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'We Are Seeing the Most Promising Time of the Revolution'

by Carlos Lage Dávila

Address by the Vice-President of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba to the opening session of the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, 14 September 2006

Your Excellencies,

Plagued by wars and the threat of new wars, the world we live in becomes more unjust and unequal with each day that passes. The end of the confrontation between East and West was not the beginning of the peace many dreamed of. What we have witnessed, instead, is the growing hegemony of a nation that resorts to economic and political pressures unscrupulously, that feels entitled to invade any country in the world to reach its objectives and which is leading the world we all live in to its own destruction.

A few examples suffice to reveal the absurdity and cruelty of the international order that has been imposed upon us today.

More than a million million [trillion] dollars are allotted to military spending annually, while 11 million children die of preventable or curable diseases each year. Another million million dollars is spent on commercial advertising, at a time when 860 million human beings around the world do not know how to read or write.

Every year, wealthy countries spend 17 thousand million dollars to feed household pets and more than 800 million people go to sleep hungry each day.

Each year, Latin American countries spend no less than 20 thousand dollars on the education of each of the 200 thousand students who graduate from university and 20% of the most outstanding graduates –40 thousand students– end up working or doing research work in rich nations, who offer them work conditions our countries are unable to guarantee. For this, we receive no compensation whatsoever.

Fossil fuel reserves are being depleted. The growth in the number of proven and provable oil and natural gas reserves is outpaced by consumption. The societies of wealthy countries have not been able to undertake profound and radical energy-saving programmes that would buy us the time needed to develop new technologies.

Our environment deteriorates as a result of the activities of an irrational society which encourages extreme forms of consumerism, a way of life rich countries have imposed on their own societies and on ours.

Unemployment, poverty, hunger and illnesses are foisted upon thousands of millions of people. A new category, that of surplus humanity, has been created by neoliberalism.

War and economic might are being used to impose a veritable dictatorship upon the world, while an intolerant and deceitful discourse aims to distort reality. Democracy and human rights, today closer to pretexts than to objectives, cannot exist in a world that is increasingly unequal, where these words cannot even be read or understood by thousands of millions of people.

The concepts of limited sovereignty, humanitarian intervention, preventive war and regime change are fascist; they are not modern theories designed to defend freedom and combat terrorism. "Human safety" and "the responsibility to protect" are concepts which conceal the intention to encroach upon the sovereignty and do away with the independence of poor nations –never, of course, of powerful countries.

In this globalized world, poverty is the result of centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism and of an unjust and criminal international economic order, not of the supposed corruption and ineptitude of our governments, as they would have us believe. More privatization, more deregulation and more free trade spell more inequality, more poverty and more marginalization.

Drug trafficking and organized crime stem from the growing demand for drugs of the world's richest societies. They are the result of a way of life which makes of consumption and money the only legitimate driving force of human beings. Drugs and crime proliferate as a result of this growing demand and not because police forces and armies are inadequate and we need to purchase more bullet-proof vehicles, go-fasts and sophisticated weapons for rich nations.

Terrorism is born of injustice, a lack of education and culture, of poverty and inequality, of the humiliation suffered by whole nations, of the contempt towards and the underestimation of belief systems, of arrogance, of abuse and of crimes. It is not a consequence of radical ideologies that must be swept off the face of the earth with bombs and missiles. Hypocrisy and double standards are in plain sight in the discourse of the powerful.

The hegemonic superpower demands that those responsible for crimes anywhere in the world be tried in and even extradited to the United States; on the other hand, members of the US military, for equal or worse crimes, are to enjoy impunity –otherwise, no credits or economic aid are made available.

Walls are erected across borders and immigration police forces assembled, but not to prevent the entry of scientists, doctors, nurses, information experts and other highly qualified professionals and technicians into rich countries. Powerful countries tout free trade but consider it essential to spend nearly one thousand million dollars in agricultural subsidies a day, three times what they devote to development assistance.

