(Council of State Spanish transcript – GI translation)
Alejandro González (Moderator).- Good morning.
I would like to thank colleagues from the national and international media who have joined us today for this press conference with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, who will address issues of current interest.
Present are 62 journalists from 36 media, from 19 countries, in addition to a broad representation from the national press.
This conference is being broadcast live on Cuban Television, Cubavisión Internacional and on Internet via the official Foreign Ministry website on the blockade.
The Minister will make brief remarks and will subsequently be available to respond to a few questions.
Bruno Rodríguez.- Good morning.
Our country is now ready, our people awaits the arrival of Pope Francis. We have worked to ensure that his visit is memorable, that it be a visit such as Pope Francis deserves, given his pontificate, his positions which arouse admiration in Latin America and the Caribbean, and among our people, and given that he is the first Latin American Pope.
The Cuban government is convinced that this visit will be an extraordinary event, for which it has worked fluidly, harmoniously with the Vatican state, the Havana Nunciature and the Cuban Catholic Church.
The Cuban people will welcome Pope Francis with respect, appreciation and hospitality, and will have access to broad, live coverage of his activities. A special web portal for this purpose has been established, as well as several social media accounts and hypermedia, to reach the broadest audience possible, directly, in real time.
Pardons have been approved recently for persons serving prison terms, within the Cuban legal framework and in consonance with the humanist tradition of our judicial system.
The Pope’s visit will surely engender massive participation on the part of believers and non-believers alike, and will be an important event for our entire people, for our culture, for the Cuban nation.
The visit is taking place, additionally, within a special international, hemispheric and regional context. The Cuban government has expressed its appreciation and gratitude to the Pope for his support to the process of dialogue between the governments of the United States and Cuba.
On a second note, the President of the Republic of Cuba, Raúl Castro Ruz, will attend events at the United Nations scheduled during coming days. He will attend the General Assembly session which will hear Pope Francis on September 25, and on this and following days will participate in the Summit which will consider the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. He will speak during this Summit, during the morning session on the 26th.
Our head of state will also attend the United Nations General Assembly general discussion, that is the high level segment, and will present his speech the afternoon of September 28.
The Cuban President is also planning to attend a conference on the empowerment and equality of women, following the tradition of the Women’s World Conference, the Beijing Conference, and processes which are of the highest priority for our society, on the basis of the call made by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, and compañero UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.
The Cuban President will complete, as well, a full program of a multilateral nature, hold numerous bilateral meetings with other heads of state and government attending these events, and a secondary program which will include meetings with different sectors of U.S. society, including important figures and representatives of the solidarity movement and the Cuban émigré community.
The Post-2015 Development Agenda, which has been the result of a long, broad intergovernmental process, and which will surely be adopted at the summit conference, sets out positive and ambitious goals. In the opinion of our country, it is a step forward on a global scale with regards to the so-called Millennium Development Goals, which the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 2000 with the presence of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz.
We believe the proposed Agenda contains essential, inescapable goals, given the economic and social situation in the world and the serious risks to the existence of the human species, posed by, for example, climate change, and contains comprehensive intentions, in some cases even specific, concrete ones, which is laudable.
Our concern is the insufficient correspondence between the objectives outlined in the Post-2015 Development Agenda in relation to the means of proposed implementation, related to the transfer of financial resources, of appropriate technology given the fact that we are victims of an inequitable, unjust, exclusionary international order; we are victims of a predatory, exploitative economic order that plunders the natural resources and wealth of the countries of the South, and with the reality that political will is lacking in the governments of industrialized countries to undertake the urgent and necessary actions that would allow us to advance in terms of social development, solve the problem of poverty, of hunger, of unattended disease, worldwide and create basic conditions to ensure this Agenda, which will be adopted in the coming weeks, is viable and not a mere declaration of good intentions.
Such that, in our opinion, it will be necessary to acquire awareness, mobilize international public opinion and work hard to build another international order, to construct another economic order, to demolish the current and build another international financial structure, which would allow for the miracle of the achievement of the Agenda to be adopted in the coming days.
