Thursday, 30 April 2009


Key Address at the Ministerial Meeting
of the Non-Aligned Movement


Distinguished participants in this ministerial meeting:

It is an honor for our people and government to again host
a high level meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. Two years
and seven months have passed since the celebration in this
same hall of the 14th Summit of Heads of State or
Government in September 2006. On that occasion I said:

"On the sound foundations of our historic victories in the
struggle for decolonization and the removal of apartheid
and with the rich experience of our efforts in favor of a
New International Economic Order and of peace, disarmament
and the true exercise of the right to development, the
Non-Aligned Movement shall now wage heroic battles against
unilateralism, double standards and the impunity of the
powerful; for a more just and equitable international order
to tackle neoliberalism, plundering and pillage; for the
survival of the human species instead of the irrational
consumerism of the wealthy nations."

The challenges identified then are not only still standing
but they are now more dangerous and pressing. Therefore,
the necessity for NAM to act in a coordinated fashion is
today more imperative and crucial. We are currently
afflicted by a deep economic, social, food, energy and
environmental crisis that have become global. The
international debates are multiplied but they do not engage
every country. There is a growing awareness that solutions
must be found shortly; however, just and lasting solutions
seem elusive. If we fail to act firmly and expeditiously
our peoples stand to suffer again the worst consequences of
this crisis, and for a longer period of time.

It is impossible to sustain the unfair and irrational
consumption patterns that served as the basis to the
current international order imposed by a few that we have
been forced to respect. A global order inspired in
hegemonic pretenses and the selfishness of privileged
minorities is neither legitimate nor ethically acceptable.
A system that destroys the environment and promotes unequal
access to riches cannot last. Underdevelopment is an
unavoidable result of the current world order.

Neoliberalism has failed as an economic policy. Today, any
objective analysis raises serious questions about the myth
of the goodness of the market and its deregulation; the
alleged benefits of privatizations and the reduction of the
states' economic and redistribution capacity; and the
credibility of the financial institutions.

In 1979, thirty years ago, when Cuba first assumed the
chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement, the leader of the
Cuban Revolution comrade Fidel Castro alerted on the
negative consequences of spending over 300 billion dollars
in weapons and on the existence of a foreign debt of the
underdeveloped countries that amounted to almost as much.

On that occasion comrade Fidel estimated that, at the time,
that figure would have allowed: ".to build in one year 600
thousand schools to teach 400 million children; or 60
million comfortable houses for 300 million people; or 30
thousand hospitals with 18 million beds; or 20 thousand
factories providing jobs to over 20 million workers; or
placing 150 million hectares of land under irrigation which
with an adequate technical level could feed one billion

Of course, nothing was done and the situation has
aggravated dramatically. Suffice it to say that currently
the annual military expenses exceed the figure of one
trillion dollars; the number of unemployed in the world
could rise to 230 million during 2009; and in hardly a year
-during 2008-the number of people starving in the world
mounted from 854 million to 963 million.

The UN has estimated that 80 billion dollars a year for a
decade would be enough to eradicate poverty, hunger and the
lack of health and education services and houses all over
the world. That figure is three times lower than what the
South countries spend every year to pay their foreign debt.

The international system of economic relations requires
fundamental changes. This was demanded almost 35 years ago
by the member countries of our Movement in the Declaration
and Plan of Action for the Establishment of a New
International Economic Order adopted in the 6th Special
Session of the United Nations General Assembly in May 1974.

The solution to the global economic crisis demands a
coordinated action with the universal, democratic and
equitable participation of all countries. The response
cannot be a solution negotiated by the leaders of the most
powerful nations without the participation of the United

The G-20 solution calling for the strengthening of the role
and functions of the International Monetary Fund, whose
nefarious policies had a decisive effect on the emergence,
aggravation and magnitude of the current crisis cannot
solve inequality, injustice or the unsustainability of the
present system.

The UN High Level Conference on the Economic and Financial
Crisis and its Impact on Development scheduled for June 1
to 3, 2009, is the indispensable context to debate and try
to find solutions by consensus to this grave situation, and
the Non-Aligned Movement should support it.

From its inception, this Movement has shown its willingness
to work for peace and security for the community of nations
and for defense of International Law. The removal of the
weapons of mass destruction, and foremost nuclear
disarmament, is still a priority.

The practice of multilateralism requires absolute respect
for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states
and for the self-determination of the peoples. It also
demands to dispense with threats and the use of force in
international relations, and to do without hegemonic
aspirations and imperial behavior. It requires to put an
end to foreign occupation and to deny impunity to such
criminal aggressions as those of Israel against the
Palestinian people.

The Movement should engage in every major debate of the
international agenda, in the different venues and
multilateral forum and with the broadest participation of
its member countries, not to compete with other groups of
South countries but to strengthen and complement them.

We need to continue permanently improving the Movement's
working methods. The fulfillment of the Plan of Action we
have adopted shall be an indispensable tool to determine
our priorities and our tasks.

We should all start working right away to ensure a
successful 15th Summit of Heads of State or Government in
Egypt next July. We should make a critical analysis of
everything done until today and set ourselves new goals and
objectives in compliance with current and future problems
and challenges.

Finally, on behalf of Cuba I wish to express the
appreciation of our government and our entire people for
the steadfast and unwavering solidarity of the Non-Aligned
Movement with the Cuban Revolution, and particularly for
its permanent call for the lifting of the unfair U.S.
economic, financial and commercial blockade. Although the
measures recently announced by President Obama are positive
they are of limited scope. The blockade remains intact.
There is no political or moral pretext that justifies the
continuation of that policy.

Cuba has not imposed any sanction on the United States or
its citizens. It is not Cuba that prevents that country's
entrepreneurs from doing business with ours. It is not Cuba
that chases the financial transactions of the American
banks. It is not Cuba that has a military base in the U.S.
territory against that people's will, and so on and so
forth, --to avoid making an endless list-- therefore, it is
not Cuba that should make gestures.

And if they want to discuss everything, as we recently said
at an ALBA summit in Venezuela, that is, to discuss
everything, everything, everything, we can discuss
everything related to us but also everything related to
them, on equal footing.

We have insisted that we are willing to discuss everything
with the United States government, on equal footing; but we
are not willing to negotiate our sovereignty or our
political and social system, our right to
self-determination or our domestic affairs

The greatest strength of our Movement lies in its unity
within our characteristic diversity. Such has been the
major premise of the Cuban presidency in the almost three
years of its mandate.

I have no doubt that the Non-Aligned Movement will continue
to play a fundamental and constructive role in the
international debates. Cuba will keep up its efforts to
contribute to that objective.

I wish this Ministerial Meeting every success.

Thank you very much.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful…
[Protestors in clown costumes escorted out by security] May
he bestow upon his prophets… Praise be upon Allah, the
Almighty, who is just, kind, and compassionate. May he
bestow upon his prophets his blessings and his grace from
Adam to Noah; Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and His last
prophet, Mohammed. Peace be upon them all who are the
harbingers of monotheism, fraternity, love … [Applause] …
human dignity and justice.

Mr. Chairman. I call upon all distinguished guests to
forgive these ignorant people.

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Praise
be upon Allah, the Almighty, who is just, kind, and
compassionate, and praise and salutations of the Almighty
God to the great prophet. May he bestow upon [us] His
blessings, His grace. We thank the Almighty God. Praise be
upon him who is just and who is compassionate. And the
salutations and regards of Allah to his prophets, from Noah
to Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and his last prophet
Mohammed. Peace be upon them all who are the harbingers of
monotheism, fraternity, love, human dignity, and justice.

