The US Won’t Subdue the Cuban Revolution: President Diaz-Canel

The US Won’t Subdue the Cuban Revolution: President Diaz-Canel

Journalist Ignacio Ramonet held an extensive interview with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel. They addressed various aspects of the realities that the Caribbean nation experiences amidst the U.S. economic, financial, and commercial blockade against the Cuban people.

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Here are the fundamental elements of an interview in which the revolutionary leader discusses issues regarding the situation within his country, the prospects of the national economy, and trends in international politics.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: For about three years now, daily life for many Cuban families has been challenging. Since the U.S. blockade already existed, what happened to make things deteriorate?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Today, the blockade has a qualitatively different characteristic. We are talking about an «intensified blockade.» It is also supported by another component, namely, Cuba’s inclusion in a spurious U.S. list of countries supposedly «supporting terrorism.»

Above all, I’ll make a comparison that I believe is the best way to illustrate what changed from one moment to another. We compare how the lives of Cubans were until the second semester of 2019, and how life has been afterward.

We are a country that has suffered the limitations and adversities imposed by the blockade for over sixty years. It is an illegal, unjust, and anachronistic blockade, mainly laden with a domineering perspective from the United States.

Cuba has never stood idly by. We have developed a capacity for resistance. It is a «creative resistance» because Cuba has not only been able to withstand the onslaught of the blockade but the country has advanced, grown as a nation, and furthermore, developed. In other words, it’s not just about resisting and doing nothing else.

We have been able to maintain a certain level of economic activity, exports, and support for social programs. We have pursued, albeit slowed down, all our aspirations. If we have been capable of so much while blocked, what would we not have been capable of without being blocked?

Until 2019, Cuba received income from our exportable and competitive productions in the international market because there was vitality in the country’s economic activity.

The country received a significant amount of remittances; a notable income from tourism activities—recall that we reached almost 4.5 million tourists in one year—and we had credits from various financial institutions and countries with which we have very good relations. We also had credits from programs and agencies that allowed us to develop projects.

On the other hand, we had a stable supply of fuel based on agreements with friendly countries, which meant that we hardly had to spend any of our the foreign exchange income we received on fuel. This was so because all those agreements had compensation based on services we provided to those brotherly countries.

Therefore, we had foreign exchange income that allowed us to buy food to meet the basic basket. We could even buy food and other goods that we put in stores. Therefore, our domestic market had a certain level of supply.

We had available foreign exchange with which we could achieve a legal exchange market, controlled by the State, where operations of buying and selling foreign currencies with its equivalent in national currency could be carried out. We had an acceptable level of capacity to pay our debt obligations to countries or companies that have invested in Cuba.

And we also had financial capacity for the purchase of spare parts for the most important inputs for our economy. Therefore, there was an adequate supply-demand relationship that allowed inflation levels to be low.

In the second semester of 2019, the Trump administration applied over 240 measures that intensified the blockade. It even applied, for the first time, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which had a tremendous impact, especially in pressuring foreign investors, those who had already invested, those who were planning to invest.

The intensified blockade gave full support to those who were part of the confiscations that, quite justly, the Cuban state carried out in the early years of the Revolution.

With these measures, all our sources of foreign exchange income were suddenly cut off; tourism decreased; cruises were stopped, an important part of tourist influx to Cuba; and a huge energy and financial persecution was organized.

Over 92 international banks or financial entities were sanctioned or pressured by the U.S. government, causing them to cease their financial exchange relationships with Cuba.

Remittances were cut off, which was an important source of income. Furthermore, they also pressured and applied many sanctions against friendly countries that consistently supplied us with fuel. Therefore, we began to have a fuel deficit and a deficit in foreign exchange availability.

With these two elements, on the one hand, our power system was destabilized because we are capable of ensuring the operation of the thermoelectric plants with national crude. However, our thermoelectric plants do not cover all the country’s electricity demand, especially during peak times; and we have to start up other plants that operate with diesel and fuel oil. Since we don’t have these fuels, we end up with a deficit.

On the other hand, having less foreign exchange availability, we could not timely purchase all necessary inputs and spare parts to maintain the entire power system, which is already at a certain level of obsolescence. This increases breakdowns, causes maintenance to be prolonged, and all this conspires against the stability of the power system.

Under these conditions, we began to suffer from annoying blackouts. Even to reduce these blackouts, we had to close or limit the level of economic activities.

And as part of these same foreign exchange limitations, we began not to have certain inputs and raw materials for important production processes. And the little foreign exchange we have, we have to dedicate it to buying fuel. Before, however, we did not have to spend it because we had other mechanisms to solve this problem.

Prices increase in the international market because there is also the multidimensional crisis that the world suffers from. There are also the effects of climate change, and we have been affected by intense droughts, rains, and hurricanes that have caused much damage to our economy.

All this created an atmosphere of scarcity of medicines, food, and fuel. And it also affects our social programs and the welfare of the population, and all this builds a very complex reality.

In January 2020, just when there were around eight or ten days left for Trump to leave the White House, he included us in the list of «State Sponsors of Terrorism.» And then, suddenly, all banking agencies and financial institutions stopped giving us credits.

Therefore, today we are a country that lives according to the checking account, that is, what you earned this week. How do you distribute it among a tremendous amount of priorities that the country has that cannot be covered with the income of a single week?

Our foreign exchange availabilities begin to be affected, and we no longer have the same capacity to cover and honor our payment commitments of dividends to foreign entities or payments of debts to countries or companies.

We cannot develop economic activity with all the intensity and capacities we possess and need to offer goods and services. There is a tremendous imbalance between supply and demand, and then prices increase, and inflation appears on a large scale.

