Miguel Barnet at Cuba normalization conference
New York City, March 2017
Transcribed by Carla Riehle. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
I’d like to now ask our brother Miguel Barnet to please come forward and to offer a few words. Distinguished member, leader of UNEAC, the union of writers and artists in Cuba.
Yes, dear friends and colleagues.
We are very, very happy, first of all to to have you here, and then to hear this message from Gerardo. You know of the five heroes, Gerardo is something very special. You know that. He’s a very talented young man and now very happy with three children, and that means a lot.
It comes to my mind the day that Fidel, in one of his speeches, said, “they will come back” and they are in Cuba now, so that’s something that we have to really recognize, and this is, in a way, something that belongs to you also, because you worked very hard for that occasion.
We Cubans are deeply proud of the solidarity expressed by people around the world to Cuba and particularly to the Cuban revolutionary process. Solidarity is one of the basic principles of the revolution led by Fidel and Raúl. The word solidarity carries the most sensitive feeling of Cubans who live in the island.
We were raised under this concept and it has been a daily practice for all of us. How can we analyze or discuss issues of revolutionary life if we do not take into account what we have done all over the world, not to mention medical aid to poor people, education or political support to countries that have suffered criminal and illegal wars.
Now, I would like to say Latin America has been a priority to us, but also, we have expressed our solidarity in international multi-lateral organizations like the African Union, the UN, UNESCO, the July 26 Coalition, Venceremos Brigade, Pastors for Peace and the recently-created CELAC. Fidel has been the icon of that struggle and he never gave up his principles, regardless of foreign pressure and blackmail. We all learn from him that solidarity is a keyword and a banner of socialism and humanism.
This is the reason why we admire all those people like you who have strengthened ties of friendship and support to our cause. I want to mention here just one name of a person who passed away last year and is definitely a symbol of that solidarity and also a symbol of friendship.
Saul Landau. He never had to say to [inaudible] hold hands together with all Cubans. He is, to me, one of the best examples of what a concrete action of solidarity represents.
I could also mention others: workers, students, intellectuals and ordinary people who massively backed us after the kidnapping of the boy Elián González.
I want to mention also others who always wrote serious articles analyzing the Cuban Revolution, such as Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Arnold August, just to say outstanding examples.
The struggle to free the Five Heroes was likewise a heroic feat where many took risks of persecution and harassment. What fair words can I use for such cooperation and embracing of Cuba and its population. You are anonymous heroes of this huge battle to achieve the goal of a new world that has to wipe up the poison seeds of capitalism and imperialism.
Not all of you, and I know that, are members of any party, maybe social organizations or labor unions, you’re mainly or basically honest people, well-meaning and decent, who have faced risky situations and then in dangerous fields You represent the good Americans, the land of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Lucius Walker, the land of truth and justice. We are conscious that you wish a participative democracy and not one that justifies crimes, corruption and lies.
How can we normalize relations if the embargo is not lifted right away, and the whole world demonstrates this with its vote in the United Nations? That is our biggest aim and I’m sure it is also yours. How can I be happy in this wonderful place, in this wonderful country, in this city, where I have lived and learned so many good things from your cultural heritage, if the embargo is not lifted?
If we can not make sometimes, at least in my case, make calls from my cell phone, I still don’t have roaming [service] to call my friends and especially my grandson in Cuba. I have to ask my colleague who comes with me, the deputy of the writers and artists union. The university’s telephone has roaming, not mine. I don’t know why. It’s a mystery. I think probably I have to buy a new one soon, anyway.
Okay. Why cannot we use dollars in our financial negotiations with Cuban and American banks? Why cannot I receive royalties of my books published in the United States? One of them has eight editions in the United States and I haven’t received a cent. Not one thing. Okay. That’s not important.
Because of the stupid and criminal embargo that we of course mentioned, with the very pointed definition of blockade, which is expressive of our feelings towards this country and ourselves. We’re neighbors, as President Obama declared and John Kerry repeated, upon the raising of the American flag in the new American Embassy in Havana. A neighbor is part of our family and I think we also belong to that family, the family that José Martí in New York called “Our America,” “nuestra America.”
We are also Americans with rumba that, by the way, was recently declared an international, tangible heritage and that’s a great feat also, thanks.
Latin jazz, cigars that still cannot be found in any airport of this country. Why? Isn’t that absurd? Absurdity, as the French philosopher and leader of the French Revolution, Talleyrand, said, is worse than a crime.
Let us shake hands and hugs for heaven’s sake. It’s enough. We need a new and common energy. We are people of peace and friendship.
Dear friends, on behalf of the Cuban writers and artists, and also of the Cuban people that I represent, thank you very, very much for your sincere solidarity that, believe me, has been more important to us than any prayer.
Cuba never will betray the ideas that our leader Fidel taught to us. Those ideas are ready to face all challenges and risks that we come across. This is a battle that we will win to honor his memory and follow his principles. Our national poet and hero, José Martí, who lived in this country for 15 years in the nineteenth century, wrote, “trenches of ideas are stronger than trenches of stone.”
Let us make that statement true always.