Mr. Chairman. Honorable Secretary General of the United
Nations. Madam High Commissioner. Ladies and Gentleman. We
have gathered here in the follow up to the Durban
conference against racism and racial discrimination to work
out practical mechanisms for our holy and humanitarian
campaigns. Over the last centuries, humanity has gone
through tremendous suffering and pain. In the middle ages,
thinkers and scientists were sentenced to death. It was
then followed by a period of slavery and slave trade, when
innocent people in millions were captivated and separated
from their families and loved ones, to be taken to Europe
and America under worse conditions; the dark period that
also experienced occupations, lootings, and massacres of
innocent people.

Many years passed by before nations rose up and fought for
their liberty and freedom, and they paid a high price. They
lost millions of lives to expel the occupiers and proclaim
their independence. However, it did not take long that the
coercive powers imposed two wars in Europe which also
plagued a part of Asia and Africa. Those horrific wars
claimed about 100 million lives and left behind massive
devastation. Had lessons been learned from the occupations,
horrors, and crimes of those wars, there would have been a
ray of hope for the future. The victorious powers called
themselves the conquerors of the world while ignoring or
downtreading the rights of other nations by the imposition
of oppressive laws and international arrangements.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us take a look at the U.N.
Security Council, which is one of the legacies of World War
II and World War I. What was the logic behind their
granting themselves the veto rights? How can such a logic
comply with humanitarian or spiritual values? Could it be
in conformity with the recognized principles of justice,
equality before law, love, and human dignity? [Applause] Or
rather, with discrimination, injustice, violation of human
rights, or humiliation of the majority of nations and

That Council is the highest decision-making world body for
safeguarding the international peace and security. How can
we expect the realization of justice and peace when
discrimination is legalized and the origin of law is
dominated by coercion and force rather than by justice and
the right?

Coercion and arrogance is the origin of oppression and
wars. Although today many proponents of racism condemn
racial discrimination in their words and in their slogans,
a number of powerful countries have been authorized to
decide for other nations based on their own interests and
at their own discretions. And they can easily ridicule and
violate all laws and humanitarian values, as they have done

Following World War II, they resorted to military
aggression to make an entire nation homeless on the pretext
of Jewish sufferings. And they sent migrants from Europe,
the United States, and other parts of the world in order to
establish a totally racist government in the occupied
Palestine… [Delegates walk out in protest. Applause] And in
fact in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in
Europe… Okay, please. Thank you. And in fact in
compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe,
they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive,
racist regime in Palestine. [Applause]

The Security Council helped stabilize this occupation
regime and supported it in the past 60 years, giving them a
free hand to continue their crimes. It is all the more
regrettable that a number of Western governments and the
United States have committed themselves to defend those
racist perpetrators of genocide whilst the awakened
conscience and free minded people of the world condemn
aggression, brutalities and bombardments of civilians in
Gaza. They have always been supportive or silent against
their crimes. And before that, they have always been silent
with regard to their crimes.

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, what are the
root causes of U.S. attacks against Iraq or invasion of
Afghanistan? [Shouts from audience] What are the root
causes of U.S. attacks against Iraq invasion of
Afghanistan? Was the motive behind the invasion of Iraq
anything other than the arrogance of the then U.S.
administration and the mounting pressures on the part of
the owner of wealth and power to expand their sphere of
influence, seeking the interests of giant arms
manufacturing companies, affecting a noble culture with
thousands of years of historical background, eliminating
potential and practical traits of Muslim countries against
the useful Zionist regime, or to control and plunder energy
resources of the Iraqi people? Why, indeed almost a million
people were killed and injured and a few more millions were
displaced and became homeless. Why, indeed the Iraqi people
have suffered enormous losses amounting to hundreds of
billions of dollars. And why was hundreds of billions of
dollars imposed on the American people and its allies as a
result of these military actions? Wasn’t the military
action against Iraq planned by the Zionists and their
allies in the then U.S. administration in complicity with
the arms manufacturing companies and the owner of the

The invasion of Afghanistan; restore peace, security, and
economic well being in this country. The United States and
its allies not only have failed to contain [?] in
Afghanistan, but also the illicit cultivation of narcotics
multiplied in the course of their presence. The basic
question is: What was the responsibility of the job of the
then U.S. administration and its allies? Did it represent
the world? Have they been mandated by them? Have they been
authorized on behalf of the people of the world to
interfere in all parts of the globe? And of course mostly
in our region aren’t these measures a clear example of
egocentrism, racism, discrimination, or infringement upon
the dignity and independence of nations?

Ladies and gentlemen, who are responsible for the current
global economic crisis? Where did the crisis start from?
From Africa? From Asia? Or was it first from the United
States, then spreading to Europe and to their allies? For a
long time they imposed inequitable economic regulations. By
their political power on the international economy they
imposed a financial and a monetary system without a proper
international oversight mechanism on nations and
governments that played no role in the repressive trends or
policies. They have not even allowed their people to
oversee of monitor their financial policies. They introduce
all laws and regulations in defiance to all moral values
only to protect the interests of the owners of wealth and
power. They further presented a definition of market
economy and competition that denied many of the economic
opportunities that could be available to other countries of
the world. They even transferred their problems to others
whilst the wave of crisis lashed back, plaguing their
economies with thousands of billions of dollars in budget
deficits. And today, they are injecting hundreds of
billions of cash from the pockets of their own people into
the failing banks companies and financial institutions
making the situation more and more complicated for the
economy and their people. They are simply thinking about
maintaining power and wealth. They couldn’t care any less
about the people of the world and even about their own

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, racism is rooted in
the lack of knowledge concerning the truth of human
existence as the selected creature of God. It is also the
product of his deviation from the true path of human life
and the obligations of mankind in the world of creation.
Failing to consciously worship God, not being able to think
about the philosophy of life or the path to perfection that
are the main ingredients of divine and humanitarian values,
have restricted the horizon of human outlook, making
transient and limited interests a yardstick for his

That is why the cells of the Devil’s power took shape and
expanded its realm of power by depriving others from
enjoying equitable and just opportunities to development.
The result has been the making of an unbridled racism that
is posing the most serious threat against the international
peace and has hindered the way for building peaceful
coexistence in the entire world. Undoubtedly, racism is the
symbol of ignorance which has deep roots in history. And it
is indeed a sign of frustration in the development of human
society. It is therefore crucially important to trace the
manifestations of racism in situations or in societies
where ignorance or lack of knowledge prevails in the
societies. This increasing general awareness and
understanding towards the philosophy of human existence is
the principle struggle against such manifestations; which
is the key to understanding the truth that humankind
centers on the creation of the universe, and the key to a
return to the spiritual and moral values, and finally the
inclination to worship God the Almighty. The international
community must initiate collective moves to raise awareness
in the afflicted societies where the ignorance of racism
still prevails so as to bring to a halt the spread of these
malicious manifestations.

Dear friends, today the human community is facing a kind of
racism which has tarnished the image of humanity in the
beginning of the third millennium. The world Zionism
personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and
abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly
faces. However, it is of great importance to bring into
focus the political goals of some of the world powers and
those who control huge economic resources and interests in
the world. They mobilize all their resources, including
their economic and political influence and world media to
render support in vain to the Zionist regime, and
maliciously endeavor to diminish the indignity and disgrace
of this regime. This is not simply a question of ignorance,
and one cannot conquer this ugly phenomenon through
cultural campaigns. Efforts must be made to put an end to
the abuse by Zionists and their supporters of political and
international means and respect of the will and aspirations
of nations. Governments must be encouraged and supported in
their fights aimed at eradicating this barbaric racism
[applause] and to move towards reforming … [applause] … the
current international mechanisms.

