Statements by Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla to the national and foreign press
April 25, 2022
Many thanks, I’m grateful to you all for being here. I have to report that Washington has decided to exclude the Republic of Cuba from the preparations for the 9th Summit of the Americas to be held in Los Angeles on 8th to 10th June and is presently exerting extreme pressures on numerous governments in the region which, privately and respectfully, oppose our exclusion.
The US government is deceiving public opinion and the governments of the hemisphere, saying it has not yet decided on the invitations. I respectfully ask Secretary of State Blinken to say honestly whether Cuba will or will not be invited to the 9th Summit of the Americas.
According to the preparations for the event, the main topic will be public health and I must inform our people and international public opinion that at present negotiations regarding the real needs of the peoples in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, the structural cause of precarious public health systems that have tragic consequences and result in an extremely high number of deaths in our hemisphere (including in America) are taking place on an obfuscated basis with significant neoliberal elements and many gaps, and lack the substantive cooperation and basic funding to enable these repercussions to be addressed; that there is under negotiation at the moment, surreptitiously, a “Plan of Action” for public health and resilience in the Americas up to 2030.
I must tell you that these negotiations are being held behind closed doors, with the exclusion of Cuba and other PAHO-WHO member states who participate in these processes in contravention of their own mandates.
Cuba, always humbly but with altruism and persistence, has offered scope for international cooperation on matters of public health, a fact recognized worldwide. The Latin American anti-Covid vaccines are Cuban, the medical brigades combating the Covid emergency in the region, in the hemisphere, in over 50 countries on the planet, have been Cuban.
Cuba’s medical presence addressing previous natural disasters and epidemics, the provision of tens of thousands of medical study grants for Latin American, Caribbean and American young people on low incomes, the existence of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana, Operation Milagro which restored sight to millions of people on low incomes, Cuba’s ability to establish cooperation, transfer cutting-edge technology, contribute novel pharmaceutical products, vaccines and treatments, the readiness to share advanced protocols and drugs in the public health sphere, would be relevant, would be beneficial to our peoples, if taken into account in this process.
To the US itself, on numerous occasions, Cuba has proposed cooperation initiatives in the public health sphere. I recall the case of Haiti at various times, notably in the wake of hurricanes and earthquakes; in El Salvador, in Pakistan in disaster situations. We offered and set up cooperation with America in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak and with other countries in West Africa. Following the atrocities of September 11, 2001, the Republic of Cuba offered immediate medical cooperation, including plasma for the injured, antibiotics against the threat of anthrax; we supplied antibiotics to the then US interests section in Havana, offered equipment and personnel to operate the ultra-microanalytic system developed by Cuba for mass screenings also related to the anthrax outbreak. When the devastating hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Cuba also offered medical personnel and baptized its contingent with the name, now known the world over, of the young American fighter for Cuba’s independence, Henry Reeve.
American students have studied and still study medicine in Cuba, and in response to the recent, strange offer by Washington of a million anti-Covid vaccines when the country has already vaccinated the entire population, we offered the US government the opportunity to develop a triangular project with vaccines and medical personnel from both countries, to the benefit of the needy nations of our region, which to date has produced no reply from Washington.
The US sends troops rather than doctors; its pharmaceutical transnationals have made obscene profits from the Covid pandemic. COVAX, the mechanism launched by the US, has not achieved its objectives.
Washington has also made political use of its vaccines. In relation to Cuba, it has maintained the blockade, intensifying it to extremes during the pandemic, which it used as a tactical ally. The blockade prevented the importation of pulmonary ventilators at the time of peak demand for these, complicated the purchase of materials and supplies essential to the industrial scaling-up of the Cuban anti-Covid vaccines and it was clearly established during the crisis days for oxygen supply in our country at the peak time of the pandemic as a result of a breakdown of our main plant, and because to import oxygen from the US, specific licenses are needed and exceptions to the blockade have to be applied for, Cube received no offer from Washington in relation to the pandemic. This was no surprise, since the ruthless, cruel application of the blockade in the public health sphere has been one of the most questionable and disreputable aspects of the sanctions imposed on Cuba. I always remember, carry in my heart, the cases of Cuban children affected by the blockade, some at the cost of not being able to receive the appropriate treatment, or of suffering pain or having to be hospitalized for long periods. I recall the condemnations at the UN General Assembly against banning Cuba from obtaining Amplatzer pediatric catheterization devices. I recall the cases of Cuban children whose lives we could save but not their eyes, affected by retinoblastoma as a consequence of the blockade. I remember the cases of children including a girl who died recently at age 13 with bone cancer, who could not get extensible prostheses.
