Racist violence and economic injustice were among the problems Dr. Martin Luther King laid at capitalism’s doorstep. Here, King looks at a glass door of his rented beach cottage in St. Augustine, Fla. that was shot into by someone unknown on June 5, 1964. | Jim Kerlin / AP
Throughout his life, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke often and with vision about the nature of capitalism and the kind of changes needed to replace it. The following quotes reflect some of King’s key thoughts on the subject. The power of his words speaks as much to the present day as they did to the turbulent times he witnessed.
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today, capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.” – Letter to Coretta Scott, July 18, 1952.
“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…” – Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.
“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” – Speech to the Negro American Labor Council, 1961.
“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power…. This means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.
“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” – Speech to SCLC Board, March 30, 1967.
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income… The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” – Where do We Go from Here?, 1967.
“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.
“[W]e are saying that something is wrong … with capitalism…. There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.
“If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to hell.” – Speech at Bishop Charles Mason Temple of the Church of God in Christ in support of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike on March 18, 1968, two weeks before he was assassinated.
The notion of real, undiluted Pan-Africanism — all of Africa united into one nation — seems like a throwback to a bygone era, in a world increasingly obsessed with borders. But to Ghanaian politician and activist Samia Nkrumah, the dream is very much alive. It was her father, the towering African icon Kwame Nkrumah, who first articulated the vision of a unified continent. His daughter is adamant that it remains the best way to lift Africans out of poverty.
When last did you hear an African leader speak earnestly about the project of unifying all African countries into one vast nation?
In South Africa, Pan-Africanism has slipped from a once-cherished ideal of the liberation movement into ideological obscurity. The EFF claimed, upon launching, to be espousing what they called “radical Pan-Africanism” — but their leaders have been accused of making xenophobic utterances in public, including Floyd Shivambu’s questioning of former minister Malusi Gigaba’s citizenship and Julius Malema’s suggestion that former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane was “not a proper South African”.
As the 2019 elections approach, South African politicians of all stripes look to be exploiting an apparently widely felt hostility to nationals of other African countries encroaching on local borders.
On Thursday afternoon, as Daily Maverick sat down with Samia Nkrumah, the DA released a statement containing a number of poorly substantiated alarmist claims about South Africa’s border insecurity, including that “there are people coming across the border to collect social grants and shop in South Africa before returning across the border”.
It’s a far cry from the situation Samia’s father Kwame Nkrumah envisaged when he laid out his vision of Pan-Africanism as the continent’s first post-independence black head of state.
“He would be very, very disappointed,” Nkrumah says.
But for Nkrumah, Pan-Africanism remains not just a romantic ideal but an increasingly urgent necessity.
The 58-year old Ghanaian needs less than a minute of discussion to launch into an impassioned argument for the ongoing need for true African unity. Not the version half-heartedly championed by the African Union, which she describes as “paying lip service” to the concept — but a mighty African nation, bringing together the continent’s countries in a political arrangement somewhat akin to that of the United States.
“One government, 55 states,” Nkrumah summarises.
“States cede a little sovereignty to the union government on essential matters, such as the economy, foreign diplomacy, and defence. They submit to collective decision-making.”
She says that African countries which are hesitant to embrace diluted sovereignty should consider one simple question.
Better to cede to a union than to foreign powers
“To what extent are we fully sovereign nations now? Our economies are dictated from the outside. Better to cede to a union than to foreign powers.”
Nkrumah is under no illusions: xenophobia is rife all over the continent, she says, not just in South Africa, and is consciously fomented by African politicians as a way of diverting attention from domestic issues.
“But what matters to people is unemployment; poverty,” she says. “You don’t solve those problems by blocking people from coming in. Proper economic integration could address these problems of unemployment and deindustrialisation. We will definitely be in a stronger position economically; able to borrow on better terms.”
To Nkrumah, Pan-Africanism is only partly an ideological vision.
“It’s a political decision for our economic survival,” she says.
Nkrumah is in Cape Town to deliver the keynote speech at the Open Society Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration of its work in South Africa. She hasn’t visited South Africa much before, and says that one reason why she accepted the invitation to speak is that she admires the country’s ability to reach a political consensus after apartheid.
From this perspective, she sees South Africa as a microcosm of what would need to be achieved in order to bring about one Pan-African nation:
“Having people who look differently, think differently, but manage to live together for the country’s development”.
Nkrumah is a successful politician in her own right, having become the first woman in Ghana to lead a political party. It is clear, however, that she sees her political identity as inextricably bound up with that of her much-admired father. It is an association she wears as a badge of honour rather than a burden.
She refers to her father mostly by his full name, and always with a kind of understated reverence.
