Like the Virus, the Blockade Suffocates and Kills, and it Must Stop!

Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, at the presentation of the draft Resolution Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba, New York, June 23, 2021.

Your Excellency, Mr. President:

Your Excellencies, Permanent Representatives:

Distinguished Delegates:

In the year 2020, Cuba, like the rest of the world, had to face the extraordinary challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States Government took on the virus as an ally in its ruthless unconventional war; it deliberately and opportunistically tightened the economic, commercial and financial blockade; and caused the country losses of around 5 billion dollars.

President Donald Trump applied 243 unilateral coercive measures to restrict the arrival of U.S. travelers and damage third-party tourism markets; adopted wartime measures to deprive us of fuel supplies; persecuted the health services we provide in numerous countries; increased harassment of commercial and financial transactions in other markets; and set out to intimidate foreign investors and commercial entities with the application of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.

It also prevented the regular and institutional flow of remittances to Cuban families, dealt harsh blows to the self-employed or private sector and hindered links with Cubans living in the United States and family reunification.

All these measures are still in force today and in full practical application and, paradoxically, they are shaping the conduct of the current U.S. Government, precisely in the months in which Cuba has experienced the greatest increase of infected people, the highest number of deaths and a higher economic effect of the COVID-19.

The Democratic Party’s campaign platform promised voters to quickly reverse the actions taken by the Donald Trump Administration, in particular the elimination of restrictions on travel to Cuba, remittances and compliance with bilateral migration agreements, including visas.

It has been demonstrated that a large majority of Americans support the lifting of the blockade and their freedom to travel to the Island, and that Cubans living in this country want normal relations and welfare for their families.

Some blame this pernicious inertia on the electoral ambitions associated with Florida or the far from transparent balances of the political and legislative elites in Washington.

What will those who voted for President Joseph Biden think of what is happening?

Mr. President:

The human damage of the blockade is incalculable. No Cuban family’s life escapes the effects of this inhuman policy. No one could honestly affirm that it does not have a real impact on the population.

In the field of health, it is still impossible to access equipment, technologies, devices, treatments and suitable drugs that we are prevented from acquiring from U.S. companies and which have to be obtained at exorbitant prices, with intermediaries or replaced with less effective generics, even for newborns and sick children.

But now, the cruel blow to our finances and the expenses associated with COVID-19, in the order of 2 billion pesos and 300 million dollars, also cause the lack or instability of medicines for hospital use that represent the difference between life and death, and daily difficulties for people to acquire insulin, antibiotics, painkillers, those used to treat blood pressure, allergies and other chronic diseases on time.

Cuba sought to protect everyone from the virus, activated its universal and solid health system and counted on the selflessness, willingness to sacrifice and high qualification of its personnel; it mobilized the national scientific potential and its world-class bio-pharmaceutical industry; and it had the support and consensus of the people and, especially, of the young people and students who volunteered to go to the risk areas and to the epidemiological investigations.

That is why we were able to rapidly develop highly effective national protocols for the care of those infected and suspected of COVID-19, to create hospitalization capacities for all those infected; to guarantee the full sustainability of intensive care services, the institutional isolation of the contacts of the sick, free access to PCR or antigen tests; as well as the implementation of molecular biology laboratories in all the provinces of the country.

When the blockade cruelly prevented the supply of pulmonary ventilators, Cuba developed its national production with its own prototypes.

All this effort of the Nation has made it possible to maintain, comparatively speaking, a very low lethality of the pandemic, especially among health personnel, infants, children and pregnant women.

It is remarkable that a small blockaded island has produced 5 vaccine candidates and applied 3 of these, in intervention studies or health interventions, to 2 million 244,350 Cubans with at least one dose and intends to vaccinate 70% of its population during this summer and the whole population before the end of the year, despite the fact that the blockade is severely hindering the industrial scaling up of these productions.

This is an illustrative result of the efforts of science in the service of the people and of the efficiency of the public service.

When, during the pandemic, the slanderous campaign of the US government against medical cooperation intensified, Cuba sent 57 specialized brigades of the Henry Reeve International Contingent to 40 countries or territories, who joined the more than 28,000 health professionals who were already serving 59 nations at that time.

The blockade also deprived the national industry of financing to import the necessary inputs for food production, which caused a drop in pork production and other goods.

Food imports from the United States are carried out under strict licenses and discriminatory conditions and their discreet amounts are incomparable with the enormous damage of the blockade on finances and the effects of its extraterritorial application in third markets.

I bear witness to the suffering and anxiety caused in Cuban families by the shortage and instability of essential and staple products, visible in long lines, which daily overwhelm Cubans in the midst of the pandemic.

