Speech by the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, during the 16th Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – People’s Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP)Havana, Cuba, December 14th, 2018 Dear comrades, comrade president Miguel Diaz-Canel, comrade president of Nicaragua and Bolivia, Prime Ministers of our brotherly countries of the Caribbean. This annual ALBA Summit is always appropriate to renew the political force, the force of the ideas and projects of our unified Bolivarian alliance. It is always a special opportunity to join the Caribbean, South-American and Central American people’s efforts, in a vital meeting space as the ALBA. Yesterday night, when landing in Havana, we remembered 13th, 14th, and 15th of December 1994. A young revolutionary, a rebel and courageous young man who had recently become a leader of the Venezuelan people arrived in Havana: Commander Hugo Chavez. He had been released from the prison of dignity months ago and one of his first actions in the international field – and inspired by Bolivar’s and Marti’s view, a continental view – was coming to Cuba after traveling two or three times around Venezuela, town by town, square by square. 24 years ago, Chavez arrived in Cuba. Evo and he came here full of dreams, as he said in his speech. It was the first time he visited the island, although he did it many times in his dreams. So, when he landed in Havana, invited by La Casa Simon Bolivar (Simon Bolivar’s home), he was very surprised to see a giant was waiting for him down stairs of the plain: Fidel Castro Ruz; and they gave each other the first hug. For us, that hug was the first step taken in a new history, a beautiful and great history that we have lived during this 21st century: I mean, the history of the ALBA, CELA and Petrocaribe. Comrade President Días-Canel described such moment of dignity during an extraordinary full speech on our recent history. That is what we remembered yesterday with gratefulness and feeling. Those who witnessed that encounter claimed that those men were talking about the Latin American union, the liberation of the peoples, progress, education and health programs, the ending of illiteracy in the Americas, providing health to the humbles. They also talked about the persecution suffered by Commander Chavez in Venezuela and the difficult moments he had during those times. Cuba was a country subjected to a double blockade: in 1994, the blockade of the U.S Empire and the blockade in the special period resulting from the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the so-called bloc of socialist countries of Eastern Europe. December 1994 coincided with the holding of the first Summit of FTAA in Miami. During that first Summit, the U.S Empire put on the table of the Caribbean and Latin American countries a project that was described by the peoples and rebel social movements of Latin America as a new economic colonialism: the FTAA, the so-called Alliance, Free Trade Area of the Americas. Thus, at that time a blockade, siege and persecution stated against Cuba, a country supported by the peoples and Commander Chavez – who was just beginning his difficult, arduous and complicated path to power and the political revolution in Venezuela – but persecuted by the imperial governments of the world. 20 years ago, on December 6th, Commander Hugo Chavez obtained a great political and electoral victory. Exactly a week ago, we commemorated it. Comrades, such victory brought us – through the popular vote and will – to government and the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution led and built by the wonderful mind, spirit and morale of our Commander Chavez. 20 years has passed. In other words, 4 years after he visited Fidel, our Commander Chavez built the axis of forces, the alliances and a strong leadership to reach – in spite of a corrupt and fraudulent electoral system – the power through the popular will. Then, he set the path that led us to a successful meeting with our sisterly Cuba. Many projects and dreams became true to provide happiness to our people. With regard to the education field, Cuba provided with the Yes I Can method in order to declare our Homeland free from illiteracy. Regarding health, thousands of doctors, nurses, therapists and other specialists went to the Venezuelan barrios and countryside. Nowadays, they work together with Venezuelan doctors in order to provide with love and scientific health care under the wonderful spirit of union and solidarity of the ALBA. 14 years ago, in 2004, as a result of that hug, that first meeting between both giants, Commander Fidel Castro Ruz and Hugo Chavez, on behalf of the Revolutionary Government of Cuba and the Revolutionary Government of Venezuela, agreed to create the Alternative Alliance for the Peoples of our America, the ALBA; an alternative to the new economic colonialism model to be imposed through the ALCA. The ALBA is a social, political, cultural, spiritual and moral alternative. As demonstrated today, it encourages the union based on equality, fraternity, respect, and solidarity. The ALCA encourages subordination, new slavery, submission to the hegemonic power of the capitalism and the American power, instead. There are two models: first, the ALBA, an emerging forward-looking project; the other, the ALCA, a decadent empire, aimed to be imposed. Comrades, this has been a great battle which has left us great teachings: the battle of ideas, the battle of truth. Our comrades Diaz-Canel, Daniel Ortega, Roosevelt Skerrit, Ralph Gonsalves have supported the ALBA since