Part II

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Posted by Jeff from ( on Friday, April 25, 2003 at 4:23PM :

In Reply to: Press conference given by Cuban Minister of posted by Jeff from ( on Friday, April 25, 2003 at 4:22PM :

Regarding terrorism, during more than 40 years, the application of the death penalty has not prevented the commission of these acts, organized from the territory of the United States and protected by the impunity that those who organize them enjoy there. Why continue to apply the death penalty if, seemingly, it has not served to put a stop to this type of actions?
As to those considered mercenaries, I would like to know why there are people arrested, charged and sentenced while there are others under the same circumstances, free and without any charges: Osvaldo Payá, Elizardo Sánchez, Vladimiro Roca.
Felipe Pérez.- About the first question, I have already said that we see the death penalty as a last resort, totally exceptional, undesired, which we hope one day won’t be in our legislation. It is not inherent to our philosophy of life. But we have been a country under attack, we are a country under attack, we are a country subject to a plan to destabilize us, and we have to resort to any means at our disposal, within our laws and within respect for international law. Because I must say that there are more than 80 countries in the world whose legislation provides for the death penalty. However, Cuba, as a sign that its position on this matter is not doctrinaire, that it does not defend the death penalty as part of its program, when a resolution on this topic is voted on in the Commission on Human Rights, on the elimination of the death penalty, Cuba does not vote against that resolution, it abstains, to show that, although it now applies it and provides for its exceptional use in its legislation, this does not mean that it defends it as a doctrine or as a resort that should always be part of our legislation. It is kept in our legislation for a dissuasive purpose, as a weapon of defense to avoid worse problems.
If a situation like that of 1994 is unleashed here, a migratory crisis, which is what the terrorist groups of Cuban origins in Miami and the ultraconservative sectors in the United States are betting on, and, as I have said, there have been seven hijackings in six months, and several other attempts, and there is potential for more, from people that cannot emigrate to the United States legally and are left with the only alternative of trying to hijack an airplane, an aircraft, and they know it is the way they are going to be received in the United States. Then if a torrent of these acts of terrorism, hijackings, deaths, diversion of aircraft is unleashed here, there will be conditions for a migratory crisis, for an extraordinarily complex situation in the relations between Cuba and the United States.
At the same time, the groups in Miami who encourage these acts are urging the President to consider as an aggression against the United States any uncontrolled emigration from Cuba to that country. There is a very clear plan that we have denounced here, and to prevent that from provoking a war, we are trying to act with great maturity vis-a-vis the irresponsibility and complicity of those who should fulfill their obligations instead of manipulating this issue.
For that reason, we have been forced, put in the blind alley of having to resort to a drastic measure, with great sorrow, because we are human beings, because we have fought for life, because we have risked and lost lives fighting for other people’s lives thousands of kilometers away. Because we fought against apartheid that killed Africans, that violated the rights of the African people, and 2,000 Cubans died there fighting in other lands against colonialism and apartheid. We have a sense of life, because Cuban doctors now save lives in dozens of countries, 3000 of them work free of charge in 21 countries. We have a sense of life and of the protection of life, because we have saved the lives of hundred of thousands of Cubans by reducing infant mortality from 60 per 1000 live births to six over these years. Now then, people who have fought that way for the life of a people and for the lives of others could not have a philosophy contrary to life.
The day Cuba is not blockaded, the day Cuba is not attacked; the day there is no Helms-Burton Act, no Torricelli Act, no Cuban Adjustment Act against Cuba; the day the aggressions, plots and conspiracies against Cuba stop; the day Cuba is left alone to choose its own way, Cuba will not have to resort to drastic measures, which it does not want, but which today it is the duty of its leadership to take in order to save and protect the lives of millions of Cubans, whose future and whose right to life depends on our performance.
Therefore, we, with pain but without hiding to do it, have had to make decisions of this nature.
We have not resorted to the easy alternative of extrajudicial assassination, since –according the Amnesty International report—last year there were extrajudicial executions in more than 30 countries in the world, some of them from our region.
We have not set up death squads to clear the country of criminals or street children.
We have not murdered anyone, but we have enforced our laws rigorously.
We have not set up an illegal police group to assassinate our enemies. Is this clear? We have not set up a paramilitary group, as was set up in a certain country that you, Medem, know quite well; we haven’t done that.
Ah, but we have enforced the law. We wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t been brought to a situation like this, because the Council of State has the power to prevent a sentence of this nature –ratified by the Supreme Court—from being served. But we have been forced, just as we were forced to enforce laws that were already in effect in Cuba, because the laws under which the mercenaries who act in the service of the power that attacks our people were prosecuted are laws dating from the late 1990s, which had not been applied, in a spirit of tolerance. These laws were our response to the Helms-Burton Act. But we have been brought into a situation in which we have had no other choice, and we have acted.
