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Notes on the Revolution / Column #54

Fidel Castro addresses the UN General Assembly on 26 September, 1960

Fidel Castro addresses the UN General Assembly on 26 September, 1960

Notes on the Revolution

Column #54        

January 8, 2020

The principles of Cuban foreign policy

By Charles McKelvey


     In today’s “Notes on the Revolution,” we continue looking at essays in a collection entitled Cuba en revolución, published by CLACSO (The Latin American Council of Social Science), edited by Luis Suárez, a well-known Cuban intellectual.  Today we focus on Cuban foreign policy, giving emphasis to an essay by Isabel Allende Karam, Rector and Auxiliary Professor at the Raúl Roa García Higher Institute for International Relations.  Previously, Isabel Allende Karam served for many years in the Cuban diplomatic corps.

     Allende maintains that with the triumph of the Revolution, Cuba became truly sovereign, and therefore it was able to develop an independent foreign policy in defense of Cuban national interests.  From the outset, it has been guided by three fundamental principles: anti-imperialism; internationalism, solidarity, and cooperation; and unrestricted respect for the principles of international law.  From these fundamental principles emerge the policies of respect for the equal sovereignty of nations, the independence and self-determination of peoples, and the constant quest for peace and justice.

     Allende notes that, although it is not a written rule, a good part of the governments of the world conduct their foreign policies on the basis of their immediate interests.  But in the case of Cuba, although interests are taken into account, foreign policy is conducted on the basis of principles.

     Prior to the triumph of the revolution, Cuban foreign policy was subordinated to the interests of the United States and its Pan-Americanist project, in which it enlists the participation of Latin American governments in the domination exercised over them by the United States.  With the triumph of the Revolution of January 1, 1959, Cuba replaced this Pan-Americanist subordination in its foreign policy with “a Latin American, Third World, socialist, and universal projection.”  This implied certain strategic priorities in Cuban foreign policy.  First, continuous opposition to the aggression of the United States toward Cuba and the Latin American and the Caribbean region.  Secondly, the development of diverse economic and diplomatic relations, including integration with Latin America and the Caribbean.  Thirdly, the development and strengthening of relations of friendship and collaboration with the countries of the Third World.  Fourthly, active participation in the diverse international forums that group the countries of the Third World, such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 + China.  Fifthly, the development of relations with the advanced capitalist countries on the basis of equality and mutually beneficial relations, with recognition that full equality will not be possible as long as imperialism persists in international relations.  And sixthly, the demand for multilateralism in international affairs, as well as consistent and universal application of the principles of international law.  

     Allende maintains that academics and politicians of the North have misunderstood Cuban foreign policy, making simplistic interpretations that failed to appreciate the context of Cuban foreign policy strategies.  One common misunderstanding has been to interpret the conflict between Cuba and the United States as rooted in the Cold War, and not seeing that the Cuba-USA conflict has historic roots in the U.S. aspiration, dating to Thomas Jefferson, to control the Caribbean island, standing in contradiction to Cuban aspirations for independence and sovereignty.  A second major misinterpretation has been to consider Cuba during the Cold War as a satellite of the Soviet Union, when in fact Cuban foreign policy since 1959 has been oriented toward support of Third World movements of national liberation, at variance with Soviet foreign policy.  

     These misinterpretations have led to a tendency toward blindness with respect to the fact that revolutionary Cuba has been one of the most powerful voices in the international arena in defense of the Third World in its struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism.  Cuba was the only country of Latin America and the Caribbean to be a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, and it had strong relations with the Organization of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia and Africa, which had been founded in 1958.  Cuba was the host of the First Tricontinental Conference in 1966 and the Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the same year.  Cuba served as President of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1979 to 1982, and in that capacity, it denounced the turn of the global powers to the imposition of the neoliberal project on the nations of the Third World, both before the United Nations and in an historic speech by Fidel Castro at the Non-Aligned Summit in New Delhi in 1983.  Cuba again served as President of the Non-Aligned Movement from 2006 to 2009, when it was able to re-establish the historic principles of the Movement as the basis for its demands and declarations.

     Cuban defense of the Third World has been evident from the beginning.  On September 26, 1960, Fidel arrived to the General Assembly of the United Nations to explain the reasons for revolutionary measures that Cuba had taken and to defend the rights of the underdeveloped countries.  He declared:  “Cuba is not an isolated case.. . .  Cuba is like all the underdeveloped peoples. . . .  The problems that we have described concerning Cuba can be applied easily to all of Latin America.  The great corporations control the economic resources of Latin America, . . . . as is the case of copper in Chile, Peru, and Mexico; zinc in Peru and Mexico, petroleum in Venezuela. . . .   The problems of Latin America are like the problems of the rest of the world, of Africa and Asia.  The world is divided among the large corporations.  These same corporations that we see in Latin America we see also in the Middle East.  There petroleum is in the hands of large companies that are controlled by the financial interests of the United States, England, Holland, and France. . .  in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and in any corner of the earth. . . .  The problems that the people of Cuba have had with the imperialist government of the United Sates are the same problems that Saudi Arabia would have if it were to nationalize petroleum, or Iran or Iraq.  The same problems that Egypt had when it nationalized the Suez Canal. . . . We want to express here another right, a right that has been proclaimed by our people in a recent mass assembly of several days: the right of the underdeveloped countries to nationalize without compensation the natural resources and the foreign-owned companies in their respective countries.  That is to say, we propose the nationalization of natural resources and foreign companies in the underdeveloped countries.”  

     Isabel Allende declares in her article that “the Third World movement is called to contribute in an essential manner to international relations.”   I would like to observe that this has never been more true than it is today, when the Non-Aligned Movement is speaking more clearly than ever concerning the principles that ought and must guide international affairs, and its leading nations are developing mutually respectful and cooperative relations with one another, precisely at a time in which the capitalist world-economy is falling into decadence, and the world-system is showing increasing manifestations of confusion, division, and barbary.

     This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.

Edited by Lena Valverde Jordi
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