HAVANA TIMES — Cuban President Raul Castro addressed the III Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on Wednesday in Costa Rica. He spoke on regional topics such as integration and social justice and concluded with an explanation of his government’s position in the negotiations begun with the United States.
The following is the official translation of his full speech.
President Raul Castro speaks to the Third CELAC Summit in Costa Rica
Esteemed President Luis Guillermo Solis; Esteemed Head of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean; Esteemed Heads of the Delegations and guests accompanying us:
Our America has entered a new era and has advanced, since the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, in its goals of independence, sovereignty over its natural resources, integration, the construction of a new world order, social justice and democracy of the people, by the people and for the people.
Today there is a commitment to justice and the rights of the peoples which is superior to that in any other historical period. Together, we are the third largest economy in the world, the area with the second largest oil reserves, the greatest biodiversity on the planet and a high concentration of the globe’s mineral resources.
To develop unity within diversity, cohesive action, and respect for differences will remain our primary purpose and an inescapable necessity, because the world’s problems are serious, and great dangers and tough challenges persist which transcend national and even sub-regional possibilities. Over the past decade, economic and social policies and sustained growth have allowed us to confront the global economic crisis and made possible a reduction in poverty, unemployment and unequal income distribution.
The profound political and social transformations carried out in several countries in the region have brought dignity to millions of families who have escaped poverty. But the Latin America and Caribbean region remains the most unequal on the planet. On average, 20% of households with the lowest incomes receive 5% of total income; 167 million people still suffer from poverty, one in five children under-15 live in poverty, and the number of illiterates exceeds 35 million. Half of our youth do not have secondary education or a ninth grade education, but, in the lower income sector, 78% do not complete their studies. Two thirds of the new generation does not reach university.
The number of victims of organized crime and violence, which threatens the stability and progress of nations, is increasing. What would be the thoughts of the tens of millions of marginalized on democracy and human rights? What would their opinion be regarding political models? What would they argue about election laws? Is this the civil society which governments and international organizations take into account? What would they say if they were consulted on economic and monetary policies?
Little do many of the industrialized States have to show our region in this respect, where half of youth are unemployed, the crisis is heaped onto the workers, and students are repressed while the bankers are protected, unionization is prevented, lower wages are paid to women for equal work, inhumane policies are applied against immigrants, racism, xenophobia, violent extremism and neo-fascist tendencies are on the rise, and where citizens do not vote because they see no alternative to political corruption, or they know that election promises are soon forgotten.
To achieve social inclusion and environmental sustainability, we are obliged to create our own vision regarding economic systems, patterns of production and consumption, the relationship between economic growth and development, and also, the effectiveness of political models.
We must overcome the structural gaps; ensure high quality free education, free universal health coverage, social security for all, equal opportunities, and the full exercise of all human rights for all people. Within such efforts, an elementary duty will be solidarity and defense of the interests of the Caribbean and, in particular, Haiti.
A new international economic, financial and monetary order is required, where the interests and needs of the countries of the South, and of the majority, are accommodated and prioritized, in which those who impose the concentration of capital and neoliberalism does not prevail.
The [UN] post 2015 Development Agenda must provide solutions to the structural problems of economies of the region, and generate the changes that will lead to sustainable development. It is also essential to build a world of peace, governed by the Principles of the United Nations Charter and International Law, without which development is impossible,
The signing by heads of state and government of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace marked a historic step forward and provides a reference for relations between our states and with the rest of the world. Solidarity in Our America will be decisive to advancing common interests.
We express vigorous condemnation of the unacceptable and unjustified unilateral sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the continuing external intervention aimed at creating a climate of instability in this sister nation.
Cuba, profoundly familiar with all these tales, having endured them itself for over 50 years, reiterates its firmest support to the Bolivarian Revolution and the legitimate government led by President Nicolas Maduro.
We join the Argentine Republic in its claim to the Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. We support the South American nation and it’s President Cristina Fernández, who faces attacks from hedge funds and the decisions of venal courts, in violation of the sovereignty of this country.
We reaffirm our solidarity with the people and government of Ecuador, led by Rafael Correa, in support of their demand for compensation for environmental damage caused by transnational Chevron in Ecuador’s Amazon. As we have said before, the Community will be incomplete as long as Puerto Rico is absent. Its colonial situation is unacceptable, and it’s Latin American and Caribbean character leaves no room for doubt.
In the Colombian peace process, the agreements reached by the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army in the conversations taking place in Havana are significant. Never before have they advanced so much in the direction of achieving peace.
Cuba, in its capacity as guarantor and venue of these talks, will continue providing the necessary facilities and contributing as much as possible to an end to the conflict, and the construction of a just and lasting peace in the sister nation of Colombia. We resolutely support, as we have done to date, the just demands of Caribbean countries for reparations for the damages caused by slavery and colonialism, as well as resolutely opposing the decision to deprive them of vital financial resources on the basis of technocratic pretexts characterizing them as middle-income countries. We recognize the excellent developments achieved in the CELAC-China Forum and regional links with the BRICS group.
