An Uprising at the United Nations (Part 2)

When Bruno concluded his speech around midday last October 26, as is the norm, it was then time for the explanations of vote prior to the resolution being submitted to the vote.

First to speak was U.S. ambassador Ronald D. Godard, senior area advisor for western hemisphere affairs and head of his country’s delegation. His extraordinary words render analysis unnecessary in order to demonstrate that the denunciations of the Cuban foreign minister were absolutely just. His own affirmations suffice to reflect the callous cynicism of that country’s policy.

“The United States of America […] is firmly committed to supporting the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their country’s future.”

“The United States of America […] has the sovereign right to conduct its economic relationship with another country. The U.S. economic relationship with Cuba is a bilateral issue […] meant to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

“We should not lose sight of that in a debate mired in rhetorical arguments of the past and focused on tactical differences—a debate that does nothing to help the Cuban people.”

“My delegation regrets that the delegation from Cuba continues, year after year, to inappropriately and incorrectly label U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba as an act of genocide. […] the United States holds no restriction on humanitarian aid to Cuba…”

“The United States in 2009 […] authorized $237 million in private humanitarian assistance in the form of gift parcels filled with food and other basic necessities, non-agricultural humanitarian donations, and medical donations.”

“In April 2009, President Obama stated ‘the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,’ but ‘there is a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome the decades of mistrust.’ […] we have initiated talks to re-establish direct mail service between the United States and Cuba, and we have increased artistic and cultural exchanges…”

“President Obama has stated publicly that the release of political prisoners and economic reforms are positive for the Cuban people. The United States hopes to see the fulfillment of these promises soon as well as a broader opening by the Cuban government to signal its willingness to engage constructively with its own people. […] it is the view of the United States that a new era in U.S.-Cuban relations cannot be fully realized until the Cuban people enjoy the internationally-recognized political and economic freedoms that this body has done so much to defend in other countries around the world.”

“My delegation will vote against this resolution. Indeed, the United States believes that it is high time for this body to focus its energies on supporting the Cuban people in their quest to freely decide their own future and move beyond the rhetorical posturing that this resolution represents.

“Thank you, Mr. President.”

Immediately after, explaining her intention of vote, came the head of the delegation from Nicaragua, whose people experienced the horrors of Ronald Reagan’s dirty war that caused so much bloodshed. Her words were forceful and convincing.

The vote took place and 187 countries voted in favor of the Resolution; two votes against: the United States and Israel, its inseparable ally in genocidal actions; and three abstentions: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. Every country out of the 192 member states of the UN participated.

After the vote, the Belgian representative – on behalf of the European Union and an ally of the United States – opened the discussion for the delegations who wished to explain their vote.

Then, 16 countries with an outstanding leading role in international politics spoke to explain why they had voted in favor of the resolution. They appeared in the following order: Uruguay, Bolivia, Angola, Myanmar, Surinam, Belarus, St. Kitts & Nevis, Laos, Tanzania, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Vietnam, Nigeria, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

You should remember that many countries refrained from speaking at the request of our own delegation so that the voting process was not prolonged too much to the detriment of the best timetable for the development of the debate, and the overwhelming effort implied by the participation of a significant number of speakers. Despite that, 37 delegations spoke in very clear and precise terms in favor of the just resolution that, for the 19th occasion, was passed by the UN General Assembly. On this occasion, it was the most prolonged and energetic debate on that delicate and important issue.

At 4:17pm, Cuba’s reply was heard via the minister of foreign affairs of our country.

The essence of what he said, although almost all of the text was essential, was:

Mr. President:

“I would like to thank the three speakers for their words and the delegations present in this unexpected early evening session.

“Regarding what was said by the United States and the European Union:

“This is the 19th occasion on which the U.S. delegation has repeated the same things to us.

“The blockade is an act of economic warfare and an act of genocide.

“Could it be that the State Department has not done its homework or studied the matter?

“Last year, I read here the articles of the corresponding conventions…”

“I have already read here today Mr. Mallory’s famous memorandum.

“These are not “ideological arguments” from the past. The blockade is an old ice floe left over from the Cold War. It is not a rhetorical matter, but an act of aggression against Cuba.

“The aim of the United States is not to help or support the Cuban people. It is well known that the blockade provokes hardship and suffering. It does not provoke deaths because the Cuban Revolution prevents that. How can it justify punishing Cuban children as has been described here? If it wants to help or support the Cuban people, the only thing it has to do is lift the blockade immediately.

“Why do they prevent U.S. citizens from visiting Cuba and receiving information at first hand? Why do they restrict the so-called “people to people” contacts?

“The pretexts for the blockade have changed over time. First, for allegedly belonging to the Chinese-Soviet axis; then the supposed export of revolution to Latin America; then the presence of Cuban troops in Africa to help defeat the apartheid system, preserve Angolan independence and achieve it in Namibia.