The blockade is stifling our economy, has moreover been accompanied by a shameless campaign by Washington against Cuba’s international medical cooperation operations, including putting pressure on third countries in an attempt to deprive them of these services.
At the summit they plan to exclude us from, another key topic proposed is emigration. In this case also, negotiations are under way behind the back of international, American, Latin American and Canadian public opinion, based on a document with a long title: "Letter of Understanding on Migration Management and Protection of Migrants". It’s a code that seeks to impose on the Latin American and Caribbean states an obligation to repress emigration, to absorb the migrants that the US decides to process beyond its shores, that contains elements reflecting America’s racist, xenophobic and exploitative view of our migrants, making no attempt whatever to address the real causes of migration but, yes, nonetheless to offer palliatives, inducements, funding and economic incentives to the countries sending migrants to America and closer to its borders to mitigate this process.
In Cuba’s case however, their recipe is extreme intensification of the blockade, causing privations for Cuban families, applying the terms of the shameless memorandum by US assistant secretary of state Mallory, who advocated measures “to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government”.
The blockade is the basic cause of the problems of our economy and the policy of maximum pressure applied by President Trump, maintained with the same rigor by President Biden, including the 243 extreme measures of recent years and the brutal tightening that took place in 2019, are factors that determine the problems facing our people on a daily basis, the privations they suffer, the shortages, the power outages, the lines at the stores, the transport problems, the prices.
I’m now going to reveal a the latest calculation, up to the first semester of 2021, of the losses caused by the economic, trade and financial sanctions imposed by the US on Cuba. At current prices, these amount to $150,410,000,000. Taking account of the depreciation of gold in the international market, these losses equate to $1,326,432,000,000: a billion plus 326,432 million dollars; for a small, underdeveloped economy like ours, over $12m a day, more than $365m a month is the impact of the blockade and its effects are only too clear in the daily lives of our families and as a factor in the emigration from Cuba, which like everywhere else is basically for economic reasons. But despite this fact, paradoxically and with complete cynicism, Washington’s policy on migration has been to cut off the regular channels of migration by Cubans to America, cut off the regular channels, cut off the safe channels and impede migration and the journeys of Cubans to the United States.
It is a different policy from that applied to any other country on the planet; it is selective and discriminatory. Washington is defaulting on its legal obligation under the migration accords, signed and in force, to grant at least 20,000 migrant visas annually. On implausible pretexts, it shut down consular services in Havana, obliging Cubans to travel to Guyana to obtain migrant visas at the exorbitant cost implied by this journey and the requirements arising there, in addition to a lengthy stay. The US has also cut off the routes to and from third countries, and followed a policy of imposing obstacles on transit countries and of reducing visas for Cuban citizens.
Washington has also severely restricted flights to Cuba, especially to destinations outside Havana, reducing the validity periods of visas and pursuing a policy of denying visas to Cuban travelers. The latest is that in recent months they have imposed on third countries requirements for transit visas that discriminate against Cuban travelers, while obliging them to reduce the number they issue.
Moreover, with its policy, propaganda, legal instruments and its own migratory practice, the US is encouraging illegal migration, privileged treatment and with blatant political manipulation to irregular Cuban migrants. The Cuban Adjustment Act remains in full force and also costs lives.
Their deceptive propaganda and constant political manipulation in the digital networks, especially by certain accounts of the State Department and the US Embassy in Havana, amount to constant incitement to irregular, disordered and unsafe emigration.
With this policy, Washington is deceiving Cubans wishing to emigrate. It is not the transit countries, it is the United States that has imposed the complications suffered by our travelers and migrants, even for arriving in or transiting through third countries in a regular manner.
It is paradoxical because, nonetheless, we have just had official talks on migration, which are unquestionably a good sign. The recognition in these by Washington of the full validity of the accords is without doubt correct and positive. The recognition by the US delegation at these talks that its government has defaulted on the migration accords, that it fell short on compliance, that it wishes to restore their observance, application and compliance are positive signs. Another is the restarting of consular services in Havana, although these are stated to be extremely limited, which is totally unfounded, but this inconsistent, contradictory policy of tightening the blockade and restricting migration, of purported hemispheric discussion of these topics while excluding Cuba, which says a great deal about them and prompts me to ask the US administration: When are you going to meet your commitment to grant 20,000 visas? How many visas are you going to issue to Cuban migrants in 2022? Why will the vast majority of these have to travel to Guyana? For how long will it be necessary to travel to a third country to get a migrant’s or traveler’s visa? What is happening about family reunification?
