The president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, will make an official visit to Cuba March 20-22.
This will be the second time a U.S. president comes to our archipelago. The only prior such visit was by Calvin Coolidge, who landed in Havana in January 1928. He arrived aboard a warship to attend the Sixth Pan American Conference, held under the auspices of a notorious figure in our history, [U.S.-backed dictator] Gerardo Machado. This will be the first time a president of the United States comes to a Cuba in full possession of its sovereignty and with a revolution in power, headed by its historic leadership.
This event is part of the process initiated Dec. 17, 2014, when the president of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, and President Barack Obama simultaneously announced the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations, broken by the United States almost 54 years ago. It is part of the complex process toward normalization of bilateral ties, which has barely begun and has advanced on the only basis that is possible and just: respect, equality, reciprocity, and the recognition of our government’s legitimacy.
This point has been reached first and foremost as a result of the Cuban people’s heroic resistance, loyalty to principles, and defense of our national independence and sovereignty. Such values, which have not been negotiated for more than 50 years, led the present U.S. government to acknowledge the severe damage the blockade has caused our people and to recognize the failure of the policy of open hostility toward the revolution.
Neither force nor economic coercion nor isolation succeeded in imposing conditions on Cuba that were contrary to the aspirations forged over nearly a century and a half of heroic struggle.
Washington isolated by solidarityThe current process undertaken with the United States has also been possible thanks to unwavering international solidarity, in particular from the governments and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, who put the United States in an unsustainable position of isolation. Strongly united — “like silver lodes in the bedrock of the Andes,” as our national hero José Martí said in his essay “Our America” — Latin America and the Caribbean demanded a change in policy toward Cuba.
This regional demand was made unequivocally clear at the Summits of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 2009, and in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2012, when all countries of the region unanimously and categorically demanded the lifting of the blockade and our country’s participation in the 7th hemispheric meeting in Panama, in 2015, to which a Cuban delegation, led by Raúl, attended for the first time.
Since the December 2014 announcements, Cuba and the United States have taken steps toward improving the bilateral context.
On July 20, 2015, diplomatic relations were officially re-established, along with the commitment to develop them on the basis of respect, cooperation, and observance of the principles of international law.
The presidents of the two countries have met twice, in addition to mutual visits by ministers and other contacts between high-ranking officials. Cooperation in various areas of mutual benefit are advancing and new opportunities for discussion are opening up. That makes possible a dialogue on issues of bilateral and multilateral interest, including those on which we have different views.
The U.S. president will be welcomed by the government of Cuba and its people with the hospitality that distinguishes us. He will be treated with all consideration and respect as a head of state.
This will be an opportunity for the president of the United States to directly observe a nation engaged in economic and social development and in improving its citizens’ well-being. Our people enjoy rights and can point to achievements that are only dreams for many of the world’s countries, despite the limitations resulting from our condition as an underdeveloped country subjected to a blockade. This has earned us international recognition and respect.
Figures of world stature such as Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill described this island, in their joint statement released in Havana in February, as “a symbol of the hopes of the New World.” French President Francois Hollande recently said, “Cuba is respected and listened to throughout Latin America,” and praised the country’s capacity for resistance in the face of the most difficult tests.
Cuba’s internationalist exampleSouth African leader Nelson Mandela always had words of profound gratitude for Cuba. Speaking July 26, 1991, in Matanzas, he said, “We in Africa are used to being victims of countries who want to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people [like the Cuban people] rise to the defense of one of us.”
Obama will find himself in a country that actively contributes to regional and world peace and stability, and that shares with other peoples not what we have left over but the modest resources we possess. We have made solidarity an essential element of our reason for being. And, as Martí taught us, we have made humanity’s well-being one of the fundamental objectives of our foreign policy.
Obama will also have the opportunity to meet a noble, friendly, dignified people with an elevated sense of patriotism and national unity, who have always fought for a better future, despite the adversities we have had to confront.
The president of the United States will be welcomed by a revolutionary people with a deeply rooted political culture. That culture is the result of a long tradition of struggle for our genuine, definitive independence, first against Spanish colonialism and then against U.S. imperialist domination — a struggle in which our best sons and daughters have shed their blood and faced all manner of risks. He will be welcomed by a people who will never renounce the defense of their principles and the vast work of the revolution, by a people who will unwaveringly follow the examples of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, José Martí, Antonio Maceo, Julio Antonio Mella, Rubén Martínez Villena, Antonio Guiteras, and Ernesto Che Guevara, among many others.
