Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Speech of Cuban President, Raul Castro, at the CELAC Summit

CELAC has emerged from the heritage of 200 years of struggle for independence and is based on a profound community of objectives
• Speech given by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, at the 1st Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Santiago de Chile, January 28, 2013

Your Excellency Mr. Sebastián Piñera, President of the Republic of Chile:

Esteemed Presidents, Prime Ministers and Heads of Delegation:

Sister people of Chile:

Let it be my first thought to honor the memory of Salvador Allende, a distinguished Latin American and patriot who gave up his life for the independence of his nation and social justice. We think like him, when he said, "History is ours and is made by the peoples."

With the Cuban President, Council of Ministers Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.
The existence of CELAC allowed us to face the challenges of 2012 with more awareness of who we are and where we are headed, in the midst of volatile and complicated circumstances.

We are building, in harsh reality, laboriously, the ideal of a diverse Latin America and Caribbean, but united in a common forum of political independence, of sovereign control over our enormous natural resources in order to advance toward sustainable development, regional integration and enrichment of our culture.
The obstacles have not been, nor will be, minor. Threats to peace are growing and interference in the affairs of our region continues. The transnationals, fundamentally United States ones, are not going to relinquish control of energy and water resources and strategic minerals on the way to extinction. NATO’s strategic conception is constantly more aggressive and clearly directed in this context. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the enormous nuclear and conventional arsenals are growing and these, as Fidel has said, cannot kill hunger or poverty.

The international economic order is unjust and exclusive, and trapped in a global crisis to which, for now, no solution can de discerned. Climate change is advancing inexorably, given the lack of political will on the part of developed countries.

Without our unity, nothing is possible and everything achieved will be lost. In the so-called Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Our America took a decisive step, based on the solid foundations of Mar del Plata where, in 2005, the FTAA was defeated. With the dissipation of United States siren songs at the 2009 Summit in Trinidad & Tobago, Latin America and the Caribbean excelled in their unity and independence when they reclaimed the Malvinas as Argentine and demanded an end to the blockade and exclusion of Cuba, an event that the Cuban people will always remember with profound gratitude.

The exercise of self-determination and sovereignty of the peoples and the sovereign equality of states established in the Caracas Declaration, are CELAC principles which cannot be waived.

We know that among us there are distinct ways of thinking and even differences, but CELAC has emerged from the heritage of 200 years of struggle for independence and is based on a profound community of objectives. Thus, CELAC is not a succession of mere meetings or pragmatic agreements, but a shared vision of the Latin American and Caribbean Patria Grande (Greater Homeland), which is owed only to its peoples.

The unquestionable victories won by the patriotic forces in the presidential and regional elections in Venezuela and recent mobilizations demonstrate the exceptional leadership of President Hugo Chávez Frías, and the enormous popular support for the Venezuelan process. Alongside the pain and concerns related to the health of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, this sister people is giving, together with Chávez government leaders, an outstanding example of loyalty, conviction and unity with which to further confirm their irreversible victories.

The Bolivarian government is facing a constant campaign of intrigue and discredit on the part of the empire and pro-coup oligarchy; but it has continued its work, dedicated to the defense of the legitimate interests of workers and all patriotic Venezuelans, of the Constitution and its revolutionary democracy.

From here, we reiterate to Chávez our affection, respect and admiration, and to his valiant people, who are fighting for the greatest sum of political stability, social security and the greatest sum of happiness, the dream of the Liberator Simón Bolívar.

We share and support the resolution and expediency with which UNASUR has acted in response to the parliamentary coup in Paraguay. In a region which has suffered decades of bloody dictatorships, imposed and sustained by the United States, impunity for violent and pro-coup sectors cannot be allowed.

Our community is incomplete while lacking a seat for Puerto Rico, a genuinely Latin American and Caribbean sister nation, which is suffering from its colonial condition.

We cannot forget that close to 170 million Latin Americans and Caribbean people are living in poverty, of them, 75 million children; 66 million people in the region are living in extreme poverty, of which 34 million are minors. What can CELAC signify for them?

It is a fact that we have advanced in the development of economic and social development programs within various countries, such as Brazil. The experience of ALBA and PETROCARIBE in cooperation based on solidarity and complementarity among our nations is considerable.

CELAC is in a position to draft its own conception of cooperation, adapted to our realities and the finest experiences of the last decade.

Despite advances, we could do more in support of Haiti, whose government needs resources for reconstruction and development. It is possible to do this among all of us, on the basis of decisions made by the Haitian government.

We are morally bound to achieve considerable progress in education as the basis of economic and social development. Nothing that we propose, from decreasing inequality to reducing the technological and digital gap will be possible without education. The elimination of illiteracy, as a primary goal, is totally achievable.

With appropriate policies and regional cooperation in the provision of a minimum of resources to the most in need, we could make a leap forward within a few years.

We must be capable of promoting our own regional architecture, adapted to the particularities and needs of Latin America and the Caribbean.

We can also combine efforts against drug addiction, as proposed in the last two days of this meeting, and illicit drug trafficking.

It was stated here yesterday that there are drugs in all the countries of the continent. I want to clarify that there are no drugs in Cuba; there was an attempt to introduce them, more than 250 foreigners from different countries on the continent have been detained (*) for attempting to smuggle in drugs. There is just a small amount of marijuana, which can be cultivated on any balcony in any Cuban city; but there are no drugs, nor will there be.

