Informative round table on the crisis in Argentina and the boot-licking policy of that country’s foreign ministry, held in the studios of Televisión Cubana on January 30, 2002, Year of the Heroes Imprisoned by the Empire.
(Translation of the Council of State transcript)
Randy Alonso.- Good evening TV viewers and radio listeners.
While the economic, political and social crisis in Argentina grows ever deeper, the Argentine foreign minister traveled to Washington to bow down to the demands of the U.S. administration, which included a treacherous and shameful attack on Cuba.
The subject of today’s round table is the crisis in Argentina and the boot-licking policy of that country’s foreign ministry. Accompanying me on today’s panel are Comrade Felipe Pérez Roque, the Cuban minister of foreign relations; Juan Antonio Fernández, director of multilateral affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Relations; Francisco Soberón, minister-president of the Banco Central de Cuba; and journalists Eduardo Dimas, international commentator for Televisión Cubana news services, and Lázaro Barredo, from the newspaper Trabajadores.
As usual, we are accompanied in the studio audience by comrades from various agencies, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, and the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Cuba.
This evening, we have some special guests in the studio audience: our Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro; Comrade Carlos Lage Dávila, member of the Political Bureau; a delegation from the United Left Party of Spain, currently visiting our country, headed by Gaspar Llamazares Trigo, the general coordinator of the party; Ms. Laura González Alvarez, a United Left eurodeputy; Ginés Fernández González, organizing secretary of the United Left; and Pedro Chávez Giraldo, assistant to the general coordinator of the United Left.
(video footage of the situation in Argentina is shown)
Savings account holder.- We’re against these adjustments, because they’re affecting all of us. That’s why we’re here. I can’t even feed my children.
Savings account holder.- We want them to give the money back. It’s ours. They needed money and so they stole it. Let’s see if the rest of the world can understand that.
Savings account holder.- This model is killing education and public health, the two things for the people.
Randy Alonso.- And while hundreds of savings account holders gathered outside the Ministry of the Economy this morning to demand the return of their dollar deposits, facing a heavy police presence, Argentine Foreign Minister Carlos Ruckauf wrapped up a visit to Washington yesterday.
A wire report I have here, datelined Washington, says:
"After repeated attempts to demonstrate to the White House that Argentina remains an unconditional ally of the United States, Foreign Minister Carlos Ruckauf concluded his meetings in Washington this Tuesday, according to reports from CNN."
I would like to invite our viewers and listeners to view the reports broadcast last night and today by CNN in Spanish and Televisión Española on the Argentine foreign minister’s visit to Washington and his meetings with U.S. leaders.
Reporter.- Argentine Foreign Minister Carlos Ruckauf showed signs of the stress he seems to be under on Tuesday.
Carlos Ruckauf.- Yes, very briefly, because you know I have a terrible headache.
Reporter.- And this is because of very tightly packed agenda; since Monday he has had meetings at the White House, at the Department of the Treasury with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, and at the State Department with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Carlos Ruckauf.- We have delivered a personal letter from President Duhalde to President Bush ratifying our status as extra-NATO allies and ratifying as well that we are moving towards a free economy in Argentina.
Reporter.- The Argentines have come with a suitcase full of good intentions, hoping the White House will judge that the suitcase weighs enough.
For example, Ruckauf said that Argentina will continue to support the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, the FTAA.
Martín Redrado.- Argentina reaffirms its desire for integration and reaffirms the FTAA timeline. We have some difficult issues before us, like the issue of agriculture, which we are divided on at the moment, but we are determined to comply with the established calendar.
Reporter.- But in order to be part of this, and implement the FTAA in 2005, Argentina insists that it needs to reactivate its economy, and an essential part of this is the tourism industry.
Martín Redrado.- Today we have asked Secretary of State Powell for a review of the tourist alert issued in the month of December, because this is a matter that can be completely overcome.
Reporter.- Tourism alone, however, will not provide Argentina will all of the funds needed to resolve the crisis.
That is why the stance of George Bush’s government, for now, is to listen, analyze and act; but only when it is convinced that Argentina’s plans carry sufficient weight.
Reporter.- Argentina wants financial aid to help it out of the crisis, as soon as possible. Under the circumstances, U.S. support is essential, and this is what the Argentine foreign minister made clear to both U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.
Carlos Ruckauf gave them a personal letter from Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde to President George Bush.
Carlos Ruckauf.- We have delivered a personal letter from President Duhalde to President Bush ratifying our status as extra-NATO allies and ratifying as well that we are moving towards a free economy in Argentina, for the good of our peoples.
Reporter.- In the letter, Duhalde also asks Bush for understanding regarding the crisis afflicting the country and for the U.S. government to urgently consider formulas for immediate assistance for Argentina. The aid required by the country will be discussed again today in Buenos Aires.
This Wednesday a representative of the International Monetary Fund will arrive in Argentina to study the concrete details of Duhalde’s plan to overcome the crisis.
Yesterday the Argentine leader analyzed the delicate situation in his country with Uruguayan President Jorge Battle, while protests continue outside banks in reaction to the restrictions adopted.
Savings account holder.- Why are they giving me pesos when they’re selling dollars at the next wicket over? Why? I just don’t understand.
Reporter.- Protests outside banks and also on the highways. Dozens of unemployed workers cut off numerous routes into the capital yesterday to demand food and work.
Randy Alonso.- And the Argentine foreign minister’s visit to Washington ended with a terrible headache. On the one hand, there is the situation in his country, on the other, the mission he went to Washington to carry out and the statements he made, after the visit that wrapped up yesterday and that was not limited to the issues addressed in these two reports from CNN in Spanish and Televisión Española.
The reason for today’s round table lies in other statements made by the Argentine foreign ministry yesterday as a result of the foreign minister’s visit to Washington.
Eduardo Dimas has been following this story through the wire services, and he is going to share a few of the details with us.
Eduardo Dimas.- I want to begin with one small detail: the headache might not necessarily be a result of his worrying over the situation in Argentina, but rather from keeping his head down too long. We should not rule out the possible relation between his headache and the amount of kowtowing he had to do. I think it would be worth analyzing, and perhaps he would thank us for it.
Ruckauf went to Washington with a number of objectives. The primary objective was the economic objective, and this included preparing the way for the Ministry of Finance, which will be presenting the economic plan he announced this coming Saturday. And within all of is, there is the subject of Cuba.
During his meeting with Colin Powell – and there was a lot of coverage of this – the Argentine foreign minister stated, for example, to quote AFP and be as brief as possible:
"The United States and Argentina share similar positions on the solution of the crisis and on human rights in Cuba..
"ANSA.- United States-Argentina, agreement on human rights in Cuba.
"Notimex.- Argentina will adopt the United States’ position" – I believe this is the most precise headline – "on human rights in Cuba." And it is not Argentina, the Argentine people, it is the Argentine foreign ministry; I think it is important to make that clarification.
"Reuters.- Argentina says it will collaborate with the United States on human rights in Cuba." The foreign ministry says it will collaborate, of course.
What was discussed? Well, there is every indication that this year, yet another draft resolution condemning Cuba will be presented, as it has been presented over the past few years by the Czech Republic. And there is also every indication that Argentina, which backed the draft resolution last year, could very well be the one to present it this year. This is not certain, because they say that no agreement was reached about how it was going to be done. But what is certain is that the Argentine foreign ministry has completely sold out to the United States’ position. According to the foreign ministry spokesman, Martín Redrado, "no concrete action has been decided on, this is something that the respective officials will look at later."
"What was established at the meeting was a shared vision, which is the defense of the human rights of the Cuban people, the condemnation of the only dictatorship remaining in Latin America today, and of course, working for the Cuban people to be free."
This is repeated in all the wire reports I have here on the table.
Now, I would like to recall the words of President Duhalde, when he joined with the church to call for a national dialogue, and I quote:
"Our point of departure is a present of extreme exclusion. We must bring an end to indigence, which is the lowest level (of poverty)," the president declared, before admitting that in his country, and I quote, "the human rights to life, health, food, clothing and education have been violated."
What human rights is Mr. Ruckauf talking about?
Basically, Randy, as I was saying at the beginning, I think the situation is emerging, and I do not think it should come as a surprise, given the extreme position adopted by this gentleman with regard to Cuba. We have a precedent, of course, in that the last foreign minister did the same thing, as did the others before him. We need only recall the carnal relations with the United States referred to by a former foreign minister, who has now passed away.
Randy Alonso.- I can add a few details to that, Dimas, from a DPA wire story I have here.
It says that apart from the crisis in Argentina, the only subject addressed after the meeting with Powell was Cuba. It reports: "They spoke clearly about human rights policies, the defense of the human rights of the Cuban people, the common position of the Argentine government and the U.S. government, a common position that we are going to support in the United Nations," according to Martín Redrado, the secretary of international economic relations of the Argentine foreign ministry, who was the spokesman for these statements. Well, as you saw, the foreign minister had a headache.
Redrado added: "They spoke about working together, about a shared vision of the human rights of the people of Cuba, of the defense of the human rights of the Cuban people, of the condemnation of the only dictatorship remaining in Latin America today, and of working for the Cuban people to be free."
The wire story continues further on: "A Washington correspondent from a Brazilian newspaper summed up his impressions in one sentence: ‘That was the price.’
"Journalists were left with many doubts, but the foreign minister refused to answer questions, claiming that he had a headache, while Redrado was informed that he had to leave because they had very little time to get to the airport, where the delegation departed for Rome to continue its tour.
