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(Updated April 23) `Capitalism is putting an end to humanity and the planet' -- ALBA on the 5th Summit of the Americas

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez greets Cuba's President Raul Castro.

Translated by Federico Fuentes

Cumaná, April 17, 2009

The heads of state and governments of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela -- member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) -- consider that the proposed Declaration of the 5th Summit of the Americas is insufficient and unacceptable for the following reasons:

  • It offers no answers to the issue of the global economic crisis, despite the fact that this constitutes the largest challenge faced by humanity in decades and the most serious threat in the current epoch to the wellbeing of our peoples.
  • Unjustifiably excludes Cuba in a criminal manner, without mentioning the general consensus that exists in the region in favour of condemning the blockade and the isolation attempts, which its people and government have incessantly objected to.

For these reasons, the member countries of ALBA consider that consensus does not exist in favour of adopting this proposed declaration and in light of the above; we propose to have a thoroughgoing debate over the following issues:

1) Capitalism is putting an end to humanity and the planet. What we are living through is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural character and not just one more cyclical crisis. Those who think that this crisis will be resolved with an injection of fiscal money and with some regulatory measures are very mistaken.

The financial system is in crisis because it is quoting the value of papers at six times the real value of goods and services being produced in the world. This is not a “failure of the regulation of the system” but rather a constitutive part of the capitalist system that speculates with all goods and values in the pursuit of obtaining the maximum amount of profit possible. Until now, the economic crisis has created 100 million more starving people and more than 50 million new unemployed people, and these figures are tending to increasing.

2) Capitalism has provoked an ecological crisis by subordinating the necessary conditions for life on this planet to the dominance of the market and profit. Each year, the world consumes a third more than what the planet is capable of regenerating. At this rate of wastage by the capitalist system, we are going to need two planets by the year 2030.

3) The global economic, climate change, food and energy crises are products of the decadence of capitalism that threatens to put an end to the existence of life and the planet. To avoid this outcome it is necessary to develop an alternative model to that of the capitalist system. A system based on:

Solidarity and complementarity and not competition;

  • A system in harmony with our mother earth rather than the looting of our natural resources;
  • A system based on cultural diversity and not the crushing of cultures and impositions of cultural values and lifestyles alien to the realities of our countries:
  • A system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist wars and policies;
  • In synthesis, a system that recuperates the human condition of our societies and peoples rather than reducing them to simple consumers or commodities.

4) As a concrete expression of the new reality on the continent, Latin American and Caribbean countries have begun to construct their own institutions, whose roots lie in the common history that goes back to our independence revolution, and which constitutes a concrete instrument for deepening the processes of social, economic and cultural transformation that will consolidate our sovereignty. The ALBA-TCP [TCP = Peoples Trade Agreement], Petrocaribe and UNASUR [Union of South American Nations], to only cite the most recently created ones, are mechanisms for solidarity-based union forged in the heat of these transformations, with the manifest intention of strengthening the efforts of our peoples to reach their own liberation.

In order to confront the grave effects of the global economic crisis, the ALBA-TCP countries have taken innovative and transformational measures that seek real alternatives to the deficient international economic order rather than strengthen these failed institutions. That is why we have put in [place] a Single System of Regional Compensation, the SUCRE, that includes a Common Accounting Unit, a Chamber of Compensations of Payments and a Single System of Reserves.

At the same time, we have promoted the constitution of grand national companies in order to satisfy the fundamental necessities of our peoples, establishing mechanisms of just and complementary trade, that leave to one side the absurd logic of unrestrained competition.

5) We question the G20’s decision to triple the amount of resources going to the International Monetary Fund, when what is really necessary is the establishment of a new world economic order that includes the total transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO [World Trade Organisation], which with their neoliberal conditions have contributed to this global economic crisis.

6) The solutions to the global economic crisis and the definition of a new international financial architecture should be adopted with the participation of the 192 countries that between June 1 and 3, 2009, will meet at a United Nations conference about the international financial crisis, in order to propose the creation of a new international economic order.