What I can certainly tell you is that we will not be defeated without a fight. For us, there is no such word as surrender or concessions. We have a very clear sense of the rights that we have conquered, because the first time that there have ever been civil and political rights in this country was at the triumph of the Revolution, which enabled our people to rule the country’s fate and to recover control of this country. We know that hurts some people, but we are not willing to give it up.
It is true that a group of people have been prosecuted and sentenced by the courts and that others have not. But I must say clearly that those who take part in acts of treason against their homeland must be aware that they will have no impunity, that our people will defend themselves with the laws available to them, abiding by our Constitution and existing legislation, as a state subject to the rule of law that we are; our people will withstand the pressures and will continue to withstand the blockade.
Do we want a confrontation with the United States? No. Do we blame their people? No. Do we blame the majority of Cubans living in the United States? No. We know that they are not calling for an invasion of Cuba and a naval blockade.
Do we understand those in this world that have legitimately and honestly expressed concerns and differences with us? We do understand them.
Do we believe in those who maliciously use this issue to make declarations against Cuba? No, we do not respect them; we know them quite well. We know that there are those who have made declarations out of confusion, a lack of information, or a perception different from ours. But we also know that there is a great deal of political opportunism, that there is a great deal of electoral discourse, that there is a great deal of baseness. But the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban people are above all that, and what will prevail will be the memory of the feat of a small country that has managed to remain independent, in spite of the obstacles it has had to confront.
So to answer your first question: a last resort, the desire for a dissuasive effect. To the second one: nobody goes unpunished; those who betray our people, those who put themselves at the service of the power that is attacking our people must be aware that there are laws to prosecute and punish this conduct.
Sergei Novozhilov (ITAR-TASS).- Minister, I would like to ask you about the article that appeared recently in The New York Times. How could Cuba react in the event that the United States should comply with the threat announced in this newspaper yesterday?
Felipe Pérez.- Well, today there is an official note in our newspaper. I guess you haven’t had time yet to see the official note on this topic in our newspaper, regarding what was published yesterday in The New York Times, that U.S. administration officials are preparing a variety of options for the president, who has still not made a final decision, aimed at punishing the Cuban government.
“President Bush” –it says— “is likely to make a public statement soon about the crackdown. Among the measures are the possibility of cutting off cash payments to relatives in Cuba or halting direct flights to the island.” There is an official note on this that I really suggest you read carefully. But to answer your question on our reaction, I will just read what it says here:
“Whatever their plans for punishment may be in the economic field, the United States government is left with very few options in the arsenal of actions it can carry out against Cuba. All of the possibilities have been foreseen and will be dealt with. The ones who will be punished will be the many families that have adapted their lives to the economic standards and considerable benefits provided by small remittances in the conditions of Cuba” – and here it is explained why — “... and even worse, the many people, most of them senior citizens, who depend on these remittances. The Cuban economy and its social services can withstand the suspension of the supposedly great benefits of these remittances, or of charter flights.”
“Cuba, where not a single person is abandoned to their fate, will also help those who need the assistance of the Revolution because such an inhumane policy leaves them helpless.
“The threatening language used to warn that an exodus of rafters will not be tolerated fully contradicts the enormous encouragement that the authorities of that country have given to hijackers of Cuban planes and boats.”
“The alleged measures being announced to ban flights and remittances would also serve to encourage illegal emigration, and none of the blame for this could be placed on Cuba, which strictly and without exception complies with its obligations as described in the bilateral Migratory Agreement.
“We shall then wait for the pronouncements and punitive measures that have been announced. Meanwhile, we shall try to guess and use our imagination to successfully confront, with dignity, strength and efficiency, any form of hostility and aggression, just as the Cuban Revolution has done for more than four decades.”
So I can say that nobody has lost any sleep here; there is no one worried here. The Revolution will manage –wisely, with its people’s support—to take appropriate measures to confront a new aggression.
Here I found the paper that was missing.
It is a dispatch from Agence France Presse.
“The Cuban Freedom Council” – a Miami-based extremist group, made up and led by some of the main members of the paramilitary apparatus of the Cuban-American National Foundation —“is advocating the suspension of remittances and all travel from the United States to Cuba.” What a “coincidence”, this group and government figures are thinking the same thing. A “coincidence.” Or maybe it is no “coincidence”? Could it be that the debts of gratitude to those who made President Bush’s victory in Florida possible are being paid? They advocate a suspension of remittances and of all travel; they advocate the “imposition of multilateral sanctions, such as those applied in their time on South Africa,” and they advocate “a naval blockade if Castro provokes a massive exodus towards the United States’ coasts.”
Along with a plan to foster an exodus, which forces us to take measures such as those explained here, painful, but thinking of the lives of all the others, there are demands for a naval blockade if the plan happened to succeed.
