The Cuba Advocate

Year 58 of the Revolution

Fidel Castro on Obama’s Nobel Prize

Fidel Castro: A Nobel Prize for Evo Morales

by Fidel Castro
InfoClearingHouse
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article23749.htm
October 18, 2009

If Obama was awarded the Nobel for winning the elections in a racist society despite his being African American, Evo deserves it for winning them in his country despite his being a native and his having delivered on his promises.

For the first time, in both countries a member of their respective ethnic groups has won the presidency.

I had said several times that Obama is a smart and cultivated man in a social and political system he believes in. He wishes to bring healthcare to nearly 50 million Americans, to rescue the economy from its profound crisis and to improve the US image which has deteriorated as a result of genocidal wars and torture. He neither conceives nor wishes to change his country’s political and economic system; nor could he do it.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to three American presidents, one former president and one candidate to the presidency.

The first one was Theodore Roosevelt elected in 1901. He was one of the Rough Riders who landed in Cuba with his riders but with no horses in the wake of the US intervention in 1898 aimed at preventing the independence of our homeland.

The second was Thomas Woodrow Wilson who dragged the United States to the first war for the distribution of the world. The extremely severe conditions he imposed on a vanquished Germany, through the Versailles Treaty, set the foundations for the emergence of fascism and the breakout of World War II.

The third has been Barack Obama.

Carter was the ex-president who received the Nobel Prize a few years after leaving office. He was certainly one of the few presidents of that country who would not order the murder of an adversary, as others did. He returned the Panama Canal, opened the US Interests Section in Havana and prevented large budget deficits as well as the squandering of money to the benefit of the military-industrial complex, as Reagan did.

The candidate was Al Gore –when he already was vicepresident. He was the best informed American politician on the dreadful consequences of climate change. As a candidate to the presidency, he was the victim of an electoral fraud and stripped of his victory by W. Bush.

The views have been deeply divided with regards to the choice for this award. Many people question ethical concepts or perceive obvious contradictions in the unexpected decision.

They would have rather seen the Prize given for an accomplished task. The Nobel Peace Prize has not always been presented to people deserving that distinction. On occasions it has been received by resentful and arrogant persons, or even worse. Upon hearing the news, Lech Walesa scornfully said: “Who, Obama? It’s too soon. He has not had time to do anything.”

In our press and in CubaDebate, honest revolutionary comrades have expressed their criticism. One of them wrote: “The same week in which Obama was granted the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Senate passed the largest military budget in its history: 626 billion dollars.” Another journalist commented during the TV News: “What has Obama done to deserve that award?” And still another asked: “And what about the Afghan war and the increased number of bombings?” These views are based on reality.

In Rome, film maker Michael Moore made a scathing comment: “Congratulations, President Obama, for the Nobel Peace Prize; now, please, earn it.”

I am sure that Obama agrees with Moore’s phrase. He is clever enough to understand the circumstances around this case. He knows he has not earned that award yet. That day in the morning he said that he was under the impression that he did not deserve to be in the company of so many inspiring personalities who have been honored with that prize.

It is said that the celebrated committee that assigns the Nobel Peace Prize is made up of five persons who are all members of the Swedish Parliament. A spokesman said it was a unanimous vote. One wonders whether or not the prizewinner was consulted and if such a decision can be made without giving him previous notice.

The moral judgment would be different depending on whether or not he had previous knowledge of the Prize’s allocation. The same could be said of those who decided to present it to him.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile creating the Nobel Transparency Prize.

Bolivia is a country with large oil and gas depots as well as the largest known reserves of lithium, a mineral currently in great demand for the storage and use of energy.

Before his sixth birthday, Evo Morales, a very poor native peasant, walked through The Andes with his father tending the llama of his native community. He walked with them for 15 days to the market where they were sold in order to purchase food for the community. In response to a question I asked him about that peculiar experience Evo told me that “he took shelter under the one-thousand stars hotel,” a beautiful way of describing the clear skies on the mountains where telescopes are sometimes placed.

In those difficult days of his childhood, the only alternative of the peasants in his community was to cut sugarcane in the Argentinean province of Jujuy, where part of the Aymara community went to work during the harvesting season.

Not far from La Higuera, where after being wounded and disarmed Che [Guevara] was murdered on October 9, 1967, Evo –who had been born on the 26th of that same month in the year 1959—was not yet 8 years old. He learned how to read and write in Spanish in a small public school he had to walk to, which was located 3.2 miles away from the one-room shack he shared with his parents and siblings.

During his hazardous childhood, Evo would go wherever there was a teacher. It was from his race that he learned three ethical principles: don’t lie, don’t steal and don’t be weak.

At the age of 13, his father allowed him to move to San Pedro de Oruro to study his senior high school. One of his biographers has related that he did better in Geography, History and Philosophy than in Physics and Mathematics. The most important thing is that, in order to pay for school, Evo woke up a two in the morning to work as a baker, a construction worker or any other physical job. He attended school in the afternoon. His classmates admired him and helped him. From his early childhood he learned how to play wind instruments and even was a trumpet player in a prestigious band in Oruro.

As a teenager he organized and was the captain of his community’s soccer team.

But, access to the University was beyond reach for a poor Aymara native.

After completing his senior high school, he did military service and then returned to his community on the mountain tops. Later, poverty and natural disasters forced the family to migrate to the subtropical area known as El Chapare, where they managed to have a plot of ground. His father passed away in 1983, when he was 23 years old. He worked hard on the ground but he was a born fighter; he organized the workers and created trade unions thus filling up a space unattended by the government.

The conditions for a social revolution in Bolivia had been maturing in the past 50 years. The revolution broke out in that country with Victor Paz Estensoro’s Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR, by its Spanish acronym) on April 9, 1952, that is, before the start of our armed struggle. The revolutionary miners defeated the repressive forces and the MNR seized power.

The revolutionary objectives in Bolivia were not attained and in 1956, according to some well-informed people, the process started to decline. On January 1st, 1959, the Revolution triumphed in Cuba, and three years later, in January 1962, our homeland was expelled from the OAS. Bolivia abstained from voting. Later, every other government, except Mexico’s, severed relations with Cuba.

The divisions in the international revolutionary movement had an impact on Bolivia. Time would have to pass with over 40 years of blockade on Cuba; neoliberalism and its devastating consequences; the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the ALBA; and above all, Evo and his MAS in Bolivia.

It would be hard to try summing up his rich history in a few pages.

I shall only say that Evo has prevailed over the wicked and slanderous imperialist campaigns, its coups and interference in the internal affairs of that country and defended Bolivia’s sovereignty and the right of its thousand-year-old people to have their traditions respected. “Coca is not cocaine,” he blurted out to the largest marihuana producer and drug consumer in the world, whose market has sustained the organized crime that is taking thousands of lives in Mexico every year. Two of the countries where the Yankee troops and their military bases are stationed are the largest drug producers on the planet.

The deadly trap of drug-trafficking has failed to catch Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador, revolutionary countries members of ALBA like Cuba which are aware of what they can and should do to bring healthcare, education and wellbeing to their peoples. They do not need foreign troops to combat drug-trafficking.

Bolivia is fostering a wonderful program under the leadership of an Aymara president with the support of his people.

Illiteracy was eradicated in less than three years: 824,101 Bolivian learned how to read and write; 24,699 did so also in Aymara and 13,599 in Quechua. Bolivia is the third country free of illiteracy, following Cuba and Venezuela.

It provides free healthcare to millions of people who had never had it before. It is one of the seven countries in the world with the largest reduction of infant mortality rate in the last five years and with a real possibility to meet the Millennium Goals before the year 2015, with a similar accomplishment regarding maternal deaths. It has conducted eye surgery on 454,161 persons, 75,974 of them Brazilians, Argentineans, Peruvians and Paraguayans.

Bolivia has set forth an ambitious social program: every child attending school from first to eighth grade is receiving an annual grant to pay for the school material. This benefits nearly two million students.

More than 700,000 persons over 60 years of age are receiving a bonus equivalent to some 342 dollars annually.

Every pregnant woman and child under two years of age is receiving an additional benefit of approximately 257 dollars.

Bolivia, one of the three poorest nations in the hemisphere, has brought under state control the country’s most important energy and mineral resources while respecting and compensating every single affected interest. It is advancing carefully because it does not want to take a step backward. Its hard currency reserves have been growing, and now they are no less than three times higher than they were at the beginning of Evo’s mandate. It is one of the countries making a better use of external cooperation and it is a strong advocate of the environment.

In a very short time, Bolivia has been able to establish the Biometric Electoral Register and approximately 4.7 million voters have registered, that is, nearly a million more than in the last electoral roll that in January 2009 included 3.8 million.

There will be elections on December 6. Surely, the people’s support for their President will increase. Nothing has stopped his growing prestige and popularity.

Why is he not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

I understand his great disadvantage: he is not the President of the United States of America.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 15, 2009

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October 18, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torture can never be justified

By Fidel Castro

May 27, 2009

ON Sunday, while putting the finishing touches to the Reflection on Haiti, I was listening to the television report on the ceremony commemorating the Battle of Pichincha that took place in Ecuador on May 24, 1822, 187 years ago. The background music was beautiful.

I stopped what I was doing to observe the bright, colorful uniforms of the era and other details of the commemoration event.

So many emotional recollections related to the heroic battle that was decisive for Ecuador’s independence! The ideals and dreams of the epoch were present at that event. Together with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, were the guests of honor Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales – who are reliving today the yearning for independence and justice for which the Latin Americans patriots fought and died. Sucre was the main protagonist of that immortal deed, impelled by the dreams of Bolívar.

That struggle has not ended. It is arising once again under very different conditions; conditions that perhaps were not dreamed of at that time.

What came to mind was a speech by Dick Cheney that I read on Saturday; it was about national security and had been delivered at 11:20 on the previous Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute and was broadcast by CNN in Spanish and English. It was a response to the speech given by U.S. President Barack Obama on the same issue at 10:27 that same day, and to which he was adding an explanation on the closure of the Guantánamo prison. I had heard him when he spoke that day.

Mention of this piece of forcibly-occupied national territory struck me, in addition to my logical interest in the subject. I didn’t even know that Cheney would be speaking right after that. That is unusual.

Initially, I thought that it could be an open challenge to the new president, but when I read the official version I understood that the rapid response had been put together beforehand.

The former vice president had written his speech with great care, in a respectful and, at times, sugarcoated tone.

But what characterized Cheney’s speech was his defense of torture as a method of obtaining information under certain circumstances.

Our northern neighbor is a center of planetary power; it is the richest and most powerful nation, possessing a number of nuclear warheads that ranges from 5,000-10,000 that can be made to explode on any place in the planet with utmost accuracy. One would have to add the rest of its military equipment: chemical, biological and electromagnetic weapons as well as a huge arsenal of equipment for ground, naval and air combat. Those weapons are in the hands of those who claim they have the right to use torture.

Our country has sufficient political culture to analyze such arguments. Many people around the world likewise understand the meaning of Cheney’s words. I shall make a brief synthesis selecting his own paragraphs, accompanied by brief commentaries and opinions.

He began by criticizing Obama’s speech: “It is obvious that the president would be sanctioned in a House of Representatives because in the House we have the rule of a few minutes,” he said jokingly, even though he for one spoke at considerable length; the translated official version runs for 31 pages, 22 lines per page.

“Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day…Today, I’m an even freer man…no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek.

“And though I’m not here to speak for George W. Bush, I am certain that no one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do.”

“Today I want to set forth the strategic thinking behind our policies. I do so as one who was there every day of the Bush Administration –who supported the policies when they were made, and without hesitation would do so again in the same circumstances.

“When President Obama makes wise decisions, as I believe he has done in some respects on Afghanistan, and in reversing his plan to release incendiary photos, he deserves our support. And when he faults or mischaracterizes the national security decisions we made in the Bush years, he deserves an answer.

“Our administration always faced its share of criticism, and from some quarters it was always intense. That was especially so in the later years of our term, when the dangers were as serious as ever, but the sense of general alarm after September 11th, 2001 was a fading memory.”

He then gives an account of terrorist attacks on the United States over the past 16 years, both inside and outside its borders, listing half a dozen of them.

Cheney’s problem was to broach the thorny issue of torture, so frequently condemned by official U.S. policy.

“Nine-eleven made necessary a shift of policy, aimed at a clear strategic threat – what the Congress called “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”… We were determined to prevent attacks in the first place,” he stated.

He mentioned the number of people who lost their lives on September 11. He compares it to the attack on Pearl Harbor. He does not explain why the complex action was relatively easy to organize, what previous intelligence reports Bush possessed, or what he could have done to avoid it. Bush had been president for almost eight months. It is well-known that he worked very little and rested a lot. He was constantly going off to his ranch in Texas.

“al-Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A. Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market. We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source. We had the training camps of Afghanistan, and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.

“As you might recall, I was in my office in that first hour, when radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles an hour. That was Flight 77, the one that ended up hitting the Pentagon. With the plane still inbound, Secret Service agents came into my office and said we had to leave, now. A few moments later I found myself in a fortified White House command post somewhere down below.”

Cheney’s version makes it clear that nobody had foreseen that situation and he pays lip service to U.S. pride in assuming that someone holed up in a cave some 15,000 or 20,000 kilometers away could force the president of the United States to occupy his command post in the White House basement.

“In the years since,” Cheney goes on, “I’ve heard occasional speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11. I wouldn’t say that. But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.

“But since wars cannot be won on the defensive, we moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and sanctuaries.

“We did all of these things, and with bipartisan support.

“We didn’t invent that authority. It is drawn from Article Two of the Constitution.

“And it was given specificity by the Congress after 9/11, in a Joint Resolution authorizing “all necessary and appropriate force” to protect the American people.

“…through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which let us intercept calls and track contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and persons inside the United States.

“The program was top secret, and for good reason, until the editors of The New York Times got it and put it on the front page. After 9/11, the Times had spent months publishing the pictures and the stories of everyone killed by al-Qaeda on 9/11.

“It impressed the Pulitzer committee, but it damn sure didn’t serve the interests of our country, or the safety of our people.

“In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information… that could be gained only through tough interrogations.

“I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program.

“The interrogations were used… after other efforts failed.

“They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do.

“Our successors in office have their own views on all of these matters.

“By presidential decision, last month we saw the selective release of documents relating to enhanced interrogations. This is held up as a bold exercise in open government, honoring the public’s right to know.

“…the public was given less than half the truth.

“It’s hard to imagine a worse precedent… than to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessors.

“One person who by all accounts objected to the release of the interrogation memos was the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta.”

Reaching this point however, Cheney had to explain what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison, which filled the world with horror.

“At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulations, and simple decency.

“We know the difference in this country between justice and vengeance…[we] were not trying to … simply avenge the dead of 9/11.

“From the beginning of the program, there was only one focused and all-important purpose. We sought…information on terrorist plans.

“For the harm they did, to Iraqi prisoners and to America’s cause, they deserved and received Army justice.

Apart from the thousands of young Americans killed, maimed and wounded in the Iraq War and the huge funds invested there, hundreds of thousands of children, young and old people, men and women who were not to blame for the attack on the Twin Towers have lost their lives in that country after the invasion ordered by Bush. That enormous mass of innocent victims did not even receive a mention in Cheney’s speech.

He skips that and goes on:

“If liberals are unhappy about some decisions, and conservatives are unhappy about other decisions, then it may seem to them that the President is on the path of sensible compromise.

“But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed.

“When just a single clue goes unpursued that can bring on catastrophe.

“On his second day in office, President Obama announced that he was closing the detention facility at Guantanamo. This step came with little deliberation and no plan.

“The administration has found that it’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo. But it’s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America’s national security.

“In the category of euphemism, the prizewinning entry would be a recent editorial in a familiar newspaper that referred to terrorists we’ve captured as, quote, “abducted.”

“…and a major editorial page makes them sound like they were kidnap victims…

“The enhanced interrogations…and the terrorist surveillance program have without question made our country safer.

“When they talk about interrogations, he and his administration speak as if they have resolved some great moral dilemma in how to extract critical information from terrorists.

“Instead they have put the decision off, while assigning a presumption of moral superiority…

“Releasing the interrogation memos was flatly contrary to the national security interest of the United States.

“The harm done only begins with top secret information now in the hands of the terrorists…

“Across the world, governments that have helped us capture terrorists will fear that sensitive joint operations will be compromised.

“President Obama has used his declassification power to reveal what happened in the interrogations…

“President Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Blair, has put it this way: “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al-Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.”

“Admiral Blair put that conclusion in writing, only to see it mysteriously deleted in a later version released by the administration…

“…the missing 26 words that tell an inconvenient truth. But they couldn’t change the words of George Tenet, the CIA Director under Presidents Clinton and Bush, who bluntly said: “I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.

“If Americans do get the chance to learn what our country was spared, it’ll do more than clarify the urgency and the rightness of enhanced interrogations in the years after 9/11.

“We focused on getting their secrets, instead of sharing ours with them.

“It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed. Along the way there were some hard calls. No decision of national security was ever made lightly, and certainly never made in haste.

“As in all warfare, there have been costs – none higher than the sacrifices of those killed and wounded in our country’s service.

“Like so many others who serve America, they are not the kind to insist on a thank-you.”

His attacks on the Obama administration were really fierce but I don’t wish to voice my opinions on that subject. I will however recall that terrorism did not come out of the blue: it is also the method that has been used by the United States to combat the Cuban Revolution.

General Dwight Eisenhower himself, president of the United States, was the first one to use terrorism against our homeland and this wasn’t just a group of bloody actions against our people but dozens of events beginning in 1959 itself, later escalating to hundreds of acts of terrorism every year, using flammable substances, high-power explosives; precision infrared-ray sophisticated weapons; poisons such as cyanide; fungi, hemorrhagic dengue, swine fever, anthrax; viruses and bacteria that attacked crops, plants, animals and human beings.

There weren’t just attacks on the economy and the people; they were also aimed at eliminating the leaders of the Revolution.

Thousands of people were affected, and the economy, whose objective is to sustain alimentation, healthcare and the most basic services for the people, has been submitted to a relentless blockade that is being applied in extraterritorial terms.

I am not inventing these facts. They are on record in declassified U.S. government documents. In our country, despite the very serious dangers that have threatened us for decades, we have never tortured anyone to obtain information.