7) In regards to the climate change crisis, the developed countries have an ecological debt with the world given that they are responsible for 70% of historic emissions of carbon accumulated in the atmosphere since 1750.

The developed countries, debtors with humanity and the planet, should contribute significant resources towards a fund so that the countries on the path towards development can undertake a model of growth that does not repeat the grave impacts of capitalist industrialisation.

8) The solutions to the energy, food and climate change crises have to be integral and interdependent. We cannot resolve a problem creating others in the areas fundamental to life. For example, generalising the use of agro-fuels can only impact negatively on the price of food and in the utilisation of essential resources such as water, land and forests.

9) We condemn discrimination against migrants in all its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime. Therefore, we demand an urgent reform to the migration policies of the United States government, with the objective of detaining deportations and mass raids, allowing the reunification of families, and we demand the elimination of the wall that divides and separates us, rather than uniting us.

In this sense, we demand the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the elimination of the policies of ``wetbacks-drybacks'', which has a discriminatory and selective character, and is the cause of loss of human lives.

Those that are truly to blame for the financial crisis are the bankers who steal money and the resources of our countries, not migrant workers. Human rights come first, particularly the human rights of the most unprotected and marginalised sectors of our society, as undocumented workers are.

For there to be integration there has to be free circulation of people, and equal human rights for all regardless of migratory status. Brain drain constitutes a form of looting of qualified human resources by the rich countries.

10) Basic services such as education, health, water, energy and telecommunications have to be declared human rights and cannot be the objects of private business nor be commodified by the World Trade Organisation. These services are and should be essential, universally accessible public services

11) We want a world where all countries, big and small, have the same rights and where empires do not exist. We advocate against intervention. Strengthen, as the only legitimate channel for discussion and analysis of bilateral and multilateral agendas of the continent, the base of mutual respect between states and governments, under the principle of non-interference of one state over another and the inviolability of the sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples.

We demand that the new government of the United States, whose inauguration has generated some expectations in the region and the world, put an end to the long and nefarious tradition of interventionism and aggression that has characterised the actions of the governments of this country throughout its history, especially brutal during the government of George W. Bush.

In the same way, eliminate interventionist practices such as covert operations, parallel diplomacy, media wars aimed at destabilising states and governments, and the financing of destabilising groups. It is fundamental that we construct a world in which a diversity of economic, political, social and cultural approaches are recognised and respected.

12) Regarding the United States' blockade against Cuba and the exclusion of this country from the Summit of the Americas, the countries of the Bolivarian Alternatives for the People of Our Americas reiterates the position that all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean adopted last December 16, 2008, regarding the necessity of putting an end to the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States of America against Cuba, including the application of the denominated Helms-Burton law, and that among its paragraphs notes:

“CONSIDERING the resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly on the need to put an end to the economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba and the decisions on the latter approved at several international meetings,

“DECLARE that in defence of free trade and the transparent practice of international trade, it is unacceptable to apply unilateral coercive measures that will affect the wellbeing of nations and obstruct the processes of integration.

“WE REJECT the implementation of laws and measures that contradict International Law such as the Helms-Burton law and urge the US Government to put an end to its implementation.

"WE ASK the US Government to comply with the 17 successive resolutions approved at the United Nations General Assembly and put an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo it has imposed on Cuba.”

Moreover, we believe that the attempts to impose isolation on Cuba, which today is an integral part of the Latin American and Caribbean region, is a member of the Rio Group and other organisations and regional mechanisms, that carries out a policy of cooperation and solidarity with the people of the region, that promotes the full integration of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples, has failed, and that, therefore, no reason exists to justify Cuba's exclusion from the Summit of the Americas.

