Latin leftists bash Obama at Caribbean confab

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales told a press conference at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago that he had asked US President Barack Obama to publicly repudiate an assassination plot against him. Although Morales stopped short of accusing the US of being behind the plot, he said Obama’s speech promising a new policy for the Americas rings hollow without a denunciation: “Obama said three things: There are neither senior or junior partners. He said relations should be of mutual respect, and he spoke of change. In Bolivia…one doesn’t feel any change. The policy of conspiracy continues.”

Obama responded that he was unfamiliar with the incident but assured Morales “his administration was not involved” and “made it clear he does not endorse or condone the use of violence against democratically elected governments,” said a senior US official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed. (AP, April 19)

Obama also endured a 50-minute lambasting from Daniel Ortega, in which the Nicaraguan president reiterated over a century of US imperialist outrages in Central America and the Caribbean, from the filibuster interventions of the 1850s, the US Marine occupations of the 1920s and ’30s, through the 1961 Bay of Pigs expedition and 1980s contra war. Fox News, calling Ortega’s speech a “diatribe,” provides the following unbelievably bad translation:

Nicaragua central America, we haven’t been shaken since the past century by what have been the expansionist policies, war policies, that even led us in the 1850s, 1855, 1856 to bring Central American people together. We united, with Costa Ricans, with people from Honduras, the people from Guatemala, El Salvador. We all got together, united so we could defeat the expansionist policy of the United States. And after that, after interventions that extended since 1912, all the way up to 1932 and that left, as a result the imposition of that tyranny of the Samoas. Armed, funded, defended by the American leaders.

“The Samoas” are an archipelago in the Pacific, or else girl-scout cookies coated in roasted coconut. The dynasty of US-backed Nicaraguan dictators was the Somozas. Ortega also protested the exclusion of Cuba from the summit. Again from Fox’s unedited rough translation:

This summit and I simply refuse to call it summit of the Americas. Yes, we are gathered here, we have a large majority of presidents, heads of state of Latin America and the Caribbean… They’re absent from this meeting. One is Cuba, whose crime has been that of fighting for independence, fighting for sovereignty of the peoples. I don’t feel comfortable attending this summit. I cannot feel comfortable by being here. I feel ashamed of the fact that I’m participating at this summit with the absence of Cuba.

Fox reports Obama’s reaction:

Obama sat mostly unmoved during the speech but at times jotted notes… Later, at a photo opportunity with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Obama held his tongue when asked what he thought about Ortega’s speech. “It was 50 minutes long. That’s what I thought.”

In his own 17-minute address to the summit, Obama departed from his prepared remarks to mildly rebuke Ortega: “To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old. Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. We’ve all heard these arguments before.”

Even after mangling Ortega’s speech, Fox can’t resist calling out Obama on a small error: the Bay of Pigs invasion took place in April 1961, four months before Obama was born. (Fox News, April 18)

Surprisingly, Venzuelan President Hugo Chávez took a more conciliatory tone, smiling broadly at Obama, repeatedly pumping his hand, and presenting him with a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s anti-imperialist classic Open Veins Of Latin America (which we hope Obama has already read).

Obama walked a fine line in his speech, acknowledging grievances while framing them in terms acceptable to US discourse: “While the United States has done much on behalf of peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged or sought to dictate our terms.” During the contra war, Nicaraguans only wished the US was “disengaged”!

Calling the current juncture a “critical moment” for the Americas, Obama raised the prospect of a diplomatic opening with Cuba, and said: “I didn’t come here to debate the past—I came here to deal with the future. By working together, we can take important steps forward to advance prosperity, security, and liberty.”

