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Speech delivered by H.E. Mr. Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla at the United Nations General Assembly Print E-mail

October 26, 2010
Mr. President;

Serious and imminent dangers threaten the existence of our species. In order to preserve human life we need to preserve peace. The use of only a negligible part of the world’s enormous nuclear arsenal will mean the end for the human species. The only guarantee that the nuclear weapons would not be used by any State or any individual would be their complete destruction, that should also include the entire generation of conventional weapons of a similar lethal power developed of late. Disarmament is the only solution.

In order to survive it is indispensable for humanity’s awareness to take a leap, which would only be possible through the dissemination of truthful information about these issues which are hidden or ignored by most politicians, not published by the press, and found by people so horrible that seem to be unbelievable.

We are living through a new era and, in our opinion, this General Assembly, as has been ceaselessly asked for by Fidel Castro, should lead, with utmost urgency, a world mobilization to demand respect for the right of all human beings and peoples to live.

Let us create a new world order; let us found a collective ethic based on human solidarity and justice; let us find a solution to conflicts through dialogue and cooperation. Let selfishness and plundering conducive to war and the use of force cease. In the face of a serious danger, let us rid ourselves of whatever pits us against each other or divide us and let’s get together to save peace, the planet and the life of future generations.

Mr. President;

Especially under the present circumstances, the US policy against Cuba is devoid of any ethical or legal grounds and lacks credibility and support. So it has been evidenced by the more of 180 votes cast at this United Nations General Assembly which during the last few years have been calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade.

In the Secretary-General’s report made available to us, more than 180 countries and specialized agencies of the United Nations system have documented their opposition to that policy.

Latin America and the Caribbean have vigorously and unanimously rejected such policy. The Summit of Unity held in Cancun in February 2010 resolutely stated the same. The leaders of the region have conveyed this feeling directly to the current US President. It could be assured that the express rejection against the blockade and theHelms-Burton Act, characterizes, as very few other items do, the political heritage of the region.

Equally unequivocal views have been endorsed by the Non-Aligned Countries Movement, the Ibero-American Summits, the European Union and Latin American and Caribbean Summits, the African Union, the ACP Group Summits and virtually any other group of nations abiding by International Law and the observance of the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.

There is a broad and growing consensus within the United States society and the Cuban emigrants in that country against the blockade and in favor of a change of policy towards Cuba. According to recent polls, 71 per cent of American citizens favor the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, while 64 per cent of them and a similar percentage of Cuban residents in South Florida oppose the Cuba travel ban, which infringes upon their rights as citizens.

Mr. President;

As it has happened with other issues, two years after President Obama pledged to seek “a new beginning with Cuba”, facts confirm that nothing has changed, nor has the President resorted to his ample prerogatives to relax the blockade.

The sanctions against Cuba remain intact and are fully implemented.

In the course of the year 2010, the economic siege has been tightened and its everyday impact continues to be visible in all aspects of life in Cuba. It has particularly serious consequences in areas so sensitive to the population such as health and food.

Cuban ophthalmologic services can not make use of the transpupillary thermotherapy, with the use of a surgical microscope, to treat children suffering from a tumor called retinoblastoma, that is, cancer of the retina, because it is impossible to buy the equipment required to apply this treatment, since they can only be bought from the US company Iris Medical Instruments. Without that technology it is impossible to treat retina tumors and preserve the affected eye.

Cuban children have no access to a medicine called Sevofluorane, the most advanced general inhalation anesthetic drug, that is, an anesthetic to operate on children, because its manufacturer, the American company ABBOT, is not allowed to sell its products to Cuba.

Cuba cannot purchase either the Optical Coherence Tomographer (OCT) to examine the retina and the optical nerve, manufactured by the German company Carl Zeiss, because some of its components are provided for by the US company Humphrey.

The onerous and discriminatory conditions that dominate the purchase of American foodstuffs, which are allegedly covered by a humanitarian exemption, while all other international trade standards are violated, resulted in the dramatic reduction of these operations last year. This reality not only affects our people but also American farmers. It would be untruthful of anyone here in this room to describe once again as a “trading partner” a country to which Cuba can not sell a single dose of medicine or a single gram of nickel.

