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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.
The Last Flag
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
The flag-raising ceremony at the United States embassy in Havana was the news of the day worldwide on August14th. This was logical because it was perhaps the most visible shift in US policy after the decision to restore diplomatic relations announced simultaneously by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama on December 17th, 2014. It was, as John Kerry the first Secretary of State to visit Cuba in seventy years, said, “A historic day”.
The fact that it was Kerry who presided over such act was in some sense a manifestation of historical justice. Since as a young man, returning decorated from the war, when he became head of the veterans who sought to end the aggression against the Vietnamese people through his long career as a senator from Massachusetts, Kerry followed a consistent path defined in his country as “liberalism”. His role had been decisive in establishing relations with Vietnam within the Senate where he was one of the harshest critics of the blockade against Cuba and the use of federal funds to “promote democracy” in Cuba.
Fifty-four years ago, when they closed their embassy in Havana, Washington believed that the days of the Cuban Revolution were numbered. When that decision was made, in January 1961, they were advancing their plans for the mercenary invasion that Cuba defeated in April in less than 72 hours at Playa Giron. After the failure of that plan, they intensified their efforts to choke the island while crafting even more aggressive projects including the use of their own armed forces.
The US got all the governments of Latin America, except Mexico, to break off diplomatic relations and close their missions in Havana. The  coup that overthrew President Joao Goulart in Brazil was a decisive element in the anti-Cuban plan, and opened the way for the long night of military dictatorships with their terrible toll of blood, mourning and pain. The Latin American democracies and their peoples were direct victims of the Yankee demands against Cuba. Since the sixties of last century, Cuba’s right to independence and the defense of democracy on the continent, have been inseparable parts of the same struggle.
Even if they were made with a different purpose, the references to democracy which the Secretary of State repeated in his speech were relevant. To isolate Cuba, Washington imposed the worst tyrannies for half a century. Now they were forced to recognize Cuba, because everyone else had already done so.
The rupture of relations in the past marked the beginning of a dark era. The restoration of relations with Cuba is now primarily their admission of defeat and their need to seek new methods. By raising their flag, the United States is not telling anyone what to do. It’s the other way around. They are joining the others. The Stars and Stripes was the only flag missing and now, finally, it joins the democratic will of the continent.
Much has changed in this part of the world since the days when US hegemony was obeyed without question.
For years now, Havana has been one of the few capital cities in the world where all other independent countries in the Western Hemisphere are present, with their diplomatic missions and their flags, including every one of the Caribbean island states. Furthermore, only here is there a [diplomatic] representation of the people of Puerto Rico, whose diplomatic mission operates under the responsibility of the patriotic movement and is a frequent meeting point for many Puerto Ricans visitors of all political persuasions.
Much remains on the road to the “normalization” of relations. Such a thing is inconceivable as long as the economic blockade is maintained; the usurpation of Cuban territory in Guantanamo continues; and the United States maintains its interventionist policy. Nor is it conceivable in a context in which Washington seeks to subvert popular and progressive governments in Latin America.
Let’s hope Washington can learn the lessons of history. Its teachings are very clear for anyone who wants to see them. After all, very few times has the sun shone so brightly in Havana as in the morning of August 14.
La última bandera
In Politics Relaciones Cuba EEUU on August 20, 2015 at 4:42 pm
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
La ceremonia para levantar en su Embajada en La Habana la bandera de los Estados Unidos fue la noticia del día en todo el mundo el pasado 14 de agosto. Era lógico que así fuese pues era quizás la expresión más visible del giro en la política norteamericana después de la decisión de restablecer las relaciones diplomáticas anunciada simultáneamente por los Presidentes Raúl Castro y Barak Obama el 17 de diciembre de 2014. Fue, como dijo John Kerry, el primer Secretario de Estado que visitaba Cuba en setenta años, un día histórico.
Que correspondiese a Kerry presidir tal acto era en cierto sentido también una manifestación de la justicia histórica. Desde sus años juveniles cuando al regresar de la guerra condecorado se puso a la cabeza de los veteranos que buscaron poner fin a la agresión contra el pueblo vietnamita hasta su larga carrera como Senador por Massachusetts, Kerry siguió una trayectoria coherente con lo que en su país se define como “liberalismo”. Su papel había sido determinante en el establecimiento de relaciones con Viet Nam y fue en el Senado una de las voces más críticas del bloqueo a Cuba y del uso de los fondos federales para “promover la democracia” en la isla.
Cincuenta y cuatro años atrás al cerrar su Embajada Washington creía que los días de la Revolución cubana estaban contados. Cuando tomó esa decisión, en enero de 1961, avanzaban sus planes para la invasión mercenaria que Cuba derrotaría en abril en menos de 72 horas en Playa Girón. Fracasado aquel plan intensificó sus acciones para asfixiar a la isla mientras elaboraba proyectos aun más agresivos que incluirían incluso el empleo de sus propias fuerzas armadas.
Consiguió que todos los gobiernos de América Latina, excepto México, rompieran también sus relaciones diplomáticas y cerraran sus misiones en la capital cubana. El golpe de estado que derrocó al Presidente Joao Goulart en Brasil fue elemento decisivo en el plan anticubano y dio paso a la larga noche de las dictaduras militares con su carga terrible de sangre, luto y dolor. Los pueblos latinoamericanos y sus democracias fueron víctimas directas de la pretensión yanqui contra la isla. Desde los años sesenta del pasado Siglo el derecho de Cuba a su independencia y la defensa de la democracia en el Continente han sido partes inseparables de una misma lucha.
Aunque fuera otra su intención tenían sentido las referencias a la democracia que repitió en su discurso el Secretario de Estado. Para aislar a Cuba Washington impuso hace medio siglo las peores tiranías. Ahora se vió obligado a reconocer a Cuba porque todos los demás ya lo habían hecho. La ruptura en el pasado marcó el inicio de una etapa sombría. El restablecimiento de las relaciones con Cuba ahora es ante todo la admisión de la derrota y la necesidad de buscar nuevos caminos. Al izar su bandera Estados Unidos no está indicando a nadie lo que debe hacer. Es al revés. Se está sumando a todos los demás. La enseña de las barras y las estrellas era la única bandera que faltaba y ahora, finalmente, se suma a la voluntad democrática del Continente.
Mucho ha cambiado esta parte del mundo desde aquellos tiempos en que la hegemonía norteamericana era acatada sin chistar.
Hace años ya que La Habana es una de las pocas capitales del planeta donde están presentes, con sus misiones diplomáticas y sus banderas, todos los demás países independientes del Hemisferio Occidental incluyendo todos y cada uno de los estados insulares caribeños. Más aun, sólo aquí hay una representación del pueblo de Puerto Rico cuya Misión Diplomática aunque opera bajo la responsabilidad de su movimiento patriótico es punto de encuentro frecuente de los visitantes puertorriqueños que son muchos y de todas las tendencias políticas sin excepción.
Queda mucho por andar en la senda de la “normalización” de las relaciones. Tal cosa es inconcebible mientras exista el bloqueo económico, continúe la usurpación de territorio cubano en Guantánamo y Estados Unidos mantenga su política injerencista. Tampoco resulta concebible en un contexto en que Washington pretende subvertir a gobiernos populares y progresistas en América Latina.
Ojalá Washington pueda aprender las lecciones de la Historia. Sus enseñanzas son muy claras para quien quiera verlas. Después de todo pocas veces brilló tanto el sol en La Habana como en la mañana del 14 de ag
Speech delivered by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of his admission to University of Havana, in the Aula Magna of the University of Havana, on November 17, 2005
Text reviewed and shaped up by its author with absolute respect for the integrity of the ideas expressed during his speech.
Dear students and professors of Universities from all over Cuba;
Dear comrades, leaders and guests who have shared with us so many years of struggle:
This is the most difficult moment, when I must say some words in this Aula Magna, where so many words have already been spoken. A universe of ideas comes to mind, and it’s only logical, because time has passed.
You have been very kind to remember that today is a very special day: the 60th anniversary of my timid entry into this University.
There is a photo somewhere, I was just looking at it: I was wearing a jacket, and I have an angry face, or tough, or a nice, or irritated because that photo was not taken on the first day; I think I had already been here for several months, and I was starting to react to so many things, that were happening then. It was not a deep-seated thought. There was this eagerness for ideas, and also a desire to learn, and a spirit that was perhaps rebellious. We were full of dreams that couldn’t be described as revolutionary, but certainly full of illusions and energy, and possibly also an anxiety to take up a struggle.
I had been active in sports, I had climbed mountains. I had even been promoted to some kind of Boy Scout lieutenant, I’m not exactly why, and later on they made me a general of the Boy Scout. So, when I was in high school, I had been given more ranks than I have today (Laughter). Because later on, I became Comandante, but nothing more than Comandante; this thing of being Comandante en Jefe doesn’t mean any more than being chief commander of that small troop of about 82 men, the men who came in the Granma yacht.
That title came up after the landing, on December 2, 1956. There had to be a chief among those 82 men. Later on, they added the “in”. So, little by little, I went from being Chief Commander to being the Commander in Chief when we had more commanders, because that was the highest rank for a long time. I was remembering these things. One has to think about what one was, what one thought about and what feelings one had.
Perhaps some special circumstances in my life made me react. I had to face some difficulties from a very early age and, maybe because of that, I grew up to be some kind of a professional rebel.
I’ve heard talk about rebels without a cause; but I seem to remember, whenever I think about it, that I was a rebel with many causes; and I thank life that I have continued being a rebel over the years, even today, perhaps more rightly so today, because I have many more ideas and more experience; because I have learned a lot from my own struggle, or because I have a better understanding of this country where we were all born and of this world where we live, this globalized world living now a decisive time for its destiny. I wouldn’t dare say a decisive time in its history, because its history is shorter, really brief, when compared to the life span of a species that in recent times, perhaps 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 years ago, took its first steps after its long and brief evolution. I say long and brief because it evolved to the point of becoming a homo sapiens some hundreds of thousands of years after life came into existence on this planet, as scholars believe it to be; if my memory doesn’t fail me, around 1 or 1,5 billion years ago a life form was born and after that came millions of species. And we are only that, we are one of the species born on this planet. And that is why I said, after a brief and at the same time long life, we have come to this point, in this millennium, which is said to be the third millennium since the beginning of the Christian era.
Why am I circling around this idea? Because I would dare say that today this species is facing a very real and true danger of extinction, and no one can be sure, listen to this well, no one can be sure that it will survive this danger.
Well, the fact that the species would not survive was discussed about 2,000 years ago. I remember that when I was a student I heard of the Apocalypse, a book of prophesy in the Bible. Apparently, 2000 years ago someone realized that this weak species could one day disappear.
Of course, so did the Marxists. I remember Engel’s book, Dialectics, very well. He said there that one day the light of the Sun would go out, that the fuel feeding the fires of that star which illuminates our world would run out and the light of the Sun would cease to exist. So, a question remains in my mind: a question that maybe you, or your professors, or hundreds of thousands of you have also asked yourselves, and that is if there is any possibility that this species can emigrate to another solar system.
Have you never asked yourselves that question? Well, at some point you will, because many questions come to our minds during our lifetime, particularly these questions, which are asked mostly when there is a reason to do so. I believe that mankind never had more reasons than it does now to wonder about this, because if that Marxist considered the problem of solar heat and light disappearing, and if that scientist considered that one day the solar system would cease to exist, we too, as revolutionaries, giving wings to our imaginations, must ask ourselves what will happen and if there is any hope for this species to escape to another solar system where life already exists or could exist. All that we know today is that there is one Sun four light years away, among the billions of suns that exist in that enormous outer space of which we still don’t know whether it is finite or infinite.
For the little we know of physics and mathematics, of light and the speed of light, and those traveling to the closest planets, nothing has been found, and those who travel to Venus –I believe that Venus was the Roman goddess of love– those that have the privilege of reaching that planet will find hurricanes that are many hundreds of times worse that Katrina or Rita or Michelle or Mitch, or any of the others that hit us with ever increasing fury as it has been said that the temperature on Venus is 400 degrees, and that there are masses of air or heavy atmosphere constantly blowing around.
Those that have been to Mars, a place where they said life could exist –Chavez jokes about the likely existence of life there in the past– and it disappeared, everything vanished. They keep searching for some particle of oxygen or some sign of life. Well, anything could have happened, but the most probable is that no developed life form ever existed on any of these planets. The combination of factors that made life possible occurred after billions of years on planet Earth, this very fragile life form that can only survive between a few limited degrees of temperature, between a few degrees below zero and a few degrees above zero, since nobody can survive in a water temperature of 60 degrees; just 20 seconds without any protection and no human being would survive; a few scores degrees below zero, with no source of artificial heat, would be enough to cause anyone’s death. It was in that limited margin of temperature that life came into being.
We are speaking of life, because whenever we speak of universities, we speak of life.
What are you? If I were asked that question right now, I would have to say that you are life, you are symbols of life.
We have been speaking of events in our lives, in our university, in our Alma Mater, about those of us who came here a few decades ago and who are present here today, those who are in their fresh year or are about to graduate, or those who have already graduated and are engaged in tasks that others with less experience would not be able to do.
I was trying to recall how those universities were, what we did, what our concerns were. We were concerned about this island, this tiny island. There was no talk then of globalization; there was no television or Internet; instant communication were not possible from one end of the planet to the other; the telephone had just been invented and there were a few propeller driven airplanes. In my time, back in 1945, our passenger planes could hardly make it to Miami, and that was difficult; although I remember as a primary school student hearing about the trip made by Barberan and Collar; people in Biran used to say: “Barberan and Collar were here”. They were two Spanish pilots who flew over the Atlantic and continued on to Mexico. Then there was no more news about Barberan and Collar, it is still a mystery where they went down, whether it was in the sea between Pinar del Rio and Mexico, on the Yucatan peninsula or elsewhere. But nothing more was ever heard about Barberan and Collar, those two men who had the temerity to cross the Atlantic in a small propeller plane that had recently been invented. Aviation had been born at the beginning of the past century.
There had been a terrible war that took the lives of some 50 million people. I am speaking of the time in 1945 when I entered the university, on September. Well, I started on that date, and you, of course, have taken the liberty to celebrate the anniversary that day; it could be the 4th or the 17th, it could be in November, it could be today, the day that you choose as the date. There are so many events to commemorate, and I certainly could not attend that many, and the greatest sorrow of my life would have been not being able to attend, especially at this time, this event in the Aula Magna, as your guest.
I have many events to attend everyday and I am speaking with large groups for hours and hours on end, especially with groups of young people, students, with medical brigades who go out to work in glorious missions that almost nobody else in this world would discharge, because no other country could send 1000 medical doctors to a sister nation in Central America. We have sent just such a group that is now confronting pain and death, in the aftermath of the greatest natural tragedy that anyone in that country can remember.
One after another, I have been speaking to these brigades, and I’ve been seeing them off; the same with those who are leaving for the other side of the world, flying for 18 hours to where almost simultaneously another of the greatest human tragedies struck. I remember no other catastrophe of such dimensions, because of the place where it hit, and the humble people who were affected. These people are shepherds living on very high mountains and the tragedy struck on the eve of winter where the cold is most intense, where there is great poverty while the insensitive world that wastes a trillion dollars each year on advertising to bamboozle the immense majority of humanity that pays for the lies that are spread depriving the human being of the capacity to think for himself, as he is forced to buy a soap that is the same soap with 10 different names, and he must be deceived because a trillion dollars are spent on it and this money is not paid by the companies, it is paid by those who buy the product due to the advertising.
This insensitive world that spends one trillion dollars each year on the military –it’s already two trillion– this insensitive world that extracts various trillions of dollars a year from the impoverished masses, from the immense majority of this planet’s inhabitants, remains indifferent when it is told that around 100,000 people have died, among them maybe 25,000 or 30,000 children, or that there are 100,000 injured, and the large majority is suffering from bone fractures in their arms and legs of which barely 10% have been operated on, that there are children with mutilated limbs, and young people, women and men, old people.
This is the kind of world we are living in. It is not a world full of goodness, but a world full of egoism. It is not a world of justice, but one full of exploitation, abuse and pillage, where millions of children die every year –and they could be saved–, just because they are lacking a few cents worth of medicine, or some vitamins or re-hidration salts and a few dollars worth of food, enough for them to live. They die every year due to injustice, almost as many as died in that colossal war that I mentioned a few minutes ago.
What kind of world is this? What kind of world is this where a barbaric empire proclaims its right to launch pre-emptive attacks on 70 or more countries, and is capable of bringing death to any corner of the globe, using the most sophisticated weapons and killing techniques? It’s a world where brutality and force prevail, with hundreds of military bases on the entire planet. There is one of these on our soil, where they arbitrarily intervened after the Spanish colonial power could no longer stand by itself, and when hundreds of thousands of our country’s dearest sons –in a population of hardly a million– had perished in a long war lasting almost 30 years. And they left us with the revolting Platt Amendment, attached to an equally repugnant resolution that treacherously gave them the right to intervene in our country whenever they considered there to be a lack of order.
More than a century has gone by and this piece of our territory is still forcibly occupied today bringing shame and horror to the world when it is known to have been turned into a torture center, where hundreds of people pulled in from different parts of the world are kept in detention. They do not take them to their own country because there may be laws that would make things difficult for them to illegally hold these people by force, kidnapped for years, overriding any legal procedure, and to the amazement of the entire world, these people are being subjected to sadistic and brutal torture. The world learned of this only when in Iraq they were torturing hundreds of prisoners from a country invaded by the powerful forces of a colossal empire, and where hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have lost their lives.
New things come up every day. Recently, the press reported that the US government had secret prisons in the satellite countries of Eastern Europe, the same countries that vote in Geneva against Cuba and accuse her of human rights violations. They accuse the country that has never known a torture center in 46 years of Revolution, because our country has never broken that unparallel tradition in history where not one man has been tortured, that not one person has been known to be tortured. And we would not the only ones preventing that, it would be our own people that acquired a long time ago an extremely lofty concept of human dignity.
Which of us, which of you, which of our compatriots would quietly admit to a story of torturing even one citizen, in spite of thousands of barbaric acts of terrorism perpetrated against our country, in spite of the thousands of victims of the aggression of that empire that has blockaded us for the last 45 years and has tried to suffocate us by whatever means possible? And now these scoundrels are saying –as one of them recently did before the overwhelming vote of 182 UN members, with one abstention– that the difficulties are a result of our failure, and that great accomplice of the bandit, which is the pro-Nazi state of Israel supports the blockade. We must call it that, because those who commit such crimes are doing so in the name of a people that for more than 1500 years endured persecution and were victims of the most atrocious crimes committed during World War II. The people of Israel are not to blame for the savage genocide carried out in the service of the empire, leading to a holocaust of yet another people, the Palestinian. The government of Israel also proclaims the repugnant right to launch pre-emptive attacks against other countries.
Even today, the empire is threatening to attack Iran if nuclear fuel is produced there. Nuclear fuel is not nuclear weapon; it’s not nuclear bombs. To prevent a country from producing the fuel of the future is like forbidding someone to prospect for oil, the fuel of the present, which is due to run out in a very short time. What country in the world is prevented from seeking fuel, coal, gas or oil?
We know that country very well. It is a country with 70 million inhabitants bent on its industrial development and believing, quite correctly, that it is a great crime to use its gas or oil reserves to feed the potential of thousands of millions of kilowatt hours urgently needed by this Third World country for its industrial development. And there we find the empire forbidding them and threatening to attack with bombs. There is already an international debate on what day and at what time a pre-emptive attack will be launched on the research centers for production of nuclear fuel and on whether it will be the empire that does it, or its satellite Israel as it was the case in Iraq.
In 30 more years, oil reserves will run dry. Presently, 80% of oil is in the hands of Third World countries, since other countries have already depleted their reserves. Such is the case of the United States which had an enormous reserve of oil and gas that will barely last a few more years. That is why the US is trying to secure possession of oil by any means possible, in any corner of the world. However, that source of energy is running low and in 25 or 30 years, there will only be one fundamental energy source for the production of electricity, the nuclear, with some solar and wind energy sources.
The day is far when hydrogen may become the ideal fuel, through still emerging technologies. Meanwhile, mankind has reached a certain level of technical development and cannot live without fuel. This is one present problem.
Our Minister of Foreign Affairs has just visited Iran, since Cuba will be the venue of the next Non-Aligned Countries meeting within a year, and Iran is demanding its right to produce nuclear fuel just like any industrialized nation and not be obliged to destroy the reserves of a raw material, which can be used not only as an energy source but also as a raw material for numerous products such as fertilizers, textiles and many others currently used worldwide.
That’s the way of the world. Let’s see what happens if they decide to bomb Iran in order to destroy any facility used in the production of nuclear fuel.
Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and so is Cuba. We have never considered producing nuclear weapons, because we don’t need them. Even if they were accessible, how much would they cost and what sense would it make producing a nuclear weapon with an enemy that has thousands of nuclear weapons? It would mean joining the game of nuclear confrontation.
We have a different type of nuclear weapon: it’s our ideas. We possess a weapon as powerful as nuclear power and it is the immense justice for which we are struggling. Our nuclear weapon is the invincible power of moral weapons. That is why we have never even considered producing them, nor have we ever considered seeking biological weapons, what for? It is to the weapons that defeat death, that defeat AIDS and cancer that we dedicate our resources. That bandit –I can’t recall the name of that guy they appointed, was it Bolton, Bordon, whatever– the man who represents the United States at the United Nations, a super-liar, the shameless liar who fabricated the idea that Cuba was doing research in biological warfare in the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Center.
They have also accused us of collaborating with Iran, transferring technology for just such a purpose, when what we are really doing is building a factory in partnership with Iran for anti-cancer products; that’s what we are really doing. They want to put a stop to that as well. May they all go to hell or wherever they want to go! They’re idiots and they’re not going to scare anyone over here! (Applause)
Those impertinent liars! Everybody knows that even the CIA discovered that what the current US representative at the UN was saying was a lie, and they had forced a man to resign because he said the other had lied. Others in the State Department realized that this was a lie and the man was furious, flying into a fit of rage against all those who were telling the truth. That then is “little Bush”’s representative at the United Nations, where 182 members just voted against that infamous blockade. This is the world where they presume to make a show of force and conquer by the use of lies and by their virtual monopoly on the mass media. Just look at the battle being waged at this moment. And they appointed the man over the objections of Congress and over the fact that everyone knows that he is a repulsive liar.
Everyday that gentleman who rules the United States is exposed using new tricks, committing new crimes, but they start falling, falling down like the leaves of the coconut palm, as a farmer from Santiago would say. Yes, they’re falling, and not quietly. There are running out of tricks and still they continue with their foolish acts.
I was speaking to you about the prisons in various countries, secret prisons where they send their kidnapped victims on the pretext of conducting a war against terrorism. It is not only at Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo, but anywhere in the world you can find a secret prison where defenders of human rights are tortured. They are the same people who order their little lambs to vote in Geneva, one after another, against Cuba, a country where torture is unknown, something that brings honor and glory on this generation. It is the honor and glory of this Revolution struggling for justice, for independence and for human decorum, and we must keep its purity and dignity untouched! (Applause)
But that’s not all. This morning there was news about the use of live phosphorus in Fallujah. It is there that the empire discovered that a nation, to all intents and purposes unarmed, could not be defeated and the invaders found themselves in the situation of not being able to leave or to stay. If they leave, the combatants would return; if they stay, these troops would be required in other locations. Over 2,000 young US troops have already died, and some are asking: How long will these men continue to give their lives for an unjust war justified by gross lies?
Don’t you think for one minute that they have abundant reserves of US troops. Every day less Americans enlist, even when enlisting in the army has become an employment opportunity. The ones who enlist are the unemployed and very often they try to enlist greater numbers of Afro-Americans to fight their unjust war. However, news is coming out that fewer Afro-Americans are enlisting in the army, despite their high levels of unemployment and their marginalization, because they know full well that they are being used as cannon fodder. In the ghettos of Louisiana, when the government said ‘its every man for himself’, thousands of people were abandoned who drowned in the flood waters; others died in the Senior Citizens Homes or hospitals, and some of them died the victims of euthanasia because the staffs of these institutions feared they would drown anyway. This is the true story that is all well-known by now and we should meditate on it.
They are chasing after Latinos, immigrants, who cross the border trying to escape hunger; this is a border where more than 500 emigrants die every year, many more in only 12 months than those who died during the 28 years of the Berlin Wall.
The empire talked about the Berlin Wall every day; not one word is spoken about the wall between Mexico and the US, where more than 500 people die every year trying to escape poverty and underdevelopment. Such is the world we live in.
Live phosphorus in Fallujah! That’s what the empire secretly does. When it became known, the US government stated that live phosphorus was a normal weapon. If it was normal, why was it not published? Why did nobody know that they were using this weapon that is prohibited by international conventions? Napalm is banned and so is live phosphorus for many more reasons.
There is news like this every day, and all of these things are part of life, all of these things are part of our world. Just look at the enormous difference between now and those days when we came to the University brimming with ideals, full of dreams and good will even though we lacked the experience of a profound ideology and the ideas that are accumulated over the passage of years. Young people entered this University exactly like that. It must be remembered that this University was not for the poor, it was for the middle class, for the rich, although young people tended to rise above class ideas and many of them were capable of struggling, as in fact they did throughout the history of Cuba.
Eight students were executed in 1871. They were like the seeds of the noblest of sentiments and of the rebellious spirit of our people which showed their indignation at this colossal injustice. Today we commemorate the deaths of nine students, who were no different from them, murdered by the Nazis in Prague on November 17, 1939, on the eve of the World War II.
Our youth always keeps alive the memory of those medical students and of all those students who fought against tyrannical and corrupt governments. Mella was one of them, also coming from the middle class because the children of farmers who could neither read nor write, were unable to attend high school, let alone enter university.
As the son of a landowner, I was able to finish sixth grade, and when I graduated from seventh grade, I could enroll in a senior high school.
If you couldn’t attend high school, you couldn’t go on to university. The children of farmers or workers, living at the sugar mills or in a municipality (unless it was a municipality in Santiago or Holguin or Manzanillo, or a few others) couldn’t go to high school, not even high school! Of course, that left them without the possibility of graduating from university because, after high school, you had to come to Havana for further studies.