The shortages in stores and the excessive increase in prices, despite the enormous efforts of the Government, are also decisively impacted by the measures to tighten the blockade, in conditions of pandemic and global economic crisis.

As expressed by Army General Raul Castro, last April 16, and I quote, “the damage that these measures cause to the standard of living of the population is neither fortuitous nor the result of collateral effects, it is the consequence of a deliberate purpose to punish, as a whole, the Cuban people”. End of quote.

The blockade is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of the entire Cuban people which, according to Article II, paragraph c of the Geneva Convention of 1948, constitutes an act of genocide.

Mr. President:

The U.S. authorities have cynically tried to sow the idea of the failure of the system and the inefficiency of the Cuban Government; that the coercive measures do not affect the people nor are they really a significant factor in the difficulties of the national economy.

But let’s look at the data. From April 2019 to December 2020, the blockade produced damages for 9,157 million dollars at current prices, 436 million dollars per month of damages on average. In the last five years, the losses caused by this concept exceeded 17 billion dollars. The accumulated damage in six decades amounts to 147,853 billion dollars at current prices, and at the value of gold, one trillion 377 billion.

Last June 10, our banking and financial system was forced to temporarily suspend the acceptance of cash deposits of US dollars, an essential measure in view of the obstacles caused by the blockade to dispose of that currency or give it value in use. This is a step that was to be avoided, but which could not be postponed.

This is an economic war of extraterritorial scope, against a small country; already affected in the recent period by the recession and the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic that has deprived us of indispensable income, such as that derived from tourism.

As stated by President Miguel Díaz-Canel last April 19, I quote, “no one with a minimum of honesty and with economic data that are in the public domain can be unaware that this siege constitutes the main obstacle to the development of the country and to progress in the search for prosperity and welfare”. End of quote.

What would happen, I ask, to other economies, even in rich countries, if they were subjected to similar conditions? What would be the social or political effects?

Mr. President:

The blockade is a politically motivated act, perfectly described in the infamous memorandum of Undersecretary of State Léster Mallory, April 6, 1960, which I quote:

“All possible means must be quickly put into practice to weaken economic life (…) by denying Cuba money and supplies in order to reduce nominal and real wages, with the objective of provoking hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.” End of quote.

It is maliciously complemented by an intense campaign of political interference in internal affairs, with subversion programs to which the U.S. Government devotes tens of millions of dollars each year from the federal budget and additional sums of covert funds. The purpose is to produce political and social instability in the context of economic difficulties caused by the US Government itself.

They calculate that if they subject the Cuban population to hardships and promote artificial leaders who incite disorder and instability, they could generate a virtual political movement in the social networks and then take it to the real world.

They employ considerable resources, social laboratories and high-tech tools in an unbridled campaign aimed at discrediting Cuba through the shameless use of lies and manipulation of data. They unleash a renewed McCarthyism, ideological intolerance and the brutal attack against those who defend the truth.

Some dream of provoking social chaos, disorder, violence and death. It is not strange, because this is a political weapon already used against other countries, with disastrous consequences.

A few are delirious about provoking an irregular and uncontrolled migratory flow between Cuba and the United States. This is a dangerous gamble, about which we have alerted the U.S. Government, which has the legal and moral obligation to honor the migratory agreements, particularly in the matter of visas. This is a sensitive issue that costs lives.

Mr. President:

The States represented here are victims of the extraterritorial impact of the blockade which harms their sovereignty, infringes their national legislations, subjects them to decisions of US courts of justice and harms the interests of their companies wishing to have relations with both countries, all in violation of International Law.

It is neither legal nor ethical for the government of a power to subject a small nation, for decades, to incessant economic warfare in order to impose a foreign political system and a government of its own design. It is unacceptable to deprive an entire people of the right to peace, development, well-being and human progress.

It is not permissible, it is unacceptable, that the United States Government should ignore for 28 years the successive resolutions of this democratic and representative General Assembly of the United Nations.

In September 2000, the Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro said on this podium, and I quote: “it must be firmly stated that the principle of sovereignty cannot be sacrificed for the sake of an exploitative and unjust order in which, supported by power and force, a hegemonic superpower pretends to decide everything”. End of quote.

Cuba’s demand is to be left in peace, to live without a blockade, to stop the persecution of our commercial and financial ties with the rest of the world.

We demand an end to manipulation, discrimination and the cessation of obstacles to the links of Cubans living in the United States with their relatives in Cuba and with the country where they were born. We recognize the efforts of those who, in this difficult time, have persisted in communicating with and supporting their families on the island in the face of hatred and political persecution.

Many argue pragmatically, even within the US Government, that the blockade should be ended because it is an anachronistic and ineffective policy, which has not and will not achieve its objective, and has ended up discrediting and isolating the United States itself.

