The necessity of ending the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba – Passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 1, 2017 (191 in favor, 2 opposed, 0 abstentions)
The annual vote on the Cuban resolution to end the blockade has become something of a day of celebration in Cuba, inasmuch as it is a day in which the world affirms its support for Cuba in its nearly six-decade political and ideological war with its powerful neighbor to the North. The debates on the resolution in the General Assembly were covered live on Cuban television, preceded by interviews with student leaders at the University of Havana and the University of Oriente in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. The speech before the General Assembly by Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, was rebroadcast several times during the next twenty-four hours, and it was printed in its entirety in Cuban newspapers. The Mesa Redonda, a daily hour-long program of news analysis, devoted two days to the General Assembly debate and vote.
The debate began with declarations of support for the resolution by regional and international associations of governments. A representative of Equatorial Guinea, speaking on behalf of the Union of African States, initiated the deliberations. He noted that the blockade has been condemned by the African states. He noted the positive contribution of Cuba in international affairs during the blockade of more than fifty-five years, including medical support of African countries.
A representative of Ecuador spoke on behalf of the G-77 plus China. He maintained that fundamental international principles require ending the blockade. He noted that Cuba is an example of solidarity, having provided medical assistance to many nations in all regions. He argued that the blockade is a significant obstacle that hinders Cuban efforts in sustainable economic development.
Singapur spoke in the name of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Its representative maintained that the end of the blockade would enable Cuba to proceed in its project of sustainable economic development.
The representative of El Salvador spoke on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). He maintains that CELAC supported the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the USA, and it supported the initial steps toward the normalization of relations. CELAC laments the turn of the new administration toward a strengthening of the blockade. He maintained that the blockade has negative consequences for the Cuban people, and that it violates the UN Charter. He also noted that CELAC has called upon the United States to return to Cuba the territory of the naval base in Guantanamo.
The states of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) joined with the G-77, CELAC, and the Non-Aligned Movement in calling for an end to the blockade. Its representative noted that the English-speaking Caribbean nations, upon becoming independent from colonial rule, established diplomatic relations with the revolutionary government of Cuba. There has been cooperation in many areas, especially health. He maintained that the development of the Caribbean nations requires the common development of all of the nations of the Caribbean, and that the blockade against Cuba is an act against the entire Caribbean. He further sustained that the blockade violates fundamental principles of the United Nations, including the right of sovereignty and the principal of non-interference in the affairs of other nations.
A representative of the Ivory Coast spoke in the name of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. He noted that the establishment of diplomatic relations and the US abstention in 2016 had lifted hopes, but the sanctions against Cuba continue. He maintained that the blockade is an obstacle to the economic and social development of Cuba.
Venezuela spoke of behalf of the 120 nations of the Third World who are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). He noted that at its 2016 meeting, held in Venezuela, NAM declared against the blockade. He maintained that the blockade has enormous costs for Cuba, and it restricts access to markets and to technology. He sustained that the blockade violates the principles of the sovereignty of nations and non-interference in the affairs of nations. He described it as a barbarous act by the most powerful nation on the planet against a nation that has a sustained record of solidarity with the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, took her turn in the list of speakers, but speaking only in the name of the United States and not any regional or international organization. She uttered a series of falsehoods: the Cuban regime violates human rights; the Cuban regime is responsible for the suffering of the Cuban people; there are more than 10,000 political detentions in Cuba; the future of Cuba, unfortunately, is not in the hands of the people, but in the hands of Cuban dictators; and in Venezuela, the people do not have rights.
Several nations took the floor to support the Cuban Revolution, speaking as particular nations and not as members of regional and international associations of states. They included Vietnam, Paraguay, India, Bolivia, Egypt, Algeria, Russia, Colombia, South Africa, China, Mexico, and Panama. The comments of the representative of Bolivia were particularly strong: the blockade is a unilateral action that is a violation of the principles of sovereignty and non-interference, and it has a major effect on commerce and foreign investment; it is immoral and illegal. He asked, Who interferes in the affairs of nations, who has clandestine prisons throughout the world, who does not believe in science and global warming, yet wants to give lessons in human rights? In contrast, Cuba has persistently demonstrated solidarity. The Bolivian representative cited Nelson Mendela: “when I was in prison, Cuba was an inspiration, because only Cuba took steps against apartheid.” The government of Bolivia, he concluded, demands the immediate cessation of the blockade.
The Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs took the floor amidst strong applause. He was blunt in denouncing the false claims of the US Ambassador with respect to Cuba and Venezuela, characterizing them as disrespectful and offensive to all humanity. She speaks in the name of the chief of an empire, he stated, and she lies, just as that empire historically has justified its efforts to dominate the politics, economy, and people of Cuba with false pretexts. She should recognize and respect, he argued, the complete rejection of the U.S. blockade of Cuba by the governments and peoples of the world, a comment that provoked the applause of the assembly.
Rodríguez maintained that the United States has absolutely no moral authority to question Cuba. The USA is responsible for global instability and for wars in which innocent persons are killed. In the United States, the political process has been hijacked by so-called “special interests” that above all are corporate interests. There are no guarantees of health and education, and there are restrictions on unionization. There is the racially differentiated use of the death penalty, the assassination of African-Americans by police, and the repression of immigrants. There is the use of torture in clandestine prisons in various places in the world. Trump “presides over a government of millionaires that intends to apply savage measures against families of less income and the poor, the minorities, and immigrants. He follows a program that feeds hate and division.” He takes a direction that is influenced by the extreme sectors of the Right, but he does not have a popular mandate for doing so, inasmuch as he lost the popular vote. The conditions in the United States stand in contrast to the dream of Martin Luther King, whose famous speech, “I have a dream,” was quoted by Rodríguez, bringing applause.
Rodríguez affirmed the democratic character of the Cuban political process, which has elections without financial campaigns and rhetorical manipulations. At the present moment, Cuba is celebrating its elections, in a dignified political process established by its people and its Constitution of 1976. “We are in the middle of a clean constitutional electoral process in Cuba, where legislative seats are not bought, nor do special interests prevail; where there are not dishonest campaigns ruled by money; where elections do not manipulate the political will of the people; and where elections do not stir up division and hate.”
Rodríguez observed that the conflict between the United States and Cuba began much more than 26 years ago, when Cuba first introduced the resolution on the blockade. It began even before Cuba became a nation, when U.S. political leaders and intellectuals expressed a desire to annex the island. It continued in 1898, when the United States began a military occupation, preventing the fulfillment of Cuban aspirations for independence and resulting in the establishment of a neocolonial republic under U.S. domination. After 1959, with the Cuban revolutionary government seeking to establish the definitive sovereignty of the nation, the United States imposed the blockade, with the intention of provoking hunger and popular dissatisfaction that would lead to the fall of the government. The United States also undertook a systematic campaign of terrorism and subversion, including efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro, a story well known and documented in Cuba, with more information coming to light with the declassification of documents related to the Kennedy assassination. This historic pattern of domination and aggression, always justified with fabricated pretexts, was ignored in the commentary of the U.S. ambassador.
Barack Obama, Rodríguez noted, recognized that the blockade had failed, and that it was useless for the attainment of U.S. objectives. However, he did not recognize the blockade as a massive and systematic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people or as a violation of international law. Nevertheless, he did declare his intention to work toward its end; although the reforms under Obama were very limited, they were in a positive direction.
Trump announces a strengthening of the blockade with a discourse that Rodríguez characterizes as antiquated and hostile. Trump speaks of human rights violations of Cuba, a misrepresentation echoed this morning by the U.S. ambassador. He has introduced further restrictions on commerce and on travel and new measures that result in the suspension of the emission of visas by the USA to Cubans. The new measures were justified on the grounds of a supposed sonic attack on the U.S. diplomatic staff in Havana, for which neither sensible evidence nor reasonable cooperation was provided. On the basis of the supposed sonic attack, the U.S. Department of State has issued an unfounded travel warning to U.S. citizens, with the intention of damaging tourism. Trump has reiterated on four different occasions that the USA will not end the blockade until Cuba makes internal changes, but Cuba has never and will never accept conditions for the normalization of relations, even though Cuba has persistently expressed its interest in normalization.
