HAVANA, Cuba – The Hemispheric Meeting to Oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas ended its four days of sessions Nov. 16 in the Cuban capital.

Cuban President Fidel Castro delivered the closing address to more than 700 delegates from 30 countries.

During an exchange with delegates last night, the Cuban leader noted that the movement to oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is taking on steam. Fidel Castro said the growing movement against neo-liberal globalization has organized huge demonstrations and “frightened the owners of the world in Seattle, Quebec and Genoa.”

The leader of the Cuban Revolution said those attending this week’s event in Havana will return to their countries even more strongly opposed to the FTAA – and that he himself was doubly opposed to Washington’s proposed economic annexation of the region.

Regarding the dominant role of the U.S. dollar in Latin American economies, President Fidel Castro said that “the dollar doesn’t control us (in Cuba); we control the dollar.”

He added that Cuba’s “hand-made” socialist economy is being perfected, with the idea of improving the island’s system.

Delegates to the regional gathering represented trade union and labor organizations, religious groups, indigenous activists, environmentalists and representatives from youth and women’s organizations.

One of the delegates from Venezuela, Nora Castañeda, said that neo-liberalism has already raised its ugly head throughout the region and that the U.S.-proposed agreement for a so-called free trade zone of the Americas will only make things worse. She stated that “for [the United States], we are only a market.”

Another delegate to the Havana gathering, Marta Grebat from Mexico, said that women are particularly targets of the neo-liberal model. She stressed that women receive much lower wages than men doing the same work, while suffering sexual harassment and exploitation on the job.

As an example, the Mexican activist revealed that at a maquiladora in Querétaro, Mexico, young women are required to sign a contract that restricts the number of children they can have. She added that women and young girls are forced to work for slave wages, while transnational companies rake in huge profits.