U.N. Condemns U.S. Blockade of Cuba

October 28, 2010

For the 19th consecutive occasion, the United Nations General Assembly has condemned the U.S. blockade of Cuba. On October 26th, 187 nations voted in support of the resolution called "The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba." Only the U.S. and Israel voted against the resolution. Three countries abstained.

The U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, first enacted in 1962, imposes a total ban on all food, medicine, equipment and raw materials from the U.S. and prohibits free travel between the two countries. In recent years, legislation has further tightened the embargo. In 1992, Congress passed the Torricelli Bill which, in blatant violation of the sovereignty of other states, imposed sanctions against all countries that trade with Cuba. The Helms-Burton legislation, signed into law in 1996, extends such third-party sanctions by denying entry visas to the U.S. for foreign individuals linked to any corporations doing business in Cuba. It also seeks to cut off all international loans to Cuba.

U.S. sanctions have resulted in untold hardship on the Cuban people, denying them medical and humanitarian supplies as well as raw materials, energy and spare parts. It is estimated that the blockade already cost Cuba over 750 billion dollars.

The UN vote dramatically reveals the hypocrisy of the U.S. government. The U.S. government uses the UN Security Council as a vehicle through which it – along with the other big imperialist powers – can dictate the affairs of other countries while claiming to have the authority of international law and the UN. Today, any country which opposes U.S. pressure and interference is portrayed by U.S. imperialism as an "international outlaw" and in many cases military action is threatened or taken against so-called "rogue" states. But for the last eighteen years, when the UN has voted overwhelmingly against the U.S. blockade of Cuba, the U.S. government has shamelessly turned its head, ignoring not only the elementary norms of relations between states and universally recognized international law, but also the declared will of almost every country in the world.

U.S. imperialism wants to overthrow the current political and economic system in Cuba and restore Cuba to the status of a U.S. colony or neo-colony. Such an aggressive foreign policy flies in the face of world public opinion and the deep aspirations of the people of the U.S. who want to live in peace and friendship with the people of Cuba. The Workers Party calls for an end to the U.S. embargo and blockade and that the U.S. government recognize the sovereign and inviolable right of Cuba to determine its own affairs, free of U.S. intervention and pressure.

Below we reprint the text of the speech given by Cuban delegate Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla to the UN General Assembly on October 26:

Mr. President;

Grave and imminent dangers threaten the existence of our species. In order to preserve human life we have to preserve peace. The utilization of just a negligible part of the world’s enormous nuclear arsenal could imply the end of the human species. The only guarantee of nuclear weapons not being used by any state or any individual is their complete destruction, together with the generation of conventional weapons of similar lethal power developed of late. Disarmament is the only solution.

In order to survive, a leap in the consciousness of humanity is essential, one which is only possible via the dissemination of truthful information about these issues, which is hidden or ignored by most politicians, not published by the press, and which people find so horrifying as to seem unbelievable.

We are living in a new era and, in our opinion, it corresponds to this General Assembly, as Fidel Castro has constantly asked, to lead, with all urgency, a world mobilization to demand respect for the right of all human beings and peoples to live.

Let us create another world order; let us found a collective ethic based on human solidarity and justice; let us find a solution to conflicts through dialogue and cooperation, let egotism and the plundering that leads to war and the use of force cease. In the face of serious danger, let us distance ourselves from confrontation or division and let us come together to save peace, the planet and the life of future generations.

Mr. President;

Especially in these circumstances, the U.S. policy against Cuba is devoid of any ethical or legal basis, credibility or support. This is evidenced by the more than 180 votes in this United Nations General Assembly over the last few years, which have demanded an end of the economic, commercial and financial blockade.

In the Secretary-General’s report made available to us, more than 180 countries and specialized agencies of the United Nations system have documented their opposition to that policy.

Latin America and the Caribbean have vigorously and unanimously rejected this policy. The Unity Summit which took place in Cancun in February 2010 resolutely stated the same. The leaders of the region have conveyed this feeling directly to the current U.S. president. It is a fact that the express rejection of the blockade and the Helms-Burton Act characterizes, as very few other issues do, the political heritage of the region.

Equally unequivocal views have been endorsed by the Non-Aligned Movement, the Ibero-American Summits, the European Union and Latin American and Caribbean Summits, the African Union, the ACP Group Summits and virtually any other group of nations which have pronounced themselves in favor of international law and respect for the principles and intentions of the United Nations Charter.

