The Secret Summit

While neither represented at nor excommunicated from the Port of Spain Summit we were able to find out what has been discussed there up until today. We were led to fully expect that the meeting would not be private, but the stage managers deprived us of that highly interesting intellectual exercise. We would be informed of the essence, but not the tone of voice, nor the eyes, nor the faces which so much reflect people’s ideas, ethics and characters. A Secret Summit is worse than the silent movies. To Obama’s left was a man whom I could not identify very well when he placed his hand on Obama’s shoulder, like an eight-year-old school student to a compañero in the first row. Beside him, standing, another member of the retinue who interrupted him to talk with the president of the United States; I could see in those persons importuning him the stamp of an oligarchy that has never experienced hunger and which, in the powerful nation of Obama, expect to have the shield to protect the system from the feared social changes.

Up to that point, there was a strange atmosphere at the Summit.

The artistic show organized by the host country really sparkled. I have only seen anything like it on a very few occasions, if ever. A good speaker, seemingly a Trinidadian, had proudly stated that it was unique.

It was a veritable extravaganza of both culture and luxury. I meditated a while. I calculated what all that would have cost and I suddenly realized that no other country in the Caribbean could give itself the luxury of presenting such a spectacle, that the venue of the Summit is immensely wealthy, a species of the United States surrounded by small poor countries. Could the Haitians with their extremely rich culture, or Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, Guyana, Belize or any other, be the venue of such a luxurious Summit? Their beaches might be marvelous, but they are not surrounded by the towers that characterize the Trinidadian landscape and, with that non-renewable raw material, accumulate the copious resources that currently sustain that country’s wealth Almost all the other islands integrating the Caribbean community, located further to the north, are directly lashed by the hurricanes of growing intensity that scourge our beautiful Caribbean islands every year.

Might somebody at that meeting have remembered that Obama promised to invest whatever money is required in order to make the United States self-sufficient in fuel? Such a policy would directly affect many of the states meeting there who will not possess the technology and the vast investments required for an effort in that or another direction.

Something really made an impact on me on the stage of the Summit that has taken place up until today, Saturday, April 18, at 11:47, when I am writing these lines: Daniel Ortega’s speech. I have promised myself not to publish anything until Monday, April 20 in order to observe what happened in the famous Summit.

He did not speak as an economist, a scientist, an intellectual or a poet. Daniel did not select over-elaborate words in order to impress his audience. He spoke as the president of one of the five poorest countries in the hemisphere, as the revolutionary combatant, on behalf of a group of Central American and countries and the Dominican Republic that are members of the SICA (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana).

It would suffice to be one of the hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans who learned to read and write in the initial stage of the Sandinista Revolution, during which the illiteracy rate was reduced from 60% to 12%, or when Daniel returned to power in 2007, when illiteracy had risen to 35%.

His speech lasted approximately 50 minutes, delivered in a measured and calm voice, but if it was to be reproduced in full, it would make this reflection too extensive.

I will synthesize his unique speech using his own words in each of the basic ideas that he transmitted. I won’t use dot, dot, dot and I will only use internal quotation marks when Daniel refers to the textual words of another person or institutions:

“Nicaragua had recourse to the International Court of Justice in the Hague: it filed its case against the policy of war, the terrorist policy that President Ronald Reagan was developing on behalf of the United States.

Our crime: having liberated ourselves from the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, imposed by the intervention of yanki troops in Nicaragua.

Central America has been shaken since the century before last by what have been expansionist policies, policies of war that led us to unite as Central Americans to defeat them.

Then came the interventions, which extended from 1912 to 1932 and left as a result the imposition of the dictatorship of the Somozas, armed, financed and defended by U.S. governors.

I had the opportunity to meet with President Reagan in full wartime; we shook hands and I asked him to end the war on Nicaragua.

I had the opportunity to meet with President Carter and when he told me that “now that the Somoza dictatorship has gone, it was time for the Nicaraguan people to change Nicaragua.” I said to him: No, Nicaragua does not have to change, it is you that have to change, Nicaragua has never invaded the United States; Nicaragua has never mined U.S. ports; Nicaragua has never thrown a single stone against the U.S. nation; Nicaragua has not imposed governments on the United States; you are the ones who have to change, not the Nicaraguans.

