Speech by Felipe Pérez Roque, foreign minister of the Republic of Cuba, under issue 18 of the General Assembly agenda, titled “The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
November 8, 2006, New York
Ladies and gentlemen of the Assembly:
For the 15th consecutive time, Cuba is presenting to the General Assembly a resolution entitled, “The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
We do so in defense of the rights of the Cuban people, but also in defense of the rights of the people of the United States and the rights of the peoples that you all represent in this Assembly.
The economic war unleashed by the United States against Cuba, the longest and cruelest ever known, qualifies as an act of genocide and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Over the last 48 years, the U.S. blockade has caused economic damages to Cuba in excess of $86 billion. Seven out of every 10 Cubans have since birth suffered and resisted the effects of the blockade, which attempts to break us through hunger and disease.
The blockade prevents Cuba from trading with the United States and receiving tourism from that country. It prohibits Cuba from utilizing the dollar in its external transactions and receiving credits or carrying out operations with U.S. banks or their affiliates in other countries.
The blockade does not allow the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank to grant Cuba even a modest credit.
But more serious than all of that is the fact that the U.S. blockade imposes its criminal regulations on Cuba’s relations with the rest of the countries that make up this General Assembly.
We have seen, ladies and gentleman, how the representative of the United States government has repeated again here the same fallacious arguments and the same lies that he has uttered in this Assembly in previous years.
He lies when he says that the embargo is a bilateral issue.
He lies when he says that Cuba can trade and purchase in other countries what it is prevented from buying in the United States.
He lies when he says that the United States does not persecute the ships of other countries that attempt to go to Cuba.
He tells this Assembly, moreover, that Cuba is utilizing the blockade as a pretext.
I repeat to the distinguished delegate what I already told him last year: if the United States government believes that Cuba is using the issue as a pretext, why doesn’t it take away that pretext by lifting the blockade? Why doesn’t it eliminate the blockade against Cuba if, in its opinion, Cuba is using it as a pretext to justify its supposed failure?
The blockade prohibits companies in your countries from trading with Cuba, ladies and gentleman, not just U.S. companies, but companies from the countries that you represent in this Assembly and that are subsidiaries of U.S. companies. And ships with flags from your countries, ladies and gentlemen, cannot enter U.S. ports if they have previously transported goods to or from Cuba. That is the Torricelli Law, signed by President Bush Sr. in 1992.
The U.S. blockade also prohibits companies in the rest of the world — those in your countries, ladies and gentlemen — from exporting to the United States products that contain Cuban raw materials, and prevents those companies from exporting to Cuba products or equipment that contain more than 10% of U.S. components. That is the truth.
The blockade, ladies and gentlemen, persecutes business owners from other countries, not just from the United States, but those of other countries, your compatriots, who are trying to invest in Cuba. They are threatened with being prohibited, them and their families, from entering the United States, and even with being taken to court in the United States. That is the Helms-Burton Law of 1996.
I am not going to insist on giving examples that prove what I have said. The secretary general has presented a broad report, with contributions from 96 countries and 20 international agencies and organizations, which unequivocally demonstrates the suffering and shortages that the blockade imposes on the life and development of the Cuban people.
It does seem important to us, ladies and gentlemen, to inform the General Assembly about the plan to re-conquer Cuba approved by President Bush in May 2004 and updated in July 2006. In it, he clearly admits what the U.S. government would do in our country if at some point it was able to put Cuba under its control.
According to the president of the United States, the most important thing would be to return all of the properties in Cuba to their former owners. That would include, for example, snatching away their land from hundreds of thousands of farmers who are the owners of their land in Cuba, individually or via cooperatives, to reestablish the concentration of land ownership in a few hands. It would also imply throwing out of their houses millions of Cuban homeowners, to return those buildings or that land to their former claimants.
President Bush described this as an accelerated process, under the total control of the United States, and for it he would create a so-called Commission for the Restitution of Property Rights.
Another structure would also be created: the Permanent Committee of the U.S. Government for the Economic Reconstruction of Cuba, which would direct the process of imposing in Cuba an extremely harsh program of neoliberal belt-tightening, which would include the brutal privatization of health and education services and the elimination of social security and assistance. Retirements and pensions would be abolished, and retirees would be offered jobs in construction work, in a so-called Cuban Retirees Corps.
