15, 2009 - No. 76
Port of Spain, Trinidad
V Summit of the
IV Peoples' Summit of the Americas
• V Summit of the Americas
• IV Peoples' Summit of the
• ALBA Summit in Caracas
• South American Nations Meet in
Venezuela to Lay Foundation for Bank of the South
- James Suggett, Venezuelanalysis.com
• Outcry Renewed as U.S. Military
May Want to Occupy Vieques Again
- Yuliana Gomez, Latina
• Evo Morales Suspends Hunger
Strike; Congress Approves New Electoral Law
- Granma International
• Venezuelans Celebrate 7th
Anniversary of Coup Defeat
- Zachary Lown, Venezuelanalysis.com
• No. 1:
Documents of the V Summit of the Americas and the IV People's
Summit of the Americas
• No. 2: Empire and Latin America
in the Obama Era
V Summit of the Americas
The Fifth Summit of the Americas will be held in
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago from April 17-19. According to the
OAS official website, the focus of the Fifth Summit will be on human
prosperity, energy security, climate change and sustainable development
under the theme: "Securing Our Citizens' Future
by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental
Sustainability." The Summit, organized by a number of multilateral
bodies under the aegis of the Organization of American States (OAS),
brings together the presidents and first ministers of 34 states of the
Americas -- all the states with the exception
According to news releases, the Summit will begin
with an hour-long ceremonial opening at the Hyatt Hotel in Port of
Spain on the evening of Friday, April 17. Five speakers are scheduled
to address the opening: U.S. President Obama, President Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina on behalf
of South America and Mexico, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua on
behalf of Central America, Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize on
behalf of Caricom, and the host, Prime Minister Patrick Manning of
Trinidad and Tobago.
As the host, the Government of Trinidad and
Tobago has prepared a Concept Paper on the issues to be considered both
in the lead up to and at the Fifth Summit. The OAS website states that
the Government of Trinidad and Tobago was mindful of the need to make
the Summit more people centred
and inclusive. "This Summit must be able to deliver tangible and
measurable outcomes that will make a real, positive difference to the
lives of people in the region," the website adds.
The final summit declaration, to be adopted on
April 19, is contentious. Despite the fact that it is not agreed to yet
by member nations, in a statement on April 6, White House advisor for
the Summit of the Americas Jeffrey Davidow stated that the Summit
declaration had just been completed and that
it constituted "a consensus document among the 34 countries which
highlight the issue of greatest importance to this hemisphere ... And
this document is important in that it represents the views of the
entire hemisphere." In response, the Nicaraguan government pointed out
on April 7 that the final declaration is only
a rough draft that "has not been approved or agreed to by consensus" by
the heads of state who will attend the meeting.
The Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS, Denis Moncada said "various countries have expressed
reservations" about different subjects included in the draft of the
declaration "which is why it's not a consensus document." "The 5th
Americas Summit Commitment Declaration is
a draft whose approval and consensus depends on presidents in the
hemisphere deciding on it, who have the last word on the Declaration,"
Moncada said in a letter.
Despite the hope of the U.S. and Canada that the
issue of the illegal U.S. blockade of Cuba -- condemned by 185 of the
192 UN member nations -- be overlooked, the heads
of state of several countries have pledged to put the demand for an end
to the U.S. blockade of Cuba
on the Summit Agenda. In a radio address at the end of March, Venezuela
President Hugo Chavez called for Cuba's inclusion in the summit and
urged Obama to lift the blockade. An April 2 report in the Trinidad
Express reported that U.S. President Barack Obama does not
believe there needs to be any
discussion of his country's 47-year-old blockade against Cuba when he
attends the Summit. Davidow told the Trinidad Express that
"The policy of the United States on Cuba is that we hope the Cuban
people will someday be able to share the same kind of democracy that
the people of Trinidad have."