It is also unacceptable to manipulate the fight against terrorism for political and electoral purposes.
In January of this year, 9 days before the inauguration of the current administration, President Trump’s administration included Cuba in an arbitrary and unilateral list of States that allegedly sponsor international terrorism, which, however, has significant effects on the global financial system.

No one can honestly argue that Cuba is a country sponsoring terrorism, no one! Recent revelations made the last of the pretexts look ridiculous.

Even so, last May 14, the State Department once again labeled Cuba, just as it had done in 2020, during the previous administration, as a country that does not cooperate enough with U.S. anti-terrorist efforts.

Cuba has been the victim of terrorist actions organized, financed and executed by the U.S. Government or from U.S. territory, which have cost the lives of 3,478 Cubans and disabilities to 2,099. There is more than enough evidence of attempts at cooperation and also of acts of effective cooperation in recent years between the agencies of both countries.

Our position on terrorism is known to be one of absolute condemnation of that practice whatever its form and manifestations.

Mr. President:

By sovereign decision and for the good of the whole Nation, Cuba has been making a sustained effort for years to update its model and the socialist State, based on law and social justice, with the support of a very large majority of its citizens in a free, direct and universal referendum.

This is a bold and highly complex task in any circumstance, which becomes much more difficult in the face of the persistent hostility of U.S. imperialism which, in no case, will stop us or bend the will of current and future generations of Cubans.

I am deeply grateful for the solidarity aid of our compatriots and of Cuba’s friends in different latitudes, which we appreciate so much, including that which, with great effort, in the face of your government’s opposition, has been able to arrive from this country.

We are encouraged by the support of thousands of people around the world who have gathered these days to demand the US government to put an end to the blockade. Among the protagonists are numerous Cubans who are extolling the flag of the Lone Star, even here.

On behalf of my country, of its worthy and generous people who resist and advance heroically, I submit for your consideration draft resolution a/75/l.97, “Necessity of putting an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.

Like the virus, the blockade suffocates and kills, and it must stop!

Fatherland or Death! We shall overcome!

Some of the actions of the U.S. blockade against Cuba

February 1959

Since February 6, 1959, the National Bank of Cuba had stated that its deposit of 424 million dollars in US banks had been stolen by Batista’s leaders and, despite the official claim, not a single cent was returned to the Republic of Cuba.

April 1960

The transnationals Esso, Texaco and Shell, at the request of the US Government, restrict the export of fuel to Cuba, and in June 1960 President Eisenhower decreed the reduction of 700,000 tons of the Cuban sugar quota in the US market.

September 1960

On September 24, 1960, the US Government notified the suspension of operations of the Nicaro nickel plant, owned by the US Government.

Following the policy of economically stifling the nascent Cuban Revolution, on October 19, 1960, general measures were put into effect prohibiting US exports to Cuba.

December 1960

On December 16, 1960, Eisenhower totally abolishes the Cuban sugar quota for the first three months of 1961.

January 1961

The United States breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba.

March 1961

On March 31, 1961, President John F. Kennedy completely abolishes the Cuban sugar quota in the U.S. market for 1961 (three million tons).

March 1961

On March 31, 1961, President John F. Kennedy totally abolishes the Cuban sugar quota in the US market for 1961 (three million tons).

February 1962

On February 3, 1962, President John F. Kennedy decreed under the legal authority of Section 620(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, Presidential Proclamation 3447 (27 FR 1085), which imposed the embargo on trade between the US and Cuba; he instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to implement it with respect to imports, and the Secretary of Commerce to continue the embargo previously imposed on exports. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Treasury were also authorized to administer and modify the embargo. Proclamation 3447 went into effect on February 7.

March 1962

Fifty-nine years ago, on March 24, 1962, the US Treasury Department announced the prohibition of the entry into US territory of any article made, totally or partially, with products of Cuban origin, even if made in a third country.

This measure was not the first public or secret aggressive action by Washington against the Cuban Revolution, triumphant on January 1, 1959.

July 1963

The Regulation for the Control of Cuban Assets went into effect, prohibiting all transactions with Cuba and freezing Cuban government securities within the US. In May 1964, the US Department of Commerce implemented a total ban on food and medicine shipments to Cuba, although in practice these were no longer carried out.

October 1992

On October 23, 1992, President George H. W. Bush approves the Torricelli Act, pressured by the support that the then presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, gave to this legislative project in his campaign in Florida.

March 1996

On March 12, 1996, the Helms-Burton Act is passed, in its worst version, under the presidency of Bill Clinton.


President Donald Trump (January 20, 2017-January 20, 2021) implemented 243 unilateral coercive measures against Cuba.


Translation by Internationalist 360°