Statement by H.E. Mr. Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, at the United Nations General Assembly on item 41: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. New York, November 13, 2012.
I would like to reiterate the most heartfelt condolences of the people and government of Cuba to the people of the United States, the city of New York, the people who have been directly affected and particularly the relatives of the victims, for the loss of human lives and the great material damage caused by hurricane Sandy.
We likewise express our condolences to the peoples and governments of Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Canada over the same events, as well as to Guatemala and Mexico for the recent earthquake that lashed those countries.
On April 6, 1960, Under-Secretary of State Lester D. Mallory wrote the most concise, accurate and longest-lasting definition of the blockade against Cuba, and I quote: “to cause disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship […] to weaken the economic life of Cuba […] denying money and supplies […] to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”
So far this has been the vision that has embodied the inhumane, failed and anachronistic policy of eleven successive US governments under which 76 per cent of Cubans have been born. Our country has never been at war with or carried out any hostile action against the United States. It has never consented to the perpetration of terrorist actions against the American people.
In 2008, presidential candidate Obama electrified Americans with his energy, his origins and his words “Yes we can”. Three months later, after been elected President, he announced “a new beginning with Cuba” and said, and I quote: “We can move US-Cuba relations in a new direction and launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration”, end of quote.
However, the reality of the last four years has been characterized by a persistent tightening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade, particularly its extraterritorial dimension, despite the fact that this Assembly has approved by a consistent and overwhelming majority, twenty consecutive resolutions that call for an end to this policy.
Keeping this policy in force is not in the national interest of the United States. Quite on the contrary, it harms the interests of its citizens and companies -especially in times of economic crisis and high unemployment- which, according to every poll, are demanding a change of policy. What’s the point of encroaching on the constitutional and civil rights and the freedom of travel of Americans by preventing them from visiting the Island when they can visit any other place in the planet, including those where their country is waging wars?
What’s the point of renouncing to a market of 11 million people? What’s the point of continuing to waste hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxes that are paid by US citizens in the useless and illegal subversion against Cuba? What’s the use of harming Cuba’s relations with other States -including its allies- with extraterritorial measures that violate international law? What’s the point in resorting to an approach that is opposite to the one that encourages its increasing economic relations with States with a different political system?
The blockade also harms the legitimate interests of and discriminates against the Cuban emigration that has settled here in this country, which overwhelmingly favors the normalization of relations with their home country. It harms the credibility of the foreign policy of the United States and leads to its isolation. It makes the US to adopt costly double standards. After fifty years it has proven to be ineffective in the pursuance of the goals it envisaged and it has been and insurmountable obstacle in its ever more uncomfortable relation with Latin America and the Caribbean. Should the blockade cease, the US government will avoid greater discredit of its humanitarian policies, since it will stop being a consistent violator of the human rights of Cubans.
The US could refrain from including our country in spurious lists such as the one that classifies it as a sponsor of terrorism, with the only purpose of justifying the implementation of additional measures against financial transactions, thus causing great damage to the effectiveness and credibility of the international combat against that terrible scourge.
There is no legitimate or moral reason to maintain this blockade that is anchored in the Cold War. It is just a weapon in the hands of an ever more exiguous, isolated, violent and arrogant minority that profiteers from the elections, shows contempt towards the call of the majority and does not resign itself to the unshakable determination of Cubans to decide upon their own destiny.
The use of a less strident and threatening rhetoric and certain partial measures to relax the travel restrictions on the residents of Cuban origin and others for academic, scientific or cultural purposes have failed to conceal the tightening of the blockade during the last four years.
The report of the Secretary-General, which includes the contributions of a significant number of delegations and agencies present here, broadly documents the multiple and diverse damages caused not only to my country but also to many of the governments represented here.
In November, 2011, the Treasury Department fined the New York branch office of the German bank Commerzbank with 175 500 dollars for serving as consultant and guarantor of a Cuban national in some payment to be made to a Canadian company.
In June, 2012, the Department of Justice announced the imposition of a 619 million dollar fine on the Dutch bank ING for alleged violations of the regime of sanctions against Cuba and other countries. This was the highest fine ever imposed on a foreign bank.
