We are so happy and take comfort in the fact that the United Nations General Assembly is convening a peace summit, and that such summit has been named after Nelson Mandela.
Less than 30 years ago, beloved Madiba was a political prisoner in the apartheid jails, serving a life sentence as a result of his noble struggle for justice and equality among all men and women in South Africa, where a white minority was subjecting the black majority to the scorn of segregation.
We do not forget that during the dark apartheid years and even long after being elected President, Mandela and the most brilliant and honest African freedom fighters were still kept on lists of alleged terrorists.
Cuba is honored to recall that we shared in their struggles, on the first line of combat, together with its African brothers and sisters from Angola and Namibia.
And there was not greater acknowledgement than the embrace of a freed Nelson Mandela to our historic leader, Fidel Castro, on Cuban soil.
I intend that our tribute to Mandela is not only to South Africa’s first black president and the Nobel Peace Laureate, but we should also think about the rebel who had to fight against injustice when peaceful ways were shut down; the political prisoner, the advocate for human rights and for the rights of his people, and the politician who changed history.
We are pleased that in remembering Mandela the struggle of the South African people against the opprobrious apartheid regime is also recognized. That struggle was waged under the leadership of the African National Congress and many other combatants who gave their lives for the cause of freedom in Africa.
The First Secretary of our Party, Army General Raul Castro, called Mandela a “prophet of unity, reconciliation and peace. On the other hand, the Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, defined him as an example of “an absolutely honorable man (…), unyieldingly courageous, heroic, calm, intelligent, and capable…” This is how the Cuban people also remember Nelson Mandela.
Recent announcements about military expenditure are alarming, which is pushing the world into a new arms race, to the detriment of the enormous resources that are needed to build a world of peace.
There cannot be development without peace and stability, nor can there be peace or stability without development. There cannot be peace and security for the peoples with high levels of poverty, chronic hunger and malnutrition, lack of sanitation and limited access to drinking water, illiteracy, high levels of infant mortality, deaths due to preventable diseases and a low life expectancy.
To achieve a world where peace and peaceful solution of conflicts prevail, it is imperative to address the root causes that create them. The millions of excluded people as a result of the unfair economic international order, the displaced persons, the hungry, those fleeing wars and lack of opportunities towards lands of abundance built on the plundering of our peoples, have become victims of a noiseless and silenced segregation.
A lot remains to be done in order to make Mandela’s dreams come true. The only tribute worthy of his memory is to promote development in underprivileged nations. Actions rather than words. Cooperation, not intervention. Solidarity, not plundering.
Cuba and Africa are united by bonds of blood. The cultural heritage of the African continent in the idiosyncrasy of Cubans is undeniable. The culture and the best values of the African peoples nurtured our own. We were inspired by their courage, nobility, wisdom and resilience.
Cuba’s collaboration with the African peoples has been maintained for over 50 years as a priority of the foreign policy of the Cuban Revolution.
International peace remains threatened by the philosophy of domination. Therefore, we endorse Mandela’s words when he said: “We also want to be masters of our own destiny”.
Let us then work for the future of peace that our peoples are entitled to in their own right. Let us really and fully honor unforgettable Mandela, whom the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution called “an apostle of peace”.
Thank you very much.
(Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs translation)