SPEECH GIVEN BY DR. FIDEL CASTRO,
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, AT THE CEREMONY COMMEMORATING THE 50TH
ANNIVERSARY OF THE ATTACK ON THE MONCADA AND CARLOS MANUEL DE CESPEDES
HELD IN SANTIAGO DE CUBA, JULY 26, 2003
It seems almost unreal to be here in
this same place 50 years after the events we are commemorating today, which
took place that morning of July 26, 1953. I was 26 years old back then;
today, 50 more years of struggle have been added to my life.
Way back then, I could not have
imagined for even a second that this evening, the few participants in that
action who are still alive would be gathered here, together with those,
gathered here or listening to us all around the country, who were influenced
by or participated directly in the Revolution; together with those who were
children or teenagers back then; with those who were not even born yet and
today are parents or even grandparents; with whole contingents of fully
fledged men and women, full of revolutionary and internationalist glory and
history, soldiers and officers in active duty or the reserves, civilians who
have accomplished veritable feats; with a seemingly infinite number of young
combatants; with dedicated workers or enthusiastic students, as well as some
who are both at the same time; and with millions of children who fill our
imagination of eternal dreamers. And once again, life has given me the
unique privilege of addressing all of you.
I am not speaking here on my own
behalf. I am doing it in the name of the heroic efforts of our people and
the thousands of combatants who have given their lives throughout half a
century. I am doing it too, with pride for the great work they have
succeeded in carrying out, the obstacles they have overcome, and the
impossible things they have made possible.
In the terribly sad days that followed
the action, I explained to the court where I was tried the reasons that led
us to undertake this struggle.
At that time, Cuba had a population of
less than six million people. Based on the information available back then,
I gave a harsh description, with approximate statistics, of the situation
facing our people 55 years after the U.S. intervention. That intervention
came when Spain had already been militarily defeated by the tenacity and
heroism of the Cuban patriots, and it frustrated the goals of our long war
of independence when in 1902 it established a complete political and
economic control over Cuba.
The forceful imposition on our first
Constitution of the right of the U.S. government to intervene in Cuba and
the occupation of national territory by U.S. military bases, together with
the total domination of our economy and natural resources, reduced our
national sovereignty to practically nil.
I will quote just a few brief
paragraphs from my statements at that trial on October 16, 1953:
"Six hundred thousand Cubans without
"Five hundred thousand farm laborers
who work four months of the year and starve the rest."
"Four hundred thousand industrial
workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose homes
are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to
those of the moneylender, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is
"Ten thousand young professionals:
medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers,
dentists, pharmacists, journalists, painters, sculptors, etc., who finish
school with their degrees anxious to work and full of hopes, only to find
themselves at a dead end, with all doors closed to them."
"Eighty-five percent of the small
farmers in Cuba pay a rent and live under constant threat of being evicted
from the land they till."
"There are two hundred thousand peasant
families who do not have a single acre of land to till to provide food for
their starving children."
"More than half of our most productive
land is in foreign hands."
"Nearly three hundred thousand
caballerías (over three million hectares) of arable land owned by powerful
interests remain idle."
"Two million two hundred thousand of
our urban population pay rents that take between one fifth and one third of
"Two million eight hundred thousand of
our rural and suburban population lack electricity."
"The little rural schoolhouses are
attended by a mere half of the school age children who go barefoot,
half-naked and undernourished."
"Ninety per cent of the children in the
countryside are sick with parasites."
"Society is indifferent to the mass
murder of so many thousands of children who die every year from lack of
"From May to December over a million
people are jobless in Cuba, with a population of five and a half million."
"When the head of a family works only
four months a year, how can he purchase clothing and medicine for his
children? They will grow up with rickets, with not a single good tooth in
their mouths by the time they reach thirty; they will have heard ten million
speeches and will finally die of poverty and disillusion. Public hospitals,
which are always full, accept only patients recommended by some powerful
politician who, in return, demands the votes of the unfortunate one and his
family so that Cuba may continue forever in the same or worse condition."
