May 20, 2011 - No. 85
Windsor Meeting on Cuba's Economic
Strengthening the Economic Base for
Development of the Country
Windsor, May 6, 2011
Windsor Meeting on Cuba's Economic
• Strengthening the Economic Base for
Development of the Country
Campaign to Free the Cuban Five
• New International Campaign Demands Freedom
for the Cuban Five
• Contracts Reveal Miami Journalists on U.S.
Government Payroll - Radio Havana Cuba
• Case of the Cuban Five and the Media
- Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, CubaDebate
Continued Attempts to Undermine Revolutionary Cuba
• Informative Note from the Revolutionary
• Cuba Despises Lies - Freddy
Pérez Cabrera, Granma International
• Fabricating Pretexts -- Disinformation
Campaigns Directed Against Cuba - Granma International
Latin America and Carribean
• Preparatory Meeting for OAS Counter
Organisation, CELAC, Held in Venezuela - Rachael Boothroyd,
Windsor Meeting on Cuba's Economic
Strengthening the Economic Base for
Development of the Country
On May 6, the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association of
Windsor held a public meeting on Socialism in 21st Century Cuba
addressed by Jorge Soberón, Consul General of the Cuban
Toronto. The event was organized as part of the Mayworks Project in
Windsor and brought together a diverse audience
made up of workers, students, artists, journalists and members of the
Cuba solidarity movement. The meeting was hosted by Artcite, Windsor's
artist-run centre and an important hub of the Mayworks project.
Showing the historic nature of relations between Canada
and Cuba, Professor Howard Pawley, former premier of Manitoba and
founding member of the CCFA-Windsor welcomed Soberón to Windsor.
explained that he has been involved in solidarity with Cuba since the
1960s and was proud of this work.
He highlighted the great support in Canada for Cuba, citing the over
900,000 Canadians who visited Cuba last year as a concrete example.
Soberón then opened the presentation, placing the
economic changes taking place in Cuba in the context of the work to
strengthen socialism in the realities of the 21st century. He began by
clearly pointing out that the changes are part of an internal process
of renewal and development and not the result of external
pressures. He outlined the achievements of Cuba in the general standard
of living of the people, including education, health and culture. He
then explained that despite these positive aspects, the Cuban people,
like the rest of the world are facing challenges. The three main
challenges affecting Cuba now
are: The effects of climate change (hurricanes and other natural
disasters), the U.S. blockade of Cuba which has caused hundreds of
billions of dollars of damages to the Cuban economy, and the global
financial crisis. These factors have led the Cuban government to try
and expand the economic base of the economy
and expand its productive capacity.
He explained that in the
state sector there is an excess
of labour power and that an important part of the changes are aimed at
expanding the economic base, through licensing of small businesses,
developing foreign investment and foreign cooperation and expanding the
tourism sector. The shifting of employment
from the state sector, to other sectors will permit more productive
capacity in the country he pointed out. In international relations he
highlighted the growth of the Bolivarian Alliance for Peoples of Our
the soon to be launched commonwealth of the Americas. When asked about
how to ensure foreign investment
serves the country and not a small group, Soberón affirmed that
concentration of private property is not permitted, and outlined how
these changes are to ensure that foreign investment brings in: 1)
technology, 2) capital 3) access to markets. Foreign investment must be
a benefit to the Cuban economy to be permitted.
He cited the example of the food processing sector in response to
another question about food sovereignty, and explained that Cuba has
increased its food production due to the use of urban and suburban
agriculture and there is still more potential. However, he pointed out,
without processing capacity, the full yield
of the production can be wasted. This is an area in which foreign
investment and technology is being explored. This example showed the
audience how foreign investement is being viewed from a strategic and
long-term view from the standpoint of how to expand the self-reliant
nature of the economy so that it can
provide for the people.
Soberón closed his presentation pointing out that
the U.S. government under George W. Bush had set up a "transitional
government" in Cuba, the Cuba people gave a fitting response. They held
a referendum in which they declared the irrevocable nature of the
socialist character of the Cuban Revolution,
and established the right of the Cuban people to stop any attempts to
revert back to subjugation, up to and including the use of armed force.
