Gaddafi, Chavez, Castro

Three Unforgettable UNGA Moments

By Al Jazeera Staff

[As we go to press the 78th session of U N General Assembly is coming to close. Since its first session in 1946, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has served as a platform for world leaders and diplomats to spell out their countries’ priorities and offer assessments of the problems and needs of humanity.

UNGA meetings, particularly the general debate, have brought sworn enemies to the same building and allowed some of the United States’ most hostile adversaries to visit New York, where the UN headquarters are located.]

 Gaddafi against Superpowers After more than four decades in power, the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi made it to the UN podium in 2009. And it was a debut to remember.
Gaddafi delivered a scathing speech against world powers that lasted nearly 100 minutes.

The eccentric authoritarian leader–who would be overthrown and subsequently killed in a NATO-backed uprising two years later–decried the veto powers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“Veto power should be annulled,” Gaddafi said. “The Security Council did not provide us with security but with terror and sanctions.”

He read aloud sections of the UN Charter to highlight what he said were the shortcomings of the international body and its failure to apply the rules.

Gaddafi also called for an investigation into the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, questioning why the UN Charter’s provisions against aggression were held in sacred status when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 but “thrown in the bin” when the country itself was invaded.

“The invasion of Iraq–without justification, in violation of the Charter–occurs by superpowers on the Security Council,” he said.

Regardless of the speech’s content, it will be most remembered for its length. UNGA speakers are allocated 15-minute slots–a limit Gaddafi blew past with fiery abandon.

Hugo Chavez–and Bush ‘The Devil’
Amid a growing confrontation between Caracas and Washington in 2006, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez called then-US President George W Bush “the devil” from the UN stage.

“Yesterday, the devil came here–right here. And it smells of sulphur still today,” Chavez told the UNGA.

He went on to deliver a blistering attack on Bush’s policies, citing a US-backed Israeli military operation in Lebanon that killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed large parts of the country’s civilian infrastructure weeks earlier.

“The government of the United States doesn’t want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war,” Chavez said.

“It wants peace. But what’s happening in Iraq? What happened in Lebanon? In Palestine? What’s happening? What’s happened over the last 100 years in Latin America and in the world? And now threatening Venezuela–new threats against Venezuela, against Iran?”

Years later, Chavez–who died in 2013–said that his “devil” comment was not scripted and that he did smell sulphur that day.

Fidel Castro’s Fiery Speech
Gaddafi’s speech–as long as it was–did not come close to breaking the record for the longest speech at the UNGA.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro spoke for four and a half hours at a UNGA session in 1960. One year after the Cuban Revolution brought him to power, Castro–who would become public enemy number one in the US–delivered a lengthy critique of global inequality.

“The National General Assembly of the Cuban people condemns large-scale landowning as a source of poverty for the peasant and a backward and inhuman system of agricultural production,” Castro said, according to a transcript of the speech published by the University of Texas at Austin.

“It condemns starvation wages and the iniquitous exploitation of human work by illegitimate and privileged interests,” Castro continued. “It condemns illiteracy, the lack of teachers, of schools, doctors and hospitals, the lack of old-age security in the countries of America.”

He also denounced the “exploitation of women” as well as “military oligarchies, which keep our peoples in poverty, prevent their democratic development and the full exercise of their sovereignty”.

He went on for 269 minutes, according to UN records. One year after that speech, the US tried but failed to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

[Source: Al Jazeera]

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Vol 56, No. 15, Oct 8 - 14, 2023