Remarks by Miguel M. Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba, during the high-level online conference of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) to discuss the post-pandemic economy.
June 11, 2020
Dear President Nicolas Maduro Moros;
Distinguished heads of state and government;
Heads of delegations;
Esteemed economic authorities from Alliance countries and guests accompanying us:
I would like to begin by thanking brother President Nicolas Maduro Moros for convening this ALBA-TCP Economic Conference.
Urgently needed are the exchange of experiences and agreement on positions to confront together the effects of COVID-19, a pandemic that threatens to significantly deepen the multi-sectoral crisis suffered by our societies, particularly in the economic field.
Although a global impact is foreseen, no one disputes the fact that those who will suffer most from the consequences of the crisis are nations of the South, since the heavy burden of underdevelopment and debt is compounded by unilateral coercive measures to which some of us are subjected, in the context of an unjust international order, which compromises the sustainable development of our peoples.
Since the beginning of the year we have witnessed a painful type of global political economy.
Every ship to which ports have been closed; every plane that has not found a landing strip; every infected person who has been asked to pay for treatment; every financial speculation to gain advantage in obtaining medicines or protective wear that everyone needs; every unanswered request for help; every dead body without a marked grave – all tragedies that we have learned about through the most diverse means – is an expression of the self-interest and injustice of the economic models of a system whose sole purpose is to enrich minorities at the expense of the majority’s suffering.
Incredibly, the over-developed world, the one that steals talent and dazzles with the brilliance of sophisticated productions, has shown itself incapable of using its enormous resources to build a global front against a pandemic that can only be overcome with two forces within everyone’s reach: cooperation and solidarity.
In developed nations of the European Union, which have been terribly hit by the pandemic, many people speak of separation from the bloc because they feel that community integration has not worked during the emergency. What could be an added strength for economically strong countries has become a weakness in the perception of many citizens, due to fundamental ethical deficiencies.
Today we can clearly see the differences between governments that have defended and strengthened the state as a guarantor of social stability and those that, driven by neoliberal theories, have reduced its role, cutting social benefits, public health services and scientific research.
China, with its effective response to the epidemic in the world’s most populous country, and its contributions to the World Health Organization and other nations, has demonstrated the difference. Even those who speak contemptuously of a “Chinese virus” have been helped by the great nation’s practice of solidarity.
On the other hand, governments presumably very effective in integrating their markets, their finances, their troops and even in organizing extra-regional invasions, failed to coordinate efforts to save their own citizens.
Today the whole world is paying the price for the abuses of savage capitalism. The closest example is offered by Latin America, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic, to reveal to us, in all its brutality, the cost of putting the fate of the people in the hands of the market.
The neoliberal model, which is widespread in our region, has not been able to meet needs during the pandemic, nor will it be able to confront the post-COVID-19 period. The peoples subjected to the right’s economic fundamentalism, today suffer the effects of reduced budgets for health care, social protection, scientific research, and training of medical and paramedical personnel.
The experience of these months confirms that, with an adequate administration of fiscal policy and without neglecting macroeconomic equilibrium, the state plays a major, irreplaceable role, fulfilling its duty to protect, regulate and provide the necessary means to face the crisis, save lives, maintain the vitality of the economy and, at the same time, develop socially beneficial programs.
The economic forecasts are as dramatic as the daily pandemic reports. ECLAC – as explained by Alicia – foresees a 5.3% drop in Latin American economic activity by the end of 2020, with the consequent deterioration of important social indicators. The unemployment rate would be around 11.5%, while the poverty rate could increase by 4.4 percentage points and extreme poverty by 2.6 percent, compared to 2019. This means that poverty in Latin America, the most unequal region in the world, could reach 34.7% of its population, equivalent to 214.7 million people, and extreme poverty would reach 13%, equivalent to 83.4 million.
I wish these were just numbers, but we are talking about human beings: millions of people who are going to join the great masses of the excluded, aggravating existing serious conflicts.
Much trade and investment has been frozen, while tax revenues and access to sources of financing have been reduced as a result of the economic paralysis we face, decreased demand for services and limited exports of our products. In addition, tourism, an activity of great importance to several nations in the region, has been significantly affected by necessary border closures.
Time and common sense impose on the international community the need to put aside political differences and, together, seek joint solutions, through international cooperation and indispensable solidarity.
The priority of our governments in the current situation must be directed toward the promotion and development of food production, with emphasis on local production that guarantees self-sufficiency and requires few imported inputs.
Greater priority and state investment are needed in the health sector, advancing toward universal and free access to basic health services for the population.
Our historical leader, Fidel Castro, has said and written in innumerable statements: “…Instead of investing so much in the development of increasingly sophisticated weapons, those who have the resources to do so should promote medical research and put the fruits of science at the service of humanity, creating instruments of health and life, not death.”
Cuba is saved and contributes to the salvation of other nations based on that philosophy. ALBA-TCP countries can do a great deal. We must identify the potentialities of each one, based on regional economic integration that prioritizes complementarity, with each country producing what is most competitive and exchanging goods and services.
