foreign policy upheld for 55 years
• Cuba will host the upcoming
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)
summit, continuing a long-standing history of
defending justice and sovereignty internationally
Cuba is a small country, with limited economic
resources, but has maintained, over the last 55
years, a foreign policy of global scope and
influence based on revolutionary values and
Chávez and Fidel created with ALBA a new
type of strategic regional alliance.
This opinion is shared by its few – though
powerful – adversaries, who have not been able to
prevent the expansion and diversification of the
relations Cuba has forged with governments and
peoples around the world.
Within the country’s very essence, within its
nature as an island and its multi-ethnic composition,
lie several of the keys to understanding Cuba’s
active interest in maintaining international
relations throughout its history.
Strategically located in the Caribbean Sea, a
region Dominican Juan Bosch described as an imperial
border, the country has long been subject to
attempted domination by great powers, from Spain and
Great Britain, to the United States.
Under these circumstances, the country’s
principal concern, beyond specific conjunctural
issues, has been, and is, to guarantee our national
sovereignty, independence and self-determination.
The triumph of the Cuban Revolution, January 1,
1959, made possible the realization of these
objectives, deferred for years by the neo-colonial
republic’s dependence on the United States. The
decision to undertake the construction of socialism,
just 90 miles from the shores of the world’s most
powerful capitalist country, has made the
consolidation of an effective foreign policy a
question of life or death.
ANTI-IMPERIALISM, INTERNACIONALISM, ANTI-COLONIALISM
Cuban combatants and collaborators have
made great efforts in Africa
The United States could not tolerate the example
Cuba represented for Latin America, the Caribbean,
and countries throughout the Third World. Its
aggressive policy was directed toward eliminating
the new government by any means available.
In Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 1962, the United
States convened member countries of the Organization
of American States (OAS) to impose its policy of
isolating the Cuban Revolution. There, the majority
of Latin American governments led by national
oligarchies surrendered to U.S. interests.
"The OAS was revealed as what it is; a ministry
of yankee colonies," Fidel said, delivering the
Second Declaration of Havana to the thousands
gathered February 4, 1962, in the city’s Plaza de la
"We are going to have on our side the solidarity
of all liberated peoples of the world, and we are
going to have on our side the solidarity of all
honorable men and women of the world," he affirmed.
Cuba was obliged to look thousands of kilometers
to the east to find allies in the construction of a
new, more just type of society, based on solidarity,
a project which had as its starting point an
underdeveloped, single-crop economy.
Cuba’s collaboration with the Soviet
Union led to the first trip into space
by a Latin American astronaut, Arnaldo
For political, economic and security reasons,
Cuba’s relations with the socialist camp,
principally the Soviet Union, came to play a central
role in the country’s foreign policy.
Nevertheless, efforts to improve relations with
Latin American and Caribbean countries – an even the
United States – were never abandoned. In fact, over
the following decades, as military dictatorships and
right-wing governments committed to U.S. interests
gave way to less reactionary forces, the Revolution
was able to create important opportunities for
dialogue within this natural geographic context.
Neither did Cuba turn its back on the rest of the
Third World, playing an important role as a founding
member of the Non Aligned Movement, serving as the
organization’s president from 1979 through 1983, at
the height of the Cold War.
Cuban combatants and collaborators, from the very
beginning, offered their disinterested support to
several nations struggling for independence,
principally in Africa and Latin America, as clear
evidence of the Revolution’s anti-imperialist and
anti-colonial principles. Tens of thousands of
doctors, teachers and civilian advisors of various
types collaborated on social and economic
development projects in countries of the South.
Cuba assumed the pro tempore presidency
of CELAC at the 2013 summit in Chile.
(Photo: ESTUDIOS REVOLUCIÓN)
The independence of Angola and Namibia, the
beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa,
the training of thousands of professionals who
educated, saved lives and constructed these new
countries, are but a few of the successes of this
Cuba’s foreign policy, just like the Revolution
itself, was guided by ideals. This reality was
recognized, albeit much later, even within enemy
Henry Kissinger, U.S. secretary of state under
Nixon, described Fidel in his memoirs as perhaps the
most genuine revolutionary leader in power at that
BREAKING THE SIEGE
During the early 1990’s, the disintegration of
the Soviet Union and the socialist camp was a heavy
blow to Cuba, which lost its principal market and
supply of essential products overnight. Thinking
that the Cuban Revolution’s final days were at hand,
the most extreme anti-Cuban forces in the U.S.
tightened the blockade, approving the Torricelli Act
in 1992, and the Helms Burton in 1996, while at the
same time, appropriating millions of dollars more to
subversion and the attempt to create an internal
Defying all predictions, Cuba was not only able
to resist, but emerged stronger on several fronts.