I could come to Havana because my father had the means to send me, and so I graduated from high school, and fortune lead me on to university. Did that mean that I was better than any of the hundreds of boys few of which completed the 6th grade and none of which ever graduated from high school or went on to university?
My own case was like that of many others, I mentioned Mella. I could have mentioned Guiteras, or Trejo who died in one of those demonstrations on September 30, fighting against Machado. I could mention names like those that you listed at the opening of this event.
Before the Revolution, there were always many noble students opposing the Batista tyranny and willing to make sacrifices, willing to die. And so, when the Batista tyranny returned with a vengeance, many students fought and many students died, and that young man from Cardenas, Manzanita as he was called, always smiling, always jovial, always affectionate with everyone, became well-known for his bravery, his integrity as when he descended the university stairs, facing the water hose of the fire trucks, or the police. That is how all of them came to be known.
If you visit the house where [Jose Antonio] Echevarria lived –Jose Antonio, we’ll call him—you’ll see that it is a good house, an excellent house. You could see how the students were often oblivious of their social or class origins; at that age of so many hopes and dreams.
At that university, there was only one medical faculty, and one teaching hospital, yet, many students received prizes and awards, first prize in medicine and even in surgery without ever having operated on anybody.
Some made an effort; they were active and made contact with a professor who helped them, taking part in his practice or in some hospital. That’s how there were good doctors, not a huge numbers of good doctors –certainly there was a huge number of doctors who wanted to travel to the United States– they were unemployed and with the triumph of the Revolution, that’s where they went, straight to the USA and Cuba was left with half of all her medical doctors, 3,000 of them, and 25% of her professors. We started at that point, until we got to where we are today, standing up almost like the capital of world medicine.
Today, our people have at their disposition at least 15 doctors for every one that remained in the country, and they are much better distributed. Cuba has thousands of doctors abroad fraternally offering their services, and the number is growing. At this time -and I specifically asked for the exact figure-, we have 25,000 medical students; in first year there are about 7,000 and each year there will be at least 7,000 more; we have more than 70,000 medical doctors. There are also tens of thousands of students in the other medical sciences. We believe that there are 90,000 studying in the medical field, if we include nurses majoring, in nursing, and all those in other health sector professions. All of them are part of the large number of students in our universities today.
I wanted to bring up the differences from the year when I entered university; what was our country like then? We should ask ourselves that question and meditate on it. What is our country like today, in all areas? And. we could ask the same question about eight, ten, fifteen, twenty different things. Comparison is impossible.
I was speaking about Barberan and Collar disappearing in their light plane full of gasoline tanks, because that’s what you had to do in those days; they took off, and left almost in the same way that we did in Mexico in 1956; “if we set out, we arrive; if we arrive, we enter; if we enter, we win”, we said then. It seems like other men before us undertook something as audacious as that, when they crossed the Atlantic. They took off and landed in Cuba, then they took off again, but they did not arrive in Mexico alive.
I was speaking of a ship that set sail; this was like a ship setting sail a long time ago, a small plane that seemed to be powered by an elastic band. Maybe you have seen those little planes which you wind up an elastic band and then you let go and they take off and land. When our Revolution triumphed in this hemisphere, right beside the empire and surrounded, with a few exceptions, by the empire’s satellites, we started on a very difficult journey. Now it is different times, quite a few years after we entered the university.
We came to the university at the end of 1945 and we began the armed struggle in Moncada on July 26th, 1953, only eight years later, and the Revolution triumphed five years, five days and five months after Moncada, after a long journey by way of prison, exile and fighting in the mountains. It was a relatively short time historically speaking, comparing it to earlier struggles that were so hard and difficult on our people. There were two stages: coming to the University, leaving it and the coup d’etat on March 10, 1952.
The stage when we began the struggle is where we will start now. We set off, we attempted to set off, not even being too knowledgeable about the laws of gravity. We headed upwards, struggling against the empire which was already the most powerful one but at a time when another super-power also existed. And we continued marching upwards, gaining experience, seeing our people and the Revolution gain in strength, until this point where we are today.
I wish I had more time to speak to you, but this moment now is without precedent. It is a time that is different from all the others. It is nothing like it was in 1945; it is nothing like it was in 1950 when we graduated, but we had all those ideas that I mentioned that day, when I affirmed with love, respect and the utmost affection, that I came to this University with a rebellious spirit, with some elemental ideas of justice, then here I became a revolutionary, I became a Marxist-Leninist and I acquired the ideas that I have never abandoned, nor have I ever been tempted to do so, not in the least. For that reason, I dare say that I will never abandon them.
In a spirit of confessions, I could say that when I finished studying in this university, I thought I was very revolutionary and basically, I was just starting on a much longer path. If at that time I felt that I was a revolutionary or a socialist, if I had absorbed all the ideas that made me who I am, and I could be nothing other than a revolutionary. I assure you today, in all modesty, that I feel ten times, twenty times, even a hundred times more revolutionary than I was then. (applause) If at that time I was willing to give up my life, today I am a thousand times more willing to give up my life for the revolution. (applause)
One is willing to give up one’s life for a noble idea, for an ethical principle, for a sense of dignity and honor, even before one becomes a revolutionary. Tens of millions of men died on the battlefields of World War I and in other wars, impassioned by a symbol, by the beauty of a flag, by the emotional strains of an anthem like La Marseillaise was in its revolutionary time although it later became the anthem of the French colonial empire. In the name of that colonial empire and for a new distribution of the world, millions of Frenchmen died en masse in the trenches of World War I. Man is willing to die, to consciously and voluntarily give up his life; he does not fight out of instinct like so many animals fight instinctively moved by the laws of nature. Man is a complete creature, I mean both men and women, and more often one needs to include women. Yes, I have my reasons but I don’t know if I’ll have the time to tell you all of them. But the human being is the only one capable of consciously rising above all instincts, even though man is a creature of instincts, of egoism. Man is born egotistical, a result of the conditioning of nature. Nature fills us with instincts; it is education that fills us with virtues. Nature makes us do things instinctively; one of these is the instinct for survival which can lead to infamy, while on the other side, our conscience can lead us to great acts of heroism. It doesn’t matter what each one of us is like, how different we are from each other, but when we unite we become one.
It is amazing that in spite of the differences between human beings, they can become as one in a single instant or they can be millions, and they can be a million strong just through their ideas. Nobody followed the Revolution as a cult to anyone or because they felt personal sympathy with any one person. It is only by embracing certain values and ideas that an entire people can develop the same willingness to make sacrifices of any one of those who loyally and sincerely try to lead them toward their destiny.
You are constantly reading the works of the great thinkers, you are constantly reading history. In our country’s history you read the works of Marti, you read the works of many distinguished patriot and in the history of the world and in the history of the revolutionary movements you read the theoreticians, those great theoreticians who never faltered in their revolutionary principles. It is the ideas that bring us together, ideas make us a combatant people on a collective and not just an individual basis; ideas make us a mass of revolutionaries. Then, when all of the forces unite, then the people can never be defeated, and when the number of ideas grows, when the number of ideas and values to be defended grows and multiplies, that is when a people can truly never be defeated.
And so, when we remember our comrades, and we see the youth who are taking on such important tasks; many of the others were leaders in this university and have behind them many years of struggle; some have more than 50, others might have more than 40 and today each one has his responsibility; many of them are students, others come from humble backgrounds, I see them all here today, those who were at Moncada, those that came on the Granma, fought in the Sierra Maestra and participated in all the battles; I see them all here, each one of them, defending a cause, a flag.
I see, for example our dear comrade Alarcon. I remember him because here we have been speaking of the struggle for the five imprisoned heroes, and he has been their indefatigable champion for justice. This was the task given him by the Revolution and he has shouldered the responsibility with his talent and in his capacity as President of the National Assembly.
I see comrade Machadito, a former doctor, but not an old doctor, who was with us in the mountains. I see Lazo, Lage and Balaguer, I see many more out there, I still have a good sight (laughter)/ I think I see Saez, I think we can see the Minister of Higher Education, I think I can see Gomez, with a few more pounds perhaps, and further along, I see Abel, with a biblical name, who has just come back from Mar del Plata where he waged a glorious battle.
Look at this world and see all the changes, all the aims we are pursuing today. Look at the strategies that are being designed, leading us into the strategies of the world. We are a tiny country, 90 miles away from the colossal empire, the most powerful empire ever in the history of the world. Forty five years have passed and there it is, farther away than ever from the possibility of forcing the Cuban nation to its knees, the same nation they humiliated and offended for some time. (Applause) Once the US owned everything in Cuba: the mines, hundreds of thousands of the best hectares of land; the ports and its facilities; the electrical system, transportation, banking, commercial activities, etc. and the idiots believe that they will return here and that we will call on them on bended knees: “Come and save us again, Oh Saviors of the World! Come and we shall give you everything we have, again, this university too, so that you can put in 5,000 instead of half a million students; half a million is too much and for your mentality, you would like to see us unemployed and hungry so that filthy capitalism can function because it is only with a reserve corps of unemployed that it can function; come back and make the ranks of our illiterate unemployed grow and stand in lines out by sugarcane fields, with nobody bringing them water to drink, or food to eat, or housing, or transportation. Look for them, see if you can find them because here are their children, hundreds of thousands of them studying in the universities” (Applause)
I saw it with my own eyes, nobody told me about it, I saw it hardly 48 hours ago. I saw it there at the Convention Center, first a group of a few hundred, dressed in their blue T-shirts; I saw it in the young people who graduated as social workers, and today they are al, without exception, university students, from the first to the fifth year of their courses, after a year of intensive study to become social workers, after several years studying for this profession, first there were 500 and now there are 28,000.
I think it was Agramonte, others say it was Cespedes, who responded to the pessimists when he had just 12 men with him: “I don’t care about those lacking in confidence, because with these 12 men I can make a nation”. If a nation can be made with 12 men, how many times greater than 12 men are we today? And 12 men, many times multiplied, armed with ideas, knowledge, culture, knowing all about the world, knowing about history, geography, about the struggles, because they possess what we call a revolutionary conscience, which is the sum total of many consciences, it is the sum total of a humanist conscience, the conscience of honor and dignity and the best values that man can grow. This nation is born of love for the homeland and love for the world; and we cannot forget that the homeland is humanity, a statement made more than a hundred years ago. Homeland is humanity, and we must repeat that every day, when someone forgets those living in Haiti or in Guatemala, suffering from the ravages of a natural disaster, among other things, suffering indescribable pain and indescribable poverty, as it is usually the case in most parts of the world.
That is all that the infamous empire and its repugnant system can show as a result of a history where the species set out on a long march for a just society that has not been attained over thousands of years, which is the very short, relatively well-known history of a species in its quest for a just society. And they have always been as far away from that society as we are close to it today, that is, closer to that just society we want to construct. And I dare say that regardless of the many flaws we still have, of our errors and inefficiencies, this is the society which in all human history comes closer to being described as a just society.
Where is justice that I cannot see it? I cannot see it because that one over their earns twenty, thirty times more than me as a doctor, or more than me as an engineer, or more than me as a university professor. Where is justice? And, why is this happening? What does the other produce? How many does he educate? How many does he heal? How many are made happy with his knowledge, his books and his art? How many does he make happy by building a home? How many does he make happy by growing something to eat? How many does he make happy by working in factories, in industries, in the electrical system, in the drinking water system, in the streets, on the power grids, looking after communications or printing books? How many?
We must to say that there are several dozens of thousands of parasites who produce nothing and just take that individual driving a vintage car from Havana to Guantanamo, buying and stealing fuel all along the way, who charged one of those young students 1000 pesos, 1200 pesos, when he had to travel just at a time when transportation difficulties were at their greatest. He knows his ways that alongside those highways, full of pot-holes in many places and missing a lot of signal, things that couldn’t be finished for a variety of reasons, because of resources we lack, for conditions we still haven’t been able to fix, for lack of controls over the managers and other staffs.
Yes, we have to bear that in mind and not forget it, for we are faced with a great battle, which we must begin to undertake. We shall undertake it and we will win. That’s what is most important.
Yes, we are very much aware of this, and we think about this more than about anything else: our flaws, our mistakes, our inequalities, our injustice.
I wouldn’t dare to mention this subject here if I was not firmly convinced and sure that we are quickly getting closer to reducing them and to obliterating them so that, barring world catastrophes and colossal wars, we can truly accomplish something. Listen to this well: our country’s citizens, who at one time suffered a 10%, 15%, 20% or more rate of unemployment, our citizens who at one time numbered one million illiterate people, some being totally illiterate and some being semi-illiterate, up to 90% of the population, this nation today, and in a very near future, will have every one of her citizens living fundamentally on their work and their pensions and retirement incomes.
Never forget those who for years were our working class, going through decades of sacrifice, suffering the attacks of mercenary bands in the mountains, invasions like Giron, thousands of acts of sabotage that killed our sugar cane workers, our industrial and factory workers, those in the merchant marine or in the fishing industry, those who were suddenly attacked with cannons and bazookas, only because they were Cuban, only because they wanted to be independent, only because they wanted to improve the lot of our people; and there were the bandits, doing as they pleased, those bandits recruited and trained by the CIA. Some are criminals, some are terrorists who blew up planes in mid-air or attempted to blow them up, careless of how many would die, and those over there who organized attacks of every kind and organized acts of terrorism against our country.
Did the empire change in any way? I ask you, “little Bush”, where is Mr. Posada Carriles, what have you done with that nice gentleman who despite his shameful actions keeps trying to have the empire on a tight rein? When are you going to answer that very simple question which we have asked you so many times? Where and how did Posada Carriles enter the US? What boat did he use and through which port did he enter? Which of the crown princes authorized this? Could it be the fat little brother in Florida? Forgive me for using the term “fat little brother”; it is not a criticism, rather a suggestion that he do some exercises and goes on a diet, don’t you think? (laughter)…I’m doing this for the gentleman’s health.
Who welcomed him? Who gave their permission? Why is he strolling the streets of Florida, of Miami, so shamelessly? How did he pass that academy? Was it sailings or fish breeding? Who was that guy…the guy who was talking on the phone with another terrorist who had some cans of dynamite? And when he asked him, -that really was his voice,- he recognized the guy, everybody recognized him, he couldn’t deny that, when they asked what he was going to do with those cans he said: “Go to the Tropicana and throw them through a window and finish it off”. Look at how noble these people are, how law-abiding, how respectful of international laws and of human rights. And shameless “little Bush” hasn’t been able to give us an answer yet; there he is, mute; nobody has answered us.
The authorities of our sister country, Mexico, haven’t had the time either –yes, of course, they are very busy– to answer the question; it’s not asking too much, sir, to say whether Posada Carriles, such a naïve kid, naïve and innocent, took that ship from that port, just as Cuba has charged.
They have a lot of nerve, these people, telling all those lies; and if you ask them one little question, a simple little query, they take months and months and they still have no answer, not one word. Months went by and they didn’t know where their man Posada was.
That young bright girl, what’s her name? The girl who is the Secretary of State (Laughter) Condoleezza or Condoliza? OK, Countess Rice (Laughter) She doesn’t know anything either, doesn’t have a clue; and the spokespersons don’t know anything, either; they haven’t lied, they haven’t sinned one little bit, they are pure and deserve our congratulations and the trust of the entire world.
Of course, it’s a lie that they tortured anybody; it’s a lie that they were the accomplices of terrorism; it’s a lie that they invented terrorism; it’s a lie that they used torture anywhere; it’s a lie that they used live phosphorus in Fallujah. Or rather, they say it’s true, but it’s legal, very legitimate and terribly decent to use live phosphorus. So who are they trying to scare?
We were witness to the colossal battle fought in Mar del Plata, in the stadium and in the area where all the presidents were assembled. I remembered this when I saw our comrades over there and when I saw Abel; I won’t comment on this, but our people had the opportunity to see, to observe –I am aware of opinions– that grand battle, one on the streets and the other at the heads-of-state meeting.
Speaking of history, never before in the history of this hemisphere did such a battle take place, one that resembled the battle waged by that sad-faced gentleman, not because of any connection with Cervantes, but because that gentleman was grimacing, he was bored. They put him to bed at midnight and the world may fall apart; on any given day, the planes can take off from the aircraft carriers and drop bombs on that bandit territory which disturbed the slumber of the horseman who holds the reins of the empire, and while he sleeps, the horse wanders wherever it wants and it could be that, as the horseman sleeps, the horse is more aware of the empire’s destiny than his master who had to go to bed early. (applause)
It’s really a pity that we can’t delay his awakening just a bit longer, because the world could be a better place.
And that’s how it all goes. We have seen many things that cannot be forgotten.
Some have been asking whether Cuba spoke, whether Cuba took any sides. I’m telling you this now to warn you, because there are those scheming and making ridiculous statements about this. Cuba speaks whenever it is necessary, and Cuba has much to say; but we are not in a hurry, we are not impatient. We know very well when, where and how to deliver the blows to the empire, its system and its lackeys.
Apparently, some thought, or pretended to think, that there were no Cubans at Mar del Plata, that a first-class Cuban revolutionary force was not present in the glorious march in which thousands of world citizens, and mainly Argentines, took part; those who were offended by the emperor’s parked aircraft carriers, his army, his renting hotels and hiring thousands of police officers. Nobody was going to do anything to him physically, really, what they wanted was that someone would throw a rotten egg at him. No, really, I think that would have been an honor he doesn’t deserve (laughter).
The highly civilized Argentineans, together with the increasingly expert and aware citizens of our hemisphere, where the imposed order is not only untenable but beyond salvage, know exactly what they are doing. They said that it would be a peaceful demonstration, that not a blade of grass would be disturbed. This mass of people, coming together under the cold drizzle, marching for hours to the stadium and making their presence felt in that stadium, taught an unforgettable lesson to the empire, because they showed that the people know what they are doing and, they who know what they’re doing, march straight to victory. Those who do not know what they are doing, are crushed by the people.
We don’t want to give the empire any excuse to put on a little show. We shall see who is going to check-mate in this 50-piece chess game.
When I use the word “empire”, I am not referring to the American people, make sure you understand me well. The American people will salvage many of the ethical values, many of the forgotten principles. They will adapt to the world we live in, if this world can save itself, and this world must save itself. Everyone should struggle and we should be the first in that struggle for the salvation of the world. Ideas are our invincible weapons.
Some speak of the battle of ideas, that battle of ideas which we have been waging for several years now and which is becoming a battle of ideas throughout the world. These ideas will triumph, these ideas must triumph. Let’s carry this message, let’s open the eyes of a humanity that seems condemned to extinction. It won’t be eternal, as it is very likely that even the light of the Sun will go out one day. It is almost certain that there will be no way to move living, solid matter to a distance that is light years away from Earth; the laws of physics are much more rigorous, much more exact than historical or social laws.
In any case, I believe that this humanity and all the great things it is capable of creating must be preserved while it is still possible to do so. A humanity that doesn’t care about the preservation of its species would be like the young student or leader, who knows that his life is very limited to just a few short years and, nevertheless, worries only about his own existence.
I have mentioned the names of a few comrades present here today, some are older, some are not so old, but we never know how long we have left. In no way do I think that any of them wants to save himself without considering the fate of this admirable and marvelous nation. Yesterday, it was but a seed and today it is a mighty tree with deep roots. Yesterday, it was filled with noble potential and today it is filled with true nobility. Yesterday, it dreamed of knowledge and today that knowledge is real, when we are just beginning in this huge university that today is Cuba.
Just look how new cadres are springing up, young cadres. There is Enrique who is leading a small army of 28,000 social workers, plus the 7,000 who are still in school perfecting their skills in that noble profession.
As you know, we are presently waging a war against corruption, against the re-routing of resources, against thievery, and there is this force which we didn’t have before we started with the battle of ideas, one designed to wage this battle.
I am going to say something, just to see if it will raise the sense of honor of the construction workers because when they want to be heroic, they are. But don’t you think for a moment that stealing resources and materials is just a present-day illness, nor is it an exclusive phenomenon of the Special Period. The Special Period aggravated it, because in this period we saw the growth of much inequality and certain people were able to accumulate a lot of money.
I recall, we were building an important biotechnological center in Bejucal. There was a little cemetery close by. I was making my rounds, and one day I passed by the cemetery. There I saw a colossal market where the construction crew, both the foremen and many of the workers, had put up a market selling cement, steel rods, wood, paint, you name it, all kinds of construction materials.
You know that construction has always been a very serious problem. We have resources now; sometimes there have been shortages, but now we have the possibility of improving the situation of construction materials. However, it’s tragic the dilemma with the workers, the weaknesses of the foremen, and of others in leading positions.
But this is nothing new. In the times I’m referring to, we needed 800 kilograms of cement to produce a ton of concrete; it was good quality concrete, the kind needed to put up floors or columns, and it was supposed to last much longer than El Morro castle and La Cabana fortress. Well then, they should use only around 200 kilograms. See the wastage, the re-routing of resources, see the larceny.
In this battle against vice there will be no truce for anyone and we shall be thoroughly scrupulous. We will appeal to everyone’s sense of honor. We are sure of one thing; every human being possesses a healthy dose of honor. When one looks in the mirror, one is not always the harshest of judges, even though, in my opinion, the first responsibility of a revolutionary is to be extremely severe with oneself.
We are speaking of criticism and self-criticism, that’s true, but our criticisms tend to be almost grouping criticisms; we never resort to criticism in a wider circle, we never resort to criticism on a larger scale.
For example, if an official from Public Health fudges the data documenting the existence of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, he is summoned, he is criticized. I know some people who say: “Yes, of course, I criticize myself.” And with that they are content. What a laugh! They are actually happy. So, you criticize yourself, and what about all the harm you have caused and all the millions that were lost because you were careless or acted incorrectly?
Criticism and self-criticism, it’s all very good, as it did not exist in the past. However, if we are going to war we need weapons of greater caliber; we must carry out criticism and self-criticism in the school room, in the party cells and then outside the party cells, in the municipality and finally in the entire country.
Let’s make use of that sense of honor which, undoubtedly, we all have, because I know many who are what we call “shameless” people, and they truly are shameless but when in some local newspaper they report what this individual has done, they are filled with shame.
The thief deceives, and the person who deserves to be criticized for some lapse and he is deceitful, he is also a liar.
The Revolution has to use these weapons, and we shall use them whenever necessary! It shouldn’t have to be necessary. The Revolution will establish the necessary controls.
Many have been quite pleased with the way things have been going, as the song goes: “And how are you?” This is a question we could well ask of the folks who were going around with their little hose, putting gasoline into their big old cars, or receiving cash from that new rich who wasn’t even willing to pay for the gasoline he was using.
Judge for yourselves whether what I am saying describes the reality of today; the general state of disorder, not just in this, but in other things as well, with losses of millions of dollars, maybe 80 –listen, 80 is a huge bunch of millions!– it could even be 160 or 200 million dollars. Can you even conceive of what 200 million dollars mean? You’ve studied math. You’ve heard of the universities throughout the country, right? Yes or no? You are university leaders, and all the students have their rights, in some form or another, all kinds: regular day students, night students, students of this or of that. Do you know how many university students there are today? If you don’t know, we can analyze it. I arrived here today, asking for data: let’s see, tell me the exact number, 360,000. Yes, 360,000 as a result of the universalization of higher education.
No doubt Vecino knows. Don’t get upset, Vecino, when I ask you for these figures, if you don’t know them, don’t worry about it.
How many regular day students are there in all the schools of higher education in the country, including the military?
If he doesn’t know, someone must know.
(Someone tells him: 230,000)
Enrique, does it match with your figures?
(Enrique explains the distribution of the students’ figures.)
Yes, 500,000, but we have to keep on adding.
Those are the students in the universalization program, adding the regular day students, these two figures, that’s what I was talking about, it’s 500,000.
But there are other categories, I have them here.
(Enrique explains that the figure includes associate professors, adding up to 75,000, together with 25,000 university professors, coming up with the sum of 100,000)
Here it says it’s subdivided: “141,000 students in the regular day courses”.
Do we all agree on this?
“One hundred and forty thousand students are studying in the courses for workers.”
Are these the same ones, or not? Are they included in the 360,000? They are included in the 360,000 of the universalization program. Is that correct, or not?
(Enrique explains that it is independent, that there is the regular day course, the workers’ course and the universalization.)
You mean the regular day group? (It is explained that this is the figure they are talking about).
There are courses for workers who already attend university; when they enter university I think they add to the figure of 360,000. Then, there are 32,000 students in distance education. What category are those in? Are they in the 360,000? They’re not in the regular day group, they’re not in the workers group, yet they are students. This educational group exists.
Fine, let’s go with the most conservative figure, which is enough for my purpose here.
Today, there are more than 500,000 university students.
In addition, you know that we already have 958 university campuses. There’s the reason why you, the FEU (University Student Federation), are already out there in the municipalities, where a total of 45 university courses are offered, and each year it grows. There are 169 municipal university campuses run by the Ministry of Higher Education; 130 university campuses in the “Alvaro Reinoso” area; of these, 84 are located in the sugar mills communities and a lot of these are included in the earlier figure; there are 18 located in prisons, campuses for higher education that have an enrolment of 594 in under-graduate programs in socio-cultural studies, not that many yet; 240 INDER (Sports Federation) university campuses, 19 in prisons where they are studying as well, with an enrolment of 579, where 200 have just finished the first year. This is new, too: university campuses in the prisons. We also have 169 municipal university campuses for public health, 1,352 campuses in the polyclinics, health units and blood banks, in all these places they are studying various public health related courses.
There are almost 100,000 professors, full professors and associates. Many who were part of the bureaucracy in the sugar mills and in other areas are today teaching courses as associate professors; thus, the number of professors at the higher level has grown. The two groups –and I am not even mentioning the other university workers– students and professors combined, add up to a total of about 600,000. Among the students, more than 90,000 were young people who were neither attending school nor employed, many of them from poor backgrounds, and today they are showing excellent results in their university studies.
Shall I ask some questions or shall I go, more or less, by the data I have?