“Later, the manipulation of human rights. But the blockade is a brutal violation of the human rights of the Cuban people.

“We are willing to discuss human rights violations. We could start with the concentration camp in Guantánamo where torture is practiced and habeas corpus does not exist. It is the kingdom of “Military Commissions,” outside of the rule of law. Could the U.S. delegation explain what happened in the camps of Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Nama?

“Were charges brought against those responsible? Were charges brought against those in European governments who authorized the secret prisons in Europe and the secret CIA flights carrying individuals who had been kidnapped? Can the representative of the European Union clarify that matter?

“We could talk about Wikileaks. Why don’t they tell us something about the atrocities detailed in the 75,000 documents on crimes committed in Afghanistan or the 400,000 on Iraq?”

“Changes in Cuba are a matter for the Cuban people. We will change everything that has to be changed, for the good of the Cuban people, but we will not ask for the opinion of the U.S. government. We freely chose our destiny. For that reason, we made a revolution. They will be sovereign changes, not “gestures”. We know that the only thing that would satisfy the United States would be the installation of a pro-yanki government in Cuba. But that is not going to happen.”

“You want cooperation between our universities? Eliminate the restrictions on academic, student, scientific and cultural exchanges and allow us to establish agreements between these institutions.

“You want cooperation on issues such as drug-trafficking, terrorism, human-trafficking, natural disasters and mail services? Respond, at the very least, to the proposal that we presented, unconditionally, more than one year ago.”

“A high-ranking official with USAID confirmed yesterday to journalist Tracey Eaton that, during the most recent period, $15.6 million dollars have been handed over to (and I quote) ‘individuals on the ground in Cuba.’ That’s what they call their mercenaries.

“The illegal radio and television broadcasts continue.

“The five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters are still unjustly incarcerated. Recently, with no motive whatsoever, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo was subjected to solitary confinement and denied medical attention.

“Self-confessed international terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Posada Carriles freely walk the streets in Miami and even participate in political activities there.”

“The blockade is abusively extraterritorial and affects all those present here. It is not a bilateral matter.

“Mr. President:

“I have little to add to what has already been said about the European Union:

“We do not recognize any moral or political authority whatsoever on the part of that body in terms of human rights.

“It would do better to concern itself with its brutal anti-immigrant policy, the deportation of minorities, the violent repression of demonstrators and the growing social exclusion of its unemployed and low-income sectors.

“Shamelessly and disgracefully, the European Parliament devotes itself to awarding prizes to the paid agents of the U.S. government in Cuba.

“But the European Union is dreaming if it believes that it will be able to normalize relations with Cuba while the so-called Common Position exists.

“Thank you very much.”

We were all expecting the United States’ reply to Bruno’s reply. The best thing that the U.S. ambassador, and the delegation, did in his life – and without making the derogatory gesture of leaving the hall – was to withstand that volley of irrefutable arguments. Cuba’s reply left them paralyzed; I had the sensation that they were progressively fading away until disappearing from the scenario.

Over 50 years of blockade, the superpower has not been able to, nor will be able to, defeat the Cuban Revolution. I did not devote myself to the exercise of counting votes in favor or against the “Resolution.” Instead, I observed the warmth and the conviction of those who spoke against the unjust and arbitrary measure. It is an error to believe that that measure can be maintained indefinitely. It was an uprising. The peoples have had enough of aggression, plunder, abuse and deceit.

Never did the delegations express with such vigor their protest at the mockery implied by the contemptuous disregard of the world community’s just condemnation of an act of genocide, which is reiterated year after year. They are aware that the gravest act is the systematic plunder of their natural resources imposed on the majority of the peoples of the planet, the progressive scarcity of foodstuffs, the destruction of the environment, the growing number of genocidal wars against other peoples, supported by military bases located in more than 75 countries, and the growing danger of a suicidal conflagration for all the peoples of the world.

The UN cannot exist without the presence of the peoples who are demanding the end of the blockade. What use is that institution, which came into existence when the vast majority of us were not even independent, without us? What right do we have, if we cannot even demand that the blockade imposed on a little country must end? In one way or another we have been subordinated to the interests of the United States and NATO, a warmongering military organization that squanders more than one trillion dollars every year on wars and weapons, a sum that would be more than enough to bring the essentials to all the peoples of the world.

Many Third World countries are finding themselves obliged to seek solutions independently of what happens to the rest; it is like walking on an escalator that is moving in the opposite direction at a higher speed.

What is needed is a genuinely democratic UN and not an imperial fiefdom in which the vast majority of nations count for nothing. The UN, founded before the end of World War II, is exhausted. We should not allow the imposition of the ridiculous role of meeting again in 12 months to be made a mockery of. Let us make our demand felt and save the life of our species before it is too late.
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Fidel Castro Ruz
November 1, 2010
5:53 p.m.