-- preceding the Ibero-American Summit conference to
be held in the month of November. We have tried to be informed of what you have discussed
and what the debates have been like.
It seems to me that the organizers are satisfied with the results of both
Among the subjects discussed --and undoubtedly there were many and of
great value-- some caught my particular attention. I find they are among the subjects
related to culture and politics that I mostly appreciate. For example, the need for states
to promote a correct policy of environmental education; the importance of history to
convey values and defend the peoples identity; the need to reject colonialist or
hegemonic models; the advisability of avoiding damages to the national identity from
tourism; the necessity to meditate on the current world, to build a public awareness and
to transmit ideas which I consider of basic importance; the urgent need to foster a true
revolution of mans ethic through his education and the implementation of the right
cultural policies. This is really the first time that I see this last subject so clearly
Finally, there is an item 12, which I do not know if absolutely everybody
will agree with but at least I do, and it reads: "The capitalist economy cannot
guarantee the prospective development of humanity because it does not take into account
the cultural and human losses that result from its own expansion". I would go a
little bit further and say that not only does it not guarantee the prospective development
of humanity but that, as a system, it puts at risk its very existence.
You urged me to say a few words the day that the Congress opened and I
touched on an essential point related to the transfer of ideas.
I do not know how much discussion there has been on the ways to implement
that principle. I do know, however, that as a fundamental part of the integration policy
that is up for debate you have raised the need for culture to be given a priority over the
other objectives of that integration.
We feel that, united we would be worth the sum of many and very rich
cultures. In this token, when we think about Our Americas, as [José] Martí called it,
the Americas down from the Río Bravo [Río Grande] --although it should have been from
the Canadian border because that portion also belonged to our Americas until an insatiable
expansionist neighbor seized the whole territory of the west of what is today the United
States of America-- it is that integration which I have in mind, but including the
The Caribbean nations are still not present in these Ibero-American Summit
conferences. Fortunately, all Latin American and Caribbean countries will, for the first
time, meet with the European Union in Río de Janeiro on the 28th and 29th of this month.
So, the family is already growing although, in general, the Caribbean nations have been
the last of the forgotten as we, Latin Americans, also were and still are forgotten.
The sum of all our cultures would make up one enormous culture and be a
multiplication of our cultures. Integration should not adversely affect, but rather
enrich, the culture of everyone of our countries.
In this context, when we talk about unity we still do so in a narrow
framework. But I like to go beyond that. I believe in the unity of all the countries in
the world, in the unity of all the peoples in the world and in a free unity, a truly free
unity. I am not thinking of a fusion but of a free unity of all cultures in a truly just
world, in a truly democratic world, in a world where it would be possible to apply the
kind of globalization that Karl Marx talked about in his time and that [Pope] John Paul II
talks about today when he speaks of the globalization of solidarity.
We still need a good definition of what the globalization of solidarity
means. If we take this thought to its final consequences we will realize that item 12 is a
reality because I wonder if the capitalist system can guarantee the globalization of
solidarity. No one speaks about the "globalization of charity", which would be
very good in the meantime, but let us hope the day will come when charity is unnecessary.
That will be the day when the sentiments of solidarity become universal and the spirit of
solidarity goes global.
I say this to make it clear that I am in no way a narrow nationalist or a
chauvinist. I hold man in a higher concept and cherish more ambitious dreams for the
future of the human species, which has gone through so much hardship to end up being what
it is today, and accumulated such knowledge as it has today, while still not deserving the
description of a truly human species. What we presently have is still very far from that
but, perhaps, the further it seems, the closer it actually is, since this humanity is
going through a colossal crisis and it is only from colossal crises that great solutions
That is what history has been teaching us so far, up to this very moment
when the real globalization, which was not even mentioned a few years ago, has been made
possible and inevitable by the enormous advances in science, technology and
communications. People communicate with one another in a matter of seconds, wherever they
Suffice it to say that it is more difficult for me to communicate with our
minister of Foreign Affairs here than with our ambassador in the United Nations. The
ambassador there has a cellular phone and even if he is in the meeting room beside his
colleague, the U.S. ambassador --with an empty seat between them-- he can talk over the
phone. Just today, when the phone connection was made and I asked where he was --whether
in the mission, at home or in the United Nations-- he said: "I am in the car." I
said: "In the car! But I hear you so well!" He said: "Yes, we have stopped
at the traffic light now." And we continued talking for several more minutes. It is
Technological advances explain the accuracy of the famous satellites
guiding the missiles and the smart weapons which are not so smart that they do not fail
disturbingly often, that is, if they actually fail unintentionally.