His comment came just three days after Cuban leader Raúl Castro
accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Patrick Manning to come to
Trinidad and Tobago at a time of his own choosing. Referring to the
invitation in his interview with the Trinidad Express, Davidow
stated, "Obviously, Trinidad is
free to work on its own relationship with Cuba as all other countries
are. However, I think it would be very unfortunate if the topic of Cuba
were to become the principle issue at this summit and detract attention
from the other important things you and I have been talking about --
energy, poverty, crime." On the
same matter, Trinidad and Tobago U.S. Embassy public affairs officer,
Michelle Jones, told the Trinidad Express, "Trinidad
and Tobago is a sovereign nation, and the prime minister is free to
invite any quest to his country. We do not anticipate any confrontation
at the summit and look forward to good
As for Canada's position, Canadian Press reports
that "Canada finds itself floating somewhere in the middle -- between a
U.S. administration determined to keep Cuba excluded and Latin American
and Caribbean leaders who are clamouring for change." So far, CP adds,
"the message from Canada's
Conservative government is careful and exceedingly diplomatic." In
fact, it is hypocritical. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs on the
Americas file, Peter Kent, told CP: "It's not Canada's place. The Cuba
decision is really first for the government of Cuba. We hope and we
encourage and we engage and we see progress.
We encourage Cuba to move towards an eventual open and democratic
society, but in terms of its involvement in gatherings of the region,
the Organization of American States -- or those countries that belonged
to the OAS when Cuba was suspended -- will have to address how it might
A similar comment was made by the head of the OAS and former Chilean minister of
foreign relations, José Miguel Insulza. In an interview with the
Brazilian paper O'Globo, Insulza stated that if
Cuba wants to be included in the Organization of American
States, it must make its "commitment to democracy" clear. He cited the
OAS' "democracy clause" as the main obstacle to Cuba's admission to the
OAS and the Summit of the Americas and added that the leaders
participating in the Summit all come from democratic countries.
Commenting on Insulza's statements, Comrade Fidel
Castro writes in his Reflections of April 14,
entitled "Does the OAS have any right to exist?":
"Insulza asserts that Cuba must first be accepted by the OAS before
joining that institution. He knows that we don't even wish to
hear the loathsome name of that institution, for it has not rendered
any single service to our peoples. It is rather the incarnation of
betrayal. If one were to add up all the aggressive actions to which it
was an accomplice, they would span hundreds of thousands of lives and
several bloody decades. Its meeting will be
a battlefield that will place many governments into an embarrassing
situation. However, let it not be said that Cuba has thrown the first
stone. Insulza even offends us by presuming that we are eager to join
the OAS. The train has passed by a long time ago, and Insulza still
does not know it. Some day many countries
will ask to be forgiven for having belonged to it. [...] We shall not
go down on our knees begging the OAS to allow us entering into infamy."
Meanwhile, a majority of U.S. citizens continue
to oppose the blockade. During a recent visit to Cuba
by representatives of the Congressional Black Caucus,
Congresswoman Barbara Lee stated that 68
percent of U.S. citizens are for the elimination of the U.S.
government's economic, commercial and financial blockade
In this and subsequent issues and supplements, TML
is reporting on the V Summit of the Americas, the IV Peoples' Summit of
the Americas, Canada's Americas strategy, Obama's "New Partnership for
the Americas" and providing news and views pertaining to developments
in the Americas.
IV Peoples' Summit of the Americas
The IV Peoples' Summit of the Americas is being
held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, beginning April 16 to
coincide with the V Summit of the Americas in which 34 heads of state
are expected to participate -- all the countries of the Americas with
the exception of Cuba. It is an encounter of social movements
of the hemisphere opposed to neo-liberalism and that stand for social
justice, equity, peace and sustainable development, says the call for
the Peoples' Summit. Host organizations include Alianza Social
Continental/Hemispheric Social Alliance (ASA/HSA), the Assembly of
Caribbean People (ACP) and the Federation
of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN), Trinidad and Tobago. The
"This Peoples' Summit is of profound importance
for social movements of the hemisphere as it takes place in the context
of significant changes in the geopolitical map of the Americas.
Certainly, the hegemonic position of neo-liberalism that characterised
the First Summit is now discredited and is under
challenge. Social movements and now increasingly Governments are
pursuing alternatives to the neo-liberal agenda.
"We need also to consider the crisis of
international capitalism as evidenced by: the collapse of the world's
financial system; the crises of debt, food, energy and water; and the
degradation of the environment and its implications. We will also meet
in the context of the increasing threat of militarisation
and the criminalisation of protests.
"At this significant juncture in the history of
our region and the world, it is absolutely critical that Caribbean
activists, including Cuba, and members of social movements, civil
society and other networks utilise this rare opportunity to fuel the
work that we do through discussion, analysis and collaboration
with brothers and sisters from other Caribbean states, Latin America
and North America."
