17 de abril de 2014 21:33:15
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
SOURCE: Granma Internacional. 08/12/02 page 8
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Gabo and I were in the city of Bogotá on the sad day of April 9, 1948 when [Colombian Liberal leader and presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer] Gaitán was killed. We were both 21-year-old Law students and witness to the same events. Or at least that’s what we thought, because neither of us had heard of the other. We were complete strangers, even to ourselves.
Almost half a century later, Gabo and I were chatting on the eve of a trip to Birán, the place in eastern Cuba where I was born in the early morning of August 13, 1926. Our meeting had the hallmarks of those intimate, family-like occasions when you swap reminiscences and fond memories in a warm atmosphere that we shared with a group of Gabo’s friends and some of my fellow leaders of the Revolution.
That evening I went over the images engraved in my mind: ‘Gaitán is dead!’, were the words on everyone’s lips that April 9 in Bogotá, where I was together with a number of other young Cubans to organize a Conference of Latin American students. Baffled and stock-still, I gazed at a crowd of people who were dragging the killer along the streets while others set fire to stores, office buildings, movie theaters and tenement houses, and still others were carrying pianos and cupboards on their shoulders. I could hear the sound of glass being shattered and posters being torn. From street corners, balconies full of flowers and smoldering buildings further away, voices shouted in frustration and grief. A man was venting his anger by banging his fists on a typewriter, and to spare him the bother of such a colossal, unusual effort I took it away from him and threw it hard against the cement floor, where it smashed into pieces. Gabo was listening as I spoke, probably taking my words as proof of his assertion that very few Latin American and Caribbean writers have ever needed to invent anything because here fact is stranger than fiction, so maybe his biggest problem has been how to make his own reality credible. The main thing is that, near the end of my story, I was surprised to hear that Gabo had been there too, a coincidence I found revealing in that we had perhaps walked down the same streets and lived through the same frightening, astonishing and urging experiences that made me be a part of that stormy sea of people who suddenly came down the surrounding hills. So I shot the question with my chronic curiosity. “And what were you doing during the Bogotazo?” Unruffled, entrenched in his remarkable, lively, unruly and exceptional imagination, he smiled at me and replied with the clever, emphatic spontaneity of his metaphors: “Fidel, I was that man with the typewriter”.
I have known Gabo for a very long time, and we may have first met at any moment or place of his luxuriant poetic geography. As he admitted himself, he has on his conscience that he had initiated me into, and kept me up-to-date on, “the addiction to speed-reading bestsellers as a purification method against official documents”, to which we should add that he’s responsible for convincing me not only that I would like to be a writer in my next reincarnation, but also that I would like to write like Gabriel García Márquez, gifted as he is with a headstrong attention to detail on which he builds, as if it were the philosopher’s stone, all the credibility of his dazzling exaggerations. He even said once that he saw me eat eighteen scoops of ice-cream at one sitting, something that I denied emphatically, as you might expect.
Then I remembered a time when, after reading the preliminary text to Del amor y otros demonios (Love and other demons) –where a man rides his eleven-month-old horse– I suggested the author: “Look, Gabo, put two or three more years on that horse, because at that age this one’s still a foal”. Later on I read the printed novel, and what comes to mind is a passage where Abrenuncio Sa Pereira Cao, whom Gabo describes as the most notable and controversial physician in the city of Cartagena de Indias at the time the story is set, is sitting on a stone by the side of the road, crying next to his dead horse, who would have been a 100 years old come October but whose heart had stopped as they were coming down a steep descent. Gabo, as expected, turned the animal’s age into an exceptional circumstance, an incredible happenstance of indisputable truthfulness.
His books are irrefutable evidence of his sensitivity and steadfast adherence to his roots, the inspiration he draws from Latin America, his loyalty to the truth, and his progressive thoughts.
We share an outrageous theory, likely to sound godless to academics and men of letters, about the relative nature of words, and I stick to it with as much passion as I feel for dictionaries, especially one that he gave me for my 70th birthday, a real gem in which every definition is followed by famous quotations from Spanish American writers as examples of the proper way to use your vocabulary. Besides, as a public man obliged to write speeches and recount events, I share with this renowned author what you may call an endless obsessions: we both take great pleasure in looking for the exact word until the phrase turns out the way we want, faithful to the feeling or idea we wish to convey and always from the premise that it can be improved. I admire him most of all when he simply invents a new word if the right one doesn’t exist. How envious I am of such liberty!
Now Gabo writes about Gabo: he has published his autobiography, that is, the novel of his memories, a work that I believe stems from nostalgia for the four o’clock thunderclap, the instant full of bolts of lightning and magic that his mother Luisa Santiaga Márquez Iguarán missed when she was far from Aracataca, the unpaved hamlet of never-ending downpours, alchemists, telegraph, and the stormy sensational love affairs that would impregnate Macondo, the small town in the pages of one hundred lonely years, with all of Aracataca’s dust and charm. As a token of our old and warm friendship, Gabo usually sends me his manuscripts, much as he sends his rough drafts to other dear friends of his as a gesture of kindness and unaffectedness. This time, he delivers himself with honesty, innocence and energy, the qualities that disclose what he really is: a man with the goodness of a child and infinite talent, a man of tomorrow whom we thank for the things he’s been through and for having lived to tell the tale.
 The Bogotazo refers to the massive riots that followed the assassination of Gaitán.
Speech given Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government, in the presentation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, at the “Chaplin” theater October 3, 1965. Havana Domestic Radio and Television Services in Spanish
0150 GMT 4 October 1965–F (October 3, Havana time.).
(Live speech by Premier Fidel Castro at the presentation of the Communist Party Central Committee from Havana’s Chaplin Theater)
(Text) Honored guests; central committee comrades; comrades of the provincial, regional and sectional committees, comrade secretaries of the cells of our party.
I am compelled to begin with a topic which has not direct relation with the purpose of this meeting but since it is a timely question and of political interest, I cannot refrain from referring to it. It is the outcome of the proposal made on 28 September with regard to a fact that had been taking place for three years. It was a perfidious thing used by the enemy to wage a campaign against our revolution. It is the case of people who, upon suspension flights between Cuba and Miami, were left with one foot here and the other one there.
In order to unmask Yankee imperialism once and for all in this regard, we made the statement on 28 September, which you know about. And when they later said that the statement was somewhat vague and ambiguous, as well as that it had not been made through diplomatic channels, we made a second and very clear and very concrete statement so we could settle the dispute once and for all.
Today, the cables carry the news regarding the definite reply by the United States Government in this regard. I am going to read the news carried in these cables. In short, it says: “President Johnson”–this is an AP cable–“President Johnson announced today that he will strive for a diplomatic understanding with Cuba so Cubans who want to leave their country can take asylum in the United States.”
This thing about “diplomatic understandings” means an agreement through diplomatic channels with regard to this problem. It says: “I have requested the State Department to seek through the Swiss Embassy, entrusted with U.S. affairs, the consent of the Government of Cuba in a request to the president of the International Red Cross.” It also says: “I have given instructions to the Departments of State, Justice, Health, Education, and Welfare, to make the necessary arrangements to enable those who seek freedom in Cuba to enter the United States in an orderly manner.”
In another cable with more news, it adds: “Mr. Johnson also stated: `Once more this has revealed the mark of defeat of a regime. When many of its citizens freely elect to leave the nation where they were born to go to a home of hope, the future harbors little hope for any government when the present does not permit hopes for its people.'” He said that “the refugees would be welcome with the thought that some day they can return to their country to find it rid of terror and free from fear.” In other words, they apparently did not have any other alternative, nor any other way. It means, in the first place, that we have won a battle for freedom. (applause)
Mr. Johnson, would not be Johnson, nor would he be President of the United States, nor would he be a Yankee, if he did not use this proverbial pharisaism to accompany this statement with all this condiment with regard to the hopes of the comrades who will go to the United States in search of freedom and which can offer nothing to their future when at the present time they only offer the prospect of having to quit the country to the citizens of a national. (sentence as heard) He also talks about the Red Cross. Therefore, we consider it necessary to reply to Mr. Johnson on these matters which have nothing to do with the matter itself which we proposed. And we should make some pertinent remarks on all this.
In the first place, the Yankee news agencies and many of the executives of that nation as well as some news agencies which are not Yankees, but which apparently through hearing the arguments repeated, such as REUTERS and ARP, have echoed the statement that this meant a change in the policy with regard to those who wanted to leave the nation–and this is absolutely false. From the beginning of the revolution, there has been only one policy in regard to this.
From the beginning of the revolution, until the October crisis, all who wished and who had received permission from the United States to leave this country were leaving without being stopped. And when at the beginning of the October crisis they stopped the flights to Cuba there was not a change in the policy of the Revolutionary Government, because through the other routes, that is the route of Spain and the route of Mexico, nearly 300 persons continued to leave monthly, in other words, more than 3,000 persons per year.
There has not been the slighted change in the policy of those who wish to leave the country. What we have done is to unmask the bad faith and the hypocrisy of the Yankee imperialism, the only one responsible for the routes to leave normally being closed in order to promote a certain type of clandestine and protected (presumably Castro means “dangerous”–ed.) departures with the only object to make propaganda.
Mr. Johnson possibly ignores that in the United States, when the war of independence took plane to free itself from the English colonial period, thousands upon thousands of North Americans left the country after the independence and went to Canada. In all revolutions whether it be the French revolution or the Russian revolution or the Cuban revolution, this phenomenon of departure or immigration of the privileged classes is an historical fact. If the departure from a country, if the departure of men and women who are born in a country to another country could be an indication of the characteristics of a social regime, the best example is the case of Puerto Rico, an island which the Yankee imperialism took over and which it has maintained under an exploiting, colonial regime and the reason for which more than one million of the men and women born in that country have had to immigrate to the United States. And Mr. Johnson forgot about Puerto Rico and the million of the Puerto Ricans who live in New York under the hardest living conditions in the poorest neighborhoods and doing the most humiliating jobs.
Naturally, this talk about the Red Cross is a trick of Mr. Johnson in order to dramatize the matter. Really, who has said that to issue passports and grant permission for some planes to land in Miami, the Red Cross must intervene? What does the Red Cross have to do with this? This does not have any thing to do with an earthquake, a hecatomb, or a way, but the more issuance of authority for the arrival in the United States and authorization for the landing of the planes or the ships–the arrival of the ships. We do not need the Red Cross in this case.
The Red Cross could intervene to propose to the U.S. Government for it to cease the criminal measure through which the export of medications is prohibited to Cuba. For this we would need the International Red Cross. (applause) In any case, the Red Cross could do a better job in South Vietnam where the Yankee soldiers (applause) where the Yankee soldiers murder thousands, murder and torture the citizens of that nation by the thousands, or in North Vietnam where the criminal Yankee bombings do not distinguish one thing from another. They bomb cities just like they bomb villages, schools, and hospitals. The Red Cross could have something to do in Santo Domingo where the invading soldiers commit all kinds of outrages against the people and they occupy the students’ schools. (applause) The Red Cross could intervene in the United States in order to prohibit the massacres of Negro citizens like the one that took place recently in Los Angeles, California. (applause)
However, for this question, Mr. Johnson, the Red Cross need not be present. It is enough for us to hold discussions with the representatives of the Swiss Embassy, who are the representatives for the U.S. interests in Cuba, and we can make agreements with them very well on any transaction. No one else need be present; we accept the sincerity and responsibility of the Swiss officials. Now, if the U.S. Government does not have confidence or does not believe in the ability of the Swiss Embassy, that is the problem of the U.S. Government. (applause)
Now, speaking very seriously on these questions of freedom, I would like to know if Mr. Johnson would like to answer a couple of questions. (laughter) Inasmuch as we here have been permitting all those who wish to leave Cuba since the beginning of the revolution, inasmuch as we have never denied permission to those who have wanted to leave to visit their families and wanted to return, also if there are Cubans who have families in the United States and wish to be united with them, there are also Cubans who have families in the United States and they do not wish to abandon their nation. (applause) And inasmuch as Mr. Johnson stood by the Statue of Liberty and took the trouble to sprinkle his statements with these trivialities dealing with liberty, I ask him if the United States will permit Cubans in the United States to visit their relatives in Cuba and then return to the United States. (prolonged applause) If the United States is willing to permit Cubans who do not wish to live in the United States to visit their relatives in the United States and return to Cuba, and finally if the United States is disposed to allow U.S. citizens to visit Cuba. (prolonged applause)
Because that same government which says that those who leave that nation travel the wrong path, we can tell them that a nation could travel a worse path, despite the fast that it is a nation which publicizes a great deal and thinks that it is a nation of liberties. Despite the fact that it has been able to attain the standard of economic development which they have reached, they are afraid to permit U.S. citizens to visit this nation, which is so slandered about fear and terror–as they call it. (applause)
Therefore, here is the second question to the U.S. Government: We call upon you also to permit those Cubans who live in the United States to come to Cuba to visit their relatives who do not wish to go live in the United States, and to permit those relative who live in Cuba and do not want to leave Cuba, to go to the United States and return. Finally, we ask that they permit the students or any U.S. citizens to come (word indistinct) to visit Cuba in the same manner that we permit any Cuban citizen to leave or return (applause); that the U.S. Government permit the Negro representatives of the U.S. Negro organizations to visit Cuba, or the organizations of the defenders of civil rights to see how, with the disappearance of the exploitation of man, by many, racial discrimination had ended for good in our nation. (applause)
And let us see if Mr. Johnson, before the world and the U.S. people has an answer to this call which is not gibberish. We maintain our position, we maintain our declaration and we wait for the pertinent meeting on this matter to be solicited by the Swiss representatives of the Swiss Embassy when they receive the pertinent instructions from the U.S. Government. But we hope to see whether Mr. Johnson has a way of reply to this call. (Castro pauses) And since they talk about to much, since they brag so much about freedom, enough of this talk about false freedoms; enough of this talk about abstract freedoms. The facts have shown that where world of freedom is really being created is not there but here. (applause)
We do not want against his will to have to live in this society, because our socialist society, our communist society, must be eminently a truly free association of citizens. (Hesitant applause which increases in volume) And although it is true that certain citizens educated in those ideas of the past and in that system of life of the past prefer to go to the United States, it is also true that this country has become the sanctuary of the revolutionaries of this continent. (applause) It is also true that we consider worthy of the hospitality of this people and this land, not only those born here but also all men and women of our own tongue and of our own culture–and when not of our own tongue, of similar historical and ethnic origins, or similar history of exploitation.
And they have a right to come to this country and, all those who have wanted to, have made use of this right–those pursued by bloody and imperialist oligarchies. Many man and women who were born in other sister territories of this continent have come to this country to live permanently or temporarily. Many technicians and many professional from various parts of America have come to live and work in this country for many years. This is not just a country of Cubans–this is a country of revolutionaries.
The revolutionaries of the continent have a right to consider themselves our brothers, and they are worthy of this right. This includes North American revolutionaries (applause), because some leaders, like Robert Williams, fiercely persecuted there, found asylum in this land. Thus, just as he, so can those being persecuted by reactionaries and exploiters find asylum here. It does not matter if they speak English and born in the United States. This is the fatherland of the revolutionaries of this continent, just as the United States is the inevitable asylum of all the henchman, of all the embezzlers (applause), of all the exploiters (applause continuing), of all the reactionaries of this continent.
Because there is not a thief, there is not an exploiter, there is not a reactionary, there is not a criminal, for whom the United States does not keep its gates open. And with this, we have replied to Mr. Johnson’s words spoken under his discolored Statue of Liberty (hesitant applause), which no one knows what it represents, that hodgepodge of stone and hypocrisy, unless it is what Yankee imperialism means to the world today.
Now we are going to turn to our business, to matters of our party. Because I think that the news reports coming from here, those regarding our social successes, our economic successes, and our political successes, are very bad news for the Yankee imperialists. Naturally, anything which strengthens and advances the revolution, anything that allows us to make the best progress, is of very high concern to them.
Because of this, they will return–yes, some day they will long to come back, repentant, a large portion of the ones that left. But when Johnson talks about returning here as liberators we could tell him that this is an “autumn night’s dream.” (applause)
All the nation has received with joy and enthusiasm the news of the constitution of our central committee. The names of the comrades which makes up that committee as well as their history are well known. If all are now known by all, all are known by a large and important part of the nation. We have endeavored to pick those who in our judgement present in the most complete manner the history of our revolution. Those who in addition to the struggle for the revolution are well as the struggle for the consolidation, defense, and development of the revolution have worked and have fought obstinately and tirelessly. There is no heroic episode in the history of our country during the last years when they have not been presented. There is no sacrifice, there is no fight, there is no prowess, civilian or military, heroic or creative, in which they are not represented. There is no social revolutionary sector which is not represented. I do not speak about organizations. There are men who for a long time were bearers of the socialist ideas, just like the case of the founder of the first communist party, Comrade Fabio Grobart. (applause) Cases like that of Comrade Helena Gil, (applause) whose extraordinary work at the front of the schools, which were attended by more than 40,000 mountain peasant women, and where thousands of teachers have been developed where today more than 50,000 youths and children study, and which we consider a truly exemplary job. Or the case of Comrade Arteaga (applause), who besides his history of struggle, has worked for seven years in the agricultural sector and has developed successful plans, in some cases outstanding plans like the Escambray agricultural plan. (applause)
Cases of comrades like Lieutenant Tarrao, whom many have not heard of, but who is a comrade the Ministry of Interior placed at the head of the rehabilitation plans at the Isle of Pines (applause) where he has developed with an exemplary and unselfish attitude, a brilliant job about which some day a lot will be said and written.
I have mentioned cases of comrades, some well known and other less known. The list of the comrades from the Revolutionary Armed Forces would be unending. (applause) For their stories before and after the triumph, as an example of the exemplary revolutionaries, of untiring workers, as an example of superiority in study, in the development of agriculture, of the cultural levels and of the political levels, comrades of an extraordinary modesty, in whose hands the defense of the fatherland has fundamentally been placed.
In these seven years of dangers and of threats, the most well known, of which it is not necessary to talk about–this does not mean that the only values of the nation are here, far from it. Our nation has many values, and above all, a promotion of new comrades in full development, which one day without a doubt will arrive to demonstrate that responsibility and that honor.
It we ask ourselves who is missing, without a doubt we would say that there are some that are missing. It would be impossible to constitute a central committee with 100 revolutionary comrades without many cadres who are missing. However, the important thing is not those who are missing–they will come later. What is important are those who are here and what they represent. We know that the party and the people have welcomed the central committee, which has been constituted with satisfaction. (lengthy applause)
This committee, meeting yesterday, adopted several agreements. Firstly, it ratified the measures adopted by the former national leadership, ratified the politburo, the secretariat, and the work commissions, as well as the comrade elected to the post of organization secretary. (applause) Moreover, it adopted to important agreements, which had also been suggested by the former national leadership.
One of them relates to our official organ: instead of two newspapers or a political nature, such as were being published, to concentrate the human resources, to concentrate the resources of machinery and paper in order to make a new, single morning newspaper of a political nature, in addition to the paper EL MUNDO, which is not precisely a political orientation newspaper; to combine all these resources and to make a new newspaper that will bear the name of GRANMA, (applause) the symbol of our revolutionary concept and of our road.
The other agreement is even more important, dealing with the name of our party. First we were ORI, during the first steps of the unification of the revolutionary forces, with its positive and negative aspects. Then we were the United Party of the Socialist Revolution, which represented extraordinary progress, an extraordinary advance in the creation of out political apparatus, an effort of three years in which, from the bottomless quarry of our people, countless numbers of exponents were extracted from within the ranks of our workers, enabling us to become today what we represent in numbers, but, above all, what we are in quality.
The name United Party of the Socialist Revolution says much, but is does not say it all. The name still gives the idea of something that had to be united, that still recalls the origins of each one. Since we fell that we have already reached a stage in which all types of labels and things that distinguish some revolutionaries from others must disappear one and for all and forever and that we have already reached the fortunate point in the history of our revolutionary process in which we can say that there is only one type of revolutionary, and since it is necessary that the name of or party say, not what we were yesterday, but what we are today and what we will be tomorrow, what, in your opinion, is the name our party should have? (Crows makes tumultuous indistinct response–ed.)
What is, what is, comrades, what is–a comrade from here, the comrades from there, the comrades over there, the comrades over there? The Communist Party of Cuba! (prolonged cheers, applause) well, that is the name that, the interpreting the development of our party, the revolutionary conscience of its members, and the objectives of our revolution, our first central committee adopted yesterday, and that is quite proper.
As we explained to the comrades of the committee yesterday, the word “communist” has been very calumnied and very denigrated throughout centuries. There have been communists throughout history, men of communist ideas, men who conceived a way of living different from the society in which they have been born. Those who thought in a communist manner in other times were considered, for example, utopian communists who though 500 years was a short time because in an idealistic manner they aspired for a type of society which was not possible at that time because of the lack of development of the productive sources of man.
Of course man could not return to the communist from which primitive man originated, to live in a primitive form of communism, unless there was such a degree of development of his productive forces and such a method of utilization of those forces, a social mode of using those forces, that material goods and services could be produced in more than sufficient quantities to satisfy the needs of man.
All the exploiters, all the privileged always hated the word “communist” as if it were a crime. They anathematized the word “communist” and that is why when Marx and Engels wrote their Communist Manifesto which gave origin to a new revolutionary theory, to a scientific interpretation of human society, human history, they said “a phantom is sweeping Europe, and that is the phantom of communism,” because privileged classes viewed those ideas as a phantom, with true fear. Moreover the privileged classes in any era of history always contemplated new ideas with extraordinary fear.
Roman society was also terrorized in its era by the Christian ideas when these ideas rose in the world. And they were at one time the ideas of the poor and the slaves of those times. Because of their hate for these new ideas, that society cast into the flames and into the circus countless numbers of human beings. In like fashion, during the middle ages, in the era of feudalism, new ideas were persecuted and their originators calumnied and treated in the worst manner. The new ideas that rose with the bourgeoisie during feudalism, whether those ideas adopted political, philosophical, or religious positions, these were cruelly anathematized and persecuted. The reactionary classes have used all means to anathematize and calumny new ideas.
Thus all the power and all the means at their disposal are not enough for their purposes of calumnying communist ideas, as if the desire for a society where man will not be an exploiter of man but a true brother of man, as if the dream of a society in which all human beings are equal in fact and in law, not just a simple constitutional clause such as those contained in the bourgeois constitutions where they say that all men are born free and equal, as if that could be said equally of a child born in a slum, in a poor cradle, and of a child born in a golden cradle, as if it could ever be said in a society of exploiters and exploited, or rich and poor, that all men are born free and equal, as if all those men were called upon in life to have the same opportunity.
The perennial dream of men, a dream possible today, of a society-without exploiters or exploited, has drawn the hate and the rancor of all the exploiters. The imperialists, as if they were offending us, as if it were an offense, speak of the communist Government of Cuba just as the work “Mambi” was used against our liberators as an offense, in like fashion they attempt to use the work “communist” as an offense. And the work “communist” is not an offense for us but an honor. (applause) It is the word which symbolizes the aspiration of a large party of humanity and hundreds and hundreds of millions of human beings are concretely working for it today, Within 100-years, there will be no greater honor nor will there by anything more natural and logical than to be called “communists.” (applause)
We are headed toward a communist society and if the imperialists do not want soup, well, we will give them three bowls of soup. (applause) From now on, gentlemen of the UP and AP, when you call us “communists” you know you are calling us the most honorable thing you can call us. (prolonged applause)
There is an absence in our central committee of one who possess all the merits and all the virtues in the highest degree to belong to it and who, however, is not along the members of the central committee. Around this the enemy had been able to weave a thousand conjectures. The enemy has tried to confuse and to sow discord and doubt. And patiently, because it was necessary to wait, we have waited. That is the difference between the revolutionary and the counterrevolutionary, between the revolutionary and the imperialist. We revolutionaries know how to wait. We know how to have patience. We never despair and the reactionaries, the counterrevolutionaries, the imperialists continue in perennial desperation.
They live in perennial anguish, in a perennial lying of the most ridiculous, of the most childish. When we read some of the things about those officials, come of those Yankee senators, one asks: “But how is it possible that this gentlemen is not in a stable instead of belonging to what is called a “Congress.” (applause) Some of them speak veritable barbarities. Any they have a tremendous habit of lying. They cannot live without lying. They live in anguish. If the revolutionary does something, which is what Cuba was always going, such as that to which I referred at the beginning, they see truculent things, terrible things, a plan behind all that. How ridiculous. In what fear, they live.
One asks oneself: “Do they believe that?: “Do they believe that?: “Could they believe all they say?” “Do they have a need to believe all they say or can they not live without believing all they say or do they say all that they do not believe?” It is difficult. It would be a question for doctors and psychologists. What do they have in this minds? What anguish is that? They see a maneuver in everything, a truculent, dark, terrible plan. And they do no know that there is not better tactic, nor a better strategy than to fight with clean weapons, than to fight with the truth, because those are the only weapons which inspire trust. They are the only weapons which inspire faith. They are the only weapons which inspire safety, moral dignity. And it has been with those weapons that we revolutionaries have been vanquishing and crushing our enemies.
You will never here a lie from the mouth of a revolutionary. There are weapons which do not benefit any revolutionary, and no serious revolutionary needs to resort to lies–ever. His weapon is reason, (word indistinct), the truth, the ability to have an idea, a purpose, a position; in short, the moral spectacle of our adversaries in truly lamentable. And thus, the diviners, the interpreters, the specialists in Cuban affairs, and the electronic brains have been working incessantly to solve this mystery, whether Ernesto Guevara has been purges, (applause) whether Ernesto Guevara was ill, whether Ernesto Guevara had had differences, and other questions of the same ilk.
Naturally, the people have confidence. The people have faith, but enemies will say these things, especially abroad, to slander him and the communist regime, dark, terrible things: men disappear, they do not leave a trace; they do not leave prints; there is no explanation; and we told the people at this time, when the people began to note this absence, that in due time we would talk. We would have some reasons to wait, we are developing surrounded by the forces of imperialism.
The world is not living in normal conditions. As long as the criminal (?bombs) of Yankee imperialists are falling on the people of Vietnam, we cannot say that we are living under normal conditions. When more than 100,000 Yankee soldiers land there to try to smash the liberation movement, when the soldiers of imperialism land in a republic which has equality of rights, judicially, as do all the rest of the republic of the worlds, as in Santo Domingo, to trample its sovereignty, (applause) the world if not living under normal conditions. When around our country, the imperialists are training mercenaries and organizing vandalic attacks, in the most unpunished manner, as in the case of (few words indistinct), when the imperialists threaten to intervene in any country of Latin America or of the world, we are not living under normal conditions.
And when we were fighting in clandestine conditions against the Batista tyranny, we revolutionaries did not live in normal conditions. We had to adjust to the struggle. In the same way, although the revolutionary power exists in our country, in regard to the realities of the world, we do not live in normal conditions, and we shall have to adjust to this situation. And to explain this, we are going to read a letter here, in handwriting, here copied by typewriter, from Comrade Ernesto Guevara, (applause) which is self-explanatory.
I thought or coming to tell the story of our friendship and our comradeship, how it began and under what conditions it began and how it developed, but it is not necessary. I am going to restrict myself to reading the letter. It says:
Havana–The date was not written down because this letter was to be read at the moment we felt it most convenient, but keeping to strict reality, it was delivered on 1 April of this year, exactly six months and two days ago, and it says the following:
Havana, year of agriculture; Fidel: At this moment I recall many things, of when I met you in the home of Maria Antonia, of when you proposes that I come, of all the tension of the preparations. One day they came to ask whom should be informed in case of death, and the real possibility of the fact was a blow to all of us. Later we learned that it was true, that in a revolution one triumphs or dies if it is a real one. Many comrades fell along the road to victory. Today everything has a less dramatic tone because we are more mature, but the event repeats itself.
I feel that I have done my duty, which tied me to the Cuban revolution in its territory, and I take leave of you, of the comrades, of your country, which is already mine. I formally resign from my posts in the leadership of the party, of my ministerial post, of my rank of major, of my condition as a Cuban. Nothing legal binds me to Cuba, only ties of another kinds, which cannot be broken like appointments.
Reviewing my past life, I believe that I have worked with sufficient honesty and dedication to consolidate the revolutionary triumph. My only shortcoming of some gravity is not having confided in you more from the first moments in the Sierra Maestra and not having realized with sufficient celerity your qualities as a leader and a revolutionary. I have lived magnificent days and I felt as your side the pride of belonging to our country during the luminous and (word indistinct) days of the Caribbean crisis. Few times has a statements shined more brilliantly than on those days. I am also proud of having followed you without hesitation, identified with you way of thinking, seeing, and of estimating dangers and principles.
Other lands of the world demand the aid of my modest efforts. I can do what is denied you by your responsibility at the head of Cuba, and the time has come for us to separate. Let is be known that I do so with a minute of happiness and pain. Here I leave the purest of my hopes as a builder and the dearest of my dear ones, and I leave a people who accepted me as a son. That wounds a part of my spirit.
In the new fields of battles, I will carry the faith you instilled in me, the revolutionary spirit of my country, the sensation of complying with the most sacred of duties: to struggle against imperialism wherever it may be. This heals and more than curse any laceration. I say once again that I free Cuba of any responsibility save what stems from her example: that if the final hour comes to be under other skies, my last thought will be of this country, particularly of you.
I thank you for your teachings and your example and I will try to be loyal to you to the last consequences of my acts. I have always been identified with the foreign policy of our revolution and I still am. Wherever I am, I will feel the responsibility of being a Cuban revolutionary and I will act as such. I do not leave my children nor may wife anything material, and I am not ashamed. I am glad it is thus, I do not require anything for them for the state will given them enough with which to live and be educated.
I would have many things to tell you and our people, but I feel that they are unnecessary. Words cannot express what I would like to say, and it is not worthwhile to fill pages. To victory always, fatherland or death, I embrace you with all revolutionary fervor, Che.
Those who talk of revolutionaries, those who consider revolutionaries as cold men, unfeeling men, or men without heart, will have in this letter the example of all the sentiment, of all the feeling, of all the purity which can be enclosed in the soul of a revolutionary, and we could answer for us, Comrade Guevara, it is not responsibility which we are concerned about. We have responsibility for the revolution and we are responsible for the aid to the revolutionary movement in the measure of our forces (applause) and we assume the responsibility and the consequences and the risks.
For almost seven years it has been that way and we know that as long as imperialism exists and while there are exploited and colonized peoples, we shall continue running these risks, and we shall continue serenely assuming these responsibilities. And we had the duty to conform; we had the duty to respect this sentiment of this comrade, that freedom and that right, and this is indeed freedom, not that of those who are going to take on chains but that of those who are going to take up a rifle against the chains of slavery. (applause)
And that is another of the freedom, Mr. Johnson, that our revolution proclaims. And if those persons who want to leave to go live with the imperialists are at times recruited by the imperialists to fight in Vietnam and the Congo, let it be known also that all the citizens of this country, when they ask for permission, not to go fight alongside the imperialists, but to fight alongside the revolutionaries will not be denied permission by this revolution. (applause) This country is free, Mr. Johnson; really free for everybody.
And this was not the only letter. Along with this letter, and for the occasion when this letter should be used, various other letters were left with us, of greetings to various comrades, and in addition, as it says here, “to my children, to my parents, and other comrades,” a letter written by him for his children, and for his parents. We will pass these letters on to the comrades and family; and we ask them to donate than to the revolution, for we consider them to be documents worthy of a place in history.
And we feel that this explains everything. As for the rest, let the enemies worry. We have enough tasks, enough things to do, in our country and in connection with the world; enough duties to fulfill, and we will fulfill them. We will develop our path, we will develop our ideas, we will develop our methods, we will develop our system. We will utilize all experiences that may prove useful to us, and we will develop fresh experiences.
A completely new era is arising in the history of our country, a different form of society, a different system of government, the government of a party, the party of the workers, made up of the best workers, formed with full participation by the masses, so it can justly and rightly be said that it is the vanguard of the workers and represents the workers, in our workers’ revolutionary democracy.
And it will be a thousand time more democratic than bourgeois democracy, for we will progress toward administrative and political forms that will imply the masses’ constant participation in the problems of society through the suitable organizations, through the party, at every level. And we will go on developing these new forms as only a revolution can. We will continue creating the conscience and habits of these new forms. And we will not stop, our people will not stop until they have attained their final goals.
This step means a great deal. It represents one of the most vitally important steps in the historic moment when the unifying forces were superior to the forces that diffuse and divide. It represents the historic moment when a whole revolutionary nation united tightly, when the sense of duty prevailed over everything else, when the collective spirit triumphed over all individualisms, when the interests of the fatherland prevailed fully and definitively over all individual or group interest. It means having attained the highest degree of union and organization, with the most modern, most scientific, and most revolutionary and human of political concepts.
And we are the first country of this continent, in addition to being, in the opinion of the imperialist U.S. Government, the only independent country. For it the House of Representatives proclaims a right to intervene in any country to avert the danger of a communist revolution, why, here there is a communist revolution in power. (applause) So we are considered the only independent country.
