Special Address by the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Amb. Carlos Fernández de Cossío

Otros autores: Translated by Resumen Latinoamericano - Resumen Latinoamericano
diciembre 8, 2023   0

Dr Carlos Fernández de Cossio,  keynote speaker at 21st edition of the series of dialogues about Cuba on US foreign policy, organized by CIPI-ISRI December 6, 7 and 8.

Ambassador. Rogelio Sierra, Rector of the Higher Institute of International Relations “Raúl Roa García”.Ambassador Dr. José Ramón Cabañas, Director of the Center for International Policy Research.

Thank you for inviting us again to this event.  In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in particular in the General Directorate of the United States, we identify it as an opportunity in which we always learn and in which we always have the privilege of listening to people who have devoted years to the study of this subject. I commend the effort to try to rejuvenate the event.

Members of the diplomatic corps, friends, academics, specialists, colleagues.

The year that is about to end has been quite representative of Cuba’s strong ties at the international level, of our country’s activism and our foreign policy, and of the degree of sympathy and recognition enjoyed by our country.

In a few weeks, Cuba will conclude its mandate as chairman of the Group of 77 and China, a responsibility we assumed as a result of a request from the underdeveloped countries, which represent most of the countries of the world and about 80% of the world’s population, and which we took very seriously.

It has given us the capacity to influence as a Group in important negotiating processes. We had the opportunity to hold a successful Summit of developing countries in Cuba, which helped to promote the agenda of interest to these countries. It was also an opportunity to experience many expressions, at the level of heads of state and government, of sympathy and solidarity with Cuba.

And it has also entailed a great effort to participate at the highest level of our government in multiple international events, including the Paris Conference on the International Monetary and Financial Structure, a BRICS Summit, and other events such as the COP on climate change, among others.

This year, Cuba was again elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council with the highest vote among Latin American countries and one of the highest votes ever achieved, despite the effort that we know existed on the part of the U.S. government to prevent Cuba’s election.

We have continued to participate in the Colombian peace process between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army. Havana was again the venue for a round of the Peace Dialogues, in which two important agreements were adopted: the first agreement there has been on one of the points of the agenda and a cease-fire agreement that was very important for that process.

There has been a growth -we would say- in the links with Latin America and the Caribbean, both bilaterally with countries and at the sub-regional level, with a dynamic of greater activism and interaction that has been promoted within the region.

We have strengthened ties with the peoples and governments of Africa, a region to which we are bound by historical ties that we consider fraternal. We have expanded high-level meetings with Asian and Middle Eastern countries. We have expanded ties with the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, and we have also strengthened ties with a group of countries, including Russia, Turkey, Serbia and others. Our president is concluding a successful visit to the Middle East, as well as attending COP 28 on climate change.

There is no doubt that this is a very important success story for a country the size of Cuba, with an economy the size of ours and a population the size of ours. And it is a reflection of the fact that Cuba enjoys recognition and prestige for our track record, our clean, constructive, peace-promoting conduct and favorable to dialogue – under any circumstances – for relations between countries and for the solution of conflicts.

This, of course, has an exception, which is the United States.

There are sometimes episodes that illustrate what this relationship is like. In February, an outstanding artist, singer and composer called Norah Jones, well known in the United States and well known by the Cuban public, was scheduled to perform in our country, for the enjoyment and benefit of the Cuban people. And this show, scheduled for the month of February and promoted, has had to be cancelled as a result of the harassment, the harassment to which the singer has been subjected by -I would say- the most rabid elements of the anti-Cuban sectors in the United States.

This is nothing new. Baseball lovers who followed the Baseball Classic Championship, saw the embarrassing spectacle in the Miami stadium when the Cuban team was playing against the United States team, a team that had demonstrated throughout the championship that it had technical superiority over the Cuban team, and it was no surprise that it won the game. But it was a game that was tarnished, since the Cuban team had to compete in harsh conditions of disadvantage resulting from the harassment.