The world's reserves are not flowing into our banks, but it would be sheer heresy to contradict the orders we receive: no barriers are to block the flow of capital, and our money must go to finance the United States economic deficit. Anti-personnel mines are to be eliminated, not chemical and nuclear weapons. No one else may possess them, or so says the one country that has used both on civilian populations.

This is the world the Washington Consensus has bequeathed us. This is the world neoliberalism has bequeathed us. This is the world transnational companies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the government of the United States and powerful countries have bequeathed us. And they would perpetuate this economic and political world order, or disorder, which breeds inequalities and leads us to chaos, because it benefits a handful of nations, and not everyone in those nations.

Another world is possible and urgently needed, and wars are not needed to create it. If we grow in conscience, if we join forces, if we become determined to defend our rights with ideas and steadfastness, we can build such a world.

Our Movement is essential to the quest for a new system of international relations. We do not align ourselves to wars, to terrorism, to injustice, to inequality, to double standards. We align ourselves to peace and to justice.

We must fight for a world in which aggression and occupation by any country in search of material or geopolitical gains is unthinkable, in which acts of aggression of the kind the Lebanese people endure today or the atrocities committed by Israel in Palestine are not permitted.

We must fight against a world in which a sovereign nation is denied the use of nuclear energy for peaceful ends while another is aided in the accumulation of nuclear arsenals.

We must fight for a new, fairer and more equal world economic order, in which the special and differentiated treatment of Third World countries is guaranteed.

Today's international financial organizations have been discredited and are unable to understand and address our problems. These organizations must be abolished and new ones, which seek to do away with hunger and not the hungry, must take their place.

The United Nations must be reformed and transformed into a real instrument for cooperation and peace, an organization that can realize the guiding principles enshrined in its Charter. The Security Council must broaden its membership, modify its working methods, make its deliberations more transparent and eradicate the unjust and humiliating privilege of the veto.

We know these objectives are hard to reach, but the one way to reach them is by fighting for them. The end of colonialism, the defeat of fascism, the victory of Vietnam and the disappearance of apartheid were once impossible goals for many. The greatest pages of human history are those in which goals which seemed far-off dreams are reached.

Ladies and gentlemen:

These days in Havana will be days of work and optimism. As the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries becomes stronger, Fidel recovers. We want to acknowledge the government of Malaysia for its work as Chairman of the Movement, to thank everyone for having participated, in spite of pressures and calamitous threats and for contributing with points of view and ideas that, concurring with ours or not, are aimed at creating a better world for our peoples.

Many of you have been here before. Others have come for the first time. In your limited free time, you will be afforded a glimpse at our reality and at the spirit of a people who, 47 years ago, decided to take command of its fate and build a just society where solidarity prevails, to face all risks, threats, aggressions and a blockade that is as criminal and long as it is ridiculous.

When the Soviet Union and European socialist block collapsed, we were practically alone, determined to hold on to our flag and to socialism. The government of the United States stepped up the blockade with the passing of new laws, amendments and counter-amendments; it undertook new terrorist actions and unleashed an unprecedented international diplomatic and media campaign against the Cuban revolution.

A morally decadent empire attacked our small island with all of its hatred. The end of the revolution appeared inevitable, even in the eyes of many friends. However, the revolution was able to hold its ground, because it had an immense project of equity and wellbeing behind it. The revolution was able to survive because of an even greater project of justice and dignity it had brought to fruition.

Because the revolution never deceived the people, because truth and ethical imperatives were behind every action, because we defended unity like our most precious possession, because the siren-song of transition fell upon deaf ears here and we refused to accept that competition, money, vanity and egotism --and not honor and solidarity-- are what move people.

We can say that, in the 1990s, the Cuban revolution lived its harshest and hardest years of its history and we can say that, today, we are seeing the most promising time of the revolution.

This may seem like a miracle, but it is not. It is the feat of an entire, self-sacrificing, heroic and stoic people, and it is on their behalf that I welcome you to the land of Martí and Fidel.

Thank you very much.

 

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