In a Summit of the Americas marked by absence and enmity, Bolivian President Evo Morales and the Cuban delegation showed dignity in the name of those that couldn't or choose not to attend.
“We warn about the false fight against corruption that they're using to topple democratically elected governments and projects for change,” said Evo Morales in his speech at the summit.
The summit's main discussion topic is said to be “Democratic Governance Against Corruption,” in light of the international corruption scandal centered on Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, which has claimed presidents and other high-level officials across the continent.
But the overall atmosphere suggests that actual corruption is of little concern for the majority of the attending states. In fact, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the disgraced president of the host country, had to resign weeks before the summit as he failed to survive his own corruption scandal.
Morales said it would be “superficial” and an “inappropriate use of public money” to meet for a “false struggle” against corruption, breaking with the speeches of the presidents of Peru and Argentina, who spoke before him.
He also defended former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who recently began serving a 12 years-sentence over corruption charges despite lack of evidence and a strong popular support. Despite his sentence, Morales said that “the world must know that the people's consciousness can't be imprisoned.”
“We must improve the laws and coordinate our efforts. We must discuss the corruption structures -where is it fed, tolerated and promoted from-, what are the institutional and legal mechanisms that support and protect the corrupt money,” said Morales referring to tax havens.
According to Morales, capitalism, transnational companies and speculation are the main reasons of corruption, since their only objective is to accumulate wealth.
“If you don't democratize and turn institutions like the IMF into servants of the public good instead of submission instruments, nothing said here will be enough.”
In order to overcome these problems, Morales argued, the summit has to face its biggest challenge, to dismantle “the same system in which corruption flourishes: the capitalist system,” which he described as “the worst enemy in humanity and the planet.”
Meanwhile in a show of definace to right-wing politics overshadowing the summit,the Cuban delegation walked out of the meeting room when head of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro was about to speak in protest of his hostile declarations against the island's government.
Almagro had criticized Thursday the Cuban government for its alleged violations on human rights and its one-party political system, when he also met with the Cuban opposition group Youth for Democracy Latin American Network (Redlac), and demanded stronger sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.
“When the OAS General Secretary's, Luis Almagro, turn to speak was announced, we decided to step out of the hall,” said Rogelio Sierra, Cuba's foreign vice minister. “Last evening Almagro made some offensive declarations regarding Cuba and its authorities... we stepped out as an act of dignity.”
This is the second time Cuba is attending a Summit of the Americas after the revolutionary government was invited in 2015, when Raul Castro met with Obama. This time Castro decided not to attend and instead a delegation headed by Sierra was sent.
This edition summit's staple was absence, as tensions built up months in advance over the situation in Venezuela. President of the U.S. Donald Trump decided not to come in order to focus on his attack in Syria, while Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro decided to boycott the summit after Peru's hostile actions against his government.
Ecuador's Lenin Moreno left Lima just as he landed to handle the crisis over the three journalists murdered by an armed group in the border with Colombia, leaving Vice President Alejandra Vicuna as teh head of the delegation. Evo Morales was also relectunet about attending but decided to come and speak against the injustice and contradictions of the summit.