On the other hand, we do not have the availability of foreign exchange to operate a legal state exchange market efficiently. Therefore, an illegal, parallel market appears, which also manipulates the exchange rate and almost becomes an element that imposes prices and contributes to inflation.

Under these conditions, COVID-19 arrived, affecting the whole world. From our Revolution’s humanistic vision, our main objective was to save people’s lives. Therefore, a significant part of all efforts and the little foreign exchange that entered the country was used to save the lives of the population.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: How can you assess the current energy situation in the country? What solution perspective can you announce to Cuban citizens?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: At the moment, we are in an extremely complex situation regarding energy. We have an unstable power system for several reasons. We have been unable to close the power system in the last 5 days for 24 hours, which means that, at all times, we have had some level of blackout. Undoubtedly, that damages and complicates the situation, causes discomfort, and misunderstandings, and makes life harder for Cubans.

There are several aspects here: first, we have a power system that has a component of thermoelectric plants, thermal energy generation, which is resolved with the production of national crude, which is heavy crude, with a lot of sulfur. But systematic maintenance is required. Over US$300 million are needed annually to maintain that power system; and that financial availability has not existed, which implies that breakdowns and technological problems become more frequent.

We have another group of sources of electricity generation, which are distributed generation engines, especially for use during peak hours. They require diesel and fuel oil, and we have not always had the levels of diesel and fuel oil we need.

As part of the blockade, from October 2023 to April 2024, no diesel or fuel oil entered the country. We depleted the reserves we had. That also caused strong blackouts, especially in March. At the same time, these generating groups also need spare parts. Their maintenance is also affected. Therefore, in the current conditions, our electricity generation may fail due to a lack of fuel, a lack of maintenance, or the coincidence of both factors.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Are you investing in renewable energies?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Yes. We are investing in renewable energy sources such as wind, photovoltaic, and biogas. But, above all, photovoltaic. We have a group of agreements signed, with guarantees, that will allow us to reach over 2,000 megawatts in less than two years.

That would put us in another energy situation because it would achieve the goal we want, namely, to have over 20 percent of renewable energy before 2030. We will reach 25 percent, perhaps a little more, depending on how these issues can work.

We have a whole program. Parks are starting to be set up and enabled now, and our electricity generation through this route will grow. So there will be a substantial change this year and consolidation next year.

There are two outcomes then: we will be able to dedicate more fuel to the economy, especially to food production and economic process that are currently very limited because most of the fuel we have is used for electricity generation.

And on the other hand, our expenses for purchasing fuel will also decrease. But also, the thermoelectric plants will operate in a more comfortable regime. From our national crude, which is also exportable, we will consume less. And one of the things we are doing is increasing the production of national crude to be able to export it, which helps us have a source of financing for all these investments that are very costly.

That is the most sustainable path. Furthermore, it is totally consistent with what we propose in our environmental policy and our commitments to COP conferences, namely, to reduce CO2 emissions. In other words, it guarantees sustainable development.

We are also seeking foreign investments that allow us to enhance, update, and improve the processing of some of our refineries. This will also allow us to refine our national crude and achieve other products that would also be exportable or that would serve us for national consumption, and we would have to import less of these products for national consumption.

There is a whole program also of energy saving and all a development of photovoltaic technologies, more in the domestic field, of equipment that work with photovoltaic energy sources. Also, the replacement of luminaires with LED luminaires that consume less and last longer. All these combined actions will lead us to a better energy situation.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Recently, hardships have led to a sociological phenomenon previously unseen in Cuba: social protests. How do you analyze these protests? What lessons do you draw from the situation?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: It’s an accumulated effect of over 60 years of blockade. My generation, born in the early years of the Revolution, has lived under blockade-induced scarcities. But my children were born under blockade, and our grandchildren are already born and living under blockade conditions. This has directly affected the Cuban population.

Conceptually, what does the United States government advocate regarding the destruction of the Cuban Revolution? There is a reference known as the Mallory Memorandum, based on what a State Department official wrote in the 1960s regarding Cuba. It stated that, due to the Revolution’s level of popular support, the path to overthrow it was economic asphyxiation, trying to make the people suffer hardships and shortages. This would lead to a rupture with the Revolution and thus causing social unrest that would lead to the Revolution’s downfall.

That has been the fundamental policy reference, and that’s what they’re doing with the tightening of the blockade. In 60 years, however, they have not been able to break us, so they’ve intensified their efforts to do so. But they won’t break us either! I still believe in our people’s ability to respond, in their heroism and in their «creative resistance.»

Now, with this intensified blockade, we’ve had the coincidence of several factors: prolonged blackouts, transportation problems, difficulties in ensuring the basic basket, food shortages, medication shortages, and problems with the clean water supply.

Protests have occurred in some places with massive participation, such as on July 11, 2021, or less massive, such as on March 17, 2023. However, as part of the maximum pressure policy toward Cuba, the media portrayed the latter protest as «very massive.» This is the media manipulation through which they try to discredit the Cuban Revolution.

Most of these demands have been made peacefully because what most of the population has asked for are explanations. They are not demands for a rupture with the Revolution. People have gone to request explanations in government institutions or in the Communist Party. Who has faced the people and spoken with them because they are part of the people? It has been precisely the Party leaders, the government, and local administrations. And they have done so without police repression, without any kind of repression.

In these demands, there have also been small groups that have not behaved peacefully. And that is one of the things that the media manipulation promoted by the Empire tries to distort.

Many of these individuals have been funded by U.S.-based subversive projects and systematically receive money to exploit situations and protest against the Revolution. They have not been repressed either.