Campaign to Free the Cuban Five
New International Campaign Demands
Freedom for the
On May 3, a new international
campaign was launched for
the immediate release of five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters unjustly
imprisoned in the United Status since 1998.
On the fifth of each month, according to the call by the
International Committee to Free the Five, people from every part of the
world should send emails, faxes and telegrams to demand that U.S.
President Barack Obama free the Five.
Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio
Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez are currently serving
harsh sentences for gathering information on anti-Cuba plans by
Miami-based terrorist groups.
"Let's demand that Obama uses his
powers under the U.S.
Constitution to end that colossal injustice," the committee said.
These days of action will have two new elements, because
on April 25, the U.S. government asked a federal court in Miami to
reject the habeas corpus petition filed by Gerardo Hernandez,
who was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years. A similar habeas
corpus petition was filed
three days later by Antonio Guerrero, who was re-sentenced to 21 years
and 10 months in prison.
On May 3, President of the Cuban People's Power National
Assembly Ricardo Alarcón decried the U.S. legal system for its
arbitrary and unjust nature.
Contracts Reveal Miami Journalists on
A multi-year effort by the U.S. National Committee to
the Cuban Five, the U.S. Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and Liberation
newspaper has uncovered thousands of pages of previously unreleased
materials that reveal that the U.S. government was paying Miami-based
journalists who saturated
the Miami media with reports that were highly inflammatory and
prejudicial to the five Cuban anti-terrorism fighters during their
trial in that U.S. city.
The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 prohibits the U.S.
government from funding activities to influence and propagandize
domestic public opinion.
More than 2,200 pages of contracts between Miami
journalists and Radio and TV Martí have been released thus far
to Liberation newspaper through a Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) petition.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors -- an official U.S.
government agency -- and its Office of Cuba Broadcasting have operated
Radio Martí since 1985 and TV Martí since 1990.
The U.S. government has funneled nearly half a billion
dollars into the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami. With an annual
budget nearing $35 million, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the
Broadcasting Board of Governors put on their payroll domestic
journalists to broadcast the same message
inside and outside the United States on Cuba-related issues,
effectively violating the law against domestic dissemination of U.S.
These contracts evidence the U.S. government's payments
to journalists in Miami whose reports constituted a sustained effort to
create an atmosphere of hysteria and bias against Cuba and the Cuban
Case of the Cuban Five and the Media
TML is posting
below an extract of a speech delivered by Ricardo Alarcón de
Quesada, President of the Cuban National Assembly of People's Power, on
May 3, at an event held jointly by the Latin American Federation of
Journalists (FELAP) and the Cuban Association of Journalists (UPEC) for
Press Freedom Day.
When the U.S. Government rejected Gerardo
Hernández Nordelo's habeas
corpus petition on April 25, it did
so very categorically, without leaving any margin of doubt. Washington
wants the court in Miami to declare his petition inadmissible and to do
so summarily, without holding a hearing to examine its
merits, without hearing Gerardo, without presenting the evidence it is
hiding. This is how it responded to the last legal recourse of a human
being sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years.
Washington asked for the appeals for Antonio Guerrero
and René González to be dismissed in a similar manner.
These are three practically simultaneous actions that
reveal the profoundly arbitrary and unjust nature of the U.S. system.
They took place one week ago but have not become news, save for the
mentions in our media.
The media dictatorship is probably currently the most
efficient instrument in imperialism's political hegemony. It largely
dominates information on a global scale, determining what people are
allowed to know and blocking whatever it wishes to conceal, with an
The battle for the freedom of our Five compatriots can
only be won if we understand this essential fact in today's world, and
are capable of acting accordingly.
Such iron-clad censorship is not accidental. Part of
Gerardo's appeal is based precisely on the concealment of evidence and
the perverse function of the so-called information media.
It has to do with a case that practically no-one outside
of Miami is aware of. The great media corporations imposed total
silence toward the outside world while their correspondents in that
city joined with the local media with their dubious reputation, in
order to unleash a virulent campaign against the accused
which contributed to creating what three judges from the Court of
Appeals described as a "perfect storm" of prejudice and hostility, on
which basis they decided to dismiss the trial.
Judge Lenard herself repeatedly protested the
provocative actions that these supposed journalists were carrying out
which created fear among the jurors who felt threatened.