Nicaragua was still subjected to the war imposed by the United States; in response to the case that Nicaragua brought before the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Court found and ruled; it said with total clarity that: “The United States should stop all military action, the mining of ports, funding the war; that it should indicate where the mines were that it had placed and refused to give that information;” it also instructed the United States to compensate Nicaragua for the economic-commercial blockade that it had imposed on it.

The struggles that we are waging in Nicaragua, in Central America and in Latin America to liberate our peoples from illiteracy are struggles that we are waging with the unconditional, generous solidarity of the sister people of Cuba, of Fidel, who was the one who promoted those cooperative literacy processes, and its President Raúl Castro, who has given continuity to these programs, open to all of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples.

Then the Bolivarian people, the people of Venezuela, with their President Hugo Chávez Frías, joined in.

Present here are a large majority of the presidents and heads of government of Latin America and the Caribbean; the president of the United States, the prime minister of Canada are participating; but here there are two major absentees: one, Cuba, whose crime has been to fight for its independence, for the sovereignty of the peoples; lending solidarity, without conditions, to our peoples, and for that it is being sanctioned, for that it is being punished, for that it is being excluded. For that reason, I do not feel comfortable at this Summit, I feel ashamed of participating in this Summit in Cuba’s absence.

Another nation is not present here because, unlike Cuba, an independent nation of solidarity, that other nation is still being subjected to colonialist policies: I am referring to the sister people of Puerto Rico.

We are working to build a great alliance, a grand unity of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples. The day will come when the people of Puerto Rico will also be here in that great alliance.

In the decade of the 50s racial discrimination was institutionalized, it was part of the American way of life: black people could not enter white restaurants, or white bars; children of black families could not go to the schools in which white children studied. In order to break down that wall of racial discrimination – and President Obama knows that better than we do – Martin Luther King said; “I have a dream.” The dream was made real and the wall of racial discrimination was brought down in the United States of America, thanks to the struggles of that people.

This meeting, this encounter is beginning precisely on the day that the invasion of Cuba was initiated in 1961. Talking with the president of Cuba, Raúl Castro, Raúl gave me some information: “Daniel, President Obama was born on August 4, 1961, he was three-and-a-half months old when the Bay of Pigs victory was won on April 19 of that year; evidently, he had no responsibility for that historic event. On April 15, the bombardments; on the 16th, socialism was proclaimed, by Fidel, at the burial of the victims; the invasion started on the 17th; the fighting continued on the 18th and the 19th, the victory, in less than 72 hours. Raúl.” (Raúl told me on his return from Cumaná, that when he wrote a note for Daniel, he made a rapid calculation and made an error on affirming that the Bays of Pigs invasion happened when Obama was three-and-a-half months old, when he should have said that he was born three-and-a-half months afterward; that he was responsible for that error).

That is history. In 2002, likewise in the month of April, on April 11, came the coup d’état with the intention of assassinating a president-elect of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; President Hugo Chávez was captured, and the order went out to assassinate him. When the puppet government emerged, the U.S. government – via its spokesman – recognized the coup leaders and gave the right to the coup leaders. We have the right to say that that is not history; barely seven years ago came those acts of violence against the institutionality of a people, of a progressive nation, in solidarity and revolutionary.

I think that the time I am taking is far less than that I had to spend – three hours – waiting at the airport inside a plane.

Freedom of expression has to be for the large and the little: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic as an associate. The territorial area is 568, 988 square kilometers. The population adds up to a little more than 41.7 million inhabitants.

We propose that TPS (Temporary Protection Status) is given to all immigrants in the United States, but the causes of emigration lie in underdevelopment, in the poverty in which Central American peoples live.

The only way of halting the flow of emigrants toward the United States is not by raising walls, reinforcing military patrols on the borders is not the only way.