At the same time, we will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. Cuba's opinion is that the United Nations organization must be defended from attacks, manipulation, the attempts at distortion of its objectives that it suffers; it is necessary to reiterate the concept that the Charter of the United Nations and its Purposes and Principles have absolute validity and constitute the essential framework of international law that can guarantee peaceful coexistence, in the interests of the development of all and the exercise of human rights for each and every person on our planet.
[Cuba] believes, at the same time, that the United Nations is in urgent need of profound reform to democratize it, in order that the General Assembly may exercise the powers established in the Charter, to contain the interference, the voracity, concerning the agenda of the Assembly, the Security Council, to democratize the latter, given in its meager representation of the countries of the South and its undemocratic methods, including the need for the elimination of the obsolete veto privilege.
Cuba is inspired, in its position in relation to these issues, by the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by the heads of State and Government of our region in January 2014 at the CELAC Summit in Havana, which establishes not only principles and norms of relations between the countries of our region, but also the aspiration that these be observed by all States in their relations with those from our region.
We have serious concerns about increasing threats to international peace and security. It is a fact that the 70th anniversary of the criminal nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was commemorated without having taken a single step forward on nuclear disarmament, or existing record levels of inexplicable, unsustainable military spending.
We are witnessing an extraordinarily complex international situation. What is occurring with the waves of migrants in Europe is a call to human conscience. These are persons fleeing conflicts, non-conventional wars, consequences of actions taken outside the bounds of international law, which have led to the destruction of states, the social fabric of several nations - fleeing poverty and underdevelopment. We are deeply worried that the European Union has made no progress on solutions to the fundamental causes of these waves of migration, or proposes the use of military and repressive measures against the migrants.
We were all left deeply troubled by the image of a small drowned boy on the beach, a symbol which moved all of humanity. We hope that there is political will in industrialized countries, which are historically responsible for the conditions of poverty and underdevelopment which exist in countries of the South, especially those responsible for recent conflicts which led to the current situation.
Thirdly, I would like to announce that the Resolution condemning the United States economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba presented to member states of the United Nations, will be considered in a General Assembly session debate on October 27 and submitted to a vote.
The Resolution text – and I will expand on this as it contains some new elements – is part of an updated version of the traditional document which has been approved for over 20 years, with 188 states voting in favor, an overwhelming display of majority support, and only two against.
The Resolution asserts:
“The General Assembly,
“Determined to promote strict adherence to the resolutions and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations,” that is to say, it is focused on International Law.
“The General Assembly,
“Reaffirming, among other principles, the sovereign equality of States, non-intervention and non-interference in internal affairs, freedom of international trade and navigation, enshrined in numerous international legal instruments.
“Recalling the declarations by Heads of State and government of Latin America and the Caribbean in summits of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), regarding the need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba.
“Concerned by member states’ continued enactment and application of regulatory laws and regulations, such as that which was ratified on March 12, 1996, known as the ‘Helms-Burton Law,’ whose extraterritorial character affects the sovereignty of other states, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under its jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation…”
It is known that, at this time, the U.S. Congress is considering not only some ten legislative initiatives intended to modify aspects of the blockade’s implementation, and even to lift it, but also several amendments meant to prevent the President of the United States from modifying its implementation.
“The General Assembly,
“Taking note of statements and resolutions from different intergovernmental fora, bodies and governments which express the international community and the public’s opposition to the enactment or implementation of such measures,
“Recalling your resolutions,” and listing the resolutions, the first from November 24, 1992.
The resolution has two paragraphs which state:
“The General Assembly,
“Saluting the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America,
“Recognizing the intention expressed by the President of the United States of America to work for the elimination of the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba,
“Concerned that, after the approval of his resolutions,” a series of these are listed, “the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba remains in effect, and concerned, as well, about the negative effects of these measures on the Cuban population and Cuban nationals resident in other countries, especially the Cuban émigré community resident in the United States,
“The General Assembly,
“1. Takes note of the Secretary General’s report on the implementation of
Resolution 69/5,” that is last year’s.
“2. Reiterates its call on all countries to abstain from enacting or implementing laws of the type mentioned in the preamble of this resolution, in accordance with their obligation to adhere to the United Nations Charter and international law, which, among other things, reaffirm freedom of trade and navigation…”
That is to say, the Resolution reaffirms that the blockade is a violation of the United Nations Charter and international law.