One thousand people, including workers, farmers,
student leaders and representatives from other social sectors will
analyze the crisis with a unified vision that can allow for the
tackling of their different economic, food, environmental, energy,
cultural and governability issues, Prensa Latina informs.
The focal points for the discussions will be U.S. policies towards the
continent and the search for unified people's alternatives.
Starting from the controversial topic of U.S.
relations with the region, they are discussing migration and
Discussions will also include the region's
cultural prospects as part of a necessary ideological renewal to
generate alternatives to neoliberalism.
The Peoples' Summit will approve its final
statement on Friday, April 17 and will conclude on Saturday, April 18
with a march and a rally, in which the organizers expect the presence
of some of the presidents that will attend the 5th Summit of the
Americas, including Hugo Chavez from Venezuela,
Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua and Rafael Correa from Ecuador.
In related news, the Hemispheric Social Alliance
is holding its Hemispheric Council Meeting in the two days preceding
the Peoples' Summit, April 14-15. Its plenary sessions will
characterize the structural crisis of capitalism and assess the current
state of popular struggles. A Trade Union Forum will
hold workshops to debate different perspectives of the crisis.
Summit in Caracas
A summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas (ALBA) is being held in Caracas, Venezuela from April 14-15. The following heads of state are attending the
meeting: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Honduran President Manuel
Zelaya, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Dominican
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, a representative from the Cuban
government, and Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, who will attend as
a special guest.
In a telephone conversation with Venezuelan
National Radio, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez affirmed that the
meeting will be very opportune, given that it has been scheduled for
two days prior to the 5th Summit of the Americas. It will thus provide
an opportunity to discuss and bring common
positions to Trinidad and Tobago, he stated. He announced that a
discussion on Cuba's isolation as a consequence of the US blockade is
to be suggested as an addition to the agenda of the 5th Summit of the
"If they want to come with the same excluding
discourse of the empire -- on the blockade -- then the result will be
that nothing has changed. Everything will stay the same," Chavez said.
The Venezuelan President affirmed that "Cuba is a point of honor for
the peoples of Latin America. We cannot
accept that the United States should continue trampling over the
nations of our America.
"To trample over Cuba is to trample over
Venezuela and this will have to be said in Trinidad and Tobago. Nobody
can make us keep our mouths shut," Chávez emphasized.
ALBA delegate and Minister for the Social
Investment Fund in Nicaragua, Nelson Artola, in an interview with Vermelho,
said that he expects the heads of state participating in ALBA will take
a position of "solid and strong rejection of U.S. policy" on Cuba's
participation in the Summit of the Americas. He added that "the Summit
of Alba will act as a strong and emphatic support to the demand for an
end to the policy of isolation and embargo of the
island (Cuba) by the United States."
In the days leading up to the ALBA summit, during
a visit to China, President Hugo Chavez indicated that ALBA may also be
addressing the matter of international development funds, specifically
challenging the recent decision of the G-20 to give one trillion
dollars to the International Monentary
Fund and World Bank. Speaking on April 11, from Bejing, Chavez said 10 percent
of these funds -- $100 million -- should be given directly to the
United Nations' Economic and Social Council. The IMF and the WB, Chavez
told reporters, "are the main culprits of the current global crisis."
He said that the UN would
be able to use the money to address the problems of the poorest
countries suffering the impact of the economic crisis. The impact of
the crisis on these countries, he said, is not spoken about. For
example, he cited the case of Central America where many people are
dependent on remittances from families and friends
working in the U.S. noting, the loss of this source of income because
of the economic crisis.
American Nations Meet in Venezuela
Foundation for Bank of the South
Top government officials from seven South American
countries met in Caracas on March 23 to draft constitutive plans for
the Bank of the South, an international initiative launched in 2007 to
improve regional integration and invest national reserves in social and
economic development on the continent.
Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil agreed to
contribute $2 billion each as initial capital for the bank, while
Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay will contribute $1 billion
each, bringing the total capitalization of the bank to $10 billion,
according to Venezuelan Finance Minister Ali Rodríguez.
Rodríguez said Monday's agenda also included
discussions about the integration of regional energy production,
infrastructure, and finance.
"We are called to fulfill an increasingly
important role in the concert of nations, that is why it is
indispensible to advance processes of regional integration," said
Rodríguez following the marathon meeting on March 23.
