Speech by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla at 64th Session of UN General Assembly on Embargo Against Cuba

SPEECH BY FOREIGN MINISTER BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA AT THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY UNDER THE ITEM “NECESSITY OF ENDING THE ECONOMIC, COMMERCIAL AND FINANCIAL EMBARGO IMPOSED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AGAINST CUBA”.

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NEW YORK, OCTOBER 28, 2009

Mr. President,

Permanent Representatives and Delegates,

Alexis García Iribar was born in Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. He suffered from a congenital cardiopathy known as persistent arterial duct. At the age of 6 and after successive deferrals and hemodynamic complications, he had to be submitted to an open-heart surgery on March 9, 2009, because the government of the United States prevents the US companies NUMED, AGA and Boston Scientific from selling to Cuba the ‘amplatzer’ and ‘embolization coil’ devices required to perform a catheterization that will spare children from this type of surgery. I could mention another 12 cases of children between the ages of 5 months and 13 years who have had to undergo a similar procedure in the course of the last one and a half years –two of them underwent surgery after last January 20.

Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemia whose bodies reject traditional medicines can not be treated with the American product “Elspar” (Erwinia L-asparaginase), created specially to treat intolerance. Consequently, the life expectancy of these children is reduced and their suffering increases. The U.S. government forbids Merck & Co. to supply this medication to Cuba.

Cuba has not been able to acquire Gene Analyzer Equipment -indispensable to study the origin of breast, colon, and prostate cancer- which is manufactured by the company Applied Biosystem (ABI).

Lactalis USA, a supplier of dairy products, was fined $20,000 by the US government.

Since the election of President Obama, there has been no change whatsoever in the implementation of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade against Cuba. The blockade remains intact.

It continues to be an absurd policy that causes scarcities and sufferings. It is a mass, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights. In the Geneva Convention of 1948, it was classified as an act of genocide. It is ethically unacceptable.

The blockade is an uncultured act of arrogance. Recently, the US government prevented the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from performing in Cuba. Cuban artists can not receive any compensation for their performances before American audiences. How can artistic creation be considered a crime?

Microsoft blocked Cuba’s access to Windows Live because, as can be read after click-opening that tool, that is the way it goes for “users from countries submitted to the US embargo”. The same thing happens with the web pages ‘Cisco System’, ‘SolidWorks’ and ‘Symantec’.

The blockade imposes restrictions on Cuba’s bandwidth and connectivity. Cuba is not allowed to connect to the fiber optics submarine cables that cross nearby our coasts.

Why does the US government hinder free flow of information and access to the new technologies?

These inhumane prohibitions, improper in this day and age, are applied not only to Cuba, but also against the countries that you represent.

Philips Medical failed to comply with the contract to supply spare parts for medical equipment bought at a total cost of $72.7 million, which were installed in Cuba and in Venezuela. Besides, that company was fined $200,000 dollars. This is a company from the Netherlands against which the US applied the extraterritorial precepts of the blockade.

Hitachi stated that it can not sell to Cuba an Electronic Transmission Microscope, which is indispensable for pathological anatomy studies; and Toshiba said the same about a Gamma Chamber and other magnetic resonance and high precision ultra-sound equipment. These are Japanese companies against which the US also applies the blockade.

The US government forbade the food company Sensient Flavors, a subsidiary registered and based in Canada, to export to Cuba.

Siemens, a German company, refused to sell to Cuba one 125 Mw transformer because of its “obligation to follow certain U.S. rules”. One of its subsidiaries based in Denmark could not supply equipment for a cement factory in Cuba because of the ban imposed by the U.S.

The Australia & New Zealand Bank Group (ANZ), based in Australia, was imposed a million dollar fine for carrying out operations with Cuba.

One thousand, nine hundred and forty one vessels that had entered Cuban ports between July of 2008 and 2009 were banned from entering any U.S. port for a period of 180 days.

The UN secretary general’s report, which also includes the report submitted by Cuba, contains many other examples.

