June 16, 2017, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, in a speech replete with hostile rhetoric which recalled the era of open confrontation with our country, announced in a Miami theater his administration’s policy toward Cuba which reverses advances made these last two years, after December 17, 2014, when Presidents Raúl Castro Ruz and Barack Obama made public the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations and initiate a process toward normalization of bilateral ties.
In what constitutes a setback in relations between the two countries, Trump delivered a speech and during the same event signed a policy directive entitled, ” National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening U.S. Policy toward Cuba,” mandating the elimination of educational “people-to-people” exchanges undertaken by individuals, and greater control of U.S. travelers to Cuba, as well as the prohibition of economic, commercial, or financial transactions on the part of U.S. companies with Cuban enterprises linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces, intelligence or security services – all of this with the intentional objective of denying us income. The U.S. President justified this policy with alleged concerns about the human rights situation in Cuba and the need to rigorously enforce blockade laws, conditioning its lifting, as well as any improvement in bilateral relations, on our country making changes elemental to our constitutional order.
Trump likewise vacated the Presidential Policy Directive, “Normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba,” issued by President Obama on October 14, 2016, which, although it did not attempt to hide the interventionist character of U.S. policy or the objective of advancing its interest in changes in our country’s economic, political and social order, the directive recognized Cuba’s independence, sovereignty, and self-determination, and the Cuban government as a legitimate, equal interlocutor, as well as the benefits that both countries and people could gain in a relationship of civilized coexistence, within the context of the great differences which exist between our two governments. It also recognized that the blockade was an obsolete policy that should be eliminated.
Once again, the U.S. government resorts to the coercive methods of the past, adopting measures to tighten the blockade, in effect since February of 1962, which not only causes harm and depravation to the Cuban people and constitutes an undeniable obstacle to our economy’s development, but also impacts the sovereignty and interests of other countries, generating international condemnation.
The measures announced create additional obstacles to already restricted opportunities available to U.S. businesses to trade with and invest in Cuba.
At the same time, they further restrict the rights of U.S. citizens to visit our country, already limited given the obligation to employ discriminatory licenses, at a time when the U.S. Congress – as a reflection of the opinion of broad sectors of this society – demands not only an end to the travel ban, but also that restrictions on commerce with Cuba be eliminated.
President Trump’s announcements contradict the majority support of the U.S. public, including the Cuban émigré community in that country, for the lifting of the blockade and normal relations between Cuba and the United States.
For his part, the U.S. President, once again poorly advised, makes decisions that favor political interests of an extremist minority of Cuban origin in the state of Florida, which for small-minded reasons do not desist in their pretensions to punish Cuba and its people, for exercising the legitimate, sovereign right to be free and take control of their own destiny.
At a later time, we will more thoroughly analyze the scope and implications of this announcement.
The government of Cuba denounces the new measures to tighten the blockade, which are destined to failure, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in the past, and which will not achieve their purpose of weakening the Revolution, or breaking the Cuban people, whose resistance to aggression of any kind or origin has been proven over almost six decades.
The government of Cuba rejects the manipulation of the issue of human rights for political purposes, and double standards in addressing it. The Cuban people enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms, and have achieved accomplishments of which they are proud, and which are only a dream for many of the world’s countries, including the United States itself, such as the right to health, education, social security, equal pay for equal work, the rights of children, the right to food, peace and development. With its modest resources, Cuba has contributed, as well, to the expansion of human rights in many places around the world, despite the limitations imposed given its condition as a blockaded country.
The United States is in no position to teach us a lesson. We have serious concerns about respect for and protection of human rights in this country, where there have been numerous cases of police murder, brutality, and abuse, in particular against the African-American population; the right to life is violated as a result of deaths caused by firearms; child labor is exploited; and serious manifestations of racial discrimination exist; threats are being made to impose more restrictions on health care services, which would leave 23 million persons without coverage; women do not receive equal pay for equal work; emigrants and refugees are marginalized, in particular those from Islamic countries; the building of walls that belittle neighbors is proposed; and international commitments to protect the environment and confront climate change are abandoned.
Likewise, also of concern are violations of human rights committed by the United States in other countries, such as the arbitrary detentions of dozens of prisoners in territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba, where torture has taken place; the extrajudicial executions and deaths of civilians caused by bombs and the use of drones; and wars unleashed against different countries like Iraq, justified with lies about the possession of weapons of mass destruction, with disastrous consequences for the security and stability of the Middle East region.
We recall that Cuba is a state party to 44 human rights international covenants, while the United States is so to only 18. Thus we have much to show, to say, and defend.
Upon confirming the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations, Cuba and the United States affirmed the intention to develop respectful, cooperative ties between the two people and governments, based on the principles and purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
In the declaration issued July 1, 2015, the revolutionary government of Cuba reaffirmed, “These relations must be founded on absolute respect for our independence and sovereignty; the inalienable right of every state to choose its own political, economic, social, and cultural system, without interference of any kind; and on equality and reciprocity, which constitute irrevocable principles of international law,” as stated in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by heads of state and government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), during its 2nd Summit, in Havana. Cuba has not renounced these principles, and never will.
The government of Cuba reiterates its willingness to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation in areas of mutual interest, as well as the negotiation of pending bilateral issues with the government of the United States. Over the last two years, it has been demonstrated that, as President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, has repeatedly stated, the two countries can cooperate and coexist in a civilized manner, respecting differences and promoting all that benefits both nations and peoples, but it cannot be expected that, in order to do so, Cuba will make concessions which compromise our independence or sovereignty, nor accept conditions of any type.
Any strategy directed toward changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, be it one that seeks to do so through pressure and dictates, or with the use of more subtle methods, is condemned to failure.
The changes which may be needed in Cuba, like those made since 1959 and those we are undertaking now as part of the updating of our socio-economic model, will continue to be decided independently by the Cuban people.
As we have since the triumph of the Revolution, January 1, 1959, we will assume any risk, and continue firm and sure in the construction of a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation.
Havana, June 16, 2017.