Full text of speech by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, first vice president of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, at the IV Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), held in Quito, Ecuador, January 27, 2016
(Council of State transcript / GI translation)
Dear President Rafael Correa;
Heads of State and Government;
Heads of delegations and guests:
Just over four years ago, when Our America commemorated the bicentenary of its independence struggles, the 33 states of the region came together for the first time, with a common aim.
Since then it has been demonstrated, just as President Raúl Castro Ruz stated in his speech to the National Assembly of People’s Power of the Republic of Cuba last December 29, that “it is essential to defend the unity of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), as an indispensable, legitimate, unitary mechanism of political agreement and integration…”
In recent years, the challenges and dangers facing Latin America and the Caribbean have multiplied, due to an increasingly complex and unstable international political and economic situation. As such, working together in unity, while respecting our diversity and our differences, constitutes an indisputable necessity.
To this end, the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, officially signed in Havana on January 29, 2014, commits us to respect the inalienable right of every state to choose its own political, economic, social and cultural system; to peacefully resolve our differences, and not to intervene, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of other states.
Latin America and the Caribbean remains the most unequal region in the world in terms of wealth distribution. Current statistics, despite the questionable concepts on which they are based, demonstrate that 397 million of our citizens, or 63%, are immersed in a state of vulnerability and poverty, a figure that could increase, given the adverse international economic conditions.
That a single Latin American or Caribbean go hungry, or not know how to read and write, or be plunged into poverty, is a concern for all, which we must resolve together.
That in Latin America and the Caribbean differences proliferate, and we are unable to solve them by means of dialogue; or we are intolerant of the diversity of political, economic and social systems; or indifferent to the very particular problems of small island countries in our region, is also a problem to solve among ourselves.
Cuba believes in cooperation, solidarity and the need for collective action, beyond egotism and intransigence. We have in CELAC the principles and mechanisms to achieve this.
We enjoy, among the achievements of this Community, instruments to define common positions in extra-regional relations, in compliance with the tenets of the Proclamation (of a Zone of Peace), which all states are urged to fully respect in their relations with our countries.
In this spirit, we are profoundly grateful for the solidarity of our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean regarding the demand for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the U.S. government against Cuba, which remains intact despite the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries; the support for the territory illegally occupied for over a century by the naval base of the United States in the Cuban province of Guantánamo to be returned to our people; and support for legal, orderly, safe migration in our region and an end to policies such as the wet foot-dry foot” policy, which encroach on the human rights of migrants and create many difficulties for countries in our region, particularly transit countries.
In the same vein of solidarity, we reiterate our strongest support to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the victim of a complicated international economic situation, aggravated by prolonged economic, media and psychological warfare, and numerous destabilizing acts encouraged and supported from abroad. We demand the repeal of the Executive Order of President Obama, declaring Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security, and the elimination of the sanctions applied on this basis to Venezuelan citizens. We reiterate that the Venezuelan government and people deserve the broadest regional and international solidarity.
We note the progress made in the peace talks between the government of Colombia and the FARC-EP, which are closer than ever to ending the conflict that has afflicted the country for over half a century. Cuba, as guarantor and host nation, will continue contributing to these efforts.
Our support for the people of Puerto Rico in the search for self-determination and independence remains invariable, as reiterated by CELAC.
We support the efforts of the Argentine Republic to recover the legitimately Argentine territories of the Islas Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
We continue to accompany the Republic of Ecuador in its demands on transnational corporations who refuse to recognize and correct the serious ecological damage done in the Amazon, and the government of the Citizens’ Revolution against destabilizing attempts.
We also extend our solidarity and support to President Dilma Rousseff and the brotherly people of Brazil in the battle being waged to defend the social and political gains of the last 13 years.
We stand in solidarity with the countries of the Caribbean in their great efforts to address the effects of climate change; we reject the unfair policies of international financial institutions which prevent their access to financial resources due to their Gross Domestic Product, and we support their demands for reparations for the damages of slavery and colonialism.
Tomorrow, January 28, the 163rd anniversary of the birth of Cuba’s national hero, José Martí, author of the political essay “Our America”, which constitutes a fundamental contribution to the ideals of the continental, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist unity of our peoples, will be commemorated. With his foresight, Martí called on us to implant the world in our republics, but noted that the trunk must be that of our republics.
Tonight, young Cubans, in tribute to Martí, will march with their torches held high from the University of Havana to the site where he suffered imprisonment and forced labor; this is a tradition dating back 63 years, in which many of our heads of state and government participated, on the occasion of the Second CELAC Summit, held in Havana two years ago.
Allow me, finally, to congratulate the Republic of Ecuador and its President Rafael Correa for their efforts in leading CELAC, and thank the Ecuadorian people for welcoming us so warmly to their country.
We pledge our support to the Dominican Republic and President Danilo Medina during their period leading the pro tempore presidency of CELAC that commences now.
Thank you (Applause).