In 2006 it was revealed that these provocateurs had
received payments from the U.S. government to perform their dirty work.
Since that date, various organizations in the United States have called
on Washington to turn over the data it is hiding regarding the reach of
the conspiracy whose existence is more than
sufficient to prove the scandalous prevarication of the authorities.
For five years, those friends in the U.S. have engaged
in efforts as noble as they are lonely, which have been completely
unreported by the corporate media and very little has filtered out
through those who consider themselves their alternative.
And so it has not been difficult for the U.S. government
to maintain its obstinate position and continue imposing secrecy.
Nor has it found it particularly difficult to keep the
satellite imagery it jealously guards from public view about the
incident of February 24, 1996. Fifteen years ago it did not allow the
investigators from the International Civil Aviation Organization to
view them, it refused to present them to the court in Miami,
and now it has reiterated its refusal. Its attitude of impeding others
from seeing the proof that only Washington can access is so obvious and
suspicious that in its lengthy 123 page argument with three appendices
against Gerardo, it barely alludes to the matter in a twisted five line
Allow me a brief review. Gerardo Hernández
Nordelo had absolutely nothing to do with the downing of the aircraft
on February 24, 1996. The U.S. government itself, that of W. Bush,
acknowledged the lack of proof to sustain its accusation against
Gerardo and asked to withdraw it at the last minute. It did so
in an official document, titled "Emergency Petition" and which,
according to they themselves, constituted an unprecedented action in
the history of that country.
Here is the document, dated May 25, 2001, soon it will
be ten years old, but as far as those who call themselves "information
media" it does not exist. I have inherited a certain tendency toward
obstinacy from my Andalucian ancestors, and that's why I carry it with
me from time to time, because even gypsies
believe in chance. You never know. Maybe one day someone will discover
that this document exists.
Returning to the event of February 24, 1996. No U.S.
court had jurisdiction over the matter, unless it had occurred in
international airspace. The investigation performed by the
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
revealed something surprising. Despite being warned beforehand by their
government, the U.S. radar stations either did not register
the event or offered contradictory data or destroyed the data. The only
proof supplied by U.S. authorities is the testimony from the captain of
a boat that operated -- by coincidence? -- out of Miami.
And so, the interest, first by the ICAO and later by
Gerardo's defense team, in the satellite imagery. The U.S. government
never denied the existence of these images, it admitted having them,
but it put a fifteen year prohibition on allowing anyone else to see
How can it be explained that they have successfully
managed to hide them for such a long time? Simply because their
revealing conduct has never become news, because they have been able to
count on the complicity of the enormous media corporations, but also,
it must be said, on our own laziness.
The worst enemy of press freedom is the media
dictatorship exercised by the huge corporations which manipulate
information and substitute an industry of deceit.
This dictatorship imposes the news menu that circulates
through our newsrooms, its codes of language and interpretation
circulating along with it. If we wish to develop truthful journalism,
capable of transforming itself into a real alternative, it's essential
to go beyond the menu and find the truth in other sources.
It is a professional necessity but also a duty of solidarity with those
who, lacking resources, are waging hard battles alone. Assisting in the
articulation of their scattered efforts is the obligation of a
revolutionary press. It's also the best recipe for curing the infection
from those codes that circulate, often inadvertently,
Acting this way, we can also make news. Without
inventing it or fabricating it, like the inventions and fabrications
that are so abundant on the menu we are served day and night. By
breaking the chains that lock up the truths such as those I've allowed
myself to mention here. We ought to be, finally, like Julio
Antonio Mella wanted us to be: "Thinking beings not driven ones."
Text read as part of a speech given on May 3, 2011, in
an event held jointly by the Latin American Federation of Journalists
(FELAP) and the Cuban Association of Journalists (UPEC) for Press
Continued Attempts to Undermine
Informative Note from the Revolutionary Government
A new slander campaign is being orchestrated against the
Revolution, in this case, around the death from acute pancreatitis of
Cuban Juan Wilfredo Soto García, which took place May 8 in the
Santa Clara Arnaldo Milián Castro Provincial Hospital.
Counterrevolutionary elements have unscrupulously
fabricated the lie that Soto García's death was the result of an
alleged beating by agents of the Ministry of the Interior, a lie that
was rapidly amplified by the disinformation media, fundamentally in
Europe and the United States, where even certain government
spokespersons have expressed concern over this alleged event.
