The Fifth Summit of the Americas

Daniel Ortega Saavedra, President of Nicaragua
Daniel Ortega Saavedra (centre), President of Nicaragua

Transcript of President Ortega's Opening Statement at the Fifth Summit of the Americas

April 17, 2009

Video Recording

Speech by His Excellency Honourable Daniel Ortega Saavedra, President of Nicaragua, on April 17 2009, during the Opening Ceremonies of the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.


Distinguished Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Patrick Manning, distinguished men and women, heads of state and government participating at this Fifth Summit of the Americas.

I have had the opportunity of meeting on three different opportunities and different occasions with Presidents of the United States. With President Reagan, right in the midst of a war of aggression, when in dealing with that war Nicaragua resorted the International Court of Justice in the Hague and it was precisely on April 9th, in the month of April, when Nicaragua filed it's complaint against the policy; the terrorist policy that was being deployed by President Ronald Reagan at the time on behalf of the United States, even though we knew very well that the American people, huge majorities of people were condemning that war and we knew that in the US Congress there was also a majority of congressmen that was able to establish some restrictions, some limitations on the war that was being waged against Nicaragua. So, our crime? Having gotten rid of the charity of Anastasio Somoza, imposed upon us by the intervention of the Yankee troops in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua, Central America, we have been shaken since the past century by what have been the expansionist policies, war policies that even let us in the 1850s, 1855, '56 to bring Central American people together. We united with the Costa Ricans, with the people from Honduras, with the people from Guatemala, El Salvador, we all got together. We united so that we could defeat the expansionist policy of the United States and after that, after interventions that extended since 1912 all the way up to 1932, and that left as a result the imposition of that tyranny of the Somosas, armed, funded, defended by the American leaders.

So I was saying that I have had the opportunity of meeting with President Reagan right in the midst of the war and we shook hands and I asked him to stop the war against Nicaragua.

Then, I had the opportunity of meeting with President Carter, and when President Carter was saying that "now that the Somosas were gone and that we had defeated and brought down the Somosa tyranny," he said, "it was high time for Nicaragua to change," and I said, No sir, Nicaragua doesn't have to change, those that have to change are you sir. You have to change because Nicaragua has never invaded the United States; Nicaragua has never undermined and has never set mines in the US ports. Nicaragua has not even launched one stone against the American nation. Nicaragua has not imposed governments in the United States, therefore, I said President Carter, you are the ones who have to change, it is not the Nicaraguans who have to change. And then right in the middle of the war, still I had the possibility of meeting with who had just taken office in the United States, who used to be the vice president until then of the United States, George Bush father and that was another meeting that we had in Costa Rica. It seems to me that it was in '89 around there. (turned around to acknowledge him) President Arias (?), you might recall.

Well, I left (unintelligible) I attended that meeting. I went there wearing a suit as the commander; the commander of the revolution and I attended that meeting wearing that suit. Our identity at that time, in times of struggle of war, and there was a lot of expectations, and I remember then, we were sitting around the table, we were sitting face to face. We had President Bush sitting across from me and then he brought up something and President (unintelligible) is here to attest to that ... he would recall, he said, "Here, the media is present because they want to see us fight. They want to see the President of the United States and the President of Nicaragua enter into a fight," and ... well, we made an effort so as not to please the media.

At the end, at the end of the meeting it was impossible already. It was impossible to keep at that good will and then we started making statements at press conferences in which our views clash because Nicaragua was still subjected to the war that was waged by the United States against Nicaragua.

It was a war that as I was saying, in view of the complaint filed by Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice of the Hague, in view of that complaint, the court rendered an award, and the court said in very clear terms and no uncertain terms that the United States should have all it's military actions: setting up mines at the ports; funding of the war, that they should stop it all; that they should say where the mines were placed because they refused to give the information.

This is what the International Court of Justice said in their award. This was a historic decision made by the court ... we are on top of it all. They were sending the government of the United States to pay compensation to Nicaragua because of the economic and commercial embargo or blockade that had been imposed on Nicaragua. You have the award that was issued many years ago, and so far until today this has not been done by the US so Nicaraguans have the hope that the time will come in which we will be able to deal with this issue with US presidents who will be truly respectful of the law; of international law, of the right of peoples.

Today, as I was walking into this hall and the room where the presidents were gathering, I had the opportunity of shaking hands with President Barrack Obama. We greeted each other, he responded, he said something in Spanish and so I said a few words in English and that's it. This is a fourth, he is the fourth US president that I am meeting.

