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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mexican Soldiers Face Murder Charges in 22 Deaths

Three soldiers charged with homicide in death of 22 suspected drug gang members who prosecutors allege were executed
More

Poll: Record Number of Mexicans Crime Victims in 2013

While government data shows murder rate has fallen in past 2 years, crimes such as kidnapping and extortion, which affect wider swath of the population, rise
More

OAS Asks Members to Take In Guantanamo Detainees

Organization of American States issues appeal for member countries to take in detainees from US military prison
More

Recession Looms Over Venezuela, Official Data Under Wraps

Empty store shelves, closed factory gates and idled construction projects tell their own story
More

US Judge Holds Argentina in Contempt Over Bond Payment Plan

In rare move, District Judge Thomas Griesa says country taking 'illegal' steps to evade his orders in longstanding dispute with hedge funds over defaulted debt
More

Brazil's Rousseff Extends Lead Over Silva in Elections

President Dilma Rousseff's expected victory margin over closest rival Marina Silva has surged to 9 percentage points
More