Speech by Miguel M. Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, during the inauguration of the XVI ALBA-TCP Summit, in Cubanacán Protocol Hall, December 14, 2018, Year 60 of the Revolution
(Council of State transcript-GI translation)
Esteemed Presidents, Prime Ministers, and heads of delegations, distinguished guests:Esteemed colleague David Choquehuanca: Who among us does not remember that December 14, 2004, the gala in Carlos Marx Theater, and Fidel placing the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Order on Chavez’s chest?
That day, Fidel evoked what Céspedes said: "Venezuela, which opened the path of independence to Spanish America and traveled this path gloriously until the march concluded at Ayacucho, is our illustrious teacher of freedom ..."That December 14, ALBA was born and Cuba celebrated.Who among us can forget the joys of that day when Chávez and Fidel signed the birth certificate of a new integration project between equals?Who among those who lived it is not moved by the memory of the brotherhood those men shared, who not only had great dreams, but gave them poetic names and made them come true?During one ALBA Summit, Chávez recalled the day when Fidel named the mission that, thanks to this integration alliance, has already provided surgery for different ophthalmological pathologies to more than 2,800,000 Latin Americans and Caribbeans. Nothing less than a miracle.We also heard him talk about the dawn that inspired him to name ALBA, the event we celebrate today.It is hard to believe that all this would emerge in the mind of the Bolivarian leader in December of 2001, with Venezuela faced by an employer lock-out, a prelude to the coup that would take place the following year.After a long night thinking about alternatives to counter the imperialist ALCA project (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas-FTAA), the light of dawn appeared and with it the idea. A meeting of the Association of Caribbean States was held on Margarita Island and Chávez announced his project. Fidel, who was there, not only applauded with enthusiasm, but on his return to Havana, wrote requesting details.Chávez admited to him that it was only an idea. Three intense years later – facing coups, a blockade, and aggression of all kinds, the two sign a declaration providing for the founding of ALBA.
Its first name was the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America, since it was an integration project countering the Free Trade Agreement. Eleven months later, at the Summit of the Americas, in Mar del Plata, Argentina, the proposal for an imperialist backed alliance, the FTAA, was buried by the peoples of the region, in an act of rebellion and solidarity, led by Chávez, who was already making continental history.After its first five years, in 2009, the meaning of ALBA’s first letter was changed. It was still ALBA but no longer an alternative, but rather an alliance, and with the contribution of Bolivia it became the ALBA-TCP.
Thus, today we celebrate 14 years since the birth of ALBA and nine years of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples Trade Agreement, ALBA-TCP.
Over time, joining the two founding states, one of which I am honored to represent, were Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, and GrenadaMay my first words today be a tribute to this commitment and its realization. To the dream, to the dreamers, and to all those who made it possible that, in less than 15 years, we have settled debts accumulated over centuries.We are proud and pleased to recall the works of our integration: the more than 11,000 doctors from ALBA countries trained in the Latin American Medical Schools of Cuba and Venezuela; the 2,223,035 Latin Americans and Caribbeans who received eye surgery; the more than 30 million ophthalmological consultations; the one and a half million disabled persons identified and assisted; the 4,163,767 people who learned to read and write in the region, via the “Yes, I can” method; the three ALBA-TCP countries declared Illiteracy Free Territories: Venezuela in 2005, Bolivia in 2008, and Nicaragua in 2009.Others, like El Salvador, are moving steadily forward to achieve this. These are the accomplishments, despite the serious impact on these programs of the economic war suffered by Venezuela. Experts agree that there is no precedent for a social conquest of this magnitude by any other integration mechanism.But we have results to show not only in the social arena. There is the ALBA Bank, which offers financing to our nations for economic projects of interest.And there is investment of income, from the sale of fuel through fair payment agreements, for social development and in agriculture, fishing, industry, and naval repairs; for the creation of industrial and mining capacity; and road, water, airport, port, and tourism infrastructure.Who can ignore the solidary help of Cuban and Caribbean doctors and electrical workers, Venezuelan, Bolivian, Nicaraguan, Cuban, and Salvadoran rescue workers, scientists from our nations, when we have needed it the most?We speak, proudly, of help offered without conditions, respectful of national interests and the laws of each country. There is no room for political pressure, or of any kind, between us. The Alliance is an unquestionable paradigm of solidarity, cooperation, and consensus among its members. These values constitute our main strength.
