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Cuban Foreign Minister's Speech: End the Blockade

Speech Delivered by Felipe Perez Roque, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the Subject of Number 18 on the Agenda of the U.N.. General Assembly,

¨The Need to Put An End to the Economic, Commercial And Financial Blockade Imposed on Cuba by the United States of America¨,

November 8, 2005, New York City.

Dear President:

Dear Delegates:

Today is a day of particular importance for the United Nations. By casting a vote for the fourteenth time on the draft resolution presented by Cuba, entitled ‘The Need To Put An End To The Economic, Commercial And Financial Blockade Imposed On Cuba By The United States of America’, the General Assembly will not only be making a decision regarding a subject that affects Cuba; we will also be voting in favour of the principles and regulations of International Law, against the extraterritorial application of laws and in defense of the human rights of Cubans, Americans and the citizens of the 191 States represented in this Assembly.

It is true that the United States Government has repeatedly ignored the almost unanimous demand of the international community and it is also certain that President Bush will intensify the blockade even more, making it the longest and cruelest of its kind in history. But this doesn’t diminish in any way the political, moral, ethical and legal significance of this vote.

Never before has this blockade been applied with the viciousness and brutally seen over the last 18 months. Never before has a Government of the United States so cruelly and mercilessly persecuted the economy and the right of the Cuban people to live a decent and respectable life.

Ever since May 6 2004, when the President of the United States signed his new plan to annex Cuba, there has been an unprecedented and hysterical escalation in the application of new and aggressive measures, including the threat of military force against Cuba and the persecution of citizens and companies from not only Cuba, but also from the United States and the rest of the world.

Due to these measures, in May 2004, the Swiss bank, UBS, was fined 100 million dollars, the largest fine ever to be imposed on a banking institution for having suposedly violated the sanctions against Cuba.

On 30 September 2004, at the height of delirium and absurdity, the so-called Control Regulations on Cuban Assets were intensified and it was established that ‘citizens and permanent residents of the United States cannot legally buy products of Cuban origin, including tobacco and alcohol in a third country, even for their own personal use abroad.’ The criminal sanctions for these violations are fines of up to one million dollars for corporations and 250 thousand dollars and a maximum of 10 years in jail for citizens. This is the first time ever that an American is banned from smoking a Cuban cigar or from buying a bottle of the incomparable ‘Havana Club’ rum, even if they do so as tourists on holiday in another country. Apropos insane acts, this draconian ban should be entered into the Guinness Book of Records.

On October 9, 2004, in an act of aggression without precedent in the history of international financial relations, the Department of State announced the establishment of a ‘Persecution Group of Cuban Assets’. The very existence of a group with this name should make the President of the most powerful nation on Earth feel ashamed.

In January 2005, the Office of Foreign Assets Control redefined travel regulations in a way which meant that American citizens were no longer allowed to participate in meetings in Cuba that were sponsored and organised by United Nations agencies based in the United States, unless they had been previously granted permission by the U.S. Government.

In blatant and shameless violation of the international regulations regarding brand names and patents, on February 24th, a legal maneuver was put into force that would rob Cuba of its rights to the Cohiba brand name, one of the most prestigious among all Cuban cigars.

On April 13, 2005, a guilty verdict was reached in the case of the American citizen, Stefan Brodie, the former president of the PUROLITE company, who was accused of having sold ionised resin to Cuba for the purification of the water in Cuban water systems.

On April 29th, President Bush ordered the Treasury Department to hand over 198 million dollars from Cuban funds illegally frozen in banks in the United States in order to settle one of the spurious lawsuits brought against Cuba by the violent and extremist groups that, with total impunity, organize terrorist plots against Cuba from Miami.

In April 2005, in accordance with the Helms-Burton Law, the new directors of the Canadian company, Sheritt, and their families, were denied entry into the United States.

Also in April 2005, the OFAC stepped up its persecution of even religious organizations that have permission to travel to Cuba for reasons related to their activities..

In 2004, the United States Government fined 316 citizens and residents of the United States for having violated the blockade. By October 12, 2005, 537 fines have been imposed.

In 2004, a total of 77 companies, banking institutions and non-governmental organisations from various countries had been fined for having violated the blockade against Cuba; 11 of these were foreign companies or subsidiaries of American companies in Mexico, Canada, Panama, Italy, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and the Bahamas. Another seven companies, including IBERIA, ALITALIA, AIR JAMAICA and DAEWOO were penalised because, according to the U.S. Government, their affiliates in the United States violated the laws of the blockade.

Between January and October 2005, the number of trips made by American citizens to Cuba fell by 55% compared to the same period in 2003, before the new sanctions approved by President Bush were put into force. Direct trips by Cubans residing in the United States have fallen by 49%.

Cultural, sporting, academic, student and scientific exchanges, as well as links between Cubans living on both sides of the Florida Straits, have been especially targeted by the current Administration’s policy of aggression against Cuba. It has reached such an extent that uncles, aunts and cousins, etc, are no longer allowed to travel to Cuba since, supposedly, they do not come under the definition of family.