“3. Once again calls upon states, in which laws and measures of this type continue to exist or be applied, to take necessary steps to repeal or vacate them in the shortest possible time period, in accordance with their legal framework.
“4. Requests that the Secretary General, in consultation with relevant bodies and institutions of the United Nations system, prepare a report on the implementation of the present Resolution,” that is, the one which will be adopted, “in the light of the purposes and principles of the Charter and international law; and that it be presented during the 71st period of sessions,” that is, in the year 2016.
“5. Agrees to include on the provisional agenda for the 71st period of sessions, the issue entitled, “The necessity of putting an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America on Cuba.”
The Republic of Cuba appreciates and recognizes the statements made by the President of the United States, Barack Obama, that the blockade must be lifted, his recognition that the blockade has only led to the isolation of the United States, and has not accomplished the objectives for which it was established.
The President of the United States has recognized, as well, that the blockade causes human damage, that is, damage to our people.
Additionally,[Cuba appreciates] his decision to become involved in a debate with the U.S. Congress, with the goal of lifting the blockade, as well as his statement that he would use his executive powers to modify its implementation.
The reality is that the blockade persists, and the measures adopted by the United States government, to date, only modify a few aspects of the blockade. It is known that the President of the United States has further executive powers which could permit substantive modification of its implementation.
We hope this will be the subject of discussion in the General Assembly’s General Debate, that is, in the high-level segment of the General Assembly, during which, last year, dozens of heads of state and numerous delegation leaders referred to the issue.
The reality is that, at this time, the blockade does not allow Cuba to freely export or import products or services to or from the United States; it does not allow the use of the dollar in international financial transactions with third countries; it does not allow access to private credit in the United States or from international financial institutions. To date, the prohibition remains in effect that ships which dock in a Cuban port are not admitted to a U.S. port for 180 days.
Over the years, even during the period of dialogue and confidential talks with the government of the United States, that is, the years 2014 and 2015, the blockade continued to be tightened with notable, increased extra-territorial application, in particular in the financial arena, with persecution of our international financial transactions and unprecedented, extraordinary fines levied on fundamentally European banks and companies, for their relations with Cuba.
Conservative estimates have been made, through April 2015, using a highly rigorous methodology, which is known even by accounting bodies in the United States itself, and they have recognized it as rigorous and precise. I can affirm that the accumulated damage caused by the blockade over more than five decades has reached, according to the value of gold on the international market – a figure which fluctuates in accordance with the fluctuations of gold, which has recently lost value – has reached 833,755,000,000. That is, it continues to fluctuate at around a million million dollars, a trillion dollars.
Over these decades, the blockade has caused damages of 121,192,000,000 dollars at current prices, an exorbitant figure for a small economy like ours. [Over 121 billion]
But beyond the serious economic harm the blockade causes - and it is the principal obstacle to our development – it leads to unmet needs and deprivations for all Cuban families, affecting those who live outside of Cuba, in addition to the fact that 77% of the Cuban population was born and has lived their entire lives under the cruel effects of the blockade; and this can not be calculated. The impact - the human harm the blockade causes every day, every hour - is extreme, and cannot be expressed in figures. The blockade is a flagrant, systematic, massive violation of the human rights of all Cubans.
I am going to provide only examples of what has occurred during the recent period, since the initiation of talks with the United States government on these issues and the December 17 announcements, which led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the recent opening of embassies, with the productive visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to our country, that is, I am going to use recent examples.
Cuban hospitals responsible for care of oncological patients, that is, suffering cancer, have brachytherapy equipment, which requires Iridium-192 for its normal operation; these are indispensable machines for the treatment of cancer. These machines are supplied by the ELEKTA company, which is a company located and registered in Brazil; it is not U. S. based. This company, in turn, receives supplies from the U.S. company MALLIMCKRODT, that is the Iridium-192 elements, indispensable to their operation. Recently, this company has informed its Cuban counterparts that the U.S. company, given the rules of the blockade, has decided to stop supplying the above elements, because the U.S. Treasury Department has not granted them the appropriate license. That is, this is an effect of the blockade, an exemplar of how an exception to the blockade, in this area, has not been allowed, via a license. This denial has prevented the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology, and the oncological hospitals in Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey from providing radiation to thousands of cancer patients with the frequency, and at the time required. They have received the treatments, but not in the required manner, which constitutes an act of terrible human impact.
