• Michael Laxer

"Nothing is worth more than a person’s life"

Cuban President Díaz-Canel Bermúdez speaks at the ILO Summit, July 8, 2020

Photo via twitter from May, 2020

Excerpt from Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba's statement at the International Labor Organization’s Summit on COVID-19, July 8, 2020:

The impact of COVID-19 adds to the challenges that the world of work was already facing under the tough rules of the market, which will have undeniably devastating consequences on the various crises generated by this pandemic in all countries’ economies.

Unemployment has increased several times over. Lack of social protection is on the rise, and so are inequality and poverty.

But we should not deceive ourselves. The terrible impact and nefarious consequences of the pandemic all over the world are not only a result of this lethal virus. Years of neoliberal policies and wild capitalism, subject to market laws, are the root cause of the serious global situation.

According to experts, 305 million jobs have already been lost and the livelihoods of 1.6 billion workers are being jeopardized. Hundreds of millions of persons will soon be joining the ranks of those who are already suffering from the inequalities of an unjust international economic order, whose survival is certainly at stake.

These times are dramatically serious and demand concerted actions. Neither governments, nor workers or employers, can afford standing by doing nothing. The colossal endeavor we must devote ourselves to demands solutions in the higher interest of workers’ rights.

Those who create jobs, particularly small and medium producers, will also require assistance.

It is imperative to consolidate social dialogue in the process of defining and implementing policies to confront and recover from the pandemic.

Cuba, a small nation that has been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, is suffering from the brutal and opportunistic tightening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade policy imposed by the United States, aimed at severely curtailing our trade and our access to fuels and hard currency.

Despite the ever-growing worldwide appeal against it, the blockade imposed on Cuba not only has been maintained since this epidemiological threat broke out in the entire planet, but it has been escalating its criminal harassment against a whole people, viciously punishing all Cuban families.

In the midst of this suffocating economic warfare, our government has implemented actions to protect the health of the entire people; maintain employment rates and defend labor rights and guarantees for all, for these have been the main pillars of our social project.

A total of 36 labor, salary and social security measures have been implemented. Distance working and tele-working are increasing; some workers have been re-assigned to other jobs and salaries have been guaranteed to workers who have remained at home, caring for their younger children and elders, as well as persons with poor health or who have failed to be reassigned to another job; more than 240 thousand self-employed workers have been exempted from paying their taxes; the payment of pensions has been maintained and social workers are paying special attention to families in need, among other actions.

Nobody has been left unprotected. There are now appropriate conditions to initiate the recovery process and move towards the new normality, based on the widest possible participation of the people in the decision-making process.

International cooperation and solidarity are today more necessary than ever. Nothing is worth more than a person’s life. That is a fundamental principle of the Cuban Revolution, which is at the basis of our international cooperation in the fields of health and education as well as in every other area that contributes to enhance human dignity.

That is why we strongly reject, condemn and repudiate all unilateral coercive measures imposed against sovereign nations like Cuba, Venezuela and others that are today suffering from the most cruel and massive punishments for having chosen a political or social system different from those of the dominant economic powers. Those measures are inhuman and should be eliminated, all the more so in the context of the current pandemic, when sanctions are pointing to genocide.

For the full statement see: http://misiones.minrex.gob.cu/en/articulo/statement-president-cuba-ilo-summit