"A correspondent from an international agency, whose questions were left unanswered, asked the Argentine journalists present if they had any idea why the subject of Cuba had come up during an extremely short meeting of barely half an hour with Powell, when Argentina is submerged in financial, economic, political and social chaos.
"The Argentine journalists smiled, and only one answered, with another question: ‘Isn’t it obvious?’"
There is clearly no need for us to say anything about the matter, given what the Argentine press itself has said.
There have been numerous commentaries in the Argentine press today, and I think it would be a good idea, Lázaro, if you could comment on these articles published in Argentina itself, and tell us a bit about Carlos Ruckauf, this new Argentine foreign minister who went to Washington to demonstrate his position and to do a bit of kowtowing, as Dimas noted.
Lázaro Barredo.- Given the fact that our foreign minister is here, I do not want to compromise the Ministry of Foreign Relations in what I am going to say. But really, the general consensus on the street today, what many people are saying, is that there seems to be some kind of competition going on in the Argentine foreign ministry when it comes to the anti-Cuban issue. First there was the late Guido Di Tella, who spoke of the extra-NATO alliance and "carnal relations" with the United States, committing Argentina’s support for the United States with regard to the issue of human rights in Cuba, and it seemed that no one could go any further.
Then Foreign Minister Giavarini came along and outdid Guido Di Tella with his talk of "intense relations", and now here we have Ruckauf talking about "polygamy". It is not clear exactly what he means by this. What is clear is that he has sold out, he has opened his legs up wide to the United States, and the result of this attitude are the statements made by Redrado and reported by the Argentine press today.
I can understand why the man had a headache, Dimas, because really, he had to beat his brains out trying to figure out how to present Argentina’s problem to U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. According to Página 12, Ruckauf spent hours planning and rehearsing the speech he was going to give, and the only way he could think of to put forward the serious problems they are facing was to begin with a joke, to break the ice. He said, "I have come on behalf of the plumbers of Argentina to present this request," because O’Neill, in the days of De la Rúa, had said that he couldn’t give away any more money, because he had to defend the interests of the plumbers and carpenters of the United States. The guy was beating his brains out, that’s why he ended up with a headache.
"Economic Deputy Foreign Minister Martín Redrado enthusiastically declared yesterday that during Carlos Ruckauf’s meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, they spoke clearly about the human rights of the people of Cuba. This turn of phrase, usually, is a euphemism to indicate how Argentina will vote.
"There is no need to interpret Redrado," – says Página 12 – "he was transparent. He said that both governments agreed on the position we are going to adopt together at the United Nations. He went even further," says Página 12. "If his statements were recorded correctly, he said that Argentina had committed itself to working for the Cuban people to be free. In other words, it is not that Argentina, together with other countries, will simply urge Cuba to liberalize its political system, but rather, it will place itself on the front line of battle. Not even Menem, in his carnal relations, stated things so crudely. If Redrado’s line is now followed, Argentina will establish a degree of difference from the rest of Latin America that is not advisable for the country, right at a time when the key to foreign policy should be accumulating sources of support instead of losing them. The counter-argument could be that Argentina needs the support of the International Monetary Fund, for which it first needs a friendly nod from the U.S. Treasury.
"If that is the case, it would be useless to mimic the most hard-line sector of the Cuban-American community in the United States. Argentina, unfortunately, although it is a fact, has a much more powerful weapon than overacting with regard to Cuba. If this country enters into a phase of unmanageable instability, the whole Southern Cone will follow. Washington fears instability in a region of the world that was not formerly unstable.
"That is Argentina’s prime argument."
This was how Página 12 reflected Redrado’s statements and the reference to Ruckauf today.
Who is Ruckauf? Well, when it comes to human rights, it is really striking to see the immorality and double standards with which some politicians attempt to pass judgement on other nations, and this is certainly a case in point.
Ruckauf was a vice president of the Argentine government, and so he shares in the responsibility for what is happening in that country. He was the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, and now they say that he accepted the post of foreign minister to flee from the situation he created in the province, which has become a province in crisis, with high levels of poverty and marginalization. That’s what he did for this province as governor.
To give just one example – because there are a huge number of things I could be highlighting here – Ruckauf is the one primarily responsible for the increase in accusations of police brutality during his time as governor.
To give you some idea, in the years 1999 and 2000, some 60 children and adolescents under the age of 17 were shot down by the state security police, and it was this man himself who came to the defense of state security officials. He shamelessly declared to the press, "I am not going to make negative judgements about my officials," and justified such a barbaric practice as these extrajudicial executions that cut short the lives of 60 children and adolescents.
But if you want a real measure of the shamelessness of this gentleman who talks so much about human rights, you will find it in the case highlighted by the Argentine press regarding a teacher who spent 100 days outside the provincial Congress on a hunger strike. He began the hunger strike when Governor Carlos Ruckauf refused to have him reinstated to his position of head teacher, and also refused to open up an investigation into a series of accusations made by this teacher, involving provincial government officials.
The Argentine press refers to the former governor’s actions as insolent and regrettable, and it would appear that they have no limits. At the end of last year, this teacher on a hunger strike received, addressed personally to him, and delivered by an official, a letter from Carlos Ruckauf, now the brand new Argentine foreign minister, to mark the occasion of the Christmas and New Year’s festivities, in other words, a letter sent to him personally by the governor to wish him a Merry Christmas. How much more shameless can you get?
This gives a kind of a portrait of the individual we are dealing with here, this sick joke played on a teacher who had spent 100 days on a hunger strike, precisely because this man was refusing to have him reinstated to his job as head teacher.
Randy Alonso.- And we could add to that, Lázaro, that Ruckauf’s governorship was considered the most corrupt in the history of Buenos Aires, and then, of course, there is the situation today in Argentina.
Thank you for your comments.
The statements made yesterday in Washington by Foreign Minister Carlos Ruckauf and his spokesman, the Argentine deputy foreign minister, can be understood within the logic of the policy that has been used for more than a decade by the United States in its political manipulation of the human rights issue against our country. There are important precedents in this matter. I would like Juan Antonio Fernández, the director of multilateral affairs at our Ministry of Foreign Relations, to provide us with an overview of the precedents in this political manipulation of the human rights issue used by the United States against Cuba.
Juan A. Fernández.- Certainly, Randy.
I think it would be worthwhile, first of all, to refer back to what we have seen and heard and the comments made by the other panelists.
It was said that the Argentine foreign minister, Carlos Ruckauf, arrived in Washington with a suitcase full of requests – that is very true – and when he got there he found another suitcase full of conditions. One of these conditions was a rather high priority, namely the conditioning of aid on a vote against Cuba in the Commission on Human Rights; in other words, a public pledge by Argentina to vote against Cuba in the next session of the Commission, which is about to begin in the months of March and April.
Why is this a priority? Why is there such insistence on it? It is easy to understand: The issue of human rights and the anti-Cuban maneuvers in Geneva have become and are, in fact, the final justification left for the increasingly small minority sector in the United States that seeks to legitimize its genocidal policy of the blockade against the Cuban people in this way. That is the reason for the priority placed on this issue.
This practice did not begin yesterday; it has a long history of precedents. It should be recalled that way back in the late 1980s, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time, General Vernon Walters, talked about the existence of tens of thousands of political prisoners in Cuba, of tens of thousands of victims of torture. In other words, an entire scaffolding of lies was built, with a great deal of money, and the use of the media, to create this image, to demonize or satanize Cuba and its Revolution, and the revolutionary project we have been building here throughout all these years. Those were the claims made in the late 1980s.
They tried, first of all, to get their resolution passed in the General Assembly, but they couldn’t do it. It was a different world then, with a different correlation of powers.
Then they moved on to Geneva, to the Commission on Human Rights. Why? Because it was a smaller body, with a more limited membership, where it was easier to manipulate, to exert pressure, to twist arms. So they began their attacks there. This was in the years 1987, 1988, 1989; they still didn’t manage to get their resolution passed back then. The correlation of powers was different there as well.
But while they were working on this in Geneva, they were attempting to create right here, or hoped to create right here, a fifth column of salaried workers in their service. In other words, counterrevolutionaries dressed up as a poster children for the defenders of human rights, to contribute to their schemes from within the country itself. Neither ploy worked, and they couldn’t get their resolution passed in 1988 or 1999.
It was not until 1990 – and there is a simple explanation for this – that they finally managed to get their resolution adopted. In 1990, the world had changed; the world we once knew underwent a change in the correlation of powers, with the collapse of the socialist bloc. The countries of Latin America were in a weaker, more vulnerable position. It should be said that even in 1988 and 1989, these countries – some of them in Latin America – stood firm under a certain amount of pressure and even went so far as to vote against these attempts to demonize and isolate Cuba within the Commission.
Now then, they finally managed to get the resolution adopted in 1990 thanks to the new correlation of powers. This was the year of the turncoats we know so well, in central and eastern Europe.
We should also remember – because it is always good to look back at history – the conduct of the Argentine government in 1990, when it received an order from the government of the United States and changed its instructions to the Argentine delegation at the last minute. Thus, after voting against the resolution in 1989, Argentina voted in favor the following year, after a phone call was made from Washington instructing Argentina how to vote.
I want to stop here for a moment, because there is something that has characterized this whole resolution process and the circus staged every year against Cuba in Geneva, and it is what I would call telephone democracy. They phone you to tell you how you have to vote. But it seems that this is not enough anymore. Someone here was talking about kowtowing. Well, it has gone so far that now they have to go all the way to Washington to sing out their vote. What kind of foreign ministries are these, when they don’t even announce things in their own capitals! They go there to announce what they’re going to do.
