Vancouver Socialist Forum was formed in 2007 by political activists from a variety of political backgrounds, to organize educational events on social justice issues and socialist theory and practice. VSF adopted the following statement of purpose on May 29, 2009. Continue reading
TOUJOURS REBELLES: WAVES OF RESISTANCE: For all those who think feminism is dead: the young feminists are far from silent! The first pan-Canadian young feminist gathering, “Waves of Resistance,” was held October 10-13 in Montreal. More than 500 young women who invaded the classrooms of UQAM for 3 days to reaffirm the relevance of feminism and to act collectively on issues including the feminization of poverty, hypersexualization and racism. The meeting concluded with the adoption of a pan-Canadian young feminists’ manifesto, a document that will be a political tool for all the young feminists in their communities. Continue reading
Introduction. On July 2, several hostages who had been held for years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were freed by the Colombian army. In the following articles, Fidel Castro argues that “no revolutionary purpose could justify” the “objectively cruel act” of kidnapping and holding hostages. Continue reading
By Adam Hanieh
Adam Hanieh is a board member of Palestine House, Mississauga.
This an updated version of a talk he gave in Toronto on October 4, at the launch of the book Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians, and the U.S. ‘War on Terror’ ( Haymarket Books, 2007) edited by Tikva Honig-Parnass and Toufic Haddad.
More information on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israeli apartheid, is available from the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid.
The launch of this book is an extremely timely and important contribution to understanding the current situation in Palestine. We all know from the daily reports that this situation is one of the most difficult ever faced by the Palestinian people. In the Gaza Strip, a truly unprecedented assault on the population is unfolding. Over 1.4 million Gazans are trapped in this ‘open-air prison,’ subject to daily bombardment by Israeli rockets and heavy artillery. Israel has announced plans to cut electricity and fuel supplies to the Strip. These supplies are absolutely necessary to maintaining basic services such as hospitals and sewage treatment plants. We now regularly hear stories of Gaza residents being killed in floods of sewage, as Israel prevents needed supplies and inspections of sewage lakes in the area.
The point here, however, is not to focus on the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The enormous value of the book lies in the political perspective it outlines. We need to build upon these perspectives and present an assessment of the current stage of our solidarity efforts in places such as Canada and the USA. It is very important that we always situate our efforts historically, take a step back to look at where we are at and where we want to be going.
Return to Oslo?
Much of the mainstream media has attempted to present the current situation as a re-run of the early 1990s. We are told that the U.S. and EU are rolling up their sleeves to bring the Palestinian and Israeli sides to the negotiating table in late November. Both Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert are said to be trying to move this process forward but are faced with the recalcitrance of “extremists on both sides”. Both sides will have to make “painful sacrifices”. But – if done right – we can return to the good old days of the Oslo peace process and eventually see the establishment of a Palestinian state living “alongside a secure Israel.”
Naturally, as with the mainstream media coverage of just about everything, this picture is designed to confuse and obfuscate the real situation on the ground. All the talk of negotiations, peace, and painful compromises is designed first and foremost to solidify apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It’s very important that we understand this message. When the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993 it created enormous confusion within the Palestinian national movement and the solidarity organizations outside. This was an agreement that was sold to the world as a plan for a Palestinian state, yet in reality it aimed at creating the very situation we see today on the ground. Palestinians herded into isolated Bantustans surrounded by settlements, walls, checkpoints with their movement controlled by permits.
The talk of peace and negotiations is designed to hide the reality of an apartheid agreement. Israel is trying to find someone who will sign away the rights of the people – most fundamentally the right of return of Palestinian refugees. This is what is going on now. It is not a “civil war” between Hamas and Fatah, or media fantasies about the supposed emerging Islamic state in Gaza.
The 1993 Oslo Accords killed the solidarity movement for seven years. Many people here today were involved in these earlier solidarity movements across North America and can attest to the collapse that happened in the early 1990s. This situation didn’t reverse until the people once again rose in the second Intifada in September 2000. That uprising re-sparked the solidarity movement.
But the situation today differs significantly from the early 1990s. In many respects we are in a much stronger situation today than that earlier period. This is obviously a testament to the resilience and struggle of the Palestinian people. But it is also due to the work of those in the solidarity movement who did keep fighting throughout the Oslo years, and understood from the outset the real nature of the Oslo agreement.
We need to keep this message clear in the coming period. U.S.-sponsored ‘peace’ plans, backed by some of the client Arab states in the region, will not achieve liberation. The Palestinian people will completely reject any self-appointed leader that attempts to relinquish their rights, the bedrock of which is the right of return of Palestinian refugees. This is not a fringe or ‘radical’ position but is the fundamental outlook of the Palestinian people as a whole. A very important confirmation of this fact occurred in Canada in late October, over 54 delegates representing virtually every Palestinian community organization across Canada unanimously adopted an open-letter to Mahmoud Abbas warning him of the “disaster” of the Oslo Accords and the complete rejection of the upcoming U.S.-supported summit in Annapolis, Maryland.
Not Just the West Bank and Gaza Strip
One thing that gives us strength today is the widespread understanding that the struggle for justice is not solely a question of what happens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The aim of the Oslo project was to reduce our struggle to negotiating over bits of land in these areas. Today we see the reality of this – those bits of land are nothing but open-air prisons where we see Palestinian prison guards but Israel continues to hold the keys to the cell.
But today we see that the Palestinian people reject that division. Most importantly, we see the growing movement of Palestinian citizens of Israel who are demanding equal rights in a state that has been built on racism and settler-colonialism. Over the past year, four separate declarations by Palestinians from inside Israel have expressed this demand. In response to these declarations, the head of the Israeli intelligence, Yuval Diskin, called Palestinian citizens of Israel a “strategic threat” and issued a veiled warning that any one attempting to organize around the demand of simple democracy would face the repressive arm of the state.
Israel cannot countenance the simple demand for equal rights for Palestinian citizens because it is a state built on racism. Leaders of the Palestinian community have been arrested and kept under administrative detention orders without charge or trial. The head of the National Democratic Assembly (NDA) party and elected member of the Israeli parliament (the Knesset), Azmi Bishara, was forced to flee Israel because he was threatened with imminent arrest. On 30 October, in scenes reminiscent of the West Bank, Israeli police attacked a village in the Galilee village with live ammunition, injuring 40 residents, three of them seriously. And the calls from prominent Israeli academics that describe the Palestinian population inside Israel as a “demographic threat” are getting ever louder.
A barrage of new laws attempt to solidify Israeli racism and silence the growing movement of Palestinians inside Israel. One of these is a law that will prevent anyone who travels to what is deemed an “enemy state” from running for the Israeli parliament. This law is explicitly aimed at Palestinian parties such as the NDA that maintain strong ties with Arab countries. Moreover, in one of the most Orwellian measures ever adopted by the Israeli state, an October 2007 law requires all school children to sign Israel’s “Declaration of Independence”: a declaration that explicitly upholds Israel’s character as a “Jewish state”. Imagine any other country that required every child to sign a document supporting the privileged rights of one ethnic or religious group? As Azmi Bishara has pointed out, Palestinians attending Israeli schools are required to sign a document that negates their very existence!
The emerging movement of Palestinians inside Israel is a very important development and cause for optimism. These Palestinians are an integral part of the Palestinian people as a whole. Their struggle strikes the very nature of Israel as an exclusionary, racist state and shows that Israeli apartheid is not just a question of what happens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. We must continually strengthen our solidarity with their efforts and struggle.
No to Normalization
Today the strength of our movement rests upon the widespread acceptance that there can be no normalization with Zionism and Israeli apartheid. The basic principle of our movement is that the way to winning justice is not through ‘dialogue’ or ‘joint projects’ or empty calls for ‘peace.’ Rather, justice will be won by isolating the Israeli state and all those who support it.
This is a big shift from fifteen years ago when many people bought into the Oslo myth and normalization with Israel was all the rage. A lot of money was thrown at these projects, hundreds of NGOs sprung up dedicated to dialogue and the ‘peace process.’ But today there is virtual unanimity among the solidarity movement. The way forward is through a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid. This runs against any attempt to normalize relations with the oppressor.
The call for boycott, divestment and sanctions that came from Palestine in 2005 is very clear. The Israeli state must be isolated in the manner of South African apartheid until three conditions are satisfied: the Israeli occupation of all Arab lands is ended; there is full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the refugees are allowed to return home. These three demands encapsulate the Palestinian experience since 1948: a people who have been uprooted from their land and prevented from returning home. Our struggle is not just in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also to end the racist nature of the Israeli state and allow the refugees to return.
It is important to stress that the BDS call is not something that suddenly appeared in 2005. For decades, the core of the Palestinian struggle has always held a position of ‘anti-normalization.’ To work with and normalize relations with the Israeli state and its supporters means to give consent to one’s own oppression. Rather, we should act to isolate and reveal the structures that hold power in place. The need is not for ‘dialogue’ because the problem is not a lack of understanding. To claim otherwise serves only to justify the existing power structures. More simply: there is an oppressor and an oppressed, and peace will only come through winning justice.
The struggle is not between Jewish people and Palestinians. Anti-Zionist Jews and Israelis are prominent activists and leaders of the solidarity movement, including inside Israel. The solidarity movement is totally clear on this point and to claim otherwise is only to engage in slander. Indeed, Between the Lines was co-written by an anti-Zionist Jewish Israeli who has spent many decades working alongside Palestinians in support of justice. The central question is one of racism and settler-colonialism not religious conflict. The BDS call is aimed at Israeli state institutions and their supporters. Our goal is a state where anyone can live regardless of their religious beliefs or ethnicity.
Canadian Support for Israel
In Canada, we have an important role to play in this global campaign to isolate the Israeli state. The Canadian government is one of the strongest international supporters of Israeli apartheid in the world. Canada was the first country in the world to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority following the elections of January 2006. Canada did this even before the Israeli government.
The Canadian government at all levels has provided full diplomatic support for Israel’s war crimes. Many of us remember that during Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon in 2006, Harper described Israel’s actions as “measured and justified” and opposed calls for a ceasefire. But Harper’s comments are not those of an individual. Across the political spectrum, Canada’s mainstream political parties have given unequivocal support to Israeli policies. In 2005, it was then Liberal Party leader Paul Martin who declared that “Israel’s values are Canada’s values.”
At the economic level, Canada has signed numerous agreements with Israel that serve to strengthen and sustain the Israeli economy. In 1997, the Canadian government signed the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA). This is the only FTA Canada has signed outside of the western hemisphere. It has been an enormous boon to Israel. From 2000 to 2005, the value of Israeli exports to Canada exceeded Canadian exports to Israel, reversing the trend from the 1990s. Over the same period, average annual Israeli foreign direct investment in Canada exceeded that of Canada in Israel. This is an agreement that has benefited Israel, and helped support the Israeli economy.
Another agreement, the Canada Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation, provides seed money for Israeli-Canadian research and development. Over 200 companies have been funded by this scheme and the Canadian government now boasts that Israel is its longest standing technology partner. A similar agreement between Ontario and the Israeli government was also signed by Dalton McGuinty and Ehud Olmert in 2005.
Prominent Canadian business leaders have been among the staunchest supporters of the Israeli government. Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz are the majority owners of Indigo Books. They set up a fund called the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers that provides scholarships and other support for individuals who have chosen to go to Israel and serve in the Israeli military. In 2006, Reisman and Schwartz attended a ceremony at an Israeli military base where they were awarded the gun of an Israeli soldier killed in Lebanon.
These various forms of support are not surprising given the record of the Canadian government in places such as Afghanistan and Haiti where Canadian troops and other personnel serve to support military occupations. Or the record of large Canadian companies in extracting the resources and wealth of people around the globe. Or the centuries-long attacks against the indigenous people of this land that continues today. This is why the Palestinian solidarity movement also stands with those struggles: we are all strengthened when we fight together.
But we should be clear: the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions is not about politely asking the Canadian government or business leaders to cut their ties with Israeli apartheid. We must compel them to do so. We know from the South African struggle that those in power will support apartheid until we build a movement large enough to force a change.
Over ten years after the formal end of South African apartheid a certain myth has grown up that says the world was always against the practices of the South African regime. Nothing could be further from the truth. Successive Canadian, U.S. and British governments wholeheartedly backed South African apartheid for decades. The leaderships of Canadian unions proudly championed their links with the apartheid regime and large corporations made millions from their investments in South African apartheid. It took decades of hard work by activists to turn around popular acceptance and support for South African apartheid.
It is important to emphasize that the BDS strategy is fundamentally about winning this ideological battle. No one holds any illusions that Israel will suffer economically at this stage from resolutions and boycott campaigns. Rather, BDS provides a powerful entry point for talking to people about the nature of the Israeli state and the structures that support it in the West. What we are doing is convincing people that Israel – like the South African precedent – is a pariah state that must be isolated. To deal with Israel is something to be ashamed of. We are undermining the ideological support (much of it passive) that allows Israel to continue its horrendous practices against the Palestinian people. For this reason, the BDS strategy cannot be separated from the day-to-day information work we do around Palestine. This information and educational work lays the basis for BDS work. The BDS strategy provides a direction for activity once people understand the reality of the situation.
We have made some very important gains here in Canada. The historic resolution of CUPE Ontario in May 2006 in support of boycott and divestment was a turning point. The CUPE Ontario resolution was an outstanding example of how BDS enables us to educate and activate people around Palestine. For the first time in decades, the key issues of the Palestinian struggle were debated on the front pages of Canadian newspapers and on TV and radio stations across the country. Thousands of ordinary CUPE members received information about the campaign or went through workshops and talks explaining why Israeli apartheid should be isolated and ended. The greatest achievement of this resolution was the chance to speak to rank and file CUPE members and build support for Palestine within the union. We can’t underestimate how important this was in helping shift popular consciousness and understanding. This quite simply would not have happened if CUPE had simply passed yet another ‘condemn the violence,’ ‘call for peace’ resolution. Hundreds of thousands of people – that is no exaggeration – were touched by this resolution.
On campuses too, there has been a strong upsurge in understanding the nature of Israeli apartheid. The annual Israeli apartheid week, which began here in Toronto, has expanded globally to cities such as New York, Oxford and Cambridge. In 2007, close to a thousand people attended the week’s activities in Toronto. This coming year promises to be even larger and occur in many more cities across the world.
The campaign to boycott Chapters-Indigo has also been a great success. Regular pickets are happening in six cities across the country. Over 40,000 leaflets have been distributed nationally since the campaign began in January. Heather Reisman’s book reading appearances across the country have been disrupted by activists opposed to her support of Israeli apartheid. Students at a high school in Toronto lobbied their school to pass a resolution to boycott Indigo. Smaller bookstores in Ontario have signed onto the campaign and now carry leaflets and information about Israeli apartheid.
Our next step should be to raise our voices demanding that Canadian governments at both the federal and provincial levels cut their ties with Israeli apartheid. We can call for agreements such as CIFTA, or, here in Ontario, the provincial level agreements with Israel, to be abrogated. We must call for an end to the diplomatic cover provided to Israeli war crimes. The Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez has shown the way in this regard when they became the first country in the world to withdraw their ambassador from Israel in the summer of 2006.
Israel’s crushing of the population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its apparent success in cultivating a Palestinian leadership to return to an Oslo-type process are pyrrhic victories. The real nature of Israel is truly understood by more people than any other point in the last sixty years and support for the Zionist project beyond Western governments and elites is in tatters. Palestinians remain one people: united across refugee camps, the Diaspora, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and inside Israel itself. All these sectors of the people are moving forward and rejecting normalization with Israel, despite what various self-appointed leaderships might do or say.
This is a time to be very proud of our activities in support of the Palestinian struggle. In years to come, we shall look back on the struggles of today and realize that what we did in the here and now was an integral part of winning justice. This is a struggle that affects the entire people of the Middle East and its outcome will shape the course of history. It is not a struggle that will end tomorrow, but we can be absolutely confident that it is a struggle which we shall eventually win. •
This article also appeared in The Bullet, an e-bulletin published by Socialist Project.
The struggle is unceasing, we will continue our resistance until our time comes!
A Formal Summons to World States by Indigenous First Nations and Peoples
Declaration of the World Encounter
‘For the Historic Victory of the Indigenous Peoples of the World’
Chimoré, Cochabamba, Bolivia,
October 12, 2007
From the heart of South America, on this 12th day of October, 2007, the delegates of the indigenous first nations and peoples of the world, meeting in the World Encounter “For the Historic Victory of the Indigenous Peoples of the World,” to celebrate the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, hereby declare:
That, after 515 years of oppression and domination, here we stand; they have been unable to eliminate us. We have confronted and resisted the policies of ethnocide, genocide, colonization, destruction and plunder. The imposition of such economic systems as capitalism, characterized by interventionism, wars and socio-environmental disasters, a system that continues to threaten our ways of life as peoples.
That as a consequence of the neoliberal policy of domination of nature, the search for easy profits from the concentration of capital in a few hands and the irrational exploitation of natural resources, our Mother Earth is fatally injured, while the indigenous peoples are still being displaced from our territories. The planet is warming up. We are experiencing an unprecedented change in climate with ever-stronger and more frequent socio-environmental disasters, affecting all of us without exception.
That we are trapped in a great energy crisis, with the Age of Petroleum coming to an end, and without having found a clean alternative energy that can substitute for it in the necessary quantities to maintain that Western civilization that has made us totally dependent on hydrocarbons.
That this situation may be a threat that will leave us exposed to the danger that neoliberal and imperialist policies trigger wars for the last drops of the so-called black gold and blue gold, but may also give us the opportunity to make this new millennium a millennium of life, a millennium of balance and complementarity, without having to take advantage of energies that destroy Mother Earth.
That both the natural resources and the lands and territories we inhabit are ours for history, for birth, in law and for ever, and that the power to determine their use is fundamental to our ability to maintain our life, sciences, learning, spirituality, organization, medicines and food sovereignty.
That a new era is beginning, promoted by the original indigenous peoples, and bringing again times of change, times of Pachakuti, in the times of the culmination of the Quinto Sol.
That we welcome the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is essential for the survival and well-being of the more than 370 million native peoples in some 70 countries of the world. After more than 20 years of struggle, it is responsive to our historical demand for self-determination of the peoples and recognition of ourselves and our collective rights.
The adopted declaration contains a set of principles and norms that recognize and establish in the international regulatory system the fundamental rights of the Indigenous Peoples, those that must be the basis of the new relationship between the Indigenous Peoples, states, societies and cooperation throughout the world. In addition, therefore, to the other existing juridical instruments governing human rights, the declaration is the new regulatory and practical basis for guaranteeing and protecting indigenous rights in various spheres and at various levels.
We call on the member countries of the United Nations and encourage the indigenous peoples to implement and comply with this important instrument of historical significance. We censure those governments that have voted in opposition to the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and condemn their double standards.
That we pledge to support the historic effort being led by our brother Evo Morales, President of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala, in the construction of a new plurinational State. We will be vigilant in the face of any threat, internal or external, to the process in Bolivia and we call on the peoples of the planet to lend their support and solidarity to this process, which ought to serve as an example so that the Peoples, Nations and States of the world continue along this path.
Accordingly, the Indigenous Peoples and Nations of the world demand that the States fulfill the following mandates:
- To construct a world based on the Culture of Life, in the identity, philosophy, world view and age-old spirituality of the original indigenous peoples, applying the aboriginal knowledge and skills, strengthening the processes of interchange and brotherhood among the nations and respecting self-determination.
- To make national and international decisions to save Mother Nature from the disasters that are being brought about by capitalism in its decline, as manifested in global warming and the ecological crisis; reaffirming that the original indigenous culture is the only alternative means of saving our planet earth.
- To replace the present models of development based on capitalism, commodities, the irrational exploitation of humanity and natural resources, the squandering of energy, and consumerism, with models that establish life, complementarity, reciprocity, respect for cultural diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources as the principal priorities.
- To implement national policies governing food sovereignty as a principal basis of national sovereignty, in which the community guarantees respect for its own culture as appropriate spaces and modes of production, distribution and consumption consistent with the nature of healthy pollutant-free foods for the entire population, eliminating hunger, because food is a right to life.
- To repudiate schemes and projects for the generation of energy such as biofuel, which destroy and deny food to the peoples. Likewise, we condemn the use of transgenic seeds because it replaces our ancient seeding process and makes us dependent on agro-industry.
- To recognize and re-evaluate the role of the original indigenous woman as the vanguard of the emancipatory struggles of our peoples in accordance with the principles of duality, equality and equity of relationships between men and women.
- To adopt the culture of peace and life as a guide for resolving the world’s problems and conflicts, renouncing the arms race, and to initiate disarmament in order to guarantee the preservation of life on this planet.
- To adopt the just legal transformations that are necessary for the construction of systems and means of communication and information based on our world view, spirituality and communal philosophy, in the wisdom of our ancestors. To guarantee recognition of the indigenous peoples’ right to communication and information.
- To guarantee respect for and the right to life, health and bilingual intercultural education, incorporating policies of benefit to the indigenous first nations and peoples.
- To declare water to be a human right, a vital element and social property of humanity and not a source of profit. Likewise, to encourage the use of alternative energies that do not threaten the life of the planet, thereby guaranteeing access to all basic services.
- To solve cases of migration between countries in a mutually responsible way, adopting policies of free circulation of persons in order to guarantee a world without borders in which there is no discrimination, marginalization and exclusion.
- To decolonize the United Nations, and move its headquarters to a territory that dignifies and expresses the just aspirations of the peoples, nations and states of the world.
- Not to criminalize the struggles of the indigenous peoples, or demonize or accuse us of terrorism when we reclaim our rights and advance our ideas on how to save life and humanity.
- To release immediately the indigenous leaders imprisoned in various parts of the world, and in the first place Leonard Peltier in the United States.
The struggle is unceasing, we will continue our resistance until our time comes. We proclaim the 12th of October the “day of commencement of our struggles to save Mother Nature”. From our families, homes, communities, peoples, whether in government or without, we ourselves are determining and directing our destinies, we ourselves are assuming the will and responsibility to live well that has been bequeathed to us by our ancestors, to expand, from the simplest and least complicated to the greatest and most complex, to construct horizontally and mutually, each and every one, the culture of patience, the culture of dialogue and fundamentally the culture of life.
By the dead, the heroes and martyrs that lend meaning to our lives through their utopias and longings, we strengthen our identity, our organizational processes and our struggles to build the unity of the peoples of the world and to restore the balance, saving life, humanity and the planet earth.
We confirm our support for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to brother Evo Morales for his ongoing and unconditional dedication to the good of humanity, the peoples, the planet and world peace.
 “Pachakuti is a Quechua word with multiple meanings. Literally meaning turning or returning (kuti) of the earth (pacha), it is translated alternatively as ‘new beginning,’ ‘reawakening,’ ‘revolution,’ or ‘renovation.’ … It has replaced Tupaj Katari as the key symbol of indigenous resistance in the Andes, as demonstrated by its use in indigenous political parties’ names in Ecuador (Movimiento Unido Pluricultural Pachakutik) and Peru (Partido Inka Pachacúteq), as well as Felipe Quispe’s Movimiento Indígena Pachakutik. Pachakuti is also the name of a prominent 15th-century Inca leader who ruled during a time of territorial expansion (personal communication, José Antonio Lucero, 4 Dec. 2002).” – Donna Lee Van Cott, “From Exclusion to Inclusion: Bolivia’s 2002 Elections”, J. Lat. Amer. Stud. 35, 751–775, p. 764n.