One must be very realistic, and it appears to me that one must make judgments based on facts, not statements, or expressions of good will.
Since 2014, and thus far in 2015, the German company Bayer, upon moving its regional office which managed relations with Cuba to the United States – it had been in Mexico – has not supplied us with Lopramide-300 or Lopramide-370, which are materials used in diagnosis and treatment of serious illnesses. The company has, from its new headquarters, requested licenses from the Treasury Department, which have not been granted.
On November 13, 2014, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the infamous OFAC, imposed a fine of 2,057,000 dollars on the U.S. company ESCO Corporation, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, because a subsidiary - which is governed by the laws of the country in which it is registered, and not by U.S. law - as a result of the blockade’s extraterritorial application in violation of international law, was prohibited from purchasing nickel bricks made from derivatives of Cuban nickel.
On March 12, 2015, the German bank Commerzbank, a large European bank, was fined 1,710,000,000, for its economic relations with Cuba, among other reasons. Before that, but not much before, in June of 2014, the French Bank BNP-Paribas was sanctioned with an extraordinary fine by a New York court, which ruled they would have to pay 8,900,000,000 dollars, which has no precedent in the history of financial transactions or bank relations on the planet.
On February 11, 2015, a subsidiary of Santander Bank in Mexico refused to perform a small transaction of 68,000 euros, not dollars, emitted by the Central Bank of Cuba, not to acquire something, not for commercial purposes, but to pay Cuba’s membership in the Center for Latin American Monetary Studies.
On March 25, 2015, OFAC levied a fine of 7,658,000 dollars on the U.S. company PayPal for processing transactions which allegedly involved property of Cuban origin or Cuban national interest. We are talking about the property of Cuban citizens, personal property, including that of people who live outside of Cuba.
On June 1, 2015, the U.S. company SIGMA Aldrich, world leader in chemical and petrochemical production, refused to supply the Cuban company QUIMIMPEX with indispensable chemicals for the development of industry, alleging that it could not provide such products, services, not even technical information, since Cuba was subject to the blockade.
On June 2, 2015, the U.S. company Columbiana Boiler Company, specializing in the fabrication of pressurized containers, that is, secure containers, refused to supply the Cuban company QUIMIMPEX the cylinders needed to store chlorine used in our water treatment system, the water consumed in Cuba, the water our children drink, that the Cuban population drinks, stating that the Commerce Department had not given them the appropriate authorization to do so.
In a few minutes, you will receive the blockade report, here it is in several languages, but this year it is a brief report, and it is a report focused not on the past, but on events which occurred this last year, in the recent period. Above all, I call upon you to read pages 24 and 25, which have many more examples of the human damage which comes as a consequence of the implementation of the blockade.
Absolutely necessary, therefore, is a new call, respectful, in accordance with international law, but energetic, for the unconditional, immediate and complete lifting of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade which the United States has imposed on Cuba.
President Obama stated that the blockade does not meet, and has not met, any of its objectives.
On other occasions, I have said that the best description of the blockade’s objective is the memorandum from April 6, 1960, which wasn’t declassified until decades later, sent by Undersecretary of State Lester Mallory, which describes as the official position of the United States government, the following objectives:
He wrote, “Most Cubans support Castro. There’s no effective political opposition (…) the only foreseeable means to alienate internal support is by creating disillusionment and discouragement based on lack of satisfaction and economical difficulties (…) We should immediately use any possible measure to (…) cause hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the Government.”
It surprises me that some State department spokespeople declare that what is occurring now, as a result of the respectful, constructive dialogue between the two governments, is a change of methods, but that persisting are the same old, obsolete objectives - stuck in the Cold War, cruel, inhumane, in violation of human rights - the U.S. policy toward Cuba which President Obama has said he intended to change.
One could ask these spokespeople what the current objective of the United States government in relation to Cuba is. It would be important to state that it is not changing the government, not changing the political, economic, social system which, in the exercise of their right to self-determination, our people have freely and sovereignly chosen.
