Firstly, I wish to salute our comrades in the World Peace Council’s Secretariat and the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals, namely the Forum’s President, our comrade Zivadin Jovanovic, and express to him our sincere appreciation for the welcoming, as well as to all involved in the organization of our meeting, for the great effort.
Before anything else, I also wish to highlight the most important motive for which we meet in Serbia this year, for the first meeting of the Secretariat elected in the 2016 World Peace Assembly, held in Brazil. It is not by chance that our presence in Belgrade coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the criminal, brutal and still unaccountable aggression perpetrated by the North Atlantic Organization (NATO) against the former Republic of Yugoslavia. The events promoted by the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals, the Generals and Admirals Club of Serbia and the Serbian Host Society, in partnership with the World Peace Council, are extremely relevant, marking this horrific anniversary. In our committed struggle against the imperialist machine of war and massacres and in our firm solidarity with the peoples victims of its crimes, we would not falter in manifesting our support for an initiative of vehement denunciation of the effects of NATO’s aggression. Therefore, we take this opportunity to strengthen our efforts for the dissolution of this warmongering, out-law bloc, an institution whose only purpose is to keep the peoples under threat all over the planet or punish with massacres, devastation and the violation of the nations’ sovereignty those who dare not to bow before imperialist designs. But we’ll deal with NATO soon.
Before that, comrades, I would like to celebrate with you the long and brave path of our peace organization, with a history of struggle and resistance. The WPC was founded right after the greatest tragedy imposed on humankind by generalized war, an enormous horror against which the peoples join in ever greater effort, committed with avoiding its repetition. In the years of 1949-1950, a brave group of intellectuals – physicists, poets, artists, writers, peace and liberation combatants, committed with the peoples’ emancipation and with a fair and equitable international order, with the abolition of nuclear weapons and with building relations of solidarity and freedom – dared to face the arbitrariness of governments already deep into their ideological fight against Socialism and against those promoting peace. Even when facing obstacles imposed by such governments to the realization of the meeting of hope and unity in that commitment, these resistant people managed to set the pillars of an entity that remains committed with building ever more bridges, today and tomorrow, for the unity of the anti-imperialist, democratic and peace forces against oppression, colonialism, wars and domination.
In August 1948, in Wrocław, the World Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Peace set forth commitments that we defend to this day, with the struggle against nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, after the catastrophic and horrifying inauguration of the atomic bomb by the United States against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of innocents to open up an era in which the threat of annihilation, banalized, is considered a tactic among others in the imperialist strategy of world domination.
“Peace in the world is in our hands; let’s unite to save it”, a slogan called for in the World Congress of Peace Defenders in 1949 in Paris and Prague, when they had to go around the arbitrariness of the French authorities who denied visas to many participants, thus holding two congresses. The same happened the following year, with two congresses held, one in Sheffield, UK, and the other in Warsaw, because the British authorities also tried, in vain, to prevent the meeting from happening. This is how, comrades, the World Peace Council was born, in the unwavering resistance of the democratic and peace forces, which do not measure efforts in the anti-war struggle.
This is the commitment that we seek to strengthen, at this point of special gravity for the peoples of the entire planet. We have reaffirmed in every occasion and denounced, through every means possible, that the war and destruction race accelerated by the US and European imperialists, the powers gathered in NATO, may lead us to catastrophe if it is not stopped now!
The retrograde forces of war and domination don’t stop before the destabilization, impoverishment, and the nations’ and resources’ exploitation, the peoples’ appalling suffering through oppression and aggression. On the contrary, these ills are part and parcel of the imperialist forces’ – the United States leading them – strategy of world control. Their anachronistic, aggressive and offensive policy shocks the humankind’s consciousness and that of peoples seeking to build a world of shared progress and peace, who struggle for national and social emancipation, who defend their countries’ sovereignty and the respect amongst the nations as pillars for relations of equality.