Cuba’s medical brigade faced a difficult
environment to aid Pakistanis affected
by the 2005 earthquake. (Photo: Juvenal Balán)
Relations with countries of the South, especially
in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and Africa
took a turn for the better. Cuba’s ideals and
efforts in international organizations were
reinforced and the search for peace, regional
integration and collaboration prioritized.
The aggressive, extraterritorial policies of the
U.S. were so arrogant that their rejection was
almost unanimous on an international level.
Expressions of solidarity with Cuba reached new
proportions, even within countries traditionally
allied with the United States.
This was evidenced by the increasing support Cuba
received in the United Nations General Assembly in
votes against the U.S. blockade. In 1992, 59
countries voted to approve the resolution calling
for an end to the blockade, three against, and 71
abstained. In 1997, one year after approval of the
Helms-Burton Act, 143 voted in favor, three against
and 17 abstained.
Despite economic difficulties, Cuba’s
international solidarity was expanded. During the
most trying years of the Special Period, Cuba did
not hesitate to make its human capital, and its
meager resources, available to the world’s peoples.
Medical help was offered to several Central American
countries devastated by Hurricanes George and Mitch
in 1998. The country’s schools remained open not
only for Cubans, but for thousands of foreign
students who shared the hard times, to become
engineers, teachers and professionals in many other
NEW SUCCESSES & CONTINUED THREATS
Millions in more than 30 countries have
recuperated their vision as a result of
The first decade of the 21st century
began with an event which shook the country: the
struggle for the return of Elián González, a small
boy illegally held in the United States. This time
the Cuban people took foreign policy into the
streets, with massive demonstrations which did not
cease until Juan Miguel González, landed on Cuban
soil with his son in his arms.
The decade brought new threats, as well. For
eight years, the world was obliged to endure the
Republican administration of George W. Bush, who
initiated one of the darkest periods of U.S. foreign
Preventative wars, collateral damage, secret
prisons, torture of prisoners became common during
Bush’s mandate. The attack on the World Trade Center
in New York was used to unleash a paranoid war
against a new, elusive enemy: terrorism.
The war policy implemented was a direct threat,
given that Cuba was added to the list of more than
60 countries which constituted the ‘dark corners’ of
the world, accused of sponsoring terrorism and,
therefore, open to attack as part of a preventative
The argument was ludicrous. More than 50 years of
aggression against the Cuban Revolution were
evidence enough to demonstrate that the United
States systematically practiced state terrorism in
the pursuit of its objectives.
Moreover, self-proclaimed terrorist organizations
were sheltered and protected on U.S. territory,
along with criminals who caused death and
destruction in Cuba, such as Luis Posada Carriles
and Orlando Bosh, among many others.
Rather than arresting and prosecuting these
terrorists, U.S. authorities imprisoned a group of
Cubans seeking to gather information on these
criminal activities which threatened the security of
U.S citizens, as well as Cuba.
Since that time, Cuba has waged a battle for the
release of five national heroes, the Cuban Five, a
battle which has become central to the historic
conflict between the two countries and a priority on
Cuba’s international policy agenda.
The international campaign to free these
anti-terrorists, ongoing for more than 15 years now,
has garnered expressions of solidarity from around
the world, including the United States.
On another front, Cuba’s leadership among Third
World countries was reaffirmed when the country
again assumed the presidency of the Non-Aligned
Movement in 2006.
Throughout the 1990’s the country achieved
important successes internationally, including
overwhelming opposition to the U.S. blockade as
evidenced by repeated United Nations General
After the elimination of the Human Rights
Commission, Cuba was elected to the new Human Rights
Council, on which the United States does not have a
seat, revealing the vacuous nature of arguments used
to justify the country’s aggressive, subversive
policy toward Cuba and the real objectives of U.S.
interest in human rights.
AN END TO THE LONG NIGHT OF NEOLIBERALISM
During the first ten years of the 21st
century, Latin America and the Caribbean experienced
a radical transformation in the relationship of
forces, dominated until that time by the right and
Over this time period, as Ecuador’s President
Rafael Correa has said, an end was put to "the long
night of neoliberalism" which had condemned the
great majority to poverty, while a few privileged
layers accumulated more wealth.
The election of Hugo Chávez as President of
Venezuela in 1999, and the subsequent government
victories of progressive movements in Argentina,
Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and
Nicaragua, among others, created a new environment
of cooperation and dialogue between countries in the
In November 2005, in the Argentine city of Mar
del Plata, an event took place, very indicative of
this new environment. At a meeting of the OAS there,
the free trade agreement proposed by the U.S. to be
implemented across the continent was defeated.
