Raúl Castro at Venezuela's bicentenary of independence: `We have only one alternative: unite, fight and overcome'

Bicentenary of Venezuela independence celebrations. Photo from Correo del Orinoco.

Speech by Raúl Castro Ruz, president of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers, delivered at the 9th ALBA-TCP Summit, Venezuela

April 19, 2010 -- It is very moving for us to be in Venezuelan today, April 19, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the independence struggle, which represented the battles for independence in the Spanish colonies in the Americas.

It was the embryo of a first integration process in Latin America, as Simón Bolívar understood the destiny of the peoples of our region very early on. Everything that we do now for the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean began precisely here, on a day like today, two centuries ago.

In the name of the Cuban people and compañero Fidel, I am taking advantage of the opportunity to transmit to all Venezuelan men and women our sincere congratulations on this memorable date and eternal gratitude to the memory of their principal hero, the liberator Simón Bolívar, of whom Cuba's national hero Jose Martí said "in calm one cannot speak of the one who never lived in it: of Bolívar one can speak with a mountain as a platform, or between lightning bolts and rays, or with a handful of free peoples in his fist and the tyranny beheaded at his feet...!"

Today we are also celebrating the summit meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) –- an integrationist organisation of a new kind, a faithful continuation of the legacy of our national heroes -– which we are undertaking at this time and, in the last few days, other compañeros have been working on the documents that have been presented to us. ALBA is continuing to make a sustained advance in order to settle the social debt with our peoples.

The declaration of territories free from illiteracy by several of its member states; the training of human resources, especially in the areas of health care and education; the clinical genetic psychosocial research and treatment of people with disabilities, a work of enormous humane impact, are some of the processes that stand out in our alliance.

Advances in commercial and financial integration, as well as efforts in pursuit of energy, food, technological and other kinds of economic sovereignty are also outstanding contributions from our organisation.

The 19th of April –- as I was telling you a few seconds ago -– also coincides with the 49th anniversary of the victory of the Cuban people over the mercenary invasion at Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs], the first defeat of imperialism in this hemisphere. In the course of barely 72 hours, under the direct leadership of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, our combatants in the armed forces and militia, via energetic counterattacks and uninterrupted actions, forced the surrender of the invading contingent, selected and trained by the United States Central Intelligence Agency and backed up by the US naval fleet, which escorted it to the Cuban coast, and had to resign itself to witnessing the resounding defeat of that adventure.

Just a few days ago, our press, recalling the anniversary, reminded us of the huge media campaign that accompanied the military aggression; first they tried to make it seem that the bombings of air force bases on April 15, 1961, by aircraft painted with Cuban insignia was carried out by our pilots, allegedly in disagreement with the direction of the Cuban Revolution. On April 17, when the invasion began, the US news agencies disseminated all kinds of lies. They affirmed, for example, that Cuba’s second city, Santiago de Cuba, was already in the hands of the invaders, that our militia had dispersed, that Fidel had fled and that I had been arrested, reaching the absurdity of informing the world that they had taken the port of the city of Bayamo, which, for a fact, does not have a coast and is situated in the centre of the former Oriente province, the widest in the country. That campaign reminds us of the current one and the continuous campaigns that are being waged against many of the countries present here.

In its 50 years, the Cuban Revolution has not been, nor will be, destroyed by the US blockade, by subversion or by lies. Cuba, like Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, to one degree or another, is the preferred target of ferocious and slanderous media campaigns, organised and financed by the centres of hegemonic power in the United States, national oligarchies and, in some cases, the European Union.

We have already seen, less than one year ago, how a coup d’état was executed in Honduras –- a country then a member of ALBA -– with the complicity and support of imperialism and its media instruments. Our peoples should learn the lessons that can be derived from these events and should never let themselves be confused by the siren songs to which they are daily subjected, or ever give in to coercion and pressure.

The experience of the long and painful road that has been traveled in the common history of two centuries has taught us that we only have one alternative: to unite, fight and overcome.