I’ve been asking about the cost, the budget for these higher education centers, right up to the last minute tonight. Carlitos handed me a figure, I believe it said 830. Vecino should know, because he is up on this data. Do you recall that one, Vecino?
(Vecino says that in last year’s course, it was 230 million pesos.)
No, I wish! There’s a figure that someone should know.
Look here, this is our Ministry of Finance. That was 2004 and I was asking about 2005, there has been an enormous growth. Last year’s figures don’t help me much, Vecino.
Well, what’s happening to Vecino, happens to all of us, and it’s a life or death matter. A few days ago, I was standing before a group of 200 university professionals, excellently prepared individuals, and I asked them: “Which of you can tell me your household’s electrical bill?” Listen to this, comrades. How many do you think answered me? Just guess, use your logic.
What do you think? You just spoke here. And he’s very smart, all of you are smart, but some of you are smarter. How many do you think answered my question, among those 200 university professionals? (He tells him: 100)
What do you think? Do you know how much electricity you use? (He indicates that he has some idea) What’s your idea? Tell me in pesos and in kilowatt. (Laughter) No, wait, even more; can you tell me how many incandescent bulbs you have, what brand is your refrigerator, what is your TV set (black and white or in color) and how old it is, what kind of fan you have, how much water you boil each day, what do you boil it in, do you have liquefied gas supplied by pipes, kerosene or liquefied gas supplied in small containers. No, I don’t want to ask you that question, be careful, I just wanted to know how many out of the 200 knew what their electric bill was.
You, you’re laughing, let’s see, and make a guess, an estimate…50, 70, 120. (Someone says it’s the third) And what about you? (He says, at least 100) You must be thinking about how much you use, just in case you are asked, but I’m not going to ask you. (Laughter)
Do you know how many of the 200 were able to answer? You know how many? 0.0000 to the infinite power. You’ve studied some math, you can understand that: no-one, not one single person.
I think that all our people should meditate on that for a while
Can I ask you a question? Why did that happen? Come on, we need to think about this. We have said that we must change the world, that we must save it, that we are living in a world in its critical hour and very close to a tragic finale; I’m not exaggerating here just to impress you. That could happen when you are all younger than I am now. I am speaking for all of you, for your children, your siblings, whether they are younger or older. It’s never been proven, throughout the brief history of man, not the savage history but from the time it was a man and developed a mental capacity but still did not live in society, nor had he developed writing or a rudimentary technology.
You need to think. What kind of university leaders are you? Carlitos, where did this group that can’t tell me why those 200 university professionals weren’t able to answer the question about energy consumption come from? How long do you need to meditate on this? How about a minute? Would that be long enough? (One comrade explains that the reason is because the Cuban family can afford their electrical bill, unlike in other places where people have to be more vigilant about energy consumption.)
And you, what do you think? (He suggests that no university professor ever has to worry about paying the electrical bill).
What do you think? (The answer is that this happens because the bill is so insignificant.)
What do you think? (Another believes that the revolution subsidizes a large portion of our expenses and that saving is a concern.)
Fine, I’m going to ask you another question. You are zeroing in on the exact answer, at least one that I can agree with, and I’m not alone in my opinion. There are several questions that could complicate the matter some more, but we must make the people think. We have to call upon all our honest compatriots, even the dishonest ones, because after all there could be some dishonest individual who will come up with the truth, saying: “This is the reason.” There are many. Simply stated, electricity is practically a gift, and I can prove it to you.
Afterwards, we might have other questions. How much are we earning? And if the question deals with how much we are earning, we might begin to understand the dream of everyone being able to live on their salary or on their adequate pension.
Let’s add a bit more to this: consider the case of two sisters. One of them was a teacher and now the two are living together, having some problems, difficulties, earning a pension of 80 pesos because years ago, the salaries were much lower. And then there were periods of: “I’ll pay you for overtime, I’ll pay you because it is after hours, I’ll pay you because it is night-time, I’ll pay you extra because you had to work on a Sunday”. None of this touched on the basic salary. It affected the teacher’s take-home pay, but not the actual teacher’s salary or the subsequent pension, according to the laws. Many of these laws were outdated and we have to begin to get rid of them. I can assure you that we have become aware of this. The entire life is a learning process, right up to our last breath.
Many things become clear at a certain time, and thinking of a million different subjects, one can become distracted and not notice a certain phenomenon, such as the raises in personal salaries at the outset of the Special Period: these were implemented following these norms and not following a basic salary guideline. And so there was no hesitation, recently, when the worker’s minimum pension was raised to 150 pesos. The lady was earning 80 pesos, 50 was the minimum in a category, in another it would be 190 and in yet another it would be 230. So now, imagine if you will, that teacher who had worked for 40 years, before the farmers’ free market came into being and the intermediaries attacked the Republic. Because everyone knows very well that the farmer does go there to sell three pounds of rice. The farmer is not a merchant, he is a producer. The other one will have a truck because he stole it, or because he bought it, or because he bought it with stolen money, or because he put the motor in, for many reasons.
This is not speaking badly about the Revolution, this is in fact speaking very well of the Revolution, because we speak of a Revolution that can discuss all this and can grab the bull by the horns, even better than the Spanish bull-fighter. That one will take a red cloth, he’ll close his eyes and sometimes he’ll give it the coup de grace, pierce it with a pointed stick and infuriate the bull; but we have to take the bull by the horns in order to win the prize.
I’ve never been a fan of bull-fighting, even though I did read Hemingway. When I was in Mexico, from time to time I did go to a bullfight, a corrida, or whatever it’s called. At the end, you get the prize: a good torero gets the tail or an ear. They give two ears and a tail to the one who did a perfect job, along with a glorious reputation and a celebration. I really don’t mess with all that.
I recall that at the beginning of the Revolution, one of us, I can’t remember who it was, started to talk about bull-fighting. We were somewhat ignorant about the subject, because we had seen it done in Mexico and thought it was a great tourist attraction. Look how much we knew, or who we were, or what we thought we were very revolutionary.
You are laughing, I’m glad because you are encouraging me to go on.
Here is a conclusion I’ve come to after many years: among all the errors we may have committed, the greatest of them all was that we believed that someone really knew something about socialism, or that someone actually knew how to build socialism. It seemed to be a sure fact, as well-known as the electrical system conceived by those who thought they were experts in electrical systems. Whenever they said: “That’s the formula”, we thought they knew. Just as if someone is a physician. You are not going to debate anemia, or intestinal problems, or any other condition with a physician; nobody argues with the physician. You can think that he is a good doctor or a bad one, you can follow his advice or not, but you won’t argue with him. Which of us would argue with a doctor, or a mathematician, or a historian, or an expert in literature or in any other subject? But we must be idiots if we think, for example, that economy is an exact and eternal science and that it existed since the days of Adam and Eve, and I offer my apologies to the thousands of economists in our country.
All sense of dialectics is lost when someone believes that today’s economy is identical to the economy 50 or 100 or 150 years ago, or that it is identical to the one in Lenin’s day or to the time when Karl Marx lived. Revisionism is a thousand miles away from my mind and I truly revere Marx, Engels and Lenin.
One day I said: “I became a revolutionary in this university” but it was because I came in contact with those books. Well before I had committed myself, without having read any of those books, I was questioning capitalist political economy. Even at that time, it all seemed irrational to me; and I took a political economy course in first year, taught by Portela, 900 mimeographed pages, really difficult, almost everyone failed. What a holy terror, that professor!
It was an economy that explained the laws of capitalism and examined the various theories about the origin of value; it also mentioned the Marxists, the Utopians, the Communists, in short, every economic theory. But once I began to study the political economy of capitalism, I began to have great doubts, I began to question all that, because I had grown up on a large rural estate and I remembered things, I had spontaneous ideas, just as any other utopian in this world.
Then, once I learned what utopian communism was, I realized that that’s what I was a utopian communist because all my ideas took off from the idea: “This is not good, this is bad, this is a crime. How can we possibly have an overproduction crisis and hunger at the same time, when there is more coal, more cold, more unemployed, because there is more capacity to create wealth? Wouldn’t it be simpler to produce and distribute the wealth?”
Just as Karl Marx thought in the period of the Critique of the Gotha Program, it seemed like limits for abundance were inherent in the social system; it seemed that just as production forces developed, they could produce everything that the human being needed to satisfy all his essential requirements almost limitlessly, be they material, cultural, etc.
We have all read that Program, and it is certainly very respectable. It established with total clarity the difference in his concept between socialist distribution and communist distribution. Marx didn’t like to play the prophet or paint pictures of the future; he was very serious, and would never have done that.
When he wrote political books like The 18th Brumaire and the Civil War in France, he was a genius with a crystal clear interpretation. His Communist Manifesto is a classic. You can analyze it and be more or less satisfied with this and with that. I moved on from utopian communism to a communism that was based on serious theories of social development such as dialectic materialism. There was a lot of philosophy, much fighting and arguing. But of course, it is important to pay due attention to different philosophical tendencies.
In our real world, which must be changed, every revolutionary tactician and strategist has the obligation to conceive of a strategy and a tactic that will lead to the fundamental objective, to change the real world. No divisive tactic or strategy can be a good one.
I had the privilege of meeting the followers of the Liberation Theology once when I visited Allende in Chile, in 1971. I met many priests, representatives of various religious denominations, and they were presenting the idea of united forces in the struggle, regardless of any specific religious beliefs.
The world is desperately crying out for unity and if we cannot achieve a minimum of unity, we are not going to go anywhere.
Yesterday, in a meeting with the representative of the Holy See in our country, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of uninterrupted Cuba-Vatican relations, I was saying that one of the things I most appreciated about John Paul II was his ecumenical spirit. I attended religious schools from first grade until my last year, the schools of the De La Salle Brothers and the Jesuits; it was all religious and we had to go to Mass every day. I don’t criticize anyone who wants to go to Mass, but I am against forcing someone to attend every day; that’s what happened to me.
Yesterday, I was also talking respectfully and in a good spirit to the bishops about many of these subjects; I recalled what I had said about ecumenism and I remembered that in my day I had witnessed a war to death, of all religious faiths fighting against each other. The Catholics were against the Jews, the Protestants, the Muslims, and everyone was against the other, to speak of one to the other was akin to speaking of the devil.
Many years later, I was quite surprised; I believe it was following the Council held in Rome, Vatican II. It had a great influence on creating an ecumenical spirit, fostering respect between all the various creeds.
Just imagine many powerful churches, the Catholic Church, all the other Christian churches, the Muslim faith. We ourselves are observing extremely interesting things, things we didn’t know about the very powerful cultures, beliefs and customs in the Muslim faith, because our doctors are over there in a Muslim country, saving lives. They treat us with great affection and respect. I won’t go into more detail, only to say that these are things that have a great impact. There are many very strong religions and some of them are 2500, 3000 years old, some of them are a little younger at 2000 years and others are only hundreds of years old.
This is a good example, because if religious sentiment is unable to be united, despite their various ethical ideals, or moral values or religious aims of any one religion, then unity can never be attained if seven, eight, ten or more churches struggle against each other, all of them refusing to talk to one another.
I have a very clear idea on this subject; ethical values are essential. Without ethical values, there can be no revolutionary values.
I don’t know why the communists were credited with the philosophy of the end justifying the means, and sometimes one even asks oneself why the communists didn’t defend themselves from that accusation of the end justifying the means. My explanation is that it is due to historical reasons. There was an enormous influence exerted by the first socialist state and by the first true socialist revolution born in a feudal country that still, by and large, has feudal customs and habits and a large percentage of illiteracy; but it was the first working class revolution springing from the ideas of Marx and Engels and developed by the other great genius, Lenin.
Above all, Lenin studied State issues; Marx did not speak of the worker-peasant alliance because he lived in a country that had a highly developed industrial base; Lenin recognized the under-developed world, he was aware of the country where 80 to 90 percent were peasants, and even though it had considerable strength in its railroad workers and in some other industries, Lenin saw with utmost clarity the necessity to forge a worker-peasant alliance. No one before had spoken of this; they had philosophized, but they hadn’t talked about this. The first socialist revolution, the first real attempt at a just and egalitarian society, takes place in a huge semi-feudal, semi-under developed country. None of the previous societies slave-based, feudal, medieval or anti-feudal, bourgeois, or capitalist could ever propose the existence of a just society even though much was said about liberty, equality and fraternity.
Throughout history, the first serious human attempt to create the first just society began less than 200 years ago; the Communist Manifesto was written in 1850 and in 45 years, yes, in 45 more years, it will be 200 years old. After it was written, the evolution of revolutionary thinking could be appreciated.
One could never have arrived at a strategy through dogma. Lenin taught us a lot, because Marx taught us to understand society. Lenin taught us to understand the State and the role of the State.
All these historical factors had a tremendous influence on revolutionary thinking, and of course there were abusive practices, at times even repugnant ones.
This is what gave rise to the slanderous accusation that for communists “the end justifies the means”. I have reflected a great deal about the role of ethics. What is the ethic of a revolutionary? All revolutionary thinking begins with a bit of ethics; some values acquired from parents, others from teachers, but no one is born with these ideas. No one is born with the gift of speech, either; someone has to teach us to speak. The influence of the family is huge.
Upon studying the cases of young people who go to prison between the ages of 20 and 30, we see where they came from, the cultural level of the parents and we note that this has a decisive influence. Such an influence in fact, that during the battle of ideas, after all kinds of sociological research on this subject, we reached the conclusion that crime in Cuba was closely associated with the cultural level and social status of the parents.
It was astounding to see how very few children of university professionals and intellectuals turned to a life of crime. It was likewise incredible to see the numbers coming from economically disadvantaged families that lacked a cultural base. Another problem was of great influence: the disintegration of the family cell in the low income family with an inferior cultural level. Some children ended up staying with neither the father nor the mother, but with an aunt or a grandmother who might have health related problems or something else. This would have a noteworthy influence upon the future of the child.
It was then that we began using university brigades to visit the poorest of our districts, and we decided to mobilize 7,000 students for that. These were the students who later received a diploma, signed by me in a plane, coming back from Africa. I cannot remember how many hours it took me to sign thousands of diplomas, but they were meant to represent the value we placed on the work of these young people. I visited with them on the job, and how we learned! We had to see what was happening there in society. We needed to know many things that were unknown to us: how the people were actually living.
It was then that we discovered, for example, the case of a working mother, earning a salary, with a severely mentally handicapped and bed-ridden child who needed constant care. Some family member would look after the child while the mother was at work. One day, the family member left, or died, and that woman was forced to choose between the job, which supported her, or the care of her child.
I’d like to tell you that we decided that every woman in similar circumstances ought to have the possibility to choose, according to her job and according to the needs and importance of her work for society, whether to receive a salary so that she could look after her child, or the State would pay someone a salary to care for the child while she was at work. This is just one example among many.
The student brigades also helped in saving the lives of persons who, for example, were going to commit suicide due to mental illness or depression or some other reason. We learned so many things! There were about 20,000 or 30,000 people older than 60 who lived alone and didn’t even have a bell to let someone know that they might have a chest pain or some other health problem. Such was our society.
We looked into the income these people were receiving from a pension or from social security. Much of the data doesn’t even appear in any statistic, or census. We kept on discovering more and more, accomplishing things and forging ideas. We put together more than 100 social programs, many of which have come to fruition a while ago. We haven’t publicized all that we have accomplished. What glorious days those were! Starting basically with the groups of young people and with the support of the Party and all the institutions, we developed that battle of ideas around the return from the United States of the kidnapped little boy.
We shall always be grateful for the circumstances that accelerated our knowledge of society and our learning process. I think that we would not be doing what we are doing today if it had not been for that experience.
We created the first course for social workers. We needed to know what the minimum salaries were. I would like you to know that the minimum salary increase was made after we had crossed the country from end to end. Social assistance was one third of everything that was established that year, taking it up to 129 pesos on average. When the pensions were increased, the effect was much stronger as the minimum pension was raised to 150, to 190 in the following category and 230 in the one following that. The minimum salary was also substantially raised.
We were speaking of the importance of the ethical factor. We would have to research the reasons for the confusion. I believe that historical events influenced the idea that for a communist the end justifies the means. There were international events that were difficult to understand –I’ve mentioned them on more than one occasion– in spite of everything, there was the precedent of France and Britain, those two great colonial powers and the greatest in the world, attempting to hurl Hitler against the USSR. I think that the imperialist plans to throw Hitler against the USSR would never have justified the pact made between Hitler and Stalin, it was a very hard blow. The communist parties, well-known for their discipline, were obliged to defend the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and to politically bleed to death.
Before this pact, the necessity for unification in the anti-fascist struggle led to the alliance in Cuba of the Cuban communists with Batista. By then, Batista had suppressed the famous strike of April 1934 hat followed his coup against the provisional government in 1933 which was unquestionably revolutionary in nature and to a large degree, the result of the historical fight of the workers’ movement and the Cuban communists. Before that anti-fascist alliance, Batista had assassinated countless numbers of people and robbed incredible sums of money, and had become a flunky of Yankee imperialism. The order came from Moscow: organize the anti-fascist front. It was a pact with the devil. Here the pact was with the fascist ABC and Batista, a fascist of a different color, who was both a criminal and robber of the public coffer.
These were very difficult events, and one followed on the heels of another; the most disciplined communists in the world –and I say that with all sincere respect- were the communist parties of Latin America. Among these was the Cuban Communist Party. I have always held them in very high regard, and I still do.
Today we can speak of this subject because we are entering a new phase.
The members of the Cuban Communist Party were the most disciplined people, the most honorable and the most self-sacrificed for this country. The Party legislators handed over a portion of their salaries. They were the most honorable people in the country notwithstanding the erroneous direction that was imposed by Stalin on the international movement. How can we blame them? They were faced with the dilemma of accepting or not something which was, in my criteria, absolutely correct: the unity of all communists. “Workers of the world, unite!”, or openly destroy, under the circumstances, all discipline.
I am not one of those people who criticize historical characters demonized by world reaction so that they become a joke for the bourgeoisie and the imperialists. Neither am I going to commit the stupidity of not daring to say what needs to be said on a day like today. We must have the courage to recognize our own errors exactly for that reason, for only in that manner will we reach the objective that we hope to attain. A tremendous vice was created, the abuse of power, the cruelty and, in particular, the habit of one country imposing its authority, that of one hegemonic party, over all other countries and parties.
For more than 40 years we have maintained relations with the Latin American revolutionary movement and they have been extremely close relations. But, it has never even occurred to us to tell anybody what they should be doing. We have seen every revolutionary movement zealously defend its rights and its prerogatives.
I remember crucial moments. I will state this here, and it will only be part of the story. When the USSR crumbled, many people were left on their own, including the Cuban revolutionaries. But we knew what we had to do, what our options were. Everywhere, revolutionary movements were carrying on their struggle. I am not going to say which ones, I’m not going to say who they were; but they were all very serious revolutionary movements and they asked us whether there should be some negotiation process in the face of such a desperate situation, whether the struggle should continue or not, whether negotiations should begin with the other side to strike a peace accord, even though everyone knew the consequences of such a peace.
I would tell them: “You cannot ask us our opinion, as it will be you fighting the battle, and you alone who will die, not us. We know what we are going to do and what we are prepared to do: but these are decisions which each one must make for themselves.” That was the highest expression of our respect for the other movements. We have never attempted to impose ourselves on the basis of our knowledge and experience, or the enormous respect they show for our revolution which motivated them to listen to our point of view.
At that moment we didn’t know whether there would be advantages or disadvantages for Cuba as a result of the decisions that they would take: “You make your own decisions,” we said. And so at the decisive moment, each one of them charted their own path. We are a small island here in the Caribbean sea, 90 miles away from the empire and within inches of their illegal military base, a thousand times weaker than the USSR at the time of its pact with Hitler, or at the time it was giving orders to the communist parties. Poland was invaded by the Nazis and the Soviet army had been purged of its best and most brilliant leaders do to scheming by the Nazis. At the time of the Weimar Republic established in Germany after World War I, in the midst of an incredible economic crisis unleashed as a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles imposed by England, France and the United States, there was in Germany a strengthening of the revolutionary movement and a growth of the most reactionary nationalist forces.
Hitler wins in the elections against the liberal bourgeois parties and the militant communist and revolutionary forces. But a much more decisive factor was the terrible resentment of the German people against those unfair conditions dictated by the victors. And it is against this background that Hitler comes to power. In a book he wrote, Hitler casually declared that his aim was to seek vital space in USSR territory for the German race, at the expense of the Russians whom he considered to be an inferior race. All this was written, and the communist movement took on very clear ideas and concepts to oppose Nazi fascism.
In our country, after son many revolutionaries had fallen, since the communists were the most conscientious, the most militant and the most honorable, the Marxist Leninist Party was led, of course, to that alliance with Batista, the same who had repressed students and the public in general. The young people resented his power very much; the workers who had always seen their interests continuously defended by the communist leaders were firmly loyal to the Party, but it was among the youth and wide popular sectors of society that there was the most justified rejection of Batista.
I believe that the experience of that first socialist State, a State that should have been fixed and not destroyed, was a bitter one. You may be sure that we have thought many times about that incredible phenomenon where one of the mightiest powers in the world disintegrated the way it did; for this was a power that had matched the strength of the other super-power and had paid with the lives of more than 20 million of her people in the battle against fascism.
Is it that revolutions are doomed to fall apart, or that men cause revolutions to fall apart? Can either man or society prevent revolutions from collapsing? I could immediately add to this another question: Do you believe that this revolutionary socialist process can fall apart, or not? (Exclamations of: “No!!”) Have you ever given that some thought? Have you ever deeply reflected about it?
Were you aware of all these inequalities that I have been talking about? Were you aware of certain generalized habits? Did you know that there are people who earn forty or fifty times the amount one of those doctors over there in the mountains of Guatemala, part of the “Henry Reeve” Contingent, earns in one month? It could be in other faraway reaches of Africa, or at an altitude of thousands of meters, in the Himalayas, saving lives and earning 5% or 10% of what one of those dirty little crooks earns, selling gasoline to the new rich, diverting resources from the ports in trucks and by the ton-load, stealing in the dollar shops, stealing in a five-star hotel by exchanging a bottle of rum for another of lesser quality and pocketing the dollars for which he sells the drinks.
Just how many ways of stealing do we have in this country? Why is it that we read every day in the opinion polls that people are asking about when the “kids” are coming to the dollar stores, to the drugstores, or to all the other places? Everyone is full of admiration for these “kids”, I mean the social workers, who came out of economically disadvantaged environments and are now highly prepared and trained.
I looked at those faces, as I look at you now and faces tell me more than any article, any book or cliché. You are aware that since the beginning of civilization, since the inception of private property, there has been a class difference. The world has only known a class based society, all the rest is pre-history.
How is it that I can tell that you come from economically disadvantaged environments? None of you entered university because you were the son or daughter of an important land-owner.
Here we are and I have been given the honor of sitting here. Which of you has a father who owns 1,000 hectares, or more than 10,000 hectares? I won’t ask each one of you, because all I need to do is to look at you to know whether by chance one of you is the child of some professional, of the middle class. You applauded loudly because I know where you are coming from, and you know that today, there is no one left that cuts sugar cane by hand. Who were the cane cutters?
I could also explain why we no longer cut cane today; there are no cane cutters here and the heavy machinery destroys the sugar cane fields. The abuses of the developed world and the subsidies have led to sugar prices that were scraping the bottom of the trash bins, on the world markets. In the meantime, Europe was paying its growers two or three times more.
In the days when the USSR paid our sugar at 27 or 28 cents, and paid in oil because it was cheaper to pay for sugar with oil than to buy the beet sugar produced labor intensively in the Russian fields, the USSR was a country whose economy grew extensively, not intensively, and so their labor force was never enough and the beet harvest required many workers.
So, we are now coming to the point of asking ourselves this question –I have already reached this point myself, some years ago– in the face of this super-powerful empire that stalks us and threatens us, that has transition plans and military action plans in this specific historical moment.
They are awaiting a natural and absolutely logical event, the death of someone. In this case, they have honored me by thinking of me. It might be a confession of what they have not been able to do in a long time. If I were a vain man, I could be proud of the fact that those guys admit that they are waiting for me to die, and this is the time. They are waiting for me to die, and everyday they invent something new: Castro has this, he’s suffering from that, and now the latest is that they say Castro has Parkinson’s disease.
Yes, it’s true, I had a very bad fall and I’m still in rehab for this arm (He shows the arm), and its improving. I’m very grateful for the circumstances which caused me to break my arm, because now I’m forced to be even more disciplined, to work more, to dedicate more time (almost 24 hours a day) to my job. I had been doing this ever since the Special Period began, and now I dedicate every second to my work and I fight harder than ever. Luckily, I feel better than ever because I’m more disciplined and I exercise much more. (Applause)
So they call it Parkinson’s. I recall that the day after my fall, when I was told I had fissures, in the plural, on my upper humerus. When I was about to write a report about what had happened, I was told: “No, the plural of fissure is fracture.” At that time, there was nothing to do but to say: “Write fissure and I will explain to the people that it isn’t a fissure, but fissures.” I made that clear, because in any case, I don’t fear the enemy; but I believed that I was in good shape, that it had been an accident and that I hadn’t hit my head. If I had hit my head, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I got into the ambulance and was driven to Havana, where the first thing they did was to construct a new knee cap for me out of the eight fragments of the old one, and a few other things. Those who have already killed me off several times can be almost-happy. But they have suffered disappointment after disappointment and I have been forced to undertake a tough road through my rehabilitation. I do it daily, so that the knee cap can function more smoothly. And listen to this: two liters of blood leaked into the inside of my shoulder and in the upper part of the arm, not even showing up on the X-ray.
I have been very diligent, and I continue in my efforts. What I have learned is that I shall be exercising until my last breath, I cannot let anything go, and I have better eating habits what is good for me and not eating one gram more than is necessary.