In the first years of the 1990s, after finally getting this resolution adopted, the United States continued to present it the same way as always, in other words, seeking to condemn Cuba, recreating this whole fantasy they had invented, which in the end did not succeed, because the whole exercise began to lose support and credibility. On the one hand, there was the resistance of Cuba and the Cuban people during these difficult years, determined to stand firm and defend what we had achieved to the bitter end. There was no way they could convince the Commission, and every year the resolution was adopted with a smaller number of votes. There was also an increase in resistance on the part of the countries of the Third World in the face of these blatant maneuvers.
It was a worn-out exercise that got further worn out as the decade of the 1990s progressed.
It is worth pointing out, Randy – and I think it is useful to reiterate it – that the issue being argued is no longer that of human rights in Cuba. Nobody believes in this fairy tale anymore, quite simply. What we are fighting for in Geneva is our right to organize ourselves in the way we choose, to decide upon our own system, a political and social system like the one we have. That is what is questioned there, and this is something we will never accept.
This exercise continued to lose credibility, as I was saying, right up until 1997. In 1998 the resolution was clearly defeated. This paper tiger, as it were, could not hold up any longer, and the exercise came to an end. It came back in 1999 with a new approach, when Washington recruited the Czech Republic to do its dirty work in the Commission on Human Rights. And so for the last three years, it has been the Czech Republic – our people are well informed about all this, because it has been discussed at length at these round tables – that has presented the resolution.
Last year, the resolution passed by only two votes, and that is the way it has been over these last three years: one vote, two votes. And they only manage to achieve these Pyrrhic victories by exerting the most blatant pressures on the members of the Commission on Human Rights.
We should remember that last year, the Czech Republic’s humiliation had grown so great that it stuck in a little paragraph with a veiled and very timid criticism of the blockade, as if one thing could make up for the other, but not even that could be tolerated. One telephone call from Washington to President Havel was enough to make the paragraph disappear, and once again it was more of the same, the same as always.
That was the situation up until last year, when the resolution passed, I repeat, by only two votes, 22 votes to 20.
Now, what has happened since then? What is the current situation? What point do we find ourselves at now? Well, in the first place, we must take into account the exclusion of the United States from the Commission on Human Rights, after 50 years, something unheard of in the history of the United Nations. They lost their seat there, simply because people were fed up with their behavior, their arrogance, their insolence in this Commission. It should be remembered that the United States voted alone against a resolution on the right to food, and it voted alone so as not to condemn Israel for the massive and flagrant violations of human rights in the occupied Arab territories and Palestine, because of a unilateral policy repudiated by the entire international community. And combined with all this there were obviously the blatant pressures to get the anti-Cuban resolution adopted.
The United States has been excluded from the Commission. This year, for the first time in 50 years, it is not a member. Moreover, the Czech Republic has been fully discredited, and no one could be convinced to believe that it has the slightest interest in human rights or anything of the kind; it is simply a matter of being hired to provide a service for a contractor.
The Czech Republic has been giving off signs of fatigue, of being tired, of perhaps not being willing to continue with this exercise. Therefore, they have had to get to work looking for someone else to hire to do the job, namely the job of presenting the resolution against Cuba.
In recent days, a number of envoys – every year it is the same, the story keeps repeating itself – a Czech deputy foreign minister has been making little trips around here, in this region, looking for someone to recruit – the Minister will expand on this later – but it is more of the same, looking to recruit someone to do the dirty work against Cuba.
That is the current situation.
Last year, you may recall, four Latin American countries voted against Cuba. This year the composition of the Commission is more or less the same. Who are the Latin American members? Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador. That is the situation we are facing at this moment in time, and as I explained, there has been an intensification in the efforts carried out in this part of the world. Why? We will see later.
Randy Alonso.- You have told us a great deal about how this exercise has become increasingly discredited, this exercise led by the United States in the Commission on Human Rights. And while the policy of the United States in this Commission has been discredited, what has become even more discredited is the policy of those it has used as hired help to present these resolutions. That is why there are new U.S. maneuvers underway, aimed at our region, and I would like to ask our foreign minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, to inform our people and the international public of the steps being taken by the United States to seek a condemnation of our country in the upcoming session of the Commission on Human Rights.
Felipe Pérez.- Well, Randy, as Juan Antonio was explaining, we are facing a new, decisive moment in the manipulation of the human rights issue against Cuba. We are in a situation in which a proponent of the resolution is being sought. The United States is not a member of the Commission, and so it could not present the resolution this year. The Czech Republic has been giving off signs that this exercise is becoming uncomfortable and wearing. It has had a cost for them in terms of their relations with other countries, even with the countries of the European Union. They had serious disagreements with some of those countries last year over the drafting of the resolution, since they have no independence when it comes to deciding what goes into it, what paragraph is taken out or inserted; this is something decided in the U.S. State Department.
This is the point we are at. Now, what is happening, and what have we come here to clearly denounce before our people and the international public? A new maneuver is underway against Cuba, a conspiracy that they are trying to keep secret, hidden away from the public view of the countries of Latin America and the international community.
Major steps are being undertaken by the United States with foreign ministries in Latin America: meetings at the highest levels; endless trips; delegations and emissaries traveling from one place to another; Latin American countries taking messages to other countries; consultations by the State Department with any European country that has a strong influence over Latin America, to help them organize a plan through which the resolution is presented by a number of Latin American countries; efforts undertaken by the Czechs, who are desperately seeking a successor, out of the fear that, if no one is found, they will be forced to present the resolution against Cuba once again this year.
Czechs traveling around Latin America, secret gatherings, meetings in corridors, draft resolutions being developed: we know about everything, absolutely everything. No one should underestimate our ability to find out about the maneuvers aimed against Cuba. No one should underestimate the friends that Cuba has all over the world, the prestige that the Revolution has earned, and the contempt that these maneuvers inspire in so many people of honor around the world. And we are aware of all these things; we know much more than what those who conspire against us could even imagine.
Aside from the Argentine foreign ministry, whose cooperation they planned to wrench from them in the midst of the desperate crisis they have led this country into, there are two other Latin American foreign ministries that have been subject to active efforts on the part of U.S. diplomacy, and in which they have placed their greatest hopes. There are others with which the State Department has no hopes of success whatsoever. Of the two mentioned above, one is supporting the resolution with real enthusiasm.
Cuba feels it is important for these facts to be known, and for the public to be informed of the efforts being undertaken, although their promoters want them to be kept in silence, and not revealed until their plans are concrete.
But what we have seen is the visible part of a plot in which even more people are participating. There are Latin American foreign ministries for which this is being imposed as the first item on the agenda for meetings with the State Department. We also know of foreign ministries who have been told what the requirements are for even being granted a meeting in Washington, and this is the first of all. We are going to fight resolutely against this maneuver, and we have all of the right, the energy and the moral authority to do it. Today we have limited ourselves to making this denunciation in general terms, but we are prepared to offer the international public all of the details of this treacherous conspiracy, at any time, if it becomes necessary.
It is this plan and these efforts that have led, prematurely – it really is a rather inopportune time for Argentina – to these statements and these strange relations, this reference to the subject of Cuba yesterday and to human rights in Cuba, during a half-hour meeting with Colin Powell that was supposedly held to address the issues most pertinent to the Argentine public today, concerning a solution to the crisis.
It should be noted that the idea of a group of Latin American countries presenting the resolution against Cuba in Geneva has always been the dream of different U.S. administrations. None of them ever achieved it, but they continued to dream, because it would give the maneuver more credibility, make it more believable. Last year they made an all-out effort to achieve it, and this year we have observed that the pressures have been much heavier right from the beginning and have started much sooner.
I should add a reflection on what happened yesterday in Washington and on the statements made by Mr. Martín Redrado, the secretary for economic affairs in the Argentine foreign ministry, who accompanied Foreign Minister Ruckauf and acted as spokesman for the Argentine delegation. As you have seen, he is not an official who deals with human rights matters or political matters; what he deals with are economic matters, but he acted as spokesman, and we have heard his statements here.
Listening to these statements, and seeing the images we have seen here, I have felt embarrassed; I have felt embarrassed for Argentina, for its people, for whom we feel such fondness, such respect; to whom we have offered so much solidarity, and from whom we have received a great deal of solidarity as well. It has really pained me to see such a lamentable scene as we saw here, to read declarations like the ones we have read.
To be completely honest with you, I really didn’t think such a talent for the ridiculous was possible. I didn’t think such an absence of the common sense necessary to maintain a certain decency, to hold onto some kind of public composure was possible. I had honestly never seen such an incredible level of cowardice, because we must be dealing with a true lack of courage, a complete absence of self respect to be able to carry out such a pathetic role as that we witnessed yesterday.
I thought I had seen everything in these last three years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but yesterday I saw something completely new, a new and outstanding example of cowardice, of lack of political values and a sense of national dignity. I would have thought it impossible that the representative of a country with such a history, with Argentina’s traditions, could play such a despicable role there, provoking such irony and criticism in the press.
I would say that yesterday, in terms of shame, a new world record was broken. What we heard the representative of the Argentine Foreign Ministry say yesterday marks the turning of a new page in the history of subordination of Latin America to the plans of our northern neighbor. To say that the Argentine Foreign Ministry will work for the freedom of the Cuban people, when what they must concentrate on is working for the freedom of their own people; the liberation of their money that is imprisoned in the infamous "Corralito"; to hear them say that they intend to adopt a common position with the United States to cooperate in the defense of Cuban human rights would be laughable if the current situation was not so dramatic in Argentina, a country where the people’s most elemental rights are being flagrantly and widely abused.
