Speech by the President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, during the XVI Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Trade Treaty of the Peoples (ALBA-TCP)
Havana, Cuba, December 14, 2018
Dear Presidents, prime ministers and heads of delegations, distinguished guests, dear colleague David Choquehuanca. Who of us does not remember that December 14, 2004, at Carlos Marx Theater, Fidel placing the order Carlos Manuel de Céspedes on Chávez’s chest? That day, Fidel spoke about what Céspedes said: “Venezuela, which opened and walked the path of independence to Spanish America gloriously, to finish its march in Ayacucho, is our eminent teacher of freedom”. ALBA was born that December 14 and Cuba became a party. Who of us can forget the joys of that day when Chávez and Fidel signed the birth certificate of the new project of integration among equals? Those who witnessed that moment not only thrill with that memory of brotherhood of two men who not only had huge dreams, but gave them poetic names and turned them into realities.
In one of the summits of the ALBA, Chavez told how Fidel came up with the name of the mission, through which, and thanks to this integration mechanism, different ophthalmological pathology surgeries have benefited more than 2 million 800 thousand Latin Americans and Caribbean. It is just a Miracle. We also listened to him telling about the dawn which inspired him to call such mechanism ALBA, which is the reason why we celebrate today. It is hard to believe that everything could have emerged from the mind of the Bolivarian leader that December 2001, with a Venezuela under the impact of an employer strike that foreshadowed the coup of the following year. After a long night thinking about the alternatives that could oppose the imperial project of the FTAA, the light of the ALBA appeared and with it the idea. Then, during a meeting of the Association of Caribbean States in Margarita Island, Chávez announced his project. Fidel not only applauded enthusiastically, but on his return to Havana, wrote to him asking for details. Chávez confessed that it was only an idea. After three intense years of coups, blockades and aggressions of all kinds, they both would sign the declaration that gave birth to the ALBA; the Bolivarian Alternative for the peoples of our America was its first name, since it was an integration project against the Free Trade Agreement.
11 months later, at the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, the proposal of the imperial alliance FTAA was buried by the peoples of the region, in an act of rebellion and solidarity led by Chávez. FTAA is now part of the continent’s history. Five years after, in 2009, the meaning of the first letter was changed. The abbreviation remained ALBA but it was no longer an alternative but an alliance. Then, with the contributions of Bolivia, it was transformed into ALBA-TCP; so, today we celebrate 14 years of the creation of ALBA and 9 years of the creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America – People’s Trade Treaty, ALBA-TCP.
The following are my first words to pay tribute to that effort and its realization, to the dream and dreamers and to all those who made possible that in no more than 15 years we have paid debts of centuries. We are proud and happy to list the results of this integration mechanism: more than 11 thousand doctors from ALBA countries trained in Latin American medical schools of Cuba and Venezuela; 2 million 223 thousand 35 Latin American and Caribbean who underwent eye surgery; more than 30 million ophthalmological consultations; a million and a half disabled people registered and freely assisted; 4 million 163 thousand 767 who were provided with literacy training in the region, with the method ” yes I can”; 3 countries of the ALBA-TCP were declared free territories of Illiteracy: Venezuela in 2005, Bolivia in 2008 and Nicaragua in 2009; others like El Salvador are firmly moving forward to achieve it. Despite the negative effects caused by the economic war suffered by Venezuela at the present, according to the experts, these programs are achievements that have no precedent of such magnitude in any other integration mechanism t. This is a social conquest.
However, there are not only social results to show. We have the ALBA Bank that offers financing to our nations, for economic projects of interest and investment of income from the sale of fuel, through fair payment agreement in the social, agricultural, fishing, industry and naval repairs development, the creation of industrial capacities, extractive mining, road infrastructure, hydraulic, airport, port and tourism. We cannot neglect the solidarity support by Cuban and Caribbean doctors and electrical workers, of Venezuelan, Bolivian, Nicaraguan, Cuban and Salvadoran rescue workers, scientists of our nations, in the greatest hours of need. We proudly speak of an unconditional aid, respectful of national interests and the laws of each country. No political blackmail of any kind is possible among us. This alliance is an unquestionable paradigm of solidarity, cooperation and consensus among its members. These values are our main strength.
