(FinalCall.com) HAVANA – Born in Bandung, Indo-nesia as the “Afro-Asian Bloc” of nations who wanted their voices to be heard independent of the Cold War rivalry that pitted Western Capitalists against Eastern Communists, in the 21st Century the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has become a debating society now dominated by voices from Latin America.

In the face of world domination by the United States, the only superpower, NAM leaders who participated in the movement’s 14th Summit Conference here Sept. 11-16, repeated time and again that their collective voices might be more important than ever.

Gone now are the giants of history whose very names symbolize independence from superpower influence: Egypt’s Gamel Abdel Nasser, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, Indonesia’s Megawati Sukarno, and Yugoslavia’s Marshall Josip Tito.


In fact, the country Yugoslavia is no more. It has been sliced up into nations reflecting the ethnic composition of its parts. Similarly, the Soviet Union is no more.

The leaders of the delegations from the founding countries are hardly household names on the world stage: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboulgheit Ali, Ghana’s President John Kufour; India’s President Mammohan Singh and Indonesia’s President Susilio Bambang. Ironically, today’s most prominent presidential voices of non-alignment reside in the Western Hemisphere: Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. And one of the most frequently sounded themes from Presidents Chavez, Morales and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe was “South-South” trade–mutual trade among NAM member countries and economic development.

Mr. Castro, who relinquished his authority as Cuba’s President July 31 when he underwent major intestinal surgery, is NAM’s chairman, by virtue of his country’s continued defiance and survival in the face of U.S. hegemony, just 90 miles off the coast of South Florida. Cuba has withstood a cruel U.S. economic blockade, open attempts to destabilize its government, as well as hundreds of attempts to assassinate its leader for nearly 50 years.

Though his role in the NAM summit was diminished, Mr. Castro met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Venezuela’s president Chavez, as well as two long-time friends who are writers, while he convalesced during the conference.

And while the delegations from at least 55 of the 118 nations represented were led by their country’s presidents, prime ministers or heads of government, the summit was well below the collective U.S. “radar,” prompting frequent questions outside the conference itself, concerning who was attending.

“There are several stages of non-alignment, which coincide with the history of the world,” Pres. Chavez said in his address to the conference. “During the ’70s, during the ’60s, the underdeveloped world, the Third World, lived through what we call the illusion of economic growth; the illusion that through economic growth, they would achieve development.

“However, the world disorder of the economic model occurred, and the crisis of the ’80s occurred, the external debt recession. At the same time, the Soviet Union collapsed, and this contributed to a greater world destabilization. As a result, U.S. imperialism and its allies rose, and world capitalism, the World Bank began to chant victory and tried to cash in on this victory,” he continued.

“Now, however, 15 years have elapsed after this neo-liberal illusion of the IMF. We have gone from one illusion to another. The sovereign chants of capitalism came to an end. There is no longer any neo-liberal illusion of the end of history. Once again, we have awoken to the cruel reality. What occurred is as Chairman Raul Castro said in his address: there is greater hunger, poverty, destruction of the environment of the world. We are destroying our planet.

“We shouldn’t wait for solutions to our problems from the North. The solutions are right here within our movement,” Pres. Chavez stressed, recommending that the NAM establish a new banking system, withdrawing part of the assets of member countries from Western banks to be deposited in a new “Bank of the South,” controlled by NAM members.

Pres. Morales reiterated similar themes in response to questions from reporters at the summit. “Today, as a president, I am complying with a mandate given to me by the Bolivian people to exercise our right of property. In the secret contracts signed by the previous governments, there was a clause [that] read that ‘the owner,’ which is the trans-national [corporations], has the right of the wealth. Those contracts were closed in secret, and we were not aware of those contracts. Nowadays, the new contracts have been ratified by our Congress, in order to ensure the benefits of the Bolivian people,” said Pres. Morales, the first Indigenous Bolivian person to win his country’s presidency.

“We need partners. We do not need owners, be it Exxo, be it Petrogas,” he continued, concerning his controversial nationalization of the country’s oil resources. “This is a nationalization, without expropriation, without expelling any international company. Anyone who wishes to invest in the country can do so.

“We are defending our sovereignty. This process of putting an end to colonialism is gaining strength in Latin America,” he said in response to a question soliciting Bolivian support for the Puerto Rican independence movement. “In any case, you may count on all our support and solidarity in this process of independence for our countries. We must respect your self-determination. It is the same struggle we, the Bolivian people, are undertaking. There are two joint processes here, which is the political and the economic liberation.”

For his part, Pres. Mugabe emphasized both the political and economic struggles now faced by Zimbabwe. “The present-day world scenario presents challenges to NAM countries in the area of peace, security, economic and social progress. We need to religiously adhere to these principles, if we are to establish a peaceful, prosperous, just and equitable world.

“We have experienced and continue to experience the evils of a uni-polar world; a world that is characterized by unilateralism at the expense of multilateralism. As I speak, several member states of the NAM, including my own, have not been spared unilateral sanctions. Others, like Iraq and Lebanon, have suffered from actual unilateral and completely illegal attacks.

“My strong opinion is that we take a stand to fight against these rampant acts of aggression affecting our countries and peoples. For many developing countries, the issue of resource flows cannot be dissociated from external debt problems. We believe that new comprehensive and coordinated approaches to the external debt and debt servicing problems should be adopted, including outright forgiveness, as well as the creation of a fair and just multilateral trading system. Indeed, it is possible for us to trade ourselves out of poverty, and to achieve development.

“NAM should continue to support and reinvigorate South-South-cooperation, as a means of breaking out of the dependency syndrome, which characterizes the trade and economic relations between the developed and developing countries. We, in Zimbabwe, have adopted the ‘Look East Policy’ as a practical measure to strengthen South-South cooperation. It has worked effectively, as we established economic relations with China, the ‘Eastern Tigers,’ and enhanced our cooperation with India, Pakistan and the Middle East countries,” Pres. Mugabe continued.

“The critical economic situation in Africa, the least developed and most marginalized of all regions, has to be addressed if global economic growth and interdependence are to have any meaning at all.

“We are concerned at the threat posed by international terrorism, and totally condemn it in all its forms. But we are also frightened at the growth of state terrorism, again a manifestation of the uni-polar world we now live in. Our small states now live in fear, as daily threats emanate from the West to attack and undermine our systems in order to bring about regime change.

“Democracy has now become, in the minds of the others, the right of a superpower to change governments. My country has rejected this stupid, belligerent notion, and will resist any attempt to realize it,” he warned, urging that NAM promote adherence to international law, as well as adapt to the changing international arena.