The incident with the Chinese embassy [in Belgrade] seemed so strange, so
bizarre; then in trying to explain it they said the problem was that they had been bombing
guided by some old outdated maps. So, due to some outdated maps a bomb could have fallen
here too, in this meeting room.
Money moves rapidly, too, and speculative operations with currencies are
carried out at great speed for a trillion dollars every day; and they are not the only
speculative operations taking place, nor is it only with currencies they speculate.
At the time of Maghellan, it took I do not know how many months to go
round the world and now it can be done in barely 24 hours.
Me too, I went round the world not long ago, stopping off in Denmark,
China, Vietnam, Japan, Canada and back to Havana. I then began playing with the numbers
and doing some calculations and I realized that flying East, on a faster plane than mine,
it is possible to leave China early on Monday morning and arrive in Havana on Sunday
We have seen the world change in a few decades.
If you do not mind I will introduce an issue, just like you have
introduced many others, and I would call it Culture and Sovereignty.
I will rely on concrete facts and I am not talking theory or philosophy
but things that we can all see, that even a near-sighted person can see: namely, that
there can be no culture without sovereignty. [Minister of Culture] Abel [Prieto] outlined
how a handful of brilliant personalities succeeded in saving the national culture from
American neocolonialism and hegemonism in Cuba.
Another country has more merit than we do: Puerto Rico, which has been a
Yankee colony for 100 years now but where neither their language nor culture have been
destroyed. It is admirable! (Applause)
Of course, imperialism has today much more powerful means to destroy
cultures, to impose other cultures and homogenize cultures --much more powerful means.
Perhaps, at this moment, it can be more influential in 10 years than it was in the past
100 years. However, the example I gave you sheds some light on the peoples capacity
to resist and on the value of culture. The Puerto Ricans were deprived of all sovereignty
and, despite everything, they have resisted.
Although it is possible to find examples to show that there can be
culture, or that a certain degree of culture can be preserved without sovereignty, what is
inconceivable or unimaginable in todays world and toward the future is the existence
of sovereignty without culture.
While you, Congress delegates, ministers and government leaders of culture
in Ibero-America were here yesterday involved in your debates, a great battle was being
fought at the United Nations for sovereignty and we would say a major battle for culture,
too. Yes, because I say that, today, the means in the hands of those who dominate the
world economically and almost politically are much more powerful than they ever were.
That great battle had to do with the Security Council meeting which
discussed a draft resolution on the war unleashed against Yugoslavia, basically against
Serbia. In my view, it was a historic battle because imperialism and its allies --or
better still, imperialism and those who support it against their own best interests-- are
waging a massive struggle against the principle of sovereignty, an awesome offensive
We could see this coming. After the collapse of the socialist camp, the
USSR disintegrated and a single superpower remained in the world. It was noticeable that
that superpower --of well known origins whose diabolical methods and principles are also
very well known-- could not refrain from trying to use all its vast power to impose its
standards and its interests on the world, carefully at first and then by increasingly
We are already looking at an imperialism that is using all its might and
force to sweep away anything that stands in its way and culture is one of those things
very much in its way. They are the owners of the vast majority of the communication
networks, that is, 60 percent of the world communication networks and of the most powerful
and unrivalled television channels. And, they have the almost absolute monopoly of the
films shown in the world.
It can be said that France, which is fighting an almost heroic battle to
preserve its culture as much as possible against the United States cultural invasion, is
the only country in Europe, that I know of, where the American films shown account for
less than 50 percent of the total. In the other countries of the Old Continent, it is
above 50 percent. In some of them it can be 60, 65, 70 and even 80 percent. As for
television series, it is 60, 70, 80 and 90 percent, so that about 70 percent of the
television series shown and 75 percent of the video cassettes distributed are from the
United States; these figures that you must have heard before. Ramonet [a French
journalist] writes about those figures. It is an almost absolute monopoly.
There are major Latin American countries where 90 percent of the films and
series shown come from the United States and you know the characteristics of what comes
there. Very little material comes from Europe, so in those aspects there is a total
cultural colonization by the United States.
