Bruno Rodríguez: The blockade is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights

The Cuban Foreign Minister held a press conference after the meeting between Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama in New York

(Granma International) – On Tuesday, September 29, in New York City, Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro exchanged their views in a “respectful and constructive” atmosphere, regarding the recent visit by Pope Francis to Cuba and the United States, as well as issues on the bilateral agenda established by the two nations, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla stated during a press conference.

“The Presidents agreed on the need to continue working on the set bilateral agenda, which includes areas of mutual benefit and bilateral cooperation, and in third countries such as Haiti, the development of dialogue on issues of bilateral and multilateral interest and resolving outstanding issues between the two states,” Rodríguez Parrilla noted.

According to the head of Cuban diplomacy, Raúl reiterated to his U.S. counterpart that in order for there to be normal relations between Cuba and the United States, the blockade, which causes damage and hardship to the Cuban people, and affects the interests of U.S. citizens, must be eliminated, among other issues that infringe on Cuba’s national sovereignty.

“Regarding the executive decisions and regulations announced last September 18, [regarding the blockade] the Cuban President stressed the need to extend their scope,” he said.

He added that the Cuban President reiterated his willingness to build a new relationship based on respect and sovereign equality.

The pace of the process toward the normalization of relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba will depend on the lifting of the blockade, which continues to be applied in its entirety, the diplomat added.

“As the blockade is a tangible reality, that has not changed, on October 27 the Cuban delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations will present the draft resolution entitled: Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba. As long as the blockade persists, we will present this resolution,” he stated.

The blockade has a serious humanitarian dimension, it is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of all Cubans, it affects and harms all Cuban families, even Cubans living outside Cuba, he explained.

Rodríguez Parrilla added that this policy also violates the letter and spirit of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by all heads of state and government of the region, at the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, held in Havana in January 2014.

Responding to questions from the press, the Cuban foreign minister noted that the return of the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base is a priority within the process toward the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, a demand of the Cuban people – supported by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States – and an issue of the utmost importance.

In reference to the upcoming vote on the Cuban resolution against the blockade, Rodríguez Parrilla stated that he was unaware as to how the U.S. delegation would vote, and recalled that last year the initiative received 188 votes in favor, three abstentions and just two votes against, including that of the U.S. itself.

The minister reiterated Cuba’s commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and its purposes and principles, which are opposed to the threat and use of force.

At another point he added, “We are very proud of Cuba’s record in terms of human rights. In my opinion, human rights are universal, interdependent, they should not be the object of political manipulation or selectivity of any kind.”

In Cuba, the full exercise of political rights and civil liberties, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, is guaranteed. We have many concerns regarding the human rights situation around the world, particularly in the United States and Western Europe. The refugee crisis is a sign of this. The racial discrimination and police brutality against African Americans in the United States is very serious, he stated.

He noted that our country has “deep concerns” regarding the terrible consequences of the humanitarian refugee crisis in Europe, which is associated with the conflicts triggered in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as poverty and underdevelopment.

“The Cuban President warned, very early on, that the acts of non-conventional war being committed by NATO member countries in North Africa, and the idea of expanding NATO to Russia’s borders        would lead to serious threats to international peace and security,” he said.

He explained that Cuba’s opinion is that international issues, differences between states or nations, must be resolved within international law and via peaceful means, seeking negotiated solutions.

Referring to different points being discussed and areas of cooperation between Cuba and the United States, Rodríguez Parrilla cited the environment, in particular regarding shared seas; drug trafficking; search and rescue operations; and confronting terrorism.

“Cuba has energetically confronted all manifestations of terrorism. Cuba is a location where terrorism of any kind, any organization, any funding, any provision of supplies, regardless of motivation, against any state, against any person, has never been, and will never be permitted,” he emphasized.

At a previous moment during his remarks, Rodríguez recognized the just decision made by the United States to remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, on which the country should never have been placed.

He added that there is also cooperation in the area of health, “We will present to the U.S. government a proposal for trilateral cooperation in Haiti, in the area of health, once it has been reviewed by the sovereign government of that nation.”

He emphasized the concrete benefits which this type of cooperation could provide the Haitian people, and others.

Rodríguez insisted, “This should never be a mere press headline or statement of good intentions. Cuba will request participation in tripartite cooperative efforts only when they are substantive, of real scope, real impact on the health conditions in receiving countries, especially in Haiti.”

“There are other areas also opening, regarding direct postal service, communications, and in diverse environments,” he noted.

The Foreign Minister addressed the executive decisions recently announced by President Obama to modify the blockade’s implementation, noting that, to date, they have had little impact.

“They are of a very, very limited scope, and do not affect any significant aspect of the blockade’s implementation,” he said.

Rodríguez recalled that the U.S. President made a commitment to engage in a debate with Congress about lifting the blockade, emphasizing, “There will be no normalization with the blockade, and no substantial progress in normalization without substantial changes in the implementation of the blockade.”

Asked about the limited time remaining in the current administration’s term in office, and the possibility of further changes in policy toward Cuba, Rodríguez said that the opportunity exists “to make significant progress in the normalization of bilateral relations during President Obama’s term.”

“We should take advantage of the time, take advantage of the opportunities to the benefit of our peoples’ mutual interest.”

He emphasized U.S. citizens’ right to visit Cuba, and that of U.S. companies to invest, without the blockade’s restrictions, adding, “Cuba in no way discriminates against states regarding commerce or investment interests, but rather invites them to take advantage of opportunities created by changes taking place on the basis of sovereign decisions and priorities for our national development within the Cuban economy.”

“The executive powers of the President of the United States are very broad, they cover tens of areas; he could show determination and implement measures to substantively modify the blockade’s implementation. He has not done so; I hope he does,” Rodríguez continued.

The Foreign Minister was asked his personal opinion of relations between the two Presidents. He commented that during the Summit of the Americas, this past April in Panama, President Raúl Castro said he considered President Obama honest, and expressed his admiration given the U.S. leader’s humble origins. He noted that he is a President who, unlike nine of his predecessors, has not implemented measures against Cuba – President James Carter being the only other one.

“You have surely seen the images of previous meetings between the two Presidents, and the cordiality pictured last night and today,” he concluded. (International news staff)