There is no doubt that you are all aware of the
conspiracies of some powers and Zionist circles against the
goals and objectives of this conference. Unfortunately,
there has been literature and statements in support of
Zionism and their crimes, and it is the responsibility of
honorable representatives of nations to disclose these
campaigns which run counter to humanitarian values and
principles. It should be recognized that boycotting such a
session as an outstanding international capacity is a true
indication of supporting the blatant example of racism.

In defending human rights it is primarily important to
defend the rights of all nations to participate equally in
all important international decision making processes
without the influence of certain world powers. And secondly
it is necessary to restructure the existing international
organizations and their respective arrangements. Therefore
this conference is a testing ground and the world public
opinion today and tomorrow will judge our decisions and our
actions [applause].

Mr. President. Mr President. Ladies and gentlemen. The
world is going through fundamental changes, radical
fundamental changes. Power relations have become so weak
and fragile. The sounds of cracks in the pillars of world
oppression can now be heard. Major political and economic
structures are at the brink of collapse. Political and
security crises are on the rise. The worsening crises in
the world economy for which there can be seen no bright
prospect, amply demonstrate the rising tide of far reaching
global changes. I have repeatedly emphasized the need to
change the wrong direction in which the world has been
managed today. And I have also warned of the dire
consequences of any delay in this crucial responsibility.

Now, in this [?] and valuable event, I would like to
announce here to all leaders thinkers, and to all nations
of the world present in this meeting and those who have a
hunger for peace and economic well being, that the
management, the inequitable and unjust management of the
world, is now at the end of the road. This deadlock was
inevitable since the logic of this imposed management was

The logic of collective management of world affairs is
based on noble aspirations which centers on human beings
and the supremacy of the Almighty God. Therefore it defies
any policy or plan which goes against the interest of
nations. Victory of the right over the wrong and
establishment of a just world system have been promised by
the Almighty God and his messengers and it has been a
shared goal of all human beings from different societies
and generations in the course of history. Realization of
such a future depends upon the knowledge of the creation
and the belief in the hearts of all the faithful
[applause]. The making of a global society is in fact the
accomplishment of a noble held in the establishment of a
common global system that will be run with the
participation of all nations of the world in all major and
basic decision making processes and the definite route to
this sublime goal. Scientific and technical capacities as
well as communication technologies have created a common
and wider spread understanding of the world society and has
provided the necessary ground for a common system.

Now it is incumbent upon all intellectuals, thinkers, and
policy makers in the world to carry out their historical
responsibility with firm belief to this definite route, I
also want to lay emphasis on the fact that the western
liberalism and capitalism, like communism, has reached to
its end since it has failed to perceive the truth of the
world and human[kind] as it is. It has imposed its own
goals and directions on human beings with no regard for
human and divine values, justice, freedom, love, or
brotherhood; has based the living on the intensive
competition securing individual and collective material

Now we must learn from the past by initiating collective
efforts by dealing with present challenges, and in this
connection and in closing my remarks I wish to draw your
kind attention to two important points. One: It is
absolutely possible to improve the existing situation in
the world. However, it must be noted that it could only be
achieved through the cooperation of all countries in order
to get the best out of existing capacities and resources in
the world. My participation in this conference is because
of my conviction of these important issues, as well as to
our common responsibility to defending the rights of
nations /vis-a-vis/ the sinister phenomenon of racism, and
being with you, the thinkers of the world. [Applause]

Two: Mindful of the inefficacy of the current international
political, economic, and security systems on the world
scene, it is necessary to focus on the divine and
humanitarian values and by referring to the true definition
of human beings, and based upon justice and respect for the
rights of all people in all parts of the world, and by
acknowledging the past wrongdoings in the past dominant
management of the world undertake collective measures to
reform the existing structures. In this respect, it is
crucially important to reform the structure of the Security
Council, including the elimination of the discriminatory
veto right … [applause] … and change the current world and
financial monetary systems. It is evident that lack of
understanding on the urgency for change is equivalent to
the much heavier costs of delay.

Dear friends, be aware that to move in the direction of
justice and human dignity is like the national rapid flow
in the current of a river. Let us not forget the essence of
love and affection, the promised bright future of human
beings is a great asset that will serve our purpose in
keeping us together to build a new world and to make the
world a better place full of love fraternity and blessings;
a world devoid of poverty and hatred, [inaudible] the
increasing blessings of God Almighty and the righteous
management of the perfect human being. Let us all join
hands in amity in playing our share in the fulfillment such
a decent new world.

I thank you Mr. President, Secretary General, and all
distinguished participants for having the patience to
listen to me. Thank you very much.

Monday, 27 April 2009


Romanticising foreign movements,
ignoring their lessons

From Left Luggage

The sell-out event at last year’s Marxism conference,
organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party, was a talk by
David Hilliard, former chief of staff of the Black
Panthers. By all accounts the event was standing room only
and Hilliard was accorded a standing ovation at the
beginning and end of the meeting.

This would be unremarkable, except that almost his entire
lecture was spent urging those activists present to
reformulate their strategies in light of the Black
Panthers’ experience. If you watch the meeting in full, it
almost seems that two different languages are being spoken,
with Hilliard’s message – restated over and over –
unacknowledged by almost every speaker from the audience.
Hilliard stresses the relevance today of the Panthers’
ten-point programme (08:09 = time into video), argues that
the most important aspect of the group’s activity was its
“survival programmes” (10:24), suggests one of the most
pressing issues for left-wing activists in London is knife
crime and gang violence (13:27), and proposes practical
solutions to black people being harassed via police
stop-and-search powers (48:34). Here are a few selections
from his speech:

"As we grew we saw the need to really begin to address the
very basic desires and needs of people in the community
because if we were not doing that we were going to be
isolated." (05:53)

"You should look at our Black Panther Party as a model for
how you meet today’s challenges." (10:24)

"I think that if there is any lesson that you can draw from
the history of our Black Panther Party that is that it is
possible for you to usher in change as we did. You just
have to be willing to get involved in issues in your
community." (15:33)

Apart from the ovations, the largest rounds of applause are
when Hilliard condemns the Iraq war. What is surprising is
that the central elements of his message are picked up by
virtually none of the speakers from the audience, despite
him listing the key elements of the Panthers’ “survival
programme” (05:53) which he says are the most important
lessons to be learned from the party’s work. The
achievements of the group included:

- Running the free breakfasts for children programme - A
bus programme for senior citizens “because they were being
mugged and were afraid to come of their house” - Giving
free prescriptions and medical care to the elderly -
Testing 500,000 African-Americans for sickle cell anaemia
over the course of five years - Clothing and shoe
programmes - Buses to prison programme

These aspects of the Panthers’ activity were at the heart
of their political orientation. They recognised this was
both a moral necessity – to directly intervene to improve
the quality of life of members of their community – and a
strategic imperative. It was this belief in addressing the
immediate interests of working class black Americans, in
fact their “mastery of mass organizing techniques”[1] that
built them a support base in cities across America. As an
author in The Journal of Negro History notes:

“One thing that was fundamental in the attraction of
members to the Black Panther Party and their numerous
supporters was its policy of ‘serving the people.’ This was
a policy of going to the masses, living among them, sharing
their burdens, and organising them to implement their own
solutions to the day to day problems that were of great
concern to them. The BPP organised and implemented
community programmes ranging from, as previously mentioned;
free breakfast for children programs, and free health
clinics to free clothing drives. They also led rent strikes
resulting in tenant ownership of their buildings, and led
campaigns for the community control of schools, and the
police, and to stoppage of drugs, crime, and police murder
and brutality.”[1]

So what can the Left today learn from the Panthers? Well,
Hilliard makes the point clear in his talk, suggesting
activists begin engaging in community work and addressing
the core concerns of working-class people. The practical
examples he cites are knife crime and gang violence, along
with more community control of police. This makes sense
given that crime consistently ranks as one of the major
concerns of ordinary people, as it clearly did in the
context in which the Panthers were operating. It also makes
sense, if we’re serious about building movements that in
the long-term can bring about fundamental social change, to
address a community’s core economic and social concerns,
and establish institutions independent of the state that
build a political culture and improve people’s lives.

