Virtual Press Conference offered by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, from the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. May 12, 2020. Year 62 of the Revolution.
(STENOGRAPHIC VERSION – PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC)
Juan A.Fernández (Moderator).- Good afternoon. From the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, we announce the beginning of the press conference that will be offered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, about the terrorist attack perpetrated against our embassy in the United States on April 30 last.
The Minister will first make a presentation that will include new information about this serious issue and afterwards there will be a brief questions and answers session.
We would like to inform that this conference is being run on a virtual platform, observing all established sanitary measures to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is being broadcast live by the Cuban Television newsreel that is aired at noon time and the Facebook and YouTube channels of the Presidency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.
Minister please, you have the floor.
Bruno Rodríguez.- Thank you very much to all those who are following these conference from home in Cuba and abroad; and I would like to reiterate the suggestion that you should stay at home.
As our people know, on April 30 last, at five past 2 in the morning, there was a shooting attack against the Cuban embassy to the United States.
The author of the attack, Alexander Alazo Baró, whose picture can be seen on the screen (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN), is a person of Cuban origin who has lived in the United States since 2010.
We have expressed recognition for the professional and rapid intervention of the local law enforcement and secret service forces at the moment of the attack. However, I should say that the State Department took almost five days to get in touch with the Cuban authorities and issue some sort of official report on this serious incident.
Unfortunately, the US State Department and government chose to silence this serious terrorist attack. Until this very moment there hasn’t been any public statement to condemn this event or reject a terrorist action. In view of such a serious situation, it is necessary to denounce the complicit silence kept by the government of the United States.
As the video images show (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN) the attacker approached the embassy; shouted out several offensive phrases and threw against the embassy railings a Cuban flag desecrated by several incoherent phrases that had been written on it, after he failed to set it on fire using gasoline.
Then there was a shooting attack, as can be seen in the video (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN) against the embassy, which is located in downtown Washington DC, a few blocks away from the White House, with the use of a semi-automatic assault rifle, perpetrated by an individual who had traveled from the state of Pennsylvania carrying the firearm and its rounds. He approached the embassy with the intention of shooting at whatever came on his way, even human beings, if they happened to be in his line of fire. He himself has confessed that he acted with the intention to kill.
It should be pointed out that, at the moment of the attack and the shots –he shot 32 rounds- there were ten Cuban officials inside the embassy building that was under attack.
We have to ask the US Government what reasons it has to remain silent on this incident, to keep it away from the public opinion, instead of sending messages aimed at deterring the commission of such actions, in accordance with its legal obligations as the host country of the diplomatic mission.
This has been a terrorist action perpetrated against our diplomatic mission in Washington that cannot be seen as a separate issue, but rather as a direct consequence of the aggressive policy and discourse of the Government of the United States against Cuba; the hate speech and the permanent instigation to violence by US politicians and anti-Cuban extremist groups who have turned this sort of attacks into a means of living.
We know that Alazo Baró planned the attack well in advance; that he visited the scene prior to the attack for exploratory purposes approximately two weeks before the attack.
At the moment of the attack he declared himself as a follower of the current US President. You already saw the legends used to desecrate the Cuban flag and how he wrapped himself up with the US flag. He did not put up any resistance when he was arrested, as you have just seen in the video images (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN).
The legal documents that were made available to the public state that, according to his wife, Alazo Baró had visited a hospital, where he almost certainly expressed his feelings and deliriums of persecution by alleged Cuban criminal groups or the Cuban government itself; and that afterwards he had visited the offices of several law enforcement agencies, that is to say, several US national security agencies, for the purpose of leveling accusations against our Government and denouncing that the Cuban Government allegedly wanted to assassinate him.
It is the duty of the US government to explain what actions were taken with regard to these allegations made by Alazo Baró; and how did it reacted when an individual with such characteristics and antecedents appeared before the law enforcement agencies to level accusations of any sort against a country that has a diplomatic mission in the US territory.
I should say that we appreciate negligence in the US government behavior, for failing to take action after receiving information of such nature.
Mr. Alazo Baró had visited several law enforcement agencies; he had a license to bear weapons; he owned a Glock handgun; he got an AK-47 rifle during the days prior to the attack and two weeks before, as I said, he conducted an on-site inspection, right on the place where the embassy is located.