This is also a people united by historical, cultural, and emotional ties with the United States, whose emblematic figure, the writer Ernest Hemingway, received the Nobel Prize for literature for a novel set in Cuba. A people who show their gratitude to the sons and daughters of the United States who, like Thomas Jordan, Henry Reeve, Winchester Osgood, and Frederick Funston, fought with the Liberation Army in our wars of independence against Spain1; and to those who in the more recent era have opposed aggression against Cuba, like Rev. Lucius Walker, who defied the blockade to bring their aid and solidarity to our people and who supported the return to the homeland of young Elián González and the Cuban Five. We learned from Martí to admire the homeland of Lincoln and repudiate Cutting.2
It is worth recalling the words of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, on Sept. 11, 2001, when he said, “Today is a day of tragedy for the United States. You know very well that hatred toward the American people has never been fostered here. Cuba, precisely because of its culture, its lack of complexes, because it feels completely free, with a homeland and no master, is perhaps the country where U.S. citizens are treated with the greatest respect. We have never preached any kind of national hatred, nor anything approaching fanaticism. That is why we are so strong. We base our conduct on principles, on ideas, and treat every U.S. citizen who visits us with great respect — and they see this.”
‘A people proud of their history’This is the people who will welcome President Obama — a people proud of their history, their roots, their national culture, confident that a better future is possible. A nation that is facing, with calm and determination, the current stage of relations with the United States, that recognizes the opportunities as well as the unresolved problems between the two countries.
The visit by the president of the United States will be an important step in the process toward normalization of bilateral relations. It should be remembered that Obama, as James Carter did previously, has set out to work toward normalization of ties with Cuba by making use of his executive powers and has in fact taken concrete action in this direction.
Nevertheless, a long, complex road lies ahead. Normalization will require resolving key issues that have accumulated over more than five decades and deepened the confrontational character of relations between the two countries. Such problems are not resolved overnight, nor with a presidential visit.
‘Lift the economic blockade’To normalize relations with the United States, it is imperative to lift the economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which inflicts hardship on the Cuban people and is the principal obstacle to our country’s development.
It is worth noting President Obama’s reiterated position that the blockade must be eliminated and his call on Congress to lift it. This is a demand supported by a growing majority of U.S. public opinion and almost unanimously by the international community, which at the United Nations General Assembly has approved 24 times in a row the Cuban resolution entitled “The necessity of ending the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
The U.S. president has taken steps to modify the implementation of some aspects of the blockade, and this is positive. High-ranking officials in his administration have said others are being studied. Nevertheless, it has not been possible to implement a good number of these measures given their limited reach, the continuing existence of other regulations, and the intimidating effect of the blockade as a whole, which has been strictly enforced for more than 50 years.
It is contradictory that the U.S. government, on the one hand, adopts these measures and, on the other, intensifies sanctions against Cuba that affect the daily lives of our people.
The reality is that the blockade remains in place and is rigorously enforced, including extraterritorially, which has a chilling effect on companies and banks from the United States and other countries.
Examples of this are the multimillion-dollar fines that continue to be levied on U.S. companies and banking institutions as well as those of other countries because of their relations with Cuba; the denial of services and blocking of financial operations by international banks with our country; and the freezing of legitimate transfers of funds to and from Cuba, including those in currencies other than the U.S. dollar.
The Cuban people hope that the U.S. president’s visit will strengthen his resolve to take an active part in a thorough debate in Congress over lifting the blockade, and that he will also continue to use his executive prerogatives to modify as much as possible its implementation without the need for legislative action.
End ‘regime change’ policyOther issues that impinge on Cuban sovereignty must also be resolved in order to achieve normal relations between the two countries. The territory occupied by the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo against the will of our government and people must be returned to Cuba, respecting the wish that Cubans have unanimously expressed for more than 100 years. There must be a halt to programs that interfere in our affairs and aim to cause destabilization and changes in our country’s political, economic, and social order. The policy of “regime change” must be ended once and for all.
Likewise, efforts to manufacture a domestic political opposition, funded by U.S. taxpayers, must be ended. Radio and TV broadcasts targeting Cuba, in open violation of international law, and the illegitimate use of telecommunications for political purposes must also be ended. The goal should be not to influence Cuban society but to put technology at the service of development and knowledge.
