Speech by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and President of the Republic, at the United Nations Food Systems Summit, from the Palacio de la Revolución, September 23, 2021, “Year 63 of the Revolution” .
Mr Secretary General,
I have come to speak on behalf of a people coerced with the threat of starvation for over 60 years.
In April 1960, in a notorious and long-time secret memorandum, a minor US State Department official named Lester Mallory drafted the bases of the policy of blockade against Cuba, aimed at causing hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.
61 years have gone by and the sanctions imposed with the intention of causing hunger and desperation are not only still in place, but have been opportunistically intensified in the present pandemic conditions.
The losses suffered by our country in the period April 2019 to December 2020 alone amounted to $9,157,200,000, reflecting the genocidal nature of a declared policy of subjugating us through starvation.
Despite these obstacles, through extraordinary efforts and in the face of shortages and other difficulties, the Cuban government guarantees the universal right to food in the form of a basic, standardized family shopping basket, received by all Cubans of both sexes, which includes 19 essential food products at affordable prices.
In addition, we are progressing the implementation of a national food sovereignty and nutritional education plan, designed to reduce our dependence on imports, maximize production capacity and the application of science, technology and innovation, while developing efficient, sustainable food systems at local level.
Cuba is grateful for the contribution to this process by the UN specialized agencies, but is well aware that the conditions prevailing in today’s world are undermining the food security of millions of human beings.
The cause is structural. The persistence of an unjust international order, decades of imperialist domination, application of unbridled neoliberalism, protectionism and economic dependence - a legacy of centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism - are the root causes of underdevelopment, favoring extreme poverty and the associated hunger and exclusion suffered by the great majority.
This scenario is aggravated for those developing countries that bear the burden of foreign debt, already repaid a thousand times (1).
Some, like Cuba, also suffer the imposition of unilateral coercive measures that violate international law and obstruct their legitimate right to development.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2020, between 720 and 811 million people were suffering hunger.
Over 2.3 billion - 30% of the world’s population - lacked access to adequate food, while malnutrition persisted in all its forms, threatening achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger by 2030.
The only solution to this drama of human suffering is to change - urgently, radically and permanently - the irrational, unsustainable capitalist patterns of production and consumption, which are destroying the environment and biodiversity, and to resolve the foreign debt problem, while granting special, preferential terms of trade to the developing countries.
The industrialized nations can and must shoulder their historic responsibility and deal urgently with the impacts of climate change, which also include undermining of the availability, access to, quality and stability of food.
To start with, it would suffice that they meet their commitments to funding international development and cooperation.
The warning by the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, at the World Food Summit in Rome 25 years ago is still relevant today; I quote: “The bells that toll today for those who die of hunger every day, will toll tomorrow for all mankind unless it hasn’t wanted, been able or had the wisdom to save itself”.
On behalf of my people, vindictively punished by a foreign power which has been unable to subdue it, I repeat that same warning, with the gravity and urgency it has acquired over those 25 past years.
(1) Source: Speech by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and President of the Republic, at the 27th Latin American Summit, April 21, 2021.