 Literally, the Fifth Sun. See http://www.mexconnect.com/mex_/mysfifthsun.html.
 “Continent of Life”. See http://abyayala.nativeweb.org/about.html.
Translated from America Latina en Movimiento for Bolivia Rising by Richard Fidler. Footnotes added by the translator.
Speech by the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega Saavedra, before the 62th General Assembly of the United Nations, September 25, 2007
Good afternoon esteemed representatives, brothers and sisters of the communities that make up this Organization of the United Nations.
I would like to begin by remembering the millions of human beings who have been victims of policies of colonialism and neocolonialism.
Let us begin by remembering the victims of the Holocaust; the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the victims of the slavery of Apartheid; to the victims of the wars and occupation of Vietnam and Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Granada, Panama and Nicaragua.
Let us remember the heroic and noble Cuban victims, who have suffered all manner of aggression and a brutal and inhumane blockade. Let us remember the five Cuban heroes, prisoners of the empire because they fought against terrorism.
I want to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center; the millions of men and women that have been and continue to be victims of the genocide created by global capitalism.
To the victims of discrimination and Apartheid, created by those that deny their entry into the developed countries; I would like to remember the people of Latin American who try to enter the United States, and the people of Africa, of Asia, who try to enter European nations.
Our reflection, our appreciation and our solidarity for the victims of natural disasters, that are at the same time, victims of the global imperialist capitalism that, with its pro-development policy, continues to provoke destruction, death and poverty transforming itself into the main aggressor against Mother Earth, destroyed today by the avarice of imperialist capitalism.
I would like to remember the recent victims of natural disasters that have been stimulated by the deprivation provoked by global capitalism… the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the victims of the earthquake in Peru, the victims of the floods in Africa; the indigenous victims, the Miskito and Mayangna people, the victims of Hurricane Felix in Central America, Latin America and the Caribbean, in the land of Sandino and Rubén Dario.
Our brothers and sisters, the Miskito and Mayangna people, who obtained their autonomy in 1987, and who today participate in a process where their rights are recognized under the Law of Autonomy, have asked me to recognize the United Nations, because after a battle of more than 20 years, they are finally beginning to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples.
They have asked me to deliver here in the United Nations, a document signed by the leaders of our brothers and sisters the Miskito, the Mayangnas, the people of African heritage, victims of Hurricane Felix, so that this document can circulate among all of you, brothers and sisters and representatives of the people of our planet.
Eighteen years ago I had the opportunity of addressing, in the period from 1979 to 1989, this General Assembly of the United Nations; and I remember the speeches perfectly, the messages, the positions. Eighteen years have passed, and thanks to the undefeatable fight of the people of Sandino, I am here again, addressing these words to you.
This morning, as the General Assembly began, I listened attentively the words of the second speaker, who took exactly twenty minutes, and I hope not to go over twenty minutes… and I cannot find any difference between the thought, the word, the action of those that were at the forefront of this imperialist power, and the speech I heard this morning.
The presidents of the United States change, and they can have the best of intentions, they may think that they are doing something good for humanity, but they cannot see that they are nothing else but instruments of another empire, of the many empires that have imposed themselves upon our planet.
But they forget the life of empires is ephemeral, that just as they come into being, just as they fill themselves with pride and prepotency, just as they begin to dictate as Gods, who is good and who is bad, just as they dictate how they deliver what they call assistance, which is nothing but the historic debts they have with our people, they are simply responding to the policies of empire.
So it is no surprise that we find ourselves, not only with the same discourse, but with the same circumstances of oppression, violence and terror that suffered by humanity, a humanity that is today under a greater threat than 18 years ago, when I had the opportunity of speaking here in the United Nations; today, under the tyranny of global imperialist capitalism.
And there is an International Economic Order, of course there is! But, who dictates this International Economic Order? A minority of dictators that impose their interests, what are not new! They were the ones who enslaved the African peoples, the ones that enslaved our indigenous ancestors. They were the ones who exterminated the indigenous peoples here in the United States. And then came the immigrants… Europe, very relaxedly… with what right! To steamroll these people and install themselves as owners of that which did not belong to them.
They robbed these people of their rights, their culture, their interests and they imposed the culture and the interests of the colonizers. Thus was born what is today presented as the most exemplary democracy in the world, though in reality it was the tyranny, the most gigantic dictatorship that has existed in history of humanity, the tyranny of the North American Empire.
And if there is any doubt, let’s see how Mr. President spoke this morning… with a total disrespect towards Cuba! When he represents a system that has tried to assassinate the President of Cuba, our dear brother Fidel Castro, whom we honor because he has shown extraordinary solidarity, he has been firm and truthful with his principles in his fight for humanity.
They, who have persisted in maintaining the brutal Cuban blockade, for reasons of national interest, do not pay attention to these “democratic principles”, when, for economic reasons, they weave common action with nations with which they have, supposedly, ideological differences. Capital unites them and thus do ideological differences disappear.
With what authority can they question the rights of Iran or North Korea? With what right do they question the right of these peoples to build peaceful atomic programs? And even more! If they want to use to use it for military purposes… with what authority, with what right, do those that have been the only one, the only state that in the history of humanity to use atomic bombs against defenseless people, like they did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
With what authority… can they condemn the people of Iran that is working for the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes? The fact is that they have already decided that it is not with peaceful purposes, and who has given them that right? They give it themselves and they impose it on the General Assembly!
Because this General Assembly is not more than a reflection of a world reality, where a capitalist, imperialist minority, that today imposes global capitalism and establishes an order to exploit, oppress, impoverish, enslave, to continue provoking Apartheid against the Latin American immigrants and against the African immigrants in Europe… because global capitalism is one and has a single head! But is only one, with its tentacles everywhere.
With what authority? It has been the country with the largest atomic arsenal on the planet and with what authority do other countries that posses atomic weapons come here to try to question the right of other nations to the peaceful development of atomic energy? They don’t even have the moral authority to question the right of any people to develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes and even for military purposes.
This is not, of course, the best road for humanity… the best road would be for all atomic weapons to disappear! If the United States, if the American presidents, and I do not want to personalize in one president the conduct of the empire, because the empire is the empire! Independently of who is heads it, whether Democrat or Republican… the empire is the empire!
If the United States really wants to demonstrate that it is convinced that it is necessary to end the threat of atomic energy with military ends, it has to be the first to start a policy of nuclear disarmament! A policy that must be followed by all those that have nuclear armaments…
And then… there will be moral authority to say that no nation in the world can invest resources in atomic development for military purposes. And then all nations can have the option and the right that is being denied to those developing countries to opt for peaceful atomic development.
Eighteen years ago, I told you, from this very same place, we talked about the same problems!… The Palestinian problem, the Palestinian people, always bloodied, with a nation there that has atomic weapons! Right there, in the historic territory of the Palestinian people.
Eighteen years ago we talked about Puerto Rico, a nation that has been fighting for its independence, and here is Puerto Rico fighting for its independence; the United States continues expressing, quite clearly, its neocolonialist policies. In other words, they combine the most advanced forms of domination with the most retrograde forms of domination, like the military bases they have in Guantanamo.
Eighteen years ago we talked about armament and History remains the same! Eighteen years ago there we spoke of war and history remains the same today, even worse, because we find ourselves in a brutal war, imposed by imperialism, imposed by the economic and oil interests of the empire.
He thought it was going to be an easy task to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, and has met the resistance of the people in those countries. An invasion started with a campaign of lies! Because it was not true that Iraq had any possibility of creating atomic weapons.
What can I conclude? That the enemy continues to be the same, after eighteen years! Now that I find myself again in the United Nations, the enemy is the same and is called global imperialist capitalism. And we alone, the people, can change this.
The people that have been able to achieve their liberation have not done so thanks to the good will of the empires, but thanks to struggle, to the spilled blood of the people. The people that spilled their blood in South Africa to attain independence… how many years of ignominy, of suffering, of slavery, of Apartheid in South Africa.
We could thus go through the whole African continent and find that people acquired freedom, in spite of the fact that the modern colonialists tried to maintain those forms of occupation and of course assumed new forms of occupation and established new forms of domination.
It is our peoples that have to continue battling, it is the unity of our people, of the Latin America, of Central America, of the Caribbean, unity at ALBA. And do not let actions be repeated, like their actions against Venezuela when, against a democratically elected president, they tried a military coup! They tried to repeat the history of Salvador Allende, the history of Chile, they tried to repeat it.
But it wasn’t the United Nations, the United Nations was not called to say, what is happening in Venezuela is a barbarity! What is happening must be condemned, because it is a democratically elected government. No! Rather the empire ran immediately to recognize the coup leaders!… It was the Venezuelan people themselves that rose to reinstate the president they had elected. In other words it is the people that decide their own destiny!
For that reason, so that the United Nations can change, my brothers and sisters… we may all be filled with good intentions. I don’t even doubt the representatives of global capitalism and imperialists come here with the best of intentions, some of them; but they lose sight, they continue their dependency-creating proposals, because they are “help-ists”! When they talk of help, they are insulting us!
They have to understand, once and for all, that as they have been able to profit from privatization… what do the huge transnational enterprises come to do in the developing countries? They say they come to help, but what businessman comes to help? The businessman invests to make money, to maximize its profits, not to reinvest them in the country but to take them away, because the developing countries are classified as insecure countries. In other ways we are being sacked!
If we compare the volume of riches that the capitalist, developed countries, with their huge enterprises and their immense globalized capital, continue to extract from our countries, if we compare those riches, those profits, with what the Latin American migrants send from the United States to their families, or what the immigrants from Africa and Asian in Europe, it is really a miserly amount! Compared with the volumes of riches sacked daily by those institutionalized forms of oppression.
On the other hand, the immigrants that work in the United States and Europe, work harder than anybody! They do the jobs that the Americans and Europeans do not do and receive miserable salaries… then, who is doing a favor for whom?
They do no favor for the Latin Americans that are able to work in the United States and who are able to save a few dollars to send one hundred, two hundred dollars to their families, as opposed to the sacking of the big enterprises that come to obtain huge profits, but also to profit from cheap labor and the conditions imposed by the Free Trade Agreements.
Logically, free enterprise so that human beings confront each other, so that societies confront each other, nations, let’s see who is the strongest! And of course the strongest will prevail, the law of the jungle, free enterprise.
What we need in the world is fair commerce, what the world demands is really a change in the globalized capitalist imperialist countries, there has to be a change in them! They have to change the concepts of free markets and free trade agreements for just commerce and a just international market.
It is not by reducing subsidies that this problem will be resolved, because quite simply, the disparities are so great that it is impossible! It is not with crumbs that this problem will be resolved.
These problems will be resolved with profoundly radical changes that will democratize those that, although they are a minority on Planet Earth, are the owners of the riches, are the owners of atomic armaments, and impose their policies on this Assembly. They step over the Security Council of the United Nations; they impose their own laws over those that are clearly established and they have no respect for humanity.
Only by changing these policies in these countries, these nations, these people, is it possible to have the just world we all talk about. Because we all talk about a just world, a world at peace, a world of fraternity, of solidarity, ah! But from words to practice, there is a great distance!
Receive my dear brothers and sisters our salutations, the salutations of the Nicaraguan people, a fighting people that has suffered the interventions of the empire, since 1856! Before the triumph of the October Revolution, that revolution of the great Lenin. When there was no East-West conflict, Nicaragua was already suffering the expansionist policies of the empire, Nicaragua already had to rise up in arms to confront those that wanted to defeat us and impose on us Yankee presidents.
We want, dear brothers and sisters, to ask you to transmit to your peoples the conviction that today more than ever, there are also conditions for the unity of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples; the unity of the African peoples is growing, the unity of the Asian peoples must grow, free of this global capitalism! Because what good is it to talk about Socialism if what is being built is capitalism and if what happening is a holy alliance with global and imperialist capitalism.
We have to build the Grand Unity, in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America, where we are walking with the same strength, the same energy, the same principles that live on of Lubumba, Sekú Turé. The principles of the Asian fighters, of immortal Ho Chi Minh; the principles of Latin American fighters, the principles of the same North American fighters, of the United States of America, the principles of the European fighters.
The principles of Latin America, of Bolivar, Martí, Sandino, Tupac Katari, Tupac Amaru, those principles live on and will continue to be of value as long as these forms of oppression exist!
I have faith in God, and the certainty that just as the peoples, in spite of so much oppression, of so much destruction, have not surrendered, nor have sold out… today more than ever, the people lift themselves with pride, firmness, dignity, they will not sell out nor will they surrender to the globalized capitalist empire!
by Fidel Castro Ruz
August 25, 2007
[Socialist Voice Note: Eduardo René Chibás Rivas (1907-1951) was the founder of the Ortodoxos (Orthodox) party, of which Fidel Castro was a member. He aimed to expose government corruption and bring about revolutionary change through constitutional means.]
When I read Hart’s article, published by Granma in commemoration of Chibás’ birth, and saw it quoted a paragraph of the speech I delivered at the Colón Cemetery on January 16, 1959, eight days after my arrival in Havana following the revolutionary triumph, many memories of fallen, heroic comrades came to me. I thought of Juan Manuel Márquez, a brilliant orator and follower of Marti’s ideas and second chief of the Granma expeditionary force. I thought of Abel Santamaría, who was to take command of our forces were I to fall during the attack on the Moncada garrison; of Pedro Marrero, Ñico López, José Luis Tasende, Gildo Fleitas, the Gómez brothers, Ciro Redondo, Julio Díaz and practically all the members of the numerous contingent of young people from Artemisa who fell at Moncada or in the Sierra. The list is endless. All of them came from the rank and file of the Orthodox Party.
The first problem we faced was getting Batista out of office. Had Chibás been alive, Batista would not have been able to stage his coup d’état, because the founder of the Cuban (Orthodox) People’s Party kept a close eye on him and called him into question publicly and methodically. Following Chibás’ death, Batista was sure to lose the elections scheduled for June 1, 1952, two and a half months after the coup. Opinion polls were fairly reliable and Batista’s unpopularity was constantly growing, day after day.
I was at the meeting where the new Orthodox candidate was chosen. I was more of a bold intruder than an invitee. I was to enter parliament, to struggle in the name of a radical program. No one could have prevented this. Then, it was rumored that I was a communist, a word which prompted many negative reactions inculcated by the dominant classes. To have spoken of Marxism-Leninism then, or even during the first years of the Revolution, would have been foolish and clumsy. During the speech I delivered before Chibás’ grave, I spoke such that the people would understand the objective contradictions which our society faced at the time and which we still must face.
I spoke every day at a local radio station in the capital to deliver messages directly to tens of thousands of voters who had spontaneously joined the Orthodox Party. I also addressed the entire nation through the special supplements of the Alerta newspaper on several, nearly consecutive Mondays, publishing the proven accusations of corruption in the Prío government voiced between January 28 and March 4, 1952. Intuitively, I was able to predict and get inside Batista’s intentions of staging a coup. I denounced these intentions before the party leadership and asked them permission to use Chibás’ Sunday radio time to do so publicly. “We’ll look into it”, they told me. Two days later, they announced the following: “We have looked into the matter through our channels and there’s no indication of that whatsoever”. The coup could have been prevented but nothing was done. Months before, Chibás had already, painstakingly managed to prevent “a pact without ideology”, as he would call it, between members of the Orthodox party and the former Cuban (Authentic) Revolutionary Party. Most of the provincial party leadership had supported the pact. The economic system prevailing at the time made it easy for the oligarchy and land-owners to take control of the party leadership in nearly all of the country’s provinces. Only one party leadership remained loyal, the one in the capital, which was heavily influenced by radical intellectuals. Following the coup and at a time when unity was most dearly needed, what the oligarchy did was abandon the vast majority of the people at the mercy of the imperialist tempest. I continued to adhere to my revolutionary project, only that this time it would be an armed struggle, from the very beginning.
The day in which Chibás — whose body lay in state at the University of Havana — was to be buried, I proposed that the leadership of the Orthodox Party lead the enormous funeral procession to the Presidential Palace and seize the premises. I had spent the entire night answering questions from radio reporters and inciting the people to undertake radical actions. No one at the university paid any attention to the radio broadcasts that night. We had a disorganized, panic-stricken government, a demoralized army that had no intention of repressing that procession. No one would have held it back.
One year after the death of Chibás, I wrote a proclamation titled “A Harsh Blow”, which was mimeographed six days following Batista’s treacherous coup. What follows is the text of this proclamation.
Not a Revolution, but a harsh blow! Not patriots; but destroyers of civil liberty, usurpers, backward-minded individuals, adventurers thirsty for gold and power.
It was not a military uprising against the apathetic and lazy President Prio; it was a military uprising against the people, on the eve of an election whose results were a foregone conclusion.
There was no order but it was the people whose duty it was to decide democratically, in a civilized manner, on the men who would govern them, by political will and not by force.
A fortune would be spent in favor of the imposed candidate, nobody denies that, but that wouldn’t change the result just as the result was not changed by a flood of funds from the Public Treasury in favor of the candidate imposed by Batista in 1944.
It is completely false, absurd, ridiculous and childish that Prio would attempt a coup d’état, a clumsy excuse; his impotence and incapacity to attempt such an enterprise has been irrefutably demonstrated by the cowardice with which power was seized.
We were suffering from bad governance, but we were also suffering from years of waiting for a constitutional opportunity to avert the evil, and you, Batista, who remained in the shadows as a coward for four years and futilely indulged in politicking for another three, now you appear with your tardy, disturbing and poisonous remedy, ripping the Constitution to shreds when we were only two months away from reaching the goal through the official channels.
Everything you allege is a lie, a cynical justification, concealed vanity and not patriotic decorum, ambition and not ideal, greed and not civil nobility.
It was correct to overthrow a government made up of embezzlers and murderers; we tried to do this by civic channels, supported by public opinion and with the help of the masses; in contrast, what right do they who yesterday robbed and killed indiscriminately have to replace it in the name of bayonets?
It is not peace, it is the seed of hatred which is being sown. It is not happiness, it is mourning and sadness which the nation feels as it is faced with the tragic panorama it begins to discern. There is nothing in this world as bitter as the spectacle of a people who go to sleep in liberty and awaken in slavery.
Once again the military boot; once again Columbia dictating laws that remove and appoint ministers; once again tanks rumbling menacingly through our streets; once again brute force reigning over human rationality. We were becoming accustomed to living by the Constitution; we had twelve years without any great difficulties, even though there were some errors and rash actions. Superior states of civic coexistence can only be attained through arduous efforts. In a matter of a few hours, you, Batista, have demolished the Cuban people’s noble illusion.
All of the ills Prío was responsible for in three years, you committed in the course of eleven. Your coup is thus unjustifiable; it is not based on any serious moral reason, or on any social or political doctrine of any kind. It finds its only reason for existence in force, and its justification in lies. Your majority lies with the Army, never with the people. Your ballots are guns, never free wills; with them you can win a military uprising, but never clean elections. Your usurping against power lacks any principles to legitimize it; laugh if you will, but in the long run principles are more powerful than cannons. Principles are what form and nourish the people, what embolden them for battle, what they die for.
Do not call this outrage revolution, this disquieting and untimely coup, this treacherous stab in the back of the Republic which you have just given. Trujillo has been the first one to recognize your government, he knows who his friends are in the covey of tyrants who are battering America; that shows, more than anything else, the reactionary, militaristic and criminal nature of your coup. Nobody even remotely believes in the governmental success of your old and rotten covey; the thirst for power is too great; there is no moderation when there is no Constitution and law other than the will of the tyrant and his gang.
I know beforehand that your guarantee for life will be torture and humiliation. Your followers will kill even though you don’t want them to, and you will tranquilly consent because you owe yourself completely to them. Despots are masters of the people they oppress and slaves to the force on which they base their oppression. A torrent of lying and demagogic propaganda will rain down on us now, in your favor, from all sources, using both soft and hard methods, and your opposition will be deluged with vile slander; Prío did that also and it had no effect on the people’s consciousness. But the truth which illuminates the fate of Cuba and guides the steps of our people in this their difficult hour, that truth which you will forbid to be told, the whole world will know it; it will race clandestinely from mouth to mouth, down every man and woman, even though no one says it in public or publishes it in the press, and everyone will believe it and the seeds of heroic rebellion shall be sown in every heart; that is what guides every conscience.
I do not know what the furious pleasure of the oppressors will be, when their treacherous whip hits human backs like a new Cain against their brothers, but I do know that there is an infinite happiness in fighting them and raising a strong arm while saying: I don’t want to be a slave!
Cubans: again we have a tyrant, but again we will have the likes of Mella, Trejo and Guiteras; there is oppression in our homeland but one day there will be freedom again.
I invite all brave Cubans, all the brave militants of the Glorious Party of Chibás; the time has come to make sacrifices and fight; should our lives be lost, nothing is lost; “to live enchained is to live in dishonor and outrage. To die for the Homeland is to live.”
When this irreverent article was not published —who would dare publish it?— it was distributed at the Colón Cemetery by friends and sympathizers in the Orthodox Party on March 16, 1952.
On August 16, 1952, the clandestine newspaper El acusador published an article entitled “A Critical Assessment of the Cuban (Orthodox) People’s Party”, under the pseudonym of “Alejandro”. As I have already offered a critical assessment of that party, I thought it apt to include the following analysis:
Above and beyond the commotion of the cowards, the mediocre and the fainthearted, it is necessary to voice a brief but courageous and constructive assessment of the Orthodox Movement, following the fall of its great leader Eduardo Chibás.
The formidable and sharp criticisms of the champion of the Orthodox Party left it such an immense profusion of popular emotion that it brought it right to the doors of Power. Everything was done, and all that remained was to know how to hold on to the ground already gained.
The first question each honest Orthodox member must ask himself is the following: Have we enhanced the moral and revolutionary legacy left us by Chibás…, or, on the contrary, have we misappropriated part of that legacy…?
He who thinks that until this moment everything has been done well, that we have nothing to reproach ourselves for, is not sufficiently severe with his conscience.
Those sterile feuds that followed the death of Chibás, those colossal scandals, for reasons that were not exactly ideological but purely selfish and personal, still echo like bitter blows of the hammer on our conscience.
That dreadful process of going to the rostrum to clarify pointless disputes was a grave symptom of lack of discipline and responsibility.
March 10th came unexpectedly. It was to be expected that such a serious event would rip from the roots of the Party the petty quarrels and the sterile personal ambitions. Was that what actually happened…?
To the amazement and indignation of the Party masses, the clumsy disputes cropped up again. The culprits were so foolish that they did not realize that there was narrow room in the press to attack the regime, but ample room to attack the Orthodox Party. Those who have helped Batista in like fashion have not been few.
No one would be shocked that such a necessary recount should be made today, when it is the time for the great masses who, in bitter silence, have suffered these losses, and there is no more fitting moment than today to be accountable to Chibás at his tomb.