Now they say that the CIA has discovered that I suffer from Parkinson’s. That’s a little like the guy who discovered that I was the wealthiest man in the world. What a faux pas! That’s a little tale that is still floating around. I’ll tell you this; I haven’t talked about it because in the last few months I haven’t had any available TV time: there was Posada Carriles over there, and the bandits, and a million other things. But I’m saving this little story, and they are going to lose this one. The guy and all his cronies are going to have a bit of a problem for having invented this one; they don’t know what to do now, perhaps the best thing would be to correct themselves. They say that I have Parkinson’s. Whenever you are exercising, the arm gets stronger gradually, muscle by muscle. How many people have I had to greet? Literally thousands, and some of them come up to me and pull on my arm what can I do? I should do what some others do when someone touches you there, you tense up the shoulder so that it appears to be stronger and made of iron. Every time I have to shake hands, I do that. So this arm is stronger than the other one (He shows the right arm), what do you think of that?
But the CIA has discovered that I have Parkinson’s. Truly, I don’t care if I do have Parkinson’s. The Pope suffered from Parkinson’s and he spent many long years traveling all over the world with great energy, they even tried to assassinate him; so, this is what I did: “Let’s see how my Parkinson’s is doing, let me aim (he points firmly with his index finger) (Applause and exclamations), and so I say, it’s the right one.”
I’ve been lucky that I’ve always had great aim. And I still have it, even without a telescopic lens.
The day following the accident, they take you to a hospital, they send you here and there, you don’t protest, but you know exactly what they are doing to you. In my case, they had to consult on the operation to know what they were going to do and how they were going to do it. What to do with the knee cap and how to do it. What to do with the arm. So I said: “Give me local anesthesia,” because if I was really not feeling up to doing anything I would call the Party and say: “Look, I’m not up to doing anything.” Because of this, I have criticized the doctors, because they minimized the seriousness of the situation somewhat. The surgery, good; the rehab, here’s what I said: “Fine, in the long run, I have no plans to pitch in the next baseball championship, and I’m certainly not going to participate in the next Olympics”. It was more risky to undergo the operation, with the steel pins and everything else. They need to be doing this with a 20 or 25 year old. But, anyway, the correct thing had to be done, and if you know you are not going to be able to fulfill some obligation, you say: “This is what is happening, please, find somebody else to take over because I don’t feel up to it.” If my time to die comes, I will die, and if I don’t die and recover, one has some level of experience, some sense of authority and nothing is gained with lies and dishonor. Those were my concerns at that moment.
Once I said that the day I really die, nobody will believe it; I’ll probably carry on like El Cid, astride his horse, winning battles, even after death.
You can never trust imperialism; it is treacherous and capable of anything. It tortures in Guantanamo, it tortures in the prisons of Iraq, it has prisons for torture in the former socialist countries, it uses live phosphorus, and then they say: “It is the most innocent and legitimate of weapons.” If you were in my position, it would be logical for you to have a weapon and be able to use it. And so I do. I have a Browning, with a 15 shot capacity. I’ve used guns a lot in my life.
The first thing I wanted to do was to see if my arm was strong enough to fire this gun that I had always used. I always have it around, close to me. I removed the bullet holder, loaded it, put on the safety, took it off again, removed the bullet holder, took out the bullets, and said: Relax. That was on the next day.
Measures have been taken and measures prepared so that there can be no element of surprise, and our people should know what to do in any scenario. Listen to me well; it is necessary to know what to do under any circumstances.
We are not going to describe these measures to “little Bush”; we are not going to tell him what we have prepared. But I can say this: “Look, little gentleman, you cannot stand it, that is, if they haven’t already given you a swift kick in the pants and removed you for having violated the US laws.” Everyone is protesting against him, and all that keeps coming up are news of crimes, and still more crimes.
Today, I certainly don’t want to suggest to the CIA –I hope I won’t have to tell them– that I have been doing some research on the emperor while they are busy researching the state of my health and the alleged Parkinson’s I’m suffering. But, I don’t think I need to do so.
I don’t aim to personally insult anyone. I say what I say because it reveals concepts, it reflects contempt, it reflects the clear idea we have about mediocrity, stupidity and many other factors; but I don’t wish to mention certain subjects, we have abundant material, and we could mention to the CIA –this organization is angry because it has been humiliated– certain facts we know regarding the health of the emperor. Of course, the CIA has not said a word either about how Posada Carriles entered the US. No one has, no one, no one!
I asked you a question, comrade students; don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten, and I’d like to believe that you will never forget it. It is the question that I ask in view of historical experiences we have known, and I ask you all, without exception, to reflect on it: Can the revolutionary process be irreversible, or not? Which are the ideas or the degree of conscience that would make the reversal of the revolutionary process impossible? When those who were the forerunners, the veterans, start disappearing and making room for new generations of leaders, what will be done and how will it be accomplished? After all, we have been witnesses to many errors, and we didn’t notice.
A leader has a tremendous power when he enjoys the confidence of the masses that put full trust in his abilities. The consequences of errors committed by those in authority are terrible, and this has happened more than once during the revolutionary processes.
Such is the stuff for meditation. One studies history, one meditates on what happened here and there, on what happened today and on what will happen tomorrow, on where each country’s processes will lead, what path our own process will take, how it will get there, and what role Cuba will play in this process.
The country has endured limitations in resources, many limitations; but this country has wasted resources, thoughtlessly. So, while you received the soaps that had no perfume and the toothpaste, regularly every month, and even though sometimes certain activities in the schools were neglected which, for example caused the excellent state of dental health among our youth to decay, some thought that socialism could be constructed with capitalist methods. That is one of the great historical errors. I do not wish to speak of this, I don’t want to theorize. But I have an infinite number of examples of many things that couldn’t be resolved by those who called themselves theoreticians, blanketing themselves from head to toe in the books of Marx, Engels, Lenin and many others.
That was why I commented that one of our greatest mistakes at the beginning of, and often during, the Revolution was believing that someone knew how to build socialism.
In my opinion, today, we have relatively clear ideas about how one goes about building socialism, but we need many extremely clear ideas and many questions answered by you who will be the ones responsible for the preservation, or not, of socialism in the future.
What kind of a society would this be, how worthy of joy could we be when we assemble on a day like today, in a place like this, if we were not minimally aware of what we need to know, so that on our heroic island, this heroic people, this nation which has written pages in the history books like no other nation in the history of mankind can preserve the Revolution? Please, do not think that this who is speaking to you is a vain man or a charlatan, or someone inclined to bluff.
Forty-six years have passed and the history of this country is known and the people of this nation know it well. They also know their neighbor very well, the empire, with its size and its power, its strength and its wealth, its technology and its control over the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, all the world of finances. That country has imposed on us the most incredibly iron-clad blockade, which was discussed at the United Nations where 182 nations supported Cuba, voting freely even though they ran a risk voting against the empire. The island has achieved this today, not during the days when the European socialist countries stood together with us, but after the socialist camp had disappeared and the USSR had fallen apart. We forged this Revolution alone, against all risk, for many long years and we had realized that if the day ever come when we would be under direct attack by the US, no one would ever fight for us, nor would we ask anyone to do so.
It would have been naïve of us to think, or to ask for, or to expect that one super-power would fight against the other, in this day and age of modern technological development, to intervene in this island 90 miles away. We came to the conclusion that such support would never happen. And another thing: once we asked them directly, a few years before the collapse: “Tell us frankly.” : “No,” they said. It was the answer we knew they would give and from that point on, more than ever, we accelerated the development of our concept and we perfected the tactical and strategic ideas which have seen to the triumph and victory of the Revolution. The Revolution’s strength began with the struggle of seven armed men against an enemy with 80,000 troops including marines, soldiers and police, tanks, airplanes and all kinds of modern weaponry of the time. What an infinitely huge difference between our weapons and the weapons of that army, trained by the US, supported by the US and supplied by the US. After we received our reply, we held on to our concepts more firmly than ever, we deepened them and we gained in strength to the point where we can affirm today that our country is militarily invulnerable, and not because of arms of mass destruction.
They may have tanks to spare, but we have just what we need, not one to spare! All their technology collapses like ice-cubes beneath the noon-day sun in a hot summer. And again, just like when we possessed only seven guns and a handful of bullets. Today, we possess much more than those seven guns. We have a people who have learned to handle weapons; we have an entire nation which, in spite of our errors, holds such a high degree of culture, education and conscience that it will never allow this country to become their colony again.
This country can self-destruct; this Revolution can destroy itself, but they can never destroy us; we can destroy ourselves, and it would be our fault.
I have been fortunate to have lived many years. That is not a special merit but rather, it is an exceptional opportunity to share with you everything that I am telling you, young leaders, all the leaders of the masses, all the leaders of the workers’ movement, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the women’s groups, the farmers, the veterans of the Revolution, organized throughout the country, hundreds of thousands who have struggled through the years carrying out glorious internationalist missions, students like yourselves, intelligent, well prepared, healthy, organized. You are everywhere, in each one of those 900 or so campuses and the 1000 plus and the 2000 plus that we shall quickly have; and it will continue growing until more than 500,000 and 600,000, with new graduates every year. And those that graduate, like our physicians in Venezuela, will be studying with the aid of computers, videos and cassettes, all the audio-visual means necessary, to attain that scientific degree, that Master’s or that Doctorate in medical sciences, everyone, one hundred percent of them.
Today we may speak about thousands of specialists in comprehensive general medicine and tomorrow we will be speaking about thousands of professionals in medical sciences, just to mention one branch. Let’s not forget that once we had 3,000 doctors and no university professors. Many left this very university. Today, we can say that in a few short years, there will be 100,000 doctors. When those are not enough, there will be 150,000. And we will have university professors, just as we have thousands of programmers and program designers and researchers. Many changes are coming because we need to know much in a short time.
I was just telling you about a battle and I asked how much it cost. Don’t think that these 28,000 social workers will be working for nothing. I’ve already told you how I knew that they came from the most modest of the segments of the population, I saw it in their faces. Involuntarily, I have developed the habit of guessing the province from which my compatriots come. I mentioned it in jest, and I say it to the doctors who are leaving on their missions, to the social workers, that each one belongs to a micro-tribe. I recognize those that come from Manzanillo, for example, those from Havana, from Guantanamo, from Santiago; it is impressive to see people from the most humble backgrounds in this country transform into 28,000 social workers and thousands of university students, university students!! What a force! And soon we shall also be seeing those who graduated a while ago in the Sports Coliseum.
The coliseum teaches us about Marxist-Leninism; it teaches us about social classes. A short while ago, about 15,000 doctors and medical students, some of them from ELAM (Latin American School of Medicine), and some from as far away as Eastern Timor, were gathered in the coliseum. It was an unforgettable event.
The image of those 15,000 white coats all together on graduation day can never be forgotten. That was the day that the “Henry Reeve” Contingent was created following in the tradition of many doctors who have been to places where exceptional events have taken place, in a time span much too brief to even imagine.
A short while later, the more than 3,000 young art instructors graduated; it was the second group, following that first graduation in Santa Clara. There are now 3,000 more of them already working. The next 3,000 that are in their last year of studies are also at work. And so they multiply. One day we shall assemble half at least of the social workers that are today developing one of the most transcendental tasks ever taken on by a group of young people. There is a group of Social Work Specialists who have joined forces with these young university students and they have become as one.
And what can we expect from the work of these youth? We shall put a stop to many of these vices: thievery, diversion of materials and money draining away towards the new rich.
Does anybody think that we are going to confiscate funds? No, money is sacred; everybody who has their money in the bank cannot be touched.
But look at something new, we are going to battle against an abundance of vices, theft, re-routing, one by one, we will get to them all, in some order. They don’t suspect it. Do you have any ideas? Very good, then!
Certain vices can be very deep-seated. We started with Pinar del Rio to ascertain what was happening in the gas stations that sell gas in dollars. We soon discovered that there was as much gas being stolen as sold. Almost half the amount was being stolen and in other places more than half.
Well, what is happening in Havana? Will they mend their ways? Not really, everything is fun and games. Perhaps they thought that the social workers were idiots, little boys and girls. It is interesting to note that 72% of the social workers are women –I don’t think something like that has happened before– just as the doctors who are raising the prestige of our country and opening the way so that this country can use her human capital, something which is much more precious than oil. I repeat; it is much more precious than oil or gold, and any country that has oil is saying: “Wow, how lucky! I have this natural resource that is running out!” We do too, and we are going to increase oil production, of course. It’s fortunate we didn’t discover it earlier, because it would have been wasted.
Human capital is not a non-renewable product. It is renewable, and better, still it can be multiplied. Each year human capital increases and receives what was called, in my time, a compound interest. Add up what it is worth and receive an interest for what it is worth and for what it has earned; in five years you have much more capital, and in 100 years, it boggles the mind.
Allow me to tell you that today, human capital is practically superior to almost all of the others put together, and it is advancing very quickly to become the country’s most valuable resource. I’m not exaggerating.
I was asking about the cost; what was the economic cost of all our universities.
Just by using the new income collected by the gas stations in three months –and, of course, they are not going to be doing this forever, as you may guess– but if they were to grow another 50% next year, they would collect the necessary funds in four months. All they have to do is force the new rich to pay for the fuel they consume, and in this way, within a year, they would pay no less than four times over what 600,000 university students and their professors cost. That’s something, isn’t it? And there would be a couple extra
Do you know what a “couple extra” is? The people from Santiago know it. When you bought something at the store, they would give you something extra as a prize, a candy made of coconut or some such thing. That was the “couple extra”. The social workers pay for this with a “couple extra.”
They arrived in Havana and suddenly they were collecting double. And didn’t those who were there collect more? No, the social workers had to come. So I said to myself: “Is it possible that they have not learned their lesson and correct themselves?”
Eventually, those that don’t want to understand will correct themselves, but in a different way: they are going to cover themselves in their own garbage. They just don’t want to understand.
So what was happening in the meanwhile in Matanzas and in Havana Province? The collection increased just a bit: 12 %, 15 %, 20 %. But they were just like Pinar del Rio and the capital before the controls were in place.
In Havana Province people learned to steal like crazy.
Today, the social workers are in the refineries; they get on board the tanker trucks that carry 20,000 or 30,000 liters and they watch, more or less, where that truck goes, and how much of the oil is re-routed.
They have discovered private gas stations, supplied with oil from these trucks.
We all know that many of the state owned trucks go all over the place, and sometimes they visit a relative, a friend, a family or a girl-friend.
I remember the time, several years before the Special Period, I saw a brand new Volvo front-loader on Fifth Avenue…one of those at the time would have cost 50,000 or 60,000 dollars. I wanted to know where the truck was heading at that speed so I asked my escort: “Hold on, ask him where he’s going; try to get an honest answer.” The driver confessed that he was off to visit his girl-friend in that new Volvo, going down Fifth Avenue at top speed.
Some things you’ll see, Mio Cid –I think it was Cervantes who said this— that would make the stones talk.
So, this is some of what has been happening. In general, we all know, and many have said: “The Revolution can’t do that; no, it’s impossible; no, nobody can fix that.” But yes, the people are going to fix it this time, the Revolution is going to fix it, any way we can. Is it merely an ethical matter? Yes, it is above all an ethical matter; but even more, it is a vital economic matter.
Our nation is one of those that waste the most combustible energy in the world. We had proof of it right here, and you very honestly pointed it out; it is very important. No one knows the cost of electricity; no one knows the cost of gasoline; no one knows its market value. I was about to tell you that it is very sad when a ton of oil can cost 400 dollars and a ton of gasoline can cost 500, 600, 700 or on occasion 1000; this is a product which does not get cheaper. Whenever that happens it is circumstantial, and it does not last long. But the product itself will run out. It’s very simple: oil will run out just as many of the world minerals.
Take a look at our nickel mines, leaving great holes where once there used to be a lot of nickel. This is happening to oil; the great oil fields have all been found and every day there is less of them. This is a subject about which we have had to think long and hard.
For example, do you know how many kilometers per liter it takes to operate a Zil-130? 1.6 kilometers. It transports sugar cane or delivers snacks to the secondary school students. The Ministry of Sugar was told: Look, the Ministry of Food Industries needs your help to distribute the snack to the junior high schools. How many trucks can you spare? We have to reach 400,000 children, free of charge, to bring them their yoghurt and their bread. Of course, of those they could spare they offered the ones running on gasoline, the most cost inefficient.
If you were to exchange this Zil running on 1.6 kilometers per liter for a vehicle that has the appropriate size, let’s say a two ton truck, and that one was a 5 ton truck, even a 1.2 ton truck would do. We started to see this in a discussion with the electrical industry company. They raised the problem of trucks needed to repair power grids and said: “We have to exchange 400 Soviet gas-guzzlers, because we’re spending too much on gasoline.” We studied them one after another, to see how much they used and what should replace them. The discussions were long; don’t you think that the directors of our companies outstand for their discipline. And everyone can’t be happy, I warn you; and I warn all of you as well, because this promises to be a tough fight. Till now, nobody has complained but, if I remember correctly, there were around 3,000 entities that were handling convertible currency and were managing their profits with generous expenditures in convertible currency, buying this and that, painting their houses, buying a new car and getting rid of the old clunker. We realized that, given the conditions this country is living in, such habits must be broken. We called a meeting with the main companies and they commenced to put some changes into place.
When you go to war with a lot of bullets, you’re not too worried whether the guns are shooting that efficiently, however, if you have few bullets (something that always happened to us in the war) you must be familiar with each gun’s bullets, even knowing the brand name, even though they may be of the same caliber, some bullets function better with a certain gun, others may jam up. Sometimes, in the name of economy, you have to prevent them from being fired and just shoot when the enemy is breeching the trenches. For example, there is nothing as terrible as an automatic weapon being fired, and that’s how we operated.
Let’s speak of banks. We have excellent banking institutions. The banks today manage all the resources for all the expenses of the nation; they pay out in accordance to the established programs. You will never see the director of any bank out to lunch with the representative of some powerful corporation. Directors are never invited to dine in a restaurant, or to travel to Europe and stay in the owner’s house or some luxurious hotel. Some of our business men make million dollar deals, and the fine art of corruption as it is practiced in capitalist circles is as subtle as a serpent and worse than a rat. They will anesthetize you while you are being “bitten” and it can rip off a hunk of flesh in the middle of the night. This was the way the Revolution was being put to sleep so that a piece of flesh could then be ripped away. In a few cases, corruption was out in the open. Many knew about its existence, or they suspected it, when they observed the life-style changes the new car, the house being redecorated, adding little decorative touches here and there because of pure vanity. We have heard such stories time and time again, and measures must be taken even though it will not be resolved easily.
Now we come to larceny, or the re-routing of resources from the gas stations. There are ways to deliver gasoline because that gentleman, who is my very good friend, uses his vehicle in a very useful way and so I can see that he gets a certain amount of gasoline. This is just one way of thousands. There are dozens of ways to waste or to re-routing resources. If the controls in place are not enforced, or if we cannot find the best solution to stop this, theft will continue and increase.
Today, in our country, we could be saving more energy, more than is possible in any other country. There are 2,400,000 vintage refrigerators in family dwellings which use four or five times more electricity per hour, on a 24 hour basis.
A single data, so that you don’t forget it. In Pinar del Rio there are 143,000 refrigerators; of this number, 136,000 are INPUDs, Minsks and other ancient Soviet brands, Frigidaire and the other capitalist brands consume, according to my calculations, around 20% –I am using another figure but here I will use the most conservative one– of the electricity generated by power plants for Pinar del Rio during peak hours.
Earlier on, I was speaking of a Zil truck; we have thousands of these. Worse than that, there are many institutions with old trucks, which are not operational, but they are not reported in that condition and the central administration has become accustomed to negotiating with government ministers. The central State Administration doesn’t need to negotiate with any minister, it must issue orders to the ministers. “How many trucks do you have?” “This is how many.” It is necessary to delve into the problems and then make decisions.
The sugar industry produced eight million tons and today this figure barely reaches one and a half tons. We had to radically cut back on tilling and seeding the land while oil was costing 40 dollars a barrel, it was ruinous for the country, particularly if you added to that equation the hurricanes that were passing through with increasing frequency, the prolonged droughts, and because the cane fields had a life span of four or five years when once they lasted 15 or more, and when the market price was 7 cents. I remember that one day I asked a company which sells our sugar about the price of sugar and about production at the end of March, and they didn’t even know how much sugar was being produced for months, much less the cost of a ton of sugar in American dollars, the answer came up about a month and a half later.
Quite simply, we had to shut down sugar mills or we were going to disappear down the Bartlett Trench. The country had many, many economists and it is not my intention to criticize them, but speaking with the same honesty I used to describe the errors of the Revolution, I would like to ask why we hadn’t discovered that maintaining production levels of sugar would be impossible. The USSR had collapsed, oil was costing 40 dollars a barrel, sugar prices were at basement levels…so why did we not rationalize that industry instead of sowing 20,000 caballerias that year, equivalent of almost 270,000 hectares, obliging us to till the land with tractors and heavy ploughs, sowing cane that afterwards had to be cleaned using machinery, fertilize with expensive herbicides, etc. None of our economists seemed to have noticed any of this, and we practically had to instruct them, order them, to stop the procedure. It is like saying: “The country is being invaded”; you cannot reply: “Hold on, let me have a thirty meetings with a hundreds of people.” It’s as if we had said in Giron : “Let’s hold a meeting for three days to discuss what we should do to repel the invasion.” I assure you that the Revolution, throughout her history, has been a constant and real war, with the enemy stalking us and ready to strike at us if we should let down our guard.
I called the minister and I told him: Tell me please, how many hectares are ploughed?” The answer: “Eighty thousand.” My response was: “Not one hectare more.” That wasn’t really up to me, but I had no option; you just can’t let the country go down the tubes, and in April I was looking at 20,000 caballerias of land being ploughed.
We have had to do many more things like this, things that would make the stones speak. It’s not your fault, but, what was happening to us? Why did we not see all this? The USSR had already collapsed, we had been left without oil overnight, with no raw materials, no food, no cleaning products, nothing. Probably, it was good that this happened, after all. Maybe it was necessary that we suffered as we did, so that we are ready to give our lives a hundred times over before we surrender the country or the Revolution, the Revolution we so deeply believe in.
Maybe it was all necessary, for we have committed many errors. It is these errors that we are trying to correct, if you will, that we are in the process of correcting.
One of the corrections made by the Party and the Government was to put an end to the prerogative of 3,000 citizens to manage the country’s currency, in the situation of debt –they could have a debt of such and such a size– nobody was guaranteeing the payment of that debt; when the debt expired the State was obliged to pay it. It might have been an unnecessary or subjective debt, and if the State did not pay it, its credit could be considerably affected.
Today that has changed; I would like to tell you that the country is paying off every last cent, with not even a second’s delay, and credit grows constantly. Money is not being thrown out of the windows; it is spent in great quantities, yes, but not in those colossal amounts that we saw in the sugar industry.
You will be even more amazed when I tell you that, according to its inventory, the Ministry of Sugar has 2000 to 3000 more trucks than it had when it was producing 8 million tons of sugar. It’s tough, but I’m going to tell it like it is; I’m going to talk about it, and no matter how many times I tell it, and no matter how I criticize this in public, I am not afraid to shoulder the responsibility for what needs to be done, we cannot afford to be soft. Let them attack and criticize me, I know the reality of the situation, I know it very well. There must be quite a few who are hurting: kings, czars, emperors.
Is everyone like that? No! Are all our ministers like that? No. Some ministers have been very inefficient. Sometimes we are soft on officials who hold important positions, but I have this old habit: I like to work with the comrades who have made mistakes. I’ve done that many times over. As long as I see positive qualities and what is missing is the correct guidance. Sometimes it is just a question of short-sightedness, in spite of all the mechanisms and institutions in the country to defend itself, to struggle and to fight with honor, without abuse of power, for nothing would ever justify the abuse of power. We must be audacious enough to tell the truth, but not all of it, because we don’t need to say everything at once. Political battles follow certain tactics, with adequate information, following their own path. I am not telling you everything; I am telling you the indispensable. Don’t worry about what the bandits are saying or what the news services will report tomorrow or the day after: he who laughs last, laughs best.
There are some news reports saying that Castro is launching an offensive, Castro is launching his social workers that we are renouncing all the progressive advances made so far. The progressive advance means that you are selling a pound of rice for four pesos, it’s robbery! What retiree would be able to buy that? A pensioner with his 80 pesos and five pounds of rice in his ration book cannot buy that. Havana had privileges and used to receive six. Havana used to receive one additional pound, and so did Santiago, but the rest of the provinces received five. We must measure it, ounce after ounce, 100 grams, how it grows. What’s happening with the ration book? You have rice and you exchange it for sugar, and so on.
Today, everybody receives two more pounds of rice. I’d like to see the day when that will be enough. It’s not far, but now they throw it at the chickens. Well, that’s a whole other story. We are getting close to the time when everyone will have enough rice. We are also preparing conditions so that the ration book will be a thing of the past. We want to change something that was once useful and now is in the way. And if you would like to buy more rice, buy more rice and less sugar, or something else, not just red beans or black beans. You can buy whatever color of beans you like and cook them as you like. I warn you, you will have to pay a lot of attention to cooking, and quite soon.
Some were also commenting on the chocolate: “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what happened with the pressure cookers, and today there are millions of believers. Others said: “How is this chocolate?” “What does it cost?” “Eight pesos.” “It’s pretty expensive to be subsidized.” Moral of the story: Everything subsidized should be as economical as electricity. “So, how much does it cost?” “Ah! Eight pesos.” “How many cents of a devalued dollar?” Thirty two cents. What’s it like? It has 200 grams; in each 11 grams seven are whole milk powder. Let everyone check for himself. Take it to a lab and get it examined. Four grams of cocoa, the strongest…as strong as it is healthy. Cuba today is probably the country that consumes most cocoa per capita in the world; children eat it, but so does Dad, just as Dad drinks the child’s coffee. Children are born and registered, and they receive their little packet of coffee, real coffee, for five pesos. “It’s too expensive to be subsidized!” You should really say: it is a little short of a gift.
The road to reach what I am saying is: the worker must receive more. Everyone who works should receive more. All pensioners should receive more. We are really talking about more income and more products.
There are two over there, they’re not bad, and some of you are discovering the chocolate. I know that our doctors over there in Kashmir drink our chocolate every night; this packet which is so expensive, and you can add milk. For the children, if you like, add more; add water and add milk, and then there is protein.
