Díaz-Canel: May Cuban foreign policy continue to be a diplomacy of “Homeland or Death!”
Speech by Cuba’s President at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 60th anniversary commemoration
Photo: José Manuel Correa
Speech by Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the commemoration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 60th anniversary, held in the Revolutionary Armed Forces Ministry’s Universal Hall, December 23, 2019, Year 61 of the Revolution
(Transcript: Presidency of the Republic)
Compañero José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee;
Compañero Esteban Lazo Hernández, Political Bureau member and President of the National Assembly of People’s Power and the Council of State;
Compañero Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Political Bureau member and Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Admired and beloved founders and officials of long standing;
Compañeras and compañeros:
I am pleased to assume the duty of speaking to you on the day that the 60th anniversary of Cuban revolutionary diplomacy is officially celebrated. Congratulations! (Applause)
We are united with Minrex by close ties and a history full of reasons to be proud of being Cuban, which began well before December 23, 1959.
Revolutionary diplomacy is, without a doubt, a well established fact, which has shone in the ideas and voice of Fidel since the initial days of the victory and his first trips abroad. In Caracas, barely 23 days after the triumph of the Revolution, the young leader was already talking about the need for Latin American integration:
“…How long are we going to be defenseless pieces of a continent whose liberator conceived as something more dignified, greater? How long are Latin Americans going to be living in this petty, ridiculous atmosphere? How long are we going to remain divided? How long are we going to be victims of powerful interests that attack all of our peoples? When are we going to raise the great slogan of union? The slogan of unity within nations is raised; why is the slogan of unity of nations not also raised?
In Washington, only four months after descending from the mountains, his ethics and defense of national sovereignty, his call for a relationship of equals impressed journalists, when he told them that if they were accustomed to seeing representatives of other governments come to ask for money, he was not. And he clarified: I come only to attempt to reach a better understanding with the U.S. people. We need better relations between Cuba and the United States.
Just a few days later, in Buenos Aires, at the meeting of the 21, he proposed a principle that you have emphasized a great deal on this anniversary of Minrex: the diplomacy of the people. He improvised a speech there that no veteran of another governments represented could surpass: “I am a new man here at this type of meeting; we are, moreover, in our homeland, a new government and perhaps that is why we are also bringing fresh ideas and beliefs from the people, since we still feel like the people, we speak here as a people, and as a people living an exceptional moment in its history, as a people full of confidence in our own destiny. I come to speak here, with the confidence of the people and with the frankness of the people.”
On behalf of the people, or rather of the peoples, Fidel suggested, on that occasion, that an investment of 30 billion would be required over 10 years, to solve Latin America’s economic problems. And he indentified the United States as responsible for that investment.
It is impossible not to notice, in this challenge to the empire, a glimpse of what would become Cuba’s legendary battle against foreign debt, the FTAA, imperialist hegemony in the region, and the unjust international economic order.
Looking back at this history as the anniversary approaches, I find it impossible to summarize the essentials in a speech. I believe, however, that a work so transcendent deserves to be told, based on our learning, on how we have come to respect and love it.
I spoke earlier of the day on which the 60th anniversary of Minrex is officially celebrated, thinking about previous events, about those foundational moments that mark the appearance of Fidel as a creator, and Cuba as the protagonist of new political thought on the international stage.
As friends of Cuba have said more than once, a small Caribbean nation was coming to the forefront of world politics, based on the power of truth and ideas. With such a preamble, transforming everything was key. The legendary Raúl Roa arrived to head the Foreign Ministry in June, as a brilliant interpreter of this idea, and Minrex was born in December.
Roa, the grandson of Mambis and a prominent member of the glorious, anti-imperialist generation of the 1930s, had been Cuba’s ambassador to the OAS, where he expressed without “warmth” the Cuban people’s profound distrust of that organization and warned: The diplomacy of the Cuban Revolution has duties and responsibilities consistent with its democratic nature, continental projection and universal transcendence.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the work of the Revolution, changed the name of the former Ministry of State, an imitation of its powerful neighbor. And everything was changed: concepts, structures, composition and ways of working. The fight between David and Goliath was beginning, and Minrex opened its arms to the new diplomats of the people it proudly represented.