Now, under different conditions in the Central American region we've been able to put an end to the war. But ... where poverty, misery, unemployment; the asymmetries that exist within our own peoples and those that exist in the relations that our peoples hold with the rest of the Latin American countries, and I am not even talking about the relations with the economic powers that dominate global capitalism; there the asymmetries are much deeper and obviously there were a lot of words said but very few facts. Very little has been done. A lot has been said, very little done in order to truly make effort so that our countries, our peoples will come out of that poverty, of that misery, of illiteracy.

The struggle that we are waging in Nicaragua, in Central America and in Latin America in order to free our peoples from illiteracy; our struggles that we are waging with the unconditional generous solidarity of the people of Cuba, of Fidel; Fidel who was the one who promoted these soldiery processes of literacy campaigns, and the current President, Raul Castro that has continued with these programs opened to all Latin American and Caribbean peoples. And then we've seen how a generous spirit has joined us which is of the people of Venezuela with the President, Hugo Chavez Frias and I would say that we are waging this struggle with our nails and obviously with a soldiery generous willingness shown by people such as the people from Venezuela and the Cuban people, solidarity and unconditional cooperation.

In this Summit and I simply refuse to call it Summit of the Americas; yes we are gathered here, we have present a large majority of presidents, heads of state and governments of Latin American and the Caribbean. We have the President of the United States participating here, the Prime Minister of Canada but there are two representatives missing here today, they are absent from this meeting. One is Cuba; Cuba whose crime has been that of fighting for independence, fighting for sovereignty of the peoples. Cuba, whose crime has been to offer solidarity without any conditions, without conditions to our peoples and just because of that they are punished, they are penalized. Just because of that they are excluded and just because of that I don't feel comfortable attending this Summit. I cannot feel comfortable by being here because I feel ashamed of the fact that I am participating in this Summit with the absence of Cuba. And other people that is not here present because, different from the case of Cuba an independent nation ... soldiery, this other people is still subjected to the colonialist policies and I am talking about the sister nation of Puerto Rico ... Puerto Rico. And the day will come, the day will come when Latin American and Caribbean peoples, as is already happening where Cuba has already joined us in the real group. We are working in order to create a great alliance unity of Latin American and Caribbean peoples and the day will come where in that huge alliance we will have the people of Puerto Rico. I am convinced ... I am sure of that. I am sure that the day will come, the day will come.

As I am also convinced that just like the United States when still in the fifties, back in that decade towards the sixties, racial discrimination was institutionalized. It was the part of the way of life in the United States; of the American way of life. It was part of the American democracy. Black people could not share a restaurant where white people attended, the bars where you had white people. The children, the sons and daughters of Black families could not attend schools where White children were going to school, and in order to be able to bring down that wall, the wall of racial discrimination it was necessary ... and that nobody knows of this better than we do, than President Obama, for ... that it was necessary to fight against something. That struggle began when it was headed at the time by Martin Luther King and he said, "I have a dream." No doubt it seemed like a very distant dream, something that they would not be able to accomplish but the dream turned into a reality and the wall of racial discrimination simply collapsed in the United States of America thanks to that struggle; that fight that was waged by that people. So I am convinced that just like this, the wall that is being built on the border between the US and Mexico to prevent Central American, Mexican and Latin American brothers and sisters being able to freely travel to the United States, I am certain, I am convinced that that wall will collapse, will crumble down. The wall will come down.

This meeting, this gathering is being held precisely, precisely starting on the exact date when the invasion to Cuba took place back in 1961. In talking to the President of Cuba, Raul Castro, not long ago we were saying, we were just talking about it saying how the Summit was going to start exactly on the day of the invasion and I said, "Raul just write down the figures, give me the information because I want to mention that when I go to the Summit," and he wrote it down here. He did it with his own handwriting and he said, "Daniel (President Ortega reads from a sheet of paper), President Obama was born on August 4th, 1961. He was three and a half months old when they went to Playa Girón on April 19th of that year and they were victorious. Obviously he doesn't have any responsibility for that historic event April 15. They started bombarding on the 16th they claimed the Socialism of Fidel, they buried the victims on the 17th, the invasion started on the 18th, they continued fighting and on the 19th the victory before seventy-two hours. Raul.

So, we hope that this is part of history.