The United States needs the Central American labor force, like it needs the Mexican labor force; when that labor force reaches beyond the demands of the U.S. economy, then come the repressive policies; it is contributing funds without political conditions, without the conditioning of the International Monetary Fund.

We have the thankless task of having to look after the borders with the United States on account of drug consumption.

In Nicaragua alone, last year, the national police seized more than 360 tons of cocaine. That, at the market price in the United States, certainly adds up to more than $1 billion.

How much is the United States contributing to Nicaragua for looking after its borders? It is contributing $1.2 million.

It is not just, it is not equitable, it is not moral that it is the G-20 that keeps on making the major decisions; the hour has come for it to be the G-192; in other words, every country in the United Nations.

Those who have had negotiations with the Fund (IMF) know perfectly well what the Fund has signified, how they have sacrificed social programs, agricultural programs, productive programs, in order to pull out the resources and pay the debt, the debt imposed by the regulations established by global capitalism.

It has been no more than an instrument for establishing and developing – from the metropolises – colonial, neocolonial and imperialist policies.

In that heroic struggle that Mahatma Gandhi waged for India’s dependence from Britain, he said: “Britain has utilized one quarter of the planet’s resources to reach its present state of development. How many resources will India need to reach that same development?”

Now in the 21st century, and since the end of the 20th century, it wasn’t only Britain but all of the developed capitalist countries establishing their hegemony at the cost of the destruction of the planet and of the human species, by imposing the consumer values of their model.

The only way of saving the planet and with that the sustainable development of humanity, will be to establish the bases of a new international economic order, of a new social, political economic model, which is genuinely just, cooperative and democratic.

In the project known as PETROCARIBE and in the ALBA – virtually all the Caribbean countries are in PETROCARIBE – but some Central American countries are also in it. There are SICA countries that are in PETROCARIBE: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama.

“The heads of state and government of the Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, member countries of ALBA, consider that the draft declaration of the 5th Americas Summit is insufficient and unacceptable for the following reasons:

(He immediately reads the ALBA statement on the document proposed for the Americas Summit.)

“It does not give any response to the issue of the Global Economic Crisis, despite this constituting the greatest challenge that humanity has had to confront in decades.

“It unjustifiably excludes Cuba, without mentioning the general consensus that exists in the region for condemning the blockade and the attempts at isolation to which its people and government have been incessantly subjected in a criminal manner.

“What we are experiencing is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural nature and not just another cyclical crisis.

“Capitalism has provoked the ecological crisis by submitting the necessary conditions for life on the planet to the predominance of the market and profits.”

In order 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 of the plunder of natural resources; a system of cultural diversity and not of the crushing of cultures and the imposition of cultural values and lifestyles that are far from the realities of our countries; a system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist politics and wars; a system that does not reduce them to mere consumers or merchandise.

In relation to the U.S. blockade of Cuba and the exclusion of this country from the Americas Summit, the countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America reiterate the declaration that all the Latin American and Caribbean countries adopted last December 16, 2008, on the need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the government of the United States, including the application of the so-called Helms-Burton Act, widely known to everybody.

In my country, Nicaragua, the governments that preceded me fulfilled neoliberal policies to the letter. From 1990, when the Sandinista Front left government, to January 10, 2007, when the Sandinista Front returned to government; it was applied for 16 years.

When the Revolution triumphed in Nicaragua in 1979, the dictatorships and governments imposed and sustained by U.S. governors in Nicaragua, the democrats who had called themselves democrats, left Nicaragua with 60% illiteracy.

Our first great battle was to do away with illiteracy and we began that great battle and managed to reduce illiteracy to 11.5-12%. We were unable to go any further because a policy of war was imposed on us by the Reagan administration.

We handed over government in 1990 with a 12.5% illiteracy rate in the country and received the country, in January 2007, with an illiteracy rate of 35%.

These are not figures invented by the government, they are data worked out by specialized educational and cultural agencies.

That is the result of the neoliberalism applied to Nicaragua, of the privatizations applied in Nicaragua, because public health was privatized, education was privatized, the poor were excluded; for other people the change was good, because they grew rich; the model has demonstrated that it is very successful in terms of accumulating wealth, successful in terms of expanding poverty. It is a great concentrator of wealth and a great multiplier of destitution and poverty.