To be sure, when the monopolies’ representatives gave that slap in the face to all the republics in America by issuing the declaration of non-independence, a few– or rather, many–persons reddened with shame. Many were scandalized when the United States declared its right to intervene unilaterally. They should be reminded of the agreements they entered into against Cuba; they should be reminded of their complicity in the evil deeds concocted against our country by imperialism. At that time we were the only ones; we stood firm, ready to die, and we said we were defending not just Cuba’s rights, but the independence of the other peoples of Latin America. (applause) They who sow the wind reap the whirlwind, and they who sowed interventionism against Cuba, collective breaks with Cuba, blockades of Cuba, are reaping the whirlwind of interventionism and threats directed at them.
They are astonished, they are panic-stricken, and the parliaments meet, and the bourgeois parties cry to the heavens. There they have the results of complicity with the imperialists. There they see what imperialism is. And so, with every passing day, the people will see more clearly who is right, who during these historic years defended true independence, true freedom, true sovereignty, defended it with her blood, and defended it against imperialism and all it accomplices. The imperialists themselves are teaching the peoples. The scarecrow of communism was constantly brandished, and in the name of the battle against that scarecrow the Yankee imperialists have declared their right to land in any country of this continent, except Cuba. (applause)
To progress we have made, but above all the progress we will make in the years to come, utilizing all out country’s potential, utilizing the tremendous forces we have organized and created, utilizing them in organized, efficient fashion–that is our party’s task. We will forge ahead tremendously. We will move at dizzy speed toward the future with a party that must lead, that must see to every front, because every front must be attended by out party, all problems must be studied; and for this purpose we have created the committees, and new ones will be created. And there will not be a single problem that fails to get thorough study and analysis by the party, so that each analysis may provide guidance, the proper guidance, the best guidance.
I was saying we will make our way toward communism, and we will attain communism. We are as sure of that as of having come this far. And amid the difficulties of every kind that accompany this moment in the history of the world, faced with an ever-mightier enemy, faced with the sad fact of the split in world revolutionary ranks, our policy will be one of the closer unity. Our policy will be that of a small but free and independent nation. Our party will educate the masses; our party will educate its militants. Let it be well understood; our party–no other party, but our party, and its central committee. (applause) And the prerogative of educating and guiding the revolutionary masses in an unrelinquishable prerogative of our party. We will be very jealous guardians of that right.
In ideological matters it will be the party which will say what must be said. And if we do not accede, do not want, and just do not feel like letting the differences that divide the socialist camp divide us, no one will be able to impose such a thing on us. (applause) And all material of a political nature, unless is has to do with enemies, will only be able to reach the people through our party at the time and on the occasion that our party decides. (applause)
We know quite well where the enemy is, who is the only and true enemy. We know this quite well. We more than know it. We have had to struggle against the enemy under difficult conditions. In order to confront that enemy, we have needed the solidarity and aid of many. In order to defeat the aggressive policy of that enemy, to continue to oppose it, we need resources and weapons because here, thousands of miles away from any other socialist country, thousand of miles away from any other socialist country, thousands of miles away without being able to depend on anything other than our own forces and our own weapons in the decisive moments, and since we were aware of the risks we are running today and of the risks we will continue to run, we must be armed to the teeth (applause) and prepared totally.
We can disagree with any party on any point. It is impossible to hope that in the heterogeneousness of this contemporary world, under such diverse circumstance–a world constituted of countries in the most dissimilar situations and having the most unequal levels of material, technical, and cultural development–that we conceive of Marxism a something like a church, a religious doctrine with its Rome, its pope, and its ecumenical council. This is a revolutionary and dialetic doctrine, not a philosophical doctrine. It is a guide for revolutionary action, not a dogma. To try to frame Marxism as a type of catechism in anti-Marxist.
The diversity of situations will inevitably produce an infinite number of interpretations. Those who make the correct interpretations will be able to call themselves revolutionaries. Those who make the right interpretations and apply them in a responsible manner will triumph. those who make mistakes or do not abide by revolutionary thinking will fail. They will be defeated and even replaced, because Marxism is not private property that is registered. It is a doctrine of revolutionaries written by a revolutionary, developed by other revolutionaries, for revolutionaries.
We will know how to characterize ourselves by our self-confidence, by our confidence in our ability to continue and develop our revolutionary path. We may disagree with any party on one matter, on one point, or on several points. Disagreements, when they are honest, are bound to be temporary.
What we will never do is to insult with one hand and ask with another. And we will know how to maintain any disagreement within the norms of decency with any party, and we will known how to be friends to those who know how be friends. We will know to to respect those who know how to respect us. These things will always determine our most free conduct, and we will never ask anyone’s permission to do anything. We will never ask anyone for permission to go anywhere.
We will never ask permission from anyone to become the friend of any party or country. We know the transitory nature of problems, and problems pass. Peoples remain; men pass, peoples remain; leadership passes, revolutions persist. We see something more than transitory relations in the relations between parties and revolutionary peoples, we see durable relations and permanent relations. Nothing will ever come from us that tends to create differences between men, let along countries.
We will be guided by that elementary principle because we know that it is a correct position, that it is a just principle, and nothing will swerve us from the dedication of all our energies to the fight against the enemy of humanity, which is imperialism, because we could never say that those who have helped us to defeat the imperialists are accomplices of the imperialists. (applause)
We aspire not only to a communist society but to a communist world in which all nations will have equal rights. We aspire to a communist world in which no nation will have the right to veto. And we aspire that the communist world of tomorrow will never present the same picture of a bourgeois world torn by internal squabbles. We aspire to a free society of free nations in which all the countries, large and small, will have equal rights. We will defend our points of view as we have defended them up to now, and our positions and out line in a steadfast manner by our acts and by our deeds. Any nothing can turn us from that path.
It is not easy with the complexities of present problems and of the present world to maintain that line, maintain that inflexible opinion, maintain this inflexible independence, but we will maintain it. This revolution was not imported from anywhere. It is a genuine product of this country. Nobody told us how we must carry it out, and we have carried it out. (applause) And nobody will have to tell us how me must continue to carry it out, and we will continue to carry it out.
We have learned to write history and we will continue to write it. Let no one doubt that. We live in a complex and dangerous world. The risks of this world we will face with dignity and calmly. Our fate will be the fate of the other countries and our fate will be the fate of the world. I ask all the comrades here present, all the representatives of our party, all the secretaries of the cells of this type of extensive congress, I ask those who are represent the will of the party, the party which represents the workers, I ask the ratification of the agreements of the national leadership. (prolonged applause) I ask you for the full an unanimous ratification of the Central Committee of our party. (prolonged applause) I ask for your full support for the line followed by the revolutionary leadership up to now. (cheering and applause) Long live the Communist Party of Cuba! (Shouts of “long life”) Long live it Central Committee! (Shouts of “long live”) Long live its Central Committee! (Shouts of “long live”) Long live our socialist, communist revolution! (Shouts of “long live”)
Fatherland or death!
We will win! -END- source: http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/castro/db/1965/19651004.html several small errors in this translation corrected for this posting.
by Fidel Castro
October 16, 1953
Never has a lawyer had to practice his profession under such difficult conditions; never has such a number of overwhelming irregularities been committed against an accused man. In this case, counsel and defendant are one and the same. As attorney he has not even been able to take a look at the indictment. As accused, for the past seventy-six days he has been locked away in solitary confinement, held totally and absolutely incommunicado, in violation of every human and legal right.
He who speaks to you hates vanity with all his being, nor are his temperament or frame of mind inclined towards courtroom poses or sensationalism of any kind. If I have had to assume my own defense before this Court it is for two reasons. First: because I have been denied legal aid almost entirely, and second: only one who has been so deeply wounded, who has seen his country so forsaken and its justice trampled so, can speak at a moment like this with words that spring from the blood of his heart and the truth of his very gut.
There was no lack of generous comrades who wished to defend me, and the Havana Bar Association appointed a courageous and competent jurist, Dr. Jorge Pagliery, Dean of the Bar in this city, to represent me in this case. However, he was not permitted to carry out his task. As often as he tried to see me, the prison gates were closed before him. Only after a month and a half, and through the intervention of the Court, was he finally granted a ten minute interview with me in the presence of a sergeant from the Military Intelligence Agency (SIM). One supposes that a lawyer has a right to speak with his defendant in private, and this right is respected throughout the world, except in the case of a Cuban prisoner of war in the hands of an implacable tyranny that abides by no code of law, be it legal or humane. Neither Dr. Pagliery nor I were willing to tolerate such dirty spying upon our means of defense for the oral trial. Did they want to know, perhaps, beforehand, the methods we would use in order to reduce to dust the incredible fabric of lies they had woven around the Moncada Barracks events? How were we going to expose the terrible truth they would go to such great lengths to conceal? It was then that we decided that, taking advantage of my professional rights as a lawyer, I would assume my own defense.
This decision, overheard by the sergeant and reported by him to his superior, provoked a real panic. It looked like some mocking little imp was telling them that I was going to ruin all their plans. You know very well, Honorable Judges, how much pressure has been brought to bear on me in order to strip me as well of this right that is ratified by long Cuban tradition. The Court could not give in to such machination, for that would have left the accused in a state of total indefensiveness. The accused, who is now exercising this right to plead his own case, will under no circumstances refrain from saying what he must say. I consider it essential that I explain, at the onset, the reason for the terrible isolation in which I have been kept; what was the purpose of keeping me silent; what was behind the plots to kill me, plots which the Court is familiar with; what grave events are being hidden from the people; and the truth behind all the strange things which have taken place during this trial. I propose to do all this with utmost clarity.
You have publicly called this case the most significant in the history of the Republic. If you sincerely believed this, you should not have allowed your authority to be stained and degraded. The first court session was September 21st. Among one hundred machine guns and bayonets, scandalously invading the hall of justice, more than a hundred people were seated in the prisoner’s dock. The great majority had nothing to do with what had happened. They had been under preventive arrest for many days, suffering all kinds of insults and abuses in the chambers of the repressive units. But the rest of the accused, the minority, were brave and determined, ready to proudly confirm their part in the battle for freedom, ready to offer an example of unprecedented self-sacrifice and to wrench from the jail’s claws those who in deliberate bad faith had been included in the trial. Those who had met in combat confronted one another again. Once again, with the cause of justice on our side, we would wage the terrible battle of truth against infamy! Surely the regime was not prepared for the moral catastrophe in store for it!
How to maintain all its false accusations? How to keep secret what had really happened, when so many young men were willing to risk everything – prison, torture and death, if necessary – in order that the truth be told before this Court?
I was called as a witness at that first session. For two hours I was questioned by the Prosecutor as well as by twenty defense attorneys. I was able to prove with exact facts and figures the sums of money that had been spent, the way this money was collected and the arms we had been able to round up. I had nothing to hide, for the truth was: all this was accomplished through sacrifices without precedent in the history of our Republic. I spoke of the goals that inspired us in our struggle and of the humane and generous treatment that we had at all times accorded our adversaries. If I accomplished my purpose of demonstrating that those who were falsely implicated in this trial were neither directly nor indirectly involved, I owe it to the complete support and backing of my heroic comrades. For, as I said, the consequences they might be forced to suffer at no time caused them to repent of their condition as revolutionaries and patriots, I was never once allowed to speak with these comrades of mine during the time we were in prison, and yet we planned to do exactly the same. The fact is, when men carry the same ideals in their hearts, nothing can isolate them – neither prison walls nor the sod of cemeteries. For a single memory, a single spirit, a single idea, a single conscience, a single dignity will sustain them all.
From that moment on, the structure of lies the regime had erected about the events at Moncada Barracks began to collapse like a house of cards. As a result, the Prosecutor realized that keeping all those persons named as instigators in prison was completely absurd, and he requested their provisional release.
At the close of my testimony in that first session, I asked the Court to allow me to leave the dock and sit among the counsel for the defense. This permission was granted. At that point what I consider my most important mission in this trial began: to totally discredit the cowardly, miserable and treacherous lies which the regime had hurled against our fighters; to reveal with irrefutable evidence the horrible, repulsive crimes they had practiced on the prisoners; and to show the nation and the world the infinite misfortune of the Cuban people who are suffering the cruelest, the most inhuman oppression of their history.
The second session convened on Tuesday, September 22nd. By that time only ten witnesses had testified, and they had already cleared up the murders in the Manzanillo area, specifically establishing and placing on record the direct responsibility of the captain commanding that post. There were three hundred more witnesses to testify. What would happen if, with a staggering mass of facts and evidence, I should proceed to cross-examine the very Army men who were directly responsible for those crimes? Could the regime permit me to go ahead before the large audience attending the trial? Before journalists and jurists from all over the island? And before the party leaders of the opposition, who they had stupidly seated right in the prisoner’s dock where they could hear so well all that might be brought out here? They would rather have blown up the court house, with all its judges, than allow that!
And so they devised a plan by which they could eliminate me from the trial and they proceeded to do just that, manu militari. On Friday night, September 25th, on the eve of the third session of the trial, two prison doctors visited me in my cell. They were visibly embarrassed. ‘We have come to examine you,’ they said. I asked them, ‘Who is so worried about my health?’ Actually, from the moment I saw them I realized what they had come for. They could not have treated me with greater respect, and they explained their predicament to me. That afternoon Colonel Chaviano had appeared at the prison and told them I ‘was doing the Government terrible damage with this trial.’ He had told them they must sign a certificate declaring that I was ill and was, therefore, unable to appear in court. The doctors told me that for their part they were prepared to resign from their posts and risk persecution. They put the matter in my hands, for me to decide. I found it hard to ask those men to unhesitatingly destroy themselves. But neither could I, under any circumstances, consent that those orders be carried out. Leaving the matter to their own consciences, I told them only: ‘You must know your duty; I certainly know mine.’
After leaving the cell they signed the certificate. I know they did so believing in good faith that this was the only way they could save my life, which they considered to be in grave danger. I was not obliged to keep our conversation secret, for I am bound only by the truth. Telling the truth in this instance may jeopardize those good doctors in their material interests, but I am removing all doubt about their honor, which is worth much more. That same night, I wrote the Court a letter denouncing the plot; requesting that two Court physicians be sent to certify my excellent state of health, and to inform you that if to save my life I must take part in such deception, I would a thousand times prefer to lose it. To show my determination to fight alone against this whole degenerate frame-up, I added to my own words one of the Master’s lines: ‘A just cause even from the depths of a cave can do more than an army.’ As the Court knows, this was the letter Dr. Melba Hernández submitted at the third session of the trial on September 26th. I managed to get it to her in spite of the heavy guard I was under. That letter, of course, provoked immediate reprisals. Dr. Hernández was subjected to solitary confinement, and I – since I was already incommunicado – was sent to the most inaccessible reaches of the prison. From that moment on, all the accused were thoroughly searched from head to foot before they were brought into the courtroom.
Two Court physicians certified on September 27th that I was, in fact, in perfect health. Yet, in spite of the repeated orders from the Court, I was never again brought to the hearings. What’s more, anonymous persons daily circulated hundreds of apocryphal pamphlets which announced my rescue from jail. This stupid alibi was invented so they could physically eliminate me and pretend I had tried to escape. Since the scheme failed as a result of timely exposure by ever alert friends, and after the first affidavit was shown to be false, the regime could only keep me away from the trial by open and shameless contempt of Court.
This was an incredible situation, Honorable Judges: Here was a regime literally afraid to bring an accused man to Court; a regime of blood and terror that shrank in fear of the moral conviction of a defenseless man – unarmed, slandered and isolated. And so, after depriving me of everything else, they finally deprived me even of the trial in which I was the main accused. Remember that this was during a period in which individual rights were suspended and the Public Order Act as well as censorship of radio and press were in full force. What unbelievable crimes this regime must have committed to so fear the voice of one accused man!
I must dwell upon the insolence and disrespect which the Army leaders have at all times shown towards you. As often as this Court has ordered an end to the inhuman isolation in which I was held; as often as it has ordered my most elementary rights to be respected; as often as it has demanded that I be brought before it, this Court has never been obeyed! Worse yet: in the very presence of the Court, during the first and second hearings, a praetorian guard was stationed beside me to totally prevent me from speaking to anyone, even among the brief recesses. In other words, not only in prison, but also in the courtroom and in your presence, they ignored your decrees. I had intended to mention this matter in the following session, as a question of elementary respect for the Court, but – I was never brought back. And if, in exchange for so much disrespect, they bring us before you to be jailed in the name of a legality which they and they alone have been violating since March 10th, sad indeed is the role they would force on you. The Latin maxim Cedant arma togae has certainly not been fulfilled on a single occasion during this trial. I beg you to keep that circumstance well in mind.
What is more, these devices were in any case quite useless; my brave comrades, with unprecedented patriotism, did their duty to the utmost.
‘Yes, we set out to fight for Cuba’s freedom and we are not ashamed of having done so,’ they declared, one by one, on the witness stand. Then, addressing the Court with impressive courage, they denounced the hideous crimes committed upon the bodies of our brothers. Although absent from Court, I was able, in my prison cell, to follow the trial in all its details. And I have the convicts at Boniato Prison to thank for this. In spite of all threats, these men found ingenious means of getting newspaper clippings and all kinds of information to me. In this way they avenged the abuses and immoralities perpetrated against them both by Taboada, the warden, and the supervisor, Lieutenant Rozabal, who drove them from sun up to sun down building private mansions and starved them by embezzling the prison food budget.
As the trial went on, the roles were reversed: those who came to accuse found themselves accused, and the accused became the accusers! It was not the revolutionaries who were judged there; judged once and forever was a man named Batista – monstruum horrendum! – and it matters little that these valiant and worthy young men have been condemned, if tomorrow the people will condemn the Dictator and his henchmen! Our men were consigned to the Isle of Pines Prison, in whose circular galleries Castells’ ghost still lingers and where the cries of countless victims still echo; there our young men have been sent to expiate their love of liberty, in bitter confinement, banished from society, torn from their homes and exiled from their country. Is it not clear to you, as I have said before, that in such circumstances it is difficult and disagreeable for this lawyer to fulfill his duty?
As a result of so many turbid and illegal machinations, due to the will of those who govern and the weakness of those who judge, I find myself here in this little room at the Civilian Hospital, where I have been brought to be tried in secret, so that I may not be heard and my voice may be stifled, and so that no one may learn of the things I am going to say. Why, then, do we need that imposing Palace of Justice which the Honorable Judges would without doubt find much more comfortable? I must warn you: it is unwise to administer justice from a hospital room, surrounded by sentinels with fixed bayonets; the citizens might suppose that our justice is sick – and that it is captive.
Let me remind you, your laws of procedure provide that trials shall be ‘public hearings;’ however, the people have been barred altogether from this session of Court. The only civilians admitted here have been two attorneys and six reporters, in whose newspapers the censorship of the press will prevent printing a word I say. I see, as my sole audience in this chamber and in the corridors, nearly a hundred soldiers and officers. I am grateful for the polite and serious attention they give me. I only wish I could have the whole Army before me! I know, one day, this Army will seethe with rage to wash away the terrible, the shameful bloodstains splattered across the military uniform by the present ruthless clique in its lust for power. On that day, oh what a fall awaits those mounted in arrogance on their noble steeds! – provided that the people have not dismounted them long before that!
Finally, I should like to add that no treatise on penal law was allowed me in my cell. I have at my disposal only this tiny code of law lent to me by my learned counsel, Dr. Baudillo Castellanos, the courageous defender of my comrades. In the same way they prevented me from receiving the books of Martí; it seems the prison censorship considered them too subversive. Or is it because I said Martí was the inspirer of the 26th of July? Reference books on any other subject were also denied me during this trial. But it makes no difference! I carry the teachings of the Master in my heart, and in my mind the noble ideas of all men who have defended people’s freedom everywhere!
I am going to make only one request of this court; I trust it will be granted as a compensation for the many abuses and outrages the accused has had to tolerate without protection of the law. I ask that my right to express myself be respected without restraint. Otherwise, even the merest semblance of justice cannot be maintained, and the final episode of this trial would be, more than all the others, one of ignominy and cowardice.
I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed. I had expected that the Honorable Prosecutor would come forward with a grave accusation. I thought he would be ready to justify to the limit his contention, and his reasons why I should be condemned in the name of Law and Justice – what law and what justice? – to 26 years in prison. But no. He has limited himself to reading Article 148 of the Social Defense Code. On the basis of this, plus aggravating circumstances, he requests that I be imprisoned for the lengthy term of 26 years! Two minutes seems a very short time in which to demand and justify that a man be put behind bars for more than a quarter of a century. Can it be that the Honorable Prosecutor is, perhaps, annoyed with the Court? Because as I see it, his laconic attitude in this case clashes with the solemnity with which the Honorable Judges declared, rather proudly, that this was a trial of the greatest importance! I have heard prosecutors speak ten times longer in a simple narcotics case asking for a sentence of just six months. The Honorable Prosecutor has supplied not a word in support of his petition. I am a just man. I realize that for a prosecuting attorney under oath of loyalty to the Constitution of the Republic, it is difficult to come here in the name of an unconstitutional, statutory, de facto government, lacking any legal much less moral basis, to ask that a young Cuban, a lawyer like himself – perhaps as honorable as he, be sent to jail for 26 years. But the Honorable Prosecutor is a gifted man and I have seen much less talented persons write lengthy diatribes in defense of this regime. How then can I suppose that he lacks reason with which to defend it, at least for fifteen minutes, however contemptible that might be to any decent person? It is clear that there is a great conspiracy behind all this.
Honorable Judges: Why such interest in silencing me? Why is every type of argument foregone in order to avoid presenting any target whatsoever against which I might direct my own brief? Is it that they lack any legal, moral or political basis on which to put forth a serious formulation of the question? Are they that afraid of the truth? Do they hope that I, too, will speak for only two minutes and that I will not touch upon the points which have caused certain people sleepless nights since July 26th? Since the prosecutor’s petition was restricted to the mere reading of five lines of an article of the Social Defense Code, might they suppose that I too would limit myself to those same lines and circle round them like some slave turning a millstone? I shall by no means accept such a gag, for in this trial there is much more than the freedom of a single individual at stake. Fundamental matters of principle are being debated here, the right of men to be free is on trial, the very foundations of our existence as a civilized and democratic nation are in the balance. When this trial is over, I do not want to have to reproach myself for any principle left undefended, for any truth left unsaid, for any crime not denounced.
The Honorable Prosecutor’s famous little article hardly deserves a minute of my time. I shall limit myself for the moment to a brief legal skirmish against it, because I want to clear the field for an assault against all the endless lies and deceits, the hypocrisy, conventionalism and moral cowardice that have set the stage for the crude comedy which since the 10th of March – and even before then – has been called Justice in Cuba.
It is a fundamental principle of criminal law that an imputed offense must correspond exactly to the type of crime described by law. If no law applies exactly to the point in question, then there is no offense.
The article in question reads textually: ‘A penalty of imprisonment of from three to ten years shall be imposed upon the perpetrator of any act aimed at bringing about an armed uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State. The penalty shall be imprisonment for from five to twenty years, in the event that insurrection actually be carried into effect.’
In what country is the Honorable Prosecutor living? Who has told him that we have sought to bring about an uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State? Two things are self-evident. First of all, the dictatorship that oppresses the nation is not a constitutional power, but an unconstitutional one: it was established against the Constitution, over the head of the Constitution, violating the legitimate Constitution of the Republic. The legitimate Constitution is that which emanates directly from a sovereign people. I shall demonstrate this point fully later on, notwithstanding all the subterfuges contrived by cowards and traitors to justify the unjustifiable. Secondly, the article refers to Powers, in the plural, as in the case of a republic governed by a Legislative Power, an Executive Power, and a Judicial Power which balance and counterbalance one another. We have fomented a rebellion against one single power, an illegal one, which has usurped and merged into a single whole both the Legislative and Executive Powers of the nation, and so has destroyed the entire system that was specifically safeguarded by the Code now under our analysis. As to the independence of the Judiciary after the 10th of March, I shall not allude to that for I am in no mood for joking … No matter how Article 148 may be stretched, shrunk or amended, not a single comma applies to the events of July 26th. Let us leave this statute alone and await the opportunity to apply it to those who really did foment an uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State. Later I shall come back to the Code to refresh the Honorable Prosecutor’s memory about certain circumstances he has unfortunately overlooked.
I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully. I know that I will be silenced for many years; I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it.
From a shack in the mountains on Monday, July 27th, I listened to the dictator’s voice on the air while there were still 18 of our men in arms against the government. Those who have never experienced similar moments will never know that kind of bitterness and indignation. While the long-cherished hopes of freeing our people lay in ruins about us we heard those crushed hopes gloated over by a tyrant more vicious, more arrogant than ever. The endless stream of lies and slanders, poured forth in his crude, odious, repulsive language, may only be compared to the endless stream of clean young blood which had flowed since the previous night – with his knowledge, consent, complicity and approval – being spilled by the most inhuman gang of assassins it is possible to imagine. To have believed him for a single moment would have sufficed to fill a man of conscience with remorse and shame for the rest of his life. At that time I could not even hope to brand his miserable forehead with the mark of truth which condemns him for the rest of his days and for all time to come. Already a circle of more than a thousand men, armed with weapons more powerful than ours and with peremptory orders to bring in our bodies, was closing in around us. Now that the truth is coming out, now that speaking before you I am carrying out the mission I set for myself, I may die peacefully and content. So I shall not mince my words about those savage murderers.
I must pause to consider the facts for a moment. The government itself said the attack showed such precision and perfection that it must have been planned by military strategists. Nothing could have been farther from the truth! The plan was drawn up by a group of young men, none of whom had any military experience at all. I will reveal their names, omitting two who are neither dead nor in prison: Abel Santamaría, José Luis Tasende, Renato Guitart Rosell, Pedro Miret, Jesús Montané and myself. Half of them are dead, and in tribute to their memory I can say that although they were not military experts they had enough patriotism to have given, had we not been at such a great disadvantage, a good beating to that entire lot of generals together, those generals of the 10th of March who are neither soldiers nor patriots. Much more difficult than the planning of the attack was our organizing, training, mobilizing and arming men under this repressive regime with its millions of dollars spent on espionage, bribery and information services. Nevertheless, all this was carried out by those men and many others like them with incredible seriousness, discretion and discipline. Still more praiseworthy is the fact that they gave this task everything they had; ultimately, their very lives.
The final mobilization of men who came to this province from the most remote towns of the entire island was accomplished with admirable precision and in absolute secrecy. It is equally true that the attack was carried out with magnificent coordination. It began simultaneously at 5:15 a.m. in both Bayamo and Santiago de Cuba; and one by one, with an exactitude of minutes and seconds prepared in advance, the buildings surrounding the barracks fell to our forces. Nevertheless, in the interest of truth and even though it may detract from our merit, I am also going to reveal for the first time a fact that was fatal: due to a most unfortunate error, half of our forces, and the better armed half at that, went astray at the entrance to the city and were not on hand to help us at the decisive moment. Abel Santamaría, with 21 men, had occupied the Civilian Hospital; with him went a doctor and two of our women comrades to attend to the wounded. Raúl Castro, with ten men, occupied the Palace of Justice, and it was my responsibility to attack the barracks with the rest, 95 men. Preceded by an advance group of eight who had forced Gate Three, I arrived with the first group of 45 men. It was precisely here that the battle began, when my car ran into an outside patrol armed with machine guns. The reserve group which had almost all the heavy weapons (the light arms were with the advance group), turned up the wrong street and lost its way in an unfamiliar city. I must clarify the fact that I do not for a moment doubt the courage of those men; they experienced great anguish and desperation when they realized they were lost. Because of the type of action it was and because the contending forces were wearing identically colored uniforms, it was not easy for these men to re-establish contact with us. Many of them, captured later on, met death with true heroism.
Everyone had instructions, first of all, to be humane in the struggle. Never was a group of armed men more generous to the adversary. From the beginning we took numerous prisoners – nearly twenty – and there was one moment when three of our men – Ramiro Valdés, José Suárez and Jesús Montané – managed to enter a barrack and hold nearly fifty soldiers prisoners for a short time. Those soldiers testified before the Court, and without exception they all acknowledged that we treated them with absolute respect, that we didn’t even subject them to one scoffing remark. In line with this, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the Prosecutor for one thing in the trial of my comrades: when he made his report he was fair enough to acknowledge as an incontestable fact that we maintained a high spirit of chivalry throughout the struggle.
Discipline among the soldiers was very poor. They finally defeated us because of their superior numbers – fifteen to one – and because of the protection afforded them by the defenses of the fortress. Our men were much better marksmen, as our enemies themselves conceded. There was a high degree of courage on both sides.
In analyzing the reasons for our tactical failure, apart from the regrettable error already mentioned, I believe we made a mistake by dividing the commando unit we had so carefully trained. Of our best trained men and boldest leaders, there were 27 in Bayamo, 21 at the Civilian Hospital and 10 at the Palace of Justice. If our forces had been distributed differently the outcome of the battle might have been different. The clash with the patrol (purely accidental, since the unit might have been at that point twenty seconds earlier or twenty seconds later) alerted the camp, and gave it time to mobilize. Otherwise it would have fallen into our hands without a shot fired, since we already controlled the guard post. On the other hand, except for the .22 caliber rifles, for which there were plenty of bullets, our side was very short of ammunition. Had we had hand grenades, the Army would not have been able to resist us for fifteen minutes.
When I became convinced that all efforts to take the barracks were now useless, I began to withdraw our men in groups of eight and ten. Our retreat was covered by six expert marksmen under the command of Pedro Miret and Fidel Labrador; heroically they held off the Army’s advance. Our losses in the battle had been insignificant; 95% of our casualties came from the Army’s inhumanity after the struggle. The group at the Civilian Hospital only had one casualty; the rest of that group was trapped when the troops blocked the only exit; but our youths did not lay down their arms until their very last bullet was gone. With them was Abel Santamaría, the most generous, beloved and intrepid of our young men, whose glorious resistance immortalizes him in Cuban history. We shall see the fate they met and how Batista sought to punish the heroism of our youth.
We planned to continue the struggle in the mountains in case the attack on the regiment failed. In Siboney I was able to gather a third of our forces; but many of these men were now discouraged. About twenty of them decided to surrender; later we shall see what became of them. The rest, 18 men, with what arms and ammunition were left, followed me into the mountains. The terrain was completely unknown to us. For a week we held the heights of the Gran Piedra range and the Army occupied the foothills. We could not come down; they didn’t risk coming up. It was not force of arms, but hunger and thirst that ultimately overcame our resistance. I had to divide the men into smaller groups. Some of them managed to slip through the Army lines; others were surrendered by Monsignor Pérez Serantes. Finally only two comrades remained with me – José Suárez and Oscar Alcalde. While the three of us were totally exhausted, a force led by Lieutenant Sarría surprised us in our sleep at dawn. This was Saturday, August 1st. By that time the slaughter of prisoners had ceased as a result of the people’s protest. This officer, a man of honor, saved us from being murdered on the spot with our hands tied behind us.
I need not deny here the stupid statements by Ugalde Carrillo and company, who tried to stain my name in an effort to mask their own cowardice, incompetence, and criminality. The facts are clear enough.
My purpose is not to bore the court with epic narratives. All that I have said is essential for a more precise understanding of what is yet to come.
Let me mention two important facts that facilitate an objective judgement of our attitude. First: we could have taken over the regiment simply by seizing all the high ranking officers in their homes. This possibility was rejected for the very humane reason that we wished to avoid scenes of tragedy and struggle in the presence of their families. Second: we decided not to take any radio station over until the Army camp was in our power. This attitude, unusually magnanimous and considerate, spared the citizens a great deal of bloodshed. With only ten men I could have seized a radio station and called the people to revolt. There is no questioning the people’s will to fight. I had a recording of Eduardo Chibás’ last message over the CMQ radio network, and patriotic poems and battle hymns capable of moving the least sensitive, especially with the sounds of live battle in their ears. But I did not want to use them although our situation was desperate.
The regime has emphatically repeated that our Movement did not have popular support. I have never heard an assertion so naive, and at the same time so full of bad faith. The regime seeks to show submission and cowardice on the part of the people. They all but claim that the people support the dictatorship; they do not know how offensive this is to the brave Orientales. Santiago thought our attack was only a local disturbance between two factions of soldiers; not until many hours later did they realize what had really happened. Who can doubt the valor, civic pride and limitless courage of the rebel and patriotic people of Santiago de Cuba? If Moncada had fallen into our hands, even the women of Santiago de Cuba would have risen in arms. Many were the rifles loaded for our fighters by the nurses at the Civilian Hospital. They fought alongside us. That is something we will never forget.
It was never our intention to engage the soldiers of the regiment in combat. We wanted to seize control of them and their weapons in a surprise attack, arouse the people and call the soldiers to abandon the odious flag of the tyranny and to embrace the banner of freedom; to defend the supreme interests of the nation and not the petty interests of a small clique; to turn their guns around and fire on the people’s enemies and not on the people, among whom are their own sons and fathers; to unite with the people as the brothers that they are instead of opposing the people as the enemies the government tries to make of them; to march behind the only beautiful ideal worthy of sacrificing one’s life – the greatness and happiness of one’s country. To those who doubt that many soldiers would have followed us, I ask: What Cuban does not cherish glory? What heart is not set aflame by the promise of freedom?
