Evo, Hugo, and Fidel Speak in Havana
Latin America's Time Is Now
Granma International, 30 April 2006
by Nidia Díaz, Granma International staff writer
HAVANA - Once again, these April days have gone down in history. April 19 was the day, 45 years ago, that U.S. imperialism suffered its first military defeat in Latin America, on the Cuban sands of Playa Girón, in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion — and it has yet to recover. This April 29, 2006 in Havana, capital of the first socialist country in the hemisphere, the empire has suffered another defeat, and this time a more far-reaching one, because it is the defeat of its ideas and the imposition of its model of domination.
This time, Cuba was not alone in the battle: Bolivarian Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez, and the Bolivia under indigenous leader Evo Morales were with us.
On the first anniversary of the agreements to implement the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), signed by Cuba and Venezuela, a revolutionary triad has formed with the incorporation of Bolivia into this tool of integration, and the Bolivian president's proposal, moreover, of a People's Trade Agreement (TPC) as an alternative to the free trade agreements used by the U.S. government in its attempts to sink our people into greater exploitation and dependence.
In the documents signed by the three leaders, which include a Joint Communiqué, positions are established on an integration process that, they agreed, must be "based on principles of mutual aid, solidarity and respect for self-determination" with the goal of "providing an appropriate response to raising up social justice, cultural diversity, equity and the right to development that the peoples deserve and demand."
With this step taken by Bolivia, the integrationist efforts taking place throughout the continent under new nationalist and popular governments are deepening, efforts that are already bearing fruit in the case of Cuba and Venezuela.
Fidel, Chávez and Evo also agreed that only a new and genuine form of integration that goes in the opposite direction of the economic and political relations established by the Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA] and other free trade agreements can guarantee sustainable and sovereign development for our peoples.
THE START OF A GREAT DAY
It was at the International Conference Center in Havana where the meeting was held of – as Evo Morales said – those who represent three generations of revolutionaries: Fidel, Hugo Chávez and the indigenous leader himself, all of whom signed the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) Implementation Agreement and the People's Trade Agreement (TPC).
Right at 2 p.m., Marta Lomas, Cuba's minister of foreign investment and economic cooperation, explained, demonstrating the ALBA's justice and viability, how far Cuban-Venezuelan relations have progressed since October 30, 2000 when the two countries' president signed the Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement that served as a basis for the December 14, 2004 signing of the Joint Declaration and the ALBA Implementation Agreement.
Consequently, Lomas noted, Cuban and Venezuelan delegations met on April 28 and 29, 2005 in what was the first meeting for the ALBA's implementation, and where the first Strategic Plan was approved to set it into motion.
The outcome has been extremely eloquent and encouraging, and is an expression of what the peoples can achieve with agreements in which honor, solidarity and love for the people are the main objective.
It was pointed to as the most outstanding achievement of the period when, this past October 28, UNESCO declared Venezuela to be Illiteracy-Free Territory, something accomplished in less than two years of hard-fought struggle against that disgrace. Likewise, it was announced this past March 20 that Bolivia will begin a literacy campaign with the participation of 20 Venezuelan literacy educators, Bolivian experts and 48 Cuban consultants.
- In 2001, trade between Cuba and Venezuela was $973 million. In 2005, that figure went up to $2.4 billion, representing growth of 255% in non-oil Venezuelan exports to Cuba compared to 2004.
- In 2001, Cuban medical cooperation did not yet exist in Venezuela. Today, 23,601 Cuban health professionals are lending their services, providing care for more than 17 million Venezuelans, with a historic record of 175 million medical consultations.
– Currently, 3,328 Venezuelans are studying General Comprehensive Medicine in Cuba, and 12,940 are doing so in Venezuela under the Comprehensive Community Program, under the guidance of 6,525 Cuban experts who part of the Mission Barrio Adentro (Into the Barrio) Program.
- As of April 28, under the Operation Miracle program, 220,571 vision restoration operations had been performed, with 188,389 of them on Venezuelans. In 2001, Operation Miracle did not yet exist; today, patients from 17 Latin America and Caribbean nations are benefiting, and others are joining in.
- In 2001, there were more than one million illiterate people in Venezuela; today, that country is an Illiteracy-Free Territory. With Cuba's advisement and the "Yes, I Can!" teaching method, 1,482,543 people learned how to read and write, 76,369 of them from indigenous groups.
- In 2001, Venezuela and Cuba began down the road of ALBA, and now Bolivia has joined, and others will join.