There is a really an incredible lack of scruples and ethics in these close friends and buddies of the main figures in the current U.S. administration, with whom they’ve had relations for many years.
For his part, Cuban-American National Foundation Human Rights Director Omar López Montenegro… There are things that would make you laugh, if these weren’t such serious matters… Because, just listen to this, the Cuban-American National Foundation has a Human Rights director, the group that financed the bombs planted in hotels here, which killed Fabio di Celmo –an innocent young Italian— sentencing him to death without a trial, and wounded some 40 people, including tourists. This really is more than anyone could take.
This character, linked to the group that financed the attempt to plant 40 kilograms of C-4 explosive in a Panamanian university, trying to assassinate Fidel, where hundreds of students would have died, acknowledged that they “would have preferred stronger language” in the resolution adopted yesterday; they would have preferred it. However, he said, “the Fidel Castro government maneuvered by introducing an amendment against the embargo, and that ultimately hindered the objective that we were hoping for.”
I’m bringing this up just to recall what another distinguished character, Ninoska Pérez Castellón, daughter of a Batista dictatorship henchman, says: “We have to move on from the stage of condemnation to that of actions and sanctions against Cuba.” This is the atmosphere in which our country has to act today, trying to prevent a new escalation in the already deteriorated relations between the United States and Cuba.
Does Cuba consider the United States, as a country, its enemy? No! Does it regard the people of the United States as its enemy? No! Does it feel hate, feelings of revenge? No! Cuba wants normal and respectful relations with the American people, in whom it sees values. Cuba cannot forget that these people, over 80% of them, demanded that the Cuban boy held kidnapped in Miami be returned to his father, to his family in Cuba, and Cuba thanks the American people, and – whereas their government is planning to ban any travel — Cuba advocates the American people’s right to come to Cuba, and the right of the Cubans living there to visit their families. Cuba advocates the right of Cubans living in Cuba to travel to the United States to see their families, and defends the American people’s right to have normal relations with a neighboring country that poses no threat to the United States.
So there are two conflicting positions. But we will continue to defend the American people’s right –violated by their government—and ours.
Andrea Rodríguez (AP).- Good morning.
I would like to sort of revisit the two points mentioned by my colleague Medem. With respect to the executions and the death penalty, doesn’t the Cuban government think that this application and this break of the moratorium on the application of the death penalty discredits it in vast sectors, especially of Latin America, that supported the Cuban cause? That’s on the one hand. And on the other hand, if evidence was produced against the other dissidents or mercenaries –as the Cuban government calls them—are we to assume that neither Elizardo nor Payá have links with the Interests Section?
Felipe Pérez.- Regarding the first matter, Cuba respects the opinions of every person who honestly opposes the death penalty; it understands those who have expressed concerns. However, it rejects those who hypocritically do so for electoral or political considerations. It knows that a measure of this nature entails a cost before those who are truly concerned; it is confident that time will prove us right and will prove that this painful measure, taken as a last resort, was based on the desire to avoid a much greater loss of lives and costs for both countries, averting the unleashing of a new migration crisis that would end up in a war between both countries.
Now, do we think that our prestige decreases before those who use this issue for political reasons? As to those who do it based on the aspiration to score a point for good conduct before the superpower, or for electoral reasons or otherwise, or for hatred towards Cuba; regarding what these people think, we really don’t have the slightest concern. We also know that they have not stated this alleged concern over what has happened in Cuba with regard to the 80 people executed in the United States last year and with regard to everything I already explained here.
About the second question. You must not assume that there is no evidence on other people. I presented evidence here that was submitted and presented in a trial, evidence that was submitted to the court and was part of the proceedings. I cannot present it in the case of persons who have not been brought to justice; but you must not assume that the fact that it has not been presented means that it does not exist.
Francisco Ramírez (Notimex).- Good morning, Minister.
Felipe Pérez.- Good morning, Francisco.
Francisco Ramírez.- In the last few months there was the perception that Mexico and Cuba were working towards loosening the tensions that erupted in the first quarter of 2002. But then there came Geneva and the Cuban government made a detailed evaluation of the reasons behind the vote in the Commission on Human Rights. Mexico and Chile were included among the countries that are unable –according to what Cuba’s communiqué stated—to oppose an alleged annexation of Latin America by the United States.
My question is as follows: Under these circumstances, how could the assessment of Mexico’s reasons and particularly Mexico’s vote in the Commission, explained by the Mexican Representative Mariclaire Acosta, affect relations between the two countries?