Therefore, we reiterate our calls and commitments in steadfast struggle, in the firm and constant denunciation, and concerted actions, in unyielding opposition to colonialism, neocolonialism and imperialist interventions against sovereign nations that, being victims of wars of plunder, defend their lives and fates. From proud Venezuela to revolutionary and solidary Cuba, to steadfast Syria, to heroic and martyred Palestine, to resistant Western Sahara, among other peoples fighting for liberation and definite independence, the peoples’ history is the history of struggle. We must raise and call to ever more awareness of the urgency and need for solidarity, building ever stronger bases for a unity that is vital to our victory.
We have denounced that the constant and growing interference in the internal affairs of Bolivarian Venezuela, since the arrival of President Hugo Chávez in Government, has manifested in the various attempts of coup d’état orchestrated from Washington. These offensives have intensified against the Government of President Nicolás Maduro, who is committed with the country’s sovereignty and with deepening popular democracy. The project that his Government represents is defended by the people in the ballot boxes and on the streets, but Venezuela still faces new and intensified challenges to defend its territory and sovereignty. Interference has taken on the form of heavy sanctions for over four years, in the US Government’s open attempt to overthrow a Government recently reelected with 67% of the votes. The goal is to impose on the Venezuelan people acquiescent rulers that obey foreign interests that have nothing to do with democracy or human rights but seek only control and plunder! It is no surprise that the internal crisis is intensified with the wide-ranging tactics of destabilization, from sanctions and a media and diplomatique blockade, going through the open support to putschist oligarchies run by Leopoldo López and Juan Guaidó, to the threats of a possible military intervention or support to a military coup in the country, which were already uttered by the President of the imperialist gangue, Donald Trump and his subordinates. The country’s destabilization and the suffering imposed on the Venezuelan people are covered by the big and commercial media and by Trump’s lackey governments in the region and the world as perfect justifications for a kind of so-called humanitarian intervention that, fortunately, has been widely denounced for what it is, a real operation to overthrow the government and destroy the sovereignty of a country that holds the world’s biggest oil reserves. In Venezuela and throughout the world, resistance has been strong and shown the USA that it will not be easy to overthrow a legitimate government that is sustained by the force of the people’s vote.
We know that, in the region, governments that are subservient to the United States have rushed to offer their services in fulfilling the ignominy, in a Latin America and Caribbean region that not long ago proclaimed, in unison, the commitment with a Zone of Peace, where offensive postures such as Colombia’s, Brazil’s and that of other countries in the infamous Lima cartel were unimaginable. This group might even have decided not to call for a military intervention in neighboring Venezuela, perhaps for strategic considerations that evidenced the assured failure of such a devastating action for the region. Yet, it maintains its illegitimate and arbitrary recognition for a fake acting-president that has no democratic support whatsoever. It is outrageous that a character such as this has proclaimed himself the nation’s acting-president, under direct guidance of the most nefarious power, which is responsible for dark decades of state terror imposed on the continent, and that governments of various countries have recognized him. Such measure is a hugely destructive irresponsibility and must continue to be condemned!
In the same sense, comrades, we must strengthen our efforts and mobilization in solidarity with the lasting and heroic steadfastness of the Cuban people, who continue to struggle strenuously against a crime that is as cruel and devastating as a war, the blockade imposed by the USA almost six decades ago! However timid, the important progress of the diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States during the former government is under open threat from Trump, with sanctions and an unwavering stance of detachment and siege against a revolutionary government and its people. A policy that has clearly failed, which has as a sole purpose wound an entire nation, punish it for the path of independency and sovereignty that it has decided to trail with the glorious Revolution. Year after year, the USA is isolated from the world in the UN votes demanding the end of the blockade, or, to be clearer, it is accompanied by its faithful accomplice, Israel.
Moreover, like the decision of turning back and tightening the siege of Cuba, Trump is relatively isolated in the decision of withdrawing from the agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, a significant diplomatic achievement that was celebrated worldwide. Since the Iranian Revolution that overthrew the autocratic and US-puppet government the country has been targeted by the US offensive policy of sanctions and threats, equally failed in its goals and that today leave the imperialists isolated or, again, accompanied by the Israeli regime and, in this case, also the Saudi, both with their own anti-Iran obsessions.