The Navy did not fight against us, and it would undoubtedly have come over to our side later on. It is well known that that branch of the Armed Forces is the least dominated by the Dictatorship and that there is a very intense civic conscience among its members. But, as to the rest of the national armed forces, would they have fought against a people in revolt? I declare that they would not! A soldier is made of flesh and blood; he thinks, observes, feels. He is susceptible to the opinions, beliefs, sympathies and antipathies of the people. If you ask his opinion, he may tell you he cannot express it; but that does not mean he has no opinion. He is affected by exactly the same problems that affect other citizens – subsistence, rent, the education of his children, their future, etc. Everything of this kind is an inevitable point of contact between him and the people and everything of this kind relates him to the present and future situation of the society in which he lives. It is foolish to imagine that the salary a soldier receives from the State – a modest enough salary at that – should resolve the vital problems imposed on him by his needs, duties and feelings as a member of his community.
This brief explanation has been necessary because it is basic to a consideration to which few people, until now, have paid any attention – soldiers have a deep respect for the feelings of the majority of the people! During the Machado regime, in the same proportion as popular antipathy increased, the loyalty of the Army visibly decreased. This was so true that a group of women almost succeeded in subverting Camp Columbia. But this is proven even more clearly by a recent development. While Grau San Martín’s regime was able to preserve its maximum popularity among the people, unscrupulous ex-officers and power-hungry civilians attempted innumerable conspiracies in the Army, although none of them found a following in the rank and file.
The March 10th coup took place at the moment when the civil government’s prestige had dwindled to its lowest ebb, a circumstance of which Batista and his clique took advantage. Why did they not strike their blow after the first of June? Simply because, had they waited for the majority of the nation to express its will at the polls, the troops would not have responded to the conspiracy!
Consequently, a second assertion can be made: the Army has never revolted against a regime with a popular majority behind it. These are historic truths, and if Batista insists on remaining in power at all costs against the will of the majority of Cubans, his end will be more tragic than that of Gerardo Machado.
I have a right to express an opinion about the Armed Forces because I defended them when everyone else was silent. And I did this neither as a conspirator, nor from any kind of personal interest – for we then enjoyed full constitutional prerogatives. I was prompted only by humane instincts and civic duty. In those days, the newspaper Alerta was one of the most widely read because of its position on national political matters. In its pages I campaigned against the forced labor to which the soldiers were subjected on the private estates of high civil personages and military officers. On March 3rd, 1952 I supplied the Courts with data, photographs, films and other proof denouncing this state of affairs. I also pointed out in those articles that it was elementary decency to increase army salaries. I should like to know who else raised his voice on that occasion to protest against all this injustice done to the soldiers. Certainly not Batista and company, living well-protected on their luxurious estates, surrounded by all kinds of security measures, while I ran a thousand risks with neither bodyguards nor arms.
Just as I defended the soldiers then, now – when all others are once more silent – I tell them that they allowed themselves to be miserably deceived; and to the deception and shame of March 10th they have added the disgrace, the thousand times greater disgrace, of the fearful and unjustifiable crimes of Santiago de Cuba. From that time since, the uniform of the Army is splattered with blood. And as last year I told the people and cried out before the Courts that soldiers were working as slaves on private estates, today I make the bitter charge that there are soldiers stained from head to toe with the blood of the Cuban youths they have tortured and slain. And I say as well that if the Army serves the Republic, defends the nation, respects the people and protects the citizenry then it is only fair that the soldier should earn at least a hundred pesos a month. But if the soldiers slay and oppress the people, betray the nation and defend only the interests of one small group, then the Army deserves not a cent of the Republic’s money and Camp Columbia should be converted into a school with ten thousand orphans living there instead of soldiers.
I want to be just above all else, so I can’t blame all the soldiers for the shameful crimes that stain a few evil and treacherous Army men. But every honorable and upstanding soldier who loves his career and his uniform is dutybound to demand and to fight for the cleansing of this guilt, to avenge this betrayal and to see the guilty punished. Otherwise the soldier’s uniform will forever be a mark of infamy instead of a source of pride.
Of course the March 10th regime had no choice but to remove the soldiers from the private estates. But it did so only to put them to work as doormen, chauffeurs, servants and bodyguards for the whole rabble of petty politicians who make up the party of the Dictatorship. Every fourth or fifth rank official considers himself entitled to the services of a soldier to drive his car and to watch over him as if he were constantly afraid of receiving the kick in the pants he so justly deserves.
If they had been at all interested in promoting real reforms, why did the regime not confiscate the estates and the millions of men like Genovevo Pérez Dámera, who acquired their fortunes by exploiting soldiers, driving them like slaves and misappropriating the funds of the Armed Forces? But no: Genovevo Pérez and others like him no doubt still have soldiers protecting them on their estates because the March 10th generals, deep in their hearts, aspire to the same future and can’t allow that kind of precedent to be set.
The 10th of March was a miserable deception, yes … After Batista and his band of corrupt and disreputable politicians had failed in their electoral plan, they took advantage of the Army’s discontent and used it to climb to power on the backs of the soldiers. And I know there are many Army men who are disgusted because they have been disappointed. At first their pay was raised, but later, through deductions and reductions of every kind, it was lowered again. Many of the old elements, who had drifted away from the Armed Forces, returned to the ranks and blocked the way of young, capable and valuable men who might otherwise have advanced. Good soldiers have been neglected while the most scandalous nepotism prevails. Many decent military men are now asking themselves what need that Armed Forces had to assume the tremendous historical responsibility of destroying our Constitution merely to put a group of immoral men in power, men of bad reputation, corrupt, politically degenerate beyond redemption, who could never again have occupied a political post had it not been at bayonet-point; and they weren’t even the ones with the bayonets in their hands …
On the other hand, the soldiers endure a worse tyranny than the civilians. They are under constant surveillance and not one of them enjoys the slightest security in his job. Any unjustified suspicion, any gossip, any intrigue, or denunciation, is sufficient to bring transfer, dishonorable discharge or imprisonment. Did not Tabernilla, in a memorandum, forbid them to talk with anyone opposed to the government, that is to say, with ninety-nine percent of the people? … What a lack of confidence! … Not even the vestal virgins of Rome had to abide by such a rule! As for the much publicized little houses for enlisted men, there aren’t 300 on the whole Island; yet with what has been spent on tanks, guns and other weaponry every soldier might have a place to live. Batista isn’t concerned with taking care of the Army, but that the Army take care of him! He increases the Army’s power of oppression and killing but does not improve living conditions for the soldiers. Triple guard duty, constant confinement to barracks, continuous anxiety, the enmity of the people, uncertainty about the future – this is what has been given to the soldier. In other words: ‘Die for the regime, soldier, give it your sweat and blood. We shall dedicate a speech to you and award you a posthumous promotion (when it no longer matters) and afterwards … we shall go on living luxuriously, making ourselves rich. Kill, abuse, oppress the people. When the people get tired and all this comes to an end, you can pay for our crimes while we go abroad and live like kings. And if one day we return, don’t you or your children knock on the doors of our mansions, for we shall be millionaires and millionaires do not mingle with the poor. Kill, soldier, oppress the people, die for the regime, give your sweat and blood …’
But if blind to this sad truth, a minority of soldiers had decided to fight the people, the people who were going to liberate them from tyranny, victory still would have gone to the people. The Honorable Prosecutor was very interested in knowing our chances for success. These chances were based on considerations of technical, military and social order. They have tried to establish the myth that modern arms render the people helpless in overthrowing tyrants. Military parades and the pompous display of machines of war are used to perpetuate this myth and to create a complex of absolute impotence in the people. But no weaponry, no violence can vanquish the people once they are determined to win back their rights. Both past and present are full of examples. The most recent is the revolt in Bolivia, where miners with dynamite sticks smashed and defeated regular army regiments.
Fortunately, we Cubans need not look for examples abroad. No example is as inspiring as that of our own land. During the war of 1895 there were nearly half a million armed Spanish soldiers in Cuba, many more than the Dictator counts upon today to hold back a population five times greater. The arms of the Spaniards were, incomparably, both more up to date and more powerful than those of our mambises. Often the Spaniards were equipped with field artillery and the infantry used breechloaders similar to those still in use by the infantry of today. The Cubans were usually armed with no more than their machetes, for their cartridge belts were almost always empty. There is an unforgettable passage in the history of our War of Independence, narrated by General Miró Argenter, Chief of Antonio Maceo’s General Staff. I managed to bring it copied on this scrap of paper so I wouldn’t have to depend upon my memory:
‘Untrained men under the command of Pedro Delgado, most of them equipped only with machetes, were virtually annihilated as they threw themselves on the solid rank of Spaniards. It is not an exaggeration to assert that of every fifty men, 25 were killed. Some even attacked the Spaniards with their bare fists, without machetes, without even knives. Searching through the reeds by the Hondo River, we found fifteen more dead from the Cuban party, and it was not immediately clear what group they belonged to, They did not appear to have shouldered arms, their clothes were intact and only tin drinking cups hung from their waists; a few steps further on lay the dead horse, all its equipment in order. We reconstructed the climax of the tragedy. These men, following their daring chief, Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Delgado, had earned heroes’ laurels: they had thrown themselves against bayonets with bare hands, the clash of metal which was heard around them was the sound of their drinking cups banging against the saddlehorn. Maceo was deeply moved. This man so used to seeing death in all its forms murmured this praise: “I had never seen anything like this, untrained and unarmed men attacking the Spaniards with only drinking cups for weapons. And I called it impedimenta!”‘
This is how peoples fight when they want to win their freedom; they throw stones at airplanes and overturn tanks!
As soon as Santiago de Cuba was in our hands we would immediately have readied the people of Oriente for war. Bayamo was attacked precisely to locate our advance forces along the Cauto River. Never forget that this province, which has a million and a half inhabitants today, is the most rebellious and patriotic in Cuba. It was this province that sparked the fight for independence for thirty years and paid the highest price in blood, sacrifice and heroism. In Oriente you can still breathe the air of that glorious epic. At dawn, when the cocks crow as if they were bugles calling soldiers to reveille, and when the sun rises radiant over the rugged mountains, it seems that once again we will live the days of Yara or Baire!
I stated that the second consideration on which we based our chances for success was one of social order. Why were we sure of the people’s support? When we speak of the people we are not talking about those who live in comfort, the conservative elements of the nation, who welcome any repressive regime, any dictatorship, any despotism, prostrating themselves before the masters of the moment until they grind their foreheads into the ground. When we speak of struggle and we mention the people we mean the vast unredeemed masses, those to whom everyone makes promises and who are deceived by all; we mean the people who yearn for a better, more dignified and more just nation; who are moved by ancestral aspirations to justice, for they have suffered injustice and mockery generation after generation; those who long for great and wise changes in all aspects of their life; people who, to attain those changes, are ready to give even the very last breath they have when they believe in something or in someone, especially when they believe in themselves. The first condition of sincerity and good faith in any endeavor is to do precisely what nobody else ever does, that is, to speak with absolute clarity, without fear. The demagogues and professional politicians who manage to perform the miracle of being right about everything and of pleasing everyone are, necessarily, deceiving everyone about everything. The revolutionaries must proclaim their ideas courageously, define their principles and express their intentions so that no one is deceived, neither friend nor foe.
In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the six hundred thousand Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the five hundred thousand farm laborers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the four hundred thousand industrial workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the one hundred thousand small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot love it, improve it, beautify it nor plant a cedar or an orange tree on it because they never know when a sheriff will come with the rural guard to evict them from it; the thirty thousand teachers and professors who are so devoted, dedicated and so necessary to the better destiny of future generations and who are so badly treated and paid; the twenty thousand small business men weighed down by debts, ruined by the crisis and harangued by a plague of grafting and venal officials; the ten thousand young professional people: doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, dentists, pharmacists, newspapermen, painters, sculptors, etc., who finish school with their degrees anxious to work and full of hope, only to find themselves at a dead end, all doors closed to them, and where no ears hear their clamor or supplication. These are the people, the ones who know misfortune and, therefore, are capable of fighting with limitless courage! To these people whose desperate roads through life have been paved with the bricks of betrayal and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We will give you …’ but rather: ‘Here it is, now fight for it with everything you have, so that liberty and happiness may be yours!’
The five revolutionary laws that would have been proclaimed immediately after the capture of the Moncada Barracks and would have been broadcast to the nation by radio must be included in the indictment. It is possible that Colonel Chaviano may deliberately have destroyed these documents, but even if he has I remember them.
The first revolutionary law would have returned power to the people and proclaimed the 1940 Constitution the Supreme Law of the State until such time as the people should decide to modify or change it. And in order to effect its implementation and punish those who violated it – there being no electoral organization to carry this out – the revolutionary movement, as the circumstantial incarnation of this sovereignty, the only source of legitimate power, would have assumed all the faculties inherent therein, except that of modifying the Constitution itself: in other words, it would have assumed the legislative, executive and judicial powers.
This attitude could not be clearer nor more free of vacillation and sterile charlatanry. A government acclaimed by the mass of rebel people would be vested with every power, everything necessary in order to proceed with the effective implementation of popular will and real justice. From that moment, the Judicial Power – which since March 10th had placed itself against and outside the Constitution – would cease to exist and we would proceed to its immediate and total reform before it would once again assume the power granted it by the Supreme Law of the Republic. Without these previous measures, a return to legality by putting its custody back into the hands that have crippled the system so dishonorably would constitute a fraud, a deceit, one more betrayal.
The second revolutionary law would give non-mortgageable and non-transferable ownership of the land to all tenant and subtenant farmers, lessees, share croppers and squatters who hold parcels of five caballerías of land or less, and the State would indemnify the former owners on the basis of the rental which they would have received for these parcels over a period of ten years.
The third revolutionary law would have granted workers and employees the right to share 30% of the profits of all the large industrial, mercantile and mining enterprises, including the sugar mills. The strictly agricultural enterprises would be exempt in consideration of other agrarian laws which would be put into effect.
The fourth revolutionary law would have granted all sugar planters the right to share 55% of sugar production and a minimum quota of forty thousand arrobas for all small tenant farmers who have been established for three years or more.
The fifth revolutionary law would have ordered the confiscation of all holdings and ill-gotten gains of those who had committed frauds during previous regimes, as well as the holdings and ill-gotten gains of all their legates and heirs. To implement this, special courts with full powers would gain access to all records of all corporations registered or operating in this country, in order to investigate concealed funds of illegal origin, and to request that foreign governments extradite persons and attach holdings rightfully belonging to the Cuban people. Half of the property recovered would be used to subsidize retirement funds for workers and the other half would be used for hospitals, asylums and charitable organizations.
Furthermore, it was declared that the Cuban policy in the Americas would be one of close solidarity with the democratic peoples of this continent, and that all those politically persecuted by bloody tyrannies oppressing our sister nations would find generous asylum, brotherhood and bread in the land of Martí; not the persecution, hunger and treason they find today. Cuba should be the bulwark of liberty and not a shameful link in the chain of despotism.
These laws would have been proclaimed immediately. As soon as the upheaval ended and prior to a detailed and far reaching study, they would have been followed by another series of laws and fundamental measures, such as the Agrarian Reform, the Integral Educational Reform, nationalization of the electric power trust and the telephone trust, refund to the people of the illegal and repressive rates these companies have charged, and payment to the treasury of all taxes brazenly evaded in the past.
All these laws and others would be based on the exact compliance of two essential articles of our Constitution: one of them orders the outlawing of large estates, indicating the maximum area of land any one person or entity may own for each type of agricultural enterprise, by adopting measures which would tend to revert the land to the Cubans. The other categorically orders the State to use all means at its disposal to provide employment to all those who lack it and to ensure a decent livelihood to each manual or intellectual laborer. None of these laws can be called unconstitutional. The first popularly elected government would have to respect them, not only because of moral obligations to the nation, but because when people achieve something they have yearned for throughout generations, no force in the world is capable of taking it away again.
The problem of the land, the problem of industrialization, the problem of housing, the problem of unemployment, the problem of education and the problem of the people’s health: these are the six problems we would take immediate steps to solve, along with restoration of civil liberties and political democracy.
This exposition may seem cold and theoretical if one does not know the shocking and tragic conditions of the country with regard to these six problems, along with the most humiliating political oppression.
Eighty-five per cent of the small farmers in Cuba pay rent and live under constant threat of being evicted from the land they till. More than half of our most productive land is in the hands of foreigners. In Oriente, the largest province, the lands of the United Fruit Company and the West Indian Company link the northern and southern coasts. There are two hundred thousand peasant families who do not have a single acre of land to till to provide food for their starving children. On the other hand, nearly three hundred thousand caballerías of cultivable land owned by powerful interests remain uncultivated. If Cuba is above all an agricultural State, if its population is largely rural, if the city depends on these rural areas, if the people from our countryside won our war of independence, if our nation’s greatness and prosperity depend on a healthy and vigorous rural population that loves the land and knows how to work it, if this population depends on a State that protects and guides it, then how can the present state of affairs be allowed to continue?
Except for a few food, lumber and textile industries, Cuba continues to be primarily a producer of raw materials. We export sugar to import candy, we export hides to import shoes, we export iron to import plows … Everyone agrees with the urgent need to industrialize the nation, that we need steel industries, paper and chemical industries, that we must improve our cattle and grain production, the technology and processing in our food industry in order to defend ourselves against the ruinous competition from Europe in cheese products, condensed milk, liquors and edible oils, and the United States in canned goods; that we need cargo ships; that tourism should be an enormous source of revenue. But the capitalists insist that the workers remain under the yoke. The State sits back with its arms crossed and industrialization can wait forever.
Just as serious or even worse is the housing problem. There are two hundred thousand huts and hovels in Cuba; four hundred thousand families in the countryside and in the cities live cramped in huts and tenements without even the minimum sanitary requirements; two million two hundred thousand of our urban population pay rents which absorb between one fifth and one third of their incomes; and two million eight hundred thousand of our rural and suburban population lack electricity. We have the same situation here: if the State proposes the lowering of rents, landlords threaten to freeze all construction; if the State does not interfere, construction goes on so long as landlords get high rents; otherwise they would not lay a single brick even though the rest of the population had to live totally exposed to the elements. The utilities monopoly is no better; they extend lines as far as it is profitable and beyond that point they don’t care if people have to live in darkness for the rest of their lives. The State sits back with its arms crossed and the people have neither homes nor electricity.
Our educational system is perfectly compatible with everything I’ve just mentioned. Where the peasant doesn’t own the land, what need is there for agricultural schools? Where there is no industry, what need is there for technical or vocational schools? Everything follows the same absurd logic; if we don’t have one thing we can’t have the other. In any small European country there are more than 200 technological and vocational schools; in Cuba only six such schools exist, and their graduates have no jobs for their skills. The little rural schoolhouses are attended by a mere half of the school age children – barefooted, half-naked and undernourished – and frequently the teacher must buy necessary school materials from his own salary. Is this the way to make a nation great?
Only death can liberate one from so much misery. In this respect, however, the State is most helpful – in providing early death for the people. Ninety per cent of the children in the countryside are consumed by parasites which filter through their bare feet from the ground they walk on. Society is moved to compassion when it hears of the kidnapping or murder of one child, but it is indifferent to the mass murder of so many thousands of children who die every year from lack of facilities, agonizing with pain. Their innocent eyes, death already shining in them, seem to look into some vague infinity as if entreating forgiveness for human selfishness, as if asking God to stay His wrath. And when the head of a family works only four months a year, with what can he purchase clothing and medicine for his children? They will grow up with rickets, with not a single good tooth in their mouths by the time they reach thirty; they will have heard ten million speeches and will finally die of misery and deception. Public hospitals, which are always full, accept only patients recommended by some powerful politician who, in return, demands the votes of the unfortunate one and his family so that Cuba may continue forever in the same or worse condition.
With this background, is it not understandable that from May to December over a million persons are jobless and that Cuba, with a population of five and a half million, has a greater number of unemployed than France or Italy with a population of forty million each?
When you try a defendant for robbery, Honorable Judges, do you ask him how long he has been unemployed? Do you ask him how many children he has, which days of the week he ate and which he didn’t, do you investigate his social context at all? You just send him to jail without further thought. But those who burn warehouses and stores to collect insurance do not go to jail, even though a few human beings may have gone up in flames. The insured have money to hire lawyers and bribe judges. You imprison the poor wretch who steals because he is hungry; but none of the hundreds who steal millions from the Government has ever spent a night in jail. You dine with them at the end of the year in some elegant club and they enjoy your respect. In Cuba, when a government official becomes a millionaire overnight and enters the fraternity of the rich, he could very well be greeted with the words of that opulent character out of Balzac – Taillefer – who in his toast to the young heir to an enormous fortune, said: ‘Gentlemen, let us drink to the power of gold! Mr. Valentine, a millionaire six times over, has just ascended the throne. He is king, can do everything, is above everyone, as all the rich are. Henceforth, equality before the law, established by the Constitution, will be a myth for him; for he will not be subject to laws: the laws will be subject to him. There are no courts nor are there sentences for millionaires.’
The nation’s future, the solutions to its problems, cannot continue to depend on the selfish interests of a dozen big businessmen nor on the cold calculations of profits that ten or twelve magnates draw up in their air-conditioned offices. The country cannot continue begging on its knees for miracles from a few golden calves, like the Biblical one destroyed by the prophet’s fury. Golden calves cannot perform miracles of any kind. The problems of the Republic can be solved only if we dedicate ourselves to fight for it with the same energy, honesty and patriotism our liberators had when they founded it. Statesmen like Carlos Saladrigas, whose statesmanship consists of preserving the statu quo and mouthing phrases like ‘absolute freedom of enterprise,’ ‘guarantees to investment capital’ and ‘law of supply and demand,’ will not solve these problems. Those ministers can chat away in a Fifth Avenue mansion until not even the dust of the bones of those whose problems require immediate solution remains. In this present-day world, social problems are not solved by spontaneous generation.
A revolutionary government backed by the people and with the respect of the nation, after cleansing the different institutions of all venal and corrupt officials, would proceed immediately to the country’s industrialization, mobilizing all inactive capital, currently estimated at about 1.5 billion pesos, through the National Bank and the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank, and submitting this mammoth task to experts and men of absolute competence totally removed from all political machines for study, direction, planning and realization.
After settling the one hundred thousand small farmers as owners on the land which they previously rented, a revolutionary government would immediately proceed to settle the land problem. First, as set forth in the Constitution, it would establish the maximum amount of land to be held by each type of agricultural enterprise and would acquire the excess acreage by expropriation, recovery of swampland, planting of large nurseries, and reserving of zones for reforestation. Secondly, it would distribute the remaining land among peasant families with priority given to the larger ones, and would promote agricultural cooperatives for communal use of expensive equipment, freezing plants and unified professional technical management of farming and cattle raising. Finally, it would provide resources, equipment, protection and useful guidance to the peasants.
A revolutionary government would solve the housing problem by cutting all rents in half, by providing tax exemptions on homes inhabited by the owners; by tripling taxes on rented homes; by tearing down hovels and replacing them with modern apartment buildings; and by financing housing all over the island on a scale heretofore unheard of, with the criterion that, just as each rural family should possess its own tract of land, each city family should own its own house or apartment. There is plenty of building material and more than enough manpower to make a decent home for every Cuban. But if we continue to wait for the golden calf, a thousand years will have gone by and the problem will remain the same. On the other hand, today possibilities of taking electricity to the most isolated areas on the island are greater than ever. The use of nuclear energy in this field is now a reality and will greatly reduce the cost of producing electricity.
With these three projects and reforms, the problem of unemployment would automatically disappear and the task of improving public health and fighting against disease would become much less difficult.
Finally, a revolutionary government would undertake the integral reform of the educational system, bringing it into line with the projects just mentioned with the idea of educating those generations which will have the privilege of living in a happier land. Do not forget the words of the Apostle: ‘A grave mistake is being made in Latin America: in countries that live almost completely from the produce of the land, men are being educated exclusively for urban life and are not trained for farm life.’ ‘The happiest country is the one which has best educated its sons, both in the instruction of thought and the direction of their feelings.’ ‘An educated country will always be strong and free.’
The soul of education, however, is the teacher, and in Cuba the teaching profession is miserably underpaid. Despite this, no one is more dedicated than the Cuban teacher. Who among us has not learned his three Rs in the little public schoolhouse? It is time we stopped paying pittances to these young men and women who are entrusted with the sacred task of teaching our youth. No teacher should earn less than 200 pesos, no secondary teacher should make less than 350 pesos, if they are to devote themselves exclusively to their high calling without suffering want. What is more, all rural teachers should have free use of the various systems of transportation; and, at least once every five years, all teachers should enjoy a sabbatical leave of six months with pay so they may attend special refresher courses at home or abroad to keep abreast of the latest developments in their field. In this way, the curriculum and the teaching system can be easily improved. Where will the money be found for all this? When there is an end to the embezzlement of government funds, when public officials stop taking graft from the large companies that owe taxes to the State, when the enormous resources of the country are brought into full use, when we no longer buy tanks, bombers and guns for this country (which has no frontiers to defend and where these instruments of war, now being purchased, are used against the people), when there is more interest in educating the people than in killing them there will be more than enough money.
Cuba could easily provide for a population three times as great as it has now, so there is no excuse for the abject poverty of a single one of its present inhabitants. The markets should be overflowing with produce, pantries should be full, all hands should be working. This is not an inconceivable thought. What is inconceivable is that anyone should go to bed hungry while there is a single inch of unproductive land; that children should die for lack of medical attention; what is inconceivable is that 30% of our farm people cannot write their names and that 99% of them know nothing of Cuba’s history. What is inconceivable is that the majority of our rural people are now living in worse circumstances than the Indians Columbus discovered in the fairest land that human eyes had ever seen.
To those who would call me a dreamer, I quote the words of Martí: ‘A true man does not seek the path where advantage lies, but rather the path where duty lies, and this is the only practical man, whose dream of today will be the law of tomorrow, because he who has looked back on the essential course of history and has seen flaming and bleeding peoples seethe in the cauldron of the ages knows that, without a single exception, the future lies on the side of duty.’
Only when we understand that such a high ideal inspired them can we conceive of the heroism of the young men who fell in Santiago. The meager material means at our disposal was all that prevented sure success. When the soldiers were told that Prío had given us a million pesos, they were told this in the regime’s attempt to distort the most important fact: the fact that our Movement had no link with past politicians: that this Movement is a new Cuban generation with its own ideas, rising up against tyranny; that this Movement is made up of young people who were barely seven years old when Batista perpetrated the first of his crimes in 1934. The lie about the million pesos could not have been more absurd. If, with less than 20,000 pesos, we armed 165 men and attacked a regiment and a squadron, then with a million pesos we could have armed 8,000 men, to attack 50 regiments and 50 squadrons – and Ugalde Carrillo still would not have found out until Sunday, July 26th, at 5:15 a.m. I assure you that for every man who fought, twenty well trained men were unable to fight for lack of weapons. When these young men marched along the streets of Havana in the student demonstration of the Martí Centennial, they solidly packed six blocks. If even 200 more men had been able to fight, or we had possessed 20 more hand grenades, perhaps this Honorable Court would have been spared all this inconvenience.
The politicians spend millions buying off consciences, whereas a handful of Cubans who wanted to save their country’s honor had to face death barehanded for lack of funds. This shows how the country, to this very day, has been governed not by generous and dedicated men, but by political racketeers, the scum of our public life.
With the greatest pride I tell you that in accordance with our principles we have never asked a politician, past or present, for a penny. Our means were assembled with incomparable sacrifice. For example, Elpidio Sosa, who sold his job and came to me one day with 300 pesos ‘for the cause;’ Fernando Chenard, who sold the photographic equipment with which he earned his living; Pedro Marrero, who contributed several months’ salary and who had to be stopped from actually selling the very furniture in his house; Oscar Alcalde, who sold his pharmaceutical laboratory; Jesús Montané, who gave his five years’ savings, and so on with many others, each giving the little he had.
One must have great faith in one’s country to do such a thing. The memory of these acts of idealism bring me straight to the most bitter chapter of this defense – the price the tyranny made them pay for wanting to free Cuba from oppression and injustice.
Beloved corpses, you that once
Were the hope of my Homeland,
Cast upon my forehead
The dust of your decaying bones!
Touch my heart with your cold hands!
Groan at my ears!
Each of my moans will
Turn into the tears of one more tyrant!
Gather around me! Roam about,
That my soul may receive your spirits
And give me the horror of the tombs
For tears are not enough
When one lives in infamous bondage!
Multiply the crimes of November 27th, 1871 by ten and you will have the monstrous and repulsive crimes of July 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th, 1953, in the province of Oriente. These are still fresh in our memory, but someday when years have passed, when the skies of the nation have cleared once more, when tempers have calmed and fear no longer torments our spirits, then we will begin to see the magnitude of this massacre in all its shocking dimension, and future generations will be struck with horror when they look back on these acts of barbarity unprecedented in our history. But I do not want to become enraged. I need clearness of mind and peace in my heavy heart in order to relate the facts as simply as possible, in no sense dramatizing them, but just as they took place. As a Cuban I am ashamed that heartless men should have perpetrated such unthinkable crimes, dishonoring our nation before the rest of the world.
The tyrant Batista was never a man of scruples. He has never hesitated to tell his people the most outrageous lies. To justify his treacherous coup of March 10th, he concocted stories about a fictitious uprising in the Army, supposedly scheduled to take place in April, and which he ‘wanted to avert so that the Republic might not be drenched in blood.’ A ridiculous little tale nobody ever believed! And when he himself did want to drench the Republic in blood, when he wanted to smother in terror and torture the just rebellion of Cuba’s youth, who were not willing to be his slaves, then he contrived still more fantastic lies. How little respect one must have for a people when one tries to deceive them so miserably! On the very day of my arrest I publicly assumed the responsibility for our armed movement of July 26th. If there had been an iota of truth in even one of the many statements the Dictator made against our fighters in his speech of July 27th, it would have been enough to undermine the moral impact of my case. Why, then, was I not brought to trial? Why were medical certificates forged? Why did they violate all procedural laws and ignore so scandalously the rulings of the Court? Why were so many things done, things never before seen in a Court of Law, in order to prevent my appearance at all costs? In contrast, I could not begin to tell you all I went through in order to appear. I asked the Court to bring me to trial in accordance with all established principles, and I denounced the underhanded schemes that were afoot to prevent it. I wanted to argue with them face to face. But they did not wish to face me. Who was afraid of the truth, and who was not?
The statements made by the Dictator at Camp Columbia might be considered amusing if they were not so drenched in blood. He claimed we were a group of hirelings and that there were many foreigners among us. He said that the central part of our plan was an attempt to kill him – him, always him. As if the men who attacked the Moncada Barracks could not have killed him and twenty like him if they had approved of such methods. He stated that our attack had been planned by ex-President Prío, and that it had been financed with Prío’s money. It has been irrefutably proven that no link whatsoever existed between our Movement and the last regime. He claimed that we had machine guns and hand-grenades. Yet the military technicians have stated right here in this Court that we only had one machine gun and not a single hand-grenade. He said that we had beheaded the sentries. Yet death certificates and medical reports of all the Army’s casualties show not one death caused by the blade. But above all and most important, he said that we stabbed patients at the Military Hospital. Yet the doctors from that hospital – Army doctors – have testified that we never even occupied the building, that no patient was either wounded or killed by us, and that the hospital lost only one employee, a janitor, who imprudently stuck his head out of an open window.
Whenever a Chief of State, or anyone pretending to be one, makes declarations to the nation, he speaks not just to hear the sound of his own voice. He always has some specific purpose and expects some specific reaction, or has a given intention. Since our military defeat had already taken place, insofar as we no longer represented any actual threat to the dictatorship, why did they slander us like that? If it is still not clear that this was a blood-drenched speech, that it was simply an attempt to justify the crimes that they had been perpetrating since the night before and that they were going to continue to perpetrate, then, let figures speak for me: On July 27th, in his speech from the military headquarters, Batista said that the assailants suffered 32 dead. By the end of the week the number of dead had risen to more than 80 men. In what battles, where, in what clashes, did these young men die? Before Batista spoke, more than 25 prisoners had been murdered. After Batista spoke fifty more were massacred.
What a great sense of honor those modest Army technicians and professionals had, who did not distort the facts before the Court, but gave their reports adhering to the strictest truth! These surely are soldiers who honor their uniform; these, surely, are men! Neither a real soldier nor a true man can degrade his code of honor with lies and crime. I know that many of the soldiers are indignant at the barbaric assassinations perpetrated. I know that they feel repugnance and shame at the smell of homicidal blood that impregnates every stone of Moncada Barracks.
Now that he has been contradicted by men of honor within his own Army, I defy the dictator to repeat his vile slander against us. I defy him to try to justify before the Cuban people his July 27th speech. Let him not remain silent. Let him speak. Let him say who the assassins are, who the ruthless, the inhumane. Let him tell us if the medals of honor, which he went to pin on the breasts of his heroes of that massacre, were rewards for the hideous crimes they had committed. Let him, from this very moment, assume his responsibility before history. Let him not pretend, at a later date, that the soldiers were acting without direct orders from him! Let him offer the nation an explanation for those 70 murders. The bloodshed was great. The nation needs an explanation. The nation seeks it. The nation demands it.