Felipe Pérez.- It is Cuba that’s offended. Cuba believes there is not one single reason that justifies the Mexican government’s or the Chilean government’s support of a resolution establishing a monitoring of Cuba’s internal situation, when that does not happen against any other country in our region where there are violations of human rights, including Mexico and Chile, and when no country in Latin America has raised its voice to condemn the violation of human rights in the United States, and especially, not even the violations against immigrants from Mexico and other countries. Therefore, Cuba does not recognize the moral authority of any country in the region that keeps silent about the violation of human rights in the United States to then make statements on what happens in Cuba. So Cuba is the one that feels offended. Cuba believes there is no reason to explain a position that –it is known in advance—will favor the United States’ interest in constructing a pretext to continue to justify the blockade and aggressions against Cuba.
Cuba has always hoped –and still hopes—that her Latin American sister nations will adopt a position in defense of a small Latin American country, situated at the center of the region, which has suffered over four decades of violations, aggressions and blockades.
There are those who say, “Well, while we reject the embargo” –the “embargo”, the mild word used to refer to the economic war against Cuba—“we cannot fail to voice our concerns over what happens in Cuba.” False, because if you are against the blockade against Cuba, you should oppose the maneuver that is being worked out in Geneva to try to perpetuate the blockade. False. A “fig leaf” to conceal the inability to have an independent position on the Cuba issue, which I recognize as very difficult for the countries of our region, amid a complex and contradictory relationship with a powerful neighbor such as the United States.
Francisco Ramírez.- Minister, please, will there be any consequences?
Felipe Pérez.- Well, I don’t have a crystal ball; I’m just a minister of foreign affairs (Laughter).
Aníbal Arrarte (Opción-Uruguay).- Good morning, Minister.
Minister, the question I wanted to ask you was asked by my colleague Sergei.
Felipe Pérez.- Who asked it? Ah, Sergei. Hey, Sergei, how come you got hold of the question of… (Laughter).
Aníbal Arrarte.- But if you let me step out of context, not as a journalist but as a Latin American born in Uruguay, I feel the need, out of shame –and I am sure I speak on behalf of most Uruguayans, in Uruguay and around the world—to express my regret and apologize for the political nausea repeatedly created, for the second time, by the Uruguayan government and other Latin American and European lackeys, in a shameful maneuver against Cuba, which rather than going against the Cuban government, directly affect their peoples.
May universal shame and contempt fall upon these bootlicking and mercenary governments.
Thank you.
Felipe Pérez.- Thank you, Aníbal. I appreciate it.
We don’t blame the Uruguayan people. We have a clear awareness of what caused the Uruguayan government to execute and lend itself to a maneuver against Cuba. But we know that all this will pass; we know that it won’t be long before the Uruguayan people do justice to Cuba in that sister country’s policy toward us.
Vanessa Bauzá (Sun Sentinel).- Good morning.
Felipe Pérez.- Good morning, Vanessa.
Vanessa Bauzá.- I wanted to know if you could inform us about the situation of the group of people who were arrested in Nueva Gerona, last Friday I think it was, or Thursday, apparently, who also wanted to carry out another hijacking. If the trial has started, what phase is it in?
Felipe Pérez.- Those people, as publicly explained, encouraged by the preceding events, in which it so happened, several times, that people took control by force, that is, hijacked aircraft and vessels, got to the United States, and were set free, and they tried too, no less than with an automatic rifle, several clips of ammunition and knives. This is the result of the irresponsibility and the incentive entailed by the Cuban Adjustment Act and the tolerant and conspiratorial policy maintained by the United States over decades. Those people are still subject to preliminary investigation, prior to the trial.
And there have been other incidents, of which I don’t have exact information, and plans and encouragement, and there will be many more if people see that that is the way to emigrate.
Now I would like to make it clear: I see that the press… I know that often times, and I would say that almost always, it is not the correspondents in Cuba, who have a more exact approach to the Cuban reality, but that in their editorial office, other interests prevail; because many times, when I have come and asked a correspondent, “Why have you said this, if you were there and you heard me explain,” they have told me: “It wasn’t me, Minister. I put some other thing and they changed it.” But putting that aside, I must point out that they refer to the hijackers as people who were trying to “escape from Cuba.” Then comes the manipulation: “Cuba executed some people who were trying to escape from the country.” They create the pattern of opinion that someone who emigrates from Cuba is someone who “escapes”, whereas someone who crosses the Mexican border into the United States “emigrates”.
If the Cuban is in the United States, he or she is an “exile”. Those hijackers, on arriving in the United States, become exiles of the Cuban government. The Mexican is called a “migrant”. There is a perverse manipulation that seeks to conceal the truth that Cuba, like any other Third World country, has a tendency toward a migration flow; that there are people in Cuba who would like to emigrate to the United States and that they might do it if the United States government complied with the agreements and did not pave the way for these incidents.
