December 14, 2022


Ambassador Rogelio Sierra, ISRI Chancellor, thank you for hosting us.

José Ramón Cabañas, Ph.D., Ambassador and Director ofCIPI;

Dear friends and participants.

On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I thank you for the opportunity to participate in this event and to listen and learn from the deliberations.I also appreciate the opportunity to share the vision of the Ministry, in particular of the U.S. Directorate General, in a forum that has a well-earned authority as a venue for academic and intellectual deliberation andanalysis on U.S.-Cuba relations.

The subject selected for this year is: "U.S.-Cuba Relations in a New Global Scenario.” What I intend to do is to share our vision of the bilateralscenario in thisending year.

The global scenario has certainly changed. The conflict inEurope has posed a new challenge to the international community.The tendencies thattry to divide the world in two seem to gain strength, something about which Cuba warned several years ago.

In our region, important political changes have taken place, which we embrace with enthusiasm. Meanwhile,we continue to observe the persistent tendency todestabilize legitimate governments with the active participation of the OAS.

The scenario that has not undergone truly perceptible changes is that which characterizes relations between Cuba and the United States.We recognize that bilateral steps have been taken place this year. Both of our governments have taken steps in that direction. It is not the case of unilateral actions by one of the parties. I will refer tosome of those steps that have taken place this year.

First, I will refer to migration cooperation. It isan area that naturally carries weight, since bilateral agreements have been in place for several decades.

These are agreements that require review, updating and reviewing;reviewing on how they are implemented.When I say review, I do notmean changing them, but examining them and having bilateraldiscussions stemming from those agreements.But more important than that is the fact that there is an irregular migratoryphenomenon that affects both countries and this requires dialogue, communication and cooperation.

Unfortunately, since a round of talksthat took place in 2018, exchanges on migration between the two countries had been suspended and there have beensignificant breaches of the agreements.

This year, we had two talks: one in April, inWashington D.C., and one in November, in Havana.They were productive talks in the sense that we confirmed the validity and importance of the agreements.We ratified the mutual political commitment to the fulfillment of the agreements; we identified areas that require further attention and we had the opportunity to discuss issues that are notproperly included in the agreements, but have a great influence on the flow of irregular migration. There were no new agreements, nor did we havetotal coincidence in what we discussed, but bothsides identified those conversations as productive.

Also, in the area of immigration, in the fiscal year that ended on September 30, the U.S. government - for thefirst time since 2017 – honored the commitment of granting20 thousand visas annually. This is something that had been unfulfilledsince 2017. Most of these visas were issued and delivered in Guyana, butsome began to be processed and delivered in Havana.

The U.S. government has already announced that, in the first days of January, all of these services will return to its embassy in Havana.In addition, we have had exchanges between experts onfake documentation or falsification of documentes, for example. There have also beenoperational exchanges between the Cuban Border Guard Troops and the U.S. Coast Guard Service, in what has been a particularly difficult year in terms of theirregular departures by sea.Cooperation between the two serviceshas been maintained for the interception on the high seas and thereturn to Cuba of those who are intercepted.

This year, we have already agreed to hold exchanges on law enforcement. There were also exchanges on cooperation in dealing with oil spills, as well as in the area of health, and there will be others on the environment.

This year, following two disasters that our country suffered, the US government made an offer of humanitarian aid withoutpolitical conditions, which Cubathanked and accepted. In the first case, it was on the occasion of the fireat the supertanker base in Matanzas.Immediately, the U.S. government offered technical advisory and this led to communicationsby telephone regarding the the effort to put out the fire.

Material assistance was then offered and Cuba was able tocommunicate what our priorities were in this regard. TheU.S. government finally offered 100 suits with protection equipment for firefighters, which will soon be delivered to the Cubanauthorities.

Following hurricane Ian, the U.S. government also offered material aid to the province of Pinar del Rio: twomillion dollars’ worth of material aid for the repair of roofs and houses, which should begin to arrive in January. In both cases, the aid was offered without political conditionalities and was gratefully welcomed and accepted.

There has also been a greater degree of dalogue this year between theState Department, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies.These are all mutual steps of a bilateral nature that are of some importance and cannot be ignored.

But there are also developments in the opposite direction. For example, how to explain the recent designation buy the US of Cuba as a country of specialconcern in matters of religious freedom?It is a designation made without any real basis,on grounds that are dishonest, which is not unusual. The question is who do they want to please?It can no longer be said, as we are sometimes told, that it is a question of political pressures in an election year, since the elections are over.

It has already been demonstrated that pretending to compete with the Republicans in the degree of aggressiveness towards Cuba did not win theDemocrats a single vote in Florida. The political motivation behind this action simply cannot be explained.