Your Excellencies:

Over these past almost 47 years, the blockade has cost the Cuban people 82 thousand million dollars. No economic or social activity in Cuba escapes the consequences of such figures. There is not a single human right of the Cuban people which is not violated by this blockade.

Because of the blockade, Cuba cannot export any product to the United States. Given the geographical proximity, Cuba could export more than 30 thousand tons of nickel or one million tons of sugar to the United States each year at prices 3 times greater that those currently paid to the island. Also, even if it represented just 1% of the sales of cholesterol reducing medication in the United States, we could be selling 180 million dollars worth of Ateromixol per annum. According to the editors of the Harvard International Review, this is the best anticholesterol drug on the market. Furthermore, Cuba would have exported 30 million dollars worth of Havana Club rum and more than 100 million dollars of tobacco products to the United States last year.

Cuba is only permitted to import agricultural products from the United States, and even this has been affected by extensive and renewed restrictions.

Cuba is not permitted to receive tourists from the United States. If, in 2004, the island had received just 15% of the 11 million American tourists who traveled to the Caribbean, Cuba would have earned more than one thousand million dollars.

According to diverse studies published in the United States, between 2 and 4 million people from the United States would visit Cuba if the blockade were lifted.

As a result of the blockade, Cuba is not allowed to use the U.S. dollar in its transactions with the outside world, nor can we receive credit or carry out deals with American financial institutions, their affiliates or even regional or multilateral institutions. Cuba is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean that has never, in all these 47 years, received credit from the World Bank, or from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Even if the blockade were just a bilateral issue between Cuba and the United States it would still be a very serious problem for our small country. But it is much more. The blockade is an economic war waged on an international scale with incomparable zeal.

Moreover, the blockade is the extraterritorial application of United States laws against the countries that you are here to represent, your Excellencies, and it is therefore a serious violation of International Law.

Cuba now has two new obstacles to overcome: the impotent imperial arrogance of President Bush, which has taken him to new, unprecedented heights in this insane situation, and the increasing globalisation of the world economy.

Why? Because the United States controls almost half of the world’s transnational companies, including 8 of the 10 most important ones. The United States also owns a quarter of direct foreign investment and imports 22% of all merchandise from around the world.

The United States owns 11 of the 14 largest transnational companies in the I.T and communications sector, and absorbs around 80% of world electronic trade. Of the 10 pharmaceutical companies that control the sale of almost half of the world’s medicines, 5 are American. Some of these products are not even produced by any other company.

It is for this reason that both investments made by third country companies in the United States and those made by American companies abroad, reduce Cuba’s external economic space. Each and every merger or purchase to be carried out between companies poses, for our country, the often impossible challenge of finding a new supplier or market for our products.

Let us then consider, Your Excellencies, the extraterritorial regulations of the blockade:

The Torricelli Act forbids subsidiaries of American companies in third countries from trading with Cuba.

Part of the equipment and supplies used by Cuban biotechnological research centres, which are now producing even therapeutical vaccines against cancer, was formerly supplied by the Swiss company PHARMACIA. This was bought by the British company AMERSHAM which, in turn, was bought by the American GENERAL ELECTRIC, which then cancelled all contacts with Cuba within a week of the takeover.

When the Brazilian company ORO ROJO was bought out by an American company, it cancelled its sale of tinned meat to Cuba, a product which formed part of the diet of people suffering from AIDS; this had been part of a project organized together with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

These were not, Your Excellencies, arms of mass destruction; these were not drugs or prohibited substances, but meat to be administered to AIDS patients, as part of a UN programme. These sales are persecuted and forbidden, as are the companies which try to have normal trade relations with Cuba; the right of our country and the right of businesses in other countries are being violated.

The CHIRON CORPORATION stopped trading with Cuba after it was fined 168,500 dollars last year because one of its European affiliates exported two children´s vaccines to Cuba. These were not nuclear arms or strategic missiles…they were children´s vaccines!

On February 7, 2005 the FIRST CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL BANK of the Bahamas cancelled its transactions with Cuba due to the threat posed by the Government of the United States. The British bank, BARCLAYS, commented recently that it would do the same out of fear of U.S. sanctions.

The Canadian company, VECO, which operates partially with American capital, had to cancel its planned participation in the development of capacities for fuel storage in Cuba.

As soon as the Danish company, SABROE, was bought by the U.S. company YORK, the operation that was underway to sell refrigeration compressors to Cuba, an integral part in the Cuban plan to distribute soy yogurt to all children aged between 7 and 13, was cancelled.

The blockade also forbids companies from third countries from selling to Cuba goods or services which use American technology or which have more than 10% U.S. content.

It is because of this that, since 2004, the Dutch company, INTERVET, has been banned by the United States government from selling avian vaccines to Cuba, on the grounds that they contain an antigen produced in the United States.