I must remind you here of the statements President Duhalde himself made on January 4, two days after assuming the presidency, in which he declared:
"We must guarantee basic human rights in Argentina" – this is the verbatim text of his speech – "a country that talks so much of human rights must guarantee those that are basic: the right to health and food. We must consider the human rights of those who do not even have access to basic items, while at the same time, obviously, guaranteeing social peace, because anything less than this will lead us into a veritable blood bath."
These are the words expressed by President Duhalde as he assumed the challenging and complex responsibility he now faces. These statements acknowledge the fact that these rights are not guaranteed in Argentina today. In a country where we have witnessed police brutality, where we have witnessed more than 30 people killed in the streets, where we have witnessed people dying of hunger and disease; all this in a country with the wealth of Argentina gives a true idea of the lack of moral authority to stand in judgement of Cuba.
The declarations of the Argentine Foreign Ministry and the position it adopted yesterday have truly filled us with disbelief. In our opinion, Argentina is the last country in the world qualified to focus on the human rights of anyone other than its very own citizens, living in a situation of pure agony and hopelessness, as has not been seen in this hemisphere in the last 50 years.
To talk of human rights in Cuba, a poor Third World country trapped behind a blockade, where social indicators are nonetheless far higher than in Argentina, at a time when Argentine teachers, this very morning in fact, are marching to demand the payment of their last four months’ salary, and Cuba is working flat out to reduce the number of students per classroom to 20, it truly is absurd. For a country such as Cuba, which at this very moment is carrying out social programs to guarantee universal access to culture, to perfect to an unprecedented degree its mechanisms of social assistance, to be judged by a country where the people are looting supermarkets in order to feed their children, really goes far beyond what we would have thought possible in the various maneuvers against Cuba.
I doubt, however, that the position expressed by the Argentine Foreign Ministry spokesman is monolithic or universally shared by other sectors and other political figures within the country. We must not forget that Senator Eduardo Menem for example, a figure from the Justice Party that is currently in government in Argentina, proposed to the Senate that the Argentine ambassador in Havana be reinstated at the earliest possible opportunity. The ambassador was withdrawn last year due to a diplomatic crisis produced when Cuba again denounced Argentina’s participation in a maneuver just like the one we are discussing today in exactly the same month of last year. Menem’s proposal was unanimously accepted just a few days ago.
The government head of Buenos Aires province, who represents another political party, FREPASO, has also publicly declared a position of respect for Cuba. Senator Alfonsín, a former president of Argentina, has also publicly expressed a position of respect for Cuba and opposition to Argentina’s participation in this kind of maneuver; it was under his government that Argentina voted against the condemnation of Cuba in Geneva. We even know of figures within the current Argentine government who hold positions of respect for Cuba that have nothing to do with what we have witnessed here.
We might mention Ms. Hilda González de Duhalde, for example, the current minister of social development; she visited Cuba, and we were able to meet her in person and observe her interest in our social programs and in developing similar projects in Buenos Aires. She was clearly very interested in learning about what was happening in our country. We might also mention the minister of education, Ms. Graciela Giannettasio, who visited Cuba and became familiar with our educational projects. And there are many other ministers and members of the Cabinet and of social and political sectors who are demanding a different position on Argentina’s part. What we are seeing today is a first sign.
Cuba has always maintained solidarity with the Argentine people. The Cuban government publicly denounced the pressure placed on the current Argentine government in the first days of its mandate and called for international solidarity and understanding. Our country has maintained this solidarity, has even acted before the Ibero-American community to ask for solidarity with the Argentine people and its authorities, in the search for a solution. Then suddenly, yesterday, we discovered that in a half-hour meeting with Secretary of State Powell, in which the theme was to be – according to earlier declarations – how to "pave the way" to improvements to be later "grounded" by the Argentine Ministry of the Economy, it comes out that the other major issue addressed was the violations of human rights in Cuba and the need to save the Cuban people. To me this seems, at the very least, a bad joke.
Randy Alonso. – The impression I also get, Mr. Foreign Minister, is that while we have been saying up until now that the U.S. exercise against Cuba in the Commission on Human Rights has become increasingly discredited, then to think that now the bearers of the U.S. message in the United Nations, and particularly in the Commission on Human Rights, might be certain countries in this region which, to mention just one of many elements, has the greatest disparity in the distribution of wealth in the world, and which, moreover, has such a long history of human rights violations throughout the four decades our Revolution has been in existence; well, if this exercise has been increasingly discredited up until now, it must surely be completely rejected if certain Latin American countries offer to do the dirty work of the United States in that commission.
Felipe Pérez. – What I can say about what you have told me is that the Spanish daily El País reported today that Buenos Aires, the region for which the current foreign minister, Mr. Ruckauf, was governor until just a few days ago, has declared itself unable to pay its debts owing to the social situation that reigns in that area.
You were speculating on the origin of the headache that prevented the minister from publicly appearing before the press. Perhaps it was inner guilt after that meeting on Cuba. What I can say is that, when one knows the social situation today in Buenos Aires, an extremely wealthy region within Argentina, it is hard to believe that one of those responsible for the gravity of the situation there until a few days ago is now a lead protagonist in the adventure to save the Cuban people. A people, what is more, that possesses all the strength, morality and resources necessary to save itself without recourse to foreign saviors. A country engaged in efforts to promote its rights and, particularly, its sovereignty and independence, which has earned it admiration from around the world.
Randy Alonso. - Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister.
Lázaro Barredo. – The problem, Randy, is that this political world is completely turned on its head; it is "democratic" to crush the people, to kill people, to crush teachers’ strikes as is happening in some countries that claim to be the Switzerlands of the Americas or of Central America, or that talk constantly of their political activity. What we really see is the blatant manner in which the police are acting extrajudicially to stifle any possible complaints against a rampant social crisis that adds more and more every day to the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of the Latin American poor. This is what truly attracts our attention...
Randy Alonso. – In the case of Argentina, we have already seen in a previous round table that over 2000 people join the poor of that country every single day.
Lázaro Barredo.- No, 8260 is the new figure I uncovered; and there are almost 15 million people below the poverty line, that’s more than a third of the population of Argentina.
Argentina is the best example. Everything the police did, causing 35 deaths, hundreds of arrests and countless injuries is now declared "democratic". "Democratic" are the events in the country where since 1983, according to the Argentine Coordinating Committee Against Police and Institutional Brutality, 10 people have died every month in the hands of the security forces in extrajudicial processes.
Various media are now denouncing the existence there of carefully hidden death squads, as there are in other Latin American countries, some of whom are involved in this campaign against Cuba. These squads are carrying "social cleansing" operations, methodically executing young people in real or engineered conflicts with the ruling political system. There are also countries that speak of human rights while prisoners languish in cells without trial. In Argentina there are 15,000 such prisoners who have not been tried within the appropriate time. Is this humanism?
We must therefore ask ourselves, with what moral right can they speak of human rights when, according to the statistics, hunger, poverty, unemployment and illiteracy increase every day, when every day children have less chance to finish their primary education, when every day people have less right to life? Exactly which human rights are we talking about? What is the right to vote if I cannot decide? How can illiterate people decide how to vote if they don’t know who they’re voting for, if they can’t even read the biographies of the candidates nominateed by the different parties? Is this democracy? Are these human rights?
This is the pitiful situation that afflicts our continent today, with no obvious solution, and this is why the system is facing such a severe crisis.
Randy Alonso.- Dimas, you had something else to add.
Eduardo Dimas.- I do remember a statistic that has always shocked me, about education in Argentina, a country that was once one of the most cultured in Latin America.
In Argentina, 54% of children do not finish primary school, and of those who do, 80% do not finish secondary school. The future is being buried. The future is being mortgaged, a future so desperately in need of scientific knowledge and development. Is this what they want to apply here? Do they want 54% of our children not to finish school, for example?
Randy Alonso.- This is closely related to the type of human rights defense that the Argentine foreign ministry has exercised in the Commission on Human Rights.
I’m not sure, Juan Antonio, if we have any data on this matter that would also be good to explain in this round table?
Juan A. Fernández.- We do, and the facts, the reports issued by international agencies and human rights organizations, including NGOs and the United Nations itself, are truly shocking with regard to Argentina’s human rights record.
Lázaro was speaking about the severe poverty in the country, the denial of the most basic human rights, the right to life, to food. He referred to some statistics he had found, but we can’t mention them all here, we’ve said enough.
While there is talk of the "new rich" of this neoliberal world in some areas, in Argentina the key theme is the "new poor", and every day there are more of them: their own official statistics report 14 million. There are 4.5 million impoverished people in Buenos Aires, where the honorable foreign minister is from – he was the Governor of Buenos Aires Province. These are human rights in Argentina.
If we examine the study undertaken by the United Nations we will find truly bloodcurdling details. For example, the Commission on Human Rights working group on forced disappearances has dealt with only 3455 cases from the 1970s up to the present day, of the more than 30,000 that were reported during the bloody years of the military dictatorships. As consequence of impunity, which is the buzz word of the day in the country, more than 3377 cases have been left unresolved. The Commission is categorical in what it states. The government refuses to cooperate, and has stalled trials that would reveal the truth about what happened there.