After the documents were signed, Fidel was asked by a Telesur network reporter how he felt, 45 years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, about sharing his central revolutionary role with other presidents. The Cuban president was precise in his answer: "I feel like the happiest man in the world." He reiterated this idea at the massively attended event in the Plaza de la Revolucion this Saturday, April 29, topping off a day of solidarity, integration and revolution.
CULMINATION OF A SPECIAL AND HISTORIC DAY
In the Plaza de la Revolucion, where – as Chávez said – we were accompanied by Bolivarian winds, the winds of ALBA and the winds of Che Guevara who is with us again, Fidel exposed the double standard of the anti-terror campaign carried out by the United States; Chávez warned that the 21st century will be the end of the empire; and Evo noted that the time to reclaim the Americas had come, constituting a historic night of unity and hope for the hemisphere.
At 6:10 p.m., with more than 25,000 guests in place, the 29th came to an end, a day in which – as Chávez said – "one's emotions are stirred" because it is one of those groundbreaking days that take root in the collective memory and become revolutionary commitment.
Participants in the event included official visiting delegations, along with leaders of Venezuela's Bolivarian secondary schools and Bolivian social organizations; students from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM); the International School of Sports; the new Latin American Doctors Training Program; and members of the Francisco de Miranda Venezuelan Social Fighters Front.
In addition, participants included doctors and technicians from the Henry Reeve International Contingent; Operation Miracle; engineers and technicians preparing to lend their services in Venezuela's Comprehensive Health Centers and young people involved in various programs of the Cuban Revolution.
Evo gave the first speech, and after thanking the Cuban and Venezuelan peoples and their top leaders, Fidel and Chávez, said that the time had come for unity, "a unity that is for life and for independence, and that is over and above any sectorial or regional interest."
After recounting anecdotes from his early days as a revolutionary and as a person committed to the peoples and the Cuban Revolution, he affirmed that three generations of revolutionaries had come together in Havana and three revolutions: "the Cuban one, the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela and the Bolivian Revolution to liberate all of Latin America and the world."
Evo noted that only by rescuing their natural resources will the peoples be liberated, and in that sense, he referred to the call he made for a Constituent Assembly for the refoundation of Bolivia, a Bolivia that "must stop being a beggar, even though oligarchic sectors are attempting to put up resistance."
Moreover, the Bolivian president said that his country intends to nationalize not just its hydrocarbon resources, but all of its natural riches, to benefit the people.
"Our government will never abandon the struggle to return to the Bolivian people the resources that belong to them," he emphasized. In that sense, he stated that he has a mandate to guarantee a democratic and social revolution in Bolivia to do away with the neoliberal model and de-colonize the nation's riches. "I am sure that with the unity of the Bolivian people, we will defeat the exploiting oligarchy," he affirmed.
He added that he is convinced that his people are not alone, just as Cuba is not alone either; it is accompanied by Venezuela and Bolivia, he said.
Regarding the agreements that were signed, he said that only the ALBA can confront and defeat the FTAA, and it is the only way to overcome colonialism and neoliberalism.
Thanks to Operation Miracle, which is the fruit of ALBA, more than 7,000 Bolivians have had their vision restored, and many Cuban doctors are already lending their services in his country's provinces, he noted.
Finally, he used the opportunity to congratulate Fidel, in the name of the Bolivian people, for his upcoming 80th birthday, and – ahead of everybody else – presented him with three gifts, framed images using coca leaves of José Martí, Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, and Fidel himself.
BOLIVIA IS A COMMMITMENT
President Hugo Chávez spoke next, and with his usual colloquial and impassioned tones, gave us a masterly class on Latin American history.
He wanted to begin by talking about Bolivia, which is, he said, "a commitment, a challenge, a unbridled love of freedom, of equality." It is, he reiterated, "the heart of America and utopia made feasible."
He noted that that nation was born as a project, as a dream, 180 years ago. The Bolivarian Revolution, which has declared itself to be anti-imperialist and socialist, he said, reaffirms its determination and decision to support Bolivia and its government in all of its goals.
Chávez had words of praise for the Andean country's incorporation into the ALBA just 24 hours after Evo's first 100 days in power.
With that incorporation, "we are moving onto another aspect of the ALBA, because it was he who proposed a new tactical piece: the People's Trade Agreement (TCP)," the Venezuelan president added.
The ALBA will continue to open the road to that new model of integration against the FTAA, against capitalism and against imperialism, he said.
