OPENING SPEECH BY DR. FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, AT THE 9TH IBERO-AMERICAN SUMMIT. HAVANA, NOVEMBER 16, 1999
On July 1991, when the first Summit was held in Guadalajara, I could not even imagine the further development of such event. I was a strange bird there, an intruder whose admission to that hall had the taste of forgiveness. Cuba had always been left out of every meeting in this continent. Some looked at me with curiosity and even pity. Possibly, hardly anyone believed that Cuba could withstand the collapse of the socialist camp, which derived in the double blockade that would abruptly fall on our country.
We were used to take part in other kinds of summits such as the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries’ where radical pronouncements were made; also with Heads of Sates or Governments of the Socialist Countries who never failed to use certain revolutionary and anti-imperialist vocabulary. We were used to the idea that it would still take a long time to have a united and integrated America. Therefore, I wondered what I was doing in that Summit and what were Spain and Portugal, our former metropolises, doing there, as they were members of the European Union and NATO.
However, I will never forget Mexico’s gesture in inviting us there, as I will forever be grateful to King Juan Carlos for his kind and respectful manners and to other leaders present there who showed sincere solidarity with the black sheep --representing in that meeting a rebellious and tenacious people-- that thirty years before had strayed from the flock to pursue its own way and that in a matter of weeks or months would be sent to the slaughterhouse. Still, the most significant to me then was that Latin Americans were meeting for the first time not summoned by Washington. Why was that? Historians might some day offer a reasonable explanation for the strange things that were happening.
Only eight years have passed. At that time, no one spoke of globalization; not even the specialized magazines on politics and economics mentioned it. The books still referred to the "Japanese miracle" and the legendary and invulnerable "Asian tigers". Russia was entering the fabulous stage of the purest democracy that the world ever knew, with a rapid and unbridled growth fostered by the prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund and the West economic wisdom.
Capitalism had discovered the philosopher’s stone: uninterrupted development without recessions or crises. It was the end of history.
When many felt that the summit meetings were useless, nobody objected that Cuba would host the 9th Summit in 1999; Cuba might not even exist by then. That was the basic reason for which it was not difficult to leave us the task of organizing what was then little else than a utopia.
It was about that time that some pundits and wise people among those who foretell the future took up a well coordinated but still impossible mission, that of persuading Cuba to abandon the path of revolution and socialism as the only possible alternative for survival. There was a flow of advises from all directions but we felt otherwise and were determined to struggle.
As if Aristotle himself were our tutor, we listened politely to their advises with the half-smile of a Mona Lisa and the biblical patience of Job.
History has taught all of us a lesson. The importance of the Ibero-American Summits has grown tremendously. Many actions aimed at integration have been inspired, fostered and supported by them. Thousands of senior officials and experts from our countries have met and tightened relations. The political leaders have come to know each other better and to have a clearer understanding of our respective countries’ complex problems.
We do not need to be summoned or receive anyone’s permission to meet like a family without exclusions. Spain and Portugal have become sound and indispensable bridges with an increasingly united and integrated Europe. Relations with the Caribbean nations are developing and strengthening as well.
A few years ago, no one would have thought it viable to hold a Summit conference, as was the case in Rio de Janeiro with the participation of Caribbean, Latin American and European Community nations. In my view, the efforts undertaken at the Guadalajara Summit made it possible. Today, we can take up a united defense of our vital interests and negotiate together the crucial issues of our times. If we acted separately, we could be devoured but together nobody would be powerful enough to dispose of any of us.
New discrepancies and conflicts of different nature arise between Latin American countries but none would resist the common will to solve them. Agreements on border conflicts, some of which date back centuries like those of Peru and Ecuador and others like that between Argentina and Chile are examples of this. It is only by standing closely together that our peoples will be able to face the complex and difficult world ahead of us, where our countries’ integrity and survival will be at stake.
I wanted to be very sincere in recounting this story. In opening this 9th Summit I did not want to touch on our main subject matter, that is, "Ibero-America and the international financial situation in a globalized economy", proposed by Cuba in Oporto. At that time, some took it for granted that at this point in 1999 there would not be any symptoms of a crisis. We rather leave it to you to open the debate on the central issue.
As hosts of the 9th Summit, we have pursued some basic principles:
The results of this line of conduct are tangible. There have been countless meetings in our country prior to the Summit with thousands of senior officials and experts in attendance.
Every possible subject has been discussed. All documents have been elaborated by consensus.
All the necessary facilities have been created. Every detail and every interest expressed by the Heads of States and Governments, their efficient advisors, assistants and staffs have been attended to and solved.
New subjects will be brought up. There will be contradictions and debates. When the Heads of States and Governments meet all by ourselves in the afternoon for lunch and afterwards, we shall advance towards the solution of our differences. Our program will be flexible.
All the residences, meeting halls, the media room and other areas related to the Summit are at close distance. Any flaws or errors can be attributed to our inability but not to negligence or lack of concern. I thank you in advance for your understanding and beg your forgiveness.
Cuba and its entire people are at your service.
Thank you, very much.