That immense mass of the Cuban People’s Party is on its feet, more determined than ever. It asks at this hard moment…Where are those who were candidates…those who wanted to be the first in the positions of honor at the assemblies and in the executive, those who would go on tours and chart tendencies, those who would claim their places on the platform at the large rallies and who now no longer go on tours, or mobilize the grass roots, or ask for the positions of honor in the front line of combat…?
Whoever has a traditional concept of politics could be pessimistic when faced with this vision of truths. On the other hand, for those with a blind faith in the masses, for those who believe in the uncompromising force of great ideas, the indecision of the leaders will not be a reason for weakness or despair, because these vacancies will be occupied in short order by upright men who come from the rank and file.
The moment has come for revolution and not politics. Politics is the consecration of the opportunism of those who have the means and the resources. Revolution opens the door to true worthiness, to those who possess courage and sincere ideals, to those who bare their chest and uplift the banner. The Revolutionary Party requires a revolutionary leadership, young and from the ranks of the people, in order to save Cuba.
Later, we set up a clandestine radio station which did what Radio Rebelde would later do in the Sierra. In relatively little time, the mimeograph, broadcaster and the few things we had fell to the hands of the coup officers. I then learned the rigorous rules to which the conspiracy which culminated with the attack on the Moncada garrison had to adhere.
Shortly, a small volume which expounds on two fundamental ideas that were expressed in two of my speeches — the one I delivered at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro over 15 years ago and at the international conference titled “Dialogue among Civilizations”, held two and a half years ago — will be published. I ask readers to study the two documents in depth. I apologize for this act of self-publicity, from which I hope you, not I, will profit.
1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples of America — Abya Yala
“Constructing Indoamerican Socialism”
(Translated by Federico Fuentes, Bolivia Rising.
See also “The Bears Are Mounting the Silver Eagle to Meet the Condor”)
Meeting in the ancestral territories of Kumarakapay; which our indigenous brothers and sisters of the Pemon People inhabit; within the framework of the 1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala; held in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, over the days 7, 8 and 9 of August, 2007; conscious of our existence as peoples since millenarian times and with the full conviction of continuing to act in defense of life and the planet, the people united here, from 21 different countries of our continent, from Alaska to the Patagonia, have agreed to emit the following declaration:
We are youth, women, men, grandmothers and grandfathers of the originario [first] peoples, who since time immemorial have live in Abya Yala; descendents from our aboriginal guerilla forefathers, defenders, precursors and founders of a free and sovereign homeland, of great liberators, such as Bolivar, Artigas, Morazan, Sandino etc.
Today we are living proof of ancestral struggles, meeting again as a anti-imperialist front, with delegations coming from Alaska, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Canada, Honduras, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Surinam, United States and Venezuela.
We recognize that our struggle as indigenous originario peoples has been millenary and which has had key moments in modern times, amongst those being transcendental continental encounters; the result of the diverse efforts by many peoples, communities and indigenous organizations and communities carried out over a long of dialogue and having reached the point of putting forward conclusions and strategies that have strengthen the unity of the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala, expressed in diverse declarations such as those of:
The First Continental Encounter of Indian Peoples held in Quito in 1990; the Continental Campaign of 500 years of Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance, which involved mobilizations across all of our continent on October 12, 1992; the Declaration of Temoaya of 1993; the 1st Indigenous Summit in Teotihuacan, Mexico, in 2000; the 2nd Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala, which was held in Quito in 2004; the Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Organisations, realized in Mar de Plata, Argentina, in 2005; the Continental Encounter of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala, in La Paz, Bolivia, in 2006; and the 3rd Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala realized in Guatemala, in March of this year, 2007, out of which came the Declaration of Iximche, whose anti-imperialist positions we support.
We have decided to give continuity to these efforts, in the search for unionist processes; conscious that the Abya Yala, from Alaska to the Patagonia, is a continent ancestrally indigenous, committed to the struggles against domination since the era of colonialism up until current times; where the threat and aggression by the US empire against the peoples of Abya Yala have been continuous and is taking us towards the imminent extinction of our cultures.
It is essential for the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala to constitute and give body, life and movement to a space with continental character to allow us to integrate and unite, based on our spiritual, moral, and combative wealth and resistance, with the fundamental objective of defending ourselves and defending our peoples and the entire planet from attacks, principally led by the US empire.
We see imperialism as the highest phase of capitalism, through its distinct expressions, such as consumerism; the wastage of natural resources, which is taking us towards the destruction of biodiversity; the transculturalisation of the people which implies wiping out our essence; the loss of our ancestral values and the negation of our existence as people, converting itself into the most terrible threat encroaching over the lives and existence of our planet.
Conscious that an alternative to save the planet from voracious capitalism is the construction, execution and putting into march of the socialism of the 21st century on the basis of Indoamerican socialism, based on the principals of communality, solidarity, reciprocity, social justice, equality, complementarity and harmony with nature.
We recognize that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), as a viable and just proposal to integrate the people of Latin America and the Caribbean in one single economic, political, cultural and social bloc where complementation and the respect of our identity will be the principal rectores, values that coincide with our ancestral practices.
The urgent necessity to initiate a collective process of construction of ancestral thought, born out of and generated by our realities, our forms of construction of knowledge and our languages.
Due to this, we have decided to constitute ourselves into the Continental Council of the Great Nation of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, whose temporary headquarters will be in Venezuela, and which will have as its primordial objectives:
To be a space for the participation, articulation and integration of the diverse indigenous peoples of Abya Yala, and act as a single body in defense against the attacks, aggressions and threats of the empire, in all its forms.
Constitute a platform of discussion of anti-imperialist policies and organizations, emerging from each one of the indigenous communities, via their own organizations or communal councils.
To be the collective voice of the indigenous peoples and communities of America in support of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), with the aim of reclaiming the originario rights of indigenous people, through the policies of the member governments of ALBA.
Push forward the construction of socialism of the 21st century through the contributions that Indoamerican socialism offers.
Plan of Continental Struggle:
Promote the creation of the University of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala, which seeks to consolidate spaces of formation that preserve our identity, culture, language and traditional medical practices, according to the necessities of each people, with multiple installations in all the continent.
We raise our voices, as anti-imperialist indigenous peoples, constituted in the Continental Council, against the governments of the empire, principally the United States; against the transnational corporations that promote the privatization of natural resources, destroyers of our biodiversity, language and culture; against the organizations, mass media, press, radio networks and television at the service of the empire; and against all those that promote savage neoliberalism in all its expressions. We demand that they:
Stop the depraved exploitation of our natural resources that exist in our space, soil and subsoil; monocultures, the utilization of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, the risks with flugosato, transgenetics, and the genetic manipulation of all living beings – contrary to the prinicipals of life; the poisoning of our peoples that is carried out via the distribution and sale of dangerous canned and bottled chemical products.
Stop the violation of the intellectual property rights; the theft and extraction of medicinal plants; the persecution and harassment of community, alternative media and indigenous communications and journalists; the acts of violation of the right to information, which forms part of our original law.
Stop the installation of imperialist military bases in our countries and immediately withdraw existing ones.
We say no to US or imperialist intervention in the revolutionary processes of the countries of Latin America, principally the Bolivarian revolution being headed by the president and commandante Hugo Chavez, and commandante Fidel Castro.
We pronounce ourselves against the genocide that is being committed against Iraq and Afghanistan and the people who make up those countries, as well as against the threat hanging over the brother country of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
We reject with our all strength any attempts at invasion or bellicose intervention against any nation of this free and sovereign world. We demand the unrestricted respect for the sovereignty of all Indo-Latin America countries. Whenever our nations are attacked by imperialism, the indigenous people will be ready to defend them from all points of view, and in diverse manners.
We support brother Evo Morales Ayma for the Nobel Peace Prize, for having achieved a space for participation in Bolivia in favour of the majority, and having avoided a social confrontation, led by the people in search of their liberation, which today they have found constitutionally.
We are against the state terrorism carried out by the empire; the criminalisation of the social movements; the repression which goes against truly legal and real freedom of expression; the impunity which surrounds the disrespectful freedom of expression that promotes hate, egoism, anger and resistance to changes in favour of the majority, the people.
We oppose in its entirety any international declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples that does not respond to the revolutionary processes, and that, on the contrary aims to grab media attention, and control and fragment communities. Likewise with the multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, Inter American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that have indebted governments, and with that, the peoples.
We pronounce ourselves against the Zionist movements, which are one form of expression of this imperialism.
We back the efforts and struggles of the indigenous peoples carried out daily across the whole continent of Abya Yala, principally the current indigenous movements of Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Uruguay, Argentina, Guatemala, where, not only are they not inexistent as they were believed to be, rather, the indigenous peoples are present, and each day are impeding the empire from continuing to destroy lives and communities in these important territories.
We salute the anti-imperialist governments of the continent, with the presence of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, where the indigenous struggle has found backing and recognition for their demands.
Our fraternal support goes to the struggle of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca and Chiapas in Mexico, expressed via the Popular Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the Zapatista Movement.
We back the policy of humanitarian and solidarity-based aid that is being carried out via the internationalization of the Missions of the Bolivarian Revolution, as a clear demonstration of what is Socialism of the 21st Century.
We call on all the peoples of Abya Yala to become part of this Continental Council of the Great Nation of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, as one more space of struggle against the empire, capitalism and neoliberal globalisation that wants to impose itself; which does not substitute any other effort but rather complements our historic, local and regional struggles, so that we continue walking united, as one single body, as one single voice, towards the construction of the great homeland.
We invite everyone to participate in the 2nd International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, to be held next year, 2008.
To continue writing the history of our Indoamerican indigenous peoples, death to imperialism!
Homeland, Socialism or Death!
We will win!
On the ancestral territory of Kumarakapay, Gran Sabana, Venezuela,
on the 9th day of the month of August of 2007.
by Paul Kellogg
(From Socialist Worker (Canada) August 13, 2007. Posted with permission.)
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a mid-sized country with a population of about 26 million. An incredible 5.7 million of those people – almost 25 per cent – have signed up to join the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), called into being by the country’s president Hugo Chavez.
To get a sense of the scale of this process. it is the equivalent of a new left party in the United States, signing up between 60 and 70 million people!
The first phase of founding the new party ended with the meeting in Caracas at the end of June, of officials and party militants in the National Meeting of Candidates for PSUV Militants. Vice-president Jorge Rodriguez said that the second phase would be “the formation across national territory of more than 20,000 socialist battalions, made up of 300 (party) candidates each.”
Who is in this new party? According to venezuelanalysis.com, the 5.7 million represent 80 percent of the 7.3 million people who voted for Chavez in last December’s presidential elections. Of those signed up, 2.88 million are men and 2.78 million – almost half – are women.
The formation of the party is an enormous step forward in the advancement of the Bolivarian process in Venezuela.
Activists in the Global North should not judge this new formation on the basis of whether it lives up to an abstract model of a socialist party.
The fundamental dynamic of the Bolivarian process is not in the first instance about socialism, but rather about political sovereignty and national control over an economy, plundered for generations by the forces of imperialism.
All past experience indicates that a challenge to imperialism, and the establishment of independence and sovereignty in a poor and oppressed nation cannot advance without deep and permanent mobilizations of the masses of the poor and the oppressed. A challenge to imperialism is so difficult. that again and again masses of the poor need to throw their bodies into the balance to prevent counter-revolution.
That is why the language of socialism always emerges, because repeated entries of the masses onto the stage of history is the basic building block of the socialist movement.
We saw one million take to the streets April 2002, to defeat the right-wing coup against Chavez.
We saw the rank and file of the working class re-open closed factories during the bosses’ strike of 2002 and 2003, restarting the economy in spite of the wishes of Venezuelan and international capital.
We saw incredible mobilizations in the referendum campaign to defeat the attempt to have Chavez recalled. and again in the campaign during last year’s presidential elections.
The formation of the party is the latest in a series of initiatives, reaching back to the formation of Bolivarian Circles, to give a permanent structure to this mass involvement in the revolution.
It is true that the call for the party was made by Chavez as an individual, reaching over the heads of the leadership of his own party – the Fifth Republic Movement. As a result. some have called it a “top-down” party.
This led to sharp fights inside the many pro-Chavista left parties in Venezuela. some of whom split over the question. But in party after party, regardless of the analysis of the leadership, the members voted with their feet moving into the new party. The instincts of the best in the left in Venezuela are that no meaningful left activism will be possible while staying on the sidelines of this new party.
The first job of socialists in an oppressed country is to be with the mass struggle against imperialism and for sovereignty. Clearly the new vehicle which will express this struggle will be the PSUV.
In fact, the stronger the left wing is inside the PSUV, the more the movement will be well placed to deal with the inevitable careerism and opportunism that will accompany an initiative on this scale.
The second – and equally difficult job – is to make the links, in theory and in practice, between the fight against imperialism and for sovereignty with the need for a complete break from capitalism, and a new state of democratic socialism.
A left current with that perspective that enthusiastically joins the PSUV will be able to begin that work.
The job of the left in Canada and the Global North is to publicize this process Inside our social movements, and to be prepared to move quickly to oppose any attempt by imperialist governments to intervene and crush the mass movement in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America.
by Fidel Castro Ruz
August 14, 2007
The history of Cuba during the last 140 years is one of struggle to preserve national identity and independence, and the history of the evolution of the American empire, its constant craving to appropriate Cuba and of the horrendous methods that it uses today to hold on to world domination.
Prominent Cuban historians have dealt in depth with these subjects in different periods and in various excellent books which deserve to be readily available to our compatriots. These reflections are addressed especially to the new generations with the aim of helping them learn about very important and decisive events in the destiny of our homeland.
Part I: The Imposition of the Platt Amendment as an appendix to the Neocolonial Cuban Constitution of 1901.
The “ripe fruit doctrine” was formulated in 1823 by Secretary of State and later President John Quincy Adams. The United States would inevitably achieve taking over our country, by the law of political influence, once colonial subordination to Spain had ended.
Under the pretext of blowing up the “Maine” –a still unraveled event of which it took advantage to wage war against Spain, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, an event which was demonstrably prefabricated in order to attack North Vietnam –President William McKinley signed the Joint Resolution of April 20, 1898, stating “…that the people on the island of Cuba are and by right ought to be free and independent”, “… that the United States herewith declare that they have no desire or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over said island, except for pacification thereof, and they affirm their determination, after this has been accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people.” The Joint Resolution entitled the President to use force to remove the Spanish government from Cuba.
Colonel Leonard Wood, chief commander of the Rough Riders, and Theodore Roosevelt, second in command of the expansionist volunteers who landed in our country on the beaches close to Santiago de Cuba, after the brave but poorly utilized Spanish squadron and their Marine infantry on board had been destroyed by the American battleships, requested the support of Cuban insurrectionists who had weakened and defeated the Spanish Colonial Army after enormous sacrifices. The Rough Riders had landed without horses.
Following the defeat of Spain, representatives of the Queen Regent of Spain and of the President of the United States signed the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898 and, without consulting of the Cuban people, agreed that Spain should relinquish all claim of sovereignty over and title to the island and would evacuate it. Cuba would then be occupied by the United States on a temporary basis.
Already appointed U.S. military governor, Army Major General Leonard Wood, issued Military Order 301 of July 25, 1900, which called for a general election to choose delegates to a Constitutional Assembly that would be held in the city of Havana at twelve noon on the first Monday of November in 1900, with the purpose of drafting and adopting a Constitution for the people of Cuba.
On September 15, 1900, elections took place and 31 delegates from the National, Republican and Democratic Union parties were elected. On November 5, 1900, the Constitutional Convention held its opening session at the Irijoa Theatre of Havana which on that occasion received the name of Martí Theatre.
General Wood, representing the President of the United States, declared the Assembly officially installed. Wood advanced the intention of the United States government: “After you have drawn up the relations which, in your opinion, ought to exist between Cuba and the United States, the government of the United States will undoubtedly adopt the measures conducive to a final and authorized treaty between the peoples of both nations, aimed at promoting the growth of their common interests.”
The 1901 Constitution provided in its Article 2 that “the territory of the Republic is composed of the Island of Cuba, as well as the islands and neighboring keys which together were under Spanish sovereignty until the ratification of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898”.
Once the Constitution was drafted, the time had come to define political relations between Cuba and the United States. To that end, on February 12, 1901, a committee of five members was appointed and charged with studying and proposing a procedure that would lead to the stated goal.
On February 15, Governor Wood invited the members of the committee to go fishing and hosted a banquet in Batabanó, the main access route to the Isle of Pines, as it was known then, also occupied at that time by the U.S. troops which had intervened in the Cuban War of Independence. It was there in Batabanó that he revealed to them a letter from the Secretary of War, Elihu Root, containing the basic aspects of the future Platt Amendment. According to instructions from Washington, relations between Cuba and the United States were to abide by several aspects. The fifth of these was that, in order to make it easier for the United States to fulfill such tasks as were placed under its responsibility by the above mentioned provisions, and for its own defense, the United States could acquire title, and preserve it, for lands to be used for naval bases and maintain these in certain specific points.
Upon learning of the conditions demanded by the U.S. government, the Cuban Constitutional Assembly, on February 27, 1901, passed a position that was opposed to that of the U.S. Executive, eliminating therein the establishment of naval bases.
The U.S. government made an agreement with Orville H. Platt, Republican Senator from Connecticut, to present an amendment to the proposed Army Appropriations Bill which would make the establishment of American naval bases on Cuban soil a fait accompli.
In the Amendment, passed by the U.S. Senate on February 27, 1901 and by the House of Representatives on March 1, and sanctioned by President McKinley the following day, as a rider attached to the “Bill granting credit to the Army for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 1902,” the article mentioning the naval bases was drafted as follows:
“Art. VII.- That to enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its own defense, the government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points to be agreed upon with the President of the United States.”
Article VIII adds: “…the government of Cuba will embody the foregoing provisions in a permanent treaty with the United States.”
The speedy passage of the Amendment by the U.S. Congress was due to the circumstance of it coming close to the conclusion of the legislative term and to the fact that President McKinley had a clear majority in both Houses so that the Amendment could be passed without any problem. It became a United States Law when, on March 4, McKinley was sworn in for his second presidential term in office.
Some members of the Constitutional Convention maintained the view that they were not empowered to adopt the Amendment requested by the United States since this implied limitations on the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba. Thus, the military governor Leonard Wood hastened to issue a new Military Order on March 12, 1901 where it was declared that the Convention was empowered to adopt the measures whose constitutionality was in question.
Other Convention members, such as Manuel Sanguily, held the opinion that the Assembly should be dissolved rather than adopt measures that so drastically offended the dignity and sovereignty of the people of Cuba. But during the session of March 7, 1901, a committee was appointed yet again in order to draft an answer to Governor Wood; the presentation of this was entrusted to Juan Gualberto Gómez who recommended, among other things, rejecting the clause concerning the leasing of coaling or naval stations.
Juan Gualberto Gómez maintained the most severe criticism of the Platt Amendment. On April 1, he tabled a debate of the presentation where he challenged the document on the grounds that it contravened the principles of the Treaty of Paris and of the Joint Resolution. But the Convention suspended the debate on Juan Gualberto Gómez’s presentation and decided to send another committee “to ascertain the motives and intentions of the government of the United States about any and all details referring to the establishment of a definitive order to relations, both political and economic, between Cuba and the United States, and to negotiate with the government itself, the bases for agreement on those extremes that would be proposed to the Convention for a final solution.”
Subsequently, a committee was elected that would travel to Washington, made up of Domingo Méndez Capote, Diego Tamayo, Pedro González Llorente, Rafael Portuondo Tamayo and Pedro Betancourt; they arrived in the United States on April 24, 1901. The next day, they met with Root and Wood who had earlier traveled back to his country for this purpose.
The American government hastened to publicly declare that the committee would be visiting Washington on their own initiative, with no invitation or official status.
Root, Secretary of War, met with the committee on April 25 and 26, 1901 and categorically informed them that “the United States’ right to impose the much debated clauses had been proclaimed for three-quarters of a century in the face of the American and European world and they were not willing to give it up to the point of putting their own safety in jeopardy.”
United States officials reiterated that none of the Platt Amendment clauses undermined the sovereignty and independence of Cuba; on the contrary, they would preserve them, and it was clarified that intervention would only occur in the case of severe disturbances, and only with the objective of maintaining order and internal peace.
The committee presented its report in a secret session on May 7, 1901. Within the committee there were severe discrepancies about the Platt Amendment.
On May 28, a paper drafted by Villuendas, Tamayo and Quesada was tabled for debate; it accepted the Amendment with some clarifications and recommended the signing of a treaty on trade reciprocity.
This paper was approved by a vote of 15 to 14, but the United States government didn’t accept that solution. It informed through Governor Wood that it would only accept the Amendment without qualifiers, and warned the Convention with an ultimatum that, since the Platt Amendment was “a statute passed by the Legislature of the United States, the President is obliged to carry it out as it is. He cannot change or alter it, add or take anything out. The executive action demanded by the statute is the withdrawal of the American Army from Cuba, and the statute authorizes this action when, and only when, a Constitutional government has been established which contains, either in its body or in appendices, certain categorical provisions, specified in the statute (…) Then if these provisions are found in the Constitution, the President will be authorized to withdraw the Army; if he does not find them there, then he will not be authorized to withdraw the Army…”
The United States Secretary of War sent a letter to the Cuban Constitutional Assembly where he stated that the Platt Amendment should be passed in its entirety with no clarifications, because in that way it would appear as a rider to the Army Appropriations Bill; he indicated that, otherwise, his country’s military forces would not be pulled out of Cuba.
On June 12, 1901, during another secret session of the Constitutional Assembly, the incorporation of the Platt Amendment as an appendix to the Constitution of the Republic passed on February 21 was put to the vote: 16 delegates voted aye and 11 voted nay. Bravo Correoso, Robau, Gener and Rius Rivera were absent from the session, abstaining from voting in favor of such a monstrosity.
The worst thing about the Amendment was the hypocrisy, the deceit, the Machiavellianism and the cynicism with which they concocted the plan to take over Cuba, to the lengths of publicly proclaiming the same arguments made by John Quincy Adams in 1823, about the apple which would fall because of gravity. This apple finally did fall, but it was rotten, just as many Cuban intellectuals had foreseen for almost half a century, from José Martí in the 1880’s right up to Julio Antonio Mella, assassinated in January of 1929.
Nobody better than Leonard Wood himself to describe what the Platt Amendment would mean for Cuba in two sections of a confidential letter to his fellow in the adventure, Theodore Roosevelt, dated on October 28, 1901:
“There is, of course, little or no independence left Cuba under the Platt Amendment. (…) the only consistent thing to do now is to seek annexation. This, however, will take some time, and during the period which Cuba maintains her own government, it is most desirable that she should be able to maintain such a one as will tend to her advancement and betterment. She cannot make certain treaties without our consent (…) and must maintain certain sanitary conditions (…), from all of which it is quite apparent that she is absolutely in our hands, and I believe that no European government for a moment considers that she is otherwise than a practical dependency of the United States, and as such is certainly entitled to our consideration. (…) With the control which we have over Cuba, a control which will soon undoubtedly become possession, (…) we shall soon practically control the sugar trade of the world. (…) the island will (…) gradually become Americanized and we shall have in time one of the richest and most desirable possessions in the world.”