It is common knowledge that in 1933, at the end of the battle at the National Hotel, some officers were murdered after they surrendered. Bohemia Magazine protested energetically. It is also known that after the surrender of Fort Atarés the besiegers’ machine guns cut down a row of prisoners. And that one soldier, after asking who Blas Hernández was, blasted him with a bullet directly in the face, and for this cowardly act was promoted to the rank of officer. It is well-known in Cuban history that assassination of prisoners was fatally linked with Batista’s name. How naive we were not to foresee this! However, unjustifiable as those killings of 1933 were, they took place in a matter of minutes, in no more time than it took for a round of machine gun fire. What is more, they took place while tempers were still on edge.
This was not the case in Santiago de Cuba. Here all forms of ferocious outrages and cruelty were deliberately overdone. Our men were killed not in the course of a minute, an hour or a day. Throughout an entire week the blows and tortures continued, men were thrown from rooftops and shot. All methods of extermination were incessantly practiced by well-skilled artisans of crime. Moncada Barracks were turned into a workshop of torture and death. Some shameful individuals turned their uniforms into butcher’s aprons. The walls were splattered with blood. The bullets imbedded in the walls were encrusted with singed bits of skin, brains and human hair, the grisly reminders of rifle shots fired full in the face. The grass around the barracks was dark and sticky with human blood. The criminal hands that are guiding the destiny of Cuba had written for the prisoners at the entrance to that den of death the very inscription of Hell: ‘Forsake all hope.’
They did not even attempt to cover appearances. They did not bother in the least to conceal what they were doing. They thought they had deceived the people with their lies and they ended up deceiving themselves. They felt themselves lords and masters of the universe, with power over life and death. So the fear they had experienced upon our attack at daybreak was dissipated in a feast of corpses, in a drunken orgy of blood.
Chronicles of our history, down through four and a half centuries, tell us of many acts of cruelty: the slaughter of defenseless Indians by the Spaniards; the plundering and atrocities of pirates along the coast; the barbarities of the Spanish soldiers during our War of Independence; the shooting of prisoners of the Cuban Army by the forces of Weyler; the horrors of the Machado regime, and so on through the bloody crimes of March, 1935. But never has such a sad and bloody page been written in numbers of victims and in the viciousness of the victimizers, as in Santiago de Cuba. Only one man in all these centuries has stained with blood two separate periods of our history and has dug his claws into the flesh of two generations of Cubans. To release this river of blood, he waited for the Centennial of the Apostle, just after the fiftieth anniversary of the Republic, whose people fought for freedom, human rights and happiness at the cost of so many lives. Even greater is his crime and even more condemnable because the man who perpetrated it had already, for eleven long years, lorded over his people – this people who, by such deep-rooted sentiment and tradition, loves freedom and repudiates evil. This man has furthermore never been sincere, loyal, honest or chivalrous for a single minute of his public life.
He was not content with the treachery of January, 1934, the crimes of March, 1935 and the forty million dollar fortune that crowned his first regime. He had to add the treason of March, 1952, the crimes of July, 1953, and all the millions that only time will reveal. Dante divided his Inferno into nine circles. He put criminals in the seventh, thieves in the eighth and traitors in the ninth. Difficult dilemma the devils will be faced with, when they try to find an adequate spot for this man’s soul – if this man has a soul. The man who instigated the atrocious acts in Santiago de Cuba doesn’t even have a heart.
I know many details of the way in which these crimes were carried out, from the lips of some of the soldiers who, filled with shame, told me of the scenes they had witnessed.
When the fighting was over, the soldiers descended like savage beasts on Santiago de Cuba and they took the first fury of their frustrations out against the defenseless population. In the middle of a street, and far from the site of the fighting, they shot through the chest an innocent child who was playing by his doorstep. When the father approached to pick him up, they shot him through his head. Without a word they shot ‘Niño’ Cala, who was on his way home with a loaf of bread in his hands. It would be an endless task to relate all the crimes and outrages perpetrated against the civilian population. And if the Army dealt thus with those who had had no part at all in the action, you can imagine the terrible fate of the prisoners who had taken part or who were believed to have taken part. Just as, in this trial, they accused many people not at all involved in our attack, they also killed many prisoners who had no involvement whatsoever. The latter are not included in the statistics of victims released by the regime; those statistics refer exclusively to our men. Some day the total number of victims will be known.
The first prisoner killed has our doctor, Mario Muñoz, who bore no arms, wore no uniform, and was dressed in the white smock of a physician. He was a generous and competent man who would have given the same devoted care to the wounded adversary as to a friend. On the road from the Civilian Hospital to the barracks they shot him in the back and left him lying there, face down in a pool of blood. But the mass murder of prisoners did not begin until after three o’clock in the afternoon. Until this hour they awaited orders. Then General Martín Díaz Tamayo arrived from Havana and brought specific instructions from a meeting he had attended with Batista, along with the head of the Army, the head of the Military Intelligence, and others. He said: ‘It is humiliating and dishonorable for the Army to have lost three times as many men in combat as the insurgents did. Ten prisoners must be killed for each dead soldier.’ This was the order!
In every society there are men of base instincts. The sadists, brutes, conveyors of all the ancestral atavisms go about in the guise of human beings, but they are monsters, only more or less restrained by discipline and social habit. If they are offered a drink from a river of blood, they will not be satisfied until they drink the river dry. All these men needed was the order. At their hands the best and noblest Cubans perished: the most valiant, the most honest, the most idealistic. The tyrant called them mercenaries. There they were dying as heroes at the hands of men who collect a salary from the Republic and who, with the arms the Republic gave them to defend her, serve the interests of a clique and murder her best citizens.
Throughout their torturing of our comrades, the Army offered them the chance to save their lives by betraying their ideology and falsely declaring that Prío had given them money. When they indignantly rejected that proposition, the Army continued with its horrible tortures. They crushed their testicles and they tore out their eyes. But no one yielded. No complaint was heard nor a favor asked. Even when they had been deprived of their vital organs, our men were still a thousand times more men than all their tormentors together. Photographs, which do not lie, show the bodies torn to pieces, Other methods were used. Frustrated by the valor of the men, they tried to break the spirit of our women. With a bleeding eye in their hands, a sergeant and several other men went to the cell where our comrades Melba Hernández and Haydée Santamaría were held. Addressing the latter, and showing her the eye, they said: ‘This eye belonged to your brother. If you will not tell us what he refused to say, we will tear out the other.’ She, who loved her valiant brother above all things, replied full of dignity: ‘If you tore out an eye and he did not speak, much less will I.’ Later they came back and burned their arms with lit cigarettes until at last, filled with spite, they told the young Haydée Santamaría: ‘You no longer have a fiancé because we have killed him too.’ But still imperturbable, she answered: ‘He is not dead, because to die for one’s country is to live forever.’ Never had the heroism and the dignity of Cuban womanhood reached such heights.
There wasn’t even any respect for the combat wounded in the various city hospitals. There they were hunted down as prey pursued by vultures. In the Centro Gallego they broke into the operating room at the very moment when two of our critically wounded were receiving blood transfusions. They pulled them off the tables and, as the wounded could no longer stand, they were dragged down to the first floor where they arrived as corpses.
They could not do the same in the Spanish Clinic, where Gustavo Arcos and José Ponce were patients, because they were prevented by Dr. Posada who bravely told them they could enter only over his dead body.
Air and camphor were injected into the veins of Pedro Miret, Abelardo Crespo and Fidel Labrador, in an attempt to kill them at the Military Hospital. They owe their lives to Captain Tamayo, an Army doctor and true soldier of honor who, pistol in hand, wrenched them out of the hands of their merciless captors and transferred them to the Civilian Hospital. These five young men were the only ones of our wounded who survived.
In the early morning hours, groups of our men were removed from the barracks and taken in automobiles to Siboney, La Maya, Songo, and elsewhere. Then they were led out – tied, gagged, already disfigured by the torture – and were murdered in isolated spots. They are recorded as having died in combat against the Army. This went on for several days, and few of the captured prisoners survived. Many were compelled to dig their own graves. One of our men, while he was digging, wheeled around and slashed the face of one of his assassins with his pick. Others were even buried alive, their hands tied behind their backs. Many solitary spots became the graveyards of the brave. On the Army target range alone, five of our men lie buried. Some day these men will be disinterred. Then they will be carried on the shoulders of the people to a place beside the tomb of Martí, and their liberated land will surely erect a monument to honor the memory of the Martyrs of the Centennial.
The last youth they murdered in the surroundings of Santiago de Cuba was Marcos Martí. He was captured with our comrade Ciro Redondo in a cave at Siboney on the morning of Thursday the 30th. These two men were led down the road, with their arms raised, and the soldiers shot Marcos Martí in the back. After he had fallen to the ground, they riddled him with bullets. Redondo was taken to the camp. When Major Pérez Chaumont saw him he exclaimed: ‘And this one? Why have you brought him to me?’ The Court heard this incident from Redondo himself, the young man who survived thanks to what Pérez Chaumont called ‘the soldiers’ stupidity.’
It was the same throughout the province. Ten days after July 26th, a newspaper in this city printed the news that two young men had been found hanged on the road from Manzanillo to Bayamo. Later the bodies were identified as those of Hugo Camejo and Pedro Vélez. Another extraordinary incident took place there: There were three victims – they had been dragged from Manzanillo Barracks at two that morning. At a certain spot on the highway they were taken out, beaten unconscious, and strangled with a rope. But after they had been left for dead, one of them, Andrés García, regained consciousness and hid in a farmer’s house. Thanks to this the Court learned the details of this crime too. Of all our men taken prisoner in the Bayamo area, this is the only survivor.
Near the Cauto River, in a spot known as Barrancas, at the bottom of a pit, lie the bodies of Raúl de Aguiar, Armando del Valle and Andrés Valdés. They were murdered at midnight on the road between Alto Cedro and Palma Soriano by Sergeant Montes de Oca – in charge of the military post at Miranda Barracks – Corporal Maceo, and the Lieutenant in charge of Alta Cedro where the murdered men were captured. In the annals of crime, Sergeant Eulalio Gonzáles – better known as the ‘Tiger’ of Moncada Barracks – deserves a special place. Later this man didn’t have the slightest qualms in bragging about his unspeakable deeds. It was he who with his own hands murdered our comrade Abel Santamaría. But that didn’t satisfy him. One day as he was coming back from the Puerto Boniato Prison, where he raises pedigree fighting cocks in the back courtyard, he got on a bus on which Abel’s mother was also traveling. When this monster realized who she was he began to brag about his grisly deeds, and – in a loud voice so that the woman dressed in mourning could hear him – he said: ‘Yes, I have gouged many eyes out and I expect to continue gouging them out.’ The unprecedented moral degradation our nation is suffering is expressed beyond the power of words in that mother’s sobs of grief before the cowardly insolence of the very man who murdered her son. When these mothers went to Moncada Barracks to ask about their sons, it was with incredible cynicism and sadism that they were told: ‘Surely madam, you may see him at the Santa Ifigenia Hotel where we have put him up for you.’ Either Cuba is not Cuba, or the men responsible for these acts will have to face their reckoning one day. Heartless men, they threw crude insults at the people who bared their heads in reverence as the corpses of the revolutionaries were carried by.
There were so many victims that the government still has not dared make public the complete list. They know their figures are false. They have all the victims’ names, because prior to every murder they recorded all the vital statistics. The whole long process of identification through the National Identification Bureau was a huge farce, and there are families still waiting for word of their sons’ fate. Why has this not been cleared up, after three months?
I wish to state for the record here that all the victims’ pockets were picked to the very last penny and that all their personal effects, rings and watches, were stripped from their bodies and are brazenly being worn today by their assassins.
Honorable Judges, a great deal of what I have just related you already know, from the testimony of many of my comrades. But please note that many key witnesses have been barred from this trial, although they were permitted to attend the sessions of the previous trial. For example, I want to point out that the nurses of the Civilian Hospital are absent, even though they work in the same place where this hearing is being held. They were kept from this Court so that, under my questioning, they would not be able to testify that – besides Dr. Mario Muñoz – twenty more of our men were captured alive. The regime fears that from the questioning of these witnesses some extremely dangerous testimony could find its way into the official transcript.
But Major Pérez Chaumont did appear here and he could not elude my questioning. What we learned from this man, a ‘hero’ who fought only against unarmed and handcuffed men, gives us an idea of what could have been learned at the Courthouse if I had not been isolated from the proceedings. I asked him how many of our men had died in his celebrated skirmishes at Siboney. He hesitated. I insisted and he finally said twenty-one. Since I knew such skirmishes had never taken place, I asked him how many of our men had been wounded. He answered: ‘None. All of them were killed.’ It was then that I asked him, in astonishment, if the soldiers were using nuclear weapons. Of course, where men are shot point blank, there are no wounded. Then I asked him how many casualties the Army had sustained. He replied that two of his men had been wounded. Finally I asked him if either of these men had died, and he said no. I waited. Later, all of the wounded Army soldiers filed by and it was discovered that none of them had been wounded at Siboney. This same Major Pérez Chaumont who hardly flinched at having assassinated twenty-one defenseless young men has built a palatial home in Ciudamar Beach. It’s worth more than 100,000 pesos – his savings after only a few months under Batista’s new rule. And if this is the savings of a Major, imagine how much generals have saved!
Honorable Judges: Where are our men who were captured July 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th? It is known that more than sixty men were captured in the area of Santiago de Cuba. Only three of them and the two women have been brought before the Court. The rest of the accused were seized later. Where are our wounded? Only five of them are alive; the rest were murdered. These figures are irrefutable. On the other hand, twenty of the soldiers who we held prisoner have been presented here and they themselves have declared that they received not even one offensive word from us. Thirty soldiers who were wounded, many in the street fighting, also appeared before you. Not one was killed by us. If the Army suffered losses of nineteen dead and thirty wounded, how is it possible that we should have had eighty dead and only five wounded? Who ever witnessed a battle with 21 dead and no wounded, like these famous battles described by Pérez Chaumont?
We have here the casualty lists from the bitter fighting sustained by the invasion troops in the war of 1895, both in battles where the Cuban army was defeated and where it was victorious. The battle of Los Indios in Las Villas: 12 wounded, none dead. The battle of Mal Tiempo: 4 dead, 23 wounded. Calimete: 16 dead, 64 wounded. La Palma: 39 dead, 88 wounded. Cacarajícara: 5 dead, 13 wounded. Descanso: 4 dead, 45 wounded. San Gabriel de Lombillo: 2 dead, 18 wounded … In all these battles the number of wounded is twice, three times and up to ten times the number of dead, although in those days there were no modern medical techniques by which the percentage of deaths could be reduced. How then, now, can we explain the enormous proportion of sixteen deaths per wounded man, if not by the government’s slaughter of the wounded in the very hospitals, and by the assassination of the other helpless prisoners they had taken? The figures are irrefutable.
‘It is shameful and a dishonor to the Army to have lost three times as many men in combat as those lost by the insurgents; we must kill ten prisoners for each dead soldier.’ This is the concept of honor held by the petty corporals who became generals on March 10th. This is the code of honor they wish to impose on the national Army. A false honor, a feigned honor, an apparent honor based on lies, hypocrisy and crime; a mask of honor molded by those assassins with blood. Who told them that to die fighting is dishonorable? Who told them the honor of an army consists of murdering the wounded and prisoners of war?
In war time, armies that murder prisoners have always earned the contempt and abomination of the entire world. Such cowardice has no justification, even in a case where national territory is invaded by foreign troops. In the words of a South American liberator: ‘Not even the strictest military obedience may turn a soldier’s sword into that of an executioner.’ The honorable soldier does not kill the helpless prisoner after the fight, but rather, respects him. He does not finish off a wounded man, but rather, helps him. He stands in the way of crime and if he cannot prevent it, he acts as did that Spanish captain who, upon hearing the shots of the firing squad that murdered Cuban students, indignantly broke his sword in two and refused to continue serving in that Army.
The soldiers who murdered their prisoners were not worthy of the soldiers who died. I saw many soldiers fight with courage – for example, those in the patrols that fired their machine guns against us in almost hand-to-hand combat, or that sergeant who, defying death, rang the alarm to mobilize the barracks. Some of them live. I am glad. Others are dead. They believed they were doing their duty and in my eyes this makes them worthy of admiration and respect. I deplore only the fact that valiant men should fall for an evil cause. When Cuba is freed, we should respect, shelter and aid the wives and children of those courageous soldiers who perished fighting against us. They are not to blame for Cuba’s miseries. They too are victims of this nefarious situation.
But what honor was earned by the soldiers who died in battle was lost by the generals who ordered prisoners to be killed after they surrendered. Men who became generals overnight, without ever having fired a shot; men who bought their stars with high treason against their country; men who ordered the execution of prisoners taken in battles in which they didn’t even participate: these are the generals of the 10th of March – generals who would not even have been fit to drive the mules that carried the equipment in Antonio Maceo’s army.
The Army suffered three times as many casualties as we did. That was because our men were expertly trained, as the Army men themselves have admitted; and also because we had prepared adequate tactical measures, another fact recognized by the Army. The Army did not perform brilliantly; despite the millions spent on espionage by the Military Intelligence Agency, they were totally taken by surprise, and their hand grenades failed to explode because they were obsolete. And the Army owes all this to generals like Martín Díaz Tamayo and colonels like Ugalde Carrillo and Albert del Río Chaviano. We were not 17 traitors infiltrated into the ranks of the Army, as was the case on March 10th. Instead, we were 165 men who had traveled the length and breadth of Cuba to look death boldly in the face. If the Army leaders had a notion of real military honor they would have resigned their commands rather than trying to wash away their shame and incompetence in the blood of their prisoners.
To kill helpless prisoners and then declare that they died in battle: that is the military capacity of the generals of March 10th. That was the way the worst butchers of Valeriano Weyler behaved in the cruelest years of our War of Independence. The Chronicles of War include the following story: ‘On February 23rd, officer Baldomero Acosta entered Punta Brava with some cavalry when, from the opposite road, a squad of the Pizarro regiment approached, led by a sergeant known in those parts as Barriguilla (Pot Belly). The insurgents exchanged a few shots with Pizarro’s men, then withdrew by the trail that leads from Punta Brava to the village of Guatao. Followed by another battalion of volunteers from Marianao, and a company of troops from the Public Order Corps, who were led by Captain Calvo, Pizarro’s squad of 50 men marched on Guatao … As soon as their first forces entered the village they commenced their massacre – killing twelve of the peaceful inhabitants … The troops led by Captain Calvo speedily rounded up all the civilians that were running about the village, tied them up and took them as prisoners of war to Havana … Not yet satisfied with their outrages, on the outskirts of Guatao they carried out another barbaric action, killing one of the prisoners and horribly wounding the rest. The Marquis of Cervera, a cowardly and palatine soldier, informed Weyler of the pyrrhic victory of the Spanish soldiers; but Major Zugasti, a man of principles, denounced the incident to the government and officially called the murders perpetrated by the criminal Captain Calvo and Sergeant Barriguilla an assassination of peaceful citizens.
‘Weyler’s intervention in this horrible incident and his delight upon learning the details of the massacre may be palpably deduced from the official dispatch that he sent to the Ministry of War concerning these cruelties. “Small column organized by commander Marianao with forces from garrison, volunteers and firemen led by Captain Calvo, fought and destroyed bands of Villanueva and Baldomero Acosta near Punta Brava, killing twenty of theirs, who were handed over to Mayor of Guatao for burial, and taking fifteen prisoners, one of them wounded, we assume there are many wounded among them. One of ours suffered critical wounds, some suffered light bruises and wounds. Weyler.”‘
What is the difference between Weyler’s dispatch and that of Colonel Chaviano detailing the victories of Major Pérez Chaumont? Only that Weyler mentions one wounded soldier in his ranks. Chaviano mentions two. Weyler speaks of one wounded man and fifteen prisoners in the enemy’s ranks. Chaviano records neither wounded men nor prisoners.
Just as I admire the courage of the soldiers who died bravely, I also admire the officers who bore themselves with dignity and did not drench their hands in this blood. Many of the survivors owe their lives to the commendable conduct of officers like Lieutenant Sarría, Lieutenant Campa, Captain Tamayo and others, who were true gentlemen in their treatment of the prisoners. If men like these had not partially saved the name of the Armed Forces, it would be more honorable today to wear a dishrag than to wear an Army uniform.
For my dead comrades, I claim no vengeance. Since their lives were priceless, the murderers could not pay for them even with their own lives. It is not by blood that we may redeem the lives of those who died for their country. The happiness of their people is the only tribute worthy of them.
What is more, my comrades are neither dead nor forgotten; they live today, more than ever, and their murderers will view with dismay the victorious spirit of their ideas rise from their corpses. Let the Apostle speak for me: ‘There is a limit to the tears we can shed at the graveside of the dead. Such limit is the infinite love for the homeland and its glory, a love that never falters, loses hope nor grows dim. For the graves of the martyrs are the highest altars of our reverence.’
… When one dies
In the arms of a grateful country
Agony ends, prison chains break – and
At last, with death, life begins!
Up to this point I have confined myself almost exclusively to relating events. Since I am well aware that I am before a Court convened to judge me, I will now demonstrate that all legal right was on our side alone, and that the verdict imposed on my comrades – the verdict now being sought against me – has no justification in reason, in social morality or in terms of true justice.
I wish to be duly respectful to the Honorable Judges, and I am grateful that you find in the frankness of my plea no animosity towards you. My argument is meant simply to demonstrate what a false and erroneous position the Judicial Power has adopted in the present situation. To a certain extent, each Court is nothing more than a cog in the wheel of the system, and therefore must move along the course determined by the vehicle, although this by no means justifies any individual acting against his principles. I know very well that the oligarchy bears most of the blame. The oligarchy, without dignified protest, abjectly yielded to the dictates of the usurper and betrayed their country by renouncing the autonomy of the Judicial Power. Men who constitute noble exceptions have attempted to mend the system’s mangled honor with their individual decisions. But the gestures of this minority have been of little consequence, drowned as they were by the obsequious and fawning majority. This fatalism, however, will not stop me from speaking the truth that supports my cause. My appearance before this Court may be a pure farce in order to give a semblance of legality to arbitrary decisions, but I am determined to wrench apart with a firm hand the infamous veil that hides so much shamelessness. It is curious: the very men who have brought me here to be judged and condemned have never heeded a single decision of this Court.
Since this trial may, as you said, be the most important trial since we achieved our national sovereignty, what I say here will perhaps be lost in the silence which the dictatorship has tried to impose on me, but posterity will often turn its eyes to what you do here. Remember that today you are judging an accused man, but that you yourselves will be judged not once, but many times, as often as these days are submitted to scrutiny in the future. What I say here will be then repeated many times, not because it comes from my lips, but because the problem of justice is eternal and the people have a deep sense of justice above and beyond the hairsplitting of jurisprudence. The people wield simple but implacable logic, in conflict with all that is absurd and contradictory. Furthermore, if there is in this world a people that utterly abhors favoritism and inequality, it is the Cuban people. To them, justice is symbolized by a maiden with a scale and a sword in her hands. Should she cower before one group and furiously wield that sword against another group, then to the people of Cuba the maiden of justice will seem nothing more than a prostitute brandishing a dagger. My logic is the simple logic of the people.
Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time there was a Republic. It had its Constitution, its laws, its freedoms, a President, a Congress and Courts of Law. Everyone could assemble, associate, speak and write with complete freedom. The people were not satisfied with the government officials at that time, but they had the power to elect new officials and only a few days remained before they would do so. Public opinion was respected and heeded and all problems of common interest were freely discussed. There were political parties, radio and television debates and forums and public meetings. The whole nation pulsated with enthusiasm. This people had suffered greatly and although it was unhappy, it longed to be happy and had a right to be happy. It had been deceived many times and it looked upon the past with real horror. This country innocently believed that such a past could not return; the people were proud of their love of freedom and they carried their heads high in the conviction that liberty would be respected as a sacred right. They felt confident that no one would dare commit the crime of violating their democratic institutions. They wanted a change for the better, aspired to progress; and they saw all this at hand. All their hope was in the future.
Poor country! One morning the citizens woke up dismayed; under the cover of night, while the people slept, the ghosts of the past had conspired and has seized the citizenry by its hands, its feet, and its neck. That grip, those claws were familiar: those jaws, those death-dealing scythes, those boots. No; it was no nightmare; it was a sad and terrible reality: a man named Fulgencio Batista had just perpetrated the appalling crime that no one had expected.
Then a humble citizen of that people, a citizen who wished to believe in the laws of the Republic, in the integrity of its judges, whom he had seen vent their fury against the underprivileged, searched through a Social Defense Code to see what punishment society prescribed for the author of such a coup, and he discovered the following:
‘Whosoever shall perpetrate any deed destined through violent means directly to change in whole or in part the Constitution of the State or the form of the established government shall incur a sentence of six to ten years imprisonment.
‘A sentence of three to ten years imprisonment will be imposed on the author of an act directed to promote an armed uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State. The sentence increases from five to twenty years if the insurrection is carried out.
‘Whosoever shall perpetrate an act with the specific purpose of preventing, in whole or in part, even temporarily, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the President, or the Supreme Court from exercising their constitutional functions will incur a sentence of from six to ten years imprisonment.
‘Whosoever shall attempt to impede or tamper with the normal course of general elections, will incur a sentence of from four to eight years imprisonment.
‘Whosoever shall introduce, publish, propagate or try to enforce in Cuba instructions, orders or decrees that tend … to promote the unobservance of laws in force, will incur a sentence of from two to six years imprisonment.
‘Whosoever shall assume command of troops, posts, fortresses, military camps, towns, warships, or military aircraft, without the authority to do so, or without express government orders, will incur a sentence of from five to ten years imprisonment.
‘A similar sentence will be passed upon anyone who usurps the exercise of a function held by the Constitution as properly belonging to the powers of State.’
Without telling anyone, Code in one hand and a deposition in the other, that citizen went to the old city building, that old building which housed the Court competent and under obligation to bring cause against and punish those responsible for this deed. He presented a writ denouncing the crimes and asking that Fulgencio Batista and his seventeen accomplices be sentenced to 108 years in prison as decreed by the Social Defense Code; considering also aggravating circumstances of secondary offense treachery, and acting under cover of night.
Days and months passed. What a disappointment! The accused remained unmolested: he strode up and down the country like a great lord and was called Honorable Sir and General: he removed and replaced judges at will. The very day the Courts opened, the criminal occupied the seat of honor in the midst of our august and venerable patriarchs of justice.
Once more the days and the months rolled by, the people wearied of mockery and abuses. There is a limit to tolerance! The struggle began against this man who was disregarding the law, who had usurped power by the use of violence against the will of the people, who was guilty of aggression against the established order, had tortured, murdered, imprisoned and prosecuted those who had taken up the struggle to defend the law and to restore freedom to the people.
Honorable Judges: I am that humble citizen who one day demanded in vain that the Courts punish the power-hungry men who had violated the law and torn our institutions to shreds. Now that it is I who am accused for attempting to overthrow this illegal regime and to restore the legitimate Constitution of the Republic, I am held incommunicado for 76 days and denied the right to speak to anyone, even to my son; between two heavy machine guns I am led through the city. I am transferred to this hospital to be tried secretly with the greatest severity; and the Prosecutor with the Code in his hand solemnly demands that I be sentenced to 26 years in prison.
You will answer that on the former occasion the Courts failed to act because force prevented them from doing so. Well then, confess, this time force will compel you to condemn me. The first time you were unable to punish the guilty; now you will be compelled to punish the innocent. The maiden of justice twice raped.
And so much talk to justify the unjustifiable, to explain the inexplicable and to reconcile the irreconcilable! The regime has reached the point of asserting that ‘Might makes right’ is the supreme law of the land. In other words, that using tanks and soldiers to take over the presidential palace, the national treasury, and the other government offices, and aiming guns at the heart of the people, entitles them to govern the people! The same argument the Nazis used when they occupied the countries of Europe and installed their puppet governments.
I heartily believe revolution to be the source of legal right; but the nocturnal armed assault of March 10th could never be considered a revolution. In everyday language, as José Ingenieros said, it is common to give the name of revolution to small disorders promoted by a group of dissatisfied persons in order to grab, from those in power, both the political sinecures and the economic advantages. The usual result is no more than a change of hands, the dividing up of jobs and benefits. This is not the criterion of a philosopher, as it cannot be that of a cultured man.
Leaving aside the problem of integral changes in the social system, not even on the surface of the public quagmire were we able to discern the slightest motion that could lessen the rampant putrefaction. The previous regime was guilty of petty politics, theft, pillage, and disrespect for human life; but the present regime has increased political skullduggery five-fold, pillage ten-fold, and a hundred-fold the lack of respect for human life.
It was known that Barriguilla had plundered and murdered, that he was a millionaire, that he owned in Havana a good many apartment houses, countless stock in foreign companies, fabulous accounts in American banks, that he agreed to divorce settlements to the tune of eighteen million pesos, that he was a frequent guest in the most lavishly expensive hotels for Yankee tycoons. But no one would ever think of Barriguilla as a revolutionary. Barriguilla is that sergeant of Weyler’s who assassinated twelve Cubans in Guatao. Batista’s men murdered seventy in Santiago de Cuba. De te fabula narratur.
Four political parties governed the country before the 10th of March: the Auténtico, Liberal, Democratic and Republican parties. Two days after the coup, the Republican party gave its support to the new rulers. A year had not yet passed before the Liberal and Democratic parties were again in power: Batista did not restore the Constitution, did not restore civil liberties, did not restore Congress, did not restore universal suffrage, did not restore in the last analysis any of the uprooted democratic institutions. But he did restore Verdeja, Guas Inclán, Salvito García Ramos, Anaya Murillo and the top hierarchy of the traditional government parties, the most corrupt, rapacious, reactionary and antediluvian elements in Cuban politics. So went the ‘revolution’ of Barriguilla!.
Lacking even the most elementary revolutionary content, Batista’s regime represents in every respect a 20 year regression for Cuba. Batista’s regime has exacted a high price from all of us, but primarily from the humble classes which are suffering hunger and misery. Meanwhile the dictatorship has laid waste the nation with commotion, ineptitude and anguish, and now engages in the most loathsome forms of ruthless politics, concocting formula after formula to perpetuate itself in power, even if over a stack of corpses and a sea of blood.
Batista’s regime has not set in motion a single nationwide program of betterment for the people. Batista delivered himself into the hands of the great financial interests. Little else could be expected from a man of his mentality – utterly devoid as he is of ideals and of principles, and utterly lacking the faith, confidence and support of the masses. His regime merely brought with it a change of hands and a redistribution of the loot among a new group of friends, relatives, accomplices and parasitic hangers-on that constitute the political retinue of the Dictator. What great shame the people have been forced to endure so that a small group of egoists, altogether indifferent to the needs of their homeland, may find in public life an easy and comfortable modus vivendi.
How right Eduardo Chibás was in his last radio speech, when he said that Batista was encouraging the return of the colonels, castor oil and the law of the fugitive! Immediately after March 10th, Cubans again began to witness acts of veritable vandalism which they had thought banished forever from their nation. There was an unprecedented attack on a cultural institution: a radio station was stormed by the thugs of the SIM, together with the young hoodlums of the PAU, while broadcasting the ‘University of the Air’ program. And there was the case of the journalist Mario Kuchilán, dragged from his home in the middle of the night and bestially tortured until he was nearly unconscious. There was the murder of the student Rubén Batista and the criminal volleys fired at a peaceful student demonstration next to the wall where Spanish volunteers shot the medical students in 1871. And many cases such as that of Dr. García Bárcena, where right in the courtrooms men have coughed up blood because of the barbaric tortures practiced upon them by the repressive security forces. I will not enumerate the hundreds of cases where groups of citizens have been brutally clubbed – men, women, children and the aged. All of this was being done even before July 26th. Since then, as everyone knows, even Cardinal Arteaga himself was not spared such treatment. Everybody knows he was a victim of repressive agents. According to the official story, he fell prey to a ‘band of thieves’. For once the regime told the truth. For what else is this regime? …
People have just contemplated with horror the case of the journalist who was kidnapped and subjected to torture by fire for twenty days. Each new case brings forth evidence of unheard-of effrontery, of immense hypocrisy: the cowardice of those who shirk responsibility and invariably blame the enemies of the regime. Governmental tactics enviable only by the worst gangster mobs. Even the Nazi criminals were never so cowardly. Hitler assumed responsibility for the massacres of June 30, 1934, stating that for 24 hours he himself had been the German Supreme Court; the henchmen of this dictatorship which defies all comparison because of its baseness, maliciousness and cowardice, kidnap, torture, murder and then loathsomely put the blame on the adversaries of the regime. Typical tactics of Sergeant Barriguilla!
Not once in all the cases I have mentioned, Honorable Judges, have the agents responsible for these crimes been brought to Court to be tried for them. How is this? Was this not to be the regime of public order, peace and respect for human life?
