The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) met in Santiago de Chile toward the end of January. From his hospital bed in Havana, Cuba, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela sent the following message on Jan. 27.
Sisters and brothers:
On behalf of the people of Venezuela, receive a fervent Bolivarian greeting and living testimony of brotherhood toward each of the peoples of the Great Nation. I really and truly regret not being able to attend this event in Santiago de Chile. As it is known to all of you, since December of last year I am once again struggling for my health in revolutionary Cuba. That is why these lines are my way to be present at the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, my way of reaffirming, today more than ever, the living and active engagement of Venezuela with the historical cause of the Union.
It is impossible not to feel Simon Bolivar pulsing among us in this summit of unity. Impossible not to evoke Pablo Neruda, Pablo of Chile and America, in this land and in this present moment of the Great Nation we are made of:
Liberator, a world of peace was born in your arms. /
Peace, bread, wheat are born from your blood, /
from our young blood which comes from your blood /
will come peace, bread and wheat for the world we are to make.
Bolivar, Bolivar always. In this 2013 we are celebrating the bicentennial of the admirable campaign: 200 years of that prodigious Bolivarian epic. On May 14, 1813, an army of New Granada and Venezuela departed from Cucuta commanded by then Brigadier Simon Bolivar, advancing with prodigious speed, and fought and won in Niquitao, Los Horcones and Taguanes to liberate central and western Venezuela, entering triumphantly on August 6 of that year of glory in Caracas. The military victory of the patriots had a transcendent political consequence: the birth of the Second Republic of Venezuela.
And hence with a vivid memory, I want to share with you a certainty: thanks to the CELAC we are beginning to look like everything we once were and what we wanted to be but was taken from us, we’re looking like the Pachamama, the cosmic belt of the South, the queen of nations and the mother of republics.
The spirit of unity has returned with full strength, it is the spirit of our liberators reincarnated in the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean; it is the spirit in which many voices come together to speak with one voice. It was the endearing spirit of the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean that gave birth to CELAC in Caracas; it is the enduring spirit of this Summit in Santiago de Chile.
Since that December of 2011 when we founded CELAC in Caracas, world events have ratified the extraordinary importance of the great step forward we took. There is the crisis hitting the U.S. and Europe and throwing thousands of people into misery. Thousands of men, women and children have lost their homes, their jobs, their social security, their most elemental rights. While the U.S. and Europe, paraphrasing the eminent philosopher Ernesto Laclau, are committing collective suicide, we are weathering the storm, and we will definitely ride it out.
Today, we are an example of unity in diversity, of justice, welfare and happiness to the world.
At one year and almost two months since its founding in Caracas, CELAC has managed to stand with a character and a well-defined personality, above any judgment or ambition outside its principles and tenets. Today more than ever we can say that when we affirm that we have really and truly resumed the path of our Liberators, a slogan that identifies this Community, we were not making an empty or hollow statement. And now, such a transcendent slogan requires that we fill it each day with more and more historical, political, economic and social content.
That is why today we ratify the denunciation and condemnation of the shameful imperial blockade against revolutionary Cuba, the continuous colonization and now the progressive militarization of the Malvinas Islands, both of which are violations of all UN resolutions issued to safeguard the rights of the Cuban and Argentine people, but with no will on the part of this supranational organization to fulfill them. Justice is unquestionably on the side of Cuba and Argentina. If we are a nation of republics, our sovereignty is that of the entire Great Nation, and we must enforce it.
When the mournful sound of the drums of war is heard around the world, how valuable it is that the states of Latin America and the Caribbean are creating a zone of peace that jealously protects international law and defends political and negotiated solutions to conflicts. We have a duty to face the logic of war with a culture of peace, based on justice and equality.
CELAC is the most important project of political, economic, social and cultural unity in our contemporary history. We all have the right to feel proud: the nation of republics, as the liberator Simon Bolivar called it, has begun to emerge as a beautiful and happy reality. How not to recall, once again, the voice of Neruda when he tells us in his memorable poem “The Heights of Machu Picchu”:
Rise to birth with me, brother. Let us rise, sisters and brothers, because the time has come to be born again, with all of the past and all of the future illuminating the present.
The sacred purposes, the fraternal relations and the common interests that unite the republics of Latin America and the Caribbean, have in CELAC a fundamental instrument not only to guarantee the stability of the governments that our peoples have given themselves, but also their sovereignty and, let us say with Jorge Luis Borges, the perpetuity of each of our nations.
Our common path has been long and difficult since we faced the Spanish Empire in the 19th century. The fight for independence, the fight that continues today, was linked, indissolubly linked, to the thoughts and actions of our liberators, to the fight for unity, for the construction of a Great Nation based on the most solid foundation. Let us remember what Bolivar said: There should be one single nation for the Americas, given that we have had perfect unity in everything.
But the oligarchy closed the door to a historical project of unity, and we are still
paying the price. Argentinean writer Norberto Galasso was right: What could have been the victory of the Great Nation became twenty defeats of small nations. This history should not repeat itself. I still have faith in those words I said in Caracas on the historic 2nd of December, 2011, when CELAC was founded: We are either one nation or we are not a nation! We either make a single Great Nation, or no one on these lands will have a nation!
