14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2022 — “We unambiguously oppose the use of force against any state,” Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Monday in a speech in which he managed not to mention Ukraine once. The Cuban president, who was closing the 2021 results assessment meeting of the Ministry of Culture, spoke of the war that is being waged in Eastern Europe from a peculiar point of view according to which NATO “has established an offensive military siege against Russia,” but the invaded country is not even worth mentioning.
Díaz-Canel was neither as energetic nor as fervent — presumably as a matter of character — as his Venezuelan colleague Nicolás Maduro in defending Moscow, but he did leave some striking moments. One of them occurred when he equated Russia with Cuba because of the sanctions that both countries suffer from the United States, the only party responsible that he identified.
“As a small country we understand it better than anyone, besieged for more than 60 years. Under constant threat we have suffered from state terrorism, military aggression, bacteriological warfare and a brutal blockade, and we are absolutely clear about the value of principles of international norm that serve as protection against unilateralism, imperialism, hegemonism and attempts to overcome developing countries,” he argued.
For the Cuban president, Russia is suffering from the “media aggressiveness” that the island has also had to experience for decades, although he said he trusts “that the people continue to be aware of these events in the difficult effort to distinguish truth from manipulation.”
Russia’s attack on Ukraine – which he never mentioned – comes to be, in the words of the Cuban president, the response to NATO’s provocation for having established that supposed military siege that he did mention.
In the 1990s, NATO agreed with the Soviet Union that it would not expand eastward beyond its enlargement after German reunification. The independence of different countries of the former Soviet orbit changed the paradigm and the Alliance currently defends that each of them has the right to decide which course they want to take, something that Russia rejects by clinging to that pact of three decades ago.
Diaz-Canel adhered to this argument in his speech, defending that there is a “consistent effort by the United States Government to expand its military and hegemonic domain” around the Russian border. “To think that Russia would remain defenseless in the face of NATO’s offensive military siege is, to say the least, irresponsible. They have put that country in an extreme situation,” defends the president.
Díaz-Canel also negated the European Union (EU) by undermining its decision-making and intervention capacity despite the fact that, in an unprecedented move, the twenty-seven members of the EU have agreed on express times (decisions which in the EU must be taken unanimously, hence the slowness of its machinery) to apply sanctions and measures that even put its own citizens at risk, as Russia has threatened to leave them without gas. On the European continent, which does not have hydrocarbon deposits, only two countries, mainly Spain and also Italy, supply their fuel needs with through pipelines from other countries. This Tuesday in Brussels, they are studying how to cut that sector’s dependence on Russia.
“The one who is adding fuel to the fire is imperialism, but outside its stoves, in the stoves of others. And it does so using European countries as a backyard,” he said, in a very inopportune energetic simile.
Díaz-Canel said he rejected “imperial aggressiveness,” but in reference to the United States and not to the Russian threat of transgressing its borders in what appears to be an attempt by Putin to reestablish the old Russian empire, a movement that has been more reminiscent of the 19th century than of the former USSR.
The Cuban president pointed out that the pandemic is not over and a large part of the world’s population is still unvaccinated, so, although there is never a time to propagate war – he pointed out – this is a time when “a lot of peace” is needed. The president vindicated Cuba’s commitment to peace “in all circumstances,” but the only gesture he had with the victims was to lament the loss of human lives, without specifying at any time who are the dead and who the attacker. The UN confirmed this Monday at least 400 dead civilians but warned that there are many more, exceeding two thousand according to the Ukrainian Army in its March 2 count, the last official number.
Díaz-Canel’s words were pronounced the same day that the Union of Cuban Journalists (Upec) denounced the suspension in Europe of the broadcasts of Russia Today and Sputnik, along with other Russian media, as a “crime against culture.”
Upec considers that the rights of “millions of people who will lack all the necessary elements to evaluate the conflict” are being violated, an unprecedented declaration of principle by an organization that has never defended the right of Cubans to hear any opinions that differ from those of the official media.
The closure of these channels has been controversial in Europe, but the authorities justify it as part of Russia’s media war, whose propaganda broadcast on these channels has contributed to the rise of some populist movements that destabilize electoral or political processes and contribute to the division of the EU, something that Vladimir Putin seeks to weaken it as a power, according to the organization itself.
“These measures, never used in the face of the multiple invasions by the United States in numerous countries, are also an attack on culture, in this case, amplified to the point of the medieval inquisition with Russian literature and other artistic manifestations, a kind of neo-barbarism inconceivable in the presumably cultured Europe,” warns the text.
In recent days, the cancellation of some literary or cinematographic events in Europe by Russian authors has been reported, generating alarm in many citizens who denounced the measure. However, as it became clear later, the situation in this case is not due to the desire to suppress these acts, but to the impossibility of paying the authors under their copyrights because of the sanctions.
Upec claims its peaceful vocation and its solidarity with the victims of the conflict, but argues that it is necessary to “warn about this war against information (…) that denies the most elementary democratic principles.”
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