We want to believe that this is already part of history because we have a culture with its own uniqueness and (unintelligible) of what I talk at times with US representatives, with US congressmen, and I start talking about all of this, they say, "Well that's part of history ... that's history."

What happens is that this cannot be history for us when still today, still in 2002, back in 2002 also in April, on April 11th, a coup takes place with the intention of assassinating a President ... President-elect in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. President Chavez was caught, he was captured and he had to face this order, the assassination order and at that time when the American government comes up ; that mockery of the government comes through the spokesman acknowledging those who carried the coup and says that they were right. Well, so much to say that we were right in saying that this is not history when just seven years ago, barely seven years ago these events took place; violent events against the institutionality of a people, of a nation ... progressive soldiery revolutionary.

I want to stop for a few minutes and summarize because it seems to me that the time that I am taking is much less than the time that I had to take waiting at the airport, three hours waiting at the airport inside the plane. There was a huge line, huge line. We had so many planes coming in with the delegations that I had to wait for three hours. I hear at these Summits we come here to exercise first and foremost our freedom of expression, each and everyone of us. Freedom of expression that ought to be for the big one and for the small one, for all, same freedom of expression, and that out of that exchange in communication that we can find solutions to the major problems that are currently affecting mankind.

In SICA (Central American Integration System) we have Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic participating as associates and the territory covered by these countries is a hundred and sixty-eight thousand, nine hundred and eighty-eight square kilometers. Of all the member countries of SICA the total population adds up to slightly more than forty-one point seven million people and from Central America in the USA we find more than five point five million immigrants and of these three hundred and twenty thousand Central American citizens are under the status of temporary protection (TPS).

What would be the solution to the immigration problem? Well we've offered a temporary provisional solution to the situation with the Central American people; that TBS be granted to all immigrants in the United States. But that does not take care of the problem because the causes of immigration can be found in underdevelopment, in the poverty in which our peoples live, the peoples of Central America, the peoples of SICA. And the only way of putting an end to that flow of immigrants to the United States is not by building walls, it is not by strengthening and reinforcing military surveillance on the borders; it is not by promoting joint surveillance forces on the border, repressive policies of our respective countries so as to stop the movement of people to the United States. The only way of stopping immigration to the United States, that immigration which is already a burden because the US needs that labour, Central American labour, no doubt about it as the US needs Mexican labour; but when that labour goes beyond the demands of the US economy then they start using their repressive policies and that's when the only way of putting an end, of stopping that immigration is by contributing funds without political conditions, by contributing funds without the conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund, by contributing these funds that are being given to the Central American countries which on top of that have the very ingrate task of looking after the US border, protecting it because of drug consumption in the United States. There is a huge consumer and so that encourages production. It encourages processing, it encourages trade that is in drug trafficking that starts draining our countries into countries that are exposed to break down and total disintegration.

Only in Nicaragua last year the national police seized more than three hundred and seventy tons of cocaine and market prices in the United States undoubtedly adds up to more than one billion dollars. So when that is distributed, already that's a value it gets in the United States and how much is given by the United States to Nicaragua due to the fact that we are looking after their borders; after the US borders. Well, they pay one million two hundred thousand dollars. These are investments that have to be made by the US in the region in order to contribute to stopping the drug trafficking and not to make this binding with political conditionalities of any sort and in order to avoid and prevent immigration to the United States funds for development which is what is greatly needed by our peoples.

Currently Central Americans are suffering the impact of the financial crisis that is being seen in a collapse, in a drop in exports including duty free areas of minus five point ninety-seven percent, almost six percent, only during this first quarter of 2009 so remittances of less than five percent, investments in less than sixteen point six percent. This means the region therefore demands more than ever resources for development. The region demands resources so that at least we can recover the growth of levels that had been reached until last year; three point five, between three point five and four point five percent. Now the average level is minus one point five percent. The loss in currency in the United States in the Central American countries currently represents four point nine million dollars, that is five point thirty-eight percent and thirty years ago most of the developed countries committed to contributing zero point seven percent to GDP and contributing that to development. So far they haven't done that. Very few have done their share.