We recognize and appreciate the progress which has been made in relations between the United States and Cuba, the process which demonstrates that respectful dialogue based on a foundation of sovereign equality can be productive, produces results, that it is the only path; demonstrating that the United States and Cuba, their governments, can learn - and it is absolutely necessary that they learn - to live, to coexist with their differences; that it is imperative that the relation between the two governments serve the interests of both nations, serve the interests of the citizens, men and women, of the U.S. and Cuba.
That is why we state with emphasis that, with the culmination of the stage of establishing relations and opening of embassies in both countries, we are in a position to enter the process of moving toward normalization of bilateral relations. But, as has been said, it is not possible to have normalization of bilateral relations as long as the economic, commercial, financial blockade of our country exists.
What will determine the pace of the normalization process is precisely the status of lifting the blockade, the measures adopted in relation to modification, and the lifting of the blockade of Cuba, the decisions made by the United States Congress, which President Obama has called upon to not resist what is in the interests of the U.S. people.
And what he will call for, if this process has made sense, and I hope it does, will precisely be the complete, unconditional lifting of the blockade.
The blockade is a strictly unilateral policy, and therefore it is a policy which must be resolved unilaterally. It should not be expected that it be the result of a process of negotiations between governments; it is not a two-way street, it is a street going in only one direction. That’s how it began, how it has been for five decades, and that is how it must end, and it must end because that is what serves the interests of the U.S. nation, of the Union; that is what is best for the people of the United States, that is what its citizens demand to exercise their rights - like the right to travel; to exercise the rights which are exercised in a democratic society. As all the polls show, there is broad support in U.S. society, a notable majority among Cuban émigrés, and a notable majority in Florida, in favor of lifting the blockade.
Nevertheless, the importance of the dialogue sustained cannot be underestimated, the progress made, the diplomatic outcomes achieved, and the fact that, as has been reported, on the basis of the recently concluded meeting of the Bilateral Commission, which we consider constructive, respectful, held in a professional climate, has allowed us to not only clarify Cuba’s position in relation to the normalization process, which obviously also includes the return of territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base; the suspension of anti-Cuban radio and television broadcasts which violate international law, according to International Telecommunication Union agreements; and the elimination of programs designed to alter Cuba’s constitutional order.
It is very important that, during this meeting, agreement was reached to advance medical cooperation between the United States and Cuba in relation to third countries, in particular the sister Republic of Haiti, which so much deserves and needs this.
We have agreed with the U.S. government to move forward with cooperative efforts in Haiti. You know that there have been some exchanges between Cuban and U.S. medical specialists in that country, recently, and we will present a substantive cooperation proposal to the U.S. government, one which could have real, broad impact on the public health system, and on indicators of the Haitian people’s health.
We are more than ready to cooperate with the United States, just as we did in regards to Ebola, during that terrible Ebola epidemic in West Africa. We have that willingness.
There are, however, obstacles which must be overcome. For example, the blockade is omnipresent; it is not a phobia; it is there, in fact. When we sent our medical brigades because of Ebola in West Africa, in the case of Liberia, we even had contact with the U.S. government in relation to this, the transfers from the World Health Organization to support the work of these medical brigades were stuck in banking institutions in third countries as a result of the blockade, and the Treasury Department had to issue a special license to allow Cuban doctors, who were risking their lives – practically the only ones directly treating contagious patients in the so-called red zone – to receive supplies absolutely necessary to their work.
In the same way, we had to wait for the U.S. government to remove obstacles to cooperation, related to the theft of brainpower and actions which attack, hamper, and damage Cuban cooperation in third countries, such as the Parole Program for Cuban medical professionals in third countries, which has a clear political goal, established during the W. Bush administration.
We have also advanced in the discussion of issues related to other aspects of bilateral relations, such as compensation for human and economic damage to the Cuban people caused by policies over these five decades, prior to President Obama.
Also reiterated was Cuba’s willingness to negotiate, in a common context, U.S. demands for compensation for Cuban nationalizations in the 1960s, in accordance with our laws and political decisions, which did not come as a consequence of the blockade.