Although Washington has very selectively authorized some cultural, academic and scientific exchanges, these are still subject to severe restrictions; many of these projects could not materialize due to the denial of licenses, visas and other permits. It is hardly known that Cuban artists are forbidden to receive any payment for their performances in this country. The persecution against Cuban properties and assets as well as commercial and financial transfers to and from Cuba or those involving institutions or individuals based in our country has intensified.

The fines imposed by the Treasury and Justice Departments on American and European entities during the last year for their transactions with Cuba, among other States, have totaled more than 800 million dollars.

The US government, in an obvious escalation, has also appropriated the transfers made by Cuba in other countries’ currencies, as the Euro. The confiscation of a transfer of more than 107 thousand Euros that belonged to the Cuban company Cubana de Aviación, which was made through the Banco Popular Español from Madrid to Moscow, was a theft.

The direct economic damage caused to the Cuban people by the implementation of the blockade during the last 50 years is worth more than 751 billion dollars according to the present value of that currency.

Mr. President;

Despite the universal rejection against this policy, some high officials of the US government have reiterated that this policy will remain unchanged. On September 2 last, President Obama himself ratified the sanctions against Cuba, claiming it was within the US alleged “national interest”. However, everybody knows that the White House continues to pay more attention to the well-funded “special interests” of an small minority that has turned the policy against Cuba into a very profitable business.

It is obvious that the United States has no intention whatsoever to lift the blockade. There is not even a sign showing that its government is willing to dismantle the most irrational aspects of what is already the most comprehensive and long-lasting set of sanctions and coercive measures ever applied against any country.

Traditionally, whenever the pretexts used as alleged obstacles to the lifting of the blockade against Cuba have crumbled, they have been replaced by new excuses to justify the continuation of a policy that is, from every angle, unsustainable.

According to several news agencies, very recently, on October 19, President Obama described all the processes that are currently taking place in Cuba as ‘insufficient’ and conditioned any new step by his government to the internal changes they would like to see in our country.

The President is wrong to believe he has the right to interfere and qualify the processes that are taking place in Cuba today. It is regrettable to realize he is so misinformed and ill-advised.

The transformations Cubans have embarked upon today are a result of the aspirations of Cubans and the sovereign decisions adopted by our people. They are aimed at updating and increasing the efficiency of our economic model, perfecting our society, expanding our culture and developing our socialism. They are not intended to quench the desires or satisfy the interests of the US government, which until today have always been contrary to those of the Cuban people.

The superpower will find any process that is not conducive to the establishment of a regime subordinated to its interest to be insufficient. But that is not going to happen because many generations of Cubans have offered and continue to offer the best of their lives to defend the sovereignty and independence of Cuba.

Besides, the US government has ignored the many declarations and proposals submitted by the Cuban government, both in public and in private, which ratify our willingness to establish a serious and constructive dialogue under conditions of equality and with full respect for our independence.

No response has been given to the new cooperation projects proposed by the Cuban government in the course of the year 2010, aimed at making progress in areas of common interest such as the combat against drug-trafficking, the protection of the environment, the prevention of natural disasters and even to cope with possible accidents that may derive from the oil exploitation in the Gulf of Mexico. An opportunity to advance in areas of mutual benefit for our peoples is once again missed.

Quite to the contrary, the US government has continued with its arbitrary practice of adding Cuba’s name to spurious lists, including the list of States that allegedly sponsor international terrorism, produced by the State Department to qualify the behavior of other nations. That country has no moral authority to draft such lists. As a rule it is its name that should appear at the top of them all. There is no reason whatsoever to include Cuba in any of those lists.

The US government likewise upholds the unjust conviction imposed on the Five Cuban Anti-Terrorists who have been imprisoned for more than twelve years in US prisons. Their cause has aroused a broad solidarity within the international community.

