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Venezuela celebrates new course of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States

AVN.- Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro expressed on Wednesday to his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, the joy of the Venezuelan people for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Caribbean nation and the United States, which remained broken for 53 years, reported a statement issued by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry.

Maduro also welcomed the release of Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, three of the Cuban Five who remained unjustly imprisoned in the United States.

Previously, Rene Gonzalez Schwerert was released on October 7, 2011 (three years under supervised release) and Fernando Gonzalez on February 27, 2014, after serving 13 and 15 years respectively.

Following is the full text of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Office of Communications and Institutional Relations

Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs

Official Statement of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on the Restorationn of Relations Between the Republic of Cuba and the United States

The President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, spoke with Cuba's President, Army General Raul Castro, and expressed on behalf of the Venezuelan people, his deepest joy at the fair release of three Cuban heroes, prisoners illegally in the United States, as well as the new direction of relations between Cuba and the United States, which we hope will be framed on mutual respect for sovereignty and self-determination of peoples.

Likewise, we appreciate the gesture of courage of President Barack Obama, who has taken a historic rectification step for normalization of relations between the US and Cuba, assuming the failure of the criminal economic and trade blockade against the Cuban people.

The force of reality has demonstrated to the US government that they are committed to the policy of unilateral sanctions, which are but dull instruments that do not resolve differences. In this regard, Venezuela hopes that this new stage strengthens dialogue and recognition of the right of peoples to pursue a free, sovereign and independent future, thus avoiding new errors and future losses.

Also, the Venezuelan people recognizes the value, integrity and loyalty of the Cuban people to defend their sovereignty and Revolution. A special recognition goes to Fidel Castro and President General of Army Raul Castro for their firmness in defense of Marti's homeland.

Long Live Cuba!

Long Live Fidel!

Long Live Raúl!

Caracas, December 17, 2014

Raul Castro: Cuba and US to Re-Establish Diplomatic Relations

Cuban President Raul Castro gave a speech Wednesday to say that relations between both governments will be reset.

“We have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations, but this does not mean that the main issue has been resolved, the blockade that generates economic losses and humanitarian problems in our country must stop,” he said.

In his speech he said, “Cubans have courageously shown that, despite the adversities, the Cuban people is committed to the Revolution,” he said.

“We should take mutual steps to advance towards the normalization of the relationship between both countries” he said.

He called on President Obama to lift the half-century blockade saying, “The President could modify its implementation (of the blockade) by using his executive powers,”  and in a sign of the improved relations added, “We will continue discussing these issues in the future.”

Read more: Who are the Cuban Five?

​Negotiations between Cuba and the United States began 18 months ago, with the encouragement of Pope Francis. The secret talks were hosted in Canada, and a final meeting took place in the Vatican.

During the negotiations, both U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro spoke over the phone and agreed to restart relations between both countries.

Earlier on Wednesday, Cuba released US spy Alan Gross and the United States freed the Cuban five antiterrorists, held in US prisons since 1998.

Cuba arrested Gross, now 65, on Dec. 3, 2009, and later convicted the USAID subcontractor to 15 years in prison for trying to establish clandestine internet service. Gross was subcontracted by private firm Development Alternatives, Inc., which was subcontracted by USAID to provide "humanitarian assistance.”

USAID has long tried to infiltrate Cuba via various programs in order to affect soft change on the island. The United States has spent US$264 million over the last 18 years, in successive efforts to oust the Cuban government.

The U.S. more overt economic blockade on Cuba, harshly criticized by the international community for many years, has been in situ since the early days of the Cold War, when U.S. anti-communist hysteria was at its peak.

There has been growing pressure from within the United States to end the blockade. Ahead of the speech, both Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democrat Senator Richard Durbin both announced, through separate statements, that both countries could normalize trade relations.


Mercosur: Paving the Way for Latin American Integration

The Common Market of the South (Mercosur), a sub-regional bloc whose main purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people and currency, was created on the basis of a historic conflict in the region. 

The conflict began during the colonial times with both the Spanish and Portuguese empires wanting to control the Rio de la Plata Basin, a vast maritime area covering parts of modern-day Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, which is also one of the largest river basins on Earth.

