Cuban speech to UN General Assemby
Speech by Felipe Pérez Roque, minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Cuba, under Issue 18 on the agenda of the General Assembly titled The Need to End the Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States of America
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today is a day of special importance for the United Nations. By voting on the 14th occasion for a resolution presented by Cuba, titled: The Need to end the Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade imposed by the United States of America on Cuba, the General Assembly will not only be deciding on an issue of interest to Cuba. We will also be voting for the principles and regulations of international law, against the extraterritorial application of laws and in defense of the human rights of the Cuban people, the American people and the people of the 191 nations represented in this Assembly.
It is true that the U.S. government has ignored the reiterated and almost unanimous demands of the international community and it is certain that President Bush will even further intensify the blockade, already the longest and cruelest in history. But that does not diminish the extreme political, moral, ethical and juridical importance of this vote.
Never before has the blockade been applied with such viciousness and brutality as in the last 18 months. Never before has a U.S. government persecuted so cruelly and mercilessly the economy and right of the Cuban people to a dignified and decent life.
From May 6, 2004, when the U.S. president signed his new annexation plan for Cuba, there has been a hysterical and unprecedented escalation in the application of new and aggressive measures, including the threat of using military force against Cuba and the persecution not only of Cuban citizens and businesses, but also those of the United States and the rest of the world.
Thus, in May of 2004, a fine of $100 million was imposed on the Swiss UBS Bank, the heaviest fine ever levied against a bank institution for supposedly violating the blockade of Cuba.
On September 30, 2004, at the height of madness and absurdity, the so-called Cuban Assets Control Regulations were intensified, and it was established that citizens or permanent residents of the United States may not legally purchase products of Cuban origin in a third country, including tobacco and alcohol, and not even for their personal use abroad. The legal sanctions for these violations could reach $1 million in fines for corporations and $250,000 in fines and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for individuals. It would be the only time in history that smoking a Cuban cigar or buying a bottle of the incomparable Havana Club rum would be prohibited to an American, including if it is purchased as part of a tourist trip to another country. When it comes to craziness, this draconian ban should be registered in the Guinness Book of Records.
On October 9, 2004, in an unprecedented act of aggression in the history of international financial relations, the U.S. State Department announced the establishment of a "Cuban Asset Targeting Group." Just the existence of this Group with that name should shame the president of the most powerful nation on Earth.
In January of 2005, the Office of Foreign Assets Control reinterpreted the regulations on travel in such a way that U.S. citizens are no longer permitted to participate in meetings in Cuba sponsored or organized by United Nations agencies based in the United States, unless they first obtain a license from the U.S. government.
On February 24, 2005, in an open, brazen violation of international regulations on brands and patents, a legal maneuver was orchestrated to concretize the theft from Cuba of its rights over the brand name Cohíba, the most prestigious among Cuban cigars.
On April 13, 2005, a guilty verdict was brought against U.S. citizen Stefan Brodie, former president of the company Purolite, after he was accused of having sold Cuba ionized resins for water purification in Cuban aqueducts.
On April 29, 2005, President Bush ordered the Treasury Department to hand over $198,000 in Cuban funds illegally frozen in U.S. banks to comply with one of the illegitimate lawsuits against Cuba brought by those violent and extremist groups who, from Miami, organize terrorist plots against the island with total impunity.
In April of 2005, entry to the United States was denied to the new executives of the Canadian company Sherritt and their family members, in application of the Helms-Burton Act.
Also in April of 2005, the Office of Foreign Assets Control toughened its persecution of religious organizations that hold licenses to travel to Cuba for those purposes.
In 2004, a total of 77 companies, bank institutions and NGOs from the United States and other countries were fined for violating the blockade of Cuba; 11 of them are foreign companies or subsidiaries of U.S. companies in Mexico, Canada, Panama, Italy, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and the Bahamas. Another seven companies, including Iberia, Alitalia, Air Jamaica and Daewoo, were punished because their affiliates in the United States violated – according to the U.S. government – the blockade laws.
Travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba from January to October of 2005 decreased by 55 percent compared to the same period in 2003, before the new sanctions were approved by President Bush. In the case of Cubans resident in the United States, the decrease of those traveling directly is 49 percent.
Cultural, sports, academic, student and scientific exchanges, as well as links between Cubans who live on both sides of the Florida Straits have been a particular target of the anti-Cuban aggressions of this administration. It has even gone so far as to prohibit travel to Cuba by aunts, uncles and cousins, among others, claiming that they are not part of the family.