13) The developed countries have destined no less than US$8 trillion towards rescuing the financial structure that has collapsed. They are the same ones that do not comply with spending a small sum to reach the Millennium Goals or 0.7% of GDP for Official Development Aid. Never before have we seen so nakedly the hypocrisy of the discourse of the rich countries. Cooperation has to be established without conditions and adjusted to the agendas of the receiving countries, simplifying the procedures, making resources accessible and privileging issues of social inclusion.

14) The legitimate struggle against narco-trafficking and organised crime, and any other manifestation of the denominated “new threats,” should not be utilised as excuses for carrying out acts of interference or intervention against our countries.

15) We are firmly convinced that change, which all the world is hoping for, can only come about through the organisation, mobilisation and unity of our peoples.

As the Liberator Simón Bolívar well stated:

“The unity of our peoples is not simply the chimera of men, but an inexorable fate.”

[This translation first appeared at Bolivia Rising, edited by Federico Fuentes.]

Cuba reaffirms solidarity with the people of the Americas

Speech by Cuba's President Raúl Castro Ruz to 5th Extraordinary ALBA Summit, Cumaná, Venezuela, April 16, 2009

Compañero Chávez;

Dear presidents and heads of delegations from sister ALBA nations;

Distinguished guests

The economic and social crisis now is global in nature and is not only limited to the financial sector. It’s a world disaster with profound structural roots. It includes a sharp fall in stock market value and productive activity; the freezing of and higher cost of credit and the economic recession in the principal powers of the First World. It is accompanied by the withdrawal of world trade and an increase in unemployment and poverty. It is affecting and will considerably damage the lives and well-being of billions of human beings. The countries of the South with be, as always, the ones that suffer the most.

These are the consequences of irresponsible practices tied to deregulation, financial speculation and the imposition of neoliberalism. Also present is the United States’ abusive use of the privileges bestowed on them in the current international economic order which allows them to finance a culture of war and unbridled consumerism, unsustainable no matter how you look at it, by printing money without backing.

But deep down, the crisis is a foreseeable result of the capitalist system of production and distribution. The neoliberal policies of the last three decades have increased its magnitude for the worse. In the search for solutions, those who are primarily responsible end up concentrating power and wealth even further, while the poorest and most exploited assume the majority of the costs.

The response cannot be a solution negotiated behind the back of the United Nations by the Presidents of the most powerful countries.

The crisis will not be resolved with either administrative or technical measures because they are by nature structural, have systematic reach and increasingly affect the economy of the globalised and interdependent planet. The role and the functions of financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, whose disastrous policies have decisively contributed to the origin and reach of the current crisis, should be strengthened even less.

Nor does the G-20’s solution resolve the inequality, injustices, and unsustainability of the capitalist system. It is the same rhetoric of those solemn declarations by the Northern countries that they will not apply protectionist measures and that they will not allocate new aid, which does not change the foundations of the underdevelopment that condemns us.

The World Bank – which is not exactly a defender of socialist principles – already spoke about this six months ago at the previous G-20 meeting in Washington. It counted 73 protectionist actions applied by members of the G-20 itself. An increase in the Official Development Assistance has also not been visible.

Dear colleagues,

The ALBA countries have the privilege of having a modest plan for integration, constructed on the foundations and principles of equality, whose very nature doesn’t allow for the practices that started this crisis. Our countries do not have the capacity, by ourselves, to structurally transform the international economic order, but we do have the power to establish new foundations and construct our own economic relations.

Our most important programs are not subject to the whims of financial speculation or the uncontrolled fluctuation of markets. The damage that we are suffering is undeniable. This is a crisis that nobody can escape from but today we have the instruments to partly counteract its effects.

In these efforts, the work that we have been carrying out in ALBA member countries and Ecuador (since November 2008) is particularly significant; in order to create the Unique Regional Compensation Payment System (SUCRE) that will be a fundamental factor for boosting the trade and economic integration between us.

Today we can verify the advances achieved in the development of this initiative that is a first step toward the goal of having a common currency.

Cuba reaffirms the vocation of solidarity that has characterized its links with the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. The crisis presents us with enormous challenges, of incalculable and unpredictable dimensions. We have no other option than to unite with each other to face it.