Part II: The Application of the Platt Amendment and the Establishing of the Guantanamo Naval Base as a Framework for Relations between Cuba and the United States.
By the end of 1901, the electoral process which resulted in the triumph of Tomás Estrada Palma, without opposition and with the support of 47 percent of the electorate, had begun. On April 17, 1902, the President-elect in absentia left the United States for Cuba where he arrived three days later. The inauguration of the new President took place on May 20, 1902 at 12 noon. The Congress of the Republic had already been constituted. Leonard Wood set sail for his country in the battleship “Brooklyn”.
In 1902, shortly before the proclamation of the Republic, the United States government informed the newly elected President of the Island about the four sites selected for the establishing of naval bases -Cienfuegos, Bahía Honda, Guantanamo and Nipe – as provided by the Platt Amendment. Not even the Port of Havana escaped consideration since it was contemplated as “the most favorable for the fourth naval base”.
From the beginning, despite its spurious origins, the Government of Cuba, in which many of those who fought for independence participated, was opposed to the concession of four naval bases since it considered two to be more than enough. The situation grew tenser when the Cuban government toughened its stand and demanded the final drafting of the Permanent Agreement on Relations, with the goal of “determining at the same time and not in parts, all the details that were the object of the Platt Amendment and setting the range of their precepts”.
President McKinley had died in September 14, 1901 as a result of gunshot wounds he had sustained on the 6th of that month. Theodore Roosevelt had advanced to such a degree in his political career that he was already Vice President of the United States and so he had assumed the presidency after the shooting of his predecessor. Roosevelt, at that time did not deem it to be convenient to specify the scope of the Platt Amendment, so as not to delay the military installation of the Guantanamo Base, given what that would mean for the defense of the Canal whose construction France had begun and later abandoned in the Central American Isthmus, and which the voracious government of the empire intended to complete at all costs. Nor was he interested in defining the legal status of the Isle of Pines. Therefore, he abruptly reduced the number of naval bases under discussion, removed the Port of Havana suggestion and finally agreed to the concession of two bases: Guantanamo and Bahía Honda.
Subsequently, in compliance with Article VII of the constitutional appendix imposed on the Constitutional Convention, the Agreement was signed by the Presidents of Cuba and the United States on February 16 and 23, 1903, respectively:
“Article I. – The Republic of Cuba hereby leases to the United States, for the time required for the purposes of coaling and naval stations, the following described areas of land and water situated in the Island of Cuba:
“1st. In Guantanamo”…(A complete description of the bay and neighboring territory is made.)
“2nd. In Bahia Honda…” (Another similar description is made.)
This Agreement establishes:
“Article III. –While on the one hand the United States recognizes the continuance of the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba over the above described areas of land and water, on the other hand the Republic of Cuba consents that during the period of the occupation by the United States of said areas under the terms of this agreement the United States shall exercise complete jurisdiction and control over and within said areas with the right to acquire for the public purposes of the United States any land or other property therein by purchase or by exercise of eminent domain with full compensation to the owners thereof.”
On May 28, 1903, surveying began to establish the boundaries of the Guantanamo Naval Station.
In the Agreement of July 2, 1903, dealing with the same subject, the “Regulations for the Lease of Naval and Coaling Stations” was passed:
“Article I.- The United States of America agrees and covenants to pay the Republic of Cuba the annual sum of two thousand dollars, in gold coin of the United States, as long as the former shall occupy and use said areas of land by virtue of said agreement.”
“All private lands and other real property within said areas shall be acquired forthwith by the Republic of Cuba.”
“The United States of America agrees to furnish to the Republic of Cuba the sums necessary for the purchase of said private lands and properties and such sums shall be accepted by the Republic of Cuba as advance payment on account of rental due by virtue of said Agreement.”
The Agreement which governed this lease, signed in Havana by representatives of the Presidents of Cuba and the United States respectively, was passed by the Cuban Senate on July 16, 1903, ratified by the President of Cuba a month later on August 16, and by the President of the United States on October 2, and after exchanging ratifications in Washington on October 6, it was published in the Gazette of Cuba on the 12th of the same month and year.
Dated on December 14, 1903, it was informed that four days earlier on the 10th of the same month, the United States had been given possession of the areas of water and land for the establishing of a naval station in Guantanamo.
For the United States Government and Navy, the transfer of part of the territory of the largest island in the Antilles was a source of great rejoicing and they intended to celebrate the event. Vessels belonging to the Caribbean Squadron and some battleships from the North Atlantic Fleet converged on Guantanamo.
The Cuban government appointed the Head of Public Works of Santiago de Cuba to deliver that part of the territory over which it technically exercised sovereignty on December 10, 1903, the date chosen by the United States. He would be the only Cuban present at the ceremony and just for a brief time since, once his mission was accomplished, without any toasts or handshakes, he left for the neighboring town of Caimanera.
The Head of Public Works had boarded the battleship “Kearsage”, which was the U.S. flagship, where he met Rear Admiral Barker. At 12:00 hours a 21-gun-salute was given and along with the notes of the Cuban National Anthem, the Cuban flag which had been flying on board that vessel was lowered, and immediately the United States flag was hoisted on land, at the point called Playa del Este, with an equal number of salvos, thus concluding the ceremony.
According to the articles of the Agreement, the United States was to dedicate the leased lands exclusively for public use, not being able to establish any type of business or industry.
The U.S. authorities in said territories and the Cuban authorities mutually agreed to surrender fugitives from justice charged with crimes or misdemeanors subject to the laws of each party, as long as it was required by the authorities who would be judging them.
Materials imported into the areas belonging to said naval stations for their own use and consumption would be exempt from customs duties, or any other kind of fees, to the Republic of Cuba.
The lease of these naval stations included the right to use and occupy the waters adjacent to said areas of land and water, to improve and deepen the entrances to them and their anchorages and for anything else that would be necessary for the exclusive use to which they were dedicated.
Even though the United States acknowledged the continuation of Cuba’s definitive sovereignty over those areas of water and land, it would exercise, with Cuba’s consent, “complete jurisdiction and domain” over said areas while they occupied them according to the other already quoted stipulations.
In the so-called Permanent Treaty of May 22, 1903, signed by the governments of the Republic of Cuba and the United States, future relations between both nations were detailed: in other words, what Manuel Márquez Sterling would call “the intolerable yoke of the Platt Amendment” was thus put firmly in place.
The Permanent Treaty, signed by both countries, was approved by the United States Senate on March 22, 1904 and by the Cuban Senate on June 8 of that year, and the ratifications were exchanged in Washington on June 1st, 1904. Therefore, the Platt Amendment is an amendment to an American law, an appendix to the Cuban Constitution of 1901 and a permanent treaty between both countries.
The experiences acquired with the Guantanamo Naval Base were useful to apply measures in Panama that were equal or worse, in the case of the Canal.
In the United States Congress, it is customary to introduce amendments, whenever a law which is of urgent necessity for its content and importance is being debated. This frequently obliges legislators to put aside or sacrifice any conflicting criteria. Such amendments have more than once affected the sovereignty for which our people tirelessly struggle.
In 1912, the Cuban Secretary of State, Manuel Sanguily, negotiated a new treaty with the U.S. State Department whereby the United States would relinquish its rights over Bahia Honda in exchange for enlarging the boundaries of the Guantanamo station.
That same year, when the uprising of the Partido de los Independientes de Color (Independent Colored Party) took place, which the Liberal Party government of President José Miguel Gómez brutally repressed, American troops came out of the Guantanamo Naval Base and occupied several towns in the former Oriente Province, near the cities of Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba, with the pretext of “protecting the lives and properties of U.S. citizens”.
In 1917, because of the uprising known as “La Chambelona” carried out by the elements of the Liberal Party in Oriente who were opposed to the electoral fraud that had re-elected President Mario García Menocal of the Conservative Party, Yankee regiments from the Base headed for various points in that province of Cuba, under the pretext of “protecting the Base water supply”.
Part III: The Formal Repeal of the Platt Amendment and Continued Presence of the Guantanamo Naval Base.
The advent of the Democratic administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the United States in 1933 opened the way to a necessary accommodation of the relationship of domination that the U.S. exercised over Cuba. The fall of the Gerardo Machado’s tyranny under the pressure of a powerful popular movement, and the subsequent installation of a provisional government headed by the university professor of physiology, Ramón Grau San Martin, were a serious obstacle to the achievement of the program demanded by the people.
On November 24, 1933, U.S. President Roosevelt issued an official statement encouraging the intrigues of Batista and Sumner Welles, the Ambassador to Havana, against Grau’s government. These included the offer to sign a new commercial treaty and repeal the Platt Amendment. Roosevelt explained that “…any Provisional Government in Cuba in which the Cuban people show their confidence would be welcome”. The impatience of the U.S, administration to get rid of Grau was growing, as from mid-November the influence of a young anti-imperialist, Antonio Guiteras, was increasing in the government, which would take many of its more radical steps in the weeks to come. It was necessary to swiftly overthrow that government.
On December 13, 1933, Ambassador Sumner Welles returned definitively to Washington and was substituted five days later by Jefferson Caffery.
On January 13-14, 1934, Batista convened and presided over a military meeting at Columbia, where he proposed to oust Grau and appoint Colonel Carlos Mendieta y Montefur, which was agreed to by the so-called Columbia Military Junta. Grau San Martin presented his resignation at dawn on January 15, 1934 and left for exile in Mexico on the 20th of the same month. Thus, on January 18, 1934, Mendieta was installed as President after the coup d’état. Although the Mendieta administration had been recognized by the United States on January 23rd of that year, actually the fate of the country was in the hands of Ambassador Caffery and Batista.
The overthrow of the Grau San Martin provisional government in January 1934, as a result of internal contradictions and a whole series of pressures, maneuvers and aggressions wielded against it by imperialism and its local allies, meant a first and indispensable step towards the imposition of an oligarchic-imperialistic alternative to solve the Cuban national crisis.
The government headed by Mendieta would take on the task of adjusting the bonds of the country’s neo-colonial dependency.
Neither the oligarchy reinstated in power, nor the Washington government, were in position to ignore the feelings of the Cuban people towards neocolonialism and its instruments. Nor was the United States unaware of the importance of the support of Latin American governments –Cuba among them– in the already foreseeable confrontation with other emerging imperialist powers such as Germany and Japan.
The new process would include formulae to ensure the renewed functioning of the neocolonial system. The “Good Neighbor” policy was very mindful of Latin American opposition to Washington’s open interventionism in the hemisphere. The aim of Roosevelt’s policy was to portray a new image in its hemispheric relations through the “good neighbor” diplomatic formula.
As one of the adjustment measures, on May 29, 1934 a new U.S.-Cuba Relations Treaty, modifying the one of May 22, 1903, was signed by the other Roosevelt, perhaps a distant relative of he who had landed in Cuba with the Rough Riders.
Two days earlier, on May 27, at 10:30 a.m., when United States Ambassador Jefferson Caffery was getting ready, as was his custom, to leave his residence in the Alturas de Almendares, he was the target of an assassination attempt; three shots were fired by several unidentified individuals from a car. The next day, May 28th, at noon, as it was driving along Quinta Avenida in the Miramar district, the car assigned to the First Secretary of the United States Embassy, H. Freeman Matthews, after having dropped off the diplomat at the Embassy, was attacked by several individuals traveling in a car and armed with machine guns. One of them approached the chauffeur and told him that he should let Matthews know that he was giving him one week to get out of Cuba: then he smashed the windshield of the car and sped off.
These acts that revealed a general climate of anti-United States hostility could have precipitated the signing of the new Relations Treaty that proposed the alleged end of the unpopular Platt Amendment.
The new Relations Treaty provided for the suppression of the right of the United States to intervene in Cuba and that:
“The United States of America and the Republic of Cuba, being animated by the desire to fortify the relations of friendship between the two countries and to modify, with this purpose, the relations established between them by the Treaty of Relations signed in Havana, May 22, 1903, (…) have agreed upon the following articles:
“Article 3.- Until the two contracting parties agree to the modifications or abrogation of the stipulations of the agreement in regard to the lease to the United States of America of lands in Cuba for coaling and naval stations signed by the President of the Republic of Cuba on February 16, 1903, and by the President of the United States of America on the 23rd day of the same month and year, the stipulations of that agreement with regard to the naval stations of Guantanamo shall continue in effect in the same form and conditions with respect to the naval station at Guantanamo. So long as the United States of America shall not abandon the said naval station of Guantanamo or the two Governments shall not agree to a modification of its present limits, the station shall continue to have territorial area that it now has, with the limits that it has on the date of the signature of the present Treaty.”
The United States Senate ratified the new Relations Treaty on June 1, 1934, and Cuba on June 4. Five days later, on June 9, ratifications of the Relations Treaty of May 29th of the same year were exchanged, and with that the Platt Amendment was formally repealed, but the Guantanamo Naval Base remained.
The new Treaty legalized the de facto situation of the Guantanamo naval station, thus rescinding the part of the agreements of February 16 and 23 and July 2 of 1903 between the two countries relating to the lands and waters in Bahia Honda, and the part that referred to the waters and lands of the Guantanamo station was amended, in the sense that they were enlarged.
The United States maintained its naval station in Guantanamo as a strategic surveillance and control site, in order to ensure its political and economic predominance in the Caribbean and Central America and to defend the Panama Canal.
Part IV: The Guantanamo Naval Base from the formal end of the Platt Amendment until the Triumph of the Revolution.
After the signing of the Treaty of Relations of 1934, the territory of the “naval station” underwent a gradual fortifying and equipping process until, in the spring of 1941, the Base became established as an operational naval station with the following structure: naval station, air naval station and Marines Corps Base and warehouse facilities.
On June 6, 1934 the United States Senate had passed a bill which would authorize the Secretary of the Navy to sign a long-term contract with a company that would undertake to supply adequate water to the Naval Base in Guantanamo; however, prior to this, American plans already existed for the construction of an aqueduct which would bring in water from the Yateras River.
Expansion continued, and by 1943 other facilities were constructed by contracting the Frederick Snare Company. This hired 9,000 civilian workers, many of them Cubans.
Another year of tremendous expansion of the military and civilian facilities on the Base was 1951. In 1952, the United States Secretary of the Navy decided to change the name of the U.S. Naval Operating Base to “U.S. Naval Base”; by that time its structure already included a Training Center.
The Constitution of 1940, the Revolutionary Struggle
and Guantanamo Naval Base until December 1958.
The period between the end of 1937 and 1940 was characterized, from a political point of view, by the adoption of measures that allowed for elections for the Constitutional Assembly to be called and for them to take place. The reason why Batista agreed to these democratizing measures was that it was in his interest to move towards the establishment of formulae that would allow him to remain at the center of political decisions, and thus ensure the continuity of his power within the new order arising under the formulae that he had implemented. At the beginning of 1938 the agreement between Batista and Grau to install a Constitutional Assembly was made public. The Constitutional Convention, inaugurated on February 9, 1940, concluded its sessions on June 8 of that same year.
The Constitution was signed on July 1st, 1940 and promulgated on July 5 that same year. The new Law of Laws established that “the territory of the Republic consists of the Island of Cuba, the Isle of Pines and other adjacent islands and keys, which were under the sovereignty of Spain until the ratification of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. The Republic of Cuba shall not conclude or ratify pacts or treaties that in any form limit or undermine national sovereignty or the integrity of the territory”.
The oligarchy would strive to prevent the materialization of the more advanced principles in this Constitution or at least to restrict their application to a maximum.
Part V: The Guantanamo Naval Base since the Triumph of the Revolution.
Since the triumph of the Revolution, the Revolutionary Government has denounced the illegal occupation of that portion of our territory.
On the other hand, since January 1st, 1959, the United States turned the usurped territory of the Guantanamo Naval Base into a permanent source of threats, provocation and violation of Cuba’s sovereignty, with the aim of creating trouble for the victorious revolutionary process. Said Base has always been present in the plans and operations conceived by Washington to overthrow the Revolutionary Government.
All kinds of aggressions have come from the Naval Base:
Dropping of inflammable materials over free territory from planes flying out of the Base.
Provocations by American soldiers, including insults, the throwing of stones and cans filled with inflammable materials and the firing of pistols and automatic weapons.
Violations of Cuban jurisdictional waters and Cuban territory by American military vessels and aircraft from the Base.
Plans for self-aggression on the Base that would provoke a large-scale armed struggle between Cuba and the United States.
Registering the radio frequencies used at the Base in the International Frequency Registry in the space corresponding to Cuba.
On January 12, 1961, the worker Manuel Prieto Gómez who had been employed at the Base for more than 3 years was savagely tortured by Yankee soldiers on the Guantanamo Naval Base, for the “crime” of being a revolutionary.
On October 15 of that same year, the Cuban worker Rubén López Sabariego was tortured and subsequently murdered.
On June 24, 1962, Rodolfo Rosell Salas, a fisherman from Caimanera, was murdered by soldiers at the Base.
Likewise, the devious intent of fabricating a self-provocation and deploying American troops in a “justified” punitive invasion of Cuba has always been a volatile element at Guantanamo Base. We can find an example of this in one of the actions included in the so-called “Operation Mongoose”, when on September 3, 1962 American soldiers stationed in Guantanamo would shoot at Cuban sentries.
During the Missile Crisis, the Base was reinforced in terms of military technology and troops; manpower grew to more than 16,000 Marines. Given the decision of Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev to withdraw the nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba without previously either consulting or informing the Revolutionary Government, Cuba defined the unshakeable position of the Revolution in what came to be known as the “Five Points”. The fifth point demanded withdrawal from the Guantanamo Naval Base. We were on the brink of a thermonuclear war, where we would be the prime target as a consequence of the imperial policy of taking over Cuba.
On February 11, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson reduced the number of Cuban personnel working at the Base by approximately 700 workers. They also confiscated the accumulated retirement funds of hundreds of Cuban workers who had been employed on the Base and illegally suspended payments of pensions to retired Cuban workers.
On July 19, 1964, in a blatant provocation made by American border guards against the Cuban border patrol sentries, Ramón López Peña, a young 17-year-old soldier, was murdered at close range while he was on guard in the sentry-box.
On May 21, 1966, and in similar circumstances, soldier Luis Ramírez was murdered by shots from the Base.
In hardly three weeks of the month of May in 1980, more than 80,000 men, 24 vessels and some 350 combat aircraft took part in Solid Shield-80 exercises; as part of its dynamic, this included the landing of 2,000 Marines at the Naval Base and the reinforcement of the facility with an additional 1200 troops.
In October 1991, during the 4th Communist Party Congress in Santiago de Cuba, planes and helicopters from the Base violated Cuban air space over the city.
In 1994, the Base served as a support station for the invasion of Haiti: American air force planes used Base airports for this. More than 45,000 Haitian emigrants were kept on the Base until mid-1995.
Also in 1994, the well-known migration crisis was produced as a result of the tightening up of the blockade and the tough years of the Special Period, the non-compliance with the Migratory Agreement of 1984 signed with the Reagan Administration, the considerable reduction in the number of visas granted and the encouragement of illegal emigration, including the Cuban Adjustment Act signed by President Johnson more than four decades ago.
As a result of the crisis created, a declaration made by President Clinton on August 19, 1994 transformed the Base into a migratory concentration camp for the Cuban rafters, in numbers close to 30,000.
Finally, on September 9, 1994 a Joint Communiqué was signed by the Clinton administration and the Cuban government. This saw the United States committing to prevent the entry into its territory of intercepted illegal emigrants and to issue a minimum of 20,000 annual visas for safety travel to the United States.
On May 2, 1995, as part of the migratory negotiations, the governments of Cuba and the United States also agreed what on this occasion was called a Joint Declaration establishing the procedure for returning to Cuba all those who continued trying to illegally migrate to the United States and were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Notice the specific reference to the illegal emigrants intercepted by the Coast Guards. Thus the basis had been laid of a sinister business: the traffic of persons. The Murderous Act was maintained, thus turning Cuba into the only country in the world subjected to such harassment. While approximately 250 thousand people have safely traveled to that country, an incalculable number of women, children and people of all ages have lost their lives as a result of the prosperous traffic of emigrants.
Following an agreement by the two governments, as from the migratory crisis of 1994, regular meetings between the military commands of each side were initiated. A strip of mined territory would sometimes be flooded by tropical rainstorms and overflowing rivers. On many occasions our sappers had put their lives in danger to save persons who were crossing the restricted military zone in that area, even with children.
The Guantanamo Naval Base since
the enactment of the Helms-Burton Act.
This Act, signed by President William Clinton on March 12, 1996, in its Title II about “Assistance to a Free and Independent Cuba”, Section 201 related to the “policy toward a transition government and a democratically elected government in Cuba”, establishes in its Point 12 that the United States must “be prepared to enter into negotiations with a democratically elected government in Cuba either to return the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo to Cuba or to renegotiate the present agreement under mutually agreeable terms”. Something worse than what was planned by military governor Leonard Wood, who had landed on foot along with Theodore Roosevelt in the proximity of Santiago de Cuba: the idea of having an annexationist of Cuban descent administrating our country.
The War in Kosovo in 1999 resulted in a great number of Kosovar refugees. The Clinton government, embroiled in that NATO war against Serbia, made the decision to use the Base to accommodate a number of them, and on this occasion, for the first time, with no previous consultation whatsoever as usual, it informed Cuba of the decision made. Our answer was constructive. Even though we were opposed to the unjust and illegal conflict, we had no grounds on which to oppose the humanitarian aid needed by the Kosovar refugees. We even offered our country’s cooperation, if it should be needed, in terms of medical care or any other service they might need. Finally, the Kosovar refugees were never sent to the Guantanamo Naval Base.
The manifesto called “The Oath of Baraguá” of February 19, 2000 expressed that “in due time, since it no longer constitutes a prioritized objective at this moment even though the right of our people is very just and cannot be waived; the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo must be returned to Cuba.” At that time, we were involved in the struggle for the return of the kidnapped boy and the economic consequences of the brutal blockade.
The Guantanamo Naval Base
since September 11.
On September 18, 2001, President Bush signed United States Congress legislation authorizing the use of force as a response to the September 11 attacks. Bush used this legislation as a basis to sign a Military Order on November 13 of that same year which would establish the legal bases for arrests and trials by military tribunals of individuals who didn’t hold U.S. citizenship, as part of the “war on terrorism”.
On January 8, 2002 the United States officially informed Cuba that they would be using the Guantanamo Naval Base as a detention center for Afghan war prisoners.
Three days later, on January 11, 2002, the first 20 detainees arrived, and the figure reached the number of 776 prisoners coming from 48 countries. Of course none of these data were mentioned. We assumed they were Afghan war prisoners. The first planes were landing full of prisoners, and many more guards than prisoners. On the same day, the government of Cuba issued a public declaration indicating its willingness to cooperate with medical assistance services as required, clean-up programs and a fight against mosquitoes and pests in the area surrounding the base which is under our control, or any other useful, constructive and humane measure that might come up. I remember the data because I was personally involved in details concerning the Note presented by the MINREX in response to the United States Note. We were very far from imagining at that moment that the U.S. government was getting ready to create a horrendous torture center at that base.