In episodes of popular demands, there are even people who say, «Wait, we want to talk to the Government and the Party.» These people have not allowed themselves to shout counter-revolutionary slogans or engage in other types of activities. 

Many times, as part of the same subversion platform, the few people who protest against the Revolution commit acts of vandalism, attack public property, and disrupt public order. In those cases, as would happen in any other country, the authorities proceed to implement a legal response that has nothing to do with ideology but with acts of vandalism or criminal behavior that disrupt public order and citizen tranquility.

However, this response is not presented as such in international media, which have a script of an «Unconventional Warfare» that proposes: first, social unrest, demands, or protests; second, the staging of police repression; third, the staging of «political prisoners»; fourth, presenting the existence of a Failed State; and finally, proposing the need for alleged humanitarian aid and regime change. That is the Unconventional Warfare’s script and playbook applied today against Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela. Thus, the distortion is generated.

These types of protests are addressed and explained. They have not caused a rupture between the people and the Revolution because we also have a system through which we constantly visit the territories and talk to the population to gather information about their daily problems.

Why isn’t there talk about protests in the United States, which usually end with police brutality against Afro-descendants or humble people? Why isn’t there talk about police brutality during peaceful protests at U.S. universities in favor of the Palestinian cause and against the genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinian people?

What has been the response of the United States government to these events? Police repression, mistreatment of students, mistreatment even of professors, with boots on people’s necks. We have seen scenes of a teacher, an elderly person, subdued, restrained, humiliated on the ground. That doesn’t happen in Cuba. That doesn’t happen in Cuba!

For example, on March 17, we remained in direct contact with the three places where social demands occurred. Around seven in the evening, everything was in complete order. However, at one in the morning, the media manipulation platforms were still saying that «all over Cuba» there was a massive protest. That was an absolute lie.

What can be expected from the U.S. government that resorts to lies to attack a country whose only sin is to want self-determination, independence, and sovereignty, a country that wants to build a model different from what the U.S. wants to impose as part of its hegemonic policy? These media constructions are as vulgar as they are perverse.

If we are so wrong, if we are so inefficient, if we are such failures, then don’t apply any sanctions to us and let us fall. But no. The U.S. government has to resort to these practices to try to bend a small country that represents an example for Latin America and the world. That’s why we take on a tremendous commitment that we cannot fail.

THE CUBAN ECONOMY NOW

JOURNALIST RAMONET: What is the current state of the Cuban economy? What measures is your administration taking to address challenges such as inflation, partial dollarization, and the lack of significant foreign direct investment?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: We have designed a Macroeconomic Stabilization Program that will be developed until 2030 and will be adjusted until achieving the macroeconomic balances that the country needs. This program addresses issues related to inflation and the foreign exchange market. It also tackles matters related to monetary and fiscal policy, incentives for production and exports, wages, pensions, and employment.

Above all, the plan implies a reorganization that we must undertake of the economic system and policies related to resource allocation, the role of state-owned enterprises, and the relationship between state-owned enterprises and the rest of the economic agents.

Now, this is based on several premises, one of which is that we are seeking ways to stimulate domestic production because by stimulating domestic production, we gain economic sovereignty and can ensure that the domestic market becomes a source of development.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: What are your plans regarding food sovereignty?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: We can produce a significant portion of the food the country needs and import fewer food items. Currently, we need over US$2 billion annually to import food. Additionally, from the increased domestic production and efficiency, we must also achieve competitiveness in exports to earn foreign currency and make domestic production sustainable.

We seek to stimulate domestic production, particularly in agriculture, not only at the national level but also at the local level. Each municipality has a self-sufficiency program, and each province has a self-sufficiency program. We want all these efforts and construction from the community, neighborhood, municipality, province to reach the country and stabilize the country’s food situation. For this purpose, we have developed a Food Sovereignty Policy and there is a Food Sovereignty Law.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Is it yielding results?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Since January, we have been visiting all the provinces of the country, and in each province, we visit a different municipality every month. We have observed good experiences where workers’ organizations are doing things differently. In the face of intensified blockade conditions, they find solutions for what we need to achieve regarding food production. I have seen very interesting things in that regard.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Could these experiences be extended to other parts of the country?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: That’s right. We have also visited other places where performances are not adequate. There, organizations may be more overwhelmed by the weight of blockade restrictions and not by the idea of «creative resistance» that we want to develop:

«Due to the blockade, I am affected in this and that. However, under blockade conditions, I can overcome and progress by doing this and that.»

We aim for these experiences to inspire others to do things differently and with better performance. In this way, what is currently an exception will become the norm.

What I am saying is not propaganda but reflects the conviction observed when visiting different places in the country.

For example, during the March and April tours, we observed that this new model is emerging in places that had unproductive and inefficient performances in 2023. Now we have to ensure that this transformation is sustainable over time. The answers are there. We ourselves have the answers.

We tell those responsible for the territories to replicate what is done well in one place to other places. The experience is right there. It is very encouraging to see how these examples shed light on places where the levels of productivity we need do not yet exist.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Has the Cuban state implemented the necessary legal reforms to facilitate new production?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: We still have to ensure that state-owned enterprises can operate under the same conditions as the non-state sector. Currently, however, state-owned enterprises have powers that are not always utilized well. They will have a greater impact as they are leveraged with a more advanced and flexible business culture.

Science and innovation are fundamental. A poor country like ours, which has scarce natural resources but much talent, knows that the answers to our problems lie in scientific research and innovation. That is why we have opted for a government management system based on science and innovation. This was how we faced COVID-19, and now we are applying that system to agriculture, industry, and the care of vulnerable individuals and families.

