‘Mighty Empire Fears Small Rebellious Island’

by Felipe Pérez Roque

Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, under United Nations General Assembly Agenda Item #28, “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” New York, 28 October 2004. Reuters reported that this speech “was the only one loudly applauded.” Later that day the General Assembly voted in favor of the resolution condemning the U.S. embargo against Cuba by an overwhelming 179 to 4 (U.S., Israel, Marshall Islands, and Palau).

Excellencies:

Millions of Cubans are now closely following what happens in this hall.

Some 70% of them have had to endure all their lives the longest blockade in history, imposed by the Government of the United States on our homeland right from the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

However, in voting today on draft resolution “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” the 191 UN Member States will not only be making a decision on an issue of interest to Cuba. They will also be voting in favor of the respect for the Charter of the United Nations, in favor of the respect for International Law, in favor of the sovereign equality of States and the self-determination of the peoples, so that no government, mighty as it may be, can punish not only Cuba but also any other country for trading with and investing in ours.

Today, we will cast a vote against the extraterritorial enforcement of laws; a vote against haughtiness and the disdain for the rights of others.

I have an odd document here, distributed by the United States to all delegations – except Cuba, of course.

It lies so much, and so many times, that it deserves to be commented on.

Let us see:

“The United States maintains that the embargo is a bilateral issue that should not come before the General Assembly. It is clearly not a blockade, as we do not interfere with the trade between Cuba and other nations.”

But this General Assembly knows that there is a different truth to it. Well does it know that it is not just an embargo; it knows that the US Government has unleashed a worldwide genocidal economic war against Cuba. Cuba is prevented from exporting to the United States; Cuba is prevented from receiving American tourism; we are prevented from gaining access to the technologies produced in this country; Cuba is prevented from importing any US product, equipment or raw material.

The Assembly knows that the Torricelli Act, which prevents the subsidiaries of US companies in third countries from trading with Cuba, has been in force since 1992 and is meticulously enforced. I will just mention a few examples:

  • The Canadian subsidiary of US Picker International could not sell spare parts for X-ray equipment to Cuba because it is a branch of an American company.

  • France’s Bull could not complete the sale of ATM’s to Cuba because it was bought by America’s Diebold.

  • Refractarios Mexicanos, a company from Mexico, was purchased by US Harbison Walker Refractory – and thereinafter it could not continue selling to Cuba heat-resistant bricks used in furnaces for cement production.

The US representative is well aware, even with expressions to the contrary, that nobody in the world can sell a product or piece of equipment to Cuba if containing more than 10% of US components.

  • The import of a quadruple veterinary vaccine, which should have been supplied to our country by the Netherlands’ Intervet, was curtailed when the US Government informed the aforementioned company that it could not sell the product to Cuba because it contained 10% of an antigen made in the United States.

On the other hand, the US Government prevents any company in the world from exporting a product or piece of equipment to the United States if containing Cuban raw materials. A Japanese car manufacturer has to certify to the US Government that the metals used to make the automobile do not contain any Cuban nickel. A European confectioner has to prove that no Cuban sugar was used.

The US document also says the following:

“The embargo regulations apply only to persons or entities subject to US jurisdiction.”

If so, then why, after seven years of investigations, was Canadian citizen James Sabzali sentenced last February by a Philadelphia Federal Court to a year’s probation and a US$10,000 fine for having sold to Cuba some resins that purify the drinking water supplied to the Cuban population?

Why does the Torricelli Act prevent vessels of the rest of the world from calling at Cuban ports under the threat of being “blacklisted” and denying their access to American ports for a period of six months?

Why does the Helms-Burton Act, in force since 1996, penalize the businesspeople from the rest of the world who attempt to engage in business deals with Cuba?

The General Assembly has been informed that last 4 May the US State Department sent a letter to the Chairman of Jamaica’s SuperClubs, warning him that if his business with Cuba did not terminate within 45 days he would be penalized under the Helms-Burton Act – which involved the denial of visas for him and his family to travel to the United States and the threat of facing a lawsuit in the future in US courts.

The Government of the United States prevents Cuba from using the dollar as currency for trading operations with the rest of the world. Our charges or payments in that currency are confiscated.

Is it true or not, Mr. US representative, that your Government imposed a US$100 million fine on Switzerland’s banking entity UBS for the latter’s reception of dollar transfers from Cuba following the accrual of absolutely legal earnings in our tourism and trade?

As of last June, the media controlled by the Miami-based terrorist groups of Cuban origin unleashed a gross campaign aimed at frightening the banks that may have financial relations with Cuba.

