Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.M. / H.E. Rogelio Placido Sanchez Levis

The Cuban Revolution Takes on New Partners

Even with President Fidel Castro out of the political limelight, for the time being, Cuba is playing an increasingly important role on the international stage. Havana has assumed the leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement, and is determined to breathe new life into the organization until its term ends in 2008. H.E. Rogelio Placido Sanchez Levis, the Ambassador of Cuba to France, describes the stakes in this crucial campaign, at a time when the island is experiencing an unprecedented economic revival.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, the First Vice President and Minister of the Revolutionary Forces, General Raul Castro, took over as acting head of state on 31 July 2006. Could you talk about the challenges Cuban society will face when President Fidel Castro does eventually step aside for good?

H.E. Rogelio Placido Sanchez Levis:
The Cuban Revolution can only be understood in its continuity. The Commander in Chief has played a decisive role in Cuba’s political and cultural emancipation process. He can proudly claim responsibility for leading the struggle to build an independent nation for all these long years.
Fidel did admittedly inherit a historical legacy handed down by generations of illustrious Cubans, such as our national hero Jose Marti, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, and many other key figures. A century after Marti’s birth, Fidel planned and successfully carried out one of the most important political and military actions in Cuban history, bringing down the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1953. Before that date, other key events and important public figures showed that the revolutionary spirit and the cause of national liberation were not lost.
After Marti’s death, the struggle took on the bloody dictatorship of Gerardo Machado, in a stage that lasted from 1925 to 1933. We also fought fascism. In other words, the Revolution is the result of a historical process in which the main actor has been the people – and a string of exceptional leaders, of course – who overthrew Spanish colonialism, revolted against the brutality of slavery, never accepted the idea of being annexed by the United States, and put an end to its neocolonial U.S.-dominated condition in a radical and lasting manner.
Remarkable figures have distinguished themselves during each one of these stages. They fought alongside other important figures and other generations. This is true of Fidel, who shares the leadership of our country with highly courageous comrades who also played very important roles in their day.
We now have absolute guarantees that ensure the continuity of the Revolution: a strong, well defined identity; a deep-rooted political culture; a highly cultured people; and wide cohesion.

T.D.L.: In a speech made on 2 December 2006, First Vice President Raul Castro reiterated Cuba’s desire to find a diplomatic solution to the latent conflict with the United States. Given the hardening of the U.S. stance towards your country since June 2004, under what conditions could negotiations conceivably be opened? Will the arrival of a new American administration, after the November 2008 elections, be more conducive to rekindling the dialogue between your two countries?

We have been open to a dialogue that respects our independence for as long as the Revolution itself has been in existence. Fidel Castro has personally stated this, on several occasions.
First Vice President Raul Castro reiterated this stance just recently, on 2 December 2006: our country is ready to sit down around a negotiating table and resolve the drawn-out dispute between the United States and Cuba, based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, noninterference, and mutual respect. The conditions will remain the same for all North American administrations, be they republican or democratic. We will safeguard the freedom of the Cuban people, along with the independence and the sovereignty of our country, at any cost.

T.D.L.: After seeing its standard of living decline during the “Special Period” launched nearly 15 years ago, the island's economy is now growing steadily, with GDP rising more than 10% over the past two years. Has this new vitality given Cuba greater leeway in its campaign to reduce social inequalities and develop the country’s infrastructures?