Then, every time I see the Cuban called an exile and the Mexican called a migrant -- the Cuban is escaping and the Mexican is emigrating -- I really feel very little respect for the sincerity, the seriousness expected of those whose job it is to express an opinion and inform the public about these things.
I am not blaming anyone in particular and I find you all not guilty; but I am amazed to see how it is repeated that a group of men who do the same thing done by the hijackers who crashed the airplanes into the Twin Towers, who use weapons to take control of an aircraft and take it to the United States, are called “exiles escaping from the regime.” This to me is manipulation, and a lack of consideration for the Cuban people, for the people who very nearly lost their lives, for the families of those who have lost their lives in these incidents, throughout the years.
But, anyway, these people, Vanessa, have not been brought to trial yet.
Fernando Rasgver (BBC).- Minister, I just want to clarify a point on the official note. If I understood well, the note says, actually, that if those sanctions the U.S. press is talking about were applied, would the purchase of food from the United States come to an end?
Felipe Pérez.- Does it say so?
Fernando Rasgver.- I understood so. I am asking you.
Felipe Pérez.- Well then, let me see what I understand.
Here it reads: “The Cuban economy and its social services can withstand the suspension of the supposedly great benefits of these remittances, or of charter flights, or any other measure, including the suspension of sales of food.” The article does not refer to them, but they could be included in the “variety” of options that was being suggested to the President. “Without access to the slightest bank credit, we have already purchased more than 300 million dollars worth of food from the United States, paying up to the last penny without a second of delay.”
Here it reads: “Such measures would only serve to show that, for strictly political reasons, the United States is not a safe and reliable food supplier.” It says here that such a measure “would only serve to show that, for strictly political reasons, the United States is not a safe and reliable food supplier.”
We will have to teach a course on interpretation just for you, free of charge, through “University For All “(LAUGHTER).
Journalist: But Minister, if you have a supplier that isn’t reliable, you usually don’t buy from it.
Felipe Pérez: Oh! Well, but that would be an anticipation of our decision; maybe you take the risk and you keep on buying from it.
Your question is the following: Does the article say that if these measures are adopted, Cuba will stop buying food? And my answer is: No.
The Note says that if food sales are suspended or banned, this “would only serve to show that, for strictly political reasons, the United States is not a safe and reliable food supplier.”
In fact, if the United States bans all food sales, we could no longer buy from them, because they would have banned them all over again.
The article published by the newspaper refers to measures that could be adopted against the sending of remittances, measures to ban direct flights, and a variety of other options. Here it reads, and it’s only sensible, that if food sales, whereby Cuba has already bought more than one million tons of foodstuffs from the United States, something that also benefits American farmers and their families, as well as transportation companies, beyond any political considerations, something that is also in the interest of broad political sectors that have approved such a decision in the Congress as well as in the Senate... If, despite all of this, the United States decides to cut off that trade, well, this would be a confirmation that, in fact, they are not reliable. This was something that was going smoothly, that was benefiting even their own businesspeople and farmers. And now, for political reasons, just to please that mob that is also calling for the implementation of a naval blockade and an attack, they could do away with an opportunity that was proving that trade between our two countries was possible. That opportunity reduced to ashes all that was being said by these groups when the food sales started: “You’ll see that Cuba won’t be able to pay, because Cuba has no money,” they said, and Cuba has not delayed any payment, not for a single second, and there is nothing but satisfaction among American businesspeople and farmers, for the seriousness and the professional way in which Cuba has signed the contracts, transported the cargo, and paid for the goods. Cuba has received recognition for that, and that is proof.
Cuba imports one billion dollars worth of food a year. The United States and its farmers would be left out of that market if the United States decides to ban food exports to Cuba.
We are not the ones who blockade the United States, we are not the ones who adopt arbitrary measures against the United States. We are not the ones who are preparing a “variety” of options for our President against the United States. We would certainly use our intelligence to face any measure and any aggression.
Good morning, Arreola.
Gerardo Arreola (La Jornada - Mexico): Minister, Amnesty International, in its most recent report – if my memory serves me correctly it was issued in May, last year -- stated that in Cuba there are 49 persons sentenced to the death penalty. My first question is if you could confirm, dispute, or be more accurate as to this figure.
Amnesty is also asking for the commutation of the death penalty imposed on these persons. My second question is the following: What would be the answer from the Cuban government?
Felipe Pérez: I can not confirm that figure. I do not know that figure right now. But I could reiterate that in Cuba, the death penalty has been applied only as an exception, and it has been so stated in our legislation. It cannot be applied against minors, the mentally ill, or women. And only as an exception can it be applied by a high level court, a provincial court; if the attorney for the defense does not file for an appeal, the case will automatically be considered by the Supreme Court, where there will be a new trial that will review the case. Should the Supreme Court ratify the sentence, after a new trial is held with all due safeguards, namely, medical exams, psychiatric testing, evidence, witnesses, depositions, then the case will automatically be considered by the Council of State, which is entrusted with the power of commuting or not the sentence.