Cuba, which has been and still is a victim of State terrorism, calls for that government to put an end to double standards and the impunity enjoyed in its own territory by the confessed authors of terrorist actions which were organized under the auspices of the anti-Cuban policy of that country that was conceived to destabilize our country during the 1960’s by resorting to sabotage, kidnapping, assassinations and armed aggressions. That will be a true contribution to the international combat against this scourge.

Mr. President;

It is both outrageous and surprising to realize that the blockade and subversive policy applied by the United States against Cuba continues to be guided by the logic contained in the memorandum drafted by the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Lester Mallory, on April 6, 1960 that was declassified a few years ago, which reads:

“The majority of Cubans support Castro [...] There is no effective political opposition [...] The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [from the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.

Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life [...] denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

This is about a cruel and aggressive policy, absolutely contrary to International Law, that this government insists on maintaining knowing that it causes harm, hardships and violates the human rights of an entire people.

This is not a bilateral issue, as is commonly repeated by the US representatives. Its remarkable extraterritorial character has been endorsed by some laws and there are plenty of examples of the implementation of coercive measures against citizens and entities from third countries.

The blockade, given its own essence and scope, qualifies as an act of genocide under Article II of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted in 1948, and also as an act of economic warfare according to the Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War adopted in 1909.

It is a hostile and unilateral act that should be ceased unilaterally.

Once again, on behalf of the people of Cuba, I ask the representatives of all the countries gathered here, to vote in favor of the draft resolution I am honored to present under the title “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”

Mr. President;

We Cubans feel proud of our work. If this economic warfare, although causing hardships, has not taken a toll on human lives or managed to provoke generalized traumatic damage to our people, is because of the efforts and sacrifices made by Cubans and the willingness and determination of its government.

Although the economic harassment has been the main obstacle hindering the development of our country and the improvement of the living standards of our people, Cuba can show undeniable results in the eradication of poverty and hunger, in the fields of health and education - which have become a world standard - the promotion of gender equality, freedom and equitable well-being for all Cubans, social consensus, democratic participation by all citizens in the country’s decisions, the reversal of environmental degradation and the development of international cooperation with a hundred countries of the Third World.

A few weeks ago Cuba was able to declare here it had largely and exceptionally complied with the Millennium Development Goals. These results achieved by Cuba are still a utopia for a large segment of people in this planet.

We Cubans face our historical destiny with optimism, commitment and creativity. We are inspired by the feelings of peace, justice and solidarity that have characterized our people and the friendship with which the world identifies itself with our free and rebellious Island.

Cuba will continue to be ready to establish peaceful and respectful relations with the United States, as it has with the overwhelming majority of the international community and the entire hemisphere.

Cuba will never cease to denounce the blockade; it will never cease to demand its people’s legitimate right to live and work for its social and economic development under conditions of equality, in cooperation with other nations, without any economic siege or external pressures.

Cuba conveys its gratitude to the international community for its firm solidarity with our people, convinced that, some day, justice will be served and this resolution will no longer be necessary.

Thank you, very much.

(Photo: UN)

Hurricane Watch Update #3 on Paula Print E-mail

Hola Tod@s-

Hurriance Map

Yes, I know I said last night that I was sending "el ultimo aviso" (the last notice) about Hurricane Paula, but there was an important part -- perhaps the most important part -- of my "Hurricane Watch" report that I forgot to include last night, and that's the role of Civil Defense and the preparedness of the people.

First, to let you know what Hurricane Paula was doing as of 6 this morning: it's still a category 1 hurricane, although with sustained winds dropping even more to only 120 kph. (Note: at sustained winds of 119 kph, a Tropical Storm is officially classified as a Hurricane.) Its Central Pressure has increased a bit more, to 999, and it's moving very, very slowly between northeast and east northeast. Paula's eye is some 10 km from the northwestern coast of Pinar del Rio, and the sustained winds that are hitting land are 77 kph, although in some areas they're higher. But this means that on-land sustained winds are in the category of a Tropical Storm (between 63-118 kph).


Hurricane Paula Report #2 Print E-mail

Hola everyone:

Thought you'd like to get an update on Hurricane Paula, or, as Jose Rubiera - Cuba's chief meteorologist par excellence called it - "el pigmeo" (the pygmy) because it's such a small hurricane.