The Mexican company, VAFE S.A. had to cancel the sale to Cuba of a material needed to produce domestic pressure cookers, due to the fact that it contained a raw material from the United States.

In September 2004, the Swiss airline, NOVAIR, cancelled the lease contract with Cubana de Aviacion of an Airbus 330, because it could not receive maintenance owing to the fact that, although the aircraft was made in Europe, it was produced using American technology.

In October 2004, the Japanese company, HITACHI HIGH TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, was unable to sell an electronic microscope to a prestigious Cuban hospital for the same reasons.

The blockade prohibits companies from third countries – those which you, honourable delegates, are representing here - from exporting any product or equipment to the United States if it contains any Cuban raw material.

Not one company in the world is allowed to export preserves to the United States if they contain Cuban sugar.

Not one company in the world can export automobiles or any other equipment to the United States without first proving that the metal used to make them does not contain Cuban nickel.

The blockade forbids ships that have taken merchandise to or from Cuba from entering U.S. ports. Not U.S. ships, honourable delegates, but ships from the countries that you represent, may not enter the United States if they have been to a Cuban port. This is in accordance with the Torricelli Act, signed by President Bush senior in 1992.

The blockade imposed by the Helms-Burton Law, prohibits companies from third countries from making investments in Cuba, under the pretext that these are linked to properties that could be claimed by the United States. Because of this, honourable delegates, executives from the Canadian company, SHERRITT, have been penalized, and last year, the Jamaican company, SUPERCLUBS, under this same threat, pulled out of trade with Cuba.

The blockade, Excellencies, violates the constitutional rights of the American people. It prevents them from travelling to Cuba; from experiencing our culture and from having free contact with the Cuban people.

When Cuba today stands before you in this gathering, she does so not just in defense of the rights of the Cuban people, but in the defense of the rights of the American people whom we hold in great esteem and for whom we feel respect and friendship; we in no way hold the American people responsible for our suffering from this unjust and genocidal policy that is being upheld by their government against the Cuban nation.

And we are here today in defense of the rights of the entire international community; it too is being violated by this unilateral and illegal policy.

The blockade affects not only the rights but the economic interests of the United States. According to a study made in June 2005 and published by the Business and Research Centre of the University of Southern Alabama, if the blockade were to be lifted, 100 thousand new jobs would be created and an additional income to the value of 6 thousand million dollars would be generated for the American economy.

Honourable delegates:

Mr. President:

After many years of doing so, we can observe that the U.S. delegation, present here today, has waived its right to participate in the debate that will precede voting. I think it is because they have no ideas, they have no more positions to present. They refuse to do so, not even in defense of their own position in the general debate. They are overwhelmed by what has been said by a couple of dozen delegates earlier on. They are silent, probably, because in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, ¨you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.¨

I must say that we understand this decision to be a sort of moral surrender. More than power is required. One requires ethics and moral authority. And moral authority is not achieved by force. It is not won by waging war or by using weapons. Moral authority is won by exemplary actions, by respecting the rights of others, even of those who are poor and powerless.

I am aware that they are on the agenda after the votes have been tallied, they will speak after I have spoken. Therefore, I am unable to comment on their opinions, but I would like to assure you that, at the moment when the Cuban delegation has the opportunity for rebuttal, we shall challenge every lie and we shall repeat every truth that needs to be heard in this assembly.

Delegates;

Mr. President;

Finally, let me insist that the blockade against Cuba must be lifted. The United States government must end its policy of aggression against Cuba. Our right to self-determination must finally be acknowledged by the United States government.

I repeat with total clarity - the United States Government is creating false illusions with the idea that they can defeat the Cuban Revolution. They disguise their plans; they call it ‘transition’, but what it really is would be the cruel and bloody annexation of Cuba.

But they are mistaken. They don’t realise what courage, spirit of independence and political consciousness the Revolution has implanted in the people of Cuba.

The determination and sense of dignity that has been demonstrated by the five young Cubans, kept as political prisoners in American jails, heroes of the struggle against terrorism, and their families – their wives, mothers, children in Havana who are following this debate and trust in the sense of justice of the delegates present here today - is proof of the unbreakable spirit with which we, the people of Cuba, defend, now and forever, our right to build a more just, supportive and humane society.

In the name of these five heroes, honourable delegates; in the name of the Cuban children and young people, who have spent their lives under the blockade; in the name of the generous, joyful and courageous people living in Cuba who trust in you, because they know that the world has seen the Cubans fight, teach and cure, wherever they are needed, because they know that the world knows that Cubans don’t share their left-overs, they share what they have; in the name of the right of Cuba, honourable delegates, which is now also the right of everyone, which is today the right of all of you and of the peoples you represent in this Assembly, I respectfully ask you to vote in favour of the draft resolution ‘The Need To Put An End To The Economic, Commercial And Financial Blockade Imposed On Cuba By The United States of America’.

Thank you very much. (applause)

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