The US government failed to comply with its obligation to prevent this attack, of which it received enough signs.
The legal documents on the arrest record that Alazo Baró is a person suffering from some kind of mental disorder and that, according to what he said, he was taking medications. However, that same US government document also states that a package with a white powder had been found inside his car and that such white powder happened to be cocaine.
It’s a well-known fact that Alazo Baró was going through financial constraints; that he had lost the small business that he owned and that, at the moment of the attack, he had no job. According to his wife, they have gone through periods in which they haven’t had even a house, which had forced them to live in the car.
However, as I said, he is a person that had a license to bear weapons as well as a driving license. How could the US government, with an obvious knowledge of these antecedents, have allowed this person to act this way, with such premeditation, with the intention of perpetrating and attack and killing persons? It is also the duty of the US government to open an exhaustive and profound investigation to determine where the money spent came from?
According to the legal documents, Alazo Baró’s actions were motivated by his hatred for Cuba and his fears of attacks by alleged Cuban criminal groups, which everybody knows do not exist in Cuba. It is a well-known fact that in Cuba there are no criminal groups or organized crime. The US government and the entire world know it.
I should inform that, as a child and a youth, Alazo Baró lived in Cuba and always had a normal social behavior; that had a religious vocation and, as a professional, he fully devoted himself to the pastoral work.
He satisfactorily completed the General Military Service, without ever reporting any difficulty or relevant incident.
In the year 2003, Alazo Baró traveled to Mexico holding a religious visa to settle there, after having married a Mexican citizen of a similar religious vocation. He resided in Mexico for several years and kept a normal relationship with Cuba. He traveled to our country eight times –his last visit was in 2015- and his relations with Cuba were similar to those kept by all Cubans residing permanently abroad.
We should remember that during normal years, before the introduction of the measures that further tightened the blockade and imposed restrictions on Cuban citizens travels to Cuba, our country was being visited by 600 000 Cubans every year. So, based on the normal relations existing between our country and the Cuban citizens residing abroad and the purposes of favoring family reunification and the facilitation of travels and the right to travel, Alazo Baró visited our country quite often. The last time he did so was in 2015.
I should also say that during the time he lived abroad he also kept frequent contacts with, and received regular consular services from our offices. Thus, it is is a well-established fact that Mr. Alazo Baró never had or has had any problem in Cuba or with his country of origin.
We should to ask ourselves and ask the US Government how an individual with a normal, religious and peaceful behavior can be transformed into a person with mental disorders who, with scarce financial resources, manages to own an assault rifle, travel from one state of the Union to another and set out to perpetrate an armed attack against a diplomatic mission located in the US capital.
I should say that in 2010, even before his last trips to Cuba, Alazo Baró moved to the US and settled first in Miami, then in Texas, afterwards in Pennsylvania and perhaps somewhere else. But it is the obligation of the United States to thoroughly and accurately investigate what type of links and connections Alazo Baró had with groups and individuals inside the United States with a well-known record of expressions of hatred and instigations to violence, or even terrorism, against Cuba.
I can inform, with total responsibility, that during his stay in Miami, Alazo Baró contacted a religious center called Doral Jesus Worship Center, in Miami Dade, which is frequently visited by, and a gathering place for persons with a well known behavior in favor of aggressions, hostility, violence and extremism against Cuba. In that center, Alazo Baró contacted this person (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN), who is Pastor Frank López, whom he regularly followed on Facebook.
Pastor López is an individual that keeps close relations with persons such as Senator Marcos Rubio; a Venezuelan citizen who is the one you have just seen (THE MINISTER POINTS AT PHOTO) named Carlos Vecchio; and others known for their extremist positions against Cuba or for promoting an aggression against our country, among them Congressman Díaz Balart.
Curiously enough, the Vice-president of the United States visited that church a short time ago. Before that time, on February 1st, 2019, he had delivered there a speech, expressing outright hostility against Cuba and disdain for Latin America; and threatening the entire region. One of the persons Alazo Baró had very close relations with was the citizen of Cuban origin Leandro Pérez. In his own Facebook profile, which you are looking at right now (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN) or perhaps have seen before, Leandro Pérez declares himself as a close friend of the shooter, whom he says to know and hold in great esteem.
