The US government, in an unprecedented and extreme way, has tightened the blockade against Cuba, taking advantage of the terrible conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The blockade has always been a criminal and genocidal act, as established by the Geneva Convention of 1948. It has also been an act of economic warfare. But the cruelty of its implementation amidst the conditions of a pandemic, as has happened and is still happening right now, is truly unparalleled.
The US has also been applying unconventional measures which are inappropriate and unacceptable in times of peace to prevent fuel supplies to Cuba.
Whoever may win the US elections, will have to face one tangible reality: the blockade and the US policy harm the Cuban people, the families the Cubans living abroad and violate human rights; hinder communication, travelling, the granting of visas and family reunification.
The blockade also restricts US citizens’ freedom to travel and their right to be informed, and is contrary to their democratic and humanitarian values. It likewise affects US companies’ businesses and the very national interest of the United States, a country that has been suffering a profound isolation and discredit and is increasingly at odds with its allies.
As result of its extraterritorial implementation, it violates the sovereignty and affects the interests of all States in this planet; it violates International Law and seriously hampers Multilateralism.
It is cynical to come now to Cuba and tell Cubans that the blockade has no real impact, and tell that to Cuban families which are suffering from it every day, at every hour. It is cynical to claim alleged understanding that this policy only affects some Cubans personally. But it is much more cynical still to attempt to justify the blockade with the intention to modify our Constitution, our constitutional order, our laws, the sovereign way in which we organize ourselves and our people decide upon their destiny and future. That is utterly immoral and illegitimate.
So it is quite surprising that ever more fabulous, unbelievable and unjustified lies and slanders are being used against Cuba. These are times of McCarthyism, a new and feverish McCarthyism, given the conditions in which dirty politics is being made in the US; a McCarthyism that has reached unbelievable levels, which is what made the US president to have a list of Cuban artists that would be persecuted in that country.
Regarding the period from April, 2019, to March, 2020 –the period during which we usually quantify the damages caused by the blockade and present the Report that I am pleased to submit to you, the public opinion, the international community and particularly our people, about the implementation of the blockade, which has also been sent to the UN Secretary-General and that very soon will be published, thus establishing that cycle – I can inform that, during that time, the damages caused by the blockade to Cuba amount to more than 5.570 billion dollars. It is the first time that the damages caused by the blockade exceed the threshold of 5 billion dollars in a year, according to conservative estimates made using a methodology that has been even audited by institutions of the United States Congress.
The accumulated damages caused by the blockade during almost six decades, at current prices, have reached the colossal figure of 144 billion 413 million dollars. For a small economy like the Cuban economy this is a truly overwhelming burden. However, taking into account the devaluation of the dollar against the price of gold, accumulated damages reach the extraordinary figure of 1 trillion 98 billion 8 million dollars.
The blockade has posed and is still posing an additional challenge to our people in its efforts to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world, for it imposes extraordinary restrictions on Cuba due to its comprehensive and extraterritorial nature which impact all spheres of life.
Right now, in practical terms, the blockade means that Cuba has been refused access to medical equipment, inputs and technologies manufactured by the United States, or even technology or equipment from third countries containing more than 10 per cent of US components, or software or technology made in that country.
The efficient performance of our people and our government in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic can only be explained by the soundness of the Cuban health system, the strength of the scientific potential it has developed and the direct, inspired and committed participation of Cuban citizens, families, and the whole people in confronting the epidemic.
At this very minute, the difficulties continue to be huge to acquire new technologies, indispensable equipment, inputs and raw materials for the production of indispensable medicines, which hamper, at a more general scale, the confrontation of the pandemic and the treatment and recovery of each and every one of our patients.
The extraterritorial component of the blockade, that is to say, the illegal implementation of the blockade in third States, against companies from third States, against US branch companies that should be governed by the national laws of the countries of registration, has a particular effect on Cuba’s efforts to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are numerous examples of what I have just said. A donation of medical inputs sent by the Chinese company ALIBABA to Cuba during the tensest moments of the epidemic, which did not include any high-tech equipment, but mostly protection means and diagnostic kits to tackle the pandemic in Cuba, could not arrive in our country due to the blockade.