I assure you that we are measuring all the protein in every bean and in every egg. Most of the country is getting five. Havana is getting eight. Today there are more than 100 municipalities that are receiving 10, and every new one receives an increase. Add it up: 5 times 9 makes 45. That’s 4.50 plus 5 times 15cents, 75, that means that with 5.25 cents you can buy 10 eggs. Those on social assistance can get 5 new eggs for 4.50. Correct.
Yes, but then came the chocolate and you need to get 8 pesos, and the coffee and you need 5, and 8 more, 13; add it to the 5.25, 18.25.
Well, you have two more pounds of rice, and this cost 90 cents of a peso each one, let’s call it a little less than 4 cents of a dollar. That’s new: the country must spend 40 million dollars on those two additional pounds of rice, and we don’t hesitate in doing so. And the one who got a raise of 50 pesos, now he is left with a little less. But we are thinking how much of an increase the pensioner will get so that he can buy more…and the money must be guaranteed before it is distributed. It’s not just a matter of printing bills and distributing them without having them backed up with merchandise or services, because then those magnificent intermediaries will charge five pesos for the rice instead of three. Don’t forget that those who can will charge what they like. “Pay me eight pesos for a pound of beans,” they’ll say.
All 5 million in the country, who received 10 ounces, will be receiving 20, and those who were receiving 20 will be getting 30, and those who were receiving 10 and then 20 will be getting 30, tripling the amount of beans, or grain as they call it, not including rice or corn. Five million, three times more, and the rest at 50% more.
This too cost us several million dollars. I am not going to ask you where we got it, because that is a subject for the great theoreticians: “That’s too little for a salary raise,” they ay say. Sure, the ideal would be triple. And where do we get it from? My dear sir, are you going to tell me where we are going to get this, who do we have to rob, or are we going to have to pull your leg to give you much more than this so that you are deceived?
There are a few questions that we need to ask the fools, not that everything they think is foolish, but there are many foolish remarks that are due to ignorance: the price is high, the price is high, and price is always high.
We ended up giving away the houses, some people bought theirs, they were the owners, they had paid 50 pesos a month, 80 pesos, or, if the money was sent to them from Miami, it amounted to about 3 dollars; some sold theirs in 15 000 or 20 000 dollars, when they had originally paid less than 500.
Can the country resolve its housing problem by giving away houses? And who will get them, the proletariat or the humble people? Many humble people were given houses for free and then they sold them to the new rich. How much can the new rich spend on a house? Is this socialism?
Maybe it’s down to necessity at a certain moment in time, maybe it’s a mistake, because the country suffered a shattering blow when overnight the great power fell and we were left alone, all on our own, and we lost all the markets on which to sell our sugar and we stopped getting supplies, fuel, even the wood with which to give a Christian burial to our dead. And everyone thought: ‘This will fall apart’, and the idiots still believe that it is all going to fall apart here and that if it doesn’t fall apart now it will fall apart later. And the more illusions they entertain and the more they think, the more we should think, the more we should draw our own conclusions, so that this glorious people who has so trusted all of us is never defeated. (Applause)
Let there never be a USSR situation here, or broken, disperse socialist blocks! The empire shall not come here to set up secret jails in which to torture progressive men and women from other parts of this continent that are today rising to fight for the second and final independence!
Before we go back to living such a repugnant and miserable life there better not be any memory, even the slightest trace, of us or our descendents.
I said that we are more and more revolutionary and I said this for a reason. Now, we understand the empire better and better, we are increasingly aware of what they are capable of while before we were skeptical with regard to some things, they seemed to us impossible.
They had fooled the world. When the mass media grew in full force it took control of peoples’ minds and exercised its power through not only lies, but also conditioned response. A lie isn’t the same as a conditioned response: a lie affects one’s knowledge whereas the conditioned response affects one’s ability to think. And being misinformed isn’t the same as having lost the ability to think, because responses have been created for you: ‘This is bad, that is bad; socialism is bad, socialism is bad’, they say, and all the ignorant people and all the humble people and all the exploited people are saying: ‘Socialism is bad’. ‘Communism is bad’. And all the poor people, all the exploited people and all the illiterate people are repeating it: ‘Communism is bad’. ‘Cuba is bad, Cuba is bad’, the empire has said it, it has been said in Geneva, it has been said all over the place, and all the exploited people around the world, all the illiterate people and all those who don’t receive medical care, or education or have any guarantee of a job, or of anything are saying: ‘The Cuban Revolution is bad, the Cuban Revolution is bad’. ‘Listen, the Cuban Revolution did this and that’. But listen to this too: ‘No-one is illiterate in Cuba’. Listen, ‘infant mortality rate is such and such’. Listen, ‘everyone can read and write’. Listen, ‘freedom can’t exist without culture’. Listen, ‘there can’t be choice’.
What are they talking about? What can the illiterate people do? How can they know if the International Monetary Fund is good or bad, or that interest is higher, or that the world is being ceaselessly subjugated and pillaged by a thousand different methods put into practice by this system? They don’t know.
They don’t teach the masses to read and write, yet they spend a million dollars on publicity every year; but it isn’t the fact that they spend it, it’s the fact that they spend it on creating conditioned responses, because someone bought Palmolive, someone else bought Colgate, and someone else bought Candado soap, just because they were told to a hundred times over, because they associated the products with a pretty image and this sowed its seed and carved its place in the brain. They who talk so much of brainwashing, it is they who carve their place, who mould the brain, who take away from the human being his capacity to think; it would be less serious if they were taking away the ability to think from someone who had been to university, who could read a book.
What can the illiterate read? What means have they of realizing that they are being conned? What means have they of knowing that the biggest lie in the world is the one that claims that the rotten system that reigns over there and what they have in many places, if not almost all of the countries that copied that system is a democracy? The damage that they are doing is terrible. And people are becoming aware of this, and day after day more people are becoming aware, day after day, after day, they feel more disdain, more disgust, more hatred, more condemnation, and more desire to fight. This is what, in the end, makes everyone much more revolutionary than they were when they were unaware of many of these things, when they only knew about elements of injustice and inequality.
At the moment, while I’m talking to you about this, I’m not theorizing, although it is necessary to theorize; we are working, we are moving towards full changes in our society. We have to change again, because we have gone through some very difficult times, and these inequalities and injustices have arisen, and we are going to change this situation without abusing anyone’s rights in the least, and without taking money away from anyone. No, we’re not going to take anybody’s money; in our eyes, the faith that our people have in the bank is the most important thing of all. And because the Revolution is creating wealth, and because the Revolution is going to create a significant input that isn’t derived from the sugar industry or any of that, it will mainly come from that capital, and also from experience, because knowing what must be done is very important.
If I tell you about the gas stations in the capital you’re going to be amazed; there’s more than double the amount that there should be, its total chaos. Every ministry wanted one and got one, and they’re scattered around everywhere. The People’s Power institution is a disaster, total chaos, in the sense that all the oldest trucks, the ones that consume the most fuel, and all that, were given to the People’s Power. When it seemed that the use of these trucks was being rationalized, really the country was being permanently mortgaged.
Can we do the same when fuel costs 2 dollars as when it costs 10 or 20, or 40, or 60? One of the worst things that happened to us was precisely that we believed in the strategies of the power system. Many questions were asked, and, really, we discovered that the main problem was that we were operating on a concept that corresponded to the days when fuel cost 2 dollars; the sugar policy corresponded to the days when that cost two dollars, too.
The price of oil nowadays is not in keeping with any supply and demand rule; it conforms to other factors like the shortages, the extensive squandering by the rich countries, and it’s not a price that is anyway in keeping with economic rules either. The reason behind it is the shortage of this product together with the increasing and extraordinary demand for it.
In fact, this very morning I was informed of some news: by next year there will be a demand for 2 million more barrels a day; the year after that the demand will have risen to more than 84 million barrels a day, and the United States, which is the empire’s main territory, goes through 8.6 million barrels of fuel a day. This is one of the key points.
We invite everyone to take part in a great battle, it’s not just a fuel and electricity battle, it’s a battle against larceny, against all types of theft, anywhere in the world. I repeat: against all types of theft, anywhere in the world.
What is the cost of the total amount of energy that the country uses at the current oil prices? It’s around 3 billion dollars.
Of course, saving measures aren’t the only way to increase income, there are several ways. Let me tell you that there are quite a few and they are significant. I am almost certain –the final result could be a bit more or a bit less, I don’t want to say for certain, I’m always conservative when it comes to calculations– that this country, in light of all the information that we now have, can save, in a short amount of time, two thirds of the energy that it now consumes, adding up all the factors: electricity, oil, diesel, fuel oil, etc; with a price like that currently charged it could decrease slightly and then increase considerably. This would mean more than 1, 5 billion dollars. And you may ask: What does the country currently do with those 1, 5 billion dollars? My answer to that would be: one part is stolen, another part is squandered and the rest is thrown away.
As we are in the middle of this offensive, in the middle of the activity, I can’t give you all of the information; but I think that within 10 years the work of these young social workers may save the country up to 20 billion dollars with regard to energy. Did you hear that? You know how much a million is, don’t you? And 100 millions? And 1 billion in convertible pesos?
Carlitos, you gave me a document:
‘The total cost of education: 4,117 million pesos; the cost of higher education: 886 million.’
‘Information from the Ministry of Economy and Planning, confronted with the Ministry of Finance and Prices, on November 17, 2005’.
So, it is 886 million pesos. We have that 700 million pesos is 35.4 million dollars. And let me say once again: it’s a small part of what is stolen or extracted from the fuel reserves, less than 20%. That is what the universities cost, according to this information.
When I say 1 billion dollars saved, I am talking about 25 billion pesos. All the wages paid in this country, at international exchange rates, which are exceedingly arbitrary towards Cuba, amount to around 14 billion pesos, a currency which has true value in our country, and has a very high real purchasing power. It has also been revalued and it may be revalued again.
Every word uttered has to be carefully weighed. I’m not improvising, I have reflected extensively on this information and I have it in my mind, and I weigh my words: I’ll say this, I won’t say that, because we have enemies who are trying to thwart everything and mix everything up, like those who say that we are abusing the sacred freedom of trade. And they say other things besides, one example is: ‘What can they get with a dollar that was sent over by someone who is most probably a university graduate? As you all know, they didn’t have to pay a cent. Following the triumph of the Revolution no-one who left here for the United States was illiterate.
And every year was the same, those who had sixth grade, a seventh grade of education, those who new a thing or two, those sectors that went to university were the first to go there, the richest sectors of society, and for more than 40 years the empire stole tens of thousands of university graduates and hundreds of thousands of skilled workers, whom they now try, at all cost, to prevent from sending remittances to Cuba.
What bitterness there was that day when the dollar shops opened, as a means to collect a little bit of the remittance money, and those with this money went to spend it in those shops, that were expensive, and aimed at collecting a bit of this money and redistributing it to those who didn’t get any, at a time when the country was in a very difficult situation.
Now then, what do they do now with a dollar? They send it over here. I don’t know whether they send you a dollar or two. (Talking to someone) I have relatives who receive money. I don’t mess about that.
One day we asked and were told that in some provinces 30% or 40% of the people receive something, a little; but sending over a dollar is a good deal, a really good deal! So good that it could easily ruin us because of the enormous purchasing power they have in a blockaded country, with highly subsidized rationed products and free or amazingly cheap services.
I have an example of this, going back to electricity. Do you know how much it costs the country in convertible pesos to produce one kilowatt with this system that has had so many problems, with the ‘Guiteras’, the Felton and other power plants, that have caused so many power outages and many other problems? Do you know how much it costs the country in convertible pesos? Around 15 cents per kilowatt, but if you –this comrade, undoubtedly an intelligent man, who spoke so well– were to receive, say, one dollar, what could you do with it? You’ve acknowledged that electricity is very cheap, it’s practically given away; we give it away to the pensioners and to the workers, we give it away; but we are also giving it away to the hustlers, to those who made 1000 pesos from here to Guantánamo, or who make twice what a doctor earns in a month by taking him from Havana to Las Tunas, with stolen fuel, bribing the gas station attendants.
I’m not against anyone, but neither am I against the truth. I don’t believe any lies, I’m sorry, but I’m telling them all now that they are going to loose the battle, and it won’t be an act of injustice or abuse of power. We are giving away electricity to those who sell a pound of beans for 8 pesos. And, please, don’t stop selling them, don’t go doing that and blaming it on me. Sell them, we’re not going to prohibit it, what I want is to know what they’re going to do when beans are more plentiful. I don’t know if they’ll drop the price or not, but half of the population has seen their quota triple, and the other half has seen it increase by 50%. I think that they’ll have to lower it somewhat. Most probably, sometime in the future, with a bit of money, from the energy that we will be saving, we will assign another 10 ounces and the moment will come in which all sellers will be honest and not one single bean will go astray and produce that isn’t bought is returned, because there will no longer be any means by which to pinch it, nor reason, nor circumstances, the speculator will end up with nothing to sell and will have to eat it all himself.
The farmers eat their produce and sell the rest. The speculator steals and doesn’t produce anything. A cable from Reuters portrayed the government as beating down the ‘progressive advances’ of the special period. Progressive is what I have been talking about.
They don’t mention that the crook, or whoever, he’s probably not a crook, the lucky fellow over there sends you a dollar and you spend very little on electricity, you consume less that 100, you have spent 9 Cuban pesos for 100 kilowatts of electricity. Okay? Divide 24 by 9 (he works out the sum)
You spend 2400 cents, and for your 100 kilowatts you paid 900 cents, that’s not even half a dollar, you’ve still got 1500 cents left, you’ve only used 100; you are a very thrifty young lad, you turn off the lights, you turn everything else off as well, you don’t have any incandescent light bulbs, all yours are fluorescent light bulbs, your refrigerator uses less than 40 watts an hour, you don’t have one of those old Frigidaire models that once belonged to your grandmother, you are very good. (Laughter)
Now, maybe you spend 150 kilowatts, but it’s going to be a bit more expensive for you because the extra 50 cost 20 instead of 9, which is 10 pesos; so you, who paid a bit more because of those 50, have spent 19 pesos. But, listen, you still haven’t spent a dollar, you don’t live in Florida, you live in Cuba. In Florida it’s stingy and shameless, the electricity costs him 15 cents of a dollar, but he sends you a dollar so that with less than a dollar you can pay for 150 kilowatts; but, in spite of this, you use in moderation, you have many gadgets, new and old, possibly an air conditioner and a few other things, and you use 300 kilowatts. You work it out, the first 100 are worth 9 pesos; the second 200, 40 pesos, together that equals 49 pesos. In total you spend 1.9 dollars for 300 kilowatts of electricity; that is to say, 0.63 cents of a dollar for one Cuban kilowatt of electricity. How amazingly brilliant!
How much do the Cuban people spend because of that dollar that is sent to you from over there? Because that wasn’t a dollar that you earned, or a peso, by working for it, or that that middleman made by selling a pound of beans for eight pesos; it was sent to you by a healthy person, who studied free of charge right from primary school, who isn’t ill, they are the healthiest citizens that go to the United States, where there is an Adjustment Act, and where the sending of remittances is also prohibited.
Okay, so for less than two dollars the country had to spend 44 dollars to subsidize that dollar that was sent from the United States. This country is a noble one, it subsidized those dollars from over there, that instead of helping you are going to say: ‘Look, I’m going to send you 2 dollars for the electricity, but don’t use so much, please, be careful, turn off the lights. Look, I’m also going to send you a refrigerator, or I’m going to give you the money to buy yourself one in the ‘shopping’. The generous sender of dollars then continues: ‘Don’t worry, I’ll send you everything you need, I am good, I am noble, I’m going to heaven, I guarantee you those 300 kilowatts that you are costing that stupid socialist State that says that it is revolutionary and that it is going to fight until death to defend the Revolution’. It may be a person who knows that we are good, but he may also think that we are fools; and, even, be partly right about that. Watch out!
Now, to collect 45 dollars I have to collect 4500 cents. I have to collect them from all of you. How many people are there here? (He is told 405) So, it’s four hundred and five? Well then, before you all go can you please hand over 11 cents, that is what you pay, that money with which the State pays is your money, that is to say, the Cuban people’s money. All of you hand over 11 cents to subsidize the electricity bill of that person for one month. Don’t forget! We are going to put someone in charge of watching you all and registering the information as well. (Laughter) Isn’t that right?
So if this person is given his quota of rice, how much do those five pounds of rice cost him? Let’s see, with a dollar. How much does it cost him? How much can he buy with a dollar, even with the deduction, even with the revaluated price of the peso? He buys a hundred pounds of rice, not in one day as some fools believe, but saves it for this month, and the next month, and the following months.
Obviously, you didn’t spend any of what they sent you on medicine, for medicine here are subsidized, if you bought it in the drugstore, that is, what wasn’t stolen and resold, and then you spent 10% of what it costs in hard currency. If you went to the hospital and had an ankle or even heart operation, your operation could cost 1000, 2000, 10,000 in the United States; if you suffer a stroke and are given a valve, this could cost one of our employees over in the Interests Section 80,000 dollars, but here you’re treated. There could an incident of mistreatment in a hospital, but have you ever been to a hospital where you have not been treated?
Of course, our system didn’t have the organization that it is now starting to have and will have, fully, in the future, or the equipment that is now starting to be used in the majority of hospitals, high quality standardized equipment, that therefore can receive maintenance, or the computerized multi-section tomography machines, with 64 sections, the best in the world, that are now starting to arrive, that have been bought and paid for. You see. And how have they been paid? They have been paid with the savings and with the country’s newly increasing income. It doesn’t cost you anything.
From the moment that you enroll in nursery school until the day that you graduate with the honorable PhD in agricultural science, physical science, medical science, it never costs you penny. If you’re lucky you get an apartment, although it is likely that you will never be that lucky –okay, let’s say your father was given it because he was a construction worker–, but you don’t pay rent, you don’t pay taxes. Perhaps you are quite sharp and you say: ‘I am going to rent it out to some visitors, in convertible pesos. So, I am charged 30 cents in tax for every dollar that I receive; okay, I was practically given this house, it cost me 500 dollars, I make 800 a month and I give 240 to the State, a few dollars here and there, and I earn 500 dollars; 5 times two 10, 12 500 pesos. You can go, by virtue of those sacred freedom of trade laws, and buy a pound of rice for 3 pesos on the open market, you can go up to a gas station attendant and say: ‘Look, I have a 1950’s car because I bought it from such and such a person, I paid for it in hard currency or in convertible pesos, and I have someone who gets me the fuel, and I’m going on a 300 km trip, and I have three girlfriends’, and this hunk of tin is an attractive offer with all the problems with transport. Who’s not going to want me with this car?’ (Laughter)
If you want, dear students, I could add that those who use 300 kilowatts consume 40% of the residential electricity produced in the country; 40% of this electricity could represent –a cautious and conservative figure– 400 million dollars generously and benevolently given by the State to the biggest users. And who are the biggest users? Go and visit one of the new rich and take a look at how many electrical appliances they have.
I remember that when we were analyzing the issue of power consumption we discovered that a ‘paladar’ [private] restaurant consumed 11,000 kilowatts and that this stupid State was subsidizing the owner, the owner of the place where the bourgeoisie likes to take their guests so that they can taste the lobster and the shrimps, all of it stolen from Batabanó, a miracle of the private business, that little place with four or five tables. But, of course, this totalitarian, abusive State is against progress because it is against plundering. So, the State is subsidizing the ‘paladar’ with more than 1,000 dollars a month, and I found this out because I asked how much they spent, how much it was worth, and this fellow was paying the electricity at that price, 11,000 kilowatts; I think that once the total exceeded 300 he was paying 30 cents of a peso per kilowatt. Didn’t you know? No, none of you know anything. (Something is said to him) No, don’t make things up, I have made a lot of enquiries and I have been misinformed on many occasions. It is 30 cents, 11,000 kilowatts, he was paying 3,000 pesos. Look what he was paying, the State was getting rich because he paid 3,000 Cuban pesos, some 120 dollars; but it costs the State…, on that occasion I calculated that a kilowatt was 10 cents of a dollar, now 11,000, at a cost of 15 cents for the State, we’ll have to pass the collection plate here, I don’t know how you are all doing for cash but we have to subsidize that ‘paladar’, and as it costs 1,250 dollars a month and there are 400 of you, don’t just hand over the 20 cents when you leave, also donate around 3 dollars please, for the monthly payment, pay the bill because someone has to subsidize that ‘paladar’. That’s free trade, that’s progress, that’s development, that’s a step forward.
We are going to show them what progress is, what development is, what justice is, what it is to end the theft. And I warn them: it will be with the wholehearted support of the people. We know what we are doing, it is pure math and it’s in the numbers. We know how much everything that we are going to save is worth. I don’t want to talk about what we are buying now, nor do I want to elaborate much more about the billions, regardless of whether or not the power cuts will come to an end, and believe me, they will end, of that you can be sure.
Now we have around two and a half million electrical pressure cookers, we’ve not just got the rice cookers, we’re also going to have some gadget that saves more than 80% of the energy that you use to boil one liter of water.
I’m sure that I can ask you a question and that you will answer it. Raise your hands all of you who don’t use warm water to wash with in August. Honestly now. Be careful, don’t get mixed up.
(A girl raises her hand)
Okay, so you’ve never used warm water? (She tells him that she hasn’t) And what about winter? (Again she replies negatively) Congratulations. You make up approximately 10% of the population. You do, in winter? (A boy answers that he does) What a responsible man you are (laughter) And you know I have asked other people, not like I have here, I asked students and work colleagues, and I asked them to raise their hands if they didn’t use it. Do you know when that was? It was on my birthday, on August 13. I asked 10 of them to tell me if they didn’t heat the water to take a shower and none of the 10 raised their hands. I’m talking about water to take a shower, people also heat water to purify it, and for the children, in summer. When it’s cold I want to see which of you takes a shower without heating the water first. (Laughter)
And do you know what university students in the halls of residence do with cans to heat water? Do you know? Ah! And why don’t you find out how much electricity they use? I can tell you, I can tell you that there are some methods of heating water that use more than forty times more energy. Forty times!
Tell me honestly, have any of you ever used electricity to heat a homemade burner when the gas has run out? I’m not referring to those of you who have mains gas, that is the most economic, and should not be touched on. Those of you who cook with liquid gas or kerosene, have you ever used a homemade burner to cook anything? Raise your hands if you have never used one.
Let’s see. Who’s here? What about that person there who raised their hand. Have a look, find out about that gentleman, maybe my eyesight’s failing me, and let’s see. Really, raise your hand if you have never used one. One. Stand up young lady. Please, come here. Yes, you who raised your hand, yes you, stand up. Come here please. Now then, answer my question. You’re telling the absolute truth? (She tells him that she is) You have never used one. Where do you live? (She tells him that she lives in the country, in Santa María) Is there electricity there? (She answers affirmatively)
I wanted to find the ideal citizen, someone who has never used a homemade burner.
Tell me something, is it ever hot there? And another thing: do you have an electric fan? Because I’m sure there are mosquitoes out there, aren’t there? What type of fan do you have? What type of motor does this fan have, Aurika? (Laughter) (She tells him that it is a Sanyo with an efficient electric motor)
Your parents are farmers, is that true? (She says that it is)
But you don’t sell anything on that market do you? (Laughter) She is honest, she has slightly more resources.
Do you have any incandescent bulbs? (She tells him that she does)
How many? What size are they? How powerful are they? (She tells him that they are 60 watt bulbs)
And can you see okay with those? (She answers affirmatively)
How many hours a day do you have them on for? (She tells him that they are on for quite a few hours)
What, five, six? (She tells him that there is one that stays on all night)
One is on all night? How many hours is that? Of course, it’s so that the place isn’t shrouded in darkness. So that’s 10, 12? (She tells him 12 hours)
Twelve hours. Oh my!
And the other light, how long is that on for? (She tells him that it is on from six in the evening until after ten)
After ten, that is, so let’s say six hours. Twelve plus four, 16 hours; times 60 equals 960 watts. Instead of using 960 watts you are going to be given 2 fluorescent light bulbs that use 7 watts each if they’re on for 12 and 4 hours; 16 times 7 equals 112 watts and more light.
Do you want to do something for your country? Do you want to? I’m sure that you do. Do you live there? I didn’t want to ask, but anyway, the problem has now been solved. I am going to tell you how much you are going to give your country very soon, starting from tomorrow if you wish.
Enrique, send them two 7 watt bulbs, or 15 or 20 if you want, you’ll be able to see better that you do with the incandescent bulbs and you’ll have less thieves sneaking about nearby, The cost of these little 7 watt bulbs, I’ve already worked it out, is 112 watts, which I’ll subtract from the 960 that the incandescent bulbs use: 960 minus 112 equals 858 watts, multiplied by 365, the number of days in a year, if it’s not a leap year, equals 313.170 watts, divided by 1000 it would be 313,17 kilowatts, multiplied by 15 cents, with the cost of production in hard currency, brings the total to 46 dollars and 97 cents.
I would like to thank you in advance, you, who are going to give the country –wait a minute, don’t go, yet– from the payment that you have to make now, you are going to give Cuba 12.7 cents a day, in 100 days you would have given the country 12.7 dollars, and by next year you will have given all of us 46.45 dollars, with which to buy a few more beans or whatever. So, let me tell you, and this isn’t some kind of tax, and you will see better, by just changing two light bulbs you are going to give us 46.45 dollars; we’re not going to charge you or anyone for the two light bulbs. They last five times longer that the incandescent light bulbs and they generate less heat, you won’t have to use that Sanyo fan of yours so much.
So that’s the situation, explained with that example. Imagine if there were 15 million light bulbs instead of 2, and not just those in people’s houses, who have more than calculations show, but also in the schools, general stores, and in all types of shops and stalls; 15 million. Of course, she only has two and she uses them quite a lot, there are others who use them much less and some people use them very often, so we can’t extrapolate like that. But we must save, maybe for quite a few hours, between two and three 100,000 kilowatt power generators, plus the cost of fuel and other things needed to produce the electricity that is squandered, a power the country needs in order to ensure that these bulbs are on for an hour, which make this expenditure necessary.