We reiterate our concern regarding the enormous and growing military expenditures imposed on the world by the United States and NATO, such as the attempt to extend their aggressive presence to the borders of Russia, with which we have historic, fraternal and mutually beneficial relations. We energetically oppose the imposition of unilateral and unjust sanctions on this nation. The growing aggression of the NATO military doctrine and the development of unconventional warfare – which have already had devastating consequences and grave results – threaten peace and international security.
For Cuba, the principal of the sovereign equality of all states and peoples’ right to self-determination is inalienable.
The United Nations General Assembly must use its faculties to safeguard international peace and security, given the Security Council’s double standards, excesses and omissions.
Full membership must be offered to Palestine without further delay, to which the people and government of Cuba convey their solidarity.
The Security Council’s veto, which ensures that Israel’s crimes go unpunished, must end. Africa, where our roots also lie, does not need advice or interference, but the transfer of financial resources, technology and fair trade. We will forever defend the legitimate interests of the nations with which we struggle, should to shoulder, against colonialism and apartheid, and with which we maintain relations of fraternity and cooperation.
We always remember their unwavering solidarity and support. Cuba’s voice will tirelessly defend just causes and the interests of Southern countries and will remain faithful to their objectives and common positions, in the knowledge that homeland is humanity.
The foreign policy of the Cuban Revolution will remain faithful to its principles.
Last December 17, saw the return to the homeland of Cuban anti-terrorists, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, who together with Fernando González and René González are a source of pride and an example of conviction.
The President of the United States acknowledged the failure of the nation’s policy toward Cuba, implemented for over 50 years; the country’s complete isolation as a result; the damages which the blockade has caused to our people; and has ordered a review of the obviously unjustifiable inclusion of the island on the list of state sponsors of international terrorism. Also on that day, he announced the decision to reestablish U.S. diplomatic relations with our government.
These changes are the result of almost a century and a half of heroic struggle and loyalty to principles of the Cuban people. They were also made possible thanks to the new era our region is experiencing, and to the firm, valiant demands made by the governments and peoples of CELAC.
These changes vindicate Our America, which worked in close collaboration, in the United Nations and all other spheres, to achieve this objective. Preceded by the Alba Summit in Cumana, Venezuela, the discussions held in the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Puerto España, Trinidad and Tobago, led President Obama, and at that time recently elected, to propose a new beginning with Cuba. In Cartagena, Colombia, in 2012, a strong debate took place in which the blockade was unanimously and categorically rejected, compelling an important U.S. leader to describe the occasion as the great failure of Cartagena, or disaster – was the exact phrase – and during which Cuba’s exclusion from these events was debated.
Ecuador, in protest, had decided not to participate. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia stated that they would not attend another summit without the presence of Cuba, a sentiment which received support from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
The Caribbean Community assumed a similar stance. Mexico and the remaining nations also agreed. Panamanian President, Juan Carlos Varela, before his inauguration, resolutely announced that he would invite Cuba, with full rights and equality of conditions, to the Seventh Summit of the Americas, and that is what he did.
Cuba immediately confirmed that it would attend. This demonstrates Marti’s precision when he wrote “One just principle from the depths of a cave is more powerful than an army.” (Applause) To all those present, I express Cuba’s most profound gratitude. To the 188 states which voted against the blockade in the United Nations; to those who made a similar demand at the General Assembly and international summits and conferences; and to all the popular movements, political forces, parliaments and personalities who tirelessly worked to achieve this objective, on behalf of Cuba, I sincerely thank you. To the people of the United States who expressed growing opposition to the hostile policy and the blockade, imposed for over five decades, I also convey our appreciation and friendly sentiments.
These outcomes show that governments with profound differences can find a solution to their problems, through respectful dialogue and exchanges on the basis of sovereign equality and reciprocity, for the benefit of their respective nations.
As I have repeatedly stated, Cuba and the United States must learn the art of civilized co-existence, based on respect for the differences which exist between both governments and cooperation on issues of common interest, which contribute to solving the challenges we are facing in the hemisphere and the world. However, it must not be supposed that, in order to achieve this, Cuba would renounce its ideals of independence and social justice, or abandon a single one of our principles, nor cede a millimeter in the defense of our national sovereignty.
We will not invite, or accept any attempt to advise or exert pressure in regards in our internal affairs. We have earned this sovereign right through great sacrifices and at the price of great risks.
Could diplomatic relations be restored without resuming the financial services of the Cuban Interests Section and its Consular Office in Washington, denied as a consequence of the financial blockade? How can diplomatic relations be restored without removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of international terrorism? What will be the future conduct of U.S. diplomats in Havana, in regards to observing the diplomatic and consular norms established by International Conventions?