However, Hilliard doesn’t mention the central point, at
least for the audience he is addressing. That is, the Left
is consistently failing to heed any of the lessons to which
he draws our attention. As Left Luggage has previously
highlighted, crime is not taken seriously as an issue to be
addressed in the here and now, but is deferred until
capitalism’s overthrow. Likewise, very little energy is
expended on community organising around the immediate needs
of the working class. Instead, the Left tends to focus its
activity on international issues and movements, such as the
Israel-Palestine conflict, anti-capitalist mobilisations,
the war on terror, and US imperialism more generally.

Paradoxically, the very enthusiasm demonstrated for the
Black Panthers at Hilliard’s talk is a manifestation of the
Left’s unbalanced political focus. That’s not to say
Hilliard and the Panthers don’t deserve a couple of
standing ovations. Of course they do, for the reasons
already outlined. However, the fact that Hilliard
demonstrably failed to impress his message upon the
audience is a symptom of a peculiar approach to foreign
political movements, especially those that achieve a degree
of success. That is, we romanticise their struggle while
ignoring its lessons.

This can be seen in numerous cases. For instance, many
left-wing activists are involved in Palestine solidarity
work and identify closely with the Palestinian cause; the
example of the 1987-1993 Intifada – of a people rising up
to attempt to shake off their oppressors – remains an
inspiration to many.

However, the Intifada did not emerge from nowhere. As well
as being a product of political, social and economic change
throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it was crucially the
product of organising that took place among the population
over the previous two decades. Central to this development
were a range of popular organisations that aimed “to
provide basic services to a population living under
military occupation as an alternative to the
occupation”.[2] These organisations, in other words,

“served economic and social as well as political functions.
They filled a void in the provision of services not
available to resident Palestinians under the occupation […]
they also provided a training ground for collective action
and the development of leadership and organisational skills
among Palestinians, and incorporated a political agenda
aimed at raising national consciousness.”[3]

Once the Intifada got underway, “popular committees” were
established to “coordinate the provision of education,
health care, agricultural production, security and defence,
and other services”[3] to Palestinians in the West Bank and
Gaza. They also performed “underground social work” to
offer support to families with members arrested, injured or
killed by the Israelis.[4]

The methods of these organisations, during and especially
after the end of the first Intifada, were taken up
enthusiastically by Hamas, which similarly set up schools,
charities, clinics, and teaching circles to mobilise
popular support behind the Islamist movement. It is not an
exaggeration to say this is the modus operandi of the
majority of political Islamist groups in the Middle East
and while clearly we don’t want to borrow from their
ideology, we can still learn from the strategy of these
mass political organisations.

Another case is the Zapatista movement, which first came to
prominence in 1994 when it established an autonomous zone
in Chiapas, Mexico, and attracted much interest from the
Left internationally, particularly from libertarian
socialists and anarchists due to its use of participatory
democratic forms of organisation. Solidarity groups were
established by left-wing activists around the world to
support the movement.

The Zapatistas consisted of a guerrilla movement without a
civilian arm but symbiotically linked to the peasant
communities of the region through ten years of clandestine

“The movement was built by political education and direct
action which resolved the immediate problems of the
communities […] the small victories built the larger
movement – infusing the members of the community with the
idea that they were capable of winning in struggle and
changing society.”[5]

A significant problem for the peasant communities of
Chiapas was access to cultivable land, so the Zapatistas
set about reclaiming land from large owners through
occupation. They also had a range of other social
programmes in their “communities in resistance”, including
providing health clinics, schools, supplying electricity,
and establishing a communal culture. They also tackled
directly the problems of alcohol and drug addiction such
that “there is a total absence of consumption or sale of
drugs, which are also not permitted in the autonomous

These varied movements - from the south of Chicago, through
the Gaza Strip, and the Chiapas mountains - are linked
together in their basic strategic approach. In each case,
they were effective because they aimed to meet the
immediate needs of their populations while building
networks of solidarity and establishing a political
culture. Of course, the situation in contemporary Britain
seems quite different, but as David Hilliard says, working
class people here are facing similar structural problems as
those addressed by the Black Panthers.

How many activists who have read about the Zapatistas,
attended meetings on Chiapas, or engaged in solidarity
actions, have thoughtfully considered the implications of
their strategy? Likewise, how many of us have seriously set
about building the kind of “survival programmes” Hilliard
talks about? Or the “popular organisations” that were able
to meet the everyday needs of Palestinians while also
building a culture of resistance?

It is not enough simply to engage in activism around
foreign struggles without considering how those movements
were built and attempting to apply the lessons here; to do
that is simply a form of romanticism, a radicalism by
proxy. We should support international progressive
movements where we can, but our primary and pressing goal
must be to establish “communities in resistance” at home.

Notes: [1] Harris, Jessica Christina. ‘Revolutionary Black
Nationalism: The Black Panther Party’. In The Journal of
Negro History, 85, 3 (Summer, 2000), pp. 170-171.

[2] Hilterman, Joost R. ‘Mass Mobilization and the Uprising:
the Labor Movement’. In Michael C. Hudson, ed. The
Palestinians: New Directions. Washington D.C.: Georgetown
University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. 1990. p.

[3] Alin, Erika G. ‘Dynamics of the Palestinian
Uprising’. In Comparative Politics, 26, 4 (July 1994), p.

[4] Muslih, Mohammad. ‘Palestinian Civil Society’. In
Middle East Journal, 47, 2 (Spring 1993), p. 267.

[5]Petras, James, and Steve Vieux. ‘Myths and Realities of the
Chiapas Uprising’. In Economic and Political Weekly, 31, 47
(November 23, 1996), p. 3055.

[6] ‘Zapatistas Eradicate Alcoholism and Drug Addiction’
by Hermann Bellinghausen, in La Jornada (Mexican daily
newspaper), March 6, 2009. See:

Sunday, 26 April 2009


'Open Veins' and enduring ills in Latin America

In the '70s, Galeano's essay was a call to arms. Latin
America is different now - or is it?

Los Angeles Times
April 26, 2009
Marjorie Miller

The reading list for my college core course at UC Santa
Cruz in the early 1970s included a book by a young
Uruguayan author, Eduardo Galeano, called "Open Veins of
Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a
Continent." The book, which excoriated Europe and the
United States for their exploitation of the region, was
pretty standard fare at a school where Marxist philosopher
Herbert Marcuse was a visiting professor and Black Panther
Party co-founder Huey Newton was a fellow student.

I hadn't thought of the text for years. Then, at the Summit
of the Americas last weekend, Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez gave a copy to President Obama, and I dug out my
musty edition to consider how much has changed since then
-- and how much has not.