The Socialist Constitution proclaimed on February 24, 1976 had set forth in its Article 11, section c) that “the Republic of Cuba repudiates and considers as null and illegal those treaties, pacts or concessions concerted under conditions of inequality or which disregard or diminish her sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
On June 10, 2002, the people of Cuba, in an unprecedented process of popular referendum, ratified the socialist content of that Constitution of 1976 as a response to the meddling and offensive expressions of the President of the United States. Likewise, it mandated the National People’s Power Assembly to amend it so that it would expressly state, inter alia, the irrevocable principle which must govern the economic, diplomatic and political relations of our country with other states, by adding to the same Article 11, section c): “Economic, diplomatic and political relations with any other State may never be negotiated under aggression, threat or coercion by a foreign power.”
After the Proclamation to the People of Cuba was made public on July 31, 2006, the U.S. authorities have declared that they do not hope for a migration crisis but that they are pre-emptively preparing to face one, with the use of the Guantanamo Naval Base as a concentration camp for illegal migrants intercepted in the high seas being a consideration. In public declarations, information reveals that the United States is expanding its civilian buildings on the Base with the aim of increasing their capacity to receive the illegal emigrants.
Cuba, for her part, has taken all possible measures to avoid incidents between the armed forces of both countries, and has declared that she is abiding by the commitments contained in the Joint Declaration on migratory issues signed with the Clinton administration. Why is there so much talking, threats and brouhaha?
The symbolic annual payment of $3,386.25 for the lease of the territory occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base was maintained until 1972 when the Americans adjusted it themselves to $3,676. In 1973, a new adjustment was made for the value of the old U.S. Gold dollar, and for that reason the cheque issued by the Treasury Department was since then increased to $4,085.00 each year. That cheque is charged to the United States Navy, the party responsible for operations at the Naval Base.
The cheques issued by the government of the United States, as payment for the lease, are in the name of the “Treasurer General of the Republic of Cuba”, an institution and official who, many years ago, have ceased to function within the structure of the Government of Cuba. This cheque is sent on a yearly basis, through diplomatic channels. The one for 1959, due to a mere confusion, was entered into the national budget. Since 1960 until today these cheques have not been cashed and they are proof of the lease that has been imposed for more than 107 years. I would imagine, conservatively, that this is ten times less than what the United States government spends on the salary of a schoolteacher each year.
Both the Platt Amendment and the Guantanamo Naval Base were unnecessary. History has shown that in a great number of countries in this hemisphere where there has not been a revolution, their entire territory, governed by the multinationals and the oligarchies, needs neither one nor the other. Advertising took care of their mostly ill-trained and poverty-stricken populations by creating reflexes.
From the military point of view, a nuclear aircraft carrier, with so many fast fighter-bombers and escort ships supported by technology and satellites, is several times more powerful and can move to any point on the globe, wherever the empire needs it the most.
The Base is needed to humiliate and to carry out the filthy deeds that take place there. If we must await the downfall of the system, we shall wait. The suffering and danger for all humanity shall be great, like today’s stock market crisis, and a growing number of people forecast it. Cuba shall always be waiting in a state of combat readiness.
Heroic deeds take place everyday, in every corner of the country
Speech by General Raúl Castro Ruz, in the city of Camagüey, Cuba on July 26 2007, “Year 49 of the Revolution”
Friends accompanying us here today;
People of Camagüey, good morning;
Exactly one year ago, as we were listening to the speeches given by the Commander in Chief in Bayamo and Holguín, we could hardly even suspect what a hard blow was awaiting us.
Next July 31 will be the first anniversary of Fidel’s Proclamation, and to the delight of our people he is already taking on more and more intense and highly valuable activities, as evidenced by his reflections which are published in the press, even though, not even during the most serious moments of his illness, did he fail to bring his wisdom and experience to each problem and essential decision.
Those who are amazed at our people’s capacity to rise to the level of every challenge, no matter how great, do not know them very well
These have truly been very difficult months, although with a diametrically different impact to that expected by our enemies, who were wishing for chaos to entrench and for Cuban socialism to collapse. Senior U.S. officials even made statements about taking advantage of this scenario to destroy the Revolution.
Those who are amazed at our people’s capacity to rise to the level of every challenge, no matter how great, do not know them very well, since this is really the only behavior consistent with our history.
The battle waged by many generations of Cubans is well-known, from La Demajagua and Moncada, right up to the present, always facing enormous obstacles and powerful enemies. So much sacrifice and difficulties! How many times did we have to recommence the struggle after each setback!
Suffice it to recall that in the years following that July 26, 1953, we spent years in prison, the exile, the Granma, the guerrilla and the clandestine struggles, until five years, five months and five days after the attack on Moncada, victory was attained on the first day of January, 1959.
In those days, much like what is happening today even within the very United States, lies could not hide reality, although our people then were much less educated and less politically aware than they are now.
The vast majority of Cubans joined the cause headed by a leader who brandished the truth like his main weapon against the enemies of his people, who instead of making demagogic promises warned them, from his very first speech in Havana, that perhaps everything would be much more difficult in the years ahead.
The conclusion of the U.S. government hierarchy at that time was also consistent with its history: they had to destroy this people who dared to dream of justice, dignity and sovereignty, and if not, make them suffer to the utmost. The example set by Cuba was far too dangerous in a poor, subdued and exploited continent.
But they were unable to bring us to our knees. Our response was to massively transform ourselves into combatants; to stoically withstand shortages and difficulties; to sweat in the fields, factories and trenches; to wage countless victorious battles and to establish landmarks in internationalist aid.
Before the mortal remains of each of the 3,478 victims of terrorist acts directly organized, supported or allowed to happen by the United States authorities; before the fallen in defense of the Homeland or in the fulfillment of their internationalist duty, our people confirmed their commitment to their heroes and martyrs, to their Mambi heritage and to the examples of Martí, Céspedes, Maceo, Gómez and Agramonte, perpetuated by men such as Mella, Martínez Villena and Guiteras, symbols of the ideas and actions of an infinite number of anonymous patriots.
In essence, this has been the last half century of our history. There has been not one minute of truce in the face of the policies of the United States government, aimed at destroying the Revolution.
Heroic deeds take place everyday, in every corner of the country
In this forging of effort and sacrifice, the morale and conscience of this people has reached new heights; sons with the stature of Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and René González have been born, able to assume with serenity, valor and dignity the duress of an unjust imprisonment, scattered in different prisons of the United States.
They are examples, but they are not exceptions, since millions of Cuban men and women are not intimidated by danger or hardship.
The exploit occurs daily in every corner of this land, as our brave athletes are demonstrating at the Panamerican Games.
And so it has been during the more than 16 years of the Special Period, of sustained effort by the entire country to overcome the difficulties and press onwards –and so it must still be, since we have not yet come out of the Special Period.
Thus, it is twice as commendable that a province attains the status of Outstanding, which as we all know is bestowed after evaluating the results obtained in the main fields.
This year, the provinces of Ciudad de La Habana, Granma, Villa Clara and Camagüey attained this distinction, and we congratulate them on behalf of the Commander in Chief, of the Party and of all the people, for having reached this important triumph. Also to Cienfuegos, Matanzas and Sancti Spiritus for the acknowledgement received, and to Las Tunas for displaying heartening advances.
In order to decide which of them would be the venue of this main celebration, the Political Bureau especially considered the day-to-day efforts, silent and heroic in the face of difficulties. And in this way, the people of “El Camagüey”, as the Mambi used to call it, achieved these results.
The advances are the fruit of the efforts of hundreds of thousands of comrades; of the laborers, peasants and the rest of the workers; of the indispensable contributions of intellectuals, artists and workers in the cultural sector; of the heroic housewives and retirees; of the student members of the Middle-level Education Students Federation and the Federation of University Students; of our children; of the Cuban Women Federation, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Association of Combatants and the community Party cells who make such an important contribution to society.
Without them, without the daily work, study and sacrifice of so many men, women and children, the bugle of the Agramonte cavalry would not be resounding anew on these great flatlands.
Well then, it should not happen as it does in baseball, where the victories go only to the players and the defeats go to the team manager. It would not be fair to fail to publicly acknowledge the important role played by the leaders of the Party, the Government, the UJC and the mass and social organizations at every level, as well as the numerous administrative cadres to attain this success.
In particular, I should like to stress the good work of comrade Salvador Valdés Mesa, the current Secretary General of the Workers Union Central, who for a long time and up to 13 months ago, was the First Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee, and the excellent relief provided until the present by comrade Julio César García Rodríguez.
We need to bring everyone to the daily battle against the very errors that aggravate objective difficulties stemming from external causes
It is only fair and necessary to acknowledge what has been achieved in recent years, in these provinces and in the rest of the country, but with a clear conscience about our problems, our inefficiencies, our errors and our bureaucratic and/or slack attitudes, some of which gained ground in the circumstances deriving from the Special Period.
Pointing out the important results attained in these provinces does not mean that we ignore that the rest of the country is working. In the eastern provinces, for example, it has been necessary to do this under very difficult conditions, with a shortage of resources resulting from both objective and subjective reasons.
Nevertheless, efforts do not always bring the results hoped for. Efficiency largely depends on perseverance and good organization, especially of systematic controls and discipline, and in particular on where we have succeeded in incorporating the masses to the struggle for efficiency.
We need to bring everyone to the daily battle against the very errors which aggravate objective difficulties derived from external causes, especially those induced by the United States’ economic blockade which really constitutes a relentless war against our people, as the current administration of that country is especially bent on finding even the slightest of ways to harm us.
One could point to a myriad of examples. I shall limit myself to mentioning the obstacles to the country’s commercial and financial transactions abroad, often directed at the purchase of food, medicines and other basic products for the people, and the denial of access to banking services through coercion and the extra-territorial imposition of its laws.
There are also the almost insurmountable obstacles imposed by that government that goes to ridiculous lengths to prevent its people from traveling to Cuba and also on the Cuban residents there coming to visit their relatives; the denial of visas not just to our officials, but to artists, athletes, scientists and, in general, to anyone who is not willing to slander the Revolution.
As our Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently denounced, we can add to all of this the obstacles to the fulfillment of what is established in the migratory agreements with regards to the minimum number of visas to be granted annually.
This policy encourages those who turn to illegal emigration and are received there as heroes, often times after endangering the lives of children, and in spite of the fact that such an irresponsible behavior puts at risk not only the safety of Cubans, but also of Americans, the ones who the government constantly claims to be protecting, since whoever risks trafficking with human lives for money, would probably not hesitate in doing so with drugs, arms or other such things.
Cuba, for her part, will continue to honor her commitments to the migratory accords, as she has done until today.
The past twelve months have constituted a remarkable example of our people’s maturity, steadfast principles, unity, trust in Fidel, in the Party and above all in themselves.
Despite our deep sorrow, no task was left undone. There is order in the country and a lot of work. The Party and the Government bodies are functioning on a daily basis in the collective search for the most effective response possible for every problem.
There is not one issue pertaining to the development of the country and the people’s living conditions that has not been dealt with responsibly, working to find a solution. There is no task in the Battle of Ideas, the Energy Revolution and others promoted by the Commander in Chief that is paralyzed. As it is always the case in matters of such magnitude, we have had to make adjustments and postponements, and others might be needed in the future, due to material imperatives and the threats we are all aware of.
Operation Caguairán has made it possible to substantially strengthen our country’s defensive capacity
At the same time, our people have continued since then, with serenity, discipline and modesty, to prepare themselves to face up to any enemy military adventure.
Hundreds of thousands of militiamen and reservists of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, together with officers, sergeants and soldiers in the regular army have carried out Operation Caguairán, allowing for a substantial increase in the country’s defense capability, attaining levels of combat readiness that are superior to those of any other period.
It is a great effort in moments when our resources are scarce, but it is simply essential. It shall continue, as it has up till now, with the greatest of rationality, both from the material point of view as well as in the use of our people’s time.
We cannot fool around with defense! The Commander in Chief directed and reaffirmed it yet once again just a few days ago. For us, as I have said so many times, avoiding a war is tantamount to winning it, but to win it by avoiding it, we must sweat a lot and invest quite a few resources.
The resounding popular response to the Proclamation of the Commander in Chief threw all the enemy plans into crisis mode; but the enemy, far from evaluating the reality and correcting its errors, insists on stubbornly crashing into the same rock. They speculate about an alleged paralysis in the country and even about a “transition” in progress. But no matter how hard they close their eyes, reality shall take care of destroying those stale, old dreams.
As the press has reported, Operation Caguairán will carry on in the next months. It will allow us to train about a million compatriots and will have as its crowning glory the Bastion 2008 Strategic Exercise which will take place at the end of the year.
By that date, therefore, we shall be better prepared to resist and win on all fronts, including defense.
Our people will never give an inch before pressure or blackmail by any country or group of countries
By that time the elections will also have taken place in the United States and the mandate of the current president of that country will have concluded along with his erratic and dangerous administration, characterized by such a reactionary and fundamentalist philosophy that it leaves no room for a rational analysis of any matter.
The new administration will have to decide whether it will maintain the absurd, illegal and failed policy against Cuba or if it will accept the olive branch that we offered on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma. That is, when we reasserted our willingness to discuss on equal footing the prolonged dispute with the government of the United States, convinced that this is the only way to solve the problems of this world, ever more complex and dangerous.
If the new United States authorities were to finally desist from their arrogance and decide to talk in a civilized manner, it would be a welcome change. Otherwise, we are ready to continue confronting their policy of hostility, even for another 50 years, if need be.
Fifty years seem like a long time, but soon we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution and the 55th anniversary of Moncada, and among so many tasks and challenges those years have gone by and we have hardly noticed. Furthermore, practically 70% of our population was born after the blockade was imposed, and so we are well trained to continue resisting it and finally defeating it.
Some who have been influenced by enemy propaganda or are simply confused, do not perceive the real danger or the undeniable fact that the blockade has a direct influence both on the major economic decisions as well as on each Cuban’s most basic needs.
Directly and on a daily basis, it weighs heavily on our food supply, transportation, housing and even on the fact that we cannot rely on the necessary raw materials and equipment to work with.
The enemy established it half a century ago for this reason, as we were saying, and today it still dreams of forcing us to submit to its will. President Bush himself insists on repeating that he will not allow the Cuban Revolution to continue. It would be interesting to ask him just how he intends to do that.
How little they have learned from history!
In his Manifesto published on June 18, Fidel said to them once again what every revolutionary on this island is convinced of: “They shall never have Cuba!”
Our people will never give an inch of ground under the attempt of any country or group of countries to pressure us, nor will it make the slightest unilateral concession to send any kind of signal to anybody.
We have a duty to precisely identify and profoundly evaluate every problem within our range of action
With respect to the economic and social tasks ahead of us, we know the tensions that Party cadres are subjected to, especially at the base, where there’s hardly ever a balance between accumulated needs and available resources.
We are also aware that, because of the extreme objective difficulties that we face, wages today are clearly insufficient to satisfy all needs and have thus ceased to play a role in ensuring the socialist principle that each should contribute according to their capacity and receive according to their work. This has bred forms of social indiscipline and tolerance which, having taken root, prove difficult to eradicate, even after the objective causes behind them are eradicated.
I can responsibly assure you that the Party and government have been studying these and other complex and difficult problems in depth, problems which must be addressed comprehensibly and through a differentiated approach in each concrete case.
All of us, from the leaders to the rank-and-file workers, are duty-bound to accurately identify and analyze every problem in depth, within our working areas, in order to combat the problem with the most convenient methods.
This differs greatly from the attitude of those who use existing difficulties to shield themselves from criticisms, leveled against them for not acting with the necessary swiftness and efficiency, or for lacking the political sensitivity and courage needed to explain why a problem cannot be solved immediately.
I will limit myself to drawing your attention to these crucial issues. A simple criticism or appeal will not solve these problems, even when they are made at a ceremony like this. They demand, above all else, organized work, control and dedication, day after day; systematic rigor, order and discipline, from the national level down to the thousands of places where something is produced or a service is offered.
I remind you that not all problems can be solved overnight
This is where the country’s efforts are headed, as they are in other areas of similar importance and strategic significance. We are working hastily but not desperately, avoiding unnecessary public statements so as not to raise false hopes. And, again, speaking with the sincerity which has always characterized the Revolution, I remind you that all problems cannot be solved overnight.
I am not exaggerating when I say that we face a very trying international economic situation, where, in addition to wars, lack of political stability, the deterioration of the environment and the rise in oil prices —apparently an irreversible trend— we now face, like comrade Fidel has recently denounced, the decision made primarily by the United States, to transform corn, soy and other food products into fuel. This move is bound to make the price of these products, and those directly dependent upon these such as meats and milk prices, climb dramatically as it has been the case in recent months.
I will just mention some figures. Today, the price of an oil barrel is around 80 dollars, nearly three times what it was only 4 years ago, when it was priced at 28 dollars. This has an impact on practically everything, for, to produce anything or to offer any kind of service, one requires a given quantity of fuel, directly or indirectly.
Another case in point is the price of powdered milk, which was 2,100 dollars the ton in 2004. This already placed great strains on our ability to make this product available, as its import meant an investment of 105 million dollars. A total of 160 million dollars were spent to purchase the needed quantities in 2007, as prices shot up to 2,450 dollars the ton. In these four years, nearly 500 million dollars have been spent in these purchases.
Currently, the price of powdered milk is over 5,200 dollars the ton. Therefore, should domestic production not continue to increase, to meet consumption needs in the next 2008, we would have to spend 340 million dollars in milk alone, more than three times what was spent in 2004. That is, if prices do not continue to rise.
In the case of milled rice, it was priced at 390 dollars a ton in 2006 and is sold today at 435 a ton. Some years ago, we were buying frozen chicken at 500 dollars a ton. We made plans on the assumption its price would go up to 800; in fact, it went up to its current price of 1,186 dollars.
This is the case with practically all products the country imports to meet, essentially, the needs of the population, products which, as it is known, the people purchase at prices which have practically remained unchanged in spite of the circumstances.
And I am talking of products that I think can be grown here –it seems to me that there is plenty of land– and we have had good rains last year and this. As I drove in here I could see that everything around is green and pretty, but what drew my attention the most, what I found prettier was the marabú (a thorny bush) growing along the road.
Nobody — not a single person in any country— can afford the luxury of spending more than they have
Therefore, any increase in wages or decrease in prices, to be real, can only stem from a greater and more efficient production and services offer, which will increase the country’s incomes.
No one, no individual or country, can afford to spend more than what they have. It seems elementary, but we do not always think and act in accordance with this inescapable reality.
To have more, we have to begin by producing more, with a sense of rationality and efficiency, so that we may reduce imports, especially of food products –that may be grown here– whose domestic production is still a long way away from meeting the needs of the population.
We face the imperative of making our land produce more; and the land is there to be tilted either with tractors or with oxen, as it was done before the tractor existed. We need to expeditiously apply the experiences of producers whose work is outstanding, be they in the state or farm sector, on a mass scale, but without improvising, and to offer these producers adequate incentives for the work they carry out in Cuba’s suffocating heat.
To reach these goals, the needed structural and conceptual changes will have to be introduced.
We are already working in this direction and a number of modest results can already be appreciated. As demanded by the National Assembly of the People’s Power, all debts to farmers were settled; in addition to this, there has been a discrete improvement in the delivery of inputs to some productive sectors and a notable increase in the prices of various products, that is to say, the price the state pays to the producer, not the price the population pays, which remains unchanged. This measure had an impact on important production items, such as meat and milk.
Producing the Most Milk Possible
With respect to milk production and distribution, we are aware that the material resources we have managed to secure for the livestock industry are still very limited. However, in the last two years nature has been on our side and everything indicates that we will reach the planned figure of 384 million liters of milk, which is still far lower than the 900 million we were producing when we had all the fodder and other required inputs.
In addition to this, since March, an experiment has been underway in six municipalities —Mantua and San Cristóbal in Pinar del Rio, Melena del Sur in La Habana, Calimete in Matanzas, Aguada de Pasajeros in Cienfuegos and Yaguajay in Sancti Spiritus—where 20 thousand liters of milk have been directly and consistently delivered by the producer to 230 rationed stores and for social consumption in these localities every day.
In this fashion, we have eliminated absurd procedures through which this valuable food product traveled hundreds of miles before reaching a consumer who, quite often, lived a few hundred meters away from the livestock farm, and, with this, the product losses and fuel expenses involved.
I will give you one example or maybe two in order to mention one from Camaguey. Currently, in Mantua, one of the western most municipalities in Pinar del Rio, 2,492 liters of milk, which meet established consumption needs, are being distributed directly to the municipality’s 40 rationed stores and 2,000 liters of fuel are being saved every month.
What was the situation until four months ago?
The closest pasteurizer is located in the Sandino municipality, 40 kilometers away from Mantua, the most important town in the area. Thus, in order to deliver the milk to that plant, a truck had to travel a minimum of 80 kilometers –because distances are different– each day to make the round journey. I say “a minimum” because other areas of the municipality are even farther away.
The milk that children and other consumers in Mantua receive on a regulated basis, once pasteurized at the Sandino plant, returned, shortly afterwards, on a vehicle which, as it is logical to assume, had to return to its base of operations after delivering the product. In total, it traveled 160 kilometers, a journey which, as I explained, was in fact longer.
I don’t know if at the moment this is still the case but some time ago, as I was touring the southeast of Camaguey and in a place known as Los Raules –my namesake– I asked a few questions. It happened that all the milk produced at Los Raules was brought to Camaguey for pasteurizing, and the milk assigned to the children at Los Raules had to be taken back there after that. Is that still the case?
On one occasion, not long ago, less than a year, I asked if that insane and absurd crisscrossing had been eliminated. I assure you that I was told it had, and now we are finding out this.
Try thinking about things like these and you’ll see the spending they mean.
The commendable aim of all of this crisscrossing was, as we can see, to pasteurize all milk. This measure makes sense and it is necessary in the case of large urban centers —even though it is customary in Cuba to boil all milk at home, whether the milk is pasteurized or not— and all milk needed to supply cities will thus continue to be stocked and pasteurized, but it does not prove viable for a truck –or hundreds of trucks– to travel these long distances every day to deliver a few liters of milk, to places which produce enough of it to be self-sufficient.
As from the victory of the Revolution, the Cubans have learned to travel from west to east, mostly from east to west really, but our wishes to travel have led us to make the milk travel as well.
In addition to the municipalities participating in this experiment, which I mentioned already, another 3,500 rationed stores in other municipalities and provinces are also directly distributing milk, and over 7 million liters of milk have already been distributed.
This procedure will gradually begin to be applied in more and more places, as expediently as possible but without any rash attempts at making it a general formula. In all cases, its application will be preceded by a comprehensive study that demonstrates its viability in a specific place and reveals the existence of the needed organizational and material conditions.
We will continue to work in this direction until all of the country’s municipalities that produce the needed quantities of milk become self-sufficient and can complete, within their jurisdiction, the cycle which begins when a cow is milked and ends when a child or any other person drinks the milk, to the extent that present conditions allow.