I have related all this in order to ask you now: Can this state of affairs be called a revolution, capable of formulating law and establishing rights? Is it or is it not legitimate to struggle against this regime? And must there not be a high degree of corruption in the courts of law when these courts imprison citizens who try to rid the country of so much infamy?
Cuba is suffering from a cruel and base despotism. You are well aware that resistance to despots is legitimate. This is a universally recognized principle and our 1940 Constitution expressly makes it a sacred right, in the second paragraph of Article 40: ‘It is legitimate to use adequate resistance to protect previously granted individual rights.’ And even if this prerogative had not been provided by the Supreme Law of the Land, it is a consideration without which one cannot conceive of the existence of a democratic collectivity. Professor Infiesta, in his book on Constitutional Law, differentiates between the political and legal constitutions, and states: ‘Sometimes the Legal Constitution includes constitutional principles which, even without being so classified, would be equally binding solely on the basis of the people’s consent, for example, the principle of majority rule or representation in our democracies.’ The right of insurrection in the face of tyranny is one such principle, and whether or not it be included in the Legal Constitution, it is always binding within a democratic society. The presentation of such a case to a high court is one of the most interesting problems of general law. Duguit has said in his Treatise on Constitutional Law: ‘If an insurrection fails, no court will dare to rule that this unsuccessful insurrection was technically no conspiracy, no transgression against the security of the State, inasmuch as, the government being tyrannical, the intention to overthrow it was legitimate.’ But please take note: Duguit does not state, ‘the court ought not to rule.’ He says, ‘no court will dare to rule.’ More explicitly, he means that no court will dare, that no court will have enough courage to do so, under a tyranny. If the court is courageous and does its duty, then yes, it will dare.
Recently there has been a loud controversy concerning the 1940 Constitution. The Court of Social and Constitutional Rights ruled against it in favor of the so-called Statutes. Nevertheless, Honorable Judges, I maintain that the 1940 Constitution is still in force. My statement may seem absurd and extemporaneous to you. But do not be surprised. It is I who am astonished that a court of law should have attempted to deal a death blow to the legitimate Constitution of the Republic. Adhering strictly to facts, truth and reason – as I have done all along – I will prove what I have just stated. The Court of Social and Constitutional Rights was instituted according to Article 172 of the 1940 Constitution, and the supplementary Act of May 31, 1949. These laws, in virtue of which the Court was created, granted it, insofar as problems of unconstitutionality are concerned, a specific and clearly defined area of legal competence: to rule in all matters of appeals claiming the unconstitutionality of laws, legal decrees, resolutions, or acts that deny, diminish, restrain or adulterate the constitutional rights and privileges or that jeopardize the operations of State agencies. Article 194 established very clearly the following: ‘All judges and courts are under the obligation to find solutions to conflicts between the Constitution and the existing laws in accordance with the principle that the former shall always prevail over the latter.’ Therefore, according to the laws that created it, the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights should always rule in favor of the Constitution. When this Court caused the Statutes to prevail above the Constitution of the Republic, it completely overstepped its boundaries and its established field of competence, thereby rendering a decision which is legally null and void. Furthermore, the decision itself is absurd, and absurdities have no validity in law nor in fact, not even from a metaphysical point of view. No matter how venerable a court may be, it cannot assert that circles are square or, what amounts to the same thing, that the grotesque offspring of the April 4th Statutes should be considered the official Constitution of a State.
The Constitution is understood to be the basic and supreme law of the nation, to define the country’s political structure, regulate the functioning of its government agencies, and determine the limits of their activities. It must be stable, enduring and, to a certain extent, inflexible. The Statutes fulfill none of these qualifications. To begin with, they harbor a monstrous, shameless, and brazen contradiction in regard to the most vital aspect of all: the integration of the Republican structure and the principle of national sovereignty. Article 1 reads: ‘Cuba is a sovereign and independent State constituted as a democratic Republic.’ Article 2 reads: ‘Sovereignty resides in the will of the people, and all powers derive from this source.’ But then comes Article 118, which reads: ‘The President will be nominated by the Cabinet.’ So it is not the people who choose the President, but rather the Cabinet. And who chooses the Cabinet? Article 120, section 13: ‘The President will be authorized to nominate and reappoint the members of the Cabinet and to replace them when occasion arises.’ So, after all, who nominates whom? Is this not the classical old problem of the chicken and the egg that no one has ever been able to solve?
One day eighteen hoodlums got together. Their plan was to assault the Republic and loot its 350 million pesos annual budget. Behind peoples’ backs and with great treachery, they succeeded in their purpose. ‘Now what do we do next?’ they wondered. One of them said to the rest: ‘You name me Prime Minister, and I’ll make you generals.’ When this was done, he rounded up a group of 20 men and told them: ‘I will make you my Cabinet if you make me President.’ In this way they named each other generals, ministers and president, and then took over the treasury and the Republic.
What is more, it was not simply a matter of usurping sovereignty at a given moment in order to name a Cabinet, Generals and a President. This man ascribed to himself, through these Statutes, not only absolute control of the nation, but also the power of life and death over every citizen – control, in fact, over the very existence of the nation. Because of this, I maintain that the position of the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights is not only treacherous, vile, cowardly and repugnant, but also absurd.
The Statutes contain an article which has not received much attention, but which gives us the key to this situation and is the one from which we shall derive decisive conclusions. I refer specifically to the modifying clause included in Article 257, which reads: ‘This constitutional law is open to reform by the Cabinet with a two-thirds quorum vote.’ This is where mockery reaches its climax. Not only did they exercise sovereignty in order to impose a Constitution upon a people without that people’s consent, and to install a regime which concentrates all power in their own hands, but also, through Article 257, they assume the most essential attribute of sovereignty: the power to change the Basic and Supreme Law of the Land. And they have already changed it several times since March 10th. Yet, with the greatest gall, they assert in Article 2 that sovereignty resides in the will of the people and that the people are the source of all power. Since these changes may be brought about by a vote of two-thirds of the Cabinet and the Cabinet is named by the President, then the right to make and break Cuba is in the hands of one man, a man who is, furthermore, the most unworthy of all the creatures ever to be born in this land. Was this then accepted by the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights? And is all that derives from it valid and legal? Very well, you shall see what was accepted: ‘This constitutional law is open to reform by the Cabinet with a two-thirds quorum vote.’ Such a power recognizes no limits. Under its aegis, any article, any chapter, any section, even the whole law may be modified. For example, Article 1, which I have just mentioned, says that Cuba is a sovereign and independent State constituted as a democratic Republic, ‘although today it is in fact a bloody dictatorship.’ Article 3 reads: ‘The national boundaries include the island of Cuba, the Isle of Pines, and the neighboring keys …’ and so on. Batista and his Cabinet under the provisions of Article 257 can modify all these other articles. They can say that Cuba is no longer a Republic but a hereditary monarchy and he, Batista, can anoint himself king. He can dismember the national territory and sell a province to a foreign country as Napoleon did with Louisiana. He may suspend the right to life itself, and like Herod, order the decapitation of newborn children. All these measures would be legal and you would have to incarcerate all those who opposed them, just as you now intend to do with me. I have put forth extreme examples to show how sad and humiliating our present situation is. To think that all these absolute powers are in the hands of men truly capable of selling our country along with all its citizens!
As the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights has accepted this state of affairs, what more are they waiting for? They may as well hang up their judicial robes. It is a fundamental principle of general law that there can be no constitutional status where the constitutional and legislative powers reside in the same body. When the Cabinet makes the laws, the decrees and the rules – and at the same time has the power to change the Constitution in a moment of time – then I ask you: why do we need a Court of Social and Constitutional Rights? The ruling in favor of this Statute is irrational, inconceivable, illogical and totally contrary to the Republican laws that you, Honorable Judges, swore to uphold. When the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights supported Batista’s Statutes against the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land was not abolished but rather the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights placed itself outside the Constitution, renounced its autonomy and committed legal suicide. May it rest in peace!
The right to rebel, established in Article 40 of the Constitution, is still valid. Was it established to function while the Republic was enjoying normal conditions? No. This provision is to the Constitution what a lifeboat is to a ship at sea. The lifeboat is only launched when the ship has been torpedoed by enemies laying wait along its course. With our Constitution betrayed and the people deprived of all their prerogatives, there was only one way open: one right which no power may abolish. The right to resist oppression and injustice. If any doubt remains, there is an article of the Social Defense Code which the Honorable Prosecutor would have done well not to forget. It reads, and I quote: ‘The appointed or elected government authorities that fail to resist sedition with all available means will be liable to a sentence of interdiction of from six to eight years.’ The judges of our nation were under the obligation to resist Batista’s treacherous military coup of the 10th of March. It is understandable that when no one has observed the law and when nobody else has done his duty, those who have observed the law and have done their duty should be sent to prison.
You will not be able to deny that the regime forced upon the nation is unworthy of Cuba’s history. In his book, The Spirit of Laws, which is the foundation of the modern division of governmental power, Montesquieu makes a distinction between three types of government according to their basic nature: ‘The Republican form wherein the whole people or a portion thereof has sovereign power; the Monarchical form where only one man governs, but in accordance with fixed and well-defined laws; and the Despotic form where one man without regard for laws nor rules acts as he pleases, regarding only his own will or whim.’ And then he adds: ‘A man whose five senses constantly tell him that he is everything and that the rest of humanity is nothing is bound to be lazy, ignorant and sensuous.’ ‘As virtue is necessary to democracy, and honor to a monarchy, fear is of the essence to a despotic regime, where virtue is not needed and honor would be dangerous.’
The right of rebellion against tyranny, Honorable Judges, has been recognized from the most ancient times to the present day by men of all creeds, ideas and doctrines.
It was so in the theocratic monarchies of remote antiquity. In China it was almost a constitutional principle that when a king governed rudely and despotically he should be deposed and replaced by a virtuous prince.
The philosophers of ancient India upheld the principle of active resistance to arbitrary authority. They justified revolution and very often put their theories into practice. One of their spiritual leaders used to say that ‘an opinion held by the majority is stronger than the king himself. A rope woven of many strands is strong enough to hold a lion.’
The city states of Greece and republican Rome not only admitted, but defended the meting-out of violent death to tyrants.
In the Middle Ages, John Salisbury in his Book of the Statesman says that when a prince does not govern according to law and degenerates into a tyrant, violent overthrow is legitimate and justifiable. He recommends for tyrants the dagger rather than poison.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologica, rejects the doctrine of tyrannicide, and yet upholds the thesis that tyrants should be overthrown by the people.
Martin Luther proclaimed that when a government degenerates into a tyranny that violates the laws, its subjects are released from their obligations to obey. His disciple, Philippe Melanchton, upholds the right of resistance when governments become despotic. Calvin, the outstanding thinker of the Reformation with regard to political ideas, postulates that people are entitled to take up arms to oppose any usurpation.
No less a man that Juan Mariana, a Spanish Jesuit during the reign of Philip II, asserts in his book, De Rege et Regis Institutione, that when a governor usurps power, or even if he were elected, when he governs in a tyrannical manner it is licit for a private citizen to exercise tyrannicide, either directly or through subterfuge with the least possible disturbance.
The French writer, François Hotman, maintained that between the government and its subjects there is a bond or contract, and that the people may rise in rebellion against the tyranny of government when the latter violates that pact.
About the same time, a booklet – which came to be widely read – appeared under the title Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, and it was signed with the pseudonym Stephanus Junius Brutus. It openly declared that resistance to governments is legitimate when rulers oppress the people and that it is the duty of Honorable Judges to lead the struggle.
The Scottish reformers John Knox and John Poynet upheld the same points of view. And, in the most important book of that movement, George Buchanan stated that if a government achieved power without taking into account the consent of the people, or if a government rules their destiny in an unjust or arbitrary fashion, then that government becomes a tyranny and can be divested of power or, in a final recourse, its leaders can be put to death.
John Althus, a German jurist of the early 17th century, stated in his Treatise on Politics that sovereignty as the supreme authority of the State is born from the voluntary concourse of all its members; that governmental authority stems from the people and that its unjust, illegal or tyrannical function exempts them from the duty of obedience and justifies resistance or rebellion.
Thus far, Honorable Judges, I have mentioned examples from antiquity, from the Middle Ages, and from the beginnings of our times. I selected these examples from writers of all creeds. What is more, you can see that the right to rebellion is at the very root of Cuba’s existence as a nation. By virtue of it you are today able to appear in the robes of Cuban Judges. Would it be that those garments really served the cause of justice!
It is well known that in England during the 17th century two kings, Charles I and James II, were dethroned for despotism. These actions coincided with the birth of liberal political philosophy and provided the ideological base for a new social class, which was then struggling to break the bonds of feudalism. Against divine right autocracies, this new philosophy upheld the principle of the social contract and of the consent of the governed, and constituted the foundation of the English Revolution of 1688, the American Revolution of 1775 and the French Revolution of 1789. These great revolutionary events ushered in the liberation of the Spanish colonies in the New World – the final link in that chain being broken by Cuba. The new philosophy nurtured our own political ideas and helped us to evolve our Constitutions, from the Constitution of Guáimaro up to the Constitution of 1940. The latter was influenced by the socialist currents of our time; the principle of the social function of property and of man’s inalienable right to a decent living were built into it, although large vested interests have prevented fully enforcing those rights.
The right of insurrection against tyranny then underwent its final consecration and became a fundamental tenet of political liberty.
As far back as 1649, John Milton wrote that political power lies with the people, who can enthrone and dethrone kings and have the duty of overthrowing tyrants.
John Locke, in his essay on government, maintained that when the natural rights of man are violated, the people have the right and the duty to alter or abolish the government. ‘The only remedy against unauthorized force is opposition to it by force.’
Jean-Jaques Rousseau said with great eloquence in his Social Contract: ‘While a people sees itself forced to obey and obeys, it does well; but as soon as it can shake off the yoke and shakes it off, it does better, recovering its liberty through the use of the very right that has been taken away from it.’ ‘The strongest man is never strong enough to be master forever, unless he converts force into right and obedience into duty. Force is a physical power; I do not see what morality one may derive from its use. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will; at the very least, it is an act of prudence. In what sense should this be called a duty?’ ‘To renounce freedom is to renounce one’s status as a man, to renounce one’s human rights, including one’s duties. There is no possible compensation for renouncing everything. Total renunciation is incompatible with the nature of man and to take away all free will is to take away all morality of conduct. In short, it is vain and contradictory to stipulate on the one hand an absolute authority and on the other an unlimited obedience …’
Thomas Paine said that ‘one just man deserves more respect than a rogue with a crown.’
The people’s right to rebel has been opposed only by reactionaries like that clergyman of Virginia, Jonathan Boucher, who said: ‘The right to rebel is a censurable doctrine derived from Lucifer, the father of rebellions.’
The Declaration of Independence of the Congress of Philadelphia, on July 4th, 1776, consecrated this right in a beautiful paragraph which reads: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness; That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.’
The famous French Declaration of the Rights of Man willed this principle to the coming generations: ‘When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for them the most sacred of rights and the most imperative of duties.’ ‘When a person seizes sovereignty, he should be condemned to death by free men.’
I believe I have sufficiently justified my point of view. I have called forth more reasons than the Honorable Prosecutor called forth to ask that I be condemned to 26 years in prison. All these reasons support men who struggle for the freedom and happiness of the people. None support those who oppress the people, revile them, and rob them heartlessly. Therefore I have been able to call forth many reasons and he could not adduce even one. How can Batista’s presence in power be justified when he gained it against the will of the people and by violating the laws of the Republic through the use of treachery and force? How could anyone call legitimate a regime of blood, oppression and ignominy? How could anyone call revolutionary a regime which has gathered the most backward men, methods and ideas of public life around it? How can anyone consider legally valid the high treason of a Court whose duty was to defend the Constitution? With what right do the Courts send to prison citizens who have tried to redeem their country by giving their own blood, their own lives? All this is monstrous to the eyes of the nation and to the principles of true justice!
Still there is one argument more powerful than all the others. We are Cubans and to be Cuban implies a duty; not to fulfill that duty is a crime, is treason. We are proud of the history of our country; we learned it in school and have grown up hearing of freedom, justice and human rights. We were taught to venerate the glorious example of our heroes and martyrs. Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez and Martí were the first names engraved in our minds. We were taught that the Titan once said that liberty is not begged for but won with the blade of a machete. We were taught that for the guidance of Cuba’s free citizens, the Apostle wrote in his book The Golden Age: ‘The man who abides by unjust laws and permits any man to trample and mistreat the country in which he was born is not an honorable man … In the world there must be a certain degree of honor just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there are many men without honor, there are always others who bear in themselves the honor of many men. These are the men who rebel with great force against those who steal the people’s freedom, that is to say, against those who steal honor itself. In those men thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained …’ We were taught that the 10th of October and the 24th of February are glorious anniversaries of national rejoicing because they mark days on which Cubans rebelled against the yoke of infamous tyranny. We were taught to cherish and defend the beloved flag of the lone star, and to sing every afternoon the verses of our National Anthem: ‘To live in chains is to live in disgrace and in opprobrium,’ and ‘to die for one’s homeland is to live forever!’ All this we learned and will never forget, even though today in our land there is murder and prison for the men who practice the ideas taught to them since the cradle. We were born in a free country that our parents bequeathed to us, and the Island will first sink into the sea before we consent to be the slaves of anyone.
It seemed that the Apostle would die during his Centennial. It seemed that his memory would be extinguished forever. So great was the affront! But he is alive; he has not died. His people are rebellious. His people are worthy. His people are faithful to his memory. There are Cubans who have fallen defending his doctrines. There are young men who in magnificent selflessness came to die beside his tomb, giving their blood and their lives so that he could keep on living in the heart of his nation. Cuba, what would have become of you had you let your Apostle die?
I come to the close of my defense plea but I will not end it as lawyers usually do, asking that the accused be freed. I cannot ask freedom for myself while my comrades are already suffering in the ignominious prison of the Isle of Pines. Send me there to join them and to share their fate. It is understandable that honest men should be dead or in prison in a Republic where the President is a criminal and a thief.
To you, Honorable Judges, my sincere gratitude for having allowed me to express myself free from contemptible restrictions. I hold no bitterness towards you, I recognize that in certain aspects you have been humane, and I know that the Chief Judge of this Court, a man of impeccable private life, cannot disguise his repugnance at the current state of affairs that compels him to dictate unjust decisions. Still, a more serious problem remains for the Court of Appeals: the indictments arising from the murders of seventy men, that is to say, the greatest massacre we have ever known. The guilty continue at liberty and with weapons in their hands – weapons which continually threaten the lives of all citizens. If all the weight of the law does not fall upon the guilty because of cowardice or because of domination of the courts, and if then all the judges do not resign, I pity your honor. And I regret the unprecedented shame that will fall upon the Judicial Power.
I know that imprisonment will be harder for me than it has ever been for anyone, filled with cowardly threats and hideous cruelty. But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.
Spoken:October 16, 1953
Publisher: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, Cuba. 1975
Translated: Pedro Álvarez Tabío & Andrew Paul Booth (who rechecked the translation with the Spanish La historia me absolverá, same publisher, in 1981)
Transcription/Markup: Andrew Paul Booth/Brian Baggins
Online Version:1997, Castro Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2001
(Department of Stenographic Versions of the Revolutionary Government)
We were not… (problems with the P.A. system make words indistinct.) It seems that the imperialists are somehow using magic or something like that to sabotage this rally.
We wanted to tell you that we were not really planning to mobilize people on our return (shouts of “Fidel, Fidel!”). We are worried that we have to be traveling all the time, now the President, then a State Representative or the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or the Prime Minister or anyone else, to attend this kind of meetings, and it doesn’t make sense that every time we leave and return just because we are doing our job, because that is also our job, our people have to do us the honor of receiving us (shouts of “Yes!”).
(Words indistinct) Anyway, we must seize the opportunity… (the crowd complains about the sound problems.) We will seize the opportunity to give a short speech, a truly short one (the crowd complains) and share with you our impressions… (more sound problems.) I can’t make out why it’s hard to hear today… Well, I’ll try to concentrate despite these technical problems.
We are really very impressed by what we saw in this trip. It’s unfortunate that every Cuban doesn’t have a chance to spend ten days the way we did
We would even go so far as to say that those poor devils who asked for asylum should have spent 10 days in New York first so they could live through an experience like the one we did. Otherwise it’s difficult to get an idea. We felt the same emotions, joys and hopes that you feel for our homeland and the work the Revolution is doing. Here, however, in the hectic whirl of events, neither you nor we can fully realize how much this new homeland we are building means, not to the rest of the world –that’s not what I’m talking about– but to each and every one of us (applause).
I won’t try to explain it because I know it’s impossible, but at least I’ll admit on behalf of those of us who spend 10 days in the belly of the empire that we clearly and completely understood what it means to have a homeland (applause). Especially now that we are no longer a colony (applause); now that we are a truly sovereign and free people (applause).
We brought with us impressions and memories that we will never forget: those of the Cubans who live in New York (applause).
Actually, we may have put little thought into the situation of those Cubans who had to leave because here, in what used to be a colony of Yankee imperialism (shouts of “Get out!”), they had no way of earning their daily bread and were left with the invariably sad choice of leaving their homeland to settle and make a leaving in a cold, hostile country.
How sad that a part of our people had to leave their native soil! And above all else, how sad that they have to live in a foreign land! What a terrible blow for them, and how commendable that they had to do that! (applause)
Right now the heroes of the Revolution, the true heroes of the Revolution are those Cubans living in the brutal and turbulent North, as Martí called it (applause), which despises us no more but respects us (applause); those Cubans who remain faithful to their homeland and stand their ground there; those Cubans who shout “Yam, not chewing gum!” (applause)
And why does it hurt so much to think about the fate of those Cubans? Because they’re living there in New York, as we did until January 1st, 1959! (applause). Dozens of Cuban men and women were brutally beaten by the New York police (shouts and boos) while we were there. Suffice it to say that the club or “stick”, as they call that device used by the Cuban police but abolished here long ago, is a real institution of terror in that “super free” and “super democratic” country (shouts and boos), that “super humanitarian” and “super civilized” country (shouts and boos).
Body searching, persecution, provocation and sacking are methods used by the U.S. police to harass our compatriots. Now, if you’re a murderer or a henchman with a hundred corpses under his belt, or any of those wicked men who killed hundreds of peasants, you have nothing to worry about, as you belong in the great family of their “free world”! (shouts and boos). But if you are an honest, faithful Cuban with feelings for their homeland, the worst persecution will be awaiting you.
How sad to see Cubans whom the poverty and joblessness that prevailed in our country drove to set out for alien countries now compelled to live in the heart of the empire almost like the first Christians did in ancient Rome. And despite everything, their enthusiasm is matchless; their spirit indescribable; their love for their homeland can stand alongside the greatest devotion we have grown used to seeing here in our own land (applause).
What love of country! What obsession to be able to return one day! You have to see that to know what we have here and understand what you lose when you lose your homeland; it is as if the hope to live in their homeland and feel the warmth of their land again some day is a wish they can’t get out of their mind for one minute (applause). And we took an oath of sorts: that those Cubans will return one day (applause) and live and work here in their country again.
That’s why we must strive and fight, and why our work and self-sacrifice are well worth the effort, because our compatriots there deserve it! (applause) And we must build some kind of new neighborhood or town for the Cubans who return from exile (applause); a town where those who return to their homeland can have their homes, so that we can reward their love for their land, their heroism and integrity and the fortitude they’re boasting there, in the midst of so much hostility, persecution, deception, anti-Cuban crusades and lies, while they, however, stand their ground just like the blacks in Harlem (applause). You have to make an effort just to imagine the extent of the endless, systematic anti-Cuban campaigns launched by every journal, newspaper, radio and TV station and what media you can think of. And yet the Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and Latinos in general, as well as the blacks in Harlem, stand their ground (applause). Those groups are the most exploited and oppressed by imperialism on U.S. soil, a phenomenon so extraordinary that it makes a deep impression. You should see how so many black arms would waive at us as soon as the cars of our delegation would ride on the streets of Harlem at any time of day or night (applause). And there are 20 million blacks who suffer from oppression and exploitation in the very belly of the empire (applause) whose expectations cannot be met with a handful of dollars. The problem is way more serious than that, because they’re expectations can only be met through justice (applause). In exchange for their hospitality, we invited 300 representatives of blacks in the U.S to visit our country to get firsthand knowledge about the work of the Revolution and see a country where there is justice (applause).
Nonetheless, there are also many U.S. citizens, mostly freethinkers, famed writers, honest people brave enough to publicly voice their sympathies for the Cuban Revolution (applause) through a Pro-Fair Treatment for Cuba Committee made up of some of the most valuable and brightest Americans, and there are also many poor, exploited workers and small farmers there who are extorted by U.S. monopolies and rip-off merchants, all of them rip-off monopolies (applause).
You need to spend 10 days in the belly of the imperialist monster to know that monopoly and publicity are the same thing there, and since we dislike monopolies and have clashed, barring very few honorable exceptions, with the empire’s most powerful monopolies, their media lash out at us, albeit not with reasons, because that’s something they don’t have; they fight us with all kinds of lies and inventions which bring to mind the time when we were naïve and believed the stories drawn by the imperialist mass media and the magazines, newspapers, comic books, movies, slogans, lies, cock-and-bull stories, looting, crimes, shamelessness, outrage and degrading ways of the monopolies /applause and shouts of “Fidel, for sure, hit the Yankees hard! Pim, pom, out, down with Caimanera! Fidel, Fidel, what does Fidel have that the Americans can’t deal with him!”), because we were so naïve that they would have made us believe that looting is good, theft is noble, exploitation was fair, lie was true, and true was lie (applause).
And all that phony propaganda rains down nonstop on the U.S. people, whom they try to fool and confuse all the time just like they did us.
Independent newspapers that print the truth, no! They can’t exist there. A newspaper that prints the truth will have nothing to advertise and swallowed by the agencies controlled by the monopolies. Such is the prevailing system in that country: never a piece of constructive criticism or correct judgment. Everything is driven by profit motives, material possessions, moneymaking, and how much a line of propaganda will pay, and one of the consequences of that is the mass hysteria they have instilled in a part of the people. That some people there can live with so much rage and anger defies all logic. How different the result when people are properly advised, know the truth, and fight for something; when their lives have a meaning; when they have ideals and something to struggle for! How different the result!
We are absolutely certain that despite all the grievance we have suffered and all the attacks we have endured, if, for instance, the United Nations had their seat here, no citizen would insult any visitor and no delegation would be harassed, because we Cubans would know it was a chance to prove that we are a thousand times more decent, hospitable, gallant and honest than the imperialists (applause) because when you’re decent, decency is what you show (applause) and when you’re honorable, honor is what you show (applause). But when you’re nothing but shameless and indecent, that’s what you display: shamelessness and indecency! (applause)
We witnessed a sense of shame, honor, hospitality, chivalry and decency among the humble blacks of Harlem (applause, followed by the sound of an exploding firecracker) A bomb? Let’s…! (shouts of “Firing squad! Firing squad! We shall overcome!”: people singing the National Anthem; shouts of “Long live Cuba! Long live the Revolution!”) We all know who paid for that little firecracker; those belong to imperialism (boos). They think… of course, tomorrow they’ll go get their money from the master and tell him: “Look how the firecracker exploded right when they were talking about imperialism” (shouts of “Firing squad, firing squad!”)
Did they get him? Nothing yet? No confirmed news. But aren’t they naïve! If Batista’s soldiers could neither seize the Sierra Maestra Mountains nor break our siege and had to surrender instead despite their cannons and planes that dropped 500- and even 1000-pound bombs with the inscription “Made in USA” (applause and boos) and hundreds of pounds of napalm, how can they pretend to advance behind their little firecrackers? (shouts of “Firing squad! Firing squad!”) It’s typical of the impotent and coward. How can they expect their little firecrackers to shock our people, who came here with the intention of standing up to whatever they drop on or throw at us, be it atomic bombs, leat alone little firecrackers, people (applause and shouts of “We shall overcome! We shall overcome!”).
How naïve they are, when for every little firecracker they make we build five hundred homes (applause), for every little firecracker they put in a year we put up three times as many cooperative farms (applause), for every little firecracker they make we nationalize a Yankee sugar mill and a Yankee bank (applause), for every little firecracker the imperialists make we refine hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil, put up a factory to create jobs, and build a hundred schools in the countryside! (applause) For every little firecracker the imperialists make we turn an army garrison into a school, make a revolutionary law, and fit out at least a one thousand strong militia! (applause and shouts of “¡Pim, pom, out, down with Caimanera!”)
Comrade Osmany has just come up with a good idea: that we dedicate that little firecracker to the Santa Clara Regiment and in one month turn what’s left of it into another school city (applause).
We will also instruct comrade Llanusa to dedicate a new workers’ club to that little firecracker (shouts of “¡Pim, pom, out, down with Caimanera!”).
They’re so naïve that they really seem to believe that the “Marines” will come (boos) and the Island is ripe for them. We’re going to establish here a system of collective surveillance, a system of collective revolutionary surveillance! (applause) and then we’ll see how Imperialism’s lackeys will move around here, because after all we live in the whole city, and there’s no apartment building, block or neighborhood that is not represented here today (applause). In front of the imperialist attacks we’re going to put up a system of collective revolutionary surveillance so that everyone knows who lives in their block, what they do and what links they had with the tyranny: and what they do for a living, who they hang around with and what they’re up to. If they think they can deal with our people, they’re in for a real disappointment, because we’re going to put up a committee of revolutionary surveillance in every block (applause) so that our people can keep watch and they can see that when all our people are organized there’s no way the imperialists or a lackey of the imperialists or anyone who sold out to the imperialists or became a tool of the imperialists will be able to do anything (applause).
They’re playing with our people and they still don’t know who our people are and how big their revolutionary strength is. For the time being, we must take steps to organize militia battalions across our country and choose who will man every gun (applause) and gradually structure the great mass of our militia so they can be perfectly formed and trained in combat units as soon as possible (applause).
One thing is certain… (someone in the audience addresses Dr Castro). No need to do anything too soon or rush things, there’s no hurry, there’s no hurry! Let them be in a hurry while we keep calm and do things at our own pace, which is firm and safe (applause).
A very important thing we learned in this trip is how much the imperialists hate our revolutionary people and how hysterical and demoralized they are about the Cuban Revolution. You have seen that: they’re still thinking about what to respond to Cuba’s accusations, because actually they have nothing to say.
However, it’s important that we’re all aware of the struggle our Revolution is carrying on with; we all need to be aware that it will be a long, hard struggle (shouts of “We shall overcome! We shall overcome!”). It’s important that we realize that our Revolution has faced up to the most powerful empire in the world. Of all colonialist and imperialist nations, Yankee imperialism is the most powerful and has the most economic resources, diplomatic influence and military assets. Besides, it’s not like British imperialism, more mature and experienced, but an arrogant kind of imperialism blinded by its power; a barbaric imperialism with many barbaric leaders who have absolutely no reason to be envious of the cave dwellers of the dawn of human life. Many of its leaders and bosses command by aggression. It’s no doubt the most quarrelsome, warmongering and ham-handed kind of imperialism.
And we’re here in the front line, a small country with few economic resources waging head-on a honorable, resolved, firm and heroic fight for its liberation, its sovereignty and its future (applause).
We must be fully aware that our homeland is facing up to the fiercest empire in contemporary history, and also that Imperialism will spare no effort to try and destroy the Revolution, put obstacles in its path, and hinder our progress and development. We must bear in mind that this Imperialism hates us just like slaveholders do the slaves who rise up against them. And that’s what we are to them: slaves who rose up, and rightly so! (applause) And there’s no worse hatred than the slaveholder’s when his slaves rise up, further fueled by the fact that their interests are in danger, not only here but everywhere else around the world.
We took our case to the United Nations, but it was also the case of the rest of the developing countries: of every nation in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania; our case could be applied as well to the rest of the world, because all the other underdeveloped countries are also being exploited by the monopolies, and we told every developing country there, “We have to nationalize the investments of the monopolies without any kind of compensation” (applause). We told them, “Do what we have done; stop being the victims of exploitation and do what we have done!” And it’s only natural that Imperialism should wish to destroy our Revolution so they can tell other peoples: “If you do what the Cubans do, we’ll do to you what we did to them.”
Therefore, the interests at stake in this struggle are not only ours, but those of the whole world. We’re putting up a struggle here not only for the liberty of our people, but for the liberty of all exploited peoples in the world. And we must be aware of that, both of what we’re doing and of the interests we are affecting, and that those interests will not be given away without a fight and will not hoist the white flag so easily.
This is a long struggle, as befits the powerful interests that our Revolution has affected. And we must defend ourselves not only against aggression, because that alone wouldn’t be enough. We must also move forward and make progress in every respect.