On May 6, Soto García was admitted to the
aforementioned hospital with intense abdominal pain provoked by acute
pancreatitis. Moreover, he was subsequently diagnosed with
decompensation brought about by other internal disorders such as
dilated myocardiopathy, hyperlipidemia (excess of fat in the blood),
diabetes and chronic hepatitis produced by fatty liver disease.
The autopsy performed on the patient established death
from natural causes, the preliminary one being "multifactorial shock
resulting from multi-organ failure due to pancreatitis." There were no
signs of internal or external violence.
Juan Wilfredo Soto García, aged 46 years, had a
criminal record for public order disturbances, theft and serious
assault, for which he served a two-year prison term.
He was recently linked to counterrevolutionary elements,
who utilized him for provocative activities. The latest of these took
place on May 5 in a Santa Clara park, involving public disorder,
whereupon Soto García was taken to a police station and released
three hours later without incident whatsoever.
At a time when widespread popular support for the
results of the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is
being reaffirmed and the Cuban people are involved in implementing the
approved guidelines, external and internal enemies are attempting to
distort Cuban realities and undermine the international
prestige of the Revolution and its moral strength.
As General of the Army Raúl Castro Ruz, President
of the Councils of State and Ministers, stated in the central report to
the 6th Communist Party of Cuba Congress:
"We have patiently endured the implacable disinformation
campaigns about human rights, coordinated from the United States and
some countries within the European Union that demand from us no less
than unconditional surrender and the immediate dismantling of our
socialist system while encouraging, directing
and assisting domestic mercenaries in breaking the law."
The Revolution has always been defended with the truth
and invincible strength of the people, who trust in the strength of the
ideas of justice which made it possible.
Cuba Despises Lies
Testimonies from family members, medical specialists and
local people confirm that Cuba is once again witnessing a crude media
As stated in the Informative Note from the Revolutionary
Government, the death due to natural causes of a Cuban citizen resident
in Villa Clara province, continues to be the subject of manipulation by
the disinformation corporate media.
Rosa Soto Garcia
According to Rosa Soto García, sister of the
deceased, Juan Wilfredo Soto García suffered from a number of
disorders, including gout, high blood pressure, migraines and heart
dilation, for which he had been receiving treatment for many years. She
also acknowledged that her brother led a very disorganized
life and did not follow doctors' orders.
"That business about him being beaten is one big lie. He
didn't have a mark on his body, it's all a counterrevolutionary
propaganda invention. We are very distressed about this campaign that
has been set up, it's causing a lot of pain within the family," she
said, while expressing her gratitude for the medical attention
her brother received.
"And, look, if we're angry, the day of the funeral, my
brother's son, just 14 years of age, was so sickened by the attitude of
the 'dissidents' that he asked them to leave the cemetery," Rosa
Madelín Soto, Soto's niece, whom he treated like
his own daughter, also expressed her surprise at the orchestrated
maneuver. "I went to see him in the hospital and didn't see any signs
of violence on him. Moreover, if they had so much as scratched him, he
would definitely have told me, because he totally trusted
Law student Yasmil Pérez Rodríguez,
Madelín's husband, who took the deceased citizen to the
hospital, confirmed that on Friday, May 6, Soto's daughter appeared at
his home in a desperate state, asking him to go to the doctor's with
her father. "When I got there, he was sweating, couldn't feel his feet,
we even had to take him down from the fourth floor in a wheelchair.
Once in the Arnaldo Milián admissions department, they did
various analyses, he was given all kinds of medication, but his body
did not respond favorably. Given his worsening condition, he was taken
to intensive care, where he remained as a
patient until his death."
Yasmil added that he was with his wife's uncle from
9:00am on Friday, May 6 until the following day, and had plenty of
opportunity to talk with him, take him to the bathroom and undress him,
and that he never saw the least mark of violence on his body. "If it
were true what those people are saying, he would
definitely have told her (Madelín) because there were no secrets
between the two of them."
On the day of the incidents related to the alleged
beating, as was his habit, Soto was in Vidal Park from very early in
the morning, according to a number of witnesses, among them a group of
self-employed workers who sell flowers there, and other people working
in the area. They detailed the events of May
5 involving the deceased man.
