President Chavez’s Speech to the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement

Venezuela's President Chavez addressed the General Assembly of the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which met in Havana, Cuba last week. In his speech, he urged the nations of the South to unite, starting with projects such as the Bank of the South and the University of the South.

[Greetings of introduction have been omitted]

Havana, Cuba, September 15, 2006

I am going to allow myself to read a part of the prologue written in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by Julias Nyerere in May 1990, fulfilling the mission entrusted to him precisely by NAM. [The Challenge to the South: The Report of the South Commission ISBN: 0198773110] This is what he said:

“Preface of the President – The commission made up of individuals who participated as private citizens and who came from all Southern continents, emerged from the recognition that, in this part of the world, although the developing countries have many problems and experiences in common, there has not been anyone charged with observing them on a global scale nor extracting from them relevant conclusions and strategies of development.” Later on it says… I am going to skip a few paragraphs to save time… It says, “But, in addition, the South doesn’t know the South, that is to say, what is happening in our countries, what are the ideas of our people, what is our potential and how South-South cooperation can broaden development options for all our countries.  Instead we have been compelled to commit our own errors, unable neither to learn from the experience of the others in similar situations nor to benefit from other’s positive experiences.”

Further on it talks about how the commission came to be. The proposal emerged after the NAM Summit in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1986—over here is Mugabe. It was Malaysia who proposed the creation of a South Commission and recommended Nyerere chair it. He accepted. They worked for 3 years and in 1990 they presented this report. Here is the report. Numerous academics of the South, intellectuals, social scientists, economists, historians, men and women of science, popular leaders, and political leaders participated in who knows how many debates, who knows, Mr. President, how many conferences, how many hours of work with forthright hope.

Now, What happened? This is my personal impression from observing recent history… when Julias Nyerere… And I believe there are some of you here who worked on this. I know that my good friend, the Prime Minister of India worked on it because I read it here in the report from which I just recited those wise words. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Now, What happened? When they presented the report—a product of the history of recent decades— because as I commented this morning, I think NAM has gone through various stages, which are stages of the world’s history—in the 60’s we could say, dear friends and colleagues, that the world of the South, the underdeveloped world, the Third World, experienced what we could call the illusion of economic growth, the illusion that economic growth would bring development. Indications of that growth in the 60’s, 50’s, and above all the 70’s exist—an illusion of growth. But world disorder commenced after that, as is summarized here in the first chapter, the disorder of the economic model, the crisis of the 80’s, foreign debt, and recession. The illusion of growth and development came to an end. And we were lost like a pilot without a compass who doesn’t know where he his going and flies into a hurricane, a storm. As a result of that storm, that crisis, the intention of NAM and this commission emerged and the work of this commission and its report.

Now, What happened? At the same time the report was presented, the Soviet Union fell, contributing to a greater world destabilization. The U.S., its allies and world capitalism then rose up to sing of victory and tried to claim the “victory.”

This is when they unleashed, against the people not only of Latin America, but also of Africa, Asia and Oceania, the neo-liberal proposal. The so-called Washington Consensus, structural adjustment packages, privatization, the reduction of State, the elimination of planning. NAM group, fell into a kind of deepfreeze, and this [report] was stillborn. Or to put in a less lugubriously, it was put in a freezer upon birth. I believe that no one even discussed it. There was no time.

Now, after 15 years have passed since the neo-liberal illusion, as well as the Monetary Fund-esc illusion that the world experienced—we have lived illusions within illusions. The Fata Morgana, the vision that lured sailors to their doom. The Fata Morgana. Illusions, like the siren song of capitalism. It has passed; the illusion of the end of history has disappeared. Now we have awoken once again to harsh reality. And as President Raúl Castro said this morning, poverty, hunger, the destruction of the peoples of the land and the destruction of the environment have increased in the world. We are destroying the planet! 

Now, Mr. President, I want to submit this proposal to the Assembly, and God willing, this proposal will not end up like many others in recent years. We run around making proposals like crazy, here and there, throwing them to the wind. The majority of our proposals are thrown to the wind. We rush around and we hardly discuss or debate. They remain documents. From these resolutions or manifestations of good wishes, almost nothing materializes. It is a truth that we put our problems, like we put our hopes for solutions, on the North. The solutions are right here, among us. [We must] make decisions and bring them into practice: be capable of making them reality.

What I would like to suggest today, Mr. President, when Cuba assumed the presidency this morning, the assignment of a new commission of the South that would take this book as its jumping off point, since it contains a series of recommendations that I believe few of us are aware of. I had to search for this book. After prison I had lost it. But I found it.

Here for example is a proposal that we have made in Latin America…where it is advancing…with difficulties, but advancing…a Bank of the South. Where are the national reserves of our countries? Where do we have them? Everyone knows where the majority of them are: in banks of the North. The proposal aims to— willfully, intelligently, and resolutely—bring to life the Bank of the South. We mustn’t lose one more day on this. Deposit part of our national reserves and create a powerful bank to finance our development. And not in ways imposed by the IMF and World Bank in exchange for what? Many times in exchange for sovereignty, in exchange for principles, in exchange for the souls and the hopes of millions of human beings. Because they have no souls. Imperialism has no soul. But our people do have souls and sorrow and hope.

Let’s do it, Mr. President, let’s see this commission. I propose that Fidel Castro preside over this new commission, and that it be formed and in the shortest period possible it present a strategy to reactivate South–South cooperation, the integration of the South. In addition to a bank of the South, in here [Venezuela’s proposal] are proposals, for example, for a University of the South, a university system of the south and a World TV network of the South so that we can get to know ourselves. Venezuela has also proposed PetroSur, a petroleum-energy pact for the South. We in the South have the largest reserves of petroleum and gas and gold and precious minerals. So much wealth. It was Símon Bolívar who said it, nearby in Jamaica in 1815. “More than anyone, I desire to see this land fashioned into the greatest nation in the world, greatest not so much by virtue of her area and wealth as by her freedom and glory.” This was in the Carta de Jamaica.

And later he added what I would like to repeat here nearly 200 years later, with this humble recommendation: Let’s truly unite, compañeros and compañeras, let’s truly unite in the South and we will have a future, we will have dignity, our people will have life.  Raúl, this morning concluded his speech quoting Fidel from a speech in which he spoke about unity. Quoting Fidel, he said: Let’s unite to demand our right to life, our right to a future.

I would add to that memorable speech of Fidel: Let’s unite to liberate ourselves, to exist, to self-construct the South.

Transcribed and translated by Dawn Gable