In referring to this unheard-of event, Mr. Adam Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department, using a menacing tone, expressed, and I quote: “Our sanctions laws reflect core U.S. national security and foreign policy interests and OFAC polices them aggressively. Today’s historic settlement should serve as a clear warning to anyone who would consider profiting by evading U.S. sanctions”, end of quote.
During President Obama’s administration, the fines imposed have amounted to 2 billion 259 732 dollars, a total that is twice as much the amount accounted for the fines imposed under both terms of the George W. Bush administration.
The implementation of the blockade has gone beyond all conceivable limits. In December, 2011, the Hilton Hotel of Trinidad and Tobago, a property of that country that operates under a management contract with that hotel group, received categorical orders from OFAC to prevent the celebration of the Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of CARICOM countries and Cuba in its premises, which became a real scandal and a disrespectful act towards all Caribbean nations and the international community.
In July, 2012, two executives from the French branch office of the travel agency Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) were fired for selling tourist packages destined for the Island. The company runs the risk of being fined with 38 000 dollars for every trip sold.
On May 10, 2012, less than one year after the first and very limited licenses were granted to allow US citizens’ travels “with educational purposes and for the people-to-people exchanges”, the Treasury Department prohibited the sight-seeing trips around recreational places, the financial transactions involving tourist activities and established new and stricter measures to make sure that all itinerary and programs were in tune with the policy against Cuba. At the same time, it was announced that the violation of these restrictions would be punished with 65 000 dollar fines and the suspension of licenses.
The human damage caused by the blockade is huge and impossible to calculate. It causes hardships, shortages and difficulties that affect every family, every boy and girl, every man and woman, the handicapped, the senior citizens and the ill.
The Pediatric Cardio-Center “William Soler” has no access to the medicine Levosimendan that is used to treat heart problems associated to the cardiac output in small children. The hospital is unable to use this medicine; its supply has been denied because it is manufactured by the Abbott laboratories.
The cardiovascular surgery service of that same hospital assists between one hundred and one hundred and ten children below the age of one every year. More than ninety per cent of those cases require parenteral nutrition before undergoing surgery for a better prognosis. Our nation has no access to the food supplements to be administered parenterally that are manufactured here in this country, which are recognized to be among the most effective and of highest quality.
The impossibility to purchase laminar tissue for tissue expanders –that are used to perform skin transplants- and the need to purchase them in faraway markets at a higher price complicates and prolongs the treatment of boys and girls suffering from severe burns, with the consequent increase in the time of surgery and the hospital stay of these patients.
The pacemaker and electrophysiology service of the Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery Institute does not have the non-fluoroscopic three-dimensional mapping equipment that is used to analyze the points of arrhythmia in the human heart because of the withdrawal of the US firm Saint Jude. That prevents the performance of catheterizations and other treatments to cure complex arrhythmias. Consequently, we are forced to send these patients to third countries so that they could receive their treatment.
In the evening of November 6, President Obama referred to the cure of the eight year old girl Erin Catherine Potter who suffers from leukemia and lives in Mentor, Ohio. On October 28, 2009, we explained in this room that the Cuban children who also suffer from lymphoblastic leukemia and reject the usual medicines can not be treated with the medicine ‘Elspar’, created to treat patients who develop intolerance, because its sale to Cuba by the firm Merck and Co. is prohibited. Those children also deserve compassion and relief.
On October 25, 2012, we also denounced in this same room that our ophthalmologic services can not use the Transpupillary Thermotherapy to cure the cancer of the retina (retinoblastoma) thus making it possible for children to preserve the affected eye. Since that date, fifteen children like Lianna Aguilera Feria, one year old; María Sánchez Rosales and Rochely Mendoza Rabelo, two years old; Erika Rodríguez Villavicencio, Fidel Valdés Márquez, Giovanna Álvarez Torrens and Magdiel Leyva Suárez, three years old, have suffered that loss because the US government prevents the purchase of the necessary medical equipment from the US company Iris Medical Instruments.