Leandro Pérez is known for his public instigations, through social networks, in favor of assassination plots against government leaders in Cuba. In his rants calling for violent actions, he has referred particularly to Army General Raúl Castro Ruz and President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez. It will suffice it to check right now his social networks accounts to find appeals such as the one that can be seen on the screen (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN), through which he calls for the use of drones to attack official sites in Havana city.
On February 5 this year, he used Facebook to attempt threatening Cuba, by saying that the drones that would be used to attack us were ready to operate. He has also used the social networks and his contacts to call for support to the terrorist whose picture you can see now on the screen (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN), named Ramón Saúl Sánchez, whose systematic violation of the US own laws led to the issuance of a deportation order that, however, has not been implemented. Saúl Sánchez links with terrorist actions against Cuba have been widely documented.
Alazo Baró owns this profile in Facebook (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN) in which he calls himself Hamilton Alexander, who is a historic character. In said profile he shares the messages of an individual whom you have seen on the screen, who promotes songs of a marginal style and content, with open incitations to acts of violence against diplomatic officials, precisely in the United States.
As you can see (THE MINISTER POINTS AT THE SCREEN) his website reveals his links with the perpetrators of desecration acts against José Martí busts or sculptures that were carried out a few months ago, which was an offense to our nation. This information can be checked out at this very moment if you access these accounts and these websites.
I challenge the government of the United States to reveal whatever it knows about those links, those contacts as well as the mutual admiration that exists between Alazo Baró and the individuals who belong to groups that are followers and supporters of the current US administration, but also continuously instigate violence and hatred against Cuba.
It is the obligation of the United States government to clarify how Alazo Baró’s behavior was influenced by the aggressive feelings and actions against Cuba that are promoted at the Doral Jesus Worship Center of Miami; what role could have been played by the individuals that I have already mentioned on Alazo Baró’s decision to open fire against the Cuban embassy.
The complicit silence of the US government turns out to be suspicious when we know that its law enforcement services continuously and closely monitor the violent groups that operate, also against Cuba, in that country and even brag about it.
We have every right to ask Mr. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, how much he knows about these issues, all the more so when he is used to refer to Cuba continuously. However, he has not said a single word about the attack that has been perpetrated.
It is just deplorable that while the Secretary of State has said nothing about the terrorist attack, he has made statements against Cuba, attacking on a permanent basis, almost daily, Cuba’s international medical cooperation and slandering our doctors who work in other countries, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The same is being done by his Assistant Secretary of State who, very often and in a more shameless way, publishes, on a daily basis, several lies about the work, dedication and ethics of Cuban health professionals, as you have seen in his account.
It is very difficult to dissociate the action of Alazo Baró from the continued statements being made by the US government officials against Cuba and our medical cooperation, encouraging and calling for violence against the Cuban medical personnel; and the continued attacks against our country’s diplomatic activity.
In the case of a government that implements a genocidal policy; that legitimizes sanctions against an entire people that is determined to be free; that implements an economic, commercial and financial blockade considered by the Convention against the Crime of Genocide as an act of genocide; that considers the aggression against Cuban families as something acceptable, what kind of relationship exists between those policies and these actions?
I can affirm, in a straightforward manner, that this attack against the Cuban embassy, of a terrorist character, is a direct consequence of an official policy of instigation to hatred and violence against my country.
Whoever may listen to the continued statements and false allegations by the State Department and the Secretary of State himself will realize that they continuously call for resentment and hatred against Cuba.
There are also evidence of the participation of US Government officials in the violent actions that were perpetrated against Cuban health cooperation workers in Bolivia during the recently orchestrated coup d’état . At that moment we revealed photographic evidence of the participation of US operatives and vehicles carrying American diplomatic plates in the harassment of our Cuban doctors in La Paz.
Those who may think are acting in line with the aggressive and hostile policy preached and practiced continuously by the US government may feel encouraged to commit violent actions.
Those who believe are in agreement with the messages of hatred and violence against Cuba that are being promoted on a daily basis through radio, television and social networks by official figures and violent groups based in the US territory, may presume they count on the necessary support to carry out actions like the attack perpetrated on April 30.