President Bush admits that “it won’t be easy” to implement this plan in Cuba. That is why he is charging the State Department with creating, “as an immediate priority,” a repressive apparatus, that we imagine will be trained in the brutal techniques of suffocation that Vice President Cheney does not consider to be torture, to strangle the unlimited resistance of the Cuban people. It is even acknowledged that the list of Cubans who will be persecuted, tortured and massacred “will be a long one.”
They have even thought up a Central Adoption Service for Children, to give away to families in the United States and other countries the children whose parents would die fighting or as victims of repression.
This entire cynical and brutal program to re-colonize a country, after destroying and invading it, would be directed by an individual who has already been appointed, and whose ridiculous post – which reminds one of Paul Bremer – is that of “Coordinator for Transition in Cuba.” This Caleb McCarry is a gentleman whose only notable experience is his close friendship with the Cuban-born terrorists who are still planning and carrying out from Miami, with total impunity, new plans for murder and sabotage against Cuba. They are the same groups that are asking President Bush to free the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, the mastermind behind the explosion of a Cuban passenger plane, while they subject to cruel and prolonged imprisonment in the United States, since 1998, five courageous Cuban anti-terrorist fighters.
Two years after its proclamation, ladies and gentlemen, a large part of this plan has been carried out.
Thus, new and greater restrictions were imposed on family visits to Cuba by Cubans resident in the United States.
People from the United States who traveled to Cuba were viciously persecuted. In the last two years, more than 800 people accused of traveling to our country have been fined.
Additional restrictions were placed on remittances to Cuba. Academic, cultural, scientific and sports exchanges were practically eliminated.
Since 2004, 85 companies have been sanctioned for supposedly violating the blockade against Cuba.
Ferocious persecution has intensified against financial transactions and our country’s trade. There are visible results of the demented tracking on a global scale by the so-called Cuban Asset Targeting Group of anything it perceives as payments to or from Cuba.
Along with intensifying the blockade, in May 2004 President Bush approved another $59 million to pay for his scant and pathetic mercenaries in Cuba, with the goal of inventing a nonexistent internal opposition, and to pay companies for propaganda and for illegal, anti-Cuba radio and television broadcasts.
But it was all in vain. President Bush realized he was running out of time, and could not keep his promise to the Cuban extremist groups in Florida. His problems at home and abroad are growing and growing, and socialist Cuba has continued and continues to exist, upright and unwavering.
So, on July 10, 2006, President Bush added new measures to his plan.
A significant particularity of this new, 93-page monstrous creation is that it contains a secret appendix, with actions against Cuba that are not being made public, and they explain that that is “for its effective implementation” and “for national security reasons.” Could they be new plans of assassination against Cuban leaders, more terrorist acts or a military aggression? From this podium, we demand today, before the United Nations General Assembly, that President George W. Bush publicly release the contents of that document, which he has not had the courage to reveal to date.
The plan includes, of course, the allocation of more money. This time, it is $80 million in two years, and no less than $20 million per year until the overthrow of the Cuban Revolution. That is, forever.
Anti-Cuba radio and television broadcasts are also increased, in open violation of the norms of the International Telecommunications Union.
In addition, renewed efforts are being made to create a so-called “coalition” of countries to support so-called “regime change” in Cuba.
In Bush’s plan, one thing that particularly stands out is the extraterritorial application of the economic war against Cuba.
Thus, new mechanisms are established to improve the machinery that implements the regulations of the blockade, and new sanctions are adopted. One that stands out, for its novelty, is bringing violators to trial.
The authorization is announced, by virtue of Title III of the Helms-Burton Law, to bring lawsuits in U.S. courts against foreign investors in Cuba, particularly those from countries that support the continuation of the Cuban Revolution.
A more rigorous implantation of Title IV is also established, refusing entry to the United States for those who invest in Cuba and their families, but down particularly directing the persecution against those who invest in oil exploration and extraction; tourism; nickel; rum and tobacco.