A third theme of the Summit of the Americas is democracy and human rights. In the secretive negotiations now taking place, the idea is to have the OAS certify all elections in the region. This is the same OAS of the coup in Bolivia and Washington’s intention was historically responsible for coups d’état in our region and responsible also for coups in recent decades against progressive governments.
How can you hold a summit focused on democracy having by arbitrary whim of the host country excluded certain Latin American and Caribbean countries? Could anyone think of anything more anti-democratic? The blockade on Cuba is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of Cubans, of Cuban families in America and also of the Americans themselves.
Washington has no moral right whatever to hold itself up as a model in this respect or to criticize others. The rights to health, the population below the poverty line, the right to education, to food, the repressive policies against emigration, the lack of protection and care towards the low-income sectors, the repression of minorities, the restriction of trade union rights, the exploitation and repression of indigenous cultures, the inequalities of gender, the racism and the discrimination against African Americans, the police brutality and the more than a thousand deaths last year from police shootings, the exploitation of labor in the private jails, the violence and the firearms, the repression of reproductive rights and of the right to family planning, the wars, the secret prisons, the kidnappings, the extrajudicial executions and the use of torture.
The US is the only country not party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the census on poverty in America, published by a youth affairs institution in 2019, over 10 million children (14.4%) live in poverty, half of that number in extreme poverty. 71% of the American children living in poverty are Black, 4.4 million children without medical care or insurance. According to the American institution concerned with the plight of young people serving life imprisonment without parole and the Juvenile Justice Center, there are currently 2,600 prisoners who were incarcerated for life when they were minors. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, there are currently 10,000 minors (under age 18) in American prisons. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that there are 60,000 persons under age 18 deprived of freedom in America. In 2021, and as an average of previous years, there were between 600,000 and 700,000 arrests of minors in the United States, per year, confirmed by the Children’s Defense Fund.
On democracy, Washington has little to show at this incomplete Summit, after the last presidential campaign, the last presidential elections, the assault on the Capitol, the politicians’ calls to sedition and the corruption of politics. I offer Washington the opportunity to discuss these issues on a bilateral, multilateral basis or even at the Summit itself and ask the State Department if it will allow the hemisphere’s civil society to participate without exclusions, or will they be those on the OAS’s list, which are NGOs funded by Washington, who will be allowed in at Los Angeles.
Will environmentalists, disarmament activists (including nuclear disarmament), pacifists, minorities, trade unionists, feminists, indigenous and popular movements be allowed to attend? I ask directly if the NGOs, if the representatives of the rich Cuban civil society will get visas to enable their participation?
The 9th Summit of the Americas could still be an inclusive occasion if, in conditions of equality, all the countries could debate, without exclusions and with sincere commitment, the most pressing problems facing the continent.
Cuba supports genuine efforts to promote dialogue, links and cooperation in Latin America - the America of Bolivar and Martí - and the United States, between the Community of Latin American & Caribbean States and the US government.
The predicted exclusion of Cuba would amount to a serious historic setback in comparison with the two preceding summits, in which we participated on an equal footing, with a firm, truthful, but always calm, respectful and constructive voice. Cuba was invited following emphatic calls by various Latin American and Caribbean governments to Washington, that it not impose the exclusion I now condemn.
It would be surprising if President Biden departed from the policy of the administration in which he was vice president, which for the first time invited Cuba to an even more amazing and paradoxical summit; if he departed from the policy of the Republican president Donald Trump, who also invited Cuba to the Lima summit. I assume he will have to explain that, to his electors.
The Summit’s host country has no right to dictate arbitrary exclusions. It would be a politically motivated decision with no foundation other than false accusations and the application of double standards, to obscure its true nature, associated with US internal and electoral politics.
We support the firm and legitimate decisions of Nicaragua’s Government of National Reconciliation and Unity, in withdrawing from the OAS and the Summit. We oppose the exclusion of any country and the participation of illegitimate or bogus representatives imposed by Washington.
The US administration should understand that the Latin American & Caribbean region has changed forever and there is no scope for restoring the Monroe Doctrine and panamericanist vision against which José Martí fought and against which we will continue to fight, with conviction and loyalty.
Cuba, which solidly defends the unity within the diversity of Latin America, is profoundly grateful to the peoples and governments who maintain a brave, noble stance in a spirit of solidarity, demanding of the US government that Cuba not be excluded from the 9th Summit of the Americas.