“For me, Kwame Nkrumah is also my leader. I’ve studied his books. When it comes to political activity and Pan-Africanism, he is my mentor,” she says.
Laughing, she adds: “I’m a Nkrumah-ist by conviction, not just by birth.”
Although Nkrumah has stepped away from party politics in Ghana for the time being, she intends to stand for a parliamentary seat in 2020 — though hints she will do so under the umbrella of a new political formation rather than the party she has previously served, the Convention People’s Party.
Africa needs more women in political office
She is adamant in her belief that Africa needs more women in political office. One political party that she thinks could benefit from the impact of greater numbers of female leaders is the EFF, whose development she has watched with interest from Ghana.
“By and large I am positive that the influence of more women could change this style of political representation,” she says. “What we need is more consensus.”
Referring specifically to EFF leader Julius Malema, she says:
“Some of us are also radical in our thinking, but don’t come across like that — not because we are afraid, but because we want people to understand why we are fighting. We need a big chunk of the population to agree to do things differently. We reached that consensus to end colonialism, and to end apartheid.”
Pan-Africanism for a new generation
When she leaves Cape Town, it is to head back to Accra to convene a gathering of Pan-African federalist movements. There, she says participants intend to strategise on ways to popularise the concept of Pan-Africanism for a new generation.
Asked to deliver a pitch to the people of South Africa as to why they should embrace the idea of relinquishing sovereignty to a unified African nation, Nkrumah pauses for a minute to gather her thoughts, and then leans forward.
“If you look at the past few decades, you will find that the good things that happened on the continent happened when we stood together. One is the end of colonialism. It came to an end because African states stood together and supported each other,” she says.
“Today we can identify our challenges as marginalisation, poverty, the inability to reach our potential. The quickest and most effective way of beating those challenges is in political and economic unification. There is a big chunk of the population in South Africa that needs a stronger, wealthier, more industrialised African nation to deliver basic needs.”
Nkrumah spreads her hands and shrugs.
“If I were a leader, I would be happy to be part of a bigger nation, and cede some sovereignty, rather than come and tell my people: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you’.” DM2
It is impossible to be here, speak from this rostrum on behalf of Cuba, and not recall historic moments of the General Assembly which are also part of our dearest memories: Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro and the “Chancellor of Dignity”, Raúl Roa, just to mention the most significant, have brought here not only the voice of our people but also the voice of other Latin American and Caribbean, African, Asian, non-aligned peoples, with whom we have shared more than half a century of struggles for a fair international order, which is still far off being attained.
It is absurd but consistent with the irrationality of a world in which the richest 0.7% of the population owns 46% of all the wealth, while the poorer 70% of the population can access only 2.7% of it; 3.460 billion people survive in poverty; 815 million go hungry; 758 million are illiterate and 844 million lack basic services of drinking water. All these figures, by the way, are prepared and regularly used by global organizations, but it seems that they have failed to raise sufficient awareness of the so-called international community.
These realities, Madam President, are not the result of socialism, like the President of the United States said yesterday here. They are the consequence of capitalism, especially imperialism and neoliberalism; of the selfishness and exclusion that is inherent to that system, and of an economic, political, social and cultural paradigm that privileges wealth accumulation in the hands of a few at the cost of the exploitation and dire poverty of the large majorities.
Capitalism consolidated colonialism. It gave birth to fascism, terrorism and apartheid and spread wars and conflicts; the breaches of sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples; repression of workers, minorities, refugees and migrants. Capitalism is the opposite of solidarity and democratic participation. The production and consumption patterns that characterize it, promote plundering, militarism, threats to peace; they generate violations of human rights and are the greatest danger to the ecological balance of the planet and the survival of the human being.
No one should be deceived by anybody claiming that humanity lacks enough material, financial and technological resources to eradicate poverty, hunger, preventable diseases and other scourges. What is lacking is the political will of the industrialized countries, who have the moral duty, the historical responsibility and the abundant resources to solve the most pressing global problems.
The truth is that while it is claimed that there is a shortfall in funding to attain the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda or address the increasing impact of climate change, 1.74 trillion dollars were wasted in military expenditure in the year 2017, the highest figure since the end of the Cold War.
Climate change is another unavoidable reality and a matter of survival for the human species, particularly for Small Island Developing States. Some of its effects are already irreversible.
Scientific evidence indicates there is an increase of 1.1° C relative to pre-industrial levels, and that 9 out of 10 persons living in urban areas breathe polluted air.
However, the United States, one of the major polluters of yesteryear and today, refuses to accompany the international community in the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. It thus endangers the lives of future generations and the survival of all species, including humans.
