Remarks by Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas during the reception for Cuba’s National Day

Dear Ambassadors and foreign dignitaries

Senators, Representatives and members of their staff

Cuban residents

Dear friends

 

On behalf of the Embassy’s staff, our authorities and on my own behalf, I thank you for your presence in our house today, to celebrate Cuba’s National Day.

 

As some of you may remember, a year ago exactly today we shared information with you information about a terrible storm that crossed most populated neighborhoods in Havana. We are pleased to say that most of the housing and other facilities have been restored so far and people are back enjoying their lives. Regrettably, other areas in the Caribbean have been hit since then by climate change and natural disasters and they face a hard time as we speak. Cuba will always stand ready to help and support others in the region.

 

Last year we also promised to invite you to the unveiling of the Cuban National Hero José Marti statute on the front garden of the Embassy. We finally did it on July 1st to mark the 4th anniversary of the announcement to reestablish bilateral diplomatic ties with the United States. As you came into the building tonight you probably saw the statue, if not you still have the chance to take a couple of pictures on your way out.

 

I want to take a moment now to recognize the attendance of many of you to the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the City of Havana. The festivities were unique and the largest number of foreign visitors for that occasion came from United States. Local elected officials, artists, fellow Cuban Americans and business people were part of the group. They represented the majority of Americans who still look for a different path in relations with Cuba. Although we have registered a decrease in travel from the United States, still in 2019 we welcomed roughly one million people coming from this country. And that figure is very telling.

 

Last December, during the closing session of the National Assembly in Havana our President Miguel Diaz Canel referred to 2019 as the year when the worst package of measures (82 in total) against Cuba were disposed by the current Administration, with the unique purpose of destroying everything we have built during the last 60 years. And here we are betting on a future that only belongs to the Cuban people.

It is insane to say that the current US policy is addressed to support the Cuban people when they try to deprive all citizens from oil, gas, food, medicines and basic services. The objective has been the same since 1959, which is simply to overthrow a model that offers a social and political alternative to people living in the Western Hemisphere. That policy failed before and will fail again.

But at the same time it is more and more evident that the mentioned policy affects the interests of the United States as a whole and particularly its citizens´. Americans consider themselves the best ambassadors to promote their country and values. Why then to limit their capacity to travel to Cuba?  Why is so dangerous that university students from both countries meet to discuss the future? How subversive is that musicians play together? How many diseases could we fight together? Does anyone is able to fight climate change alone? How southern states will be affected without the Cuban cooperation to fight alien and drug smuggling? Those are simply questions that nobody in the US government these days cares to answer. Under which premises is it right to limit family visits among Cuban Americans, remittances, phone calls, mail?

Despite all setbacks, 2019 was an important year for Cuba domestically. We passed a new Constitution through a referendum where fundamental rights for every citizen are guaranteed. A new legislation has been passed to implement the Constitution. New authorities have been elected in our national government and changes were introduced in provincial and municipal structures. Local authorities have now more power to govern and to deliver to the population. Very important decisions were made in terms of the national budget and the way companies and cooperatives manage their resources.

During 2019 we registered a new explosion in terms of cultural creativity in Cuba and probably the last example is the massive presence of American artists, particularly from New Orleans, at the Havana Jazz Fest. They not only performed on stages at theaters, but went on parades with the local population.

Just three nights ago young people all over Cuba celebrated the 167 anniversary of Jose Marti birthday. This is a Cuban tradition that this year has a special meaning when those involved in regime change plots are now attacking Cuban symbols which are sacred for the Cuban Nation. A week ago a small group of vandals operating with funds fueled from Florida was detained in Havana. This is the remake of an old story. It is about creating the impression of instability in Cuba, fabricating a so called opposition, producing headlines about people with a very obscure past. But the will of 11 million people will prevail, as it has for the past 60 years.

As 2020 elections get closer, a group of burocrats under the current Administration keep betting on the old saying that being harsh on Cuba provides votes in Florida. We have no doubt that they will keep misreading the reality and that they will put personal interests above national interests. It is a fake argument. More and more Cuban Americans travel to Cuba, participate in the national life and would like to get rid of American regulations that limit a larger presence in the Cuban economy.

Next April, Havana will host one more time a Conference to gather Cubans living in many countries, including the United States, to think together about those barriers that limit a more direct contact with their country of origin. That will be another step in the right direction, with everybody and for the benefit of everybody (con todos y para el bien de todos) as Jose Marti once said. Less and less people in Florida follow a path of hate. As business people have said, to be anti-Cuba doesn’t sale anymore.

From our end we have the feeling that what we are going through is a temporary setback. We bet on a better future for both countries, a future where we can debate our differences with respect.

Last year my staff and myself visited 22 different states of the Union. We talked to governors, mayors, entrepreneurs, university professors, scientists, members of local chambers, and people on the street. We can tell you that no one understands why our countries have to be at odds and most of them expect that we can retake the path of bilateral relations we enjoyed in 2015 and 2016.

Dear friends, we look forward to continuing to have your support to keep on building a relationship as normal as possible between our countries. As always, you can count on this embassy as a meeting place to exchange ideas and talk about new projects. Everything we do today will be for the benefit of our future generations.

For those colleagues who represent or are nationals of other countries we have the same message, we´re always available for a relationship where cooperation and solidarity prevails.

Thank you all for your presence here today. We hope you enjoy the evening.

 

Thank you

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