The Secret of Cuba’s Success: International Solidarity

Once again the international community represented at the United Nations General Assembly on November 7 has spoken and voted to reject overwhelmingly the financial and economic blockade (embargo) imposed by the United States against Cuba through unilateral sanctions. The US blockade has been imposed in an escalating progression over the last 57 years with the most damaging rapid increase in the last few months under the Trump administration. Yet, Cuba thrives socially and internationally, if not economically. Despite the undeniable negative impact of the blockade on the population, by and large the majority of Cubans are confidently committed to resisting and enduring. But what motivates that courageous resilience and the international support for Cuba?

The UN vote was on a resolution presented by Cuba based on its report titled “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. The vote resulted in 187 in favor of ending the US blockade of Cuba, 3 (US, “Israel” and Brazil) against, and 2 (Colombia and Ukraine ) abstained.

This is not the first time that such a vote has taken place and therefore it should not catch us by surprise. A similar vote has been called for the last 28 years where Cuba has received majority support. In 2018 only two nations voted against, the United States and “Israel”.

The reason for Cuba’s persistent international denunciation of the US-driven blockade is that it is illegal, unfair and harmful to all Cubans. In just one year from April 2018 to March 2019 it has brought losses to Cuba for US$4.3 billion.

The Obama administration had eased restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba, which led the way to reopening embassies in Washington and Havana in 2014 and to Obama’s visit to Havana in 2016. With the exception of the embassies that remain open, the Trump administration has reversed those policies and added more. In 2018, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton included Cuba in what he called the “Troika of tyranny” together with Venezuela and Nicaragua. But more threatening has been the activation for the first time since 1996 of the section Title III of the Helms-Burton Act that allows Cuban-Americans and US citizens to sue Cuban companies and potentially foreign companies in US courts for “trafficking” in properties legally nationalised by the Cuban government. Most nations have accepted compensation, the US has refused.

Unfortunately, there are no consequences for any of the US actions, or following such an overwhelming international condemnation, which speaks to the ineffectiveness of a dysfunctional United Nations as a balancing force for the maintenance of fairness and justice for those nations that are unable to defend themselves from aggressive and threatening nations. The UN cannot even defend effectively its own Charter that is trampled daily.

It would be tempting to focus our criticism on the institutional inadequacy of the UN in enforcing accountability for the members’ actions even in clear cut cases as the illegal US sanctions on Cuba, or on the dozens of other cases around the world for that matter. However, we choose to focus on the positive outcome of the vote because this is a success story that is not happening by accident and it is important to understand the secret of Cuba’s success.

I have asked myself many times, how has this small nation survived actions of terrorism, invasions, ostracism from sister nations, sanctions and other interferences since 1959 and more severe ones since the early 1990s, and still managed to politically defeat the most powerful country in the world for almost 60 years? Besides the many political arguments that can be brought to bear, for me there is one factor that stands out. One factor that has a stronger human  element and a lesser political one: international solidarity.

Solidarity is a notion that is frequently used by people on the left of the political spectrum. In fact, in some case it may have a rebellion connotation, which may explain why rightwing politics seldom use the word. Cuba has made solidarity a central piece of its foreign policy as stated on its website, that is grounded in respect, genuine cooperation, and shared aspirations; it embraces causes rather than self-interests, and is capable of producing long-lasting connections that are stronger and more meaningful than diplomatic ties. It is a relation where people, rather than ideology, are at the centre of policies.

Examples of Cuba’s people-oriented international relations are shown by its readiness to be part of regional institutions that promote cooperation over competition like ALBA and CELAC, but perhaps its single most valuable international solidarity contribution is provided by the medical missions of around 50,000 doctors to about 67 countries in the most remote areas of the world. The first Cuban medical brigade was sent to Argelia in 1963. But the most outstanding medical collaboration as an expression of solidarity and internationalism happened in 1998 after hurricane Mitch hit Central America, especially Honduras and Guatemala. To be clear, in some cases for Cuba it is also a source of revenue for the services it provides. For instance, in the case of Venezuela, Cuba is remunerated with much needed oil in a fair cooperative exchange.

The World Health Organization has praised the Cuban primary health care system as fundamental to providing good healthcare, and criticism of the Cuban medical cooperation has been defended.

The Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, has harshly denounced at the UN the upsurge of US hostile aggression and made a special mention of the lies about the medical international cooperation used to sabotage and “attack a program based on genuine conceptions of South-South cooperation.”

Ultimately nations are on their own fighting back political aggression, however, there is such thing as international solidarity that can be used as an effective counteroffensive. To the extent that solidarity is  a unifying concept that provides cohesive strength as in the case of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia among other nations, the US has only one tool to break people’s unity, and that is the use of lies through its controlled corporate media. We have seen numerous examples of that.

However, as the UN vote has just shown, lies don’t always work. 187 nations (out of 193 UN member States) have supported Cuba (and by implication condemned the US). Many of those nations have likely received Cuba’s solidarity through its medical missions and understand the meaning of cooperation.