It goes without saying that, in our case, it is extremely difficult to
find films of some moral and cultural value. How do we escape from films that show
violence, sex and the Mafia almost exclusively? How do we escape from so many alienating
and poisonous films that they distribute throughout the world? It becomes difficult for
us, for our television practically without commercials, as I said to you, to find films to
show on weekends; and people are often critical of what is shown. On the other hand, they
are copies because we should say, in all sincerity, that as we were blockaded and all our
imports prevented we found ourselves forced to copy.
Some things are easy to copy, including films, and I think that the
comrades in our prestigious ICAIC [Cuban Films Institute] in the early years --and rightly
so, it is a historical merit-- specialized in copying U.S. films. Then, there were some
good ones, I mean, in the past there used to be more good American and European films.
They were worth watching.
The commercial spirit has so pervasively penetrated culture as to become
overwhelming. Which country in Europe can spend 300 million US dollars or more on a film?
Which country in Europe can make profits of $500 million, or even $1.2 billion trading on
paraphernalia related to a film? Those are companies that exploit everything, and the
sales of goods associated to an expensive and highly publicized film actually give them
higher profits than the screening of the film.
Actually, those films can cover all their costs and produce high profits
in the United States market alone. Therefore, as you can easily understand, they can sell
the films much more cheaply anywhere in Europe or the world. Who can compete with them?
Still, those European countries, some of them in a real cultural shock and
others relatively indifferent to the phenomenon, who with their unity and integration
expect to develop their economic, technological, scientific and cultural possibilities,
--practically as a necessity for survival-- even those countries support the imperialist
policy. They are supporting a policy aimed at sweeping away the principles of sovereignty.
And it is not the case of very small countries, small islands or very poor underdeveloped
nations whose per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 200 or 300 US dollars a year, but
rather countries whose per capita GDP is 20, 25, 30 and even 40,000 US dollars.
They, of course, are giving up national sovereignty to the extent that
they are uniting, opening borders, applying the free circulation of capital, of workers,
of technicians and creating common institutions that provide advantages only for the
European countries. The South countries must arrive in little boats and enter illegally.
Those countries are giving up their national currencies, and with good
logic, in order to adopt a common currency. That is different from adopting a foreign
currency governed by the U.S. Federal Reserve System which is tantamount to annexing the
country to the United States.
What would become of us, who have, at least, demonstrated that it is
possible to resist a double blockade and such a difficult period as we have gone through
during these years? How would that have been possible without our own currency? To this I
would add, as in passing, that we have revalued our currency seven times. From 1994, when
one US dollar bought 150 pesos, to 1999 or the end of 1998 --let us say almost five years;
the whole of 1994 should be counted-- we have revalued the currency seven times. Today,
one US dollar can only buy about 20 pesos. No country has done that, I tell you. None!
The formulas of the [International] Monetary Fund, all the recipes that it
imposes and that you know so well, where do they lead? Sometimes, through privatization or
savings the countries are able to accumulate major reserves to protect their currency but
then, in a number of days or weeks, they lose everything. We have seen that happen in a
matter of days. We neither have nor need those enormous reserves. Other countries have
them and lose them.
There is only one country --one single country in the world!-- that does
not even need a reserve because it prints the banknotes that circulate throughout the
world; the country that, as we have said on other occasions, first converted gold into
paper by unilaterally suspending the free conversion of its banknotes and which changed
the gold in its reserves for the paper currency that it printed --a currency accepted by
everybody for its equivalent value in gold. Later, then, it converted the paper into gold,
the miracle dreamed of by the alchemists of the Middle Ages. In other words, they print a
piece of paper that circulates as if it were gold. I am explaining the phenomenon in a
simple way although the procedure is more complicated than that.
They use Treasury bonds and apply different mechanisms. But, in essence,
the fact is they can afford it because they print the currency that circulates worldwide,
they print the banknotes kept as a reserve in the banks of every country in the world.
They print the paper, they buy with it and the others keep the paper --a large part of it,
not all of it, of course. Therefore, they are the ones who print the world's reserve
That is one of the reasons for the emergence of the euro. Let us say that
it is an attempt to survive against that privilege and against that monetary power so that
no speculator can come along and do to any European country as they did to the United
Kingdom, France, Spain and others when their currencies were devalued after they fell prey
of enormous speculative operations. Actually, when some American megamillionaire wolves
get together, no country can resist their speculative attacks. The pound sterling, a
currency queen not so long ago, was brought to its knees in a matter of days.