Each of the measures we will implement aims to reduce the gap of inequalities. We want to be able to generate awareness that the wealth we generate will be distributed with social justice.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: In recent years, the market economy gained a foothold in Cuba, which expanded with micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. What is your evaluation of this phenomenon that is transforming Cuba’s economic fabric?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Regarding this, some clarifications need to be made. Firstly, we have a planned economy that takes into account market signals. However, our economy is not based on pure market economics. Due to the implementation of social justice, market laws do not guide economic development because we primarily think in terms of people.

Sometimes the efficiency of the Cuban economy is criticized from a purely economistic conception. However, I say: this blocked economy, which still does not meet all our needs, maintains important social achievements that are assumed as a right in Cuba, while in many other countries, they have not yet been achieved. I believe that a certain level of justice must be introduced when assessing the behavior of the Cuban economy accurately.

Our planned economy takes into account market signals and laws. We have state-owned micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and non-state MSMEs. In Cuba, the private sector already existed and has expanded because a significant part of agricultural production is in the hands of private farmers and agricultural cooperatives.

We also had the so-called «self-employment» sector. What happened is that, due to the underdevelopment of MSMEs, self-employed work within MSMEs was conflated with individual self-employment. Sectoral self-employment was already generating certain relationships that became organizations.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Were these small businesses with employees?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Although not recognized, these enterprises operated as such. That is, what we did was to update the situation we already had and propose something very coherent: to take advantage of all the potentialities that the country has.

The state-owned enterprise must play the fundamental role in the construction of Socialism, but it is complemented by the private sector.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: What does this private sector currently represent?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: People often say that MSMEs are not growing much currently. But they are growing. It is a relatively new process in which we already have about 10,000 MSMEs. As part of the construcion of Socialism, the main means of production remain in the hands of the state through state-owned enterprises. Therefore, the major weight of the economy lies with the state sector but without denying the significant contribution of the non-state sector.

This has been a relatively new area in the perfection of our socio-economic system. Now we have to correct some distortions in the relationships between state-owned enterprises and non-state enterprises so that everyone, as part of a set of economic agents in our society, contributes and is integrated into the National Economic and Social Development Plan.

Therefore, through dialogue with the non-state sector, we are now updating a whole group of norms so that this works more coherently and really boosts the country’s economy with the contribution of both the state and non-state sectors.

We are also emphasizing the formation of high-tech and innovative companies because one of the characteristics of MSMEs, whether state-owned or private, is that they adapt more quickly to changes due to their conception and way of operating. They are smaller companies and operate more flexibly. Their dynamic can make significant contributions to the economy.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Do you think this sector will continue to expand?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: This sector will continue to expand and be part of our network of economic actors. It will not be an enemy of the Revolution. It is a sector that will contribute because it has been created under the revolutionary conditions. However, we know that the United States intends to turn this sector into a sector opposed to the Revolution.

There is therefore a huge contradiction: while some U.S. legislators and opinion leaders say that MSMEs should be supported to become agents of change, others say that MSMEs should be cut off because they are Cuban State creations to achieve a certain facade.

This contradiction does not arise in Cuba, where MSMEs are part of a necessary business fabric to continue advancing in the construction of Socialism. Theya are involved and committed to the National Economic and Social Development Plan. We are vigilant so that there are no distortions in this endeavor.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Thanks to its scientists and biopharmaceutical industry, Cuba was one of the few countries that could vaccinate its entire population during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was an exceptional feat for a nation under blockade and with limited resources. What lessons did you learn from that crisis?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: The world was shaken by COVID-19, and lessons must be drawn from it, the first of which is that greater funding and resources must be allocated to public health systems to make them more powerful, resilient, and benefit everyone and not just a minority.

On the other hand, international cooperation on COVID-19, not selfishness, is important. Perhaps due to my revolutionary convictions, I somewhat idealistically hoped that the world would be more united and cooperative after the pandemic.

But the opposite happened: the world turned towards war, increased sanctions and blockades, and building walls to solve international problems. The banal discourse fostered by social media, -where reputation murders, bullying, spite, lies, and slander occur-, does not help improve international relations.

This shows us that a new international economic order is needed, one that is inclusive, equitable, fair, and supportive. What we need is the opposite of the current international economic order.

What did we learn from COVID-19? A first lesson has to do with the learning we have from Army General Raul Castro. While the first news of COVID-19 was spreading around the world, even though there were no cases in Cuba in January 2020, Raul told us: we must study immediately what is happening and prepare a national plan to face the epidemic.

We learned that we had to have the capacity to design a COVID-19 strategy that involved all public, social, and non-state institutions. We assumed a plan as a country that would allow us to anticipate and prepare conditions to face that situation. That was our first learning.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: To some extent, did you start before COVID-19 spread worldwide?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: We were ready before the first case arrived. That meant training our staff on global experiences and studying the disease. Our actions stemmed from Raul’s vision, who said we should prepare a plan to confront the disease.

Secondly, there was international cooperation. Immediately, we sent Cuban medical brigades to over 46 countries, where the disease was most rampant at the time. This was the case, for example, in the Lombardy region of Italy. Besides allowing us to support those communities, our international cooperation enabled us to learn. Every time a health brigade returned to Cuba, we met with them to gather their experiences and incorporate them into the plan.

Thirdly, we developed a network of molecular biology research laboratories to process all samples. In the case of an epidemic, the number of samples is massive, especially during pandemic peaks. When there are no pandemic peaks, the laboratories become data sources to determine the disease’s spread levels.

We learned about the role of epidemiology as a science within the healthcare system because many of these diseases need to be tackled with an epidemiological logic, namely, knowing how to cut or prevent transmission.