Perhaps the most important statement I
made about the economic and social situation was the following:
"The nation's future, the solutions to
its problems, cannot continue to depend on the selfish interests of a dozen
big businessmen nor on the cold calculations of profits that ten or twelve
magnates draw up in their air-conditioned offices. The country cannot
continue begging on its knees for miracles from a golden fleece, like the
one mentioned in The Old Testament destroyed by the prophet's fury. Golden
fleece cannot perform miracles of any kind. [.] Statesmen whose
statesmanship consists of preserving the status quo and mouthing phrases
like 'absolute freedom of enterprise,' 'guarantees to investment capital'
and 'law of supply and demand,' will not solve these problems."
"In this present-day world, social
problems are not solved by spontaneous generation."
These statements and ideas described a
whole underlying thinking regarding the capitalist economic and social
system that simply had to be eliminated. They expressed, in essence, the
idea of a new political and social system for Cuba, although it may have
been dangerous to propose such a thing in the midst of the sea of prejudices
and ideological venom spread by the ruling classes, allied to the empire and
imposed on a population where 90% of the people were illiterate or
semi-literate, without even a sixth-grade education; discontent, combative
and rebellious, yet unable to discern such an acute and profound problem.
Since then, I have held the most solid and firm conviction that ignorance
has been the most powerful and fearsome weapon of the exploiters throughout
all of history.
Educating the people about the truth,
with words and irrefutable facts, has perhaps been the fundamental factor in
the grandiose feat that our people have achieved.
Those humiliating realities have been
crushed, despite blockades, threats, aggressions, massive terrorism and the
unrestrained use of the most powerful media in history against our
The statistics leave no room for doubt.
It has since been possible to more
precisely determine that the real population of Cuba in 1953, according to
the census taken that year, was 5,820,000. The current population, according
to the census of September 2002, now in the final phase of data processing,
The statistics tell us that in 1953, a
total of 807,700 people were illiterate, meaning an illiteracy rate of
22.3%, a figure that undoubtedly grew later during the seven years of
Batista's tyranny. In the year 2002, the number was a mere 38,183, or 0.5%
of the population. The Ministry of Education estimates that the real figure
is even lower, because in their thorough search for people who have not been
given literacy training in their sectors or neighborhoods, visiting homes,
it has been very difficult to locate them. Their estimates, based on
investigative methods even more precise than a census, reveal a total of
18,000, for a rate of 0.2%. Of course, neither figure includes those who
cannot learn to read or write because of mental or physical disabilities.
In 1953, the number of people with
junior or senior high school education was 139,984, or 3.2% of the
population aged 10 and over. In 2002, the number had risen to 5,733,243,
which is 41 times greater, equivalent to 58.9% of the population in the same
The number of university graduates grew
from 53,490 in 1953 to 712,672 in 2002.
Unemployment, despite the fact that the
1953 census was taken in the middle of the sugar harvest, --that is, the
time of the highest demand for labor-- was 8.4% of the economically active
population. The 2002 census, taken in September, revealed that the
unemployment rate in Cuba today is a mere 3.1%. And this was the case in
spite of the fact that the active labor force in 1953 was only 2,059,659
people, whereas in 2002 it had reached 4,427,028. What is most striking is
that next year, when unemployment is reduced to less than 3%, Cuba will
enter the category of countries with full employment, something that is
inconceivable in any other country of Latin America or even the so-called
economically developed nations in the midst of the current worldwide
Without going into other areas of
noteworthy social advances, I will simply add that between 1953 and 2002,
the population almost doubled, the number of homes tripled, and the number
of persons per home was reduced from 4.46 in 1953 to 3.16 in 2002; 75.4% of
these homes were built after the triumph of the Revolution.
Eighty five percent of the people own
the houses today they dwell and they do not pay taxes; the remaining 15%
pays a rather symbolic rent.