We have also progressed in the discussion of aspects regarding trademarks and patents, in particular, regarding mechanisms of cooperation in areas of mutual benefit, such as protection of the environment, preparedness for natural catastrophes, health, civil aviation, law enforcement, including confronting drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, and corporate crime.
And, of course, we have had dialogue about areas in which there are many, significant differences on political issues, but, at the same time, aspects about which it is possible to have a respectful, serious, results-oriented discussion. There are also areas, like trafficking in persons, human rights, climate change, combating epidemics and other threats to world health.
The last issue I would like to address is the campaign underway against the sister Republic of Venezuela, as part of a crusade, as part of a campaign against progressive, left governments in Latin America which have made progress in meeting the demands of their peoples, who have exercised their sovereignty, and which are today under direct attack from predatory hedge funds, from institutions of diverse types, from destabilizing right wing sectors based abroad, from media emporiums, huge transnational oil companies and other sectors interested in plundering their natural resources.
In this context, I would like to reiterate our absolute support for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in its adherence to the principles of independence, self-determination, sovereignty and equality before the law of states, which is what the Proclamation of the Zone of Peace demands for Venezuela, for Cuba, for all.
We cannot accept interference or intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela, and much less in decisions adopted on the basis of all the procedural guarantees and due process of its judicial system, decisions adopted sovereignly, within the purview of their rights and sovereign authority.
It is not possible to wait - despite the double standards - at a time when what is happening in other places with respect to human rights, is being discussed or ignored; or with respect to fighting terrorism; or about confronting violence, when impunity is expected for acts of an illegal nature, coup attempts against the government of Venezuela, the constitutional government elected in a democracy with a record of elections, in a country which truly has a civic-military union led by President Nicolás Maduro Moros. Nor is it possible to allow, on the basis of double standards, that the rights of victims of violence and coup attempts be ignored.
These are the issues I wanted to address. Excuse me, this has been long.
Moderator.- We’ll move to questions now.
Andrea Rodríguez (AP).- Good morning, sir.
As you said, the Pope will depart from Cuba to travel to the United States, and will have the opportunity there to appear in Congress, before U.S. legislators.
Does the Cuban government have the expectation that he will speak directly about the sanctions, about the embargo, to Congress members and be able to persuade some legislators, some Republican, others Democratic, who very, very strongly oppose lifting these sanctions. Does he in some way have that persuasive ability?
Also on this issue, you have just presented, just done so, the report condemning the embargo, you used the word ‘condemn.’ This is not new, this report; moreover, it is linked, that is, the countries which are there won’t be implementing it. So, why at this moment, when there is a rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, use the word ‘condemn’ against a new friend, beyond the campaign for the lifting of sanctions?
Bruno Rodríguez.- Yes, thank you very much.
Well, you have mentioned some words as if I had spoken them, none of which I specifically mentioned, because I didn’t mention anything beyond the presence of the Pope in Cuba.
Nevertheless, the Vatican spokesperson has in fact said he considers this trip very special, precisely since it begins in Cuba and concludes in the United States.
We listen with admiration and respect; we follow the Pope’s statements regarding many international topics, regarding the international order, regarding justice, regarding the manner in which we should live side by side and interact with some nations and others, in relation to the role of states and governments.
The question is somewhat hypothetical, but one could say that we will listen to the Pope with full attention during his visit to our country, we will no doubt listen to what he may say in the United States, just as we have consistently done, and we will do so with deep respect, knowing that the Pope has extraordinary authority, not just religious, but ethical, on an international level.
Cuba’s resolution against the blockade, which the General Asembly adopted with 188 votes in favor, reflects the reality of the blockade’s existence. As the reality of the blockade is modified, one might consider that the international community, the General Assembly, could state its position in a different manner.
I reiterate our willingness to engage in productive, serious, respectful dialogue with the government of the United States, to address all of the pending issues between our countries.
I have expressed our appreciation and recognition of the position assumed by President Barack Obama regarding the blockade, but I consider it natural that the international community express its position, as it has in the past, regarding the status of the blockade’s implementation.
This resolution recognizes the positive aspects of progress which has been made in the relations, in particular diplomatic relations, between the United States and Cuba, and President Barack Obama’s statement, which arouses hope and recognition around the world, about his willingness to lift the blockade, and participate in a debate with Congress to do so.