Our clearest impression and realization after this trip is that we must step up our efforts (applause) and internalize the great role our homeland is playing in the world and the great task we are pursuing, because action speaks louder than any word we may have pronounced there. We told them about part of what we’ve done, not a full description, far from it; but action is what counts. We have to take our country forward, and to that end we must take great care over what we’re doing. Every one of you without exception is facing a great task, just like our own task (applause). We spoke there on your behalf, because we count on everyone’s devotion; we have the moral authority to speak there because we count on your efforts and take with us the moral values of each and every man and woman in our homeland; we have so much moral authority there (applause), because we count on the moral values of a whole people to denounce Imperialism. And that’s why our country is greatly admired, not for its words but for its actions, not for what a Cuban says there but for what all Cubans do or can do (applause).
The world is getting an idea of Cuba that is better than any other it had before, if ever they knew that we even existed. And our people’s deeds are the foundation of that idea. We invite each and every one of you to get an idea of the great responsibility you have taken and, especially, of the fact that we are not made up of single individuals: we belong in one people at a great moment in the history of mankind and a crucial time of the human race. We must think of both the people and the fate of our nation, not about ourselves. We are something more than ourselves: we are people, we are nation! (applause) We are ideas; we are hope; we are an example. When the Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government appeared at the U.N. it was not just a man appearing there, it was a whole people! (applause) Each and every one of you was there! (applause)
It’s with the strength we draw from the will, support and commitment of every one of you that we went there. We have an obligation to our people! We feel that we have a great responsibility toward our people! And what we feel every one of you must feel too (applause) and keep that idea in mind, because we are all working together! (A second explosion is heard; shouts of “Firing squad! Firing squad! We shall overcome!”; people chorus the 26th of July Anthem and then the National Anthem) Let them explode, and that way they train our people in all kinds of noise! (applause and shouts of “Unity! We shall overcome”) As I see it, this will be an expensive evening for his lordship! (applause)
These events do nothing but confirm what we have been saying about the long, hard struggle before us. That’s why we stressed the importance that every one should always remember their role and responsibility.
If this were easy, it would really be pointless to take us into account. No easy task bears the best fruit in the long run. The tasks worth undertaking for the lives of men and women to make sense are the difficult ones. Those are the tasks worth the effort (applause).
As to us, we do not become discouraged by the knowledge that we have a powerful empire in front of us. On the contrary, that knowledge boosts our spirits (applause). It’s the imperialists who must be demoralized by the considerable hassle our small country is causing them! (applause)
Let no one think we will have peace and quiet in the next few years. The greatest attraction in years to come will be the work and the struggle we have ahead! (applause) That’s the extraordinary significance of our future; that’s what will free us of our sorrowful, embarrassing past; that’s what will make our people happy, mainly when we know that January the First did not mark the completion of the Revolution, but its beginning (applause). That’s what makes our people happy: knowing that while the first stage was the product of efforts made by a part of our people, our future, tomorrow’s victories will be the product of efforts made by the whole people! (applause) And no one will have to feel ashamed in the eyes of their children or spouse or coworkers, because there’s plenty of room in our future and there will be a place for every one of us (applause).
Even ourselves, we have a feeling that this is only the beginning, that we’re just in the first pages of the great book of history that the Cuban people are writing (applause).
And two things will help us achieve victory: intelligence and courage, that is, our heads and our hearts. We must never let courage override intelligence and vice versa. Intelligence and courage must march together along the road leading to victory! (applause)
Those have been the essential bases of our accomplishments. And never should we underestimate our imperialist enemies; that would be a mistake. It’s our imperialist enemies who made the mistake of underestimating us! (applause) Our people have a lot more revolutionary power than they ever imagined and moral values like they never imagined (applause).
We should never make the mistake of underestimating our imperialist enemies, but know and assess their real strength instead, so we can do what’s necessary to win this fight for the liberty of our homeland (applause). And we want to be victorious on the basis of effort, work, intelligence and courage, so as to know at all times what they’re planning and react to them accordingly as we have just done by denouncing the the hysterical attitudes toward and campaigns around the Guantánamo Naval Base (applause) as well as the rumours they’re spreading about a Cuban attack on the base, all of which we made quite clear there. We also asked the President of the Assembly to make a note of our concerns regarding these campaigns and how they’re paving the way, by creating mass hysteria and molding public opinion, for a self-attack they would use as an excuse to invade Cuba, and we don’t want that; we don’t want to give them an excuse to attack our country. That’s what they want: that we let ourselves be carried away by our patriotic passion or fervor and act on impulse, but we must do what we want and think advisable, not what they want and think advisable (applause).
Martí said you should never do what the enemy wants you to do. That’s why we’ve always been ready to explain at the earliest opportunity –which we did there very clearly– that we would claim our sovereignty over that piece of land on grounds of international law, in other words, through legal channels, not by force of arms (applause). We do not have our arms to do with them what our enemies want, but what they don’t want. Our arms must always be at the ready to do what our enemies don’t want us to do, that is, to defend ourselves and resist (applause), to destroy them when they attack us (applause), because that’s why we have them: to defend ourselves. It’s of paramount importance that those who heard what we said at the United Nations know that one of the most sensitive problems we have, one of the problems that we must use our intelligence to solve and outsmart our imperialist enemy in the process is the Naval Base problem, because that’s what they will use as an excuse. So we must make our position quite clear to our people and the whole world: whenever we demand our rights we will do it in accordance with the norms of international law, for this is a crystal-clear, unquestionable right which is ours by law (applause).
As to our imperialist enemies we know so well, those who resort to the most cunning and lowest tricks, those who have been noted throughout history for the excuses they fabricate whenever it suits them, the wisest move is to spoil their plans of finding or fabricating an excuse and tell them to look elsewhere, as this one is not good and won’t work for them (applause).
Our imperialist enemies are crafty, vile, treacherous and capable of anything, from murdering leaders to launching military invasions, always searching for killers and gangsters and excuses, so we must be not only intelligent but also brave in order to beat them to the punch and win this battle (applause); we must win every battle against our imperialist enemies much like we won the battle against the U.N. (applause), where they are now fighting and where warmongers, arms dealers and the enemies of piece are being dealt harsh blows in the eyes of the world, and we must win that battle of wits and unmask and demoralize our imperialist enemies in front of the public opinion worldwide. All warmongers, arms dealers and whoever toys with the fate of the human race must be defeated in every battlefield (applause). We have already left behind the ABCs of political and revolutionary issues and made it to high school in political and revolutionary issues (applause), we must now get our bearings, be mentally prepared and keep learning about these issues. Every day we learn something new, and it’s good that we don’t lose interest in international matters.
As a rule, we seldom paid attention to international affairs, and with good reason: we were nothing but a “small colony” of the Yankees, so why would we? We would only do what the Yankee delegate to the U.N. dictated; as silent and obedient beings, we never stated an opinion or even opened our mouth at the U.N., the O.A.S. or anywhere else. Therefore, no one here cared for international affairs; if it was a Yankee problem, well, that’s for the Americans to solve. If they declared war on someone, we would follow suit and declared another one; they would make a statement and we would follow suit and made another one; they would fight another little war and we would join it too; if they wanted peace, so did we. What were we? That’s why no one would care, but now that we also have a say in the world and are a part of the world, it’s good to learn about all international affairs and know about what’s going on in Latin America, Africa, Asia; the peoples who live there, their resources, aspirations and problems, and the views of their governments. Now that we’re at high school level in revolutionary and political issues, we must learn international political geography (applause).
That’s why it’s good to keep on printing many books and it’s good that we all keep on studying, because every one of you has an obligation to learn and increase your knowledge, and those who never had that chance before must seize this opportunity to know about world problems and sociopolitical and economic issues in Cuba and outside; otherwise we’ll never graduate from senior high, and one day we must be Doctors of revolution and politics (applause). That’s what our National Printing Office and the paper formerly used here by reactionary and pro-imperialist publications are for: printing books! Those who go to the movies now and then may also wish to read a book now and then, in such a way that we always know what we need to know wherever we are, be it at work, a social club, the neighborhood, a militia battalion or company or a trade union, rather than make fools of ourselves by showing we know nothing in front of others who do or giving opinions about unknown topics in front of others who know about them. And you can be certain that what a Cuban can’t learn, no one can! (applause)
We believe these are the most important conclusions about our trip: the role Cuba is playing, the struggle we have ahead, the importance of being brave and intellingent, and the need to work hard and redouble our efforts.
It’s wonderful to go there and be able to tell other peoples that we have opened ten thousand new classrooms (applause) and built twenty-five thousand new homes! (applause) That way we will always be proud to tell the world: “We are building so many universities and school cities; we are qualifying so many technicians; we are manufacturing this much more; we have increased our national per capita production and the number of our factories; we have increased agricultural production and labor output; we are building a great homeland.”
We will always be proud of all that and, since what we do certainly depends on us, what progress we achieve here will always be a matter of matchless pride and spiritual satisfaction. But we won’t do it out of conceit! We’ll do it because we know that we’ll be doing a great good to many other peoples, because we must strive so that the work of our Revolution can be as well-finished and perfect as possible and we can use it to belie those who slander and detract from our homeland and be able to say what we said at the U.N.: “Let anyone come, for our doors are always open! Let them come to see how many new towns, cooperative farms, homes, universities and schools we have now!” (applause)
Let them come, for we’ll always have something to show them, like our militia and the revolutionary youth brigades! (applause) We’ll show them our great reforestation projects and the school cities we’re building! We’ll show them what our homeland is all about! Because those who come and see how hard our people are working despite Imperialism’s harassment are astonished that a small people can do what they’re doing regardless of so many difficulties! And we’ll always take pride in that, the kind of pride that encourages our compatriots in New York to face up to persecution and slander! (applause) That’s the pride that encourages our delegates anywhere in the world and the basic idea we wanted to convey to you this evening. And thanks for the two firecrackers, as they came very handy to make our point! (applause) Thanks because they have been useful to disclose the spirits and courage of our people (long round of applause), because absolutely no one has moved an inch from their place (applause), nor will they ever do that in the face of any danger or attack! (applause) Every one of us is a soldier of the homeland; we do not belong to ourselves but to the homeland! (applause) Never mind that any of us falls, what matter is that our flag remains raised, that the idea goes on, that our homeland lives on!
DEPARTAMENTO DE VERSIONES TAQUIGRAFICAS DEL GOBIERNO REVOLUCIONARIO)
No estábamos nosotros… (Por deficiencias en la amplificación local, no oye el pueblo reunido frente a Palacio).
Yo creo que el imperialismo está saboteando, de alguna manera está acudiendo a la magia o algo por el estilo.
Queríamos decirles que nosotros no estábamos muy de acuerdo en que se movilizara el pueblo a nuestro regreso (EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Fidel, Fidel!”). Nos preocupa el hecho de que constantemente tenemos que estar saliendo, cuando no es el Presidente, es el Ministro de Estado o de Relaciones Exteriores, o el Primer Ministro u otros… Y tenemos que estar asistiendo a eventos de esta naturaleza, y no resulta lógico que cada vez que salgamos y regresemos, sencillamente cumpliendo con nuestro trabajo, porque ese es también nuestro trabajo, pues tenga el pueblo que estarnos haciendo los honores del recibimiento (EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Sí!”).
(Dificultades con el audio).
Pero, de todas formas, debemos aprovechar la oportunidad… (El público protesta porque no se oye.) Vamos a aprovechar la oportunidad para decir unas breves palabras, breves de verdad (Protestas del público), y expresarles algunas impresiones… (Vuelve a interrumpirse el audio.) No me explico por qué no se oye hoy… Bueno, vamos a ver si me puedo concentrar, después de tantos problemas técnicos aquí.
En realidad, nosotros traemos una profunda impresión y alguna experiencia de este viaje. ¡Es una verdadera lástima que cada cubano no tenga la oportunidad de haber vivido diez días como los hemos vivido nosotros! Iríamos todavía un poco más lejos para afirmar que valdría la pena que aquí, esos infelices que se han asilado, hubiesen estado primero 10 días en Nueva York, para que vivieran una experiencia como la que nosotros hemos vivido.
Es que resulta difícil hacerse una idea. Nosotros experimentamos por nuestra patria y por la obra que la Revolución está realizando las mismas emociones que ustedes experimentan, las mismas alegrías, las mismas esperanzas. Pero, sin embargo, aquí, en medio de la vorágine de los acontecimientos, ni ustedes ni nosotros somos capaces de darnos realmente cuenta de lo mucho que significa, no ya en el orden internacional, que no me estoy refiriendo a eso, sino lo que para cada uno de nosotros representa esta patria nueva que estamos construyendo (APLAUSOS).
No intentaría tratar de explicarlo, porque sé que es imposible, pero, al menos expresando el sentimiento de todos nosotros, los que hemos vivido 10 días en las entrañas del imperio, confesamos que hemos tenido realmente una idea clara y completa de lo que significa tener patria (APLAUSOS). Sobre todo ahora que ya no somos colonia (APLAUSOS); ahora, que somos un pueblo realmente soberano y libre (APLAUSOS).
Traemos con nosotros una impresión y un recuerdo que sí no podremos olvidar jamás: la impresión y el recuerdo de los cubanos que viven en Nueva York (APLAUSOS).
En realidad, nosotros tal vez no hayamos meditado lo suficientemente en la situación de esa parte de nuestro pueblo que tuvo que marcharse de la patria porque aquí, en esta colonia que fue del imperialismo yanki (EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Fuera!”), no tenían modo de ganarse el pan y tuvieron que realizar ese hecho, siempre tan triste, de emigrar de su patria, para irse a un país frío y hostil a ganarse el pan.
¡Y qué triste que una parte de nuestro pueblo haya tenido que arrancarse del suelo de la patria! Pero, ¡qué triste, sobre todo, que esa parte de nuestro pueblo tenga que vivir en el extranjero!, ¡y qué suerte tan dura la de esos cubanos!, ¡y qué mérito tan grande el de esos cubanos! (APLAUSOS.)
Los héroes de la Revolución, los verdaderos héroes de la Revolución son en este minuto, los cubanos que allá en el norte revuelto y brutal, como lo calificara Martí (APLAUSOS), que ya no nos desprecia, como afirmara el propio apóstol, sino que nos respeta (APLAUSOS); esos cubanos, que allá se mantienen fieles a su patria; esos cubanos, que allá se mantienen firmes (APLAUSOS); esos cubanos, que allá gritan: “¡Malanga sí, chicle no!” (APLAUSOS.)
¿Y por qué nuestro dolor profundo, al pensar en la suerte de esos cubanos? ¡Porque están viviendo hoy allá, en Nueva York, lo que nosotros estuvimos viviendo hasta el Primero de Enero de 1959! (APLAUSOS.) Docenas y docenas de cubanos, hombres o mujeres, fueron brutalmente golpeados por los esbirros de la policía de Nueva York (EXCLAMACIONES Y ABUCHEOS), durante los días que estuvimos nosotros allá. Baste decir que el garrote, o el “tolete”, como le llaman a ese palo que antes usaba la policía y que hace mucho rato que fue abolido aquí en nuestro país, es una institución de terror en ese “super libre” país (ABUCHEOS), “super democrático” país (ABUCHEOS), “super humanitario” país (EXCLAMACIONES Y ABUCHEOS), y “super civilizado” país (EXCLAMACIONES Y ABUCHEOS).
Los registros policíacos, la persecución, la provocación, los despidos del trabajo, son los métodos de que se están valiendo para hostigar a nuestros compatriotas. Si se es un asesino, si se es un esbirro con 100 cadáveres a cuestas, si se trata de cualquiera de esos malvados que asesinaron a cientos de campesinos, esos no tienen problemas, ¡esos pertenecen a la gran familia de su “mundo libre”! (EXCLAMACIONES Y ABUCHEOS.) Pero, si se trata de cubanos honrados, de cubanos leales a su patria, de cubanos que sienten con su patria, las peores persecuciones los esperan.
Y es muy triste pensar que haya cubanos a quienes la miseria que reinaba en nuestro país, y el desempleo que reinaba en nuestro país, los arrojó hacia esas tierras extrañas, y hoy tengan que vivir en el corazón del imperio prácticamente como vivían los primeros cristianos en la antigua Roma. Y a pesar de todo, el entusiasmo de aquellos cubanos era insuperable; el fervor de aquellos cubanos era inenarrable; su sentimiento de amor a la patria no tenía que envidiarles absolutamente nada a las más grandes pruebas de entusiasmo que estamos acostumbrados a ver aquí en nuestro propio suelo (APLAUSOS).
¡Qué amor hacia su país! ¡Qué obsesión de poder regresar algún día! Hay que ver esas escenas para saber lo que nosotros aquí tenemos, para comprender lo que se pierde cuando se pierde la patria, porque es como si ni siquiera un minuto se apartara de aquellos cubanos la ilusión de volver algún día a vivir en su patria, de volver algún día a sentir el calor de su tierra (APLAUSOS). Y nosotros nos hacíamos como un juramento de que algún día esos cubanos tienen que regresar (APLAUSOS), algún día tienen que volver a trabajar aquí en su país y a vivir aquí en su país.
Por eso, tenemos que esforzarnos; por eso, tenemos que luchar; por eso, vale la pena que hagamos todo el esfuerzo y todo el sacrificio necesario. Vale la pena, ¡porque esos compatriotas nuestros se lo merecen! (APLAUSOS.) Y tenemos que fundar como un barrio nuevo, o un pueblo nuevo, donde vayan viviendo los cubanos que regresen de la emigración (APLAUSOS); el pueblo de los que regresan a su patria para que allí tengan también sus casas y podamos nosotros recompensar así el amor a su tierra, el heroísmo y la entereza, la firmeza que están demostrando allí, donde todo es hostilidad, todo es persecución y todo es falsedad, campaña anticubana, mentiras y, sin embargo, ellos, como los negros de Harlem, se mantienen firmes (APLAUSOS).
Hay que esforzar la imaginación para tener idea siquiera de la campaña que en todas las revistas, en todos los periódicos, en todas las estaciones de radio y televisión y por todos los medios de publicidad que se han inventado, se realiza sistemáticamente, incesantemente contra Cuba y, sin embargo, los cubanos, los dominicanos, los puertorriqueños, los latinos en general y los negros de Harlem se mantienen firmes (APLAUSOS) . Son los grupos más explotados y más oprimidos por el imperialismo en su propio suelo y constituye un fenómeno tan extraordinario que impresiona profundamente y hay que ver cómo desde que nuestra delegación a cualquier hora del día o de la noche comenzaba a transitar en los automóviles por el barrio de Harlem, desde el instante en que aparecía el primer hombre negro, comenzaban a alzarse los brazos para saludarnos (APLAUSOS). Y hay en la propia entraña del imperio 20 millones de negros oprimidos y explotados (APLAUSOS), y cuyas aspiraciones no se pueden satisfacer con un puñado de dólares, es un problema mucho más serio, porque sus aspiraciones solo se pueden satisfacer con justicia (APLAUSOS). Y nosotros, en reciprocidad de la hospitalidad que recibimos, hemos invitado a visitar a nuestro país a 300 representativos de los negros de Estados Unidos, para que conozcan de cerca la obra de la Revolución y para que vean de cerca lo que es un país donde hay justicia (APLAUSOS).
Pero hay también muchos ciudadanos norteamericanos, sobre todo hombres de pensamiento libre, escritores ilustres, gente honesta que han tenido el valor de expresar públicamente allá mismo sus simpatías por la Revolución Cubana (APLAUSOS) a través de un Comité Pro Justo Trato para Cuba, que han integrado y que agrupa hombres de los que más brillan y valen en Estados Unidos y hay también en Estados Unidos mucho obrero humilde y explotado, hay también en Estados Unidos muchos pequeños agricultores extorsionados por los monopolios y por los garroteros de ese país, que son monopolios de garroteros (APLAUSOS) .
Hay que haber vivido 10 días en la entraña del monstruo imperialista, para saber que monopolio y publicidad es allí una sola cosa y como nosotros somos enemigos de los monopolios, como nosotros hemos chocado con todos los monopolios más poderosos del imperio, unánimemente, con muy pocas y honrosas excepciones, los órganos de publicidad nos combaten, mas no nos combaten con razones, porque razones, de eso sí que carecen; nos combaten con mentiras, con todo género de falsedades, con todo género de invenciones, que nos recuerdan, nos recuerdan nuestros días ingenuos, nuestros días ingenuos de cuando creíamos aquí las historietas que nos hacían las agencias imperialistas de información, las revistas de los monopolios, los periódicos de los monopolios, los muñequitos de los monopolios, las películas de los monopolios, las consignas de los monopolios, los embustes de los monopolios, los cuentos de camino de los monopolios, los atracos de los monopolios, los saqueos de los monopolios, los robos de los monopolios, los crímenes de los monopolios, las sinvergüencerías de los monopolios, los ultrajes de los monopolios, las humillaciones de los monopolios (APLAUSOS Y EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Fidel, seguro, a los yankis dales duro! ¡Pim, pom, fuera, abajo Caimanera! ¡Fidel, Fidel, qué tiene Fidel que los americanos no pueden con él!”), porque de lo ingenuos que éramos nosotros, nos habían hecho creer que el atraco era bueno, que el robo era noble, que la explotación era justa y que la mentira era verdad y que la verdad era mentira (APLAUSOS).
Y toda esa propaganda falsa es la propaganda que llueve incesantemente sobre el pueblo norteamericano; como a nosotros antes, lo tratan de engañar y de confundir incesantemente.
Periódicos independientes, periódicos que digan la verdad, ¡no!, allí no pueden existir; periódico que diga la verdad se queda sin anuncios; periódico que diga la verdad lo arrasan las agencias de publicidad que están absolutamente bajo el control de los monopolios y ese es el sistema que allí prevalece. Jamás una crítica sana; jamás una apreciación correcta. Todo está movido por el afán de lucro, por el interés material, por el dinero, por lo que le van a pagar pulgada a pulgada por la propaganda, y por eso se explica el resultado. Y uno de esos resultados es la histeria que han creado en una parte del pueblo, histeria que no se concibe cómo puede vivirse bajo esa especie de rabia espumeante con que vive alguna gente en aquel país; ¡y qué distinto, qué distinto el resultado cuando el pueblo está bien orientado, cuando el pueblo conoce la verdad, cuando el pueblo lucha por algo y para algo, cuando la vida de los pueblos tiene un sentido, cuando un pueblo tiene un ideal, cuando un pueblo tiene algo por lo cual luchar! ¡Qué distinto el resultado!
Nosotros tenemos la más completa seguridad de que a pesar de todos los agravios que hemos sufrido, a pesar de todas las agresiones que ha soportado nuestro país, si aquí, por ejemplo, estuviera la sede de las Naciones Unidas, ningún ciudadano insultaría a un solo visitante, ningún acto de hostilidad se perpetraría contra ninguna delegación, porque en ese momento los cubanos sabríamos que había llegado la oportunidad de demostrar ¡que somos mil veces más decentes que los imperialistas! (APLAUSOS), ¡que somos mil veces más caballerosos que los imperialistas! (APLAUSOS), ¡que somos mil veces más hospitalarios que los imperialistas! (APLAUSOS), ¡y que somos un millón de veces más honrados que los imperialistas! (APLAUSOS.) Porque cuando se tiene honor, lo que se muestra es eso: honor (APLAUSOS); cuando se tiene decencia, lo que se enseña es eso: decencia (APLAUSOS); y cuando se tiene vergüenza, lo que se muestra es eso: vergüenza (APLAUSOS). Pero, cuando lo único que se posee es desvergüenza e indecencia, ¡lo que se muestra es eso: desvergüenza e indecencia! (APLAUSOS.)
Nosotros vimos vergüenza, nosotros vimos honor, nosotros vimos hospitalidad, nosotros vimos caballerosidad, nosotros vimos decencia en los negros humildes de Harlem (APLAUSOS). (Se oye explotar un petardo.) ¿Una bomba? ¡Deja…! (EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Paredón!, ¡Paredón! ¡Venceremos!, ¡Venceremos!”) (CANTAN EL HIMNO NACIONAL Y EXCLAMAN: “¡Viva Cuba!, ¡Viva la Revolución!”) Ese petardito ya todo el mundo sabe quién lo pagó, son los petarditos del imperialismo (ABUCHEOS). Creen… claro, mañana le irán a cobrar a su señoría y le dirán, le dirán: “Fíjate bien, fíjate bien, en el mismo momento en que estaban hablando del imperialismo sonó el petardo” (EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Paredón!, ¡Paredón!”).
¿Lo cogieron? ¿No hay noticias? No hay noticias comprobadas. Pero, ¡qué ingenuos son! Si cuando tiraban bombas de 500 libras y hasta de 1 000 libras que decían “Made in USA” (ABUCHEOS), no pudieron hacer nada, ni cuando tiraban bombas de cientos de libras de napalm, pudieron tampoco hacer nada; y a pesar de sus aviones, sus cañones y sus bombas, los casquitos se tuvieron que rendir (APLAUSOS), y no pudieron tomar la Sierra Maestra, ni pudieron librarse de los cercos, ¿cómo van a avanzar ahora detrás de los petarditos? (EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Paredón!, ¡Paredón!”) Son los gajes de la impotencia y de la cobardía. ¡Cómo van a venir a impresionar al pueblo con petarditos, si el pueblo está aquí en plan de resistir, no ya los petarditos (EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Venceremos!, ¡Venceremos!”), el pueblo está en plan de resistir lo que tiren o lo que caiga, aunque sean bombas atómicas, señores! (APLAUSOS.)
¡Qué ingenuos son! ¡Si por cada petardito que pagan los imperialistas nosotros construimos quinientas casas! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Por cada petardito que puedan poner en un año, nosotros hacemos tres veces mas cooperativas! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Por cada petardito que paguen los imperialistas, nosotros nacionalizamos un central azucarero yanki! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Por cada petardito que pagan los imperialistas, nosotros nacionalizamos un banco yanki! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Por cada petardito que pagan los imperialistas, nosotros refinamos cientos de miles de barriles de petróleo! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Por cada petardito que pagan los imperialistas, nosotros construimos una fabrica para dar empleo a nuestro país! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Por cada petardito que pagan los imperialistas, nosotros creamos cien escuelas en nuestros campos! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Por cada petardito que pagan los imperialistas, nosotros convertimos un cuartel en una escuela! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Por cada petardito que pagan los imperialistas, nosotros hacemos una ley revolucionaria! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Y por cada petardito que pagan los imperialistas, nosotros armamos, por lo menos, mil milicianos! (APLAUSOS Y EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Pim, pom, fuera, abajo Caimanera!”)
El compañero Osmany nos da una buena idea, que por qué al petardito ese no le dedicamos el Regimiento de Santa Clara y lo convertimos, en un mes, en una ciudad escolar más, lo que queda allí (APLAUSOS).
Vamos a decirle también al compañero Llanusa que al petardito ese le dedique un nuevo círculo social obrero (APLAUSOS Y EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Pim, pom, fuera, abajo Caimanera!”).
Estos ingenuos parece que de verdad se han creído eso de que vienen los “marines” (ABUCHEOS), y que ya esta el café colado aquí. Vamos a establecer un sistema de vigilancia colectiva, ¡vamos a establecer un sistema de vigilancia revolucionaria colectiva! (APLAUSOS.) Y vamos a ver cómo se pueden mover aquí los lacayos del imperialismo, porque, en definitiva, nosotros vivimos en toda la ciudad, no hay un edificio de apartamentos de la ciudad, ni hay cuadra, ni hay manzana, ni hay barrio, que no esté ampliamente representado aquí (APLAUSOS).
Vamos a implantar, frente a las campañas de agresiones del imperialismo, un sistema de vigilancia colectiva revolucionaria que todo el mundo sepa quién vive en la manzana, qué hace el que vive en la manzana y qué relaciones tuvo con la tiranía; y a qué se dedica; con quién se junta; en qué actividades anda. Porque si creen que van a poder enfrentarse con el pueblo, ¡tremendo chasco se van a llevar!, porque les implantamos un comité de vigilancia revolucionaria en cada manzana… (APLAUSOS), para que el pueblo vigile, para que el pueblo observe, y para que vean que cuando la masa del pueblo se organiza, no hay imperialista, ni lacayo de los imperialistas, ni vendido a los imperialistas, ni instrumento de los imperialistas que pueda moverse (APLAUSOS).
Están jugando con el pueblo y no saben todavía quién es el pueblo; están jugando con el pueblo, y no saben todavía la tremenda fuerza revolucionaria que hay en el pueblo. Y, por lo pronto, hay que dar nuevos pasos en la organización de las milicias; hay que ir a la formación, ya, de los batallones de milicias, zona por zona, en todas las regiones de Cuba, ir seleccionando cada hombre para cada arma (APLAUSOS), e ir dándole estructura a toda la gran masa de milicianos, para que lo antes posible estén perfectamente formadas y entrenadas nuestras unidades de combatientes (APLAUSOS).
Hay una cosa que es evidente… (Alguien del público habla con el doctor Castro.) No hay que apretar antes de que llegue la hora; no hay que apurarse por eso, ¡no hay que apurarse, no hay que apurarse, no hay que apurarse! Déjenlos que se apuren ellos; nosotros: conservar nuestra serenidad y nuestro paso, que es un paso firme y seguro (APLAUSOS).
Una de nuestras impresiones en este viaje, importante, es la cantidad de odio que hacia nuestro pueblo revolucionario siente el imperialismo; el grado de histeria contra la Revolución Cubana a que ha llegado el imperialismo; el grado de desmoralización con respecto a la Revolución Cubana a que ha llegado el imperialismo. Y ya ustedes lo vieron: frente a las acusaciones de Cuba, todavía lo están pensando para responder, porque en realidad no tienen nada con qué responder.
Es, sin embargo, importante que todos nosotros estemos muy conscientes de la lucha que está llevando adelante nuestra Revolución; es necesario que todos sepamos perfectamente bien que es una lucha larga, larga y dura (EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Venceremos!, ¡Venceremos!”). Es importante que nos demos cuenta de que nuestra Revolución se ha enfrentado al imperio más poderoso del mundo. De todos los países colonialistas e imperialistas, el imperialismo yanki es el más poderoso, en recursos económicos, en influencias diplomáticas y en recursos militares. Es, además, un imperialismo que no es como el inglés más maduro, más experimentado; es un imperialismo soberbio, enceguecido de su poder. Es un imperialismo bárbaro, y muchos de sus dirigentes son bárbaros, son hombres bárbaros que no tienen que envidiarles absolutamente nada a aquellos trogloditas de los primeros tiempos de la humanidad. Muchos de sus líderes, muchos de sus jefes, son hombres de colmillo largo. Es, sin duda de ninguna clase, el imperialismo más agresivo, más guerrerista y más torpe.
Y nosotros estamos aquí en esta primera línea: un país pequeño, de recursos económicos escasos, librando, de frente, esa lucha digna, decidida, firme y heroica por su liberación, por su soberanía, por su destino (APLAUSOS).
Hay que estar muy conscientes de que nuestra patria se enfrenta al imperio más feroz de los tiempos contemporáneos, y, además, hay que tener en cuenta que el imperialismo no descansará en sus esfuerzos por tratar de destruir la Revolución, por tratar de crearnos obstáculos en nuestro camino, por tratar de impedir el progreso y el desarrollo de nuestra patria. Hay que tener presente que ese imperialismo nos odia con el odio de los amos contra los esclavos que se rebelan. Y nosotros somos para ellos como esclavos que nos hemos rebelado, ¡y bien rebelados! (APLAUSOS.) Y no hay odio más feroz que el odio del amo contra la rebeldía del esclavo; y a ello se unen las circunstancias de que ven sus intereses en peligro; no los de aquí, sino los de todo el mundo.
Nosotros llevamos nuestro caso a las Naciones Unidas, pero nuestro caso era el caso del resto de los países subdesarrollados, era el caso de toda la América Latina, era el caso de todos los países de Africa, era el caso de todos los países del Medio Oriente, era el caso de los países de Asia y Oceanía; nuestro caso era un caso que se podía aplicar por igual al resto del mundo. El resto del mundo subdesarrollado está siendo también explotado por los monopolios, y nosotros hemos dicho allí, a todos los pueblos subdesarrollados: “Hay que nacionalizar las inversiones de los monopolios, sin indemnización alguna” (APLAUSOS). Nosotros les hemos dicho a los demás pueblos subdesarrollados: “Hagan lo que hemos hecho nosotros, no continúen siendo victimas de la explotación, ¡hagan lo que hemos hecho nosotros!” Y es lógico que el imperialismo quiera destruir nuestra Revolución, para poder decirles a los demás pueblos: “Si hacen lo que hicieron los cubanos, les hacemos como a los cubanos.”
Por lo tanto, se está debatiendo en esta lucha nuestra un interés que no es solo nuestro, un interés que es universal. Se está librando aquí una lucha no solo por la liberación de nuestro pueblo, sino una lucha que tiene que ver con la liberación de todos los demás pueblos explotados del mundo. Y eso es preciso que lo sepamos; que sepamos bien lo que estamos haciendo, que sepamos bien los intereses que estamos afectando, y que esos intereses no se darán por vencidos fácilmente, esos intereses no levantarán bandera blanca fácilmente.
Esta es una lucha larga, larga como poderosos son los intereses que la Revolución ha afectado. Y no solo tenemos que defendernos de las agresiones, no solo eso, porque con eso solo no haríamos nada, sino que tenemos que avanzar, tenemos que avanzar, tenemos que progresar en todos los órdenes.