I only wish to comment on this issue – departing from the text – that measures can be taken.

As is known, Cuba is not an attractive country for drugs, for drug traffickers; but when tourism began to increase, and this past year we were getting close to three million foreign visitors, it did become a focus of traffickers. Additionally, along our coastline, especially our northern coast, packages of differing sizes and weights began to appear, which traffickers had thrown overboard when pressured or pursued by U.S. agents and, approaching our coasts, by us.

Different currents, especially from the northeast, deposited the packages on our beaches – to a lesser degree in the south. Consumption began to increase and there were citizens of some Latin American countries who began to freely provide, give away, individual portions.

I personally had a meeting with all the bodies which have some relevance to the problem and we made a decision, "We are going to fight drug use, which was beginning to threaten us, tooth and nail." All the relevant factors were coordinated; we used our mass organizations, closely tied to the people, to our governing party and the government; that is to say, the Cuban Workers Federation, the national campesino association, the Federation of Cuban Women, Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. And we appealed to families, saying that the collaboration of the entire country was needed to locate and legally prosecute those beginning to attempt to introduce drugs to our youth, ranging from marijuana to a few samples of cocaine, as we said.

They were arrested. If we want to win, these are the types of problems which must be confronted when they are small, or better yet, before they emerge. This is the best time; if we allow them to gain strength – we said and thought – well, you have the example of other sister countries on the continent. Therefore, the battle must be tooth and nail.

Our laws allow for the death penalty, it has been suspended, but it is on reserve, because once we suspended it and the only thing we accomplished was to encourage aggression and sabotage against our country throughout the last 50 years, as you all know.

I reasoned with my colleagues: there’s the case of Mexico. We deeply love Mexico, we said: Mexico is Mexico, its history, the ties between our countries. We received generous refuge there in 1955 and 1956. Our expedition departed from there, surely violating some Mexican laws, but we never violated our friendship with Mexico and they exercised their right to arrest all of the compañeros, including Fidel. I was one of the few who managed to escape. Given the natural pressure we felt as our departure for Cuba drew near, we left during a small storm, part of a powerful front which almost led to a shipwreck and the death of the 82 expeditionaries on board. We had only one day of calm waters south of the Cayman Islands. The storm was so bad that one of the experienced sailors who was trying, from the prow, on the stormy night of our departure, to see the Cabo Cruz lighthouse in southeast Cuba, was carried away by a wave. We lost almost an hour recovering him, until we finally headed toward the coast and disembarked into a terrible swamp. Before we could get out of it, the dictator Batista’s air force was on to us.

I was reasoning with my colleagues, I was wracking my brain thinking of a solution for Mexico. It is no accident that it is Mexico, not because Mexicans have caused this situation, but rather, as a former Mexican President said during the last century, "Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!" This is where the problem lays – the fundamental problem, where drugs are being sent. I have never read about a large operation against traffickers in the United States, I’ve never read about this, just seen films of small gangs of traffickers. And weapons to be sold enter via the same route through which drugs enter; this is the problem.

I spoke about this issue with President Calderón during the Sauipe meeting in Brazil, in 2008, when this magnificent organization which is now celebrating its first meeting, after the foundational meeting in Venezuela, was being developed. I spoke extensively with President Calderón about these issues. We have continued, and continue, to be concerned. But this problem is advancing south like a terrible tide; there are problems in Guatemala, problems in other Central American countries. And I can only give one opinion to those where this nefarious and tragic tide has yet to arrive – because it is truly tragic when drug addicts, as you know, are capable of killing even a family member to obtain money to buy drugs. That’s why our population supports this measure and why it has been easy for us to capture close to 5,000, sentenced according to everything allowed within the Penal Code, and we were mistaken in very few cases, which were resolved immediately.

How? Because of collaboration on the part of the population, which was extremely interested in containing the problem. The lesson we can draw from this, which we suggest to other countries not yet victimized by this scourge – these problems are the types of problems which must be confronted when they first emerge, or better yet, before they emerge. That is why there are not, and will not be, drugs in Cuba.

Forgive my digression on this issue.

As you can see, I also improvise speeches up to two, even three hours, but I don’t want to do that. I did it when I was young, but at this point, I prefer to read my remarks. I don’t criticize those who improvise; the first improviser was my Jefe, Fidel Castro, who has the record for the longest speech ever in the United Nations. He has a record that not even Chávez has beat. (Laughter)
We cannot renounce our demands for the protection of our immigrants, victims of the current situation of xenophobia and discrimination which is worsening in the industrialized world.

We also have the very real opportunity to constitute ourselves on the basis of appropriate and concrete foundations, within a peaceful context, in which we can build on our traditional rejection of nuclear weapons of mass extinction and those being developed today which are increasingly lethal, with the expressed, firm commitment to resolve our differences through peaceful means, through negotiation and dialogue.

I conclude with a heartfelt tribute to José Martí, today – as compañero Maduro has said – on the 160th anniversary of his birth. We have learned from his thinking that in difficult times such as these, "The trees must form ranks to keep the giant with seven-league boots from passing! It is the time of mobilization, of marching together, and we must go forward in close ranks, like silver in the veins of the Andes."

Thank you very much. (Applause)

(*) Of the number mentioned, 114 currently remain imprisoned.

Source and Translation: Granma International

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