Chavez and the Americas' Bright Future
Speech given by the President of the Republic of Cuba at the presentation of UNESCO’s International “Jose Martí” Award to Hugo Chávez Frias, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, at the Revolution Square, on February 3rd, 2006.
Dear President Chávez;
Dear members of the Venezuelan and Cuban delegations;
Dear participants at this glorious ceremony;
This is a historic day, one of great significance: the bestowing of the International “Jose Martí” Award by the United Nations Organization, to the President of Venezuela.
What comes to mind at this emotional moment? Seven years and one day ago, exactly, on February 2nd, 1999, I had the privilege of attending the inauguration ceremony of Hugo Chávez Frias, as the new President of Venezuela [Applause]. I had first met him about five years earlier, when he was here on a visit after his release from prison, in December 1994. We got to know each other a lot and discussed subjects that we had very much in common and which impassioned us. We spoke of the future, but it was difficult to imagine that in such a brief historical time Hugo Chávez would be assuming the presidency of the glorious Venezuela of Simon Bolivar. [Applause]
At that time, he audaciously stated: “I swear before this dying Constitution”, a phrase that would make history.
His actual words that day were:
“We have unemployment figures that reach 20%. Under-employment of the economically active sector that hovers around the 50% level, almost a million children barely surviving, children just like my daughter Rosines, who is one year and four months old, and they are just barely surviving. Venezuela’s infant mortality rate is twenty-seven, almost twenty-eight per one thousand live births, one of the highest rates on the continent. Malnutrition is taking a toll on the lives of children; fifteen per cent of them die from malnutrition. We cannot wait until the Constituent Assembly session to amend that.”
“(…) It is outrageous that only one out of every five children entering pre-school, only one out of every five, will complete basic schooling; it is outrageous because this is the future of our country.”
“(…) Forty-five percent of teenagers do not attend high-school; they are out there, just surviving, and many of them are delinquents for that reason, because man is not evil by nature, we are children of God, we are not children of evil [Applause]. I have inherited this situation right now, I have it right here in my hands, and it is the accumulation of all of those crises that I just mentioned a few minutes ago.”
His words on that February 2nd deeply impressed me. Forty-eight hours later I was attending an event at the Central University of Venezuela where I had spoken to the students 40 years and 10 days earlier, on January 24th, 1959.
Figures and facts that this visitor was aware of at that moment when we met again, had led him to the conclusion that the people of Venezuela, at the moment of this new dawn, had to bravely and intelligently face up to a series of difficulties that were the result of an economic and social situation besetting that heroic people.
I mentioned paragraphs and figures which today I literally copy from that speech which he gave on that February 3rd, seven years ago.
“Exports of goods, according to the report of the Venezuelan Central Bank:
“In 1997: 23.4 billion dollars”, those were the exports.
“In 1998: 17.32 billion. The value of exports in just one year decreased by 6.08 billion dollars.
“Oil (the principal export). Prices: 1996: 20 dollars a barrel; 1997: 16.50 dollars; 1998: 9 dollars”, that was on the eve of his inauguration.
The basic minerals: iron, aluminum, gold and derivatives such as steel, all to a lesser or greater degree, had substantially decreased in price. Both items make up 77% of exports, that is, oil and minerals.
“1996 – 13.6 billion dollars.
“1998- 3.4 billion. That’s what had been received in one year and what they were receiving in the other year, almost a third.
“Difference: 10.2 billion in just two years.
“Balance of payments”, another chapter:
“1996- 7 billion in Venezuela’s favor.
“1998 - 3 418 billion not in the country’s favor.
“Available international reserves:
“In 1997- 17 818 billion.
“In 1998- 14 385 billion dollars.”
The reserves were plummeting, just as they were perilously about to, after the oil coup and even later at the time of the military coup on April 11, 2002. Yes, because this huge decrease happened in the following year, in 2003. In other words, the reserve rapidly dropped, I think it had reached 13 billion in the first semester of that year and without a doubt, in a few more months, it would have dropped to zero. Some had already taken 300 billion dollars out of Venezuela, at today’s value that would be equivalent to 2 trillion dollars, more than enough for an accelerated development in the entire hemisphere, especially if it were a rational development and not a consumer oriented, wasteful development.