The death penalty has been and still is applied only on an exceptional basis, and never has there been any haste to resort to such a severe measure.
I cannot confirm that figure, I cannot give you my opinion on that because I do not know the figure. But perhaps there may be some people who have been sentenced to the death penalty, whose situation is still being considered during some given stage of their legal process, since in such cases there will not be any execution before the completion of a series of previous steps, such as those I have already explained.
You ask me if the Cuban government would commute the sentences. First of all I would like to state very clearly that the government is not entrusted with that power. The Council of State is the only Cuban entity that can adopt such a decision. The Council of State is made up by 31 members, and the issue needs to be discussed first and then put to the vote.
In this case I can say that the Council of State, the Supreme Court, and all Cuban courts have authorized and resorted to the application of such a measure only on an exceptional basis, when there has not been any other choice.
In this particular case, in which there was a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in place, the circumstances and the moment in which the sentence was applied prevented the Council of State and the Cuban courts from honoring such a moratorium, which was very painful to us indeed, but we were very much aware of the risks that we were trying to avoid.
Such a penalty has never been applied against innocent persons. It has only been applied to persons who have committed serious crimes as described by our legislation and the legislation of more than 80 countries, as I have already explained.
Samuel Hernández (La Isla Grande - Italy): Good morning, Minister. In Italy, there is a press campaign going on against Cuba, mainly against President Fidel Castro. The launching of the book by Asela Caner, which was gong to be attended by Justino di Celmo, was cancelled as a result of that campaign, because the author of the book is Cuban, and Justino di Celmo is a friend of Cuba.
In almost all newspapers there have appeared very subtle attacks that seem to be resulting from a wave of collective hysteria, rather than from the real knowledge about what is going on in Cuba.
The president of the region of Campania cancelled his visit to Cuba; but – and this is the most interesting thing -- non of the businesspeople have so far cut off their relations with Cuba.
Do you think that this unfortunately successful plan designed by the United States and stupidly recycled in the Italian press by European personalities one would practically never suspect, such as Pietro Ingrao and Fausto Bertinotti, could really bring about unpleasant surprises to punish the population and the island as a whole? Would this affect diplomatic relations between Cuba and Italy?
Felipe Pérez: What’s that?
Samuel Hernández: All of this press campaign that is going on...
Felipe Pérez: You are asking me if that would affect relations?
Samuel Hernández: Right.
There is even a debate scheduled to be held next week in the Italian parliament.
Felipe Pérez: Cuba does not want to see its relations with Italy damaged, but it cannot prevent the adoption of measures or decisions by the Italian authorities.
Cuba wants to have normal, respectful, and cooperative relations with Italy as well as with all European countries. It is so sad to see that sometimes the European Union does not have the capacity to design its own policy towards Cuba. But our vocation is to continue to work in order to strengthen and expand those relations.
If Italy or any other country adopts any decision against our own will, well, we could not prevent that from happening. But that will not diminish our feelings of friendship and respect for the Italian people, and for all European peoples.
We have read many of the declarations that have been made, and in some of them there is shameless opportunism. In others, there is a lack of knowledge, expressed from genuine and honest positions. We make a very clear differentiation of each and every one of those who have made such declarations, because we know all those who have expressed their views very well.
María del Mar Marín (EFE): Minister, I had several questions. Besides all the threats you have referred to, regarding the groups based in Miami, when you talked about the war against the United States, I just wanted to know if the Cuban government believes there is a real and imminent danger of a war with the United States. That is one question.
Second, I would like to see if we could go deeper into this issue. Today, the Peruvian government has recalled its ambassador in Havana and I want to know what the current status is of the relations between Cuba and Peru and if Cuba will withdraw its request to join the European Union’s Cotonou Agreement. Thank you.
Felipe Pérez: Well. Those are three questions, aren’t they?
The first question, if Cuba believes there is a real and imminent danger of an attack against Cuba, a war with the United States.
Well, a war with the United States could only take place if there is an attack against Cuba, because Cuba is not planning to attack the United States, it has never considered that possibility and it never will. We feel respect for the American people and we will never think about attacking it. We will defend ourselves, because the UN Charter recognizes the right we have to a legitimate defense, and I recall that the U.S. representative in Geneva said that “Israel has made use of its right to defend itself, enshrined by the UN Charter,” when Israel has murdered, bombed, and destroyed the homes of the Palestinian people. Thus, if this right is recognized for Israel, I think that the U.S. government would also recognize it for Cuba. That is to say, a war would only be possible if Cuba is attacked.
María del Mar Marín (EFE): Do you think there is a real and imminent danger of an attack against Cuba?