In addition, and as if there were not enough threats to humanity and its dazzling creations, it is a fact that the military and nuclear hegemonism of imperialism is perpetuating itself and expanding to the detriment of the hopes of the majority of peoples for a general and complete disarmament. Cuba shares this ideal and, as testament of its commitment with this goal, on January 31, it became the fifth State to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
In this organization that was born out of the human desire to overcome the destruction left by a terrible war with the dialogue between nations, it is not possible to keep quiet about the danger looming over all of us, with the exacerbation of local conflicts, wars of aggression disguised as “humanitarian interventions”, the forceful overthrow of sovereign governments, the so-called “soft coups” and interference in other States’ internal affairs, recurrent forms of action by some powers, using the most diverse excuses.
The international cooperation for the promotion and protection of all human rights for all is a must. However, its discriminatory and selective manipulation with claims of domination, violates the rights to peace, self-determination and development of the peoples.
Cuba rejects the militarization of outer space and cyberspace, as well as the covert and illegal use of the information and communication technologies to attack other states.
The exercise of multilateralism and full respect for the principles and rules of International Law to advance towards a multipolar, democratic and equitable world, are required in order to ensure peaceful coexistence, preserve international peace and security and find lasting solutions for systemic problems.
Against that logic, the threat or use of force, unilateralism, pressures, retaliations and sanctions which increasingly characterize the behavior and rhetoric of the U.S. government and its abusive use of the veto power in the Security Council in order to impose their political agenda, pose huge challenges and threats within the United Nations itself.
Why don’t we just implement the promised strengthening of the General Assembly as the main organ of deliberation, decision and representation. The reform of the Security Council must not be delayed or prevented, as this organ is in need of adjusting to the times by democratizing its membership and working methods.
Today we have come to reiterate what Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz said on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the UN, which summarizes the most noble aspiration of the majority of humanity, and I quote: “We want a world without hegemonistic practices, without nuclear weapons, without interventionism, without racism, without national or religious hatred, without violations of the sovereignty of any country, with respect for independence and the free self-determination of peoples, without universal models that do not take into account the traditions and cultures of all components of humanity at all. Without cruel blockades that kill men, women, children, the young, and the elderly like silent atomic bombs”.
More than 20 years have elapsed since that demand was made and none of those ills have been cured; in fact, they have exacerbated. We have every right to ask why. And we have the duty to insist on effective and equitable solutions.
Our America is currently undergoing a stage of persistent threats, inconsistent with the “Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace”, signed in Havana by the Heads of States and Government on the occasion of the 2nd Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, in 2014.
The current U.S. administration has proclaimed the relevance of the Monroe Doctrine and, in a new deployment of its imperial policy in the region, is attacking Venezuela with special cruelty.
It is in this threatening context that we wish to reiterate our absolute support to the Bolivarian and Chavista Revolution, the civic-military union of the Venezuelan people and its legitimate and democratic government, led by the constitutional President Nicolas Maduros Moros. We reject the intervention attempts and sanctions against Venezuela, aimed at suffocating her economically and hurting Venezuelan families.
We likewise reject the attempts at destabilizing the Nicaraguan government, a country of peace that has made remarkable social, economic and public safety progress in favor of its people.
We denounce the politically-motivated imprisonment of former president Luiz Incicio Lula da Silva, and the decision to prevent the people from voting and electing Brazil’s most popular leader to the Presidency.
We stand in solidarity with the Caribbean nations who demand legitimate reparation for the horrible effects of slavery as well as the fair, special and differential treatment that they deserve.
We reaffirm our historic commitment with the self-determination and independence of our brother people of Puerto Rico.
We support Argentina’s legitimate sovereignty claim over the Malvinas Islands, South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands.
We reiterate our unrestricted support to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the basis of the creation of two States, allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and to have an independent and sovereign State based upon the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. We reject the unilateral action of the United States to establish their diplomatic representation in the city of Jerusalem, which heightens even more the tensions in the region. We condemn the barbarities of the Israeli forces against the civilian population in Gaza.
We reaffirm our steadfast solidarity with the Saharan people, and support the search for a final solution to the question of Western Sahara, which will allow the exercise of self-determination and to live in peace in their territory.
We support the search for a peaceful and negotiated solution to the situation imposed in
Syria, without foreign interference and with full respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We reject any direct or indirect intervention, carried out without the legitimate authorities of the country.
The continued expansion of NATO towards Russian borders is causing serious threats, worsened by the imposition of arbitrary sanctions, which we reject.
We demand compliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear deal.
We welcome the process of rapprochement and dialogue among the Koreas. This is the way to achieve a lasting peace, reconciliation and stability in the Korean peninsula. At the same time, we strongly condemn the imposition of unilateral and unfair sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and foreign interference in Korean internal affairs.