As a tool for persecuting Cuban nickel sales to other markets – not the U.S. market, but persecuting Cuban sales to companies located in countries that you all represent here in this Assembly –, the so-called inter-agency Cuban Nickel Targeting Task Force was created.
The siege against exchange between U.S. and Cuban churches is also being improved, and it is prohibited to send humanitarian donations to Cuban religious organizations.
But there is a new measure of the blockade approved by President Bush that deserves its own comment. In the document, it is established that the United States will refuse all exports related to medical equipment that can be used in programs of healthcare for foreign patients.
That is to say, the United States government, which has always done the unspeakable to cause the failure of Cuba’s international medical cooperation, is now acknowledging that its persecution can go to the extent of trying to block Cuba from internationally acquiring the necessary equipment.
I repeat: the blockade has now come to the point of prohibiting exchange between churches in the United States and Cuban churches; to prohibiting churches in the United States from sending to humanitarian donations to friendly churches in Cuba – wheelchairs, medications or products for humanitarian use. President Bush’s blockade against Cuba is event leading him to declare war on U.S. and Cuban churches; it is even attempting to blockade the mandate of God. And in the second place, it is attempting to prevent Cuba from buying medical equipment for international medical cooperation programs.
Some history about this subject is essential:
- Since 1962, the year that Cuban doctors provided aid abroad for the first time, in Algeria, almost 132,000 Cuban doctors, nurses and health technicians have lent their services in 102 countries.
- Currently, 31,000 Cuban health internationalists are lending their services in 69 countries. Twenty thousand of them are doctors. I repeat: in 69 countries today, 31,000 Cuban health internationalists are working in many of the countries that some of you are representing here.
- Ladies and gentlemen: a medical continent specializing in disasters and emergency situations was founded on September 19, 2005, precisely in the midst of the battering caused by the combined effects of Hurricane Katrina and the irresponsibility and insensitivity of their government on two million poor and Black people in the southern United States. The contingent has 10,000 duly trained and equipped members, and is named after a young man from the United States, Henry Reeve, who died in combat gloriously in 1873 in the fields of Cuba, with the rank of general of our Liberation Army. At that time, more than 1,500 Cuban doctors were ready to go to the most affected areas and save who knows how many lives, which were lost due to President Bush’s refusal to receive them.
- A total of 2,564 members of that contingent worked for eight months in Pakistan after the earthquake there. They set up 32 hospitals that were later donated to that sister nation. They attended to 1.8 million patients and saved 2,086 lives. Subsequently, another 135 Cuban doctors brought help to Indonesia and set up two hospitals, also donated; they attended 91,000 patients and carried out 1,900 surgical operations.
- Cuban doctors had previously worked after natural disasters in Peru in 1970; Venezuela in 1999; Sri Lanka and Indonesia in 2004, and in Guatemala in 2005, to cite a few examples.
If President Bush were to be successful in his cynical plan, Cuba would be prevented from providing to other peoples – those than many of you represent here, ladies and gentlemen – their modest and generous efforts in a field in which nobody can deny our development and experience.
- Since 2004, Cuba has carried out Operation Miracle, by virtue of which almost 400,000 patients from 28 countries – without including about 100,000 Cubans – have received operations free of charge and have recovered their sight.
While our country cannot pay all of the pertinent costs, it is Cuban doctors, technicians, technology and equipment that have created the ability to provide surgery for one million Latin Americans and Caribbeans annually.
If the U.S. offensive manages to paralyze this effort, an equivalent number of people who are victim to more than 20 ophthalmological diseases would lose their sight. The U.S. government knows it, but does not let that stop it from its macabre project to strangle Cuba. This is only to refer to those who receive care for their sight, and not the hundreds of millions of people who benefit from the comprehensive health programs of the Cuban internationalist doctors.
Cuba not only provides health services; it is currently training more than 46,000 young medical students from 82 Third World nations in Cuba or in their own countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Assembly:
But Cuba will not surrender nor will it falter in driving forward on these humanistic plans, symbols of the fact that a world of peace, justice and cooperation is possible. Cuba’s commitment to the rights of every dispossessed human being on the planet is stronger than the hate of the executioners.
