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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference in Havana

Havana, Cuba, 28 January 2014

Buenas noches. Good evening everyone.

I am concluding a very productive two-day visit to Cuba. 

I want to once again thank the government and people of Cuba for their warm reception in beautiful Havana. 

I also want to commend Cuba for its efficient chairmanship of CELAC and thank all CELAC Member States for a fruitful and inspiring discussion.

I am greatly encouraged by the region’s commitment to development, reducing inequality and promoting integration. 

The countries of the region have travelled far and long and sometimes very difficult roads, but they have come out stronger and better positioned to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The Latin American and Caribbean region is consolidating as a zone of peace, while strengthening security and sustainable development.

CELAC Member States are bridging differences to build common positions on social, economic and political issues. This will help contribute to global progress on many crucial issues including climate change and crafting the post-2015 development agenda. 

In addition to attending the CELAC meeting, I held official meetings with Cuban authorities. 

I met with His Excellency President Raul Castro and this afternoon with His Excellency Fidel Castro, the former President, and key Government officials and discussed issues of common concern.

I also took part in a number of events including one to advance our global campaign to end violence against women and girls -- building on the commitment and progress here in Cuba. 

Today I had the opportunity to visit the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina and learn more about Cuba’s impressive expertise in the health field and pioneering role in South-South cooperation.

In all my meetings, I offered continued UN support the transformation effort which I hope will bring sustainable opportunities for the Cuban people.  As that process continues, it will necessitate even wider spaces for dialogue and participation. 

Throughout my visit including my remarks today, I underscored my call for the fullest compliance with all international treaties and obligations to safeguard human rights and deepen fundamental freedoms. 

Whether it is in the area of peace and security, development, or human rights, the countries of the Americas have many examples and experiences to share. 

I leave even more convinced that the United Nations can play a greater role in this region — just as this region can play an ever more important role in the United Nations.

Muchas gracias.

Q: [on Venezuela]

SG: It was my first meeting with President Maduro since he took office. It was a very good. Venezuela is one of the important partners for working together for Sustainable Development Goals, Millennium Development Goals, climate change, also South-South cooperation. Venezuela is one of the important Member States of the G-77, non-aligned, as well as the ALBA group. We agreed that both the United Nations and Venezuela will work very closely in the future. And I am very much encouraged about his strong commitment. I have invited him to participate in the climate summit meeting which will be held in September 23 and he assured me that he will come to participate himself. Thank you. Muchas gracias

Q: [on the Secretary-General’s meeting with Fidel Castro]

SG: You have heard a lot about Fidel Castro’s health conditions. I was very much touched and deeply impressed first of all, by his very [inaudible] and even physically, he was very strong as far as I saw. He was always very clear and he was covering all, most of the global issues. I spent a long time with him, almost an hour, covering the current situations, country situations, starting with Syria and the many conflicts in places in Africa.  We discussed how the UN should work to promote the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development and climate change.  He emphasized the importance of the United Nations having greater authority and strength and capacity in dealing with global issues. I really appreciated such vision and he was quite clear in his statement and his vision. I wished him continuing good health and also cooperation. We agreed to communicate with each other when there will be some important issues and I am deeply touched and grateful for his leadership.

Q: [on the human rights situation in Cuba]

SG: The issue of human rights is one which I always discuss with world leaders, wherever, whenever, I meet [them]. During my meetings with the leadership of the Cuban government, I have discussed this matter. As you know, I emphasized the importance of playing a greater role in enhancing human rights and providing spaces for people’s rights to peaceful assembly and association and the cases of arbitrary detentions occuring in Cuba. I do not have precise information to disclose here but I can [assure you] that I have discussed this matter with the leadership of Cuba. Also, at the same time, in my message to the CELAC leaders, I have spoken about the great diversity contained in the Latin American and Caribbean region. And I want to stress that diversity includes plurality of views even on political matters and that diversity should be respected, As you know, the Cuban government is now serving as a member of the Human Rights Council and I have asked them to ratify this International Convention civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, which they have already signed. I sincerely hope that the Cuban government will continue to work closely with the international community [inaudible]. Thank you very much.