Felipe Pérez: I do not think there is an imminent danger. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said “not for the time being” (Laughter). When he was asked about that he said, Not for the time being. We are busy now in Iraq and we are only concerned about Syria. Not for the time being, he said, but, well, if in the future we see that there are weapons of mass destruction in Cuba -- which is always the main issue here -- then we will have to take action.
My answer to your question is the following: the Secretary has said, Not for the time being. The second question: The Peruvian Minister announced that Peru’s ambassador to Cuba would be recalled to Lima. You ask me if this would damage the relations between our two countries.
Cuba wants to have normal and respectful relations with Peru, but Cuba feels offended by the Peruvian decision of offering itself to present the U.S. resolution and justify a maneuver against Cuba in Geneva.
Cuba finds it difficult to understand how a sister nation, to which Cuba has only shown gestures of friendship and cooperation, can work in favor of keeping the Cuban issue as part of the agenda in Geneva, and not, as has been claimed, for establishing cooperation with Cuba, but rather – as the United States has stated -- to condemn Cuba, although this attempt was defeated by Cuba yesterday.
If the Peruvian government had not offered itself to orchestrate this maneuver, if the Peruvian government had not presented that resolution, if the Peruvian government had not voted in favor of that draft resolution, there would be absolutely no differences between Cuba and Peru, nor would there have been any controversial issue between our two countries. The controversial issue was raised by the Peruvian government when it decided to present this text against Cuba. Should this practice cease, there would be no conflict between us.
The Peruvian government cannot accuse Cuba of having done anything similar. Cuba has never made any unfriendly gesture towards the Peruvian government. Nevertheless, the Peruvian government has adopted that decision. It would be up to them to explain the reasons why they did so, not us. Cuba feels offended and it has a duty to defend itself against any attempt to single it out and subject it to unjustifiable scrutiny by the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
Regarding Cotonou, you ask me if Cuba is going to request its withdrawal. This possibility is being given serious consideration, for we have realized that some members of the European Union entertain the illusion of conceiving the entry of Cuba into the Cotonou Agreement as a mechanism to try to put pressure and impose political conditionings on Cuba. Cuba’s good faith and aspiration to make, by means of the Cotonou Agreement, not only a fraternal gesture towards the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, but also to promote relations of respect between the European Union and Cuba, has clashed with the opposition put up by some European countries. Recent events have even led other European officials to raise the threat of not accepting the entry of Cuba into the Cotonou Agreement, as a way to put pressure on Cuba. And Cuba will not yield to any pressure. Cuba has had to put up with more than 40 years of blockade and aggressions by the main world superpower, and there is no sensible reason to tolerate any pressure from the European Union or any of its members. So Cuba is considering that possibility but has not made any decision as yet.
Mauricio Vicent (El País): According to the current pace of U.S. visa granting -–700 visas in six months -- 1400 visas will have been granted in a year, which would be a violation of the migratory agreements, because the United Stated was committed to grant a minimum of 20,000 visas every year. If you add to this all the measures that were announced by The New York Times, namely the elimination of remittances, and the fact that no actions have been taken to prevent hijackings, and that the U.S. authorities have been tolerant with hijackers, we could say we are being witness to a violation of the agreements by the United States. Under such circumstances, would Cuba feel free not to comply with the commitments it entered into in these agreements, namely, to promote safe and legal migration? Would we therefore be facing a new migration crisis, or a possible migration crisis?
Felipe Pérez: What is your question? If the adoption...
Mauricio Vicent: If the United States does not comply with its commitments in the migratory agreements, as it seems would be the case, given the number of visas they have not granted, would Cuba feel free not to comply with its own commitments?
Felipe Pérez: Cuba maintains a steadfast commitment to comply with the migratory agreements. That is what Cuba has been doing so far, with no exception whatsoever, while the United States has not complied with them. The United States enforces the Cuban Adjustment Act; the United States enforces a policy whereby anyone who arrives in U.S. territory is automatically admitted, a practice they committed themselves to cease, as described by the text of the agreements; 10 to 12 out of every 100 persons who are picked up at sea are finally admitted into U.S. territory under different pretexts; the United States has allowed the entry into their territory of hijackers who have not been tried in court afterwards. All of that has happened while Cuba has strictly complied with the agreements.
We see those measures over which The New York Times has speculated as a real incentive to illegal emigration.
The Note that was published by Granma reads as follows: “The alleged measures being announced to ban flights and remittances would also serve to encourage illegal emigration.” Such a measure will make the living conditions of some people in Cuba even more difficult, at a time when no visas are being granted, when the blockade against our country is being tightened, that being one of the main causes of emigration. And the Note goes on to state that “none of the blame for this could be placed on Cuba, which strictly and without exception complies with its obligations as described in the bilateral Migratory Agreement.”