The violations of the rules of international trade and the sanctions against China, the European Union and other countries will bring about harmful effects, particularly for developing States.
We favor dialogue and cooperation, thanks to which we can report today that the Cuba-EU Agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation has provisionally entered into force and is a good foundation to develop beneficial ties between the Parties.
The government of the U.S. maintains an aggressive rhetoric towards Cuba and a policy aimed at subverting the political, economic, social, and cultural system in my country. Contrary to the interests of both peoples and giving in to the pressures of minority sectors, the new U.S. government has devoted itself to artificially fabricate under false pretexts, scenarios of tension and hostility that serve nobody’s interests.
This in contrast to the fact that we have formal diplomatic relations and mutually beneficial cooperation programs in a limited number of areas.
Our peoples share increasingly closer historic and cultural bonds, which are expressed in the arts, sports, science, the environment, among others. The potential for a fluent business relationship is well known and a genuine and respectful understanding would be in the interest of the entire region.
However, the essential and defining element of the bilateral relationship continues to be the blockade, which seeks to suffocate the Cuban economy in order to generate hardships and disrupt the constitutional order. It is a cruel policy, punishing Cuban families and the entire Nation.
It is the most comprehensive and long-standing system of economic sanctions ever implemented against any country. It has been and continues to be a major obstacle to the country’s development and to the realization of the aspirations to progress and well-being of several generations of Cubans.
As has been said for so many years in this same place, due to its aggressive extraterritorial implementation, the blockade seriously damages the sovereignty and interests of all countries.
On behalf of the Cuban people, I would like to thank this General Assembly for the virtually unanimous rejection of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against my country.
Nevertheless, the actions of the U.S. government against my country go farther. They include public and covert programs of gross interference in Cuba’s internal affairs. To this end, tens of millions of dollars that are officially allocated in its budget are used, in violation of the standards and principles upon which this organization rests, and in particular, of Cuba’s sovereignty as an independent nation.
Cuba stands ready to develop respectful and civilized relations with the U.S. government on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect. This is the will of the Cuban people and we know this is a shared aspiration by most U.S. citizens and, particularly, by Cubans living there.
We shall continue to tirelessly demand the end of the cruel economic, commercial and financial blockade, the return of the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base and adequate compensation to our people for the thousands of dead and disabled and for the economic and property damages caused to Cuba over so many years of aggression.
Cuba will always be willing to engage in dialogue and cooperate on the basis of respect and an equal footing. We shall never make concessions affecting our sovereignty and national independence, we shall not negotiate our principles nor shall we accept conditionalities.
In spite of the blockade, the hostility and the actions carried out by the United States to impose a regime change in Cuba, the Cuban Revolution is right here, alive and strong, faithful to her principles!
The generational change in our government should not raise the hopes of the enemies of the Revolution. We are the continuity, not a rupture. Cuba has continued taking steps to improve its model of economic and social development in order to build a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable Nations. This is the path that our people has freely chosen.
The country will not go back to the opprobrious past that it shook off with the greatest sacrifices during 150 years of struggle for independence and full dignity. By the decision of the overwhelming majority of Cubans, we shall continue the work that started almost 60 years ago.
In this conviction, we began a constitutional reform process, a truly participatory and democratic exercise, through popular discussion of the draft which will eventually be approved in a referendum. I am certain that there will be no changes in our strategic objectives and that the irrevocable nature of socialism will be ratified.
The principles of foreign policy will remain unchanged. As the First Secretary of our Party, Raúl Castro Ruz, said in his statement on the occasion of the 70 anniversary of the United Nations, and I quote: “The international community will always be able to count on the Cuba’s sincere voice against injustice, inequality, underdevelopment, discrimination and manipulation; and for the establishment of a fairer and more equitable international order, truly focused on human beings, their dignity and well-being”.
The Cuba on behalf of which I speak today is the proud successor of that independent, sovereign, fraternal and solidarity policy with the poorest of this world, producers of all the wealth on the planet, although the unequal global order has sentenced them with dire poverty on behalf of words like democracy, freedom and human rights, words which the rich have actually emptied of meaning.
It has been exciting and pleasant to take the floor at the same rostrum from which Fidel expressed powerful truths 58 years ago that still continue to shake us, in front of representatives of more than 190 nations who, rejecting extortion and pressures, every year fill the voting screen of worthy green lights of approval for our demand for the end of the blockade.
I bid you farewell in the hope that the noble aspirations of most of Humanity will be achieved before younger generations take this rostrum to demand the same as we do today, and our historic predecessors did in yesteryear.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. | Photo: Reuters
Lula: “My judicial persecutors not only want me detained, they want me silenced.”