That is to say, the chief aim of these efforts is to produce as much milk as possible, and I say this is possible in the overwhelming majority of municipalities, except for those in the capital of the country, that is, those which are not in the outskirts of the city, because there they can produce milk too. There are already some capital cities in various provinces that can produce enough in their main municipalities; such is the case of Sancti Spiritus. And, we must definitely produce more milk!
I mean, the main purpose is to produce more milk to first ensure what we need for our children. We are talking about a basic food for children, and for the ill people; we cannot fool around with that either. But we should neither renounce the possibility that others may also receive it in the future.
Additionally, this program intends to continue increasing fuel savings; something very important, too.
This program responds to today’s existing situation, where dreams of the vast imports of fodder and other inputs of decades past, when the world was very different from what it is today, are just that: dreams.
This is but one example of the abundant resources that become available when we organize ourselves better and analyze an issue as deeply as required, mindful of all the involved factors.
We are studying the possibility of securing more foreign investment
I reiterate that our problems will not be solved spectacularly. We need time and, most importantly, we need to work systematically and with devotion to consolidate every achievement, no matter how small.
Another nearly endless source of resources —if we consider how much we squander—is to be found in saving, particularly, as we said, the saving of fuel, whose price is increasingly prohibitive, and very unlikely to decrease.
This is a task of strategic importance which is not always undertaken with the necessary care, and wasteful practices have not yet been halted. The example with the milk is enough.
Wherever it is rational to do so, we must also recover domestic industrial production and begin producing new products that eliminate the need for imports or create new possibilities for export.
In this connection, we are currently studying the possibility of securing more foreign investment, of the kind that can provide us with capital, technology or markets, to avail ourselves of its contribution to the country’s development, careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past, owed to naivety or our ignorance about these partnerships, of using the positive experiences we’ve had to work with serious entrepreneurs, upon well-defined legal bases which preserve the role of the State and the predominance of socialist property. ¡
We shall step up our cooperative efforts with other nations more and more, aware that only united, and on the basis of utter respect for the path chosen by every country, will we prevail. Proof of this are the steps we are taking forward next to our brothers in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and our solid ties to China and Vietnam, to mention but a few noteworthy examples of the growing number of countries in all continents with which relations of all kinds are being re-established and extended.
We will continue to make a priority of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the growing international movement of solidarity towards the Revolution. We will also continue to work with the United Nations Organization and other multilateral organizations of which Cuba is a member, which respect the norms of international law and contribute to the development of nations and to peace.
The only thing that any Cuban revolutionary should never question is our unwavering decision to build socialism
Many are the battles we face simultaneously and which require us to bring together our forces to maintain the unity of the people, the Revolution’s greatest weapon, and to take advantage of the potential of a socialist society like ours. The coming People’s Power elections will be a new opportunity to demonstrate how extraordinarily strong our democracy —a true democracy—is.
It is the duty of each and every one of us, of Party cadres especially, not to allow ourselves be overwhelmed by any difficulty, no matter how great or insurmountable it may seem to us at a given moment.
We must remember how, despite the initial confusion and discouragement, we managed to face up to the first, harsh years of the Special Period early the last decade, and how we managed to move forward. What we said then we can more justifiably repeat today: Yes, we can do it!
In response to bigger problems or challenges, more organization, more systematic and effective work, more studies and predictions on the basis of plans where our priorities are clearly established and no one attempts to solve their problems at any cost or at the expense of others.
We must also work with a critical and creative spirit, avoiding stagnation and schematics. We must never fall prey to the idea that what we do is perfect but rather examine it again. The one thing a Cuban revolutionary will never question is our unwavering decision to build socialism.
It was with the same profound conviction that, in this very place, on July 26, 1989, exactly 18 years ago to this day, Fidel historically and prophetically affirmed that, even in the hypothetical case that the Soviet Union were to collapse, we would continue to move forward with the Revolution, determined to pay the steep price of freedom and to act on the basis of dignity and principles.
History has offered abundant proof that our people’s determination is as hard as rock. To honor this determination, we are duty-bound to question everything we do as we strive to materialize our will more and more perfectly, to change concepts and methods which were appropriate at one point but have been surpassed by life itself.
We must always remember — and not to repeat it from memory like a dogma, but rather to apply it creatively in our work every day—what comrade Fidel affirmed on May 1st, 2000, with a definition which embodies the quintessence of political and ideological work:
“Revolution means a sense of our moment in history, it means changing all that ought to be changed; it is full equality and freedom; it is being treated and treating others like human beings; it is emancipating ourselves by ourselves, and through our own efforts; it is defying powerful and ruling forces inside and outside of the social and national spheres; it is defending values that are believed in at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is fighting with audacity, intelligence and realism; it is never lying or violating ethical principles; it is the profound conviction that there is no force in the world capable of crushing the strength of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity, it is independence, it is fighting for our dreams for justice for Cuba and for the world, it is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism.”
The best tribute we can pay the Commander in Chief today, the greatest contribution to his recovery we can make, is to ratify the decision to make a guide of those principles and, most importantly, to act in accordance with them every day, at whatever post has been assigned us.
True to the legacy of our glorious dead, we will work tirelessly to wholly meet the directives of his Proclamation, the many he has given us since then and as many as he gives us in the future.
There is no room for fear of difficulties or danger in our country, which shall never lower its guard before its enemies. That is the essential guarantee that, in our squares and, should it be necessary, in our trenches too0, these are the cries that shall always resound in our land:
Long live the Revolution!
Long live Fidel
In Cuba, where healthcare is not a commodity, we can do things that Bush cannot even dream of.
by Fidel Castro Ruz,
July 14, 2007
I will not refer to Bush’s health and education, but to that of his neighbors. It was not an improvised declaration. The AP agency tells us what his opening words were: “Tenemos corazones grandes en este país” (We have big hearts in this country); he said this in Spanish in front of 250 representatives of private and religious groups, foundations and NGOs who had come to Washington with all expenses paid by his government. Of these, some 100 came from the United States.
“The meeting, called the White House Conference on the Americas, is part of the ideas outlined by Bush as he began a tour of five Latin American countries at the beginning of March about what his government was hoping to do for the region in the short time still remaining of his term in office.”
“Bush called the conference in order to discuss several subjects, especially education and health. ‘It’s … in the interests of the United States that our neighborhood be healthy and educated’, he said in improvised declarations during a chat with six of the attendees, from Guatemala, the United States, Brazil, Haiti and Mexico, who sat at the table with him in a colloquium”, the press agency added.
He said some incredible things, like “the hard work we’re doing in the neighborhood”.
Bush spoke, as did the Secretary of the Treasury, the Under Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and the Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs. Together with them, several members of the Cabinet chaired the working groups in which the meeting was arranged. They all talked until they were blue in the face.
They mentioned that Bush had created a training center in Panama that graduated more than 100 doctors from six Central American countries. They very emphatically referred to the Comfort, “one of the best medical ships in the world that had just called on port in Panama after visiting Guatemala”.
“Bush dedicated 55 minutes of his time to this activity which took place in a hotel in the city of Arlington, Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington D.C.”
Then, as bold as you like, Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, joined the voices to speak about Cuba.
According to another news agency, when our Council of State, complying with constitutional norms, had just called the elections, she declared that “the United States hopes that the Cubans themselves will decide their future”, and she added: “Washington will not tolerate the transition from one dictator to another”.
In his opening speech, Bush addressed really unusual concepts for the head of a planetary global empire, very conscious of his power and of his personal role, reported in detail by the Spanish press agency EFE: “The President of the United States, George W. Bush, today urged the governments of Latin America to be honest, transparent and open.” (…) “The leader affirmed that societies which are open and transparent are those which will lead to hopeful tomorrows.”
“We expect governments to be honest and transparent (…) We reject the notion that it’s okay for there to be corruption in government…”
“It is also in our interest to help a neighbor in need. It renews our soul. It lifts our collective spirit. I believe to whom much is given, much is required. We’ve been given a lot as a nation, and therefore, I believe we’re required to help,” he insisted.
Bush knows that he is lying and that his tall tales are hard to swallow, but he doesn’t care. He is confident that if he repeats it a thousand times, many will finally believe him. Why so much trickery? What essentially torments him? When did all this rushing come up?
Bush is discovering that the economic and political system of his empire cannot compete with Cuba in vital services, such as healthcare and education, although this country has been attacked and blockaded for almost 50 years. Everyone knows that the United States’ specialty concerning education is the brain drain. The International Labor Organization has indicated that “47 percent of people born abroad that complete their Doctorate in the United States stay in that country.”
Yet another example of the plunder: “There are more Ethiopian physicians in Chicago than in all of Ethiopia.”
In Cuba, where healthcare is not a commodity, we can do things that Bush cannot even dream of.
Third World countries do not have the resources to set up scientific research centers, while Cuba has created these even if her own professionals have often been enticed and encouraged to defect.
Our Yes I Can method of teaching people to read and write is today available to all Latin American countries, free of charge, and the countries that choose to use the program receive support to adapt it to their own characteristics and to produce the printed materials and the corresponding videos.
Countries such as Bolivia are implementing the program in Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. The numbers of those who have learned to read and write there in just one year exceed the number of those who have been taught to read and write by the empire in all of Latin America, if indeed there is anyone. And I am not speaking about other countries like Venezuela which has accomplished veritable heroic deeds in education in a very short time.
Yes I Can is of benefit to other societies outside the Western Hemisphere. Suffice it to say that New Zealand is using the program to eradicate illiteracy in their Maori population.
Instead of having one training center for medical professionals in Central America, which has trained about 100 –and we’re glad for this– our country today has tens of thousands of students from Latin America and the Caribbean on full scholarships who spend six years training as doctors in Cuba, free of charge. Of course, we do not exclude any American youth who take their education very seriously.
We cooperate with Venezuela in the education of more than 20,000 youths, who study medicine and train in clinics in the poor neighborhoods, tutored by Cuban specialists, so that they can get acquainted with their future and difficult job.
The Comfort, with over 800 people on board, that is, medical staff and crew, will not be able to look after great numbers of people. It is impossible to carry out medical programs episodically. Physical therapy, for example, in many cases requires months of work. Cuba provides permanent services to people in polyclinics and well-equipped hospitals, and the patients can be cared for any time of day or night. We have also trained the necessary physical therapy specialists.
The eye surgery also requires special skills. In our country ophthalmologic centers perform more than 50,000 eye surgeries on Cubans each year and look after 27 kinds of diseases. There are no waiting lists for cornea transplants which need special arrangements. Let an active investigation be done in the United States and you will see how many people really need to be operated on there; since they have never been examined by an ophthalmologist they will attribute their eye problems to other causes and run the risk of becoming blind or of having their vision seriously impaired. You would find out that there are millions.
In the abovementioned figure I did not include the hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans and Caribbean people some of whom are operated on in Cuba, but most in their respective countries, by Cuban ophthalmologists. In Bolivia alone, they are more than 100,000 each year. In this instance, Bolivian doctors educated in the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) take part in the surgeries alongside our Cuban specialists.
Let’s just see how the Comfort will make out in Haiti, providing health services for a week. There, in 123 of the country’s 134 communes there are Cuban doctors working alongside ELAM graduates, or Haitian students in the last year of medical school, fighting AIDS and various tropical diseases.
The problem is that the United States cannot do what Cuba is doing. On the contrary, it brutally pressures the manufacturing companies of the excellent medical equipment that is supplied to our country to prevent them from replacing certain computer programs or some spare parts that are under United States patents. I could cite concrete cases and the names of the companies. It is disgusting, even though we have solutions that make us more invulnerable in this field.
Less than six months ago Bush had not yet invented the idea of making fuel production universal, from foodstuff inside and outside the United States. Those of us who are aware of the value of fats and protein foods for human nutrition know what the consequences are for pregnant women, children, teenagers, adults and the elderly if they lack these. The brunt of the scarcity will fall on the shoulders of the least developed countries, in other words, on the largest part of humanity. It will surprise no one that this will be accompanied by increased prices for basic foodstuffs and social instability. Yesterday, Friday 13, the price of oil was 79.18 US dollars a barrel; another consequence of the money rush and the war in Iraq.
Barely 48 hours ago, the United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, said that “he had the gut feeling that a terrorist attack could happen in the country during the summer”. The Secretary of State, and subsequently the President of the United States himself, said something similar. But while they were giving information about a potential risk, they were also taking great pains to calm public opinion.
The government of the United States sees and hears all, with or without legal authority. Furthermore, it possesses numerous intelligence and counterintelligence services that are provided with copious economic resources for espionage. It can obtain all the security information it needs without kidnapping, torturing or murdering persons in secret prisons. Everybody knows the real economic purposes pursued through world violence and force. They can prevent any attack on their people, unless there is some imperial need to deliver a bang so that they can carry on with and justify the brutal war which has been declared against the culture, religion, economy and independence of other peoples.
I must conclude.
Tomorrow, Sunday, is Children’s Day. I think of them as I write this reflection. I dedicate it to them.
by Fidel Castro Ruz
July 10, 2007
The National Directorate of the UJC (Communist Youth League) agreed to communicate the following measure as it was concluding its strategy:
“Last Saturday, July 7, the National Bureau of the Communist Youth decided to tighten up the plan for the mobilization of forces of the Student Work Brigades (BET), guided by the principle of using students for tasks of a social and recreational nature, in numbers adjusted to a necessary minimum and within municipalities where they reside, in order to avoid relying on transportation.
“That decision was discussed on the same day with the National General Staff of the BET, made up of student organizations and bodies belonging to the Central State Administration, and also with the directorates of the Communist Youth in all the provinces.
“The idea of making a more rational use of the mobilized forces was emphasized; also, saving material resources, especially fuel, and the fact that the students should be using their time consolidating their knowledge, incorporating reading habits and discussing subjects of great importance.
“As a result of the decisions adopted, only 200,000 of the originally planned 600,000 students will be mobilized in July and August. Mobilizations to the agricultural fields or schools in the countryside will not take place, since their locations imply the use of transportation and other logistical services.
“This year the call will be made for only 7 days of work related to the tasks included in the Energy Revolution, together with the social workers, such as training the community to improve their energy saving habits, delivering the domestic appliances that have not been distributed, and visiting a number of families who, having received and taken on the pertinent obligations, have yet to complete their payments.
“They will also be participating in the Anti-Mosquito Campaign in order to prevent a return of dengue fever, and in primary and secondary health care, supporting polyclinics and hospitals.
“Promoting cultural, recreational and sports activities in the communities will be another of the tasks occupying the members of the Student Work Brigades.
“The UJC will promote study and discussion among the mobilized young people and among the rest of the youth.”
I can certainly congratulate the National Directorate of the Communist Youth League, and also the people in charge of the Organization and Ideology Departments of the Party who were consulted about this and who wholeheartedly supported this measure.
Physical labor on its own does not generate conscience. Every worker is different. Their temperament, their physique, their spirit, the kind of work they do, the toughness of their work, the conditions under which they labor –under a scorching sun or in an air-conditioned room-, whether it is piecework or is salaried, whether the worker is disciplined or not, whether they have command of all their mental capacities or suffer from some disability, the schools they attended, teachers they had, whether the activity is a professional one or not, whether the worker is from the country or from the city. Something else very important: whether the worker handles or distributes goods or services of some kind, who the bosses are, what image they project, how they speak, the way they look at things. I could fill pages talking about the individual differences of every worker. Therefore, what the people in our country need most is knowledge, if what we want to do is create conscience.
Martí’s precept about the importance of linking education and work in the formation of man, led us in the past to promote the participation of university students and even students from the middle level education in physical labor. At first, this was an inescapable necessity. We had to fill the vacuum left by those who abandoned the sugar cane fields en masse as soon as other work opportunities appeared. The average level of knowledge was very low, even after the literacy campaign, the massive surge in primary education and later at the junior high school level. Our youth understood this and contributed their efforts with discipline and enthusiasm.
Nowadays we have taken higher education to the masses, beginning with the physicians and educators and continuing with the social workers, those in the field of computer science, the art instructors, in the universalization of university courses for a wide variety of degree courses. We have to make the brain cells work if we want to build consciences, so necessary in today’s complex world.
The purpose of studying for one or two weeks, and this year it will only be for 7 days, with proper materials that will be supplied, will generate a feeling of satisfaction in time well spent and the conscience that our society urgently needs.
Throughout the entire year we must keep ourselves informed about essential matters and about the details of what is happening in Cuba and in the rest of the world.
On specific economic matters, I think that in every country, most people are unaware of everything. It is inescapable to know why the cost of oil is climbing; last Monday the price reached 77 dollars a barrel. Why the prices of foods are increasing, such as wheat and others which must be imported because of climate related problems; if the cause of their increase is permanent or short-lived.
Not all workers receive the incentive of convertible pesos, a practice that became generalized in a large number of companies during the Special Period, without always fulfilling the minimum committed requirements. Not everybody receives convertible currency from abroad, something which is not illegal but which at times creates irritating inequalities and privileges in a country that does its utmost to supply vital services free of charge to the entire population. I do not mention the juicy profits being made by those who transport people clandestinely, nor the way they would fool us by changing the US bills into other currencies in order to avoid our response measures against the dollar.
The real and visible lack of equality and the lack of pertinent information gives way to critical opinions, especially in the neediest sectors.
In Cuba, without a doubt, those who some way or another receive convertible pesos –even though in these cases the sums are limited –or those receiving currency from abroad, also acquire free essential social services, food, medicines and other goods at extremely low subsidized prices. However we are strictly fulfilling our financial obligations precisely because we are not a consumer society. We need serious, brave and conscientious managers.
Those using up gasoline all over the place with our current fleet of vehicles of all kinds; those who forget that the prices of food increase sharply and that raw materials for agriculture and industry, many of whose products are distributed to all at subsidized prices, must be acquired at market prices; those that forget that the country has the sacred duty to struggle until our last drop of blood and must spend money for raw materials and defensive measures faced with an enemy who is permanently on guard, they can compromise the independence and life of Cuba. We cannot fool around with that!
I was horrified when a few days ago I heard a distinguished bureaucrat exclaim on TV that now that the Special Period was over, we would be sending more and more delegations each year to such and such activities.
Where did this genius come from? I wondered. Perhaps it is a donation sent us by Sancho Panza from his Isle of Barataria.
In Cuba, the Special Period has abated; but the world has fallen prey to a very special period, and we must wait to see how it will come out in the end. Billions of dollars are wasted in fuel. Not just as professional wastrels, that’s a natural tendency, but also out of necessity to exchange thousands of ancient Soviet motors, from a time when there was gasoline aplenty, for Chinese motors that are very thrifty and have reasonable credit facilities. This program has fallen behind.
In the world economy, metals, just like oil, rise above their historical parameters, but they also plummet abruptly.
Of course, no one can remedy, in a short time, the need for oil in personal and public transportation and for agricultural or construction equipment. In developed countries everything is mechanized. Travelers describe how they see building after building, of all kinds, rising up, and that the pace does not stop, day or night. Cities are becoming gigantic. There are constantly more millions of people who need drinking water, vegetables, fruits and protein foods that have had to be produced and supplied by others often after traversing great distances. Furthermore, they need highways with three or four lanes in both directions, bridges, expensive works of engineering. The least of accidents, a simple sideways brush between two vehicles, will paralyze everything. Public expenditures are greater every day and development assistance has decreased.
Worst of all, for every thousand people there are more than 500 private automobiles. In the United States that number reaches almost a thousand. People live or work at great distances. Everybody has their own garage. Every workplace has its own parking lot. There are not enough oil refineries. Many of them need to be expanded and also new plants must be constructed. The raw material for a refinery is oil; the heavier it is the more we need and for a long time now there have been no great oilfields of light oil coming to light. A strike in Nigeria, the war in Iraq, the threats to Iran, the old political conflicts in Europe, a tidal wave, a hurricane, all of these send prices sky high. The old and the new big consumers are always demanding more millions of barrels per day. Of course, new nuclear plants are growing at the same time. I am not discussing now the environmental or climate effects or dangers, but the uncertainties that they unleash upon the real economy.
After spending a mountain of gold to destroy Vietnam, Nixon replaced gold with paper bills, with hardly anyone noticing the consequences. The United States’ technological development was such, as was its capacity to produce industrial and agricultural merchandise, especially its enormous military powerhouse, that the replacement of gold by paper did not constitute a tragedy. Inflation of more than 10 % was produced, and it was controlled. This was followed by the United States military build-up voted in with papers, at the end of the Cold War, and the victory of the consumer society which dazzles nations with its orgy of apparent wellbeing. The empire acquired a large part of the world’s wealth with paper, imposing their United States laws there, scorning the sovereignty of nations.
The dollar went along progressively losing its value until it reached less than 6 percent of what its value had been in the 70’s. Experts are puzzled about the new phenomena. Nobody is sure about what is going to happen.
Do we have reasons to delve more deeply into these subjects, or not?
by Fidel Castro Ruz
July 7, 2007
The founding fathers of the American nation could not imagine that what they were proclaiming at that time, as any other historical society, was carrying within it the seeds of its own transformation.
The attractive Declaration of Independence of 1776, which celebrated its 231st birthday last Wednesday, stated something which in one way or another captivated many of us:
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter it or 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.”
It was the result of the influence of the best minds and philosophers of a Europe overwhelmed by feudalism, the privileges of the aristocracy and absolute monarchies.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau stated in his famous Social Contract:
“The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.” (…) “Force is a physical power, and I fail to see what moral effect it can have. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will…” (…) “To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of Humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible.”
In the Thirteen Colonies that obtained their independence, there were also forms of slavery as atrocious as those in ancient times. Men and women were sold at public auction. The new nation emerged with its own religion and culture. The Tea Tax was the spark that set off the rebellion.
In those vast lands slavery continued for at least 100 years, and after two centuries, slave descendants are still feeling the consequences. There were native communities which were the legitimate natural inhabitants, as well as forests, water, lakes, herds of millions of bison, natural species of animals and plants, abundant and various foods. Hydrocarbons were unknown then, as was the enormous wasting of energy carried out by today’s society.
Had the same declaration of principles been proclaimed in the countries crossed by the Sahara Desert, it would not have created a paradise for European immigrants. Today we must speak about immigrants coming from the poor countries that cross, or try to cross, the U.S. borders by the millions each year in the quest for jobs, and are not entitled even to parental custody over their children if they are born on U.S. soil.
The Philadelphia Declaration was written at a time when there were only small printing presses and letters took years to get from one country to another. There were only a few people who could read and write. Today, images, words and ideas travel in a fraction of a second from one corner to another in a globalized planet. Conditioned reflexes are created in the minds of people. We cannot speak about the right to use, but rather about the overuse of free expression and mass alienation. Likewise, with modest electronic equipment, anybody, during peacetime, can send their ideas out into the world without any authorization from any Constitution. It would be a battle of ideas; in any case, a mass of truths versus a mass of lies.
Truths do not need commercial advertisements. Nobody could disagree with the Philadelphia Declaration or with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. Both documents support the right to struggle against the established world tyranny.
Could we ignore the pillaging wars and the slaughters which are forced upon the poor peoples who make up three-quarters of the planet? No! Those are typical of today’s world and of a system that could not sustain itself otherwise. At an enormous political, economic and scientific cost, the human species is being pushed to the edge of an abyss.