The U.S. representatives lie when they assert that the blockade is a bilateral issue. The extraterritorial application of the blockade laws, such as the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts, against the states represented here, is a serious violation of international law, the UN Charter, and the freedom of trade and navigation. In recent months, the blockade laws have been applied to at least against 56 countries. It is then up to the General Assembly to discuss this issue. According to recent polls conducted by institutions of this country, 76 per cent of American citizens oppose the blockade. Disregarding the wishes for change and maintaining the blockade is antidemocratic.

In times characterized by unemployment and economic crisis, the Cuban market is out of bounds for American business people. They are not allowed to invest in Cuba. International companies face no American competition in Cuba because the U.S. government prohibits it.

What is wrong with allowing American citizens to have access to Cuban products? Who could be affected by the creation of new jobs in US ports as a result of the development of normal commercial relations between both countries? Why can’t American citizens have access to Cuban state-of-the-art medicine against cancer or diabetes, or the technologies required to manufacture them, which are only available in Cuba? Why is Bacardi, which paid for the lobby that imposed the Helms-Burton Act, evading competition and forcing American citizens to pay a higher price for a poor imitation of Cuban rum? Why should a Cuban cigar be something inaccessible and exotic in this country?

Last September 11, the U.S. President seemed to be stuck in the past when he decided to extend the implementation of the blockade for another year, claiming it was “in the national interest of the U.S.” and based on the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, applicable only to war situations and only enforced against Cuba.

No serious person could assert that Cuba is a threat to the national security of the world’s only super-power. Our strength is that of law, truth and reason. The inclusion of Cuba in the spurious lists of alleged states sponsoring terrorism, which is the reason that justifies some blockade measures, should cease. Our five anti-terrorist heroes, who have been unjustly imprisoned in this country, should be freed now.

On September 11, 2001, Cuba opened up its skies and airports so that any American plane could have somewhere to land; it offered plasma and healthcare personnel. Later on it offered antibiotics and equipment against anthrax and made a generous offer to send Cuban doctors when Hurricane Katrina lashed New Orleans.

Cuba is the hospitable nation that invites American citizens to visit; it also invites American scholars and scientists to engage in cooperation and join an enlightening debate. It invites American artists to build bridges. It invites American companies to trade and invest.

Mr. President,

A few days ago, we all applauded President Obama when he said from this rostrum: “International law is not an empty promise (…) No nation should try to dominate another nation.”

The international community can not accept –nor it could accept- that those who govern in Washington feel they have the authority to implement coercive economic measures and extraterritorial laws against sovereign states.

President Obama has a historical opportunity to lead a change of policy towards Cuba and lift the blockade. He is even invested with the executive powers that would allow him, right now and all by himself, to substantially modify the implementation of the blockade measures by granting “special licenses” or waivers, making humanitarian exceptions or doing so for the sake of U.S. national interest, even without modifying the laws that enforce such prohibitions.

Any person who feels aggrieved and righteously defies the egoism and lack of sensitivity of the conservative right, as President Obama did in Congress, because “…a man of Illinois had lost his health insurance coverage in the middle of his chemotherapy…and died as a result of that (…) And another woman from Texas lost her health insurance when she was about to submit to a double mastectomy”, could not , without lacking basic ethics, prevent Cuban children who suffer from cancer or a heart condition from receiving medicines and medical equipment.

Using the same words expressed by Senator Kennedy when he referred to the health reforms, the blockade against Cuba is also “a moral issue” that puts to the test “the character” of the United States of America.

Mr. President,

It is true that Cuba purchases significant amounts of agricultural products from the United States. However, the U.S. representatives lie when they say that the United States is one of Cuba’s trading partners and keep silent about the fact that such operations are carried out in violation of the standards established by the international trade system. Cuba’s payments are to be made in cash and in advance, without any access to private credits. Cuban vessels are not allowed to transport any cargo. Cuba is submitted to onerous and discriminatory procedures and has to put up with continued maneuvers aimed at confiscating shipments. We can not call “trade” certain operations that lack a minimum reciprocity whereby Cuba would be allowed to export its products to the United States. A country that blockades another country can not be the latter’s trade partner.