To achieve this, we improved coordination between all social organizations and the Cuban healthcare system, which proved robust during the pandemic despite the intensified blockade while we were categorized as «state sponsors of terrorism.»

This coordination also included the Cuban regulatory agency for medicines (CECMED) and the biopharmaceutical industry to shorten clinical trial timelines, improve the capacity for generating new drugs, analyze proposals for using existing drugs, and perfect disease management protocols.

The management system based on science and innovation played a fundamental role. Every Tuesday at three o’clock, we held meetings with experts and institutions working on COVID-19. From these meetings, which we still hold, a program of over 1,000 scientific research projects was achieved, leading to the development of our vaccines.

When the Delta strain peak began, as we observed that vaccine distribution mechanisms worldwide were highly unequal and favored the wealthy over the poor, we told our scientists, «We need Cuban vaccines for sovereignty and to tackle this.»

Three months later, we had our first vaccine candidate. Then we achieved five vaccine candidates, three of which are vaccines with well-proven efficacy. Later, we developed two vaccines that are still in clinical trials and are very promising.

No more than ten countries could develop their own vaccines. No country in the Global South managed it. Even some economic powers failed. In contrast, we were able to do it and shared our technology with other nations.

A great lesson was having the capacity to make our own vaccines and carry out a massive vaccination campaign in a short time. We administered 40 million vaccine doses in less than two years.

Achieving this requires a community-level system because vaccination was not only done at health centers but also at schools where healthcare personnel went to vaccinate and set up clinics. Without all that preparation, we couldn’t have faced the pandemic. And the vaccines saved the country! The pandemic peak dropped immediately after we vaccinated over 60 percent of the population with a single dose.

Later, when we opened the country’s borders, the Omicron variant arrived. While the previous strain caused higher pandemic peaks worldwide, this variant lasted only about three weeks in Cuba and caused one-third of the cases registered in the previous pandemic peak. By then, our people’s immunity levels were already high.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Back then, Cuba confirmed its prowess in healthcare. What new contributions in healthcare could Cuba offer to the world?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: At this moment, based on all these learnings, we have compiled all our experiences to incorporate them into our healthcare system.

We are also advocating for the «One Health» program, which links diagnosis, emergency treatment, and comprehensive disease analysis. COVID-19 confirmed how useful primary care is, and now we are updating these learnings within primary care.

We continue to develop our diagnostic capabilities. In addition to using PCR, our scientific institutions have designed diagnostic mechanisms and techniques.

We can also share with the world studies on the sequelae of COVID-19. The issue was not just to tackle the disease and save lives but also to guarantee quality of life for COVID-19 patients.

We have other significant advancements. With our elderly population, we are studying degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We have a wide range of scientific findings that will strengthen healthcare quality in Cuba and across the world.

Currently, despite the tightening of the U.S. blockade, we are working with American institutions on two important clinical trials: one for a lung cancer vaccine that we have already tested with very good results in Cuba. The other is a clinical trial study related to Heberprot-P, a medication that helps people with diabetes in treating diabetic foot ulcers and prevents foot amputation. Currently, an amputation costs thousands of dollars in any country.

We are also working on research to develop a vaccine against all strains of dengue.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Artificial intelligence and digitization are transforming our societies. You have advocated for the informatization of Cuban society. Could you tell us how that project is progressing? What will it bring to citizens?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: In government management, we defined three priorities: initially, we proposed the «Informatization of Society,» and we have expanded that concept to «Digital Transformation of Society.»

These two concepts may seem the same, but it’s not just about moving everything to digital platforms but about having a digital life concept and way of acting. That is, we advocate for digital transformation as a pillar of government management along with science and innovation and social communication. These are the three pillars of government and are closely related.

The digital transformation of society is already a reality. We have 7.7 million people registered in mobile telephony and about 8 million people with Internet access. We have expanded mobile networks, although we still need more technological investments to further expand coverage. However, we are already above the world average.

We founded the Union of Cuban Computer Scientists, where all experts in digital transformation, artificial intelligence, and digital economy are gathered. Many alternatives are debated there to support digital processes.

In the coming weeks, the Council of Ministers will receive updates on the Country’s Digital Transformation Policy, the Country’s Digital Agenda, and the Policy for the Use of Artificial Intelligence. These policy instruments have a holistic approach as we appreciate artificial intelligence not only in terms of the results it could generate in productive processes but also in terms of ethical aspects and other elements that need to be taken into consideration.

We are carrying out digital transformation and will bring the contribution of artificial intelligence to the production of goods and services to increase efficiency. This can help us a lot since the Cuban demographic profile is aging, and we must ensure that our production processes are more efficient to have higher productivity and to serve the majority of people. Automation, informatization, and digitization are tools to achieve good results.

Digitization is also in the realm of public administration because we are developing e-governance to ensure citizen interaction and participation in government management. We have achieved, for example, that all municipalities, provinces, and ministries, as well as most institutions, have digital portals or web platforms to interact with the population.

Recently, digital platforms have collected proposals from the population regarding draft laws brought to the National Assembly. In this way, the legislative creation process has been strengthened and improved.

Soon, we will present the Cuban Citizen Portal, which will be a platform where people can build their profile and access a multitude of important procedures without having to go through the paperwork of offices. In fact, many of these procedures are already being done on the platforms of certain institutions. In the future, however, a single platform will allow resolving any doubts that citizens may have about a process, a law, or a problem.

We are also supporting all this digital transformation process and the use of artificial intelligence with the development of cybersecurity to prevent cyber-attacks.

In a very creative way, thanks to the impressive activity of our youth, our country now has a whole suite of mobile applications developed by Cubans. We even have our application store, Apklis, where Cuban applications can be downloaded.