One of the fields in which the US confronts Iran and resistance in general is the steadfast Syria, which likewise has been struggling against the imperialist interference and aggression for eight long years. We heard from the Syrian authorities, labor unionists, youth and other comrades that welcomed us in Damascus in 2018, that the Syrian people remains resolute in the defense of their nation and the fight against terrorism, in which the US imperialists and their European and regional allies have invested to destabilize the country and provoke the fall of the legitimately elected government of President Bashar Al-Assad.
The interventionist governments of the USA, of the NATO members involved, and of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia to bomb Syria, must be held accountable for the devastation and the suffering imposed on the Syrian people when, alleging to fight terrorism and promote democracy, have openly sought to make the situation unbearable in order to topple the Assad Government, whatever the cost, by supporting out-law armed gangs that they called “opposition” and also terrorist groups, sowing destruction, death or the need for refuge for so many thousands of civilians. Real crimes against humanity are committed in Syria by the aggressors and the world cannot be silent about it! At the same time, it is also high time to solidify the massive support to the Syrian people in their struggle for the country’s reconstruction, for building a sovereign peace that allows them to solve their conflicts internally, without the foreign interference or threats that for many years have been imposed by the imperialist powers and their regional allies.
The same criminals are responsible for Yemen’s devastation, where horrendous news reveal the true ignominies of the military intervention and aggression led by Saudi Arabia with the imperialists’ accomplice support, again, to indirectly affect Iran, which they consider too influential in the region. The humanitarian catastrophe and devastation are also the few headlines about the country, where hunger and misery have taken root and bombardments continue. We must reinforce the denunciation and the action regarding yet another crime, in urgent mobilization for the end of the offensive against Yemen!
As we know, the peoples’ struggle against colonialism, apartheid and military occupation is also ongoing, well into the 21st century, in Palestine, Western Sahara and Puerto Rico, among others. It is inadmissible and a disgrace for humanity that so-called defenders of freedoms, democracies and equality are still involved or engaged in what are also attacks against whole nations.
For four decades the decolonization of Western Sahara from Spain has been pending; Spain has not only abandoned it but has illegitimately “transferred” the Saharawi people’s territory to Morocco, to occupy it and colonize it. The brave resistance put up by Front Polisario in the continuation of the struggle for national liberation has achieved significant achievements for the recognition of its cause, but the promise of decolonization and a self-determination referendum is still unfulfilled. Thousands of people remain under the brutal Moroccan occupation, where violation of the Saharawis’ human rights occur daily. Moreover, the separation of families and of an entire people from their land endures through the shameful Moroccan wall, built with Israel’s consultancy and Saudi sponsorship, it is over 2,700 kilometers long and surrounded by millions of anti-personal mines, military bases and thousands of soldiers, while Morocco freely commercializes the resources stolen by Western Sahara with its partner, Europe, despite the illegality of the commercial agreements involving such resources, as declared by the European Court.
In Palestine, catastrophe is ongoing. Half a century of Israeli military occupation already passed and the apartheid regime that Israel sustains on its own territory and on the Palestinian occupied territory, which it controls with an iron fist, is evident. Apartheid is a crime against humanity and must be repudiated in the strongest terms until it is dismantled once and for all. It is condemned by the entire world since it was defeated in South Africa. Israel reacts to the condemnation with its usual propaganda and censorship of every criticism, with allegations of anti-Semitism, in futile attempt to delegitimate the increasing international solidarity with the Palestinian people. The colonization and occupation of Palestine is rooted not only thanks to the financial, military, political and diplomatic support of Israel’s greatest sponsor, the United States, but also to the complicity of the powers that refuse to hold the Zionist leadership accountable for the Palestinian catastrophe, while they continue to demand patience from the Palestinians, moderation and concessions in favor of Israel. Over 130 nations already recognize the State of Palestine, which is also a member of many international organizations. Now the sovereignty of the Palestinian people over their fate and territory within the pre-1967 borders –prior to Israel’s June 1967 invasion– is what must be made real. For the immediate end of the Zionist occupation and colonization of Palestine, with the immediate withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the end of the brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, the return of the refugees and the freedom of thousands of political prisoners in the Israeli jails. Solidarity with the Palestinian people is vital to face this heinous apartheid regime! We must strengthen and broaden solidarity in a struggle of all peoples for the liberation of Palestine, now!
