The Guardian 16 November, 2005

Overwhelming support for end
to illegal US blockade of Cuba

On November 8, a record 182 countries passed a resolution at the UN General Assembly calling on the US Government to immediately end the economic and commercial blockade of the island. Of the 191 countries represented in the UN General Assembly, only four voted against the resolution — the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands — and one abstained (Micronesia).

This is the 14th occasion on which Cuba has presented a resolution calling for an end to the commercial blockade. The resolution adopted, which is not of a binding nature, demands the lifting of the blockade of Cuba and calls on the US to stop imposing measures designed to intensify it. The following are extracts from the speech by Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque, to the General Assembly before the vote.

By casting a vote for the 14th 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 extra-territorial application of laws and in defence 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 cruellest 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. 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 US$100 million, the largest fine ever to be imposed on a banking institution for having supposedly violated the sanctions against Cuba. 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.

On September 30, 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". Apropos insane acts, this draconian ban should be entered into the Guinness Book of Records.

The criminal sanctions for these violations are fines of up to $1 million for corporations and $250,000 and a maximum of 10 years in jail for citizens.

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. 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.

High cost to Cuba

Over these past almost 47 years, the blockade has cost the Cuban people $82 billion. 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.

Even if it represented just one percent of the sales of cholesterol reducing medication in the United States, we could be selling $180 million worth of Ateromixol per annum. According to the editors of the Harvard International Review, this is the best anti-­cholesterol drug on the market.

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

Cuba is not allowed to use the US 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.

The blockade is the extra-territorial application of United States laws against the countries that you are here to represent, 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 eight of the ten most important ones. The United States also owns a quarter of direct foreign investment and imports 22 percent of all merchandise from around the world.

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 organised 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.

Children’s vaccines!

The Chiron Corporation stopped trading with Cuba after it was fined $168,500 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!

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 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.

The blockade 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 defence of the rights of the Cuban people, but in the defence 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 defence of the rights of the entire international community; it too is being violated by this unilateral and illegal policy.

Lack moral authority

After many years of doing so, we can observe that the US 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 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.

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.

Unbreakable revolutionary spirit

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 … 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".

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