June 27, 2019
Members of the diplomatic community, members of Cuba’s civil society, educators and entrepreneurs,
I want to begin by thanking the U.S. Embassy Havana team – every one of you has contributed and added a personal touch to today’s celebration. American officers, our Marines, and our Cuban colleagues at the Embassy.
You have succeeded in shaping a very special event, you work to keep our flag flying proudly every day, and you deserve heartfelt gratitude. Everyone should know that this team is hardworking and dedicated, a true inspiration.
To our guests,
We are proud to share with you our 4th of July experience – a family gathering, almost always with hot dogs and hamburgers, that celebrates democracy and respect for individual rights, the good fortune of our prosperity, the extraordinary gratitude U.S. citizens feel for the many exceptional things that our country offers. Above all, our history, which is a beacon of hope for the world.
You will see that today we have a little contest to test your knowledge of U.S. history, and you will have the opportunity to take a selfie with the Declaration of Independence signed in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on July 4, 1776. I was born in Philadelphia. It is the home of the symbolic Liberty Bell that rang out to declare to the world the birth of a nation unique in world history. A nation of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Our gratitude and respect go out to all of you who are joining us here today. We realize the difficult decision you made to come to our event under these circumstances. Every year, the government here prevents many from attending and it is truly regrettable.
Over the last year, I have traveled across Cuba and met many people. During my life as a diplomat I have lived in many countries, and before, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger. Because of that, it is immediately evident to me that the Cuban people are kind and caring, innovative and highly optimistic.
The people of Cuba merit, as any other people, an open society, and possess the ability and drive to make the economy prosper and life flourish. The idea of a prosperous Cuba is not only a dream; there are clear ideas about how to make that happen. If only the regime trusted its people, the Cuban people would implement their vision and realize the Cuban dream.
What would happen if the economic, political and cultural repression were to disappear? Free market principles have raised millions of people out of poverty. For example, as diplomatic colleagues from former communist countries present here today can attest, their nations are thriving because they opened up. They have increased potential, generate wealth for their people, and strive to gain access to generous economic benefits of the U.S. market.
If there were freedom, Cuba would be a country where:
· The government would consider the concerns and best interests of its people when creating laws and regulations.
- · Hard working individuals would keep the fruits of their labor, and salaries would represent a living wage.
- · Technology would be accessible and affordable.
- · Production would be transparent and efficient.
- · Leaders would understand fundamental economic norms and market principles.
- · Cuban consumers would benefit instead of only government officials.
- · Contracts and licenses would be rational and streamlined.
- · Foreign investors would rely on a stable, sound investment market.
- · All people, entrepreneurs included, could associate freely.
- · Supply would meet demand
Cubans are naturally open, with an enormous creative power. That is why “cuentapropistas” (entrepreneurs) have performed impressively. We are glad that so many of you came today, and we are excited to see that you have been talking and networking.
With these factors, you could achieve prosperity for all.
But let’s not fool ourselves. Repression must end. Economies perform better when there is liberty and good governance, not repression. We know this. But more importantly, repression- by any government – is wrong. The international community calls out regularly against repression in Cuba. Many people have been subject to repressive tactics and several forms of harassment. Arbitrary detention is on the rise. Unlawful searches and seizures as well. Freedom of movement does not exist in Cuba for people who openly express their dissent. People throughout Cuba remain without legal protection.
- The United States is guided by our own Bill of Rights.
- Cuba has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- We know there is much to be done.
The Cuban people deserve freedoms of press, expression, association and more. Let us never abandon this noble purpose. President Trump has made clear the United States’ solidarity with the Cuban people and our ardent desire to help Cuban citizens live a life independent of repressive government control.
We should not forget what Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
How true this has been when we witness the repression and unacceptable conditions happening in Venezuela where self-determination is denied to the Venezuelan people, where hunger is a political weapon, and diseases are increasing.
Why would a government associate itself with a system of governance that has caused so much misery and deprivation?
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has explained the simple motive of the U.S. policy on economic sanctions against the Cuban regime. The sanctions are designed to deprive the regime of the resources used to repress its own people and promote repression abroad.
The sooner Cuba’s advisory and military apparatus leaves Venezuela, the sooner Cuba can contribute to the better good of this region. In which case, we can all pull together, multilaterally, to advance our common aspiration of greater democracy, prosperity and peace.
We support the desire of the Cuban and Venezuelan people to have governments “of the people, by the people, for the people.”