However painful the actions against the people of the United States on September 11, 2001 – actions that everybody condemned – torture is a cowardly and shameful act that can never be justified.

May 29, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | , , | 1 Comment

Free the five Cuban heroes imprisoned in the US

[Speech given by President Fidel Castro at the ceremony to decorate the mothers and wives of the five Heroes of the Republic of Cuba imprisoned in the United States, held at the Karl Marx Theater on March 8, 2002, Year of the Heroes Imprisoned by the U.S. Empire.]

Compatriots:

Throughout history we have paid tribute to legendary heroes and heroines, those glorious examples of bravery, unselfishness and the spirit of sacrifice that always inspire whole generations in their fight for a better, more humane and fairer world. There have, however, been very few times when we have been able to live alongside those men and women.

The five Heroes of the Republic of Cuba imprisoned in the empire, their admirable mothers and wives, our contemporaries and the pride of our country, have deeply touched the hearts of their people and, we can say, in every one of our sons and daughters, without exception.

They are here today, on International Women’s Day, in a moving and solemn ceremony that will surely never fade from our memories as they receive the Mariana Grajales and Ana Betancourt Orders, are Carmen, Magali, Irma and Mirta; Adriana, Rosa Aurora, Olga and Elizabeth; the mothers and wives of Gerardo, Fernando, René, Antonio and Ramón.

Absolutely innocent of the charges, after 16 months of isolation and seven months of a rigged trial where the lies, hypocrisy and cynicism of the accusers were shattered, three have been sentenced to life imprisonment and two to long stretches in jail.

In yet another manifestation of rage and hate, they continue to receive heartless and brutal treatment. Thinking that their morale and strength can be destroyed, the courts have put them in five top-security prisons, with a minimum of 1,400 kilometers between each jail, after a hazardous and cruel journey, always held in punishment cells, and then thrown into the general population of prisons where control, impartiality and moral leadership are conspicuous by their absence. This is a harsh test of our heroes’ unshakable strength and valor. And this is being done to men who, seeking information about terrorism, were defending their people to the death.

Alleging the same objective, the United States has launched all its forces to invade nations, using its most sophisticated and destructive weapons, declaring a long, indefinite and imprecise world war against terrorism.

With the height of superiority and arrogance, it has threatened more than 80 countries and taken the liberty to indicate which are, or are not, terrorists. It also has the gall to mention Cuba among those terrorist nations, when in reality thousands of Cubans have died as a result of terrorism from the United States, and not one single U.S. citizen has suffered the slightest scratch or harm from any act of this type by Cuba.

It goes without saying that our country cannot be intimidated. By using such stupid threats, they are banging their heads against a brick wall.

The U.S. government must ask Cuba’s forgiveness for the thousands of acts of aggression, sabotage and terrorism committed against our country for the last 43 years. The U.S. government must ask Cuba’s forgiveness for over three decades of economic war and the total blockade of food and medicine; these are genocidal acts which even in times of war are sanctioned by 1948 and 1949 international treaties signed by both nations. The U.S. government must compensate our country for crimes that have caused enormous suffering and the loss of tens of thousands of lives. The U.S. government must break with the Miami terrorist mafia, which organized and financed brutal acts of terror such as the explosion of a Cuban airplane in full flight with 73 passengers on board, all of whom perished, and the innumerable bomb attacks on Cuban buildings and hotels, hundreds of assassination attempts on leaders of the Cuban Revolution, biological warfare against people, animals and plants. The U.S. government must arrest and try Orlando Bosch, the well-known terrorist who, along with others, freely walks the streets of Miami. The U.S. government must stop protecting Posada Carriles and demand that justice be done for him and the other criminals who brought scores of kilograms of extremely powerful explosives into Panama, planning to kill hundreds of young university students with the aim of assassinating the Cuban delegation to the Ibero-American Summit, in Panama City. The U.S. government must eliminate the Torricelli Act, the Helms-Burton Act and numerous amendments aimed at tightening up the blockade against our country. The U.S. government must eliminate the murderous Cuban Adjustment Act, which has cost the lives of so many women, children, elderly and other citizens, and continues to take the lives of the people of Cuba.

The U.S. government must discuss with Cuba the illegal and arbitrary occupation of a piece of our territory, to come to an agreement about when it will be returned to our country. The U.S. government must respect the Cuban people’s right to self-determination, as well as the economic and political system it has decided to follow.

The U.S. government will never have the moral authority to fight terrorism as long as it continues to use such practices against countries like Cuba, and continues to support massive, repugnant and brutal massacres such as those being perpetrated by its ally, the state of Israel, against the Palestinian people. It must renounce its policy of world domination, stop intervening in other countries, respect the authority of the United Nations and honor the treaties it has signed. These are indispensable requisites for achieving a climate of peace in the world and eradicating that odious scourge of terrorism.

Our heroes must be freed. The whole world will learn of the enormous injustice committed against them. Millions of books will tell the truth and send out Cuba’s message. Sooner rather than later, our comrades will come home! No matter what it costs or where they are, their relatives will exercise their right to visit them every month, and bring them the encouragement and affection of all their people. (APPLAUSE)

Eternal glory to the heroic sons of Cuba, (SHOUTS OF “GLORY!) to the mothers who bore them and raised them, (SHOUTS OF “GLORY!) to the wives and children who contributed lovingly to creating their will of iron and invincible spirit! (SHOUTS OF “GLORY!)

Hasta la victoria siempre!

Patria o Muerte!

Venceremos!

March 3, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | Leave a comment

Imperialism still attempts to destabilize our country

By Fidel Castro
May 1, 2004

It seems that this crowd has broken all records (Applause and shouts)

Dearest guests, dear comrades:

This is the 45th time we have celebrated a glorious Labor Day since the triumph of the Revolution.

Extremely important things are taking place both inside and outside our country.

The Revolution is following its triumphal course with more strength and success than ever. We have had proof of this recently: the Geneva meetings on April 15 and 22 will go down in the history of revolutionary diplomacy. They mark the moment when a crushing blow was dealt to the enormous hypocrisy, permanent falsehood and cynicism the masters of the world use to try to preserve the rotten system of political and economic domination they have imposed on the world.

Our country had bee placed in the dock yet again. The new US administration and the states in the European Union made the mistake of forgetting that at the extreme eastern end of Cuba one of the most horrendous examples of human rights violation ever to take place in this world was underway at that very moment in a 117.6 square kilometer section of land occupied by force, where the Guantánamo naval base is located – which in itself is a gross violation of the sovereign rights of a small country and of international law.

We were never consulted beforehand. We were simply informed of the decision taken by the US government to transfer the prisoners to that base.

On January 11, 2002 the Cuban government published a statement in which it clearly set forth our country’s position.

The world knows that the horrible crime committed against the Twin Towers in New York was unanimously condemned by all conscientious people on the planet.

Nevertheless, the government of the most powerful nation on earth, showing contempt for all norms concerning what the world understands as the elementary principles of human rights, created this horrible prison where hundreds of citizens from many countries, including some from the United States’ own allies, are kept locked up, without having been tried, incommunicado, without having been identified, with no legal defense, no guarantees for their physical integrity, with no criminal, no procedural law and for an indefinite length of time. They could have used their own territory for such a bizarre contribution to civilization, but they did it on a stretch of land that they occupy illegally and forcibly in another country, Cuba, whom they accuse of human rights violations every year in Geneva.

It spite of that, admirable things do take place in the Commission on Human Rights.

In current world conditions, there is a generalized fear of the fierce empire, of its threats, pressure and reprisals of all kinds, especially those against the most vulnerable countries of the Third World. It is almost suicidal to vote in Geneva against a resolution drafted and imposed by the United States, especially if it is against Cuba, the country which for almost 50 years has defied its arrogance and imperiousness. Even the strongest and most independent states find themselves obliged to take into consideration the political and economic consequences of their decisions.

Still, as could be seen just a few days ago in Geneva, Cuba and 20 other countries -some acting out of principle and others showing amazing courage- opposed the resolution and 10 abstained, thus maintaining their dignity and self-respect. Only 22 of the 53 members of the Commission, including the United States, joined in this infamy.

There were seven from Latin America, four of whom suffer from extreme economic and social poverty, are highly dependent and have governments obliged to be totally servile. Nobody would consider them independent states. Up to now they have been pure fiction.

Peru, the fifth Latin American government which voted with the United States against Cuba, provides an example of the degree of servility and dependence into which imperialism and its neo-liberal globalization have led many countries in Latin America, whom they ruin politically in the twinkling of an eye when they force them to do things which are like the kiss of death for them.

The Peruvian head of state has seen his popularity drop to only 8 per cent in just a few months. I think that the people who support him could fit in just a small part of this crowded square. It is absolutely impossible to tackle the colossal economic and social problems affecting that country with such insignificant support. In fact, he does not govern, nor can he govern, anything; the transnationals and the oligarchies take care of that, until society explodes, as has already begun to happen in more than one country.

At this point in my speech, remembering our Venezuelan brother, I feel like crying out: Long live Venezuela! (Applause and shouts of “Long may she live”!) Long live the Bolivarian revolutionary process! (Applause and shouts of “Long may it live”!) Long live Chávez, the brave, brilliant leader of Bolívar’s people! (Applause and shouts of “Long may he live”!)

Then we have the Chilean and Mexican governments.

I am not going to judge the former. I prefer that the way the president of Chile behaved in Geneva be judged by Salvador Allende, (Applause) who went down fighting, a gun in his hand, and who now has a place of honor and glory in the history of this continent, by the millions of Chileans vanished, tortured and murdered by design of those who drafted and proposed this resolution to censure Cuba – where not a single act of that sort, nor anything similar had ever happened- and by those who in their name are the standard bearers of the noble ideals and aspirations to create a truly humane society.

In Mexico, a beloved, sister country to all Cubans, the National Congress asked their president to abstain from voting for the resolution, although President Bush had demanded that he do so. It is truly painful to see the great prestige and influence Mexico earned in the eyes of Latin America and the world with its unimpeachable international policy, which stemmed from a genuine, far-reaching revolution, turn to ashes.

Latin America’s solidarity with and support for Mexico and Mexico’s for Latin America are crucial. More than half of Mexico’s territory was snatched from it by its northern neighbor and great danger threatens what is left. The US-Mexican border is to all intents and purposes no longer the Rio Bravo of which Martí spoke. The United States has gone much deeper into Mexico. That border is today the line of death, where about 500 Mexican die every year. And all because of a brutal, ruthless principle: free passage for capital and goods; persecution, exclusion and death for human beings. And yet, millions of Mexicans take that risk. Today, the country obtains more income from their remittances than from oil exports, in spite of the high price of the latter.

Will such an inequitable and unfair situation really be solved by voting for anti-Cuban resolutions in Geneva, by accusing her of violating human rights?

The worst and most humiliating part for Mexico was that the news about its vote in Geneva, both on April 15 and 22, was announced in Washington.

The European Union, as usual, voted as a bloc, like a Mafia mob allied with and subordinate to Washington.

These sempiternal dirty, immoral displays against the Cuban Revolution never had any success until the socialist bloc disappeared. A plague of renegades, anxious for the credits and goods of consumer society added their votes to those of the European Community mafia. Thus they completed those petty deliveries in the Commission on Human Rights: resolutions pulled out with forceps, in the hard-fought battle which Cuba has never ceased to wage against the loathsome comedy which the empire, its allies, followers and vassals push through in order to gain an advantage of one or two votes over the opposition and abstentions of 60 per cent of the Commission’s members. Once they lowered their guard and lost the vote. Since then, their efforts have tripled and the pressures and threats against countries which are totally dependent on the credits, the money and resources handed out by international bodies, all controlled by the United States, have been stepped up one hundred fold.

One day a statue will have to be raised to those countries which, under such difficult circumstances, risked all and voted against Yankee resolutions (Applause) This story of this battle should go down in history. As you can see, this year 60% of the Commission’s 53 members supported us. The empire calls these Pyrrhic victories successes and censures Cuba, in spite of the fact that the effort and political costs increase every year.

I can say here, just between ourselves, that an exhaustive examination of what occurs in the world, in every human society – excluding none, certainly not the European society, or the purest and most sacrosanct societies from some areas in Europe- would show that not one has a clean record when it comes to consideration and respect for human beings, such as the glorious Cuban revolution. (Applause)

The very system that diminishes one part of society to less than nothing while others live in great opulence, from an ethical point of view, is not worthy to be called a humane society.

These campaigns, run by the dominant superpower and backed up by the allies who join with the empire in exploiting the world, are nothing but a sham and a lie, a brazen political display resulting from the need to justify the enormous inequalities which shall remain insurmountable until the economic system imposed on the world has disappeared. We do know about true human rights.

I cannot understand how an opulent society like our neighbor’s dare to speak of human rights, while 44 million people there have no right to medical care, where millions of citizens live in ghettos and countless beggars live under bridges; a society where there are millions of illiterates and semi-illiterates, where there are millions and millions of unemployed and where prisons are filled with the children of the poorest and most deprived segments of the population.

On the other hand, no one can explain the brutal bombings against just any country, or how the empire’s boss can speak of human rights while proclaiming it his right to “launch pre-emptive attacks on 60 or more countries”, oblivious of the innocent persons who will die.

Their hatred for Cuba stems from the unexpected resistance a small country has put up against this power and its allied powers which have plundered the planet. Cuba’s presence is a pointing finger and proof that nations can fight, stand firm and win. Cuba’s very presence is a humiliation for those who have imposed the most repugnant system of exploitation that has ever existed on Earth.

There are many ways to explain it. Here our Venezuelan brother reminded us of something we do not usually talk about, of our people’s medical co-operation with other countries. None of this would have been possible without a revolution. As is well-known, when the Revolution triumphed 30% of our population was illiterate and 90% were illiterate and semi-illiterate combined, because in this world anyone who does not have at least a sixth grade education -and today we should talk of at least a ninth-grade education- can be considered a semi-illiterate.

They want to hide the fact that Cuba is first worldwide in educational matters, that its children are in first place in tests of knowledge, even above developed countries, (Applause) that the minimum education level, except in rare exceptions, is ninth grade and there is no other country in the world that has reached these minimum levels in most of the population.

They know that despite their criminal blockade and the obstacles they have placed in the way of our obtaining medicines and medical equipment and technology, infant mortality is lower in our country than in the United States (Applause). Perhaps they are unaware that we are going to reduced this infant mortality rate to even less that 6 and perhaps in the not too distant future, to less than 5. We are convinced -and this is something I have never spoken about- that in a period of no more than five or six years, life expectancy in our country will not be lower than 80 years (Applause) and that our country will become the most advanced center for healthcare services in the world.

If an analysis were made of the millions of children who die in Third World countries every year and who could be saved – in many countries the figures are as high as 150 deaths for every 1000 live births and those who die from the population of the majority of those same countries who voted against Cuba in Geneva- they would realize that a genocide is committed every year on this earth; that millions more people on this planet, children, adults -who could be saved- die every year than died in the First World War and almost as many as died in the Second, people who could have been saved but do not survive because of a shortage of resources.

The arsenal of arguments that we have at our disposal to show that this system is the most atrociously cruel system that has ever existed is enormous. One has only to use simple mathematical calculations to prove the genocide that the United States and its European allies commit against the world every year.

They know that this is true, they do not dare to argue against it; they created underdevelopment and they have perpetuated backwardness through colonialization, looting of natural resources and even by enslaving millions and millions of human beings, thus giving rise to this world of extreme poverty with serious problems still to be solved. I won’t try to list them here, but they are almost insoluble problems which, when combined with others, place in jeopardy the very existence of our species.

Taking into account that events such as this rally should not be too long and mindful of the effort you have made to come and stay here for many hours, I shall limit myself to mentioning just a few facts. I shall put it like this: the capitalist system, which in its time played a somewhat progressive role against feudalism and which later became the imperialist system with the ways used today to plunder nations, to waste and destroy the planet’s natural resources, is the system most inconceivable and irreconcilable with an honest, sincere and objective notion of human rights.

There, in Geneva, the gangs of the owners of the world economy meet and it would be worthwhile asking them how many Third World countries they have collaborated with, what they did against apartheid in South Africa, how many teachers they have sent to the Third world and how many doctors. I have already said that I do not like to bring up these issues, but I do so today because on this Labor Day we are in fact speaking about what happened in Geneva a while ago.

One should ask each one of those gentlemen how many doctors they have working in Third World countries. There are some organizations like Doctors without Borders and some foundations that give some aid. But I say this to those gentlemen: I am sure that the United States and Europe together do not have as many doctors in Haiti as Cuba does, providing medical care to more than 7 million people under extremely difficult conditions (Applause)

They could be asked, one by one, because those societies that were not designed for justice and solidarity but educated in selfishness are incapable of making any sacrifice whatsoever for other human beings.

I mentioned one country, Haiti, which they constantly intervene and invade, but where they never send a single doctor. I do not know how they would react if I said to them today that right now Cuba is developing a number of healthcare programs in Africa and in Latin America, and that a total of at least 17,000 Cuban doctors, dentists and healthcare technicians are serving in other countries (Applause) and that every year they save thousands of lives and give many tens of millions of human beings their health back or guarantee their health. And let no one think that we are left without doctors, because this effort is paralleled by a veritable revolution in the healthcare services in our country.

A while ago I was discussing with Sáez the major repairs of policlinics and the new services they will provide, and they are working so that before the end of the year they will have completed the repairs of Havana’s 82 outpatient clinics, and some that are newly built, and they will offer services they were never before provided. (Applause) And this is but one detail because many other programs are underway too, and not only in Havana but throughout the country.

We have estimated the many millions or tens of millions of runs that we will save our people who, with all the public transportation difficulties, have to go and visit their relatives in hospitals, therefore, many services which were previously only available in hospitals will, many of them, soon be available in outpatient clinics.

There is no doubt, and I mean no doubt, that our country will have the best healthcare services in the world. And if a few years ago we talked about tens of thousands of general medicine specialists, the day is not far off when we shall talk of tens of thousands of PhDs in Medical Sciences. To that end, and in addition to that, we are implementing programs in education, culture, sports and other areas which will be supported by a much more sounder economic base than that with which our country’s development began when it was devoted to producing sugar cane and other similar commodities, as this was all an illiterate and starving population could do to survive.