Some months later, another landmark event
promoting the unity of Latin American peoples
occurred. In December 2004, President Hugo Chávez
and the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution,
Fidel Castro, issued a Joint Statement to create the
Bolivarian Alternative for the People’s of Our
America, ALBA, and the organization’s first summit
was held in Havana.
Shortly thereafter, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica,
Ecuador, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua
and Barbuda, and Honduras joined the alliance. This
last country left the group in 2009, after
constitutional President Manuel Zelaya was
overthrown by a coup d’etat.
"We affirm that the cardinal principle which must
guide ALBA is broad solidarity among the peoples of
Latin America and the Caribbean, based on the
thinking of Bolívar, Martí, Sucre, O’Higgins, San
Martín, Hidalgo, Petión, Morazán, Sandino, and many
other forerunners, without narrow nationalisms which
reject the objective of building a Greater Homeland
in Latin America, as the heroes of our liberation
struggles dreamed," the founding document stated.
SOLIDARITY: PRINCIPLE AND GOAL
In this new environment and after leaving behind
the most serious economic difficulties, the scope of
Cuba’s internationalist cooperation became an
example of what can be accomplished when a country
is guided by the principle of justice.
The Comprehensive Health Program emerged, in an
effort to extend medical care to some 100 countries,
fundamentally in Africa and Latin America. The
project included the training and development of
human resources in the countries where Cuban medical
professionals worked, as well as within Cuba. During
the 1999-2000 academic year, the Latin American
School of Medicine had an enrollment of 3,000
students from 23 countries, redoubling its
commitment to train youth from humble backgrounds to
become doctors in their own communities.
In 2005, the serious flooding caused by Hurricane
Katrina in the United States, motivated Cuba to
organize the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, given this
name by Fidel in honor of a New York doctor who
participated in Cuba’s war of independence.
The brigade, rejected by U.S. authorities, was
deployed shortly thereafter to Pakistan, devastated
by a powerful earthquake, the worst natural disaster
ever experienced in that country which caused 80,000
deaths and affected a total of three million persons.
The Henry Reeve Brigade has undertaken more than
a dozen missions to support the victims of
earthquakes, floods and other disasters in
Guatemala, Pakistan, Bolivia, Indonesia, Belize,
Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, China, Haiti, El Salvador and
If in fact medical care has been the flagship of
Cuba’s international cooperation, in other areas
such as education, the country’s contribution has
been equally important. More than a million adults
around the world have learned to read and write
through Cuba’s literacy instruction program Yo sí
puedo (Yes, I can), developed by the country’s
Additionally, as ALBA member countries, Cuba and
Venezuela have worked jointly on several
international missions, including Operation Miracle
which has proposed performing six million surgeries
over a ten year period, to address a variety of
ophthalmological problems and return or improve
vision. The plan was first implemented in Venezuela
and has gone on to treat patients in some 30
countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and
Cuban health professionals also contributed to
missions in Venezuela which have changed the face of
that country, such as Barrio Adentro, a community
medicine program which makes health care available
to millions of previously underserved citizens.
Without abandoning the principles of solidarity
which have always guided Cuba’s international
cooperation, the country’s work is being transformed
to become part of a system of collaboration between
countries of the South which is mutually beneficial
AN HISTORIC SUMMIT
The second summit of the Community of Latin
American and Caribbean States (CELAC), set to take
place January 28-29 in Havana, will be an historic
event. Coming to an end will be Cuba’s one-year pro
tempore presidency of this organization which
includes the 33 independent nations of Latin America
and the Caribbean, without the tutelage of any
In 2008, in response to a call made by Brazilian
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the countries
which are now CELAC members met in Costa do Sauipe,
There they decided to include Cuba as a member in
the Río Group and agreed to create a unifying
organization for Latin America and the Caribbean,
without the United States.
Cuba actively participated in the discussions
leading to the creation of what we now know as CELAC,
which had its founding summit in Caracas, in
December of 2011.
Its establishment was described by Fidel Castro
as the most important institutional event of the
last 100 years, indicative of the region’s readiness
to achieve a new paradigm of integration based on
social inclusion, not commercial interests. The fact
that Cuba was the second country chosen to assume
the presidency is no accident, but rather
recognition of the validity and relevance of the
principles, values and objectives of Cuba’s foreign
policy, as it has been implemented for over 50 years.
It also constitutes a clear message of unity
within the region, a rejection of the U.S.
aggression Cuba has faced. It is the United States
which has been left totally isolated, as a result of
its policies of blockade and subversion.