Your question calls for a number of remarks. First, we had to rebuild our economy after the disintegration of the USSR. It was a major blow for us, causing our trade to drop by nearly 90%. Our economy also lost key sources of technology and financing. Meanwhile, the United States tightened the embargo. Despite these dramatic and exceptional conditions, we remained one of the countries with the highest human development, according to the United Nations index. Our infant mortality rate, for instance, continued to drop even during the worst years of the Special Period. It has now fallen to 5.3%, not to mention the 25 municipalities in 12 provinces where no children died at birth in 2006.
Second, Cuba is one of the countries with the greatest equity in income levels in the entire world, despite the painful and unpleasant measures taken in recent years in order to survive in the critical conditions I mentioned earlier. The introduction of the dollar was one of these measures. The use and free circulation of the dollar were legalized. Other measures were also taken to counteract the grave deficit in our external balance of payments.
How were we to overcome this sudden loss of our key markets and main sources of loans and capital? Introducing the dollar in our domestic market, and welcoming direct foreign investment in vital sectors of the economy, played a vital role in overcoming this blow. This also enabled us to avoid applying the “shock therapy” (currency devaluation and privatizations) advocated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We did not close a single school. Not one single patient stopped receiving medical care in hospitals. Our social security system was not affected. No companies were privatized. We have continued to defend our own model of solidarity and social justice.
Third, nearly three years after the collapse of Eastern Europe, Cuba has begun to boost its growth rate (more visibly since 1995) to an average of 4%. It has done so even with the United States’ open threats in full swing, even though trade with North American subsidiaries of foreign countries became impossible, though entrepreneurs from all around the world who are making investments in Cuba are being subjected to intimidation, and all access to World Bank and IMF loans has been cut off. This has, thus, been a true feat.
Fourth, Cuba has become one of the most dynamic economies in Latin America and the Caribbean, despite these stepped up threats and pressure. In 2006, the Cuban economy grew 12.5%. There have been extraordinary advances in fifteen years’ time. Our economy is more efficient, more productive, and better adapted to the international climate. We consume less energy, and protect the environment better. We are moving towards a service economy with high added value, in which tourism, services, medical products and equipment, biotechnology, and information sciences are playing a decisive role.
Fifth, we champion the principle that there can be no economic growth without social growth. This is why we are fostering programs that are closely tied to our people’s quality of life, such as housing, employment, the food and pharmaceutical industries, transportation, energy, health care, culture, education, and services for “senior citizens.”
Six, we are showing solidarity with the rest of the world. Cuba is cooperating with 155 countries and has forged ties with 1,846 solidarity organizations.
270,743 Cubans were involved in foreign cooperation efforts from 1963 until 2006, including 131,770 (48.7%) health care workers. 39,933 volunteers are currently lending their services in 105 countries. Most of them are in Latin America (88%) and Africa (6.6%). 30,945 (77.5%) of these volunteers are working in the health sector in 68 countries. 26,584 young people from 120 different countries are studying in Cuba. 21,124 (79.5%) of them are studying medicine, thanks to our new program for training doctors (NPFM).
Over the past seven years, Cuban medical brigades cooperating in foreign countries have conducted over 272 million medical consultations and operated on more than two million people.

T.D.L.: What is the Cuban government doing to further diversify and modernize the country’s economy, in light of the strong potential of the oil and biotechnology sectors?

There is, indeed, great potential in the energy sector. Not only due to our available resources and the prospects for developing our oil, natural gas and wind industries, but also due to the philosophy and consumption model advocated in the energy revolution currently being carried out in our country.
In less than two years, we will have doubled our electricity production capacity and cut our energy consumption by over 40%, thanks to a program that is replacing equipment that uses high amounts of energy and repairing our distribution networks, etc.
Biotechnology has an equally promising future. We are working with some 50 countries in this arena. More than 500 patents have been filed around the globe for biotechnical products; their use has already produced extraordinary results.
New research programs are also being carried out in the biotechnological industry, including cancer and AIDS programs. Our scientists have done great work in producing antiretroviral drugs, considerably reducing the number of opportunistic infections striking HIV-positive patients and thus improving their quality of life and life expectancies. We have also had great success in creating vaccines to fight cancer, a scourge that befalls hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.
As all these examples and a great many others show, our economy has undergone deep-reaching changes. We no longer depend on sugar cane. Tourism, the computer industry, biotechnology professional services and many other sectors are now part of the mix.