If there was hatred in the action carried out by Alazo Baró, it is possible to affirm that this hatred has been induced by the aggressive discourse of the US government, politicians and groups that make a living from the hostility against Cuba; and that is the consequence of the promotion of violence by different groups, particularly in Miami.
The Cuban government expects to see the results of an exhaustive and thorough investigation of this terrorist attack. We will see if the US government finds any plausible explanation to Alazo Baró’s links with the extremist and violent groups I have just mentioned; we will see how it can explain the inescapable relation that exists between those links and actions and the attack against our diplomatic mission.
Let’s look at the images that we hope the US Government can clarify in due time, showing persons who, hardly a few hours after the terrorist attack, approached and took pictures of the Cuban embassy, whose aggressive behavior and harassment against that diplomatic mission is well know. I can mention Yoaxis Marcheco Suárez and Mario Félix Leonard Barrós, both of them habitual participants in acts of harassment against Cuban diplomats.
In this press conference I will leave some questions for Mr. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: It is now your turn, Mr. Secretary, to give an answer to the US people, the Cuban people and the international public opinion about this serious event and the irrefutable evidence that I have just presented.
No one could ever forget the long and bloody history of terrorism against Cuba’s diplomatic missions in the United States and their officials. The foreign service of the Republic of Cuba has 11 martyrs, who were violently assassinated by terrorist groups. One of them was killed in 1980 at a central avenue in Queens, in the city of New York. The assassination of the Chilean ex Foreign Minister, Orlando Letelier, at a central avenue in Washington DC is also part of that history.
Many of the evidence of the terrorist attack against the Cuban embassy are public, but not all of them, for they are not the only ones that exist. There is also abundant information in social networks and other public media.
I reiterate that the US government chose to silence and not to denounce, condemn or reject a terrorist action committed against a diplomatic mission in Washington. The shooting against the Cuban embassy using an assault rifle with the intention to kill is a direct consequence of the US government aggressive policy against Cuba and the tolerance and instigation to violence by politicians and anti-Cuban extremist groups that have made a living from this sort of attacks.
It is a secret to no one that sectors with a history of extreme positions against Cuba have managed to exercise a disproportionate influence in the White House and some of them, unfortunately, are nowadays taking part in the control of the US Cuba policy. That is something that our government has strongly, timely and systematically denounced.
These are the facts related to the attack and the profound causes underlying the attack, plus the US government omission, for it failed to condemn and denounce the attack, in addition to its criminal negligence for not having paid attention to the numerous data it had previous knowledge of, that could have made it possible to avoid the realization of this terrorist attack.
Thank you, very much.
Moderator.- Minister, we have a first question from The Washington Post, which is the following: Are you satisfied with the way in which the local police handled the attack?
Bruno Rodríguez.- In my previous press conference as well as in this one I expressed our recognition for the rapid and effective performance of the local police and the Secret Service at the very moment when the event occurred, to subdue the attacker.
Moderator.- Minister, we have also received another question, in this case from Granma newspaper: You have explained that there has been silence on the part of the US authorities, including the State Department. Have you received any reaction from other actors in the United States?
Bruno Rodríguez.- From several ones. Various Senators and members of Congress have addressed our ambassador and approached our embassy, condemning the event and expressing solidarity in the face of such a terrorist action. Numerous American citizens, both men and women, have done the same; accredited diplomats and ambassadors in Washington have also done the same. From numerous countries we have also received messages of condemnation and encouragement. I should also say that many Cubans residing in different countries, particularly in the United States, in Florida and in New Jersey, which are states where there is an important concentration of Cuban citizens, have also approached our embassy to condemn this action.
Moderator.- The following question is asked by Channel 10 ABC, from Miami, and is this: Minister, in a tweet you published you said, and I quote: ‘It is the responsibility of States to protect accredited diplomats and their facilities’. But some critics of the Cuban government and US government officials have said that the Cuban government did not protect the US diplomats in Havana. What are the similarities, or differences, between both incidents?
Bruno Rodríguez.- I absolutely confirm that it is the obligation of every State to protect the integrity, dignity and normal functioning of a diplomatic mission, the diplomatic staff and their relatives, as has been scrupulously complied with by Cuba.