The leaders scheduled a follow-up meeting in
Buenos Aires in early May to finalize plans for the regional bank.
Since the global financial crisis erupted in
banks in the United States and Europe last year, South American leaders
have touted the Bank of the South as a method of insulation from the
crisis and as a safer depository of their national reserves.
The Bank of the South was originally proposed by
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as an alternative to the U.S.-based
International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which are considered by
many South American nations to have trapped the region in debt and then
used this as an excuse to impose
policy conditions dictated by the U.S. government.
The Bank of the South would be headquartered in
Caracas, and was endorsed in 2007 by Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel
Prize-winning former chief economist of the World Bank.
Outcry Renewed as U.S. Military
May Want to
Occupy Vieques Again
After being absent for six years, the U.S.
military is suggesting it could once again re-establish a presence on
the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the Associated Press is reporting.
Angry objections are already being heard from Puerto Rico and beyond.
Military leaders said in testimony last week that
the Caribbean island -- a one time Navy bombing range and practice area
-- is placed well to extend the United States' reach in the Caribbean
and possibly help in airspace and drug trafficking surveillance.
In 2003, protests from Puerto Rican activists
closed down the long-running Navy bombing range. "We the Puerto Ricans
fought for so many years to end the bombing and to have the land turned
over to the people of Vieques," Jose Paralitici, a veteran anti-Navy
activist, said to the AP. "We are opposed
to it being used for anything else, much less that it go back to the
Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's delegate to
Congress, has issued a statement rejecting any military exercises on
the island, backtracking on an earlier statement that said he would be
fine with allowing the military back in as long as their presence
"doesn't include bombing our rare but valuable natural
block the entrance to Camp Garcia Naval Base January 13, 2003 in
Vieques, Puerto Rico. For decades, warships and planes used it as a
firing range before it was closed in 2003. A new U.S. congressional
prepared for a hearing on March 12, 2009, says officials from the
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a branch of
the Health and Human Services department charged with protecting the
public near toxic pollution sites, "deny, delay, minimize, trivialize
or ignore legitimate health concerns" of residents exposed to the toxic munitions left behind.
Evo Morales Suspends Hunger Strike;
Approves New Electoral Law
Bolivian President Evo Morales ended his hunger
strike on Tuesday, April 14, minutes after Congress approved a new
Transition Law, which will guarantee the general elections on December
At a press conference in the Presidential Palace,
where he has led this pressure tactic since April 9 together
with 13 leaders of social organizations, Morales thanked those who
supported his protest and announced that the law will be enacted in a
public event at 8:00 AM.
"The people must not forget that processes of
change are achieved through struggle. We cannot guarantee this
revolutionary process alone, but it is possible with the strength of
the people," he emphasized.
President Evo Morales speaks to supporters during a ceremony in front
of the presidential palace
in La Paz April 14, 2009 following congressional approval of an
electoral law earlier that day after Morales
went on a hunger strike for nearly five days to protest against
opposition lawmakers blocking the bill.
The law, approved by legislators after several
days of debates and obstacles by the opposition, also allows for
regional elections in April 2010.
Morales had proposed drawing up a new biometric
electoral register, which left the opposition without any argument for
blocking the law's passage through Congress.
The day before, leaders of the National
Coordination Committee for Change and the Bolivian Workers' Central
Organization called on their support bases to hold a massive
demonstration on Tuesday in Plaza Murillo, facing Parliament, to demand
the passing of the electoral law, which they will now
celebrate with their president.
7th Anniversary of Coup
President Hugo Chavez addressed thousands of
supporters who rallied at
the presidential palace yesterday to celebrate the National Day of
Dignity which commemorates the day on which Chavez was returned to
power after being temporarily ousted by a coup
d'etat seven years ago. Chavez was overthrown on April 11,
2002 but the constitutional order was restored two days later on April
The festive crowd stretched for blocks along the
sloping Urdaneta Avenue, the same street where, seven years ago,
thousands of Venezuelans had congregated to demand that a group of
military generals who had apprehended Chavez release him from custody.
Venezuelans in the rally reflected on the coup
d'etat. "The worst of all was the role of the media," said
Roque Valera, a social worker who works for the mayor's office in
Caracas. "We were unable to obtain any information about what was going
on and we were not able to use public
transportation [due to the opposition-led general strike], so everyone
had to walk here."