T.D.L.: Fifty years after the 1956 ouster of the Batista regime by the guerillas, the generation of Cubans who grew up during the Special Period are taking over the reins from the men and women who carried out the revolution. Could you summarize the aspirations of this new generation, and the key challenges it will have to face?
It was easier for the generations that lived through the revolutionary change of 1959, and those who were born shortly before it, to understand the breadth, signification and value of the Revolution. But younger Cubans, especially those who grew up with social benefits they consider only natural, often have no idea how much an intervention as complicated as a heart or liver transplant can cost anywhere else in the world, or how much it costs to study for a Ph.D.
These new generations did not live through Playa Giron, or the struggle in the Escambray Mountains, or the missile crisis. They grew up with material shortages and restrictions, with the political, moral, ideological and psychological impact of the collapse of socialism in countries that were the vanguard from the end of World War Two until the end of the eighties and start of the nineties.
Are these new generations being mobilized, and through what means? They understand the realities of the modern-day world, thanks to their deep-rooted identity and strong education and culture. They understand that Western Europe’s development model will never be a good alternative to the revolutionary program, but would only bring dependency on the United States, wider underdevelopment, and setbacks in every single area of life.
The example set by Fidel and his generation of revolutionaries serves as a source of inspiration for the very youngest Cubans. We have taken up the collective challenge of ensuring that the socialist system we are building is more just, more participative, more humane and more effective.

T.D.L.: During an official visit in Havana in April 2005, Presidents Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro presented the Venezuela-Cuba partnership as the “driving force behind the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).” Does this partnership have strategic importance outside of energy cooperation? President Daniel Ortega recently brought Nicaragua into the ALBA initiative. Could ALBA be expanded even further? What advantages does it offer your country?

The Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA) is an integration initiative that focuses on the battle against poverty and social exclusion. It therefore defends the interests of the peoples of Latin America.
ALBA has become more necessary than ever, as a development alternative for the world’s peoples and an instrument of resistance to self-centeredness. This is witnessed by the fact that the world’s peoples refuse to let one government – the government of the United States – become the master of the world.
Just two short years after it was launched, the ALBA project now unites four countries (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua) and is spreading out to conduct cooperative actions in many others. ALBA is much more than a trade agreement. It is an integration process designed to foster solidarity and cooperation.
ALBA’s chief areas of focus are: the battle against illiteracy, health care, access to education, energy integration, culture, creating infrastructures, etc.
The strides made to date can be summarized as follows:
– 30,000 doctors are cooperating in health services, 70,000 youngsters are training to become doctors;
– Two million Latin Americans have learned to read;
– More than 60,000 people with sight-related illnesses have been operated on;
– Countries are sending their technicians and professionals to work in other countries;
– Trade is now free of customs’ duties and absurd barriers;
– Companies are now jointly owned, which benefits the people instead of just profiting the owners;
– Loans, easy credit terms, investments, and unrestricted access to scientific advances, preventing knowledge from becoming a market commodity;
– A steady fuel supply, with easy financial terms and clear concepts of generosity and solidarity.
Other projects are also underway in key sectors, such as the creation of the Bank of the South to put an end to this absurd situation: our countries are financing the North American economy’s deficits with their monetary reserves, which are deposited in the United States. Some of this money flows back into the region in the form of high-interest loans, with irritating conditions, which are supervised by the World Bank, the IMF or the IDB.
ALBA was created not only with the aim of toppling the FTAA, but also with the objective of achieving social justice and guaranteeing that all our peoples have the right to develop. In short, the goal is to build a better world and to foster greater solidarity.

T.D.L.: Medical aid is a key part of Cuban diplomacy, as reflected by the “Operation Milagro.” In what ways do these acts of “social diplomacy” help your own country? Will their scope and number increase within the framework of trade systems like ALBA, which strives to enhance economic complimentary between member countries?