I add my voice to the words, also spoken by Bolivia's President Evo Morales, of congratulations to the Venezuelan people, to all of the representatives who marched in that magnificent parade today which filled us with emotion from beginning to end and to see a pure people, now armed, in addition to their glorious armed forces, which can be seen advancing before our eyes; to see students present in the parade and on the platforms; campesinos, workers, the multiple cultural demonstrations -– many or the majority of which unknown to me at least -– and which demonstrated the richness of this nation, just like the other sister nations on this continent. Even though I saw all of this in person, I would like to see it again on video -– as they say, DVD –- so as to enjoy it more, because television cameras capture -- as President Hugo Chávez told me –- much better angles, which escaped those of us present here.

To conclude, I wish to add: Viva the Venezuelan armed forces and the armed people!

Viva the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the emancipation struggles of our America!

Viva the glorious Venezuelan women who we saw march today with elegance, poise and beauty!

Viva the Bolivarian Revolution!

Viva Chávez!

Venezuela: Large crowds turn out for 200-year independence celebrations

By Kiraz Janicke, Caracas

April 20, 2010 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- In a massive show of support for the Bolivarian Revolution led by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, an estimated 1 million red-clad supporters turned out to watch the “Independence and Revolution” bicentennial civic-military parade, in Los Procéres, Caracas on April 19.
The parade marked 200 years since the founding of the First Republic of Venezuela, with the overthrow of Spanish colonial authorities and the establishment of the country’s first independent government, which lasted until July 25, 1812. On July 5, 1811, Venezuela’s congress declared the nation's independence, becoming the first Spanish American colony to do so. The process sparked a broader war of independence across Latin America led by Venezuelan independence fighter Simon Bolivar, after whom Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” is named.

The bicentennial event began with a sky show with the unprecedented participation of the first female military pilot in Venezuela, flight lieutenant Yanet Sanchez, and the deployment of recently acquired Chinese K8-W fighter jets, Russian-made Sukhoi MK-30’s and US produced F-16s, which flew over the skies of the capital forming a figurative “V” for Venezuela.

Leaders of the country’s 33 Indigenous groups together with Venezuelan athletes headed the parade, which featured the some 6600 military personnel and 5400 civilians, including student and peasant groups, workers militias from the state-owned oil and steel companies, PDVSA and Sidor, as well as representatives of social movements, collectives and cultural organisations.

Guests who attended the celebrations included presidents Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Raul Castro of Cuba, Rafael Correa of  Ecuador, Daniel Ortega Nicaragua and Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, as well as the prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer; of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerryt; and of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves; as well as diplomatic representatives of many other countries.

Cristina Fernandez, who was the guest of honour at the celebrations, spoke of a “second independence” in Latin America that is signified by the growing push for independence from US domination and for regional integration. “The first centenary of independence in 1910 brought us an America far removed from what they [the independence fighters] dreamed. A system was imposed on us that subordinated our region to the extraction of raw materials to generate wealth far from our lands.”

“The bicentenary finds the peoples of South America in a new stage of transformation and in what I call the Second Independence... we are pursuing the liberation of our peoples and the unity of our region, always respecting our differences and the plurality of our identities”, she said. Fernandez added that "the world has changed more over the last 20 or 30 years, than in 200 years, and this brings us new challenges and new interpretations. A new international order is being born.”

Chavez, who was elected on a wave of anti-neoliberal rebellion in 1998, initiated the founding of what is known as the Fifth Republic or the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela via a constituent assembly and the adoption of a new constitution through a popular referendum in 1999. Since then he has pursued a project of radical change in Venezuela with the aim of building “Socialism of the 21st century”, which has the backing of the country’s poor majority, but bought him into conflict with traditional ruling elites.

Internationally, he has pursued a vigorous policy of independence, sovereignty and the promotion of Latin American unity based on the ideas of Bolivar, which has earned him the hostility of the United States, which in 2002 backed a short-lived military coup against him.

