The impact of COVID-19 has been catastrophic. More than 4.5 million lives have been lost, and many more are yet to be lost. The virus kills, as does the lack of solidarity, the unilateral coercive measures and the selfishness imposed by the unjust international order.
The pandemic has laid bare the inequalities of our world. Until August last, more than 80 percent of the 5 billion vaccine doses administered globally were given in high- and middle-income countries, despite the fact that they account for far less than half of the world's population. By contrast, hundreds of millions of people in low-income countries are still waiting to receive their first dose, without any certainty that they will have access to them. Is this not discriminatory?
We are far from being able to estimate the real socio-economic impact of the pandemic. However, it is clear that the full and timely implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals are increasingly unlikely.
A change of pattern is imperative if we are to preserve the progress made globally in terms of child protection, gender equality and women´s empowerment, the elimination of racism and intolerance, care for people with disabilities and the elderly, the promotion and protection of all human rights for all persons, crime prevention and criminal justice, and the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
We need a new, fairer and more democratic international order which is based on multilateralism, solidarity and international cooperation.
Unilateral coercive measures are an affront to self-determination and have a very negative impact on the human rights and the socio-economic development of the peoples against whom they are applied.
The case of Cuba is very typical. The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against my country constitutes a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of all Cubans; it violates the UN Charter and international law; and it is the main hindrance to our development. For more than six decades, the United States has not ceased its policy of hostility and suffocation against Cuba, which has been heightened in an opportunistic and unprecedented manner in times of pandemic.
Nine months after the current U.S. administration took office; the 243 measures adopted by the previous administration remain in force, including the addition of Cuba in the list of countries that allegedly sponsor terrorism, for which preparation the United States lacks morality and international mandate.
The United States has made the application of these coercive measures a central instrument of its foreign policy, in order to punish those who do not serve its interests. As the President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, stated at the general debate of the 76th UNGA, and I quote "it is a behavior associated with ideological and cultural intolerance, with a marked racist influence and hegemonic purposes. It is neither possible nor acceptable to identify the right to economic and technological development of a nation as a threat; just as it is not possible to question the right of every State to develop the political, economic, social and cultural system chosen by its people in a sovereign manner".
At the same time, the United States takes advantage of this context to launch an unconventional war against Cuba, to which it earmarks multimillion dollar funds, to project, through manipulation campaigns and slanders, a false image of our reality, to sow confusion, destabilize, discredit the country and justify the doctrine of regime change. It politicizes the issue of human rights, persecutes and hampers the medical cooperation we provide, and exerts pressures on other governments so that they join in its actions against my country.
The perversity of the United States' conduct towards Cuba is inconsistent with the democracy and freedom they preach, which our people have already conquered for themselves and continue to strengthen, at the cost of enormous sacrifices and not a few risks.
However, despite the blockade and interference, Cuba continues to spare no effort to protect its population from the pandemic. We are proud to have been able to develop, in the midst of massive shortages, 3 vaccines and 2 vaccine candidates of our own against COVID-19; to have sent more than 4,900 health professionals in 57 medical brigades to 40 countries and territories to support the fight against the pandemic; and to be the first country in the world to launch a mass vaccination campaign against this virus in children from 2 to 11 years.
After more than 60 years of applying the same political strategy against Cuba, the United States should have learned that gargantuan challenges will not bend us, nor will we surrender our independence and sovereignty to their imperial dictates. We will continue to create for Cuba and we will continue to move forward along the path we have freely chosen, in the construction of a more socialist, just, democratic, prosperous and sustainable country.