Thursday, November 15, 2012

Speech of Cuba's Minister of Foreign Relations, Bruno Rodriguez, at the United Nations General Assembly on November 13th, 2012

There is no legitimate or moral reason to maintain this blockade that is anchored in the Cold War

• Speech by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, at the United Nations General Assembly, on Item 41: "The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States of America." New York, November 13, 2012

Mr. President:

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, to populations directly affected and particularly to relatives of the victims, for the loss of human life and the severe 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, also affected by the hurricane, as well as to Guatemala and Mexico for the recent earthquake which affected those countries.

Mr. President:

On April 6, 1960, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lester D. Mallory wrote the most concise, accurate and enduring definition of the blockade of 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 11 successive US governments under which 76% of Cubans have been born. Our country has never been at war with or engaged in any hostile action against the United States. It has never consented to the perpetration of terrorist acts 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 being elected President, he announced, "a new beginning with Cuba" and stated, and I quote: "We can move U.S.-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 intensification of the economic, commercial and financial blockade; in particular its extraterritorial dimension, despite the fact that this Assembly has approved by a consistent and overwhelming majority, 20 consecutive resolutions calling for an end to this policy.


Maintaining this policy in force is not in the national interest of the United States. On the contrary, it is damaging to the interests of its citizens and companies, especially in times of economic crisis and high unemployment. According to every opinion poll, citizens are demanding a change in policy. Why encroach on Americans’ constitutional and civil rights and freedom of travel by preventing them from visiting the island, when they can visit any other part of the planet, including places where their country is waging war?
Why renounce a market of 11 million people? Why continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars derived from taxes paid by U.S. citizens on useless and illegal subversion in Cuba? Why damage its relations with other states, including its allies, with extraterritorial measures which violate international law? Why resort to an approach contrary to the one animating its growing economic relations with states that have a different political system?
The blockade also damages the legitimate interests of and discriminates against Cuban émigrés settled here in this country, who are overwhelmingly in favor of the normalization of relations with their nation. It damages the credibility of United States foreign policy, leads to its isolation, places the country in a costly situation of double standards. After 50 years, it has proven its ineffectiveness in pursuit of the ends envisaged and is an insurmountable obstacle in its constantly more uncomfortable relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. If ended, it would save its government from greater discredit to its humanitarian policies and cease being a persistent violation of Cubans’ human rights.

The United States could refrain from including our state on spurious lists such as the one classifying it as a sponsor of terrorism, with the sole purpose of justifying additional measures against financial transactions, and which is so damaging to the effectiveness and credibility of the international battle against this terrible scourge.

There is no legitimate or moral reason to maintain this blockade that is anchored in the Cold War. It is merely the weapon of an ever more exiguous, isolated, violent and arrogant minority which uses it for electoral profit, is contemptuous of the call of the majority and will not resign itself to the unshakable determination of Cubans to decide their own destiny.

Mr. President;

The use of a less strident and threatening rhetoric and a certain partial relaxation of travel restrictions on residents of Cuban origin and others for academic, scientific or cultural purposes have failed to conceal the intensification of the blockade during the last four years.

The UN Secretary General’s report, which includes the contributions of a significant number of delegations and agencies present here, broadly documents the multiple and diverse damages caused both to my country and many of the governments represented here.

In November 2011, the Treasury Department fined the New York subsidiary of the German Commerzbank $175, 500 for acting as consultant and guarantor of a Cuban national concerning a payment to a Canadian company.

In June 2012, the Department of Justice announced the imposition of a $619 million fine on the Dutch ING bank for alleged violations of the regime of sanctions against Cuba and other countries. This is the largest fine ever imposed on a foreign bank.

Referring to this unprecedented event, Mr. Adam Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), attached to the Treasury Department, stated in a menacing tone, 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, fines imposed amount to $2,259,732 billion, double those imposed under both terms of the George W. Bush administration.

The implementation of the blockade has moved beyond all conceivable limits. In December 2011, the Trinidad and Tobago Hilton Hotel, a national property operating under a management contract with the hotel chain, received categorical orders from OFAC to prevent the 4th CARICOM-Cuba Summit of Heads of State and Government from taking place on its premises, which constituted a real scandal and a disrespectful act toward all the nations of the Caribbean and the international community.

In July 2012, two executives from the French subsidiary of the travel agency Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) were sacked for selling tourist packages to Cuba. The company runs the risk of being fined $38,000 for each package sold sold.

On May 10, 2012, not even a year from the issue of the first and very limited licenses permitting U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba "for educational purposes and people-to-people exchanges," the Treasury Department prohibited tours of recreational sites, financial transactions involving tourist activities and established new and stricter measures to ensure that all itineraries and programs were in accordance with policy on Cuba. At the same time, it was announced that violations of these restrictions would result in fines of $65,000 and the suspension of licenses.

Mr. President:

The human damage caused by the blockade is enormous and impossible to calculate. It causes hardship, shortages and difficulties which affect every family, every boy and girl, every man and woman, people with disabilities, senior citizens and medical patients.

The William Soler Pediatric Cardio-Center does not have access to the medicament Levosimendan, used in the treatment of heart problems associated with cardiac output in infants. The hospital is unable to use this medicament; supplies of it have been denied because it is manufactured by Abbott laboratories.

The cardiovascular surgery service of the same hospital provides medical treatment of 100-110 infants aged less than 12 months every year. More than 90% of those cases require parenteral nutrition before undergoing surgery with a better prognosis. Our nation has no access to the parenteral food supplements manufactured here in this country, recognized as among the most effective and of highest quality.