The harassment that existed there and the one that happened with Norah Jones, are the result of a permissive attitude of the government authorities in the United States, who also favor this type of behavior, because of the conduct they have with respect to our country. And I mention this because they are sometimes marginal but embarrassing examples of the way in which relations between our two countries develop.

Norah’s performance, of course, was going to be with a license and with a permit, because any link of an American with Cuba is, as a rule, forbidden. Everything is forbidden to have a link with Cuba. To travel to our country, to participate in an event like this, you need a permit – be it a license, which can be general or be explicit and specific.

The U.S. government has that supervisory capacity over the U.S. citizen, or over whoever lives under the jurisdiction of the United States, within that territory. In order to interact with Cuba, you need a permit, to participate in an event, to travel as a government official, to engage in a business conversation, to see where a person is going to stay. The government is able to tell you where you can and cannot stay to sleep. In U.S. courts one can be charged if one drinks a mojito and it was not explicitly stated on the license. A permit is required to play baseball, to fish, to play golf, to get married, to fall in love – and I guess for everything that people who are in love do. That is the reality of our two countries.

The truth is that, after three years of the current U.S. government, there have been no substantial changes, nor are there any prospects of substantial changes. We know that the government has enough latitude to change the current situation, if it had the will to do so.

The Trump-Biden policy, or Biden-Trump if we use the alphabetical order, is characterized by more than 240 hostile measures that were established with two purposes: one, to make life as hard as possible for the Cuban citizen -for the 11 million Cubans-, and second purpose, to dismantle the progress that had existed in 2015 and 2016 under the Obama-Biden administration.

These measures (243) have several characteristics. An important part -not all- are associated with trying to reinforce the economic blockade. I am going to refer to those that have the greatest impact on our population, on our economy. Some of you will know them well, but I am going to take the trouble to point them out, since they help to dispel the doubts of those who still consider that the economic problems of our country are not the result, to a very considerable extent, of the hostile policy of the United States and those who claim that Cuba’s economic problems are fundamentally the result of problems of administration, management, model or economic policy.

Among these measures, one of the most damaging is, of course, the presence of Cuba on the State Department’s list of countries that allegedly sponsor terrorism. We know that it is an arbitrary, unilateral list, which is not recognized by any entity at the global level, and that it is a list that, in practical terms, because of the way it is used, what it does is to demerit or discredit the will of the United States government or the attitude of the United States government towards something as serious and grave as terrorism.

Using the list for opportunistic purposes discredits the U.S. position on terrorism, but the most serious impact is not the slander. The most serious impact is the effect it has on the Cuban economy, since globally and outside the jurisdiction of the United States, many banking and financial institutions refuse -or are wary- of having relations with a country that is qualified on that list for fear of reprisals from the U.S. government. And this implies an immense harm to any country in the conduct of its economy.

For example, commercial entities with a tradition of exporting inputs for the pharmaceutical industry to Cuba have refused to do so -or have found it difficult to do so- because the banks they use for their commercial activity have links in the United States, and those banks or financial institutions refuse to continue with transactions with Cuba. This has a direct impact on the production of medicines in our country.

But, in addition, countries, organizations, companies with which there was a commercial tradition find it difficult to collect payments from Cuba, or Cuba finds it difficult to pay for normal commercial transactions or Cuba finds it difficult to collect payments for exports, whether of goods or services. And this causes a substantial increase in our country’s foreign trade bill, both in terms of what we lose when we export and what it costs us when we have to import. And it also means that it becomes increasingly difficult for us to find suppliers for sensitive areas of our economy.

The issue is aggravated by the extraterritorial impact it has, since it is known that one of Cuba’s main sources of income is tourism. And, by virtue of U.S. legislation, citizens of those countries that enjoy a waiver from the U.S. immigration system, according to which they do not have to apply for a visa to travel to the United States, lose that privilege if they travel to Cuba. This covers most of the countries of the European Union, which is a very important market for Cuban tourism, and affects some Latin American countries.

