Mr. President:

In 1992, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba. Since then, this stance has been reiterated every year with increasingly greater support, which now encompasses almost all of the member states.

The contrast is obvious. On one side, the virtually unanimous opinion of the international community in opposition to an illegitimate policy, a policy that is contrary to the principles and goals of the UN Charter, violates the norms of law and of trade among nations, and illegally disregards the sovereignty and interests of other countries. On the other side, the obstinacy of one who lacks any possible arguments to attempt to justify what the rest of the world rejects.

I am certain that today we will adopt the 11th resolution, and it will have a special significance. That special significance is due to the fact that this text has genuinely unanimous support that includes the majority of the people of the United States and some of its main institutions. During the last year, important events have taken place that demonstrate this fact. A wide representation of civil society and influential business entities have advocated the lifting of the blockade and the normalization of economic ties with Cuba. Especially active in this regard are U.S. farmers, their organizations, and major agricultural production and export companies. Thanks to their efforts, it has been possible to take a few steps that could lead to significant changes in the current policy. For the first time in four decades, a number of U.S. exporters were able to sell their products to Cuba and carry out the necessary operations despite the severe obstacles and discriminatory practices they had to confront.

In 11 months, we received over 50 merchant ships that transported 712,000 tons of U.S. agricultural products. The total cost of these purchases, including their transportation, was 140 million dollars, and that figure could reach 200 million with the new purchases recently negotiated.

The contracts pertaining to the latter were signed during the U.S. Food and Agribusiness Exhibition held in Havana this past September 26 to 30, which attracted the participation of hundreds of companies from over 33 states. They were joined by high-level government authorities and business representatives.

These sales to Cuba and the exhibition demonstrated the considerable potential benefits for both countries that would result from normal trade relations, as well as the impressive level of good will and mutual interest on the part of both the Cuban people and U.S. farmers. Advances made in this direction would also be beneficial for all other nations and for international peace and cooperation. They also coincide with the aspirations of the Cuban-American community, in which diverse sectors advocate normal relations with their homeland. They are raising their voices in ever greater numbers, despite those who attempt to silence them with pressures and threats. Their demands were heard this year in downtown Miami and in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

This constructive spirit has been echoed in the legislative bodies of the United States. A bipartisan group has been formed and has undertaken numerous initiatives aimed at changing the current policy and replacing it with one that is more congruent with the genuine interests of the people of that country and with the norms of respect that should govern relations between sovereign states. In their efforts, however, they must still contend with the stubborn opposition of a powerful minority.

Last year, the two houses of the U.S. Congress passed a bill that would have introduced important modifications to the blockade. Despite the clear backing received in both houses, the leadership of the House of Representatives violated basic democratic procedures by adulterating the text of the bill approved and imposing a formula that openly contradicted the will of the majority.

This summer, the House of Representatives passed by a wide majority a number of legislative proposals that would facilitate U.S. exports and eliminate the ban on travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens. These proposals sought to correct the negative elements arbitrarily imposed last year. Although they do not amount to the complete elimination of blockade, they are important steps in the right direction, and we applaud them.

President Bush, however, had already announced in advance that he would veto any bill aimed at modifying the policy currently in force. This past May 20, in a clearly interventionist and aggressive speech given in Miami, he declared, "The United States will continue to enforce economic sanctions on Cuba."

This stance is finding increasingly less support. The House Republican majority leader, who has always voted against Cuba and has been a key element in legislative maneuvers to maintain the blockade, recently acknowledged the irrationality of this policy and its imminent collapse.

The aforementioned sanctions are also being applied against entities and citizens of the United States. The Bush administration is not only threatening to veto bills that have solid backing in both houses and that respond to the demands of a large part of the U.S. population; he is also undertaking actions that contradict the express will of legislators and the legitimate aspirations of those who have inspired these initiatives in Congress. While the latter approve measures that will facilitate trade, the office in charge of enforcing the blockade is acting in the opposite direction and announcing new requirements and stipulations that would be imposed on exporters, thus limiting their sales. While a majority in Congress has called for freedom of travel, the administration has established additional restrictions, threatening to punish anyone who exercises a right enshrined in the Constitution and denying visas to numerous groups of Cuban artists and intellectuals, to the detriment of important cultural or scientific activities held in this country.

The anti-Cuban minority, protected by its privileged relations with the current administration, acts ever more openly against the true interests of the U.S. nation. It has secured highly placed positions for unscrupulous individuals, professional slanderers who routinely regurgitate ridiculous lies that nobody believes and provocative, irresponsible and false statements. They aim to use such deceit to create a bilateral conflict that will allow them to fulfill their long-treasured dream of taking control of the lands, the homes, and everything else that belongs to the Cuban people. Isolated and politically defeated, they continue to step up their hostility against Cuba and persist in their plans to use violence and terrorism against our country.

Five young Cubans were unjustly punished for acting against well-known terrorist groups that operate freely in Miami. They are being treated with abominable cruelty, and are even being deprived, along with their families, of visiting rights. A new trial to compensate for the grave violations committed there against due process has been requested by their defense team, with the support of distinguished U.S. jurists. That motion presented today to the Federal Court in South Florida deserves the support of all, as it would allow the reestablishment of a rule of law in a case of vital importance, because it essentially involves the attitude held, in actual practice and not only in rhetoric, with regard to terrorism and its accomplices.

I will not speak at length here about the damage to our economy, or the grave harm to the lives and welfare of all Cubans, or the countless violations of international norms and the rights of third countries that the blockade has provoked throughout four decades; these are outlined in the documents distributed on this item. The decision that this Assembly will adopt today will provide justice for the Cuban people, who have suffered greatly as a consequence of a policy that is unjust, illegal and contrary to both reason and morality. My people have stood firm, and they will continue to do so, because nothing can make them give up their independence, and they will never allow anyone to rob them of their national rights or to destroy the work of justice they have created with self-sacrifice and tenacity.

With its vote, the Assembly will be also be defending all those states whose sovereignty and legitimate interests are crushed by those who grant themselves powers that no one has ceded to them, and who attempt, with no right whatsoever, to dictate rules for the entire world and force them to be applied outside their borders.

Yet the resolution we will adopt today will also signify support for the noble people of the United States and all those in this country who are striving to change a policy that the world condemns, a policy that is irrational and unjustifiable, and whose failure has already gone down in history.


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