In Cuba, we have operating systems, and we have limited designs and productions of computer equipment, laptops, tablets, and PCs.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Is there robotization?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: We also have experiences with robotization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to expand intensive care units to prevent hospitals from collapsing. Every time we went to a company to buy ventilators, they denied us due to the blockade laws.

We assigned the task to a group of young scientists from one of our institutions, and they managed to develop prototypes that are now high-performance ventilators, with excellent levels of digitalization.

Their use and quality have been confirmed by our country’s best experts in intensive care and anesthesia, and highly qualified medical personnel. This is another source of pride as a Cuban, to demand something from our scientific personnel and to receive immediate responses, but elevated responses, meaning responses that are at the level of any international development.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Are you developing your own AI applications?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Yes, we are developing our own platforms, applications and designs to incorporate them into production processes and service processes.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Are you working on quantum computing?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Of course, the acquisition of quantum computers faces all these problems. However, we have trained specialists and there is a whole level of knowledge and updating and international exchange.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: On these particular topics, could work be done within the framework of Latin American integration?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: I believe so, it was one of the things we proposed. Now, when we were at the ALBA Summit in Venezuela, the need to create platforms that would integrate Latin America and the Caribbean countries in relation to digitalization and artificial intelligence, was raised. We are willing to cooperate with the developments we have.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Even with educational units or specialized universities?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Educational units, training, participating in joint projects, and making our applications available to the rest of the countries. That is one of the things that is already taking effect.

We have also started the digitization of Cuban banking, which is related to the things we are achieving. We also have a lot of applications in georeferencing systems and processes, as well as in crop technologies. There is a huge thirst for knowledge and development among young Cuban scientists and professionals.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

JOURNALIST RAMONET: For years, Cuba has achieved a great victory in the United Nations General Assembly against the U.S. illegal blockade. However, this victory has not led to concrete results. The U.S. does not yield and does not lift the blockade. What new initiatives could you announce to advance towards lifting the blockade? Have you tried to talk directly with President Biden?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Your perspective on the issue is correct, which also calls for some reflections. How is it possible that the world’s most powerful nation receives almost no support? Almost all other countries vote in favor of Cuba in the United Nations General Assembly, and there is no response.

This only demonstrates the arrogance of the empire. It also demonstrates something more serious: the disregard for the opinions of the rest of the world. It is contempt for our peoples when everyone sees it as a shameful fact that a small country is subjected to a criminal and genocidal blockade, such as the U.S. blockade against Cuba, and they turn a deaf ear to that global demand.

This demand is not only expressed in the vote in the United Nations, it is increasingly common for the number of countries, intergovernmental organizations, regional blocs, and international institutions that, year by year, also approve resolutions against the blockade.

There are more and more leaders of countries who speak out against the blockade. For example, in the last United Nations General Assembly, where the blockade issue was debated, 44 leaders of all kinds of ideologies spoke out against the blockade. And there are more and more everyday events and protests against the blockade that are happening around the world.

Through direct and indirect channels, we have made it known to the current U.S. administration that we are willing to sit down at a table, on equal terms, without impositions and without conditions, to discuss all the issues related to the U.S.-Cuba relationship, all the issues they want to discuss.

Ultimately, in the blockade, there is a unilateral relationship. The U.S. was the one that unilaterally imposed the blockade. Therefore the U.S. is the one that unilaterally has to lift the blockade. We are not asking for favors, nor do we have to make any gestures for them to lift the blockade.

It is simply a right of the Cuban people. A right to be able to develop in an environment of peace, equality, without coercive measures, without impositions. We are willing, but the U.S. has never responded to that.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: The current administration neither?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Neither. We are convinced that the current administration has no intention of changing the situation towards Cuba, especially because it has prioritized its policy towards the interests of a minority, which is the Florida-based Cuban-American mafia.

Despite ideological differences, which we will always have, we could have a civilized relationship between neighbors, where there could be cooperation, economic, commercial, scientific, financial, cultural exchange. It could be a normal relationship, like the one the United States has with another group of countries that also do not share its positions.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Even with countries that were once great adversaries.

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Yes, great adversaries. So, why this obsession with Cuba? Furthermore, we make a distinction: we have nothing against the American people. This is an issue with the U.S. Government.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: How do you explain that President Biden, who was Vice President under Barack Obama when there was a slight change in atmosphere and bilateral relations were restored, holds this position?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: It is inexplicable. Obama began to build a different relationship. This can only be explained by the fact that, in the United States, the issue is not about parties, Democrat or Republican.

There is a military-industrial complex, there is another power structure behind the scenes, in the shadows, which is the one that decides the positions of the U.S. government, which are imperial positions. And there is this situation of subordination to a group of interests, especially for electoral reasons, to the positions of the Cuban-American mafia.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Do you have any hope that the upcoming elections will change this situation?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: I wish they would change. I wish we could have the opportunity to discuss all our positions face to face and have a different kind of relationship. I wish the blockade would be lifted.

Nevertheless, my conviction is that we must overcome the blockade ourselves, with our own capacity, work, talent, intelligence, and effort. That would be the best response to this stubbornness of maintaining the genocidal blockade against our people for so many years.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: It is surprising that Biden has maintained Cuba’s inclusion on the list of «countries sponsoring terrorism,» which Trump decided before leaving office.

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: He has maintained everything. The Biden administration has had very malicious actions against Cuba. I mentioned the one about the ventilators during COVID-19. During COVID-19, our production plant for medical oxygen was affected, and when we went out to buy medical oxygen from countries in the region, where we could get the necessary product in less time, the U.S. pressured companies that could supply us so that oxygen would not reach Cuba. That is a completely criminal action.