Rodríguez maintains that the blockade is the principal obstacle to Cuban social and economic development and for the implementation of its current national plan. This past year, the losses resulting from the blockade were 4.3 billion dollars, which is double the level of annual foreign investment that Cuba has defined as necessary to implement specific plans for development that have been formulated. He maintains that every Cuban family and all social services suffer from it. For example, the Cuban company dedicated to the importation and exportation of medical products has encountered various obstacles, as a result of the blockade, in its negotiations with pharmaceutical companies in Europe and the USA. In addition, because of the extraterritoriality of the blockade, banks and companies of other countries have been sanctioned, in violation of their rights.
Rodríguez concludes with the declaration that the Cuban people will never renounce its efforts to construct a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous, and sustainable nation. Cuba will continue with the consensus of the people, and especially the patriotic commitment of young Cubans, with the anti-imperialist struggle for independence, with eternal loyalty to the legacy of Martí and Fidel. This conclusion was interrupted by applause, and it was followed by sustained applause.
Following the address by the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, the United States again took the floor. This time the spokesperson was not the Ambassador, but another member of the US diplomatic team. She repeated the false claims: Cuba has a dictatorial regime that violates the rights of the Cuban people. She maintained that the Cuban economy will not prosper until the Cuban economy permits economic freedom, leaving aside the sovereign rights of all nation to decide on their economic system. The representative of Nicaragua offered a rejoinder: Cuba continues being the symbol of resistance and defense of sovereignty and self-determination; we call upon the USA to leave our peoples in peace, without interference; Nicaragua will vote with much pride, as always, in support of the resolution.
In her comments to the General Assembly, the US ambassador to the United Nations displayed a dismissive attitude toward the neocolonized peoples of the earth and the perspective that emerges from the neocolonial situation. She characterized the arguments of the representatives of international associations of Third World governments to be “ridiculous declarations.” She considered the General Assembly vote on the US blockade of Cuba all these years to be “political theater.” She acknowledged that the United States stands alone in believing that the blockade is the right thing to do, but the resolution of the General Assembly does not have weight, because it does not have the authority to end the U.S. blockade, only the U.S. government can do so. She implies with these words that the understandings and values of humanity are of no importance.
A dismissive attitude toward the government, movements, and peoples of the Third World, although prevalent in a subtle form in U.S. political discourse, is exactly the opposite of what is required in the context of the sustained global crisis. The crisis has been unfolding since the 1970s, and it is a multi-dimensional economic, commercial, financial, political, and ecological crisis. The political leaders and academics of the North do not understand the global crisis, and they therefore cannot intelligently respond to it. But if they were to encounter the popular movements of the Third World and the governments brought to power by the movements, they would discover an alternative way of looking at the world-system, from below, from the vantage point of the colonized and neocolonized. This would lead them to insights that, up to know, are beyond their capacity to understand. Encounter with the Third World movements of national and social liberation is the key to developing an understanding of problems that is tied to action (see various posts on this theme in the category Knowledge).
The Trump administration is demonstrating its moral and intellectual incapacity to lead the nation. Such incapacity has been a characteristic of U.S. political leaders since the turn to imperialist foreign policies in the late nineteenth century, but with the Trump administration, it attains a higher level. Trump represents a turn from liberalism to neofascism, in response to the profound and sustained systemic global crisis and the relative decline of the United States (see various posts in the category Trump). The U.S. political leadership does not understand the causes of these dynamics, and thus it cannot formulate solutions and political directions that are positive for the nation and for humanity. Feeling threatened by political processes and economic dynamics that it does not understand, it turns to naked power.