“Net losses: approximately 3.5 billion in one year.
“Almost 40% of the nation’s budget is spent servicing the foreign debt”, we used to say. Those were international figures.
“The social situation according to various national and international sources.
“Unemployment: Official figures speak of 11 to 12 %. Other figures indicate 20%. And after the coup d’etat and the oil coup, this figure rose to more than 20%, when these unemployment figures had been dropping to 10 or 9%.
“Under-employment hovered at the 50% mark.
“Almost a million children in a state of bare survival”, in the words of the President. All of this appeared in the statistics of the period.
“Infant mortality at almost 28 per 1000 live births. Fifteen per cent of those children die because of malnutrition”. They really died from malnutrition.
“Only one out of every five children finished basic schooling”; another true fact, expressed on that inauguration day; “Forty five per cent of all teenagers do not attend high-school.” By that time, we were talking here in Cuba about having reached a schooling rate of more than 90%. Who was going to talk to us about these problems? How could we ignore them when we had spent so many years trying to reduce them, as from the very first days after the triumph of the Revolution until today, when it is almost 100%, just as it’s beginning to be, or as it is about to be in Venezuela.
“The fact that forty five per cent of children do not attend school is truly impressive”, we said then.
“More than a million children are incorporated into the labor market; more than 2.3 million are excluded from the educational system, without any trade.
“In the last ten years –we said we had read that before the trip to Venezuela-, “more than a million middle class Venezuelans, category “C”, became part of the poor and destitute class, who account for 77% of the population today, due to salary reductions, unemployment and the effects of inflation.
“All of this was happening in the homeland of Bolivar, the nation with the greatest mineral wealth in Latin America, with almost a million square kilometers and no more than 22 million inhabitants.” It wasn’t as large or as populated as Brazil.
“I am reflecting on this –I finally said, very carefully, so that it I didn’t appear to be meddling in internal affairs- “totally and absolutely responsible for my own comments in the hope that they will be useful.”
How could we imagine that on one day, here, seven years later, we would be repeating these same facts as an inescapable demonstration of all that had been happening there and all that had come to pass during seven years in Venezuela.
The tremendous emphasis that the Bolivarian process placed upon schooling, in the first instance, is perfectly explicable. The Bolivarian schools are well equipped, lacking in nothing, attended by all those children that had been excluded from the educational system, and these schools are now still being quickly constructed and perfected. This movement is also reaching the Bolivarian high schools -what we here in Cuba call the middle education schools- and there are other additional and very important projects for them. I have heard of figures that speak of the creation of around 1000 high schools, also beautifully equipped, something which is truly admirable.
So, that all happened at the beginning, but those days were followed by events that don’t happen in other areas, events that culminated in the bestowing of the “Jose Martí” Award, an unquestionably just act.
· On October 28th, 2005, the Literacy Campaign was concluded and Venezuela was declared a territory free of illiteracy, after a tough struggle since mid-2003, a year and three months after the coup d’etat on April 11th, eight months after the oil coup, the Literacy Campaign had begun; the Bolivarian process had only been in power for three years, since that day when the president took his oath on the dying Constitution.
· The number of people who became literate until that day: 1 482 533. Only a few thousands more were about to finish the course.
· On Friday, January 27th, 2006, the first 423 people reached sixth grade education under the auspices of Mission Robinson 2.
· Incorporated in this Mission –in a nation where there is no longer illiteracy thanks to a serious, systematic campaign, which included tests and examinations- are 1 449 292 students; of them, 616 833 come from Mission Robinson 1.
· During this year, 2006, one million students will graduate from this level – those were people who used to be illiterate or semi-illiterate; people who were not students and had been converted into students.
· Another 500 000 graduates from this level will be added to these numbers by the end of 2007.
· Thanks to Mission Ribas, 162 543 adult citizens have graduated from high-school. We all know that more than
3 400 Venezuelan students coming out of that Mission Ribas are here with us, studying medicine or getting ready to start doing so. Let them raise their flags! (They wave their flags and cheer: Cuba, Venezuela are one and a single flag!”)
· According to figures, right now there are 602 502 students attending classes as a result of Mission Ribas; this year approximately 500 000 will graduate from senior-high school.