Operation “Miracle” was launched in 2004. The name was put forward by Cuban President Fidel Castro, with reference to the education plan set up in Venezuela back when a good many people, especially children, were unable to read or had problems with their eyesight.
That is how this initiative got started. It has now spread to 29 different countries. Operation Miracle puts the focus on human beings, irrespective of their social condition, age, or origins. The goal is to enable no less than six million patients to maintain or recover their eyesight in ten years’ time.
The rising numbers show that this operation has indeed spread into 29 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Cuba. 369,302 patients have already benefited from this program, including 53,400 in Latin America, 20,386 in the Caribbean, 216,043 Venezuelans, and 79,473 Cubans (in these countries, one out of every 1,288 inhabitants has participated in the program). The program plans for thirty ophthalmological centers and surgery units, eighteen of which are already operational.
The creation of the Henry Reeve International Doctors Contingent is another part of this operation. After Hurricane Katrina, the program offered to assist the American government for the first time, but never received an answer.
The Contingent conducted its first missions in Guatemala, Pakistan, Bolivia and Indonesia. Roughly 4,000 medical volunteers were involved in this work, which included setting up field hospitals in Pakistan and Indonesia. In 2006, Cuba also opened a nursing school in Dominica, attended by 150 students. Another school is in the works in Belize. In addition, 166 young people from Saint-Vincent and 23 more from Saint-Kitts are studying to become nurses in our country.

T.D.L.: The third Petro-Caribbean Summit, held on 7-8 June 2007, offers another example of the heightened cooperation between countries in this region. What else is Cuba doing to strengthen its ties with CARICOM member states? More broadly, what do you think of the changing political landscape across Latin America?
Cuba and CARICOM are united by ties built on fraternity and solidarity. We have a shared Caribbean identity, which affords us wider opportunities to cooperate and take joint stances promoting our shared values and objectives in various international forums and organizations.
Caribbean countries are our leading cooperation partner, which is a direct result of our long-standing political and cultural ties.
Our current relations are very dynamic and continue to steadily grow, which can be seen in the cooperation programs we have set up founded on mutual respect and the principle of shared responsibility. These programs target areas such as environmental protection and preservation, sustainable use of natural resources, notably in the Caribbean Sea, and the battle against terrorism and organized crime. In fact, CARICOM has hailed Cuba’s efforts in support of the battle against the HIV-AIDS pandemic and climate change.
Cuba, in turn, welcomes the solidarity showed by the countries of CARICOM, which have firmly refused the criminal blockade imposed upon our nation. They have also renewed their commitment to the battle against all forms of terrorism.
Cuba continues to encourage cooperation, with the opening of a new medical school on the island where 400 young people from CARICOM countries will be able to come and study medicine. 1,400 Cuban medical professionals and technicians are currently applying their efforts and skills in eleven different sectors, to enhance the economic and social development of these countries. They include more than 800 doctors, nurses and medical technicians.
Over the past 45 years, more than 2,400 young people from CARICOM have earned degrees in Cuba, including over 700 who majored in medicine. More than 300 of the 1,500 CARICOM students currently in Cuba will earn a physician's degree.
On a broader level, Cuba has been pleased to see the peoples of Latin America gradually start expressing, in recent years, their indignation and rejection of government policies and traditional political parties that are still subordinated to the Empire.

T.D.L.: Just days before the first South American Energy Summit was set to open in Venezuela on 18 April, Cuba’s head of state strongly condemned using food to make biofuels. How do you account for the Summit’s adoption of the Margarita Declaration, which clearly supports biofuels? Doesn’t you country have wide potential in this sector, with its high sugar production capacity? What kind of balance will the Cuban government have to strike in order to successfully apply the principles of sustainable development?

Hunger is one of the most complex global problems currently facing mankind. There are now over two million starving people on our planet. There is no indication this number will shrink in the near or long-term future.
Some 80 million new human beings come into the world every year. They require food that is getting increasingly difficult to produce, due, among other things, to soil degradation and the harmful effects of climate change on the soil and on farming in particular.
If biofuels become a new energy paradigm, this situation will become unbearable. It will have dramatic and very dangerous consequences.
Our president has indeed issued a warning about this all-important issue. The world’s most developed economies do not have sufficient land surfaces at their disposal to meet their enormous energy needs. And so the underdeveloped countries in the South will have to sacrifice large swaths of land, which will undermine their food security and will pollute their air, soil, rivers, crops, and drinking water sources. Another thing that must be considered is the tragic consequences this will have on farmers in a variety of different areas.
The key to solving this will be changing the world’s consumption model, which must be more rational. The current rate of consumption is intolerable. The United States now consumes five times more energy than the world average.
We are carrying out an “Energy Revolution” in Cuba, to ensure that energy is used in a more rational and more efficient manner. We are replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones, and replacing high energy consuming industrial equipment and household appliances. This has enabled us to cut our energy demand by 30% in less than two years’ time. Meanwhile, we have improved and considerably increased the generation and distribution of electricity by installing generators and renovating our power plants and distribution networks.
The development of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydraulic energy is a vital part of our new economic, social and human development strategy.
In these conditions, it is impossible to use our sugar cane production to make ethanol. Low yield levels – due to a fatal mix of drought, intense rains, and long milder winters, along with soil degradation over the past two centuries due to intensive use of the land – have taken that choice away from us.
Cuba’s advances in achieving sustainable development have been hailed by the World Wildlife Foundation. Our rational use of energy and development of alternative sources, along with our high human development index (50th in the world in 2006) have been decisive factors in achieving these results.