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has taken to his Twitter account, on Friday, to speak to the people of Brazil about the denial of his habeas corpus earlier this week, which would have allowed him to walk free from prison.
“The fear surrounding my possible release is due to the fact that they know that they detained me based on lies,” he said, referring to judge Sergio Moro and prosecutors who argued his guilt, as well as ruled and sentenced the former head of state on corruption and money laundering charges.
“Their guilty conscious, stemming from their frame-ups, makes them nervous.”
Lula went on to tweet that he doesn’t harbor hate (towards his persecutors) but sympathy for the situation in which this group has placed Brazil, to sell our riches, and indignation for the suffering of the Brazilian people.
He said it becomes more difficult, with each passing day, for people “to find work and pay their bills…The fear exhibited by the rich is not against me – Lula said – but for them to accept the choice of the Brazilian people in free elections. The Brazilian people must recuperate their democratic liberty!”
On Thursday Lula was visited in prison by his former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Celso Amorim, and former Chief Minister of the Social Communication Secretariat Franklin Martins.
He told them that his judicial persecutors not only want him detained, but silenced, in respect to judge Carolina Lebbos, who prohibited him from giving interviews from prison. He also affirmed that he would not exchange his dignity for freedom.
Lula has been detained at the federal police headquarters in Curitiba since April 7. Despite his imprisonment, an event that many legal experts and observers attribute to lawfare and a salacious mainstream media campaign, he has topped every 2018 electoral poll conducted by Vox Populi, Ibope, Datafolha, Data Poder 360, Instituto Parana, the National Confederation of Transportation/MDA and Ipsos.
The latest Ipespe survey, taken between July 9 and 11, indicates that Lula continues leading the pack of presidential hopefuls in the first round of voting at 30 per cent. It also showed him prevailing against his nearest rival, far right-wing congressman Jair Bolsonaro, in the second round of voting at 40 per cent to 33 per cent.
Lula’s two terms in office were marked by a slew of social programs, lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and removing the country from the United Nations World Hunger Map. He left office with a record approval rating of 83 percent in 2011, according to Datafolha.
As of May 7th, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had spent 30 days in prison. For the first time, he was allowed to receive visits from his friends. I had the honor of being the first to visit him, due to our friendship of more than 30 years, and that we share the same Causa: Liberating the impoverished, and reinforcing life’s spiritual dimension. I fulfilled the evangelical precept: “I was in jail and you visited me”. Filled with energy
I found him as we knew him before he was imprisoned: the same face, hair, beard… only somewhat more slender. Those who hoped to see him angry or depressed must be disappointed. He is filled with energy and hope. His cell is large, very clean, with built-in-cupboards, and a bathroom and shower in an enclosed space. The first impression is good, even though he lives in isolation because, other than his lawyers and children, he can only talk with the guard, who is of Ukrainian origin, gentle and attentive, who has become his admirer. He brings Lula his food tray, more warm or cool, and coffee whenever he requests it. Lula does not accept the food his children bring him, because he wants to eat as the other prisoners do, without any privileges. He has his time to take in the sun. But lately, when he does that, drones appear overhead. As a precaution Lula leaves, because the purpose of those drones is unknown: to take photos of him, or perhaps something more sinister.
Among our discussions of politics, the most important was our conversation on spirituality… Lula is a religious man, but of the popular religiosity, for which God is existential evidence. I found him reading one of my books, The Lord is my Shepherd, (from editorial Voces) a commentary on the famous Psalm 23, the most read of the Psalms, which is also read by other religions. He felt fortified and confirmed, because the Bible is generally critical of pastor/politicians, and praises those who care for the poor, the orphans and the widows. Lula feels that he belongs in that line, with his social policies that benefited so many millions. He does not accept criticism as being a “populist.” Lula says: “I belong to the people, I come from the people and direct my policies, as much as I can, towards the people”.
At the head of his bed there is a crucifix. He uses the time of solitary confinement to reflect, meditate, to review so many things in his life, and to deepen the fundamental convictions that give meaning to his political actions, all that his mother, Lindu (whom he considers his protector and inspiring angel), often repeated to him: always be honest, and struggle and struggle more. Lula sees in that the meaning of his personal and political life: a struggle that everyone may have a dignified life, and not just a few at the expense of the others. “The greatness of a politician is measured by the greatness of his Causa”, he emphatically told me. And the Causa must be to make a life for everyone, starting with those who have the least. For that reason, Lula does not accept definitive defeat. Nor does he want to fall on his face. He does not want to fail, but to remain always faithful to his basic purpose, and to make of politics a great tool for organizing a life of justice and peace for all, especially for those who live in the hell of hunger and misery. I am a candidate
This dream has an undeniable ethical and spiritual greatness. It is in the light of these convictions that Lula maintains his tranquility, because he says and reiterates that he lives for that interior truth, one that possesses its own strength, that one day will become evident. “I only hoped”, he commented, “for it to happen after my death, but it is already happening, even now, while I am alive”. He becomes profoundly indignant at the lies spread about him, based on which they have mounted the triplex procedure. He wonders: “How can these persons consciously lie and sleep in peace?” He challenges Judge Sergio Moro: “show me a single shred of evidence that I own the triplex of Guaruja; If you show me one, I will renounce my candidacy to the Presidency”.