Thank you very much.

Fifth Summit of the Americas

By Pedro Méndez Suárez

Fifth Summit of the Americas

Fifth Summit of the Americas

"Grandpa, doesn't Cuba belong to the Americas?"

"Yes, sonny, it does, but not to the Americans."

Pedro Méndez Suárez is a Cuban cartoonist. The cartoon was first published by Rebelión. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

 

Summit of the Americas concludes with controversial declaration; ALBA countries decline to sign

April 19 (ACN) -- The 5th Summit of the Americas concluded today in Port of Spain, Trindidad-Tobago, with a controversial final declaration, which was rejected by several nations of the western hemisphere that described it as insufficient and unacceptable.

The document was considered as approved although it lacked the support of several countries, including those nations that make up the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA).

During the closing ceremony, Trinidad-Tobago's Prime Minister Patrick Manning said that the declaration has gaps due to the fact that the document had been submitted to negotiations by technocrats for the past year and a half. By that time the world situation was different from today's, said Manning and went on to explain that due to that reason the document does not reflect the current hemispheric scenario.

The final declaration of the summit is in favour of promoting the development of the private sector. In that direction, the document turns to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Inter-American Development Bank and other regional credit institutions to step up efforts aimed at expanding and developing the private business sector.

The objective stated by the declaration is that by 2012, credit lines destined to the micro, small and medium enterprises double and the number of companies with access to credit will triple.

The document also calls for the production and exploitation of current biological fuels and those of the next generation, including sugar derivatives. The declaration promotes the production of bio-fuels of second generation, which are even more advanced, so that they do not pose any direct competition for land, water or fertilisers to other agricultural products.

Despite its gaps, the declaration admits the prevalence of deep and persistent inequalities, particularly in the fields of education, income levels, health care, nutrition, violence and crime, and access to basic services. It also admits the prevalence of exclusion against the most vulnerable sectors of society, including women, children, indigenous people and the poor.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said that the draft declaration “does not reflect the economic crisis we are experiencing, which is not a temporary crisis but a crisis of the capitalist system, and that the document suggests solutions by legitimising those responsible for the crisis, for instance, the International Monetary Fund.”

For Correa, the alternatives are going to the hands of the gravediggers instead of the hands of those who want to revive the world, and he labelled the document as “light.”

“We share a firm position and I do not think we have time now to change the content of the document, and since we do not have time for that we will not sign it, I can speak for myself and for the ALBA countries”, said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas regional integration initiative, known by its Spanish acronym ALBA, is made up of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Honduras, Cuba, Dominica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The ALBA countries argue that the declaration does not give any response to the world economic crisis, despite the fact that it is the major challenge that has faced humanity in decades and the most serious threat of our times for the wellbeing of the nations. They also say that the declaration excludes Cuba without saying a word about the general consensus prevailing in the region against the US economic blockade of the Caribbean nation and the US attempts to isolate Cuba.

Venezuela and ALBA promote `new climate' at Summit of the Americas

By Tamara Pearson

Merida, April 21, 2009 -- Venezuelanlaysis.com -- Venezuela and the countries of the Bolivarian Alternative to the Americas (ALBA) decided not to sign the final document of the Summit of the Americas held on April 17-19 in Trinidad and Tobago, saying it excluded Cuba and offered no viable solution to the current economic crisis.

The economic blockade of Cuba imposed by the United States was one of the most anticipated themes of the summit, in which 34 heads of state across the North and South American continent participated, with the notable exception of Cuba, whose president was not invited.

The dynamics of the summit were somewhat different compared to previous summits, as ALBA countries worked together to assert the needs of Latin America, whilst the new president of the United States, Barack Obama, was also more respectful to the other countries.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said, "Of the three Summits of the Americas that I have been to, the first was cold, behind a wall and driven by imperialism and everyone else was quiet, except Venezuela. Later, in the Mar del Plata [in Argentina, 2005] the summit ended up fragmented in pieces, but we defeated FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas],  now this summit has opened the gates to a new era of relationships between all the countries of this continent."

