Remarks by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the 10th Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government. Panama City, November 18, 2000

Esteemed colleagues:

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking about infancy, so I had not planned to take the floor on this subject, but the important debate of this morning has obliged me to say a few words. I emphasize ‘a few’ so that no one is scared. (LAUGHTER).

Neoliberal globalization is leading the world to disaster.

I do not share philosophies and dogmas of any kind.

When we speak here we forget many things. We forget that there are here European nations and Latin American nations. We forget that, only very exceptionally do a few Latin American countries –and we are happy for this– reach certain levels of economic, industrial and social development, very much above the rest of Latin America.

Chile, for example, indicated that it had reduced the number of poor people from 5 to 3 million. This achievement warrants our recognition and congratulations.

The most serious studies show, however, that in Latin America as a whole the number of poor people grows every day and every year, and that about 50 % are poor and absolute poor. I mean children.

We forget that, for example, the public debt of Latin America and the Caribbean, which in 1992 was 478 billion USD, is 750 billion USD today.

We forget that such a huge growth followed the payment of 913 billion USD in that period.

We forget that the International Monetary Fund –well-known to all-- and its masters are out there.

We forget that private foreign investment that at the end of the last decade amounted to 115 billion USD grew to 865 billion USD in 1999 and that 71% of this sum was invested in the rich countries themselves and only 29% was invested in so called developing countries. Again, of that 29%, 45% was invested in China, 40% in Latin America and 15% in Africa and Asia. Of the total investment, approximately 85% was not used in the creation of new industrial facilities and services, that is, new jobs and wealth, but rather in the acquisition of existing businesses and services. A new phenomenon.

The needs of the vast majority of our nations have not been truly met.

Even in countries such as Cuba, where distribution inequalities have been reduced to a minimum, there are still differences and when these are abysmal, and poverty produces marginality, the result is misery.

Marginality, the result of huge income differences, has devastating effects on education. There is not the slightest equality in the prospects of a poor child and one whose basic needs are covered; this affects practically half the children in the Latin American and Caribbean region. This very real tragedy calls for an answer.

It is clear that, even in these conditions, there is room for action in favor of children in Latin America. This should be done, and it has been shown here that some countries are making extraordinary efforts to that end. In Cuba where, despite the blockade and the poverty, advances have been made such as I described yesterday, we are not content because we understand that there is still much to be done. It can be done, and we will do it with the support of the fabulous audiovisual and technical aids available today.

Incidentally, I might add that in our country we have developed a system to teach reading and writing over the radio. This system is being tested in the Republic of Haiti where it began with 300 people and the results have been spectacular. It is now being extended to 3000 people and they are working now on its extension to the whole country. We developed it in Creole, that is the language of the Haitians. The results are truly hopeful. This being the case, there would be great possibilities of reducing the number of illiterates with a minimum of resources, really a minimum. A central station simply broadcasts that knowledge.

I am not talking of television, which would make it easier. We are gradually extending education on television so that practically the whole country becomes a university. I am not speaking of things to do, but rather of things that are already being done with spectacular results based on humankind immense thirst for knowledge.

Among other things, we are conducting an in-depth study on poverty, marginalization and education. We want to get to the source of crime, the roots of crime. Some very interesting words have been spoken here with regards to the family situation of young people. On this we have collected, and keep collecting, a good amount of data.

A whole new world opens before our eyes, not only in this field, but in many others. Although we are not rich, the availability of abundant human capital resulting from our educational achievements allows us today to conceive dreams that in the past would have seemed unattainable utopias; still, we are embarrassed of the little we have achieved so far.

Let us work with current realities and avoid walking on clouds of illusion and deceit. We should look into the unjust political and economic order imposed on the world to find the real and fundamental causes of our lack of much needed resources to give our children a more humane destiny.

I thank you all for your diverse but interesting and remarkable presentations and views, for you made me feel the necessity of writing down these reflections.

I join the greatly justified congratulations to His Majesty King Juan Carlos, whom I respect deeply, very deeply. I hope he is not offended for I said there are only two of us left; it is just that God wanted him to be a King and me to be alive.

Thank you. (APPLAUSE)