He asked me to pass a message on to the press and the people in the encampment: “I am a candidate. I want to carry on with rescuing the poor, and to create social policies in their favor, State policies, and that the costs –that are investments– are in the budgets of the Union. I will radicalize these policies for the poor, with the poor, and to dignify our country”.
Meditation has made him understand that prison has a meaning that transcends him, me, and the political disputes. It must be the same price that Gandhi and Mandela paid, with prison and persecution, to reach what they accomplished. “This I believe, and hope”, he told me, “that this is what I am going through now”.
I who came to encourage him, left encouraged. I hope that others are also encouraged. and shout “Free Lula!”, against a Justice that does not manifest justice.
Cuba is a model for what the World Health Organization (WHO) wants to see in the world and for many countries, said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, at the opening of the III International Convention on Public Health Cuba Health 2018.
“I can only thank Cuba for its model health system, which makes it one of the best in the world,” said the high-level official before Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, president of the Councils of State and Ministers; José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Central Committee of the Party, and Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization; as well as ministers, deputy ministers and representatives of more than 50 countries.
Health is included as a human right that everyone should benefit from. Still, more than half of the world lacks medical service. Millions of human beings are forced to live in poverty due to the costs they demand for their health care, Tedros acknowledged.
“No one should choose between buying food or medicine; nobody should choose between poverty and health”.
Carissa Etienne added that although the countries of the region have made great progress in the sector, they are still insufficient.
Regional access to comprehensive health services
“More than a third of the inhabitants of this region do not have access to comprehensive health services. In the years 2013 and 2014 there were more than 1.2 million deaths that could have been avoided if the health systems had offered accessible and quality services, “he said.
The countries of the region have not been able to overcome the barriers to access to health. The reasons are of a different nature: geographical, institutional, financial and those related to social inequalities, including gender.
“It is totally unacceptable that children belonging to indigenous ethnic groups face infant mortality almost five times greater than that of the general population, because they do not have access to health; or that women have higher mortality due to wanting to give life, “he said.
We can not allow our loved ones, friends and neighbors to suffer unnecessarily because the cost of medicines is too high; or for living in a vulnerable environment, without sanitation of water that puts them at greater risk of developing dengue, Zika or other diseases, he added.
Etienne also said that it is unfair that many women postpone their professional development by taking care of their loved ones, such as grandparents, grandmothers or children.
Regional achievements fragile
“It is important to recognize that the achievements in the region are important but fragile, and we must fight to maintain them. All our health personnel must provide integrated care with quality and speed to respond to the needs of the population in all parts of the world, without leaving anyone behind, “he insisted.
None of us is exempt from getting sick, but no one should be excluded from the right to health. “That must be the center of our concerns,” he said.
This situation has to end, insisted, meanwhile, Tedros.
“It is an ambitious aspiration, but if we do not think big we will continue to leave people behind. Countries like Cuba remind us that this is not a dream for the future, but a reality. And they have achieved it not because Cuba is rich, but because they have proposed it as a commitment, “he said.
He stressed that Cuba is a model for many countries of the world, because it also provides international collaboration and trains many doctors from the Latin American School of Medicine, allowing advancement and health coverage in America and other regions.
Inequality and poverty reduction
For Tedros, universal coverage does not have to be only for developed countries, and Cuba is an example of this. It is a way to reduce inequality and poverty and protect the population against outbreaks of epidemics, to which we are still vulnerable, he said.
“Universal coverage must be a right for all. It restores their dignity and gives commitment in the future. Together we can make it a reality. Health for all is possible,” he concluded.
During the opening of the event, WHO and PAHO officials congratulated President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez for his recent election on April 19.
With the keynote speech Universal Health for Sustainable Development in Cuba, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, vice president of the State Council and Minister of Public Health, left the Convention open.
The Minister stressed that in a world that is insecure due to threats to world peace, wars, scarcity of food and water, depletion of energy sources and climate change, it is the responsibility of health systems, not only to cure, but to alert, to claim the need to protect our species and to help people to live healthily, with dignity and that all this be a human right.