At the same time, we have been receiving continuous reports that US authorities are exerting pressure on an ever-increasing number of banks from other countries in order to thwart the transfers originating in Cuba.

Finally, last 9 October, Daniel Fisk, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, in addition to recognizing the efforts of the US Government to boycott tourism to Cuba from Europe, Canada and other countries, announced that the United States has set up a Group for the Persecution of Cuban Assets with a view to freezing the movements of hard currency towards and from Cuba.

As a result of the foregoing, we concluded that all necessary actions had to be promptly implemented in order to defend our country from the new aggressions that attempt to prevent the use of the dollars that we earn to pay for our imports. Therefore, 72 hours ago our President, Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, informed the public opinion of the decision to replace the circulation of the dollar with that of the convertible Cuban peso all across the national territory. On this new episode of the US blockade and about our sovereign measures to defend ourselves, the Permanent Mission of Cuba is conveying additional information to each delegation.

Would the US delegation explain why Cuba does not receive and has never received a credit from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank? Because the US Government prevents them from doing so. In 2003, these two international banks, which are not American-owned or are legally under its control, loaned US$ 14 billion to Latin America. Why was not a single dollar lent to Cuba to build houses, roads, hospitals or schools? Is it not Cuba in the center of the map of the Americas?

It is true that over the last three years we have been able to purchase food from the United States. However, we can still see the draconian obstacles imposed on those sales, such as the need for bureaucratic licenses, the obligation to pay in advance and in cash without the possibility of receiving not even private credits and the prohibition for Cuban vessels to carry the goods.

The US delegation also maintains that its Government has introduced measures “facilitating greatly the export of (…) medicines and medical supplies” to Cuba.

However, the General Assembly knows, once again, that there is a different truth to it.

The truth is that this year the US Government prevented Abbott from selling to Cuba two essential drugs in the treatment of AIDS patients: Ritonavir and Lopinavir+Ritonavir. Therefore, Cuba had to purchase them in another country, with a six-fold increase in price.

The truth is that the US Government imposed a fine of US$ 168,500 on Chiron Corporation because a European subsidiary of such company had sold – reportedly by mistake – two children’s vaccines to Cuba.

The American text distributed to those present here goes on to add that “Cuba is using this resolution to justify its own political and economic woes.” If the US Government is so sure that Cuba uses the issue of the blockade as a pretext, why does it not lift the blockade and leave us without a pretext?

I am going to answer that to you: because the US Government is afraid. It is afraid of our example. It knows that if the blockade on us is lifted, Cuba’s socio-economic development will spiral up. It knows that we will further prove the possibilities of the Cuban socialism; the as-yet-untapped potential of a country without any discrimination whatsoever, with social justice and human rights for all citizens and not only for a few. It is the Government of a large and mighty empire, but it is afraid of the example of the small rebellious island.

Excellencies:

We are gathered here only five days away from the elections in this country, awaited by all with secret hopes. It is true that these four years have been terrible for the world.

Cuba, however, awaits and works with optimism and confidence. It knows that it is right. It knows that time is in its favor. It sees the ever-increasing rejection of the blockade right within the United States. It does not forget that the blockade has cost us over US$ 79 billion. Cuba knows that if the blockade is lifted, within a few years there will be a tremendous improvement in the living standards of its citizens. It knows, for example, that in 10 years our country would build 1 million new houses, into which some 4 or 5 million Cubans would move.

Cuba also knows, Excellencies, that if the blockade is not lifted and there is no end to the hostility that has been in place for over four decades now, everything will continue to be difficult but not impossible. Our people are sure that there is no human or moral constraint capable of hindering their course towards a more prosperous and just country.

It is true that for the last 12 years the US Government has disregarded the resolutions adopted by this Assembly with ever-increasing support, which demand the end of the blockade against Cuba. But that does not diminish the importance and momentousness of the act to be discharged today by each delegate on behalf of their people.

Therefore, on behalf of the Cuban people, whose sons and daughters have gone to heal, teach, build and fight side by side with every country that ever needed the Cubans; on behalf of the memory of the 2,000 Cubans who laid down their lives fighting colonialism and apartheid in Africa; on behalf of the 22,474 Cuban health cooperators currently rendering services in 67 countries of the Third World; on behalf of the Cuban professors who are now teaching over 17,000 youths from 110 countries in our schools free of charge; on behalf of five young Cuban heroes who are enduring cruel and unjust prison terms for fighting terrorism; in sum, on behalf of a small country that is harassed for wanting to be free, I would like to ask you, once again, to vote in favor of the draft resolution submitted by Cuba.

Thank you very much.