Preliminary version of the key remarks by army general Raul Castro Ruz, president of the State Council and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, at the 7th Summit of the Americas, Panama City, Panama, April 10-11, 2015.
His Excellency Juan Carlos Varela, President of the Republic of Panama; Presidents and Prime Ministers; Distinguished guests; I appreciate the solidarity of all Latin American and Caribbean countries that made possible Cuba’s participation in this hemispheric forum on equal footing, and I thank the President of the Republic of Panama for the kind invitation extended to us. I bring a fraternal embrace to the Panamanian people and to the peoples of all nations represented here.
The establishment of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on December 2-3, 2011, in Caracas, opened the way to a new era in the history of Our America, which made clear its well-earned right to live in peace and develop as their peoples freely decide, and chart the course to a future of peace, development and integration based on cooperation, solidarity and the common will to preserve their independence, sovereignty and identity.
The ideals of Simón Bolívar on the creation of a “Grand American Homeland” was a source of inspiration to epic campaigns for independence.
In 1800, there was the idea of adding Cuba to the North American Union to mark the southern boundary of the extensive empire. The 19thcentury witnessed the emergence of such doctrines as the Manifest Destiny, with the purpose of dominating the Americas and the world, and the notion of the ‘ripe fruit’, meaning Cuba’s inevitable gravitation to the American Union, which looked down on the rise and evolution of a genuine rationale conducive to emancipation.
Later on, through wars, conquests and interventions that expansionist and dominating force stripped Our America of part of its territory and expanded as far as the Rio Grande.
After long and failing struggles, José Martí organized the “necessary war”, and created the Cuban Revolutionary Party to lead that war and to eventually found a Republic “with all and for the good of all” with the purpose of achieving “the full dignity of man.” With an accurate and early definition of the features of his times, Martí committed to the duty “of timely preventing the United States from spreading through the Antilles as Cuba gains its independence, and from overpowering with that additional strength our lands of America.”
To him, Our America was that of the Creole and the original peoples, the black and the mulatto, the mixed-race and working America that must join the cause of the oppressed and the destitute. Presently, beyond geography, this ideal is coming to fruition.
One hundred and seventeen years ago, on April 11, 1898, the President of the United States of America requested Congressional consent for military intervention in the independence war already won with rivers of Cuban blood, and that legislative body issued a deceitful Joint Resolution recognizing the independence of the Island “de facto and de jure”. Thus, they entered as allies and seized the country as an occupying force.
Subsequently, an appendix was forcibly added to Cuba’s Constitution, the Platt Amendment that deprived it of sovereignty, authorized the powerful neighbor to interfere in the internal affairs, and gave rise to Guantánamo Naval Base, which still holds part of our territory without legal right. It was in that period that the Northern capital invaded the country, and there were two military interventions and support for cruel dictatorships.
At the time, the prevailing approach to Latin America was the “gunboat policy” followed by the “Good Neighbor” policy. Successive interventions ousted democratic governments and in twenty countries installed terrible dictatorships, twelve of these simultaneously and mostly in South America, where hundreds of thousands were killed. President Salvador Allende left us the legacy of his undying example.
It was precisely 13 years ago that a coup d’état staged against beloved President Hugo Chavez Frías was defeated by his people. Later on, an oil coup would follow.
On January 1st, 1959, sixty years after the U.S. troops entered Havana, the Cuban Revolution triumphed and the Rebel Army commanded by Fidel Castro Ruz arrived in the capital. On April 6, 1960, barely one year after victory, Assistant Secretary of State Lester Mallory drafted a wicked memorandum, declassified tens of years later, indicating that “The majority of Cubans support Castro […] An effective political opposition does not exist […]; the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [to the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship […] to weaken the economic life of Cuba […] denying it money and supplies to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”
We have endured severe hardships. Actually, 77% of the Cuban people was born under the harshness of the blockade, but our patriotic convictions prevailed. Aggression increased resistance and accelerated the revolutionary process. Now, here we are with our heads up high and our dignity unblemished.
