Addressing world leaders gathered for the first fully in-person high-level debate of the UN General Assembly in three years, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the true essence of the unjust and unsustainable prevailing international order.
“Never has humankind had this wealth of scientific and technical potential that it has now, neither has it ever had the extraordinary capacity than it does now to create wealth and well-being,” he said on Wednesday, but added: “However, never has the world been so unequal in terms of just how much people suffer.”
He pointed to some grim figures, including that some 828 million people are going hungry, around 50 million children suffer from stunting and unemployment will affect 207 million persons in 2022.
Trillions in military spending while vaccines remain scarce
He went on to note that around 6.5 million people have died because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccinations to tackle this crisis are inaccessible to billions of people in low-income countries.
Referring to global military expenditures, which have grown at a dizzying pace and for the first time now exceeds $2 trillion dollars, and while championing the universalization of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, he raised the question of how much more could be done if these resources were devoted to promoting health and development, how many lives could be saved.
Talking about the climate crisis, the Cuban Foreign Minister remarked, “we have one planet earth, one common home, for the rich and the poor, we must act without delay.”
Economic war against Cuba
In sharing his observation that international relations are moving along a dangerous path, he decried the United States for its offensive of economic, military, political and diplomatic coercion.
Recalling the General Assembly’s adoption of the first resolution to end the embargo against Cuba 30 years ago, he denounced the US for the “act of economic war in times of peace,” for ignoring the resolution, creating material shortages, pressuring banking institutions and damaging the Cuban people.
Criticizing the “unfair inclusion” and “slanderous classification” of Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism when Cuba “has been a victim of state terrorism”, he called out the US for its double standards, inconsistency, selectivity and manipulation including on human rights.
Referring to the colossal challenges that face the Cuban people and government, he said “the Cuban economy has withstood extraordinary pressure which is having an impact on industry service provision, leading to scarcity in food and medicine, and leading to a decline in consumption and thus resulting in a decline in the general well-being of our people. The human damage caused by this policy is impossible to quantify but is nevertheless vast, cruel and immoral.”
Urging the US to address the issues fueling irregular migration, he commended the return of visa processing at the US embassy in Havana and reiterated Cuba’s readiness to move towards better relations with the US but only based on mutual respect, sovereign equality and no attempts at undermining sovereignty and independence.
Solidarity with others
The Foreign Minister shared that at the worst moments of the pandemic, Cuba was able to send 58 medical brigades to some 48 countries. He went on to express solidarity with the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua, support for Caribbean nations’ claims for reparations for the slave trade and colonialism, reaffirmed Cuba’s commitment to independence of Puerto Rico and reconstruction of Haiti.
Mr. Bruno Rodríguez reiterated Cuba’s staunch commitment to peace in Colombia, an end to foreign interference in Syria, and a just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict. He also called for an end of the Israel occupation of the Palestinian territories.
He concluded by turning to Ukraine and said that the realistic solution to the war must guarantee the security and sovereignty of all. He said, “Cuba will continue to speak out loud and clear to reject hegemonism and domination, unilateral coercive measure, genocide blockades and attempts to impose one culture and one model on the world.”