The Blockade Has Never Been Applied with Such Viciousness as in the Past Year
SPEECH BY CUBAN FOREIGN MINISTER FELIPE PEREZ ROQUE, ON “THE NECESSITY OF ENDING THE ECONOMIC, COMMERCIAL AND FINANCIAL BLOCKADE IMPOSED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AGAINST CUBA.”
NEW YORK, OCTOBER 30, 2007
The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, and against the rights of the peoples that you all represent in this Assembly, has now lasted almost half a century.
According to conservative estimates, it has caused Cuba losses in excess of $89 billion. That means, in terms of the dollar’s current value, no less than $222 billion. Anybody can understand the level of economic and social development that Cuba might have reached if it were not subjected to this implacable and obsessive economic war.
The blockade is now the main obstacle to the development and well-being of the Cuban people and a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of our people’s rights.
The blockade is attempting to bring the Cuban people to its knees through hunger and disease.
That was how the essence of the blockade on Cuba was explained in a meeting led by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960:
“...there’s no effective political opposition; therefore, the only foreseeable means to alienate internal support [for the Revolution] is through disenchantment based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. We should immediately use any possible measure to deny Cuba money and supplies, to diminish income so as to cause hunger, desperation and the collapse of the government.”
Forty-seven years later, that was repeated by President George W. Bush:
“...I also urge our Congress to show our support and solidarity for fundamental change in Cuba by maintaining our embargo...”
Seven out of every 10 of us Cubans, distinguished delegates, have only known the perennial threat of aggression against our country and the economic hardships caused by the blockade’s implacable persecution.
The United States has ignored, with arrogance and political blindness, the 15 resolutions adopted by this General Assembly asking for the lifting of the blockade against Cuba. Even worse, throughout the past year, it has adopted new measures, bordering on insanity and fanaticism, which intensify even more the sanctions and extraterritorial persecution of our relations with the countries that you all represent.
The blockade has never been applied with such viciousness as it has over the past year.
On August 14, 2006, the United States government went to the extreme of fining the Alliance of Baptist Churches, alleging that some of its faithful “did tourism” during a visit to Cuba with religious purposes.
In December 2006, the U.S. government prohibited U.S. companies from providing Internet services to Cuba. Therefore, if there are attempts from within Cuba to access the services of Google Earth, as millions of users do every day throughout the world, the response is received that “This product is not available in your country.”
Cuban children have been especially lacerated by the blockade that President Bush has promised to intensify.
Cuban children have not been able to receive the inhalant anesthetic Sevorane from the U.S. company Abbott, which is the best for pediatric general anesthesia. We have to use lesser-quality substitutes. President Bush will surely explain it by saying that those Cuban children are “collateral victims” of his war on Cuba.
Cuban children who suffer from arrhythmia can no longer receive pacemakers that the U.S. company Saint-Jude used to sell to us. The pressure fro the Office of Foreign Assets Control was very strong, and Saint-Jude saw itself obliged to break with Cuba.
The U.S. delegation should explain to this Assembly why Cuban children who suffer from cardiac arrhythmia are enemies of the U.S. government.
The Cuban delegation cannot explain —perhaps the U.S. one can— why culture has been one of the principle objectives of the blockade’s persecution.
The U.S. government prevents Cuba from participating in the Puerto Rico Book Fair. Blocking the participation of Cuban writers and editors in a book fair is a barbarian act.
From December 2006, hotels belonging to the U.S.-based chains Ritz, Carlton, Hilton and Marriott received instructions from the U.S. government to cancel their contracts with Cuban musicians who were working temporarily in their hotels throughout the world. They would be hired again only if they moved to Miami, declared themselves admirers of President Bush’s policies and repented of having lived at some point in Cuba.
I would like to reiterate our solidarity with the U.S. filmmakers Oliver Stone and Michael Moore. The first has been fined by the U.S. government, in the name of freedom, for having traveled to Cuba to film the documentaries Comandante and Looking for Fidel. I really don’t know how President Bush imagined that Oliver Stone could find Fidel if not by traveling to Cuba. The second one, Michael Moore, is being investigated regarding the trip he made to our country this past March to film his documentary Sicko. This, distinguished delegates, is 21st century McCarthyism.
With this grotesque persecution of honest words and independent art, the U.S. president has become an emulator of the medieval Inquisition. Except that this modern inquisition is much more barbarian and lethal: it organized the plunder of the fabulous Baghdad Library and the burning of more than one million books.
I would now like to recall the words of the Cuban and international artist Alicia Alonso in her recent letter to U.S. intellectuals and artists:
“We are working together so that Cuban artists and writers can take their talent to the United States, and so that you are not prevented from coming to our island to share your knowledge and values; so that a song, a book, a scientific study or a piece of choreography are not irrationally considered as a crime.”
The blockade persecutes exchange and human relations between the people of Cuba and of the United States. It prevents, moreover, normal relations between Cuban families on both sides of the Florida Straits. Fines of up to $1 million for businesses and $250,000 for individuals and prison sentences of up to 10 years for violators is the price that a person from the United States must risk in order to come as a tourist to our country, or a Cuban resident in the United States if he or she wants to visit a sick relative in Cuba.
