hunger and disease.
From this podium, distinguished delegates, I reiterate:
They shall never be able to bring the Cuban people to their knees. Neither blockades nor hurricanes will be able to take away our spirit. There will be no human or natural force capable of subjugating the Cubans. If an example is needed, there are those five Cuban heroes, fighters against terrorism, who have already spent a decade of unjust and cruel imprisonment in the United States, and who are a symbol of the determination of our people to defend their liberty and independence with dignity.
I thank the speakers who have preceded me for their words of solidarity and moral support for the Cuban people, for their defence of the right of Cuba, which is today also the right of all peoples here represented, for their defence of the Charter and International Law.
I reject, letter by letter, the statements made here by the representative of the government of the United States.
To you, sir, I say that you, the representatives of the government of the United States in this chamber, ought to be ashamed; you are alone, in the most profound and absolute solitude. The world stands with our small rebellious island.
And I clarify for you, sir, that we are not anti-American, we are anti-imperialists; we profess no hatred towards your people, no desire for revenge. We consider your people also victim, as we are, of the illegal and absurd policy of your government.
One needs more, sir, than power and military might – you must know that by now - ; one needs moral authority.
You are powerful, that’s true; but we are right.
You have no arguments, every year you repeat the same string of unconnected and superfluous ideas; we have all the arguments, they are found in the documents distributed here and they are in our words.
Your Secretary of State does not come to this Assembly at this time, not just because of arrogance; it’s just that she has nothing to say; there is also fear and embarrassment in that decision.
You threaten; we never threaten. We respectfully and courteously seek the support of this Assembly.
You use lies; we use the truth.
You punish our children, our old folks, our ill; we do not blame your people since your people are victims as well. We offered you our doctors who were prepared to risk their lives and to offer their talents at the time of Hurricane Katrina, to save lives and relieve pain; you did not allow that. One day you must answer for that decision.
In a few days your President will leave office. He tightened the blockade against Cuba to unsuspected limits; he waged economic war against our people to schizophrenic levels; he threatened us with a change of government; however he leaves without achieving that. He is the tenth president who had come through repeating the same failed and illegal policy.
It is true that a change is needed in the United States and its policies. It is true that “we need a change”, and it is also true that we have to change the world we live in, the world of imposition and blackmail, and we have to build a world where the rights of all peoples are respected.
I tell you that one cannot fool everyone all the time, as stated by the great Abraham Lincoln, a man who is also respected and honoured by our people.
You have said that your policy is very well known, and this is true. Your policy is awfully well known, what we don’t know is why you hold on to it before the repudiation of the world and your own people.
You have said that you defend your right to trade with any country you want to.
You may decide not to trade with a country, but you do not have the right to persecute your businessmen because they wish to trade with or invest in Cuba; you have even less right to persecute the businessmen of other countries with the Helms-Burton Act and with other extra-territorial laws.
You ask that this Assembly not study the resolution presented by Cuba. We insist to the Assembly about the importance and the need to discuss this resolution and to approve it, because here it is not only the right of Cuba that is being annulled, it is the right of all.
You have spoken about a “dance of millions”; you have repeated a litany of figures and millions that allegedly you have offered.
It is true that you offered us 5 million four times and we rejected it because our dignity cannot be bought, either with 5, or 500, or 5,000, or 500,000 million. We warn you about this, in case that is your dream.
You have said that the words of our ambassador Jorge Bolanos, head of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, were unacceptable. I repeat them again here, one by one: “The blockade is a genocidal policy and it is illegal and must be lifted immediately, respecting the roar of this Assembly which has sounded sixteen times already.”
Finally, esteemed delegates, I would like to share with you the feelings sweeping over our people at this moment; over there on our island, our people are closely following this debate.
When my son was born in 1995, this General Assembly was already voting against the US blockade against Cuba; my son is now 13 years old.
When my daughter was born in 2000, this Assembly had already voted eight times against the blockade; my daughter is now 8 years old.
How long are Cuban children and young people going to have to wait for justice to be done?
How long are the Cuban people who have received the unanimous support of this Assembly going to have to wait for their right to be acknowledged and for justice to be done?
How long are American youth going to have to put up with fines and prison terms for trying to visit our country, to get to know our universities and our students?
How long is it going to be considered a crime for a citizen of another country, any one of those represented by you, distinguished delegates, to try to trade with or invest in Cuba?
How long are they going to try to bring these children to their knees, these children who, like mine in Cuba, dream and believe that a better world is possible; a world where dignity, independence and the self-determination of all people is respected?
The representative of the United States has asked this Assembly not to support our resolution.
We are asking you, with the utmost respect, to support Cuba, to support our right, to support our resolution.
On behalf of the Cuban people, a thousand times heroic, who despite adversities have not been and will not be defeated, whose hopes and joys have not been able to be blockaded or killed, I once again call on the solidarity of this Assembly.
Our people trust in the decision you must make in a few minutes. On behalf of Cuba, I ask that you vote in favour of the resolution proposal entitled: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.
Thank you very much. (Applause).