"It is up to you, the young people, to see with your eyes the collapse of the U.S. empire, because this is the century that will see its end, the century of the birth of our new homeland, where we will all be free with greater happiness," Chávez concluded, not without announced that "our heroes have returned to the Americas."
FIDEL HARSHLY CRITICIZES THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S DOUBLE STANDARD
The event's closing remarks were given by Cuban President Fidel Castro who explained, with that brilliant didactic manner that characterizes him, what the ALBA means in terms of developing the human capital of our peoples.
"This agreement that we have signed today is the most ethical that has ever been signed. It is not for two or three who want to divide up their riches. We have the enormous power of just ideas," Fidel affirmed.
He referred to the new type of health professionals who are being trained, the generosity that characterizes them; to how it is no longer just Cuba that is training doctors, but Venezuela as well, and with unbeatable quality, and that in about 10 years, they will number tens of thousands.
Again, he reiterated the need for Chávez and now Evo to be careful, because "the enemy will not desist until it has taken your lives, because they know very well how to carry out silent assassination." Later, in referring to the continent's new reality, he predicted that "there is no way to prevent the emergence of new leaders."
He noted that the empire craved for power from early on, and noted how in 1929, they invaded Nicaragua and assassinated revolutionary leader Augusto César Sandino in order to impose Somoza, just as they did with Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and with dozens of other bloody, coup-plotting dictators throughout the years.
Likewise, he noted, they carried out the massacre of the indigenous people, beginning with the conquest and colonization, and it was the nascent empire that finished them off.
In that sense, he explained the validity of recalling those events on this day, April 29, in which the foundations of the ALBA are extended with Bolivia. It is an agreement that constitutes a check against the FTAA, which is nothing more than "a refined instrument of domination and that represents the tactics of the U.S. government for subjugating our peoples," he said.
He also referred to the other element that comes with the FTAA, and that is the military projection of the U.S. government, with its maneuvers in the Caribbean region, the establishment of military bases, the expansion of the imperial intelligence networks, and other prerogatives.
During another part of his speech, the Cuban president reiterated that Cuban doctors will be in Bolivia for as long as necessary and that Cuba will support the Bolivian Revolution in everything that it needs.
Finally, Fidel noted the double standard and two-faced morality with which the Republican administration of George W. Bush carries out its supposed anti-terrorism campaign.
With respect to that, he referred to the latest report by the U.S. State Department, which impudently accuses the Hugo Chávez government of being linked to terrorist Colombian organizations and, in Cuba's case, the document defines it as being a sponsor of that activity, along with Iran and North Korea.
The revolutionary leader harshly criticized the empire's hypocrisy on this issue, given that while attempting to portray Cuba and Venezuela as terrorist, the U.S. government negotiated for and obtained from former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso a pardon for the terrorist and criminal Luis Posada Carriles and his henchmen, only to later allow him to illegally enter the United States, where it not only hid him but also never responded to Cuba's repeated public calls to say how and where he entered and who participated in that repugnant operation.
"It is impossible to pretend that Mr. Negroponte and his publicized intelligence agency with more than 30 offices, and the high-ranking officials of that government, didn't know where Posada was, one of the bloodiest terrorists of this hemisphere, the torturer and assassin of many Venezuelan revolutionaries, and one of the main individuals responsible for the blowing-up of a Cuban airliner in Barbados in October 1976," he said.
"Now, they don't know what they are gong to do with Posada Carriles and while they look for a way to protect him, they are launching these ridiculous accusations against Venezuela and Cuba, while at the same time carrying out military maneuvers in the Caribbean to try to fill us with fear, something they will never achieve, because both of our peoples are determined to defend their freedom at any price," he affirmed.
The Cuban president clearly said he felt proud to be a friend of North Korea, the country of Kim Il Sung, and expressed the honor it represented to be friends with Iran and its heroic people.
Fidel noted that Cuba has been denouncing the preparations underway by U.S. administration to carry out aggression against Iran, and emphasized that in face of such arrogance and lack of common sense, it is worth asking in whose heads the destiny of the humanity lies, and the magnitude of danger to the human species itself.
With the support of those present, Fidel affirmed that "the yankees with their maneuvers in the Caribbean are not going to frighten anyone, because the children of Bolívar are courageous in any situation. I know about your human quality and your revolutionary spirit," he said.
Miguel Bonasso, Argentine parliamentary deputy, and former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Sandinista candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in that Central American nation, were present during the entire day of continental revolutionary reaffirmation.