The bandits who accuse us of violating human rights would not dare to say that Cuba is the only country in the world – see how great our people’s feats are- in which there has not been a single disappeared person, not a single person tortured in all the 45 years of the Revolution . (Applause)

We have made a Revolution that is as clean as that war we waged in the Sierra Maestra when not one prisoner was shot, or ever beaten to obtain information. This is almost the only country in Latin America where death squads have never existed, nor extra-judicial executions and this for 45 years. If those viper tongues of the empire and their followers could find one case, just one, we would be willing to give them our Republic of Cuba as a present, if they found just one case. (Applause)

These are realities; I am not exaggerating, far from it. We know what we have done throughout these 45 years and the unwavering straight line we have pursued in our principles that allowed us to win the war and carry out a revolution that we have defended for 45 years. And what is our people today, what is its consciousness, its culture, its ideas, what degree of unity has it achieved? There are no other people with a higher cultural level, a higher level of political conscience than our people. And this is only the beginning. (Applause)

I saw it this morning on television, while I was waiting for sunrise, and it was obvious. They interviewed many people and you should have heard what they said. I could see a new world, students all over the place and from all over the place: university students, students from the University of Information Technology, students from the school for art instructors, (Shouts form the crowd) students from the school for social workers, students from the schools for with accelerated training courses for teachers, nurses; schools that we share with thousands of -I am not going to say foreign, young people- young brothers and sisters from Latin America and from other parts of the world. (Applause)

One can’t help but feel proud that not only our doctors go there by the thousands but that we have also invited thousands and thousands of youths from Latin America and from other parts of the world to study medicine in Cuba.

We are, in fact, developing more and more efficient ways of transmitting knowledge and who knows how long it will take the rest of the world to catch up with this efficiency and these methods and, even more importantly, to put them into practice.

I harbor not the slightest doubt, however, that Venezuela, which is implementing and will be implementing highly improved educational programs will, in a short period of time, lead that heroic and valiant people, the cradle of the Latin American independence struggle, to levels similar to those which Cuba has today.

I was saying that the political cost of their little game in Geneva is increasingly high but this year their actions backfired ‘on them’ and almost killed them

When this year Cuba suggested sending a Commission representative to see what was going on in the Guantánamo naval base, panic spread through the herd of hypocrites, especially those from the European Community. Morale collapsed. Some European governments were truly ashamed, they had to confess their failure to act according to their principles and their hypocrisy, or do the impossible: disobey the empire. This was too much for such august defenders of human rights whose darts are only aimed at those who for centuries were their colonies, where they wiped out tens of millions of natives and to which they brought countless human beings from Africa whom they turned into slaves with less freedom than work horses.

And that is how they treat millions of people in the Third World, victims of the plunder, unequal terms of trade and looting of their natural resources and all the hard currency reserves in their central banks, which are deposited in US or European banks, for the most part, and which are used to finance investments, trade and fiscal deficits and for the military adventures of the empire and its allies.

As a result of the Cuban proposal in Geneva, Bush himself and his senior officials had to work frantically, personally calling presidents and heads of state. No one knew where he found the time, especially if one takes into account that he likes to sleep a lot – or so they say- (Laughter), nor how he could attend to Iraq, the financial problems of the government, fundraising banquets and matters related to the election campaign. Perhaps it is not fair to call him Fürher; perhaps he is a genius.

Why can Bush talk of a fiscal deficit of $512 billion and a similar trade deficit, a total of a trillion dollars in just one year? Because he manipulates and spends the hard currency of the immense majority of the world population in order to defend those and other privileges.

All the reserves of Third World central banks are kept in banks overseas, mostly in the United States. And all the money of anyone who has any money -earned and unearned money- is changed into dollars and deposited in US banks or in the banks of some developed country because of the fear of constant devaluations of their countries’ weak currencies. As per a provision of the International Monetary Fund, no central bank in these Third World countries can prevent people from changing their money into dollars or any other convertible currency.

The owners of this money want safety for what they have savedor robbed. They take any money they have out of the country, not to buy anything, not even to waste it, they simply take it out definitely. This money on deposit in European or U.S. banks is lent to businesspeople or to anyone who needs it, and those who need it most include governments. The money to cover a budget deficit of more than $500 billion comes from those banks.

Thus the economic system imposed on Third World nations forces them to transfer their money to the more developed countries, which is not the same but equally loathsome, as the fact that these developed countries charge more and more for their goods and pay less and less for commodities. And to top it all, there is a debt which in Latin America stands at more than $750 billion, the same that if combined with that of the rest of the Third World countries climbs to $2.5 trillion

This is already leading the world to the brink of catastrophe, to a dead end, to insoluble problems. So, that humanity will have to struggle for more than economic justice, or for a fair distribution of wealth, it will have to struggle for the survival of our species. I say this on this Labor Day, at a time when this gathering should be over. (Laughter)

This year, the United States has a budgetary deficit of $512 billion and also a trade deficit of more than $500 billion and the rest of the world is paying this with money that left and is never coming back. They use this money to arm themselves to the teeth with the most sophisticated war machinery and they wage wars of conquest in search of raw materials.

The order established in the world especially that set up by the Bretton Woods agreements at the end of the Second World War – you will probably have heard that name- gave the United States enormous privileges because at that time they had 80% of the world’s gold. That country was not destroyed by the war, it rather exported a great deal, much, very much, but Europe was destroyed, and so was Asia, thus it accumulated $30 billion in gold. This is how they were given the right to issue the hard currency needed for world trade, although each dollar they printed was supposed to be backed by a given amount of gold.

Since 1971, when they spent enormous sums of money on the Vietnam War and their gold reserves dropped by one third, famous Mr. Nixon suspended the gold conversion of those currencies and since then it is just paper that is in circulation.

It would take time to explain this better and in more depth but we have round tables, we have two new television channels. Our technicians, our teachers and professors can explain to our people these subjects, which are really interesting and help to understand what the world is really all about.

The international situation is complex. The adventurist policies -adventurisms!- of this administration have given the world increasingly insoluble problems. The economic order imposed is ever more irrepressible, which is why nobody finds it strange that uncontainable social movement could spring up and revolutions break out anywhere, anytime. This is already happening.

In Europe, an impressive, encouraging event took place in Spain. It was an extraordinary feat accomplished almost exclusively by the Spanish people, especially the younger generation. Mark my words: “an extraordinary feat, accomplished almost exclusively by the younger generation”. Let no one now pretend to have that glory. We are well aware of what the situation in Spain was like at that point. The heroic political battle of the Spanish people, hardly 48 hours after the tragedy and on the eve of the elections, dealt a devastating blow to the previous Spanish government’s treacherous maneuvers to manipulate the dreadful acts of March 11 in its favor and in the belligerent interests of the United States.

Everyone knows what was happening with the elections. According to polls and surveys, Mr. Aznar’s conservative party, on account of a favorable economic situation and a monopoly over the most important media, was perhaps about to win an absolute majority in parliament. However, a great tragedy occurred in Spain, that act of terrorism which claimed over 1000 victims counting the dead and injured. We witnessed the way events unfolded.

Mr. “Anzar” – that is what Bush calls Aznar, he has never learned to pronounce that name properly- (Laughter) immediately began to manipulate the news and to blame ETA, when in fact ETA had absolutely nothing to do with what happened.

Anyone can see how various organizations of one kind or another operate and it was very clear that this attack did not match ETA’s style.

Aznar immediately came out with the accusation that this was ETA’s work and he kept on insisting on this at all cost, because this attack took place on Thursday 11. I remember that on Friday 12 at 8:00 p.m. Gladys Marín’s award ceremony took place, she was decorated with the José Martí Order. That same day at 6:00 in the afternoon, on Cuban television’s Round Table program, our journalists denounced that cynical, crude manipulation. Our televised round tables are watched in may places including Spain over the Internet and by satellite. Our journalists expressed their wish to have important information gathered in the West about what had happened and the opinions of important international analysts reach their Spanish friends, urgently. In Spain the media said nothing about this information or these opinions. We do not know if the Cuban broadcast was of any use to the young Spaniards who led the epic political battle. In fact, there were only 36 hours left before the elections began.

On Saturday 13, Aznar was still insisting, and persisting, on his accusation against ETA, he was seen furiously defending his thesis that ETA was responsible, while Al Qaeda was claiming authorship.

It would really have suited Aznar and the United States if ETA were responsible because there was a lot of opposition to the Iraq war in Europe, and the Spanish people has most thoroughly opposed the war in Iraq. (Applause) If ETA had committed such an act in the heart of Europe, Mr. “Anzar”‘s political capital and the belligerent line would have benefited considerably.

That was the reason for the enormous interest in carrying out that dirty maneuvre 48 hours before the elections in which they expected to win many more votes; but the Spanish people unraveled the trick. On Saturday, the eve of the elections, the people, mostly the younger generation, gathered en masse outside the governing party’s offices, protesting against and denouncing this atrocious deceit. Although no one imagined it at the time -I confess that any reaction already seemed impossible to me- the unexpected happened and the entire population, communicating with each other through various channels, spread the denunciation across the whole country and not exactly using the mainstream media. It is said that all night long they used every possible means to communicate with each other, and the next day more people than ever turned out to vote. And now the big news, the Spanish people had soundly punished that fraud, that Spanish procurer -which is what we call him- who recruited youths in Santo Domingo, in Honduras, El Salvador, and who would have thought it, who would have thought it! even a small troop from the Sandinista army was sent to Iraq as canon fodder along with young soldiers from the countries I mentioned, encouraged by him, who took it upon himself to expedite the necessary procedures to send them over there. Who would have imagined that one day young Latin Americans would be sent as canon fodder to that unjust, genocidal war!

In Spain, despite the fact that most of the media backed the wrong cause, they saw how the people were capable of striking back and giving a beating to the procurer, just as in similar circumstances the Venezuelan people have given more than one beating to the traitorous oligarchy in their country.

We must have confidence in the peoples, for the more they learn, the more general culture and political culture they gain, the more difficult it becomes to trreat them as herds of ignorant illiterates.

And if you will alow me to continue, I don’t have much left to say but it depends on you. (Applause)

The present government has kept its promise to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. This is undoubtedly a commendable act. But the Spanish state, under the previous administration, had taken upon itself to recruit a considerable number of young Dominicans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans to be sent as canon fodder to Iraq with the Spanish Legion, something unheard of in the history of this hemisphere. Spain, which as the former colonial power in Latin America aspires to be given respect and consideration and even to play a role in Latin America and the Caribbean, has a responsibility and a moral duty with the return home of those young Latin Americans who were sent to Iraq because of the actions of the previous government.

There is a new government but the state must take responsibility for what the previous government did. It is Spain’s responsibility that they are in that war and it is its moral duty to promote and support the withdrawal of these young people who are in Iraq.

You already know that colonial powers are what they are, and they always tend to believe that their former subjects are like newborn great grandchildren who need the help of the wise motherland. Sometimes they speak of aid, like in Europe when they said that they were giving us humanitarian aid, and one fine day they had the idea of taking reprisals.

Those people had forgotten the monstrous prison in Guantánamo; they did not remember that monstrous injustice, the cruel, pitiless way in which the United States keeps Cuba’s five heroes in jail, five men who were defending their country against terrorism by seeking out information; the terrorism that U.S. governments have invented and used against Cuba for 45 years. (Shouts)

There is no need to repeat the story of thousands of our fellow Cuban who have lost their lives; no need to speak now of what happened in Barbados. The fact is that the European Community remembered nothing, did not remember that over there in Miami they have always freely and with complete impunity hatched plans for assassination attempts and terrorism against Cuba, supported by the mob, a mob which is close to the U. S. government. Mr. Bosch enjoys his freedom in Miami, he and Posada Carriles who together organized the mid-air explosion on a Cubana aircraft. No, they do not remember that nor can they remember it.

For 45 years imperialism has planned and is still planning conspiracies, attempts to destabilize our country; it pays mercenaries and is now going about saying that they have to invest much more money in this. Let them not cry out or complain if Cuba then takes the appropriate measures to punish mercenaries who work for a foreign power. (Applause)

If Cuba defends itself, if it arrests and punishes mercenaries in order that no one should think he or she is invulnerable to punishment, then they launch massive campaigns against our country. They want to prevent her from defending herself, and this country, without violating the standards it has always observed in its struggles, will defend itself with the law, and it will defend itself with weapons whenever this is necessary, to the last drop of blood. (Applause and shouts)

So they should not entertain any illusions and come weeping and wailing, and portraying us as human rights violators.

They are doing the same thing to Venezuela as they do to Cuba: they concoct acts of provocation, create incidents, kill people and then blame the Venezuelan government. Theirs is a really interesting case, that is, how Venezuelans resist, even when that Venezuelan people has yet to attain the level of knowledge that our people has on a large scale. That is the people’s instinct and they stand firm, and it is difficult to deceive them.

In Cuba everybody is very well aware of the truth but the empire carries out these campaigns to damage Cuba’s reputation abroad. We do not lose any sleep over them. It does not matter what they think today, what matters is what they will think tomorrow. This Revolution has left its indelible mark on the history of the world (Applause). It has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, because its morals are as high as the stars and its behavior has been unimpeachable, apart from individual errors of a different sort that occur and which have nothing to do with human rights. It would be naïve to think that no economic, political, administrative or legal mistakes are made. However, no one makes mistakes, no one practices deception about the fundamental things which concern the most sacred of the Revolution’s principles, things concerning human beings, nor are mistakes or deception about such matters permitted.

What we are doing today, I say this on this Labor Day, is really like a huge new revolution (Applause), based on the experience of so many years of struggle. It is something that goes beyond what we have done so far for the welfare of each and every one of our fellow Cubans with no social exclusion and follows this same amazingly humane line.

We all know what has been done and you are proof of it, but we know how many more things could have been done that we did not do because we lacked the necessary knowledge, we lacked the necessary experience. There are no books about how to make a revolution and on what a revolution is about. Nor was there any book about how, for 45 years, this little country would have to stand up to the most powerful country that has ever existed in the world nor about the fact that it could not defeat us with its weapons. It knew the price.

The Bay of Pigs, where they underestimated our people, did not even last 70 hours, and during the Missile Crisis the world was on the brink of blowing itself up, as a result of the imperialist plans of aggression and the steadfastness of our people. And we have withstood all these years of the blockade and the special period. This is a veteran, battle-hardened people with great power in its, well-prepared, educated, revolutionary young people whom nobody will ever be able to defeat. (Applause and shouts)

So, we know that what we are doing is going to transform this country once again, it is already changing it in a most impressive way.

I spoke of the former colonial powers who think they can give us political and social lessons. If the colonial powers so wish, we can teach them a few things, but let no one feel impatient in the belief that they can teach us.

We have already bid good-riddance to the European Economic Community’s famous humanitarian aid and we warn them that we are in no hurry for them to send any more handouts.

Look closely at this: if we buy $1.5 billion worth of goods from them annually and if we only sell them $500 million worth of goods, much of it in the form of raw material, it is we who are giving them humanitarian aid, because from the $1.5 billion that they sell us, they must make around $500 million net profit. Then they turn up with their fancy suitcases offering a little bit of aid and they spend more in the five star hotels they stay in and on the planes in which they travel than they bring. So the European Community should not bother to come to us with that nonsense.

Nor should anyone think that they can come and give us their two cents worth of advice about how we should develop our democracy because this country has more than enough experience, has struggled a great deal and has been sufficiently successful at the cost of sacrifice and blood for any European country to come to offer us little lessons in democracy because no country in Europe, afloat in their colossal inequalities, enjoys, and some less than others, the true, egalitarian and fully participative democracy that Cuba enjoys today, in all senses, and has since the day the people took power and wealth was distributed fairly. And not only did the people take power but it is the people that defend that power, without NATO or military pacts with the Devil. (Applause and shouts)

It would be a question of discussing each one of the things that are done in this country and each one of the things that are done in the world’s rich countries to see if they have the level of equality, humanity, of care for all, with no exceptions, that we have, something that has never existed anywhere else.

We are quite aware of what we are, of what we have done and of what we have. But it seems that some foolish people still have not noticed this and persist in meddling in our internal affairs, pretending to each us how to set up a democracy. In any case, we can respond to such a generous gesture by teaching them how to create equality, how to eradicate privilege and how to establish a revolutionary democracy.

I am talking about these things like this, on the fly, because I did not have much time to write.

I remember that I spoke of what was going on with young Latin Americans sent to Iraq and of the need for them to return to their countries because now imperialism is looking for canon fodder and it might happen that one day even the Poles, who are over there as mercenaries, might decide to withdraw too. They would have to be more consistent with the history of a country that was invaded many times, occupied many times, divided up many times and should not now go hiring its young people as mercenaries for a war of conquest.

I have no doubt that before too long those who today are acting ridiculously and shamefully by sending their troops over there to support this repugnant war will begin to think seriously about it in a very different way.

And since I have said all this, I think it is my duty to say what our position is with regards to the U.S. people

The peoples of the world, including the Cuban people, do not hate the American people nor do they want young American soldiers to die -many of whom are black, mixed race or Latin American- who were induced by poverty and unemployment to take up soldiering and who today are the victims of an unnecessary, stupid war.

We do not support any government in Iraq or any given political system; this is the exclusive prerogative of the Iraqis. We felt solidarity with those who died in the attacks in New York and Madrid and we condemn such methods. The enormous and growing world sympathy with the Iraqi people was generated by the brutal bombings of Baghdad and other cities which sowed terror and death among innocent civilians, totally ignoring the terrible trauma which will affect millions of children, adolescents, pregnant women, mothers and old people all of their lives, bombings for which there is no possible justification, based as they were on brazen lies. This sympathy is growing, because billions of people have come to realize that it is a war of conquest to gain possession of the country’s resources and raw materials, because there was no justification, nor legality whatsoever, because international laws were broken, because the United Nations’ prerogatives and authority were ignored.

The people of Iraq are today struggling for their independence, their lives, the lives of their children and for their legitimate rights and resources.

