Saturday, October 4, 2008

Jose Ramos-Horta on the US Embargo

Jose Ramos-Horta is winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize and current President of Timor-Leste. He spoke to the UN General Assembly last week (September 25, 2008) and addressed the US embargo towards Cuba. In his own words...

-----[Excerpt from full speech(PDF)]-----

Timor-Leste is a LDC [Least Developed Country]. However, the Almighty God has bestowed on us some modest oil, gas and other mineral wealth.

While our first obligation is to make use of our oil wealth towards a sustainable development of our country and addressing the immediate needs of our poorest, we are not indifferent to the suffering of our fellow human beings in other parts of the world.


Now in response to several natural disasters that have affected tens of millions of our fellow human beings, Timor-Leste has promptly decided to donate:

1. US$500,000 for the victims of the earthquake that hit the Chinese province of Sichuan;

2. US$500,000 for the victims of cyclone Nargis that hit Myanmar in May 2 to be channeled through the ASEAN Secretariat;

3. US$500,000 for Cuba to assist the victims of cyclones Gustav and Ike, to be channeled directly to the Cuban authorities.


Cyclones Gustav and Ike, that brought thorough devastation to the Caribbean, ruined the Cuban economy. The material losses are staggering with initial estimates totaling at least US$5 [billion].

We have almost 700 East Timorese medical students in Cuba and over 140 are studying medicine in our National University with Cuban medical instructors. In addition, there are almost 300 Cuban doctors working in our country distributed through all districts and sub-districts. Cuban adult education specialists assist us in adult literacy campaign benefiting thousands of adults. The costs of these programs are covered almost entirely by Cuba.

While I commend the US and any country that stands for universal democratic values and provide moral support for those promoting democracy in their own country, I submit that punitive measures imposed on poor developing countries for the perceived sins of their leaders cannot be morally justified.

As a friend to the US, I humbly appeal to the next US Administration and Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba. Such a gesture would be an honourable one and my admiration for the US would only increase. As it is, as I witness the impact of US sanctions on a small developing country and its refusal to provide assistance to Cuba following the devastation caused by cyclones Gustav and Ike, my heart bleeds in sorrow and my admiration for the US seriously diminishes.

In this regard, I wish to reiterate our most heartfelt sympathy and solidarity with the people of Haiti and others in the Caribbean region that were affected by the recent natural disasters.