It has been said many times that this institution was not founded by career diplomats, but by diplomats on the run. Those men and women, however, most of them very young, had the best of diplomas: that of revolutionaries, patriots, committed to the ideas of Martí and Fidel to the core.
They say that the arrival of Rebel Army combatants, and members of revolutionary organizations that had fought against the dictatorship, to the Ministry, its embassies and missions, along with the first experiences of training cadres at a very early stage, allowed Minrex, from then on, to be staffed by people with absolute loyalty to the Revolution and to Fidel.
I know that several of those among that first batch are still active and have contributed, with their experience, to training the youngest. It is not difficult to see that today several generations of cadres, officials and workers in general live together at Minrex, from those who joined at the beginning to the youngest, born well into the Revolution, who are destined to ensure essential continuity.
The newest inherit a history of dedication and tremendous heroism. Some of this has been documented and published over the years, but there will always be more to say about the courageous response to aggression against our embassies and missions; about the constant struggle against the enemy’s lies and slanders; and about how, over 60 years, a great network of solidarity was forged between peoples of the world and a small nation that the empire hoped to isolate, so that its example would not spread. And, as we said a few days ago before the Assembly, it is the empire that is going to end up isolated.
Roa himself said this when the United States orchestrated the suspension of Cuba’s rights in the OAS at a meeting of foreign ministers in San José, Costa Rica. Who is not still moved by the historical image of his withdrawal from the room, exclaiming energetically: “I am going with my people and, also going with me are all the peoples of America!” Many say this was where he was first called the Chancellor of Dignity. What an honorable and expressive title for the work we are celebrating today!
Along with permanent homage to their memory, their fidelity, their brilliant courage in defense of the principles of the Revolution, today we must also pay tribute to the martyrs of Cuba’s Foreign Service, who in different latitudes fell in defense of the homeland and the Revolution.
Recently, in Argentina, our delegation attended the inauguration of President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. There, we paid tribute to the two heroic young diplomats, whose names are inscribed on the memorial to the 30,000 disappeared, victims of state terrorism during the dictatorship in that sister country.
For years, we had no way of knowing what is known today about the brutal way in which Jesús Cejas and Crescencio Galañena were murdered, after being interrogated and tortured by terrorists of Cuban origin sent by the CIA, as part of the sinister Operation Condor.
To Minrex workers, I would like to say now that the flowers we placed alongside the Argentinean memorial were also a tribute to the long list of all those who, over the years, faced, without fear, all kinds of threats and aggression for their firm commitment to the revolutionary ideal of the Cuban people.
Since the first day of the Revolution, different U.S. administrations have worked to make a reality of their stated goal of restoring Cuba’s neocolonial and dependent past.
Sometimes with a stick and sometimes a carrot, they have tried everything: from aggression to seduction. That is why, since its creation, Minrex has had as one of its principal missions confronting U.S. policy toward Cuba, not only on the diplomatic plane, but especially in this way.
The battles against the blockade in the UN General Assembly and against attempts to condemn our country in the Commission on Human Rights are prime examples along this hard road.
You have played a central role in the effort to prevent Cuba’s isolation and to broaden, deepen and extend our relations with the rest of the world.
As a result of this effort, evidence of the prestige gained by the Revolution in its practice of Marti’s principle that “Homeland is Humanity,” Cuba, which in 1958 maintained relations with little more than 50 nations, today maintains diplomatic ties with 197 countries and international institutions.
Minrex, with 128 embassies and permanent missions and 20 consulates, works to maintain and develop political and economic ties with friendly nations, and to assist Cubans living abroad, among many other tasks.
We are honored to recognize that this Ministry and its members enjoy respect, prestige and authority, even among our ideological adversaries, and have become the first trench of the Cuban Revolution in all regions, contributing, in the very first place, to our people’s response to imperialist attempts to destroy the nation.