Ladies and gentlemen:
Millions of Cubans right now are watching to see what decision you will make. We ask you today to respect Cuba’s right, which is also respect for the rights of the peoples that you all represent. We ask you to vote in favor of the resolution “The Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
We do so with our heads held high, optimistic and sure, with the hope of repeating the verses of the poet of our generation, because in Cuba, ladies and gentlemen,
Nobody is going to die, all of life is our talisman, is our mantle.
Nobody is going to die, least of all now, when the song of the homeland is our song.
And if they impose a war on us, there are not enough U.S. soldiers to cover the casualties that they would suffer in face of a country that has resisted and has prepared for its defense for more than 45 years.
Ladies and gentlemen:
This completes the speech that I brought prepared to present our resolution. However, an unprecedented event in this Assembly obliges me to make some additional remarks. For the first time since, in 1992, the Assembly began to consider the issue of the blockade against Cuba, the United States government is trying to sabotage – via an amendment – this vote. After several weeks of bringing brutal pressures to bear, the United States realized that it could not turn back the overwhelming support that this resolution attracts. It then tried to get a large number of delegations to abstain, and failed. Then, it threatened and blackmailed them to withdraw, and failed again.
And finally, it decided to boycott this vote, distract attention from the main issue, which is its blockade against Cuba, a flagrant violation of international law, and decreed that the Australian delegation would present an amendment drafted by Washington.
Here I have, ladies and gentlemen, the talking points distributed by the United Sates since Monday the 6th, asking for support for an amendment that Australia did not make its own until yesterday, the 7th, in the afternoon. It is interesting that the U.S. delegation, in this paper asks for support for an amendment that Australia had not yet even decided to present. The United States tried to get a European Union country to present it and was not able to; it looked for support from other countries, and failed again. Finally, a very high-level phone call from Washington to the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs determined that Australia would lend itself as a straw man for the U.S. amendment.
Ladies and gentlemen, is this amendment really an expression of a genuine concern for Australia? No. It is only proof of its abject submission to the government of the United States.
But, in addition, Australia does not have the moral authority to try to refer to the human rights situation in Cuba.
The Australian government is an accomplice of U.S. imperialism. It is a kind of “junior imperialist,” always at the ready in the Pacific to follow its mentors in Washington. It not only collaborated with them and sent troops together with the U.S. Army to the war in Vietnam, in which four million Vietnamese people lost their lives, but also enthusiastically participated, by sending more than 2,000 troops, in the invasion of Iraq, a pre-emptive and totally illegal war. There are still 1,300 Australian soldiers in Iraq despite the fact that just 22% of the Australian population supports that particular venture.
The Australian government, which subjects the Aboriginal population of its country to a veritable regime of apartheid, does not have the moral authority to criticize Cuba. The Australian government, which supports the U.S. torture center in Guantánamo, and backed summary trials before military courts of prisoners who are ill-treated and tortured there, including Australian prisoners, does not have the moral authority to criticize Cuba.
And less still, the United States. We have all seen the horrendous images of the prison at Abu Ghraib, the horrifying images of Guantánamo. We know that they have organized and still maintain clandestine prisons and secret flights on which they transfer prisoners who have been drugged and shackled. We have seen the footage of the horror of Hurricane Katrina, when human beings were condemned to die just because they were Black and poor. After everything that we already know, this Assembly cannot be deceived or manipulated.
For this reason, on behalf of Cuba, we ask you, honorable delegates, first to vote in favor of the No Action Motion we will present to counter Australia’s proposed amendment and then, to vote in favor of Resolution L.10 presented by Cuba.
At this Assembly, the U.S. delegate invoked in his speech the sacred name of José Martí, the hero of Cuban independence. He tarnishes this glorious name for the Cuban people. Martí stated that the independence war in Cuba was also being waged to stop the increasing force of the United States over the Antilles. It offends our delegation that the name of José Martí be mentioned as a means of justifying the blockade.
But I will remind the Assembly, and particularly the U.S. delegation, that José Martí also said that “trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone,” and it is those trenches of ideas that have made the noble, generous and heroic people that I represent here, invincible. Thank you very much. (Applause).
(Translated by Granma International)