It is shameful to see how the representatives of the U.S. government lie when they assert that the United States is the main donor of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. The data they use is false. They combine, through fictitious and ill-intended figures, the value of alleged licenses for operations that turn out to be unviable with the amount of assistance sent by Cuban immigrants residing in the U.S., through their own efforts, to their relatives. Successive U.S. administrations have persecuted and harassed the non-governmental organizations that send humanitarian assistance to Cuba and, as a result of that, half of them have stopped doing so.

One year ago, when Cuba was devastated by three hurricanes which caused losses that accounted for 20 per cent of our GDP, the Bush administration did not even respond to our request for American companies to be allowed to sell us, as a one-off exception, construction material, covers to replace broken roofs and grant private credits.

Mr. President,

At several meetings, the U.S. delegates have referred to the steps that their government has taken to dismantle the most brutal restrictions imposed by George W. Bush on travel by Cuban émigrés and the sending of remittances to their relatives, as well as the resumption of talks on bilateral migration and the re-establishment of direct postal services.

These actions are positive but they are extremely limited and insufficient. The truth is that we have not even gone back to the situation that had prevailed up until the early days of 2004, when the United States allowed a certain number of academic, cultural, scientific and sport exchanges with Cuban counterparts, which continue to be prohibited today.

Some vague proposals in the area of telecommunications would be simply impractical as long as other restrictions still in force are not eliminated and the practice of stealing Cuban funds – which remained frozen in American banks- resulting from these operations by virtue of certain decisions adopted by venal judges in violation of their own laws, is not discontinued.

After re-establishing the right of all U.S. residents of Cuban origin to travel to the island, the irrationality of preventing American citizens from traveling to Cuba -the only place forbidden to them in the whole planet- will become much more evident. American citizens, who pay taxes, are not free to travel to Cuba, despite the fact that the constitution in this country allegedly guarantees that. American citizens are not allowed to receive first-hand information about Cuba.

The U.S. representatives have also referred to a declared new spirit in their relations with our country.

Cuba’s response is fully consistent with its historical readiness to talk directly with the United States. As was done in the past by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, President Raul Castro Ruz has reiterated his willingness to establish a dialogue on any aspect and negotiate all bilateral problems on the basis of respect, sovereign equality, and without detriment to our national independence and self determination. We have clearly stated that we will not negotiate our internal affairs or our constitutional order. We are still awaiting a response from the U.S. government about the proposed agenda submitted by Cuba last July to start a bilateral dialogue, which I publicly announced in this same conference hall on September 28.

Mr. President,

The economic blockade has not met, nor will it, its purpose of crushing the patriotic determination of the Cuban people. But it generates shortages; it restricts our development potential and seriously affects our economy. It is, without doubt, the fundamental obstacle that hinders the economic development of our country.

It is very difficult to estimate the cost it has had for Cuba. A rigorous and conservative record of the economic damages it has caused amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars, based on the current and decreasing value of that currency.

The U.S. representatives have said that our shortages result from the failure of our system. But they lie, perhaps rather by ignorance than out of bad faith. Thanks to our system, we have been able to resist for 50 years; and we have developed despite the blockade. If they are convinced that our system does not work, what do they need the blockade for?

Faced with veritable economic warfare and a vicious manipulation of the media, beneath the effects of climate change and the global economic crisis, Cuba is engaged in a deeply human and fraternal social and cultural work.

Our people are determined to move ahead, in sovereignty, in order to solve our problems and perfect our political, economic and social system within socialism. We Cubans have every right to do that, without blockades or foreign pressures; without the funds worth millions with which the U.S. government finances subversion; without any foreign interference in the decisions that only we are entitled to make.

That is the purpose of the resolution that we intend to adopt and I am honored to present. To support this resolution would be an act against aggression and the use of force. It would be an act in favor of peace, people’s rights and hopes. It would be an act of justice towards the people of Cuba who today are paying tribute to the memory of Camilo Cienfuegos, who was a young and optimistic Commander in the Sierra Maestra mountain range, from whom we learned that loyalty to our sacred achievements and our profound convictions is the only way to victory

Thank you very much.

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