Reflecting on current world affairs, Elder
Barrios, a twenty-six year old medical student who traveled here from
the southern state of Trujillo, explained that, "No one knows how much
damage the global [economic] crisis is going to cause, but like our
commander [Chavez] says, this global crisis is
not going to touch a single hair on the head of any Venezuelan."
At 5:45 pm a tremor went through the crowd as
Chavez came to the stage. He began his speech by recounting his recent
tour of Arab and Asian nations and praising the leaders of various
countries which he had visited. "Communist China, thanks to its
political system, will transform into the hope
for an exit from the economic crisis created in Washington," he said,
adding that, "China will become the great power of the twenty first
Venezuela, April 13, 2009: "Remember April!"
The president of Venezuela later shifted to
domestic issues and criticized the political opposition whom he
characterized as "full of hatred." He stated that, in contrast, "we
continue to live for love, the love of being human, and that is what
you call socialism."
At various points during his speech Chavez was
interrupted by raucous cheering and chants. At one point he looked at
his watch as if imploring the crowd to quiet and stated jokingly that
he only had two hours left to speak.
In reference to those opposition sectors
responsible for the coup Chavez stated that, "in
those initial years there was a battle between two forces that could
not coexist within one state and within one government: the forces of
the revolution and those of the counter revolution."
Standing under a giant banner which read "Remember
April!" he said, "I was the king idiot of them all," referring to his
previously held belief that he could work with those sectors which
later attempted to overthrow the constitutional order. He also urged
his supporters to be vigilant toward any future
attempts at destabilization and said that "the 13 of April should be
everyday of our lives."
Chavez commented on the recent case of the 3
police commissionaires and 8 police officers of the Caracas
Metropolitan Police force who were convicted of killing civilians
during the coup d'etat at the Llaguno Bridge on
April 11, 2002. These officials were sentenced by a judge last week
to prison terms ranging from 16 to 30 years.
While expressing satisfaction with this sentence
Chavez nonetheless called it merely "a light breeze of justice" and
stated that impunity continued to be the rule for the television
stations which had played a political role during the coup.
He requested an investigation of these stations which
include Venevision, Globovision, RCTV and Televen. He also noted that
the "intellectual authors" of the coup had still
not been brought to justice.
In a military ceremony commemorating the counter-coup
also attended by Chavez on the same day, the military reserves changed
their name to the National Bolivarian Militia.
Chavez classified the militia as "the people
armed" and said that the armed forces were becoming more
"revolutionary, anti-imperialist, socialist and popular" every day.
"There Was No Coup"
Certain sections of the political opposition,
constituted in political parties and the media, maintain that there was
no coup and some opposition leaders repeat the
claim that Chavez ordered his supporters who had gathered at the
Llaguno Bridge to fire
on the crowd of oppositionists located on the street below.
Enrique Ochoa, General Secretary of the opposition
party A New Era (UNT, for their initials in Spanish) is quoted in the
Venezuelan newspaper El Universal as stating that, "The Lieutenant
Colonel in his current state of retirement, Chavez Frias, has chosen
the [police] commissioners as victims of
his personal rage and vengeance, procuring not only to falsify history
with this sentence but also to wash his murderous and cowardly face."
Ochoa also insisted that the president had
retained sole responsibility for the killing of nineteen civilians,
among them both opponents and supporters of the government, on April
11, 2002 and that there was no coup but rather a
peaceful uprising which succeeded in ousting Chavez from
power due to the climate of instability generated by the clash between
anti and pro Chavez demonstrators.
The mass circulation daily, El Nacional,
which is run by the powerful Otero family, stated in its lead editorial
on April 11, 2009 that, "Everyone knows that those events were provoked
by [the presidential palace] Miraflores...executed by armed bands of
In a twist, opposition students at the Central
University of Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas led by Yon Goicoechea, a
member of the Justice First (PJ) party. called for a new round of
student protests last week. Speaking on the same program on opposition
TV channel, Globalvision, Ricardo Sanchez, president
of the UCV's student union, said that students should march on the
National Assembly to "re-vindicate" April 13, "our National Day of
Dignity." April 13 is a commemoration normally associated with Chavez
In addition, opposition students had previously
referred to themselves as representing "civil society" which is sharply
distinguished from Chavez supporters, most of whom come from the lower
classes. Nonetheless, no opposition protests were reported to have