Last May, the U.S. government announced a group of measures. They were proclaimed with what in the United States is called hype, a lot of fanfare. It is worthwhile to take a closer look at the measures announced.

The first of these is the commitment to allow again remittances toCuba. That was in May andthere is still no regular flow of remittances to Cuba. Secondly, the announcement was made without any commitment to dismantle the measuresannounced by the Trump administration to disrupt theremittances. Thirdly, if there is to be a higher flow of remittances in the near future it will be duemore to steps taken by Cuba than to actions taken by the US administration.

Another of the measures announced was to boost Internet penetration and interconnectionin Cuba.We have to ask ourselves what is the coherence of this announcement when, by thedecision of the U.S. government, access to more than 200 private commercial websites is prohibited for Cubans.I am not referring to government websites, but private ones;among them about 20 owned by Google. This includes sites dedicated to education, science and technology, health, art, culture and innovation.Whereis the government’s consistency when it announces itscommitment to the promotion of the Internet and at the same time -by government regulation - forbids Cubans from accessing those sites?

A few weeks ago it was announced that a U.S. government advisory committee recommended that a commercial operation that would connect a submarine Internet cable to Cuba had to be refused. Once again, this forces us to ask ourselves what is the coherence of the U.S. government when it announces its commitment topromote the Internet, while at the same time cuts off Cuba's possibilities to obtain greater Internet access?

Perhaps it is the same coherence that the U.S. government shows when it proclaims that its priority regarding Cuba is the promotion of human rights and the concern for the well-being of the Cuban people.

Another of the measures announced was the possibility of commercial flights from the U.S. to different Cuban provinces. This has been accomplished.

The measure to provide more facilities for group travel has also been implemented.Travelling individually is still prohibited.

Another of the measures announced was to take action to assist the emerging private sector, which is one of the most inconsistentmeasures for several reasons.

I the first place, the existence of the economic blockade has a negative impact in absolute terms in any sector of the Cuban economy.  The US government can task itself with establishing exceptions, but the Cuban private entrepreneur will still have to confront on his daily life with the effects of the blockade. That is an inconsistency.

There is a second inconsistency. The promotion of the private or non-state sector in Cuba is part of the development of the Cuban economy.It began to be conceived about 12 years ago. We took a long time on its design, implementation and regulation, but it is our doing and it is our promotion.

However, the U.S. government, and it does not hide to say it,intends to promote the Cubanprivate sector, not to contribute to the development of the Cuban economy, not to improve the standard of living of the population, not to help a majority sector of the population, but rather identifies it as an instrument of political subversion.

It dreams of using it to erode the public sector, the Cuban State, the public administration, which is responsible for education, health, public security, the electricity service, the water service, the guarantee of social justice, of overcoming of economic and social differences.

It does not hesitate to say that itsdesire is to promote this sector, the private sector, as a political weapon.

If exceptions to the blockade are introduced with the dream of undermining the Revolution, we will not oppose. We will not oppose. If this allows for a greater prosperity of any sector of theCuban economy, we are not going to stand in the way.If it manages to devise exceptions thatbenefit some and continue to punish others, we will not try to prevent it either.But they commit a major mistake in political terms to try wielding the private sector as a weapon toundermine the nature of Cuban society.

The actions announced in May are very limited,but as we said at the time, we do identify them in the positivedirection, even if they are inconsistent in many cases. There is no doubt that these actions and the areas ofcooperation that I mentioned are in contrast with the last two years of the Trump administration and with the year 2021. This is partly what describes the bilateral relationship.

But in order to describe it seriously and objectively, in our opinion, we must pay attention totwo fundamental issues.

Firstly, we must ask:which are the areas to which the U.S. government dedicates the mosthuman resources, financial resources, more working hours?. If one takes into account the number of civil servants who work in the Treasury Departmentfully dedicated to enforcing the economic blockade, the number of U.S. diplomats in many parts of the world who areinstructed to trackdown each and every one of Cuba's commercial and financial transactions, the number of pronouncements in the U.S. Congress,if all that is taken into account, there can be no doubt that the economic blockade is the defining factor in the bilateral relations.

If one takes into account the impact on the Cuban economy and the Cuban society, and this is the second factor, on the daily life of each and every Cuban, the impact on Cuba's relations with thirdcountries,there can be no doubt that the economic blockade continues to be the central and defining factor of the bilateralrelationship. It is followed only by political subversion, to which dozens of millions of US taxpayers’ dollars are dedicated every year. Allegedly, a government's budget reflects that government's priorities.

On the basis of that analysis, of the implementation of the blockadeand its impact today, one can say with sufficient confidence that the current U.S. government, the one of Joseph Biden, of all those that the Cuban Revolution has known, is the one that has most aggressively and effectively applied the economic blockade. It is the one that punishes the most, the one that causes the most damage to the daily life of Cubans and the economy as a whole.

