Statement by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba, during Global Leaders Day of the International Labor Organization’s Summit on COVID-19 and the world of work
Mr. Director General;
Excellencies, Heads of State and Government;
I feel honored to bring to this virtual Summit the voice of Cuba, a small developing country, where workers in power struggle on a daily basis to achieve all justice, which was the dream and a commitment of the founding fathers of our nation.
Today, as has been always the case throughout the last 61 years, Cuba is sharing the serious new challenges facing the International Labor Organization as it enters the second century of its existence.
The impact of COVID-19 adds to the challenges that the world of work was already facing, under the harsh rules of the market, which will undeniably have devastating consequences on the crises generated by this pandemic in all countries’ economies.
Unemployment has increased several times over. Lack of social protection is on the rise, as are inequality and poverty.
But we should not deceive ourselves. The terrible impact and nefarious consequences of the pandemic around the world are not only a result of this lethal virus. Years of neoliberal policies and savage 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 jeopardized. Hundreds of millions of persons will soon be joining the ranks of those who are already suffering the inequalities of an unjust international economic order, and whose survival is certainly at stake.
These times are extremely serious and demand concerted action. No government, worker, or employer, can afford to stand by doing nothing. The colossal endeavor we must undertake demands solutions in the greater 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.
Mr. Director General:
Cuba, a small nation that has been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, is suffering the brutal, opportunistic tightening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade policy imposed by the United States, intended to severely limit our trade and access to fuel and hard currency.
Despite the ever-growing worldwide call to end it, the blockade imposed on Cuba has not only been maintained since this epidemiological threat struck the entire planet, but has escalated its criminal harassment of an entire people, viciously punishing all Cuban families.
A midst this suffocating economic warfare, our government has implemented actions to protect the health of an entire people; maintain employment rates and defend labor rights and guarantees for all, as 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-commuting are increasing; some workers have been re-assigned to other jobs and salaries have been guaranteed for workers who remained at home, caring for their young children and elders, as well as persons with poor health or who have not been reassigned to another job; more than 240,000 self-employed workers have been exempted from paying taxes; the payment of pensions has been maintained and social workers are providing special attention to vulnerable families, among other actions.
No one has been left unprotected. Appropriate conditions now exist to initiate the recovery process and move toward a 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. This is a fundamental principle of the Cuban Revolution, and the foundation of our international cooperation in the fields of health and education, and every other area that contributes to human dignity.
That is why we strongly reject, condemn and repudiate all unilateral coercive measures imposed on sovereign nations like Cuba, Venezuela and others that are today suffering the most cruel, massive punishments for having chosen a political or social system different from those of dominant economic powers. These measures are inhuman and should be eliminated, all the more so in the context of the current pandemic, when sanctions mean genocide.
Given its mandate, the International Labor Organization, with a record of work supporting social justice, the promotion of decent employment and the protection of the human rights of workers, can contribute to helping labor leave behind the crisis caused by COVID-19.
Cuba, as a founding country of this organization, reiterates its willingness to continue strengthening the indispensable multilateralism, solidarity and international cooperation, and remains committed to continue guaranteeing the protection of workers’ rights and move toward the construction of a more just world.
Work is a sacred right and value. As was expressed by the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, and I quote: “…only by working will it be possible to move forward; only by working will it be possible to produce the goods that the country needs; only by working will it be possible to produce more food; only by working will it be possible to address the country’s most pressing challenges.”
Thank you, very much.