In a special ceremony Chavez and the visiting leaders laid a wreath at the tomb of Simon Bolivar in the national Pantheon in Caracas, which houses the remains of Venezuela’s national heroes. Then, in a bicentennial address from the national assembly, Chavez recalled the words of former Argentine president Juan Domingo Perón, who said “The 21st century will find us [Latin America] united or dominated” adding that the full independence of Venezuela would not be possible without the independence of all of Latin America. “This is the century of our America, of the liberation of our peoples, of the consolidation of our independence ... never again will Venezuela be a Yankee colony”, he declared.

The April 19 celebrations follow a week of activites, including political forums, cultural events, a bicentennial marathon and all-night parties and fireworks displays in the Bolivar Plaza of each town and city all around the country.

The bicentenary year has also sparked a renewed examination of Venezuela's history and in particular the role of women. Luis Pellicer, director of the National Archive, and Venezuelan feminist historian Alba Carosio have proposed that the remains of female independence leaders also be placed in the National Pantheon, including the “symbolic” remains of Ecuador-born Manuela Saenz and Indigenous resistance leader Apacuana, among others.

Maria León, minister for women and gender equality, who supports the move said, “We only knew of Manuela Sáenz as the mistress of the Liberator [Simon Bolivar]. I remember in the 1960s, when I became a guerrilla, they told me who Manuela was.” Sáenz should be recognised in her own right for her role in the independence struggle León argued.

“Women”, Pellicer added, “have not been the subject of history, or social relations, or material life, they have been an object, and less than an object. That's part of the hegemonic mentality which we are fighting against.”

“Women played a major role in the victories of our armies in every campaign of Independence”, Pellicer noted, but “nobody knows about it, because it is in documents, but not written in any book. Women were in the streets calling for a republic and protesting against the king and as a result were sent to prison”. However Venezuelan historians are creating “an insurgent historiography” that celebrates the role of women and the people and these stories will soon be in the public domain he said.

ALBA agrees to consolidate sovereignty and advance toward socialism

Caracas, April 19, 2010 -- Granma International -- Member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) agreed today in Venezuela to cons olidate their integration and sovereignty in the interest of constructing the road to socialism, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported.

At the final event of the 9th ALBA Summit, in Caracas’ Teresa Carreño Theatre, the heads of state and government of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Venezuela ratified these objectives in a document titled "Bicentennial Manifesto of Caracas: Consolidating the New Independence". Via its text, the leaders state that attaining planned goals lies in achieving full justice and liberating themselves from foreign interventionism and submission to imperial mandates.

They also confirmed their decision to continue promoting the defence of human rights, the environment and the construction of an independent, developed and socialist economic base. The document also reflects the will to construct ALBA nations as a space of equality, social wellbeing and the overcoming of poverty. In addition, the manifesto convenes the next ALBA-TC Summit with Indigenous authorities and those of African descent for June 3-4, 2010, in Imbabura, Ecuador. They also highlighted their decision to create the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and offered support to Venezuela as host country of a summit to bring that community to fruition in 2011.

Previously, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez inaugurated the 9th Extraordinary ALBA Summit with words of welcome for his colleagues from Bolivia, Evo Morales; Cuba, Raúl Castro; Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; Ecuador, Rafael Correa; and prime ministers Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & the Grenadines; Roosevelt Skerrit, Dominica; and Baldwin Spencer, Antigua & Barbuda.

Reflecting upon the significance of ALBA, founded in 2004, Chávez assured that "it is the alternative" for achieving real independence. "Thus, we have to care for it [ALBA], protect it and advance in our plans and projects. There is a danger in waiting; we cannot wait", the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution stated.
Along these lines, he emphasised the need for presidents and heads of government, as well as the peoples of ALBA, to care for and defend the regional integration organisation from the constant threats that it is receiving from the empire and governments subordinate to the United States. Likewise, he signaled that it is important to continue firmly demanding an end to the US blockade of Cuba and the release of the five Cuban heroes imprisoned by the empire.

For his part, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, in his speech at this momentous event, exhorted everybody present to win true sovereignty for Latin America. "Two hundred years ago, our liberators gave us political independence. The nations of this the continent now have to win ourselves economic, cultural, social, scientific, and technological independence", the president affirmed in his address.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales argued that the best banner of struggle against irresponsible capitalism and irrational industrialism is to defend Mother Earth, which the Indigenous peoples call Pachamama. Along these lines he emphasised the importance of the World People's Conference on Climate Change, which begins on April 20 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. To date, 22,000 people have registered to attend the conference.