· Mission Sucre, for higher education, has welcome 513 568 Venezuelan students from Mission Ribas; 416 769 of them have just finished their University preparation course.
· Of these, 310 192 are already following their university programs.
· It is worth noting that among these Venezuelans who are already enrolled in higher education courses, 15 392 are studying community comprehensive medicine in Mission Barrio Adentro [Cheers].
I have already mentioned that more than 3 400 are studying medicine in Cuba, and before the end of this year there will be 10 000 Venezuelan students in Cuba, who would come under a new program [Cheers] which has very positive perspectives thanks to the methods used, the experience, the work of the professors, something which is absolutely new. An example of this is that Barrio Adentro has already become a gigantic university for the whole Venezuela. This is absolutely a new phenomenon in the history of humankind and it is the only way to train the doctors which are needed by the Third World, which is made up of thousands of millions of people, from a world population that is reaching the impressive figure of 6.5 billion inhabitants, who are members of our human species, whose misfortunes and problems have accumulated and multiplied.
If a better world were not possible, then we must bid farewell to any hope that the human species could survive.
· 132 014 Venezuelans are already enrolled in higher education, as we have already indicated, and they are already part of the national teacher’s training program in all the municipalities of Venezuela (Applause and cheers).
· A total of 74 677 are presently enrolled in four municipal program offered by the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV), in 308 municipalities throughout all states, in the specialties of Social Management, Local Development, Social Communication and Legal Studies.
· A group of 84 892 are enrolled in technical, scientific, and management specialties which are taught at the municipal university chapters.
· Three thousand, two hundred and seventeen are studying law at the “Romulo Gallegos” National Experimental University.
One could get exhausted by reading the whole list of all the activities that have been carried out in education –and in other areas too, but here we are speaking about education- by Venezuela in just half of these past seven years, while struggling against imperialist conspiracies, coups of every kind, malignant attacks on the economy, all of then in the attempt to quash this process.
Has any other country in the world ever attained such progress in fighting against total or functional illiteracy?
What kind of a person is he or she who can not read or write? What is a functional illiterate, a person who can hardly sign his or her own name? And in this so complex world, which is getting ever more complex, in this so globalized world, which is getting ever more globalized, what will it mean not to have reached sixth grade of education? ¿What is the difference between the living non-thinking beings and the living beings with a brain that thinks or is able to think, who have not been educated, not even to read and write; those who have not been taught into thinking, as Jose de la Luz y Caballero insisted almost two hundred years ago during the Spanish colonial era in Cuba.
But, who, in the eyes of the empire, is this man of humble origin, who followed the ideas of Bolivar and Martí and opened up a new chapter in the history of Latin American peoples?
The answer is right here:
“Rumsfeld, United States Secretary of Defense and Pentagon chief, compares Chávez to Hitler. Listen to me well: he compares him to Hitler!
“WASHINGTON (AP) – “The Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, compared the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to Adolph Hitler.
The comparison came up during a lecture given on Thursday night at the National Press Club, when he was asked about the general state of deterioration in Washington’s relations with some of the Latin American countries.
“We saw dictatorships over there”, he said. “And we saw that the majority of those countries, with the exception of Cuba”, of course, “are advancing towards democracy”, he stated. (It appears that we are advancing towards hell, towards total and absolute ignorance here, where no form of democracy is possible.)
The Secretary of Defense admitted that “we have seen some populist leaders”- this is a little word that he puts in; those who look after the people, those who are concerned for their people, those who care about their health, education, employment, those who think about the people are “populist leaders”- attracting the masses in those countries”. As if those people were stupid, when in fact they are cleverer, and they listen more and see more. Truths so evident that they can no longer be covered up so easily. “And there are elections like those won by Evo Morales in Bolivia, which are truly worrisome” [Cheers].
And of course it is truly worrisome for the leaders of the empire to see that a humble Indian has become the president of Bolivia, elected by the overwhelming majority of his people, in spite of the fact that a million Bolivians, most of them Evo supporters, were deprived of the right to vote. It was almost impossible to imagine Evo winning with an absolute majority, when everyone knew that a million humble Bolivians could not cast their ballot that day. What is going to happen when Evo calls the next Constituent Assembly? No doubt he is going to emulate the feat of the Bolivarians.