Apart from our dedicated and unyielding solidarity with these and other struggles, we have broadened our campaigns and actions against the weapons of mass destruction, especially the nuclear arsenals; against the foreign military bases; and against the militarization of the planet in general, which we see not only in the increase of military expenditures and the dissemination of weapons, bases and commands throughout the world, but also in the militarized rationale behind the international relations and foreign policies, especially that of the US imperialism and its allies in NATO. It is true that the expenditures and military movements have increased in other countries as well, but these are consequences of a policy of confrontation that the US has imposed on the whole world, as if it is an exceptional entity entitled to protect its own “national interests” above all other nations’ interests. Worse, such interests in fact are those of a closed elite thirsty for power, and not really that of the people.
NATO, we have denounced, has expanded its geographical and strategic area of action to project the imperialist threat against the entire world. Besides counting on approximately 1,000 military bases in many regions of the planet, it has established partnerships with countries located outside the North-Atlantic region, such as Colombia, more recently. It also keeps an outrageous program of nuclear sharing through which the US deploys its arsenals in various countries in Europe and Turkey and actively promotes militarization through the commitment of 2% of the member countries’ GDPs to the war sector, as per agreement signed in Wales in 2014, although few of the warmongering alliance’s 29 members already fulfill such an offensive promise. Still, the block’s “military budget” is around 1,395 trillion euros in 2019 (an increase of 7.2% from 2018), plus 250 billion euros to its “civil budget”, especially dedicated to the organization’s headquarters in Brussels. The USA, of course, has headed such a dark panorama, dedicating 3.5% of its GDP to the military sector in 2018. For 2019, the sector’s budget was set in 716 billion dollars, one of the greatest in modern history, representing almost 17%, or one sixth of the US federal budget (of 4 trillion dollars). Meanwhile, the annual deficit, which for many countries means all kinds of reprisals and humiliating interventions from financial entities, adds up to 1 trillion dollars. We must underline that the export of weaponry and the steady flow towards the so-called industrial-military complex that runs on wars and threats are the main factors of destabilization, oppression and devastation on Earth. NATO runs as a business counter; its main offer is destruction and the main supplier is the USA.
Therefore, we must commit with strengthening of urgent initiatives of unity and breadth in our struggle against the militarization of the planet, such as the International eminars for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases held in Guantanamo, under the coordination of the Cuban Movement for Peace and the Peoples’ Sovereignty (MovPaz) and other Cuban entities, and which reaches its sixth edition this May; and the consolidation of a global coalition against US and NATO military bases, pushed forth with the establishment of the US coalition, under the coordination of the US Peace Council and other national entities, and which resulted in the conference we had in Dublin in November 2018, and in this year’s events against the celebration of NATO’s seventieth anniversary in Washington.
During the World Peace Council’s 2016 Assembly, as we find in our political declaration, we concluded that, although we face a period of renewed dangers and threats to peace, with imperialist aggressions under way and the resurgence of Fascist and proto-Fascist forces in so many countries, this period must also inspire hope that the war race and the generalized catastrophe can be stopped through unity, the strengthening and broadening of the peace forces’ mobilization.
The many activities held in our respective countries and joint and coordinated actions that we promote, which will be tackled by comrade Thanassis Pafilis in his report and by the regional coordinators, have shown that we continue engaged and committed with our common struggle against imperialism and all the ills imposed on the peoples all over the countries. We have sought to strengthen our unity and broaden our mobilization. Our commitment with this strategy must deepen, because our victory depends on that.
As we have reaffirmed, despite the gravity of the threat that the US imperialism and NATO impose on us, the peoples insist on resisting, dare to fight and show at every victory that the forces of war are not invincible. Only together can we stop the march of destruction and oppression to build a world of a just peace and shared progress!
Long live solidarity between the peoples in the struggle for peace! Thank you.