As of midnight tonight (Wednesday), the most recent information we have is the following:

Paula is now a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale of 1-5, with sustained winds of 130 kph and Central Pressure of 993. At midnight, it was 45 km from the most western tip of Cabo San Antonio in Pinar del Sur. But because it's so small, with an eye that's only some 14 km in diameter and hurricane winds that aren't even reaching Cabo San Antonio yet and tropical storm winds that only go about 90+ km from the eye - well, that's why it's "el pigmeo".

In other words, although the rains will probably be intense in some local areas and sustained in others, it's anticipated that what it will mainly bring to Cuba - and especially to Pinar del Rio - is rain. But even its rains are lessening.

However, the strong winds coming down from the immediate north of Cuba are continuing to push it a bit more south. The most recent map I have from the Instituto Meterologico is from 6pm, which you'll find in the attachment. Push the line from about mid-northern Pinar del Rio further south, and you'll get an idea of what the midnight map looked like.

In other words, by the time "el pigmeo" reaches the city of Havana, it might well be only a tropical depression or even a low pressure area.

And it's moving slowly - only 6 kph. So the anticipation is that it might well take a full day to go from western Pinar del Rio to eastern Pinar del Rio. Meanwhile, both Pinar del Rio and Isla de la Juventud remain in "Alarma", while the two Habanas (province and city, albeit names have changed for Provincia Habana) and Matanzas are in "Alerta" and the rest of the provinces up to Santa Clara are in "Informativa".

Between 4-5am today (Thursday), it's anticipated that a special "hurricane aircraft" will fly into Paula to get more up-to-date information. Unless "el pigmeo" suddenly becomes "el gigante" (the giant), this will be my "ultimo aviso" (last notice), as they say on the official hurricane announcements once the danger has passed and no more notices are being given.

As I mentioned earlier today, if Paula brings rains and no damages, it'll be very welcome indeed!

Abrazotes para tod@s de Susana


Time for U.S. to Lift the Cuban Embargo Print E-mail

Zhang Xiang, Editor, China Daily, September 21, 2010

At a conference call last week, Julia Sweig, an expert on Latin America at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic Monthly, talked about their lengthy meeting in Havana with legendary Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Goldberg's article, entitled "Fidel: Cuban model doesn't work for us anymore," made headlines and also took a lot of heat after Castro said he was misinterpreted.

It might be worthwhile to find out whether the Cuban model works or not. But a much more critical issue is why the United States continues its 50-year embargo on Cuba, an embargo that hurt millions of Cubans and an embargo that has not worked for US leaders and its people.

Or is this embargo even human?

The answer is "no." The embargo on the island nation, only 144 km from Key West in Florida, has brought enormous hardship to the Cuban economy, society and its people. It has denied the 11 million Cubans of the opportunities to grow their country. It has taken away the necessary supply of food, clean water and medication from ordinary Cubans, women and children included. The embargo has not facilitated, but hindered economic growth in Cuba.

The US tries to justify its embargo as a punishment for the Cuban government. However, the appalling collateral damage inflicted upon the Cuban people can hardly be justified. It would be no exaggeration to call the embargo a humanitarian disaster.

The US has few allies on this issue. Every year since 1992, the UN General Assembly, which is meeting in New York this week, has condemned the US embargo as a violation of international law. Last year, 187 countries supported the vote. Only Israel and Palau backed the US.

Within the US, the call for lifting the embargo has also been growing stronger. Former US secretary of state George Shultz has called the continued embargo "insane."

Still, few Americans seem to think that the embargo is a violation of human rights or international law. US experts who advocate the lifting of the embargo would not describe the sanction as inhuman either.

But given the many protests on a host of issues these days, from immigration to war in Afghanistan, it is surprising not to see mass rallies calling for an end to this absurd Cuban policy.

The secret to the policy is a dirty but open one, since both US political parties have long been hijacked by votes from Cuban Americans in Florida, an important state during US presidential elections. It simply exemplifies how domestic election politics can ruin another country and the lives of its millions of people.

