Latin America 2006 was held at Congress House, headquarters of the TUC in December. 500 people came along. They heard from an impressive range of speakers including celebrated author Tariq Ali, Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, former US diplomat Wayne Smith, journalist Victoria Brittain and Colin Burgon Member of Parliament.
The conference came at a very special moment for Latin America. The same weekend witnessed the historic elections in Venezuela that were to see Hugo Chavez returned as President with such a massive public vote. The very same day as the conference saw the double celebrations in Havana for Fidel Castro's 80th birthday and the anniversary of the Granma Landings.
All these events can be seen as a massive affirmation of the sweeping political changes that are changing the continent. In fact the mood of optimism infected the conference in central London and discussions were very much focussed on the future developments for the region and the need to defend the gains being made.
In a unique and exciting plenary session conference heard from voices from across the continent: Zelmys Dominguez Cortina, Political Counsellor from the Cuban Embassy, spoke about the positive feeling that despite the threats from the US in the guise of the report of the Commission for a Transition to a Free Cuba, the Cuban people were united in their determination to defend their revolution. Cesar Navarro, Head of the MAS group in the Bolivarian parliament brought greetings from the people of Bolivia and made an impassioned speech urging international solidarity with the Bolivian people and the Government of Evo Morales.
In a special video message, Augusto Montiel, brought greetings from the Venezuelan National Assembly on the eve of the elections. In contrast to the developments being seen in many countries of the region, Aida Avella, former Colombian Congresswoman from the Patriotic Union, highlighted the severe problems her people are facing in their struggle for social justice.
The conference covered a broad range of themes and the key issues facing the peoples of Latin America in their struggle for sovereignty and against the effects of neo-liberal economic policies, which have so impoverished the continent over recent years. In doing so it has helped to strengthen the various solidarity campaigns in this country. Latin America 2006 was organised by a number of campaigning organisations including Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Justice for Colombia, Venezuela Information Centre Southern & Eastern Region TUC and T&G Latin American Workers Association.
Francis O'Grady, Deputy General Secretary, TUC brought greetings from Britain's trade unionists and expressed the position of solidarity with the struggles of the people of the region.
Huge thanks must be given to Southern & Eastern Region TUC who did so much to make this event possible, and of course to all the people who worked so hard on the day.