It affects Cuban citizens who have citizenship in a European or Latin American country and who have relatives in the United States and who now, by traveling to Cuba to see part of their family, lose that privilege of being able to travel to the United States, since they have to apply for a visa and run the risk of being denied, as there are examples of this having already happened.

This means that, by placing Cuba on this list, not only is the United States establishing a ban on the U.S. citizen or the citizen living under U.S. jurisdiction, but also on the citizen of a third country, overriding the jurisdiction – or the will or the governmental authority – of other countries, because it is penalizing or threatening the citizen of a third country if that citizen makes use of what he would consider to be his right, which is to travel to Cuba, since he is offending a regulation established by the U.S. government. Naturally, this has an impact on one of the fundamental sources of income of our economy, which is tourism.

Now, it is important to dwell a little on this issue. It is known that the fundamental argument used to place Cuba on this list was the presence in Cuba of a delegation of the National Liberation Army of Colombia, which was here at the express, written request of the President of Colombia to conduct the peace dialogue, as a result of agreements signed by the Government of Colombia and the ELN, and which committed Cuba and Norway as guarantors, in addition to committing a group of countries to accompany the process.

It was intended that Cuba would break its word and violate a signed and written commitment. The most amusing thing is that last week -on Thursday, I think it was November 30- the State Department published a report on the situation of terrorism at a global level in which it once again states that Cuba is a country sponsoring terrorism. It is not the one that qualifies Cuba, but it supposedly qualifies us.

It is the report that corresponds to the scenario existing in the year 2022 and it is unfortunate that nobody has alerted the State Department that in the year 2022, in the month of August, the Colombian Foreign Minister traveled to Cuba and publicly denounced the fact that Cuba was on that list. He publicly requested that the U.S. government remove Cuba from that list. He recognized the important role played by Cuba, he recognized Cuba’s very important attachment to its commitment to the peace talks, thanks to which they could be restarted.

But so did the President of Colombia on television, standing next to the US Secretary of State. He recognized the very important role of Cuba, denounced the presence of Cuba on this list and demanded that it be removed from this list. The government of the country that supposedly served as a pretext to impose this classification on Cuba did so. In addition, it lifted the arrest warrants, renounced the cooperation it had requested from Interpol for the arrest warrants of these persons after that.

Thanks to the attitude assumed by Cuba, it has been possible to restart the peace talks. As I said, a session was held in Cuba and now a peace dialogue session was taking place in Mexico in which two of the participants are precisely the people who were being demanded and who served and were used as a pretext to put Cuba on this list.

It is evident that terrorism has no relation whatsoever to the economic impact that results from placing Cuba’s name on this list.  It is clearly a punitive action. And the pretext of terrorism cannot be used. One even tries to read the report and one can guess the effort made by those who have to write it to try to justify Cuba’s continued qualification in this way.

But that is one of the measures to reinforce the blockade that I wanted to refer to. Another is to have allowed action to be taken in U.S. courts for lawsuits brought under Title 3 of the Helms-Burton Act, something that all presidents – including Donald Trump in his first two years – had suspended, something that has an immense extraterritorial impact.

It is known by those who study economics and development issues that there is a well-established concept that no developing country will be able to boost development if it does not have external financing, be it foreign direct investment or indirect investment. And, therefore, for Cuba it is also a priority to attract foreign investment, whether direct or indirect.

The application of this title is precisely to prevent that. We are not talking about direct investment by the United States, it is direct investment by the companies of any country, regardless of the relationship they have with Cuba, regardless of where they are incorporated, where they pay taxes, where the workers are and what kind of product they produce. It is an extraterritorial action aimed at preventing Cuba from having the capital it inevitably requires for development.

I do not know how anyone can say that the problems or limitations that Cuba has for its development are solely and exclusively the responsibility of the Cuban government, and there is no immense responsibility of the United States government, if it knows of the existence of this title and its application.