This is what our delegation has said to the State Department during the bilateral talks held last week, and more meetings are required to address these issues.
We have shared with the President of the United States our willingness to advance toward normalization of bilateral relations, once diplomatic relations are reestablished, which would imply the adopting of measures by both parties to improve the climate between the two countries, to resolve other pending problems, and move forward on cooperation.
The current situation discreetly opens an opportunity for the hemisphere to encounter new, superior ways to cooperate, which would serve the two Americas. This would allow pressing problems to be resolved, and open new paths.
The text of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace constitutes an indispensable foundation for this, including the recognition that every state has the inalienable right to choose its own political, economic, social, cultural system, without interference of any kind on the part of another state, which constitutes an undeniable principle of international law, The principal problem has not been resolved.
The economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes great human and economic damage and violates international law, must end.
I remember the memorandum written by Undersecretary Mallory, in April of 1960, which, given the lack of an effective political opposition [in Cuba], proposed the objective of creating hunger, desperation and suffering to provoke the overthrow of the revolutionary government. Now, everything seems to indicate that the objective is to create an artificial political opposition though economic, political and communications means.
The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the beginning of a process which can progress toward normalization of bilateral relations, but this will not be possible as long as the blockade exists, or as long as the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base is not returned (Applause), or radio and television broadcasts which violate international norms continue, or just compensation is not provided our people for the human and economic damage they have suffered.
It would not be ethical, just, or acceptable that something was requested of Cuba in return.
If these problems are not resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States makes no sense.
Neither can it be expected that Cuba would agree to negotiate aspects mentioned with respect to our absolutely sovereign, internal affairs. Progress was made in these recent negotiations because we treated each other respectfully, as equals.
To continue advancing, this is how it must be. We have carefully followed the U.S. President’s announcement of some executive decisions to modify certain aspects of the blockade’s application. The measures announced are very limited.
Prohibitions on credit and the use of the dollar in international financial transactions remain in place; individual travel by U.S. citizens is hampered under the system of licenses for so-called people-to-people exchanges; these are conditioned by subversive goals; and maritime travel is not allowed.
Prohibitions remain on the acquisition in other markets of equipment and technology with more than 10% U.S. components, and on imports by the United States of goods containing Cuban raw materials, among many, many others. President Barack Obama could decisively use his broad executive powers to substantially modify the application of the blockade, that which is in his hands, even without a decision by Congress.
He could permit, in other sectors of the economy, all that he has authorized in the area of telecommunications, with evident objectives of political influence in Cuba.
His decision to hold a discussion with Congress on eliminating the blockade is significant. U.S. government spokespeople have been very clear in specifying that they are now changing their methods, but not their policy objectives, and insist on continuing to intervene in our internal affairs, which we are not going to accept. Our U.S. counterparts should not plan on developing relations with Cuban society as if there were no sovereign government in Cuba.
No one should dream that the new policy announced means acceptance of the existence of a socialist revolution 90 miles from Florida.
They want so-called civil society to be present at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, and this is what Cuba has always said. We have protested what has occurred at the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, at the Summits of the Americas in Miami and Quebec, at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, and whenever the G-7 or International Monetary Fund meet, when civil society is placed behind steel fences, faces brutal police repression, or is confined to locations dozens of kilometers from the events.
Of course Cuban civil society will attend, and I hope there are no restrictions on our country’s non-governmental organizations, which obviously have no interest, or any status within the OAS, but are recognized by the UN.
I hope to be able to see in Panama the popular movements and non-governmental organizations which advocate for nuclear disarmament, for the environment, against neoliberalism, the Occupy Wall Street and the indignados of this region, university and high school students, farmers, trade unions, communities of original peoples, organizations which oppose the contamination caused by fracking, those defending the rights of immigrants and denouncing torture and extrajudicial executions, police brutality, racist practices, those who demand equal pay for women for equal work, those demanding compensation for damage caused by transnational corporations.
Nevertheless, the announcements made December 17 have generated world recognition, and President Obama has received very broad support within his own country. Some forces in the United States will try to abort this process which is beginning.
They are the same enemies of a just relationship between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean, those who disrupt bilateral relations with many countries in our region with that nation, those who always blackmail and pressure.
We know that ending the blockade will be a long, difficult process, which will require the support, the mobilization and resolute action of all persons of good will in the United States and the world; approval on the part of the United Nations General Assembly, during its next session, of the resolution calling for its elimination; and in particular, concerted action by Our America.
Esteemed heads of state and government, Dear friends, We congratulate Costa Rica, President Solís and his government for the work done at the helm of CELAC. We welcome and offer our full support to Ecuador and President Correa, who will lead the Community in 2015. Many thanks