T.D.L.: Cuba has managed to strengthen its position on the international stage and bolster its ties with China, despite the tightening of the US economic embargo. Could you describe the key areas of focus in Sino-Cuban cooperation for our readers?

China is a nation with which we have long-standing ties built on friendship and deep-rooted solidarity.
This “Asian giant” carries undeniable weight in the world economy and is exerting growing influence in international politics. China hence become a permanent member of the Security Council, and, as such, is playing an increasingly active role in the deciphering of complex international problems.
It is truly impressive to see how deep the Sino-Cuban political dialogue has become, and the growing number of shared views they are expressing in multilateral forums and organizations.
In 2006, Sino-Cuban trade exceeded USD 2 million. Our economic cooperation branched out into areas of strategic importance to both countries, such as the medical and pharmaceutical industries, biotechnology, the nickel and steel industries, electronics, transportation, the hotel industry, and many other areas.
Our bilateral relations have also been marked by China’s financing of several major development programs in Cuba.
Finally, let me just add that we admire the history, courage and rich culture of this beautiful people. We have great confidence in this age-old culture and its determination to take on the big challenges of both the present and the future.

T.D.L.: Cuba has also strengthened its ties with Russia, as witnessed by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov’s state visit to Havana in September 2006 and the signing in December of a protocol on bilateral political consultation. Could you talk about this rekindling of ties, seven years after Vladimir Putin’s historic visit to Cuba?

Cuba and Russia currently have the best relations they have had since the collapse of the USSR. They are steadily increasing, without restraint, the number of exchanges between their foreign affairs ministers, enhancing their political dialogue, and expanding their ties in a variety of areas.
In 2006, Russia decided to provide Cuba with a government loan that considerably expanded our economic and bilateral trade ties.
Russian-Cuban trade now exceeds USD 300 billion; our cooperation has branched out into several new sectors. Tourism is becoming an important part of our relations.
Cuba and Russia share views on a broad range of issues on the international agenda, including issues related to the UN’s role and the principles set out in its Charter, which serve as the foundation of international law.
Our government is determined to keep strengthening our ties with Russia, in light of the traditionally friendly relations that unite our two peoples.
What’s more, we recognize that Russia has a decisive role to play in advocating greater multilateralism in international relations, building strong North-South cooperation, and maintaining international peace and security.

T.D.L.: In September 2006 Cuba took over the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement. It has made renewing this organization a top priority until its term ends in 2009. In light of the drive to reform the United Nations and the international financial system, what can NAM do it increase its weight in the debate on bolstering multilateralism? What key areas should be focused upon, as we work to rebalance ties between countries of the North and developing countries?

The high level of participation and success of the Havana summit bear witness to the fact that the Movement is still a relevant mechanism for addressing the most pressing international problems and finding solutions for them.
Cuba took over the presidency of NAM with a great sense of responsibility and a deep commitment, with full awareness of the political signification of this move.
The Movement’s large membership and representativeness give it strong powers of attraction and permit it to yield influence in a variety of international forums.
The unilateralism imposed by the United States, as a way of taking action on the international scene, is having increasingly harmful effects. The Non-Aligned Movement has thus stepped up to play a key role in promoting multilateralism, respect for the principles of international law, the peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts, United Nations reform, and joint actions to overcome problems with the greatest impact on mankind, including underdevelopment, the exhaustion of energy resources, and climate change.
Among the various documents approved by our heads of state and government, I would like to mention the Declaration on Palestine, in which the Movement reaffirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian people’s cause. In their final statement, NAM countries also denounced the widespread and indiscriminate bombing of Lebanese civilians, calling it a grave violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter concerning international law and international humanitarian law.
Our main goal is to reenergize the Movement and put it at the heart of the great challenges our world is facing at this time.