But there is a third measure, which are the sanctions or threats of sanctions against shipping companies, carriers, insurers or reinsurers involved in the supply of fuel to Cuba. This is a country whose economy, whose life – lights, air conditioning, movement of people, transportation, all services – depends on the importation of fuel, because we don’t have it.

This is a measure that is usually adopted in time of war. The pretext used was an alleged huge presence of tens of thousands of Cuban military in Venezuela, which nobody has ever seen. They have not seen a company, but that is the pretext that was used. It has not been repeated, but the measure is still in place and it has a huge impact on the bill that Cuba has to pay for the supply of fuel.

Another measure is the attack on the international medical cooperation provided by our country and for which it has received recognition from several United Nations secretaries general, several governments, some U.S. governors and politicians, and which has historically had an impact, and still has today, on the lives of millions of people, for whom the health services provided by Cuban professionals are the only source of health services they receive.  Almost always, almost every time, it is in developing countries, in the most depressed, most remote communities with the least possibilities.

The attack is produced, among other reasons, both to discredit Cuba and this cooperation that is so celebrated, and to damage our sources of income, because it is known that it is an important source of income for the Cuban public health system and for Cuba to be able to continue providing this service to the countries to which it is provided free of charge.

And that is why they seek to undermine this cooperation by the fact that Cuba receives compensation.  It is an export of services, just like any other country. Many can enjoy natural resources given to them by nature.  In our case they are human resources, which were trained by us and it is the effort of our professionals; but also as if it were a practice invented by Cuba or invented by socialism. It is common in the United States itself, in private organizations, governmental organizations, universities, to provide services with their professionals, but the institution retains a part, often considerable, of the income received for the services provided by those professionals in other countries. Then, why is Cuba being attacked when it is a universal practice?

But it is also a practice recognized by various United Nations resolutions on South-South cooperation or cooperation between developing countries. What this measure is aimed at is to affect the income that our country receives and which has been allocated for many years to the public health system of our country.

There is also the list of restricted entities, a list, according to what we are told, drawn up capriciously in a coffee shop in Miami with a computer from a Google search of the tourist entities that exist in Cuba. And they began to put together a list that later expanded for that reason. Without any legitimacy, without any justification. But the American is forbidden to interact with entities that are on that list, which includes restaurants, commercial organizations, hotels, both state and private.

Finally, I must refer to a measure adopted in 2019, which was to establish once again that it is forbidden to export to Cuba any product produced in any country – regardless of the relationship of that country with Cuba, regardless of who owns the company, who the workers are, what nationality they have, where they pay taxes – if that product has 10% or more of U.S. component. And the component is raw materials, technology, parts and pieces, software, intellectual property, whatever.

So, in a globalized economy like today’s, if you take the trouble to break down the components of any product, how much guarantee is there that you will not find that transportation equipment, construction equipment, medical service equipment, laboratory equipment, electricity generating plants, pumping plants, various types of machinery do not have at least 10% of U.S. components?

Then they say that the blockade is not universal, that it is not extraterritorial and that Cuba can trade with any country. Yes, we can trade with any country, but many companies, without taking the trouble to verify the disaggregated composition of the product, simply suspect that there may be a U.S. component and decide not to trade with our country. Because, in addition, they know that determining whether there is 10% or more -or not- may be up to a U.S. court, knowing the political influence that exists in the U.S. judicial system.

Therefore, it is very difficult for anyone to argue -knowing this and knowing only these elements, which are few of the measures to strengthen the blockade- that there is no impact on the Cuban economy and that it is not a devastating impact for an economy of the size of the Cuban economy.

Imagine if this alone, not counting the rest of the blockade, were applied to another Latin American country, what would be the impact, or to a developed country, or a European country? What would be the impact if half of these measures were applied to them? What capacity would they have to manage their economy? What capacity would they have to manage the services to the population, to ensure a degree of equity, to ensure a minimum degree of supply for the whole population -not for a reduced segment, not for a percentage- if these measures were applied to them?

And I reiterate: here I am referring only to what in Cuba we call the reinforcement or tightening of the blockade, or what Trump called the maximum pressure measures. I am not referring to the economic blockade as it existed before 2017, it is only to the reinforcement.

One sometimes wonders how anyone who is informed can have the capacity to honestly say that the blockade does not have a real impact on the Cuban economy and is not a fundamental factor to explain the problems that the Cuban economy has today, the shortages that our population has, the shortages that our services, transportation, education, health, trade and supply have for our country.

Now, the essence of all this is the unwillingness that has existed historically – that continues to exist today – for rulers in the United States – I would not say all of them, but a significant number – and politicians in the United States, to accept Cuba’s right to self-determination.

And that is the essence of the problem: an inability to accept that this country, this territory and this population – a neighbor, by the way, of the United States – has the right to self-determination, and the pretense of treating Cuba as if it were a colonial territory or a territory and a population under a degree of neo-colonial tutelage, or some kind of tutelage.

It is all very consistent with the Monroe Doctrine, which, by the way, a few days ago celebrated 200 years of existence and application.

And this situation, of course, as it is not openly stated, explains the various pretexts used to justify the current policy. We have known many: our links with the defunct Soviet Union, the presence of Cuban troops in Africa, alleged acoustic attacks that nobody is even capable of explaining with the rigor of science, the presence of tens of thousands of Cuban military personnel in Venezuela that nobody has seen, the alleged presence of Chinese military bases that nobody has seen.

In Cuba there is a permanent presence of foreign press, which I suppose has made an effort to find the Chinese bases and has not found them -even Chinese restaurants are hard to find in our country, unfortunately we do not have many. We have denied it publicly, the Cuban government and the government of the People’s Republic of China, but it is a legend that keeps on being repeated and recycled from time to time.

And then there is the supposed pretext of Human Rights which, it is alleged, informs, educates and guides the foreign policy of the United States. But, referring to what the director of CIPI Cabañas was explaining, seeing the participation and complicity of the U.S. government with the atrocities being committed today in Gaza, one supposes that many must be imagining the moral conflict in the conscience of U.S. government officials and politicians who claim that Human Rights are the priority in U.S. foreign policy.

This, the one with Cuba, is a relationship based not on justice, not on law and not even on common sense.  It is based on the exercise of force by the most powerful -which is the United States- and it is a position of force that rests on the military, economic and technological might of the United States. It is based on the indisputable communicational power, which is capable of converting lies into truth, the false into truth, capable of manipulating diverse sectors of the population in the United States, including those of Cuban origin, and mobilizing some of them against their country.

It rests on ideological dogmas, black and white, good and bad, on the habit of confusing socialism and communism with the devil, of confusing the Democratic Party in the United States with socialism, of confusing democracy with capitalism -and it is not the same thing. It rests on the generalized lack of information and interest regarding Cuba in the United States, and on the growing fear and insecurity in that country, as a result of the growing economic inequality, polarization and alienation of sectors of the population.

And that is easily exploited to try to paint Cuba as a dangerous demon and a supposed threat to the United States.

It is as hard and simple as that: there is no will to improve relations and the current state is based on the exercise of force by the more powerful.

This poses a contradiction difficult to resolve, if it continues and is maintained in those terms, since it is not possible, as it is not fair and it is not rational, nor is it realistic to expect Cubans to give up the right of self-determination. Whoever knows our history and especially the history of the last decades, the last decades, with the Revolution, will know that it is impossible to demand that from Cuba and to expect that from our country.

On the other hand, Cuba has no way of forcing the rulers of the United States to change their position. We do not have that capacity, as it seems that neither does the international community.

The diverse expressions at a global level against the blockade, practically unanimous year after year in the United Nations General Assembly in the voting that takes place there, are well known. In the speeches of more than 30 heads of delegations in the high-level segment of the General Assembly, they explicitly called for the lifting of the blockade and more than 20 – I think out of 24 – explicitly called for Cuba to be removed from the list of State sponsors of terrorism.