It is a problem of an ethical order, a problem of a moral order on which the future rests, not only that of the most impoverished countries, like the five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that I have mentioned here, in which we have nothing much more to lose than our chains, if there is not a change of values that allows us to be really sustainable.

It is no longer a matter of ideology, it is not a political matter; it is a matter of survival. And all of us are going there, from the G-20 to the G-5, we, the most impoverished of Latin America and the Caribbean.

I think that we have to take on this crisis that is affecting the world and which is leading to discussions, debates, the search for solutions, taking into account that the current model of development is no longer possible, is no longer sustainable.

The only way of saving all of ourselves is by changing the model.

Thank you very much.”

Daniel’s phrases at the opening of the Summit resembled the pealing of a bell tolling for a politics of centuries applied up until recently to the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is 19:58. I have just listened to the words of President Hugo Chávez. It would seem that Venezolana de Televisión smuggled a camera into the “Secret Summit” and transmitted some of his words. Yesterday, we saw him amiably returning Obama’s gesture of going over to where he was and greeting him, doubtless an intelligent gesture on the part of the president of the United States.

This time Chávez got up from his chair, went over to Obama’s chair at the head of a rectangular room together with Michelle Bachelet, and presented him with the well-known book by Galeano, The Open Veins of Latin America, systematically brought up to date by the author. I don’t know at which point in the day that took place, I’m simply mentioning the time when I heard it.

It was announced that the Summit is to end tomorrow at midday.

The president of the United States has been very active. According to the news he not only met with the Summit plenary, but also with all the sub-groups in the region.

His predecessor went to bed early and slept for many hours. It would seem that Obama works a lot and sleeps little.

Today, the 19th, at 11:57, I haven’t seen anything new. The CNN channel is without fresh news. I heard the 12 chimes of the clock; at that moment the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago took the Summit platform. I dedicated myself to listening to him, and noticed some rather strange things. Manning’s face was tense. After a while, Obama spoke and then responded to questions from the press; I saw him brusquer, although calm. What most caught my attention is that a press conference was organized, made up of various leaders, at which none of those who opposed the [final] documents spoke.

Manning had previously stated that the document was prepared two years ago when there was not a profound economic crisis and thus the current problems were not approached with total clarity. Undoubtedly, I thought, McCain was missing. Definitely the OAS, Leonel and the Dominican Republic recalled the surname of the military chief of the 1965 invaders and the 50,000 soldiers that occupied it to prevent the return of Juan Bosch, who was not a Marxist Leninist.

Those present at the press conference were prime minister of Canada, an openly rightist man and the only one to have been ill-mannered toward Cuba; Felipe Calderón, the president of Mexico; Martin Torrijos of Panama; and, logically, Patrick Manning. The Caribbean leader and the two Latin American ones were respectful toward Cuba. None of them attacked it and they had expressed their opposition to the blockade.

Obama spoke of the military might of the United States, which could help in the war on organized crime and the importance of the U.S. market. He likewise acknowledged that the programs being carried out by the Cuban government, such as sending medical contingents to Latin American and Caribbean countries, could be more effective than Washington’s military strength at the hour of winning influence in the region.

As Cubans, we do not do that in order to win influence; it is a tradition that began in Algeria in 1963, when it was fighting against French colonialism, and we have done so in dozens of Third World countries.

He was brusque and evasive in relation to the blockade in his interview with the press; but he was already born and will be 48 on August 4.

That same month, nine days later, I shall be 83, almost double his age, but now I have much more time to think. I wish to remind him of an elemental ethical principle related to Cuba: any injustice, any crime, in any epoch has no excuse whatsoever for lasting; the cruel blockade against the Cuban people costs lives, costs suffering; it also affects the economy on which a nation is sustained and limits its possibilities of cooperating with services in health, education, sport, energy savings and environmental protection with many poor countries of the world.

Fidel Castro Ruz
April 19, 2009
2:32 p.m.