There is a broad and growing consensus within United States society and Cuban émigrés in that country against the blockade and in favor of a change of policy toward Cuba. According to recent polls, 71% of American citizens favor the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, while 64% of them and a similar percentage of Cuban residents in South Florida oppose the prohibition on travel to Cuba, which infringes their citizens’ rights.

Mr. President;

As it has been the case with other issues, two years after President Obama proclaimed "a new beginning with Cuba", the facts confirm that nothing has changed, nor has the president resorted to his wide-ranging prerogatives to relax the blockade.

The sanctions against Cuba remain intact and are being fully implemented.

In the course of the year 2010, the economic siege has been tightened and its everyday impact continues to be visible in all aspects of life in Cuba. It is having particularly serious consequences in areas as sensitive to the population as health and food.

Cuban ophthalmological services can not make use of Transpupillary Thermotherapy, with the use of a surgical microscope, to treat children suffering from a tumor called retinoblastoma; in other words, cancer of the retina, because it is impossible to buy the equipment required for applying this treatment, since it can only be purchased from the U.S. Iris Medical Instruments Company. Without that technology it is impossible to treat retina tumors and make it possible for children to preserve the affected eye.

Cuban children have no access to a medicine called Sevofluorane, the most advanced general inhalation anesthetic drug; that is, an anesthetic used in operations on children, because its manufacturer, the American company ABBOT, is not allowed to sell its products to Cuba.

Neither can Cuba purchase the Optical Coherence Tomographer (OCT), used to examine the retina and optical nerves, manufactured by the German company Carl Zeiss, because some of its components are provided for by the U.S. Humphrey Company.

The onerous and discriminatory conditions dominating the purchase of American foodstuffs, which are allegedly covered by a humanitarian exemption, while violating all international trade standards, resulted in the dramatic reduction of these operations last year. This reality is not only affecting our people but also American farmers. It would be untruthful of anyone here in this room to once again describe as a "trading partner" a country to which Cuba can not sell a single dose of medicine or a single gram of nickel.

Despite the fact that Washington has very selectively authorized certain cultural, academic and scientific exchanges, these are still subject to severe restrictions and many of these projects could not be materialized due to the denial of licenses, visas and other permits. It is little known that Cuban artists are forbidden to receive any payment for their performances in this country.

The persecution of Cuban properties and assets, as well as commercial and financial transfers to and from Cuba or those involving institutions or individuals based in our country, has intensified.

Fines imposed this year by the Treasury and Justice Departments on U.S. and European agencies for their transactions with Cuba, among other states, have totaled more than $800 million dollars.

The US government, in an evident escalation, has also appropriated transfers made by Cuba in the currencies of other countries, such as the euro. The confiscation of a transfer of more than 107,000 euros belonging to the Cubana de Aviación airline, made via the Banco Popular Español from Madrid to Moscow, constitutes veritable theft.

The direct economic damage inflicted on the Cuban people by the implementation of the blockade over the last 50 years amounts to more than $751 billion dollars, according to the present value of that currency.

Mr. President;

Despite the universal rejection of this policy, certain senior U.S. government officials have reiterated that it is to remain unchanged. On September 2, President Obama himself ratified the sanctions against Cuba, alluding to the supposed U.S. "national interest." However, everybody knows that the White House continues to pay more attention to the well-funded "special interests" of a meager minority which has converted the anti-Cuba policy into a highly lucrative business.

It is obvious that the United States has no intention whatsoever of lifting the blockade. There is not even a discernible hint of the will of its government to dismantle the most irrational aspects of what is already the most comprehensive and prolonged body of sanctions and coercive measures ever implemented against any country.

Historically, every time the pretexts used as alleged obstacles to the lifting of the blockade of Cuba have crumbled, they have been replaced by new excuses to justify the continuation of a policy that is, from every point of view, unsustainable.

According to several news agencies, very recently, on October 19, President Obama described all the processes that, in his view, are occurring today in Cuba as ‘insufficient’ and conditioned any new step by his government to internal changes that it would like to see in our country.

The president is mistaken in assuming that he has the right to interfere and qualify the processes currently taking place in Cuba. It is regrettable that he is so misinformed and ill-advised.

The transformations that we are currently undertaking respond to Cubans’ aspirations and sovereign decisions adopted by our people. They are directed at updating and increasing the efficiency of our economic model, at improving our society, going more deeply into our culture and developing our socialism. They are not intended to please or satisfy the interests of the U.S. government, to date always opposed to those of the Cuban people.