Cuba is willing to promote and expand collaboration in public health, within the ALBA-TCP. We offer to provide advice to meet new challenges in the epidemiological field, which can be through courses or seminars. We offer a cycle of videoconferences by Cuban experts to share their experience in combating COVID-19 and other epidemiological situations, and can make the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine available to ALBA countries as a consultant in this field.
Cuba offers an innovative medical approach for the management of COVID-19, which includes prevention and enhancement of immunity for patients with dysfunctional immune systems caused by aging or comorbidities; and treatment of respiratory distress caused by cytokine storms in patients with the virus.
Cuba also proposes the clinical use of innovative Cuban biotechnological medicines that have proven to be effective in the treatment of Cuban patients, especially older patients in critical and serious condition.
Solidarity is indispensable and has not been lacking in recent years, but improvement is urgently needed of institutional structures on ALBA-TCP’s economic front, in order to establish a short and medium-term economic agenda, design incentives and work with greater agility and flexibility in identifying opportunities and joint projects. We have the political will to carry this out and the proven capacity to cooperate and complement each other, all of which can be redoubled.
The “new real economy” requires a more productive and less financially driven approach. Financing must be channeled toward the generation of goods and services, enabling “more to be earned by producing, than by moving money around.”
And since our historic adversaries are taking action to undermine the global consensus that is so essential today, it is up to us to promote and strengthen multilateralism and support the efforts of the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization to coordinate a collective response, which is the only effective way to win the battle against the pandemic.
Cuba modestly offers the experiences of our national strategy to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 and, at the same time, confront the economic crisis that threatens the entire world and will be more serious for those of us who are victims of genocidal blockades.
Despite the difficult situation we are facing, Cuba has not renounced the objectives of our National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030 for the well-being, development and prosperity of our people.
The contribution of Cuban biotechnology and other scientific sectors has been decisive. Our talented scientists, with their research and newly created pharmaceutical products, have literally defeated death. While in the rest of the world, 80% of patients in serious and critical condition die, Cuban science and medicine have saved 80% of these patients infected by the SARS-COV-2 virus. And this has been achieved without foregoing our internationalist practice of sharing what we have. The huge, slanderous campaign by the United States government against Cuban medical collaboration – which deprived vulnerable populations in Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador of health services, where the pandemic is wreaking havoc – has been defeated. At this moment, 34 Cuban medical brigades, including more than 2,500 collaborators, are contributing our solidarity to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in 26 nations, at the request of their governments.
They join the more than 28,000 health professionals already serving in 59 countries prior to COVID-19.
None of these contributions are recognized by the United States government, while the administration has tightened the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba with new coercive measures meant to make the national effort to confront the pandemic, and recover, even more difficult.
Excellencies and friends:
Regional peace and security are also being threatened. The U.S. administration has refused to make a clear, public statement with respect to a terrorist act that occurred in the capital of that country against the Cuban embassy, confirming an attitude of complicity and collusion with those who promote violent acts against our countries, while reaffirming that the aggressive, provocative language used and extreme, violent positions taken fulfill strategic objectives of the current U.S. government.
Instead of attending to the just demands of tens of thousands of people who, inside and outside the United States, are peacefully speaking out against police abuse, racism, xenophobia and Presidential contempt for those excluded from the “American dream”, the current administration insists on devoting resources and energy to its Machiavellian plans to intervene in Our America.
The sister nation of Venezuela has been the victim of multiple aggressions in violation of the norms and principles of international law, enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and the postulates of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
The ruthless nature of the coercive economic measures unilaterally imposed by the government of the United States against Venezuela arouse indignation. The pursuit of merchant ships constitutes an act of modern piracy, which sets a disastrous precedent in the region with regard to rules and regulations governing international commercial navigation.
Cuba reaffirms our support for President Nicolas Maduro and the civic-military union of the Bolivarian, Chavista people.
No less repugnant are measures against the people of Nicaragua meant to undermine their well-being and security. We once again express our solidarity with the government of Reconciliation and National Unity of the sister Republic of Nicaragua, led by Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra in heroic resistance to interference and interventionism.
We reiterate our solidarity with our sister Caribbean countries, which suffered the horrors of slavery, the transatlantic trade and colonial and neocolonial plundering and which today face challenges resulting from climate change, natural disasters, the unjust financial system and the inclusion in lists of non-cooperative jurisdictions, which endanger their small economies. We demand fair, special and differential treatment for them. The Caribbean will always find in the ALBA-TCP a platform for coordination, cooperation and complementarity in the defense of their legitimate demands.
Brothers and sisters:
The reality we face requires solidarity, as opposed to self-interest.
There is no way to surrender, even with a knee on our neck, for peoples who have learned to breathe freedom conquered with the blood of their best children and who have chosen to fight together.
These hard times motivate us to continue working united, with more cooperation and agreement.
This was the dream of our predecessors and it will continue to be a priority of our Alliance. Working together, victory will be ours, now and always!
Thank you very much.