The US government is facing a complicated situation because of this, as it insisted on taking the path of violence, war and terror. I have the moral authority to propound this point of view, because long before this warmongering policy was unleashed, on September 11, 2001, the very same day as the horrendous attack on the Twin Towers, in a ceremony to inaugurate the school year for 4,500 young primary school teachers I said, and I quote:

“It is very important to know what the reaction of the US Government will be. Possibly the days to come will be dangerous for the world, and I do not mean Cuba. Cuba is the most peaceful country in the world for several reasons: our policy, our kind of struggle, our doctrine, and also, comrades, for the absolute absence of fear”.

“The days to come will be tense both inside and outside the United States. Who know how many people will start voicing their views.

“Whenever there is a tragedy like this, even when they are sometimes so difficult to prevent, I see no other way but to keep calm. And if at some point I am allowed to make a suggestion to an adversary who has been tough on us for many years knows [] if under specific circumstances it were correct to suggest something to the adversary, for the well being of the American people and based on the arguments I have given you, we would advise the leaders of the powerful empire to keep their equanimity, to act calmly, not to be carried away by a fit of rage or hatred and not to start hunting people down dropping bombs all over the place.

“I reiterate that none of the world problems, not even terrorism, can be solved with the use of force, and every act of force, every reckless use of force anywhere would seriously aggravate the world problems.

“The way is neither the use of force nor war. I say this here with the full credibility of someone who has always been honest, with the sound conviction and the experience of someone who has been through the years of struggle that we have lived through in Cuba. It is only guided by reason and applying an intelligent policy based on the strength of consensus and the support of international public opinion that such a predicament could be definitively solved. I think this unexpected episode must be used to undertake an international struggle against terrorism. However, this international struggle against terrorism cannot succeed by killing a terrorist here and another one there, that is, by using similar methods to theirs, sacrificing innocent lives. It is resolved, inter alia, by putting an end to State terrorism and other repulsive crimes, by putting an end to genocide and by honestly pursuing a policy of peace and respect for unavoidable moral and legal standards. The world cannot be saved unless a path of international peace and cooperation is pursued”.

The Iraq war brings to many people memories of the Vietnam War. To me, it brings back memories of the Algerian war of liberation, when French military might shattered against the resistance of a people with a very different culture, language and religion, in a country which in places is just as desert-like as many parts of Iraq, a people that managed to defeat the French troops and all their technology, which was fairly advanced for its time. The French had previously sustained defeat in Dien Bien Phu, where Bush’s predecessors were on the point of using nuclear weapons.

In this type of war the entire arsenal of a hegemonic superpower is superfluous. This superpower can conquer a country with its enormous power but it is impossible to administer and govern that country if its population battles resolutely against the occupiers.

I never thought that one day Mr. Bush would humbly write a polite letter to the president of Syria and the Iranian government -both countries considered terrorist until now- and ask them to help resolve the conflict in Iraq. It is even more amazing that, according to press dispatches, the US marines were pulled out of Fallujah two days ago and replaced by Iraqi soldiers led by a former General in Saddam Hussein’s army.

I do not criticize any peace effort or initiative which the current US administration decides to take, but I doubt very much that there can be any solution other than withdrawing US troops from Iraq – where they should never have been sent- and returning full independence to the Iraqi people. This would have the support of the international community, which would no doubt find a way to resolve the complex situation that has been created there.

Meanwhile, we Cubans will continue to observe what happens and will continue to wage our most resolute battle against those who dare to advocate political changes based on the physical removal of some of us. The worst is that those who talk of speeding up such changes are characters whose same old murderous ideas are quite familiar to us.

Now they are once again making themselves hoarse shouting threats of upcoming measures to affect our economy and destabilize the country. They would do well to return our five prisoners of the empire to us, who with unequalled dignity are withstanding the most shameful and cruel case of human rights violations. Their fate in federal government prisons, where they are kept completely separate, is hardly any better that that of those held captive in the Guantánamo naval base. But despite all that, we do not hesitate in suggesting to those who govern the United States that they be calmer, more sensible, saner and wiser.

To those who persist in their efforts to destroy the Revolution, I simply say in the name of the crowd gathered here on this May 1st, as I said at Girón and at other decisive moments in our battles:

Long live socialism!

Homeland or Death!

We shall overcome!

March 3, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | Leave a comment

The course of human events must change or our species will not survive

[Speech given by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the Karl Marx Theater on January 3, 2004, for the 45 Anniversary of the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution.]

Dear fellow Cubans;

Distinguished guests:

Many of us who had the privilege of witnessing that exciting day are still alive; many others are deceased. On January 1, 1959 the overwhelming majority of those here tonight were less than 10 years old or had not been born or there were still many years to go before they would be born.

It was never our purpose to attain individual or collective glory, honors or recognition. However, those of us who today have a legitimate right to call ourselves Cuban revolutionaries found ourselves obliged to write what has turned out to be an unprecedented page in the annals of history. Unhappy with the social and political situation in our country, we simply resolved to change it. This was not something new in Cuba; it had happened many times for almost a century.

We believed in the rights of the peoples, including the right to independence and to rise up against tyranny. It was from the exercise of such rights in this hemisphere, conquered by European powers by fire and the sword, mass slaughter of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of millions of Africans, that a group of independent nations emerged, one of which was the United States of America.

When, on July 26 1953, the Cuban Revolution fought its first battle against an illegal, corrupt and bloody regime, 8 years had not yet gone by since the end of World War II unleashed by fascism in 1939, which took the lives of more than 50 million people and brought about the destruction of the economies of all the then industrialized countries, with the exception of the United States, which was out of reach of enemy bombs and guns.

The fascist ideas that were the cause of that colossal conflict were in total contradiction with the principles proclaimed by the 13 former British colonies in America on July 4, 1776 in their Declaration of Independence, which literally read: “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 whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute 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 French Declaration of the Rights of Man, which resulted from the 1789 French Revolution, carried this point even further when it proclaimed: “When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each portion of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties”.

The fascist ideas also clashed head on with the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter after the gigantic battle that was World War II. Among the principles the Charter proclaimed to be essential prerequisites of a world political order are respect for the rights of the people to sovereignty and independence.

Actually, the rights of the peoples have never been respected throughout humanity’s brief known history, so full of wars of conquest, empires and an infinite variety of forms of plunder and of ways for human beings to exploit other human beings. Nevertheless, at that historic point in time and despite the reality that the victorious powers imposed a world political order with privileges for a minuscule group of the most powerful states that became ever more irritating, many nations, institutions and people were hopeful that a new and promising stage for humanity was beginning. More than 100 nations or groups of nations, including human groups that still lacked a national identity, were formally recognized as independent States. It was a time that greatly favored illusions and deception.

The overwhelming majority of countries that formally received the status of independent states was made up of former colonies, dominions, protectorates and other forms of oppressing and controlling countries that the most powerful nations have used for centuries.

Their dependence on the former colonial powers was almost total; their struggle to attain greater sovereignty and act on it has been difficult and often heroic. The dreadful harassment to which they are submitted in Geneva to get them to support the US resolutions or, as a last resort, to abstain from voting against them is proof of this. The way these states behave in the United Nations General Assembly is admirable. An expression of this is the growing and almost unanimous support for Cuba against the blockade.

The worst of all is that a considerable number of those countries that were supposedly independent before that conflict was unaware of just how little independence they really had, and Cuba was one of them. Almost all of the Latin American countries were on that sorry list, as would become blatantly clear. As soon as our heroic people achieved real and full independence, almost all of their governing elites joined with the United States to destroy the Revolution and prevent the social and political accomplishments we were rapidly achieving.

The aggression began as early as 1959 with the use of all possible economic and political measures, including violence, terrorism and the threat of the massive use of US military might.

What happened to Cuba would help showing all of the illusion and deception contained in those elegant texts about principles and rights proclaimed by the United Nations Organization.

Might and not rights would continue to be the basic fact of human life, as it has been the case through the millennia.

All that has happened up until the present, since the first known historical facts were registered, is the result of the natural and spontaneous, torpid and disorderly evolution of human society.  Nobody can be blamed for the various economic and social systems that have followed one another over the course of five thousand years.

The different civilizations which arose in the most distant regions of the world: China, India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Central and South America obviously were, to a greater or lesser extent, ignorant of the others’ existence, were independent, although many things attest to the extraordinary range of their knowledge. Some are amazing like, for example, the Greek civilization with its art, philosophy, literature, its knowledge of history, physics, mathematics, astronomy and other subjects.

Our knowledge of Mayan and other pre-Incan civilizations is growing, and this knowledge shows that human beings, even when separated by tens of thousands of years in time and tens of thousands of kilometers in space were already creators and capable of extraordinary works. Yet, in all the civilizations that preceded us and even today, empires, wars of conquest, different kinds of slavery and feudalism, rich and poor, privileged, ruling social classes and exploited, marginalized and excluded classes have existed in one form or another. To ignore this fact would require enormous ignorance.

I must admit that Marx was right when he sketched out the idea that only when a truly rational, just and equitable social regime exists on this earth, will humankind have left prehistory behind.

If the whole development of human society has inevitably been chaotic, disorderly, unpredictable, extremely cruel and unjust, the struggle to create a different and truly rational world, worthy of our species’ intelligence is, at this moment in its history, which bears no resemblance to any of humanity’s previous stages, something that was not possible or even imaginable in other circumstances: an attempt by human beings to plan their own destiny for the first time.

Dreaming of impossible things is called utopia; struggling for goals that cannot only be reached but which are essential if the species is to survive, is called realism.

It would be wrong to assume that such an aim would be motivated by ideology alone. We are talking about something that goes beyond the noble and completely justifiable whishes for justice, beyond the deep desire that all human beings can live a free and decent life: we are talking about the survival of the species.

The big difference between the age of the Greeks and our age lies not in the intellectual capacity of our species but in the exponential and seemingly infinite development of science and technology that has taken place in the last 150 years, and which completely eclipses the negligible and ridiculous political capacity we have shown for facing up to the risk of perishing as a species, a risk which really is threatening humanity.

Less than 60 years ago, when the first nuclear device equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT exploded over Hiroshima, it became clear that technology had created a tool which, if developed, could bring about the obliteration of human life on this planet. From that day on, the development of such new weapons and weapons systems, hundreds of times more powerful, varied and accurate has not ceased, not for one day. Today, there are tens of thousands of them. Actually, very few have been destroyed under deceptive and limited covenants.

A small group of countries that have a monopoly over such weapons have taken upon themselves the exclusive right to produce and improve them. Meanwhile the contradictions and interests of its members change and humanity develops under a web of nuclear weapons that threaten its very existence. Someone could say something similar to what that Persian emperor said as he and his huge army closed in on the 300 Spartans defending the pass at Thermopiles: “Our nuclear weapons shall hide the sun”.

The lives of the billions of human beings who inhabit this planet depend on what a few think, believe and decide. The worst of it all is that those who wield such great power do not have psychiatrists to look after them. We cannot just accept this. We have the right to denounce it, to exercise pressure and demand changes and an end to such an absurd, unheard of situation, which makes hostages of us all. No one should ever have such powers or else no one on this earth will be able to talk of civilization again.

There is another lethal problem as well: nearly 40 years ago some people began to voice their concerns over what has come to be called the environment, because a barbarous civilization was destroying the natural conditions for life. This extremely sensitive issue was then put on the table for the first time. Quite a few people thought it was just some alarmists exaggerating, a kind of neo-Malthusianism, like in previous centuries.

They were, in fact, well-informed and intelligent people who took to building a public awareness on this issue, at times worried sick that it was too late to take useful measures. Regrettably, those who due to their great political responsibilities should have shown greater concern, showed only ignorance and disregard.

More than ten years have passed since the UN-convened Rio de Janeiro Summit and despite the usual proliferation of speeches, pledges and promises, very little has been done. Nevertheless, there is a growing awareness of the mortal danger. And the struggle must grow and will grow. There is no option.

Recently, a conference was held in Havana on desertification and climate change, which was also convened by the UN. It was an important effort to inform, raise awareness and call people to join the struggle.

In Rio de Janeiro, I was a witness to the deep concerns and fear of representatives from small islands in the Pacific and from other countries threatened by the risk of being either partially or totally submerged by the seas because of climate change. This is sad. The first to suffer the consequences of environmental damage are the poor. They do not have cars, or air conditioners; it is possible they do not even have furniture, if they have houses, that is. The effects of huge emissions of carbon dioxide causing atmospheric warming and the destructive effect of the ultra violet rays that pass through the damaged ozone layer filter have a greater impact on them. When they fall ill, it is common knowledge that there are no hospitals, doctors or medicines for them or their relatives.

A third problem: according to the most conservative estimates possible, world population took no less than 50,000 years to reach one billion. This happened around 1800, just as the 19th century was beginning. It reached two billion 130 years later, in 1930. It reached 3 billion in 1960, thirty years later; 4 billion in 1974, fourteen years later; 5 billion in 1987, thirteen years later; 6 billion in 1999 only 12 years later. Today, it stands at 6.3 billion.

It is really amazing that in just 204 years world population increased by 6.4 times from the figure of one billion reached in 1800, after no less than 50 thousand years, calculated in a relatively arbitrary and conservative way so as to have a point of reference, but that should be further analyzed. It could have taken many more years, if we limit ourselves only to the time it took to reach its current capacity.

At what rate is it growing now?

1999: population 6.002 billion; growth 77 million.

2000: population, 6.1,079 billion; growth 75 million.

2001: population, 6.154 billion; growth 74 million.

2002: population, 6.228 billions; growth 72 million.

2003: population, 6.300 billion; growth 74 million.

2004: estimated population, 6.374 billion; growth 74 million.

What will the world population be in the year 2050?

The lowest estimates say it will be 7.409 billion; the highest say 10.633 billion. According to many experts, there will be around 9.00 billion inhabitants. The enormous alarm generated by this colossal demographic explosion, plus the accelerated degradation of the natural conditions needed for our species’ survival have caused people to react with true dismay in many countries, since almost one hundred per cent of the growth I mentioned will take place in Third World countries.

Aware of the growing deterioration and reduction of land and water resources, of the famines in many countries, of the indifference and wastage in consumer societies and the educational and health problems facing the world population, one could imagine that if all of these problems are not solved our human society might become one where its members devour each other.

It would be a good idea to ask the Olympic champions of human rights in the West if they have ever used a single minute to reflect on these realities, which to a very large degree are the result of the current economic and social system. It would be worth asking them how they feel about a system that, instead of educating the masses as a fundamental element for making progress in the search for urgently needed, viable solutions, with the support of science, technology and culture, spends one trillion dollars every year on alienating consumerist advertising. With the money spent in just one of those years to spread this peculiar poison, all the illiterate and semi-illiterate people in the world could be taught to read and write and even reach ninth grade in less than ten years and no poor child would have to go without schooling. Without education and other social services, crime and drug abuse can never be reduced or eradicated. This we proclaim from Cuba, a country blockaded for 45 years, accused and condemned more than a few times in Geneva by the United States and their closest allies but which is about to provide health, education and cultural development services the like of which the developed and rich West has never even dreamed of and, what is more, these are absolutely free for all citizens, with no exceptions whatsoever.

The neoliberal globalization imposed on the world, designed to facilitate greater looting of the planet’s natural resources, has, in the wake of the fateful “Washington Consensus” led most of the countries in the Third World, and especially those in Latin America, into a desperate and unsustainable situation.

The first fruit of this disastrous policy was the “lost decade” of the 80s during which economic growth in the region only reached 1%; it rose to 2.7 % between 1990 and 1998, much lower than false hopes and pressing needs, to drop again to 1% between 1998 and 2004.

The foreign debt, which in 1985, the year of that treacherous “consensus”, was $300 trillion, today stands at more than $750 trillion.

Privatizations wiped out hundreds of billions of dollars worth of national assets that took many years to create but which evaporated with the speed at which capitals flee from those countries to Europe and the United States. Unemployment reached record heights. Of every 100 new jobs created, 82 are in the so-called “informal sector” which includes a long list of those who earn their living any way they can without any kind of social or legal protection.

Poverty has grown alarmingly, especially extreme poverty; it has grown by 12.8 % involving 44 % of the population. Development is stagnant and social services are deteriorating by the day. Neoliberal globalization, as was to be expected, caused a veritable disaster in these services, first and foremost health and education.

If old and new forms of looting, such as unequal terms of trade, the unceasing, forced flight of capital, the brain drain, protectionism, subsidies and the WTO’s edicts are added to this, then no one should be surprised by the crises and other developments in South America.

Latin America is the world region where neoliberal globalization was applied most rigorously and exactingly. Now it is facing the challenge of the FTAA, which will sweep away national industries and turn the MERCOSUR and the Andean Pact into appendages of the US economy: it is a last assault on the economic development, the unity and the independence of the Latin American peoples.

But, even if this attempt at annexation is successful, this economic order will still be unsustainable, both for the Latin American peoples and for the people in the United States whose jobs are threatened by plentiful cheap labor recruited by the maquilas from among those who were prevented by the existing poverty, educational disaster and unemployment from getting properly trained. Cheap, unskilled labor is something that the Latin American oligarchies can offer on a grand scale.

A summary of all that I have said shows my profound conviction that our species, and with it each one of our peoples, are at a turning point in their history: the course of events must change or else our species will not survive. There is no other planet we can move to. There is no atmosphere, no air and no water on Mars, neither is there any transportation for us to emigrate there en masse. Either we save this what we have, or many millions of years will have to go by before another intelligent species arises that can start all over again the adventure we have gone through. Pope John Paul II has already explained that the theory of evolution is not irreconcilable with the doctrine of the creation.

I must draw my address to a close. There is much work awaiting us in 2004.

I want to congratulate our people for everything it has done over all these years, for its heroism, its patriotism, its fighting spirit, its loyalty and its revolutionary fervor.

I want to offer special congratulations on this 45th anniversary to those who took part in glorious internationalist missions, today epitomized by the exemplary behavior of the five heroes imprisoned by the Empire who, with impressive dignity, have withstood the unjust, vengeful, cruel actions of the enemies of their homeland and their people; epitomized too by the 15,000 doctors who, making great sacrifices, taking risks and dangers carry out their internationalist duties anywhere in more than 64 countries, a human feat that the United States and Europe could never accomplish as they lack the human capital to demonstrate which human rights they are really defending.