Yes, I prove them right; they have well founded reasons to worry. This is something new and unexpected for those who dreamed, as Hitler did, of an empire that would last a thousand years.
Then he went on to say:
“We have Chávez in Venezuela” – and he is here too, being honored with this award. “He is someone who was legally elected” –well, at least they don’t doubt that fact- “just like Adolph Hitler was legally elected”- if they only knew a little history they would know why Hitler was once elected and what were the consequences, who supported him and why –“and then he consolidated his authority and now he is, obviously, working closely with Fidel Castro”- that ‘perverse’ character-, and Mr. Morales.” What could they say about Morales!
That’s great. We feel happy that we have served as a steel armor. I don’t say this out of conceit, it is just the way I see it. They are talking about Fidel Castro, and for the past 47 years they have been trying to destroy this Revolution. Who knows how many of them have tried to assassinate me, and the fact is that it is not only me they have tried to assassinate, but this people, a small portion of which is standing here in this Square tonight only because there is no room for more of them [Cheers], rejoicing in this unitary Bolivarian dawn for the nations which Martí called “our America”.
Individuals may indulge in a certain kind of privilege, and this is what we were talking about as I presented this award to our dear brother Hugo Chávez. We were happy in that moment, thinking about the effort that was made on behalf of human beings. We should have done much more, but we were not wise enough to know how to do it, nor had we matured far enough in our consciousness of duty and necessity to have been able to do it - I am speaking for myself, I am not speaking for him, I am speaking for myself because I have had just such privilege. And we were saying: we have no merits in doing so, we are privileged to have been born in this exceptional time when changes are not only possible but indispensable, and they are a basic condition for survival.
Having lived through the experience of witnessing the presence of the millions who voted in the referendum in Venezuela, of those who voted for Evo, of those who in ever growing numbers reject the ones that are lackeys to an empire that intends to destroy us and exploit us even more, is a singular privilege.
How many have died! How many lost their lives, since the days of Bolivar and Sucre until today! Including many of our comrades, like him, that figure which is over there, Ernesto Che Guevara, an Argentinian, a Cuban, a Bolivian, a Venezuelan, a martyr of Latin America and the world [Applause]. Those who are struggling today for their country and for this continent, are struggling for the world. And so we can say about that extraordinary thinker whose portrait stands over there on the façade of the National Library – there is no better place for it- , Jose Martí. How much that man struggled, and how many like him died, without even having the privilege of seeing what Chávez, Evo, many others and myself are seeing here today. But you are even more privileged than we are, you are so young, with so many future possibilities, that you will be flooding this continent with graduates from higher education, because Venezuela and Cuba together are training the doctors of this hemisphere, with no intention of ignoring or replacing anyone. We are training the doctors who are ready to go to Barrio Adentro, to the places hit by natural disasters, without thinking it over, whose destiny will be to practice one of the noblest of professions, like being a doctor or a teacher, among many others, acting in favor of the human species.
You will not come to study here so that you will go into private medical practice. I am sure that you are not thinking of that; you are studying so that you may go out and serve your people, like those young Venezuelan medical graduates from ELAM, who were sent by president Chávez to Delta Amacuro, to the Amazon, and he has been talking of sending a few of them to Bolivia now to help that people cope with the disaster. The day will come when you will go out in the thousands, in the tens of thousands.
Not too long ago we were talking about the 100,000 doctors that Venezuela and Cuba would train. Today, I can tell you right here that Venezuela and Cuba intend to train 150,000 doctors in 10 years time [Applause], and they will be not only from Cuba but from all of Latin America. We shall include Cubans who are ready to set off for any part of the world.
Here tonight, we are honored to have among us 300 or more medical students from Timor Leste [Cheers]. Look at them over there; what enthusiasm, what a heroic nation, which used to be a colony for 500 years – 500 years! - and its independence was paid for with blood at a high price. We are proud to have them here. This year, we will have around 1000 students from Timor Leste, most of them to study at our medical sciences schools; and over there as well, serving in that country, there are 180 Cuban doctors, whom we shall remember also today. Timor Leste used to be a colony of an Iberian nation, and as usual, the powerful ones sent soldiers to those countries. They never sent doctors or teachers, they never taught the inhabitants to read and write, they never educated those peoples.
