Friday, February 15, 2013

Bilateral Relations: Venezuela and Cuba: two brotherly nations

Prepared for publication by:
Lisa Karpova


Venezuela and Cuba: two brotherly nations

Venezuela and Cuba have proved their loyal, steadfast relations once more at the CELAC summit in Santiago de Chile, at the end of January 2013. All 33 Latin American member countries, including Venezuela and Cuba, ratified their commitment to the regional block. The Santiago Declaration, a document with 73 points, expressed solidarity with Venezuela's President Chávez.

by Olivia Kroth
Sources: Ciudad Caracas, Correo del Orinoco, EFE, El Spectador, Patria Grande, SANA, Venezuelanalysis

The Venezuelan Vice-President, Nicolás Maduro, read out a letter from Hugo Chávez to the summit's attendants. Hugo Chávez is the person who presided over the CELAC founding conference in Caracas, in December 2011, and has been its driving force ever since.

In his letter to CELAC, President Chávez wrote about his commitment to the unity of Latin America. He also pointed out that he sees Cuba's presidency of CELAC in 2013 as an act of justice, counteracting the unjust blockade of Cuba's economy which has lasted for more than half a century.

The final document of CELAC also condemns the blockade of Cuba as a "unilateral measure with extra-territorial effect, contrary to international law." Not that the ex-imperialists would change their course of action after reading this document - they are known to be hard as stone when it comes to pursuing their own interests - but at least it is good to let the world know once in a while that Cuba's situation is not forgotten in Latin America.

Patria Grande recently published an interesting article, written by Hedelberto López Blanch, with the title, "Cuba in CELAC: the necessary impulse for integration." According to this Cuban author, Cuba will be heard in the world's forums, speaking with "a loud and clear voice."

In the regional sector, there will be programmes of development for the great majority of people, the masses. The Caribbean island of Cuba has already demonstrated on many occasions its experience and capacity for dialogue to unite the countries of the South.

Hedelberto López Blanch explains why Cuba has been warning of the negative consequences for Latin America if neoliberal politics will be accepted. "The siren's song" of European capitalistic countries is dangerous for CELAC, because they will try to enrich themselves at the expense of Latin America by exploiting the natural resources of the region, especially gas, oil and minerals, while polluting water and air, as well as damaging the biological diversity of the South American continent.

In this sense, Cuba objected to the invitation of EU countries to the CELAC summit by the government of Chile, without seeking prior consent of all CELAC members and without agreeing on a common line of conduct first.

As shown at the summit, the EU delegates came with the idea in their heads of finding new markets for their over-priced goods in order to survive the dire financial and economic crisis within the nearly bankrupt EU.

Cuban and other progressive Latin American leaders regretted that their voices were not heard enough in Chile, while EU delegates attempted to lure some CELAC members - especially Brazil and Argentina - into opening their markets to neoliberal policies.

The Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, responded, however, that the EU was no role model for Latin America, because it would bring CELAC the same misery that European countries currently suffer from. The leaders of Latin America's progressive countries asked the EU delegates not to continue looking at CELAC members as their "old colonies of former times."

CELAC now has the task of addressing the vast differences in economic development between such huge and rich countries as Brazil and the tiny, vulnerable Caribbean islands, first and foremost Haiti, which is still devastated from a terrible earthquake in 2010, followed by an equally terrible cholera epidemic, after UN Forces came to the island to "help."

The Cuban President, Raúl Castro, indicated in his speech at the CELAC summit that about 170 million Latin American and Caribbean people live in poverty, among them 25 million children. "We are obliged to make considerable efforts in education as a base for economic and social progress. We need to eliminate analphabetism," he emphasized.

"With adequate politics and regional cooperation to give a minimum income to those who need it most, we will be able to make a great leap forward within a few years. We must be able to promote our own proper regional structures, which should be adapted to the particularities and necessities of Latin America and the Caribbean region," the Cuban leader said in his address to CELAC.

In the year of its presidency, in 2013, Cuba has the responsibility of consolidating the integration of the CELAC project to build "La Patria Grande," the great homeland of Latin America. "We will keep working with the idea of a diverse region, but united in a common space of political independence, with sovereign control of our natural resources," Raúl Castro emphasized in his speech.

Hedelberto López Blanch ends his article with the final thought that Cuba has set an example with 50 years of strong resistance against neoliberal entanglement, joined by Venezuela in 1999, as the Bolivarian Revolution began and President Hugo Chávez became President.

Venezuela and Cuba were and still are at the front, when it comes to helping Haiti. Together with Argentina, they signed new agreements in 2012 to support agricultural projects in Haiti and to build a new hospital with the latest technology in the area of Corail.

Venezuelan Petrocaribe funds have been flowing continuously into the construction of schools and scholarships for Haitian students, while Cuban medical brigades have been assisting Haiti to overcome the cholera epidemic, which cost the island about 7.000 lives.

Venezuela and Cuba also show international solidarity with Syria, as the Syrian news agency SANA reported. Venezuela and Cuba denounced the terrorist attacks against Syria, instigated and paid for by the west.