We are also aware of the collective potential called by our own necessities to become a decisive player of the moment we live. We must take action boldly and realistically, and adapt the proposals to the real potentialities. We need to articulate plans, projects and invest the limited available resources to solve the main problems; above all, we must take into consideration the adverse international and regional economic environment and the impact of the unfair unilateral coercive measures against several of our countries. Even in those difficult circumstances, it is possible to move forward. The current situation demands even more unity and political coercion among our countries and decisive efforts to face the divisionist strategy by Imperialism. There is an unwavering conviction that our America is one and the same, from El Bravo to La Patagonia. It is a fundamental duty to prevent imperialism from taking away our natural resources and subjecting us to its hegemony.
Today, the aggressiveness of Imperialism targets our most genuine values. They do not like our sense of solidarity. They do not tolerate social justice and even less the equity in the distribution of incomes. They irrationally hate the sovereign vocation of the peoples and do not respect their right to choose their political system. They assault sustainable development and harmonious coexistence with the environment. They loathe an attack the Latin-American and Caribbean vision of unity, South-South cooperation and the search for economic complementarity. Their attacks have only one purpose: to take control of the immense natural resources of a region which for a long time has been considered as their backyard. That is why they have taken their way back to Monroe Doctrine principles: the law of regional subordination to the ambitions of the great American capital. This is the purpose it was conceived for 195 years ago and its essence remains unchanged. In light of such conviction, it is mandatory to oppose to this unmasked pretention to unearthing its spirit. Let us put the social need first, let us be profoundly humanist, and let us put the pain of our people first to strengthen the social cohesion; that is ALBA. This is what Chavez said in his historic speech delivered in Mar de Plata, in November 2005.
The brief account above is proof of all we have done. We must not forget that all this was achieved confronting the bullet of subversion, coups or threats that never end; the blockade that never ceases. Precisely, on December 14, 2004, Fidel weighed the context ALBA was conceived in, and I quote:
the battle is now harder and more difficult, a hegemonic empire in a globalized world, the only super-potency that prevailed after the Cold War and the prolonged conflict between two radically different political, economic and social conceptions, constitute a huge obstacle to the one thing that could be preserved today, not only the most elementary rights of the human being, but even its survival.
Some may say “what has changed?” It changed what we have changed and it was not a small thing. Let us remember only the most remarkable fact. As a result of the earthquake of January 12, 2010, in Haiti, the ALBA-TCP countries approved an action plan to contribute to the reconstruction and development of the brother Caribbean country, in the areas of health, finances, energy, agriculture and food sovereign education, construction, security, transport and logistics.
Despite its weaknesses, ALBA-TCP has completed projects to unite the potentialities of its member countries, for the benefit of our peoples regarding food, environment, science and technology, fair trade, culture, education, energy, industry and mining, health, telecommunications, transport and tourism. Today, I am particularly interested in highlighting the political and moral power of our Alliance. Since the beginning, the ALBA bloc has defended firm and accurate positions to absolutely condemn the US genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba. ALBA strongly supported the government of President Evo Morales, rejecting the call that separatist groups made in Bolivia and deactivating their divisionist pretentions. ALBA was the voice of our voices that was raised up in international spaces, to take ownership of the agreement of the Managua Summit, in which the Heads of State rejected the coup d’état in Honduras. The ALBA countries could repeal the infamous suspension of Cuba as member of OAS in 1962, at the annual meeting of the Organization of American States in 2008. Their support for the People’s Global Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights held in Cochabamba, Plurinational State of Bolivia in April 2010 has been conclusive. ALBA has been fundamental accompanying the Puerto Rican people in their fight for independence and national sovereignty. Finally, the constitution of the council of social movements, the meetings of these ALBA movements in Tintorero, Venezuela in 2007 and Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2009 and 2010, and the initiatives and positions regarding important international issues have been definitively valuable.