Imagine in the middle of a pandemic, with intensive care units, with people who have respiratory problems, denying them the service. They were condemning them to death. We had to make a tremendous effort. We had the help of other countries to overcome that situation.

That is something that is not forgotten. It was such a perverse action. The way they manipulated the situation of COVID-19 in Cuba, when they had a more complex situation than us. We managed the response to COVID-19 better than the U.S. government itself, which has money and wealth. Through media manipulation, they called for the events of SOS Cuba on July 11, 2021.

Today they have so much cynicism that they are capable of affirming that they have not approached another moment in the relationship with Cuba because of what happened on July 11. That is tremendous cynicism and a tremendous lie with which they want to justify their position to the world.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: In next summer’s primaries, is there any hope that Biden will announce that his vice presidential candidate is Michelle Obama and not Kamala Harris? If this is confirmed, would this announcement leave any hope?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Today everything is purely speculative. The U.S. internal situation does not allow for an objective prediction of which side the population’s vote is leaning toward, especially because the population is very affected by domestic issues such as the economy and the abortion issue, as well as by international issues such as Palestine and the Ukainian war.

In other words, there are all sorts of situations that are part of the lives of the American people. I don’t think one can accurately say which side the American people’s vote might be on. There are many undecided people. There are positions within the parties themselves to isolate from the position. In any case, nominating someone like Michelle Obama could be interpreted differently.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: In Moscow, besides participating in the commemoration ceremony of the victory over Nazism, you took part in the plenary session of the Supreme Council of Eurasian Economic Union. Are you seeking new economic alliances? Does Cuba intend to integrate into the BRICS platform?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: It was a very interesting trip. First, we arrived in Moscow at the time when President Vladimir Putin was at his inauguration ceremony. We were not invited there, it was a very private ceremony.

We participated in the Supreme Council of the Eurasian Economic Union for the first time in person, because all the other participations were during the COVID-19 years and we had done them virtually. Therefore, it is not about entering into a new alliance. It is an alliance in which we have been for a long time. And it was the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. It was also a moment to assess the results of that regional integration in which we have the status of Observer Country.

The 64th anniversary of the relations that Cuba established with the Soviet Union, and continued with the Russian Federation, was also commemorated. By the way, the current countries of the Eurasian Union were Soviet republics.

In the last 10 years, the Eurasian Union has demonstrated a significant capacity for economic and commercial dynamism. The combined gross domestic product of these countries has grown a lot. It also defends very fair principles regarding economic development and complementarity.

For us it is a space of opportunities because we can contribute especially in areas such as biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry. Once our medicines are recognized by the regulatory agencies of those countries, we could enter a more accessible market. We also need technology transfer and joint investments.

The Eurasian Union also opens a space for its investors to participate in economic and social development programs in our country. Issues related to food sovereignty, environmental sustainability and renewable energies are also very present in the Union. Therefore, it is an important space for us.

On the other hand, the BRICS are one of the alternatives that the world has to break with American hegemony in international relations. It is an inclusive space open to countries in the Global South.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: The BRICS bloc recently expanded in January.

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Yes. The BRICS have shown a willingness to engage with Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. It is based on a relationship based on consensus, equity, and respect.

The BRICS also propose an alternative to the U.S. dollar and are promoting trade using each country’s own currency or through barter based on the exchange of products and services generated by each country.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: They also have a Development Bank chaired by Dilma Rousseff.

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Yes, they have a Development Bank chaired by Dilma, who is a recognized leader with a political vision towards the problems of the South. The five founding countries of the BRICS, -Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa-, are nations that maintain an excellent relationship with Cuba. In a meeting with President Putin, we said that Cuba aspires to join the BRICS.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: The next BRICS summit will be on October 22 in Kazan, Russia. Do you plan to attend?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: It all depends now on how events unfold.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: It seems they want to create a new type of member, the «partner» or associate member. So there would be room for Cuba.

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: There would be room for Cuba. It also depends on the consensus reached with the countries leading the BRICS. For example, they were very consistent and allowed Cuba to participate in the 2023 South Africa Summit not only as a country but representing the Group of 77 and China, because at that time we were the pro tempore president of the G77 and China.

This group is a very conducive environment for South-South relations, and it opens a new perspective for the new international economic order that the world needs.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: Crises are multiplying in Latin America. There was the assault on the Mexican Embassy in Ecuador. The SouthCom is creating military bases in Guyana, which represents a threat to Venezuela and its historical claim to the Essequibo. In Argentina, President Javier Milei is undoing decades of social progress. In Haiti, there seems to be no end to the difficulties. What is your interpretation of these situations? And what can Cuba contribute to promote regional sovereignty, peace, and progress?

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: This is an expression of all the contradictions that exist at the global level and that are also manifested at the regional level in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is an expression of the empire’s persistence in maintaining the Monroe Doctrine, with that imperialist concept of «America for the Americans,» which does not mean Latin America and the Caribbean for all who live on the continent.

It means Latin America and the Caribbean subordinated to North America and the power of the empire. Therefore, this is also an expression of the U.S. vision of contempt for our peoples, and the U.S. vision of Latin America and the Caribbean as its backyard.

Now, Latin America and the Caribbean, on the one hand, have a group of governments that have maintained revolutionary processes despite the greatest setbacks, pressures, sanctions, slanders, aggressions, and interferences, such as: Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

A whole group of progressive governments also gives a favorable correlation of forces to the left in the Latin American region; we have: the Plurinational State of Bolivia; Lula, in Brazil; Lopez Obrador, in Mexico; Xiomara, in Honduras; Boric, in Chile; Petro, in Colombia, who help to maintain stability and facilitate cooperation and exchange.