Morales Ojeda made an exhaustive tour of the history of Cuban public health where the revolutionary triumph marked a before and after for the welfare of the population.
In this regard, he said that the Cuban health system has been constantly improving addressing necessary changes that respond to the health situation at all times.
It meant that primary health care constitutes the fundamental link of the Cuban health strategy, which along with the integration with the other two levels of care have allowed the country to exhibit indicators similar to those of developed nations.
It also starts, first, that health is a right endorsed in the Constitution of the Republic and the political will of the State to maintain it.
The budget allocated to this sector and social assistance represents 27 percent of the total state budget and 11 percent of gross domestic product, he said.
Cuba now has one doctor for every 122 inhabitants, one stomatologist for every 602 and one nurse for every 128, reaching higher figures than those showing first world countries.
In the 55 years of international medical collaboration, 407,000 professionals and technicians have participated, including 183,333 doctors in 164 countries, which exemplifies once again the humanist vocation of the Revolution, he said.
GREG WILPERT: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert coming to you from Quito, Ecuador.
Ten years ago, most of Latin America was governed by center-left progressive or even leftist governments. For example, Cristina Fernandez in Argentina, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, and Lula da Silva in Brazil, just as an example. And Hugo Chavez, of course, in Venezuela. Since then, the so-called ‘pink tide’ has receded quite dramatically. Of these 10 governments that were left of center, only four remain. Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, Vazquez in Uruguay, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. What happened? Some would argue that the U.S. played an important role in at least some of these changes.
Joining me to explore the role of the U.S. in Latin America is Mark Weisbrot. Mark is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and is the author of the book “Failed: What the Experts Got Wrong About the Global Economy.” He’s also the president of the organization Just Foreign Policy. Thanks for being here again, Mark.
MARK WEISBROT: Thanks, Greg. Thanks for having me.
GREG WILPERT: So before we get into the role of the U.S. in Latin America, it’s useful maybe to take a quick look at the impact that the leftist or center-left governments had on Latin America. What would you say were the main achievements or the main consequences of their governments in some of those countries?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, if you look at the region as a whole, the poverty rate dropped from 44 to 28 percent. That was from around 2003-2013. And that was after the two decades prior where poverty had actually increased, there was no progress at all. So that was a huge change, and it was accomplished in different countries in different ways. You know, there were large increases in public investment in Bolivia and Ecuador. In Brazil you had also some increase in public investment , big increases in the minimum wage. You know, every country did different things to help bring healthcare, and increase, in some countries, education, access to education. And there were a whole lot of reforms. Changes in macroeconomic policy. Getting rid of the IMF.
So there were a lot of different things that these governments did that prior governments were either unable or unwilling to do to improve people’s living standards during a period of higher economic growth, which they also contributed to.
GREG WILPERT: And so how has Latin America changed now since then, when right-wing governments took over most of the continent?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, you have different things that have changed. I mean, one is, of course, they’re implementing, as you would expect, right-wing reforms. Trying to cut pension system, the pension in Brazil, passing a constitutional amendment which, you know, even most economists in the world wouldn’t support in Brazil, which prohibits the government from increasing spending beyond the rate of inflation. You have, you know, huge increases in utility prices in Argentina, laying off thousands of public sector workers. So everywhere where the right has come back, you do have some regressive changes.
GREG WILPERT: And so how has the U.S. contributed to these changes, and what goals would you say is the U.S. pursuing in the area?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, I think the U.S. has contributed in so many ways it would take an hour at least to summarize just some of this history. But I think the U.S. has been involved in, in most of these countries in various ways. Obviously in Venezuela they’ve been involved since the coup in 2002, and they tried to overthrow the government and tried to help people topple the government on several occasions there. In Brazil they supported the coup against Dilma, the parliamentary coup. So they didn’t do that strongly, but they sent enough signals, for example, I’ve mentioned this before on this show, right as the House was voting to impeach Dilma without actually presenting a crime that she committed, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee from the Senate came and met with the number three official from the U.S. State Department, Tom Shannon. And then of course in August of that year, the Secretary of State John Kerry went down there and had a press conference with the Acting Foreign Minister Jose Serra. And they, of course, talked about how great relations with the U.S. were going to be before Dilma was actually removed from office. So these were ways of endorsing the coup.
And of course, the Department of Justice contributed to , the FBI, the Department of Justice contributed to the investigation that was instrumental in imprisoning Lula. Now, what they did in that investigation we don’t know exactly, but we do know enough about it to know that it wasn’t a neutral investigation. That is, the investigation did end up decapitating the Workers’ Party for now, first helping get rid of Dilma, but more importantly, or more substantially, in terms of its contribution, they they helped put Lula in prison and prevent him from running for office.