La impresión y la idea más clara que traemos es que debemos redoblar el esfuerzo (APLAUSOS), es que debemos hacernos a la realidad del gran papel que nuestra patria está jugando en el mundo y de la gran tarea que estamos llevando adelante.
Porque, más que las palabras que nosotros podamos pronunciar allí, valen los hechos. Nosotros hemos podido decir allí parte de lo que hemos hecho; nosotros no hicimos allí un recuento completo, ni mucho menos, no; pero lo que vale son los hechos. Nosotros tenemos que hacer avanzar a nuestro país. Para ello, nosotros tenemos que esmerarnos en lo que estamos haciendo. Cada uno de ustedes, sin excepción, tiene aquí una gran tarea, una tarea como la de nosotros (APLAUSOS). Nosotros vamos allí a hablar en nombre de cada uno de ustedes; nosotros podemos hablar allí, porque contamos con el esfuerzo de todos ustedes; nosotros tenemos moral para ir a hablar allí, porque contamos con el esfuerzo de todos ustedes; nosotros tenemos moral para ir a hablar allí, porque allí llevamos la moral de todos y cada uno de los hombres y mujeres de nuestra patria, ¡y por eso llevamos tanta moral allí! (APLAUSOS), porque llevamos la moral de un pueblo, por eso podemos ir allí a denunciar al imperialismo. Y por eso se admira a nuestro país, no por las palabras, sino por los hechos; no por lo que diga allí un cubano, sino por lo que hacen o puedan hacer todos los cubanos (APLAUSOS).
El mundo se está haciendo una idea de nosotros, una idea mejor de la que tuvo nunca si es que alguna vez el mundo tuvo una idea de que nosotros existíamos. Y lo que hay detrás de esa opinión es un pueblo; lo que vale detrás de esa opinión son los hechos de ese pueblo. Nosotros invitamos a todos y cada uno de ustedes a hacerse la idea de la gran responsabilidad que llevan sobre sí y, sobre todo, a hacerse la idea de que nosotros no somos nosotros individualmente, que nosotros pertenecemos a un pueblo, que nosotros pertenecemos a un minuto grande de la historia de la humanidad, que nosotros pertenecemos a una hora decisiva del género humano. Y que aquí hay que pensar en el pueblo, hay que pensar en el destino de la nación, no hay que pensar en nosotros mismos. Nosotros somos algo más que nosotros mismos, ¡nosotros somos pueblo, nosotros somos nación! (APLAUSOS); nosotros somos una idea; nosotros somos una esperanza; nosotros somos un ejemplo. Y cuando el Primer Ministro del Gobierno Revolucionario compareció en la ONU (APLAUSOS), no compareció un hombre, ¡compareció un pueblo! (APLAUSOS.) Allí estaba cada uno de ustedes, ¡cada uno de ustedes estaba allí! (APLAUSOS.)
Y con esa fuerza que nos da a nosotros contar con la voluntad, con el apoyo y con el esfuerzo de cada uno de ustedes, fuimos allá. ¡Nosotros nos sentimos muy obligados con el pueblo!, ¡nosotros sentimos que tenemos como una gran responsabilidad ante el pueblo!, y así como nos sentimos cada uno de nosotros, con todos los demás; ¡así tiene que sentirse cada uno de ustedes! (APLAUSOS), y llevar esa idea en la mente. Porque la obra que estamos haciendo, la estamos haciendo entre todos; el esfuerzo… (SE ESCUCHA UNA SEGUNDA EXPLOSION. EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Paredón!, ¡Paredón! ¡Venceremos!, ¡Venceremos!” LOS ASISTENTES CANTAN A CORO EL HIMNO DEL 26 DE JULIO Y POSTERIORMENTE EL HIMNO NACIONAL.) ¡Déjenlas, déjenlas que suenen, que con eso están entrenando al pueblo en toda clase de ruidos! (APLAUSOS Y EXCLAMACIONES DE: “¡Unidad!, ¡Venceremos!”) ¡Por lo que veo, por lo que veo, esta noche le va a salir cara a su señoría! (APLAUSOS.)
Estos hechos, estos hechos vienen simplemente a confirmar lo que veníamos diciendo, de que la Revolución tiene delante una lucha larga y una lucha dura. Y, por eso, nosotros insistíamos en que cada uno tomara muy en cuenta su papel y su responsabilidad.
Si esto fuera fácil, de veras que valía la pena que no se contara con nosotros. Las cosas fáciles no son las que dan, a la larga, los mejores frutos; las cosas que valen la pena, para que la vida de los pueblos, y de los hombres y de las mujeres tenga sentido, son las cosas difíciles, porque esas son las que vale la pena realizar (APLAUSOS).
Y, para nosotros, el saber el poder del imperio que tenemos delante, no nos desanima; al contrario, eso nos da ánimo (APLAUSOS). ¡Quien debe sentirse desmoralizado es el imperio, por la batalla que un pueblo pequeño le está dando! (APLAUSOS.)
Nadie, nadie piensa que los años venideros sean años de tranquilidad y de comodidad. ¡El interés mayor que tienen los años venideros es el trabajo que tenemos por delante, y la lucha que tenemos por delante! (APLAUSOS.) Y ese es el interés extraordinario que tiene para nosotros el futuro; eso es lo que nos libera de las tristezas y de las vergüenzas del pasado; eso es lo que hace feliz a nuestro pueblo, sobre todo, saber que el Primero de Enero no finalizaba la Revolución, sino que empezaba (APLAUSOS); eso es lo que hace feliz a nuestro pueblo: pensar que si la primera etapa fue el fruto del esfuerzo de una parte del pueblo, el futuro, la victoria de mañana, ¡será el fruto del esfuerzo de todo el pueblo! (APLAUSOS), sin que mañana, sin que mañana, nadie tenga que sentirse avergonzado, ni ante sus hijos, ni ante su esposa, ni ante sus compañeros, porque el futuro está lleno de sitios; en el futuro hay un lugar para cada uno de nosotros (APLAUSOS); en el futuro hay un puesto para cada uno de nosotros.
Y nosotros, nosotros mismos, tenemos la sensación de que estamos empezando, de que no hemos hecho más que comenzar, que estamos en las primeras páginas del gran libro de la historia que el pueblo de Cuba está escribiendo (APLAUSOS).
Y esa victoria la obtendremos con dos cosas, dos cosas: inteligencia y valor; con la cabeza y con el corazón. Nunca dejar ni que nos arrastre el valor por encima de la inteligencia, ni tampoco que la inteligencia vaya delante del valor. ¡Inteligencia y valor han de marchar juntos por el camino que conduce a la victoria! (APLAUSOS.)
Y así han sido, hasta hoy, las condiciones esenciales de los éxitos logrados. No subestimar al enemigo imperialista; sería un error subestimar al enemigo imperialista. ¡El enemigo imperialista cometió el error de subestimarnos a nosotros! (APLAUSOS), y en nuestro pueblo había mucha más fuerza revolucionaria de la que ellos habían imaginado nunca; y en nuestro pueblo hay condiciones morales como las que ellos jamás se habían imaginado nunca (APLAUSOS).
Nosotros no hemos de cometer el error de subestimar al enemigo imperialista, sino conocerlo en su fuerza real, apreciarlo en su fuerza real, y hacer, por nuestra parte, lo necesario para salir victoriosos en esta batalla por la liberación de la patria (APLAUSOS). Y nos interesa el camino que conduzca a la victoria con el esfuerzo, con el trabajo, con el valor, con la inteligencia; saber en cada momento lo que están planeando y saber reaccionar en cada momento frente a sus planes como lo hemos hecho ahora mismo, denunciando la histeria que alrededor de la Base de Guantánamo están sembrando… (APLAUSOS) y la campaña que alrededor de la base están haciendo y las habladurías sobre ataques a la base por parte nuestra que están publicando y nosotros lo dejamos bien aclarado allí y le pedimos al Presidente de la Asamblea que tomara cuenta de nuestra preocupación por las campañas que estaban haciendo, preparando el campo, creando la histeria y propiciando condiciones públicas favorables para promover allí un pretexto, fabricar allí, a través de una autoagresión, cualquier pretexto de agresión a nuestro país y nosotros no queremos que invadan a nuestro país; nosotros no les queremos dar pretexto para que invadan a nuestro país, eso es lo que ellos quisieran; que nosotros nos dejásemos arrebatar por el fervor o por el ardor patriótico, por el impulso, e hiciéramos lo que ellos quisieran que hiciéramos, pero nosotros debemos hacer lo que nosotros queramos y a nosotros nos convenga y no lo que ellos quieran o a ellos les convenga (APLAUSOS).
Martí decía que nunca se debía hacer lo que el enemigo quería que hiciéramos; por eso nosotros hemos estado prestos a explicar en cada oportunidad y lo hicimos allí y dejamos bien sentado que nosotros íbamos a reclamar nuestra soberanía sobre aquel pedazo de la base, por medio del derecho internacional, es decir, por vías legales (APLAUSOS) y no por medio de las armas. Nuestras armas no las tenemos para hacer con ellas lo que el enemigo quiera, sino lo que el enemigo no quiera; nuestras armas siempre han de estar listas para hacer lo que el enemigo no quiera que hagamos: es decir, listas para defendernos, listas para resistir (APLAUSOS), listas para destruirlo cuando se lancen contra nosotros (APLAUSOS); que para eso las tenemos, para defendernos. Y es preciso que el pueblo que ha escuchado nuestras palabras en las Naciones Unidas, sepa que uno de los problemas más delicados y uno de los problemas en que nosotros tenemos que actuar con más inteligencia, uno de los problemas en que debemos superar al enemigo imperialista, es en el problema de la Base de Caimanera, porque esa base es la que ellos van a tratar de tomar como pretexto, esa base es la que ellos van a tratar de tomar como pretexto y debe estar muy claro para el pueblo y para todo el mundo, cuál es nuestra posición, que cuando nosotros vayamos a reclamar, iremos a reclamarla de acuerdo con los cánones del derecho internacional, como un derecho nuestro inobjetable e innegable que tendrán que reconocernos (APLAUSOS).
Frente al enemigo imperialista, el enemigo imperialista que acude a las armas más arteras y más bajas, el enemigo imperialista que se ha caracterizado a través de la historia por los pretextos que ha fabricado cuando le ha interesado a sus fines, al enemigo imperialista que lo conocemos bien, lo inteligente es cerrarle el camino cuando viene en pos del pretexto, cuando anda buscando el pretexto, cuando está fabricando el pretexto, cerrarle el paso y decirle: búscate otro pretexto, porque ese no te va a servir, ese no te va a resultar, ese no te lo vas a poder conseguir (APLAUSOS).
El enemigo imperialista es taimado, es bajo, es artero, el enemigo imperialista es capaz de lo más inimaginable, el enemigo imperialista acude a cualquier arma, desde el asesinato de dirigentes hasta invasiones militares, siempre buscando la mano asesina, siempre buscando al gángster, siempre buscando el pretexto y nosotros debemos ser no solo valientes, sino también inteligentes; nosotros tenemos que ganarle la partida al enemigo imperialista, nosotros tenemos que salir victoriosos en la batalla contra el enemigo imperialista (APLAUSOS); nosotros tenemos que ganarle todas las batallas al enemigo imperialista como le hemos ganado la batalla a la ONU (APLAUSOS). Y el enemigo imperialista está allí batido en la ONU; los guerreristas, los armamentistas, los enemigos de la paz están recibiendo allí un rudo golpe ante la opinión pública del mundo y esas batallas de opinión pública en el mundo hay que ganárselas; al enemigo imperialista hay que desenmascararlo ante la opinión pública del mundo, al enemigo imperialista hay que desmoralizarlo ante el mundo; a los armamentistas, a los guerreristas, a los que juegan con el destino de la humanidad, hay que derrotarlos en todos los campos (APLAUSOS). Y ya que nosotros hemos pasado del ABC en cuestiones revolucionarias y políticas, ya que nosotros hemos pasado el primer grado, el segundo grado, el tercer grado, estamos ya en el bachillerato en cuestiones revolucionarias y políticas (APLAUSOS), tenemos que ir orientándonos y preparándonos mentalmente y educándonos sobre estas cuestiones; todos los días aprendemos algo más y es bueno que nuestro interés por el problema internacional no disminuya.
Nosotros virtualmente no nos preocupábamos de los problemas internacionales y eso era lógico; nosotros no éramos más que una “colonita” yanki, para qué nos íbamos a preocupar de los problemas internacionales; nosotros no hacíamos otra cosa que la que decía allí el delegado yanki; nosotros nunca opinábamos; nosotros nunca decíamos nada; nosotros nunca decíamos ni esta boca es mía, en la ONU ni en la OEA, ni en ninguna parte del mundo; nosotros éramos seres silentes y obedientes. Por eso nadie se preocupaba aquí de los problemas internacionales y decíamos, bueno, ese es un problema yanki, allá los americanos. Que declaraban una guerrita, detrás veníamos nosotros y declarábamos otra guerrita; que hacían una declaración, y detrás veníamos nosotros y hacíamos otra; que iban a otra guerrita y detrás íbamos nosotros a esa guerrita: que hacían ellos la paz y nosotros hacíamos la paz. ¿Qué éramos nosotros? Por eso nadie se preocupaba, pero ahora que nosotros opinamos también en el mundo, ahora que formamos parte del mundo, es bueno que nos instruyamos sobre todos los problemas internacionales y sepamos qué pasa en América Latina, qué pasa en Africa, qué pasa en Asia, qué pueblos allí viven, cuáles son sus riquezas, cuáles son sus aspiraciones, cuáles son sus problemas, qué postura tienen sus gobiernos y vayamos nosotros en el bachillerato de la política y de la revolución, aprendiendo geografía política internacional (APLAUSOS).
Y por eso es bueno que se sigan imprimiendo muchos libros y sigamos estudiando todos, porque todos y cada uno de ustedes tiene la obligación de saber; todos y cada uno de ustedes tiene la obligación de saber y de instruirse y el que no tuvo oportunidad antes, pues tiene que aprovechar esta oportunidad ahora para saber, para conocer los problemas, saber qué pasa en el mundo, de qué se trata, conocer de problemas políticos, sociales, económicos, de Cuba y de fuera de Cuba: porque si no nosotros no pasamos del bachillerato y tenemos que algún día llegar a ser doctores en revolución y en política (APLAUSOS). Y para eso está la Imprenta Nacional, y para eso está el papel que antes gastaban aquí los periódicos reaccionarios y proimperialistas, ¡para imprimir libros! Y si a cualquiera le gusta ir al cine alguna que otra vez, pues también le puede gustar leerse un libro alguna que otra vez; y que en el trabajo, en el círculo social obrero, o en el barrio o en el batallón o la compañía de milicias, en el sindicato, dondequiera que estemos, sepamos de lo que tengamos que saber y que no tengamos que hacer el papel triste de no saber nada frente a otros que sí saben, o que tengamos que estar dando opiniones sin saber de qué se trata, frente a otros que sí saben de qué se trata. ¡Y lo que el cubano no aprenda, no lo aprende nadie, de eso puede tener todo el mundo la seguridad! (APLAUSOS.)
Consideramos que de las impresiones de nuestro viaje, estas son las conclusiones más importantes, la idea del rol que Cuba está jugando, la idea de la lucha que tenemos por delante, la necesidad de conducirla con valor y con inteligencia y la necesidad de trabajar muy duro, de redoblar el esfuerzo.
¡Es muy hermoso ir allí y poder decirles a los demás pueblos que hemos creado diez mil nuevas aulas (APLAUSOS), que hemos hecho veinticinco mil nuevas viviendas! (APLAUSOS), y así será siempre un motivo de orgullo poder decirles a los pueblos: “Estamos haciendo tantas universidades, tantas ciudades escolares, están surgiendo tantos técnicos, hemos elevado tanto nuestra producción, hemos elevado el per cápita de producción nacional, hemos elevado el número de nuestras fábricas, hemos elevado nuestra producción agrícola, hemos elevado el rendimiento en nuestro trabajo, estamos haciendo una gran patria.”
Y será siempre un orgullo para nosotros, y eso sí depende de nosotros lo que aquí hagamos, lo que aquí progresemos, porque ese es un orgullo incomparable y una satisfacción espiritual incomparable. ¡Mas nosotros no lo haremos por vanidad! Lo haremos porque sabemos que con ello les estamos produciendo un gran bien a otros muchos pueblos, que nosotros debemos procurar que nuestra Revolución sea una obra acabada y una obra lo más perfecta posible, para que con ella nos podamos defender de los calumniadores, de los detractores de nuestra patria, para que podamos decir como dijimos allí: “¡Que vengan, que nuestras puertas están abiertas! ¡Que vengan para que vean cuántos pueblos nuevos surgen, cuántas cooperativas, cuántas casas, cuántas escuelas, cuántas universidades!” (APLAUSOS.)
¡Que vengan!, ¡que nosotros siempre tendremos algo que mostrar, mostraremos las milicias, mostraremos las brigadas juveniles revolucionarias! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Mostraremos las grandes tareas de repoblación forestal, mostraremos las ciudades escolares que estamos haciendo! ¡Mostraremos lo que es nuestra patria! ¡Porque los que vienen aquí y ven el esfuerzo que está haciendo nuestro pueblo en medio del hostigamiento del imperialismo, se admiran y se asombran de que un pueblo pequeño frente a tantos obstáculos pueda hacer lo que está haciendo! ¡Y eso será un motivo de orgullo siempre para nosotros, ese es el orgullo que sostiene allí frente a la persecución y a la calumnia el ánimo de nuestros compatriotas en Nueva York! (APLAUSOS.) Ese es el orgullo que sostiene a nuestros delegados en cualquier parte del mundo y esa es la idea fundamental que queríamos exponer aquí esta noche. ¡Y gracias por los dos petarditos, porque nos han valido de mucho con respecto a lo que estábamos explicando! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Y gracias porque ha servido para probar el temple que tiene nuestro pueblo, para probar el valor que tiene nuestro pueblo (APLAUSOS PROLONGADOS); porque ni una mujer se ha movido de su puesto! (APLAUSOS); ¡ningún hombre se ha movido de su puesto, ni se moverá de su puesto ante ningún peligro, ante ningún ataque! (APLAUSOS.) ¡Cada uno de nosotros somos soldados de la patria, no nos pertenecemos a nosotros mismos, pertenecemos a la patria! (APLAUSOS.) ¡No importa, no importa que cualquiera de nosotros caiga, lo que importa es que esa bandera se mantenga en alto, que la idea siga adelante!, ¡que la patria viva!
Conversations with Ignacio Ramonet, Third Edition (2006)
Below are a few selected excerpts from this 718 page book, published by the Cuban Council of State, of conversations between Cuba’s Commander-in-Chief, Fidel Castro, and Ignacio Ramonet, Editor of the French monthly, Le Monde Diplomatique. The conversations took place between 2003 and 2005. The book is dedicated to Alfredo Guevara and Ramonet’s sons, Tancrede and Axel. The book isn’t yet available in English. (July 2006)
These translations were prepared by CubaNews.
and edited by Walter Lippmann.
Chapter 10 (excerpts) and a few footnotes.
THE REVOLUTION’S FIRST STEPS AND FIRST PROBLEMS
A transition – Sectarianism – Public trials for torturers – The Revolution and the homosexuals – The Revolution and black people – The Revolution and women – The Revolution and machismo – The Revolution and the Catholic Church
In January, 1959 you did not change things overnight, but started a kind of transitional period instead, right?
We had already appointed a government. I had stated that I had no intentions to be President, a proof that I was not fighting for any personal interest. We looked for a candidate and chose a magistrate who had opposed Batista and had acquitted a number of revolutionaries.
Yes, it was Urrutia. He gained prestige. It was a pity that he was a little indecisive.
Didn’t you want to be President then?
No, I was not interested. What I wanted was the Revolution, the army, the struggle. Well, if elections had been held at a given time I could have applied as a candidate, but I was not into that. My interest was focused on the revolutionary laws and the implementation of the Moncada program.
So you led the whole war without any personal ambition to be President right afterward?
Absolutely, I can assure you that. Maybe there were other reasons in addition to my lack of interest, maybe there was a little bit of pride involved, something of that; but the truth is that I was not interested. Remember that I had been presumed dead long before then. I was fighting for a Revolution and had no interest in a high position. The satisfaction of fighting, success, victory, is a much bigger prize than any position, and I was fully conscious of my words when I said I didn’t want to be President. So we gave that task to Urrutia and really respected his attributions. Both he and the 26th of July Movement appointed the Cabinet, and some of that Movement’s leaders were middle class and rather right-wing, and some others were left-wing.
There are some around who have written their memoirs, and many of them stayed with the Revolution and have said wonderful things about how they thought, about their arguments with Che and Camilo.
Did Che mistrust some of those leaders?
Che was very mistrustful and wary of some people because he had seen what had happened with the strike in April, 1958 and believed some of the 26th of July Movement leaders had had a bourgeois education. Che was very much in favor of the agrarian reform and those people were talking about a quite moderate agrarian reform and about compensations and other things. We imposed the law on them. We had that kind of problems then.
Che was not really an accommodating person. There was also anti-communism, which was strong and had its own impact. In times of McCarthyism, there were poisonous campaigns here and prejudice was fostered in many ways. And some of our people of bourgeois origins were not only anti-communist but also sectarian.
Were they far left-wing?
No, they were communists from the PSP [Partido Socialista Popular, or People’s Socialist Party], because there had been a number of Stalin-like methods and doctrines, though not in the sense that there was any abuse, but there definitely was an urge to control more and more. In that Party there was this very capable man, Anibal Escalante, who all but took over the leadership position held by Blas Roca, its historical leader and a remarkable man of very humble extraction. He was from Manzanillo, had been a shoemaker, and fought very hard. The communists fought very hard.
Blas Roca had to travel abroad, and then Anibal Escalante took over as the top leader; I’m telling you, he was skilled, intelligent, and a good organizer, but when it came to controlling things, he was a Stalinist to the core. Control is the word we’ll use for everything. He came out with a policy: “let the petit bourgeois die and let’s take care of the communists”, for he wanted to put as few communists as possible at risk. And he was obsessed about screening. He had all the old habits of a stage in the history of communism when its members had been excluded, as in a ghetto, that’s the kind of mindset he had, and he screened everyone all the time. Those methods were applied to people who were otherwise very honest and self-sacrificing.
This Anibal Escalante created a very serious problem of sectarianism. Ah, but unity prevailed! There’s a reason: I think very few political leaders would turn a cold shoulder to those horrible things. Serious mistakes of sectarianism were made. But there was no vanity, only the Revolution, the need for unity and trust. I stood up for unity under very difficult circumstances, and I still do. Anibal was not a traitor.
The Communist International and its slogans led the communists to defend unpopular issues of the Soviet Union’s policies, like the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, the occupation of a part of Poland and the war against Finland. We already talked about that. The USSR applied a policy that set up the bases for all kinds of abuse and crime… They almost destroyed the Party. Mistakes were made in Cuba due to those slogans, or rather than mistakes they led to political lines for which the Party, with its doctrine and its militants who fought and still fight for the workers’ interests, had to pay a high price. But the time came when by virtue of those pacts the Soviet communists seemed to be linked with the Nazi regime… A high price was paid for all those things which were used as an excuse for anti-communism, but as I said they were the most trustable and dedicated people.
Besides, some governments today, like those of Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and others, are introducing progressive measures. What do you think about what Lula is doing in Brazil, for instance?
I obviously sympathize very much with the things he’s doing. He doesn’t count on the majority in the Parliament and has been forced to lean on other forces, even conservative ones, to put forward some reforms. The media have given widespread coverage to a scandal of corruption in the Parliament, but have been unable to implicate Lula, who is a popular leader. I’ve known him for many years, we have followed his itinerary, and we have talked many times. He’s a man of convictions, an intelligent, patriotic and progressive person of humble extraction who never forgets his origins nor his people, who always supported him. And I think that’s how everyone sees Lula. Because it’s not about organizing a revolution but winning a battle: eliminating hunger. He can do it. It’s about eliminating illiteracy. He can do that too. And I think we must support him.
Commander, do you think the age of revolutions and armed struggle is over in Latin America?
Look, nobody can say for sure that revolutionary changes will take place in Latin America today. But nobody can say for sure either that such changes will happen in one or several countries. It seems to me that if you make an objective analysis of the economic and social situation in some countries, you can rest assured that there’s an explosive situation. See, the infant mortality rate in the region is 65 per every thousand births, while ours is less than 6.5; that is, ten times more children die in Latin America than in Cuba, as an average. Malnutrition reaches 49% of the Latin American population; illiteracy is still rampant; tens of millions are unemployed, and there’s also the problem of the abandoned children: 30 million of them. As the President of UNICEF told me one day, if Latin America had the medical care and health levels Cuba has, the lives of 700.000 children would be spared every year… The overall situation is terrible.
If an urgent solution to those problems is not found –and neither the FTAA nor neoliberal globalization are a solution– there could be more than one revolution in some Latin American country when the U.S. least expects it. And they won’t be able to accuse anyone of promoting those revolutions.
Do you regret, for instance, having approved the entrance of the Warsaw Pact’s tanks in Prague in August, 1968 that so much surprised those who admired the Cuban Revolution?
Look, I can tell you that in our opinion –and history has proved us right– Czechoslovakia was moving toward a situation of counterrevolution, toward capitalism and the arms of imperialism. And we were against all the liberal economic reforms taking place there and in other socialist countries. Those reforms tended to increasingly strengthen market relations within the socialist society: profits, benefits, lucrative deals, material motivation, all the things that encouraged individualism and selfishness. So we understood the unpleasant need of sending troops to Czechoslovakia and never condemned the socialist countries where that decision was made.
Now, at the same time we were saying that those socialist countries had to be consistent and commit themselves to adopt the same attitude if a socialist country was threatened elsewhere in the world. On the other hand, we thought the first thing they said in Czechoslovakia was undisputable: to improve socialism. The protests about ruling methods, bureaucratic policies, and divorcing the masses were unquestionably correct. But from just slogans they moved to a truly reactionary policy. And in bitterness and pain we had to approve that military intervention.
You never knew President Kennedy personally.
No. And I think Kennedy was a very enthusiastic, clever and charismatic man who tried to do positive things. After Franklin Roosevelt, his was perhaps one of the most brilliant personalities in the U.S. He made mistakes, as when he gave green light to the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, though it was not his operation, but Eisenhower’s and Nixon’s. He couldn’t prevent it on time. He also put up with the CIA’s activity; during his administration they designed the first plans to kill me and other international leaders. There’s no iron-clad evidence of his personal involvement, but it’s really hard to believe that someone from the CIA took the decision on his/her own of undertaking such actions without a prior acceptance by the President. Maybe he was tolerant or allowed some ambiguous words of his to be freely interpreted by the CIA.
However, despite the fact that it’s clear to me that Kennedy made mistakes –including some ethical ones– I think he was capable of rectifying and brave enough to make changes in U.S. policies. One of his mistakes was the Vietnam War. Thanks to his enthusiasm and obsessive sympathy for the “green berets” and his tendency to overestimate the power of the United States, he took the first steps to engage his country in the Vietnam War.
He made mistakes, I repeat, but he was an intelligent man, at times brilliant and brave, and I think –I have said this before– that if Kennedy had survived perhaps the relations between Cuba and the United States would have improved, since Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis had an impact on him. I don’t think he underestimate the Cuban people; maybe he even admired our people’s steadiness and courage.
Right on the day he was killed I was talking with a French journalist, Jean Daniel [director of Le Nouvel Observateur] who brought me a message from him saying he wanted to talk with me. So a communication was in the offing which could have perhaps helped improve our relations.
His death hurt me. He was an adversary, true, but I was very sorry that he died. It was as if I lacked something. I was hurt as well by the way they killed him, the attack, the political crime… I felt outrage, repudiation, pain, in this case for an adversary who seemed to deserve a different kind of fate.
His murder worried me too because he had enough authority in this country to impose an improvement of their relations with Cuba, as clearly demonstrated by the conversation I had with this French journalist, Jean Daniel, who was with me in the very moment when I heard the news about Kennedy’s death. pp.593-594
Do you think that under the Bush administration the United States could become an authoritarian regime?
Hardly two thirds of a century ago mankind knew the tragic experience of Nazism. Hitler had an inseparable ally –you know that– in the fear he could instill in his adversaries. By then the owner of an impressive military force, he started a war that set the world on fire. The lack of vision on the part of statesmen from the strongest European powers at the time, as well as their cowardice, gave rise to a big tragedy.
I don’t think a fascist-like regime could rise in the United States. Serious mistakes and injustices have been committed –and still exist– within its political system, but the American people count on certain institutions, traditions and educational, cultural and political values that it would be near to impossible. The risk exists at international level. The authorities and prerogatives granted to a U.S. president are such and the military, economic and technological power network of that state is so huge that, in fact, and for reasons totally beyond the American people’s control, the world is currently threatened.
One of the things the Revolution was criticized about in its first years is that it was said to display an aggressive, repressive attitude towards homosexuals, that there were camps where the homosexuals were locked away and repressed. What can you say about that?
In two words, you’re talking about a supposed persecution of homosexuals.
I have to tell you about the origins of that and where that criticism came from. I do assure you that homosexuals were neither persecuted nor sent to internment camps. But there are so many testimonies of that…
Let me tell you about the problems we had. In those first years we were forced to mobilize almost the whole nation because of the risks we were facing, which included that of an attack by the United States: the dirty war, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Missile Crisis… Many people were sent to prison then. And we established the Mandatory Military Service. We had three problems at that time: we needed people of a certain school level to serve in the Armed Forces, people capable of handling sophisticated technology, because you could not do it if you had only reached second, third or sixth grade; you needed at least seventh, eighth or ninth grade, and a higher level later on. We had some graduates, but also had to take some men out of the universities before graduation. You can’t deal with a surface-to-air rocket battery if you don’t have a University degree.
A degree in Sciences, I assume.
You know that very well. There were hundreds of thousands of men who had an impact on many branches, not only on the preparation programs, but economic branches as well. Yet some were unskilled, and the country needed them as a result of the brain-drain we enforced in production centers. That’s a problem we had then.
Second, there were some religious groups which, out of principles or doctrines, refused to honor the flag or accept using weapons of any kind, something some people eventually used as an excuse to criticize or be hostile.
Third, there was the issue of the homosexuals. At the time, the mere idea of having women in Military Service was unthinkable… Well, I found out there was a strong rejection of homosexuals, and at the triumph of the Revolution, the stage we are speaking of, the machista element was very much present, together with widespread opposition to having homosexuals in military units.
Because of those three factors, homosexuals were not drafted at first, but then all that became a sort of irritation factor, an argument some people used to lash out at homosexuals even more.
Taking those three categories into account we founded the so-called Military Units to Support Production (UMAP) where we sent people from the said three categories: those whose educational level was insufficient; those who refused to serve out of religious convictions; or homosexual males who were physically fit. Those were the facts; that’s what happened.
So they were not internment camps?
Those units were set up all throughout the country for purposes of work, mainly to assist agriculture. That is, the homosexuals were not the only ones affected, though many of them certainly were, not all of them, just those who were called to do mandatory service in the ranks, since it was an obligation and everyone was participating.
That’s why we had that situation, and it’s true they were not internment units, nor were they punishment units; on the contrary, it was about morale, to give them a chance to work and help the country in those difficult circumstances. Besides, there were many who for religious reasons had the chance to help their homeland in another way by serving not in combat units but in work units.
Of course, as time passed by those units were eliminated. I can’t tell you now how many years they lasted, maybe six or seven years, but I can tell you for sure that there was prejudice against homosexuals.
Do you think that prejudice stemmed from machismo?
It was a cultural thing, just as it happened with women. I can tell you that the Revolution never promoted that, quite the opposite; we had to work very hard to do away with racial prejudice here. Concerning women, there was strong prejudice, as strong as in the case of homosexuals. I’m not going to come up with excuses now, for I assume my share of the responsibility. I truly had other concepts regarding that issue. I had my own opinions, and I was rather opposed and would always be opposed to any kind of abuse or discrimination, because there was a great deal of prejudice in that society. Whole families suffered for it. The homosexuals were certainly discriminated against, more so in other countries, but it happened here too, and fortunately our people, who are far more cultured and learned now, have gradually left that prejudice behind.
I must also tell you that there were –and there are– extremely outstanding personalities in the fields of culture and literature, famous names this country takes pride in, who were and still are homosexual, however they have always enjoyed a great deal of consideration and respect in Cuba. So there’s no need to look at it as if it were a general feeling. There was less prejudice against homosexuals in the most cultured and educated sectors, but that prejudice was very strong in sectors of low educational level –the illiteracy rate was around 30% those years– and among the nearly-illiterate, and even among many professionals. That was a real fact in our society.
Do you think that prejudice against homosexuals has been effectively fought?