With threats or aggressions nobody can prevent our doctors, teachers, sports instructors or any other collaborator from showing their solidarity; nobody can hold back the bravery of our sons and daughters because many are ready for the honor of taking the place of those who might fall victims of terrorist actions encouraged and promoted by extremist officials in the US government.

I congratulate all those who struggle, those who never give up in the face of adversity; those who believe in humanity’s capacity to create, sow and cultivate values and ideas; those who bet on humanity; all of those who share the beautiful tenet that a better world is possible!

We shall fight hand in hand with them and we shall overcome! (Applause)

March 3, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | Leave a comment

May Day 2002

Distinguished guests;

Dear countrymen:

We were condemned in Geneva by those who believe that this sea of people gathered here, which can be seen from every corner of the globe, has been deprived of its human rights. I am certain that not one of those Latin American countries that promoted, co-sponsored or supported this project could gather even 5 % of the number here in their respective capitals.

Are these fanatic, ignorant and uncultured individuals who lack any historical or political knowledge? If we were to ask this mass of people if there were any amongst them who could not read or write; or if there were any functional illiterate people who had never studied beyond grammar school, not one person could raise their hand. But if we were to ask how many of this same mass have the education of a ninth grader or above, more than 90 %, would raise their hands. The only ones who wouldn’t raise their hands would be the students who haven’t yet reached their 15th birthdays.

Our people’s glorious tradition of rebellion and patriotic struggle, to which we must today add a full and profound understanding of freedom, equality and human dignity; their solidarity and internationalist spirit; their self-confidence and heroic conduct; 43 years of tenacious and unrelenting struggle against the powerful empire; a broad and solid political culture and an extraordinary humanism — all of these qualities cultivated by the Revolution– have made Cuba a unique country.

Wretched indeed is the destiny of hundreds of millions of people in this part of the world who, from a truly human perspective, have been as yet unable to emerge from humanity’s prehistory. And it will not be possible for them to escape such condition while the pillage that slaughtered tens of millions of their native ancestors, successively turning their countries into colonies, neo-colonies and economically dependant and underdeveloped countries, continues to govern their destiny.

Events prior to, during and after Geneva are barely distinguishable from the shameful history with which our people have been more than familiar since the very first days after the triumph of the Revolution on January 1st, 1959.

Cuba was the last Latin American country to free itself from Spanish colonialism after a heroic and lone struggle. Yet, it was unable to enjoy that victory, as it immediately fell in the hands of the fledgling North American empire, from which it once again liberated itself with the same determination and heroism 61 years later although it would be disgracefully abandoned and betrayed by every other Latin American government.

No book by Marx or Lenin could illustrate the anti-national, submissive and treacherous nature of the Latin American oligarchies and the true significance of imperialism for the destiny of our people as clearly as the last 43 years of our Revolution’s history. Every oligarchic and bourgeois government joined in the imperialist policy of isolation, blockade and aggression against Cuba, the sole exception being a country that had experienced its own great social revolution some decades before, the same that brought justice and real progress to the people of a nation mutilated by the insatiable expansionism of its northern neighbor and made the martyr on numerous occasions throughout its hazardous and painful history of foreign intervention and conquest. Tragically, this time the exception has become rule.

Cuba is no longer the illiterate, uncultured and inexperienced country of those early days. Today, the Latin American population, that numbered 208 millions at that time including the English-speaking Caribbean nations, have swelled to 526 millions. They have also had the opportunity to learn firsthand the meaning of imperialist domination, exploitation, injustice and pillage. Despite the deluge of slander and lies against our exemplary people and their admirable struggle, and in the face of countless capitulations across the globe, there are ever more people who realize that Cuba is a powerful moral force, that defends the truth and shows its solidarity with other people of the world.

Our Latin American brothers have repeatedly been told stories as fantastic as those in the “Arabian nights”, in which they believe less and less every day. For 50 years they have been told that the hundreds of thousands of children that die every year due to neglect and hunger; the millions that work for pitiful salaries cleaning car windshields or shoes, or being traded or sexually exploited instead of going to school, represent democracy and respect for human rights. That the hundreds of millions of human beings living in poverty despite the immense wealth and natural resources that surround them; the vast number of unemployed and underemployed people and informal laborers who survive without the slightest aid, social security or protection; the medical neglect of mothers, children, old people and the poor population in general; the marginalization, drugs, lack of security and crime, are called democracy; are called respect for human rights. That the death squads, summary executions, torture, and the vanishing and murder of people; that the bribery, misappropriation, diversion and bare-faced robbery of public funds while schools and hospitals are closed, national assets and resources are privatized or often given away to domestic and foreign friends and partners in crime and corruption, constitute the fullest expression of democracy and human rights. It doesn’t occur to them that the economic, political and social system that they defend is a total negation of all possibility of equality, freedom, democracy, human dignity and justice.

An illiterate person or one whose education barely surpasses 4th grade, or one who lives in poverty or extreme poverty, or is unemployed or lives in shanty towns where the most unimaginable conditions are rife, or a person who wanders the streets exposed to the constant poison of commercial advertising sowing the seeds of fantasies, illusions and the desire for impossible consumption, a person such as this, that indeed could include vast numbers of people in the desperate daily fight for survival, could be the victim of every kind of abuse, blackmail, pressure and deceit and could lack any representative organization or see these crushed. It is certainly unlikely that such a person could be in a position to understand the complex problems of the world and the society in which they live. They are in no position to exercise their democratic rights, nor decide which is the most honest or demagogic or hypocritical candidate, this under a torrent of propaganda and lies where those with the most resources spout the most lies and deceit.

No freedom of expression can exist where the principal and most effective media are an exclusive monopoly in the hands of the richest and most privileged sectors, sworn enemies of any economic, political or social change. The enjoyment of wealth, education, knowledge and culture are the preserve of those who, accounting for a tiny fraction of the population, receive the larger part of the goods produced in their countries. It is no coincidence that Latin America exhibits the greatest differences between the richest and the poorest.

What kind of democracy and human rights could exist in these conditions? It would be like trying to grow flowers in the middle of the Sahara desert.

On the other hand, when the total stripping of natural resources and the appropriation of human labor is presented as the ideal social and development model and the FTAA, i.e. the annexation and absorption of Latin America by the United States and dollarization are offered as the only way, it is clear that the prevailing political and economic system is approaching total crisis.

Events in Argentina, that is today embroiled in an unbelievable economic and political chaos that has reduced the country to hunger, with more than 20% unemployment among the working population and where the people’s bank savings –especially those of the middle and lower income classes — have been practically confiscated, point to nothing less than the swan song of neoliberal globalization. Such a crisis inevitably produces a complete lack of ethics and values.

The behavior of many leaders as they watch their model economies collapse like so many houses of cards is truly obnoxious.

People’s protests are crushed with amazing violence. Tear gas, people dragged through the streets, brutality exercised against masses by the police armed with shields and swathed in the strangest helmets and outfits giving them the appearance of recent arrivals from a distant planet, are the methods used to defend that democracy and their citizen’s human rights.

Similar scenes have never been witnessed in our country. Never, over more than four decades, has force been used against our people. The revolutionary process grows out of the closest unity and cooperation of all our people, under a consensus without precedent in any other country in the world, unworkable and even unimaginable in a society of exploiters and exploited.

A cultured, rebellious, brave and heroic people such as the Cuban could never be ruled by force, nor a force exist that would rule it because the Cuban people is the force. Never would our people stir up rebellion against themselves because they are the revolution, they are the government, they are the power. It is with their courage, intelligence and ideas that they have defended themselves from the most powerful empire the world has ever known.

Such a political phenomenon had never before occurred in our hemisphere.

Force has always been used by the oligarchs and the empire against the people.

Each and every one of the Latin American countries that condemned us in Geneva or co-sponsored the draft resolution against Cuba are well below achieving the educational, cultural and social rates that are essential for a healthy, decent and just life of their citizens. Not one can match Cuba in a single one of these rates.

For the sake of time, I will outline just a few figures for Latin America as a whole as compared to Cuba.

Illiteracy rate: Latin America, 11.7 %; Cuba, 0.2 %

Inhabitants per teacher: Latin America, 98.4; Cuba, 43, in other words, 2.3 times as many teachers per capita

Primary education enrolment ratio: Latin America, 92 %; Cuba, 100%

Secondary education enrolment ratio: Latin America, 52 %; Cuba, 99.7 %

Primary school students reaching Fifth Grade: Latin America, 76 %; Cuba, 100 %

Infant mortality per thousand live births: Latin America, 32; Cuba, 6.2

Medical doctors per hundred thousand inhabitants: Latin America, 160; Cuba, 590

Dentists per hundred thousand inhabitants: Latin America, 63; Cuba, 89

Nurses per hundred thousand inhabitants: Latin America, 69; Cuba, 743

Hospital beds per 100 thousand inhabitants: Latin America, 220; Cuba, 631.6

Medically attended births: Latin America, 86.5 %; Cuba, 100 %

Life expectancy at birth: Latin America, 70 years; Cuba, 76 years

Population between 15 and 49 years of age infected with HIV/AIDS: Latin America, 0.5 %; Cuba, 0.05 %

Annual AIDS infection rate per million inhabitants, i.e. those who develop the disease: Latin America, 65.25; Cuba, 15.6

The first international study of the Latin American Laboratory of Evaluation of educational quality, carried out in 12 Latin American countries including Cuba, produced the following results. Although these data have been already mentioned, I would like to briefly refer to them in detail:

In Language, 3rd Grade: Cuba, 85.74 points; the remaining 11 countries, 59.11 points

In Language, 4th Grade: Cuba, 87.25; the rest, 63.75

In Mathematics, 3rd Grade: Cuba, 87.75; the rest, 58.31

In Mathematics, 4th Grade: Cuba, 88.25; the rest, 62.04

What is or will be the future of those countries?

According to these figures, of the seven Latin American countries that voted against Cuba, four –Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay– that had boasted in the past of being the most advanced in the region, fall well behind Cuban figures. In some of these, they reach or scrape past the half way mark in comparison to Cuba, but in others they are very well below. This is the case of pre-school education for 0-5 year olds, for example, that only reaches 15.8 % of the children in that age group in Chile as compared to Cuba’s 99.2 %.

It requires a truly cynical person to join such a Mafia-style adventure, in which they have been involved at the urge of the imperial overlords.

The response to the emergence of the Bolivarian Revolution in which the people and the military joined together to unleash a revolutionary and democratic process that is also unprecedented, was a fascist coup d’état.

The privileged oligarchy, that enjoys the bulk of the country’s income and owns the most powerful media, set its followers on the Bolivarian people and the headquarters of the President himself under the influence and support of imperialism. Their goal was a bloody encounter that could be used to justify the coordinated actions of a small but extremely well-placed military force. Miraculously a bloody civil war was averted, thanks to the reasonable and sensible behavior of President Chávez, the support of the Bolivarian people and the loyalty of the vast majority of the officers and men of the Armed Forces in that sister nation. A new page in America’s complex and arduous history has been turned by the very people that began the process of independence from Spain in this hemisphere.

The stripping of Cuba’s right to representation in Monterrey, the fascist coup in Venezuela and the disgraceful behavior in Geneva in the order in which they occurred have exposed and offered evidence of the dirty and hypocritical politics of the empire’s lackeys. I must point out that the Presidents of Brazil, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean countries did not join the celebrations of the coup. In the same way, Bolivia and Colombia joined the above countries in rejecting the deplorable behavior in Geneva.

As for the fascist coup, not one condemned it except for the Argentinean President who was perhaps nervous considering his delicate political situation in which even a police Sargent could easily overthrow him.

One month later, when the scandal broke out after the shameful Monterrey episode, some leaders maintained a decent silence. Not so the distinguished Secretary General of the discredited and repulsive OAS, as if that organization really existed. He threw poison darts with his support for the abuse sustained by Cuba.

What a trash are many of those who pretend to be sovereign governors!

The honorable history of our Motherland, that once stood alone in battle against practically every one of the predecessors to those governments that voted against Cuba, who had allied themselves to the United States at that time in support of the Bay of Pigs invasion; that heroically resisted without a moment’s weakness on the brink of being wiped off the face of the Earth in the October Crisis of 1962; should shame those conspiring with the United States in Geneva, if they still have at least, the freedom to be ashamed of themselves. Neither will they be able to deny without blushing that when the socialist camp collapsed, the USSR disintegrated, the Yankee blockade was tightened to include the sale of medicines and food, classified as a crime of genocide by the 1948 and 1949 Conventions, and all believed that the Cuban Revolution would be on its knees in just a few weeks, our people endured with unprecedented heroism and resilience.

Cuba, after withstanding the most unbelievable difficulties and threats, terrorist attacks and risks of all kinds has never and will never put down its flags before the hegemonic superpower that today hands out orders to its lackeys and bootlickers in this unfortunate hemisphere through a terrorist made Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, showing an utter lack of respect by the United States government and an utter lack of modesty by its lackeys.

When Cuba’s honor, morale and credibility were called into question by the disagreement with the host country, it became very clear that hypocrisy and lies are inseparable and almost unique tools of the prevailing political and economic system in Latin America.

My decency and ethics were under question when, placed in the dilemma of being loyal to a lie or loyal to the truth; loyal to deceit and slandering manipulation of the facts, or loyal to our people and all peoples of the world, I was loyal to the truth and to the people. The vestal virgins of the temple of hypocrisy tore their clothes in the name of privacy. Even honest men who had been outraged witnesses in the past to electoral incidents and dishonest traps of political adversaries were led to believe that my behavior was inappropriate.

I did not invent anything, I called no-one nor laid any trap for anyone. I gave as much warning as I could to those who had challenged me for more than a month with their demands for evidence, evidence and more evidence. Although by no means did I feel bound by what was later proved, in the course of events, to be a deceitful trick to force me into silence and confidentiality over such a significant issue, I clearly demanded the cessation of all offences. Then, when the lies, slander and demands for proof continued over several weeks, I fulfilled the warning I had made.

I was also accused of being vengeful because of the unfulfilled promise related to Geneva. All my life I have been a gentleman to my adversaries, even in war situations surrounded by death. I’ve never humiliated, offended nor wreaked revenge on a single prisoner, not even in the case of the Bay of Pigs while my comrades lay mortally wounded or dead around me. But I do know how to distinguish the ethical from the unethical. I delayed presentation of the evidence demanded from me only out of the desire to cause no harm to a sister country I admire and respect. Representatives from some friendly governments that participated in the Summit chastised me for not having presented the evidence in the conference itself.

Lying is and will always be unjustifiable from a political, ethical and religious perspective. From what I remember of the catechism lessons I received in 1st Grade in a catholic school, it violates the eighth commandment of God’s law. One must be honorable.

I did not seek any pretexts, and I did not hesitate in expressing the need and duty to leave a historical record of that conversation which they asked me to keep private only once it had already begun. My personal letter to the President was also private, however, it was published without consulting me 48 hours later, on the very same day I left Monterrey.

I truly regret having to include this issue in my speech, but I felt it was my duty to do so. High raking officials from that country continue to attack us on a daily basis over this subject, which is still too fresh to consign it to the wastebasket of forgetfulness.

To those who so foolishly speak and repeat the imperialists slogan that no democracy and no respect for human rights exist in Cuba, let me repeat: no-one can question the fact that, despite being very small, our country today is the freest, fairest and most supportive country on the planet. It is also by far the most democratic. There is only one Party, but this neither nominates nor elects candidates. This is completely forbidden: it is the citizens from the grassroots level who propose, nominate and elect candidates. Our country enjoys an enviable and ever more solid and indestructible unity. The media is public and does not and cannot belong to private individuals. It carries no commercial advertisements and it does not promote consumerism; it entertains and informs, educates and never alienates.

Cuba already occupies world-wide outstanding and hard-to-surpass positions in a growing number of fields essential to guarantee life and the most fundamental political, civil, social, and human rights to ensure the well-being and future of our people. The mass political knowledge of the Cuban people is unrivalled in any other country. Its cultural and social programs and achievements advance at an unprecedented pace.

Our dreams become reality. A more humane society is possible, lies and slander notwithstanding. History will bear this out.

Long live Socialism!

Motherland or Death!

We shall overcome!

March 3, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | Leave a comment

The world economic crisis

Havana, November 2, 2001

My fellow countrymen:

At the opening of the Social Workers Training School in Santiago de Cuba on October 24, I said that in the coming days I would speak about the international economic situation and how it could affect our country, which was carrying out an unprecedented social development program as it gradually recovered from the special period. I do not want to put that discussion off any longer.

To characterize the current situation, one could say, by way of a very brief summary, that in the mid-1990s, when globalization was extending around the planet, the United States, as the absolute masters of the international financial institutions and through its immense political, military and technological strength, achieved the most spectacular accumulation of wealth and power ever seen in history.

But the world and capitalist society were entering into an entirely new phase. Only an insignificant part of economic operations were related to world production and trade. Every day three trillion dollars were involved in speculative operations including currencies and stocks. Stock prices on U.S. exchanges were rising like foam, often with no relation whatsoever to the actual profits and revenues of companies. A number of myths were created: there would never be another crisis; the system could regulate itself, because it had created the mechanisms needed to advance and grow unimpeded. The creation of purely imaginary wealth reached such an extent that there were cases of stocks whose value increased 800 times in a period of only eight years, with an initial investment of 1000 dollars. It was like an enormous balloon that could inflate to infinity.

As this virtual wealth was created it was invested, spent and wasted. Historical experience was completely ignored. The world’s population had quadrupled in only 100 years. There were billions of human beings who neither participated in nor enjoyed this wealth in any way whatsoever. They supplied raw materials and cheap labor, but did not consume and could not be consumers. They did not constitute a market, nor the almost infinite sea fed by the immense river of products that flowed, in the midst of fierce competition, from factories that were ever more productive and created ever fewer jobs, based in a privileged and highly limited group of industrialized countries.

An elementary analysis was sufficient to comprehend that this situation was unsustainable. Nobody seemed to realize that any apparently insignificant occurrence in the economy of one region of the world could shake the entire structure of the world economy.

The architects, specialists and administrators of the new international economic order, economists and politicians, look on as their fantasy falls to pieces, yet they barely understand that they have lost control of events. Other forces are in control now. On the one hand, those of the large and increasingly powerful and independent transnationals and, on the other, the stubborn realities are waiting for the world to truly change.