Of the total number of homes in the
country, the percentage of huts fell from 33.3% in 1953 to 5.7% in 2002,
while the percentage of homes with electrical power service rose from 55.6%
in 1953 to 95.5% in 2002.
These statistics, however, do not tell
the full story. Cold figures cannot express quality, and it is in terms of
quality that the most truly spectacular advances have been achieved by Cuba.
Today, by a wide margin, our country
occupies first place worldwide in the number of teachers, professors and
educators per capita. The country's active teaching staff accounts for the
incredible figure of 290,574.
According to studies analyzing a group
of the main educational indicators, Cuba also occupies first place, above
the developed countries. The maximum of 20 students per teacher in primary
schools already attained, and the ratio of one teacher per 15 students in
junior high school -grades seven, eight and nine- that will be achieved this
coming school year, are things that could not even be dreamed of in the
world's wealthiest, most developed countries.
The number of doctors is 67,079, of
which 45,599 are specialists and 8,858 are in training. The number of nurses
is 81,459, while that of healthcare technicians is 66,339, for a total of
214,877 doctors, nurses and technicians in the healthcare sector.
Life expectancy is 76.15 years; infant
mortality is 6.5 for 1000 live births during the first year of life, lower
than any other Third World country and even some of the developed nations.
There are 35,902 physical education,
sports and recreation instructors, a great many more than the total number
of teachers and professors in all areas of education before the Revolution.
Cuba is now fully engaged in the
transformation of its own systems of education, culture and healthcare,
through which it has attained so many achievements, in order to reach new
levels of excellence never even imagined, based on the accumulated
experience and new technological possibilities.
These programs are now fully underway,
and it is estimated that the knowledge currently acquired by children,
teenagers and young people will be tripled with each school year. At the
same time, within five years at most, average life expectancy should rise to
80 years. The most developed and wealthy countries will never attain a ratio
of 20 students in a classroom in primary school, or one teacher to 15
students in high school, or succeed in taking university education to every
municipality throughout the country to place it within reach of the whole
population, or in offering the highest quality educational and healthcare
services to all of their citizens free of charge. Their economic and
political systems are not designed for this.
In Cuba, the social and human nightmare
denounced in 1953, which gave rise to our struggle, had been left behind
just a few years after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959. Soon, there
were no longer peasants, sharecroppers or tenant farmers without land; all
of them became the owners of the land they farmed. There were no longer
undernourished, barefoot, parasite-ridden children, without schools or
teachers, even if their schooling took place beneath the shade of a tree.
They no longer died in massive numbers from hunger, disease, from lack of
resources or medical care. No longer were the rural areas filled with
unemployed men and women. A new stage began in the creation and construction
of educational, healthcare, residential, sports and other public facilities,
as well as thousands of kilometers of highways, dams, irrigation channels,
agricultural facilities, electrical power plants and power lines,
agricultural, mechanical and construction material industries, and
everything essential for the sustained development of the country.
The labor demand was so great that for
many years, large contingents of men and women from the cities were
mobilized to work in agriculture, construction and industrial production,
which laid the foundations for the extraordinary social development achieved
by our country, which I mentioned earlier.
I am talking as if the country were an
idyllic haven of peace, as if there had not been over four decades of a
rigorous blockade and economic war, aggressions of all kinds, countless acts
of sabotage and terrorism, assassination plots and an endless list of
hostile actions against our country, which I do not wish to emphasize in
this speech, so as to focus on essential ideas of the present.
Suffice it to say that defense-related
tasks alone required the permanent mobilization of hundreds of thousands of
men and women and large material resources.
This hard-fought battle served to
toughen our people, and taught them to fight simultaneously on many
different fronts, to do a lot with very little, and to never be discouraged
Decisive proof of this was their heroic
conduct, their tenacity and unshakably firm stance when the socialist bloc
disappeared and the USSR splintered. The feat they accomplished then, when
no one in the world would have bet a penny on the survival of the
Revolution, will go down in history as one of the greatest ever achieved.