its creation. Magazine Correo del Alba features Comrade Ralph Gonsalves on its cover. Look Ralph in this cover. This is a good picture and poster [laugh]; he looks like Saddam Hussein, his gaze [laugh]. So, since the beginning, as our dear comrade president said in his inaugural speech, the ALBA has always deeply inspired us. When we are in the ALBA meetings, we feel as brothers; we notice the gaze of love in each comrade as well as their firm support. When we analyze the great history of the Cuban Revolution during our meetings, we feel Fidel alive; we think about the force of the Sandinista Revolution and the Sandinista National Liberation Front and its 60 years of heroism and struggle; we think about Evo’s more than 500-year resistance; the indigenous chief from the South; we feel the presence of our Caribbean brothers and their anti-colonist, rebellious, worthy and courageous force. Comrade Diaz-Canel, all this moral and spiritual force has always been tangible through the government policies and performance. This is the main question to be discussed in this summit. We would like to propose a strong relaunch and encouragement of this unquestionable achievement, the ALBA. This achievement has been and is the only project of real integration and union of Latin America and the Caribbean peoples that has provided assistance to the poor families, the most deprived persons through love, solidarity, medical care, education and well-being. In the last 200 Republican years, there has not been a project like this. Regarding the OAS or its remains, in 70 years this organization has left coups, threats, invasions, deaths, loneliness in Latin America and the Caribbean. Instead, the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America has been a powerful alliance that has brought education to those who could not read or write, with a great practical capacity to turn good ideas and dreams into actions, deeds and achievements. This is the great potential we should focus on; that is our strength. Many compatriots in Latin America and the Caribbean need the free Yes I Can program. And it is not the OAS which will provide them with it, but the ALBA, a great day, a great crusade of solidarity, love and awakening. There is a great debate on the continent, we cannot neglect; however, the imperialist counter-offensive has achieved some partial and circumstantial advances. Latin America is a disputed zone. It is a hard-fought dispute between the neocolonial, imperialist project of the United States versus the project of liberation, independence, shared happiness of our Latin American and Caribbean peoples. It is an area amidst an intense dispute; there is an offensive against progressive governments. We are certainly in the eye of the hurricane. We are the objective of the threats by the Empire and its satellite governments in the continent, of a brutal campaign against the Bolivarian Revolution and our democracy. Those who repeatedly say that Chávez was a dictator are the same who today repeat that Maduro is a Dictator. However, the answer of our people is working, mobilization, democracy, and votes. Last Sunday, our people voted again during the municipal electoral process. However, the so called global media hides this event. This was the election N° 25 in 19 years. The Bolivarian Revolution obtained 90% of the positions and the revolutionary forces as a whole obtained 75% of the votes; it was the victory N° 23rd for a total of 25 elections. This is a strong democracy that is not only measured by the number of elections held. In this sense, it is a democracy that is measured according to distribution level of wealth, economic democracy, social investment, real democracy, public health, public education, public housing and culture. It is measured not only according to the electoral and political fields, but also according to the level of permanent participation of the people in the local powers, in people’s power, in the communal councils; we are speaking about an intense battle. As fellow President Diaz-Canel did, I want to thank the 12 present governments and their peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean for all their solidarity, courage and understanding towards the Bolivarian Revolution, the legitimate government of Venezuela in these months and years of hard struggle for truth and peace. We came here to highlight the work teams who elaborated a set of documents and proposals about the need to give a special impetus to the ALBA social programs. We and Cuba want to commit ourselves on that. Cuba has been leading the great topics on Mission Miracle that comrade Evo Morales always quotes in his speeches. Mission Miracle is such a beautiful thing. Thanks to Cuba, millions of humble people from humble neighborhoods and countryside of Latin America and the Caribbean have had eye surgery. Miracle Mission will be relaunched and Venezuela is further committed to put all its effort in order to do so. We are making important progress regarding education, culture, health and sports missions. We will show the immensity of the fair, supportive, socialist model of ALBA. It is infinitely superior to the privatizing, regressive, anti-popular model that is being imposed by neoliberalism and the right wing in important countries of our continent, like Brazil, increasing poverty and misery levels. Dear comrades of the Caribbean, dear brothers and sisters, dear comrades of Central America, Nicaragua, El Salvador and beyond, dear comrades of South America, Bolivia, we come to insist on the need to strongly take and resume the economic