And in other countries, in Paraguay, the U.S. helped in the consolidation of that parliamentary coup by organizing within the Organization of American States. In Honduras is probably the biggest role that the U.S. has played, both in consolidating the military coup in 2009, Hillary Clinton acknowledged her role in making sure that President Zelaya, the democratically elected president, would not return to office, and then more recently in November they helped consolidate the results of an election which pretty much all observers regarded as stolen.
Those are just a few of the examples. I mean, I guess I didn’t even mention Argentina, where other branches of government were involved as well as the executive, but the executive cut off lending from multilateral development banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank, and tried to block loans at the World Bank, as well. And they restored everything as soon as the right-wing government was elected. And then there was Judge Griesa in New York, who took all of Argentina’s, over 90 percent of Argentina’s creditors, hostage in order to squeeze them so that the government would pay off the vulture funds. And this was very political, because he also lifted the injunction as soon as you had the right-wing government.
And I think this is very important, because obviously it’s not necessarily a conspiracy of all these branches of government. The legislative branch was involved in this as well, in the United States. But they all have the same mindset, and they’re all trying to get rid of these left governments, and they had a massive contribution. I mean, Argentina, that did contribute to the downfall of Cristina Kirchner. It contributed to balance of payments problems that they had there. So this was important, and it’s totally ignored here in the United States.
GREG WILPERT: And then why was it ignored in the United States? I mean, what is it about U.S. media coverage, and why is there so little coverage of U.S. role and Latin America?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, you know, maybe you should interview some of the reporters who cover it, if they’re willing to answer that question. I think that it’s it’s complicated in some ways, but in some ways it’s very simple. First of all, for U.S. intervention anywhere in the world they have a kind of a smoking gun standard. So you know, we have in our criminal justice system the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. But this is a much higher standard. So nothing is really discussed in terms of U.S. intervention unless it’s really a smoking gun, where they’re caught red-handed in a way that nobody could deny. And that almost never happens.
So in Venezuela, for example, in 2002 when you had the coup, you had State Department and CIA documents which documented the involvement of the United States. They helped fund and train the people who did the coup, and they made statements following the coup that they knew were false in order to help the coup consolidate itself, and they failed in that case. But you know, in Haiti in 2004, which I hadn’t even mentioned, they took the president and put him on a rendition plane, and flew him out of the country. That was in broad daylight.
But in any case, they have a story that’s not at all believable, and the press kind of accepts that and never looks back. Whenever they mentioned, you know, Chavez complained about the coup, and it was a major obvious source of bad relations with Venezuela, but they always just reported it as an allegation of a figure that they of course were discrediting at every turn.
So that’s kind of how they report all of these. When they report the facts at all, they put it in the context that makes it look like there wasn’t any intent, or any real effect of U.S. policy in the region. But mostly it’s like reporting on Ukraine and never mentioning Russia, you know, it’s as if the United States doesn’t have any real influence in the Americas, and of course anybody knows they have an enormous influence.
GREG WILPERT: So what would you say are some of the implications for the foreseeable future of this U.S. policy towards Latin America?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, right now, of course, they’re still involved. And you have intervention in Mexico, for example. U.S. officials have already said how worried they are that AMLO, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is the frontrunner in the upcoming election in July. And he’s probably going to win, but they’re already trying to undermine him, lobbying accusations of Russia involvement, which is the new trend. Of course, completely unsubstantiated. In Venezuela they’re doing something probably never done in the last 50 years, openly calling for a military coup, and actually a financial embargo they’ve put in place, and threatening even a worse embargo if they don’t get rid of the current government. So that’s, I think, a more aggressive form of intervention than you had even under the prior administrations.
And they’re pretty open about it. And again, most of the media seems to treat it as a non-issue. In fact, that’s actually a very important example, because there’s an election going to take place in a couple of weeks, and the media is pretending that it’s not really an election. But you have a credible opposition candidate who’s leading in the polls, and they’ve reached agreement with the government on a set of procedures which are similar to almost all the other elections they’ve had for hte last 20 years, and a set of guarantees, which of course, the candidate Falcon won’t recognize the election if they don’t follow them. So you have a real contested election, but the U.S. government has decided they don’t want that, and the hard-right opposition is in line with them, and so they’re all pretending there’s no election at all, because they’re committed to a strategy of violence, of regime change.
GREG WILPERT: OK. We’ll certainly continue to follow this, especially the U.S. role in Latin America. I was speaking to Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Thanks again, Mark, for joining us today.
MARK WEISBROT: Thank you, Gregory.
GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining the Real News Network.