Even after the European powers were expelled from the continent, the two super powers of the region, Argentina and Brazil, were in constant hostility over control of the region and its resources. The three smaller nations of the region, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia, were also heavily interested in the area, particularly the latter two, who became the only two landlocked South American countries, or as Brazilian writer Paulo R. Schilling referred to them — “geopolitical prisoners.”

However, since the 1960s, the governments of Argentina and Brazil began reconciling their differences and started to work together in order to take advantage of the strategic territory, especially given the demands of the new global order. In 1980, the two nations grew closer with the signature of the Tripartite Agreement, a deal that developed closer relations between the two countries’ civil societies, but did not amount to political or economic integration.

During this decade, perhaps due to the increased collaboration between the military regimes of the countries, the regional powers started conversations for greater regional cooperation, which were eventually formalized in 1985 through the Iguazu Declaration. 

A year later in Buenos Aires, Presidents Jose Sarney of Brazil and Raul Alfonsin of Argentina formally signed the Integration and Economics Cooperation Program (PICE), which aimed to create a common economic area, a benchmark in the push towards regional integration in Latin America. 

The decisive step in the creation of a common market took place nearly half a decade later on March 26, 1991, with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay signing the Treaty of Asuncion, where these nations agreed to form a customs union named the Southern Common Market, or Mercosur.

The treaty let to member countries committing to strengthening the economic integration process by making the most efficient use of available resources, preserving the environment, improving physical links, coordinating macroeconomic policies and complementing the different sectors of the economy. In the treaty’s final resolution, the members also agreed to base the arrangement on the principles of gradualism, flexibility and balance. 

The bloc consolidated in 1994 through the Protocol of Ouro Preto, which amended the Treaty of Asuncion, transforming Mercosur from a Free Trade Area into a Customs Union. 

While visions for regional integration dated back to the writings of South American liberator Simon Bolivar, the process was hindered for almost two centuries due to the parochial differences among the countries in the region. U.S. imperialism also contributed to these divisions, often pitting countries against each other through U.S.-dominated institutions like the Organization of American States (OAS), while also pushing for treaties based U.S. hegemonic interests, such as the now-defunct Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Mercosur, which was born during the height of the region’s neoliberal era, also became an economic instrument adapted to the world economic order in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. This period was characterized by economic pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, and the 1993 European Union, both of which were crafted in the triumphalist spirit of capitalist globalization.

Despite the dominance of neoliberal economics throughout the world, the late 1990’s in Latin American politics ushered in a new regional trend characterized by the election of left-wing and center-left governments and a gradual rejection of the neoliberal doctrine. In the new millennium, this trend grew and those governments radicalized, putting Bolivar's dream of a united Latin America on the region’s political agenda again. This trend, which has been called “Pink Tide” by academics and international media, also began to influence the customs union. 

In 2004, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez asked to join the bloc, which by this point had left-wing presidents heading three of the four Mercosur members. Two years later, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay approved Venezuela’s membership. However, the government of Paraguay, led by conservative President Nicanor Duarte, refused to grant full membership to the country, citing spurious concerns about “lack of democracy” in Venezuela.

Ultimately, it was a “lack of democracy” in Paraguay that would permit the full inclusion of Venezuela as a member after the parliamentary coup against Paraguayan left-wing President Fernando Lugo, who was “impeached” and removed from office in June 2012 after seventeen people were killed in a clash between landless farmers and policemen trying to evict them in the city of Curuguaty. The bloc viewed this as an undemocratic pretext to expel Lugo from the presidency.

Paraguay was suspended from the bloc until their next presidential election in 2013. The action allowed for the entrance of a key member to Mercosur, oil-rich Venezuela, which made significant economic contributions to the bloc. This development also highlighted the union’s political shift, including a commitment to uphold democracy in a region that was plagued by dictatorships in previous decades. 

With left-leaning leaders in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the bloc, the leaders began to push for a Mercosur that prioritized social concerns. 

According to official figures, the combined population of all five member states is estimated at 275.5 million, with a collective GDP of US$2.9 trillion, making Mercosur the world's fourth-largest trading bloc after the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). 

The leaders of Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), a smaller trade bloc that includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, signed an agreement in 2008 to form a third organization, UNASUR, which is meant to encompass trade, security, and political issues throughout the whole region, highlighting the commitment to develop Latin America unity and the realization of Bolivar – and Chavez’s – dream of a united continent.