Brothers and sisters, all we have achieved together could remain as another chapter of our region’s determination of union, frustrated by our enemies, if we do not foresee the new risks and threats faced by the bloc. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Nicaragua have been the main targets of the most recent attacks, aimed at dismantling the slightest advance on sovereignty and social justice. However, the ALBA-TCP is at the same time an unbreakable foothold against the attempts of reactionary forces to isolate Venezuela and Nicaragua. It is necessary to defend, against all odds, the full validity of the alliance as a space of resistance, dialogue and fight of which we feel an indissoluble part. For this reason, we express our recognition and solidarity with President Nicolas Maduro Moros and the democratically elected Government of Venezuela, and with Sandinista Nicaragua led by Commander Daniel Ortega Saavedra.
We will always be with Venezuela and Nicaragua, for they are our brothers in the struggles and dreams for the dignity of our peoples. We cannot be naïve and quietly accept aggressions orchestrated against brother countries. We cannot underestimate the deployment of resources from our historical adversaries, intended to derail governments, impose chaos and overthrow authorities democratically elected or prevent that popular progressive forces remain in the governments. Meddling in the States’ internal affairs, political subversion, economical aggressions with their social consequences and ongoing threats of using force are real dangers for peace and security in the region. The fulfillment of principles of the Latin America and the Caribbean as zone of peace is essential to preserve the stability in the area. We need to defend ethic and integrity in the public administration and reject prosecution of politics. With alarming regularity, the people’s will is tried to be ignored, like in Brazil, where venal judges -today, associated with the right-wings – insist on accusing and condemning progressive leaders. It is necessary to build the broadest organization possible, involving left-wing movements and progressive forces, movements and social organizations in the region, in order to face these challenges, and we cannot forget for a moment the most important and vital shared tasks: engaging permanently in the construction, strengthening and defense of union; it is our proudest possession, the debt with our heroes and commitment with our children.
As Fidel said “the era of selfishness must come to an end”. The ALBA-TCP is needed. As a genuinely Latin American and Caribbean mechanism, it has proved many times to be an efficient space for dialogue, union, and defense of fair causes, integration, cooperation and solidarity. Latin America’s Peoples accumulate a painful memory. We cannot forget the lessons learned during the cruel and obscure years of military dictatorships and the impact of Neo-liberalism, which are trying to bring back blackmail, humiliation and isolation with terrible consequences for our region, with the U.S. as their main articulator, with even more aggressive actions and rhetoric. Today, the empire resumes the strategy of subordination to the government and Washington’s corporations, under the same budgets which plagued our America with misery and pain, in the name of freedom, as early warned by Bolivar. Old practices return with new clothes.
Dear comrades, brothers and sisters, Jose Marti was 24 years old when he wrote in a paragraph a lesson of history that all of us must know. Marti said “Pizarro conquered Peru when Atahualpa fought with Huaspar, Cortes won to Cuauhtemoc because Xicotencatl helped him in the company; Alvarado came in Guatemala because Quiches surrounded Zutujiles. Disunity was our death. What vulgar understanding or petty heart needs to be said that our life depends on union?”
Comrades, before starting the exchange of ideas, I would like to thank on behalf of our government and all Cuban people, the position of the ALBA-TCP countries during the debate and adoption of the revolution in order to finish the U.S. blockade against Cuba in the last session of the UN General Assembly. I pay tribute to the coherence, courage and dignity assumed by our sisters Caribbean Nations, who refuse to be under pressures we strongly reject. Likewise, I reiterate our position against the insistence to include such nations in the list of middle-income countries, as well as the unfair measures against them for being considered uncooperative jurisdictions and we support their well-founded demand for receiving compensations, for damages caused by slavery.
On behalf of our revolution and our people, I would like to share with you the deep legacy of one of the greatest Cuban defenders of Marti’s ideas. Fidel taught us that there is no future for our people without union and integration. Bolivar and Martí, Fidel and Chavez taught us invaluable lessons. Among them: loyalty to the principles. Their lessons show us the path in this crucial time of the Great Homeland, which calls us to continue building together our second and definitive independence. I believe that today provides an appropriate opportunity, in this struggle and resistance stage, to remember what the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, said in Cartagena de Indias in October 1995 and I quote:
We are not a simple audience, this world is also our world, no one may substitute our united action, no one will speak for us, It is only together that we may reject the unfair political, economical, global order that is tried to be imposed against our peoples.
Let us defend the great ideas that we strongly share in the ALBA-TCP.
Thank you very much