Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 7, 2019
Thank you Mr. President, and thank you members of the General Assembly.
Every year for 28 years, this Assembly has voted on a resolution calling for the United States to end its economic embargo against Cuba. For the 28th time, the resolution will likely pass almost unanimously; my government, and perhaps a few others, will oppose it.
Like all nations, we get to choose which countries we trade with. This is our sovereign right. So, it is worrying that the international community, in the name of protecting sovereignty, continues to challenge this right. But what is even more concerning is that every year, this body entertains the claim that the Cuban regime has no other choice than to abuse its own people in response to the embargo. This claim has been made both explicitly and implicitly in just the past 24 hours.
So today, I want to pose a simple question: Does the United States policy force the Cuban regime to violate the human rights of its own people? Exploring this question does not require long-winded speeches – And I promise you this speech will not be long, because our aim is to reveal the truth, not (confess) confuse it.
Still, we must name the abuses endured by the Cuban people – abuses antithetical to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by Cuba – and ask if the Cuban regime was forced to commit them. Article 9 of the Declaration states, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.” In Cuba, reports estimate that 50,000 journalists, activists, and others have been arbitrarily arrested since 2010. Just this past October, human rights defender Jose Ferrer and other advocates were arrested on fabricated charges. Mr. Ferrer has not been seen since. Our embargo does not force the Cuban regime to arrest independent journalists and human rights defenders without cause. This is a choice, freely made.
Article 4 declares that “no person shall be held in servitude”. In Cuba, doctors are sent to work abroad, where they are stripped of their passports; kept under watch by members of Cuba’s security forces; required to work without rest; and forced to return all but a few dollars of their income to the Communist Party. Our embargo does not force the Cuban regime to impose these conditions on women and men who have pledged to heal the sick. This is a choice, freely made.
Article 23 grants each person the right to free choice of employment. In Cuba, private industry is frequently subjected to arbitrary property seizes, business license suspension, and demands for bribes. Our embargo does not force the Cuban regime to strangle the efforts of entrepreneurs and push women and men out of their preferred fields of work. This is a choice, freely made.
And Article 19 guarantees the rights to freedoms of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information through any media. But in Cuba, all political parties besides the Communist Party are outlawed, political activists are silenced, and the country’s media is entirely controlled by the state. Our embargo does not force the Cuban regime to monitor or muzzle the voices of those demanding a better life for themselves and their families. This is a choice, freely made.
And with all choices, there comes a time for responsibility. But to date, responsibility is what the Cuban regime has tried to avoid – for its destructive economic decisions; for its repression of political diversity; for its denial of civil and political rights. This is not the kind of regime we should ever even expect to take responsibility. At home, it refuses to lessen the misery of its own people, unwilling to import the hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural and medical goods authorized by the United States each year. And abroad, it collaborates with the former Maduro regime, perpetrating an economic and humanitarian crisis that spreads beyond Venezuela’s borders. Cuba is an active contributor to regional instability. Its leaders will not hold themselves to account.
But while the regime will not act responsibly, the General Assembly can. We can speak truthfully about what the Cuban regime is doing, and what it is responsible for – because a commitment to speaking the truth is ultimately what is at stake here today. If we fail to act, knowing the truth, there would be a good reason for anger. But frankly, a failure to act would provoke even more sorrow than anger. For it is sorrowful indeed to watch the futures of 11 million Cubans dimmed by the specific and informed choices of their leaders.
And so, I’m going to return to my question, I now answer that the United States is not responsible for the Cuban regime’s endless abuses of its people; that we do not accept responsibility for these abuses; and we never will. We will vote “no” on the resolution.
Members of the Assembly, it is our first responsibility as leaders to defend those without a voice, today most especially the people of Cuba. Shame be upon us if we refuse to raise our voices in defense of theirs.