The preferential immigration treatment our citizens receive under the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot, dry foot” policy leads to the loss of lives and encourages illegal emigration and human trafficking, in addition to generating problems for third countries. This situation must be changed.
The Cuban medical professional “parole” program must be ended. This is a program that deprives the country of human resources vital to the health of our people and affects the intended beneficiaries of Cuban cooperation with nations that need our support. It is also necessary to change the policy requiring Cuban athletes to break ties with their country in order to play in U.S. leagues.
These policies of the past are incongruous with the new stage the U.S. government has initiated with our country. They were all established prior to President Obama’s administration, but he could modify some of them through executive decisions and eliminate others entirely.
Cuba has engaged in building a new relationship with the United States while fully exercising its sovereignty and remaining committed to its ideals of social justice and solidarity. No one can presume that this means we must renounce a single one of our principles, concede an inch in the defense of these principles, or abandon what is stated in our Constitution: “Economic and diplomatic relations with any other state can never be negotiated under aggression, threats, or coercion by a foreign power.”
Nor can there be even the slightest doubt as to Cuba’s unconditional commitment to its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals, and to its foreign policy in support of the world’s just causes, our defense of the self-determination of peoples, and our tradition of support to our sister countries.
Revoke U.S. sanctions on VenezuelaAs was expressed in the most recent statement of the revolutionary government, our solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the government led by President Nicolás Maduro, and the Bolivarian, Chavista people remains and will remain immutable. They are fighting to follow their own path, and are facing systematic attempts at destabilization and unilateral sanctions under an unjustified, unjust U.S. executive order issued in March 2015, which was condemned throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The March 3 U.S. announcement extending the so-called “national emergency” and sanctions is a direct and unacceptable act of interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and its sovereignty. The order must be revoked. This will be a firm, ongoing demand by Cuba.
As Army General Raúl Castro said, “We will not renounce our ideals of independence and social justice, surrender even a single one of our principles, or concede a millimeter in the defense of our national sovereignty. We will not allow ourselves to be pressured in regard to our internal affairs. We have won this sovereign right with great sacrifices and the highest risks.”
We reiterate once again: we have reached this point as a result of our convictions and because we have reason and justice on our side.
Cuba reaffirms its desire to advance in relations with the United States on the basis of respect for the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and the principles of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Region of Peace, signed by the region’s heads of state and government. These principles include absolute respect for independence and sovereignty; the inalienable right of every state to choose its own political, economic, social, and cultural system without interference of any kind; and equality and reciprocity.
Cuba reiterates its full willingness to maintain a respectful dialogue with the U.S. government and develop relations of civilized co-existence. Co-existence, however, does not mean having to renounce the ideas in which we believe and that have brought us this far — our socialism, our history, our culture.
Cuba and the United States have profound conceptual differences with respect to political models, social justice, international relations, world peace and stability, among other issues — and these differences will continue.
Cuba defends the indivisible, interdependent, and universal character of the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of human rights. We are convinced that it is an obligation of governments to defend and guarantee the right to health, education, social security, equal pay for equal work, the rights of children, as well as the right to food and development. We reject political manipulation and double standards relating to human rights, which must end. Cuba, which has signed 44 international agreements on this subject — the United States has only committed to 18 — has much to share, defend, and show in this regard.
Our ties with the United States must be based on the two countries respecting their differences and creating a relationship that is beneficial to both peoples.
Regardless of the progress that may be achieved in our ties with the United States, the Cuban people will continue to move forward. Through our own efforts and proven capacity and creativity, we will continue to work for the country’s development and for the well-being of Cubans. We will not stop demanding an end to the blockade, which has caused and causes so much harm. We will continue the process of updating the social and economic model we have chosen, and the construction of a prosperous, sustainable socialism to consolidate the gains of the revolution.
This is the path that was sovereignly chosen and that will surely be reaffirmed by the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, with Fidel and Raúl at the head of our victory.
This is the Cuba that will offer a respectful welcome to President Obama.
1.The Cuban people waged wars of independence against Spain from 1868-78 and 1895-98.
2.Francis Cutting was a leader of the American Annexationist League, founded in 1878, which advocated U.S. annexation of northern Mexico.
Cuban, Venezuelan governments denounce renewal of US sanctions on Caracas
Printer-friendly version of this article