They did it without violating a single one of the ethical and humanitarian
principles of the Revolution, despite the shrieking and slander of our
The Moncada Program was fulfilled, and
over-fulfilled. For some time now, we have been pursuing even greater and
previously unimaginable dreams.
Today, great battles are being waged in
the area of ideas, while confronting problems associated with the world
situation, perhaps the most critical to ever face humanity. I am obliged to
devote a part of my speech to this.
Several weeks ago, in early June, the
European Union adopted an infamous resolution, drafted by a small group of
bureaucrats, without prior analysis by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs
themselves, and promoted by an individual of markedly fascist lineage and
ideology: José María Aznar. The adoption of this resolution constituted a
cowardly and repugnant action that added to the hostility, threats and
dangers posed for Cuba by the aggressive policy of the hegemonic superpower.
They decided to eliminate or reduce to
a minimum what they define as "humanitarian aid" to Cuba.
How much of this aid has been provided
in the past few years, which have been so very difficult for the economy of
our country? In 2000 the so-called humanitarian aid received from the
European Union was 3.6 million dollars; in 2001 it was 8.5 million; in 2002,
0.6 million. And this was before the application of the just measures that
Cuba adopted, on fully legal grounds, to defend the security of our people
against the serious threats of imperialist aggression, something that no one
As can be seen, the average was 4.2
million dollars annually, which was reduced to less than a million in 2002.
What does this amount really mean for a
country that suffered the impact of three hurricanes between November of
2001 and October of 2002, resulting in 2.5 billion dollars in damages for
our country, combined with the devastating effect on our revenues of the
drop in tourism after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the
United States, the drop in sugar and nickel prices due to the international
economic crisis, and the considerable rise in oil prices owing to various
factors? What does it mean in comparison with the 72 billion dollars in
losses and damages resulting from the economic blockade imposed by the U.S.
government for more than four decades, and with regards to which, as a
result of the extraterritorial and brutal Helms-Burton Act, which threatened
the economic interests of the European Union itself, the latter reached a
shameful "understanding" where it pledged not to support its businesspeople
in their dealings with Cuba, in exchange for vague promises that the Act
would not be applied to its investments in the United States?
Through its sugar subsidies, the
countries of the European Union have caused billions of dollars in losses
for the Cuban economy throughout the entire duration of the U.S. blockade.
Cuba's payments to the countries of the
European Union for goods imported over the last five years totaled some 7.5
billion dollars, or an approximate average of 1.5 billion dollars annually.
On the other hand, over the last five years, these countries only purchased
an average of 571 million dollars worth of imports from Cuba annually. Who
is actually helping whom?
Moreover, this much touted humanitarian
aid usually comes with bureaucratic delays and unacceptable conditions, such
as creating funds of an equal value in national currency, at the exchange
rate of our currency exchange bureaus, to provide funding in national
currency for other projects where decisions were to be adopted with the
participation of third parties.
This means that if the European
Commission were to hand over a million dollars, they want the Cuban side to
put up 27 million Cuban pesos in exchange, to fund other projects in
national currency for the same amount, and the execution of the projects
would involve the participation of European non-governmental organizations
in all decision-making processes. This absurd condition, which was never
accepted, practically paralyzed the flow of aid for a number of projects for
three years, and subsequently limited it considerably.
Between October 2000 and December 2002,
the European Commission officially approved four projects for an approximate
total amount of 10.6 million US dollars (almost all of it for technical
assistance in administrative, legal and economic matters) and only 1.9
million dollars for food security. None of this has been executed, due to
the delays caused by the bureaucratic mechanisms of this institution.
Nevertheless, in all European Union reports, these amounts appear as
"approved for Cuba", although the truth remains that until now not a penny
of this funding has reached our country.
It should be remembered that
additionally, in all of their reports on aid to Cuba, the European
Commission and member countries include so-called indirect costs, such as
airfares on their own airlines, accommodation, travel expenses, salaries and
First World-standard luxuries. The portion of the supposed aid money that
actually directly benefits the projects is whittled away through these
expenditures, which do not help the country in any way, but are nonetheless
calculated as part of their "generosity" for public relations purposes.