When we had already proclaimed socialism and the people had fought in the Bay of Pigs to defend it, President Kennedy was murdered, at the exact time when Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution, was receiving his message seeking to engage Cuba in a dialogue. After the Alliance for Progress, and having paid our external debt several times over while unable to prevent its constant growth, our countries were subjected to a wild and globalizing neoliberalism, an expression of imperialism at the time that left the region dealing with a lost decade.
Then, the proposal of a “mature hemispheric partnership” resulted in the imposition of the Free Trade Association of the Americas (FTAA), --linked to the emergence of these Summits-- that would have brought about the destruction of the economy, sovereignty and common destiny of our nations, if it had not been derailed at Mar del Plata in 2005 under the leadership of Presidents Kirchner, Chavez and Lula. The previous year, Chavez and Fidel had brought to life the Bolivarian Alternative known today as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.
Excellencies; We have expressed to President Barack Obama our disposition to engage in a respectful dialogue and work for a civilized coexistence between our states while respecting our profound differences.
I welcome as a positive step his recent announcement that he will soon decide on Cuba’s designation in a list of countries sponsor of terrorism, a list in which it should have never been included.
Up to this day, the economic, commercial and financial blockade is implemented against the Island with full intensity causing damages and scarcities that affect our people and becoming the main obstacle to the development of our economy. The fact is that it stands in violation of International Law, and its extraterritorial scope disrupts the interests of every State.
We have publicly expressed to President Obama, who was also born under the blockade policy and inherited it from 10 former Presidents when he took office, our appreciation for his brave decision to engage the U.S. Congress in a debate to put an end to such policy. This and other issues should be resolved in the process toward the future normalization of bilateral relations.
As to us, we shall continue working to update the Cuban economic model with the purpose of improving our socialism and moving ahead toward development and the consolidation of the achievements of a Revolution that has set to itself the goal of “conquering all justice.”
Esteemed colleagues; Venezuela is not, and it cannot be, a threat to the national security of a superpower like the United States. We consider it a positive development that the U.S. President has admitted it.
I should reaffirm our full, determined and loyal support to the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to the legitimate government and civilian-military alliance headed by President Nicolas Maduro, and to the Bolivarian and chavista people of that country struggling to pursue their own path while confronting destabilizing attempts and unilateral sanctions that should be lifted; we demand the repeal of the Executive Order, an action that our Community would welcome as a contribution to dialogue and understanding in the hemisphere.
We shall continue encouraging the efforts of the Republic of Argentina to recover the Falkland, the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and supporting its legitimate struggle in defense of financial sovereignty.
We shall maintain our support for the actions of the Republic of Ecuador against the transnational companies causing ecological damages to its territory and trying to impose blatantly unfair conditions.
I wish to acknowledge the contribution of Brazil, and of President Dilma Rouseff, to the strengthening of regional integration and the development of social policies that have brought progress and benefits to extensive popular sectors, the same that the thrust against various leftist governments of the region is trying to reverse.
We shall maintain our unwavering support for the Latin American and Caribbean people of Puerto Rico in its determination to achieve self-determination and independence, as the United Nations Decolonization Committee has ruled tens of times.
We shall also keep making our contribution to the peace process in Colombia.
We should all multiply our assistance to Haiti, not only through humanitarian aid but also with resources that help in its development, and, in the same token, support a fair and deferential treatment of the Caribbean countries in their economic relations as well as reparations for damages brought on them by slavery and colonialism.
We are living under threat of huge nuclear arsenals that should be removed, and are running out of time to counteract climate change. Threats to peace keep growing and conflicts spreading out.
As President Fidel Castro has said “[…] the main causes rest with poverty and underdevelopment, and with the unequal distribution of wealth and knowledge prevailing in the world. It cannot be forgotten that current poverty and underdevelopment are the result of conquest, colonization, slavery and plundering by colonial powers in most of the planet, the emergence of imperialism and the bloody wars for a new division of the world. Humanity should be aware of what they have been and should be no more. Today, our species has accumulated sufficient knowledge, ethical values and scientific resources to move forward to a historical era of true justice and humanism. Nothing of what exists today in economic and political terms serves the interests of Humanity. It cannot be sustained. It must be changed,” he concluded.