My aim is not to repeat concepts that I have mentioned in other reflections. Based on simple events, my purpose is to carry on demonstrating the immense hypocrisy and the total lack of ethics which characterize the actions, chaotic by nature, of the government of the United States.
In “The Killing Machine,” published last Sunday, I said that it was through one of the declassified CIA documents that we found out about the attempt to poison me using an official of the Cuban government with access to my office. It dealt with a person about whom I should have sought out some information, since I didn’t have the elements on hand to make the necessary judgement. In fact, I offered my apologies if I was hurting the feelings of any descendants, whether or not the concerned person were guilty. I later continued to analyze other important subjects in the CIA revelations.
During the early days of the Revolution, I used to visit, almost on a daily basis, the recently created National Institute of Agrarian Reform, located where today we have the headquarters of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. We were not able to use the Palace of the Revolution yet, since that was the venue of the Palace of Justice at that time. Its construction resulted from juicy business deals made by the overthrown regime. The main profit came from the increased value of real estate lands, from which thousands of people had been evicted. As a recently graduated lawyer, I worked pro bono as the attorney for the defense of those people, months before Batista’s coup d’état.
From the offices of INRA, on March 4, 1960, I heard an ear-splitting explosion of La Coubre and I watched a dark column of smoke rising above the port of Havana. What came to my mind immediately was the thought of a ship loaded with anti-tank and anti-personal grenades that could be used in the FAL rifles we had acquired from Belgium, a country far from being suspected of being Communist. Right away I went down to go to that location. On my way there, because of the noise and the vehicle’s vibrations, I could not hear the second explosion. More than 100 people died and dozens were maimed. At the funeral for the victims, the cry of “Homeland or Death” (Patria o Muerte) was spontaneously born.
We know that everything was carefully planned by the Central Intelligence Agency right from the port where the ship was loaded. The ship had passed through the ports of Le Havre, Hamburg and Antwerp. The grenades were loaded at the last of these, in Belgium. The explosions on the ship also killed several of the French crew.
Why, in the name of freedom of information, do they not declassify a single document that will tell us how the CIA, almost half a century ago, exploded the steamship La Coubre and cut off the supply of Belgian weapons which, as the CIA itself admitted on June 14, 1960, was a very important concern for the United States?
What was I devoting my time to during the feverish days previous to the attack through Bay of Pigs?
The first large-scale clean-up in the Escambray Mountains took place during the last months of 1960 up until early in 1961. More than 50 thousand men took part, almost all of them coming from the former provinces of Havana and Las Villas.
A flood of weapons was arriving in ships from the USSR. These were not exploding in ports. It was useless to try to buy them elsewhere, and thus we avoided the pretext that the United States used to attack Guatemala, which eventually cost more than one hundred thousand Guatemalan people dead or missing.
In Czechoslovakia we bought light weapons and a number of 20 mm and double-barrelled anti-aircraft guns. The tanks with 85 mm cannons, 100 mm armored artillery, 75 mm antitank cannon, mortars, howitzers and large caliber cannon up to 122 mm, and light and heavy anti-aircraft, all came directly from the USSR.
It would have taken at least a year to train by traditional methods the personnel needed to use all that weaponry. We did it in a matter of weeks. We dedicated practically one hundred percent of our time to that task almost two years after the triumph of the Revolution.
We were aware of an imminent attack, but didn’t know when or how it would come. All possible access points were being defended or guarded. The leaders all had their headquarters: Raúl in Oriente, Almeida in the center, and Che in Pinar del Río. I was headquartered in the capital: a former bourgeois residence had been adapted for that purpose on the highest right bank of the Almendares River, close to the point where the river flows into the sea.
It was already daylight on April 15, 1961, and there I was, since the first early morning hours, receiving news from Oriente, when a ship had come from the southern United States, skippered by Nino Díaz, with a group of counterrevolutionaries on board dressed in olive green fatigues similar to the ones worn by our troops, ready to land in the Baracoa area. This was to create a diversion far from the exact site of the main attack, in order to create maximum confusion. The ship was already at the crosshairs of the antitank cannons, but in the end the landing did not take place.
On the night of the 14th, we also got news that one of our three jet fighters, which were training craft ready for engagement, had blown up during a reconnaissance flight over the area of presumptive landing. This was undoubtedly a Yankee action perpetrated from the Guantánamo Naval Base or somewhere else in the sea or the air. There was no radar to exactly pinpoint the event. The outstanding revolutionary pilot, Orestes Acosta, died in that action.
From the headquarters I mentioned, I could see the B-26s flying low over the spot and, a few seconds later, I heard the first missiles launched without warning against our young artillery, who for the most part were being trained at the Ciudad Libertad Air Base. The response of those brave men was practically instantaneous.
Besides, I have no doubt whatsoever that Juan Orta was a traitor. The pertinent details about his life and conduct are where they ought to be: in the archives of the Department of State Security, born in those years under enemy fire. The most politically conscious men were the ones assigned that mission.
Orta had received the poisoned pills which had been proposed to Maheu by Giancana. Maheu’s conversation with Roselli, who would play the part of mob contact, took place on September 14, 1960, months before Kennedy’s election and inauguration.
The traitor, Orta, had no special merits. We kept writing each other when we were looking for the support of Cuban emigrants and exiles in the United States. He was appreciated for his apparent training and helpful attitude. That was where his special talent laid. After the triumph of the Revolution, he had frequent access to me during an important period. Based on his possibilities then, it was believed that he would be able to put the poison into a soft drink or a glass of orange juice.
He had received money from the mob supposedly for helping to reopen the gambling casinos. He had nothing to do with this. We were the ones who had made that decision. Urrutia’s unilateral order, issued without previous consultation, was creating chaos and promoting protests by thousands of workers in the tourist and business sectors, at a time when unemployment was running high.
Some time later, the gambling casinos were shut down for good by the Revolution.
When he was given the poison, contrary to what used to happen in the early days, Orta had very little possibilities to coincide with me. I was fully involved in the activities I previously described.
Without saying a word to anybody about the enemy plans, on April 13th, 1961, two days before the attack on our air bases, Orta sought asylum at the Venezuelan Embassy which Rómulo Betancourt had placed at the unconditional service of Washington. The numerous counterrevolutionaries seeking asylum there were not granted exit permits until the brutal armed aggression by the United States against Cuba let up.
We already had to put up with the betrayal of Rafael del Pino Siero in Mexico. After deserting a few days before our departure for Cuba, a date he wasn’t aware of, he sold to Batista for 30 thousand dollars some important secrets dealing with part of the weapons and the boat which would take us to Cuba. With elegant cunning he divided up the information in order to gain confidence and to guarantee compliance with each part. First, he would receive some thousands of dollars for delivering two weapons deposits that he knew about. A week later, he would deliver the most important information: the boat that was bringing us to Cuba and the landing site. They would be able to capture us all along with the other weapons, but before that, they had to give him all of the money. Some Yankee expert surely had advised him.
Despite this betrayal, we left Mexico in the “Granma” on the set date. Some of our supporters thought that Pino would never betray us, that his desertion was due to his dislike of discipline and the training I demanded of him. I won’t say how I learned of the operation that had been hatched between him and Batista, but I learned about it with full precision, so we were able to take appropriate measures in order to protect personnel and weapons that were en route to Tuxpan, the launch site. That valuable information didn’t cost a penny.
When the final offensive by the tyranny in the Sierra Maestra had finished, we had to also fight against the bold tricks of Evaristo Venereo, an agent of the regime who, disguised as a revolutionary, tried to infiltrate the Movement in Mexico. He was the liaison with the secret police in that country, a very repressive body which he advised for the interrogation of Cándido González; this heroic militant was blindfolded during his interrogation and was assassinated after the landing. He was one of the few comrades who drove the car I moved around in.
Evaristo returned to Cuba later. He was assigned the mission of assassinating me when our forces were advancing towards Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Las Villas and the western part of Cuba. We learned of the details when we took over the archives of the Military Intelligence Service. These events are documented.
I have survived numerous assassination plots. Only luck and the habit of carefully observing every detail allowed all of us, Camilo, Che, Raúl, Almeida, Guillermo, who were later known as the leaders of a triumphant Revolution, to survive the trickery of Eutimio Guerra during the early and most dramatic days in the Sierra Maestra. We might have possibly died when we were at the verge of being eliminated with a ridiculous siege laid on our camp by surprise under the traitor’s guidance. During the brief clash that ensued, we suffered a sad loss: a wonderful, black sugar worker and active combatant, Julio Zenón Acosta, who moved ahead of me and fell at my side. Others survived the deadly danger, and fell in combat afterwards, as was the case of Ciro Frías, an excellent comrade and promising leader, who died in Imías, in the Second Front; Ciro Redondo, who fiercely fought the enemy with the troops of Che’s column, and was killed in Marverde; and Julito Díaz, who was relentlessly shooting his caliber 30 machine gun and died a few steps from our Command Post at El Uvero battle.
We set up the ambush at a very well chosen spot, waiting for the enemy, because we were aware of the moves they intended to make that day. Our attention slackened for a few minutes when two men from the group, who had been sent out as scouts before deciding to move, returned without news.
Eutimio was guiding the enemy dressed in a white ‘guayabera’ shirt, the only thing visible in the Alto de Espinosa woods, where we were waiting for him. Batista had the headlines ready about the elimination of the whole group, which was for him a sure thing, and had notified the press. Out of excessive confidence, we had in fact underestimated the enemy which was taking advantage of human weaknesses. At that time, we were a group of about 22 well-seasoned and selected men. Ramiro, wounded in one leg, was recovering at some distance from us.
The column of more than 300 soldiers, who were advancing one abreast through the sheer and wooded landscape, was spared a storming blow, thanks to a last-minute move that we made.
How did that machine work in the face of the Cuban Revolution?
As early as April of 1959, I visited the United States as a guest of the Washington Press Club. Nixon deigned to have me visit him in his private office. Later he said that I was inexperienced in the subject of economics.
I was so aware of this inexperience, that I enrolled in three university degree courses in order to qualify for a scholarship that would allow me to study Economics at Harvard. I had already finished and had written the exams for all the Law, Diplomatic Law and Social Science courses. I only had two subjects to be examined on: History of Social Doctrines and History of Political Doctrines. I had been studying them carefully. That year, no other student was making the effort. The path had been cleared, but events were on the fast track in Cuba and I understood that this was not the time to take a scholarship to go study Economics.
I went to Harvard on a visit at the end of 1948. As I returned to New York, I bought a copy of Capital in English in order to study Marx’s most notable work and at the same time improve my command of that language. I was not “an underground Communist Party member” as Nixon, with his crafty and penetrating gaze, happened to think. If there is something I can be sure of, and I discovered it at the University, is that I was first a Utopian Communist and then a radical Socialist by virtue of my own analysis and studies, and was ready to fight with the proper strategies and tactics.
My only qualm about speaking with Nixon was the distaste I had in frankly explaining my philosophy to a Vice-president and a likely future President of the United States, an expert in imperialist economic concepts and governing methods, which I had ceased to believe in long ago.
What was the gist of that meeting which took hours, according to the author of the declassified memo that refers to it? I only have my own memories of what happened. I have selected the paragraphs from this memo which, in my opinion, best explain Nixon’s ideas.
“He (Castro) was particularly concerned about whether he might have irritated Senator Smathers for the comments he made with regard to him. I reassured him at the beginning of the conversation that ‘Meet the Press’ was one of the most difficult programs a public official could go to and that he had done extremely well – particularly having in mind the fact that he had the courage to go on in English rather than to speak through a translator.”
“It was also apparent that as far as his visit to the United States was concerned that his primary interest was ‘not to get a change in the sugar quota or to get a government loan but to win support for his policies from American public opinion.”
“It was this almost slavish subservience to prevailing majority opinion –the voice of the mob – rather than his naïve attitude towards Communism and his obvious lack of understanding of even the most elementary economic principles which concerned me most in evaluating what kind of a leader he might eventually turn out to be. That is the reason why I spent as much time as I could trying to emphasize that he had the great gift of leadership, but that it was the responsibility of a leader not always to follow public opinion (but to help to direct it in the proper channels,) not to give the people what they think they want at a time of emotional stress but to make them want what they ought to have.”
“I in my turn, tried to impress upon him the fact that while we believe in majority rule that even a majority can be tyrannous and that there are certain individual rights which a majority should never have the power to destroy.”
“I frankly doubt that I made too much of an impression upon him but he did listen and appeared to be somewhat receptive. I tried to cast my appeal to him primarily in terms of how his place in history would be affected by the courage and statesmanship he displayed at this time. I emphasized that the easy thing to do was to follow the mob, but that the right thing in the long run would be better for the people and, of course, better for him as well. As I have already indicated he was incredibly naïve with regard to the Communist threat and appeared to have no fear whatever that the Communists might eventually come to power in Cuba.”
“In our discussions of Communism I again tried to cast the arguments in terms of his own self-interest and to point out that the revolution which he had led might be turned against him and the Cuban people unless he kept control of the situation and made sure that the Communists did not get into positions of power and influence. On this score I feel I made very little impression, if any.”
“I put as much emphasis as possible on the need for him to delegate responsibility, but again whether I got across was doubtful.”
“It was apparent that while he paid lip service to such institutions as freedom of speech, press and religion that his primary concern was with developing programs for economic progress. He said over and over that a man who worked in the sugar cane fields for three months a year and starved the rest of the year wanted a job, something to eat, a house and some clothing.”
“He indicated that it was very foolish for the United States to furnish arms to Cuba or any other Caribbean country. He said ‘anybody knows that our countries are not going to be able to play any part in the defense of this hemisphere in the event a world war breaks out. The arms governments get in this hemisphere are only used to suppress people as Batista used his arms to fight the revolution. It would be far better if the money that you give to Latin American countries for arms be provided for capital investment.’ I will have to admit that as far as his basic argument was concerned here I found little that I could disagree with!”
“We had a rather extended discussion of how Cuba could get this investment capital it needed for economic progress. He insisted that what Cuba primarily needed and what he wanted was not private capital but government capital.”
I was referring to the capital owned by the Cuban government.
Nixon himself acknowledged that I never asked for any resources from the U.S. government. He got a little mixed up and said:
“… that government capital was limited because of the many demands upon it and the budget problems we presently confronted.”
It was evident I clarified him on that because right afterwards he pointed out in his memo:
“… that there was competition for capital throughout the Americas and the world and that it would not go to a country where there was any considerable fear that policies might be adopted which would discriminate against private enterprise.”
“Here again on this point I doubt if I made too much of an impression.”
“I tried tactfully to suggest to Castro that Muñoz Marín had done a remarkable job in Puerto Rico in attracting private capital and in generally raising the standard of living of his people and that Castro might well send one of his top economic advisors to Puerto Rico to have a conference with Muñoz Marín. He took a very dim view of this suggestion, pointing out that the Cuban people were ‘very nationalistic’ and would look with suspicion on any programs initiated in what they would consider to be a ‘colony’ of the United States.”
“I am inclined to think that the real reason for his attitude is simply that he disagreed with Muñoz firm position as an advocate of private enterprise and does not want to get any advice which might divert him from his course of leading Cuba toward more socialism of its economy.”
“You in America should not be talking so much about your fear of what the Communists may do in Cuba or in some other country in Latin America, Asia or Africa…”
“I also tried to put our attitude toward communism in context by pointing out that Communism was something more than just an idea but that its agents were dangerously effective in their ability to grasp power and to set up dictatorships.”
“Significantly enough he did not raise any questions about the sugar quota nor did he engage in any specific discussions with regard to economic assistance.”
“My own appraisal of him as a man is somewhat mixed. The one fact we can be sure of is that he has those indefinable qualities which make him a leader of men. Whatever we may think of him he is going to be a great factor in the development of Cuba and very possibly in Latin American affairs generally. He seems to be sincere, he is either incredibly naïve about Communism or under Communist discipline…”
“But because he has the power to lead to which I have referred we have no choice but at least to try to orient him in the right direction.”
That was the end of his confidential memo to the White House.
When Nixon started to talk, nothing could stop him. He was used to preaching Latin American presidents. He did not prepare any drafts of what he intended to say or took notes of what he actually said. He responded to questions that were never asked. He dealt with subjects based only on the opinions he had about his interlocutor. Not even an elementary school student would hope to receive so many lessons altogether on democracy, anti-Communism and other matters related to the art of governing. He was fond of developed capitalism and its domain of the world out of its own natural right. He idealized the system. He didn’t conceive otherwise, nor was there the slightest possibility of getting through to him.
The killings began under the Eisenhower and Nixon governments. There is no other way to explain why Kissinger exclaimed, and I quote, that “blood would flow if we knew, for example, that Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, had personally directed the assassination of Fidel Castro”. Some blood had flown before. What the former administrations did, with few exceptions, was to follow the same policy.
In a memorandum dated on December 11, 1959, the head of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere Division, J.C. King, said, and I quote: “We must give thorough consideration to the elimination of Fidel Castro. […] Many informed people believe that the disappearance of Fidel would greatly accelerate the fall of the government…”
As it was recognized by the CIA and the Church Senate Committee in 1975, the assassination plans sprang up in 1960, when the purpose of destroying the Cuban Revolution was included in the president’s agenda dated March that year. The J.C. King memo was sent to Allen Dulles, the CIA Director, with a note that expressly requested approval for those and other measures. They were all accepted and gladly welcomed, specially the proposal of assassination, as reflected by the following annotation in the document signed by Allen Dulles and dated one day after, on December 12: “The recommendation contained in Paragraph 3 is approved.”
In a draft of a book that would contain a detailed analysis of declassified documents, written by Pedro Álvarez-Tabío, Director of the Historical Affairs Office of the Council of State, it is stated that: “Up to 1993, the Cuban State Security had discovered and neutralized a total of 627 conspiracies against the life of the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro. This figure includes both the plans that reached some phase of concrete execution and those which were neutralized at an early stage, as well as other attempts that by various ways and for different reasons have been publicly revealed in the United States itself. It does not include a number of cases that could not be verified, since the only available information was the testimony of some of the participants. This of course did not include any of the plans plotted after 1993.”
Previously, we were able to learn from the report by Colonel Jack Hawkins, CIA paramilitary chief during the preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion, that “the paramilitary General Staff studied the possibility of organizing an assault force of greater magnitude than the small contingency force planned earlier.”
“It was thought that this force would be landed in Cuba after effective resistance activity, including active guerrilla forces had been developed. It should be noted that guerrilla forces were operating successfully in the Escambray mountains during this period. It was visualized that the landing of the assault force, after widespread resistance activity had been created, would precipitate general uprisings and widespread defection among Castro’s armed forces which could contribute materially to his overthrow.”
“The concept for employment of the force in the amphibious/airlift assault was discussed at meetings of the Special Group during November and December 1960. The group took no definite position on ultimate employment of such a force but did not oppose its continued development for possible employment. President Eisenhower was briefed on the concept in late November of that year by CIA representatives. He indicated that he desired vigorous continuation of all activities then in progress by all Departments concerned.”
What did Hawkins report about the results of the covert operations program against Cuba from September 1960 to April 1961?
Nothing less than the following:
“a. Introduction of Paramilitary Agents. Seventy trained paramilitary agents, including nineteen radio operators, were introduced into the target country. Seventeen radio operators succeeded in establishing communication circuits with CIA headquarters, although a number were later captured or lost their equipment.”
“b. Air Supply Operations. These operations were not successful. Of 27 missions attempted, only four achieved desired results. The Cuban pilots demonstrated early that they didn’t have the required capabilities for this kind of operation. A request for authority to use American contract pilots for these missions was denied by the Special Group, although authority to hire pilots for possible eventual use was granted.”
“c. Sea Supply Operations. These operations achieved considerable success. Boats plying between Miami and Cuba delivered over 40 tons of military arms, explosives and equipment, and infiltrated/exfiltrated a large number of personnel. Some of the arms delivered were used for partially equipping a 400 man guerrilla force which operated for a considerable time in the Escambray, Las Villas Province. Most of the acts of sabotage carried out in Havana and other sites used materials provided in this fashion.”
“d. Development of Guerrilla Activity. Agents introduced into Cuba succeeded in developing a widespread underground organization extending from Havana into all of the provinces. However, there was no truly effective guerrilla activity anywhere in Cuba except in the Escambray Mountains, where an estimated 600 to one thousand ill-equipped guerrilla troops, organized in bands of 50 to 200 men, operated successfully for over six months […]. A CIA trained coordinator for action in the Escambray entered Cuba clandestinely and succeeded in reaching the guerrilla area, but he was promptly captured and executed. Other small guerrilla units operated at times in the provinces of Pinar del Río and Oriente, but they achieved no significant results. Agents reported large numbers of unarmed men in all provinces who were wiling to participate in guerrilla activity if armed.”
e. Sabotage. 1) From October 1960 through April 15 1961 sabotage activity included the following:
“(a) Approximately 300 thousand tons of sugar cane destroyed in 800 separate fires.”
“(b) Approximately other 150 fires were set in 42 tobacco warehouses, two paper plants, a sugar refinery, two dairies, four stores, 21 Communist homes.”
“(c) Approximately 110 bombings, including Communist Party offices, Havana power station, two stores, railroad terminal, bus terminal, militia barracks, railroad train.”
“(d) Approximately 200 nuisance bombs in Havana Province.”
“(e) Derailment of 6 trains, destruction of a microwave cable and station, and destruction of numerous power transformers.”
“(f) A commando-type raid launched from the sea against Santiago, which put the refinery out of work for about one week.”
So much for what we have known thanks to the Hawkins’ report. Anyone could understand that 200 bombs planted in the main province of an underdeveloped country which lived on the single crop farming of sugar cane, which is a semi-slave form of production, and on the sugar quota that had been earned for almost two centuries for being a guaranteed supplier, and whose major productive lands and sugar refineries belonged to large United States companies, constituted a brutal act of tyranny against the Cuban people. Add to this all the other actions that were carried out.
I will say no more. It is enough for today.
by Fidel Castro Ruz
June 30, 2007
(published in Cuba on Sunday, July 1, 2007. Translation by Prensa Latina)
Sunday is a good day to read something that would appear to be science fiction.
It was announced that the CIA would be declassifying hundreds of pages on illegal actions that included plans to eliminate the leaders of foreign governments. Suddenly the publication is halted and it is delayed one day. No coherent explanation was given. Perhaps someone in the White House looked over the material.
The first package of declassified documents goes by the name of “The Family Jewels”; it consists of 702 pages on illegal CIA actions between 1959 and 1973. About 100 pages of this part have been deleted. It deals with actions that were not authorized by any law, plots to assassinate other leaders, experiments with drugs on human beings to control their minds, spying on civil activists and journalists, among other similar activities that were expressly prohibited.
The documents began to be gathered together 14 years after the first of the events took place, when then CIA director, James Schlesinger became alarmed about what the press was writing, especially all the articles by Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein published in The Washington Post, already mentioned in the “Manifesto to the People of Cuba”. The agency was being accused of promoting spying in the Watergate Hotel with the participation of its former agents Howard Hunt and James McCord.