Now they speak of bringing in or contributing seven hundred and fifty billion behind the IMF. Difficult to believe this, hard to believe it. Just like St. Thomas says, "I won't believe this until I see it." But on top of it, funds have to be placed. They have to be made available to regional organizations such as the IDB of south where the conditionalities do not become a trap for our peoples because conditinalities established by the fund as an instrument of the policy and the dictatorship of global capitalism because, I insist, we are living under a global dictatorship, a dictatorship of global capitalism and this forces us, it compels us Central American countries, it forces the poorest countries to insist on saying that in order to contribute these resources just like in the developed countries you found the mechanisms in order to facilitate billions and trillions of dollars that are given to bankers, to companies, transnational companies that are in crisis. We have to go through the IMF therefore what we need here is a speedy, quick response that would not go through the winding roads and the limitations and impositions established by the International Monetary Fund.

G-20 leaders said that global crisis calls for a global solution but for a global solution they are not taking into account developing countries. That's a reality. They get together, they meet and that's why it is important to heed the appeal of the meeting that will take place on June 1st to the 3rd in the United Nations ... and the presidents; we are going to that meeting and instead of the G-20 debating the future of mankind for crisis created by they themselves because of economic policies that have been questioned by our countries and of which our countries have been fallen victim to. So it is not fair, it is not equitable, it is not ethical, it is not moral that this be up to the G-20; that the G-20 continues making the major decisions, that they continue deciding the fate of our peoples. Therefore it is high time to leave it up to the G-192 that is everybody, everybody of the United Nations, everybody. We should all get together and discuss and contribute in order to find the solutions to the crisis. No one better than Central American countries.

Those of us who have a program with the fund, Nicaragua has a program with the fund, we've been in that program for two years and we still haven't signed it. We are still in discussions and deliberations but those of us who are in negotiations with the fund as well as those who've had negotiations with the fund know very well what this has meant, what the fund has meant. How they've sacrificed social programs, how we've sacrificed agricultural programs, productive programs simply to take out resources and pay the debt. The debt imposed by the rules established by that global capitalism. So the capitalist, the model, bringing in all the elements of science and technology has been nothing more than an instrument in order to establish and develop from the colonialist, political metropolism, neocolonialist, imperialist, metropolist all the way down to globalization because this is a model which concentrates the wealth and multiplies poverty.

So Mahatma Gandhi, in that heroic struggle that he waged for the independence of India, "These are the England," he said. England has used one fourth of the resources of the planet in order to reach its current state of development. How many resources will be needed by India in order to retain the same development or the same level of development? Already during this century, the twenty first century and since the end of the twentieth century ... it was no longer England but all the capitalist developed countries by establishing their hegemony falling short of the destruction of the planet and human species and imposing the consumerist models of their system and the reproduction of the concentration of wealth and multiplication of poverty imposing this on most of the developing countries therefore the only way of saving the planet and with that sustainable development that mankind will be possible to the extend that they set the paces of the foundation for a new international economic order, a new social, economical political model, a new economic order that will truly be fair, soldiery and democratic.

I wish to conclude my statement by explaining that in the project known as PetroCaribbean, in ALBA and then PetroCaribe, we have other countries of the Caribbean but we also have a few Central American countries participating in the project. We have countries from SICA, we are part of that. We have Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua. Panama has applied to be included in that. So this means that we have almost all member countries of SICA participating in PetroCaribe which is also part of what is known as the Bolivarian alternative for the peoples of the Americas and we held a meeting right before this Summit not far from here, thirty minutes from here; thirty minutes away from Port of Spain in Cumana. And at that meeting ... this morning just before we left to come to this meeting, I would not read the entire document I simply wish to underscore a few points.

We declared the following:

The heads of state in government of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela member countries of ALBA believe that the draft declaration of the Fifth Summit of the Americas is insufficient and cannot be accepted because of the following reasons:

It does not respond to the issue of the economic global crisis in spite of the fact that this constitutes the greatest challenge that has been faced by mankind in decades. It excludes (unintelligible) Cuba without even mentioning the general consensus that exist in the region in order to condemn the blockade and the attempts of isolationism of which its people and its government have been the main target in a criminal way for many years.

Capitalism is putting an end to mankind and this planet. What we see is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural nature and not a cyclical crisis. Capitalism has lead to the environmental crisis because it is imposing the necessary conditions for life on the planet subjecting it to the predominance of marketing gains. The global economic crisis that have climate change, food crisis and energy crisis are the result of the decadence of capitalism that threatens to put an end to the existence itself of life and the planet.

In order to avoid this result it is necessary to develop a model, an alternative model to the capitalist system. A system of solidarity and complementarity and not of a competition. A system of harmony with our mother earth and not with a draining and taking out the natural resources. Not to trample upon cultures and cultural values, systems and standards of living that are aliens of the reality of our countries. A system based on social justice and not on wars and an imperialist system. A system that would recover human conditions of our societies and peoples and would not boil them down to becoming mere consumers or goods.