Those responsible for the most heinous violations of human rights this continent has ever known are currently in public office. On the theme of the disappearances, this was a phenomenon unknown in the vocabulary of human rights until it was invented by the dictatorships of the Southern Cone, of Argentina, who seized people and made them disappear off the face of the earth. Torture and extrajudicial executions were known, but the disappearance of humans was an institution invented in this hemisphere, in the Southern Cone. The responsible parties continue to enjoy impunity. We have seen the mothers and grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo demanding justice for their children and grandchildren.
Now, Randy, if you were to look at the record of the Argentine vote in the Commission on Human Rights, it is the clearest example of the double standard and shamelessness of that foreign ministry, of those bureaucrats who dare to make their unfortunate comments in their other capital.
I have some information here that I think would be useful to share. Here is the Commission on Human Rights resolution on the effects of structural adjustment policies and external debt on the full exercise of human rights, especially economic, social and cultural rights. Amongst other things, this resolution states that: "aware of the serious problem of the debt burden, this continues to be one of the most important factors adversely affecting economic and social development and the standard of living of the inhabitants of many countries, bringing severe social consequences." Basically, it describes all the consequences of adjustment policies and foreign debt. Well, Argentina abstained from voting on this resolution, which was passed by a majority in the Commission; 31 votes in favor and an Argentine abstention.
We will examine later the economic situation of this country and its debt problems.
Perhaps even the Argentine people, those people we see in the streets, are unaware of these things, that their foreign ministry, their bureaucrats, go to Geneva to abstain from voting, afraid to fight with the international financial organizations.
This is truly interesting.
Turning to the Palestinian case – a further abstention; one of the most severe violations committed in that part of the world and they don’t care. The same in the other resolutions, the right to a democratic and equitable international order, an ongoing demand of the Third World, of developing countries – and Argentina abstains. How interesting!
If this was not enough, we could examine their voting record on a series of resolutions against other countries also presented before the Commission on Human Rights, and here Argentina does not vote in favor, it abstains, but the abstentions must be read in a different way. We are not talking of principled diplomacy, we are talking of dollar diplomacy; Argentina abstains along with those it sells meat to, or those it can still sell meat to, or its trade partners. There is no philosophy here, there are no principles, there are no ethics in the acts of the foreign ministry and its international relations, it simply abstains.
Oh, but they are worried about Cuba! Just as the Minister was saying, it would be laughable if the situation was not so serious.
I think I have illustrated a few key points here, but I’m sure some of the other panelists could add more.
Randy Alonso: Felipe, did you want to say anything?
Felipe Pérez: Just a few words, Randy. I’d like to add that the only country in Latin America whose alleged violation of human rights has been presented in Geneva is Cuba; no other Latin American nation has been submitted to such an analysis in order to condemn human rights violations.
Now, here we have the declarations of Mr. Santiago Cantón, from Argentina, the executive director of the Inter-American Human Rights Committee of the OAS, the OAS official in charge of human rights issues in the region.
Mr. Cantón was in Buenos Aires amidst the demonstrations and police repression we saw on the television. He was asked – and this was published in the Argentine newspaper Clarín – what are the main challenges facing Latin America in 2002, and he replied: "First of all, torture exists in Latin America, there are forced disappearances, murders and police brutality" – this is what he sees in Latin America – "to which we may add the problem of social, economic and cultural rights, all intrinsic parts of human rights." This is what he said.
Now, the U.S. State Department report – as you know, the U.S. State Department issues an annual report on human rights, concerning approximately 170 countries, excluding the U.S. – published on February 23, 2001, states that there were around 20 to 30 extrajudicial executions in Argentina the previous year. It also points out that during the last four years, 59 people have died under suspicious circumstances in police stations in Argentina. However, there has never been a resolution against Argentina in Geneva, there has never been a resolution to punish it for the abuses we have seen in recent days or to ask for an end impunity and the clarification demanded by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Has anybody considered the condemnation of human rights violations in a continent where around 20 journalists are assassinated every year because they have denounced corruption and other human rights violations?
Can anybody say that a single one of the torture victims whose case are documented by the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva is Cuban? Not one of them, it has never happened, simply because there are no torture victims in Cuba.
Has anybody presented a case of an assassination in Cuba in which the body has not been found. No, because there are no extrajudicial assassinations in Cuba.
Has anybody presented a case of a Cuban mother claiming that her son had been snatched in the middle of the night and taken away in an unmarked van, never to be seen again? There isn’t a single case in Cuba, there isn’t one, it simply doesn’t occur.
Can anyone produce evidence of death squads killing children on the streets in "cleansing" operations? There isn’t a single case.
As for Argentina, it is said that 70 children have been killed in a single year in Buenos Aires, and the police remain unpunished; the governor at the time, now the minister of foreign affairs, defended the acts of the police. The Argentine case has not been presented in Geneva.
Latin America is a region where half of the population lives under the poverty line, where infant mortality rates in many countries exceed Cuba’s by 12, 15 and 20 times. And yet Cuba is the nation judged in Geneva and worried about in Washington, a country that has reduced its infant mortality to 6 per 1000. If the infant mortality rates in Latin America had dropped to Cuba’s figures, how many millions of children would now be alive in Latin America?
There is a whole pattern of double standards, of the manipulation of this issue against Cuba, and this is precisely what we oppose and denounce.
Randy Alonso.- Thank you very much, Mr. Foreign Minister.
While the Argentine foreign minister yesterday expressed his "concern" about human rights in Cuba, the unemployed, labor unions and state workers -- according to a DPA wire story – headed up numerous demonstrations and roadblocks in the provinces of Santa Fe, Chaco, Misiones, Río Negro, Santiago del Estero, Salta, Jujuy, La Rioja, San Juan and Gran Buenos Aires.
Almost all the demands focused on the need for work, unemployment benefits, adequate salaries and food, as the local news agencies informed.
The situation in Argentina during recent days has been reflected in the world’s media, and these are images broadcast by Televisión Española on January 21, 22 and 25.
Journalist.- The Argentine President, Eduardo Duhalde, has failed to keep his first promise. He must change all deposits into pesos, which implies a loss in the value of the money in the banks.
The conversion of deposits into pesos is at the demand of the financial sector; the government, however, is also being pressured by the International Monetary Fund, demanding currency fluctuation and budget control. The IMF has promised aid in exchange for a sustainable plan. It also demands an austere budget for the coming year. Buenos Aires must draw up an economic plan to be presented to the IMF at the end of the current month.
Meanwhile, the economic situation is practically forcing Argentines to abandon their country.
Miriam Villegas.- You start to sell what it cost you so much to have, but, more than selling, you practically have to give it away, and then you ask yourself, how am I going to get that money back.
Journalist.- To the financial crisis, we must also add the price increases. In the first half of January inflation has risen by almost 2%. This represents the worst situation in recent years for many people.
Ricardo Villegas.- My father started small but grew, I grew a little but lost much more than I had gained.
Journalist.- Argentina has experienced a tense calm in recent hours and the number of protests has diminished, although various demonstrations are still scheduled throughout the country.
The third week of Eduardo Duhalde’s leadership of the Argentine government began with violent disturbances around the country and continuing discontent among the population, despite the early economic measures undertaken by the executive.
The worst incidents occurred in Resistencia in the north of Argentina where groups of unemployed people confronted the police who used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
In Córdoba, the police had to separate drivers from a taxi company who where fighting over tariff differences.
Protests against the banks were repeated in the capital, where hundreds of people demanded the complete opening of the ‘Corralito’, which denies Argentines any more than $1000 a month in cash. They also oppose their bank debts being converted into pesos.
Similarly, the main trade unions are preparing a joint march on Sunday to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.
The Argentine government has decided to be flexible in some exceptional cases with the ‘Corralito’. This measure will benefit only those over 75 and the sick.
Yesterday, thousands of people took to the streets once more banging on pots and pans to demand the resignations of the members of the Supreme Court of Justice. These are accused of tolerating the corruption of the political class and the financial powers.
Other protesters gathered before the offices of the major banks, and were even able to gain access to these. This family even decided to spend their holidays in one of these offices.
Member of the public.- This bank doesn’t let me go away anywhere on holiday, so I’ve come here for my holiday.
Journalist.- Argentines denounce the non-payment of officials’ salaries, the paralyzation of social services and the banking restrictions by banging their pots and pans in the streets.
Member of the Public.- Since 1983, the banks, the politicians and the governments have all ripped us off.
Member of the Public.- How is it possible that there is so much wealth in the country and we are still hungry?
Journalist.- After the relatively spontaneous protests, networks of resistance are being created with the aim of offering an alternative to the traditional parties and unions. The Internet has been the preferred media for coordination and it was from there that this afternoon’s protest was organized.
Randy Alonso.- Well, what should the Argentine Foreign Ministry concentrate on? From the images we have seen here and from the social and economic crisis, I’d like to ask Francisco Soberón, president of the Banco Central de Cuba, to explain the desperate situation that the Argentine people are facing today.
Francisco Soberón.- Well, what we must first point out is that this breakdown of the neo-liberal model in Argentina is not simply that; not simply the visible and undeniable breakdown of this model that has been so staunchly defended by the rich countries and the International Monetary Fund; it may also be classed as the heist of the century, the greatest theft of all.
Felipe was speaking about gold medals. Well, if there were an Olympics for theft, it’s very likely that what is happening at the moment in Argentina would take the gold medal. Of course, we must not rule out the fierce competition posed the Enron case in the United States, but I’m sure we would witness a very closely fought battle.