Over these almost 47 years, the blockade has cost the Cuban people more than $82 billion. There is no economic or social activity in Cuba that does not suffer from the consequences. There is not one human right of the Cuban people that is not assaulted by the blockade.
By virtue of the blockade, Cuban cannot export one single product to the United States. Given its proximity, Cuba could be exporting more than 30,000 tons of nickel or one million tons of sugar to the United States every year at a price three times higher than that which Cuba currently receives. It could also sell $180 million a year in Ateromixol by attaining just 1% of U.S. sales in cholesterol-reducing medications. According to the editors of the magazine Harvard International Review, it is the best anti-cholesterol drug available. In addition, Cuba would have exported almost $30 million in Havana Club rum to the United States last year and more than $100 million in tobacco.
Neither can Cuba import from the United States any merchandise other than agricultural products, and those only with wide and renewed restrictions.
Cuba cannot receive tourism from the United States. If it had received just 15% of the 11 million American tourists who visited the Caribbean in 2004, Cuba would have had income of more than $1 billion.
Different studies published in the United States set a figure of 2 to 4 million for travelers from that country who would come to Cuba if the blockade were lifted.
Due to the blockade, neither can Cuba use the dollar in its overseas transactions, nor does it have access to credits, nor can it undertake operations with U.S. financial institutions, their subsidiaries or even regional and multilateral institutions. Cuba is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean never to have received a credit from the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank in 47 years.
If the blockade were only a bilateral matter between Cuba and the United States it would still be very grave for our little country. But it is much more than that. The blockade is an economic war applied with unparalleled zeal at global level.
Moreover, the blockade is the extraterritorial application of U.S. laws against countries that you represent here, Your Excellencies, and thus a grave violation of international law.
Now Cuba has two new obstacles to overcome: the impotent imperial arrogance of Mr. Bush, which has taken him further into this madness than anyone before, and the growing globalization of the world economy.
Why? Because the United States controls almost half of the transnational enterprises on the planet, including eight of the 10 principal ones. The United States is also the owner of one quarter of direct foreign investment and imports 22% of merchandise at global level.
The United States is the owner of 11 of the 14 largest transnationals in the informatics and communications sector and absorbs around 80% of the world electronics trade. Of the 10 pharmaceutical companies that realize almost half of the world sales of medicaments, five are U.S. ones. Some of those products are unique.
It is for that reason that both investments in the United States by companies in third countries and those of U.S. companies abroad are reducing Cuba’s external economic space. Every merger or takeover among companies poses for our country the challenge – often insuperable – of finding a new supplier or market for our products.
Let us recall, Your Excellencies, the extraterritorial dispositions of the blockade:
In virtue of the Torricelli Act, subsidiaries in third countries are prohibited from trading with Cuba.
Part of the equipment and supplies for the Cuban biotechnological research centers that are already producing therapeutic anti-cancer vaccines were provided by the Swedish Pharmacia enterprise. This was bought up by the British Amersham company, and that, in its turn, by the U.S. General Electric, which gave it a space of one week to suspend all contact with Cuba.
When the Brazilian Oro Rojo enterprise was bought up by a U.S. company, it cancelled its sales to Cuba of canned meat, directed to AIDS patients as part of a project with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.
Your Excellencies, they were not weapons of mass destruction; they were not drugs, they were not banned substances, it was meat for AIDS patients, as part of a UN program. Those sales are pursued; companies that attempt normal trading with Cuba are pursued; one of the rights of our country and one of the rights of national enterprises and entrepreneurs in other countries are being violated.
The Chiron Corporation has not made any sales to Cuba after being fined $168,500 last year because one of its European subsidiaries exported two children’s vaccines to Cuba. Not nuclear weapons, not strategic rockets, two children’s vaccines!
On February 7, 2005, the First Caribbean Bank of the Bahamas cancelled its operations with Cuba due to threats by the U.S. government. The British Barclays Bank recently announced that it would do the same for fear of U.S. sanctions.
The Canadian Veco company, with the participation of U.S. capital, had to suspend its projected participation in the development in Cuba of fuel storage capacities.
The Danish Sabroe Company was acquired by the U.S. York enterprise and immediately cancelled an ongoing operation to sell refrigerator compressors to Cuba needed for the national program to provide all children from 7-13 years of age with soy yogurt.
The blockade also prohibits companies in third countries selling goods or services to Cuba that utilize U.S. technology or contain more than 10% U.S. ingredients.
For example, since 2004, the U.S. government has continued to prohibit the Dutch INTERVET company from selling avian vaccines to Cuba, alleging that they contain an antigen produced in the United States.