Here I include all the Administrations since Eisenhowerto date.

That is what characterizesthe U.S. government and its current policy towards Cuba. I insist, the one which most aggressively and effectively applies theeconomic blockade.

Some will take this as a historical merit. Inpractice, it is applying with absolute and surprising loyalty,not only the blockade as it existed before, but also the policy of maximum economicpressure that was designed by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

One has reason to wonder what the president of the United States could have done orcan still do to,not onlyfulfill what he promised to his electorate in 2020, but also to deliver on his declared priority ofpromoting human rights and caring for thewelfare of the Cuban people.

The president, since taking office in the White House,could have removed Cuba from the List of States Sponsors of Terrorism.That measure had not even taken effect when the current government took office,since the days defined by law had not yet run their course.As soon as it was announced by the Trump administration, immediately there was a letter from several prominent U.S. congressmen, Democrats, questioning the decision.

The U.S. government is aware of theimpact of this measure.  It cannot pretend to ignore it.

Within weeks of the designation, 45 banks and financial institutions with long-standingrelationswith Cubasevered their ties with our country.This has an impact on our trade, on ourpossibilities of obtaining credits, in the ways to make payments.It is a devastating impact. And even today, on account of itspresence on that list, Cuba is still encountering trade and financialorganizations that refuse tointeract with us for fear of retaliationsby the U.S. government.

The U.S. government knows that the arguments used were dishonest. The main one has even been already denounced by the current Colombian government,but that does not seem to move a governmentwhose priority, apparently, is the welfare of the Cuban people.

The list where Cuba does belong to is the list of countries victims of US terrorism, which is by no means a short list.

The President of the United States could also havesuspended the possibility of taking actions in U.S. courts on lawsuits brought under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.This has a deterrent impact on our developmental purpose of attracting foreign capital.

This administration could have ceased the practice of pressuring governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to refuse medical cooperationprovided by Cuba. I am referring to pressures exerted only two or three weeks ago, shared with us by governments that tell us "we are receiving a visit from an envoy or from the US embassy to warn us that, if we receive Cubandoctors, we will be incurring in practices of slavery and human trafficking".

This U.S. action, of course, is intended to prevent dozens of thousands of people from receiving medical services, which is what Cuban doctors provide.It is known that from countries that are more developed than Cuba, or wealthier than Cuba, Cuba receives financial compensation for those services. That is totally legitimate, in accordance withUnited Nations resolutions on South-South cooperation, and pronouncements by the G-77 and the Non Aligned Movement.

The purpose is to discredit the Cuban Revolution and to deprive Cuba of financial resources necessary for theeconomy, for development.This is not consistent with a concern for thewell-being of Cubans.

What the U.S. president could also have done - and has not done - is to put an end to punitive measures, threats and persecution against fuel exporting companies, shipping companies, port agencies, insurance and reinsurance agencies all aimed at depriving Cuba of fuel supplies that ourcountry requires to function.

Since mid-2019, this has had an extremely severe impact on the economy and the lives of the Cuban people,not only because we have had to close down industries, reducetransportation, reduce the electric service, but also we are obliged to pay premiums for the fuel that we import because of the risk assumed by whoever sells us oil or whoever transports it.

With this impact, try to explain to the Cuban population that the U.S. government has the well-being of the Cuban people in mind.

The U.S. government could have abolished a totally arbitrary list of restricted entities put together with dishonest arguments and with total superficiality.  Insome cases, the site Trip Advisor was used as a reference; the most popular destinations for U.S. visitors were looked up and then included in the list.Therefore, some of you here are forbidden to visit the Museum of Rum, for example.

All these measures are aimed at cutting off the sources of income of the Cuban economy.This is how they were designed by the previous government and that is how they are applied, to deprive us of energy sources, of access to technology and to prevent us from attracting the capital that the country’s development requires.

They all bear the fingerprint of Donald Trump and his government.All of them were established with dishonest argumentsthat the current government no longer even takes the trouble to disprove.

We know that the U.S. government and some Americans do notlike hear talk about the economic blockade. Some deemit as something of badtaste, as something old-fashioned or something anachronistic or something that does notcontribute to dialogue.

But if you live here in Cuba, how can you not talk about the blockade?Those who are busy working every day in promotingbilateral relations with the United States, how can they not talk about the blockade?The officials whoevery week have to decide how to allocate the scarce resources available in theeconomy to cover the needs of the population, how can they not talk about the blockadeand constantly think about the blockade?

We know that, in the United States, it is common forracists to disliketalking about racism. I believe thatthere is even draft legislation against education about racism.

