Speech delivered by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, at the First Extraordinary Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Health of the Association of Caribbean States on Covid-19 held by Video Conference.
Allow me to mention that it has been thanks to a technical miracle and the support of the Secretariat that Cuba has been able to participate in this video-conference. It so happens that the website that hosts the platform of the Association, through which all participants are able to connect to this important meeting, has denied access to Cuba for reasons of the blockade imposed by the United States against our country.
Congratulations to Barbados
First of all I would like to congratulate Barbados in its condition as President of the Council of Ministers; as well as the Secretary-General of the Association of Caribbean States for taking the initiative of convening the First Extraordinary Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Health on COVID-19 for the purpose of exchanging on the urgent efforts called for by humanity in view of the impact of the new coronavirus (SARS CoV 2/Covid-19).
We are here because we are facing a crisis that goes beyond all of us, the consequences of which are sure to be serious and enduring.
Unity of will to to develop joint cooperative actions
The quick spreading of the disease demands that we unite our wills to develop joint cooperative actions that will make it possible to cope with COVID -19, which we all human beings are exposed to.
But our responsibility is still bigger. Further on, once we have overcome the pandemic, we will still have to confront its devastating and enduring social and economic effects. We are aware that we are currently on the path towards a profound recession or international economic depression and that our countries of the South will suffer severely its impact.
This moment calls for everyone to set aside political differences so we can all focus on dealing with the emergency and its serious consequences in the near future.
Every country can and should make a contribution and pursue every possible effort. The pandemic knows no borders or ideologies. In order to confront such a serious challenge we should all concert our efforts and support each other.
Most of us are relatively small States, many with scarce natural resources. We all suffer from the global economic contraction and some have to bear the additional burden of coercive economic measures.
The capacity to complement each other
In the midst of such difficulties, we have the capacity to complement each other. If we act on our own we would hardly achieve anything. Together we could better withstand the impact, find some relief, protect our respective peoples and engage in the difficult task of recovery.
There are countries with better conditions to confront the pandemic and palliate its economic repercussions. Those which are doing relatively better could support the countries with fewer resources and those facing the most complex epidemiological situation first and afterwards those faced with the most complex economic situation.
The actions that we expect from WHO and PAHO to ensure collective, concerted and effective efforts should be supported by the initiatives that we are all capable of generating.
Sharing respective experiences
It is indispensable to share our respective experiences, intensify communication and identify those practices that have achieved good results somewhere else in the world.
We should not expect –much less be confident- that the rich and industrialized countries will come to save our peoples. Little assistance will come from the North. The responsibility of facing the challenge and acting the way our citizens deserve is ours. The ACS can play a crucial role in that endeavor.
Allow me to share briefly the experience of Cuba.
We have adopted several measures to prevent, confront and control the infection in a context in which there isn’t a local transmission of the virus as yet. Social cohesion and solidarity have been of the essence.
We have a primary health care infrastructure that ensures epidemiological control. Our scientific development has specialized in communicable diseases and we have a pharmaceutical industry of a high technological level.
The country has and is implementing a national program to control and confront the infection that prioritizes the health of the people as well as visitors and foreigners residing in Cuba.
Responding to medical assistance requests
Despite this difficult situation, Cuba can modestly offer some cooperation. After making some efforts we have been responding to the medical assistance requests received from several countries in the region, including five members of the Association, which have asked for medical personnel.
Based on the experience in China with the use of a medicine created by Cuba, we have also received requests for that medication, which we are trying to satisfy to the extent of our possibilities. We have advanced in the negotiations of an agreement with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to guarantee a minimum amount of Interferon Alpha 2B vials.
Our Organization can help us socialize our experiences; design an institutional mechanism to bring our respective medical and scientific experts closer together; learn from successful social and local approaches; and identify new forms of cooperation.
We can not underestimate the value of joint efforts.
A virtual technical workshop
Therefore we suggest to the presidency of the Council of Ministers to organize, in coordination with the Secretary-General, a virtual technical workshop in the course of the next few days among our health specialists that will make it possible to establish ways of communication to share experiences and exchange information of interest that may contribute to cope with this pandemic.
Cuba also suggests inviting other countries of the hemisphere, including the United States and Canada, which may be willing to participate in the interest of expanding coordination and exchange.
Likewise, in an interactive way, we could all share a guide or questionnaire that could make it easier for us to identify fundamental data, statistics, concepts and practices that could be enhanced with whatever we have been able to learn from the experience in other countries and regions.
I can offer the participation of our experts to create this instrument. This is a new initiative that we submit to the consideration of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.
Solidarity before inaction and selfishness
We are motivated by the fraternal values that have characterized Cuba, including the principle of sharing what we have, even if it’s scarce. More than 400 000 Cuban professionals have accomplished missions in 164 countries of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia. The Cuban medical cooperation accumulates more than half a century of experience.
At some point in time we will have to carefully meditate about the way to face the economic, commercial and the consequent social impacts affecting all of our countries. We will be faced with a situation in which tourism will be affected; transportation will be reduced; commercial lines will be depressed; supplies will be uncertain and markets will be distorted.
We can not think that the market will respond to these challenges. This will require the dedicated efforts of our governments. If we join our efforts, we will have better possibilities to move forward in less time.
The reality that we all face requires that we put our willingness to take action and our solidarity before inaction and selfishness. Humanity demands an effective solution.
Together we can make it.
Thank you, very much.