We are also conscious of our collective potential, which our needs call for, to become decisive actors in the times in which we live.It is necessary to act with audacity and realism, and adjust proposals to match real potential.Fundamentally, we need to articulate plans, projects, and focus the limited resources that we have.Above all, we must take into consideration the adverse international and regional economic environment and the impact of coercive, unfair unilateral measures against several of our countries. Even in these difficult circumstances, it is possible to move forward.
The current situation demands, even more, unity and political consensus among our countries and decisive efforts to confront the imperialist strategy of division. The unwavering conviction that Our America is one, from the Río Bravo to Patagonia, is imperative, and that we have a fundamental duty to prevent them from plundering our natural resources and subjugating us to their hegemony.The hostility of imperialism is today directed against our most genuine values. They are bothered by the solidarity that characterizes us; they do not tolerate social justice, and even less equity in the distribution of income. They irrationally hate the peoples’ sovereign vocation and do not respect our right to the political systems we choose.
They undermine sustainable development and living harmoniously with the environment.
They disdain and attack the Latin American and Caribbean vision of unity, South-South cooperation, and the search for economic complementarity. Their onslaught has a single goal: taking control of the immense natural resources of a region that, for a long time, has been considered their back yard.
Thus they have resurrected the principles of the Monroe Doctrine, the “law” of regional subordination to the interests of U.S. capital - a policy that was conceived with this goal more than 195 years ago, and its essence has remained invariable. Given this reality, it is our duty to oppose these pretensions, in no way veiled, to unearth their spirit.
"Let us put forward the social, let us be deeply humanistic, let us put forward the pain of our people to strengthen social cohesion, that is ALBA," said Chávez in his historic address in Mar del Plata, of November 2005. This brief review here shows us how much was accomplished.It must not be forgotten that all this was achieved under fire - subversion, coups or threats of coup, the threats that never end ... the blockade that never ceases.
Precisely on December 14, 2004, Fidel reflected on the context in which ALBA was conceived: "The battle now is harder and more difficult. A hegemonic empire, in a globalized world, the only superpower that prevailed after the Cold War and the prolonged conflict between two radically different political, economic, and social concepts, constitutes a huge obstacle to what in needed today to preserve, not only the most elementary rights of human beings, but even our own survival. "Some will say: what has changed? What we changed was changed. And it was not insignificant. Let us remember only the most notable:As a consequence of the earthquake in Haiti, January 12, 2010, ALBA-TPC countries approved an action plan to contribute to the reconstruction and development of this sister country of the Caribbean in the areas of health, finance, energy, agriculture and food sovereignty, education, construction, security, transport, and logistics.Despites its shortcomings, ALBA-TPC has carried out concrete projects to unite the strengths of member countries for the benefit of our people in food, the 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: The ALBA bloc, since its emergence, has defended firm, correct positions strongly condemning the genocidal U.S. economic, commercial, and financial blockade of Cuba.
ALBA energetically supported the government of President Evo Morales in denouncing the calls made by separatist groups in Bolivia, which contributed to halting these attempts at division.
It was ALBA, the voice of our voices, that was raised in international forums to win approval of the Managua Summit Accord, in which heads of state rejected the coup in Honduras.It was ALBA countries which, in the 2008 Annual Assembly of the Organization of American States, were able to vacate the infamous 1962 expulsion of Cuba as a member of the OAS.
ALBA’s support for the World Summit of Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Plurinational State of Bolivia, in April 2010 has been decisive.Our solidarity is fundamental to the people of Puerto Rico in their struggle for independence and national sovereignty. How valuable is the establishment of the Council of Social Movements, the meetings of these Movements in Tintorero, Venezuela, in 2007, and in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2009 and 2010, and the initiatives and positions taken on important issues on the international agenda.
Brothers and sisters:Everything we have achieved together could be just another chapter in our region's efforts to unite - which our enemies thwarted - if we do not recognize the new dangers and threats facing ALBA.The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Nicaragua have been the main targets of the most recent attacks aimed at dismantling even the slightest progress in terms of sovereignty and social justice.But ALBA-TPC is, at the same time, an insurmountable bastion resisting the attempts of reactionary forces to isolate Venezuela and Nicaragua.It is imperative to defend, against all odds, the full relevance of the Alliance as a space of resistance, dialogue, and struggle, of which we feel an indissoluble part.
