Apr 22, 1987


HAVANA APRIL 20 (IFDA/IPS-CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) -- In an impassioned speech here Monday, Cuban President Fidel Castro called on third world countries to unite in their struggle for development by pressing industrialised countries to recognise their economic demands and said the third world cannot pay its debts.

Addressing the opening session of the Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 (G77) third world Countries, Castro declared: "Our struggle for development is a struggle for peace and for the welfare of the peoples of the world".

Pointing to the vast unemployment, unutilized capacities and other socio-economic problems in the industrialised countries, the Cuban leader told delegates that the ills of the "developed capitalist world" cannot be solved without the sustained and stable development of the third world.

And, while there can be no development without peace, neither can there be peace without sustained development for the 80 percent of the world's population living in the third world, said Castro.

In his appeal for Third World countries to unite in the struggle to reverse unjust international economic exchanges, Castro said: "International cooperation in the struggle against underdevelopment is not only the debt of the former colonial powers".

"it is also the requirement of solidarity and an ethical duty of the developed countries -- capitalist or socialist. It is even the duty of Third World countries with relatively greater development to the least developed amongst us".

Never before had the course of development been so blocked by the unjust world economic order as now, Castro told the G77 Ministers, who are meeting here on the eve of the seventy session in Geneva in July of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-VII).

Indeed, continued the Cuban leader, the current crisis in the world economy, and in the Third World, is worse than at the time of UNCTAD-VI in Belgrade in 1983.

He pointed out that disorder in the capitalist monetary system persists and accused the United States of continuing to manipulate exchange rates in its won exclusive interest, "taking unscrupulous advantage" of the role of the dollar in the world economy.

On the dramatic worsening of the Third World debt crisis, Castro declared that "the unpayable nature of the debt, once regarded as a distant possibility, is today an indisputable fact".

"Even in our dreams", said Castro, using a phrase he was to repeat on more than one occasion, "this debt cannot be paid".

"Even if one were to dream" of a 20-year grace period for the Third World's 1.000 billion dollar debt, of interest rates limited to six percent and repayments tied to 10 percent of export earnings, the Third World countries would still have paid out more than the total amount of their current debt and would continue to owe the same amount.

Castro reserved harsh worlds for some of the solutions proposed to the debt crisis, such as capitalization of interest and conversion of debt into equity.

"It is no longer enough to reschedule payments at the cost of mortgaging our future. It is no longer a question of plundering the financial resources we do not have. The idea now is to rob us of our enterprises, of our soil, of our lands and our industry, all of which are to become foreign property".

"All this", Castro added, "is cynically represented as paying debt and ensuring development at the same time. This is eloquent proof of how far these completely unscrupulous creditors can go".

Turning to the drain and transfer of Third World resources to the industrialised world through the collapse of commodity prices and "unequal terms of trade", the Cuban leader offered delegates examples of the worsening situation.

In 1959, he pointed out, 20 tonnes of sugar purchased a 60-horsepower tractor -- now, in 1987 133 tonnes of sugar are needed to by the same tractor. Six tonnes of jute fibre in 1959 bought a 7-8 tonne truck -- 54 tonnes are now needed to buy the same truck.

Castro also attacked the protectionist policies of industrialised countries, in particular the United States.

Instead of meeting the just trade demands of the Third World, he said, a new round of multilateral trade negotiations -- known as the Uruguay Round following last September's Ministerial-level meeting in Uruguay of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) -- has been launched.

The new round will examine issues such as "trade in services" which, said Castro, are of interest to the industrialised countries which already enjoy advantages and want to dominate Third World markets and economies in the future.

"Our unity and ability to act intelligently and firmly will be decisive in guaranteeing that the Uruguay Round does not become an occasion for the U.S. and its main allies to secure legal sanction for the superiority they already enjoy in trade in services".

Castro warned the meeting that the industrialized countries could tray to make services a "no-trespass ground" for those Third World countries which "hope to achieve development some day".

He went on to say that countless theories have been advanced about the "magic of the market" and about the growth of the industrialised would pulling the Third World out of its crisis.

"International cooperation", declared Castro, "is needed more than ever, but our determination and energetic joint action are the key and hope to transform the present overwhelming situation facing us".

The Cuban President argued that the resources needed by the Third World to reverse the current situation could be found by ending the enormous transfers of capital from South to North through debt servicing and deteriorating terms of trade.

This, said Castro, calls for the complete elimination of foreign debt, "already repaid many times through centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism", and the establishment of the New International Economic Order (NIEO) adopted almost unanimously by the UN General Assembly.

He also stressed the importance of South-South cooperation as a "potential option in the struggle against underdevelopment".

"Our countries can exchange technology and cooperate widely in agriculture with new seeds, animal breeds and agricultural techniques, as well as in industrial processing and in fields such as health and education. We can also give an impetus to mutual trade and even mobilise and bring together our economic resources".

The industrialised countries, added Castro, can also discharge their historic debt to the Third World by curbing the arms race and its senseless 1.000 billion dollar a year expenditure.

"If it is legitimate to hope for the disappearance of the threat of a nuclear holocaust, it is equally legitimate for Third World countries to hope for the disappearance of the other holocaust -- hunger, sickness, neglect and lack of housing and work, and lack of the most elementary living conditions for hundreds of millions".

"Our motto", concluded Castro, "must be to struggle tirelessly for our just demands. With unity and determination, we can guarantee our right to a future, to take our place in the world of the future to take our place in history".