Thinking more carefully on this theme, I said to myself: we are not just talking about a major theft, we are almost dealing with a magic trick. I had seen magicians make doves and rabbits disappear, but I had never seen anybody capable of making 85 billion dollars disappear, by any means. Without a doubt, this could also compete for the most amazing magic trick of all time.
We also saw an Argentine, with every right in the world, saying "How can we be in this situation in a such a wealthy country?" I would like to offer some statistics on just how wealthy Argentina is. Now, what country has been crushed the International Monetary Fund and the market fundamentalists? A country that covers 2,766,000 square kilometers, the eighth largest country in the world, 25 times larger than our country, with 37 million inhabitants, approximately 3.3 times more than the population of Cuba. Therefore, the riches owing to each citizen are extraordinary.
Argentina produces 66 million tons of cereals and oil grains, such as soy with its very high protein content. Let’s do our math; the people that say "I am hungry" produce enough of those cereals and soy to give every Argentine 10.7 pounds every day, I repeat, more than 10 pounds every day. There are 48 million head of cattle, 1.3 for every inhabitant.
There are 5000 kilometers of coastline rich in many different species of fish, where 850,000 tons are caught; river resources of every type, with great savings in transportation due to the navigable rivers; oil, 75 million tons produced annually. What is more, there are approximately 1.4 billion tons of oil equivalent reserves. What does this represent? Well, 186 years of Cuban consumption, so we are able to appreciate the kind of reserves we are talking about; there is also the great advantage, because of the rivers that we have already mentioned, that 40% of the energy needs are produced hydroelectrically, so they don’t even need to use their hydrocarbon resources.
Now, what has been done with all these riches by these -- let’s call them the alchemists, since it is practically an act of alchemy -- of the International Monetary Fund, with its subordinates in the previous Argentine governments?
I think that nothing could capture this situation with such eloquence as some short paragraphs from the inaugural speech of President Duhalde on his ascension to power.
Let me cite directly from President Duhalde’s speech:
"As a consequence of the economic depression, our per capita income fell by 12%. Unemployment also rose, breaking all records in our country" --although the statistics are incomplete; the official rate is 18%, but rumors report more than 30% unemployment, without including underemployment, the informal sector, etc. -- "and the poverty rate reached 40%, which implies" – Duhalde states – "no less than 15 million of our brothers and sisters living below the poverty line," and might add, in such a wealthy country.
"During the 2001 fiscal year, the reserves of the Central Bank of the Republic of Argentina fell by 18 billion dollars and 24% of the deposits in the financial system fled the country, as a result of, among other things, the crisis of confidence".
"This is not the time" — Duhalde added — "to cast blame, this is the time to tell the truth. Argentina is bankrupt. Argentina is ruined. This model, in its death throws, has destroyed everything. The very essence of this perverse model put an end to convertibility, dragged two million Argentines down into dire poverty, destroyed the Argentine middle class, bankrupted our industries, pulverised the work of Argentines. Today production and trade are, as you know, at a standstill; the payment chain is broken and there is no money circulating that is able to get the economy going." End of quote.
And as I was reading this I also thought that,apart from all the natural resources we have spoken of, Argentina also has a greater resource than all of that: its intelligent, hard- working, capable population, which we Cubans here love so much and which has offered us so much solidarity, and we have shown it solidarity as well.
Now, it would be somewhat lengthy to explain how they managed to ruin Argentina, in other words, it is not possible to explain a question of that magnitude in just a few minutes. But just to give you some idea, we shall mention five points and they are all connected with the doctrine imposed by the International Monetary Fund. And as for all the political kowtowing we saw here, well, it appears to be practiced in economic terms as well; it seems that the training for both is done in the same way.
1. Of course, the total liberalization of capital flows. No matter how weak or how strong the banking system is, or whether there is a good system of control, no matter if the country has reserves or not: "No sir, you have to free up your capital flows, all the hoards of money of which we have spoken on other occasions, hundreds and thousands of millions, may enter and leave at will, if they want to flow in today, then in they flow, and if they want to flow out tomorrow, then out they flow. If this ruins your country, that is your problem. You want help? Then free up completely the flow of capital." "As you wish, all capital flows are freed up".
2. Indiscriminate privatization, a banquet. I even had taken notes and I said: an orgy of privatization, because this goes beyond what is rational. And is it not, of course, that we are saying that foreign investment has to be demonized, no. What we are saying is that you can’t just sell a country off. One can complement a country’s development, we have done that, sovereignly, with a set level of access for foreign investment. We decide on each case, and that is a help. I believe that when it’s done like that, the foreign investor is even more grateful, because he knows it is something serious, that it is something that will give results, it is not simply a matter of auctioning off the country to the highest bidder and often not even to the highest bidder but to the one who is willing to join in little games, and then fat accounts appear in Swiss banks and in other places that allow them to pay for their holidays and make statements from luxury resorts.
Privatization of 90% of the banking system, along with telecommunications, petroleum, those 1.6 billion tons of reserves, that no longer belong to the Argentines, it was privatized, sold off; the airline, electricity. In fact, in the case of the oil company it is said, there are all sorts of comments made by reliable sources, that there was even some kind of deal with those who had to estimate the value of the company to not include 30% of its reserves so that the sale could be made more cheaply. This may or may not be true, but there are a lot of comments about it and it really would not surprise us, seeing exactly what has happened in that country.
Aside from that, all of this privatization is based on the idea that one must accept lock, stock and barrel that the State is always a lousy manager. It has become an axiomatic truth and I don’t know where the question was settled, where that discussion took place, who was the judge that ruled that the State is always a bad manager and the market a good manager. If the market is such a good manager, why did Enron fail, go bankrupt and drag thousands of U.S. citizens down with it, who had invested their fortunes in it? I know of lots of cases of state companies that run efficiently, I could mention many countries. Singapore is always given as an example. And I know of privatizations that have been disastrous, where the privatized company has been much more inefficient afterwards. I don’t want to give any examples, but I could mention a lot.
What is the fallout from all this privatization? Well, first off there is the party, the booty, the income from the sale of these assets. But what happened in the ten years since they took place? It’s quite simple, between interest and profits no more and no less than 6.253 billion dollars went abroad, through the income account.
3. Then as well, in addition to this privatization spree, and following a fundamentalist concept closely linked to their political beliefs, a decision was taken to tie the monetary system to the dollar, through something called the system of convertibility — we don’t want to go into that in detail so as not to go on too long, but one of the consequences was an overvaluation of the Argentine currency. Why was this done? Well, to attract foreign investment, to avoid exchange risks, and it was also done to control inflation, and it did just that for a short while.
4. The fourth point is what they euphemistically call "flexibilizing" labor legislation. Translation: stripping the workers of all protection. In plain English, making sure there is no chance a worker can demand any rights.
On this point I took some interesting notes. In April 2000, the Senate passed an amendment to the labor law to give companies more freedom to lay off their work force. The result of this -- and this is another lesson -- a bitter clash with the unions and a situation of instability was created in the country. But the most interesting thing is that, in September 2000, several senators were accused of having accepted bribes to pass this amendment. One sometimes wonders if behind all this there is really a conviction that one is doing what has to be done, or if it is personally expedient, a way of getting rich for those who behave this way. If they adopted policies which would give more protection to their people, then they would not have access to all these sources of embezzlement, of bribes.
And fifthly, they not only completely opened up the balance of payments for capital flows, but they also opened it up for foreign trade. An overvalued currency, and foreign trade with no controls. To sum up, over those years, a 23.8 billion dollar trade deficit.
Now, to try to clear that deficit, and we are talking of a trade deficit of 23 billion dollars, a deficit in the income statement of more than 60 billion. Incredible deficits, how can they be cleared? At first they used the money that was left over from all the privatizing, I say that was left over because we all know that a good part of those funds left for who knows where. It is all part of the magic trick of losing money. The only way out was to go into debt, and to go back not very far, from 1990 to date, the Argentine debt grew from 62 billion to 145 billion — I am very doubtful about that figure of 145 billion — it does not include the debt that the provinces may have contracted directly, and there is a lot of doubt about other kinds of debt that may not be included, but the figure available to us says 145 billion, 2.3 times in ten years, it grew 2.3 times.
They paid (interest of) 180 billion in the same time period, in other words they paid three times the debt they had in 1990 and now they owe twice as much as they owed in 1990.
The Inter-American Development Bank calculated that at that rate the debt would reach 167 billion by 2003. This policy of constantly going into debt, what other consequences does it have? It makes Argentina more and more dependent on the financial markets and on hand-outs, sometimes juicy hand-outs naturally, from the International Monetary Fund. And so they had to follow the policies dictated to them without much argument.
Some of the things demanded of them were: cutting public spending — we already know what cutting public spending means, because it doesn’t mean cutting the salaries at top government levels, it doesn’t mean cutting the means at their disposal. No, we are talking about health, education, we are talking about pensioners. And the government, following their game, follows what I have called the suicidal policy of trying to have a zero budget deficit in an economy in recession. We all know that a budget deficit, at the right time, can help get the economy going, help it to expand. A zero deficit is a recessionary policy. Even the United States, at this stage of the recession, you have seen how they are trying to use many methods to stimulate spending. The result of this includes, as we have been saying here, workers without paychecks, workers who went three months without getting paid. I can imagine that our population hears this and is amazed, horrified. How can the day when you are supposed to get paid arrive and they tell you: "No sir, you are not getting paid today." "But, well, why?" "No, because look, they money didn’t come". "But what do you mean, I did work!"