In July of 1997, the first major crisis of the globalized neoliberal world erupts. The tigers fall to pieces. Japan has still not managed to recover, and the world continues to suffer the consequences.

In August of 1998 comes the so-called Russian crisis. Despite this country’s insignificant contribution to the worldwide gross domestic product, barely 2%, the stock markets of the United States were badly shaken, dropping by hundreds of points in a matter of hours.

In January of 1999, only five months later, the Brazilian crisis breaks out. An all-out joint effort by the G-7, IMF and World Bank was needed to prevent the crisis from spreading throughout South America and dealing a devastating blow to the U. S. stock markets. This time, the inevitable has happened: the crisis began in the United States, almost imperceptibly at first. Beginning in mid-2000, the first symptoms began to be observed, with a sustained decrease in the rate of industrial production.

In March of that year, the so-called high-tech NASDAQ index had already begun to drop. At the same time, the trade deficit showed an enormous growth, from 264.9 billion dollars in 1999 to 368.4 billion in 2000. In the second quarter of the year 2000, the gross domestic product registered growth of 5.7%; in the third quarter, it grew by only 1.3%. Industrial sector production began to fall in October of 2000. Nevertheless, at the end of the year 2000, opinions on the prospects and forecasts for the world economy were still rather optimistic. But reality soon reared its ugly head.

Since the beginning of 2001, the IMF, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission, along with private institutions, have been obliged to downwardly adjust their growth predictions in the various regions of the world for 2001. In May, the IMF forecast 3.2% worldwide growth in 2001. For the United States in particular, projected growth was 1.5%, and 2.4% for the eurozone. Japan was facing its fourth recession in 10 years, leading to a prediction of 0.5% negative growth for the same year.

IMF Managing Director Horst Kohler, during a speech to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva, on July 16, 2001, stated, “Growth is slowing throughout the world. This may be uncomfortable for the advanced economies (the developed and wealthy countries), but it will be a further source of hardship for many emerging markets and developing countries (the poor and underdeveloped countries), and a real setback in the fight against world poverty.”

Production has dropped in the majority of the Southeast Asian countries, with the exception of China, and in Latin America, too. According to the World Bank, growth in Southeast Asia, which had begun to recover after its dramatic fall in 1997, would decline from 7.6% in 2000 to 4.5% this year, while Latin America’s growth would be around 2%, one half of the growth registered in 2000.

Other institutions also made predictions. The Economist magazine estimated in April that world growth in 2001 would be only 2.7%, in contrast to the 4.6% growth registered in the year 2000, while world trade would grow by 3.5%, compared to the 13.4% growth in 2000. With regard to the eurozone, the OECD, in is quarterly report issued in early May of 2001, estimated that the European Union would experience growth of 2.6%, a figure 0.5% lower than its initial projection.

On September 10, just one day before the events in New York and Washington, the IMF analyzed the evolution of growth predictions for the world economy and for the economies of the United States, Europe and Japan. Its findings were as follows:

World Economy – percentage of growth:

Autumn 2000 4.2

March 2001 3.4

Spring 2001 3.2

September 2001 2.7

A progressive fall from 4.2 to 2.7 in less than a year.

The United States:

Autumn 2000 3.2

March 2001 1.7

Spring 2001 1.5

September 2001 1.5

More of the same, from 3.2 to 1.5 over the same time period.

Japan:

Autumn 2000 1.8

March 2001 1.0

Spring 2001 0.6

September 2001 0.2

The numbers speak for themselves.

The Eurozone:

Autumn 2000 3.4

March 2001 2.7

Spring 2001 2.4

September 2001 1.9

Without exception, the three major centers of the world economy saw their growth rates fall simultaneously, dropping to less than half of initial figures over the course of less than a year. In the case of Japan in particular, growth dropped to almost zero.

The employment situation:

At the end of the year 2000, the unemployment rate in the United States was only 3.9%. What happened in the year 2001?

Unemployment rate (percentage):

February 4.2

March 4.3

April 4.5

May 4.4

June 4.5

July 4.5

August 4.9

Although official statistics are not yet available, it is estimated that unemployment has now reached 5.1%, a rate that had not been registered in the United States for many years.

Today, November 2, after this material had been drafted, the official figure was released: it is 5.4%. In just one month, 415 thousand jobs were lost. The increase of the unemployment rate is irrefutable evidence of the deterioration that the U.S. economy had been suffering prior to the terrorist attacks. It should be kept in mind, as an important precedent, that over the last 50 years, when the unemployment rate has reached 5.1%, this has coincided with the beginning of a recession.

Percentage of industrial capacity used in the United States in the year 2001:

February 79.2

March 78.7

April 78.4

May 78.0

June 77.1

July 77.0

August 76.4

In August, industrial production fell by 0.6% as compared to July. Over the previous 12 months, industrial production had shrunk by around 5%. August was the 11th consecutive month of economic contraction. The figure registered in August is very close to the lowest level reached since 1983.

Also registered in the month of August of 2001 was a budget deficit of 80 billion dollars. That same month, Democratic members of Congress were already pointing that predictions indicated that the government would have to use social security money to finance current expenditures.

During the second quarter of 2001, U.S. imports shrank by 13.9 billion dollars, while the low level of trade activity in the rest of the world led to a 9.1 billion-dollar reduction in exports.

Stock values on the main indexes have suffered the following decreases in 2001:

Dow Jones 18.06%

NASDAQ 66.42%

Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 28.48%

This means the loss of trillions of dollars in less than a year.

The Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates nine times in 2001. The goal in doing so is to lower the cost of money, boost consumer confidence and thus promote economic activity. This frantic frequency clearly reflects desperation.

Europe:

Industrial production in the European region experienced a sustained decline in the first quarter of the year 2001 that obliged companies to reduce staff, and this, in turn, reduced consumption, thus creating a vicious downward circle.

Investment and consumption are depressed, aggravating the trend towards recession.

The European Commissioner for Monetary Affairs has stated that the European economy will grow by only 1.5% this year. Meanwhile, the six most prestigious economic research institutes in Germany have predicted that their country’s economy will grow by 0.7% this year and 1.3% next year, and announced that the German economy is on the verge of a recession. This will have a strong negative impact on the rest of Europe, given that Germany is considered the region’s “economic motor.”

Japan:

Japan’s real gross domestic product in the first quarter of the year 2001 dropped more dramatically than expected, with a decrease of 0.2% as compared to predictions of 0.1%, followed by an additional 0.8% drop in the second quarter.

The decrease in industrial production that began in March reached 11.7% by August. This phenomenon of six consecutive months of decline in industrial production has not been witnessed in the Japanese economy since the period from December of 1991 to May of 1992, and it places industrial production at the lowest level of the last seven years. This means an even worse crisis than the financial crisis of 1997-1998, according to Japanese analysts.

Japan’s trade surplus decreased 48% in July of this year.

As a defensive measure, companies are cutting staff, leading to a rise in the unemployment rate, which reached an all-time high of 5% in August of this year, something never before seen in Japan.

Latin America

In August, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reported that the region’s economy would grow by only 2% in 2001, a mere half of the growth registered the previous year (4%). In so doing, it retracted its prior prediction, made in May, forecasting a GDP growth of between 2.7% and 3%.

According to ECLAC, this is the result of the worldwide economic weakening and instability in a number of the region’s key countries: Peru and Uruguay will experience no growth; Brazil has been affected by a scarcity of fuel supplies, which has hit its productive activity, and by an almost 40% devaluation of its currency this year; and Chile’s economic reactivation has come to a halt. In the case of Mexico, a feeble economic growth of 0.13% is predicted for this year, and 1.74% for 2002. The government had originally forecast 4.5% growth in the gross domestic product for 2001, but it has downscaled that figure a number of times due to the slowdown in the world economy, and particularly that of the United States.

ECLAC estimates that unemployment in the region will reach at least 8.5%.

There are people who calmly speak today about the “world economic crisis caused by the terrorist attacks that took place in the United States on September 11 and by the war against Afghanistan initiated on October 7.” Such statements are completely baseless. What I have just outlined irrefutably proves this. The crisis was already breaking out, uncontrollably.

Every week I receive a bulletin with the most important economic news gathered from the most prestigious and reliable public sources of information, or statements made by specialists and political leaders. I remember in particular the bulletin I received on September 8, 2001, exactly three days before the terrible tragedy in New York. It had been many years since I had read so much bad news about the prospects for the international economy in just one bulletin.

Curiosity led me to look it over once again. I have chosen a number of reports from it, which read as follows:

“Hitachi Ltd., Japan’s biggest manufacturer of electronic products, announced that it will cut 14,700 jobs this year, or 4% of its staff, while preparing for a loss of over a billion dollars caused by the collapse of the high-tech sector.”

“Rival Japanese conglomerates Toshiba Corp., NEC Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. have also announced that they plan to cut thousands of jobs.” (CNN, 31/08/2001)

“The president of the United States Federal Reserve said that the rise in housing prices, at the same time that the stock market has collapsed, is making it difficult for the central bank to diagnose the state of the country’s economy. This divergence ‘could have significant implications’ for the country’s economic growth, he declared. (The Wall Street Journal, 31/08/2001)

“The U.S. Federal Reserve has warned in its latest report to the country’s banking institutions that they have not reinforced their risk management systems to the extent demanded by the economic slowdown facing the international economy.” (Spanish newspaper Cinco Días, 31/08/2001)

“The European Commission admitted yesterday that the prediction for economic growth in the eurozone this year will be less than 2.5%. The monetary affairs commissioner, Pedro Solbes, who even noted that Brussels has “some doubts” about this figure, acknowledged this. The drop in rates by a quarter of a point, announced last week by the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), was accompanied by an explicit acknowledgement of an error in calculation. ‘What we have underestimated is how long and severe the slowdown has turned out to be in the United States,’ Duisenberg said. ‘If I may say so, we, and also the United States authorities, have tended to be too optimistic regarding the duration and depth of the slowdown,’ he said, recalling the opinions of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.

“The ECB’s orientation difficulties are contained in this brief analysis, which comes a bit late after the gradual reduction from the 3.2% growth in the eurozone predicted in January to the 2% estimated in recent days.” (Spanish newspaper Cinco Días, 31/08/2001)

“The president of the United States acknowledged his concern over the persistent decline in U.S. economic activity and its repercussions on the labor market. I am aware of the problems being faced today by the families of workers affected by the economic crisis, but I am convinced that the economy will get back on its feet, he declared before a meeting of trade union groups.

“With the economy on the brink of a recession, the president tried to convince U.S. workers that he was aware of their situation and that he is doing something to remedy it. The matter is complicated, given that the weakening of consumer confidence, the decline in financial markets and the lukewarm growth of the major world power have placed economic affairs at the top of the president’s agenda.” (Spanish newspaper Expansión, 04/09/2001)

Note that President Bush, who is not very partial to these subjects, made these declarations one week before September 11.

“Growth is practically arrested in Latin America, according to first-quarter figures on the gross domestic product.

“The balance for 2001 will show a new drop in per capita gross domestic product in the region, asserted the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria in its latest report on Latin America. The bank has lowered its prediction of growth in this group of countries from an initial 3.9% down to 1%, a rate that fails to match population growth.

“The reasons for this more pessimistic view are to be found in a world economic slowdown greater than estimated at the beginning of the year.”

“The feeble growth of the main economies has translated into a heavy reduction in external demand and, as a result, in Latin American exports as well.

“The Mexican economy has been the hardest hit by the consequences, given its high degree of dependence on industrial activity in the United States. Its growth this year will be limited to 0.2%, according to the bank, as compared with the 6.9% growth registered in 2000.” (Spanish newspaper Cinco Días, 04/09/2001)

“The number of layoffs announced in the United States has already surpassed one million so far this year, despite the fact that the pace of cutbacks was curbed in August. In all, U.S. companies announced plans to eliminate 140,0199 jobs that month, which was 32% less than the total for July, but over double the cuts registered in August of 2000. As a result, the sum total for the first eight months of the year reached 1,120,000 jobs eliminated, a number 83% greater that the total cuts in the year 2000. The telecommunications sector continues to be the hardest hit, with 19% of jobs in the sector eliminated so far this year.” (Spanish newspaper Cinco Días, 05/09/2001)

“The serious budgetary difficulties in Germany and Italy and less severe difficulties in Spain are joined by those of France, whose cash deficit rose by 16% in the first five months of the year.” (Spanish newspaper Expansión, 05/09/2001)

“German Minister of the Economy Werner Müller admitted that growth in the gross domestic product of the German giant will not reach 1.5% this year. Up until now he had only admitted that growth would be ‘under 2%’. Müller’s declarations will act as a further bucket of cold water for those who had predicted a swift recovery for the German economy.” (Spanish newspaper Cinco Días, 05/09/2001)

“While U.S. industry was beginning to give off positive signs of recovery, it is now the service sector that is responsible for throwing a new bucket of cold water on expectations. Activity in the service sector declined once again in August, according to figures from the National Association of Purchasing Managers. The monthly index of activity dropped from 48.9 points in July to 45.5 points in August, which represents the second consecutive month below the 50-point level, considered the dividing line between recession and growth. In August there was a sharp drop in new orders, indicating a serious decline in activity for the coming months. The figure far exceeded the predictions of analysts who expected a minimum reduction to 48 points at most.” (Spanish newspaper Cinco Días, 06/09/2001)

“According to figures from the International Monetary Fund, between 500 billion and a trillion and a half dollars a year ­ between 1.5% and 4.5% of worldwide gross domestic product ­ generated by illegal activities are laundered through the banking system.” (Spanish newspaper El País, 06/09/2001)

“The Central Bank of the United Kingdom recently cut its prediction for gross domestic product growth in 2001 to 2%, the lowest level since the recession in the early 90s.” (Spanish newspaper Cinco Días, 06/09/2001)

“Moody’s, a rating agency specializing in risk assessment and considered a world leader in this area, warned yesterday of the possibility of lowering the rating of Japanese sovereign bonds.”

“Today the gross domestic product figure for the second quarter of the year will be announced, and analysts’ predictions point to a drop of between 0.9% and 1%. If this is the case, the economy would technically enter a recession after a 0.2% fall in gross domestic product between January and March. The figure raises questions about the future of the world’s second economy in the context of a slowdown heightened by the weakness of the United States.” (Spanish newspaper Cinco Días, 07/09/2001)

As can be seen, the economic crisis is not a consequence of the September 11 attacks and the war against Afghanistan. Such claims could only be made out of total ignorance or an attempt to hide the real cause. The crisis is a consequence of the resounding and irreversible failure of an economic and political conception imposed on the world: neoliberalism and neoliberal globalization.

The terrorist attacks and the war did not give rise to the crisis, but they have considerably aggravated it. What had already been rapidly advancing was abruptly and untimely boosted even further. Humanity must now confront three extremely serious problems, which feed off of one another: terrorism, the war and the economic crisis.

The economic crisis also means the aggravation of major problems that are far from being solved: poverty, hunger and disease, which kill tens of millions of people in the world every year; illiteracy, lack of education, unemployment, and the exploitation of millions of children through child labor and prostitution; the trafficking and consumption of drugs, which mobilizes and absorbs hundreds of billions of dollars; money laundering; the lack of drinking water; the scarcity of housing, hospitals, communications, schools and educational facilities. The crucial rights of all human beings are affected.

The crisis will have an especially negative impact on the struggle for sustainable development, the preservation of the environment and the protection of nature from the merciless destruction to which it is being subjected, and which is causing the poisoning of the waters and the atmosphere, the destruction of the ozone layer, deforestation, desertification, and the extinction of animals and plants. How could this possibly not be taken into the slightest account?

There are nations and even entire regions on some continents that could be annihilated if terrifying plagues like AIDS are not urgently combated and defeated by humankind; and if terrorism, war and the economic crisis are not resolutely confronted. Now is the time when cooperation among all countries is needed more than ever before. Although it is essential to return to this theme before I finish my presentation, I would first like to explain how the current international situation and the economic crisis are influencing and will undoubtedly continue to influence our own country.

The economic crisis had already been affecting some of our main sources of convertible currency.

The most direct immediate consequences: the price of sugar on the world market has fallen from 9 to 6.53 cents a pound; the price of nickel, another export line in which production had increased alongside a reduction in costs and fuel expenditures, dropped from 8.64 dollars to 4.715 dollars a ton; sales of tobacco, another of our most important export products, are declining in all markets. The crisis has also limited other exports of goods and services that were being developed.

Direct consequences of the terrorist attacks and the war unleashed

Despite the world economic crisis that was developing and the rise in airfares resulting from increased fuel costs, we had received a total of 1,304, 597 tourists as of August 31 this year. This represented growth of 7.8% in comparison with the same period last year, when 1,200,076 tourists were received.The number of visitors staying in tourism industry facilities grew by 11.3%.

In September, the total number of visitors decreased, in only 20 days, by 9.9% in comparison with the same month last year. It is estimated that the decrease for the month of October will reach 14%. Varadero and the city of Havana, the country’s two most important tourist destinations, are also the most affected.The goal of receiving a total of two million tourists was feasible, and the first million was reached three weeks earlier than last year, during the first quarter. Now the growth achieved will likely be only 3% to 6%.

The blow dealt to the Caribbean after September 11 was even more severe. They depended more on tourism from the United States.There have been other negative effects resulting from the causes mentioned above and from other causes aside from terrorism and the war: The possibility of obtaining credits has been reduced due to the reduction in our convertible currency income. We have financial obligations that must be met despite the reduction in convertible currency income.

Foreign exchange bureaus

Cuba’s foreign exchange bureaus (known by the acronym CADECA) felt an immediate effect as soon as the bombing started. To allow for a fuller understanding, I need to explain that during the most difficult moments of the special period, the depreciation of our currency, the Cuban peso, led the exchange rate to 150 pesos to the dollar. The measures adopted and the creation of the CADECAs improved the rate to 20 pesos to the dollar. This brought major benefits to the population: their money rose in value, and all the people were given access to stores operating in convertible currency.