It is truly outrageous to attempt to
pressure and intimidate Cuba with these measures.
Cuba, a small country, besieged and
blockaded, has not only been able to survive, but also to help many
countries of the Third World, exploited throughout centuries by the European
In the course of 40 years, over 40,000
youths from more than 100 Third World countries, including 30,000 from
Africa, have graduated in Cuba as university-educated professionals and
qualified technical workers, at no cost to them whatsoever, and our country
has not attempted to steal a single one of them, as the countries of the
European Union do with many of the brightest minds. Throughout this time, on
the other hand, over 52,000 Cuban doctors and health care workers, who have
saved millions of lives, have provided their services voluntarily and free
of charge in 93 countries.
Even though the country has still not
completely left behind the special period, last year, 2002, there were
already more than 16,000 youths from throughout the Third World undertaking
higher studies in our country, free of charge, including over 8,000 being
trained as doctors. If we were to calculate what they would have to pay for
this education in the United States and Europe, the result would be the
equivalent of a donation of more than 450 million dollars every year. If you
include the 3,700 doctors providing their services abroad in the most
far-flung and inhospitable locales, you would have to add almost 200 million
US dollars more, based on the annual salary paid to doctors by the WHO. All
in all approximately 700 million dollars.
These things that our country can do,
not on the basis of its financial resources, but rather the extraordinary
human capital created by the Revolution, should serve as an example to the
European Union, and make it feel ashamed of the measly and ineffective aid
it offers these countries.
While Cuban soldiers were shedding
their blood fighting the forces of apartheid, the countries of the European
Union exchanged billions of dollars worth of trade every year with the South
African racists, and through their investments, reaped the benefits of the
cheap, semi-slave labor of the South African natives.
This past July 21, less than a week
ago, the European Union, in a much-trumpeted meeting to review its shameful
common position on Cuba, ratified the infamous measures adopted against Cuba
on June 5 and declared that political dialogue should continue 'in order to
more efficiently pursue the goals of the common position'.
The government of Cuba, out of a basic
sense of dignity, relinquishes any aid or remnant of humanitarian aid that
may be offered by the European Commission and the governments of the
European Union. Our country would only accept this kind of aid, no matter
how modest, from regional or local autonomous governments, non-governmental
organizations, and solidarity movements, which do not impose political
conditions on Cuba.
The European Union is fooling itself
when it states that political dialogue should continue. The sovereignty and
dignity of this people are not open to discussion with anyone, much less
with a group of former colonial powers historically responsible for the
slave trade, the plunder and even extermination of entire peoples, and the
underdevelopment and poverty suffered today by billions of human beings whom
they continue to plunder through unequal trade, the exploitation and
exhaustion of their natural resources, an unpayable foreign debt, the brain
drain, and other means.
The European Union lacks the necessary
freedom to take part in a fully independent dialogue. Its commitments to
NATO and the United States, and its conduct in Geneva, where it acts in
league with those who want to destroy Cuba, render it incapable of engaging
in a constructive exchange. Countries from the former socialist community
will soon join the European Union, albeit the opportunistic leaders who
govern them, more loyal to the interests of the United States than to those
of Europe, will serve as Trojan horses of the superpower within the EU.
These are full of hatred towards Cuba, which they left on its own and cannot
forgive for having endured and proven that socialism is capable of achieving
a society a thousand times more just and humane that the rotten system they
When the European Union was created, we
applauded it, because it was the only intelligent and useful thing they
could do to counterbalance the hegemony of their powerful military ally and
economic competitor. We also applauded the euro as something beneficial for
the worldwide economy in the face of the suffocating and almost absolute
power of the U.S. dollar.
But now, when the European Union adopts
this arrogant and calculated attitude, in hope of reconciliation with the
masters of the world, it insults Cuba, then, it does not deserve the
slightest consideration and respect from our people.