These things happen, and of course, this is not a violation of human rights. This is "adjustment" which has to be made so the economy works and there are no further implications.
All of these policies exacerbated the social crisis and also created huge conflicts between the central government and the provincial governments — powerful governors like the one we were watching just now, the former governor of Buenos Aires — whose policies put them on a collision course with the central government. This also created a certain lack of confidence, a lack of political credibility, in those markets that they had so much need of and that led them to pay extremely dearly for the indebtedness that they were forced to increase. They needed to constantly increase their foreign debt, to borrow more money to pay what they owed and to be able to keep the country working. The so-called country risk reached 40%. It was obvious that the country was going to go bankrupt, that it was impossible to go on like that.
One of the things that I remember clearly is that many months ago our Commander-in-Chief had already said: Argentina is exploding. Then he said it publicly, but long before he mentioned it publicly, he had said it in private.
In fact, at the Sao Paolo Forum, December 7, 2001, twelve days before this explosion, he said, and I quote: "There is no need even to puff: it is going to fall down, there is no cure, even if they bring in some from one party and some from another, here and there. This is the picture, it can’t be sustained, and no one is going to come and save their economy, at this late hour, for those strict, 100% neoliberals, chemically pure neoliberals. The Bank people, the U.S. [Federal] Reserve people, they no longer have the slightest respect nor regard for that State. That is why I told them, you can’t go on that way.
How could the Commander-in-Chief, at a distance of thousands of kilometers, with the information he receives, have managed to have such a very clear insight, almost the only thing he failed to do was to say what day it would explode, yet those who were there did nothing to prevent this situation, as far as one could see? Which is like someone who walks along a mountain path and blindly goes on and on because there are others behind saying: "Go on, there is no cliff there." And he goes on crazily, without looking at anything. And finally what the Commander-in-chief had predicted came to pass.
When it could already be clearly seen that the country was going to go bankrupt, foreign capital stopped flowing in. Inside the country, those who had money in the country, those who had good information — they are not those poor people we saw, that woman who said "They have stolen my money." The well-informed person simply put his money in a safe place abroad. A person like that did not suffer any negative consequences.
Randy Alonso.- An investigation has begun, Soberón, into the president of the Central Bank because they say that there are 120 people...
Francisco Soberón.- We are going to look at that a little later.
Now at this time I would say that it was already a do or die situation. Every man for himself. Reason disappeared over there and at a time like that there were many voices saying to the government: "The debt must be restructured. We have to say that we can’t take it on." There were even those who were saying: "Declare a temporary moratorium." They insisted on waiting until the last minute to declare this moratorium, but at what cost? Because it was not at the cost of the salaries nor of the personal fortunes of those who were taking those decisions. The cost was that a a given monent they had to say: "Since I now have no money ..." Because all the foreign savers, all the foreign investors had taken all the money. What money is left in the banks? Ah! The population’s money, the small businesses’ money, the money belonging to those who for one reason or another had not taken their money out of the country. The government’s decision: I will pay the Monetary Fund and I will take the money away from my people. Graphically speaking, in my opinion, it is like grabbing every single Argentine and taking the money from his pocket or the money he had in the bank and, quite simply, handing it over to the Monetary Fund, so they say, what a good boy you are, how well you meet your obligations. And, at the end, they didn’t even manage that, in spite of everything they did.
We have reached the moment when what is called the Corralito (little corral) took place. The day that the Corralito happened I said, Rather than Corralito, which is something picturesque, I would say that the Argentine people’s money has been put into a moat full of crocodiles. This is not a Corralito, it is a prison with a moat full of crocodiles around it. So that in order to get at that money, in fact, they are going to have to take a lot of beatings from the police, unfortunately for them, such an honest, hard-working people whom we love and admire so much.
Around 65 billion was frozen, but 45 billion of this, since there was parity between the dollar and the Argentine peso, was in dollar deposits and 20 billion was in peso deposits.
Something that we perhaps do not have a very good grasp of is that this was not just the population’s savings. No, it is more serious than that; because in Argentina a high percentage of salaries are paid through bank accounts, the company deposits your salary in a bank account . This latest restriction means that you can’t get at your current salary either. You might need it to pay the electricity bill, the rent, the gas bill, it is money that you have earned but if it is above the established limit, you can’t withdraw it, let it just sit there.
And there is talk that they are going to put it into a deposit account, a fixed term account, obligatorily, and that they will give it back, starting in January 2003.
I had really wanted to give a more detailed explanation but everything that has been said and everything they are doing is so confusing and there are constant changes, that a tremendous feeling of frustration has arisen, not only among the population, the level of stress, of psychological problems among bank workers is extremely high. There are some statistics on that, of insomnia, that they are taking anti-anxiety drugs, a terrible thing. Because the visible face of the bank is the person who is there at the wicket, and who sometimes doesn’t even know, can’t even tell the person who comes to the wicket what he can or cannot do. Can I withdraw my money? Can’t I withdraw it?
One thing is clear: there can be no withdrawals above a certain limit and second, no one is going to be withdrawing dollars. It seems to me that that much is quite clear. The promises made that people would be able to withdraw their deposits in the money they were originally made in, that anyone who had dollar deposits would be able to withdraw dollars, that has gone with the wind, it’s going to be only pesos. Pesos that have been devalued to a rate of 1.40 — but that is for official transactions — they would return part of their money, maybe, at that rate, according to the established limits. But if that person want to buy dollars, they have to buy them in the free market and there the dollar is exchanging at a rate of 2.15 pesos to the dollar, now it’s 1.85, the bank intervened to prevent further devaluation.
In previous round tables we have talked about the limits on the deposits and I am always pleased to remind people that to cover his costs an Argentine needs approximately 70 dollars, for example, for his monthly electricity bill, for a family of four; gas, 35 a month; water, 30 a month; rent, depending on the neighborhood, the same as anywhere else, can be more or less expensive, between 300 and 1000 dollars. I know that these figures might seem somewhat unreal, exorbitant to us, mightn’t they? Because it is true that in Cuba one is used to paying 13 pesos a month for electricity, which would be 50 U.S. cents a year. Now, I am obviously using this opportunity just to say that the foreign press, often to make comparisons, says how much a Cuban earns in dollars, dividing his salary by the exchange rate given in the CADECA. However, they never say, using the same methods, that a Cuban pays 50 U.S. cents a year for electricity, or a dollar for rent, or that the basic food bill for subsidized items for a family of four is around two dollars.
Now in this period the most incredible things have happened, and as has been said here, if the subject were not so tragic, in some cases they would be almost funny, such as the family we saw who went to spend their holidays in a bank.
Randy Alonso.- In a bank.
Francisco Soberón.- Yes it’s truly amazing.
And just look at what Duhalde himself said about the things that happened during that period.
Duhalde said: There is an accusation that has been made in this Congress about some of these funds having probably been sent abroad using illegal maneuvers." When he said, "some of those funds" he was referring to the 65 billion dollars which were stuck in that moat full of crocodiles.
Randy Alonso .- Sixty five billion dollars.
Francisco Soberón.- Yes 65 billion dollars which were stuck in that moat.
And he said: "These suspicions must be thoroughly investigated because we must find out if someone has stolen this money" — President Duhalde said this — "from the people, and those who do not find those who have stolen the money will go to jail."
Let us quickly look at a few cases. Here we have a gentleman, a very good man, kind-hearted, whom the neighbors love and admire, who went to the bank carrying a grenade, an insulin-dependent man, a diabetic who needs insulin. We should point out that you need about 45 dollars in Argentina to buy a month’s worth of insulin treatment, the very same insulin that we sell here for 1.25 pesos, the same, or that is, the same type of insulin, the same dose, etc., which is sold here for 4 cents, over there it costs 45 dollars.
Now the man goes to the bank with a grenade and says: "Either you give me my cash or we will all blow up." And of course, faced with such a persuasive argument, they gave him his cash (laughter). Then they sent him to jail. It says: "Although the police tried to recover the money that Norberto had recovered, they could not find the cash, now only he knows where it is," and, of course, one thing is sure, it won’t be in a bank (Laughter). The neighbors here say: Everyone on the block thought highly of him, "the best kind of neighbor, very good, very neighborly." When they were interviewed by the newspaper yesterday, they all repeated the same thing, that "what he did was done in the heat of the moment and in anger." The newspaper says that Norberto is insulin-dependent, that his case is very severe, that he has to inject himself twice a day and that he has fallen into diabetic comas on several occasions.
Now the comic touch here, one can almost put it that way, is that poor Norberto is accused of "extortion"; because he went to the bank with a grenade to make them give him his money, the man now is facing "extortion" charges.
Then the journalist said that they had received a lot of calls. "Of every 10 calls, nine and a half were on his side and supported him," a journalist with Radio Tandil said. "One even warned" — one of the callers— "that if the man remained in jail they would organize a popular demonstration." Banging pots and pans or something like that, I imagine.
We also have some wire stories about the subject of the Central Bank reserves. The Argentine reserves had reached a level of 24 billion dollars, and I will read this report, from the Thursday, December 27 issue of El Clarín. It says: "Although the Central’s numbers" — it means the Central Bank’s numbers — "claim that the liquid reserves, which include gold and hard currency, are 14. 3 billion" — in other words, approximately 10 billion less that those that they had had — "the stories circulating in the financial system claim otherwise.