Over the course of more than five years, our country achieved an unprecedented feat, unique in the world: despite the blockade and the economic war, it managed to maintain a stable exchange rate for its currency, with minor fluctuations in one direction or the other. The bank always obtained a small difference in its favor, because the CADECAs met with a greater supply of dollars for pesos than the supply of pesos for our convertible pesos [equivalent in value to U.S. dollars within Cuba]. The difference obtained was devoted entirely to acquiring raw materials sold in convertible currency in order to manufacture products for sale to the population in Cuban pesos, from French bread to brand-name beer, along with many other products. The national currency funds thus recovered served in turn to maintain the stability of the peso-dollar exchange rate.

Then the situation was reversed: the supply of dollars decreased and the demand for convertible pesos increased. For 20 consecutive days, with the exception of three, the bank supplied more dollars than it received. The adverse balance reached almost four million dollars.

The CADECAs operate on the principle of supply and demand; it can be no other way. As a result, the peso began to decline in value. At one point, the exchange rate reached 28 pesos to the convertible peso in a number of provinces. Three days ago it stabilized at 26 pesos to the convertible peso; convertible pesos are equivalent in value to U.S. dollars and can be immediately changed into U.S. dollars upon request.

The peso, in these circumstances, lost 18.18% of its value. This is a situation that must be monitored closely. At the moment, the country should not take any risks with its convertible currency resources. It is our duty to inform our people, so that they may adopt the decisions they deem most advisable under any given circumstances. At times when the situation calls for the devaluation of the peso, they should not let themselves be influenced by the advice of speculators or by fear.

It should not be forgotten that the Revolution, in such difficult conditions as those prevailing in 1994, succeeded in bringing about the decrease in the exchange rate from 150 pesos to the dollar to 20 to the dollar, and it kept this rate relatively stable for many years. The population has the possibility of making term deposits in pesos, which pay an interest rate of 7.5% annually, triple the interest paid on accounts in dollars, and 50% more than the interest paid on convertible pesos.

In the end, the Revolution will win this battle against the consequences of the international economic crisis as well, no matter how serious that crisis becomes, and its currency will eventually increase in value once again.

The Revolution, with all its moral authority, guarantees all citizens:

1. That the CADECAs will not be closed

2. That all bank deposits, whether in regular Cuban pesos, convertible pesos or dollars, will be absolutely respected.

3. That the stores that sell goods in convertible currency, and to which everyone has access, to a greater or lesser extent, in accordance with their income in one currency or the other, will not be closed.

4. That the farmers markets will remain open.

5. That the value of the Cuban peso will be resolutely defended. The prices of goods and services currently offered to the population at official prices, whether rationed or not, will not go up by a single cent. In accordance with this policy, the only prices that may vary are those in the farmers markets, for obvious reasons, since they operate on the basis of supply and demand, and those in the state-run farmers markets, which should use the regular farmers markets as a point of reference, but maintain lower prices, depending on the resources available to us. The prices in convertible currency stores may vary as well, as they always have.

6. The prices of the 700,000 Chinese television sets that will be distributed and sold to the population in national currency will be calculated at the exchange rate of 20 pesos to the dollar, as was previously established. They will be paid for in the installments agreed upon, with no interest charges whatsoever.

We have not lived through ten years of the special period in vain.

Today, of course, the main concern of our people and the planet as a whole is the preservation of peace, because without peace, the world would be headed towards a fatal abyss. And we will struggle for peace with the same courage, honor and dignity as we always have. We will confront the economic crisis successfully. No sacrifice intimidates us, not even the sacrifice of our lives. This is very well known. We have endured all manners of sacrifices for many years. Those who thought the Revolution would only last a matter of weeks now admire our heroic capacity to resist and move forward.

Many pages could be filled with accounts of the feats we have achieved. We need only mention a few:

· Before the special period, out of every peso invested, 80 cents were exploited, and that figure fell to 50 cents in 1994; today it stands at 91 cents. In 1994, it took approximately 12 days to build one hotel room; in 2000, the time was reduced to 2.2 days.

· The budget deficit has been maintained at less than 3% of the gross domestic product over the last five years, after reaching 33.5% in 1993.

· Labor productivity has increased by 19%. Almost 75% of the growth in the economy has resulted from this factor.

· The tourism sector has experienced an eight-fold increase in income and a fivefold increase in the number of tourists. This has been achieved by merely tripling the number of hotel rooms and doubling the number of workers.

· Oil production, which totaled 500,000 tons at the beginning of the special period, has now risen to the equivalent of 3.6 million tons, between oil and natural gas. We will not hesitate to invest in this area. Next year we will surpass the figure of four million tons. For each ton of Cuban oil and natural gas used in electrical power production and other industries, the country saves 60% of the price in convertible currency.

· Production levels today are the same or much higher in comparison with 1989 in sectors like tourism, manufacturing for the domestic convertible-currency market, electrical power generation, nickel, vegetable crops, citrus fruits, pharmaceuticals, cigars for export, and others. The same holds true for results in education, health care, culture, sports and science.

· The daily per capita calorie intake rose from 1948 calories in 1994 to 2578 last year, while the protein intake went from 47.7 grams to 68.3 grams in the same period.

· The average monthly salary, which was 185 pesos in 1994, should reach 242 pesos by the end of the year, while the average income, which includes monetary incentives and other forms of payment in kind, will reach 373 pesos.

· In the state-funded public sector, 82% of workers, or 1,091,200 workers in all, have received raises in their salaries.

· In the self-financing enterprise sector, 73.3% of workers, or 1,322,000 workers, are paid according to performance.

· Over 1.2 million workers are eligible for performance-based incentives in convertible Cuban pesos or their equivalent.

· The farmers markets, from their emergence in 1994, reduced their prices by 84%. The state-run farmers markets, which now extend throughout the country, and charge lower average prices than the regular farmers markets, have served to curb price increases in the latter.

· Unemployment, which rose to 8% in the worst years of the special period, was reduced to 5.4% in 2000. The differences among regions in this regard are a focus of special attention.

· In 1994 there were power cuts on 344 days, almost every day of the year, and 1.2 million MW of energy were not provided due to a power deficit; last year, there were power cuts on only 77 days, with 64,000 MW not provided.

· Residential power consumption grew by 16% in the last few years. That growth could have been 25% if the energy-saving program had not been implemented.

· There is greater protection of the environment today, with a decrease in all types of pollution (of the soil, water and air). Economic growth has not been achieved at the cost of destroying the environment, but instead has contributed to improving it, in line with sustainable development.

· The percentage of the population with access to drinking water rose from 82% to 94%, with over 1.2 million people benefiting from the construction of water supply systems in 2454 rural communities. Almost all of the country’s water is chlorinated.

· A natural gas program is underway, and since the end of 1998, it has benefited over a million people in 268,209 households, who can now cook with bottled gas instead of kerosene.

· The telephone expansion program that began in 1999 has provided 146,750 new telephone lines so far.

· All public telephones have been changed to digital phones. In 1999, there were 11,860 public telephones, and that number had risen to 18,000 by the end of the year 2000. A further 4700 will be installed this year.

· Some 320,000 new homes have been built in the last five years, benefiting over 1.2 million people.

· Social security and social protection services have been guaranteed for the most vulnerable sectors.

· During these 10 years of the special period, over 17 billion pesos have been paid out in pensions.

There is no need for me to talk about the battle of ideas and the colossal social project that you all know about, which is leading us towards a much more fair and improved socialism, and towards the goal of becoming the most educated and cultured people in the world. Suffice it to say that it encompasses 70 programs and hundreds of tasks, with several of the most important already completed.

Some future dreams will have to wait, but these will be fulfilled.

The most important investments have already been made, and were minimal. The fundamental role has been played and will continue to be played by the immense human capital of our people.

Today we are politically more united and stronger than ever.

We are much better prepared to confront this situation.

Our social justice will allow us to protect all our people.

There is greater organization in our political and grassroots institutions, our State and our Government.

Our enterprise sector is improving; we have learned to produce with fewer resources, greater efficiency and greater discipline.

We are aware of what has been happening in the world to those who have renounced socialism and implemented neoliberal policies.

We have a people who are steadily becoming ever more cultured, more conscientious, and better prepared in every sense.

At the beginning of the special period, our socialist ideology had suffered a terrible blow. Today, the terrible blow has been dealt to the ideology of our adversary, through a profound economic and ideological crisis.

I noted earlier that before concluding, I would return to the issue of terrorism, the war and the international economic crisis.

Although we have made our stance known, I think it would be worthwhile to recall that on September 11, just hours after the events, and having expressed our total condemnation of the brutal attack and our sincere and selfless solidarity with the people of the United States ­ since we never asked for nor expected anything in return ­ we expressed a conviction that we continue to hold today, with more strength and certainty than ever: “None of the present problems of the world can be solved by force. […] The international community should build a world conscience against terrorism. […] Only the intelligent policy of seeking strength through consensus and the international public opinion can decidedly uproot this problem […] this unimaginable event should serve to launch an international struggle against terrorism. […] The world cannot be saved unless a path of international peace and cooperation is pursued.”

A week later, in San Antonio de los Baños, I declared on behalf of our people, “Whatever happens (that is to say, whether or not there is a war), the territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the American people.”

I added something else: “We will do everything within our reach to prevent such actions against that people. Today we are expressing our solidarity while urging to peace and calmness. One day they will admit we were right.”

A week later, on September 29, at the Revolutionary Mass Rally held in Ciego de Avila, I continued to stress our points of view: “Nevertheless, no one should be misled into thinking that the peoples of the world, and a number of honest political leaders, will not react as soon as the war actions become a reality and their horrific images start to be seen. These will then take the place of the sad and shocking images of the events in New York at a time when forgetting them would bring irreparable damage on the spirit of solidarity with the American people that is today a primary element towards the eradication of terrorism, without the need to resort to a war of unpredictable consequences and avoiding the death of an incalculable number of innocents.

“The first victims can already be seen. They are the millions trying to escape the war and the dying children with ghastly appearance whose images will move the world to pity without anyone being able to prevent their dissemination.”

The events that have been taking place make it increasingly clear how right we were. An editorial in Granma, the official newspaper of our Communist Party, published on October 8, just hours after the war had been unleashed, stated: “It is not a war against terrorism; […] it is a war in favor of terrorism, since the military operations will make it more complicated and difficult to eradicate it. It is like pouring oil on the flame.

“From now on, there will be a real avalanche of news about bombs, missiles, air strikes, the advance of armored vehicles with troops of ethnic groups allied with the invaders, the dropping of paratroops or the ground advance of elite forces of the attacking countries. Rather soon, there will be news about occupied cities, the capital included, and TV images of whatever censure permits or escapes control. The fight will be against the people of that country and not against the terrorists. There are no battalions or armies of terrorists. This is a sinister concept and an insidious method of struggle against a ghost.”

After 26 days of relentless bombing, those who have been following events from day to day can see that what has happened up until now is exactly as we predicted. The war began inexorably. We knew that it was extremely unlikely, practically impossible, that it would not happen. Nevertheless, this has not led us, either before or after, to become discouraged or renounce our stance.

We insisted that it was necessary to fight against terrorism and against the war. A spirit of revenge or hatred against America never led us. It was with sadness that I meditated on the mistake that, in my view, was being made but I never uttered an insult or a personal offense. I have often said to those involved in this battle of ideas that there is no need to personally offend anyone. I rather enumerate facts, avoid adjectives, and analyze with cool head and wage arguments. That preserves our moral authority and prevents anyone from questioning the strength and sincerity of our position.

Presently, I am afraid that if the possibility existed to defeat terrorism without a war, through cooperation and with the unanimous support of all the international community leading to truly efficient measures and to the building of a strong moral conscience against terrorism, that possibility tends to fade away with every passing day.

The worst would be to come to a point when it would no longer be possible to find a solution that way because I see it ever more clearly that it is absurd and impossible to try to resolve this through war. I try to imagine what was going through the minds of the American political and military strategists; maybe they thought that a colossal deployment of forces would crush the will of the Taliban; perhaps, they were hopeful that an initial devastating blow would attain that objective.

Everybody knows the estimates made by NATO during the war against Yugoslavia. The idea was that the objectives would be accomplished in 5 days, but almost 80 days passed and it had not happened. It is also a known fact that despite the extraordinary display of technology and means, the Serbian army was practically intact. The envoys of Russia and Finland had to weight heavily to “persuade” the adversary through diplomatic channels when the time had come to fight on the ground, something that the members of the coalition were not particularly fond of.

I do not share the view that the United States’ main pursuit in Afghanistan was oil. I rather see it as part of a geo-strategic concept. No one would make such a mistake simply to go after oil, least of all a country with access to any oil in the world, including all the Russian oil and gas it wishes. It would be sufficient for the U.S. to invest, to buy and to pay. Based on its privileges, the United States can even purchase it by minting reserve bonds on a 30 years maturity span. That is how, throughout more than 80 years, it has bought products and services accounting for over 6.6 trillion dollars.

Military actions in Afghanistan are fraught with dangers. That is an extremely troubled area where two large countries have fought several wars. There are profound national and religious antagonisms between them. The population of the disputed territory is mostly Islamic. As the tempers grow frail, a war might break out; and both countries have nuclear capability. That risk is as serious as the destabilization of the Pakistani government by the war. That government is being placed in a highly complicated position. The Taliban emerged there, and they share the same Pashtun ethnia with an undetermined number of Pakistanis, in fact, no less than 10 million; and I have chosen the most conservative figure among those that have been mentioned. They also share with fanatic passion the same religious beliefs.

The U.S. military are usually well versed in their trade. I have met some when, after retirement, they have visited Cuba as scholars. They write books, tell stories and make political analyses. I was then not surprised by the information released by The New Yorker magazine of October 29 in the sense that there was a contingency plan to seize the Pakistani nuclear warheads, in case a radical group took over the government of that country.

It was absolutely impossible for the American strategists to overlook that substantial risk. Every bomb dropped on Afghanistan, every picture of dead children or people dying or suffering from terrible wounds, tend to compound that risk. What is hard to imagine is the reaction of those responsible for protecting those weapons, to a plan that is by now of public domain as much as Chronicle of a death foretold by Gabriel García Marquez.

I am not aware of something the U.S. Special Services should know only too well, that is, where and how those nuclear warheads are kept and the way in which they are protected. I try to imagine ­and it is not easy– how such an action could be conducted by elite troops. Perhaps, one day someone might tell how it could be done. But, still, I find it hard to imagine the political scenario in the aftermath of such an action when the fight would be against over 100 million additional Muslims. The U.S. government has denied the existence of such contingency plan. It was to be expected. It could not do otherwise.

The most logical question that crosses my mind is whether the heads of governments and statesmen who are friends of the United States and have a longstanding political and practical experience did not see these potential dangers, and why they did not warn the United States and tried to persuade it. Obviously, America’s friends fear it but do not appreciate it.

It is always difficult to try to guess when it comes to these issues. But, there is something of which I am absolutely certain: it would be sufficient if 20 or 30 thousand men used clever methods of irregular warfare, the same that the United States wants to use there, and that struggle could last 20 years. It is completely impossible to subdue the Afghan adversary in an irregular warfare on that country’s ground with bombs and missiles, whatever the caliber and the power of these weapons.

They have already been through the hardest psychological moments. They have lost everything: family, housing, and properties. They have absolutely nothing else they can lose. Nothing seems to indicate that they will surrender their weapons, even if their most notable leaders were killed. The use of tactical weapons, which some have suggested, would have the effect of multiplying by one hundred that mistake and with it unbearable criticism and universal isolation. Therefore, I have never believed that the leaders of that country have seriously considered such tactics, not even when they were most enraged.

These are simply my thoughts that I am expressing to you. I think the way to show solidarity with the American people that lost thousands of innocent lives, including those of children, youths and elders, men and women to the outrageous attack, is by frankly speaking out our minds. The sacrifice of those lives should not be in vain, but rather it should be useful to save many lives, to prove that thinking and conscience can be stronger than terror and death.

We are not suggesting that any crime committed on Earth should be left unpunished, I simply do not have elements of judgement to accuse anyone in particular. But, if the culprits were those that the U.S. government is trying to punish and remove, there is no doubt that the way in which they are doing it will lead to the creation of altars where the alleged murderers will be worshiped as saints by millions of men and women.

It would be better to build an enormous altar to Peace where Humankind can pay homage to all the innocent victims of blind terror and violence, be it an American or an Afghan child. This is said by somebody who considers himself an adversary of the United States’ policies but not an enemy of that country, one who believes to have an idea of human history, psychology and justice.

Having come to this point there is only one more issue left to discuss.

What is happening with the anthrax is absolutely incomprehensible. Real and sincere panic has been created. The stocks of medications to fight that bacterium are being depleted. Many people are buying gas masks and other devices, some of which cost thousands of dollars.

Extravagant behavior can cause more damage than the disease. When there is an outbreak of any disease, whatever the cause, it is essential to warn the people and to provide information on the illness and the measures that should be taken to prevent it, diagnose it and fight it. Diseases are carried from one country to another in natural ways, that is, through people, animals, plants, food, insects, commercial products and a thousand other ways, without the need for anyone to produce them in laboratories. That is how it has been historically. That is the reason for so many public-health regulations.

The chaos and the psychological reaction to anthrax have turned the American society into a hostage of those who want to hurt it, knowing beforehand that they will sow terror. On numerous occasions our country has had to face up to new diseases affecting people, plantations and herds, many of them deliberately introduced. No wonder our country has graduated 67,128 medical doctors and thousands of technicians in plant and animal health. Our people know what should be immediately done in such cases.

No other country in the world compares with the United States in the number of research centers, laboratories and medications, or the capacity to produce them or purchase them, to fight that or any other disease. In the face of real or imaginary risk, either current or future, there is no other choice but to educate the people to cope with them. This is what the Cubans have done.

The causes that gave rise to panic should be analyzed. Certainly, it could not be said that the United States is not in risk of terrorist actions. However, I do not believe that under the present circumstances of generalized alertness, and the measures taken, any group inside or outside America could come up with a coordinated action, organized in every detail for a long time, synchronized and executed with such precision as that of September 11.

In my view the main risk may lie with individual actions, or actions carried out by very few people from inside or outside America that could cause lesser or greater damage. None can be underestimated. But as important as the preventive measures that should be taken to tackle such risks, or even more important, is to psychologically disarm the potential perpetrators. And these include those who might want to do it out of political extremism, vengeance or hatred, or a significant number of people who are frustrated, unstable or deranged who might feel tempted by the spectacular or by wishes to be the main actors of well-known events. They could drive the American people mad by sending mail with or without anthrax. Everything possible should be done to put an end to panic, extravaganza and chaos, then danger will be reduced.