There are fundamental differences. The first difference is that there wasn’t any attack or deliberate action against the US diplomatic staff in Havana. I challenge the US government or State Department to present the slightest credible information or the slightest evidence. The media could ask the Federal Bureau of Investigations of the United States, whose investigation results coincide with the results of the Cuban investigation, which prove, beyond any doubt, that there wasn’t any attack or deliberate action.
Second, the Cuban government, as from the very first moment when some information about this issue began to circulate, or a few hours later after the US embassy had contacted our Ministry of foreign Affairs, addressed the US government, at the highest level, and offered full and absolute cooperation, information and disposition to receive American investigators and satisfy all their needs, including the taking of samples and their export. It designated a team of experts recognized at the highest international level and suggested numerous cooperative actions, including the cooperation between both medical teams, the American and the Cuban teams, which was rejected or prevented by the US government.
Third, regarding the so called health incidents affecting American diplomats in Cuba there is neither an author nor a hypothesis or a piece of evidence or a weapon. In this case there is an attacker, an AK-47, 32 bullet casings, 32 bullet holes and a confession of the intention to attack and kill.
I remember that in the legal documents it is recognized that the attacker confessed that if any diplomat would have come out of the building, he would have opened fire against that person.
And one difference –there might be others-, but another significant difference is this: Cuba, at this moment, is waiting for the results of the investigation of the government of the United States; Cuba expects that there will be an exhaustive investigation and that its results are shared with transparency. Cuba likewise expects the US government to live up to its obligation to adopt sufficient measures to prevent actions like these from happening again in the future against Cuban diplomats or diplomatic missions or missions of any other country in the United States.
The Cuban government has not launched any threat or applied any blockade measure; it has not issued any travel warning; it has not expelled any member of the US staff from Havana; it has not dismantled its embassy or Consulate in Washington. All of this was certainly done without a hypothesis, without any credible information and without a single piece of evidence being provided by the government of the United States of America against Cuba, using as a pretext those so called health incidents.
I personally travelled to Washington expressly to meet with Mr. Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, at his office. I expressed to him our concerns as well as our commitment to provide absolute security, as has been the case in Cuba’s impeccable history throughout these 60 years, to US diplomats and delegations that had been in our country. I do not forget that when I encouraged Mr. Tillerson to investigate and look for a hypothesis and for evidence, he told me that this was not of interest to him; that for him it was enough to know that an alleged event had supposedly occurred in Cuba to hold Cuba responsible and blame the Cuban government for that.
I expect Mr. Pompeo, the State Department and the US government to abide by that conduct.
Moderator.- The following question comes from AP news agency and is this: Minister, some US media have asserted that the person who attacked the embassy has a history of mental disorders. Cuba suggested that the aggressive rhetoric of President Trump is encouraging this type of actions. Given the fact that the attacker is an émigré, does Cuba have any medical or clinical records about this person that could confirm or not his sickness?
Bruno Rodríguez.- I have already explained that his behavior was completely normal during the long years he lived in Cuba and during his systematic visits to our country; and so is the case for his relations with the Cuban Consulates that offered to him their services during the time he stayed abroad.
All of this makes me reiterate that there is a connection impossible to dissemble or hide between this action and the aggressive policy of hatred and instigation to violence pursued by the US government. Several groups of US extremist politicians and groups of Cuban origin, or of a different origin, with antecedents of violence, created the conditions for this attack to take place.
I also invite you to ask the US government how much it knows about what is going on at the Doral Jesus Worship Center.
Moderator.- One last question, Minister. In this case, it is a question from the news agency DPA, and is this: Minister, after the attack against the embassy, Cuba summoned the US Chargé d’ Affairs in Havana and contacted the State Department, but there has not been any reaction from the US government about this attack. What would be Cuba’s next diplomatic step?
Bruno Rodríguez.- We expect the US government to live up to its obligation under international treaties. We will appeal to all International Law entities. Unless there is an evident and appropriate result, we will continue to denounce the attack. Of course, we will continue to fully and absolutely guarantee the security of the US embassy and its diplomats in Havana as well as the security of all other embassies.
We expect that the US government will at least make its rhetoric against terrorism and its policy against international terrorism coincide with its responsibilities in the face of a terrorist attack against a diplomatic mission located in downtown Washington DC.
Thank you very much to all.
Moderator.- Thank you very much, Minister. And thus we conclude the Press Conference broadcast from the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba.