In his first-ever address to the United Nations General Debate, Cuban President Raúl Castro noted the warming of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba before promising to reintroduce an annual resolution calling for an end to the long-standing US embargo on the island nation.
“To the 188 governments and peoples that have sponsored our just demand, here and in other international and regional forums, I reaffirm the eternal appreciation of the Cuban people and government for your continued support,” he said.
Full normalization of relations will only be achieved, President Castro declared, with an end to the embargo, the cessation of “subversion and destabilization programs,” compensation for “human and economic damages,” and the return of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which Cuba considers to be illegally occupied by the United States.
Pledging solidarity with Cuba’s “Caribbean brothers” as well as its other regional neighbours and peoples in conflict in the Middle East, Castro denounced colonialism, imperialist aggression, and foreign interference “in the internal affairs of the States.”
He asserted Cuba’s belief that “full respect for the inalienable right of every State to choose their political, economic, social and cultural system is an essential premise to ensure peaceful coexistence between nations.”
And he pointed out that 70 years after the founding of the United Nations, the world body has not done enough to preserve future generations from the scourge of war, protect human rights, promote social progress and improve standards of living.
Turning to other issues before the Debate, he said climate change is threatening the very existence of the human species, and States should assume common but differentiated responsibility for that, in light of the indisputable reality that not every country is equally accountable, and not all of us waste natural and human resources to an irrational and unsustainable consumerism.
The consequences of climate change have a particularly devastating effect on the small developing island nations and bring additional tension to bear on their fragile economies. And, the same is happening in Africa with the relentless advance of desertification.
Mr. Castro delivered his remarks on the opening day of the General Debate, following a speech to the General Assembly two days prior, on the occasion of the UN’s adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It was his first appearance at the United Nations.