In Cuba we have also seen the arrival and circulation of letters and postcards with strange powders and other things. One hundred and sixteen of them were detected from 15 to 31 October. 72 were coming from abroad: 36 from the United States, 8 from Great Britain, 3 from Canada, 2 from the Checkia Republic, 2 from Spain, 2 from The Netherlands, 1 from Denmark, 1 from Chile and 1 from the Arab Emirates. Of these letters 25 were addressed to me. I thank the senders for their kindness.

Our laboratory staffs are becoming real experts. Thirty-one originated within the country and circulated here, several were no more than bad jokes. Five were being sent from Cuba to other countries: 2 to the United States, 1 to Pakistan, 1 to Italy and 1 to Costa Rica. In eight cases it has not been possible to determine where they have come from.

Out of the 116 letters that have been examined, except for 24 that are still under analysis, no biological agent has been found. Not one worker in our postal services, the offices in the Palace [of the Revolution] or the laboratories has been contaminated. We are all in good health. There was no sensationalism, no scandal, no alarm or panic. No one purchased gas masks or medications. I am telling you the story simply to illustrate what I said about how incomprehensible it is what has happened with the anthrax in America.

Even if a bacterium had been introduced here, there would be no panic and everybody would know what to do. But, it would certainly be very difficult for a letter to go out from Cuba to another country carrying viruses or bacteria. We are pleased to know that the two letters addressed to the United States did not leave our country, neither did the others that were supposed to get to other countries.

And thus we will cooperate with every people in the world. Our doctors and other specialists as well as our technicians, research centers and our modest experience will be available in the struggle against biological bio-terrorism and other forms of terror.

It is clear by now that America’s friends fear it but do not appreciate it. Cuba is not in the least fearful of the enormous power of that nation, but it can appreciate its people.

Thank you, very much.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | Leave a comment

The first victims of war are the innocents

[Speech by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba. Ciego de Avila, September 29, 2001]

Fellow countrymen:

A peaceful solution would still be possible. The present situation is so tense that nobody could write a speech hours before delivery and be certain that it is not outdated. I am also running the risk of sounding too optimistic even when I am not. However, it is my duty to say what I think.

The unanimous shock suffered by all peoples of the world on September 11, due to the insane terrorist attacks against the American people, which could be seen live on television, has created exceptional conditions for the eradication of terrorism without the need to unleash a useless and perhaps endless war.

Terrorist actions in the United States, as anywhere else in the world, inflict terrible damage on the peoples fighting for a cause that objectively they consider to be fair. Terror has always been an instrument of the worst enemies of Mankind bent on suppressing and crushing the peoples’ struggle for freedom. It can never be the instrument of a truly noble and just cause.

All throughout history, almost every action intended to attain national independence, including that of the American people, was carried out with the use of weapons and nobody ever questioned, or would question, that right. But, the deliberate use of weapons to kill nocent people must be definitely condemned and eradicated for it is as unworthy and inhuman as it is repulsive, the same as the historic terrorism perpetrated by the oppressing states.

In the present crisis, real possibilities still exist to eradicate terrorism without a war but the main obstacle is that the most notable political and military leaders in the United States refuse to listen to any word said against the use of weapons and in favor of a truly effective solution to the worrisome problem, heedless of the fact that it would be very honorable for the American people to accomplish that objective while avoiding blood shedding.

The decision-makers are only betting on war actions. They have associated honor with war. Some speak of the use of nuclear weapons as if it were as simple as having a cup of tea. Others affirm that paratroopers will be employed in irregular warfare tactics. Someone has even speculated on the advisability of using lies as a weapon although others have shown more rationality and common sense but still along the war line. Objectivity and rationality are not abundant. Many people have been made to believe that only belligerent formulas are viable regardless the loss of American lives.

It is hard to know whether the final tactic and strategy of struggle have already been decided upon to use against a country whose communications and technological infrastructure as well as material conditions seem to have hardly left the Stone Age behind. Will irregular warfare tactics with squadrons of aircraft carriers, armored warships, cruisers and submarines be used in a landlocked country? Why send also scores of B-1 and B-52 bombers, hundreds of modern fighter planes, thousands of missiles and other strategic weapons? What are they going to shoot against?

Meanwhile, confusion and panic prevail in the rest of the world, while opportunistic positions motivated by convenience and national interests are not lacking. Some have torn their honor to pieces. And, following the initial atmosphere of uncertainty there is a bizarre and widespread ostrich reflex despite the fact that there are not even enough holes to hide heads.

Many seem not to have realized yet that, on September 20, before the United States Senate, the end of independence was decreed for every other state –without exceptions– as well as the end of the United Nations’ role.

Nevertheless, no one should be misled into thinking that the peoples of the world, and a number of honest political leaders, will not react as soon as the war actions become a reality and their horrific images start to be seen.

These will then take the place of the sad and shocking images of the events in New York at a time when forgetting them would bring irreparable damage on the spirit of solidarity with the American people that is today a primary element towards the eradication of terrorism, without the need to resort to a war of unpredictable consequences and avoiding the death of an incalculable number of innocents.

The first victims can already be seen. They are the millions trying to escape the war and the dying children with ghastly appearance whose images will move the world to pity without anyone being able to prevent their dissemination.

It is a great mistake on the part of the United States and its NATO allies to believe that the strong nationalism and religious sentiments of Muslims can be neutralized with either money or a promise of assistance, or that their countries can be permanently intimidated by force. There are already statements from religious leaders of major nations, that have no affinity whatsoever with the Taliban, who are voicing their resolute opposition to a military attack. Meanwhile, contradictions are beginning to arise among the United States’ allies, both in Center and South East Asia.

On the other hand, xenophobia, hatred and scorn for every Muslim country are starting to emerge. An important European head of government has just said in Berlin that Western civilization is superior to Islamic and that the West will keep on conquering peoples, even if that means confrontation with the Islamic civilization, which has remained stuck where it was 1400 years ago.

In an economic situation such as the world is experiencing today, when extremely serious problems affecting Mankind remain unresolved, including its own survival which is threatened by other evils unrelated to the destructive power of modern weaponry, one wonders: Why this obstinate course of starting a complicated and open-ended war? Why are the American leaders showing such arrogance when their enormous power gives them the privilege of showing some moderation?

It would suffice to return to the United Nations Organization the prerogatives that it has been deprived of and let the General Assembly, its most universal and representative body, be the center of that fight for peace –regardless of its limitations due to the arbitrary veto right of the Security Council standing members, most of them also a part of NATO– and for the eradication of terrorism with total and unanimous support from the world opinion.

Under no circumstances should those responsible for the brutal attacks against the American people be allowed to go unpunished, if they can be identified. An honorable condition for every country would be that they are tried by an unbiased court of law that would ensure the reliability of the evidence and that justice be done.

Cuba was the first country to speak of the need for an international struggle against terrorism just a few hours after the tragedy brought on the American people on September 11. We also said that: “None of the present problems of the world can be solved by force. […] The international community should build a world conscience against terrorism. […] Only the intelligent policy of seeking strength through consensus and the international public opinion can decidedly uproot this problem […] this unimaginable event should serve to launch an international struggle against terrorism. …] The world cannot be saved unless a path of international peace and cooperation is pursued.”

We firmly stand by these views.

It is indispensable to return to the United Nations its role in the attainment of peace. I harbor no doubts that the Third World countries –I dare say almost everyone of them without exception, despite their political and religious differences– would be willing to go alongside the rest of the world in this struggle against terrorism as an alternative to war. I think that these ideas do not, in any way, tarnish the honor, the dignity and the predominant political or religious principles of any of the above-mentioned states.

I am not talking here on behalf of any of the poor and underdeveloped countries of the world. I am simply expressing my deepest conviction as I am aware of the tragedy of these peoples that have been exploited and humiliated for centuries where, even without a war, inherited poverty and underdevelopment, hunger and curable diseases are silently killing scores of millions of innocents every year.

For these people, saving peace with dignity, with independence and without a war is the cornerstone of the struggle that we should wage together for a truly just world of free peoples.

Cuba is not motivated by any economic interest or by opportunism, much less by any fear of threat, danger or risk. But this people that, as it is widely known, has most honorably endured over four decades of economic warfare, blockade and terrorism is entitled to explain, reiterate and insist on its viewpoints; and, it will not hesitate to do so until the very last minute.

We are, and we will continue to be, opposed to terrorism and opposed to war!No matter what happens, nothing will separate us from that line!

The dark clouds on the horizon of the world today, will not prevent the Cubans from continuing to work restlessly on our wonderful social and cultural programs as we are persuaded that it is a human endeavor unparalleled in history. And even if the promised wars were to turn them into mere dreams, we would still fall with honor defending such dreams.

Long live the Revolution and Socialism!
Patria o Muerte!
Venceremos!

March 3, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | Leave a comment

Terrorism is dangerous and indefensible

[President Fidel Castro, September 22, 2001]

Fellow countrymen:

No one can deny that terrorism is today a dangerous and ethically indefensible phenomenon, which should be eradicated regardless of its deep origins, the economic and political factors that brought it to live and those responsible for it.

The unanimous irritation caused by the human and psychological damage brought on the American people by the unexpected and shocking death of thousands of innocent people whose images have shaken the world is perfectly understandable. But who have profited? The extreme right, the most backward and right-wing forces, those in favor of crushing the growing world rebellion and sweeping away everything progressive that is still left on the planet. It was an enormous error, a huge injustice and a great crime whomever they are who organized or are responsible for such action.

However, the tragedy should not be used to recklessly start a war that could actually unleash an endless carnage of innocent people and all of this on behalf of justice and under the peculiar and bizarre name of “Infinite Justice”.

In the last few days we have seen the hasty establishment of the basis, the concept, the true purposes, the spirit and the conditions for such a war. No one would be able to affirm that it was not something thought out well in advance, something that was just waiting for its chance to materialize. Those who after the so-called end of the cold war continued a military build-up and the development of the most sophisticated means to kill and exterminate human beings were aware that the large military investments would give them the privilege to impose an absolute and complete dominance over the other peoples of the world. The ideologists of the imperialist system knew very well what they were doing and why they were doing it.

After the shock and sincere sorrow felt by every people on Earth for the atrocious and insane terrorist attack that targeted the American people, the most extremist ideologists and the most belligerent hawks, already set in privileged power positions, have taken command of the most powerful country in the world whose military and technological capabilities would seem infinite. Actually, its capacity to destroy and kill is enormous while its inclination towards equanimity, serenity, thoughtfulness and restrain is minimal.

The combination of elements  –including complicity and the common enjoyment of privileges– the prevailing opportunism, confusion and panic make it almost impossible to avoid a bloody and unpredictable outcome.

The first victims of whatever military actions are undertaken will be the billions of people living in the poor and underdeveloped world with their unbelievable economic and social problems, their unpayable debts and the ruinous prices of their basic commodities; their growing natural and ecological catastrophes, their hunger and misery, the massive undernourishment of their children, teenagers and adults; their terrible AIDS epidemic, their malaria, their tuberculosis and their infectious diseases that threaten whole nations with extermination.

The grave economic world crisis was already a real and irrefutable fact affecting absolutely every one of the big economic power centers. Such crisis will inevitably grow deeper under the new circumstances and when it becomes unbearable for the overwhelming majority of the peoples, it will bring chaos, rebellion and the impossibility to govern.

But the price will also be unpayable for the rich countries. For years to come it would be impossible to speak strong enough about the environment and the ecology, or about ideas and research done and tested, or about projects for the protection of Nature because that space and possibility would be taken by military actions, war and crimes as infinite as “Infinite Justice”, that is, the name given to the war operation to be unleashed.

Can there be any hope left after having listened, hardly 36 hours ago, to the speech made the President before de U.S. Congress?

I will avoid the use of adjectives, qualifiers or offensive words towards the author of that speech. They would be absolutely unnecessary and untimely when the tensions and seriousness of the moment advise thoughtfulness and equanimity. I will limit myself to underline some short phrases that say it all:

“We will use every necessary weapon of war.”

“Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.”

“Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”

“I’ve called the armed forces to alert and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act and you will make us proud.”

“This is the world’s fight, this is civilization’s fight.”

“I ask for your patience […] in what will be a long struggle.”

“The great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depend on us.”

“The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. […] And we know that God is not neutral.”

I ask our fellow countrymen to meditate deeply and calmly on the ideas contained in several of the above-mentioned phrases:

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

No nation of the world has been left out of the dilemma, not even the big and powerful states; none has escaped the threat of war or attacks.

We will use any weapon.

No procedure has been excluded, regardless of its ethics, or any threat whatever fatal, either nuclear, chemical, biological or any other.

It will not be short combat but a lengthy war, lasting many years, unparalleled in history.

It is the world’s fight; it is civilization’s fight.

The achievements of our times and the hope of every time, now depend on us.

Finally, an unheard of confession in a political speech on the eve of a war, and no less than in times of apocalyptic risks:

The course of this conflict is not known; yet its outcome is certain. And we know that God is not neutral.

This is an amazing assertion. When I think about the real or imagined parties involved that bizarre holy war that is about to begin, I find it difficult to make a distinction about where fanaticism is stronger.

On Thursday, before the United States Congress, the idea was designed of a world military dictatorship under the exclusive rule of force, irrespective of any international laws or institutions. The United Nations Organization, simply ignored in the present crisis, would fail to have any authority or prerogative whatsoever. There would be only one boss, only one judge, and only one law.

We have all been ordered to ally either with the United States government or with terrorism.

Cuba, the country that has suffered the most and the longest from terrorist actions, the one whose people are not afraid of anything because there is no threat or power in the world that can intimidate it, with a high morale Cuba claims that it is opposed to terrorism and opposed to war. Although the possibilities are now remote, Cuba reaffirms the need to avert a war of unpredictable consequences whose very authors have admitted not to have the least idea of how the events will unfold. Likewise, Cuba reiterates its willingness to cooperate with every country in the total eradication of terrorism.

An objective and calm friend should advise the United States government against throwing the young American soldiers into an uncertain war in remote, isolated and inaccessible places, like a fight against ghosts, not knowing where they are or even if they exist or not, or whether the people they kill are or not responsible for the death of their innocent fellow countrymen killed in the United States.

Cuba will never declare itself an enemy of the American people that is today subjected to an unprecedented campaign to sow hatred and a vengeful spirit, so much so that even the music that sings to peace has been banned. On the contrary, Cuba will make that music its own, and even our children will sing their songs to peace while the announced bloody war lasts.

Whatever happens, the territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the American people and we will do everything within our reach to prevent such actions against that people. Today we are expressing our solidarity while urging to peace and calmness. One day they will admit we were right.

Our independence, our principles and our social achievements we will defend with honor to the last drop of blood, if we are attacked!

It will not be easy to fabricate pretexts to do it. They are already talking about a war using all the necessary weapons but it will be good recalling that not even that would be a new experience. Almost four decades ago, hundreds of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons were aimed at Cuba and nobody remembers anyone of our countrymen sleepless over that.

We are the same sons and daughters of that heroic people, with a patriotic and revolutionary conscience that is higher than ever. It is time for serenity and courage.

The world will grow aware of this and will raise its voice in the face of the terrible threatening drama that it is about to suffer.

As for Cubans, this is the right time to proclaim more proud and resolute than ever:

Socialism or death!
Homeland or death!
We will overcome!

March 3, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | 1 Comment

Millennium Summit

[The following remarks were presented to the United Nations Millennium Summit on Sept. 6, 2000]

Excellencies: There is chaos in our world, both within the countries’ borders and beyond. Blind laws are offered like divine norms that would bring peace, order, well being and the security our planet so badly needs. That is what they would have us believe.

Three dozen developed and wealthy nations that monopolize the economic, political and technological power have joined us in this gathering to offer more of the same recipes that have only served to make us poorer, more exploited and more dependent. There is not even discussion about a radical reform of this old institution over a half century ago when there were few independent nations– to turn it into a true representative body of the interests of all the peoples on Earth, an institution where no one would have the irritating and anti-democratic right of veto and where a transparent process could be undertaken to expand membership and representation in the Security Council, an executive body subordinated to the General Assembly, which should be the one making the decisions on such crucial issues as intervention and the use of force.

It should be clearly stated that the principle of sovereignty cannot be sacrificed to an abusive and unfair order that a hegemonic superpower uses, together with its own might and strength, to try to decide everything by itself. That, Cuba will never accept. The poverty and underdevelopment prevailing in most nations as well as the inequality in the distribution of wealth and knowledge in the world are basically at the source of the present conflicts. It cannot be overlooked that current underdevelopment and poverty have resulted from conquest, colonization, slavery and plundering in most countries of the planet by the colonial powers and from the emergence of imperialism and the bloody wars motivated by new distributions of the world. Today, it is their moral obligation to compensate our nations for the damages caused throughout centuries. Humanity should be aware of what we have been so far and what we cannot continue to be.

Presently, our species has enough accumulated knowledge, ethical values and scientific resources to move towards a new historical era of true justice and humanism. There is nothing in the existing economic and political order that can serve the interests of Humankind. Thus, it is unsustainable and it must be changed. Suffice it to say that the world population is already 6 billion, 80% of which live in poverty. Ages-old diseases from Third World nations such as malaria, tuberculosis and others equally lethal have not been eradicated while new epidemics like AIDS threaten to exterminate the population of entire nations. On the other hand, wealthy countries keep investing enormous amounts of money in the military and in luxurious items and a voracious plague of speculators exchange currencies, stocks and other real or fictitious values for trillions of dollars every day. Nature is being devastated. The climate is changing under our own eyes and drinking water is increasingly contaminated or scarce. The sources of man’s seafood are being depleted and crucial non-renewable resources are wasted in luxury and triviality. Anyone understands that the United Nations basic role in the pressing new century is to save the world not only from war but also from underdevelopment, hunger, diseases, poverty and the destruction of the natural resources indispensable to human life. And it should do so promptly before it is too late!

The dream of having truly fair and sensible rules to guide human destiny seems impossible to many. However, we are convinced that the struggle for the impossible should be the motto of this institution that brings us together today! Thank you.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | A - Best of Fidel Castro | Leave a comment