Remarks by Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba, during the virtual opening ceremony for ECLAC’s 38th Session, at the Havana Convention Center, October 26, 2020, Year 62 of the Revolution
(Transcript: Presidency of the Republic/Translation: GI)
His Excellency Mr. Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of the Republic of Costa Rica;
Your Excellency, Mr. António Guterres, United Nations Secretary General
Your Excellency, dear Mrs. Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC Executive Secretary;
Distinguished ministers, heads of delegations, delegates and guests:
It is an honor for Cuba to participate with you, even if virtually, in the opening of the 38th Session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, our dear ECLAC, the 70th anniversary of which we celebrated in Havana in May of 2018, when our country assumed the pro tempore presidency of the Commission, that we pass on to Costa Rica today.
Over the more than 70 years of tireless work promoting sustainable economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba's active participation in favor of multilateralism, the exchange of knowledge and cooperation, can be discerned, all of which makes us feel part of ECLAC.
As the Pro Tempore President of the Commission; in its Committee on South-South Cooperation and the Latin American and Caribbean countries’ Sustainable Development Forum, Cuba has worked intensely, aware of the enormous challenges involved in the commitment to promote cooperation and sustainable development in the region, especially with our sister nations of the Caribbean, responding to ECLAC's initiative "The Caribbean First."
During our term as President, extended a few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba was honored to have accompanied the principal processes directed toward implementing the 2030 Agenda, and strengthening South-South and triangular cooperation at the regional and international levels, in the interest of broadening and deepening achievements and surpassing the objectives.
Working to reduce existing gaps and consolidate the regional organization, we committed ourselves to the search for concerted, comprehensive solutions to common or similar problems, always adhering to the premise of “leaving no one behind.”
Regarding these last two years, I would like to highlight the third meeting of the Forum of Latin American and Caribbean Countries on Sustainable Development, held in April of 2019, when the Quadrennial Assessment Report on progress and challenges of the region in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda was presented.
With more than 1,200 participants on hand, including representatives of civil society and the private sector, and more than 50 parallel events, this meeting marked the history of the Forum.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, a shameful degree of economic and social inequality persists. Structural and systemic disparities between nations, and within them, remain and are widening in a complex and difficult international context on all levels: health, economic, financial, social, and environmental.
It is clear that the pandemic has accentuated the limitations of our productive systems and has exposed all our vulnerabilities.
Its economic and financial impact and consequent social costs lead to discouraging projections. The region, in which economic growth is slowing more sharply than in other parts of the world, is performing less well than it has over the last seven decades.
It is not others saying so. The Regional Commission itself, our ECLAC, is projecting a decline of 9.1% in 2020, the worst gross domestic product in the region's history.
Meanwhile, climate change continues to mercilessly ravage our countries, particularly island states. It is estimated that by 2050 the economic cost of climate change in the region will reach between 1.5 and 5 percent of today's regional GDP.
Faced with this dramatic prospect, the promotion of comprehensive policies for sustainable development, mitigation, adaptation and resilience are urgently needed.
Creating better conditions and capacities for risk management and reduction in the Caribbean are key to closing the technology gap, as are promoting cooperation and timely access to the necessary resources to mitigate the effects of climate change.
We firmly believe that only an articulated response by countries at all levels can help us overcome the multiple crises facing Latin America and the Caribbean today.
To achieve this, it is essential to continue fostering renewed and strengthened multilateralism; cooperative solidarity and the search for concerted and innovative solutions. Multilateralism, cooperation and solidarity must be the order of the day in these times.
It is our duty to together protect peace, an indispensable premise for development, a right and historical demand of our peoples.
I reaffirm here what we expressed two years ago at the Havana meeting: "There will be no development without peace, and no peace without development." Accordingly, we emphasize the validity of the postulates of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
It is impossible to ignore here our condemnation of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States government, which has been brutally intensified during the last two years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic times.
This essential component of hostile U.S. policy toward Cuba is meant to harm the nation as a whole, to obtain political concessions and create chaos.
The opportunistic escalation of this criminal siege, as recognized by the current U.S. administration, aims to totally disrupt our trade, our access to fuel and foreign exchange, and reinforces the blockade’s condition as a concrete impediment to national development.
The most recent brutal measure can only be described as a malicious act, of extreme cruelty, of human barbarism: soon, Cuban families will not be able to receive remittances from the nation where the largest group of our emigrants reside.
As we have said so many times, the blockade qualifies as genocide and constitutes a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of our people, but it will not divert us one millimeter away from our development programs.
Cuba maintains its commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
We have a National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030, containing strategic axes linked to the Sustainable Development Objectives; as well as an “Economic and Social Strategy to strengthen the economy and confront the world crisis caused by COVID-19" for the country's recovery.
Once again, we reiterate here our commitment to solidarity cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, disinterested aid and complementarity, under the invariable principle of sharing what we have, not what we have left over.
Neither the blockade nor the ferocious defamatory campaigns being launched today against Cuba’s solidary medical cooperation will limpact the humanist vocation of our Revolution, particularly given the complex international panorama and the pressing demands generated by the pandemic.
I would also like to place on record the Cuban state's deepest appreciation for the work of ECLAC and Ms. Alicia Bárcena, for their dedication and efforts in pursuit of sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean. And for their transparent, unprejudiced attitude toward Cuba, which they welcomed into the heart of ECLAC during our term in office with a deep spirit of cooperation that worked in two directions: respectfully demanding the contributions we could make and supporting, with willingness and great commitment, our requests for technical assistance.
During her years leading the Commission, Cuba believes that the efforts of the current Executive Secretary were characterized not only by their effectiveness as professional and responsible work, but also by the passion and commitment of a true defender of an environment of peace and cooperation to achieve development.
I would also like to place on record our support for Costa Rica and its President, Carlos Alvarado, along with our best wishes for their exercise of the Commission’s Pro Tempore Presidency, which we are formally relinquishing today. As our historic leader, Comandante en jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, said at the closing of the First Summit of the South, held in Havana on April 14, 2000: "Everything will depend on us.”
You can always count on Cuba to make the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda possible in Our America. It is a debt we owe all the heroes of the Americas’ independence and to the dreams of emancipation of our peoples. Whatever depends on our efforts, we will do.
Thank you very much.