Forgive me for having put aside my written speech. I shall try not to do that any more because we are impatient to hear President Hugo Chávez on a day like today [Cheers].
Now, this statement made by the Pentagon chief was immediately followed by another serious statement made by the chief of the super-agency which is made up by 15 services, including the CIA and the FBI, the sadly well-known John Negroponte, a close friend of that terrorist they intend to protect, and who bears the repugnant name of Posada Carriles, for all that it represents, who is the man they were supposed to return to Venezuela to stand trial.
Just imagine! Bringing up the pretext of torture to say they are not sending him to Venezuela, a country whose president was at the verge of being assassinated, where there was a military coup d’etat, an oil coup, and where there is a president who, in his immense generosity, even pardoned those who betrayed Venezuela.
We did it too here, at some point in time, after exacting compensation from the empire. We pardoned and released more than a thousand mercenaries to the service of a foreign power, who came to Cuba dressed in their uniforms, on US planes bearing Cuban markings on the fuselage, which attacked us by surprise, treacherously. They invaded our nation escorted by the US naval units and troops, which did not have time to land because hardly 48 hours after the landing there was no one they could give support to.
I was not going to mention any of this, but some things remind you of others. When you hear what others say or when you speak about Negroponte while you are sitting in your office, it is quite possible that your reaction is not very deep. But after listening to professor Bonasso, who reminded us very well about his infamous role –and we have referred to that gentleman quite a few times, being, as he was, one of Posada Carriles’ partners in the dirty war against Nicaragua-- we should remember that this is the man who said today what was published by the cable: “The chief of the US intelligence services –‘the super agency’, according to the cable-- expressed his fears on Thursday that an electoral victory by President Hugo Chávez in December would strengthen what he called a foreign policy aimed at interfering in the internal affairs of neighboring countries, thus drawing him closer to Cuba, Iran and North Korea”, two countries they call terrorists. Moreover, they threaten to use tactical nuclear weapons against them if they develop –as do dozens of other countries in the world-- nuclear fuel for the production of electricity, so that their gas and oil will not be depleted in a few more years. To threaten with a nuclear strike is truly something crazy. But then, how many other insanities can we expect from some people? It is not my wish to offend, but it is impossible not to point out that television exists, speeches and messages exist, and some of these people have truly insane faces, to put it nicely.
In whose hands does the fate of the world lie? Or, we should rather ask, in whose hands does the security of the peoples of this planet lie? They can do nothing for a better world, but they can bring the world to the brink of destruction, even create situations that are impossible to control later on; they could unleash wars whose extension and expansion no one could contain.
These are the risks facing humankind. They are quite new, they belong to the last 100 years, and they are not even confined to the last 60 years, both the danger of extermination by weapons of mass destruction and the all-out aggression on natural environments which are indispensable to the lives of human beings.
“John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, said that President Chávez was ready to continue being particularly hostile against the opposition and curtail freedom of the press.”
Did you hear that, Venezuelan youths, that President Chávez was ready to be particularly hostile against the opposition and curtail freedom of the press? Well, we are publicizing here what the illustrious Negroponte said, with no restriction whatsoever, and I haven’t the slightest doubt that it will be to his own disgrace, if there is any sense of shame among those who uttered such crass and deceitful statements.
“Negroponte, in his first statement after his appointment…” His first statement was not directed against Posada Carriles, against terrorism, against torture, against extra-judicial executions committed by the US government, or against universal espionage in a society like that of the US where so much has been said about each citizen’s undeniable rights, or against freedom, security and life. In his first testimony he said nothing about all that; he spoke of Venezuela and Chávez…both he and the Pentagon chief. Let’s see if he can count on having enough soldiers to continue with these adventures. Every day they have less troops, less Americans are willing to enlist.
