Cuba/Cuba Solidarity

U.S. Blockade of Cuba: ‘A Permanent Pandemic, a Constant Hurricane’

Cuban Foreign Minister Speaks on Lifting U.S. Embargo; UN Overwhelmingly Agrees

In early November, representatives to the United Nations (UN) debated U.S. policy toward Cuba, and — as they have done every time for the last 30 years — overwhelmingly condemned the decades-long U.S. embargo.

Speaking before the UN General Assembly on November 3, Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla presented Draft Resolution A/77/L.5, titled, “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” Beginning his presentation by expressing Cuba’s “heartfelt solidarity with the sister Caribbean nation of Belize, which today is suffering the ravages of a powerful hurricane,”[1] Rodríguez went on to explain the toll that the U.S. economic war — in place for more than six decades — takes on the Cuban people.

When the resolution came to a vote, 185 UN member states registered their agreement with Cuba. Only two — the United States and Israel — opposed the resolution; two more — Brazil and Ukraine — abstained.

UN member states voted 185-2, with 2 abstentions, for the resolution introduced by Cuba on ending Washington’s economic war against the Caribbean nation. (Photo: Saul Staniforth)

The English-language version of Rodríguez’s speech that follows is based on a translation of his remarks by Radio Habana and the Spanish text published by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (MinRex). For more background on U.S. policy toward Cuba and the more than 60-year-old embargo, we recommend the video that can be found at “Why 98% of UN Voted to End US Embargo of Cuba.” Subheadings and footnotes are by World-Outlook.


By Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla

Mr. President; distinguished permanent representatives; distinguished delegates.

More than 80 percent of the current Cuban population was born under the blockade.

Every year for the past three decades, this Assembly has demanded the cessation of that policy — classified as an act of genocide, which has the effect of “a permanent pandemic, of a constant hurricane” and is universally rejected.

It is a deliberate act of economic warfare with the purpose of blocking financial revenues to the country, destroying the government’s capacity to meet the needs of the population, causing the economy to collapse and creating a situation of ungovernability. As proposed in 1960 by U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state Lester Mallory,[2] it seeks to cause “disenchantment and disaffection, (…) to decrease (…) real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

Since 2019, the U.S. government has escalated its siege against our country to extreme proportions, even more cruel and inhumane, to deliberately inflict the greatest possible damage to Cuban families.

Students at the University of Havana watch on TV screen Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez addressing the UN General Assembly on November 3, 2022. (Photo: Reuters)

Billions of dollars in damages

In the first 14 months of President Joseph Biden’s administration, the damages caused by the blockade amounted to $6.364 billion dollars, more than $15 million a day.

Between August 2021 and February 2022, damages reach a record cost during only seven months of $3.806 billion. Absent the blockade, our GDP could have grown during that period by 4.5 percent.

The accumulated damages in more than 60 years amount to $154.217 billion at current rates; and that increases to $1.391 trillion at the price of gold — that’s a million millions plus 391 thousand more millions. What would Cuba be like today with these resources?  What else could we have accomplished?  What would our economy be like?

It is impossible to quantify the anxiety generated by blackouts and the instability of electrical service, by the shortages and long lines to buy basic necessities, by the obstacles to the future plans of families and, especially, of young people.

The blockade also creates the conditions that encourage irregular, disorderly, and unsafe migration and the painful separation of families. It costs the lives of Cubans, and it contributes to transnational organized crime and human trafficking. 

Intensified challenges during pandemic

Mr. President: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government granted temporary humanitarian waivers to countries victimized by its unilateral coercive measures and other sanctions. Why were Cubans excluded from such temporary humanitarian relief?

Worse still, while COVID-19 claimed millions of lives around the world and filled my country with sorrow, the blockade intensified and generated difficulties and delays in obtaining the medical supplies and equipment essential to confront it, in particular, for mass production of Cuban vaccines. Even the acquisition of medical oxygen from third countries was hindered. 

When the blockade prevented the supply of pulmonary ventilators, Cuba developed its own domestic production with its own prototypes. How can it be explained that a small country like Cuba was able to defeat COVID-19 with its own resources and vaccines?

Cuban doctor administers nasal medicine against Covid-19 virus, August 2021. U.S. economic war prevented Cuba from obtaining medical supplies and equipment to fight the pandemic.