Given its express purpose and direct effects, the blockade against Cuba qualifies as an act of genocide according to Article 2 (b) and (c) of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. It is a mass, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people.
We strongly oppose the unilateral coercive measures and the economic sanctions that only cause harm to human beings. As was expressed by the leader of the Revolution in this very podium, “we want a world free from hegemonies, nuclear weapons, interventions, racism, national or religious hatred, where there is no outrage upon the sovereignty of any country, where there is respect for the independence and free determination of peoples, a world free from universal models that fully disregard the traditions and culture of all the components of humankind; free from cruel blockades that kill men, women, children, youths and senior citizens like silent atom bombs.”
As was stated by the Secretary General’s report, the economic damages accumulated for more than fifty years until 2011 amount to one trillion six billion dollars –more than one trillion dollars- according to a rigorous and conservative calculation based on the devaluation of the dollar vis-à-vis the price of gold.
Any sensible person could figure out the living standards and development levels that we could have achieved if we had had those resources available.
The blockade is one of the main causes of the economic problems of our country and a major obstacle to its economic and social development. It violates International Law; it is contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and a violation of the right to peace and security of a sovereign State. It is an act of aggression, a permanent threat against the stability of a country. It is also a gross violation of the rules that govern international trade, freedom of navigation and the sovereign rights of States because of its extraterritorial character.
Since the blockade is a unilateral policy, it should be lifted unilaterally.
The US people, towards which Cuba has feelings of friendship and respect, have just reelected President Barack Obama. During the electoral campaign, he repeated dozens of times that he continues to be the “President for a change” and that “he will continue to move ahead.”
President Obama has the opportunity to start a new policy towards Cuba, different from the one implemented by his ten predecessors for more than half a century.
It will surely be a difficult task and maybe he would face serious obstacles, but the President still has the constitutional powers that would enable him to listen to the public opinion and generate the necessary dynamics, by means of executive decisions, even without the approval of the Congress. There is no doubt that this would be a historical legacy.
He would make a serious miscalculation and will make things all the more difficult in the future if he decides to wait for a new generation of Cuban leaders or for the impossible collapse of our economy. This option will make him go down in history as the eleventh president that makes the same mistake.
I reiterate, on behalf of President Raúl Castro Ruz, the firm willingness on the part of the Cuban government to move on towards the normalization of relations with the United States through a respectful dialogue, without preconditions, on the basis of reciprocity and sovereign equality, without undermining in the least our independence and sovereignty.
Today, here and now, I am again submitting to the US government a draft agenda for a bilateral dialogue aimed at moving towards the normalization of relations which includes, as fundamental topics, the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade; Cuba’s exclusion from the arbitrary and illegal list of terrorism-sponsoring countries; the abrogation of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet foot/dry foot policy; the compensation for economic and human damages; the return of the territory occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base; the end to the radio and TV aggressions and the ceasing of the financing of internal subversion.
An essential element in this agenda is the release of the Five Cuban anti-terrorists who remain cruelly and unjustly imprisoned or retained in this country. An act of justice, or at least a humanitarian solution, will arouse the gratitude of my people and a response by our Government.
I likewise offer here and now the US government to negotiate several cooperation agreements in the areas of greatest mutual interest, such as the combat of drug trafficking, terrorism, human smuggling and for the full normalization of migratory relations, as well as for the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters and the protection of the environment and our common seas. We also propose to resume the talks that were unilaterally suspended by our counterpart about migration issues and for the resumption of postal services.
Whatever the circumstances, our people shall defend, no matter the cost, its achievements; it will uphold its ideals; it will recover from the natural catastrophes such as the one that lashed Santiago de Cuba and the eastern and central provinces a few days ago, and will resolutely continue to update and develop our socialism “with all and for the wellbeing of all.”
On behalf of this heroic people, its children, its women and the elderly I ask all governments committed to the principles enshrined by the UN Charter and International Law, the norms of the multilateral trading system, freedom of trade and navigation and the refusal to the extraterritorial implementation of a national law, to vote once again in favor of the draft resolution contained in document A/67/L.2 entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
Thank you, very much.