The Mexican VAFE S.A. company had to suspend sales to Cuba of a material necessary for the fabrication of domestic pressure cookers, because it contained U.S. raw material.
In September 2004, the Swedish Novair Airline cancelled a contract with Cubana Airlines for the leasing of an Airbus 330, because of maintenance problems, given that although it is of European manufacture, it utilizes various U.S. technologies.
In October 2004, the Japanese Hitachi High Technologies Corporation could not sell an electron microscope to a prestigious Cuban hospital for the same reason.
The blockade prohibits enterprises in third countries-those that you represent here, Ladies and Gentlemen- exporting to the United States any product or equipment containing raw material of Cuban origin.
No company in the world, not one! can export automobiles or other machinery to the United States without first demonstrating that the metals employed in their manufacture contain no Cuban nickel.
The blockade prohibits ships that have transported goods to or from Cuba from entering U.S. ports. Not U.S. ships, Ladies and Gentlemen, but ships of countries that you represent cannot go to the United States if they first enter a Cuban port. This is the Torricelli Act, signed by President Bush Sr. in 1992.
By virtue of the Helms-Burton Act, the blockade prohibits enterprises in third countries from investing in Cuba, on the assumption that these transactions involve properties subject to reclamation on the part of the United States. For that reason, Ladies and Gentlemen, the executives of the Canadian company Sherritt are still sanctioned and the Jamaican company Superclubs withdrew from Cuba last year under the same threat.
The blockade, Your Excellencies, violates the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. It prohibits them from traveling to Cuba, from enjoying our culture and freely interacting with the Cuban people.
When Cuba takes the podium today in this tribunal, it does not do so solely to defend the rights of the Cuban people; it is also doing so in defense of the rights of U.S. citizens, toward whom we feel sympathy, friendship and respect; we do not blame the U.S. people for our suffering or for the unjust and genocidal policy that their government maintains against our country.
We stand here also in defense of the rights of the entire international community, which are being violated by this unilateral and illegal policy.
The blockade not only affects the rights but also the economic interests of the United States. According to a July 2005 study published by the Business and Research Center at the University of Southern Alabama, the elimination of the blockade could generate 100,000 new jobs and additional revenue of $6 billion to the U.S. economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
After many years of so doing, we note that the U.S. delegation present here today has declined to participate in the pre-vote debate. I think that it is due to the fact that they have no ideas; they have not one single argument. For this reason they have declined even to defend their position in general debate. They are overwhelmed by what some 20 delegations have explained here previous to the Cuban delegation. They are silent, probably because, as Abraham Lincoln once said, "…you can’t fool all of the people all of the time."
I should say that we understand this decision as a surrender of a moral kind. More than power is required; ethics are required; moral authority is required, and moral authority is not won with force, it is not won with war, it is not won with arms; moral authority is gained through exemplary acts and respect for the rights of others, even if they are small and poor.
I know that they are still registered to participate in the summation, they will speak after me. I cannot, therefore, comment on their opinions, but I guarantee that in its final summation the Cuban delegation will reject every lie and repeat every truth that is necessary to express in this hall.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Finally, I wish to insist that the blockade against Cuba must be lifted. The U.S. government must cease its aggression against Cuba; it must, in the end, recognize our right to self-determination.
The U.S. government is creating a false illusion – and I say this with all clarity – with the idea that it can destroy the Cuban Revolution. It is disguising its plans; it is using the word transition for what would be a blatant and bloody annexation of Cuba.
But it is mistaken. It does not understand the courage, the spirit of independence and the level of political awareness that the Revolution has sown in the Cuban people.
The firmness and dignity demonstrated by the five young Cubans, political prisoners in U.S. penitentiaries, heroes of the fight against terrorism, whose family members, whose wives, whose mothers, whose children there in Havana are following this debate and trust in the sense of justice of the delegations present, are an example of the unwavering spirit with which Cubans today defend, and will always continue to defend, the right to build a society that is more just, cooperative, and humane.
In the name of the five heroes, Ladies and Gentlemen; in the name of the children and youth of Cuba, who have had to live all of their lives under the blockade; in the name of the generous, cheerful, and valiant people of Cuba who are counting on you, because they know that the world has seen Cubans fighting, teaching and healing wherever their help has been needed, because they know that the world has always seen that Cubans do not give only what they have in surplus, but share everything that they have; in the name of the right of Cuba, Ladies and Gentlemen, that today is also the right of everyone, that today is also the right of all of you and of the people that you represent in this Assembly, I respectfully ask you to vote in favor of the resolution "The need to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States of America."
Thank you very much (Applause)