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Embassy of Mexico to award Cuban artists

The Mexican Embassy in Cuba will present the Cultural Merit award to Cuban dancer Viengsay Valdes, choreographer Alberto Mendez and cultural official Reinaldo Mendez, it was announced at a press conference.

The award will be presented at the close of the 'Cultura a lo Grande' concert, performed by the Mariana de Gonitch Singing Academy and scheduled for November 18 in downtown Havana's Cathedral Square.

During the event, Valdes will also be presented with the Tropical Gypsy distinction, annually awarded by the capital's Provincial Directorate of Culture to those who contribute to the development of Cuban culture.

For the occasion, first dancer, actress and singer of the National Folkloric Group, Zenaida Almenteros, will join the Okantomi company to perform the Habanera 'En el claro de la luna,' written by singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez.

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Tribute in Spain to Cuban culture and foundation of Havana

Cuba's embassy in Spain was the scene Thursday of an emotional gala in honor of Culture Day on the island and 500 years of the foundation of Havana.

The Cuban National Culture Day evokes every October 20 the composition of the national anthem, the work of the patriot Pedro Figueredo, just 10 days after the beginning of the independence struggle of 1868.

'Our anthem is a direct expression of our Cubanness, and in its letter it contains many of our essences,' said Cuban ambassador in Spain, Gustavo Machín, before a large audience gathered in the legation of the largest of the Antilles in Madrid.

'Not only the verses, which urge to combat, to fight for independence, and express the defining metaphor: To die for the country is to live, which is essentially in line with what is considered Cubanness today', Machín said of the fervent notes of that song.

The diplomat said that culture in his country grows fresh in these times, fertilized by these roots, against wind and tide.

'One can understand, then, that without freedom and independence there would be no Cuban culture, and without Cuban culture, we would lose independence or have no reason to fight for it,' he emphasized.

Regarding the capital of the Caribbean nation, that next November 16 will be half a millennium old, he recalled that it was one of the first seven villages founded by the Spanish Crown on the island.

The ambassador took advantage of the evening to share with those present the victory achieved the eve at the United Nations, where for the twenty-eighth time the international community overwhelmingly condemned the US blockade imposed on his country.

The gala was enlivened by Cuban troubadour Ismael de la Torre and his compatriots Andres Puig, a well-known painter and sculptor who donated several works to the Caribbean nation, and singer Arahi Martinez, former member of the Anacaona female orchestra.

The celebration was attended by several ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in this country, members of Cuban resident associations and the solidarity movement with the island.

On behalf of the Spanish Government, Juan Pablo de Laiglesia, Secretary of State for International Cooperation and for Latin America and the Caribbean participated.

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Cuban President acknowledges confidence of those attending Fihav, despite the blockade

The President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, on Wednesday afternoon, at the Palace of the Revolution, held a meeting with ministers, heads of delegations, Cuban enterprise leaders, and businesspeople from abroad participating in the 18th edition of the Havana International Fair.

During the exchange, Díaz-Canel highlighted the Fair's role in strengthening economic relations and particularly recognized the difficult context in which this event is being held, given the intensification of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade by the United States government, a situation that did not prevent representatives from more than 60 countries from attending the event, in an environment of optimism and confidence in the potential of our country.

The meeting also served as an opportunity to discuss Cuba's development plans, and our intention to maintain them, no matter how difficult the conditions may be.

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UN General Assembly once again overwhelming passes a resolution calling for the end of US blockade on Cuba

No U.S. State Department blackmails or pressures exerted against various UN Members prevented the International Community from inflicting a resounding defeat to the Trump Administration on Thursday.

Of the 192 member states of the United Nations, 187 voted in favor. The United States, Israel, and Brazil opposed the resolution, and Ukraine and Colombia abstained.

The document calls upon all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures like the blockade in conformity with their obligations under the UN Charter and international law.

The text again urges States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible following their legal regime

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Twitter that the vote represents the undeniable isolation of the United States.

“Brutal pressures reflect the moral bankruptcy and rottenness of the U.S. current government. This is another categorical victory for Cuba, and for our heroic people. This is a triumph of truth and justice,” he said.

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Cuba rejects US lies in imposition of the blockade to the island

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez rejected the lies used by the United States in imposing the blockade against his country today, and denied that this policy is intended to benefit the people of the island.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly debate on the resolution presented annually by the Caribbean nation to condemn that siege, he said that year after year the US delegation in that forum expresses, with high doses of cynicism, that its Government supports the Cuban people

Can anyone believe such a statement ?, the Foreign Minister questioned, and accused the US administration of lying and falsifying the data 'on alleged licenses for operations of sales of medicines and food to Cuba, which hardly ever come to fruition'.

The delegation of the United States should explain in this Assembly the conditions that it imposes on Cuban purchases: there is no access to credits, neither official nor private, it must be paid in cash when the merchandise arrives at the port, the banks that handle our transactions, you cannot use Cuban vessels, he detailed.

Who trades in the world under these conditions ?, added the head of Cuban diplomacy, who said that the successful and effective Cuban social model ensures its citizens equal opportunities, equity and social justice, despite hostility and coercion .

