ALBA grows without giving up on its unifying dream, says Raul Castro

Campaign News | Sunday, 14 December 2008

ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for “Our America”) is growing, without giving up on a single idea of its unifying dream of solidarity and justice for all, said Cuban President Raul Castro on Sunday in Caracas.

Castro made the statement at the closing ceremony of the 9th Cuba-Venezuela Joint Commission after he received the South American country’s highest distinction to an international personality: the Order Liberator. He was also presented with gold-plated replica of Simon Bolivar’s sword, by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

“ALBA is a higher form of association for our countries. It is an instrument for Latin American and Caribbean nations to confront neo-liberalism and the world financial crises, and to become more just and more equitable societies,” said the Cuban head of state.

Raul Castro reviewed the development of collaboration accords between Cuba and Venezuela, marked by the signing of a Comprehensive Collaboration Agreement signed by Chavez and Fidel Castro eight years ago. He said such agreement could be considered the prelude to the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative of Our America.

The political, economic and social impacts of the agreement were later boosted by the success of social development initiatives started in 2003. “These took collaboration relations between the two countries to a higher level,” said Raul Castro, who added that those social missions gave way to the establishment of the Agreement and Joint Statement for the Implementation of the Bolivarian Alternative of Our America, signed in December 2004.

President Castro noted that over the past eight years, the Cuba-Venezuela Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement has maintained steady growth, and that the impact and complexity scope is increasing. As an example, he cited the elimination of illiteracy in Venezuela, noting that UNESCO recognized the country as free of illiteracy, though just eight years ago 1.6 billion people in that country were unable to read or write.

The Cuban president thanked Venezuela’s government and its people for their support of the Cuban Revolution, and said the island has been able to overcome the most difficult years of the “Special Period” (the crisis of the 1990s), not only because of the “unity and spirit of resistance of its people, but also because of the decisive support of Venezuela.”

He also congratulated the Venezuelan people and government for the recent success in regional elections and wished them well in the battles to come.

Raul Castro recalled moments in Venezuelan history, during which he was fighting in Cuba for the liberation of the island. He talked about his last visit to Venezuela when he was 22 years old, when he was returning to Cuba after attending a youth congress in Europe.

He said he had returned to Caracas -fifty-five years later- to pay homage to Bolivar and to ratify his commitment to make that leader’s dreams for “Our America” come true.

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