T.D.L.: The 14th NAM Summit also gave Cuba a chance to underscore the bogging down of the war in Iraq and the upheaval in the Middle East. What do you think will have to be done in order to stabilize the Middle East? How would you assess the war on terrorism six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, which were roundly condemned by Fidel Castro? Is your country cooperating with the international community in this arena?

The Non-Aligned Movement has given its clear, just, befitting and well deserved support to the cause of our brothers the Palestinians. The Palestinian nation has more than amply earned the right to exist.
It is of utmost importance that the United States allow the enforcement of the United Nations resolutions defining the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as this is an essential condition for resolving the Mideast conflict.
As you underscored, when we expressed our solidarity with the North American people after the Sept. 11th 2001 attacks (we were the first ones to condemn these acts), and offered our aid to the American government in the form of a humanitarian cooperation program, we also condemned all terrorism, irrespective of the circumstances, or who carried it out, or who was behind it.
We have taken this stance on principle, based on our own moral experience, as we too have been the victims of this scourge throughout our history.
Cuba has seen more than 2,000 of its children die, felled by terrorist acts committed with the complicity of the United States government.
We are currently fighting to see that one of the most infamous terrorists in contemporary history be brought to justice. I am talking about Luis Posada Carriles, a CIA flunky who has admitted to blowing up a Cubana de Aviacion airliner in midair.
The North American government has refused to qualify him as a terrorist or to extradite him to the countries that have opened judicial proceedings against him, in flagrant violation of international law and even North American law.
Cuba has signed all twelve international agreements pertaining to the United States’ war on terror. The North American government, for its part, rejected a program put forward by Cuba to help fight terrorism in our region.
I would like to underscore that the countries of the Caribbean, conversely, have been a vital partner for Cuba in the battle to wipe out terrorism.

T.D.L.: Cuba and other NAM countries have voiced their support for Iran’s nuclear program. What do you think of the United Nations Security Council’s efforts to impose sanctions on Iran? What is your approach to the problem of the spread of weapons of mass destruction around the globe.

The 14th Non-Aligned Movement Summit, held in Havana, clearly stated its opinion in defense of the inalienable right of all States to use atomic energy for peaceful ends. A large majority of the States thus condemned all attempts to deprive a country of its rights in this area.
The NAM Summit’s final statement confirmed the essential and inalienable right of all States to research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful ends. It also rejected any attempt to monopolize nuclear technology and denounced the hypocrisy of applying double standards. In other words, the countries in the Movement reject the idea that countries which already possess nuclear weapons can upgrade them and increase their stockpiles, while these very same powers prohibit other countries to use nuclear energy to produce electricity for medical use, in short, for peaceful ends.
We are in favor of general and complete disarmament, which would be the best way to guarantee the stability and survival of the human race. It is absolutely useless to curb nuclear use by one group of countries, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to allow another group to continue producing ever more sophisticated weapons with greater lethal capacity.
The United States carries a great responsibility in this area. When we are dealing with an issue this important, there is no room for double standards.
We are deeply committed to disarmament. We are a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), as well as the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Tlatelolco Treaty). And we continue to defend this stance in spite of our primary adversary: the world’s number-one nuclear power.

T.D.L.: While he was in Geneva this past March to speak before the United Nations Human Rights Council, Foreign Affairs Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Cuba was ready to be more open about the human rights situation in the country. Are steps being taken in this direction? How do you answer critics who say there is no real freedom of speech and opinion in Cuba? What would serve as the foundation of the “real system to promote and protect human rights” called for by Minister Perez Roque?