Discrimination against homosexuals has been largely overcome. Today the people have acquired a general, rounded culture. I’m not going to say there is no machismo, but now it’s not anywhere near the way it was back then, when that culture was so strong. With the passage of years and the growth of consciousness about all of this, we have gradually overcome problems and such prejudices have declined. But believe me, it was not easy. pp.222-225
4. In 1921, when the civil war ended, the Soviet Union was in ruins and its population in the grip of starvation. Lenin then decided to give up war communism and launched the New Economic Policy (NEP), a partial return to capitalism and a mixed economy, and gave priority to agriculture. The outcome was a positive one. Lenin died in 1924 and in 1928 Stalin suddenly abandoned the NEP and moved on to an entirely socialist economy, giving priority to industry in order to “construct socialism in only one country”.
5. An important theoretical discussion took place in 1963-1964 about the Cuban Revolution’s economic organization where the advocates of Economic Calculation (EC) and those of the Funding Budgetary System (FBS) opposed each other. The former, headed by Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, Alberto Mora, Marcelo Fernandez Font and the French Marxist economist Charles Bettelheim supported and defended a political project of mercantile socialism based on enterprises managed in a decentralized manner and financially independent which would compete with their respective goods and exchange money for them in the market. Material incentives would prevail in each enterprise. Planning, according to EC supporters, operates through values and markets. Such was the main road chosen and promoted by the Soviets in those years.
The latter were headed by Che Guevara and included, among others, Luis Alvarez Rom and Belgian economist Ernest Mandel, leader of the Fourth International, all of whom questioned the socialism-market matrimony. They stood for a political project where planning and market are opposing terms. Che thought that planning was much more than a mere technical asset to manage the economy. It was a way to extend the scope of human rationality while gradually decreasing the quotas of fetishism upon which faith on “economic law independence” found support.
Those who like Che preferred the Budgetary System favored the bank-based unification of all production units with a single, centralized budget, all seen as part of a great socialist enterprise (made up of each individual production unit). No purchasing-and-selling activity based upon money and marketing would take place between any two factories of a same consolidated enterprise, only exchange through a bank account registration. The goods would go from one production unit to another without ever being merchandise. Che and his followers pushed for and fostered voluntary work and moral incentive as the privileged –albeit not the only– tools to raise the workers’ socialist conscience. pp.648-649
Speech delivered by the President of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Foundation of the People’s Republic of China, in the Universal Hall of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), on September 29, 1999
A CubaNews translation by Ana Portela
Edited by Walter Lippmann and Robert Sandels
Notes on the seventh anniversary of this speech: 9/30/2005:
Original Spanish transcript:
(Shorthand Version – Council of State)
As you can see, they were closing the curtains [laughter], but I looked at my watch and noticed we had a little time left. That’s why I thought it would be worthwhile to use these minutes to add a few brief thoughts about what was said here.
A few days ago we were busy with a great number of activities but we often thought that it would now be 50 years since the Chinese Revolution, not only the revolution, but also the independence of China. And that was of really great historical importance.
Similar words are often used, but now we are faced with a real event, a date of real historical importance. And I asked myself: How are we going to commemorate it, what relevance are we going to give it? That’s why I asked about the program they were going to have. I asked the Ambassador and first he told me there would be a reception in the Embassy on the evening of the 30th and warmly invited me.
I answered, “Ambassador, the evening of the 30th is not the anniversary of the triumph of the Chinese Revolution!”
And he said, “Yes, because at that hour on the 30th in China it’s already the 1st of October.”
And, actually, the reception was not being organized for the 2nd, which would have been the result of organizing it, as is traditionally done, on the first. By doing it tomorrow night, on the 30th, it would coincide perfectly with the day of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Also, I know that they have set up television screens so that the guests can view the parade and the commemoration in Tiananmen Square.
I was very pleased that the Ambassador remembered that Cuba was the first Latin American country to recognize the People’s Republic of China and to establish relations with it, because there was a very strong blockade, an effort of total isolation. In fact, there was total obedience to the United States in our hemisphere, where there were even many countries, like the Caribbean sister islands of Anglophone extraction still not independent. The independence of those islands increased the strength and spirit of independence in this hemisphere, but no one here in Latin America then had relations with the People’s Republic of China, and that was the case in many parts of the world.
Since we also became independent on January 1, 1959, it did not take long to establish relations with the People’s Republic of China.
But he remembered something more, and that is that when the Cuban Revolution triumphed, China was represented in the Security Council and the United Nations by Taiwan. At the time, only the Soviet Union, one of the permanent members of the Security Council, was not an ally of the United States. And as an example of imperialist imposition, the most populous country in the world was ignored completely. The oldest country in the world, we could say, of the modern ones, the most ancient civilization in the world was not represented in the Security Council, as was its right according to all the agreements made during the Second World War.
They kept Taiwan there, the defeated puppet government, which continued to be an ally of the United States. We had to fight hard, every year, many countries, mostly of the Third World, including Cuba, just as today, we fight the blockade. We fought for the recognition of the People’s Republic of China and for it to occupy its rightful seat on the Security Council as one of its permanent members.
This was achieved in 1971 when it was no longer possible to resist world public opinion and the growing membership of the United Nations. At that time, many African countries and other areas of the world won their political independence – countries of great weight. After the Second World War, India, another of the most populous countries in the world besides China, achieved independence. Indonesia, also a heavily-populated Asian country, achieved its independence. Japan was occupied for many years and gradually achieved the rights of a sovereign nation. Many others in the Middle East received independence, as did many in the South Pacific. I have already mentioned the Caribbean. Consequently many countries were added, and it was the determination and tenacity of this struggle that finally won China its basic rights.
Today, 26 years later, I would say that event achieved its full significance within the present world situation due to China’s importance and weight. Today China is incomparably greater than it was when its status as a member of the Security Council was finally accepted.
China has been the country that has least used its veto power in the Security Council. China has used it only on exceptional occasions – perhaps Alarcon knows how many. On the other hand, the “master of the world,” because it does not own the world but almost all the world, has used this right an infinite number of times.
Today, the Third World has a country that is a friend, that Third World which supported China so often, has a friend among the Security Council’s permanent members.
I remembered something that was not mentioned here: the suffering of the Chinese people, the enormous sacrifices of that people after the triumph of their revolution and their independence. I have to say it that way, because the country was not fully independent, just as Cuba was not, until the day of the Revolution’s triumph. For example, they were economically blockaded for a long time, almost totally isolated.
During the earlier years it had the collaboration of the Soviet Union – to some extent, because the Soviet Union had just come out of a terrible war where its industry, its agriculture, its infrastructure were practically destroyed – a support the USSR offered, a determined support that I know the Chinese appreciated very much, until differences and difficulties arose between them.
I do not want to dwell on these subjects but I recall the years of the economic blockade of China. And I also remember the U.S. troops under the command of MacArthur, their intervention in the Korean conflict, a country that they divided and that is still divided; and they reached the Chinese border. Very soon after their war of liberation, no less than one million Chinese volunteers took up arms and participated in that conflict together with the Korean people. They inflicted a severe and terrible blow to the interventionist troops of the United States and its allies until reestablishing the situation that existed before that war, that is, the present border between the two parts of Korea. This event cannot be forgotten nor can the thousands of lives Chinese troops lost.
I have talked to some who participated in that counter-attack. It was during a severe cold, crossing mountains, without mechanical means, with total air control by the United States and its allies and even threatening to use nuclear weapons. In the desperation of their defeat, there were many in the United States who favored attacking beyond the Chinese border. The advance of the Chinese troops was uncontainable in spite of the enormous differences in military power, until they reached the point that is still today that line – a tremendous battle.
Later the economic blockade continued. The Yankee imperialists also intervened in Viet Nam and unleashed a genocidal war. There, the Chinese expressed solidarity with the Vietnamese people. At the time, there were two countries, China and the Soviet Union, who supplied weapons and gave political support to the Vietnamese who fought heroically and were victorious. This victory was obtained during the 1970s. Cuba also made its modest contribution of a free annual supply of sugar for the Vietnamese during the war years. It’s worth mentioning, but only as an expression of the good will and the spirit of solidarity of our people who also offered total political support. There was also an enormous feeling of solidarity with Viet Nam by our people.
The Chinese had to endure so many hardships after the war, and for how long! But imperialism was repeatedly defeated. The lesson of Viet Nam marked important turning points. I would say that Cuba’s resistance to the blockades, the mercenary invasions, the threats of nuclear war and all that, marked other little points that were also important in that struggle. They demonstrated to the world that it was possible to fight and win against imperialism. They suffered a harsh economic blockade for many years, a little less than us, but at the time it was a record. They were blockaded for 28 years, and we are now going on 40 years.
The events mentioned are irrefutable proof that this lunacy, these criminal policies, cannot last forever.
After all the blows it has received from many parts, the United States began to understand that its position on China was unsustainable from the point of view of rights, of political principles, of the United Nations Charter and everything else. But it was also unsustainable according to its own economic interests. China was an enormous potential market. In fact, they have advantages in many things. In one sense in particular they have an enormous advantage compared to Cuba, and that is the fact that their population – they are have a little more – their population was about one hundred and twenty times more than that of Cuba, and a territory, as mentioned here, of 9.6 million square kilometers, almost one hundred times ours and, undoubtedly a country of great natural resources.
I could add other advantages: They did not live in the West as we do. We are bearing, to a large extent, the culture inherited from the West. China had a millennia-long culture. The Chinese people’s great advantage is its language, its own very complex writing. It is not an easy language, not precisely of Latin origin nor, we must say, of Western origin. They had a millennial language. I have no way of knowing how much it evolved since the period before our times. These cultural features are a very important force with which to defend the identity, the integrity, and independence of a great country and are less susceptible to penetration by the western culture that surrounds us.
You can see what the Ambassador explained: after 25 years of conflicts, wars, and blockades, they had recovered important rights such as that seat in the Security Council, a growing respect in the world, and in spite of errors, as the Ambassador pointed out, of various kinds of difficulties that occurred in its own internal policy at a time when the West had no other choice but to acknowledge the rights of China. And when all the blockades ended, you can see the extraordinary rhythm of progress in the country.
What he read here – I was just looking over a copy of the speech and had already heard about some appearances of the Ambassador – a sustained average growth of 9.8% for 21 years has no precedent in the history of any human society.
I did some calculations of how many times it doubled its economic production during that period. By then, they had already achieved important advances. I remember that after the revolutionary triumph, the Chinese built great seawalls rock by rock to prevent flooding and promote irrigation. Many social programs were begun from the very triumph of the Revolution. But undoubtedly the economic advances were slowed down considerably by the economic blockade to which subjective factors were added as well.
When, as I said, they had to recognize the rights of China and all the blockades disappeared and they rectified some errors – I don’t call them errors but rather their points of view, we would have no right to judge each internal event in China – but, as the Ambassador explained, they had made certain corrections, had overcome certain errors and everyone commits errors and that cannot be denied. After this, they achieved this impressive record because, as he pointed out, and above all, they grew since 1978, for 21 years. There is no precedent; there has never existed anything like this figure.
It is truly very satisfying to listen to the Ambassador reaffirm that these successes were possible due to the political ideology, to a political science, to Marxism-Leninism, to which they added important theoretical contributions of Mao Zedong, theoretical contributions to the revolutionary struggle, theoretical contributions to Marxism to which they later added theoretical and practical contributions of Deng Xiaoping. Added to this is the undeniably hard-working characteristic of the Chinese people. They are a people, really very hardworking. That is recognized everywhere in the world and, in Cuba, it is acknowledged because, dedicated to agriculture, specifically vegetable production, they greatly contribute to the supply of fresh produce in the city.
So, this spirit of labor is an important factor that, in my opinion, also contributed to the advances of the Chinese people, along with a theory and through a revolution that won, together with deep social changes, the independence of that great nation; a true and exemplary revolution when you analyze its roots, from the beginning when it organized its first nucleus of the Chinese Communist Party during the twenties, its rich history and, among the outstanding events, the long march, a military achievement that is unparalleled in history – and history has many military achievements.
We have read some books on what constituted that advance, day by day, surrounded by large enemy units of the puppet government that was supplied with all the weapons it needed, with hundreds of divisions. And that great military achievement occurred in very difficult conditions, always surrounded by large forces, constantly outmaneuvering the enemy, overcoming natural barriers. At times these included snow-capped mountains, and other times, wide and rushing rivers, until they reached the base that would be their permanent site during the war of liberation.
There was a time that the others, the so-called nationalists, the Puppets and reactionaries were fighting a foreign invasion, a war against the Japanese militarists and, to some extent, joined forces with the revolutionary Chinese. However, they were not serving the people nor the true independence of the country and they made all kinds of errors and had all kinds of weaknesses. Many times the Communists had to fight against the nationalists of Chiang Kai-Shek and against Japanese troops. In spite of this, they made a decisive contribution to the defeat of the Japanese militarists. These events are also in the pages of modern Chinese history.
And those who served reaction and Yankee imperialism at the end of the Second World War, who were crushingly and irreversibly defeated, took refuge on the little island of Taiwan, which is an integral part of Chinese territory because it was a part of China for an infinite length of time, like the keys to the north of Cuba, more so than the Isle of Youth is ours. Those who live there are of Chinese nationality, speak the Chinese language and have Chinese culture in spite of the western penetration they have received. This possession is an unquestionable right of the Chinese nation. It absolutely cannot be denied that it is an internal problem of China. No one has the right to interfere, and that is what they demand: respect for the sovereignty of their country, the universal recognition of this right. They are not demanding the union of two different nations, of different ethnicities, and different cultures.
Even the Taiwanese, until recently, and especially in the Security Council, spoke for 22 years of only one China completely integrated. Until recently they have been speaking in this language.
Ah! What was the first military intervention by the United States to secure Taiwan? I remember. During the days of the Korean War, the U.S. fleet took up a position between the continent and the island of Taiwan. This cannot be forgotten. That position was maintained by force. The country did not have conditions for that battle, nor did the country want to wage this battle. The country demanded its rights, demanded recognition, and wanted to solve the problem peacefully. What it determined with all its rights, was that it would not admit the loss of part of its territory, the tearing up of its country through the declaration and recognition of an independent republic of Taiwan. They have said it categorically, that they will not permit it, and I am sure that they will not, as I have the hope that this problem and the recognition of the theory and the practice of the inalienable rights of China occur without any form of war or loss of blood.
What is really happening today is that the United States and other western countries, while they talk of only one China, supply the separatist government of the island with the most modern and sophisticated weapons and nourish the movement against the integrity of China.
The Ambassador recalled and Machadito also mentioned the problem of Hong Kong. They knew how to have the necessary patience until the day came when the West and the world had no other choice but to acknowledge the right of the People’s Republic of China to the reintegration of this piece of its territory seized by colonial wars, disgraceful colonial wars.
Today much is said against drug trafficking. Then, the British Empire took over that territory and the West unleashed a war and sent troops who reached Beijing to impose the rights of the Western powers over the opium trade with China. That is a historical truth.
They recalled that this same year Macao would be returned, the little piece that was in the hands of a European country and it would be done peacefully through an agreement made thanks to Chinese patience, a patience we should all learn from and that, partially, we have. And if we have not learned from it we have figured out on our own because the duty of all revolutionaries it to also act with the necessary wisdom.
They waited and that year took possession of the territory. To make things easier, they thought of a country with two systems. They promised those who stayed in Hong Kong the existing economic and social systems, the existing institutions but under Chinese sovereignty. They have also made this offer to Taiwan, with an even broader scope. The proof of the peaceful spirit of China is the fact that, even though the Portuguese enclave of Macao had no form of defense, they did not take advantage of the circumstance or any situation to take over the enclave.
India, a neighboring country, also very populated, did not have so much patience and, at a certain time, took over a Portuguese enclave that was on Indian territory. It is a good example of the peaceful spirit of the People’s Republic of China. They did not use force to recover that territory and with the help of time and international support they are recovering all the rights they were stripped of.
The Ambassador mentioned how they had broken up the country. He could mention many other things. I mentioned the history of opium. How many crimes were committed against that great nation until mid-century, and how many rights were denied and ignored until they were reestablished in the course of the final two-thirds of this century!
Respect the people! Respect territorial integrity! This is not the time to break up nations. At a time when many peoples, separated by borders, by flags and hymns fight for integration, join together, and peacefully wipe out borders, the countries of the Caribbean fight for integration. The countries of Central America fight for integration The countries of South America fight for integration. Latin America fights for it. In the future, no small nation can exist isolated in practice.
I will say more: Switzerland a country traditionally very protective of its sovereignty that, due to its excellent geographic position in the heart of the Alps, could maintain neutrality during the First and Second World Wars. And Switzerland, I know because I went there and spoke with leaders who were, along with 49% of the people, in favor of integration into the European Economic Community, only a small fraction is lacking to make a majority – could not live alone in the Alps, isolated from the rest of the European community. The move is inexorably toward integration in that community.
Who has the right to support the disintegration of China? Who has the right to deny China’s demand for acknowledgment of its sovereignty over Taiwan? It is absurd that when the entire world is integrating that someone should call for the disintegration of a piece of China.
You can see the disaster of disintegration of the Soviet Union countries; a disintegration that became a race of all to run, primarily the United States, to invest and establish its hegemony, its domination and its possession of the fundamental resources of the former republics, mainly gas and oil, products of which they are very rich, as well as other minerals.
The world doesn’t move towards disintegration, it moves towards integration. It is not only a historical fact but also a principle of the modern world, a necessity of modern life. That is what the People’s Republic of China demands. And now, the People’s Republic of China of today, of this millennium, or of this century about to begin, is very different from that republic that arose 50 years ago in a country devastated by many years of war, against foreign invasion.
Added to this was the revolutionary war. More than 20 years of fierce battles against the internal and external enemies of the Chinese people. The country destroyed, a country that was poor, a country that had been exploited by external and internal exploiters. Everything needed to be built. I already mentioned under what conditions.
It is a country whose economy strongly moves forward. It’s curious; Machadito mentioned their contribution during the Asian crisis. There is something more: the People’s Republic of China gave an extraordinary service to the world in recent months, especially since 1998 in that crisis that began in Southeast Asia and that lead the second world power in the field of economy, Japan, into a deep crisis, that later spread to Russia and was seriously affecting the stocks and shares of the United States exchanges and which threatened to wipe out the economy of Latin America.
You can see how great the danger was that Latin America as a whole grew, if it grew at all, by 0.5% in 1999; and if it grew 0.5% it is because the countries with an important weight in the region produced greater growth. Mexico was between 4% and 5%. There are countries with growth below zero, negative in several countries, several important countries. It was a very serious world economic threat that has not yet been overcome, and it is not known with certainty if it will soon be overcome and there is the certainty – at least I have it – that when it recovers it will not be for long.
China had made an enormous economic sacrifice without which the crisis would not have been stopped. It was in a complicated situation because its exports grew year by year, but when the Asian crisis devaluated the currencies in many countries with a certain level of development – the so-called Asian tigers, pride of the neoliberal economy, pride of imperialism as an example of what can be achieved through their adverse formulas – and when they fell in a matter of days, since one after the other economy of those countries collapsed with terrible consequences, both for the economy of the world, especially for the countries of the Third World that are totally unprotected in this crisis, the Chinese found themselves at a disadvantage because the prices of the merchandize of all these countries cheapened amazingly because with the devaluation of their currency they could export whatever they wanted at low prices.
China could have devaluated the yuan to protect itself against that competition, to maintain the rhythm of increase in its exports and with this maintain an uninterrupted rise in growth. The world was shaking – the world! Not just the Third World but also the industrialized world was shaking thinking of the idea that China, with its rights, and to protect its exports and economic growth could devaluate the yuan. It did not and still there has been no acknowledgement that the People’s Republic of China deserves for this service it gave to the world and at the cost of its own economy.
In other words, it acted with a great sense of responsibility, the prestige of the country grew last year more than the 7.8% that Machadito mentioned referring to the growth of the Chinese economy. The prestige of China must have grown, for this reason alone, at least by 20% or 30%. But I think its prestige deserved a growth of 200% because no one can imagine the consequences of a measure of this kind by China. However, they are haggling over its membership in the World Trade Organization and we are all fighting for the membership of China to the WTO.
Europe and the United States assume the right to decide who becomes a member and who does not. The battle in the United Nations repeats itself. And the WTO is frightful because it can be a terrible instrument against the interests of the Third World.
The Third World is interested to have China in the World Trade Organization, which is responsible for regulating this activity; an instrument created, undoubtedly – the same as other instruments that already exist such as the IMF and similar institutions that have imposed the famous neoliberalism whose consequences our compatriots know about through the thousands of visitors who come from all over the world and the press releases regarding this ever increasing loss of prestige and more damaging – like an instrument of domination. All that imperialism has created since the fall of the socialist camp have been instruments to strengthen its domination in all fields. In the economic sphere it enjoys some incredible privileges that cannot continue to survive. They are the ones who print the money reserves of the world, investing only in the paper. The Europeans are trying to create another to protect itself from these super-privileges that exists at the cost of the interests of the rest of the world and benefit, to a certain extent, by sharing them.
All these subjects are part of the issues that must be discussed to change the existing world order that has been established for that reason.
The club of the rich, a group of rich countries – there are around twenty something, I think it is 29 now – invented a multilateral agreement project of investments to make it an international treaty. Today there are bilateral agreements, but the member countries of this club known as the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) invented a project that was shrouded in silence. They discussed it behind closed doors and were getting ready to release it when some people – I think it was in France – discovered the text that, although it was known and being discussed the contents were unknown. They mounted a great scandal and the authors had to put a stop to it.
Where this had to be discussed was in the WTO because over a hundred countries were there and not the 30 richest countries. They did not want to discuss it in the WTO although the WTO was set up as an instrument to strengthen the economic, political and all other forms of United States hegemony. They imposed the conditions of that organization as an instrument of imperialism. That’s why it was created although it could be sidetracked to become an instrument of the peoples where we of the Third World are a wide majority. But the peoples of the Third World are very divided because of their poverty they depend heavily on the United States and the trade institutions and financial organizations it created and that, often, breaks the unity.
Acting in unity, the Third World with China in the WTO could become an instrument of justice, an instrument of resistance to the hegemony of the United States, for a new economic order, against the current economic order they have imposed which is the important reason to reform the United Nations. All this is linked. The WTO could be an instrument of justice. We are a majority. We are the majority in the United Nations as you can see from some of the votes in the UN General Assembly, for example, those against the blockade.
One day the General Assembly managed to impose the recognition of China’s rights – the real China, the only China that exists – in the Security Council. Ah, that is why we also call for more powers for the UN General Assembly. That institution must change.
The Chinese ambassador clearly explained and mentioned all the concepts of limited sovereignty, global threats, right to intervention like the one in Yugoslavia, to which is added the new strategic concept of NATO, approved days before that genocidal war, a right that NATO assigns itself of intervening whenever it wants in any country.
As I said, all these problems are linked; the intention of ignoring the United Nations, that is all we have; a world organization that exists, that was founded after the Second World War. It no longer corresponds to the present situation in the world, having almost 200 independent states. It began with around thirty or forty something states controlled by the victorious powers after the Second World War. It definitely needs to be restructured and democratized, but this requires tactics and strategies. At least it is very clear for me the importance of the ties of the Third World with China and the need for the support of China in that restructuring that can no longer be delayed because China is a permanent member with the right to veto.
Under certain limits the United States can try to prevent it and will do so for a long time. But it will have to discuss it, as it has had to discuss other things. It refused to discuss it for many years and will be unable, also, to prevent the democratization of the United Nations, as a result of the mobilization of world public opinion, through the unity of the nations.
He mentioned those principles that imperialism wants to wipe out. It is very important to listen here to the Chinese Ambassador asserting that these principles must be defended and that is a fundamental factor of Chinese foreign policy.
Fortunately, yesterday, we had the opportunity to listen to the Russian Chancellor – because Russia exists. It is not a superpower but still is a great power.
What is my opinion about the difference between a superpower and a great power? That the former has the power to destroy the latter fifteen times over and the latter has the power to destroy the other three or four times, but one is enough, and hopefully that will never happen!
Russia is a great power. China is a great power in a different way, and in some ways a much greater power than Russia; but Russia is a great nuclear power. It has a nuclear military power that China does not. China does not yet have it and hopefully it will not need it.
What forces China to maintain a technical development in the military field is simply the aggressive policy against it, the interference in its internal affairs, the denial of its fundamental rights, and strategic concepts that amount to threats. At any time, NATO could intervene because it decides that China posed a global threat due to some internal problem – any kind of problem that might arise. It is inconceivable that they assume that right. That is why I say I hope they never have to become a great nuclear power!
But what do the others do? Invest increasingly in weapons, in the development of military technology. Recently, we read the declaration of one of the nominees to the presidency of the United States who promised to invest enormous sums in military research to improve conventional weapons, among other things. What is the purpose of all this improvement? Why all that technological development when the Cold War has been long dead? What is the justification for all this weaponry but the clear intention of dominating the world, not only through political and economic measures but also military ones, to maintain discipline in this chaotic world? I am not going to try to explain why, but we know very well all the details and the hundreds of arguments for why the world is chaotic. And those cannot be solved with nuclear or conventional weapons. It is their desperation that makes them take this course, to hold everything in their hands: military, political, and economic.
Even Europe was humiliated by its ridiculous role in the war against Yugoslavia since 100% of the bombs were made in the United States and 90% of the operations were made by US aviation and missiles. Europe felt so humiliated that the ambition to have its own European forces has taken wing because of the crushing superiority created by its ally. What a difficult ally Europe has and what a dangerous one in every way.
I already told you how pleased I was to listen to the Russian Chancellor – I didn’t say Soviet, right? I said Russian because sometimes we make mistakes out of an old habit. Now it is not Soviet, it is not a socialist country. Today The International would not be sung in an event to commemorate something related to Russia. But Russia is a country threatened by NATO, which is moving towards its borders. Russia is a threatened country that US imperialism wants to see weakened and even torn apart, to take over its enormous natural resources. The great capital of the United States is not satisfied with the investments it has made in all parts of the defunct USSR, above all in the area of the Caspian Sea where there are said to be enormous oil and gas reserves, and in other republics in the region. They are not satisfied with their ambitious program of taking over and controlling all that wealth. They also want to take over and control all the wealth of Russia, apply conditions, even upbraiding it a few days ago when they scolded the country in a meeting of the G-7 regarding the financial scandal.
That is not a socialist nation. It has common interests, many common interests with other countries. It has them with Europe, and Europe is neither calm nor happy. Above all, Europe does not like adventures imposed from the other side of the ocean, like the Yugoslav adventure and any others the United States might think up.
Since that last experience of the genocidal war, more proclamations are made of the new strategic-military doctrines and enthusiastic political theories intended to ravage the United Nations Charter and establish the rights of the powerful to intervene in any part of the world. The world feels threatened and we know that well.
It’s very good, we have read, that relations between Russia and China are improving. That’s very good. We have read that they have adopted similar positions concerning the barbarous war against Yugoslavia. That’s good. We know that they have taken common positions against the alleged right to dismantle whatever it wants to, like they dismantled Yugoslavia and succeeded in dismantling the USSR.
All these are issues that worry many nations in the world.
And in Europe there wasn’t only the disintegration of the USSR but U.S. capital, which as I said, is taking over the economies of the old socialist countries. They want to take over everything there. Ah, but we are living in new times, a new century that will begin in something over a year – because 2000 is the last year of this century, lets not forget this – there are great challenges and tasks for the nations of the Third World, for countries like China, for countries like Russia.
We know that Russia tries to develop relations not only with Europe but also with the Third World. And we heard from the Russian Chancellor words similar to those said today by the Chinese Ambassador referring to the principles that I mentioned previously, intending to sweep away the rights of the peoples who form part of the United Nations and the principles that provided some measure of relative protection for their sovereignty independence. I say relative because we know that, in spite of these rights, the United States has intervened in a group of countries during these last decades without anyone’s permission – we know that – but always clashing with international law and now they want to do as they please without troubling with any international law or any established principles.
A hard battle must be waged in the United Nations, like the one our delegation waged. There is much to do battle about and there are many common interests among some of the nations that are members of the Security Council and the rest of the world.
For various reasons, the world is becoming aware of these problems and it is visible. There is sufficient strength to resist, to move forward, more so backed by the laws of history and the reality of a system and world economic order that is unsustainable; that is collapsing and that is capable of collapsing by itself, although this collapse must be helped along. And more than aiding in the collapse, the world must be made aware of these realities so that the peoples can resist this order with more strength and contribute to its progressive disappearance. Although one is sure that the disappearance will not be very progressive, because when a catastrophic economic crisis occurs, like the one that almost occurred, and being greater, because the more the delay the stronger the crisis will be, the spirit of struggle of the peoples must be lifted, their will to resist. We must make them aware that they must prepare for new concepts, a new concept of the world, a new world economic order, truly fair, that must come about as the result of the struggle of the peoples.
The peoples must struggle not only to protect their economy and Rights, but also must struggle to defend their own survival. They wipe out the environment; they destroy it. Scarcely a year ago Mitch hit Central America with devastating damage and now we see images of colossal floods, a visible climactic change and that no one denies. Who does it hit first? The poor countries; the nations of the Third World.
That is why I thought it was necessary to express these thoughts because I feel they are very important questions, worthy to be taken into consideration on a day such as today. But, I also wanted to say that, during these difficult years, when we suddenly lost our markets, we had the Chinese market. When it was difficult to acquire some supplies, we acquired some of them in the Chinese People’s Republic. Our ships come and go, they take and bring products. They have a very developed pharmaceutical industry, many raw materials for our drug industry, many raw materials for our pharmaceutical industry; some that are very difficult to acquire we find in China and at good prices. They have cooperated with our country. They have developed exchanges and economic relations with Cuba. They have also developed political relations with Cuba during the special period. Most of its leaders have visited our country.
We had the honor of receiving President Jiang Zemin and, in our fist contact, we were not wrong in appraising his intelligence, his political and human conditions, his capacity as a responsible leader and statesman with solid principles.
We also see in China, because we read the news cables every day, the other country where western propaganda is furious. A day doesn’t pass where international cables do not appear about internal questions and affairs in China. If China arrests someone for breaking the law, the outcry follows immediately. If China forbids a small splinter group because they are endangering the stability and union of the country or because of a policy that is treasonable to the interests of this great people, the outcry follows. Today the propaganda concentrates mostly against Cuba, but there is also strong propaganda against China, a diversionist propaganda using all the mass media possible creating new stations transmitting western ideas, western consumer habits or US madness to the 1.25 billion Chinese people – against a country with which it is waging, as much as possible, an ideological battle.
That is why, today, aware of our forces, the potential forces of the world, the potential allies of the Third World, the possibility of our peoples, thinking about this, listening to the words of the Ambassador, I felt a deep satisfaction and was very pleased to attend this event although I had not thought of speaking. I’ve extended myself a little more than what I had promised – and to listen to the Ambassador here speak the phrase that received so much applause and in Spanish because he spoke with precision in Spanish. He knows Cuba. He lived and worked in Cuba several years ago. That is why he speaks Spanish so clearly, like any one of us, when he said: “Socialismo o muerte” and when he added “Venceremos” he said something that we are absolutely convinced about.
Also, that is why I was so deeply moved to hear The International in this event endorsed by what was said here, expressed with exact data that was outlined here to demonstrate that only socialism can solve the problems of the world. Only socialism can feed 1.25 billion Chinese, give them a home, a television for each Chinese family, and many other household articles, and especially the essential resources for life. That is to say, that country feeds approximately 22% of the world’s population with 7% of the world’s agricultural lands.
Another great example: The country went through periods of starvation under the domination of the feudal lords and capitalism, always allied with colonial and dominating powers when the population was only 400 million or 500 million. Today the population has tripled and hunger has been eradicated forever. And here the Ambassador explained that they have been capable of producing 40% of the eggs produced in the world, 490 million tons of cereals, and other similar statistics.
And we could say that China is just beginning, that 7.8% growth was by brute force. How could they manage that if the rhythm of exports fell considerably? Ah! Because of the resources they have been accumulating. High reserves of convertible currencies allowed them not only to make the contribution I spoke of about the yuan but of maintaining a rhythm of growth that, if it was not going to depend so much on exports, would depend on the increase of internal consumption and maintain the rhythm of development for employment, because in all these tasks of restructuring, logically there is an important need to create jobs. They must also confront the movement from the countryside to the city as the former increases productivity and produces a surplus of hand labor.
They were able to maintain the yuan. It would have been easier to devaluate the yuan but they did not do it. Instead, they maintained their reserves, managed their economy with wisdom and managed a 7.8% growth under these conditions. They not only endured the Southeastern Asian crisis in those countries where the owners of capital took their money, where the owners of world finances plundered the last dollar of their reserves creating the ideal conditions for the large US transnationals to acquire companies and factories in any of those countries at a low cost. They not only endured the crisis and without devaluating the yuan but also performed an incredible service to the world. And in spite of that, they grew by 7.8%. They are able to continue the battle, in spite of the difficulties that oppress the world today.
All that has been said today of this story is the fruit of something that is called socialism. It is the fruit of a doctrine that arose to shake the world, a Marxist doctrine, of scientific socialism, a revolution of the poor, by the poor, and for the poor, that has, also made possible this incredible heroic exploit of resisting 40 years of blockade and almost 10 years of special period.
That is why I repeat the slogan with which the Ambassador ended his speech:
¡Socialismo o Muerte!