Jorge Alvarez Cabrera, a flower seller, said that around
9:00am he heard someone shouting counterrevolutionary slogans and saw
that the person was Soto García, whom he knew from his frequent
presence in the park.
"I saw two police agents, one of them a woman, lead him
to the patrol car, without using the least bit of force, and he even
got into the car himself." He recalls that a short while later, the
subject was back in the park, and even asked him for "a light," but he
told him that he didn't smoke.
Amado Gómez Rodríguez, another flower
seller, stated that that day Soto looked perfectly normal, with his
customary strength, without any sign of the supposed "beating" to which
the enemies of the Revolution refer.
A while later he was seen entering a lunch counter in
the basement of the Santa Clara Libre Hotel, where he had a snack,
according to the workers there.
Juan Wilfredo Soto's serious health problems did not
begin that day, but long before, according to Dr. Nestor Vega Alonso,
internal medicine specialist, who has frequently treated the patient
Dr. Vega Alonso recalled that that year, Soto was
admitted to Medical Room C suffering from generalized edema and high
blood pressure. On further examination, the medical staff detected a
dilated heart, which is very serious, as well as gout and diabetes
mellitus, all of which indicated a potentially life-threatening
The doctor noted that Soto often came to his out-patient
clinic with symptoms of ventricular dysfunction and high blood
pressure, as well as a very high triglyceride count, one of the most
frequent causes of pancreatitis, the illness which subsequently led to
According to Ricardo Rodríguez Jorge, a forensic
doctor of more than 14 years' experience, who performed the autopsy,
the cause of death was acute pancreatitis, with hemorrhaging on the
pancreatic tail and body. As a result of the former pathologies all the
parameters were altered by decompensation.
The specialist stated that the autopsy revealed no signs
of external or internal violence on the upper or lower body. The
cranium and neck were normal and the thorax presented lungs typical of
a smoker, with a heart of increased volume.
In relation to the counterrevolutionary version that the
alleged beating could have triggered pancreatitis, Dr. Rodríguez
confirmed that this is impossible, emphasizing that in order to reach
the pancreas, a trauma would have to be visible. As acknowledged by the
medical personnel and Soto's family, he did not
show any signs of contusion whatsoever.
In the face of this irrefutable evidence, one has to ask
how it is possible to continue lying. Is not the experience of more
than 50 years of a Revolution without a single case of torture,
disappearance or murder sufficient?
Cuba despises lies.
The Cuban Revolution has been the object of hundreds of
disinformation campaigns, usually orchestrated by the U.S. government
with the complicity of European allies in conjunction with the powerful
forces and interests which control the corporate media. However, they
have not been able to divert Cubans
from their ideals of independence and socialism, nor confuse the
peoples of the planet who, despite everything, are led by wisdom and
instinct to the truth. They are campaigns without political or ethical
constraints which come up against the moral force of Cuba and merely
tarnish their authors.
The most recent, which came from their prizewinning
deflated in 72 hours. Lying politicians, the media which slandered out
of political interest and journalists who reported an incident which
never took place without even attempting to confirm it, must not be
given impunity. At the
very least, they should admit their error and apologize to the family
whose grief they failed to respect.
Curiously, all of them remain silent in the face of the
civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan which they define as
"collateral damage," as well as in the face of extrajudicial executions
with drone aircraft in sovereign countries.
They have maintained a prudent silence in relation to
the use of
torture, have covered up the existence of secret U.S. prisons in
Europe, have prevented investigations into the crimes committed in Abu
Ghraib and the Guantánamo Naval Base -- this latter usurped from
-- and the CIA secret flights
transporting persons kidnapped in other states.
They remain unmoved at the brutal way in which European
are inflicting the consequences of the economic crisis on the poorest
members of society and immigrants. They look the other way when the
unemployed or students in those wealthy societies are repressed with
However, they are constantly hunting out pretexts for
denigrating Cuba, and when these are lacking, they fabricate them.
They shamelessly converted a case of acute pancreatitis
political murder; a justified detention by police of less than three
hours for public order offenses without any use of force into a fatal
beating; a person with a criminal record sentenced to two years'
imprisonment for a common crime into
a political dissident and the victim of a lengthy prison term.
