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Speech at the Latin American and Caribbean summit on Integration and Development. Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF STATE AND MINISTERS OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, HIS EXCELLENCY RAUL CASTRO RUZ, AT THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN SUMMIT ON INTEGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT. SALVADOR DE BAHIA, BRAZIL, DECEMBER 16, 2008

Dear friend Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, President of the Federal Republic of Brazil:

Distinguished Heads of State and Government:

Distinguished guests:

First of all, allow me to convey a message of friendship from my fellow countrymen to the fraternal Brazilian people.

As I extend my greetings to the leaders of our region, I’d like to once again express the gratitude of every Cuban for the solidarity and assistance received after the enormous damages caused by the three hurricanes that recently battered our country.

Dear friends:

The road to this gathering has been long and difficult. It is unquestionably transcendental that for the first time the leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean are meeting in a forum guided by noble and just aspirations, without exclusions and without the presence of countries from outside the region.

We feel that adequate conditions prevail to turn this solemn conclave into the starting point of a process of remarkable strategic significance for the destiny of our region, in a world where there is hardly any space for isolated actions that disregard the common challenges decisively thrown on us by globalization. And I don’t mean its neoliberal model, which is really aimed at a global colonization, but rather the construction of the indispensible globalization of solidarity.

The main challenge consists in slowly turning words into deeds. The integrationist actions adopted at this summit, in addition to their practical meaning, should be guided by cooperation among our peoples.

It’s essential that there is a follow-up to this summit and that this promising initiative is not limited to only this opportunity to meet and exchange views.

Prior to the onset of the current global economic crisis, our peoples had accumulated the historic experience of exploitation and underdevelopment summarized in income disparity, social injustice, hunger, illiteracy, unreliable healthcare, explotation of natural resources and the consequences of an insuficient social and economic infrastructure.

Equally appalling is the robbery of our best minds and the abusive burden of the foreign debt service. To this we should add the nefarious situation  created by criminality, drug trafficking and environmental impairness, aggravated by the failed neoliberal recipes applied as an irrefutable dogma.

This is not the time for creed or ideology, but for conscious recognition of the exhaustion of an economic model that only the state can ultimately rectify, in a joint effort with the entire society and with a systematic and concerted action committed to the most prominent interests of the nation.

Our region is experiencing a formidable rebirth of the spirit of its peoples with the emergence of a striving citizens force willing to take on the destinies of their respective peoples ir order to give social programmes the priority they deserve; to defend the national wealth and to fight for justice.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of political statements and initiatives advocating  new integration formulas.

There is obviously a momentum to set ourselves a regional paradigm that goes beyond differences, one that prioritizes our common interests and necessities and promotes solidarity actions while expanding cooperation.

Our differences should not prevent an integration that would turn into a reality the fair aspirations of the great majority of the 550 million people who live in the area comprised between the Rio Bravo and the Patagonia.

Our nations are enduring hazardous times but they also have immense natural resources, first class productive and technological advancements and a scientific potential poorly exploited and barely shared inside the region.

Cuba has strengthened its relations with various countries from Latin America and the Caribbean. An example of this was the successful 3rd Cuba-CARICOM Summit recently held where  we confirmed our will to work for greater integration and to share the defence of the common interests.

We should reach agreements on concrete actions and adopt practical decisions of real value to our peoples. We are of the view that one of our priorities should be the quest for a regional response to tackle the current world economic situation.

The complexity of this situation demands everyone’s involvement in its resolution. In this connection, we welcome the efforts leading to the establishment of different groups to seek for alternatives to a crisis whose scope and depth is impossible to foresee. We share the view of Dominican President, comrade Leonel Fernandez regarding the aspiration to a G-192 encompassing every nation member of the United Nations family.

Our region should urge the redesign of the international financial system and the restructuring  of the economic relations between countries. But to achieve this it is not enough to claim for it at the international fora, even if we should not cease doing it. We have the capacity to build our own rules and regulations in the region, to pool our efforts and resoruces and to establish a new type of relationship.

We have come to this summit in a spirit of cooperation and to work for a future where there is room for everyone. Despite the revengeful and prolonged blockade imposed by the US administration, Cuba is willing to share its modest experience in terms of cooperation, which together with solidarity and internationalism make up the three pillars of our relations with the world.

On behalf of Cuba, a country that for almost 50 years has endured an economic, comercial and financial blockade, let me express our gratitude to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean for their stern support to the Special Declaration of this Summit urging the cessation of that illegal and unjust policy which violates our people’s human rights.

Fifteen years ago comrade Fidel vehemently advocate in this city of Salvador de Bahia, state capital, the necessary integration of our nations. Allow me to conclude my remarks recalling his words when he said:

“Yesterday, we were colonies but tomorrow, we can be a great community of closely united peoples. Nature has gifted us with unsurmountable richess and history has given us a common language and culture, common links and roots as no other region on Earth.”

Thank you, very much.

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