As a Chinese national, I was also not immune to the problems from the embargo. I was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University in 2004 and I had to give up my planned trip to Cuba since US rules would not allow a J-visa holder to re-enter the US from Cuba.

At that time, the punishment for American citizens was even harsher. Travel to Cuba was totally banned. Violators would be prosecuted. But several of my journalist friends still managed to go to Cuba via Mexico and Canada. The Cuban government would understandably not stamp their passports.

That was under George W. Bush, when US policy on Cuba was among the toughest in history.

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised more engagement with adversaries including Cuba. Last year, Obama eased the restrictions on Cuban Americans to travel and send money to Cuba. The travel ban on all Americans is also expected to be lifted.

Still, this is not the great step forward that people expect from Obama over the issue. He has to show more guts to correct a decades-old policy disaster that has hurt not only Cubans but also US reputation worldwide. Obama should end the embargo completely and immediately.

As for US domestic politics, the timing for ending the embargo is also better than ever. More Cuban Americans now support lifting the embargo. Cuba has also recently released a group of "political" prisoners and announced economic reform.

For 50 years, Americans have been expecting dramatic change in Cuba. That has never happened. What they should really hope and pray now is a dramatic change in the US Cuban policy.

If Obama is a president for change, he should have heard the outcry.

Mr Obama, lift this embargo.


Hurricane Paula Report #1 Print E-mail

Hola tod@s - 

I was just about to sit down and write a little report on Hurricane Paula, when the following article came in which provides such a good summary, that now I only have to make a few updated comments. 

Hurricane Paula is the 18th Tropical Depression, 15th Tropical Storm and 9th Hurricane - assuming that I have my numbers right - of the present Hurricane Season. It is also going to be the first one to hit Cuba. At the moment, it's hitting the western part of Pinar del Rio as a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 kph, a Central Pressure of 984 and moving northeast quite slowly, 15 kph. As of 9am this morning, Pinar del Rio Province and Isla de la Juventud are on "Alarma", meaning the phenomenon is upon them. From Provincia Habana, Ciudad de La Habana and all the west east to Santa Clara, we're in "Fase Informativa", the first of three stages of hurricane preparedness. 

Hurricane Paula has some important features which will greatly influence how it affects Cuba: 

1) It is a very small hurricane, with hurricane-force winds only reaching some 34 km from the eye and tropical storm winds only reaching between 90-100 km from the eye. 

2) In the attached image, produced at 5am this morning, you'll notice that it's curving strongly to the northeast. This is because of the strong winds to the north that are pushing it down. These winds may also weaken it a bit. 

3) Depending on how strong the winds are, it may go a bit more north through Straits of Florida, in which case we'll only get rains - heavy or lighter, depending on its distance from our coast. But if the winds to the north of it remain strong, Paula will curve more towards Cuban land, and then we could get either a hurricane or Tropical Storm going all along the northern coast from Pinar del Rio to Santa Clara. It's still a bit too early to tell, but by the end of the day we should have a better idea. 

4) Cuba needs the rains! And especially Havana which is low on water and having serious drought problems in some parts of the city. As you know, our rivers are in the sky, and without rain, they don't do us any good. 

5) At the moment, here in Havana the sky has been overcast all day, with a feeling of rain but still nothing falling. In the meantime, this morning I cleaned out all the drains on the rooftop as well as all the drains in the entrance to the garage and inside the garage. Others have done the same. 

6) My kitties are good barometers of the weather. Normally the two oldest - Mariposita and Luisito - spend the day sleeping outside. But today, all four are inside the house - possibly because they already sense subtle changes in atmospheric pressure and feel safer inside. When the change is quite dramatic, Mariposita goes outside onto the veranda, sits down, and spends hours - still as a statue - looking up at the sky until it starts raining or the wind gets too strong. 

I'll keep you informed of developments, but in the meantime you may want to keep your eyes on Hurricane Paula as it passes either on Cuban land or in Cuban coastal waters. 

Abrazotes y besotes para tod@s de Susana


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