At the worst moment of the pandemic, and despite our limited resources, we collaborated by sending 58 medical brigades to 42 countries and territories, which were added to the more than 28,000 of our health professionals already providing services in 59 nations.

But the blockade affects the national production of antibiotics, analgesics, hypertensive drugs, cancer and heart disease treatments, and other essential medicines that were previously available on a large scale in our hospitals and pharmacies.

Cuban children with retina and glaucoma conditions cannot count on the laser system of the U.S. company IRIDEX for their treatments. Cases that evolve to more severe forms carry the risk of blindness. Nor do our children have access to U.S.-made biological heart valves. Neonatal low-birth-weight babies must be subjected to open-chest surgeries because low-bore catheters, marketed by U.S. firms such as Boston Scientific, are not available.

The U.S. government has no way of justifying, under any circumstances, a policy that deprives Cuban children with cancer from receiving the appropriate chemotherapeutic treatment.

The feat of saving and preserving life amid such difficult circumstances can only be explained by the decades-long governmental and collective effort of our people to build a robust system of science and health, with a profound humanistic character and high quality, accessible at no cost to all Cubans.

Blockade violates sovereignty of third countries

Mr. President: The blockade has also exacerbated the financial limitations and access to credit to invest, repair, and maintain the country’s thermoelectric plants; suppliers have increased prices considerably, alleging the risk of doing business with Cuba. After 26 years of uninterrupted work, the German group Continental Reifen Deutschland GmbH decided to sever relations with the Cuban Petroleum Union (CUPET). The French supplier CNIM communicated that it could not continue supplying spare parts for the Antonio Guiteras Thermoelectric Power Plant, as they were unable to do business with a country under sanctions.

Persecution against financial, commercial, and investment transactions related to our country is also incessant and obsessive. Between January 2021 and February 2022 alone, 642 direct actions were registered by foreign banks against the Cuban banking system. In the last year, a considerable group of banks from third countries refused to process payments to suppliers of the Cuban food importer ALIMPORT.

Under permits subject to restrictions imposed by law, Cuba can purchase limited agricultural products commercially in this country [the United States], but is obliged to pay in advance, and without access to credit, which is also extremely difficult when, at the same time, our sources of revenue are hindered.

Given these circumstances of financial harassment, the efforts of our government to ensure the standard family food basket[3] are incalculable. Cuban entrepreneurs are often denied the use of payment and e-commerce platforms. In various countries, our nationals are even prevented from opening personal bank accounts just because they are Cuban.

The financial persecution has been further reinforced by the arbitrary and fraudulent inclusion of our country in the U.S. State Department’s unilateral list of alleged state sponsors of terrorism. This raises exponentially the so-called ‘country risk’ and forces us to pay for merchandise sometimes at double the price on the international market.

Such action is unconscionable against a nation that is the victim of terrorism – which even today suffers violence and terrorist acts instigated from U.S. territory – and whose firm rejection and persecution of any form or manifestation of terrorism is unimpeachable and well-known.

This lethal measure was imposed by the previous Republican administration, only 9 days before leaving the White House. The current president could correct it with just a signature. That would be the morally correct and lawful thing to do.

Mr. President: The extraterritorial impact of the blockade also harms the sovereignty of the countries you represent; it infringes on their national laws, subjects them to the decisions of U.S. courts under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act,[4] sanctions their businessmen, and prevents access to their ports for third-party ships that have docked in Cuba.

Ismael Abraão Gaspar Martins, Angola’s permanent representative to the UN, addresses General Assembly of international body on November 3. (Photo: Angola’s UN Mission)

In addition, it prohibits subsidiaries of U.S. companies in third countries from trading with Cuba; prevents the export to Cuba of articles produced in any country when they have 10% or more of U.S. components; and excludes products manufactured in third countries if they contain Cuban raw materials.

Who could say with a straight face that the United States is a trading partner of Cuba?

We do not blame the blockade for all the difficulties our country faces today; but it would fly in the face of truth to deny its very serious effects and not recognize it as the main cause of the hardships, shortages, and suffering of Cuban families.

International digital disinformation and slander campaign

Mr. President: The United States controls the most powerful printed media and dominant digital technology platforms; it uses them in a virulent publicity campaign of disinformation and slander against Cuba. It resorts to a broad array of methods of unconventional warfare, making our children, youth and artists the target of political and media bombardment.