"According to these rumors, when they opened the till they found about 3.5 billion in cash and the rest in little pieces of paper, a banker claims, referring to the surprise that the Secretary of the Treasury, Rodolfo Frijeri received on Monday."
In fact — I later tried to make a thorough check, there has been a lot of contradictory information — it is possible that the figure might be somewhat inexact. It might be a little more, a little less, but it does nothing to explain the situation, let’s say the situation of complete uncertainty which exists around something as important as the Central Bank reserves.
Here is another report: "They assure us that the De la Rúa government knew about the drop in the Central Bank reserves" -- referring to this situation. "The manager of the Mortgage Bank, Julio Macchi, today claimed that Fernando de la Rúa’s government knew that the Central Bank reserves were falling, and he said that it lied to the people when it did not bring them up to date on the real state of Argentina’s finances.
"‘How can we have had enough reserves to maintain the 1 to 1 [parity] and then the next morning away they flew and we had to devalue?’ Macchi wondered, remarking that ‘one of the biggest failures of those in power is that they knew about this and lied to the people.’"
"The former president of the Buenos Aires Trade Exchange thinks that the bureaucrats must have known what the situation was, but they falsified and fudged it." Another report reads: "Argentine justice is making a more thorough investigation into the flight of deposits."
"Some of this money, the money that is now in deposits, which is not being given back to the people, according to the sources, ‘had left the country by means of shady maneuvers which slipped past official exchange controls. We are investigating to see if the banks made loans to themselves and to companies that could not pay them back, to ghost companies and if they used off-shore banks’ — that is, banks located outside the country, in tax havens which have very few controls — ‘to withdraw the money from the country, thus emptying the banks, and to see if some of the of that money belonged to savers.’ Even President Duhalde has said that there are indications that a lot of money left the country illegally."
But now, now there is something here that even surprised us a little, because of how uncommon such an accusation is.
"Deputy Franco Caviglia, from the governing Peronist party, claimed this Sunday in a conversation with Radio America, that ‘we are going to start a preliminary investigation into the customs police.’ Caviglia demanded that the Executive branch ask for reports from the Central Bank and the Customs Office to see if banking institutions withdrew hard currency from the country shortly before the banks were frozen." Even as I was reading the cable, I still thought that they were talking of electronic transfers, the normal thing, of deposits that were sent abroad through banking channels. No sir.
The cable goes on: "Caviglia said that between November 20 and 30, around 358 trucks belonging to the bulk transportation companies" — in other words, companies like SEPSA — "Juncadella, Brick and Vigencia, went to the Argentine airport and a significant sum of money left the country from the airport." I do not want to add my voice to this accusation. We have to see, this is an investigation; but this gives one the idea of a Bonny and Clyde type operation. This is not a sophisticated thing. And what’s more, Bonny and Clyde would go green with envy, it’s a bank robber’s dream, to make off with 358 trucks full, if it is true.
This other report talks about a search and seizure, because justice is on the move. It says: "The police confirmed that the operations were taking place at the request of the federal judge, Norberto Oyarbide,"— in other words, there is search and seizure in the banks — "following the accusation made" — yet another accusation — "by the radical lawyer Juan Carlos Iglesias.
"Iglesias asked that an investigation be made into the alleged flight of some 20 billion dollars between last November 1 and when the so-called Corralito was imposed.
"The accusation that Oyarbide is investigating was made by lawyers Isaac Damsky and Augusto Veronelly, who have made accusations of fraud against former president Fernando de la Rúa, former minister of the Economy Domingo Cavalho, and the head of the Central Bank, who is stepping down, Roque Maccarone." In other words, not only is this kind of search and seizure going on in the banks, there are also accusations against the former president, the former minister of the economy and the former head of the Central Bank.
Now another cable that says: "The largest deposits have already left the country." I don’t know how much. Well, there was more information that said that just a few days before the Corralito was imposed, and it seems this was this was a little known secret which only a few people knew about, and they did have a lot of money in the bank, five billion dollars was withdrawn.
Of course, when we see things like this we can’t help but making the analysis that we in Cuba, where there are supposedly all these human rights violations, we have a social assistance budget of 2.3 billion pesos and that even during the worst moments of special period, not once did any of our pensioners go to the bank and not receive his or her pension, which we have the resources to pay. I think that it would never cross the mind of any of the country’s leaders to use our pensioners as gambling chips, to use the population that has so much faith in our banking system, where it has around 5 million accounts.
Randy Alonso.- Quite the contrary, Soberón, in fact what the Revolution is doing right now is creating programs to give better care to those pensioners.
Francisco Soberón.- Exactly, all those social programs, and we would go on forever if we mentioned them all here, which are exactly what are given priority in our spending, the computers in schools Felipe spoke about, the program that the Commander-in-Chief is carrying out with such vigor, the social workers, so that any Cuban who needs one can have a social worker to help him, and Cuba does not have the wealth, unfortunately, that Argentina has in terms of material wealth. But we do have a population which of course — as has been said — is our greatest resource. Yet we also have a blockade. Or rather, an economic war that has tried to sink us for over 40 years. And it is under these circumstances that we have managed to guarantee that our pensioners get their pensions. And of course, in this very same forum, the Commander-in-Chief, scarcely two months ago, assured our people that their bank accounts would always be respected, as the Revolution has always respected them, and the result of that, Randy, is quite simply that there have been more deposits made in the banks. In other words, we have the population’s complete confidence, complete trust in its leaders, and above all in the Commander-in-Chief.
Now I would like to end by mentioning an article which I think was in fact an editorial that was published in the Wall Street Journal. As you know, the Wall Street Journal, I think we could say that it speaks for the commercial and financial interests in the United States. Let’s say an official establishment voice that reflects the opinions of those who, one way or another, really govern and give the orders in that country.
The title couldn’t be more insulting: "Argentina on the way to becoming a banana republic." Insulting and also somewhat contradictory, because I looked up the term banana republic in the dictionary, I was curious, and a U.S. dictionary defines it as: "A Latin American country which is under the excessive economic influence of the United States." That is how an American dictionary defines what a banana republic is, they themselves. Please, don’t anybody get offended, it’s the Americans who came up with that definition, I am just telling you about it.
In fact, there couldn’t be a more insulting article, I can tell you, they show a level of contempt that would annoy anyone. They compare what is happening in Argentina with the script of a Woody Allen comedy. They say: "It seems as if this film’s scriptwriters were now designing Argentina’s economic policy because the new reforms in that country are certainly nuts. The policies are so bad that perhaps the International Monetary Fund will even be reluctant to hand over more money for a rescue operation." The article is even very disrespectful to President Duhalde. We, as Latin Americans, feel truly offended by this article.
Now, how does the article end?. It says: "In spite of all of that, Argentina keeps asking for more" — when it says, "in spite of all that," all that is everything they say about the mistakes that they supposedly have made, about the policies that don’t work, about the fact that they are insane — "between 15, and 20 billion in new funds from the IMF. But the IMF and the Bush administration Treasury continue to say that they will only talk if Argentina submits the right plan. But a country that acts like Argentina is acting does not deserve to even expect international aid. It deserves to be thrown out of capital markets of all kinds, both private and official. If Argentina want to follow the Haitian way, that is its problem, although it would be a tragedy for its people" — naturally, the article also shows a lack of respect for our sister nation Haiti. "However, until it once again respects private rights and the precepts of the law, Argentina deserves to be treated as any other banana republic."
In fact, the Argentine foreign ministry is playing a very sorry role in going to Washington to put itself under the orders of a master who feels so much contempt for the country that they should be representing in a dignified manner.
That is what I wanted to say.
Randy Alonso.- Well, Minister, and how different from what our foreign ministry, throughout all these years, has done in defense of our people’s rights, is that foreign ministry which far from defending the rights of its people, the concerns of its people, spends its time to placing itself at the beck and call of that master.
I would like to thank you, the Foreign Minister, the rest of the panelists who have been with me this evening; I thank the guests we have had with us in the studio, the delegation from the Spanish United Left who have been with us at this round table. I thank Comrade Lage and of course I offer special thanks to our Commander-in-Chief for his presence at today’s round table.
Dear fellow countrymen:
The entrenched kowtowing in the Argentine foreign ministry. Each time an Argentine foreign minister has gone to Washington in the last ten years, it has been an exercise in paying homage to and humiliation before the powerful. Di Tella and Giavarini did it in their time. Now it is the turn of Mr. Ruckauf, a total master of the double standard morality, who has left the U.S. capital with a splitting headache.
When the Argentine people are going through such a serious crisis and are bereft of the most basic human rights, such as the right to feed oneself and to have access to health services, the Argentine foreign ministry, far from sallying forth to defend the rights and demands of its suffering people, presents its so called action "so the Cuban people may be free" with complete self-assurance in the Empire’s capital, using our country as a gambling chip faced with the demands of that power, which, through the IMF, has turned Argentina into the living hell that it has become today for its people.
The cowardice and lack of moral courage shown by this foreign minister and his ministry makes us angry, as we are deeply hurt by the fact that the Argentine people have to live through such a sad moment. We once again express our solidarity to those people.
Argentina, yesterday the paradigm of the neoliberals, is today the best proof of a system that bankrupts nations and marginalizes human beings.
Cuba, meanwhile, continues to build its dream of the fairest society possible. The peoples, downtrodden and subjugated, are on our side. It is they who make history; the others, the petty and those who kowtow, will be forgotten on some obscure page of history.
Nothing will hold us back in the battle for our dreams.
For Cuba, with Fidel, we keep on fighting.
A very good night to one and all.