It is a resolution which mentions the United States only in the phrase, “The need to put an end to the United States’ economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba,” in such a way that, as in the past, it is a very respectful, careful resolution. And the only time that the U.S. government is mentioned in the text is to recognize the results of the talks and the disposition of Barack Obama, which Cuba appreciates.
Laura Bécquer (Granma).- I would like to know the impact of Obama’s executive decisions regarding the blockade, if one can speak of a reduction of in the policy’s scope in other areas, beyond the financial.
Thank you very much.
Bruno Rodríguez.- We appreciate that President Barack Obama has made executive decisions to modify some aspects of bilateral relations, but it cannot be said, sticking to the facts, that the implementation of the blockade has been modified. The measures which he has adopted go in the right direction, they are positive steps, but extremely limited, not only from the bilateral point of view, but from the point of view, as well, of U.S. public opinion.
In the telecommunications sector, some executive decisions have been made. Unfortunately, some U.S. spokespeople say they were made for political purposes, but it must be said that they will be assumed by our country within the policy of digitalizing Cuban society, adopted by the Cuban parliament, which is well known, and within the Connect 2020 program of the International Telecommunication Union; but it must be said, obviously, it will be on the basis of our national priorities. At the same time, what has been done in this sector shows what can be done in others.
Soledad Álvarez (EFE).- Good morning, Minister.
A couple questions: you mentioned in your remarks the support, the contribution made by Pope Francis to the process of dialogue between Cuba and the United States. I would like to know your opinion of the role the Pontiff could continue to play in progress toward full normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.
On the other hand, you also mentioned that the subject of the blockade is a unilateral one, which can only be resolved with a unilateral decision by the United States. Should we understand that Cuba is not going to change its strategy around the blockade? Is it simply going to wait until this unilateral decision is made by the United States?
Thank you very much.
Bruno Rodríguez.- Cuba expressed recognition and support of Pope Francis’ contribution to the process of dialogue between the governments of the United States and Cuba, President Raúl Castro did so from the very beginning, and I have reiterated it. The Pope has great moral authority throughout the planet, in Cuba and the United States. At the same time, the Pope has referred to these issues. I can say that we are very grateful and recognize the role he has played in this process, and I am sure that his encouragement of progress in relations between the United States and Cuba will be fundamental to the people on both sides of the Florida Straits.
Regarding our blockade strategy, our people works intensively and actively to develop our economy. In fact, we have had encouraging results amidst the many difficulties which we have, and despite the fact that our economic results are not yet reflected in the population’s acquisitive power, that is, directly on the level of daily life or in the consumption of Cuban families. But the fact that our people have constructed an economy such as we have, sustaining social policies which are among the world’s most advanced, that they have made a historic change allowing the country to move from being a sugar exporter to being the world’s largest exporter of medical services, associated with significant exports of high tech products from the biotechnology and genetic engineering fields; the fact that our economy has become one of services, in which the second largest source of income is tourism, imply that our state, our people, our government are working hard to overcome the blockade, and have done so.
The blockade does a great deal of damage in the economic field, and does much harm by creating unmet needs and deprivation, but, as the President of the United States has himself said, the blockade has not worked, has not achieved any of its goals. It was not able to strangle Cuba in the early years of the Revolution; it was not able to strangle Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union and socialist countries; and the Cuban economy is here.
Secondly, the international community has increasingly expressed its support for Cuba on this issue, and Cuba has broad, diverse economic relations, although they are affected by the extraterritorial application of U.S. laws.
The blockade of Cuba not only causes so much harm because of the lack of economic relations with this economy, which is a giant one, the world’s and the hemisphere’s principal economy, but also because it hampers, creates obstacles for Cuba’s relations with third countries, especially in the financial arena. So, no one is waiting with their arms crossed, everyday we work actively to overcome the blockade, everyday we feel the support of many governments, parliaments, figures, representatives of different sectors, organizations, companies, and U.S. citizens who everyday oppose the blockade.
This is what has brought us here this far, the capacity to not only have withstood, but to have advanced and continue to advance. It is clear that the blockade of Cuba is not going to cause the collapse of the Cuban economy, or much less force Cuba to abandon its sovereign path.