“It is truly absurd and contradictory for the United States to issue threats regarding a massive exodus against a country that, like Cuba, has repeatedly proposed a bilateral cooperation agreement to put an end to migrant trafficking, something that the United States government has not even cared to consider.”
This is all I can say about our position. We have not said that now we are not going to comply with the agreements; but we have said that these measures would be an additional incentive to illegal emigration from Cuba, a new encouragement to do so.
Someone has passed me a question, saying that maybe it was not quite clear whether we would continue to buy food if these measures are implemented, instead of a ban. That is to say, if these measures to ban remittences and travel are implemented, will Cuba continue to buy food? Yes, it will. The only way Cuba would not be able to do so is if this is banned too, but Cuba will continue to buy food. Cuba thinks this has been something positive. The Note reads as follows: “Our purchases were limited but nevertheless grew at a rapid pace thanks to the efficiency and seriousness of the American farmers. If we had had access to financing, the damage would be more significant.”
In other words, we will continue to purchase food, if that is allowed. Now, if later on that is also prohibited, we have already said here that this would be a confirmation that the United States is not a reliable supplier, and all of these purchases, which have so far been beneficial for both countries, would come to an end.
Any other questions?
Gary March (Chicago Tribune): You know there is a very strong movement in the United States, in the Congress, to change the laws against Cuba, namely the blockade. But now, after actions were taken against the dissidents, whom you describe as mercenaries, this movement has almost been crushed, it has been silenced, and I want to know what you would like to say to the people in the United States, the members of Congress, the American people who are against the blockade, and at the same time are against the actions adopted against the dissidents.
Felipe Pérez: Very well, thank you.
You say that these people are dissidents whom we describe as mercenaries. I say that these are mercenaries whom you call dissidents. It looks like the same thing, but it is not.
We feel respect and sympathy towards the overwhelming majority of U.S. public opinion that advocates the normalization of relations with Cuba. We feel respect for the members of Congress, the senators, the majority of whom in both houses have been in favor of eliminating travel restrictions, allowing remittances without any limits, authorizing trade and credits, and even normalizing relations. We respect them all, we sympathize with their position towards Cuba and we also cooperate with them in the search for a new path towards understanding, tolerance, and respect between both our countries.
The message I have for them is that Cuba has been forced to adopt such measures in the face of the irresponsible attitude of the government of their country, particularly the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and its chief, Mr. Cason, who in violation of the most elementary standards of diplomatic conduct, has attempted to turn the official facilities of the U.S. Interests Section, as well as his own residence, into the headquarters for subversion against Cuba. We have been forced to adopt such measures, after showing great tolerance throughout all these years, despite the laws in effect, and having adopted a patient and tolerant position. We have been forced into a situation in which we had no other choice. That is to say, what I would like to say to them is that the responsibility for what has happened falls, first and foremost, on the government that encourages that policy, that has yielded to the pressures of the Cuban mob in Miami; and second, on the behavior of Mr. Cason in Havana.
We support them in their efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. Regarding their concern about the mercenaries called “dissidents”, we will clarify all their doubts, we will express our views and explain, first of all, that the United States should respect our right to have our own institutions, our own laws, our own standards, and our own system, just as we respect the right of the American people to choose their own system.
We are not trying to change the United States; why should the United States strive to force Cuba to adopt the system that the United States considers is the most appropriate? We respect their rights, just as we want our rights to be respected.
We are not trying to change the law that rules the financing of political parties in the United States, whereby in order to become a Senator, a person is required to have 70 million dollars. Well, this is how the Americans system works.
We are not trying to change the fact that in the United States, only one third of the population votes. This is up to the Americans.
We are not trying to change the new Patriotic Act that restricts the liberties, the civil and political rights of American citizens; this is up to their institutions and we respect their rights. Why can’t our rights be respected? Is it because we are a small country? However, according to the UN Charter, we are all equal and we have equal rights, regardless of our size and our economic or military power.
Therefore, regarding the normalization of relations, we support all those sectors. Regarding the questioning of our laws, we do not accept that, and we will explain our views to them, with respect, as part of a respectful dialogue with all those congress members, senators, and other personalities who, after having advocated the normalization of relations, have now been concerned over what has happened.
We have to clear up their doubts, because they have also been poisoned by a huge mountain of lies, slander, and distortion about what has happened in Cuba.
Tracey Eaton (The Dallas Morning News): Minister, in addition to the seven hijackings in seven months, have you seen any increase in illegal departures that may indicate that a new migration crisis is in the making?
Thank you.
Felipe Pérez: There have been those hijackings, as well as other plans and attempts that we have managed to abort. There has also been an increase in illegal migrant trafficking, based in Miami, a profitable business in Miami, with the use of speed [snip - maximum size exceeded]

-- Jeff
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