The book was written during tumultuous times in Latin
America. In 1973, the year my English-language paperback
was printed, Chile's socialist President Salvador Allende
was ousted in a military coup and committed suicide in the
presidential palace. A coup in Uruguay sent the leftist
Galeano fleeing to Argentina, where he stayed until a coup
forced him to leave there too. Poverty fueled the politics
of outrage across the continent, the romanticism of Fidel
Castro's Cuba and a backlash of bloody repression. This
produced the radical poetry of Pablo Neruda, the music of
Victor Jara and a host of nonfiction books like Galeano's.

"Open Veins" posits that the economic and political
domination of Latin America -- first by Europeans and, much
later, by the U.S. -- created a region that "continues to
exist at the service of others' needs." The extraction of
gold, silver, oil and iron, and the cultivation of sugar,
bananas, coffee and rubber served developed countries that
"profit more from consuming them than Latin America does
from producing them."

Galeano wrote in the angry vocabulary of the day,
describing capitalist "oppressor countries" and the rich
"pimps of misery." He spoke of soil "ravaged" by the likes
of the United Fruit Co., of a "Hiroshima" of poverty that
appears as a "Holocaust" of statistics. At the time, he
wrote in the introduction, Latin America had 280 million
citizens, half of them living in slums and more than a
third of whom were illiterate. A child died of hunger and
disease every minute.

I was moved by books like "Open Veins." Although I did not
heed the revolutionary call to arms of the day, I did take
off for Latin America after graduation to study Spanish and
see firsthand the effects of under-development. In Oaxaca,
Mexico, I observed gradations of poverty that had been an
academic abstraction to me before: how people living in
cinder-block houses with concrete floors were better off
than those living in houses with dirt floors and without
windows; how people who ate beans, rice and tortillas three
times a day were healthier than those who ate just once or
twice a day, or who sometimes ate only salt and tortillas.

Politics looked different from Mexico too. A Mexican
newspaper article on right-wing death squads operating
under Guatemala's military regime suggested they were an
outgrowth of the CIA-backed coup in 1954 -- a coup Galeano
had written about in "Open Veins." History was very much
present, as it still is in Latin America.

Today, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the
economic failure of Cuba, "Open Veins" seems dated. The
military governments of South and Central America have been
replaced by independent, democratically elected leaders who
do not take their cues from United Fruit or the United

In general, Latin Americans are healthier and better
educated than they were when Galeano wrote "Open Veins."
Infant mortality has declined dramatically; illiteracy was
down to 9.5% of the population in 2005 and is projected to
be 8.3% by next year, according to the U.N. Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean's
statistical yearbook. The middle class in Brazil outnumbers
the poor.

Yet almost 40 years after Galeano wrote "Open Veins," Latin
America is still beleaguered by a poverty and inequality
born of the colonialism he described. A smaller percentage
of the population is poor, but because of population growth
there are many more people living in poverty. The average
income of Latin Americans is higher in real terms than it
was decades ago, but the average income of North Americans
has grown even more, creating a wider gap. And the income
disparity within Latin America has also grown, with more
wealth concentrated in fewer hands.

The persistence of these economic and social challenges
might explain why a populist like Chavez would give a
reformer like Obama a copy of this book on the roots of
Latin American poverty. Galeano's rhetoric may be passe,
but the history is not.

Marjorie Miller is an editorial writer at The Times.

Thursday, 23 April 2009


What credibility is there in Geneva's all-white boycott?

Seumas Milne
The Guardian
Thursday 23 April 2009

What do the US, Canada, ­Australia, New Zealand, the
Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy and Israel have in
common? They are all either European or European-settler
states. And they all decided to boycott this week's UN
­conference against racism in Geneva – even before Monday's
incendiary speech by the Iranian president Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad which triggered a further white-flight walkout
by representatives of another 23 European states.

In international forums, it's almost unprecedented to have
such an ­undiluted racial divide of whites-versus-the-rest.
And for that to happen in a global meeting called to combat
racial hatred doesn't exactly augur well for future
international understanding at a time when the worst
economic crisis since the war is ramping up racism and
xenophobia across the world.

Didn't Canada or Australia have anything to say about the
grim condition of their indigenous people, you might
wonder, or Italy and the Czech Republic about violent
attacks on Roma people? Didn't any of the boycotters have a
contribution to make about the rampant Islamophobia,
resurgence of anti-semitism and scapegoating of migrants in
their countries over the last decade?

The dispute was mainly about Israel and western fears that
the conference would be used, like its torrid predecessor
in Durban at the height of the Palestinian intifada in
2001, to denounce the Jewish state and attack the west over
colonialism and the slave trade. In fact, although it was
the only conflict mentioned in the final Durban
declaration, the reference was so mild (recognising the
Palestinian right to self-determination alongside Israel's
right to security) that the then Israeli prime minister,
­Shimon Peres, called it "an accomplishment of the first
order for Israel".

In this week's Geneva statement, Israel isn't mentioned at
all. But the US bizarrely still used its reaffirmation of
the anodyne Durban declaration to justify a boycott, to the
anger of African American politicians such as Jesse Jackson
and Barbara Lee, who chairs the US Congressional Black
Caucus. In fact, like the other boycotting governments, the
US administration had been intensely lobbied by rightwing
pro-Israel groups, who had insisted long in advance that
the conference would be a "hatefest".

Ahmadinejad's grandstanding played straight into that
agenda. The most poisonous phrases in the printed version
of his speech circulated by embassy officials referred to
the Nazi genocide as "ambiguous and dubious" and claimed
Zionist "penetration" of western society was so deep that
"nothing can be done against their will". That a head of
state of a country of nearly 70 million people is still
toying with Holocaust denial and European antisemitic
tropes straight out of the Tsarist antisemitic forgery, The
Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is not only morally
repugnant and factually absurd. It's also damaging to the
Palestinian cause by association, weakens the international
support Iran needs to avert the threat of attack over its
nuclear programme, and bolsters Israel's claims that it
faces an existential threat.

But, perhaps as a result of an appeal by the UN secretary
general Ban Ki-moon, Ahmadinejad dropped those provocations
at the last minute. What in fact triggered the walkout of
European Union ambassadors was his reference to Israel as a
"totally racist regime", established by the western powers
who had made an "entire nation homeless under the pretext
of Jewish suffering" and "in compensation for the dire
consequences of racism in Europe".

The rhetoric was certainly crude and inflammatory.
Britain's foreign secretary David Miliband called it
"hate-filled". But the truth is that throughout the Arab,
Muslim and wider developing worlds, the idea that Israel is
a racist state is largely uncontroversial. The day after
Ahmadinejad's appearance, the Palestinian Authority foreign
minister, Riyad al-Maliki, echoed the charge in the
conference hall, describing Israeli occupation as "the
ugliest face of racism". It's really not good enough for
Britain's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Peter Gooderham –
who led the Ahmadinejad walkout – to say of the charge of
Israel's racism, "we all know it when we see it and it's
not that".

This is a state, after all, created by European colonists,
built on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population,
whose founding legal principles guarantee the right of
citizenship to any Jewish migrant from anywhere in the
world, while denying that same right to Palestinians born
there along with their descendants. Of course, Israel is
much else besides, and the Jewish cultural and historical
link with Palestine is a ­profound one.

