The moving first public activity of the gathering brought together heads of state and delegations on a terrace of the Venezuelan government headquarters to witness together the ceremony held daily, at 4:25 p.m. – the time at which Chávez passed away – to honor the Latin American leader with the firing of a cannon salute from the Cuartel de la Montaña.
This was followed by the official Summit photo and a greeting to the Venezuelan people who for a few hours had been gathering on Avenida Urdaneta, located close to the government institution. I bring you a loving, committed and revolutionary greeting from ALBA to Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro Moros said amid applause, accompanied by Presidents Raúl Castro Ruz, Daniel Ortega Saavedra and Evo Morales Ayma, as well as the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, and other heads of delegations and guests.
Amid cheers from the people, the fifth anniversary of Chávez’s death was commemorated. We remember him with a smile of commitment to the future, not tears, Maduro stressed. Chávez is energy, he is a challenge, he became millions and we must be proud of having accompanied him in life, he added, before thanking Venezuelans for the warm welcome extended to those attending the Summit of the regional mechanism founded in December 2004 by Comandantes Fidel and Chávez.
Once in the Ayacucho Hall, where the meeting was held, the Venezuelan leader welcomed the heads of delegations and offered a summary of the issues discussed in the private meeting of the Summit, including the need to increase exchanges between ALBA countries and boost work with other integration organizations such as UNASUR and CELAC. In addition, the participation of ALBA-TCP member nations in the upcoming Summit of the Americas to be held in Peru was discussed. In this regard, Maduro expressed gratitude for the solidarity expressed in the face of the attacks to which his country is victim on the part of the so-called Lima Group.
The Cuban President, who was the first to speak following his Venezuelan host, referred to this unconditional support, defining “the joint defense of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” as a strategic and urgent task of ALBA.
The threats to peace and stability in this country, Raúl reiterated, represent a threat to regional stability and peace. “We proclaim unwavering support for the Bolivarian Revolution and the civic-military union of its people, led by their President Nicolás Maduro,” he stressed.
In his energetic speech, the Army General condemned the coercive, unilateral measures and external interference against the Bolivarian and Chavista process, which threaten the dialogue among Venezuelans.
“We reject the exclusion of President Nicolás Maduro from the 8th Summit of the Americas. This illegal decision is unacceptable and interventionist, whilst it takes the hemisphere back to stages that appeared to have been overcome,” he noted.
“Nor do we recognize any moral authority of the discredited Organization of American States (OAS) to give lessons in democracy, governability or constitutionality.
“The only solution to the problems of Venezuelans is in the hands of Venezuelans themselves,” Raúl concluded.
This was precisely the spirit that prevailed in the gathering of Latin American and Caribbean brothers and sisters, which represented support for the Bolivarian Revolution and the legacy of Comandante Chávez, who five years after his death, lives on in the determination and desire to advance of the courageous Venezuelan people.