Just a few hours ago we heard the news, released on the same day of the famous message to the Congress, that Mrs. Sheehan had been arrested. So far I have not heard anything else about this mother, a sweet person indeed, whose words, gentleness, and serenity impressed everybody at the Venezuelan forum. That mother lost her son, and her face shows not a single sign of hatred, but a deep conviction about the fairness of her claims, her demands and her plea that the war should end. She was sent to prison in the same country where Posada Carriles remained a free man for at least 70 days, even though the US government and the super-intelligence agency knew full well where he was, what he was doing and how he entered the country. And he was not arrested for being a privileged accessory to serious crimes, an accessory to an atrocious act of terrorism, promoted by the US intelligence services in Barbados, which took a toll on so many lives. This man killed Venezuelans – more than one-, tortured Venezuelans, and participated in Operation Condor; he committed crimes beyond borders and overseas, in Europe. But he even did so in the US, where Orlando Letelier, the foreign minister in the Salvador Allende government, was killed after a bomb was planted in his car, which also killed a US citizen who was with him.
Thinking or knowing that Mrs. Sheehan has been arrested causes indignation for she was in Congress at the invitation of a legislator. She was sent to prison, and at this very moment I don’t know whether she is still under arrest.
This Mr. Negroponte appeared before the Select Senate Intelligence Committee together with the CIA chief, Porter Goss; FBI director, Robert Mueller, and other intelligence chiefs from the Pentagon and the State Department.
Hitler had his SS and the Gestapo, but he never had so many agencies and super-agencies, or so many intelligence services. Never! He had enough to commit terrible genocides and he was not any more dangerous than those who possess tens of thousands of nuclear tactical and strategic weapons.
“He indicated that radical populist figures were coming up in certain countries, that they were advocating state economic policies…” Have they ever listened to an “Alo Presidente” program and to what is being promoted in Venezuela, particularly through the missions, which are an expression of true citizen participation in all activities related to the nation and people’s life? “…and they show very little respect” --very little respect, listen to that, youngsters!-- “for democratic institutions.
“Negroponte said that, in Bolivia, Evo Morales’ victory reflected the public’s loss of faith in traditional political parties and institutions.”
Sure, how are they going to continue believing in the stupidity and garbage that they are being told everyday? And they are forcing the people to believe in them with the use of highly developed techniques which transform human beings into persons who act by reflex action, like trained animals in a circus. This is done with the billions of dollars spent each year on advertising instead of on education, as is being done, for example, in our country. Here there are more and more media, more and more television stations, and more than 60% of broadcast time is spent on education without commercials. That is the reason why it is very bad for the empire to talk to Cuba, with the Cubans.
Well, once again, I beg your indulgence for having strayed from the written speech. I have failed to live up to my word of being brief.
This important award bestowed on Hugo Chávez today was established in 1994 by the Executive Council of UNESCO following a proposal by its Director General, distinguished scientist and intellectual, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, in response to a request made by Cuba, at a time when nobody in our country knew about Chávez.
Who would have imagined –only a soothsayer with a crystal ball could have predicted it-- that some day this award, for the glory of those who proposed and supported it, would be presented to Hugo Chávez? [Applause].
Such an exalted recognition would be bestowed, according to the terms of the agreement, in the name of the “eminent thinker and man of action who was the principal instrument in the liberation of Cuba and a key figure in the Spanish-American literature”, Martí, “as a way of promoting and recognizing especially meritorious acts by persons and institutions that, following the ideas and spirit of Jose Martí and embodying a vocation for the sovereignty and liberating struggles of a nation, have contributed significantly, in any part of the world, to the unity and integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, to their social progress and the preservation of their identity, of their cultural traditions and historical values”.
Obviously, this award will never go to a Pinochet, or to any of those who committed thousands of crimes and tortures against the people in Argentina, Guatemala or Paraguay; or waged dirty wars such as that in Nicaragua, which cost the lives of thousands of Nicaraguans, or elsewhere in this hemisphere, with the help of henchmen and torturers who were trained in those schools through which imperialism propped up and maintained governments that resorted to the use of force and experts in torture, who had been trained in the US in the practice of the atrocious acts committed against the people of Vietnam, where 4 million persons died in an unjust war, and millions more were maimed.
There will never be any award for those criminals, those traitors who have betrayed millions of people, hundreds of millions of people in this hemisphere, where there are not enough doctors, schools, jobs, teachers…and where millions, for example, loose their sight; they go semi-blind, and then sooner or later they go completely blind.