But even those Palestinians who are Israeli citizens face
what the then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert last year
called "deliberate and ­insufferable" discrimination by a
state which defines itself by ethnicity. For Palestinians
in the occupied territories, ruled by Israel for most of
the state's existence, where ­ethnic segregation and
extreme ­inequality is ruthlessly enforced, the situation
is far worse – even without the relentless military
assaults and killings. And Israel now has a far-right
­government whose foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has
said 90% of Israel's Arab citizens have "no place" in the
country, should be forcibly "transferred", and only be
allowed citizenship in exchange for an oath of loyalty to
Israel as a Zionist Jewish state.

But if Lieberman had turned up to speak at the Geneva
anti-racism conference, who believes that western delegates
and ambassadors would have staged a walkout? Of course,
there's a perfectly ­reasonable argument to be had about
the nature of Israel's racism and whether it should be
compared to apartheid, for example. But for western
governments to hold up their hands in horror when Israel is
described as a racist state has no global credibility

Israel's supporters often complain that, whatever its
faults, it is singled out for attack while the crimes of
other states and conflicts are ignored. To the extent that
that's true in forums such as the UN, it's partly because
Israel is seen as the unfinished business of European
colonialism, along with the Middle East conflict's other
special mix of multiple toxins. The Geneva boycotters,
fresh from standing behind Israel's carnage in Gaza, are in
denial about their own racism – and their continuing role
in the tragedy of the Middle East.


Adrian Hamilton:
Walking out on Ahmadinejad was just plain childish

What are we trying to say? That any mention of Israel is now barred?

The Independent
Thursday, 23 April 2009

Isn't it time western diplomats just grew up and stopped
these infantile games over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
All that this play-acting over boycotting of conferences
because of his presence and walking out because of his
words achieves is to flatter his ego, boost his poll
ratings at home and play into the hands of an Israel that
is desperate to prove Iran the gravest threat to its

True, Iran's President is not the world's most endearing
character. Some of the things he says are certainly
contentious. But he is far from the most offensive leader
on the block at the moment. With Silvio Berlusconi sounding
off about women and sex, and Nicolas Sarkozy sounding off
about everything from the quality of his fellow leaders to
the unsuitability of Muslims to join the civilised nations,
and a Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, giving his views on
gays, Europe could claim its fair share of premiers who
should not be allowed out in public.

Read Ahmadinejad's address at the UN conference on racism
in Geneva this week and there is little to surprise and a
certain amount to be agreed with. His accusations against
the imperial powers for what they did with colonial rule
and the business of slavery is pretty much part of the
school curriculum now. His anger at the way the economic
crisis originated in the West but has hit worst the
innocent of the developing world would find a ready echo
(and did) among most of the delegates.

It was not for this, however, that the countries of Europe
and North America gathered up their skirts and walked out
of Ahmadinejad's peroration. The UK's ambassador to the UN
in Geneva, Peter Gooderham, rather gave the game away when
he said afterwards: "As soon as President Ahmadinejad
started talking about Israel, that was the cue for us to
walk out. We agreed in advance that if there was any such
rhetoric there would be no tolerance for it." The Iranian
leader, he went on to say, was guilty of anti-Semitisim.

Just how you can accuse a man of anti-Semitisim when you
haven't stayed to hear him talk is one of those questions
which the Foreign Office no doubt trains its diplomats to
explain. But what basically was our representative trying
to say here? That any mention of the word Israel is barred
from international discussions? That the mere mention of it
is enough to have the Western governments combine to still
it? In fact, Ahmadinejad's speech was not anti-Semitic, not
in the strict sense of the word. Nowhere in his speech did
he mention his oft-quoted suggestion that Israel be
expunged from the map of the world. At no point did he
mention the word "Jews", only "Zionists", and then
specifically in an Israeli context. Nor did he repeat his
infamous Holocaust denials, although he did reportedly
refer to it slightingly as "ambiguous" in its evidence.

Instead, he launched the time-honoured Middle Eastern
accusation that Israel was an alien country imposed on the
local population by the West, out of its own guilt for the
genocide; that it was supported by a Zionist take-over of
Western politics and that it pursued racist policies
towards the Palestinians. Now you may find these calls
offensive or far-fetched (if there is a Zionist world
conspiracy, it is making a singularly bad job of it) but it
is pretty much the standard view in the Muslim world.
Western support of Israel is seen as a conspiracy, and it
is not just prejudice. There are now books by Western
academics arguing that the pro-Israeli lobby wields an
influence in the US out of all proportion to its numbers.
If the Western walkout in Geneva did nothing else, it
rather proved the point.

Nor is it far-fetched to charge Israel with being a racist
state. As the only country in the world that defines itself
and its immigrants on racial grounds, it could be regarded
as fair comment. And if you doubt that this founding
principle leads Israel into racist attitudes to
non-Israelis, then you only have to read the comments of
its new Foreign Secretary, Avigdor Lieberman, to disabuse

Of course, Ahamadinejad was playing to his home audience.
He is a politician facing re-election at a time when his
domestic economic record makes him vulnerable. Most of the
educated class are fed up with his cavorting on the world
stage while his country goes from wrack to ruin. And, of
course, international conferences of this sort, intended to
spread sweetness and light, are not the most appropriate
forums for such tirades.

But on these issues he does speak for the majority not just
in Iran but in the region. Deny that view a hearing and you
will only increase the resentment and the sense of a
Western world set up against them. Which is precisely what
our oh-so-sanctimonious representatives achieved this week.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


[Fidel and the Nicaraguan Sadinista's Daniel Ortega, back in the day]

Reflections by comrade Fidel

The Secret Summit

Neither represented nor excommunicated, only today could I

learn what was discussed at the Summit of Port of Spain.

They led us all to entertain hopes that the meeting would

not be secret, but those running the show deprived us of

such an interesting intellectual exercise. We shall get to

know the substance but not the tone of voice, the look in

the eyes or the facial look that can be a reflection of a

person’s ideas, ethic and character. A Secret Summit is

worse than a silent movie. For a few minutes the television

showed some images. There was a gentleman on Obama’s left

whom I could not identify clearly as he laid his hand on

Obama’s shoulder, like an eight-year-old boy on a classmate

in the front row. Then, another member of his entourage

standing beside him interrupted the president of the United

States for a dialogue; those coming up to address him had

the appearance of an oligarchy that never knew what hunger

is and who expect to find in Obama’s powerful nation the

shield that will protect the system from the fearsome

social changes.

Up to that moment, a bizarre atmosphere prevailed at the


The artistic function arranged by the host was really

spectacular. I have seldom seen something like it; perhaps

never. A good announcer, apparently a Trinitarian, had

proudly said that it was unique.

It was a feast of culture and luxury. I meditated about it.

I calculated the cost of all that and suddenly I realized

that no other country in the Caribbean could afford such a

display, that the venue of the summit is very wealthy, a

sort of United States surrounded by small poor countries.

Could Haiti with its exuberant culture or Jamaica, Granada,

Dominica, Guyana, Belize or any other have hosted such a

luxurious summit? Their beaches may be wonderful but they

are not surrounded by the towers that distinguish the

Trinitarian landscape and accumulate with that

non-renewable raw material the enormous resources that

sustain today the riches of that country. Almost every

other island in the Caribbean community located to the

north of this is directly battered by the hurricanes of

increasing intensity that hit our sister islands of the

Caribbean region every year.

Did anyone in that meeting remember that Obama promised to

invest as much money as necessary to make the United States

self-reliant in fuel? Such a policy would directly affect

many of the States taking part in the meeting since they

will not have access to the technologies and the huge

investments required to work on that area or any other.

