The time of our peoples has come, says Chavez in Havana

Campaign News | Monday, 6 February 2006

Venezuelan president receives the UNESCO José Martí International Award in Cuba

BY MARIA JULIA MAYORAL -Granma daily staff writer-

“THE 21st century will be that of our redemption, that of our unity and full independence as a region, as the great homeland; the century that will mark the end of U.S. imperialism; every day I am more convinced of that,” affirmed President Hugo Chávez yesterday on receiving the José Martí Internatonal Award from the hands of Fidel.

Addressing a huge audience in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, the leader of the Venezuelan Revolution stated that he could not accept receiving an award of that nature - for supporting and promoting the ideas of Martí and integration processes in Our America - as an individual merit, but as a reminder of an obligation of the first order to live up to men of the stature of Martí and Bolívar, “from whom we learned the importance of the battle of knowledge, conscience, ideas, and we must make that battle more intense.”

“This great prize that you have given me,” he commented, “commits me even more to the unity and liberation of our peoples like never before in my life. I accept it with humility, full of honor, of joy, on behalf of an entire people and, above all, like a commitment that can only grow. I ratify it here in this Plaza de la Revolución under the eternal figures of Marti and Che, embraced by the dreams of Bolívar; it is a commitment that I could well sum up in a legendary phrase of this land: Patria o Muerte, Venceremos!”

Chávez, who recalled the 200-plus years of attempts on the part of U.S. imperialism to swallow up Our America, once again thanked the Cuban Revolution and people for their example of resistance, without which, he assured, “there would never have been a Revolution like the one we have at this time in Venezuela.”

He also announced that he had renounced the monetary prize associated with the UNESCO recognition, in order to donate it to the sister people of Bolivia.

For the Cuban president, yesterday was a historical day and one of special significance given that there was no other way to describe the deserved recognition for Chávez, the promoter of profound social changes in favor of the Venezuelans.

Fidel highlighted that seven years ago, when the Bolivarian Revolution came to power, exports in that country were declining, as were the prices of oil and minerals, and the situation of an unfavorable balance of payments and international state reserves to face obligations was continuing.

While the external debt continued to rise, he added, the overwhelming majority of the population were living in poverty, the unemployment rate was 11% according to conservative official figures, the infant mortality rate was 28 per 1,000 live births, approximately 2.3 million children were excluded from the education system while more than one million Venezuelans were displaced from the middle class, because the reduction of their income, unemployment and inflation had converted them into poor or destitute people.

In just seven years, the government headed by Chávez has radically turned around that pernicious panorama, Fidel emphasized. Illiteracy has been eliminated.

“Today,” he reflected, “ 17 million Venezuelans are receiving free medical attention via the Barrio Adentro program, 600 diagnostic centers and polyclinics are functioning, as well as 600 treatment and rehabilitation centers.

The Bolivarian process will be recognized for having developed human capital, for having multiplied it, for having defended the country’s natural resources and for having proclaimed the integration and cooperation of an America united in such a way that it now has assured the fuel for its development.

Miguel Bonasso, the Argentine deputy and prominent intellectual, also spoke at the ceremony. He observed that Cuba and Venezuela are sister nations in a concept that has nothing to do with the false integration being sold by imperialism and the transnationals, because the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas makes the people the protagonists and its essence is not to be found in the needs of the market, but in infinite solidarity.

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