Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Discourse and the Reality Do Not Agree: Cuban Foreign Minister Speaks at UN General Assembly

The discourse and the reality do not agree

Speech given by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Cuba, during the debate in the 64th Session of the UN General Assembly

Mr. President,

I would like to congratulate you on your election and confirm our confidence in your total ability to lead our work and deliberations.

Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of CubaI also wish to recognize the excellent administration of Father Miguel D’ Escoto, president of the recently concluded session. The ethical dimension and political reach of his presidency made us advance in our determination to restore to this assembly all of its powers and they will constitute an obligatory reference in the future. With his example, it has become clearer that reforming the United Nations is to democratize it and bring it closer to the people.

Since the general debate took place here one year ago, significant events have occurred on the international stage. Climate change is the most perceptible and dangerous. The economic crisis acquired an intense and global character. Social exclusion grew.

However, the international community reacted with profound optimism to the change of government in Washington. It seemed that a period of extreme aggressiveness, unilateralism and arrogance in that country’s foreign policy was coming to an end, leaving the infamous legacy of the regime of George W. Bush sunk in repudiation.

As could be appreciated in this very hall, the innovative and conciliatory discourse coming from the White House is arousing widespread hope and its reiterated messages of change, dialogue and cooperation have been welcomed. Unfortunately, time is passing and the discourse does not appear to be sustained by concrete acts. The discourse and reality do not agree.

The gravest and most dangerous aspect of this new situation is uncertainty as to the real capacity of the current authorities in Washington to overcome the political and ideological currents that threatened the world under the previous president.

The neoconservative groups, which placed George Bush in the presidency, promoters of the use of force and domination under the protection of the colossal U.S. military and economic power; responsible for crimes that include torture, murder and the manipulation of the U.S. people, have rapidly regrouped and have conserved immense resources of power and influence against the announced change.

The torture and detention center on the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay that usurps Cuban territory has not been closed down. The withdrawal of occupation forces in Iraq has not come about. The war in Afghanistan is expanding and threatening other states.

In the case of Cuba, which has suffered the aggression of the United States for more than half a century, last April the new government announced measures to abolish one of the most brutal actions of George W. Bush, which prohibited links between Cuban residents in the United States and their family members in Cuba, in particular the possibility of visiting them and sending them aid without limitations. These measures constitute a positive step, but are extremely limited and insufficient.

The announcement included the authorization for U.S. companies to undertake certain telecommunications operations with Cuba, but other restrictions that prevent its implementation have not been modified. Neither are there any signs that the U.S. government is prepared to put an end to the immoral practice, recently extended, of robbing Cuban funds frozen in U.S. banks and other assets, under the protection of orders from corrupt judges who are violating their own laws.

The essential issue is that the economic, commercial, and financial blockade of Cuba remains intact.

Despite the existence of laws like the Helms-Burton Act, the president of the United States retains broad executive powers — such as licenses — via which he could modify the application of the blockade.

If a real will for change existed, the U.S. government could authorize the export of Cuban goods and services to the Untied States and from the United States to Cuba.

It could permit Cuba to acquire, anywhere in the world, any product that contains more than 10% of U.S. components or technology, independently of its trademark or origin.

The Treasury Department could abstain from harassing, freezing and confiscating transfers from third countries in U.S. dollars and other currencies to Cuban entities and nationals.

Washington could suspend its prohibition on ships from third countries docking in U.S. ports for 180 days after having touched a Cuban port.

It could also suspend the Treasury Department’s persecution of financial companies and entities that do business with and operate with Cuba.

President Obama could allow U.S. citizens, via licenses, to travel to Cuba, the only country in the world they are prohibited from visiting.

The report to this Assembly from the United Nations secretary general contains abundant examples. In 2009, numerous actions of fining, confiscating or impeding Cuban transactions and those of third countries with Cuba have been documented.

According to the Treasury Department itself, since January of this year, almost half the money collected by its Office of Foreign Assets Control came from penalties levied on U.S. and foreign companies for supposed violations of the economic blockade of Cuba.

The real and indisputable fact is that the new U.S. government has not as yet heeded the overwhelming demand of the international community, expressed in this General Assembly year after year, to end the blockade of Cuba.

Two weeks ago, President Obama notified the secretaries of State and of the Treasury — contrary to what the opinion surveys of the U.S. people reveal — that it is of "national interest" to maintain economic sanctions against Cuba under the Trading with the Enemy Act, passed in 1917 to deal with situations of war and applied only to Cuba.

The U.S. blockade of Cuba is a unilateral act of aggression, which should be ended unilaterally.

For many years, Cuba has expressed its will to normalize relations with the United States.

On August 1, President Raúl Castro publicly reiterated Cuba’s disposition to sustain a respectful dialogue with the United States, between equals, without any shadow over our independence, sovereignty and self-determination. He noted that we should mutually respect our differences, and that we do not recognize that country’s government, or any other, or any group of states whatsoever, as having jurisdiction over our sovereign affairs.

The Cuban government has proposed to the government of the United States the essential matters that it considers necessary to address in an eventual process of dialogue aimed at improving relations. These are the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade; Cuba’s exclusion from the spurious list of terrorist countries; the annulment 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 radio and television aggression from the United States against Cuba; and a halt to its financing of internal subversion.

An essential issue on that agenda is the release of the five Cuban anti-terrorists who, for 11 years, have been suffering unjust imprisonment in the United States. President Obama has the constitutional prerogative to release them, as an act of justice and of his government’s commitment against terrorism.

We have proposed to the United States, moreover, to initiate talks for establishing cooperation to confront drug trafficking, terrorism, and human trafficking, to protect the environment and confront natural disasters.

It is in this spirit that the Cuban government has held talks with the U.S. government on migration and on the reestablishment of a direct mail service. Those talks have been respectful and useful.