In his speech at the multilateral agency, Rodríguez mentioned specific cases of people who in the greater part of the Antilles are directly hit by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by Washington almost 60 years ago.

As a consequence of that policy, Bryan Gómez Santisteban, 16; and Leydis Posada Cañizares, 19, does not have stents (internal prostheses) that are extensible, but fixed, so they have to undergo frequent surgeries to replace them, the chancellor said.

Rodríguez pointed out that the impossibility of accessing these extensible prostheses is due to the fact that they are produced by the American company Stryker.

Likewise, the encirclement makes it impossible to access novel medicines for the treatment of cancer, added the owner, who mentioned the case of Mayra Lazus Roque, 57, a renal cancer patient, who could not be treated with the optimal drug, the Sunitinib, only produced by the American company Pfizer.

The blockade causes incalculable humanitarian damage, constitutes a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of human rights, said the Cuban minister.

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US ignores the international community's rejection of blockade against Cuba

The United States again ignored the calls of the international community to lift the economic, commercial and financial blockade that it has imposed against Cuba for almost 60 years.

The US Ambassador to the multilateral agency, Kelly Craft, acknowledged Thursday that, once again, the General Assembly will almost unanimously approve the resolution presented each year by Cuba to condemn that policy.

Despite this, she said her country would once again vote against the Cuban resolution, arguing that the United States has the right to decide who to trade with.

In her speech before the UN General Assembly, where dozens of delegations have called to lift the blockade, the diplomat said she considers it worrying that the international community continues to challenge Washington's policy.

Craft did not refer to the extraterritorial nature of the blockade imposed by the US government, which not only prevents bilateral trade, but pressures and sanctions other countries to also hinder their economic ties with Cuba.

It is precisely this extraterritoriality that has been denounced continuously by UN member states who have intervened in the debate on the resolution presented by Cuba, particularly criticizing the activation in May of Title III of the controversial Helms-Burton Act, which allows for lawsuits to be filed before US courts to sue those who invest in properties that were nationalized on the island.

As is usual from the Trump administration, in order to justiify the maintenance of the blockade, Craft cited alleged human rights violations in the Caribbean country, without mentioning the fact that it is this US policy that violates the human rights of the Cuban people.

Yet again, the ambassador attacked Cuban medical missions abroad, one of the most internationally recognized solidarity programs of the island, and for which several delegations expressed their gratitude.

Claiming that Cuba refuses to import millions of dollars of agricultural and medical products authorized by the US government, Craft failed to explain the conditions imposed by Washington on purchases by the island, which include cash payments, in advance and without access to credit.

She also criticized Cuba's solidarity with Venezuela and tried to hold Havana responsible for the crisis in the South American country, without recognizing that the difficult conditions of that nation are motivated by the sanctions imposed by the United States.

We will vote no to the resolution, the diplomat remarked, to confirm once again that Washington disregards the vast majority of the world.

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Cuba denounces at the UN the resurgence of hostile US policy

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez denounced today at the UN General Assembly the resurgence of the hostile policy of the United States against the island and the onslaught of the Donald Trum padministration.

In recent months, he explained, Washington has begun an escalation in its aggression towards Cuba, with the application of unconventional measures, to prevent the supply of fuel to the country from various markets through sanctions and threats against tankers, shipping companies and insurance companies .

Its goal, in addition to impacting the economy, is to damage the living standards of Cuban families, he stressed.

In April of this year, he continued, the filing of lawsuits before US courts by US and third-country entities against Cuba and companies operating there was authorized, under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.

The persecution of Cuba's banking transactions and financial relations with the rest of the world intensified, remittances were restricted to Cuban citizens, the granting of visas was reduced and consular services were limited, the foreign minister stressed.

An agreement between respective national baseball federations was canceled, individual trips by US citizens were canceled, cruises and direct flights to Cuban airports were banned, he added.

The leasing of airplanes with more than 10 percent of US components and the acquisition of technologies and equipment in similar conditions were also prevented, while commercial promotion activities, cultural and educational exchanges ceased.

The US government has aggressively intensified the extraterritorial application of its blockade policy against Cuba, persecuting third countries, their companies and citizens, Rodriguez stressed.

Nor does it hide its purpose of economically stiffling the country and increasing the damage, deprivation and suffering of its people, he stressed.

Washington has proposed to sabotage the international cooperation that Cuba provides in the field of health with a campaign of slande. US politicians and officials attack a program based on genuine concepts of South-South cooperation, which also has the recognition of the international community, he denounced.

In response to the statements of the permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, the Cuban foreign minister stressed that the US government is responsible for such damages.

He also outlined the incalculable humanitarian damage caused by the blockade, which constitutes a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of human rights and qualifies as an act of genocide. "There is no Cuban family that does not suffer its consequences," he remarked.

Due to the blockade, the island suffers limitations in health services because it cannot access US medical equipment and prostheses, which especially affects Cuban children.

The blockade also makes it impossible to access new drugs for the treatment of cancer, only produced by US pharmaceutical companies, explained the Cuban minister.

The UN General Assembly on Thursday votes on the draft resolution 'Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba', which has received majority support from the international community since 1992.

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