Cuba shall continue advocating the ideas for which our people have taken on enormous sacrifices and risks, fighting alongside the poor, the unemployed and the sick without healthcare; the children forced to live on their own, to work or be submitted to prostitution; those going hungry or discriminated; the oppressed and the exploited who make up the overwhelming majority of the world population.
Financial speculation, the privileges of Bretton Wood, and the unilateral removal of the gold standard have grown increasingly suffocating. We need a transparent and equitable financial system.
It is unacceptable that less than ten big corporations, mostly American, determine what is read, watched or listened to worldwide. The Internet should be ruled by an international, democratic and participatory governance, particularly concerning its content. The militarization of cyberspace, and the secret and illegal use of computer systems to attack other States are equally unacceptable. We shall not be dazzled or colonized again.
Mister President; It is my opinion that hemispheric relations need to undergo deep changes, particularly in the areas of politics, economics and culture, so that, on the basis of International Law and the exercise of self-determination and sovereign equality, they can focus on the development of mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation in the interest of all our nations and the objectives proclaimed.
The adoption in January 2014, during the Second Summit of CELAC in Havana, of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Peace Zone made a transcendental contribution to that end, marked by Latin American and Caribbean unity in diversity.
This is evident in the progress we are making toward genuinely Latin American and Caribbean integration processes through CELAC, UNASUR, CARICOM, MERCOSUR, ALBA-TCP, SICA and the ACS, which underline our growing awareness of the necessity to work in unison in order to ensure our development.
Through that Proclamation we have committed ourselves “to have differences between nations resolved peacefully, through dialogue and negotiation, and other ways consistent with International Law.”
Living in peace, and engaging in mutual cooperation to tackle challenges and resolve problems that, after all, are affecting and will affect us all, is today a pressing need.
As the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Peace Zone sets forth, “the inalienable right of every State to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system, as an essential condition to secure peaceful coexistence between nations” should be respected.
Under that Proclamation we committed to observe our “obligation to not interfere, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any other State, and to observe the principles of national sovereignty, equality of rights and free determination of the peoples,” and to respect “the principles and standards of International Law […] and the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.”
That historical document urges “all member states of the International Community to fully respect this Declaration in its relations with the CELAC member States.”
We now have the opportunity, all of us here, as the Proclamation also states, of learning “to exercise tolerance and coexist in peace as good neighbors.”
There are substantial differences, yes, but also commonalities which enable us to cooperate making it possible to live in this world fraught with threats to peace and to the survival of the human species.
What is it that prevents cooperation at a hemispheric scale in facing climate change?
Why is it that the countries of the two Americas cannot fight together against terrorism, drug-trafficking and organized crime without politically biased positions?
Why can we not seek together the necessary resources to provide the hemisphere with schools, hospitals, employment, and to advance in the eradication of poverty?
Would it not be possible to reduce inequity in the distribution of wealth and infant mortality rates, to eliminate hunger and preventable diseases, and to eradicate illiteracy?
Last year, we established hemispheric cooperation to confront and prevent Ebola, and the countries of the two Americas made a concerted effort. This should stimulate our efforts toward greater achievements.
Cuba, a small country deprived of natural resources, that has performed in an extremely hostile atmosphere, has managed to attain the full participation of its citizens in the nation’s political and social life; with universal and free healthcare and education services; a social security system ensuring that no one is left helpless; significant progress in the creation of equal opportunities and in the struggle against all sorts of discrimination; the full exercise of the rights of children and women; access to sports and culture; and, the right to life and to public safety.
Despite scarcities and challenges, we abide by the principle of sharing what we have. Currently, 65 thousand Cuban collaborators are working in 89 countries, basically in the areas of healthcare and education, while 68 thousand professionals and technicians from 157 countries have graduated in our Island, 30 thousand of them in the area of healthcare.
If Cuba has managed to do this with very little resources, think of how much more the hemisphere could do with the political will to pool its efforts to help the neediest countries.
Thanks to Fidel and the heroic Cuban people, we have come to this Summit to honor Marti’s commitment, after conquering freedom with our own hands “proud of Our America, to serve it and to honor it […] with the determination and the capacity to contribute to see it loved for its merits and respected for its sacrifices.”