Speaking at the meeting, which concluded in the early hours of the morning, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega stated that, while the ALBA initiative for cooperation and integration is advancing, the empire is conspiring and provoking in an attempt to liquidate it. Ortega emphasised that the new model seeks to give real power to the people and convert them into productive individuals in order to achieve development and leave poverty behind. He indicated that this is the struggle of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean today, while 200 years ago it was the battlefield for the independence of the nations.

Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent, urged member nations of the Bolivarian alliance to fight against colonialism and imperialism in whatever form they might take, and expressed his confidence that the people of his country and the region understand that ALBA is the way to leave behind underdevelopment, "it is a cause that cannot be achieved with people who doubt".

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, affirmed to the forum that the alliance is the real future of Latin America and the Caribbean. "I would like to call on those who are still in doubt to wake up to the reality. We should form part of this magnificent and noble movement", he stated. Spencer commented that despite pressure and hostile campaigns, he maintains his decision to continue as part of that integration mechanism.

Addressing the official and invited delegations, Roosevelt Skerrit, prime minister of Dominica, called on the US government to end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba maintained since 1962. "That blockade is unjust and incorrect and should end", the prime minister affirmed. For Skerrit, if US President Barack Obama wishes to go down in history as the finest US president, he should end that unilateral measure.

La historia común de dos siglos nos enseña que solo tenemos una alternativa: unirnos, luchar y vencer

Discurso pronunciado por Raúl Castro Ruz, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, en la IX Cumbre del ALBA-TCP, efectuada en la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, el 19 de abril de 2010, "Año 52 de la Revolución".

Nos emociona estar en Venezuela hoy 19 de abril, conmemorando el doscientos aniversario del inicio de la gesta emancipadora que significaron las luchas por la independencia en las colonias españolas en América.

Fue el embrión de un primer proceso integrador de la América Latina, pues Bolívar comprendió muy temprano el destino de los pueblos de nuestra región. Todo lo que hacemos ahora por la integración de América Latina y el Caribe comenzó precisamente aquí, un día como hoy hace dos siglos.

Aprovecho la oportunidad para, en nombre del pueblo cubano y del compañero Fidel, trasmitirles a todos los venezolanos y venezolanas nuestra sincera felicitación en esta fecha memorable y la eterna gratitud ante la memoria de su héroe principal, el Libertador Simón Bolívar, de quien Martí dijera "en calma no se puede hablar de aquel que no vivió jamás en ella: ¡de Bolívar se puede hablar con una montaña por tribuna, o entre relámpagos y rayos, o con un manojo de pueblos libres en el puño y la tiranía descabezada a los pies!"

Celebramos hoy también la reunión cumbre de la Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, que realizamos en estos momentos y otros compañeros estuvieron trabajando durante los últimos días en los documentos que nos han presentado, organización integracionista de nuevo tipo, fiel continuadora del legado de nuestros próceres. El ALBA continúa avanzando sostenidamente para saldar la deuda social con nuestros pueblos.

La declaración de varios de sus estados miembros como territorios libres de analfabetismo; la formación de recursos humanos, especialmente en las áreas de salud y educación; el estudio clínico genético psicosocial de personas con discapacidad, obra de enorme impacto humano, son algunos de los procesos que sobresalen en nuestra Alianza.

Los avances en la integración comercial y financiera, así como los esfuerzos en pos de la soberanía energética, alimentaria, tecnológica y en otras áreas clave de la economía, son también contribuciones destacadas de nuestra organización.

