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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Summit to Protect Oceans Opens

Oceans called fundamental to life
More

Actress Lupita Nyong'o is People's 'Most Beautiful' Woman

Oscar winner, 31, lauded for role in '12 Years A Slave' says she 'never dreamed' she would be praised for her looks and land on cover of weekly magazine
More

Violent Protests Erupt Near Rio's Tourist Attractions

The rioting was sparked after word spread that the body of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, a dancer on Brazil's Globo television network, had been discovered
More

Russia Expels Canadian Diplomat

Reports say first secretary's expulsion in Moscow is in retaliation for deportation of Russian military attache from Russian Embassy in Ottawa
More

Photogallery Fans Pay Tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Mexico City

Colombian Nobel laureate author died in Mexico on Thursday at age 87
More

Venezuelan Protesters Burn Leaders in Effigy

Hundreds take to streets of Caracas Easter Sunday demanding ‘resurrection of democracy; President Maduro’s image among those burnt
More