What are you all talking about? What are you laughing at? (They point up to the ceiling of the theatre hall where there is a large amount of small incandescent bulbs) Ah! No, I’m prepared to pay for those to stay there, they are very pretty. It isn’t a waste, it’s a traditional and historical setting and, besides, there aren’t events here all day every day, and in any case, the guilty party here is me, because this building has been lit up the whole time that I have been up here on this rostrum.
Well, thank you very much.
(He turns to another young woman from Ciego de Avila, who stood next to the other young woman from Havana) Is there a refrigerator in your house? (She tells him that it is not working)
It’s not working? Wasn’t it fitted with the seal or the thermostat? (She tells him that it was)
So why did it break again? (She tells him that the motor burned out)
The motor burned out? When? (She tells him that it was a while ago)
What type is it? (She tells him that it is Russian)
Russian, Minsk, or made with a Russian motor, INPUD, in Santa Clara and now it’s not working, you were using much more energy that those light bulbs.
Let us assume that it is working, we’ll have to say what we must do in your case, because we’ll have to change the refrigerator as it uses too much energy.
The day before yesterday I was seeing off some of the social workers who were going to go and talk to the truck and tractor drivers, they were going to find out where they were, where they lived, what they were called, what their identity numbers were, how much fuel they used, if they used diesel how many kilometers did they travel on one liter; but it’s not necessary to know a lot to realize that your non operational Minsk used a lot of energy.
Don’t you remember? It must have been using around 300 watts an hour; you certainly were ruining the republic, because this one faulty refrigerator must consume seven kilowatts a day. If instead of this you had a new one, that consumed less than 40 watts an hour, you could be –I’m going to tell you how much you would be saving, I am going to try, I am going to calculate just 200 watts per hour– using 4.8 kilowatts a day. Learn to multiply, because you are all going to have to do this. (He makes the calculation) At 15 cents per kilowatt, she is going to be giving us 15 and 15, 30 and 30, 72 cents a day. She shall have her refrigerator. Let’s note that down, Enrique.
You don’t have one at the moment? (He is told that the situation is being sorted out)
Where are you going to get the machine from, tell me that? (He is told that the motor is going to be repaired by self-employed workers)
Wait, we’re going to be increasing rates by about 30% then because those repaired motors are a disaster. Enrique, how much do the repaired motors consume? Many people have done that because their motors have broken and they didn’t have any other choice, we can’t blame them. But the State can be blamed. I can assure you this: within six months you will have a refrigerator that won’t consume more than 40 watts an hour. I’m talking about what is wasted, what is thrown away, in your case we’ll be set to save 200 per hour. That’s what you’ll save yourself, it’s a pity that the 150 that we had in stock have just been distributed. Maybe, Enriquito, we’ve got seven left, we could have a trial over there. At the moment we have 150 trials underway in the city, we are going to hold a short meeting with the representatives of Arroyo Naranjo, where 30,000 use liquid gas. We are going to visit them.
Enrique, how many went to visit the residents of Arroyo Naranjo, the 50,000 homes? (Enrique tells him that that day 1,098 social workers had gone to visit around 55,000 homes. He points out that each worker visits an average of 20 houses a day, so according to calculations, they would have visited 20,000)
So, in two days they will have visited them all. They will have recorded what domestic appliances are used in this municipality. We are carrying out important social experiments. We are going to change the gas, they may be listening to me now, they are the lowest income people in this city and they have been given liquid gas. The price of liquid gas is more than 700 dollars per ton.
(Calculating) That’s 300,000 kilograms, 300 tons of liquid gas, as a minimum, the monthly cost for Arroyo Naranjo. The approximate yearly cost for Arroyo Naranjo’s liquid gas is 3 million dollars, if it is really only 30,000 consumers; we should send a team to check on whether it is running out or not.
We’ll do an important experiment, we’ll collect all the data and then we’ll meet with the direct representatives from the communities, the popular councils, the trade unions, the mass organizations, 1,500 of the people closest to the neighbors to discuss this experiment that we propose to carry out and I’m sure that it will be a success, and you will immediately be saving the energy expenses.
We’ll see the winter consumption rate; we’ll see what the new light bulbs we are distributing from now until the end of December will save us; we’ll see those new fans that will substitute the homemade ones, which amount to one million, and then we’ll add to that an equal amount of the simple but highly efficient manual electrical water heaters that are going to considerably reduce the cost from what it takes to boil water.
In December we will be distributing 14,000 pieces of equipment: rice cookers, electrical pressure cookers, water heaters. The energy efficient light bulbs replacing the incandescent are not included in these figures.
We shall see what happens to certain vehicles after the conversations with the social workers, and how many of them will receive a good Christian burial. When each Ministry receives the appropriate number of trucks and they are asked to keep 90% of them on the road and that all of them should be registered, it will be surprising to see how much energy is saved.
Actually, we have ideas that we won’t be explaining now: the exact time it will take to remove every single one of the gasoline powered trucks and other gas guzzlers off the road.
We’ve been speaking about saving two-thirds of the same. By the end of 2006, we believe we shall have saved no less than a million kilowatt/hours in electricity. Today this amount is generated and inefficiently used. With the new equipment, we shall have the capacity to generate at least 1.4 million kilowatt/hours, not counting the plants that are being built. That is more certain than everything which has been announced and accomplished, and everything that has not been mentioned and accomplished.
I don’t like to talk much about it, but there are ideas which we have already begun to apply extensively. We will take advantage of the fact that in winter there is a 15% decrease in energy consumption, since each new piece of equipment must have its energy assured. We need to be sure that the family has cooking facilities if this should fail; now there are many problems, but they are all being studied in detail, and all of them are being solved conscientiously, as Marx would have said.
I won’t go on any more, but soon I shall return and we will continue talking.
I have broached many different subjects. We have to be resolute: either we defeat these deviations and strengthen the Revolution by destroying any of the illusions that the empire may have, or we can rather say: either we radically defeat these problems or we die. We must repeat the motto: Patria o Muerte! (Homeland or Death!) This is all very serious and we must use all necessary forces, if need be, the 28,000 social workers. I would guess that all those who are out there re-routing gasoline should be well advised so that we don’t have to discover, point by point, who it is that is stealing fuel. The 10,000 social workers are ready and the city of Havana has been transformed into a spectacular school where we are learning what it is that we have to do. They learn more every day. The 28,000 will be joined by the 7,000 who are still studying.
If 28,000 are not enough, and some of these are already on the job creating anti-corruption groups, so that each problem needing observation is in the hands of a group; you can find members of the communist youth, of the mass organizations, of the veterans of the Revolution, as we said at the coliseum.
The problems I have mentioned are all being seriously addressed; you cannot imagine the enthusiasm, the seriousness, dignity, and pride they feel when they realize the great good that they are bringing to the country.
Fuel and energy are the most important issues, but not the only ones. How much has been stolen from factories such as those that produce medicines. There is one such in La Lisa where it was necessary to remove the manager and almost 100 others; they were involved in the theft of medicines. A hundred were let go; now we need find people to replace them. This is not enough, nor is it the only solution.
And what’s next? We must also use all the technical means available. We have already acquired a large number of the new pumps needed for one third, approximately, of the gas stations that will remain in operation in the country, and also a number of new tanker trucks that won’t be an obstruction in traffic or cause traffic jams or accidents. For the most part, they will be operating at night when there is less traffic. We haven’t drawn up the figures yet of fatalities that occur because of accidents.
One day, the Revolution will be able to trace the location of every truck anywhere, using the most sophisticated technical instruments. Nobody will be able to take that truck to pay a visit to auntie or to the sweetheart. Not that there is anything wrong with looking after your private business, but it cannot be done in a vehicle used for work, much less at a time when there is a worldwide fuel crisis; then it becomes a crime. We will not forget any detail that is within our means to improve, whether it is that little soap with no smell, or the toothpaste or any other essential.
We have already bought 1000 busses, but not to charge the historical prices. Some of these are already resolving some of those problems mentioned, and the others will be here in a few months time.
Transportation will receive some subsidy, but not 90%; that would ruin us, so it must be minimal. We have to apply maximum rationality to salaries, prices, pensions. There should be zero over-spending and wastage. We are not a capitalist country where everything is left to chance.
Subsidies and free services will be considered only in essentials. Medical services will be free, so will education and the like. Housing will not be free. Maybe there will be some subsidy, but the rents that are paid in installments need to come close to the actual cost. You may well ask: “What are we going to pay all this with?” It will be in a large part from what is being wasted and stolen today, and from the non-negligible income the country is receiving. Everything that is within our reach, everything belongs to the people, the only thing not to be allowed is egotistical and irresponsible wastage of our wealth.
I really had no intention of getting involved in a dissertation on such sensitive matters, but it would have been a crime not to take advantage of the moment and tell you some of the things related to the economy, to the material life of the country, to the future of the Revolution, to revolutionary ideas, to the reasons why we began this struggle, to the colossal strength we possess today, the country we are today and we may continue to be, which is much more than we are now.
I could never show my face again if I were lying or exaggerating. I prefer to do things rather than to make promises. In any case, I do not do anything, because a man alone cannot do a thing. I avail myself of the experience or the authority which I have in order to wage this battle. There are millions of Cubans ready to wage this war which is a war of all the people.
I mentioned that we have reached military invulnerability, that this empire cannot afford the price of the lives that would be lost, numbering as many or more than in Vietnam, if they try to occupy our land. The American people are not willing to allow their leaders to waste thousands of lives on their imperial quests. Let’s see if the tally reaches 3,000 in Iraq; it is at 2,000 already, and on a daily basis the news is grimmer for those who started that war.
And let’s see what will happen with this dirty blockade. There are many Americans upset because they couldn’t accept the help of our Cuban doctors; the majority was in favor and the local authorities more so.
Let’s see, because we can show them that it would be better to get rid of that trash, because it will never destroy our Revolution. We can tell Europe: Keep your humanitarian aid, you hypocrites, keep it all, because we don’t need it. What a wonderful thing it is to be able to say that we do not need the help of Europe or of the empire! Finish it whenever you want even though we don’t care if you do or not, because we have learned how to save, to think, to grow; we have learned to multiply our efforts so that we can rise to the challenge of our colossal adversary.
I have been speaking to you with all the trust that I can. I have told you about every one of the main tasks facing the social workers’ brigades and about their important activities. Sometimes they had to go out without warning, quickly and with discipline and efficiency. We had thousands in the city of Havana and we mobilized thousands more as a reserve.
They are already accomplishing many tasks. If we don’t have enough of them, how many students are there in this university? Right now I will say to you what I said to them: if 28,000 are not enough, we will meet with you, students of the glorious Federation of University Students and you will find 28,000 other students for us (Applause), and in pairs, together with the social workers who have been acquiring some experience, you will be mobilized; and if 56,000 are not enough we will meet with you again and you will find 56,000 reinforcements for us.
You know who will shelter them? The people will, for they have great respect for these kids, and they no longer say: “These can’t fix anything.”, “This will never finish.” And together with you, together with the people, we will be proving that it can be done. And I think that we shall have many more resources, not just to meet the necessities, but so that we may further develop; because we are managing things much better. Much of what we accomplish, we do with the resources that we have saved. We are saving hundreds of millions of dollars and now it will depend on the rhythm and efficiency with which we proceed on every task.
New ideas come up everyday. What we can save in energy we can immediately convert into resources. The worst and most inefficient thermo-electric plants will still be around, but we won’t need them; they will be around as back up, ready to fill in if anything unexpected happens on each step of the way.
The country spends 3,800,000 tons of fuel yearly just for the production of electricity. Today, our energy system works at only 60% capacity.
We shall never again build a thermo-electric plant. The plants that shall be built will be using gas, the one that comes with extraction of oil; they will be plants running on combined cycles that can be paid off within four or five years and can produce a kilowatt for 2 cents of a dollar.
We shall never again build a “Guiteras”. Those were crazy schemes, born out of dogma and shortsighted plans. In a system that needs to produce around 2 million kilowatts, buying a plant for 330,000 means that you are concentrating more than 15% of all effective generated electricity in one single plant; when it goes out, or is hit with lightning as it happened a few weeks ago in “Guiteras”, the black-out strikes with a fury, affecting both the population and the economy. How long was the revolution going to put up with such an erroneous concept in the development of the power system? Such concepts, I assure you, are not limited to Cuba, and today we are the first country in the world to discover this. They will be coming to Cuba to see what we are doing.
I won’t say more on this, because I could be adding details that have much more importance.
We will make the transition from being an idiot country to one that will leave everyone else far behind. I’d like to warn others that they are limping badly and repeating the same mistakes.
No, I won’t be going into detail. I promise that one day I will tell you, student leaders, the whole story, maybe when we are all together again. But it won’t be today. Today, I must keep quiet because talking too much could tip off the enemy or give them information. Still, there are things that they cannot stop, like the two and a half million electric pressure cookers that are already here and on their way, that, they cannot stop. Domestic appliances are also on their way from China. China is one of the largest countries in the world, having become today the principal motor force of the world economy. China produces many things and we are negotiating other purchases and exchanges at an accelerating pace.
I told you that our credit has grown. Our country has the ability to mobilize millions and millions of dollars. Tell that to “little Bush” so that he and all his schemers can become bitter if they want. Let them say what they want tomorrow, about the “poor guys”, these “noble individuals” who were stealing “ever so little”, about those persons who charge anything they want for just about anything. I tell them as I am telling you: “Pay for the fuel that you are using.” Actually, why are we handing over everything to that bandit, that miser or that egoist who would like us to pay 15 cents for every kilowatt that he uses? What world economic law obliges us to do that? Let them get ready for the bill that we are preparing for them. We have already devaluated the dollar, but that dollar is still enjoying too many privileges.
Of course, neither the dollar nor those that go around stealing; they don’t have our Meteorological Institute and our Dr. Rubiera, and now a hurricane is coming. Nobody knows where this hurricane is going or how strong the winds are going to be. The only sure thing is that it is a Category Five Hurricane. (Laughter) A Category Five Hurricane is one that leaves nothing standing and it won’t abuse anyone, it won’t starve anyone, it just uses the simplest of principles: the ration book must disappear; those who work and produce will receive more, and they will be able to buy more; those who worked for decades will receive more and will have more. The country will have much more but it will never be a consumer society. It will be a society of knowledge, of culture, of the most extraordinary human development imaginable, development in art, culture, science but not for chemical weapons, with a breadth of liberty that no one will be able to dismantle. We know this already, we don’t need to proclaim it, but it is worth remembering.
We have earned the right to do what we are going to do today, to have at our disposition almost a million professionals, intellectuals and artists, to have at our disposition 500,000 university students, in all areas of science, capable of all activities.
I am proclaiming that our society will truly be an entirely new society. In this long distance race, we are already several laps ahead of our closest competitors. The merit lies with the empire for it presented us with an enormous threat and it was this challenge that spurred us on. Theirs is the merit and the only thing our noble, generous, brave and intelligent people have done is to take up that challenge; today it does so, with the force of a multitude of developed intellects.
Today, as we speak of 500,000, we know that this number was produced in a very short time, just three short years ago, and look at how many are here today, and how many there will be tomorrow.
And there will be more for we have thousands of Latin American students studying medicine. In our country alone, we will be educating 100,000 doctors in the next 10 years. We are involved in creating the best medical capital in the world, not just for us, but for the peoples of Latin America and other parts of the world. We are being asked to educate more doctors, and we have the ability and the facilities, and no one can educate them better than we can. We have developed educational methodologies that we have not even dreamed of. We shall see all this, and very soon.
The ELAM ([Latin American School of Medicine] will have not just 12,000 medical students, there are also 2,000 Bolivian undergraduates here; some are at the ELAM, others are in Cienfuegos living with serious, professional and culturally prepared families whose psychological profile was investigated together with that of the student and his or her family; a new and unique experience.
I was talking about this yesterday, calling it solidarity transformed into a colossal wealth. How could we house 100,000 higher education students? We know what it costs to house and feed each one of them.
In the first phase of the Revolution, we constructed hundreds of high schools and today we have less than half of the enrolment of the seventies. We know what it costs to repair these schools and how long it takes to do so. There will be many medical schools for 400 to 450 students with excellent conditions, with all the necessary materials for study, audiovisual equipment and interactive programs. As we all know, and as comrade Machadito said, if he had had such resources during the five years of his education, he would have been able to acquire in one year all the information it took him five years to achieve at that time. This doesn’t mean that we shall produce doctors in one year, but that in the course of six years of study, a doctor will acquire the knowledge that traditional methods would have given him in 20 years! We are thinking of excellence, and this is what we are constantly increasing.
We are aware of what our compatriots are doing in other areas. We are in constant communication. They are the ‘Henry Reeve’ Contingent and many others like them. A beautiful story is being written these days, the like of which has not been seen in history or during the life of our Revolution.
I am very happy that on a day like today, the Day of the Student, and the date you have chosen to celebrate the 60th anniversary of my entry into this university, I feel very well both physically and spiritually, meeting with you here. There were many ideas running through my mind, and I had to organize my memories of yesterday with the new ideas of today, and be careful so that I wouldn’t say anything I shouldn’t and so that I would say everything that I wanted to.
This month I think that we will have to take some measures; I was discussing this with the comrades. We cannot lose a second because things are going on constantly, and so it must begin this month.
We urgently need to discourage the wasting of electricity. I call it “discouragement”; it is not the definitive formula. That will be something else. But as of now we need to be distributing a massive amount of equipment. The more we save, the more equipment we can distribute, and the more equipment we distribute, the more energy we’ll save and the more money we’ll begin to collect starting at the end of this month and going to the beginning of next year. That is why it is urgent to begin in December, establishing certain limitations on the wasting of electricity.
Not a cent more of increases for those who are consuming 100; a little more for those consuming 150, 200 and 300 kilowatts. There will be people who consume 300 who will have to pay a bit more, but not too much. Instead of two dollars they will have to pay, perhaps four for 300. But don’t consume more than 300; turn off your lights and the fan; don’t leave the TV turned on. I haven’t even mentioned that there are a million television sets, 40,000 already here and more coming, 50 watts, so that there will be no more black and white sets.
And we we’ll continue saving. The laboratories will determine what each piece of equipment consumes, everything will be measured and all calculations will be less than the figures show; no detail will escape notice, or at least very few. Every day there will be more experiments, and more experiments. There will be a test run in a municipality, the poorest one, and that’s why all the social workers are here today. Another group is covering Cienfuegos delivering the new light bulbs.
Enrique, when will the gas stations in that province be occupied? It doesn’t matter, they know it’s going to happen, they can imagine.
(Enrique explains that it will begin on Saturday; that 158,000 light bulbs have been replaced in Cienfuegos and the rest will be finished tomorrow.)
(Two energy efficient light bulbs are handed to the Comandante so that he can give them to the student from the province of Havana.)
Hey, Enrique, come over here. The one she is holding is not the right one. You are consuming electricity for no reason. Quickly, we are finishing up here.
Ah, the girl is over there. No, this one is 7. (Enrique explains that one is 7 and the other is 15)
No, she has two 60s. Don’t turn off the lights at home. She told me that she had two 60s. I asked for her to be given two 15s.
Here, not you, her. Take it to her; tell her she already has one. (They give her two 15 watts bulbs.)
We already know what we will save each year. It’s quite a bit. (Applause)
We’ll discount it from what she has to pay for the subsidy for the one over there.
They are changing. How many bulbs are they going to exchange in Cienfuegos? (Enrique tells him that 207,000 had to be exchanged)
How many more did they find? (He is told that there was more demand and they will send 100,000 more)
We had said a hundred and fifty thousand for Havana province. (It is explained that they are on the way; 158,000 have been exchanged by the 400 social workers, with 360 reinforcements. He repeats that on Saturday they begin with the gas stations)
Correct. The day after tomorrow we are in the gas stations. Let them get everything ready. In any case we will be finding out what the people are buying, and then they will install the perfect distributing machines and the nation will know where each one is located.
How much gas do the vehicles use, not the trucks, the front loaders used in construction, like the last time? What do all the MINAZ [Ministry of Sugar Industry] tractors consume? What do all the tractors in the fields use? There are thousands of them being used instead of jeeps. When they don’t have enough kerosene, how much do they use? What do most of them use, do they use diesel to cook? There are hundreds of thousands, hundreds of thousands.
Besides that, I’m telling you, entirely new machinery to drill, new seismic, that’s very modern, drilling everywhere and using accompanying gas to build plants on the combined cycle. This will replace the “Guiteras” [power plant] and those enormous plants in Santiago de Cuba which would consume half a million barrels of diesel turned out by that city’s refinery, using up between 300 and 500 grams of fuel oil for every kilowatt of electricity. Or those machines gobbling up diesel in San Jose de las Lajas, using 400 grams of diesel for every kilowatt to produce 60,000 kilowatts in the peak hours. Don’t be surprised the day you hear that they have been definitely retired. They will be around until we are sure there will be no deficit, we need to be very sure. Wherever we substitute one fuel for another, we will always hold on to the old one just in case, so that everything has been guaranteed. They are going to be great changes.
I’ve already told you that there are 1000 buses for long distance rides, and they will have their cost. Not just yet, because we prefer to wait. Sometimes it’s better to wait in order to understand something better. To better understand, for example, some measure. The Revolution always needs the understanding and the support of the people for every step that it takes. I assure you and I repeat it, that everybody who works will receive more, everyone who works for the country and the Revolution will receive more. The abuses will end; many of the inequalities will disappear, as will the conditions that allowed them to exist. When there is no one left that needs to be subsidized we will have advanced considerably in our march towards a society of justice and dignity. That is what true and irreversible socialism demands.
The empire was hoping that Cuba would have many more ‘paladares’ but it appears that there will be no more of them. What do they think that we have become neo-liberals? No one here has become a neo-liberal. We will prove to them the irrefutable crisis of their theories, just as we have shown them the disaster of their blockade, their aggression and their destabilizing actions.
Next year there may be fewer abstentions when the United Nations votes against the blockade, even though really there is no one left besides the fascist and genocidal ally that always votes unscrupulously with the empire. The world has to wage this battle.
Firstly, nobody should have the right to manufacture nuclear weapons. There should be no privileges for imperialism to impose its hegemonic rule and to take the natural resources and raw materials away from the nations of the Third World. We have denounced that a thousand times, but that is not the solution. The first solution for any Third World country is to not fear the empire; we have always acted that way and they are beginning to feel demoralized.
Secondly, we will strictly defend, in all the public squares of the world, the right to produce nuclear fuel. And we are not afraid to do so, let us make that perfectly clear. (Applause)
There must be an end to stupidity in the world, and to abuse, and to the empire based on might and terror. It will disappear when all fear disappears. Every day there are more fearless countries. Every day there will be more countries that will rebel and the empire will not be able to keep that infamous system alive any longer.
Salvador Allende once spoke of things that would happen rather sooner than a later. I believe that sooner rather than later the empire will disintegrate and the American people will enjoy more freedom than ever, they will be able to aspire to more justice than ever before; they will be able to use science and technology for their own improvement and for the betterment of humanity; they will be able to join all of us who fight for the survival of the species; they will be able to join all of us who fight for opportunities for the human species.
It’s only fair to struggle for that and that is why we must use all our energy, all our effort and all our time to be able to say with the voice of millions, or hundreds of thousands of millions of people: It is worthwhile to have been born! It is worthwhile to have lived!
original Cuban translation to English: http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/2005/ing/f171105i.html
Original Spanish: http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/2005/esp/f171105e.html
By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
US President Barack Obama recently welcomed President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia to the White House for a buoyant celebration of the $10 billion, US effort “to help Colombia vanquish its violent drug cartels and end its festering guerrilla war, the longest worldwide”.
It was also a chance for two leaders who reached out to longtime enemies to savor their success –Mr. Obama for his opening to Cuba, and Mr. Santos for his peace talks with his country’s guerrilla movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.
The meeting was covered and very favorably reviewed by The New York Times on February 5, in an article titled “Obama Praises Colombia’s Peace Efforts With Rebels and Seeks Big Aid”, signed by journalist Mark Landler.
The Colombian government is expected to sign a final peace agreement with the rebels by March 23, bringing an end to the longest civil war in Latin America. An estimated 225,000 people have been killed and six million displaced in the conflict, says the New York newspaper, one of the most recognized sources of US corporate.
Speaking at the headquarters of the US government, Mr. Obama said that “a country that was on the brink of collapse is now a country on the brink of peace.” He announced that he would request $450 million in new aid for Plan Colombia, the program under which the United States has supplied Colombia with military equipment, training and economic assistance. That is an increase over the $300 million the White House had previously budgeted.
Plan Colombia, Mr. Obama said, will be renamed Peace Colombia to reflect its new purpose of helping the country keep the peace, rather than wage war. “In Colombia today,” he said, “there is hope.”
President Santos described how Colombia had rebounded from the chaos of the 1990s, when large parts of the country were under the control of the guerrillas or paramilitary groups. Today, he said, it has a thriving economy and an effective policy for cracking down on the drug trade.
He recalled that Mr. Obama was one of the first leaders in whom he confided his plans to negotiate with the guerrillas. “You not only believed it was possible,” Mr. Santos said, “you encouraged me to go ahead and gave me your full, enthusiastic support.”
Speaking for all people who live “south of the Rio Grande,” Mr. Santos thanked Mr. Obama for his “audacity in re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.”
Mr. Santos was vocal in prodding the United States to end its half-century estrangement from Cuba, citing his own efforts to make peace as an example. Characterized by the NYT as “a fluent English speaker with a graduate degree from Harvard”, Mr. Santos made a persuasive case for the fact that the United States needed to make such a move towards Cuba.
The NYT columnist recalls that Plan Colombia has not been without detractors. Particularly in its early years, some critics said it was weighted too heavily toward military aid over civilian aid. The Colombian government was also criticized for disregarding human rights as it stepped up the war against the guerrillas.
There are also lingering questions about the role played by the United States in backing Colombian officials who colluded with extreme right-wing militias (paramilitaries) to fight the patriotic guerrillas.
According to the NYT, Obama’s meeting with Santos begins what is expected to be a busy year of Latin American diplomacy for the US President. The White House hopes that as early as March, he will make a landmark visit to Cuba. That trip could include a stop in Colombia. In November, he is scheduled to travel to Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
February 16, 2016.