This is in a nutshell the main point that I wanted to underscore and bring to your attention. From this declaration where by concluding we say we want a world where all countries big and small will have the same rights and where no empires will exist. We fight for nonintervention strengthening as the only legitimate channel for discussions and analysis of bilateral agendas and multilateral agendas in the continent. The basis for mutual respect between states and government under the principle of nonintervention of a state over another one and the non-violation of sovereignty and the self determination of our peoples.

As regards of the embargo against Cuba by the US and excluding this country from the Summit of the Americas, the countries, the members of ALBA would like to reiterate the declaration that all countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, all countries adopted this on December 16, 2008 on the need for putting an end to the economic and the commercial and financial embargo and blockade imposed by the USA government on Cuba including the application of the so called Helms-Burton law, well known to each and everyone of us.

And last but not least, I would like to say that we are firmly convinced that change ... because we all want change. We all have high hopes for change. Obviously we all want change but what change do we want? What change do developing countries want? What change do impoverished countries in Latin America, the Caribbean want? Haiti, Bolivia, Honduras, Guyana and Nicaragua. We are the five most impoverished countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and we have been in our country.

In my country Nicaragua, the previous administrations, they complied verbatim with the standards and the provisions of the neoliberal policy; they did comply, they met every single one of the policies of that neoliberal policy. They enforced it, they enforced those provisions since 1990 when the Sandinista Front leaves the government until January 10, 2007 when the Sandinista Front comes back and returns to government. They applied these for sixteen years and I will not dwell on that information.

I simply want to bring to your attention, one, when the revolution succeeded in Nicaragua in 1979 the tyranny of the government that had been imposed and supported by US rulers in Nicaragua, the democrats; they were so called democrats - they called themselves democrats, they left Nicaragua with a sixty percent illiteracy rate so when revolution succeeded, we came into power finding that we had sixty percent illiteracy rate. So our first major war was putting an end to illiteracy and that was the first war we waged and we were able to bring down the illiteracy rate to eleven point five, twelve percent. We were not able to go beyond because another war policy was imposed upon us by the Reagan administration. And so we started back in government in 1990 in the country with a twelve point five illiteracy rate.

So we received the country in January 2007 with thirty-five percent illiteracy rate when we had left it in twelve point five. These are not mere figures invented by the government. These are figures used by the specialized organizations who deal with education and culture. So that is the result of that neoliberalism that was applied to Nicaragua; the privatizations and divestitures in Nicaragua because of privatizated health and education and they excluded the poor; they simply left the poor out. Yes, but for others the change was good. The change was good because they got richer, capital was concentrated in a few hands and that's why we are saying that we want changes. Of course we do but we have to agree on what sort of change we want. [Do] we want changes in order to maintain the status quo? Do we want changes in order to do as they are trying to do when they are trying to save a model that has shown that it is very successful in order to accumulate wealth; very successful in order to expand poverty? Yes, yes, that's a very successful model to do that. Concentrate the wealth and multiply poverty. That's a model ... that is the model. It is a problem of an ethical nature, it is a problem of a moral nature on which our future lies. Not only the future of developing countries, not only the future of the most impoverished countries just like the five countries I mentioned earlier in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We don't have a lot to lose, simply the chains. But if there is no change; ethical change, moral change, a change in values in the development of mankind which will truly make it possible to have this as something sustainable, then the destruction created with the human species and the destruction created by this model, in nature and the environment are more than evident. This is nothing to do with ideology, this is nothing to do with politics, it has to do with survival but if they simply wish to continue maintaining that model, if they simply wish to simply continue with this model in order to suck the entire planet, then the future will be the end; the end of human species of our planet and there, that's the end of us all. Those of the G-20 ... the G-5 which are the most impoverished in Latin America and the Caribbean, that's the end for everybody. Therefore I believe that this crisis that must be affecting the world and that is leading to discussions, to debates, to that search for solutions must be taken on taking into account the fact that it is no longer possible and sustainable to continue with the current development model. To continue with the current development model is to continue digging our grave where we will find everybody. So the only way of being saved is by changing the model and the reasons as I was saying are essentially of an ethical nature, moral nature of values.

Thank you very much.

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The Fifth Summit of the Americas in pictures