Mr. President:

Cuba enjoys extensive and productive relations in every corner of the planet. With the single exception of the United States, Cuba has friendly relations with every country in this hemisphere and can count on the solidarity of the region.

We practice cooperation in solidarity with dozens of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Ours is stable country, with a united, educated and healthy people, which has more than demonstrated its ability to confront, even under blockade conditions, the consequences of the global crisis and the effects of climate change, which in the past year cost the national economy 20% of its gross domestic product.

Cuba is in a position to face its own problems and find solutions to them. We do so in a just and equitable society, which rests upon its own efforts, and which has been able to advance and direct its development in the most adverse conditions.

We are prepared to continue facing those challenges with equanimity and patience, with the confidence that no citizen has been left or will be left to their own fate, and with the assurance that we are defending a cause of national independence and a social project that has great support from the Cuban people.

Anyone who tries to put an end to the Revolution or break the determination of the Cuban people is suffering from delusions. Patriotism, social justice and determination to defend independence are all part of our national identity.

Mr. President:

Latin America and the Caribbean are at a dramatic juncture, defined by the acute contradiction between the great majorities, which together with progressive governments and broad social movements, are demanding justice and equity, facing the traditional oligarchies bent on preserving their privileges.

The coup d’état in Honduras is a reflection of that. The coup-plotters and usurpers who kidnapped that country’s legitimate president are in violation of the Constitution and are brutally repressing their people, as in the dark period of military dictatorships backed by the United States in Latin America.

Hundreds of thousands of murdered, disappeared and tortured people are agitating in the awareness of "Our America" in the face of impunity.

It has yet to be clarified why the aircraft that kidnapped the constitutional president of Honduras made a stopover on the U.S. air base in Palmerola. The U.S. fascist right, symbolized by Cheney, is openly supporting and backing the coup.

President José Manuel Zelaya should be restored fully, immediately and unconditionally to the exercise of his constitutional functions.

The inviolability of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa must be respected, and the siege and aggression against its facilities must cease.

The Honduran people are resisting heroically and will have the last word.

These events coincide with the renewed and aggressive interest of the United States in establishing military bases in Latin America, and with the reestablishment of the 4th Fleet, obviously with the objective of placing U.S. troops within reach of the region in a question of hours, thus threatening revolutionary and progressive processes — particularly the Bolivarian Revolution in the sister nation of Venezuela, and procuring control of the region’s oil and other natural resources.

The slander and lies against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are brutal. It should be recalled that that is how atrocious acts of aggression against our homeland developed and were executed.

The broader and clearer that the policy toward that fraternal country becomes, the more it will contribute to the peace, independence and development of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Latin America and the Caribbean can advance, and to a certain degree they are advancing, toward new and superior forms of integration. They have water, land, forests, mineral resources and energy resources superior to any other region on the planet. Their combined population is in excess of 570 million.

The Rio Group, the Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development (CALC) and UNASUR are bodies created by virtue of the ties that unite us.

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) and the PETROCARIBE cooperation concept are perfect examples of that.

Mr. President:

The optimistic predictions in Pittsburgh concerning the evolution of the global economic crisis, foretelling a possible economic recovery by early next year, are not based on solid data, and in the best of cases, refer only to an easing of the drop experienced by a very small group of the most powerful economies on the planet. It is striking that objectives have been set, but not one word has been said about how to reach them.

Nobody should ignore the fact that this is an unprecedented crisis of the capitalist system that takes in—respectively—food, energy, the environment, and social and financial crises; nor should they ignore the danger of the inflation/debt combination, the bursting of other financial bubbles, or a second downturn.

The developing countries are not responsible for but are victims of the consequences of the industrialized economies’ irrational and unsustainable model of consumption, exploitation and speculation, attacks on the environment, and corruption.

While this is being debated, the number of hungry people is set to reach a record figure of 1.02 billion in 2009, one-sixth of the world’s population. This year, another 90 million people will be thrown into poverty, and a further 50 million into unemployment. Another 400,000 children are expected to die as a consequence of the crisis in these months.

The measures being adopted are simply palliative ones, preserving the serious shortcomings of an unjust, exclusive and environmentally unsustainable international economic system. An international dialogue is necessary, one that is all-embracing and inclusive, with the active participation of all developing countries.

A new international economic order needs to be established, based on solidarity, justice, equity and sustainable development. The international financial architecture should be re-founded. A central role in this effort belongs to the United Nations, and particularly this General Assembly.

Mr. President

Concluding these words, I wish to repeat Cuba’s gratitude for the traditional and invaluable solidarity that it has received from this General Assembly in its struggle against aggression and blockade. Today that solidarity remains essential.

As Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz stated on this same podium nine years ago: "nothing of that which exists in the economic and political order serves the interests of humanity. It cannot sustain itself. It must be changed. Suffice it to recall that we are now more than six billion inhabitants, of whom 80% are poor. Millenary infirmities of the countries of the Third World, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and other equally deadly diseases have not been defeated; new epidemics like AIDS are threatening to wipe out the populations of entire nations, while the rich countries are investing fabulous sums on military spending and luxuries, and a voracious plague of speculators are exchanging currencies, shares, and other real or fictional securities, for sums rising to trillions of dollars every day. Nature is being destroyed, the climate is changing before our eyes, water for human consumption is being contaminated and is in short supply; humanity’s food sources in the oceans are being exhausted; vital non-renewable resources are being squandered on luxuries and vanities…The dream of reaching truly just and rational regulations to govern human destiny seems impossible to many. Our conviction is that the struggle for the impossible should be the slogan for this institution that brings us together today!"

In spite of everything, the Cuban revolution is victoriously and securely celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Thank you very much

Translated by Granma International

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