The Cuban people share the protests of the family whose
been offended and the indignation of doctors virtually accused of
complicity in a homicide. The world has more than sufficient examples
of the humanistic vocation of our doctors, who have been unstinting in
their efforts and, risking
their own lives, have provided and are providing health services in
many parts of the world.
American legislator David Rivera, famous for electoral
and his extremist campaigns to eliminate the right of
émigré Cubans to
travel to their country of origin, and who just a few weeks ago,
accused former President Carter of being a Cuban agent, affirmed under
oath in the U.S. Congress
that the dead man was beaten to death in Villa Clara's central Vidal
Park last Sunday.
He didn't even take the trouble to verify what even the
ill-intentioned acknowledge, that the deceased was in the park before
and after his brief detention on Thursday, May 5, not on Sunday, when
he was already in hospital. It is not surprising that Rivera should
lie, but that he should do so with
Salafranca, a Euro deputy from Spain's Partido Popular
for his anti-Cuban and pro-yankee attitudes, and who has said that
reports on the CIA secret flights do not contribute any additional
information and refrains from any condemnation of them, affirmed in the
European Parliament that
the individual "died after his detention and from a beating by the
El País, from the Spain of the
Prisa Group and
People's Party (PP) conspiracies, published a cable titled "Cuba
dissident dies after police beating." The ABC, historically in the
service of the worst causes, stated "Cuban opposition member dies after
a beating from Castro's police."
They are not interested in confirming the veracity of the alleged
incidents and have not even bothered to disguise the conspiracy with
Even President Barack Obama himself, in response to a
the highly tendentious Univisión network in Miami, referred to
events in Vidal Park which never took place, while stating that the
details were not as yet clear.
It is strange that Obama, always so busy, retained in
his memory the
case of a person arrested in a Cuban park to which he was able to
return shortly afterwards. However, he has not said anything and
possibly does not even recall the anguished face or the account of
young Iraqi Samar Hassan, published
in the New York Times on May
7, concerning the terrible
experience of the murder of her parents by a U.S. patrol when they were
returning from the hospital after her little brother had received
treatment for injuries.
But, in the case of Cuba, the worst offense is not the
fabrication and reproduction of lies. What is unpardonable is the
censuring of the great truths and the history of a heroic and blockaded
people, who have been capable of achieving what for the great majority
of humanity is still a dream.
In the past, there have been attempts to isolate Cuba or
internal disorders in order to create a pretext for U.S. intervention.
What is the object of these campaigns? Just to denigrate, or something
worse? Could it be that those pulling the strings and their paid
internal agents would be delighted
to invoke the "protection of civilians" in order to bomb Havana?
Our people will not allow themselves to be confused by
counterrevolutionaries who are seeking a media pretext in order to
promote a conflict with the United States, and they know how to respond
with serenity and firmness to the actions of these mercenaries.
The arguments of the Cuban Revolution are not fabricated
lies of our enemies, they are constructed with the dignity and
integrity of our people, who have learnt that the truth is the cleanest
weapon of humanity.
Latin America and Carribean
Preparatory Meeting for OAS Counter Organisation,
CELAC, Held in Venezuela
from CELAC´s member states meet at Hotel Gran Meliá
Caracas, April 26, 2011. (YVKE
On April 26 at the Melia Caracas Hotel, 29
representatives from Latin American and Caribbean states attended a
meeting to organise the preliminary agenda and structure of CELAC --
the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, an organisation
that hopes to counter the influence of the U.S in the
The meeting was convened in order to establish the
foundations for the first summit of the recently formed organisation --
due to be held on July 5 in Caracas. In a meeting that lasted several
hours, the 29 delegates out of CELAC's 33 member states deliberated on
the principal issues that will constitute the main
points of discussion at the July conference. The delegates also paid
specific attention to CELAC's constitution.
The meeting ended with the signing of a structural
document that defines the CELA. This document will be considered over
the next 30 days by the delegates and member heads of state for
approval before the July summit.
"This political event is the most important, and has
more potential, than any others that have taken place in our America in
a hundred years or more," said Chavez at the beginning of the meeting.