How are they going to support the plans of people like Hugo Chávez, who made medical care a reality for 17 million Venezuelans, Mr. Negroponte, who never before had access to medical care or to a pharmacy? Today, these 17 million receive free medical care and free medicines supplied by the Bolivarian government.
It is thanks to a truly revolutionary process that eye exams have been promoted and free eyeglasses have been delivered, that there is free dental care. This revolutionary process is quickly developing the most complete social program ever, not only in the area of education, but also in the health sector. By mid-2006 there will be 600 comprehensive diagnostic centers, top quality polyclinics, 600 centers for physical therapy and rehabilitation using the best electromagnetic equipment from the most prestigious companies in the world, and 35 high tech diagnostic centers which are now being outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment. The chieftains of the empire do not speak of these things, since very few private clinics in the US possess such an impressive quantity of cutting edge equipment, as the ones these centers will have.
Services will be extended to all sectors of the Venezuelan society. That was President Chávez’ request more than a year ago. For this reason, the total number of centers requested from Cuba grew in number from 824 to 1 235.
I am not exaggerating. I know very well that in the US everything is ruled by the principle of profits, and that the most expensive equipment is only used on a few privileged. I know for a fact that in Venezuela this equipment will be used on 30, 40 and 50 people per day.
I have no doubt that in the country of Bolivar, just like in Cuba, and much more rapidly than in Cuba, excellent services will be available. Here we are still struggling to have those, and we are getting close, because we have more than 70,000 doctors, among them approximately 60,000 specialists who are working on their Master or PhD degrees in science. This is the human capital which Chávez is also willing to train: professors, doctors, and engineers, university graduates who will attain their Master or PhD degrees in science. It is about creating human capital that will not run out such as nickel or aluminum or hydrocarbons, but which will multiply. These youngsters from Venezuela and Bolivia who begin their studies today so full of life, hope and goodwill at these high quality centers, will become much wiser and will have grown in numbers by the time they graduate, they will grow in numbers again by the time they perfect their specialty, they will grow in numbers after they have accomplished one, two, or as many internationalist missions as there might be necessary, they will have multiplied by the time they attain their Master or PhD degrees, just as in a not too distant future our own doctors will be doing en masse.
Nothing compares to human capital, and one day future generations will be thankful to the Bolivarian process for two things: the first and most important is the development of Venezuelan human capital, its multiplication, knowing that it will never run out; the defense of the country’s natural resources, the proclamation of integration and cooperation within a united America, so that fuel may be ensured for more than 100 or 200 years provided it is properly saved, and at the same time, the development of all the technology needed to create substitutes for our present fuel, substitutes for hydrocarbons, which will certainly make their appearance, but given the pace at which the world is moving, they could be monopolized by the richest and most developed nations to exploit the Third World even more, just if it were likely that we will not rebel and be ready to give our lives to prevent it. Then we would be struggling not only for material improvements, we would be struggling for survival! I am sure that that is how it will be! (Applause and cheers)
This International “Jose Martí” Award is being presented to President Hugo Chávez Frias at the behest of six Latin American countries: Panama, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. It was a unanimous vote –I repeat, a unanimous vote, Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Negroponte-- by a jury composed of prestigious world personalities who agreed upon the merit of his redeeming struggle on behalf of the peoples of Our America.
President Chávez wished to receive the award in Havana, the city where Jose Martí was born on January 28th, 1853, exactly 153 years and six days ago. His birth date is still very fresh in our minds.
We are accompanied today in this extraordinary ceremony by 38 distinguished world intellectuals who have come just for the occasion; among them are five of the seven members of the prestigious jury which granted the International “Jose Martí” Award. They do not regret having decided to bestow this award on someone who so highly deserves it, someone like President Hugo Chávez.
Present here as well are more than a hundred important artists, writers, publishers and professionals from the many nations participating in the XV International Book Fair which this year is dedicated appropriately to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a country where education, health and culture flourish (Applause and cheers).
Who exactly are here with us tonight?
As a categorical and irrefutable reply to the ignominy by those who would rather see a world full of illiteracy, ignorance, hunger, illness and poverty, so that they could perpetrate even more shameful pillage, here at this glorious Square are:
· 3 421 Venezuelan students, members of the new project to train Latin American doctors (Applause and cheers).