Those who enforce the blockade do not want people to talk about the blockade, which has an impact on everything: on the electric service, on the availability of medicinesand material for medical services, on the capacity to obtain supplies for food production, on transportation, on production, including the production of building materials.

The U.S. government cannot claim that it is unaware of that impact and that its conduct has an influence on that impact.

In recent months, it has been promoting the narrative that it is necessaryfor Cuba to offer gestures; that steps have been taken by the Biden administrationthat have not been reciprocated.It is as if Cuba werein debt, when it is known that no action has been taken by the Cuban government against the government of the United States, against any U.S.organization, against any U.S. individual, against the welfare of anyone in the United States.

However, this narrative persists and they even send usmessengers with this idea.

The current deplorable state of bilateral relations is not Cuba's responsibility.Cuba has not failed to fulfill a single one of the commitments that it undertook between 2015 and 2016. The U.S. governmenthas destroyed the relationship.

Today's reality is the fruit of a design that was conceivedwith total candor by the administration of Donald Trump, who at least had the honesty to proclaim what he intended to do.

Our government has expressed and reiterated with sufficient clarity that weare willing to move toward a respectful and constructiverelationship with the United States.That is Cuba's position and it can be verified by anyone who takes the time to follow the pronouncements of our government or to verify the actions of the Cuban government.

Despite the natural mistrust that may be generated by the conduct of the United States in the last five years, there is no real argument capable of questioning Cuba's readiness.  In practice, we have beendemonstrating it with the steps that have been taken this year.

Nor, of course, should there be any doubt whatsoever that we conceive thisprogress on the basis of absolute respect for our sovereignty.

The U.S. government cannot pretend to treat Cuba as if it were part of its territory, or to treat Cuba as if it were a colonialdominion, or to treat Cuba as if it were an adversarydefeated in a war. We arenone of the three.

Within the territory of the United States there are states, I'm going to take, for example,the state of Mississippi, where poverty is close to 20%, where malnutrition is estimated to affect 15% of the population, where there arepractices of depriving people from the right to vote.

No one in the United States could imagine that, given these realities, the federal government would decide to apply a system of coercive measures against thepopulation of the state of Mississippi, cutting off their electricity, their financial relations with the rest of the American Union, prohibit it from trading, and prohibit the rest of Americans fromtraveling there.

But even if the federal government were to do so, Mississippi is within the United States, within the sovereign prerogatives of the federal government.Regardles of how much distaste there could be for some Americans, Cuba lies outside the territory of the United States.

More than half of Puerto Rico's population is said to be leaving the country, that the economy of that Latin American sisternation is bankrupt. If the United Stateswere to apply an economic blockade to Puerto Rico, it would be a crime - andPuerto Rico is a colonial possession of the United States.

If the United States had applied an economic blockadeagainst the German population after World War II, it wouldhave been seen as a crime against the people of a country that was a defeated adversary in the war.

Cuba is none of the three. It is not within the United States, it is not a colony of the United States, and it is not an adversary that the United States has defeated.

This policy has no moral, legal or - of course - political explanation.We are convinced that progress is beneficial to both countries and to both peoples.We are convinced that it is necessary. We areconvinced that it would be welcomed by the nations of the Americas and, furthermore, we are convinced that it is possible.

It requires, of course, political will and courage, as existed just a few years ago.Those conditions do not seem to exist today in the United States.

The bet, as President Díaz-Canel points out, continues to be to strangle the Cuban economy and thus try to provoke social collapse and a political crisis in Cuba.The United States fails in that purpose, but it does not cease to cause enormous damage and to make us pay a high cost that is reflected in the economic depression of the country and in the extraordinary flows of Cuban migrants.

No one should be surprised by these flows.

It is an established truth that economic depression in any country or region, the depression of living conditions, constitute factors that promotemigration.  Adverse conditions in any country can stimulate migration, such as natural disasters, wars – if there are any- famines, social instability, insufficient economic policies. This can happen anywhere in the world.It happens within the United States,where there are cities that had populations of 2 million and today have less than 700,000.

What is unique to Cuba, what is a particular characteristic of our country is that there is an extraordinary foreignforce promoting the economic depressionand thus stimulating migration flows. It is whatexperts call push effect.We have discussed this with the U.S. government.They know our point of view and ourconsiderations in that matter.

As we have said on more than one occasion, we will continue to build bridges with theU.S. society in all possiblefields and we will try to continue to promote the most constructive andrespectful relationship possible with the U.S. government.

We will also continue to strive to ensure our economic sustainability, even when the economic blockade is likely to last for many years to come.

I wish you success in your deliberations and may they contribute to the common understanding and to the purpose that Ibelieve we all share,which is to bring our two nations closer together.

Thank you very much.

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