I believe you are referring to the speech the Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister made on 13 March 2007 at the high-level meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In his speech our minister spoke, first, as the representative of a State that currently holds the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, about the results of the 14th NAM Summit in Havana, concerning issues of interest to the Council.
Minister Felipe Perez Roque expressed the opinion of the countries in attendance, who reject the selectiveness and double standards exercised in promoting and protecting human rights, as well as the use of this issue to achieve political ends. He also referred to the call by this bloc of countries to make the right to development an equally high priority as all other human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Cuban leader also issued a warning that the Council risked discrediting itself – as was the case with the former Human Rights Commission – by politicizing the issue and employing double standards, even before its operational mechanisms and working methods were laid out.
In saying this, the Cuban minister was expressing the views of the member countries of the United Nations, who refuse to have the Council opt for selectivity and political manipulation, and transform itself into a tribunal of inquisition against the poor countries of the South while guaranteeing impunity for rich countries.
When will the human rights violations at Guantanamo be condemned, or the violations committed by the occupiers in Iraq, or the violations perpetrated by the Israeli government in the occupied Palestinian territory?
Cuba has been historically committed to promoting and protecting human rights, in tune with the humanist philosophy of the Revolution itself. The Cuban people have already won wide rights: employment, social security, health care, housing, culture, education, land for all those who work the land, gender equality, and participation in the political running of society. Now we simply need to perfect and enhance these rights.
We have confirmed our commitment to human rights at the international level. We have ratified the 15 key human rights treaties, and have been visited by special rapporteurs as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
We believe there is a still a great deal more to be done around the world in defense of human rights, including in the extremely important area you mentioned in your question: freedom of speech. As long as so many of the means of communication are concentrated in so few hands, as long as journalists continue to be killed, we need to continue the global efforts in this arena.
On this issue, like so many others, Cuba will remain open to dialogue and exchange.

T.D.L.: On 2-3 April of this year, Foreign Affairs Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos became the first high-level Spanish leader to make an official visit to Cuba since 1998. Your countries have signed cooperation agreements and set up a dialogue mechanism. What do you think prompted the Spanish government to initiate this rapprochement? Could it lead Cuba to reconsider its ties with the European Union, which have been on ice ever since the EU imposed sanctions against your country in 2003?

Minister Moratinos’ visit to Havana is part of the process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the European Union, in which Spain has played a key role.
We are working to amend a policy that has strayed from the foundations on which our ties with the rest of the world are built, namely: respect for sovereignty and independence, and noninterference.
This is why the commitment by the Spanish and Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministers to rekindle our political, economic, trade and cooperation ties, based on principles established by international law, is so important.
We are determined to maintain ties with Europe, a continent to which we are linked by deep historical and cultural ties. These ties are the bedrock of a multifaceted relation. In fact, taken as a whole, Europe is the leading direct investor in our economy, our second trade partner, and the leading supplier of tourists to Cuba. We are also ready and willing to conduct exchanges across the board, including political exchanges, on a basis of mutual respect.
Each new sign of rapprochement between Cuba and the European Union no doubt troubles the United States, which is ready to use its cronies inside Europe to prevent us from normalizing relations.

T.D.L.: Cuban-French ties, which were established in 1975 with the signing of the first bilateral cooperation agreement, have been rather limited for the past four years. How would you assess France’s diplomatic stance towards your country? Do you think the election of the new French government will open up new opportunities to bolster relations between the two countries?

Cuba and France have been steadily building ties throughout their history, based on a natural and mutual affinity between our two peoples.
Political thought and action during the 19th century in Cuba were deeply marked by three great revolutions: the North American revolution, the Haitian revolution, and the French revolution. The latter left a deep imprint on Cuba, for everything that L’Illustration embodied in the artistic, intellectual and political arenas; for the great admiration aroused by the Encyclopedists; and for the principles displayed in this extraordinary process of change. It is all so true that our flag, our national anthem, our arts, our music, and so many other Cuban traditions have been deeply marked by this revolution.
This is why the conditions are already in place for overcoming our adversaries and facing the future bolstered by the great many things we have in common, which unite us with the French people.

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