Raise your flags high so that they can be seen in the United States, so that they may see what Chávez is doing to support the young people.
· 2 592 students from Bolivia. Raise your hands (Applause and cheers).
· 477 students from Honduras. Raise your hands (Applause and cheers).
· 334 students from East Timor (Applause and cheers).
· 200 students from Ecuador (Applause and cheers).
· 59 students from Paraguay, for the new course (Applause and cheers).
· 50 students from Guatemala, and soon there will be 2000 (Applause and cheers).
Which makes a big total of 7 133 students already here in Cuba.
Present here today as well are:
· 2 206 students of Basic Sciences from the Latin American School of Medicine, ELAM, in Havana (Applause and cheers).
· 200 students from the International Physical Education and Sports School (Applause and cheers). Look how strong they are!
· 1 100 students from a program to train Cuban doctors, technicians and electro-medical engineers who will serve on international missions (Applause and cheers). They are further away.
· 1224 students from a course to train Venezuelan social workers (Applause and cheers) Look at that, a forest of flags!
· 4 806 young Cuban social workers, representing the 28,000 who make up this force today.
· 8 000 Cuban students from the University of Information Sciences [Cheers].
· 600 young Cuban art instructors, members of the “Jose Martí” Brigade in Havana. Oh! they are very far away! (Laughter).
· 850 members of the Cuban delegation to the VI World Social Forum just held in Caracas [Cheers].
· A representative group of the personnel who work at hospital residences for patients of Operation Miracle.
· More than 43 000 Cuban students from the Middle-Level Education Students Federation (FEEM) [Cheers] and the University Student Federation (FEU) [Cheers], which include the Art Instructors Schools, the Technical and Professional Education Schools, the “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin” Vocational School for Exact Sciences, intensively trained primary school teachers, general comprehensive professors of secondary education, intensively trained nurses, health technologists, and students from the various university campuses in Havana.
· A representative group of students from military colleges.
· 42 000 construction, tourism, CIMEX corporation and CUBALSE corporation workers, who are standing nearby this Square.
· Representatives from the various organizations and institutions pursuing research on the work of Jose Martí [Cheers].
· Representatives from mass and political organizations and institutions.
· 125 000 compatriots from the municipalities of Centro Habana, Cerro, Habana Vieja, Boyeros, Diez de Octubre, Playa and Plaza de la Revolucion.
A few days ago, a natural disaster struck with great severity at the suffering population of Bolivia, which was liberated by Bolivar and Sucre. Venezuela and Cuba have offered assistance to that sister nation.
As soon as we learned of the news, following Evo’s call for assistance to the international community, an IL-62 aircraft left Cuba with 15.7 tons of medicine, and a few hours later, another plane took off from Rancho Boyeros Airport carrying 140 medical specialists to combat the consequences suffered by humans as the result of such natural disasters [Applause and cheers]. It was an entire brigade of the “Henry Reeve” Contingent. As many doctors as Evo needs will depart to assist that sister nation! [Cheers]
Venezuela and Cuba are also gearing up to commence the literacy campaign in Bolivia as soon as Evo gives us the go-ahead. This literacy campaign will be better than the previous ones, since people will be taught to read and write in Spanish as well as in Aymara or Quechua simultaneously, depending on the place they come from [Cheers]. It is a brand new form of mass literacy; a tremendous experiment that I think will set an example for other countries to follow in the future. Both of our countries, Venezuela and Cuba, are united in our cooperation with Bolivia – as well as in several other issues- but not to drop bombs on any country, not to use terrorist methods, not to use force or violence. Quite to the contrary, we do so to carry out absolutely fraternal and humanitarian activities, as writer Bonasso explained. We do not regret doing any of this, our people do not regret it, and we feel very proud of it. Venezuelans will never regret doing this, and in the midst of enormous obstacles, difficulties and risks that we do not underestimate, we will sincerely long for peace and the happiness of struggling for a truly better world.
I do not wish to go on any further –that is what was written in my draft, even though I think I have gone on far too long, and so I once again ask for your forgiveness. I would just like to add that nothing and no one could ever darken the bright future that is awaiting the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ever Onwards to Victory!