The U.S. government spends millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars, from its federal budget and covert funds, as well as recruiting government institutions and private companies to finance political operators, to carry out digital network campaigns of disinformation, hatred, and destabilization against Cuba.

Last October 24, the U.S. transnationals Twitter and Meta (Facebook) — which now has among its top executives the former campaign manager of an anti-Cuban Republican senator, simultaneously took measures to censor Cuban public media and users. They targeted publications by limiting their reach on these platforms and eliminated accounts critical of the operations aimed at destabilizing our country.  It was a selective, coordinated action that violates the right to free expression of Cubans and expresses the subordination of these companies to the whims of U.S. politicians.

Mr. President: On July 22, at the closing of the 9th period of regular sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power[5] in its Ninth Legislature, President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez stated, “Cuba’s trajectory in the development of its foreign relations demonstrates that the promotion of peace, cooperation, and solidarity are defining characteristics of our international goals. We have demonstrated this in our Latin American and Caribbean region, and also in other latitudes.”

The current U.S. administration does not have its own policy towards Cuba. It acts by inertia and lends continuity to the inhumane policy of “maximum pressure” established during the presidency of Donald Trump.

In recent months, it has taken steps to adjust some of the irrational restrictions on U.S. flights to Cuba, remittances, and consular procedures. These are positive actions, but very limited in scope and application. They do not modify, in any way, the policy or the economic, commercial, or financial measures. An extremely intensified blockade continues to be the central element that defines the Cuba policy of the United States.

The Cuban government is willing to move toward a better understanding with its U.S. counterpart and to develop civilized and cooperative relations based on mutual respect and without infringing on our sovereignty.

I reiterate the 2017 call made by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz to the U.S. government to remove the obstacles that prevent or restrict the ties between our peoples, the families and citizens of both countries.  We must learn the art of living together, with our differences, in a civilized manner.”

Even amid the inhuman limitations imposed on us by the blockade, Cuba will never renounce its socialist system of social justice, confirmed by a free and universal Constitutional Referendum in 2019.[6] We will always defend full exercise of all human rights by all our citizens. We will never accept attempts to impose on us alleged paradigms of democracy or any other culture foreign to ours.

With the same energy that we defend the inalienable right of each country to decide its political, economic, and social system, we demand respect for our own.

Cuba’s example of democracy

Faithful to the legacy of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, in Cuba there will always be “a government of the people, for all the people” and “a Revolution of the humble, with the humble and for the humble.”

The most recent example of the exercise of real, participatory, and inclusive democracy in our country is undeniable evidence of this. In a popular referendum, the Cuban people voted in favor of a new modern and progressive Families Code, one of the most advanced in the world.[7]

Lazaro Gonzalez (right), 52, and Adiel Gonzalez, 32, get married in Bolondron, Matanzas province, Cuba, on October 13, 2022. A few weeks earlier, a large majority of Cubans had approved in a referendum the country’s new Family Code, which, among other things, legalized marriage to same-sex partners. (Photo: Adalberto Roque / AFP)

This is irrefutable proof of the mission to listen to all Cubans, without any kind of discrimination. Our country never ceases to renew itself, based on the principle of “changing everything that must be changed,” as we build a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous, and sustainable nation and as we develop a socialist state “of law and social justice, democratic, independent, and sovereign.”

We advocate for the growing participation of our youth and all citizens in the political, economic, social, and cultural processes of the nation. We advance in decentralization of the economy and empowerment of the socialist state enterprise; thousands of small and medium-sized private and state enterprises have been created; science, technology and innovation, the computerization of society, and social communication are strengthened as pillars of government management; greater opportunities are provided to foreign investment, within the framework of our development policy.

Cuba renews itself all the time. What remains immovable, anchored in the past and isolated, is the blockade.

We highly value the support of numerous governments, personalities, solidarity movements, political, social, and popular organizations from all over the world, in the face of the injustice being committed against Cuba.

Mr. President: We deeply appreciate the commitment and the expressions of Cubans and their descendants all over the world, including in the United States, whose voices are raised in defense of Cuba’s sovereign rights and in rejection of the imposition of this policy.