The Venezuelan UN delegate, Jorge Valero, condemned the western alliance because of its financial and logistic support for terrorists in Syria. He demanded the UN to call for an end of this abuse and asked the delegates to support President Bashar al-Assad's programme of dialogue.

At the same session, the Cuban Ambassador at the UN, Oscar León, pointed out that the International Security Council must not be transformed into an instrument to bring about forced "regime changes" in the world, but to promote peace.

Oscar León expressed the Cuban Government's criticism of western countries' manipulations in order to promote their own geopolitical aims. He stressed the fact that the Syrian population has the right of self-determination, without any foreign interference.

Venezuela and Cuba not only help other nations, but each other as well. In 2012, both countries celebrated 12 years of health care collaboration. "The Cuba-Venezuela pact is a programme of solidarity," Dr. Eugenia Sader, Venezuela's Health Minister, said.

Over 53.000 Venezuelans have benefited from free health care for chronic diseases in Cuba. Flights leave from Caracas to La Havana every Friday, packed full with patients who are being treated by doctors in Cuba. Of course, the Bolivarian government pays Cuba for these services with oil.

Starting in 2000, Cuban medical brigades were invited to Venezuela, where they built up the very impressive programme of Barrio Adentro. About 30.000 medical professionals have come to Venezuela in the past 12 years to treat patients in the social missions of Barrio Adentro. They also schooled their Venezuelan colleagues, doctors and nurses, to develop their own capacities.

"In Venezuela, the poor are happy and the rich are mad." This is the title of an interview, given to Cecilia Orozco Tascón by the Colombian writer, William Ospino. It was first published in the Colombian daily, El Spectador, then translated into English by Venezuelanalysis.

William Ospino describes the anti-Cuban propaganda he heard in Colombia in his youth, "When I was a boy, the radio poured rivers of hate against the Cuban Revolution. From the times I was eight years old, I remember the same phrase being repeated every day: Cuba, the pearl of the Antilles, now converted into the red hell of America." Similarly, anti-Venezuelan propaganda is now pouring like rivers of hate, especially against President Hugo Chávez.

"He is a great man," William Ospino opined in the interview, "the whole world is paying attention to him." The Colombian author continued to elaborate his idea that Hugo Chávez has already become the hero of a myth, a legend, during his lifetime. "He belongs to Latin American history and will enter the mythology of popular folklore," William Ospino knows.

The writer sees one more important common trait between the two brotherly nations of Cuba and Venezuela, "Cuba has tried to find its way, although it has been difficult. Venezuela has done the same. I know the people are with Chávez, and that, in a continent which is so cruel to the poor, is noteworthy."

Last, but not least, an interview given to the news agency EFE by Venezuela's Vice-President, Nicolás Maduro, should be mentioned. It was translated for English readers by Venezuelanalysis. Nicolás Maduro spoke with the journalist, José Luis Paniaga, about the newest developments in his country.

He praised Cuba for taking good care of President Chávez, "with the best medical equipment, people at the highest level in all specialties, a multi-disciplinary team, but also their expertise is applied to him with great care and love."

Nicolás Maduro expressed his government's gratefulness to Fidel Castro, who is "in direct contact with the doctors. Almost daily, Comandante Fidel Castro is in the hospital, near the doctors, close to the family, attending to and greeting President Chávez. We have to be thankful for that as human beings."

The Venezuelan Vice-President, who admires Fidel Castro immensely, said that "he has given us courage, strength, sharing conversations with us, his long experience in history. He is undefeated against the imperialist aggressor and has acquired a truly privileged knowledge of the history of Latin America."

Nicolás Maduro also told his interviewer from EFE about the ongoing projects, shared by Cuba and Venezuela, "We have implemented a number of plans for cooperation in culture, education, economy, health and sports. Some of those economic projects are called empresas morochas (joint venture projects) by President Chávez."

"In other words, Cuba and Venezuela have, within the framework of ALBA, a very dynamic and multi-dimensional relationship," the Venezuelan Vice-President summed up the cooperation between the two brotherly nations.

He also talked about Cuba's prolonged struggle for independence, "Cuban independence cost so much in the 19th century, because the island was ravaged by the presence of the most powerful army that left colonial Spain. More than 300.000 Spanish troops tried to keep Cuba as their jewel in the Caribbean. Cuba has always been a point of great strategic importance to empires, and it remains so even today."

Nicolás Maduro explained that "In 1959, Cuba acquired its independence at an immense cost. In Fidel Castro, you will find that heritage of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism." He went on to compare Venezuela's history to that of Cuba, "It is the same with our country. How dearly cost the independence that the liberators won for us. Nobody made a present of independence for us, nobody."

The Cubans and Venezuelans, according to Nicolás Maduro, are "two peoples who have the same anti-colonialist tradition, the same pride as brothers. We say, dig into the ground to defend independence."

Keep on digging, Cuba and Venezuela. Dig into the ground to defend your independence. Hasta la victoria siempre.