What I was specifically saying about the blockade is that, since it is unilateral, it must be unilaterally lifted. Cuba does not have any blockade policy for the United States; Cuba does not discriminate against U.S. companies, it invites them to trade, to invest in Cuba. Cuba does not discriminate or sanction U.S. tourists. On the contrary, we invite them to visit our country, where they are received with warm hospitality, just like tourists from the rest of the world. Thus, the end of these policies must come as a result of a decision by the United States government, and cannot, in any way, be the subject of negotiations.
As has been said, Cuba will not make internal changes, or put on the negotiating table issues which fall within the exclusive sovereignty of the Cuban people, for which they have struggled since 1868, for which they have faced great danger, and it is a sovereignty which has been defended, won, and a sovereignty which is effective for a nation advancing toward its goals of development.
Carlos Batista (France Presse).- Good morning, Minister.
I have two questions:
Regarding President Raúl Castro trip to the United Nations, I understand that President Obama will also speak before the General Assembly on the 28th. Can we expect a second meeting between the two Presidents within the framework of the United Nations?
And regarding Cuba’s resolution against the blockade, some analysts think that, given president Obama’s position which you have cited, the United States could change its vote on the resolution, vote in favor or abstain. What would Cuba think about a vote change on the resolution?
Thank you very much.
Bruno Rodríguez.- President Barack Obama and President Raúl Castro will evidently both attend several events, according to the schedules which have been announced for the Post-2015 Development Agenda Summit and the General Discussion. President Obama’s speech is customary, after the President of Brazil’s speech, in the initial session of the high level discussion in the General Assembly. Thus I suppose there will be interactions between the Presidents, but all I can say is that a meeting between them has not been scheduled.
Regarding the eventual vote of the United States on this resolution, that is a decision which is, of course, within the purview of the State Department, the United States government. The question is hypothetical; you could ask the United States’ representatives. I’m going to wait until the 27th, of course, and see what happens.
Cristina Escobar (Cubavisión news).- Good morning, Minister.
Regardless of the fact that the measures adopted after December 17 by President Obama, and the United States government, which were subsequently ratified by the Treasury Department, have been approved, are all the measures which President Obama said he would adopt being effectively implemented, or are they being held back in some way by blockade legislation? This, on one hand.
On the other, the Cuban government and Foreign Ministry have stated on various occasions that President Obama has broad executive powers to substantially modify blockade legislation, and the granting of licenses to companies, which could, for example, resolve many of the issues denounced in this report on the blockade, what are the prerogatives that Obama has yet to exploit and could be used to further advance this process of modifying the blockade in some way and progress toward the normalization of relations?
Bruno Rodríguez.- Yes, thank you.
The implementation of executive decisions that President Obama has made thus far has already begun. Regulations related to these decisions were subsequently developed by different departments, that is to say, by various U.S. government ministries. It has only been a few months, almost half a year since the measures were announced, each applied a different levels. The most important thing is that these measures are oriented in a positive direction, which we appreciate, but they have an extremely limited reach.
Of course relations between two states, between two nations are subject to synergies, interactions in which it is not strictly possible to separate some areas from others, some spheres from others. This is why I have stressed that the existence of the blockade affects everything; that is to say, it is an ever present reality, which even affects the implementation of measures which have been approved because, for example, if you permit minimal purchase and sale operations to a certain sector of Cuban society, it is complicated, because trade on a global scale is generally conducted between companies involved in importing and exporting; meaning a small honey producing enterprise doesn’t usually export their product to a third country; nor does a nation, generally export work materials and supplies to small honey producer in a neighboring country; that is to say, transactions are carried out at the level of commercial companies.
On the other hand, the situation of the Cuban economy in its entirety can not be overlooked, and the fact that two-way trade doesn’t exist, nor private lenders, etc, obviously complicates the entire scope of economic relations, with some limited exceptions. But I do feel that these measures are positive and heading in the right direction, although they lack the necessary scope.
Of course, as I have said, President Obama has yet to utilize all his executive powers, which I previously mentioned.
Moderator - Well, thanking you all once again, we end this press conference.
Thank you very much.