Statement by Mr. Miguel Díaz-canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the Opening Ceremony of the Thirty Eighth Session of ECLAC

His Excellency Mr. Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of the Republic of Costa Rica;

His Excellency Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations;

Her Excellency Mrs. Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC;

Distinguished Ministers, Heads of Delegations, delegates and guests;

It is an honor for Cuba to be able to participate with you, although in a virtual format, in the opening ceremony of the Thirty Eighth Session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (our dear ECLAC), whose seventieth anniversary we celebrated in Havana in May of 2018, when our country took on the Pro Tempore presidency of the Commission, which we are handing over today to Costa Rica.

For more than seventy years of tireless work to promote economic, social and sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba has always played an active role in favor of multilateralism, the exchange of knowledge and cooperation, all of which make us feel that we are part of ECLAC.

From the Pro Tempore presidency of the Commission; from its South-South Cooperation Committee and the Forum of Latin American and Caribbean Countries on Sustainable Development, Cuba has carried out an intensive work, being aware of the enormous challenges resulting from the commitment to promote cooperation and sustainable development in the region, particularly among our sister Caribbean nations, in response to the initiative launched by ECLAC: Caribbean First.

During its term at the presidency, which was further extended for a few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba had the honor of taking part in the main processes oriented to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the strengthening of the South-South and Triangular Cooperation which are going on at the regional and international levels in the interest of expanding and consolidating our achievements and meeting our goals.

While working to close the existing gaps and consolidate regional integration, we remain committed to the search for concerted and comprehensive solutions to common or similar problems, always following the principle of not leaving anyone behind.

Regarding the last two years, I would like to emphasize the celebration of the Third Meeting of the Forum of Latin American and Caribbean Countries on Sustainable Development in April of 2019.  That was the occasion when the Quadrennial Report on Regional Progress and Challenges in relation to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda was presented.

That meeting, which was attended by more than 1 200 persons, including representatives from the civil society and the private sector, with more than 50 parallel events, was a record in the history of the Forum.

Esteemed delegates;

Shameful economic and social inequalities persist in Latin America and the Caribbean. Structural and systemic gaps among and inside nations prevail and expand in a complex and difficult context in all areas -health, economy, finances, social services and the environment.

It is a fact that the pandemic has imposed increased limitations on our production systems and revealed all of our vulnerabilities.

Its economic and financial impact and its consequent social costs are conducive to discouraging projections.  The region, which has already been coping with a lingering economic slowdown that is much more intense here than in other regions of the world, shows an economic performance ranking below the rates achieved during the last seven decades.

It hasn’t been others who have noted this.  The very Regional Commission, our ECLAC, is projecting a 9.1 percent GDP reduction –the worst ever in the history of the region- by the year 2020.

Meanwhile, climate change continues to relentlessly scourge our countries, particularly the island States.  It has been estimated that, by the year 2050, the economic cost of climate change in the region will account for 1.5 to 5 percent of the current regional GDP.

In view of this tragic perspective, the promotion of comprehensive policies in terms of sustainable development, mitigation, adaptation and resilience becomes an imperative.

It is vital to create better conditions and capabilities for the Risk Management and Reduction in the Caribbean; close the technological gap and promote cooperation and timely access to indispensable resources in order to palliate the effects of climate change.

We firmly believe that only an articulated response among all countries at all levels can help us to overcome the numerous crises facing Latin America and the Caribbean today.

To achieve that, it is indispensable that we remain committed to a renewed and strengthened multilateralism; fraternal cooperation and the search for concerted and innovative solutions. Multilateralism, Cooperation and Solidarity should be the watchwords in current times.

It is our duty to protect peace, the indispensable premise for development, a historical right and claim of our peoples.

I reaffirm here what I said two years ago in the meeting held in Havana:  “There will be no development without peace; and there will be no peace without development.” Consequently, we emphasize the validity of the postulates contained in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.

In this context, it would be impossible not to mention our denunciation of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States, which has been brutally tightened over the last two years, even in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That essential component of the hostile US policy towards Cuba is seeking to damage the nation as a whole with the purpose of exacting political concessions and bringing about chaos.

The opportunistic escalation of this criminal siege, as has been recognized by the current US administration, is aimed at completely strangling our trade, our access to fuels and hard currency and reinforces its condition as a true impediment to national development.

The most recent measure resulting from that brutal harassment, could qualify as an act of brutality, of extreme cruelty, of human barbarity: very soon, Cuban families will no longer be able to receive remittances from the nation that hosts most of their émigrés.

As we have said many a time, the blockade qualifies as an act of genocide and is a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of our people, but it will not make us budge an inch from our development programs.

Cuba upholds its commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda.  We have a National Economic and Social Development Plan until the year 2030, whose strategic axes are intertwined with the Sustainable Development Goals.  We also have a Social and Economic Strategy to boost the economy and cope with the world crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to the recovery of the country.

Once again, we reiterate here our commitment to fraternal cooperation, based on mutual respect, selfless assistance and complementarity, following the invariable principle of sharing what we have, not what is in excess.

Neither the blockade nor the most ferocious slanderous campaigns that are being launched against Cuba’s humanitarian medical cooperation will undermine the humanist vocation of its Revolution, particularly in the face of the complex international situation and the pressing demands generated by the pandemic.

Likewise, I would also like to express Cuba’s State deepest recognition to ECLAC for its work and to Mrs. Alicia Bárcena for her dedication and efforts in the interest of Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as for her transparent and unbiased approach to Cuba, which has been welcomed within ECLAC under her mandate, with a warm spirit of cooperation that has worked both ways: demanding, respectfully, our potential contribution and supporting, with determination and strong commitment, our request for technical advisory.

During her years at the helm of the Commission, Cuba has felt that the work of the current Executive Secretary stands out not only for an efficiently professional and responsible work, but also for the passion and commitment of a true advocator for an ambiance of peace and cooperation to achieve development.

Likewise I would like to express our support to Costa Rica and its President, Carlos Alvarado, and our best wishes for the exercise of the Commission’s Pro Tempore Presidency hat we formally hand over today. As our historical leader, Fidel Castro Ruz, expressed at the closing session of the First South Summit held in Havana on April 14, 2000:  “It is up to us to make it happen”.

You may always count on Cuba to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda in Our America. It is a debt we have with all the founding fathers of the independence of the Americas and the emancipation dreams of its peoples. We will do everything that may depend on our efforts.

Thank you, very much.