News / Americas

Cuba Challenges Latin America to Make Strides on Health, Education

A large screen shows Cuba's President Raul Castro speaking at the opening ceremony of the CELAC Summit in Havana, Jan. 28, 2014.
A large screen shows Cuba's President Raul Castro speaking at the opening ceremony of the CELAC Summit in Havana, Jan. 28, 2014.
Reuters
Cuban President Raul Castro challenged Latin American and Caribbean leaders on Tuesday to improve health care and education, telling a regional summit they have the natural resources to eradicate poverty but may lack the political will.
 
The speech also listed a series of Latin American grievances that directly or indirectly involve the United States, attempting to unify the 33 countries at the summit against their neighbor to the north, which was not invited.
 
“We have every possibility to abolish illiteracy,” Castro told leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). “We should have the political will to do it.”
 
CELAC excludes the United States and Canada, both members of traditional forums such as the Organization of American States and the Summit of the Americas, groups that tend to be dominated by Washington.
 
The speech by the leader of the only communist state in the hemisphere reminded neighbors of what Cuba considers two of its greatest achievements since its 1959 revolution, free health care and education.
 
Cuba often cites health care and education as human rights, while critics of the country's government point to the island's one-party rule and restrictions on free speech.
 
Cuban dissidents were expected to raise issues of human rights at an ad hoc democracy forum outside the confines of the summit. They have complained that Cuban authorities have detained at least 40 activists in recent days as a part of a campaign of harassment before the summit.
 
Castro, who succeeded his ailing older brother, Fidel Castro, as president in 2008, held a moment of silence for former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose oil subsidies for Cuba have helped sustain the economy. This is the first regional summit since Chavez died of cancer last March at age 58.
 
Chavez's successor, Nicolas Maduro, joined Raul Castro and other leaders in a Monday night march honoring the 161st anniversary of the birth of Cuban national hero Jose Marti.
 
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (R) talks to former Cuban President Fidel Castro during a meeting in Havana, Jan. 27, 2014.Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (R) talks to former Cuban President Fidel Castro during a meeting in Havana, Jan. 27, 2014.
x
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (R) talks to former Cuban President Fidel Castro during a meeting in Havana, Jan. 27, 2014.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (R) talks to former Cuban President Fidel Castro during a meeting in Havana, Jan. 27, 2014.
Several regional leaders including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez have held private sessions with Fidel Castro, 87. State media photos of the meetings showed a smiling Fidel Castro seated and wearing a track suit, which he has preferred over military fatigues since undergoing intestinal surgery in 2006.
 
Swipe at U.S.
 
Raul Castro took a swipe at the United States by listing complaints such as U.S. spying, the expansion of NATO's mission following the end of the Soviet Union, the status of Puerto Rico, and Ecuador's ongoing legal battle for compensation from U.S. oil major Chevron Corp for environmental damage.
 
Since 2002, poverty in Latin America has fallen 15.7 percentage points and extreme poverty 8.0 points, but recent figures show the rate of improvement is slowing, according to a December report by the U.N.'s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
 
“We cannot deny the benefits of foreign direct investment for economies in the region and the capital injections that transnational companies bring, but we forget that the excessive growth in profits they receive, an increase of 5.5 times over the past nine years, affects this positive impact through the balance of payments in our countries,” Castro said.
 
The countries at the summit represent 15 percent of the world's land surface and 8.5 percent of its population, but also an outsized proportion of the world's minerals, one-third of its fresh water and 21 percent of its forests, Castro said.
 
“We should exercise sovereignty over our natural resources and establish adequate policies relating to foreign investment and with transnational companies that operate in our countries,” he said.

You May Like

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mexico Launches Special Police Force to Guard Economic Activity

New 5,000-member force will be part of federal police, and it will focus on protecting agriculture, mining, and oil and gas production against criminal groups
More

Colombia Army, Rebels Meet Face-to-Face at Peace Talks

Sit-down in Havana, Cuba, is first time in 50-year conflict that active-duty officers, FARC members have talked peace together
More

Peru's Congress Fails to Ratify Humala's New Cabinet

Key conservative allies withheld their votes, failure underscores president's waning political power as economy slows
More

US Judge Calls Argentina Debt-Swap Plan 'Illegal'

But, Judge Thomas Griesa stopped short of holding country in contempt, saying that would not help resolve dispute that led to nation's second default in a dozen years
More

Brazil Presidential Race Gets One More Candidate

Environmentalist Marina Silva to join contest for Socialist Party candidate; vote to be held October 5
More

Guatemalan General Killed in Copter Crash Near Mexico Border

General Rudy Ortiz was among five people killed; cause under investigation; weather said to have been possible factor
More