10 Achievements of ALBA in 10 Years

The Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas (ALBA), was born 10 years ago as an alternative to neoliberal free trade agreements.

1. ALBA has produced tens of thousands of doctors

Through the Latin American School of Medicine campuses in Cuba and Venezuela, ALBA has produced some 21,075 doctors and 1,590 medical specialists.

2. Over 3 million people have had their vision restored by ALBA, for free

Through the Miracle Mission, more than 3 million people have undergone surgery to have their eyesight improved or recovered at no cost.

3. Almost 4 million people have learned to read through ALBA supported programs

Using the "Yes I Can" teaching method designed by Cuba, a total of 3,815,092 people have become literate in the region through ALBA supported programs. UNESCO has declared ALBA members Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as “Illiteracy-Free Territories.”

4. ALBA countries pledged $2.42 billion in aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake

Just after the devastating quake, ALBA also set up five camps with comprehensive care, which housed 3,455 families, provided 55,939 medical consultations and administered 5,904 vaccinations.

5. ALBA sent over 100 tons of supplies to Gaza after the Israeli-Gaza war this summer

The Venezuelan people sent 56 tons of humanitarian aid, while Ecuadorians contributed 48 tons and Cuba sent six tons of aid to Gaza following Israel’s deadly offensive against the occupied strip, dubbed Operation Protective Edge. These shipments included tents, non-perishable food items, water, clothes and medical supplies.

6. ALBA games have set new athletic records

In 2005, the ALBA Athletic Games were set up to promote physical activity and solidarity among peoples. In the 4 competitions convened so far, a record 10,532 athletes have competed.

7. Four ALBA countries have been declared free from hunger by the United Nations

Grenadines, St. Vincent, Venezuela and Cuba have been declared hunger-free by the Food and Agriculture Organization (F.A.O) of the U.N. Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador have also made significant progress in this area.

8. ALBA has developed an alternative currency to break dependency on the U.S.

To date, 5,657 transactions totalling US$2.5 billion have taken place using the SUCRE. The currency was developed by ALBA so that international trade would not depend on U.S. currency and exchanges. In the first half of 2014, 76 percent of those trading using the SUCRE were private enterprises and 24 percent represented the public sector.

9. Trade amongst members is based on solidarity rather than ‘the market’

According to its founding document, “the cardinal principle that should guide the ALBA is the widest solidarity between the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean ... without selfish nationalism, nor restrictive national policies that deny the objective of building the greater Homeland (Patria Grande) in Latin America.”

As such, trade between members is done at preferential, non-market rates and payment can be made through goods as well as through payments over a period of time at lower-than-market interest.

10. ALBA is growing

In the last 10 years, the bloc has grown tremendously. It has expanded from its two signing partners in Cuba and Venezuela to include Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Suriname and Haiti are also slated to become members.


ALBA to Host Global Climate Change Counter-Summit in Bolivia

At the close of the Bolivarian Alliance of Our Americas (ALBA) summit Sunday, member states called for a global meeting on climate change to take place in Bolivia in 2015. 

“(ALBA) supports the call for a world meeting of social movements on climate change, in order to save the mother earth and address the adverse effects of climate change, which will take place in the Purinational State of Bolivia,” stated Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in reading the concluding statement.

While ALBA countries held their the 13th meeting of in Havana, Cuba, on the same day governments of the world were concluding a summit on climate change in Lima within the framework of the United Nations, which in large part excluded social movements and civil society.

The meeting, whose date has yet to be determined, would aim to create a “platform” and a “strong mobilization” around the next UN conference to be held in Paris, added Maduro.

Bolivian President Evo Morales offered his country as the potential hosts of the counter-meeting, emphasizing that “we have a great responsibility here, before a failure [of the negotiations] in Lima about climate change. Just like we can handle proposals from our ministries of environment, we can work at this level and propose a world meeting of social movements.”

In 2010, Morales, the first indigenous President of Bolivia, had also proposed to hold a World Summit of the Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of the Mother Earth as a response to the Conference of Copenhagen one year earlier, which many also considered a failure.

The resolutions from the Bolivian summit next year would be presented at the COP 21 to be held in Paris, where governments of the world will once again, attempt to reach an agreement on a new protocol to address climate change.


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