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Top Cuban Diplomat Seeks Probe of D.C. Embassy Attack & End to “Unbearable” U.S. Sanctions

StorySeptember 29, 2023
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Cuba has released footage showing an individual throwing two Molotov cocktails inside the Cuban Embassy compound in Washington, D.C., last Sunday, condemning it as a terrorist attack. An investigation is underway, but no arrests have been made. Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío says the country is demanding a speedy investigation, adding that it is the latest in a series of attacks against Cuban diplomatic missions in recent years. Meanwhile, international pressure continues to grow for the Biden administration to lift the embargo on Cuba and remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism. “Cuba’s relationship with terrorism is as a victim,” Fernández de Cossío says of the terror designation. “The reason is not very clear to us, beyond the wish of trying to make life as unbearable as possible for the people of Cuba as a way of trying to extract from Cuba political concessions.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show in Cuba, as government officials have released footage of an individual throwing two Molotov cocktails inside the Cuban Embassy compound in Washington, D.C., last Sunday. Cuban officials condemned it as a terrorist attack, while the Biden administration has denounced the assault but stopped short of describing it as terrorism. An investigation is underway. No arrests have been made. Cuban officials say this is the latest in a series of attacks against Cuban diplomatic missions in recent years.

The attack came as international pressure continues to mount demanding the Biden administration lift its embargo on Cuba and remove the nation from a list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York last week, where he stressed the urgency of a new and fairer global contract.

PRESIDENT MIGUEL DÍAZ-CANEL: [translated] The G77 was founded six decades ago to repair centuries of injustice and abandonment. And in today’s convulsive world, they are entangled in a host of world crises, where poverty is on the rise and hunger is even greater. We are united by the need to change, which has not been resolved, and by the condition of being the main victims of the current global multidimensional crisis, abusive unequal exchange, scientific and technological gaps, and the degradation of the environment. But we are also united, and have been for more than half a century now, by the inescapable challenge and the determination to transform the current international order, which, as well as being exclusionary and irrational, is unsustainable for the planet and is not viable for the well-being of all.

AMY GOODMAN: Just ahead of the United Nations General Assembly, Cuba hosted the G77 summit in Havana, where leaders of low- and middle-income countries echoed calls for a change to the international order. The meeting, which was also attended by China, came at a time of growing frustration against Western powers and divisions over the war in Ukraine, also the fight against the climate crisis and the global economic system as many Global South nations face unprecedented debt, rising living costs and worsening economic crises. Cuban President Díaz-Canel also spoke about the global debt at the U.N. General Assembly last week.

PRESIDENT MIGUEL DÍAZ-CANEL: [translated] Most of the G77 nations are forced to allocate more resources to servicing debt than to investments in health or education. What sustainable development can be achieved with that noose around their necks?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined in New York by Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Cuba’s deputy foreign minister.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s good to have you with us. If you could start off by talking about the attack on the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.? Cuba has just released the video footage of the Molotov cocktails being thrown in the compound.

CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ DE COSSÍO: Thank you for having me.

As you have explained, this is throwing two Molotov cocktails over the fence and against the building of the embassy. This is in the middle of the capital of the United States, on 16th Street, just a few miles from the White House. By any standard, in most capitals of the world, that would be considered a terrorist act. Imagine if it would have happened to a U.S. embassy or a NATO member embassy anywhere in the world: It would immediately be called a terrorist act. It hasn’t happened to this moment.

Now, there’s a history of aggression against Cuban embassies and of terrorism against Cuba. And the majority of that terrorism has been financed, organized or perpetrated from the territory of the United States by people who live here. There’s a long history for that, and there are many victims in Cuba of terrorism, organized, perpetrated and carried out from the territory of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you want to see happen right now?

CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ DE COSSÍO: We would expect a thorough investigation, a speedy investigation, and for the perpetrators to be prosecuted and treated as what they are, as criminals that committed a terrorist act against a diplomatic mission in the center of the U.S. capital.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of Democratic Massachusetts Congressmember Jim McGovern talking about Cuba on the House floor yesterday.

REP. JIM McGOVERN: Current U.S. policy towards Cuba is best described as continuing the sanctions and policies of Donald Trump. Every day our policies hurt the Cuban people. One thing the United States can do to provide relief is to remove Cuba from the state sponsor of terrorism list. There is absolutely no reason for Cuba to be on that list — none. And its impact affects nearly every global financial and economic institution. Many European nations and U.S. allies want to help relieve the suffering of the Cuban people, especially in the areas of health and basic needs, but their hands are tied because of the SST list and its onerous financial restrictions and punishments. Our policy is a relic from the Cold War, and, quite frankly, it’s cruel.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Congressmember Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. We’re talking to Cuba’s deputy foreign minister, Carlos Fernández de Cossío. If you can respond to what the congressmember is saying? Describe the effects of the sanctions on Cuba. And if you can relate it to the increasing number of migrants? We’re seeing the same thing with Venezuela, where the U.S. has imposed major sanctions against the government, the increase in number of migrants coming into the United States.

CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ DE COSSÍO: The last phrase that the congressman used was that it’s a cruel policy. And that’s the aim of what’s being done. There is no rationale, there’s no reasonable argument, by any U.S. politician or member of the government, to explain why Cuba should be in that list. Cuba’s relationship with terrorism is as a victim — over 3,400 deaths caused by terrorism in Cuba, not as a perpetrator.

Now, the reason it’s there is because of its economic effect. It’s a tool to reinforce the economic blockade. A country that is in that list suffers the consequences of financial transactions and commercial transactions being cut or being damaged anywhere in the world. A few weeks after Cuba was put in that list in 2021, dozens of financial institutions that had a long relationship with Cuba severed that relationship, and cut it simply because they fear punishment by the United States or they think that they will be in some way — they will see their interests damaged in doing business with the United States because of the influence, extraterritorial influence, of the United States.

I’ll give you another example. Tourists from Europe are threatened by the United States if they travel to Cuba, that they will have problems if they were to travel to the United States. They will lose the exemption that they have or the waiver that they have as Europeans to travel to the U.S., and they would have to request a visa, with the possibility of it being denied. So it’s an extraterritorial threat from the U.S. to European tourists. Now, tourism is a main source of income for Cuba. It’s one of our main industries. So it has an impact in our sources of — the financial resources that we need to stabilize and to develop the economy. So it has an influence in Cuba’s everyday life, in doing business, in trying to sell, in trying to buy, trying to make payments, trying to obtain credit from any country. I’m not speaking about the United States; I’m speaking any country around the world, including countries that have a good political relationship with Cuba, which are friendly, with which we have cooperation, with which we have a long-lasting relationship. But the effect and the impact of U.S. policy has a threatening effect on them.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you explain your understanding of why the Biden administration is doing this, continuing this, given that when Biden was vice president under President Obama, they changed the relationship with Cuba, talking about normalizing that relationship?

CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ DE COSSÍO: It’s a very important question, one that we normally ask Americans, for them to explain to us why the president, that during the electoral campaign committed to voters, to electors, that he would change swiftly the policy, he hasn’t done it. And the excuses change. And the reasons and the pretexts change, to elections, to political considerations, to the presence of powerful members in Congress that put obstacles to the president to act. But truly, the reason is not very clear to us, beyond the wish of trying to make life as unbearable as possible for the people of Cuba as a way of trying to extract from Cuba political concessions.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the climate crisis — I mean, it’s an issue the Cuban president raised addressing world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, as well as other G7 nations — how you’re dealing with this.

CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ DE COSSÍO: We have — I suspect you’re speaking about the world crisis and the economic, or the economic crisis in Cuba.

AMY GOODMAN: The climate crisis.

CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ DE COSSÍO: The climate crisis is one of the largest challenges for humankind. And we’re all in it together. It’s, in many ways, the result of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, that have continued to exist in spite of the conventions, in spite of agreements, and it’s a big threat. Unfortunately, it is a greater threat for developing countries, small island states, low-coast, desert countries. And the impact is always going to be greater to the countries that suffer the disadvantages of an unfair international economic order that is also unsustainable. You need financing. You need to change the rules of trade, the rules of financing, the rules of transfer of technology. Without that, the climate change, which, again, will threaten all, will continue to be there and will not be addressed.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about hosting the G77 in Cuba. We just spoke to the Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who was just in Havana, and talked about also joining with Lula, with South African President Ramaphosa, I think AMLO, the Mexican president, right? Your president was just in Mexico, has promised to lead a worldwide campaign to lift the embargo against Cuba.

CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ DE COSSÍO: Well, Cuba chairs, during this year, 2023, the Group of 77. It’s a responsibility we took in January to try to find consensus, to conciliate positions in a very diverse group — large countries, small countries, different ideologies. But we all suffer the same conditions of an unfair international economic order. As part of that responsibility, we hosted this summit in Cuba, in which we put emphasis in science, technology and innovation as fundamental factors that can help make the leap that our countries need and deserve.

Most of these leaders, in Cuba, spoke about the issues of the Group of 77 and developing countries, but they also called attention on the injustices being committed against Cuba, specifically the economic blockade, specifically the presence in the list of countries that allegedly sponsor terrorism. And we believe that there’s a united front, there’s a common position, that it’s also shared by the Europeans in the case of the U.S. policy towards Cuba.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. We’re going to conduct this interview in Spanish and post it at democracynow.org. Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Cuba’s deputy foreign minister, speaking to us from New York.

And this breaking news: California Senator Dianne Feinstein has died at the age of 90. She was the oldest member of the Senate, the longest-serving woman. Dianne Feinstein was also the first woman to serve as mayor of San Francisco. Again, this news: California Senator Dianne Feinstein has died.

I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! Thanks so much for joining us.

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