Obama also pledged support for Inter-American Development Bank loans for countries hardest hit by the economic crisis, revealed a new “Microfinance Growth Fund” to help restart lending for small businesses, and announced a new $30 million initiative “to strengthen cooperation on security in the Caribbean.” He added: “Illegal guns must not flow freely into criminal hands, and illegal drugs must not destroy lives and distort our economy.” He said the US needed to reduce demand for drugs within its borders, which fuels the “flow of guns and bulk cash south.” (DPA, April 18)

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  1. ALBA blasts Trinidad summit
    A “Declaration of Cumaná,” via Bolivia’s official ABN news service, April 17:

    Document from the member countries of the ALBA for the 5th Summit of the Americas
    Cumaná, Venezuela — The heads of state and government of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, members of ALBA, consider that the draft Declaration of the 5th Summit of the Americas is insufficient and unacceptable for the following reasons:

    – It does not respond to the global economic crisis, despite the fact that this is the biggest betrayal humanity has faced in decades and the most serious current threat to the well-being of our peoples.

    -It unjustly excludes Cuba, without mentioning the general regional consensus that condemns the embargo and the criminal attempts at isolation to which its people and government have been subjected.

    As such, the member countries of ALBA consider that there is no consensus to adopt this draft declaration and given the above reasons, we propose to have a debate regarding the following topics:

    1) Capitalism is wasting humanity and the planet away. What we are living through is a global economic crisis that is systematic and structural in nature, and not another cyclical crisis. Those who believe that an injection of money and some regulatory measures will resolve this crisis are mistaken.

    The financial system is in crisis because it establishes values on paper at six times the real value of the goods and services produced in the world. This is not a “failure of the regulatory system” but an element of the capitalist system that speculates with goods and values in the quest for maximizing profits. So far the economic crisis has caused 100 million people to go hungry and over 50 million newly unemployed, figures that will likely increase.

    2) Capitalism has caused an ecological crisis by subjecting the conditions necessary for life on the planet to the market and profit. Each year over one third of what the planet is capable of regenerating is consumed. At the pace the capitalist system is going, we will need two planet Earths by the year 2030.

    3) The crises of the global economy, climate change, food and energy, are the product of capitalism’s decadence, which threatens to end the existence of life and the planet. To avoid this outcome it is necessary to develop an alternative model to the capitalist system. A model of:

    · Solidarity and complementarity, not competition;

    · A system of harmony with Mother Earth and not of looting natural resources;

    · A system of cultural diversity, and not the crushing of cultures and the imposition of cultural values and ways of life that are foreign to the realities of our countries;

    · A system of peace based on social justice and not on politics and imperialist wars;

    · In short, a system that recovers the humanity of our societies and peoples and does not reduce them to mere consumers or merchandise.

    4) As a firm expression of the new reality of the continent, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have begun to build their own institutions, with deep roots in common history, which join our independence-striving Revolution and constitute a solid tool for the deepening of processes of social, economic, and cultural transformation that will strengthen our full sovereignty. The ALBA-TCP (People’s Trade Agreement), Petrocaribe or UNASUR, to name the most recently created institutions, are mechanisms of solidarity and union created in the heat of these transformations, with the manifest goal of strengthening the effort of our peoples in reaching their own liberation.

    To face the grave effects of the global economic crisis, the countries of ALBA-TCP have taken innovative and transformative measures to develop real alternatives to the deficient international economic order, instead of strengthening its failed institutions. In this way, we have initiated the Unique System of Regional Compensation (the SUCRE, a common currency), that includes a Common Account Unit, a Chamber of Payment Compensation and a Dedicated System of Reserves.

    Moreover, we have boosted the establishment of supranational firms to satisfy the basic needs of our peoples, establishing mechanisms of fair and complementary trade that leave behind the absurd logic of uncheck competition.

    5) We question the G-20 for tripling the funds of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), when what is truly necessary is the establishment of a new global economic order that includes the total transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO), which have contributed to this global economic crisis through their neoliberal foundations.

    6) The solutions to the global economic crisis and the defining of a new international financial architecture should be adopted with the participation of the 192 that will meet at the United Nations conference on the international economic crisis between June 1st and 3rd to propose the creation of a new international economic order.

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

    Developed countries, in debt with humanity and the planet, should allocate significant resources to a fund so that developing countries can embark on a model of growth that does not have the same serious impacts as capitalist industrialization.