On more than one occasion, this Assembly has listened to the representatives of the United States say that the issue that we are discussing today is a bilateral question that should not be discussed in this forum. They will probably repeat this fallacious argument when they later explain their vote.
However, as you all well know, the brutal economic war that is imposed on Cuba does not only affect the Cuban people. If that alone were the case, it would be extremely serious. But it is even worse. It is an affront to international law, to the aims and principles established in the United Nations Charter, and to the right of any country to trade in a free and sovereign manner with whichever nation it chooses to do so.
The extraterritorial application of U.S. laws, in contempt of the legitimate interests of third countries —the countries that you all represent, distinguished delegates, in this Assembly— in investing and developing normal economic and commercial relations with Cuba, is an issue that concerns all of the states meeting here.
In the period from May 2006 to May 2007 alone, at least 30 countries were affected by the extraterritorial regulations of the blockade policy on Cuba.
Let’s look at just a few examples:
- On July 28, 2006, the blockade’s regulations were applied to the Netherlands Caribbean Bank, of the Dutch Antilles, including the freezing of accounts in the United States and the prohibition on any transactions by U.S. citizens and entities with that bank.
- On May 4, 2007, the British company PSL Energy Services was fined $164,000 for exporting equipment and services to Cuba for the oil industry.
- Sabroe-brand compressors cannot be exported to Cuba, either, after the Danish company that makes them was acquired by a U.S. company.
- The U.S. multinational General Electric acquired the Finnish company Datex-Ohmeda. Until that date, Cuba was able to buy the excellent equipment for anesthesia and multipurpose monitoring made in Finland, as we traditionally did.
- When the Cuban Institute of Nutrition and Hygiene tried to buy an infrared spectrophotometer from the Japanese company Shimadzu, it found that the blockade prohibited it, because more than 10% of that machine’s components are U.S.-made.
- The German company Basf AG was unable to sell an herbicide product to Cuba, either from Germany or from its branches in Latin America, because the active ingredient is from the U.S.
- Since the Spanish cruise line Pullmantur was acquired by the U.S. company Royal Caribbean in late 2006, the Holiday Dream cruise ship, owned by the first, had to suspend its operations in Cuba.
- In December 2006, the management of the Hotel Scandic of Norway, purchased in March 2006 by the U.S. Hilton hotel chain, cancelled the reservations made to house a Cuban delegation during an international tourism fair. That caused a big scandal and general opposition in Norwegian public opinion. But the most incredible part was yet to come: the spokeswoman from the Hilton Group in London publicly announced —listen to this, distinguished delegates— that the chain would prohibit the housing of Cubans in all of its hotels around the world, and if not, they would be subject to fines or could go to prison, in line with the blockade legislation.
But the most notorious episode that occurred this year with respect to the U.S. blockade on Cuba was, no doubt, the merciless war waged by the U.S. Treasury Department on Cuba’s relations with financial and banking institutions in other countries.
That was possible especially after the U.S. government and its special services gained access to confidential information held by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), an institution via which virtually all payments and exchanges of messages are made among the world’s financial institutions.
Over the last year, more than 20 banks from different countries have been grossly threatened with the objective of interrupting any type of relationship or transaction with Cuba. For reasons that are understandable, this Assembly cannot be given more information about such a sensitive matter, because that would facilitate the obsessive persecution of U.S. agencies completely dedicated to this ignoble task.
Just a few days ago, the U.S. president stated: “Cuba’s regime uses the U.S. embargo as a scapegoat for Cuba’s miseries.”
However, the Secretary General’s Report, contained in document A/62/92, with information contributed by 118 countries and 21 international organizations, shows clearly and thoroughly actions carried out by the administration over the past year to intensify the blockade, as well as its serious consequences for Cuba.
This General Assembly has the opportunity today to express, freely and openly, the opinion of the international community on the policy of blockade and aggression that the United States has imposed on the Cuban people for almost 50 years.
Right now, there in Cuba, our people are attentively and hopefully following the decision you all will make. They are doing so while keeping in mind Fidel’s words: “Never has a people had such sacred things to defend or such profound convictions to fight for.”
Cuba, distinguished delegates, will not surrender. It is fighting and will fight with the conviction that defending our rights today is also to defend the rights of all of the nations represented in this Assembly.
In the name of Cuba, I ask you to vote “yes” on the resolution titled “The Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
I ask you, distinguished delegates, to vote “yes” on the resolution presented by Cuba, despite the lies uttered by the U.S. delegation and threats that have been made in all the days leading up to today.
We ask you vote “yes” on Cuba’s resolution, which is also to vote “yes” on the rights of all the peoples on this planet.
I would like to end by recalling the words of José Martí, Cuba’s national hero of independence: “Whoever stands up now with Cuba stands up for all times.”
Freedom for the five Cuban heroes, the anti-terrorist fighters, political prisoners in U.S. prisons!
Freedom for the five Cuban heroes!
I do have a legitimate right, distinguished delegates, to say:
¡Viva Cuba Libre!
¡Viva Cuba Libre!
¡Viva Cuba Libre!
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