You are the daily bearers of Cuba’s unwavering solidarity with our brothers in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and the entire Third World, in the struggle of their peoples against imperialism, neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism. And you have played an important role in denouncing the policies of the United States against sister nations, particularly now, in the face of new attempts to implement the Monroe Doctrine in our region.
True to the promise of compañero Fidel and the historic line of the Revolution, Minrex has made a contribution to our ongoing support of the Venezuelan people and government, in the face of constant imperialist attack, and in solidarity with the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, facing attempts to destabilize the country, promoted from Washington.
You have also been true to another of the Revolution’s principles, in relations with countries of the Caribbean, our most immediate environment, in cooperation, education, health, confronting hurricane damage, the fight against climate change which, although it affects all of humanity, makes small island countries, such as those in the Caribbean, the target of increasingly frequent and destructive weather phenomena, and in denouncing discriminatory and coercive policies affecting their economies.
Puerto Rico and its struggle for independence have always been a priority of our country’s foreign policy and its diplomacy, which has worked successfully to have this right recognized at the United Nations, despite United States manipulations.
Under the leadership of Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, our revolutionary diplomacy contributed decisively to the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, and to the approval of the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by heads of state and government of the countries of Our America at the Second CELAC Summit in Havana.
The holding of two Summits of the Non-Aligned Movement, at different historical moments, under extremely difficult circumstances, provide further evidence of Cuba’s role in the struggle by countries of the South to achieve true independence.
Governments and foreign ministries throughout the world recognize the seriousness, professionalism and hospitality of Cubans at every conference or summit held in our country. Minrex leaders, officials and staff also have the merit of distinguishing themselves for their active participation in the Non-Aligned Movement, the Summit of the South, the Group of 77, ALBA and the Association of Caribbean States, just to mention a few.
The role of our diplomats in Havana and other latitudes, together with numerous institutions, was fundamental to the great battle led by our Comandante en jefe against foreign debt, which has widespread impact on the continent and is fully relevant today in light of the neoliberal escalation in countries of the region.
How can we not recognize the performance of the Minrex in the battle for the return to Cuba of the boy Elián González, which became a serious defeat for the worst elements of the counterrevolution established in the United States, and in the fight against anti-Cuban terrorism, and for the extradition of Posada Carriles and his cronies, who attempted to assassinate the Comandante de la Revolución on several occasions.
Minrex and its embassies also played an important role in mobilizing international solidarity on a global scale in the battle for the return to Cuba of our Five heroes.
The fight against the blockade deserves special mention. The achievement of increasingly massive, sustained support for the draft resolution that Cuba has presented to the United Nations General Assembly, for almost three decades, is a demonstration of tenacity and constancy, of the vote-by-vote struggle against U.S. attempts to prevent the condemnation of its genocidal policy, resorting to pressure, coercion and lies.
The retelling of six decades of revolutionary diplomacy has necessarily been a long effort that will always remain incomplete, so closely tied to the Revolution’s 60 years of incessant, victorious battles. But surely there are also problems to be solved and achievements to surpass.
Minrex has responded to what our people expected in the battle against imperialism, neocolonialism and neoliberalism in all latitudes. From the United Nations to the farthest reaches of the planet, the voice of Cuba has been heard.
Our diplomacy has always been present in the struggle of African peoples for their independence and development; in solidarity with the Palestinian and Saharan peoples, who are fighting for independent, sovereign states, and with the Syrian Arab Republic, whose independence and territorial integrity are threatened; maintaining relations with the beloved Socialist Republic of Vietnam, since the times when it was struggling to confront imperialist aggression and reunify the country; and developing fruitful political and economic ties with the People’s Republic of China.
Very high-level relations have been established with Russia, and with the European Union, despite the persistence of differences, progress is being made in establishing mechanisms of collaboration without interference and with full respect for Cuban sovereignty.
Relations with the United States, whose hostility and aggressiveness have been at the center, from the very beginning of the Revolution, of battles we have fought together, deserve special mention.
The historic participation and memorable speech of Army General Raul Castro Ruz at the Seventh Summit of the Americas, in April of 2015, marked a milestone in the Revolution’s foreign policy.