Some of the key issues to be addressed in the July
summit are the approval of a human rights charter and a fund to finance
poverty eradication. Other topics on the agenda include; food security,
health, education, technology and sports strategies. Chile and
Venezuela, who are jointly presiding over the forum,
will be in charge of drafting up any further documents in the interim.
The official inauguration of CELAC in July will coincide
with the bicentenary of Venezuela's independence and denotes a
significant milestone in regional integration and autonomous
organisation -- independent of representatives from the USA and Canada.
The Architects of an
CELAC was first initiated in February 2010 at a Latin
American and Caribbean Unity Summit in Cancún, Mexico, just
eight months after the coup which ousted democratically elected
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
Citing a need for a forum which 'consolidates and
projects the Latin American and Caribbean identity,' the organisation
is founded upon the following principles -- which the organisation
describes as the "common values" of Latin American and Caribbean
* Respect for International Law and the Charter of the
* The sovereign equality of states
* The non-use, nor the threat of use, of force
* Respect for Human Rights
* Respect for the environment, taking into consideration the
environmental, economic, and social pillars of sustainable development
* International cooperation for sustainable development
* The unity and integration of Latin American and Caribbean countries
* An ongoing dialogue that promotes peace and regional security
Similar to projects such as the ALBA (The Bolivarian
Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), CELAC is another organisation
aimed at promoting regional cooperation and at offsetting Western
dominance in the region, particularly that of the USA.
However, unlike the ALBA -- an economic bloc based on
mutually beneficial trade agreements and which rejects the economic
paradigm of neo-liberalism -- CELAC is a representative body that will
include all Latin American and Caribbean nations and aims to become
"the region's most representative interlocutor vis-à-vis
main international actors, other
groups of countries and regional organizations."
CELAC is specifically designed to represent and increase
Latin America and the Caribbean's presence and influence on the
international stage -- or to enhance the "Latin American and Caribbean
agenda on global forums." Theoretically, membership of CELAC should not
depend on whether the right or left win
at the ballot box as is the case with ALBA. However, although not of a
strictly leftist agenda, CELAC clearly has progressive tendencies.
Different to the OAS?
Whilst the U.S. government has denied that CELAC is of
any detriment to the regional influence of the OAS (Organisation of
American States, which includes all of the CELAC countries as well as
the U.S. and Canada), some observers have remarked that the
could eventually end up replacing the OAS; or, if not replacing it
entirely, then certainly act as a counter-balancing agency. A brief
comparison reveals important differences between the two organisations.
In contrast to the OAS, whose "four main pillars" are;
democracy, human rights, security, and development, CELAC stresses its
commitment to "sovereignty," "multilateralism," "the right of any state
to establish its own political system" and specifies its dedication to
Furthermore, whereas the OAS does not make reference to
economic factors, interestingly CELAC's declaration hints at certain
economic concepts that have come to be related to the development of
the democratic left in recent years.
Although economic models are not mentioned explicitly,
CELAC highlights that the organisation will strive for "social
welfare," "equality and the widest social justice" "independent
development," whilst taking into account "the importance of ensuring
favourable treatment for the small vulnerable economies and
land-locked and island developing states" -- clearly rejecting the
Finally, the inclusion of a democracy clause seeks to
prevent any further coups, such as the recent coups in Honduras and
Haiti and the attempted coups in Ecuador and Venezuela.
Changing Relations; Bolivar
Unites America's 'Back Yard'
Perhaps one of the most striking aspects in the
development of CELAC is not the rhetoric employed by some of the more
radical currents in the region, but that used by centre or centre-right
administrations. Although certainly not an admission
of any socialist tendencies, quotes such as the following suggest at
least a tentative commitment to regional unity.
"We are here constructing the basic regulatory
architecture for the functioning of this new institution We are
constructing the dream of integration that the Liberator [Simon
Bolivar] sought for all of Latin American and the Caribbean," said
Fernando Schmidt, Chile's centre-right Vice-Chancellor.
Whether this is purely pragmatism; representing the
right's attempts to respond to changing power relationships in the
region, the creation of CELAC may suggest that a real unison of Latin
American and Caribbean nations is not only becoming a reality, but also
that serious changes in the political dynamics of
the region and hemisphere are taking place.