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Latin American activists pay tribute to liberator Mandela

Cuban ambassador recalled being left 'speechless' when he met the post-apartheid president

Latin American solidarity activists paid heartfelt tributes to South African liberator Nelson Mandela at the weekend.

Speakers at the Cuban and Venezuelan solidarity campaigns' Adelante conference recalled that thousands of Cuban volunteers went to aid the Angolan people during the civil war in the 1970s against white racist forces from South Africa.

Mr Mandela had called the intervention the "turning point for the liberation of Africa from the scourge of apartheid."

Cuban ambassador Esther Armenteros recalled being left "speechless" when he met the post-apartheid president while heading up the diplomatic mission in South Africa.

Ms Armenteros said she had seen Mr Mandela tell a top US official "don't expect your enemies to be my enemies."

Speakers from across the region pointed out that Cuba was no longer the only country trying to build a better society in the US's "backyard."

Rodrigo Chaves, an adviser to Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez, paid tribute to the British workers' movement for solidarity shown to his country.

He said that the government had moved from overhauling the constitutional basis of Venezuela to tackling the economic over-reliance on oil exports, saying it meant importers controlled the economy.

And Mr Chaves issued a call to solidarity activists to bring change to their own nations to ensure lasting change across Latin America.

"If all the countries of the world do not start their own citizen's revolution there can be no solidarity that will work," he said.

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