Hence our recognition and solidarity with President Nicolás Maduro Moros and with the democratically elected government of Venezuela, and with Sandinista Nicaragua led by Commander Daniel Ortega Saavedra.We will always stand beside Venezuela and Nicaragua, brothers in struggle and in dreams for the dignity of our peoples.We cannot be naive or silently accept the aggression orchestrated against other sister countries. It is not possible to underestimate the vast resources our historic adversaries have deployed to derail governments, impose chaos, and overthrow democratically elected authorities, or to prevent progressive and popular forces from maintaining government power.Interference in the internal affairs of states, political subversion, economic aggression, its social impact, and constant threats to use force, constitute real dangers for peace and security in the region.Observance of the principles of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace is essential to preserve stability in the area.It is imperative to defend the ethics and honesty of public administrations and to reject the use of the courts in politics, as the people’s will is ignored with alarming frequency, as has happened in Brazil, where vengeful judges, now associated with the right, insist on the practice to accuse and convict progressive leaders.
It is necessary to build a front, as broad as possible, that brings together left and progressive forces, movements, and social organizations in the region, to face these challenges.And we cannot forget for a moment the most important and vital of the tasks we share: to engage permanently in the construction, strengthening, and defense of unity. This is our most precious asset. A debt to our heroes and a commitment to our children.As Fidel said, "the age of egoism must end."
ALBA-TCP is a necessity. As a genuine Latin American and Caribbean mechanism, it has shown, more than once, that it is an effective space for joint action, unity, defense of just causes, integration, cooperation, and solidarity.
The peoples of Our America hold painful memories. It is not possible to forget the lessons of the past, the cruel, dark years of military dictatorships and the impact of neoliberalism, which they are trying to reinstate, with policies of coercion, humiliation, and isolation with disastrous consequences for our region, as always, with the United States as their main promoter.
With increasingly aggressive actions and language, today the empire insists on reestablishing colonial subordination to the government in Washington and U.S. corporations.
Under the same precepts that plagued Our America with pain and misery in the name of freedom - as Bolivar warned early on - the old practices return with new trappings.Dear colleagues, sisters and brothers:José Martí was barely 24 years old when he wrote in a single paragraph a history lesson that we should all know. Martí said: "Pizarro conquered Peru while Atahualpa warred with Huascar; Cortés beat Cuauhtémoc because Xicoténcatl helped his endeavor; Alvarado entered Guatemala as the Quichés surrounded the Zutujiles. Given that disunity has meant death, what vulgar understanding, or petty heart, must be told that our life depends on unity?
Before initiating the remarks, I wish to thank on behalf of our government and the entire people of Cuba, the position taken by ALBA-TCP countries during the debate and approval of the resolution to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba, in the last session of the United Nations General Assembly.I acknowledge the coherence, courage, and dignity shown by our sister Caribbean nations, refusing to give in to pressures, which we strongly condemn.
Likewise, I reiterate our opposition to the insistence on including them among middle-income countries, and to the unjust measures against them as non-cooperative jurisdictions, while we support their just demand to receive compensation for the damages caused by slavery.In the name of our Revolution and our people, I would like to share with you the profound legacy of the most devoted follower of Marti among Cubans. Fidel taught us that "our peoples have no future without unity, without integration".
Bolívar and Martí, Fidel and Chávez bequeathed us invaluable teachings, among them loyalty to principles. Their lessons show us the route to follow in this decisive hour for the greater homeland, which calls on us to unite and continue forging our second, definitive independence.
I believe it is timely, during this stage of struggle and resistance, to recall what the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, said in Cartagena de Indias in October of 1995, and I quote: “We are not mere spectators. This world is also our world. Nothing can take the place of our united action, nobody will speak for us. Only us, and only united, can we reject the unjust global political and economic order that some intend to impose on our peoples. "
Let us thus defend the noble ideas that we share in ALBA-TCP, with all our strength.Thank you very much. (Applause)