We also thank all those who have expressed their support for our country in these difficult times as we recover from the serious damage caused by Hurricane Ian in the western provinces last September. Hundreds of thousands of our compatriots suffered its impact; 119,488 homes were damaged, many acres of crops were destroyed and there was severe damage to the electrical and communications infrastructure, alongside other destruction. We will continue to accept with gratitude the emergency aid that is offered, without conditions, to our people.

We are grateful for the noble humanitarian efforts of U.S. organizations, movements and groups; of congressmen and celebrities; of the solidarity movement and civil organizations, who — given the magnitude of the hurricane’s aftermath — have requested the government of President Joseph Biden to temporarily lift the unilateral coercive measures against our country, to authorize the processing of donations by U.S. banks and the purchase of materials to rebuild the affected areas.

Let Cuba live!

Mr. President; distinguished permanent representatives; distinguished delegates: At this very moment, millions of Cubans are watching what is happening in this room. They have listened to your speeches and are awaiting your votes. On their behalf, I must thank you for the statements rejecting the blockade, made by dozens of heads of state and government and other dignitaries in the general debate of this session and also by the speakers in the sessions yesterday and this morning.

In short order, you will be exercising your vote. You will not only be deciding on a matter of vital interest to Cuba and to Cubans. You will also be voting in favor of the United Nations Charter and international law.  You will be speaking out in support of reason and justice.

Let Cuba live in peace!

Cuba would be better off without the blockade! Every Cuban family would be better off without the blockade!

Americans would be better off without the blockade against Cuba! The United States would be a better country without the blockade against Cuba!

The world would be better off without the blockade

I respectfully request you to vote in favor of draft resolution A/77/L.5, entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” I do so on behalf of the brave, noble, and dignified people of Cuba, who despite adversities have not been and will not be defeated; on behalf of our children and young people, who oppose the policies of hatred, but suffer its cruel effects; on behalf of the generations of Cubans who have been born and those who will be born under the most cruel and prolonged system of coercive measures that has ever been applied against any country and which must be abolished for the good of all.

Thank you very much.


[1] On November 2, 2022, Hurricane Lisa made landfall in Belize, causing extensive damage.

[2] In April 1960, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state Lester Mallory wrote an internal memo under the heading “The Decline and Fall of Castro,” giving a brief analysis of “considerations in respect to the life of the present Government of Cuba” and proposing the initial steps that led to a ban on all U.S. trade with Cuba later that year. In 1962, then-president John F. Kennedy instituted a full, official embargo and travel restrictions. The full text of the Mallory memorandum can be accessed here: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958–1960, Cuba, Volume VI – Office of the Historian

[3] Every Cuban family has access to a range of basic commodities at an affordable price, or the “family food basket.” This system — sometimes called “rationing” — does not restrict access to these commodities, but guarantees essential staples based on the number of people and their nutritional requirements.

[4] U.S. Congress adopted the Helms-Burton Act in 1996. Then U.S. president Bill Clinton signed into law on March 12 of that year. The legislation represented a substantial escalation of Washington’s economic war against the Cuban people.

[5] The Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power is the nation’s highest legislative body; it is composed of more than 600 representatives elected by direct vote of their constituents. These delegates, who serve 5-year terms, choose the Council of State and elect the country’s president.

[6] On February 24, 2019, Cubans overwhelmingly approved a replacement of their 1976 constitution. The vote followed a national consultation process and the approval of a final draft by the National Assembly. Among other things, the updated constitution limits the president to two consecutive five-year terms, creates the position of prime minister, introduces a presumption of innocence in the judicial system, and expands a ban on discrimination to include sexuality and gender identity.

An earlier draft enshrined marriage equality into law, but the clause was removed, and a redefinition of marriage was delayed due to church pushback. The adoption this year of the new Families Code codified a new definition of family, which stipulates equal rights and responsibilities of marriage partners, and recognizes same-sex marriage. (For more information, see the note that follows.)

[7] Following the popular vote on September 25, 2022, the Cuban National Electoral Council released results showing 74% of Cubans of voting age participated in the referendum on the Families Code. Nearly 67% of those who cast ballots approved the measure; a substantial minority — or 33% of voters — opposed ratification. For a detailed explanation of the new code and its provisions, see “New Cuban Family Code: A Revolutionary Achievement.

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