Coincide también hoy 19 de abril —- como les decía hace un instante -— el aniversario 49 de la victoria del pueblo cubano ante la invasión mercenaria de Playa Girón, la primera derrota del imperialismo en este hemisferio. En apenas 72 horas, bajo la conducción directa del Comandante en Jefe de la Revolución Cubana, Fidel Castro Ruz (Aplausos), nuestros combatientes de las Fuerzas Armadas y milicianos, mediante enérgicos contraataques e ininterrumpidas acciones rindieron al contingente invasor, seleccionado y entrenado por la Agencia Central de Inteligencia de los Estados Unidos y apoyado por la flota naval norteamericana que los escoltó hasta las costas cubanas y tuvo que resignarse a ser testigo del estrepitoso descalabro de aquella aventura.

Hace solo algunos días nuestra prensa, rememorando la efeméride, nos recordaba la gran campaña mediática que acompañó a la agresión militar, primero trataron de hacer ver que los bombardeos el 15 de abril de 1961 a las bases aéreas por aviones pintados con las insignias cubanas, se realizaron por nuestros pilotos, supuestamente inconformes con el rumbo de la Revolución. El 17 de abril cuando se inicia la invasión, las agencias de prensa norteamericanas difundían todo tipo de mentiras, afirmaban, por ejemplo, que la segunda ciudad de Cuba, Santiago de Cuba, ya estaba en manos de los invasores, que nuestra milicia se había dispersado, que Fidel se había dado a la fuga y yo estaba arrestado, llegaron al absurdo de informar al mundo la toma del puerto de la ciudad de Bayamo, que por cierto no tiene costa y está situada en el centro de la antigua provincia de Oriente, la más ancha del país. Esa campaña nos recuerda la de ahora y las continuas campañas que hacen contra muchos de los países aquí presentes.

La Revolución Cubana en sus 50 años no ha podido ser, ni será destruida con el bloqueo, la subversión y la mentira. Cuba, al igual que Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua y Ecuador, en uno u otro grado, son el blanco preferido de feroces y calumniosas campañas mediáticas, organizadas y financiadas por los centros del poder hegemónico en Estados Unidos, las oligarquías locales y en algunos casos la Unión Europea.

Ya vimos, hace menos de un año, como se ejecutó un golpe de Estado en Honduras, país entonces integrante del ALBA, con la complicidad y el apoyo del imperialismo y sus instrumentos mediáticos. Nuestros pueblos deben aprender las lecciones que se derivan de estos hechos y no dejarse confundir nunca por los cantos de sirena a que se nos somete a diario ni ceder jamás al chantaje y la presión.

La experiencia del largo y doloroso camino recorrido en la historia común de dos siglos nos enseña que solo tenemos una alternativa: unirnos, luchar y vencer (Aplausos).

Me uno a las palabras, que también pronunció Evo, de felicitación al pueblo venezolano, a todos los representantes que desfilaron en ese magnífico desfile de hoy que nos llenó de emoción desde el principio hasta el final (Aplausos y exclamaciones), y ver a un pueblo puro ya armado, además de sus gloriosas Fuerzas Armadas que se les ve avanzar a ojos vista; ver a los estudiantes presentes en el desfile y en las tribunas, a los campesinos, a los obreros, a las múltiples manifestaciones culturales, muchas de ellas o la mayoría desconocidas por lo menos por mí y que demuestran la riqueza de este pueblo, igual que los demás pueblos hermanos del continente. Todo eso visto, aunque lo hice personalmente, quiero volverlo a ver en un video, como se dice, en un DVD, para disfrutarlo mejor, porque las cámaras de televisión toman —como me decía Chávez— muchas vistas mejores y que se nos escapan a nosotros allí presentes.

Para concluir, quiero sumarme también a un ¡viva a las Fuerzas Armadas y al pueblo armado venezolano! (Exclamaciones de: "¡Viva!")

¡Viva el doscientos aniversario del inicio de las luchas emancipadoras de nuestra América! (Exclamaciones de: "¡Viva!")

¡Vivan las gloriosas mujeres venezolanas que hoy vimos marchar con elegancia, prestancia y belleza! (Exclamaciones de: "¡Viva!")

¡Viva la Revolución Bolivariana! (Exclamaciones de: "¡Viva!")

¡Viva Chávez! (Exclamaciones de: "¡Viva!")

Muchas gracias.