Crowds Flock to "Inspirational" Latin America 2007 Conference
Campaign News | Wednesday, 5 December 2007
by Stephen Hallmark, Campaigns Manager
MORE than 600 people attended the Latin America 2007 Conference to hear about the inspirational developments sweeping the continent.
And after rousing speeches from a host of top speakers the audience was not to be disappointed.
In the words of Tony Benn the conference really did give delegates “the chance to learn what you cannot learn from Jeremy Paxman nor the Daily Mail”.
The conference, which was held at Congress House, London, was organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Venezuela Information Centre and the South East Regional TUC.
It was also sponsored by a range of British trade unions including: UNITE, Unison, FBU, RMT and the GMB.
The ambassadors of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia spoke to the packed audience, as well as a broad selection of politicians from Latin American, the Miami Five’s lead attorney Leonard Weinglass, trade union general secretaries and activists.
They were joined by household names such as former Government Minister Tony Benn, MPs George Galloway, Dianne Abbott, Colin Burgon and Jeremy Corbyn.
Bolivian MP Cesar Navarro said: “It is very difficult to be on the left, but it is also the most beautiful thing in the world, because it means breaking with neoliberal ideas.”
Declaring solidarity from the people of Bolivia to Cuba and Venezuela, he added: “We must bring about a transformation of Latin America. This means building our own revolution.”
Bernard Regan, Secretary of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, said: “The number of people gathered here today has exceeded our expectations, and bears testimony to the to the exciting developments occurring in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and throughout Latin America.
“The inspirational changes demonstrate that another world is possible, and challenges the dominance of the United States’ military and economic power.”
The Cuban Ambassador René Mujica Cantelar said: “The history of our progressive movements show economic and social liberation are intimately related to the liberation of the mind.
“The wave of liberation has been gathering force across Latin America in spite of the great media campaigns against countries like Cuba and Venezuela and the rest of the countries.
“Hasta la victoria siempre.”
Delegates enjoyed speeches from scores of speakers and took part in a range of vibrant seminars.
In a highly charged third plenary the audience was gripped by emotive contributions by a string of speakers in a session regularly punctuated by loud ovations from the audience - which included best selling author and documentary-maker John Pilger.
Birmingham Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob explained that Hugo Chavez became a hero across the Middle East when he withdrew Venezuela's ambassador to Israel over last year's invasion of Lebanon. She also praised the Cuban medical brigades that brought aid to the people of Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake.
The councillor said: “The people of Pakistan regularly asked the Cuban doctors: 'Why are you doing this?’
“They answered: 'Because you are our brothers and sisters’.”
“This is the humanity that we are all fighting and struggling for.”
Keith Sonnet, deputy general secretary of Unison, chaired the final session and said: “A couple of years-ago Hugo Chavez received Cuba’s Jose Martí award in la Plaza de la Revolucíon and said ‘Cuba is an inspiration to me’.
“It’s been an inspiration to all of us.
“I just wish our Government would stop providing military aid to Colombia and get into proper dialogue with the Cuban Government.”
Tony Benn summed up Latin America’s recent achievements by saying they left him feeling “exhilarated”, which obviously struck a chord with the audience who gave him a heart-felt reception.
He said: “This has been a wonderful day, it’s given us the opportunity to learn what you cannot learn from Jeremy Paxman or the Daily Mail.
“We have heard some horrific things, not least about the Miami Five’s trial and the US attitude to law, but the main impression is of exhilaration.
“It’s vitally important we don’t see what’s happening in the world as a story of doom and gloom, but regard it as a turning point, and that’s why the phrase ‘another world is possible’ is so important.”
He called upon the audience “to be absolutely clear” that the US empire is in decline.
Mr Benn added: “Go away absolutely determined to carry on with the struggle and send our support to those who have got a harder job than we have in facing New Labour, and to never be deflected by the thought it cannot be done.”
And the final speaker, Respect MP George Galloway, praised Cuba for withstanding almost half a century of US brutality, including: terrorism, airplane hijackings, hotel bombings, the killing of an Italian tourist and setting up transmitters to beam illegal propaganda into the Caribbean country.
He added: “And above all the Cuban economy has been under siege for almost 46-years. Not only has Cuba survived the Special Period, it is now flourishing.
“And people like you in countries across the world are proud to come to conferences like this and express solidarity with the people of Cuba.
“We thank the Cuban people and the Cuban Revolution for keeping the flag of humanity held high all of these years.”