But the United States does not sit still with this and is constantly trying to mobilize right-wing forces with mechanisms, I would say, also very dirty to provoke instability in these countries, to prevent left-wing processes or governments from staying in power, and to encourage that where the left has lost power and the right is established, that right does not lose power.

And that this right is totally submissive to the United States and its design, and also fueling disputes on certain topics that have a historical component; encouraging ruptures, slandering, feeding divisions to provoke disunity in the region.

What this is explaining is that today there are some governments that facilitate the U.S. policy in the continent, including governments that are favoring the presence of NATO troops in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Those governments are denying the right to sovereignty and self-determination of territories of their own country in which there have been wars and where there are heroes and martyrs who died for the independence of those territories, for the sovereignty of those territories, and what they do is flatter the powers that became metropolises of those geographic spaces belonging to the region, something that one can consider totally absurd, irrational, and unpatriotic.

Governments that also have a media projection where they express their principles, but totally offensive, of insults against those who think differently, against those who think of doing things differently or against those who defend another way of building the world. I always aspire to that better world that is possible and to which Fidel summoned us.

We have an ethics, we don’t speak behind anyone’s back, we don’t slander. When we have to defend a position, we defend it head-on, and when we have to discuss a position, we discuss it head-on. We are not given to media shows, insults, offenses, that kind, I would say, of political vulgarity for which others in the world are up for.

As a Cuban position, we will always maintain and defend, with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, respect for the sovereignty and independence of those countries; respect for self-determination regarding the socio-political system they assume, and the willingness to, regardless of systems and ideologies, have the most respectful, most supportive, most cooperative relationship with any of these countries, and we have it with the majority.

We never break relations with Latin American countries and try to resolve, through dialogue, discussion, argumentation, any issue in which we may have some roughness, or some divergent position.

I believe that Cuba’s displays of solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean eloquently demonstrate our consistency with these convictions. We have sent doctors and teachers, internationalist collaborators also in engineering and other fields of the economy and society to several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We do not send military or armed forces to Haiti, nor do we invade; in Haiti, we have medical brigades. Today, amid the situation in Haiti, when many are thinking about intervention in Haiti or interference in Haitian internal affairs, we have a medical brigade providing services to the Haitian people, a people that I believe deserves the utmost respect for all it has suffered as a consequence of being the first nation in the region to develop a revolution.

We also have a relationship of gratitude, moreover, a tremendous friendship and brotherhood with the Government of Lopez Obrador and with Mexico. The relationship between Cuba and Mexico is an intimate, historical relationship, a relationship of brothers, of family. Mexico was the only country that did not sever relations with Cuba when the Government of the United States called the entire OAS to sever relations with Cuba.

We defend the cause of Venezuela, the Chavez Revolution, the civil-military unity, and support President Maduro, who has even been tried to be assassinated several times. Something unheard of.

We support the Sandinista Revolution; we clamor for the self-determination of Puerto Rico; we defend the principles of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. We are very interested in the role that Xiomara plays in Honduras, and also her role leading the CELAC; at this moment, we maintain a very close relationship with Lula. With the CARICOM countries. And ultimately, with all of Latin America and the Caribbean. But always on the basis of respect, solidarity, friendship, and dialogue to resolve any situation.

Furthermore, we aim to defend the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, which was approved precisely at a CELAC summit in Havana.

We also defend Latin American and Caribbean integration that responds to the dreams of our heroes, to the highest ideals of Latin American integration, and I am thinking at this moment of Marti and Bolivar. Marti, who always spoke with such respect of Our America and defined very well what Our America was; and Bolivar, who waged a whole campaign to achieve the independence of many Latin American countries.

I believe that leading by example is the greatest support we can give to that Latin American unity.

JOURNALIST RAMONET: That Fidel always defended.

PRESIDENT DIAZ-CANEL: Fidel always defended it and taught us to defend it. Raul has also defended it.

When one talks about dreams and aspirations, we have such a common history and culture. We have such wonderful, hardworking, intelligent, and creative peoples. The pre-Columbian cultures of Latin America have nothing to envy to the Mesopotamian cultures or the cultures of ancient Greece.

The latter were known first, but when one looks at history, one sees that ours in their development, in how they measured time, how they managed water, and how they produced.

Their development were as advanced as those, and they are part of our roots, as you can observe them in any of the Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Our Latin American progressive thinkers, philosophers, and professors have defended the roots of our identity. Our continent is a continent with resources, which unfortunately today is where the highest degree of inequality in its peoples is manifested.

I am convinced that with all those virtues and richness, the Latin American continent could have such integration that it could be an example to the whole world of what it can contribute to the human condition, to the future, to the dreams of emancipation, to placing the human being in the true center of everything that is done for the world.

Sooner rather than later, the moment will come because our peoples demand a lot of justice because they have lived through many complex situations. They have experienced aggressions, contempt, interventions, and practices of inequality. They have been excluded from processes and possibilities.

There is still much illiteracy to be resolved in Latin America and the Caribbean, much progress to be made on gender issues, much to be achieved for the emancipation of women, much to be conquered in equality for all our peoples and in social justice.

But there is historical and cultural potential and the desire to do it. We will continue to advance in integration. That is the message, conviction, support, and example that Cuba can give.

Never will a Latin American country feel that Cuba is a danger to them. On the contrary, in Cuba they will always find support, understanding, and the willingness to integrate and move forward.

#FromTheSouth News Bits | Cuba: The illegal Naval Base in the province of Guantanamo has been kept by the United States for more than 120 years. pic.twitter.com/OZawieBATW

— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish)
May 7, 2024

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