During the brief period when diplomatic relations were re-established and the United States recognized that its policies toward Cuba had failed, following the Army General’s indications, progress was made on a number of cooperation agreements, and negotiations began on others.
Today, as threats continue and the blockade is tightened, when hatred for the Cuban Revolution and its example is intensified, it is up to you, together with our entire people, to contribute to a more decisive confrontation for the preservation of our sovereignty and independence.
Compañeras and compañeros:
We were talking at the beginning of this speech about the first experiences of the Ministry in training new generations of diplomats. That initial effort has been transformed, over the years, into a prestigious university-level Institute of International Relations, where students receive a comprehensive, academic, revolutionary education. In them, in the quality of their preparation and the depth of their commitment, we see the continuity of Minrex.
We know that ties between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the academic world were broadened with the creation, nine years ago, of the Center for International Policy Research (CIPI), which has allowed for the multiplication of views on world events, with a positive impact on the shaping of policies and strategies.
We also wish to acknowledge the work of Esti (Center for Translation and Interpretation) incorporated into Minrex seven years ago, and that of translators and interpreters at Esti, whose role has been very valuable not only within the country, during events of all kinds, but also in accompanying our leaders on visits abroad, since the very beginning of the Revolution.
At the same time, the Ministry has made progress in its institutionalization. A broad, precise regulatory framework is in place, and a proposed Foreign Service law has been drafted, which will soon be debated by the National Assembly of People’s Power.
On our visits to other countries, in daily relations with personnel working in this institution, we have learned to be aware of and value their indispensable contribution to Cuban state policy, and we have also insisted on the need to give those in our headquarters abroad a greater role in the country’s economic battle to increase foreign investment and cooperation, and to strengthen ties with the Cuban community abroad.
We have met with Cuban officials and diplomatic workers on every visit we make to another nation, to talk to them about life in the country and to explain the complexity of the moment we are living. Thanks to them, we have returned to the homeland with the feeling of having been there too, even though we were far away.
In these six decades of revolutionary diplomatic work, Minrex officials and staff have made a reality of the words expressed by Army General Raul Castro Ruz, at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, when he said, “The international community can always count on Cuba’s sincere voice in the face of injustice, inequality, underdevelopment, discrimination and manipulation; and for the establishment of a more just and equitable international order, in which human beings, their dignity and well-being, are truly at the center.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be proud to reach this anniversary, with its principal missions accomplished and with the satisfaction of never failed the founding principles of this institution, which constitute the epicenter of Cuban foreign policy, and which reflect the thinking of the Comandante en jefe, on December 23, 1959, when he officially created this organization.
Challenging days are coming, in an increasingly complex scenario with the growing aggressiveness of imperialism, but we are certain that you will always be able to overcome the obstacles and face the dangers, with the inspiration provided by the beautiful history that precedes you.
I congratulate you all and embrace you with deep affection and the recognition you have earned from the government and our people, for your efforts and results.
I urge you to continue working with the same creativity, courage and tenacity for the increasingly successful implementation of our country’s foreign policy, whose true creator is Fidel and whose main protagonist is the people, of whom you are a part, and to whom we are all indebted.
There is a phrase of Roa’s, among many of his that could recalled in this celebration, that in my opinion synthesizes revolutionary diplomacy, as it summarizes in a few words the roots and projection of his work. Roa said,
“…The revolution made by the people, on the arm of Fidel Castro, is as Cuban as the Sierra Maestra, as American as the Andes and as universal as the highest human values it embodies … it was born during a century, in the very entrails of the Cuban people, and it is crowning, over time, Martí’s truncated enterprise. Hence his links with Bolívar and Juárez, his openness to new currents in ideas and aspirations that feed the living body of history.”
Keep making history! May Cuban foreign policy – the daughter of the diplomacy of the Mambi insurrection and the Revolution of the 30s, consecrated in January of 1959 and based on Martí and Fidel’s ethical principles of anti-imperialism, solidarity and internationalism – continue to be a diplomacy of Homeland or Death! Always onward to victory! (Prolonged applause)