And something happened again in November: all the Latin American and Caribbean countries, the African Union, the European Union and most of the Asian countries unanimously requested it. It was said to the President of the United States at the hemispheric summit that took place in California last year, so I say that the international community does not seem to have that capacity either.

In the absence of another influential factor, it is clear that the solution is within the United States, it is in the United States where this equation can be changed.

Our position, Cuba’s position, is well known, we have said it publicly and we have reiterated it for years. It is essentially our willingness to dialogue on any issue under conditions of equality, respect and in the spirit of seeking comprehensive solutions or with a comprehensive vision to the problems we have between the two countries and the willingness on that basis to develop a respectful and civilized relationship.

But we have not only stated this position publicly on multiple occasions. It is known that over the years, at different times, we have had the possibility to dialogue directly with the government of the United States and with members of the U.S. Congress.

Today that is a reality and in none of those opportunities and in none of those conversations has there been any proposal on the part of Cuba that could be interpreted as harmful to the national security interests of the United States. Nor has there been any proposal that could be considered as endangering the political or economic stability of that country or the welfare of its citizens or the standard of living of the U.S. citizen.

Nor have we at any time requested privileged treatment, preferential treatment. We have never even asked for a free gift in any conversation.

What we have demanded is that we be left in peace, that our sovereign rights be respected, that we be allowed to develop as we Cubans wish, without interference.

It is known that we have political differences with the United States, as we may have with other countries, and we raise them frankly as they are raised -I must say- frankly with us. But that is part of how ties develop between many countries. And the U.S. government, of course, is also aware of our position that we have the right to defend ourselves. That is a reality.

Now, when we talk about Cuba’s public position and that we are willing to dialogue and to have a relationship, it is not only that we say it publicly, it is not only the nature of our exchanges with the U.S. government, but we reflect it in practice, despite the hostility of the U.S. government, despite the tightening of the blockade that I described a few minutes ago, despite the failure to comply with the commitments that both countries assumed bilaterally between 2015 and 2016.

Our country, despite the continuation of the policy of political subversion against Cuba financed with tens of millions of dollars approved by the U.S. Congress, despite the discrediting campaigns against Cuba, despite all that, has been willing, for example, to expand again the U.S. embassy in Cuba and to expand our embassy in the United States. It could be assumed that Cuba would not be willing to do so by virtue of the manifest hostility.

Despite the fact that the United States unilaterally reneged on the migration agreements, Cuba has continued to comply, and we have been willing to hold dialogues on migration issues. We have held four in the last two years, in spite -I repeat- of the manifest hostility.

But in addition to that, we have been willing to develop bilateral dialogues in various areas. Interestingly, dialogues on terrorism; we held one and we can hold more on immigration fraud, maritime security, geology, agriculture, health, science and technology, environment, education, higher education and to exchange with the U.S. society in a broad sense, but also with the U.S. government.

If it wished, the U.S. government could take these actions as acts of goodwill on Cuba’s part, despite the overt hostility of the U.S. government.

And anyone could ask why we are doing this, that is, anyone could say why despite this hostility Cuba maintains this disposition and has dialogue and allows the embassy in Cuba to be expanded and continues to discuss even terrorism?

And it is a legitimate question, that anyone can ask, very legitimate I would say, since history shows how when countries have conflicts, they really refuse to interact. And that has not been Cuba’s behavior.

What I can say is that this is the way we behave in foreign policy in general with any country, even when we have political differences. I can also say that it is how we believe relations between two countries should develop. And that motivates us to act in this way. We also consider that it is beneficial for our country, as we consider that it is beneficial for the United States. But it is really already a consideration of the United States.

But very importantly, we do it because we are convinced that we are right in this conflict, and more importantly, we do it because we have the privilege and the virtue of enjoying full and true sovereignty. We are masters of our destiny, we truly exercise self-determination. And we have the capacity, even under these conditions of hostility, to interact in this way with the United States.

I wish you success in this event in which it is always our practice to learn a great deal.

Thank you very much.

Translated and originally published in Resumen Latinoamericano - English

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