How could we not see ourselves in the words of liberator Bernardo O’Higgins, the great disciple of the immense Francisco de Miranda, who wrote to Bolivar in 1818: The cause that Chile defends is the same one committed to by Buenos Aires, New Granada, Mexico and Venezuela, or better yet, it is the cause of the entire continent of Colombia.
Everything we do for unity will not only be justified by history, it will also become the most enlightened legacy we can leave to future generations. We will also be actively honoring the memory of our liberators. In CELAC, as Bolivar wanted, we have become one nation.
I want to invoke a few words from the wise Andres Bello, who was as deeply Chilean as he was Venezuelan, who was not only the pioneer of international law in our Americas, but also the first lawyer in the world to shape the doctrines of multilateral organizations of integration and unity. Since the 19th century, this great forger of our intellectual independence has continued marking our path: The tendency of the century we live in is to multiply the points of contact between peoples, to unite them, to bind them in friendship, to make the entire human species one single family. To resist this tendency is to descend from the heights of civilization. My belief is that in the 21st century, this tendency ought to be the same as the one so brilliantly stated by Bello.
Transcendent politics has room to flourish in CELAC. It has been eloquently stated in the manifesto that our Latin Caribbean America is capable of presenting itself and thinking of itself both within the region and before the world with full autonomy, and is capable of acting jointly.
Transcendent politics presupposes that learning is ongoing: it is learning how to live with our differences, to accept and process them, always finding the best way of complementing each other. Transcendent politics impedes schemes from dividing us. Let us not forget that painful warning from Bolivar: A schemer does more in one day than one hundred good men do in one month.
But I am convinced that in this amazing hour of our history, those who intend to divert us will fail. That what will prevail, and I say this with Bolivar’s words, is the inestimable good of unity, that the Monroe Doctrine will definitively disappear as an instrument of oppression, domination and disunity in this side of the world.
The enlightening words, following a clear Bolivarian theme, of the great Argentinean thinker Jorge Abelardo Ramos in his History of the Latin American Nation (1968), should cause us to reflect: Underdevelopment, as social scientists and technicians now call it, is not purely economic or productive in nature. It is intensely historic in meaning. It is the result of Latin American fragmentation. What happens, in short, is that there is a national question that remains unanswered. Latin America is not divided because it is “underdeveloped;” it is “underdeveloped” because it is divided. Underdevelopment is the child of division, and that is exactly why it is imperative to resolve the question of a national Americas in the coming years. Today we meet all the objective and subjective conditions to do so.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I am going to briefly touch on a few topics of the CELAC agenda. I have left some out so as not to make this letter too long.
I think it is crucial to rigorously comply with two great social commitments included in the Caracas Action Plan in order for CELAC to have value for our peoples: I speak of the development of the Latin American and Caribbean Literacy Program and the Latin American and Caribbean Program for Eradicating Hunger.
The only response countries of the first world have had in the face of the crisis has been cutting social spending and public investment. In CELAC, we can maintain economic growth with strong social investments, agreeing to a common agenda for equality and for the recognition of the universal right of each of our citizens, without exception, to free health care and education.
Moreover, we must reach accords that will allow us to create and promote a common energy agenda. We have the strength, at the outset, to face the extreme panorama of a world where energy sources have their days numbered. The region’s resources are huge: we only need to create appropriate policies that do justice to the gifts nature has provided. We have the experience of a successful PetroCaribe to show that is it possible to create an energy alliance based on reciprocity.
I want to paraphrase Bolivar: what we have done is but a prelude to the great task that remains to consolidate our CELAC. Never before have we had such an appropriate setting. Let us multiply the good effects and the well-managed efforts, and I say this with Bolivar, to make CELAC the center of a new system of unity of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dear Heads of State and Government:
We have committed ourselves to giving Cuba all our support, as it will hold the pro tempore presidency of our Community following this Santiago Summit. This is an act of justice following 50 years of resistance to the criminal imperial embargo. Latin America and the Caribbean are speaking with one voice, telling the United States that all of its attempts to isolate Cuba have failed and will fail.
As fate would have it, and it will go down in history, today, precisely as Cuba assumes the pro tempore Presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, is the 160th anniversary of the birth of the apostle of Cuban independence, one of the greatest Bolivarians of all time: Jose Marti.
His prophetic words still resonate today: “we intentionally say people and not peoples so as to not think there is more than one from the Rio Grande to Patagonia. It should be one because it is one. The Americas, even when it does not want to, and when brothers fight, will be together in the end of a colossal spiritual nation, they will love each other then.”
The time has come for Marti’s love, Bolivar’s love, the love of our Americas.
That is why, from my Bolivarian heart, I hope for the resounding success of this CELAC Summit. Here in Havana I will be watching its development. With all the light of the Great Nation that burns more brightly today in Santiago de Chile, I send an endless and brotherly hug to each and every one of you.
Hugo Chávez Frías
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Always towards victory!
Long live the union of our peoples!
Long live CELAC!