Any dialogue should take place in
public, in international forums, and should address the grave problems
threatening the world.
We shall not attempt to discuss the
principles of the European Union or Disunion. In Cuba they will find a
country that neither obeys masters, nor accepts threats, nor begs for
charity, nor lacks the courage to speak out the truth.
They need someone to tell them a few
truths, because there are many who flatter them out of self-interest, or are
simply spellbound by the splendor of Europe's past glories. Why do they not
criticize or help Spain to improve the disastrous state of its educational
system, which brings shame to Europe with its banana republic levels? Why do
they not come to the aid of the United Kingdom, to prevent drugs from wiping
out this proud nation? Why do they not analyze and help themselves, when
they so obviously need it?
The European Union would do well to
speak less and do more for the genuine human rights of the immense majority
of the peoples of the world; to act with intelligence and dignity in the
face of those who do not want to leave it with even the crumbs of the
resources of the planet they aspire to conquer; to defend its cultural
identity against the invasion and penetration of the powerful transnationals
of the U.S. entertainment industry; to take care of its unemployed, who
number in the tens of millions; to educate its functionally illiterate; to
give humane treatment to immigrants; to guarantee true social security and
medical care for all of its citizens, as Cuba does; to moderate its
consumerist and wasteful habits; to guarantee that all of its members
contribute 1% of their GDP, as some already do, to support development in
the Third World or at least alleviate, without bureaucracy or demagoguery,
the terrible situation of poverty, poor health and illiteracy; to compensate
Africa and other regions for the damage wreaked throughout centuries by
slavery and colonialism; to grant independence to the colonial enclaves
still maintained in this hemisphere, from the Caribbean to the Falkland
Islands, without denying them the economic aid they deserve for the
historical damage and colonial exploitation they have suffered.
To a list that would be endless, I
To undertake a genuine policy
supporting human rights with actual deeds and not just hollow words; to
investigate what really happened with the Basques murdered by GAL and demand
that responsibility be taken; to tell the world how scientist Dr. David
Kelly was brutally murdered, or how he was led to commit suicide; to respond
at some point to the questions I posed to them in Rio de Janeiro regarding
the new strategic conception of NATO as it relates to the countries of Latin
America; to firmly and resolutely oppose the doctrine of preemptive strikes
against any country in the world, proclaimed by the most formidable military
power in all of history, for you know where the consequences for humanity
To slander and impose sanctions on
Cuba, is not only unfair and cowardly but ridiculous. Thanks to the great
and selfless human capital it has created, which they lack, Cuba does not
need the aid of the European Union to survive, develop and achieve what they
will never achieve.
The European Union should temper its
arrogance an prepotency.
For decades, our people have confronted
powers much greater than those possessed by the European Union; new forces
are emerging everywhere, with tremendous vigor. The peoples are tired of
guardians, interference and plunder, imposed through mechanisms that benefit
the most developed and wealthy at the cost of the growing poverty and ruin
of others. Some of these peoples are already advancing with unrestrainable
force, and others will join them. Among them there are giants awakening. The
future belongs to these peoples.
In the name of 50 years of resistance
and relentless struggle in the face of a force many times greater than
theirs, and of the social and human achievements attained by Cuba without
any help whatsoever from the countries of the European Union, I invite them
to reflect calmly on their errors, and to avoid being carried away by
outbursts of anger or Euronarcissistic inebriation.
Neither Europe nor the United States
will have the last word on the future of Humanity!
I could repeat here something similar
to what I said in the spurious court where I was tried and sentenced for the
struggle we initiated five decades ago today, but this time it will not be
me who says it; it will be declared and foretold by a people that has
carried out a profound, transcendental and historic Revolution, and has
succeeded in defending it:
Condemn me. It does not matter. The
peoples will have the last word!
Eternal glory to those who have fallen
during 50 years of struggle!
Eternal glory to the people that turned
its dreams into a reality!
MELI, 29.1.2004,KHAMIS, 10.40PM