    8) Solutions to the crises of energy, food and climate change have to be comprehensive and interdependent. We cannot solve one problem and create others in areas fundamental to life. For example, making the use of biofuels common can only negatively affect the price of food and the usage of essential resources such as water, land and forests.

    9) We condemn discrimination against migrants in all of its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime. As such, we demand urgent reform to the immigration policies of the government of the United States, with the goal of ending mass deportations and round-ups and allowing the reunification of families; we call for an end to the wall that separates and divides us instead of uniting us.

    In this regard, we demand the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the elimination of the Wet-Foot Dry-Foot policy, which is discriminatory and selective and causes the loss of human life.

    Those truly guilty of causing the financial crisis are the bankers who robbed our countries’ money and resources, not migrant workers. Human rights come first, particularly the human rights of undocumented migrants, the most vulnerable and marginalized people of our society.

    Integration requires the free movement of people and equal human rights for all regardless of migrant status. The brain drain constitutes a type of looting of qualified human resources by rich countries.

    10) The basic services of education, health, water, energy and telecommunications have to be declared human rights and cannot be subject to private business nor be commercialized by the WTO. These services are and should be essential public services with universal access.

    11) We want a world where every country, great and small, has the same rights, and where there are no empires. We advocate non-intervention. We want to strength, as the only legitimate channel for discussion and analysis of the bilateral and multilateral agendas of the continent, the basis of mutual respect between states and governments under the principle of non-interference between states, and the inviolability of sovereignty and self-determination of peoples.

    We demand that the new administration of the United States, whose arrival has created expectations in the region and world, put an end to the long and nefarious tradition of interventionism and aggression that has characterized the actions of that country’s governments throughout history, which was particularly bad during the administration of George W. Bush.

    It should further eliminate interventionist practices such as covert operations, parallel diplomacy, media campaigns to destabilize states and governments, and the financing of destabilizing groups. Creating a world with respect for the diversity of economic, political, social and cultural paths is fundamental.

    12) Regarding the United States embargo against Cuba and the exclusion of this country to the Summit of the Americas, the countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas reiterate the declaration adopted by all countries of Latin America and the Caribbean last December 16, 2008, about the need to end this economic, trade, and financial embargo imposed by the government of the United States of America on Cuba, including the Helms-Burton Act. The declaration states, in part:

    “WHEREAS the resolutions passed by the United Nations General Assembly on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, and expressions regarding it that have been approved in numerous international meetings,

    “WE AFFIRM that, in defense of free trade and the transparent practice of international commerce, it is unacceptable to apply unilateral coercive measures that affect the well being of the peoples and obstruct the processes of integration.

    “WE REJECT most vigorously the application of laws and measures contrary to international law, such as the Helms-Burton Act, and we urge the government of the United States of America to end its application.

    “WE ASK the government of the United States of America to comply with the stipulations of 17 successive resolutions approved in the General Assembly of the United Nations and to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade it maintains against Cuba.”

    Furthermore, we consider that attempts to isolate Cuba have failed; today it is an integral part of Latin America and the Caribbean, a member of the Rio Group and other regional organizations and mechanisms that develops polices of cooperation and solidarity with countries of the region, that promotes the full integration of Latin American and Caribbean peoples, and therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to justify its exclusion from the Summits of the Americas.

    13) Developed countries have allocated no less than 8 trillion dollars for rescuing the collapsed financial system. These are the same countries that do not comply with sending small amounts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, or 0.7% of GDP for Official Development Aid. Never before has the hypocrisy in the rhetoric of rich countries been so apparent. Cooperation should be established without conditions and it should fit the agendas of receptor countries with simplified process, making resources available and giving priority to issues of social inclusion.

    14) The legitimate fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, and other instance of “new threats” should not be used as an excuse to for activities that interfere and intervene in our countries.

    15) We are firmly convinced that the change, in which the whole world has hope, can only come from the organization, mobilization and unity of our peoples.

    As The Liberator said:

    “The unity of our peoples is not an illusion of man, it is unrelenting.”

    See our last post on Latin America’s alternative integration.