75 UNGA: Statement by Pedro L. Pedroso Cuesta, permanent representative of Cuba to the UN, at the virtual seminar on the impact of coercive measures on national health systems. New York, 3 June 2021

Dear colleagues:

National health systems are among the most impacted sectors by the imposition of unilateral coercive measures. Hence, we feel that the holding of this webinar is of utmost importance.

Unilateral coercive measures are contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and International Law, they pose a major obstacle to the development of the countries upon which they are imposed, and their primary objective is often to extract concessions from developing countries and undermine their right to self-determination.

The impact of these measures on national health systems eloquently exposes their criminal character, and their devastating consequences on the well-being of the peoples against which they are applied, and particularly, on the quality of life of the most vulnerable.

It has been duly demonstrated that these measures have a direct and indirect impact on the performance of national health systems and the provision of health care services.

On the one hand, they impede the purchase of medicines, equipment, technologies and supplies indispensable for health care, at an immeasurable human cost. On the other hand, they hamper the performance of vital public services, such as power generation and fuel supply, without which national health services cannot operate normally and efficiently.

This reality has been denounced over and over again by the countries that suffer the unjust imposition of these measures. However, the inhumane essence of these practices had never been so exposed as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an international context as complex as that of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the spirit of solidarity and international cooperation and the most basic sense of humanism should prevail, we have confirmed that this type of measures which contravene International Law have continued to be applied with full severity, and in some cases, such as that of Cuba, they have even been strengthened.

The appeals made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Secretary-General, on March 23 and 26, 2020 respectively, to lift these measures in the context of the pandemic, have been overtly ignored.

On the contrary, and as it has been documented by the Special Rapporteur on the negative impacts of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, the frequency, type, purpose and scope of application of these measures have been enormously broadened.

Cuba is a clear example of this reality. My country continues to be subjected to the lengthiest set of unilateral coercive measures in history. For more than six decades, and without interruption, Cuba has had to suffer the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States.

This policy of punishment against Cuba, which is nothing else but a crime, constitutes a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people. It violates the UN Charter and International Law; and it is the main hindrance to my country´s socio-economic development, and to our government´s efforts to improve the quality of life of the population.

The accumulated damages in nearly six decades of application of this policy amount to over 147.8 billion dollars.

On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the context chosen by the U.S. government to further intensify and in an unprecedented manner, its criminal behavior against Cuba.

Between April and December 2020, the blockade caused losses to Cuba in the order of 3.5 billion dollars, which, added to the losses of the previous year, amounts to a total of over 9.1 billion dollars, from April 2019 to December 2020.

The blockade poses a colossal burden for the Cuban people and economy, with particularly ravaging effects within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which Cuba has had to allocate considerable resources to urgently ensure the necessary equipment and materials for its National Health System.

The refusal of international suppliers to deliver the agreed commodities, the delays in the arrival of supplies and the increase in costs, resulted in losses in this area amounting to 198 million 348 thousand dollars between April and December 2020. This shows an increase of 38 million dollars with respect to the previous period.

Cuba was unable to access a total of 32 equipment and supplies related to the production of vaccine candidates against the COVID-19 pandemic or to the implementation of stages that allow for the completion of the vaccine clinical studies, including equipment for the purification of vaccine candidates, accessories for production equipment, filtration tanks and capsules, potassium chloride solution, thimerosal, bags and reagents.

This had an impact on the work of several institutions of the Cuban biopharmaceutical industry, including the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the Finlay Vaccine Institute, the AICA Laboratories Company and the Farmacuba Company, directly linked to the country's efforts to tackle the pandemic.

In like manner, the blockade has repeatedly stymied the arrival of humanitarian aid in the country, which is immoral and unjustifiable in the context of the fight against the pandemic and reveals the criminal essence of the blockade.

In November 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation denied, following orders from the State Department, an application by the airlines IBC AIRWAYS INC. and SKYWAY ENTERPRISES, INC. to operate humanitarian cargo flights to Cuba.

Despite those enormous obstacles and limitations, Cuba's efforts in confronting the pandemic have been internationally recognized. The country has five vaccine candidates in development, is about to become the first Latin American country to have its own vaccine and to vaccinate its entire population. In addition, it has sent 57 medical brigades to support the fight against the pandemic in 40 countries and territories.

The aim of the blockade is to bring the Cuban people to their knees and make them abandon the path they have chosen in the exercise of their self-determination. However, the United States will fail, as it has failed for six decades, in its ambitions against Cuba, because our people remain firm and united in the objective of building a fairer and more inclusive society for all.

Thank you very much