For the superpower, any process that is not conducive to the establishment of a regime subordinated to its interest will be insufficient. But that is not going to happen, because many generations of Cubans have dedicated and are dedicating their lives to defending the sovereignty and independence of Cuba.

Moreover, the US government has ignored the many declarations and proposals submitted by the Cuban government, both in public and in private, which ratify our will to establish a serious and constructive dialogue, in conditions of equality and with full respect for our independence.

No response has been made to the new cooperation projects proposed by the Cuban government in the course of the year 2010, aimed at making progress in areas of common interest such as combating drug-trafficking, the protection of the environment, the prevention of natural disasters and even confronting possible accidents derived from oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. An opportunity to advance in areas of mutual benefit for our peoples is once again being evaded.

On the contrary, the U.S. government has continued with its arbitrary practice of adding Cuba’s name to spurious lists, including that of states allegedly sponsoring international terrorism, produced by the State Department to qualify the conduct of other nations. That country has no moral authority to draw up such lists. As a rule it is its name that should appear at the top of them all. There is no reason whatsoever to include Cuba on any of those lists.

The U.S. government is likewise upholding the unjust conviction imposed on the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters who have been incarcerated for more than 12 years in U.S. prisons and whose cause has prompted the broadest solidarity within the international community.

Cuba, which has been and still is a victim of state terrorism, demands that that government ends its double standards and the impunity enjoyed in its territory by the confessed authors of acts of terrorism organized under the auspices of that country’s anti-Cuban policy conceived with the aim of destabilizing our country in the 1960’s by resorting to sabotage, kidnapping, assassinations and armed aggressions. That would be a real contribution to the international battle against this scourge.

Mr. President;

It is both outrageous and surprising to realize that the blockade and subversion policy applied by the United States against Cuba continues to be guided by the logic contained in the memorandum drafted by Lester Mallory, former deputy assistant secretary of state, on April 6, 1960, declassified a few years ago, which reads, and I quote:

"The majority of Cubans support Castro […] There is no effective political opposition […] The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [from the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life […] denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government." End of quote.

This is about a cruel and aggressive policy, absolutely contrary to international law, which this government insists on maintaining, while knowing that it is causing damage, provoking suffering and is in violation of the human rights of an entire people.

This is not a bilateral issue, as is generally repeated by U.S. representatives. Its marked extraterritorial nature has been endorsed in law and there are more than sufficient examples of the implementation of coercive measures against citizens and entities in third countries.

Given its nature and scope, the blockade qualifies as an act of genocide under Article II of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted in 1948, and also as an act of economic warfare according to the Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War adopted in 1909.

It is a hostile and unilateral act that should be ceased unilaterally.

Once again, on behalf of the people of Cuba, I ask the representatives of all the countries gathered here, to vote in favor of the draft resolution that I am honored to present under the title "Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba."

Mr. President;

We Cubans are proud of our work. The fact that this economic warfare, while it is provoking privations, has not taken its toll on human lives and has not succeeded in causing traumatic and generalized damage to our people, is thanks to the efforts and sacrifices made by Cubans and the will and determination of their government.

Although this economic persecution has been the main obstacle to our country’s development and an improvement in the living standards of our people, Cuba can show undeniable results in the eradication of poverty and hunger, in the fields of health and education – which have become a world referent – the promotion of gender equality, freedom and equitable well-being for all Cubans, social consensus, democratic participation by all citizens in the country’s decisions, the reversal of environmental degradation and the development of international cooperation with 100 countries of the Third World.

A few weeks ago Cuba was able to declare here it had largely and exceptionally complied with the Millennium Development Goals. These results achieved by Cuba remain a utopia for a large part of the people on this planet.

We Cubans are assuming our historical destiny with optimism, commitment and creativity. We are inspired by the sentiments of peace, justice and solidarity that have characterized our people and the friendship that the world identifies with our free and rebel island.

Cuba remains ready to establish peaceful and respectful relations with the United States, like those that it enjoys with the overwhelming majority of the international community and the entire hemisphere.

Cuba will never cease to denounce the blockade; it will never cease to demand its people’s legitimate right to live and work for their social and economic development under conditions of equality, in cooperation with other nations, without any economic siege or external pressure.

Cuba conveys its gratitude to the international community for its firm solidarity with our people, convinced that, some day, justice will be served and this resolution will no longer be necessary.

Thank you very much.