Something really impressed me as the summit unfolded until

today, Saturday, April 18, at 11:47 a.m. when I am writing

these lines: Daniel Ortega’s remarks. I had promised myself

not to publish anything until next Monday, April 20, but

rather to observe the developments in the celebrated


It was not the economist, the scientist, the intellectual

or the poet speaking; Daniel did not choose an elaborate

language to impress his audience. He spoke as the president

of one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, as a

revolutionary combatant, on behalf of a group of Central

American nations and the Dominican Republic which is a

partner of SICA (Central American Integration System).

It would suffice to be one of the hundreds of thousands of

Nicaraguans who learned how to read and write in the first

stage of the Sandinista Revolution, when the illiteracy

rate was reduced from 60 to 12 percent, or again when

Daniel received power in 2008 as the illiteracy rate had

increased to 35 percent.

His remarks extended for nearly 50 minutes. He spoke slowly

and calm, but the reproduction of the full text would make

this Reflection too extensive.

I shall summarize his statement using his own words for

each of the basic ideas he expressed. I will avoid the use

of suspension points and use inverted commas only when

Daniel quotes other people or institutions.

Nicaragua appealed to the International Court of Justice in

The Hague. It filed a lawsuit against the war policy, the

terrorist policy implemented by President Ronald Reagan on

behalf of the United States.

“Our crime: we had freed ourselves from Anastasio Somoza’s

tyranny imposed through the intervention of the Yankee

troops in Nicaragua.

“From the past century, Central America has been shaken by

the expansionist policies, the war policies that brought

the Central Americans together to defeat them.

“These were followed by interventions extending from the

year 1912 to 1932, which resulted in the imposition of the

Somozas’ tyranny equipped, funded and defended by American


“I had the opportunity of meeting President Reagan during

the war; we shook hands and I asked him to stop the war

against Nicaragua.

“I had the opportunity of meeting President Carter and when

he told me that “now that the Nicaraguan people had got rid

of the Somoza tyranny it was time for Nicaragua to change”

I said to him: No, Nicaragua does not have to change, you

have to change. Nicaragua has never invaded the United

States; Nicaragua has not planted mines in the U.S.

harbors; Nicaragua has not thrown a stone against the

American nation; Nicaragua has not imposed governments on

the United States; you are the ones who should change and

not the Nicaraguans.

“As the war was still going on, I had the chance to meet the

then recently inaugurated President of the United States

George Bush, senior. In the year 1989, at a gathering in

Costa Rica, we sat facing each other, President Bush and

me, and he said: “The press has come here because they want

to see a fight between the president of the United States

and the president of Nicaragua, and we have made an effort

not to oblige them.”

Nicaragua was still fighting the war imposed by the United

States. The International Court of Justice in The Hague

decided on the lawsuit filed by Nicaragua and passed

sentence. It clearly stated that “the United States should

cease every military action, the mining of the harbors and

the funding of the war; that it should indicate where the

mines had been planted since it refused to provide that

information;” it also ordered the U.S. government to

compensate Nicaragua for the trade and economic blockade

imposed on that nation.

“We are waging a struggle in Nicaragua, Central America and

Latin America to eradicate illiteracy with the generous and

unconditional solidarity of the fraternal Cuban people, of

Fidel who promoted such literacy campaigns in solidarity

with our peoples, and of President Raul Castro who has

continued these programs for the benefit of all of the

Latin American and Caribbean peoples.

“Later, the Bolivarian people of Venezuela and its President

Hugo Chavez Frias joined in this effort with a generous


“Most of the presidents and heads of government of Latin

America and the Caribbean are here today; also the

President of the United States and the Primer Minister of

Canada. But there are two notable absentees: one is Cuba,

whose only crime has been to fight for the peoples’

sovereignty and independence; to give solidarity,

unconditionally, to our peoples. That’s why it is

sanctioned, that’s why it is punished; that’s why it is

excluded. That’s why I do not feel comfortable today in

this Summit; I cannot feel comfortable in this Summit. I am

embarrassed to be attending this summit in the absence of


“Another country is not present here because unlike Cuba,

which is an independent and supportive nation, that other

people is still submitted to colonialist policies: I mean

the fraternal people of Puerto Rico.

“We are working to build a great alliance, a great unity of

Latin American and Caribbean peoples. The day will come

when the Puerto Rican people is also a part of that great


“In the 1950s racial discrimination was institutionalized,

it was part of the American way of life, part of the

American democracy: black people could not walk into white

people’s restaurants or white people’s bars. The children

of black families could not attend the white children

schools. In order to turn down the wall of racial

discrimination it was necessary --and this President Obama

knows better than we do—Martin Luther King, jr, said: “I

have a dream.” The dream became a reality and the wall of

racial discrimination collapsed in the United States of

America, thanks to the struggle of that people.

“This meeting, this gathering is opening exactly the same

day that the invasion of Cuba started in 1961. Talking with

the President of Cuba Raul Castro, he gave me some data:

“Daniel, President Obama was born on August 4, 1961; he was

three and a half months when we attained victory in Playa

Giron on April that year. Obviously he is not accountable

for that historic event. The bombings on April 15; the

proclamation of socialism by Fidel during the funeral of

the victims on the 16th; the invasion on the 17th; on the

18th, the battle goes on and victory is attained on the

19th, before 72 hours had passed. Raul.” (On his return

from Cumana, Raul related to me that in a note he wrote for

Daniel he made a quick calculation and was wrong to assert

that Obama was three and a half months at the time of the

Bay of Pigs invasion, when he should have said that Obama

was born three and a half months later; that it was his

[Raul’s] mistake.)

“That is history. In the year 2002, also in the month of

April, on the 11th, a coup d’etat was dealt to murder an

elected president in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

President Hugo Chavez was seized; the order to murder him

had been issued. When the puppet regime took over, the U.S.

government through its spokesman recognized the putschers

and offered them support. We are right to say that that is

not history; such violent events against the institutions

of a people, of a progressive, supportive and revolutionary

nation took place hardly seven years ago.

“I think that the time I’m taking is shorter than the three

hours I had to wait at the airport inside the plane.

“The freedom of expression must apply to the big ones and

the little ones: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras,

Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic

as an associate. The territorial area is 355,617.5 square

miles. The population is a little more than 41.7 million.

“We are asking that all immigrants in the United States

receive the TPS, but the causes of migration are the

underdevelopment and poverty of our Central American


“The only way to stop that flow of emigrants to the United

States is not building a fence or reinforcing military

surveillance along the border.

“The United States needs the Central American labor force,

as it needs the Mexican labor force. Then, when the supply

of that labor force is higher than the demand of the U.S.

economy, repressive policies come into play, while funds

should be contributed without political strings attached,

without the conditions imposed by the International

Monetary Fund.

“We have the ungrateful task of protecting the U.S. borders

due to drug abuse.

“Just in Nicaragua, the national police impounded over 360

tons of cocaine last year. That, at a market price in the

United States, would certainly amount to more than 1

billion dollars.

“How much does the United States provide Nicaragua for

guarding its borders? It provides 1,200,000 dollars.

“It’s not fair, it’s not equitable, it’s not ethical. It is

not moral that the G-20 continues to make the great

decisions; the time has come for the G-192, that is, for

all countries in the United Nations to make them.

“Those who have had dealings with the IMF are perfectly

aware of what the Fund has meant, of the social,

agricultural and productive programs that have been cut off

to obtain resources to pay back the debt, a debt imposed by

the rules established by global capitalism. It has only

been an instrument setting forth and developing

colonialist, neocolonialist and imperialist policies from

the metropolises.