Chávez said that although this meeting hadn't been perfect, cordiality had reigned and that "it has finished with success and with a new climate". However, Chávez criticised the nature the summit, saying, "Someone notes all these proposals and later comes the big question, who is in charge of carrying them out? This is one of the failures of all these summits over the last few years, the incapacity to put projects into practice."

ALBA countries that attended the summit (Bolivia, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela) had previously decided at their conference, held just days before in Venezuela, not to sign the final document of the summit, the Declaration of Trinidad and Tobago.

The 22-page document, with 99 points, in general favours the private sector and its development, promotes the production of biofuels and the increasing of credit lines to business, amongst other things.

In a joint statement about the document, ALBA countries said that it "offers no answers to the ... global economic crisis" and "unjustifiably excludes Cuba ... without mentioning the general consensus ... in the region in favor of condemning the blockade". ALBA then proposed alternative themes for discussion, including problems caused by capitalism, climate change and the food and energy crises and the need for solidarity not competition.

Chávez said the document is "totally de-contextualised, as if time hasn't passed" and complained specifically about its characterisation of Cuba as non-democratic. "Where is there more democracy, in the United States or in Cuba? Who has the democracy meter?... I have no doubt that there is more democracy in Cuba than in the United States", said Chávez.

Chávez justified ALBA's rejection of the declaration to the press saying, "It is a sovereign decision and it forms part of the battle that we are waging from ALBA, not only of resistance to imperialism and its hegemony, but also with viable proposals and in full construction of a better world."

"The Summit of the Americas was born to try to impose the FTAA and it failed", Chávez said, referring to the previous summit in Argentina in 2005. In this case Chávez signed the final declaration but expressed reservations around the point on free trade. Venezuela created ALBA with Cuba in 2004 as a counter project to the FTAA.

In the end, only the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, signed the declaration, saying that while there wasn't unanimity around the content of the document, there was a consensus that he should be the only one to sign it.

Another highlight of the conference was the resumption of US-Venezuela relations and a resumed cordiality between the presidents of those countries, Chávez and Obama.

Chávez said "we affirmed a desire to initiate a new stage of relations. The president of the Unites States said that he would keep his word to not interfere in the internal issues of any country and we agree that we want to work together."

Various presidents also expressed hopes that the summit would mark new relations between the United States and the rest of Latin America, especially given the new president of the US. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said, "[The summit] was a fantastic meeting, we understand it as ... the start of a new type of relationship. There was an environment of ...optimism and high hopes." Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said he felt the main achievement of the summit was "open, frank and friendly dialogue".

Speaking about the theme of energy security discussed at the summit, Chávez said, "We're prepared to continue with initiatives like Petrocaribe, the gas pipeline of the South, promoting renewable energy... and to continue doing our part because we have the biggest reserve of petroleum and one of the largest reserves of gas. We propose a true energy revolution across the continent."

In his intervention in the conference, Chávez expressed his concern about the resurgence of economic forms of intervention. "Be careful with the International Monetary Fund [IMF] because they have revived it... In Latin America the IMF was the big destabiliser of the region," he said.

Chávez also alluded to the "media terrorism of the powerful elites against the state", giving the example of the recent assassination attempts towards Bolivian president Evo Morales, and said these efforts reflect a form of fascism in the region.

After the summit, Chávez classified Venezuela's participation as "one of the biggest victories of our history" because of the positions it defended of resistance, dignity, sovereignty and independence. He said he was happy about what is happening in Latin America and the Caribbean where "Bolivarian unity is being consolidated, the dream of San Martin, Bolívar and Artigas; only united will we be free and be able to talk on an equal footing and with dignity with the powers of the world, this has started to become reality in these latest meetings and summits."

Chávez proposed the next summit be held in Havana, Cuba.

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