Por Manuel E. Yepe
El Presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, recibió en días recientes en la Casa Blanca a su homólogo de Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, con un vibrante anuncio sobre la asignación de 10 mil millones de dólares estadounidenses para “apoyar los esfuerzos de Colombia por acabar con los violentos cárteles de la droga y poner fin a la guerra de guerrillas más prolongada en el tiempo que se haya conocido a escala mundial”.
La oportunidad sirvió para que ambos líderes intercambiaran sus valoraciones acerca de sus respectivos avances en los tratos con sus históricos enemigos -Obama en su apertura hacia Cuba y Santos por sus conversaciones de paz con las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).
El encuentro fue reportado y elogiosamente comentado por el diario The New York Times el 5 de febrero en un artículo titulado “Obama ensalza a Colombia por perseguir la paz con rebeldes y anuncia un gran aumento de la ayuda”, con la firma del periodista Marque Landler.
El gobierno colombiano espera firmar para el 23 de marzo un acuerdo final de paz con los rebeldes que pondría fin a la guerra civil más larga en la historia de América Latina, conflicto que ha dejado alrededor de 225.000 personas asesinadas y 6 millones de desplazados, asegura el periódico neoyorquino, uno de los mas reconocidos voceros de la prensa corporativa de Estados Unidos.
En la sede del gobierno estadounidense, Obama declaró que “un país que estaba al borde del colapso es ahora un país al borde de la paz”. Reveló que pediría $ 450 millones para nuevas ayudas en el Plan Colombia, un programa a través del cual Estados Unidos ha suministrado a Colombia equipamiento militar, asistencia económica y capacitación. Se trataría de un incremento de unos 300 millones de dólares sobre la cifra que la Casa Blanca había presupuestado previamente.
El Plan Colombia, dijo Obama, será retitulado “Paz Colombia” para reflejar el nuevo propósito de ayudar a la subsistencia del país en la paz, en vez de para hacer la guerra. “En Colombia hay hoy una esperanza”, subrayó el Presidente estadounidense.
Según el Presidente Santos, Colombia había salido del caos de la década de 1990, cuando gran parte del país estaba bajo el control de la guerrilla o de los grupos paramilitares y mostraba hoy una economía próspera y una política eficaz para reprimir el tráfico de drogas. Recordó que el Presidente Obama fue uno de los primeros líderes a quienes él confió sus planes de negociar con la guerrilla. “Usted, no sólo lo creyó posible,” dijo Santos, “usted me animó a seguir adelante y me dio su apoyo completo y entusiasta” reveló.
Hablando para todas las personas que viven “al sur del río Grande”, el Presidente Santos agradeció al Presidente Obama su “audacia en restablecer relaciones diplomáticas con Cuba”.
Santos recalcó que él conoció de la insistencia con que el presidente de los Estados Unidos ha defendido la idea de poner fin al alejamiento de Cuba de su país durante medio siglo, citando sus propios esfuerzos para lograr la paz como un ejemplo. Santos, a quien el periódico identifica como “un fluido angloparlante graduado en la Universidad de Harvard”, insistió siempre en que Estados Unidos debía hacer un movimiento de este tipo respecto a Cuba.
El articulista del NYT recuerda que el Plan Colombia ha sido muy criticado, particularmente en sus primeros años, por ponderar demasiado la ayuda militar por encima de la ayuda civil. El gobierno colombiano también ha sido muy criticado por ignorar los derechos humanos como caminó hasta la guerra contra la guerrilla.
Igualmente son persistentes las preguntas acerca del papel desempeñado por los Estados Unidos en respaldo a funcionarios colombianos que coludieron con las milicias de extrema derecha (paramilitares) para luchar contra a la guerrilla patriótica.
Según el NYT, la reunión de Obama con Santos dio inicio a lo que se espera que sea un año en el que la diplomacia con América Latina ocupe un espacio grande en la agenda del Presidente de Estados Unidos. “La Casa Blanca espera que en marzo Obama haga una histórica visita a Cuba que podría incluir una escala en Colombia”. En noviembre, tiene programado viajar a Perú para el foro de cooperación económica de Asia y el Pacífico.
Febrero 16 de 2016.
By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Quite a task is facing the US and Cuban leaders and officials who must try to reach agreements on the way to the normalization of relations between two neighbor countries that have so many differences.
In the first place, this is because normalization cannot be reduced to reproducing a past model; and because relations between Cuba and the United States have always been iniquitous.
The disagreements between the US and Cuba that cause the current tensions stem from conflicting policies of both states. These derive from the contradiction between the independent vocation of the Cubans, and the efforts of a certain elite of imperialist orientation which has little to do with the best interests of the US citizens.
In the early twentieth century, the United States imposed on Cuba a type of relationship
–a novelty at the time– which today is recognized as neocolonialist. The US had opportunistically intervened in the war of independence Cuba was waging against Spain. The US craved and finally obtained Spain’s colonial system.
Thus Washington managed to turn Cuba into a country dependent on the United States without conquering it in the traditional way. In fact, the term “sphere of influence” became, since then, an international euphemism for neo-colonialism.
Subsequently, the US intervened militarily in Cuba in 1906, 1909 and 1912. Since 1925 the US interests in Cuba were protected by a cruel dictator who was overthrown in 1933
by a popular uprising.
Washington sent to Cuba a special ambassador in charge of preventing the emergence of a left-leaning government after the powerful revolutionary movement that had developed on the Island to overthrow the tyrant.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, driven by strategic interests derived from the world war that would ensue, launched what he called “Good Neighbor Policy” and opposed
armed interventions in Latin America. This reduced tensions in the region.
Regarding Cuba, during this period the Platt Amendment was revoked, but the military base in Guantanamo Bay was kept, and a new sugar agreement was signed that reinforced Cuban dependence on the US.
After two decades of “representative democracy” supervised by Washington, in March 1952 the “strong man” of the United States in Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, carried out a coup d’état to prevent the rise of a government that seemed unusually honest and
enjoyed great popularity, but was not Washington’s favorite.
The armed struggle against the tyranny was the Cuban’s reaction. Batista received broad American support. There were US military advisors for all armed forces and the police. The US military base at Guantanamo supplied fuel and ammunition for the dictator’s aircraft that indiscriminately bombed rural areas and defenseless villages.
After the revolutionary triumph of January 1959, the US regime headed by Dwight D. Eisenhower initiated a period of hostile actions against Cuba. This was continued by successive administrations to the present, always with the CIA as a main instrument.
The United States cut the sugar quota allocated to Cuba and the Cuban government responded by nationalizing the US-owned sugar mills. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff immediately recommended to the President a total invasion of the Island.
A force of 1,500 mercenaries, trained, armed and directed by the CIA, landed at the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s south coast. The invasion –defeated in only 72 hours– proved a humiliating failure for the United States.
Ten successive US administrations have tried to strangle the Cuban revolution with all the means at their disposal, except for an open and total war. US-sponsored terrorist activities have killed about 3,500 Cubans; while more than two thousand persons have been maimed by such actions. Sabotage of economic targets, biological warfare actions, and repeated attempts on the life of Fidel Castro and other leaders have been but some manifestations of this unequal confrontation.
In 23 consecutive annual gatherings, the economic blockade decreed by the US has been rejected by an overwhelming majority of member states of the United Nations General Assembly. However, Washington has not responded to this almost unanimous outcry from the international community.
Therefore, in the absence of fairer terms, for Cubans the normalization of relations with the United States can only mean a move towards more respectful and just links.
That’s what should be in Obama’s portfolio in his coming historic visit to Cuba.
February 18, 2016.
Por Manuel E. Yepe
Menuda tarea la encargada a los dirigentes y funcionarios de Estados Unidos y Cuba que deben ponerse de acuerdo para hallar el camino hacia la normalización en las relaciones entre dos países tan vecinos como diferentes.
Ante todo porque la normalización no puede reducirse a reproducir una situación pretérita, porque las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos siempre ha sido afrentosas.
Las desavenencias entre Estados Unidos y Cuba que originan las presentes tensiones provienen de políticas contrapuestas de uno y otro Estado que derivan de la contradicción entre la vocación
independentista de los cubanos y los afanes de una cúpula de orientación imperialista que poco tiene que ver con los mejores intereses de los ciudadanos de la nación estadounidense.
En los albores del siglo XX, Estados Unidos impuso a Cuba un tipo de relación -por entonces novedosa-, que hoy se reconoce como
neocolonialista. Estados Unidos había intervenido de manera
oportunista en la guerra de independencia que Cuba libraba contra España, cuyo sistema colonial apetecía y finalmente obtuvo.
Washington logró así convertir a Cuba en un país dependiente de Estados Unidos sin conquistarlo a la usanza tradicional. De hecho, el término “esfera de influencia” se convirtió, desde entonces, en un eufemismo internacional para el neocolonialismo.
Posteriormente, Estados Unidos intervino militarmente en Cuba en 1906, 1909 y en 1912. Desde 1925 los intereses de Estados Unidos en Cuba estuvieron protegidos por un cruel dictador que fue derrocado en 1933 por una insurrección popular.
Washington envió a Cuba un embajador especial encargado de prevenir el surgimiento de un gobierno de tendencia izquierdista tras el poderoso movimiento revolucionario que se había desarrollado en la Isla para derrocar al tirano.
El Presidente Franklin D. Roosevelt, movido por estratégicos intereses derivados de la guerra mundial que sobrevendría, declaró lo que denominó “Política del Buen Vecino” y se manifestó contrario a las intervenciones armadas en América Latina, lo que redujo las tensiones en la región.
Respecto a Cuba, se revocó en este período la enmienda Platt pero se mantuvo la base militar de Guantánamo y se firmó un nuevo acuerdo azucarero que reforzó la dependencia cubana de EEUU.
Tras dos décadas de “democracia representativa” supervisada por Washington, en marzo de 1952 el “hombre fuerte” de Estados Unidos en Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, produjo un golpe de estado llamado a impedir el ascenso de un gobierno que se anunciaba inusualmente honesto y por ello disfrutaba de mucha popularidad, pero no era el favorito de Washington.
La lucha armada contra la tiranía fue la réplica de los cubanos. Batista recibió amplio apoyo norteamericano. Había consejeros militares estadounidenses en cada arma y en la policía. La base militar de Guantánamo suministró combustible y municiones para los aviones del dictador que bombardeaban indiscriminadamente áreas rurales y poblados indefensos.
Luego del triunfo revolucionario de enero de 1959, el régimen estadounidense encabezado por Dwight Eisenhower inició un período de acciones hostiles contra Cuba continuado por las sucesivas
administraciones hasta la actual, siempre con la CIA como instrumento principal.
Estados Unidos cortó la cuota azucarera asignada a Cuba y el gobierno cubano respondió nacionalizando los centrales azucareros de propiedad norteamericana. Inmediatamente, el Estado Mayor Conjunto las Fuerzas Armadas de EEUU recomendó al Presidente que autorizara una invasión total a la Isla.
Una fuerza de 1 500 mercenarios, entrenados, armados y dirigidos por la CIA, desembarcó en la bahía de Cochinos, en la costa Sur cubana. La invasión resultó un humillante fracaso para Estados Unidos al ser derrotada en solo 72 horas.
Diez sucesivos gobiernos de los Estados Unidos han intentado estrangular a la revolución cubana con todos los medios a su disposición, a excepción de la guerra abierta y total. Las actividades terroristas promovidas por Estados Unidos han provocado la muerte de unos tres mil quinientos cubanos, en tanto que más de dos mil personas han quedado mutiladas por tales acciones. Sabotajes en objetivos económicos, acciones de guerra bacteriológica y repetidos atentados contra la vida de Fidel Castro y otros dirigentes ha sido algunas de las manifestaciones del desigual enfrentamiento.
En 23 votaciones anuales consecutivas, el bloqueo económico decretado por Estados Unidos, fue rechazado por una abrumadora mayoría de los Estados miembros de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas, sin que Washington respondiera a tal clamor casi unánime de la comunidad internacional.
Por tanto, ante la inexistencia de referentes más justos, la normalización de las relaciones con Estados Unidos solo puede significar para los cubanos el avance hacia unos vínculos más respetuosos y más equitativos. Es eso lo que debía estar en la cartera de Obama en su próxima histórica visita a Cuba.
Febrero 18 de 2016.
We have been witnessing with concern the dirty war in recent days against President Evo Morales, a dirty war that aims to manipulate the population to favor the option for betting on the Bolivian right and the United States State Department. These media coups, which have a history in recent times in Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil, must be counteract by an upward trend signified by the Yes option, which in recent weeks has taken over the Bolivian streets . Unfortunately, as we have seen in recent defeats in Argentina and Venezuela, the new-old right doesn’t need the streets, since the media has in its favor and builds lies in the social media. That’s why from CIREMA we call on everyone not to be manipulated by those who want to bring back the past and dismantling of 10 years of progress. We are from different countries of the Americas and the world, but if we were Bolivians, on February 21, our vote would be for the Yes. Yes to repostulación, not the dirty war against Evo Morales.
Google translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
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Alfredo Serrano (Estado Español)
Ana Jaramillo (Argentina)
Ángel Guerra (Cuba)
Ángeles Diez (Estado Español)
Atilio Boron (Argentina)
Beatriz Bissio (Uruguay)
Camille Chalmers (Haití)
Carmen Bohórquez (Venezuela)
Cris González (Venezuela)
Diego Montón (Argentina)
Emir Sader (Brasil)
Eric Nepomuceno (Brasil)
Erika Ortega Sanoja (Venezuela)
Eva Golinger (Estados Unidos)
Fernando Buen Abad (México)
Fernando Lugo (Paraguay)
Fernando Morais (Brasil)
Fernando Rendón (Colombia)
Frei Betto (Brasil)
Gabriela Rivadeneira (Ecuador)
Gilberto López y Rivas (México)
Héctor Díaz Polanco (República Dominicana)
Hugo Moldiz (Bolivia)
Isabel Rauber (Argentina)
Joao Pedro Stedile (Brasil)
Jorge Veraza (México)
Juan Manuel Karg (Argentina)
Katu Arkonada (País Vasco)
Leonardo Boff (Brasil)
Luciano Vasapollo (Italia)
Luis Britto (Venezuela)
Luis Hernández Navarro (México)
Marcia Miranda (Brasil)
Marta Harnecker (Chile)
Martin Almada (Paraguay)
Mel Zelaya (Honduras)
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan (Estados Unidos)
Obispo Raúl Vera (México)
Omar González (Cuba)
Pablo González Casanova (México)
Padre Miguel d’Escoto (Nicaragua)
Patricia Villegas (Colombia)
Pavel Egüez (Ecuador)
Piedad Córdoba (Colombia)
Reverendo Raúl Suarez (Cuba)
Ricardo Canese (Paraguay)
Ricardo Flecha (Paraguay)
Rita Martufi (Italia)
Roberto Fernández Retamar (Cuba)
Salim Lamrani (Francia)
Sigrid Bazán (Perú)
Silvio Rodríguez (Cuba)
Theotonio dos Santos (Brasil)
Vicente Feliú (Cuba)
Víctor Hugo Morales (Uruguay
VC asistimos con preocupación a la guerra sucia desatada en los últimos días contra el Presidente Evo Morales. Guerra sucia que tiene como objetivo manipular a la población para favorecer la opción por la que apuestan la derecha boliviana y el Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos. Este golpismo mediático, del que tenemos antecedentes en los últimos tiempos en Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador o Brasil, necesita contrarrestar la línea ascendente en la que se ha instalado la opción por el Sí, que durante las últimas semanas se ha adueñado de las calles bolivianas. Pero desgraciadamente, como hemos podido ver en las recientes derrotas en Argentina y Venezuela, la nueva-vieja derecha no necesita de las calles, tiene los medios de comunicación a su favor y construye mentiras en las redes sociales. Es por eso que desde CIREMA hacemos un llamado a no dejarse manipular por quienes desean el retorno del pasado y el desmontaje de los avances de 10 años de proceso de cambio. Somos de distintos países de Nuestra América y el mundo, pero si fuésemos bolivianos y bolivianas, el 21 de febrero nuestro voto sería por el Sí. Sí a la repostulación, no a la guerra sucia contra Evo Morales. Adhesiones a: firstname.lastname@example.org Alfonso Sastre (País Vasco)
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Alfredo Serrano (Estado Español)
Ana Jaramillo (Argentina)
Ángel Guerra (Cuba)
Ángeles Diez (Estado Español)
Atilio Boron (Argentina)
Beatriz Bissio (Uruguay)
Camille Chalmers (Haití)
Carmen Bohórquez (Venezuela)
Cris González (Venezuela)
Diego Montón (Argentina)
Emir Sader (Brasil)
Eric Nepomuceno (Brasil)
Erika Ortega Sanoja (Venezuela)
Eva Golinger (Estados Unidos)
Fernando Buen Abad (México)
Fernando Lugo (Paraguay)
Fernando Morais (Brasil)
Fernando Rendón (Colombia)
Frei Betto (Brasil)
Gabriela Rivadeneira (Ecuador)
Gilberto López y Rivas (México)
Héctor Díaz Polanco (República Dominicana)
Hugo Moldiz (Bolivia)
Isabel Rauber (Argentina)
Joao Pedro Stedile (Brasil)
Jorge Veraza (México)
Juan Manuel Karg (Argentina)
Katu Arkonada (País Vasco)
Leonardo Boff (Brasil)
Luciano Vasapollo (Italia)
Luis Britto (Venezuela)
Luis Hernández Navarro (México)
Marcia Miranda (Brasil)
Marta Harnecker (Chile)
Martin Almada (Paraguay)
Mel Zelaya (Honduras)
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan (Estados Unidos)
Obispo Raúl Vera (México)
Omar González (Cuba)
Pablo González Casanova (México)
Padre Miguel d’Escoto (Nicaragua)
Patricia Villegas (Colombia)
Pavel Egüez (Ecuador)
Piedad Córdoba (Colombia)
Reverendo Raúl Suarez (Cuba)
Ricardo Canese (Paraguay)
Ricardo Flecha (Paraguay)
Rita Martufi (Italia)
Roberto Fernández Retamar (Cuba)
Salim Lamrani (Francia)
Sigrid Bazán (Perú)
Silvio Rodríguez (Cuba)
Theotonio dos Santos (Brasil)
Vicente Feliú (Cuba)
Víctor Hugo Morales (Uruguay).
By Omar Olazábal Rodríguez
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Many years ago I happened to travel with a very nice and humble couple. I don’t remember their names, but my colleague’s wife was quite witty. We had been assigned to work together in Yemen for some time. It was a long trip, with stopovers first in Berlin, then in Moscow and finally in Cyprus before we reached our destination. Needless to say, we were supposed to communicate to find a way out of the airport or get something to eat as we were passing through each of these places. When we arrived in Aden, there was no one waiting for us, so I had to request a phone call to the Embassy. Finally, they picked us up. An embassy official came to the airport, and the first thing my colleague’s wife came out with was, “How much trouble we’ve been through!” and, pointing to me, she added, “Thank goodness this one speaks ‘broken’ English, or else we would have starved to death!”
First thing this morning I was rereading a colleague’s views about our future university graduates being required to learn English. Our main deficiencies in earlier times were wisely listed in his analysis. “We are proud of the enormous amount of Cuban can-do salvaged in the last 57 years for the benefit of our science and culture”, and the impact that those men and women have had on the prestige of our educational system. But, “how to strengthen their impact if many of them can’t speak any one of the international languages to communicate with their foreign colleagues?”
One of the worst feelings of anxiety that you can have is to turn up in a foreign country only to find yourself thrown into the silence imposed by their inability to communicate. Since Spanish is one of the most widely-spoken languages, we might think that we don’t need to learn any other one to be understood. Or perhaps we are confident that we will always find someone anywhere who can help us communicate with other people. Having to be so dependent to do so is never good.
Thinking that the school we attend has the sole responsibility for our inter-communicational shortcomings as far as languages are concerned is a debatable argument. I’m not saying that foreign languages should not be a mandatory item in our syllabus from elementary education, but that should not be the only support for us and our children to learn to communicate with people from other parts of the world.
We can also be a good influence at home. In the 1970s, I was lucky enough to spend my junior and senior high school years at the [Vocational Study School Vladimir Ilich] Lenin, equipped as it was with excellent language laboratories. There, in a stately room furnished with technology donated by another country, we would gather in vocational study groups to reinforce what we learned in class. The Eagles’ Hotel California was the latest craze, and our professor taught us the lyrics to that song. However, all of us attending those lessons did it of our own free will, as we had chosen such a subject as part of our extracurricular education. And at weekends my parents would contribute by going with me to the National Library to help me find books in the English language.
I always say that schools are the basis of knowledge, but the interest in increasing it is up to each and every one of us. And it’s precisely at the early stages that parents should encourage their child’s eagerness to learn more. While some people can afford private teachers, most of us look at other and relatively cheaper variables so that our children keep developing their communication skills in other languages.
Of course, such variables are not available throughout Cuba, but we must make the most of them wherever they exist. Knowing other languages has a definite impact on how easily we learn anything we want in our life, as it helps us read more, to compare texts and to make room in our mind for every breakthrough we find along the way.
However, each of these demands sacrifice. In my case, for instance, I have not enjoyed a free Sunday for more than six years because my children are studying in one of the centers established by the Alliance Française. Not because we force them, but because they want to. This is a single example of what we can do, despite the fact that this school is in great demand. But the simple thought that how much learning another language can help them in the future makes us forget that Sundays at home have no other purpose than keep them learning.
Let us all try a little harder. Amid all the daily hardship, let’s find a way to make the thirst for knowledge catch on among our children. Let’s explore every possibility for them to do so. They will be grateful to us in the long run, when they realize that all the time they spent learning was for their own good, because they will be more respected when they have to address someone from another country or read a textbook in a foreign language. Or, to paraphrase my colleague’s wife in Yemen, they will not have to go through too much trouble to solve a problem or help other people in need, be it in Cuba or anywhere else.
Omar Olazábal Rodríguez
Hace muchos años me tocó viajar con una pareja muy agradable y humilde. No recuerdo el nombre de ellos, pero la esposa de mi colega era muy dicharachera. Nos encomendaron trabajar durante un tiempo juntos en Yemen. El viaje fue extenso, pues hicimos escala en Berlín, después Moscú, pasando por Chipre hasta llegar a nuestro destino. En cada lugar, como es normal, debíamos comunicarnos para poder salir del aeropuerto o alimentarnos durante el tránsito. Cuando arribamos a Adén, no había nadie esperando. Tuve que pedir que llamaran a la Embajada hasta que al fin nos recogieron. Al llegar uno de los funcionarios al aeropuerto, la esposa de mi colega lo primero que soltó fue: ¡Qué trabajo hemos pasado! Señalando hacia mí dijo: Y menos mal que este “chapurrrea” el inglés, sino nos hubiésemos muerto de hambre.
Hoy amanecí releyendo una opinión de una colega sobre el requisito del conocimiento del idioma inglés para nuestros futuros universitarios. Con mucha razón se enumeran en dicho análisis las carencias en los últimos años en ese sentido. Nos enorgullecemos del enorme talento salvado en los últimos 57 años para bien de la ciencia y la cultura en Cuba, y el impacto que esas mujeres y hombres han tenido para el prestigio de nuestra Educación. Pero, ¿cómo hacer mayor ese impacto si muchos no pueden comunicarse con sus colegas de otros países por desconocer uno de los idiomas internacionales?
Una de las angustias más grandes que puede tener alguien es caer en un país extranjero y verse de pronto envuelto en el silencio que acompaña la carencia de comunicación. Al ser nuestro idioma uno de los más difundidos pudiera parecernos que no necesitamos de otros para que se nos entienda. O también puede que confiemos en que en todos lados de pronto encontremos a alguien que nos facilite el intercambio con otras personas. La dependencia en ese sentido no es buena. De ninguna manera.
Pensar que solo la escuela a la que asistimos es la responsable de nuestra desgracia inter-comunicacional en cuanto a idiomas se refiere es un criterio debatible. No estoy negando que la enseñanza de idiomas extranjeros debe estar, de manera obligatoria, en los contenidos desde la enseñanza primaria. Pero no es ahí donde solamente debemos apoyarnos para que nosotros y nuestros hijos logremos aprender a comunicarnos con nuestros semejantes en otras latitudes.
Desde la casa también podemos influir. En los setenta del pasado siglo tuve la suerte de estudiar mis años de secundaria y preuniversitario en la Lenin, que tenía excelentes laboratorios para la enseñanza de idiomas extranjeros. Allí, en un magnífico salón con tecnología donada por otro país, reforzábamos en un círculo vocacional lo que aprendíamos en el aula. Estaba de moda “Hotel California” de Eagles, y nuestro profesor nos enseñó la letra de esa canción. Pero todos los que asistíamos a esas clases lo hacíamos por nuestra propia voluntad. Habíamos seleccionado esa materia como parte de nuestra enseñanza extracurricular. Y mis padres me apoyaban los fines de semana acompañándome a la Biblioteca Nacional en busca de literatura en idioma inglés.
Siempre digo que la escuela es base de conocimientos, pero el interés propio por incrementarla es de cada uno. Y en etapas tempranas esa vocación por aprender más debe ser apoyada por los padres. Hay quien se permite pagar a un particular para hacerlo, y somos más los que usamos las variantes, relativamente más económicas, para que los hijos puedan seguir desarrollando sus habilidades comunicacionales en otros idiomas.
Por supuesto, no en todo el país se pueden encontrar esas variantes. Pero donde las haya, hay que aprovecharlas. El conocimiento de otras lenguas indiscutiblemente influye en la facilidad de aprendizaje de todo lo que queramos ser en la vida. Nos permite leer más, comparar textos y abrir espacios en nuestras mentes para los adelantos que día a día nos sorprenden.