“Mahatma Gandhi, who waged a heroic struggle against England

for the independence of India, said that England had used

one-fourth of the resources of the planet to reach its

current state of development. So, what resources would

India need to attain a similar condition? Now, in this 21st

century, and since the end of the 20th century, it was not

only England but every developed capitalist country that

established their hegemony at the expense of the

destruction of the planet and the human species, imposing

the consumerist patterns of their model.

“The only way to save the planet, and the sustainable

development of mankind with it, will be to lay the

foundations of a new international economic order, a new

socio-economic and political model which is truly fair,

supportive and democratic.

“There is the project known as PETROCARIBE and there is ALBA

–most of the Caribbean nations are members of PETROCARIBE,

but there are also members of SICA which belong to

PETROCARIBE: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican

Republic, Nicaragua and Panama.

““The heads of Sate and Government of Bolivia, Cuba,

Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, members of

ALBA, consider that the draft Declaration of the Fifth

Summit of the Americas is insufficient and unacceptable for

the following reasons:

(He goes on to read the ALBA Declaration on the document

proposed for the Summit of the Americas.)

““It does not respond to the issue of the Global Economic

Crisis, even though that is the greatest challenge faced by

mankind in decades.

““It unjustifiably excludes Cuba without mentioning the

general consensus in the region to condemn the blockade and

the attempts to constantly isolate its people and

government in a criminal fashion.

““What we are experiencing is a structural and systemic

global economic crisis and not just another cyclic crisis.

““The environmental crisis has been caused by capitalism

which had subordinated the necessary conditions for life on

the planet to the predominance of markets and profits.

“To avoid this outcome it is necessary to develop an

alternative model to the capitalist system. A system in

harmony with our Mother Earth and not one that plunders its

natural resources; a system of cultural diversity and not

of crushing cultures and imposing cultural values and life

styles that have nothing to do with the realities of our

countries; a system of peace based on social justice and

not on imperialist wars and policies; a system that does

not reduce them to simple consumers or merchandise.

“Regarding the U.S. blockade on Cuba and the exclusion of

this country from the Summit of the Americas, the member

countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of

Our America (ALBA) reiterate the Declaration adopted last

December 16, 2008, by all of the countries of Latin America

and the Caribbean on the necessity to put an end to the

economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba

by the United States of America, including the

implementation of the so-called Helms-Burton Act, widely

known to all.

“In my country, Nicaragua, the governments that preceded me

strictly enforced the neoliberal policies, that is, from

1990, when the Sandinista Front left the government, until

January 10, 2007, when the Sandinista Front returned to

government; they enforced them for 16 years.

“As the Nicaraguan Revolution triumphed in 1979, it found

that the tyrannies and governments that had been imposed

and sustained in Nicaragua by the U.S. administrations, the

self-defined democratic governments, had left Nicaragua

with 60 percent illiteracy.

“Our first big battle was to eradicate illiteracy. We

undertook that battle and reduced illiteracy to 11.5 or 12

percent. We couldn’t go further because we were imposed a

war policy by the Reagan administration.

“We left the government in 1990 with 12.5 percent illiteracy

in the country and on January 2007 we received back the

country with 35 percent illiteracy.

“This data have not been made up by the government; they

have been released by agencies specialized in education and


“That is the result of the neoliberalism applied in

Nicaragua; the result of privatizations in Nicaragua where

healthcare and education were privatized and the poor were

left out. For others it was a good change because they

amassed fortunes; the model has proven successful to

concentrate riches and extend poverty. It is a great

concentrator of riches and a great multiplier of poverty

and destitution.

“It is an ethical problem, a moral problem, and the future

lies on it; not only the future of the most impoverished

countries --as the five countries of Latin America and the

Caribbean I have mentioned—that have little else to lose

other than our shackles, if there is not a change of

ethics, a change of moral, a change of values that will

enable us to be really sustainable.

“It is no longer a matter of ideology, it’s not a political

issue; it’s a matter of survival. And this applies to all,

from the G-20 to the G-5 who are the most impoverished in

Latin America and the Caribbean.

“I think that this crisis that is affecting the world today

and that is leading to discussions, debates, and to a

search for solutions we should approach it bearing in mind

that the current development model is no longer possible,

no longer sustainable.

“The only way to save us all is to change the model.

“Thank you, very much.”

Daniel’s phrases at the opening session of the Summit were

like a bell tolling for a centuries-old policy that until a

few months ago was applied to the peoples of Latin America

and the Caribbean.

It is 19:58 hours. I have just listened to the words of

President Hugo Chavez. Apparently, Venezolana de Television

introduced a camera in the “Secret Summit” and carried some

of his words. Yesterday we saw him graciously return

Obama’s gesture as he walked up to greet him,

unquestionably a clever gesture of the United States


This time Chavez stood up from his chair, walked to Obama’s

seat at the head of a rectangular hall near Michelle

Bachelet, and presented him with the well known book by

Galeano, Las venas abiertas de America Latina,

systematically updated by the author. I simply mentioned

the time it was when I listened to him.

It is announced that the Summit will be closed tomorrow at


The United States president has been very active. According

to press reports he has not only taken part in the plenary

session of the Summit but also met with every regional


His predecessor went to bed early and slept for many hours.

Seemingly, Obama works hard and sleeps little.

Today, the 19th , at 11:57 hours, I don’t see anything new.

The CNN news channel has no fresh news. The clock struck 12

when the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago stood on the

rostrum. I prepare to listen to him, and then I perceive

some strange signals. Manning’s face looks tense. Later,

Obama speaks and takes some questions from the press; I

find him gruff although calm. I was surprised that a press

conference was organized with several leaders without the

participation of any of those who disagreed with the


Manning had said before that the document had been

elaborated two years back when there was not a deep

economic crisis; therefore, the current issues had not been

properly examined. Of course, I thought, McCain was not

there; surely the OAS, Leonel and the Dominican Republic

remembered the name of the military commander of the

invaders in 1965 and the 50 thousand troops that occupied

the country to prevent the return of Juan Bosch who was not

a Marxist-Leninist.

The leaders in the press conference were the Prime Minister

of Canada, certainly a rightist and the only one who had

been rude to Cuba; Mexican President Felipe Calderon;

Martin Torrijos from Panama and, naturally, Patrick

Manning. The Caribbean and the two Latin American leaders

were respectful to Cuba; none of them attacked it, and they

had expressed their opposition to the blockade.

Obama spoke of the United States military power, which

could be of assistance in the fight on organized crime, and

of the significance of the U.S. market. He also admitted

that the programs carried forward by the government of

Cuba, such as sending groups of doctors to countries of

Latin America and the Caribbean, could be more effective

than Washington’s military power to gain influence in the


We, the Cubans do not do it to gain influence; it’s a

tradition that was born in Algeria in 1963, when that

country was fighting French colonialism, and we have later

done likewise in scores of Third World countries.

He was gruff and elusive with regards to the blockade in

his interview with the press; but he is already born and he

will be 48 years next August 4.

Nine days later, that same month, I will be 83, almost

twice his age, but now I have much more time to think. I

wish to remind him of a basic ethical principle with

respect to Cuba: there is no excuse for any injustice, any

crime to last, regardless of time; the cruel blockade on

the Cuban people takes lives and causes suffering; it also

affects the economy of the nation and limits its

possibilities to cooperate with healthcare, education and

sports services, with energy saving and with the protection

of the environment in many poor countries of the world.

Fidel Castro Ruz

April 19, 2009

2:32 p.m.