A terrible example of the impact of this policy was the refusal by the Swiss companies IMT MEDICAL AG and ACUTRONIC MEDICAL SYSTEMS AG, to sell mechanical respirators to Cuba, which are indispensable in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, claiming that they had been bought by and are currently dependent on the US company VYAIRE MEDICAL INC., which is headquartered in Illinois.
In the middle of the pandemic, MEDICUBA, the Cuban agency responsible for buying medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, contacted as many as 50 US companies and inquired about the possibility to import from them some indispensable medicines, equipment and other necessary inputs. The majority of them, the overwhelming majority of these companies, never responded to that request, despite the insistence by MEDICUBA. Three of them (WATERS CORPORATION, DEXCOM and the US branch of the ROYAL PHILIPS N.V. company) refused to engage in any operation with Cuba, claiming explicitly that the impediment was the existence of the blockade.
The estimated damages, the human damages plus these elements I have just referred to, cannot be accounted for, they cannot be expressed in cold figures. But the figures I have mentioned do not include all the actions carried out by the US government or their effects in the context of the pandemic because, as I have just explained, they fall outside the established estimation period.
The report that we are presenting is a well-founded denunciation that contains abundant and irrefutable evidence of the strengthening of the US blockade between 2019 and 2020, which is a period characterized by an increased aggressiveness and hostility of the US policy against our country and against all sovereign States, including the US allies.
During this period there has been a qualitative change in the aggressiveness of the blockade and the implementation of unconventional measures which are more appropriate for times of war than for times of peace.
The intimidating effect of the Helms-Burton Act persists and increases under the present circumstances, threatening in particular companies and business people from third countries.
A whole range of measures has been resorted to, including the slanderous campaign against Cuba’s medical cooperation, which is aimed at depriving other peoples of this indispensable contribution to their health systems.
The US government has refused to renew the licenses granted to US companies with businesses set up in Cuba, which were rendering mutual benefits and were of the greatest interest among US business sectors.
There has been a unilateral and extreme reduction in air transportation between both countries. Remittances from families living in the US to their relatives in Cuba as well as the remittances sent by other fellow Cubans who reside in the United States have been under harsh attack.
The contacts and communication between Cubans residing in the US and their relatives in Cuba have been eliminated or reduced to a minimum through the use of spurious instruments and actions.
Cuba has been included in defamatory lists and hundreds of Cuban entities have been singled out. Additional economic, commercial, financial and investment restrictions have been imposed.
It is difficult to calibrate the impact of the blockade on the everyday life of every Cuban man or woman, every family, every sector of our economy or the life of the Cuban society.
The nature of the blockade and the extraordinary strengthening of this policy during the last two years have been an expression of the US government historical inability to recognize that Cuba is an independent nation that, as established by International Law, is entitled to fully exercise its sovereignty and free determination.
The blockade is a flagrant infringement of International Law, the norms and principles supporting the international relations system, the international standards of trade and freedom of navigation. That is why it arouses the universal rejection expressed in the overwhelming voting in favor of the Cuban resolution at the UN General Assembly.
The blockade is a grave and strengthened obstacle to the prospective development of our country and the satisfaction of the most pressing needs of our people. It is a serious, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights. It has a real and harmful impact on the process of updating Cuba’s economic model and is the main obstacle to the potential future advancement of bilateral relations between the United States and Cuba. It is an act of genocide as established by the Geneva Convention of 1948 and is devoid of any political, moral or legal justification.
That is why it deserves to be condemned, and the UN General Assembly has been doing so for almost three decades. The blockade is also an expression of the US government contempt for the will of the international community and the existence of civilized and democratic relations in the planet.
As our people and the international public opinion know, the presentation of the Cuban Resolution against the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba to the UN General Assembly has been postponed until May, 2021, given the impact suffered by the General Assembly agenda due to the conditions created by the COVID pandemic in the city of New York and in the whole planet. I anticipate this will be a new opportunity, as are the months ahead, before that date, for the international community to express its absolute rejection of the blockade.
Thank you very much.