Pero cada una de esas cosas exige sacrificios. En mi caso, por ejemplo, hace más de seis años que no tengo domingos libres. Y es que mis hijos están en una de las filiales de laAlianza Francesa. No porque los obligamos, sino porque lo desean. Un solo ejemplo de lo que puede hacerse, a pesar de que la demanda es alta para entrar. Pero solo el pensar cuánto les puede ayudar en el futuro el conocer otro idioma nos hace olvidar que los domingos están en mi casa para eso. Para que sigan aprendiendo.
Esforcémonos un poquito más todos. En medio de las carencias diarias, busquemos la manera de que prenda en nuestros hijos ese afán por aprender más. Exploremos dónde pueden hacerlo. Al final nos lo agradecerán. Porque se darán cuenta que todo el tiempo que utilizaron fue por el bien de ellos mismos. Porque serán más respetados cuando tengan que dirigirse a alguien de otro país, o leer una literatura afín a su especialidad. O, parafraseando a la esposa de mi colega en Yemen, no pasarán trabajo para resolver un problema o ayudar a alguien que lo necesite, en Cuba o en cualquier otro lugar.
By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Given their frequency, the shootings that leave several or many civilians casualties are no longer news in the United States. They only have space in the news when they involve some very exceptional circumstances.
Such were the circumstances on the morning of August 26 when TV reporter Alison Parker was interviewing –live for the local TV station WDBJ of Moneta, Virginia– a person who spoke about the importance of economic development for the community and, suddenly, there were shots and desperate screaming. Parker, 24, and the cameraman recording the interview, Adam Ward, 27, were shot.
When captured by police a few hours later, the murderer, Vester Lee Flanagan, committed suicide and died in hospital. A while before the act, he had posted on his Facebook profile a video he took at the time of the crime. According to initial investigations, labor discrepancies with the TV station had been the cause of the multiple murders.
It is extremely difficult to understand how in the United States weapon manufacturershave succeeded in imposing rules for the possession and use of firearms that keep alive the business of selling weapons to the population. It is one of the most lucrative businesses in the country despite the countless misfortunes that firearms bring to US society.
The cult of firearms in the United States has gone to extremes that contradict common sense and the most elementary standards for citizen security. This is the result of a mixture of very contradictory interpretations of the Second Amendment of the Constitution manipulated by the powerful congressional lobby known as the National Rifle Association (NRA), the greed of entrepreneurs willing to sell to citizens more lethal weapons to make money, and the whims of politicians at the White House and Congress who succumb to the lavish money spread by such interests and support their ambitions.
The .50 caliber rifle is a weapon of war capable of bringing down an airplane and piercing the defenses of armored vehicles. It has a high shooting accuracy at the distance of a mile. It has no use in sports, or hunting; but can be bought in forty of the fifty states of the Union (except in California) as an ordinary gun.
The House of Representatives has approved the export of this deadly weapon and allowed its domestic legal sale. This has led activist groups and the few journalists who oppose the expansion of firearm sales to people to predict that before long these rifles will be used in acts of terrorism and against US troops deployed by the government throughout the world performing the “anti-terrorist” war, or promoting the version of democracy Washington imposes in its relations with other nations by means of government-induced changes.
The harmful social effect of firearms extends as an epidemic across US borders to several neighboring countries. Mainly to Mexico, a nation where –although the origin of the problem is of its own making– the smuggling of lethal weapons that are legally sold in the United States has dramatically complicated the fight against mafias, and is deeply involved with illicit drug, human trafficking, and smuggling in general.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the massive firearm possession among the US population to some extent explains the aggressiveness of the police, forced to defend from an unlimited number of potential armed assailants.Although the number of civilians killed by police officers each year in the United States is not known; it is known that in 2014 police have killed a number of people that doubles the number of US citizens killed in mass shootings since 1982 in the entire American nation.
An ordinary US citizen is nine times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.
We can see a most unfortunate contradiction in the fact that a significant part of the more aware public favors the massive possession of weapons as a way to press against the abuses of the oligarchy; and the oligarchy –one of its most influential members being the group of congressional lobbying NRA– rows in the same direction.
August 29, 2015.
Por Manuel E. Yepe
Pro- Evo Morales graffiti in Villazón, Bolivia (Flickr/ Randal Sheppard)
On February 21, some 6.5 million Bolivian voters will decide whether to amend their Constitution to permit a third consecutive presidential term. A “Yes” vote will allow President Evo Morales and Vice-President Alvaro García Linera to run for reelection in 2019 for another 5 years. A “No” vote will require the ruling MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) party to select a new slate in 2019.
Morales, Bolivia’s longest-serving president, has just completed his first decade in office (2005–2015)—a remarkable achievement in a country which has suffered close to 200 coups. He also has the longest tenure  of any incumbent Latin American president, with a current term extending to 2020. The proposed amendment would actually allow him a fourth consecutive term— 20 years in total— counting his first (2005) election, which predates the new Constitution.
Morales wants 70%  of Bolivian voters to ratify the amendment—though only a plurality is required—to top the 54%, 64%. and 61% mandates he received, respectively, in the 2005, 2009, and 2014 elections. He also won a 2008 “recall” vote by a landslide (67%).
The referendum has been propitiously timed, coming just a month after festivities held to commemorate Morales’s 10-year tenure, and while the economy is still relatively strong—ahead of the growing threat posed by the worldwide plunge in commodities prices. Still, recent opinion surveys suggest a close contest, with polls weighted towards the large cities  showing the “No” ahead by a narrow margin, and others slightly favoring the “Yes.” (Rural voters, who constitute 30% of the Bolivian electorate, strongly support Morales and tend to be under-represented in official polls.)
Overall, Bolivians appear to be split roughly 40%/40% between the “No” and the “Yes,” with 20% still undecided—despite Morales’s continuing high approval ratings (65%) . For pro-government militants like Katu Arkonada,  the upcoming referendum represents the biggest challenge that Morales and the MAS have faced in the past 10 years.
Mobilizing for the “Yes” vote are MAS party leaders, mayors, governors, and affiliated social movements, including peasant, labor, and indigenous sectors, with Morales and García Linera acting as head cheerleaders. “Yes” proponents argue that Morales needs an additional term to complete the work he was elected to accomplish, represented by the Patriotic Agenda 2025,  an ambitious plan to reduce poverty and ensure basic services for all Bolivians through massive investment in hydrocarbons, energy, agriculture, mining, science, and technology.
Morales frequently recalls that the push to extend term limits originated with the social movements, who marched through the streets of La Paz last September to hand-deliver signed petitions to the Plurinational Legislative Assembly. “Workers and social organizations will not jeopardize this ‘process of change,’ and that is why we are supporting the reelection of President Morales,” said a workers’ representative  at the time.
Also supporting the “Yes,” though mostly behind the scenes, are substantial portions of the eastern lowlands agribusiness elite and other entrepreneurs who have benefitted from the “Evo-boom,” and who view Morales’s leadership as key to Bolivia’s continued economic stability. “We should be thankful we have Evo,” one businessman  recently told the Financial Times. “The government may be controlling…but here we may need that to have stability.”
The “No” campaign, too, is more diverse than might be expected. Among its proponents/ associates are familiar opposition figures like cement magnate Samuel Doria Medina, former conservative president Jorge (“Tuto”) Quiroga, and ex-Cochabamba governor and fugitive-from-justice Manfred Reyes Villa.
Joining them is a broad coalition of MAS dissidents and former MAS allies, led by La Paz Mayor Luis Revilla and La Paz Governor Félix Patzi from the new center-left Sol.bo party. This group largely represents disaffected urban middle class voters who split with Morales over the TIPNIS conflict , but also includes other disgruntled popular sectors, such as Potosí civic groups who feel shortchanged by the Morales government. This opportunistic alliance represents the first time that diverse MAS critics—ranging from vehement opponents of Morales’s political project to leftists who hope to rehabilitate a stagnating “process of change”—have attempted to unite around a common goal.
For progressive “No” supporters, extending presidential term limits violates the traditional Andean concept of leadership rotation, and will only serve to perpetuate autocratic tendencies within the MAS that preclude new leadership development. Changing the rules of the game for the benefit of incumbents, they note, could have unintended but lasting negative consequences for Bolivian democracy. Those more sympathetic to Morales, like ex-MAS prefect Rafael Puente,  argue that Morales himself would benefit from a political “time-out” to reconnect with his bases, in preparation for a future candidacy.
In fact, while the trend in Latin America is towards unlimited presidential reelection, most countries do require incumbents to step aside  for periods ranging from one term (in Chile) to 10 years (in El Salvador) before they can run again. A recent constitutional amendment in Ecuador follows this pattern, forcing the incumbent Correa to sit out the next (2017) election. Four countries (Guatemala, Paraguay, Colombia, and Mexico) limit presidents to a single term with no reelection. Only 3 countries (Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Honduras) have completely abolished term limits.
As voting day approaches, the campaigns have intensified, with propaganda flooding the airwaves and social media—especially from the government side, which has not hesitated to exploit the advantages of incumbency. The Electoral Commission (TSE) has gone to some lengths to create a level playing field, especially by restricting air time for the delivery of public works. However, after a challenge by the government, this ruling was recently overturned by Bolivia’s Constitutional Court (TCP).
The campaigns have been enlivened by creative tactics geared especially to capture the critically important youth vote. The “Yes” launched a Star Wars parody  video commercial (“Bolivian Wars: The “Yes” Awakens!”) starring Evo Morales as protagonist, and has been staging “human mosaics” in public venues, in which thousands of “Generation Evo” members participate. Félix Patzi has led bicycle caravans,  dubbed “Patzicletazos,” in support of the “No.”
The use of hyperbole, fear-mongering tactics, and “dirty tricks” has escalated on both sides. The Vice-President has assured Bolivians that a victory for the “No” will mean the end of the MAS project  and a return of U.S.-backed neoliberal regimes . The “No” campaign, he and Morales allege, is part of a U.S.-financed strategy  to undermine and topple leftist governments in Latin America (while this could be true, the evidence to date is not convincing). Moreover, Bolivians risk losing their cash transfer benefits (for elderly, pregnant women, and schoolchildren) and even their homes , if the “Yes” is defeated.
For their part, proponents of the “No” charge that a victory for the “Yes” will keep Morales in office indefinitely, creating a state of virtual dictatorship. A campaign seeking to defame Morales personally through allegations of nepotism, corruption, and misspending—e.g. for an alleged $200 haircut— has gained little traction.
In effect, both the “Yes” and the “No” campaigns have turned the referendum into a plebiscite on the Morales government, its 10-year record, and its future promises—more like a presidential election than a consultation on constitutional reform. This works to Morales’s advantage, given his continuing high approval ratings.
In the end, the “Yes” vote will likely prevail, but by a much narrower margin than Morales has enjoyed in previous elections. Bolivians do appear to be uneasy about the implications of extending term limits for future presidents, if not the current one, and the failure of MAS party to cultivate new leadership.
Still, for most voters, these concerns are largely outweighed by material satisfaction as Bolivia’s economy remains among the strongest in Latin America,  powered by massive public investment. Foreign reserves, diligently built up by Morales and currently standing at 42% of GDP, are helping to cushion the blow of falling commodity prices, at least for now.
Bolivians also strongly identify with Morales’s ambitious national-popular agenda, including his signature achievements like the La Paz teleférico(cable car system), the communications satellite Túpac Katari— which has brought the internet to schools in remote villages— and the bold campaign to regain Bolivia’s seacoast from Chile. In contrast, the precariously-united “No” campaign has not presented a coherent programmatic alternative to the MAS, and is tainted by over-identification with unpopular traditional opposition politicians.
For better or worse, there appears to be a strong belief by many—Bolivian capitalists as well as indigenous and peasant voters—that Morales remains essential to moving the national-popular project forward. Still, as MAS deputy Manuel Canelas  has observed, a victory for the “Yes” in February far from guarantees Morales’s reelection in 2019.
If people give Evo another chance, says Canelas, they will be impatient to see that pending challenges are addressed. These include reforming the judicial system, confronting institutional violence against women, and moving away from extractivism towards a more diversified, productive economy, while balancing diverse sectoral demands for improved living conditions, jobs, and services.
With government revenues from gas exports slated to fall by 30% this year alone, this is a tall order —even for a leader whose name (“evo”), notes columnist Pablo Stefanoni , means “duration of time without end” in the Royal Spanish Academy dictionary. (It’s true; look it up here .)
Please note that this speech was given in English originally, as he explains. This translation was made back from the Spanish translation. I’ve found no transcript of the English original. Fidel has mentioned this speech elsewhere also as having been given in English. The Spanish was taken from the Cuban government website.
Please note: “ASTA” refers to the American Society of Travel Agents.
(SHORTHAND VERSION PROVIDED BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER)
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann, January 2010.
Ladies and gentlemen:
In line with my age-old difficulty, when I took the floor I was not sure whether I was going to speak in English or Spanish, but in the end I decided to do it in English because I want to make myself properly understood.
Well, here I am giving a speech, and you will probably go through the same thing I went through during this meeting as we listened to the speakers. However, I hope you will be able to understand my English (APPLAUSE).
I don’t have much to tell you; actually, it’s not the Government who should speak in these cases: what you get to see is what matters, and not what you have read or heard about the people. Whatever I say here in that respect is hardly important. What the people might say is what counts. Whatever you can see by yourselves through the eyes of the Cuban people is the most important thing. I just want to say that we in Cuba are very happy and grateful to you for honoring us all with your presence in this Congress and your visit to Cuba, because that’s what it is: a great honor as well as a great help for us (APPLAUSE).
As has become customary, tourism has increased very much in the places where you have held your regular meetings. The figures speak for themselves, proving that it is so everywhere you go.
Now you, the leaders of this organization, will understand the benefits of your visit, because the most prestigious travel agencies in the world are represented in ASTA (APPLAUSE) and our traditionally noble and hospitable people thank you for your visit. That’s why all Cubans have long been looking forward to having you here; that’s why our workers finished the airport for you, working night and day in nine- and ten-hour-long shifts, and many other works were finished as well in a few days (APPLAUSE). That’s why you will be warmly welcomed and treated in every hotel, every street, every taxi, and everywhere you go in Cuba.
We are quite confident of the way our people behave because we know them very well and have absolute faith in them. Cuba’s impression on you won’t come from my speech or my words. I could say many things here, but I’m sure that you will be very impressed with our people.
We don’t care much for political propaganda; we want you to believe in facts, not words. I know the world is not perfect; I know that people throughout history have dealt with all sorts of difficulties, but history has made it plain that these difficulties are not important, because mankind has solved many problems along the way, and people all over the world will keep on making progress in the future to overcome their difficulties.
It’s impossible to speak about ourselves, so I honestly insist here that we have no interest whatsoever in any kind of propaganda and ask you to please put all your political ideas aside. You and your friends are professionals, not politicians, and your mission is to help your friends find the happiness our world may provide.
We don’t have many things; we are not an industrialized country and lack a number of things, but in the field of tourism we have many advantages, like our sea, bays, beaches, all kinds of medicinal waters, mountains, game and fishing preserves, and the best temperature in the world.
Maybe we don’t have the great beauty of the snow, but we have summertime and sunshine the whole year long (APPLAUSE).
You and your friends need to have sunshine in the winter, and of that we have as much as you want, and we have as much blue sky as you want, as well as beaches with sands of every color and a gentle cool breeze in the summer. I don’t mean to boast when I say that we may not have many things but we do have many good things for tourists, in addition to our people, which is more important than all that natural beauty (APPLAUSE).
We have no doubt as to what tourists will find here. We expect many things from our people, although not everyone has the same cultural level because Cuba never had enough schools to teach the whole people to read and write. Now we will have as many schools as we need. Still, the Cubans are a noble and hospitable people, and what’s more important, they don’t hate anyone. Our people love all visitors and make them feel at home (APPLAUSE).
What you see now and what you will see in two, three or five years is beyond comparison because our best things are still in the planning stage, but they will soon become a reality. From this premise we are determined to develop tourism as much as possible, with a good service and, especially, fair prices, because rather than having 100,000 people paying for expensive hotel rooms and items we would like many hundreds of thousands to come, not only the wealthy but also those who are not rich and those who have no other fortune than their job (APPLAUSE).
Pricing is important because we don’t want to exploit tourists at all (APPLAUSE). Unfortunately, the tourists in Cuba, like elsewhere, used to be exploited.
We don’t have everything tourism needs, but I can tell you that we’re discovering and developing everything we do have so that next time you come –since you’re busy these days but we hope you will come again on vacation, because you also need to take a vacation some time (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)– you will be surprised to see how much progress we will have made.
This is the most important message we wanted to send you, and not one of my words was intended to impress you. Instead, we want you to be impressed by what you see across Cuba.
You and your friends and whoever you ever recommend to come will be welcomed with open arms everywhere you go in Cuba (APPLAUSE), because our ambition, which is a well-intended ambition, is to turn our Island into the best vacation resort and the most important destination worldwide.
That ambition is what encourages our people to pursue such goals, and we’re sure and convinced that we will succeed despite any difficulty or adverse propaganda, because you cannot full all of the people all the time, like Lincoln said.
We’re aware of the fact that many U.S. citizens come here with wrong ideas and then they find exactly the opposite of what they believed. That’s why we think that regardless of all the propaganda against Cuba we will make headway and have more tourists every year. Who is telling the truth, those who lie or those who open the doors of the nation for everyone to come and see for themselves what is truly going on in Cuba and what the Cuban government is honestly doing and sacrificing for the happiness of the Cuban people? (APPLAUSE)
Working for the people is all we do, and we’re sure that we will count on the understanding of all kind-hearted women and men of the world. So let me finish by wishing you the best of stays in Cuba (APPLAUSE).
NOTE:This says he spoke in English, but what we have here is a translation from the Spanish. I assume it was translated to Spanish and kept in that form when it was posted to the Internet many years ago. Since Cuba’s tourism industry is a subject of some controversy abroad, I thought readers here would find this document of considerable interest, all the more so as it’s more than fifty years old.
DISCURSO PRONUNCIADO POR EL COMANDANTE FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, PRIMER MINISTRO DEL GOBIERNO REVOLUCIONARIO, EN EL ACTO DE APERTURA DE LA VIGESIMONOVENA CONVENCION DEL “ASTA”, CELEBRADO EN EL TEATRO BLANQUITA, EL 19 DE OCTUBRE DE 1959.
(VERSION TAQUIGRAFICA DE LAS OFICINAS DEL PRIMER MINISTRO)
Señoras y señores:
Es mi eterna dificultad, que no estaba seguro cuando iba a hablar, si lo debía hacer en inglés o en español, y al fin decidí hacerlo en inglés, porque deseo que me entiendan bien.
Bueno, yo estoy aquí haciendo un discurso y seguramente a ustedes les sucederá lo mismo que me sucedió a mí durante esta reunión, oyendo a los oradores; no obstante, espero que puedan entender mi inglés (APLAUSOS).
No tengo muchas cosas que decirles; realmente no es el Gobierno en estos casos quien tiene que hablar, sino lo que ustedes puedan ver. No importa lo que hayan leído u oído acerca del pueblo, y es poco importante lo que yo pueda decir aquí acerca de eso; lo más importante es lo que el pueblo pueda decir, lo más importante sobre Cuba es lo que ustedes mismos puedan ver a través del pueblo. Yo solamente quiero decir que nosotros en Cuba estamos muy felices y agradecidos a ustedes por el honor de este Congreso, de esta visita a Cuba, porque es un gran honor y una gran ayuda también para nosotros (APLAUSOS).
Es tradicional que los lugares que ustedes han visitado en sus periódicas reuniones han incrementado mucho su turismo; las estadísticas hablan por sí mismas de que en todos los lugares que ustedes han visitado se ha incrementado el turismo.
Ahora ustedes, los líderes de esta organización, comprenderán los beneficios de vuestra visita, porque ustedes, el ASTA, representan las más conocidas organizaciones de agencias de pasajes del mundo (APLAUSOS), y nuestro pueblo, que es tradicionalmente noble y hospitalario, les agradece su visita. Por eso es que todo el mundo en Cuba ha estado esperando por ustedes desde hace muchas semanas; que nuestros obreros, trabajando nueve y diez horas diarias, día y noche, terminaron nuestro aeropuerto para ustedes, y que muchas obras han sido terminadas en pocos días (APLAUSOS). Es por ello que en cada hotel, en cada calle, en cada vehículo y en cada lugar de Cuba que ustedes visiten, encontrarán la más absoluta identificación y la mejor atención.
Nosotros estamos seguros de la conducta de nuestro pueblo, porque conocemos muy bien a nuestro pueblo, porque tenemos una gran fe en nuestro pueblo. La impresión de ustedes sobre Cuba no será una consecuencia de mi discurso o de mis palabras. Yo podría decir muchas cosas aquí, pero estoy seguro de que ustedes tendrán una buena impresión de Cuba por nuestro pueblo.
La propaganda política no nos interesa; lo que queremos es que crean en los hechos, no en las palabras. Yo sé que el mundo no es perfecto; sé que el hombre, a través de la historia, ha encontrado pequeñas y grandes dificultades, pero la historia ha demostrado
que estas dificultades no son importantes, porque la humanidad, que ha tenido muchas dificultades desde sus comienzos, las ha resuelto y, en el futuro, el hombre en todo el mundo continuará progresando, encontrando dificultades y resolviéndolas.
Resulta imposible hablar sobre nosotros mismos, por eso sinceramente les digo que no tenemos interés en ninguna clase de propaganda y les pido que olviden todas las ideas sobre política. Ustedes y sus amigos son profesionales, no son políticos; la misión de ustedes es ayudar a vuestros amigos a tener esos momentos de felicidad que es posible encontrar en este mundo.
No tenemos muchas cosas, no somos una nación industrializada; tenemos algunas desventajas en algunas cosas, pero en este aspecto, en turismo, tenemos una gran cantidad de ventajas: tenemos mar, tenemos bahías, tenemos playas, tenemos aguas medicinales de todas clases, tenemos montañas, tenemos caza, tenemos pesca en el mar y en el río, y tenemos la mejor temperatura del mundo.
Nosotros tenemos verano todo el año, tenemos sol; no tendremos la hermosura y la belleza maravillosa de la nieve, pero tenemos sol (APLAUSOS).
Ustedes y sus amigos en invierno necesitan sol, nosotros tenemos todo el sol que ustedes quieran; cielo azul, todo el cielo azul que ustedes quieran; playas y arenas de todos los colores; en verano tenemos aire fresco. No es vanidad, no tenemos muchas, pero sí muy buenas cosas para los turistas, y más importantes que todas esas bellezas naturales es nuestro pueblo (APLAUSOS).
No tenemos ninguna duda sobre lo que el turista encontrará aquí. Nosotros esperamos mucho del pueblo, no porque tenga una gran cultura todo el pueblo, ya que realmente no ha habido en Cuba suficientes escuelas para que todo el mundo supiera leer y escribir, ahora sí tendremos las escuelas necesarias; pero nuestro pueblo es un pueblo noble y hospitalario, y la más importante condición es que nuestro pueblo no odia a nadie, nuestro pueblo ama a los visitantes y hace que nuestros visitantes se sientan aquí como en su propia casa (APLAUSOS).
No hay comparación posible entre lo que ustedes ven y lo que verán dentro de dos, tres o cinco años, porque nuestras mejores cosas están en proyecto y se convertirán en realidades muy pronto. Tenemos el propósito de desarrollar el turismo tanto como sea posible sobre esta base: buen servicio y precio justo, sobre todo precio justo, porque lo que nosotros queremos no es que vengan 100 000 a pagar precios altos por una habitación y por nuestros artículos, lo que queremos es que vengan muchos cientos de miles de personas, de modo que los que vengan a Cuba, a nuestras playas, no sean solo los que tienen grandes fortunas, sino también los que tienen pequeñas fortunas y los que no tienen otra fortuna que su trabajo (APLAUSOS).
Los precios son muy importantes porque nosotros queremos abolir toda clase de explotación a los turistas (APLAUSOS). Y en Cuba, como en otros lugares, infortunadamente, los turistas eran explotados.
Nosotros no tenemos todas las cosas que el turismo necesita, pero sí les puedo decir que estamos descubriendo y desarrollando todas las que nosotros tenemos, para que el próximo año que ustedes visiten algunos lugares de Cuba, o cuando vengan aquí la próxima vez —porque ahora ustedes están trabajando y esperamos que cuando estén de vacaciones vengan también, porque ustedes también necesitan vacaciones (RISAS Y APLAUSOS)—, se sorprendan de cómo hemos avanzado en nuestro trabajo.
Esto es lo más importante que nosotros queríamos decirles, ni una sola palabra para impresionarlos, queremos que se impresionen con lo que ustedes vean en toda Cuba.
En toda Cuba serán bienvenidos y recibidos con los brazos abiertos (APLAUSOS), ustedes y sus amigos; ustedes y todos a los que ustedes les digan que vengan a Cuba, porque nuestra ambición, que es una noble ambición, es la de convertir a nuestra isla en el mejor lugar para vacaciones, y en el mejor y más importante centro turístico del mundo.
Esta es la noble ambición que estimula a nuestro pueblo a desarrollar esos propósitos, y estamos seguros y convencidos de que nosotros lo lograremos a pesar de toda clase de dificultades, a pesar de toda clase de propaganda, porque el pueblo no puede estar todo el tiempo confundido por las mentiras, como dijo Lincoln.
Vemos lo que sucede a muchos ciudadanos de Estados Unidos, que vienen aquí con una idea errónea y al llegar ven absolutamente todo lo contrario de lo que pensaban. Es por eso que nosotros creemos que, a pesar de toda la propaganda contra Cuba, progresaremos y tendremos cada año más turistas. ¿Y quién dice la verdad, esos que hablan las mentiras, o estos que abren las puertas de la nación, de modo que todo el mundo pueda venir a ver la verdad de lo que pasa en Cuba, y de lo que estamos haciendo en Cuba, con el esfuerzo y el sacrificio del gobierno que trabaja honestamente por la felicidad del pueblo? (APLAUSOS.)
Esta es la única cosa que estamos haciendo, trabajando para el pueblo, y estamos seguros de que encontraremos en todos los buenos corazones de las mujeres y de los hombres la mayor comprensión. Así que termino deseándoles los mejores días y las mejores horas en Cuba (APLAUSOS).
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