issue. Today, after 24 years of that hug between Fidel and Chávez, 14 years of the official foundation of the ALBA, the successful balance in all its fields – social, political, diplomatic and human – is at sight and, undoubtedly, our effort must focus on guaranteeing the true independence of our region and sustainability of such a supportive social model, in favor of our peoples, to build the union and the economic-productive integration, for a common and joint production of our countries’ wealth. Undoubtedly, no one will be able to reach a higher stage of economic development alone. However, it is something difficult to understand since our economic thinking leads to isolate from each other. That is the way I see it. The economic vision of our countries has to evolve towards a Latin American and Caribbean vision of union; we have a political, Bolivarian, Martian, Sandinista, Indigenous own vision, indeed. We have a common cultural vision about the diversity of Latin America and the Caribbean. We also have a social vision; especially Cuba, which has thousands of doctors working in the countryside and humble neighborhoods throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. That is a daily example of true solidarity. However, we do not have an economical common vision. Instead, we have a disintegrating capitalist vision, heir to the economic colonialism. That is why they dominate us and blackmail us. Comrades, the above is the great task to fulfill during the rest of the 21st century and the years to come when we will sit here again to commemorate the 20th, 30th, 40th anniversary of the ALBA, when new generations will commemorate 50 years of ALBA. And I hope that we will be able to say that we have reached a higher stage of economic development, integration, wealth production and distribution together. There is no economic integration thinking. Many of our economists and analysts think that our problems can be solved in articulation with the old metropolis, separately, within our borders. I insist, comrade David Choquehuanca, that we need to build our own vision and you have a great responsibility as the ALBA Secretary General. The Economic Council of ALBA must lead this task. Bolivia has been proposed to chair the Economic Council of ALBA due to the great successes of comrade Mr. Evo Morales Ayma regarding Bolivia’s economy, which is nowadays the most advanced with the highest level of growth throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in the last decade. Comrade Diaz-Canel, we come here to propose to join together in practical terms with a plan, with a vision in favor of a strategy to free ourselves economically, to go together for the production of wealth and along with a shared, integrated, unified level of development. We propose our own common economic zone, that will be the basis of true independence in the years to come, as we did in favor of education, health, sport, culture, recreation; as well as we did in the UN to defend the policies against climate change or to vote in favor of Cuba against the blockade; as we did in the OAS to defend Venezuela against the monster. That is the central approach that we want to insist on, fellow presidents, prime ministers, heads of delegation. Humbly speaking, Venezuela has started a path for the construction of a monetary alternative for our Caribbean, for our region, for our countries. I want to put such proposal on the table. I propose that the ALBA assume the currency and the cryptocurrency – the Petro – as the center of its monetary efforts towards the future for the economic liberation. I officially propose this before the ALBA, to all the peoples here present. There are many things that, as stated by Jose Marti, «in silence they have had to be and are». Let me say they already are. The Petro is a reality. It was born thriving, battling against measures, sanctions, financial persecution. However, it can be neither persecuted nor sanctioned by any one. It is a new experience. If we study and assume it together, I am sure that the ALBA will sooner or later find a wonderful instrument together with the Bank of the ALBA, the Sucre and other economic projects. It will also be a wonderful instrument for investments, the economic growth and the commercial exchange and for a thousand other things. Economic development is the unresolved issue of Latin American-Caribbean socialism, the growth and development of an economic integrated Latin American-Caribbean model of our own. Such is the great task and mission. Therefore, we present this proposal based on the ALBA spirit and principles to strongly assume in the 21st century the construction of a new inclusive, fair, humanist and modern Latin American-Caribbean economy of quality. If we assume it, I am sure that we will be the wonder of this world, the great surprise of this world. In the great dispute between the neoliberal model of the empire and its satellite right wing and the progressive Latin Americanist, Caribbean, revolutionary and socialist movements that we represent, as well as in the social, political, moral and cultural fields, we have raised the flag of victory. And, I am sure that sooner or later our countries will leave the hardships, the needs and move to what the Liberator called the state of social happiness and prosperity of our countries. We salute very warmly from Cuba, the peoples of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America and hope that this summit will be a milestone for the economic, shared, unitary and integrated development of our countries. Thank you very much, dear comrades.