The impossibility of purchasing laminar tissue for tissue expanders – used in skin transplants – and their necessary acquisition in distant markets at a higher price, complicates and prolongs the treatment of girls and boys with severe burns, with the consequent increase in the length of surgery and hospitalization of these patients.

The pacemaker and electrophysiology service at the Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery Institute lacks the non-fluoroscopic three-dimensional mapping equipment used to analyze points of arrhythmia in the human heart, because of the withdrawal of the U.S. firm Saint Jude. This prevents the catheterization treatment and surgery for curing complex arrhythmias. Consequently, we are forced to send these patients to other countries in order to receive treatment.

On the evening of November 6, President Obama spoke of the recovery of the eight-year-old Erin Catherine Potter, a leukemia patient living in Mentor, Ohio. On October 28, 2009, we explained in this hall that Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemia, and who reject the usual medicaments, cannot be treated with Elspar, the medicament created to treat patients who develop intolerance, because its sale to Cuba by the Merck and Co. firm is prohibited. These children also deserve compassion and relief.

On October 25, 2012, we also denounced in this same hall that our ophthalmologic services are unable to use transpupillary thermotherapy to treat cancer of the retina (retinoblastoma), which makes it possible to preserve affected eyes in children. Since that date, 15 infants, like Lianna Aguilera Feria, aged one year; María Sánchez Rosales and Rochely Mendoza Rabelo, aged two years; Erika Rodríguez Villavicencio, Fidel Valdés Márquez, Giovanna Álvarez Torrens and Magdiel Leyva Suárez, aged three years, have suffered the loss of their eyes because the government of the United States prevents the purchase of the necessary medical equipment from the American company Iris Medical Instruments.

Given its express intention and direct effects, the blockade of Cuba qualifies as an act of genocide in accordance with Article 2 (b) and 2 (c) of the 1948 Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people.

We strongly oppose unilateral coercive measures and economic sanctions which only cause harm to human beings. As expressed by the leader of the Revolution at this very podium, "We want a world without hegemonies, without nuclear weapons, without interventions, without racism, without national or religious hatred, without outrages to the sovereignty of any country; a world which respects the independence and free determination of peoples, a world without universal models which totally disregard the traditions and culture of all the components of humankind, and without cruel blockades which kill men, women, children, young people and senior citizens like silent atom bombs."

Mr. President:

As stated in the Secretary General’s report, the economic damages accumulated during more than 50 years through 2011 amount to $1.066 trillion –more than one trillion dollars – according to rigorous and conservative calculations based on the devaluation of the dollar in relation to the price of gold.

Any sensible person can imagine the living standards and development levels we could have achieved if we had been able to count on those resources.
The blockade is one of the principal causes of our country’s economic problems and a major obstacle to its economic and social development. It is in violation of international law; it is contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and a violation of a sovereign state’s right to peace and security. It is an act of aggression, a permanent threat to a country’s stability. It is also a gross violation of the regulations governing international trade, freedom of navigation and the sovereign rights of states, given its extraterritorial nature.

Given that the blockade is a unilateral policy, it should be lifted unilaterally.

Mr. President:

The U.S. people, toward whom Cuba has sentiments of friendship and respect, have just reelected President Barack Obama. During his electoral campaign, he repeated dozens of times that he continues to be the "President for change" and that he will continue to "move forward."

President Obama has the opportunity to initiate a new policy toward Cuba, different from that of his 10 predecessors during more than half a century.
Certainly, it will be a difficult task and he will confront serious obstacles, but the President has the constitutional powers allowing him to listen to public opinion and generate the necessary dynamic, by means of executive decisions, even without the approval of Congress. Doubtless this would be a historical legacy.

He would be committing a serious error and making everything all the more difficult for the future if he decides to wait for a new generation of Cuban leaders or for the impossible collapse of our economy. This option would inscribe him in history as the eleventh president to repeat the same mistake.
I reiterate, in the name of President Raúl Castro Ruz, the steadfast will of the Cuban government to move toward the normalization of relations with the United States through respectful dialogue, without preconditions, based on reciprocity and sovereign equality, without in the least undermining our independence and sovereignty.

Today, here and now, I am once again submitting to the government of the United States a draft agenda for bilateral dialogue directed at moving toward the normalization of relations, which includes, as fundamental issues, the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade; Cuba’s exclusion from the arbitrary and illegal list of countries sponsoring terrorism; the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the "wet foot/dry foot" policy; compensation for economic and human damages; the return of the territory occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base; the end of the radio and TV aggression; and the cessation of financing internal subversion.

An essential element on this agenda is the liberation of the five Cuban anti-terrorists who remain cruelly and unjustly imprisoned or detained in this country. An act of justice, or at least a humanitarian solution, would arouse the gratitude of my people and the response of our government.

At the same time, I make the offer to the government of the United States to negotiate cooperation agreements in areas of greatest mutual interest, such as combating drug trafficking, terrorism, human trafficking and for the full normalization of migratory relations, as well as for the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters, protection of the environment and our common seas. We also propose a resumption of the talks unilaterally suspended by our counterpart about migratory issues and the resumption of postal services.

Your Excellencies:
Delegates:

Whatever the circumstances, our people will defend, at any price, their achievements; they will uphold their ideas; they will recover from natural disasters such as the one that recently lashed Santiago de Cuba and the eastern and central provinces, and will resolutely continue to update and develop our socialism, "with all and for the wellbeing of all."

In the name of this heroic people, their children, their women and the elderly, I ask all governments committed to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and international law, to the norms of the multilateral trading system, to the freedom of trade and navigation, and which reject the extraterritorial implementation of a national law, to once again vote in favor of the resolution contained in document A/67/L.2, entitled "The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States of America."

Thank you very much.

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