In May 1973, the Director of the CIA was demanding that “all the main operative officials of this agency must immediately inform me on any ongoing or past activity that might be outside of the constituting charter of this agency”. Schlesinger, later appointed Head of the Pentagon, had been replaced by William Colby. Colby was referring to the documents as “skeletons hiding in a closet”. New press revelations forced Colby to admit the existence of the reports to interim President Gerald Ford in 1975. The New York Times was denouncing agency penetration of antiwar groups. The law that created the CIA prevented it from spying inside the United States.
That “was just the tip of the iceberg”, said then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Kissinger himself warned that “blood would flow” if other actions were known, and he immediately added: “For example, that Robert Kennedy personally controlled the operation for the assassination of Fidel Castro”. The President’s brother was then Attorney General of the United States. He was later murdered as he was running for President in the 1968 elections, which facilitated Nixon’s election for lack of a strong candidate. The most dramatic thing about the case is that apparently he had reached the conviction that Jack Kennedy had been victim of a conspiracy. Thorough investigators, after analyzing the wounds, the caliber of the shots and other circumstances surrounding the death of the President, reached the conclusion that there had been at least three shooters. Solitary Oswald, used as an instrument, could not have been the only shooter. I found that rather striking. Excuse me for saying this but fate turned me into a shooting instructor with a telescopic sight for all the Granma expeditionaries. I spent months practicing and teaching, every day; even though the target is a stationary one it disappears from view with each shot and so you need to look for it all over again in fractions of a second.
Oswald wanted to come through Cuba on his trip to the USSR. He had already been there before. Someone sent him to ask for a visa in our country’s embassy in Mexico but nobody knew him there so he wasn’t authorized. They wanted to get us implicated in the conspiracy. Later, Jack Ruby, – a man openly linked to the Mafia – unable to deal with so much pain and sadness, as he said, assassinated him, of all places, in a precinct full police agents.
Subsequently, in international functions or on visits to Cuba, on more than one occasion I met with the aggrieved Kennedy relatives, who would greet me respectfully. The former president’s son, who was a very small child when his father was killed, visited Cuba 34 years later. We met and I invited him to dinner.
The young man, in the prime of his life, and well brought up, tragically died in an airplane accident on a stormy night as he was flying to Martha’s Vineyard with his wife. I never touched on the thorny issue with any of those relatives. In contrast, I pointed out that if the president-elect had then been Nixon instead of Kennedy, after the Bay of Pigs disaster we would have been attacked by the land and sea forces escorting the mercenary expedition, and both countries would have paid a high toll in human lives. Nixon would not have limited himself to saying that victory has many fathers and defeat is an orphan. For the record, Kennedy was never too enthusiastic about the Bay of Pigs adventure; he was led there by Eisenhower’s military reputation and the recklessness of his ambitious vice-president.
I remember that, exactly on the day and minute he was assassinated, I was speaking in a peaceful spot outside of the capital with French journalist Jean Daniel. He told me that he was bringing a message from President Kennedy. He said to me that in essence he had told him: “You are going to see Castro. I would like to know what he thinks about the terrible danger we just experienced of a thermonuclear war. I want to see you again as soon as you get back.” “Kennedy was very active; he seemed to be a political machine”, he added, and we were not able to continue talking as someone rushed in with the news of what had just happened. We turned on the radio. What Kennedy thought was now pointless.
Certainly I lived with that danger. Cuba was both the weakest part and the one that would take the first strike, but we did not agree with the concessions that were made to the United States. I have already spoken of this before.
Kennedy had emerged from the crisis with greater authority. He came to recognize the enormous sacrifices of human lives and material wealth made by the Soviet people in the struggle against fascism. The worst of the relations between the United States and Cuba had not yet occurred by April 1961. When he hadn’t resigned himself to the outcome of the Bay of Pigs, along came the Missile Crisis. The blockade, economic asphyxiation, pirate attacks and assassination plots multiplied. But the assassination plots and other bloody occurrences began under the administration of Eisenhower and Nixon.
After the Missile Crisis we would have not refused to talk with Kennedy, nor would we have ceased being revolutionaries and radical in our struggle for socialism. Cuba would have never severed relations with the USSR as it had been asked to do. Perhaps if the American leaders had been aware of what a war could be using weapons of mass destruction they would have ended the Cold War earlier and differently. At least that’s how we felt then, when there was still no talk of global warming, broken imbalances, the enormous consumption of hydrocarbons and the sophisticated weaponry created by technology, as I have already said to the youth of Cuba. We would have had much more time to reach, through science and conscience, what we are today forced to realize in haste.
President Ford decided to appoint a Commission to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency. “We do not want to destroy the CIA but to preserve it”, he said.
As a result of the Commission’s investigations that were led by Senator Frank Church, President Ford signed an executive order which expressly prohibited the participation of American officials in the assassinations of foreign leaders.
The documents published now disclose information about the CIA-Mafia links for my assassination.
Details are also revealed about Operation Chaos, carrying on from 1969 for at least seven years, for which the CIA created a special squadron with the mission to infiltrate pacifist groups and to investigate “the international activities of radicals and black militants”. The Agency compiled more than 300,000 names of American citizens and organizations and extensive files on 7,200 persons.
According to The New York Times, President Johnson was convinced that the American anti-War movement was controlled and funded by Communist governments and he ordered the CIA to produce evidence.
The documents recognize, furthermore, that the CIA spied on various journalists like Jack Anderson, performers such as Jane Fonda and John Lennon, and the student movements at Columbia University. It also searched homes and carried out tests on American citizens to determine the reactions of human beings to certain drugs.
In a memorandum sent to Colby in 1973, Walter Elder who had been executive assistant to John McCone, CIA Director in the early 1970s, gives information about discussions in the CIA headquarters that were taped and transcribed: “I know that whoever worked in the offices of the director were worried about the fact that these conversations in the office and on the phone were transcribed. During the McCone years there were microphones in his regular offices, the inner office, the dining room, the office in the East building, and in the study of his home on White Haven Street. I don’t know if anyone is ready to talk about this, but the information tends to be leaked, and certainly the Agency is vulnerable in this case”.
The secret transcripts of the CIA directors could contain a great number of “jewels”. The National Security Archive is already requesting these transcripts.
A memo clarifies that the CIA had a project called OFTEN which would collect “information about dangerous drugs in American companies”, until the program was terminated in the fall of 1972. In another memo there are reports that manufacturers of commercial drugs “had passed” drugs to the CIA which had been “refused due to adverse secondary effects”.
As part of the MKULTRA program, the CIA had given LSD and other psycho-active drugs to people without their knowledge. According to another document in the archive, Sydney Gottlieb, a psychiatrist and head of chemistry of the Agency Mind Control Program, is supposedly the person responsible for having made available the poison that was going to be used in the assassination attempt on Patrice Lumumba.
CIA employees assigned to MHCHAOS – the operation that carried out surveillance on American opposition to the war in Vietnam and other political dissidents – expressed “a high level of resentment” for having been ordered to carry out such missions.
Nonetheless, there is a series of interesting matters revealed in these documents, such as the high level at which the decisions for actions against our country were taken.
The technique used today by the CIA to avoid giving any details is not the unpleasant crossed out bits but the blank spaces, coming from the use of computers.
For The New York Times, large censored sections reveal that the CIA still cannot expose all the skeletons in its closets, and many activities developed in operations abroad, checked over years ago by journalists, congressional investigators and a presidential commission, are not in the documents.
Howard Osborn, then CIA Director of Security, makes a summary of the “jewels” compiled by his office. He lists eight cases – including the recruiting of the gangster Johnny Roselli for the coup against Fidel Castro – but they crossed out the document that is in the number 1 place on Osborn’s initial list: two and a half pages.
“The No. 1 Jewel of the CIA Security Offices must be very good, especially since the second one is the list for the program concerning the assassination of Castro by Roselli,” said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive who requested the declassification of “The Family Jewels” 15 years ago under the Freedom of Information Act.
It is notable that the administration which has declassified the least information in the history of the United States, and which has even started a process of reclassifying information that was previously declassified, now makes the decision to make these revelations.
I believe that such an action could be an attempt to present an image of transparency when the government is at an all time low rate of acceptance and popularity, and to show that those methods belong to another era and are no longer in use. When he announced the decision, General Hayden, current CIA Director, said: “The documents offer a look at very different times and at a very different Agency.”
Needless to say that everything described here is still being done, only in a more brutal manner and all around the planet, including a growing number of illegal actions within the very United States.
The New York Times wrote that intelligence experts consulted expressed that the revelation of the documents is an attempt to distract attention from recent controversies and scandals plaguing the CIA and an Administration that is living through some of its worst moments of unpopularity.
The declassification could also be an attempt at showing, in the early stages of the electoral process that the Democratic administrations were as bad, or worse, than Mr. Bush’s.
In pages 11 to 15 of the Memo for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, we can read:
“In August 1960, Mr. Richard M. Bissell approached Colonel Sheffield Edwards with the objective of determining whether the Security Office had agents who could help in a confidential mission that required gangster-style action. The target of the mission was Fidel Castro.
“Given the extreme confidentiality of the mission, the project was known only to a small group of people. The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was informed and he gave it his approval. Colonel J. C. King, Head of the Western Hemisphere Division, was also informed, but all the details were deliberately concealed from officials of Operation JMWAVE. Even though some officials of Communications (Commo) and the Technical Services Division (TSD) took part in initial planning phases, they were not aware of the mission’s purpose.
“Robert A. Maheu was contacted, he was informed in general terms about the project, and he was asked to evaluate whether he could get access to gangster-type elements as a first step for achieving the desired goal.
“Mr. Maheu informed that he had met with a certain Johnny Roselli on several occasions while he was visiting Las Vegas. He had only met him informally through clients, but he had been told that he was a member of the upper echelons of the ‘syndicate’ and that he was controlling all the ice machines on the Strip. In Maheu’s opinion, if Roselli was in effect a member of the Clan, he undoubtedly had connections that would lead to the gambling racket in Cuba.
“Maheu was asked to get close to Roselli, who knew that Maheu was a public relations executive looking after national and foreign accounts, and tell him that recently he had been contracted by a client who represented several international business companies, which were suffering enormous financial losses in Cuba due to Castro. They were convinced that the elimination of Castro would be a solution to their problem and they were ready to pay $ 150,000 for a successful outcome. Roselli had to be made perfectly aware of the fact that the U.S. government knew nothing, nor could it know anything, about this operation.
“This was presented to Roselli on September 14, 1960 in the Hilton Plaza Hotel of New York City. His initial reaction was to avoid getting involved but after Maheu’s persuasive efforts he agreed to present the idea to a friend, Sam Gold, who knew “some Cubans”. Roselli made it clear that he didn’t want any money for his part in all this, and he believed that Sam would do likewise. Neither of these people was ever paid with Agency money.
“During the week of September 25, Maheu was introduced to Sam who was living at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. It was not until several weeks after meeting Sam and Joe – who was introduced as courier operating between Havana and Miami – that he saw photos of these two individuals in the Sunday section of Parade. They were identified as Momo Salvatore Giancana and Santos Trafficante, respectively. Both were on the Attorney General’s list of the ten most wanted. The former was described as the boss of the Cosa Nostra in Chicago and Al Capone’s heir, and the latter was the boss of Cuban operations of the Cosa Nostra. Maheu immediately called this office upon learning this information.
“After analyzing the possible methods to carry out this mission, Sam suggested that they not resort to firearms but that, if they could get hold of some kind of deadly pill, something to be put into Castro’s food or drink, this would be a much more effective operation. Sam indicated that he had a possible candidate in the person of Juan Orta, a Cuban official who had been receiving bribery payments in the gambling racket, and who still had access to Castro and was in a financial bind.
“The TSD (Technical Services Division) was requested to produce 6 highly lethal pills.
“Joe delivered the pills to Orta. After several weeks of attempts, Orta appears to have chickened out and he asked to be taken off the mission. He suggested another candidate who made several unsuccessful.”
Everything that was said in the numerous paragraphs above is in quotes. Observe well, dear readers, the methods that were already being used by the United States to rule the world.
I remember that during the early years of the Revolution, in the offices of the National Institute for Agrarian Reform, there was a man working there with me whose name was Orta, who had been linked to the anti-Batista political forces. He was a respectful and serious man. But, it could only be him. The decades have gone by and I see his name once more in the CIA report. I can’t lay my hands on information to immediately prove what happened to him. Accept my apologies if I involuntarily have offended a relative or a descendent, whether the person I have mentioned is guilty or not.
The empire has created a veritable killing machine that is made up not only of the CIA and its methods. Bush has established powerful and expensive intelligence and security super-structures, and he has transformed all the air, sea and land forces into instruments of world power that take war, injustice, hunger and death to any part of the globe, in order to educate its inhabitants in the exercise of democracy and freedom. The American people are gradually waking up to this reality.
“You cannot fool all of the people all of the time”, said Lincoln.
by Fidel Castro Ruz
June 24, 2007
Why did I once claim, in one of my reflections, that Bush had authorized or ordered my death?
That phrase may appear ambiguous and vague. Perhaps it would be more accurate, though even more confusing, to say that he both authorized and ordered my death. Allow me to explain immediately:
The denunciation surrounding his plan to assassinate me was made before he snatched an electoral victory from his opponent through fraud.
As early as August 5, 2000, I denounced these plans in Pinar del Rio, before a vast congregation of combative citizens who had gathered there for the traditional July 26 festivities, held in that province, in Villa Clara and Ciudad de La Habana in recognition of their merits that year.
Attempts to identify those responsible for the hundreds of plans to assassinate me meet with a shroud of secrecy. All direct and indirect means have been used to bring about my removal. Following Nixon’s morally forced renunciation Ford forbade the participation of government employees in assassination schemes.
I am convinced that Carter, bound by ethical convictions of a religious nature, would never have ordered any such action against me. He was the only U.S. president who had a gesture of friendship towards Cuba in several important areas, including the establishment of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba.
I don’t know that Clinton ever ordered my death, so I cannot accuse him of such an action. Unquestionably, he showed respect for the law and acted with political savvy when he accepted the judicial decision that called for the kidnapped child’s return to his father and closest relatives, a decision by then backed by the overwhelming majority of the U.S. people.
However, it is also a fact that, during his administration, Posada Carriles hired Central American mercenaries to place bombs in the hotels and recreational centers of cities like Havana and Varadero in order to strike at Cuba’s economy, hit by the blockade and the special period. The terrorist had no reservations about declaring that the young Italian tourist who perished in one of the explosions was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, a phrase Bush repeated recently like the line from a poem. The money and even the electronic materials used to assemble those bombs were provided by the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), which distributed the handsome sums at its disposal through shameless lobbying with members of different parties at the U.S. Congress.
At the close of 1997, the 7th Latin American Summit of Heads of State and Government, which I was obliged to attend, was to be held on Isla Margarita, Venezuela.
On October 27 that year, a vessel called “La Esperanza” was en route to Isla Margarita. While sailing very close to Puerto Rican coasts, it was intercepted by a patrol boat of the Coast Guard and Customs Service of that occupied island on suspicion of drug trafficking. On the vessel were four Cuban-born terrorists carrying two 50-calibre Barrett semi-automatic assault rifles with infrared-guided telescopic sights, capable of delivering precision rounds to armor-plated vehicles and planes in mid-air or about to take off or land from a distance of over a thousand meters, and 7 boxes of munitions.
The semi-automatic rifles were the property of Francisco José Hernández, Chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation. The yacht “La Esperanza” was the registered property of José Antonio Llamas, one of the directors of that counterrevolutionary organization. Recently, the latter declared that CANF had purchased a cargo helicopter, ten ultra-light, remote-controlled planes, seven ships and abundant explosive materials, with the express aim of executing terrorist actions against Cuba. The organization also had another yacht at its disposal, the “Midnight Express”, which, according to Llamas, was to transport the Chairman —the head of heads— Mas Canosa to the island, where he would declare himself President after Fidel had been assassinated and his government overthrown.
American officers in Puerto Rico had no choice but to turn the four crew members over to the courts. In Venezuela, Posada Carriles was to coordinate the execution of the plan. He was expected to arrive there at any moment.
Could U.S. authorities, who generated and provided the Foundation with public funds and million-dollar businesses, have been unaware of these facts?
In December 1999, the detainees were acquitted by an indulgent jury, for “lack of evidence”. The rigged proceedings were manipulated by Héctor Pesquera, corrupt FBI officer who was later rewarded with the directorship of FBI headquarters in Miami and was a key figure in the arrest of the five Cuban anti-terrorist activists in Florida.
The notorious Cuban-American mafia was preparing for the November 2000 presidential elections. Both parties were contending for its support, for the Florida state could tilt the balance. The chieftains, of pure Batista stock, were the experts in committing fraud.
In the address I mentioned above, I literally said, among other things:
“The so-called Republican Convention has just come to an end. It was held in none other than the city of Philadelphia, home to the famous 1776 Declaration of Independence. Actually, (…) those slaveholders who rebelled against the British colonial rule did not abolish the disgraceful practice of slavery –which remained in effect for almost a whole century longer (…).
“(…) the first announcement made at the Republican Convention just held in Philadelphia under the leadership of the party’s illustrious candidate, [in violation of major international agreements], was the plan to considerably raise the military budget for research and development, and the construction of an antimissile shield to cover the entire nation with a radar network that could detect enemy missiles en route to U.S. territory and shoot them down in mid-air.
“Those holding these views are unable to understand that such a policy would meet with the overwhelming opposition of the rest of the world, including Europe. That, like a magnet, it would bring together all those nations threatened by a strategy that would leave them helpless against the United States. A new, dangerous and extremely costly arms race would immediately follow and nothing could prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.”
I dared predict these events seven years before Bush’s recent visit to the Albanian capital, which was the subject of one of my reflections.
I continued my address as follows:
“The authors of the plan know very well that slightly more than half the American people, who are still confused and insufficiently informed about this complex issue, believe that to be the most suitable solution in the interest of the country’s peace and security. However, the adoption of this extreme position by the Republican candidate vis à vis any other more sensible or reasonable proposal from his opponent would present him to voters as the strong, farsighted, tough guy that the United States needs to confront all imaginary or real dangers. This is the good news they sent out from Philadelphia to all of the peoples on Earth”.
This was still well before witnessing the occupation of Afghanistan and the plans to unleash a war against Iraq.
I proceeded to denounce Bush’s program vis-à-vis Latin America:
“What does this smart platform have to offer Latin America and the Caribbean in particular? There is a phrase that says it all: “The next American century should include all of the Americas.” This simple statement means no less than the proclamation of the United States’ right of ownership over Latin America and the Caribbean.
“It later adds: ‘In concert with the Congress, (the president) will work with key democracies (…) and –above all– Mexico.’ (…). Particularly striking is the phrase that reads: ‘…and –above all—Mexico’ since that is a country they robbed of half its territory through an unjustifiable, expansionist war. Their obvious intent is to begin with the economic annexation and full political subordination of that country to the United States and then do likewise with the rest of the countries in our region, imposing a free trade agreement essentially favorable to U.S. interests, from which not even the tiniest Caribbean island could escape. They mean, of course, the free circulation of capital and commodities, not the people!
“As expected, the highly biased Philadelphia platform devotes a substantial part of its section on Latin America to Cuba: ‘Our economic and political relations will change when the Cuban regime frees all political prisoners, legalizes peaceful protest, allows opposition political activity, permits free expression, and commits to democratic elections.’ For the authors of this demagogic abomination, freedom and democracy mean an outdated, corrupt system in which it is money alone that decides and elects, and in which a presidential candidate is nominated, with lightning speed, as the heir to a vacant throne”.
“Another wire story reports that: ‘The platform, aside from active support for the enemies of the Revolution, includes the broadcasting of news from the United States to the Caribbean nation.’ That is, they intend to keep up with the filth spewed against Cuba by subversive radio stations located in U.S. territory; they will persist in the outrageous use of the name of José Martí –a name that is glorious and sacred to our people– in official U.S. government broadcasts directed against Cuba”.
“[At a press conference, U.S. legislators of Cuban descent euphorically squealed]: ‘This is unprecedented language. Never before has the Republican Party made such a broad commitment’”.
“To top off the mountain of garbage contained in the Republican platform, it is finally stated: ‘Republicans believe that the United States should adhere to the principles established by the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which recognizes the rights of Cuban refugees fleeing communist tyranny’”.
“The prestige of the imperial policy will so crumble that not even its dust will remain. We will systematically denounce and demolish one by one, its hypocrisy and lies. They obviously have absolutely no idea what kinds of people have been forged in these 40 years of Revolution.
“Our message will reach all corners of the Earth, and our struggle will serve as an example. The world, ever more ungovernable, will fight until hegemony and the subjugation of peoples become totally unsustainable.
“Whoever is elected leader of the empire should not ignore that Cuba demands the total removal of the murderous Cuban Adjustment Act and the criminal pieces of legislation that bear the notorious names of Torricelli and Helms-Burton as well as the genocidal blockade and economic war. It should be noted that those who have authored, promoted and enforced these laws and policies are guilty of the crime of genocide, as defined and condemned by international treaties signed by both the United States and Cuba”.
“They must not forget that although no lawsuits have been filed so far demanding compensation for moral damage –and this compensation could be substantial– the U.S. government already owes the Cuban people over 300 billion dollars for the human damage resulting from its mercenary invasion by the Bay of Pigs, its dirty war and many other crimes”.
“They should not entertain any illusion regarding Cuba’s stance if relations between the United States and our country ever become as normal as those currently existing with other socialist countries like China and Vietnam. We will not remain silent in the face of any crime, aggression or injustice committed against other peoples. Our battle of ideas will not cease as long as the current imperialist, hegemonic and unipolar system is still in place and remains a scourge of humanity and a mortal threat to the survival of our species.
“A growing number of millions of Americans are becoming aware of the horrors of the economic and political order imposed on the world”.
“The Cuban Revolution does not merely confide in the moral integrity and patriotic and revolutionary spirit of its people, and in the survival instinct of the human species, whose very existence is threatened. It also believes and confides in the traditional idealism of the American people that can only be led into unjust wars and shameful aggressions through vulgar deceit. Once demagoguery and lies are definitely exposed and defeated, the world will find excellent allies in the American people. This is what happened in the case of the repugnant war that cost the lives of millions of Vietnamese and over 50,000 young Americans. A more recent example is the American people noble support of a little boy and a Cuban family, victims of a brutal crime perpetrated by a band of criminals who, after having taken advantage of that country’s hospitality, ended up showing their hatred and frustration by trampling and burning the U.S. flag.
“The changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba must be unilateral because the U.S. leaders have unilaterally imposed the blockade and economic war against Cuba”.
“From here, from this province where the Bronze Titan ultimately crowned, in Mantua, the colossal feat of the invasion he had begun in Mangos de Baraguá, we say to them: You fools! Do you not understand that Cuba is impregnable, that its Revolution is indestructible, that its people will never bow down or surrender? Do you not realize that our patriotism and internationalism are as deeply rooted in our minds and hearts as the imposing mogotes of Pinar del Río are in the volcanic rocks of this part of an island that is called Cuba and is surrounded today by the halo of having successfully endured almost 42 years of blockade and aggression by the most formidable power that ever existed?
“We are defended by the strength of our prestige and the example we have set, the indestructible steel that is the justice of our cause, the inextinguishable fire of our truth and our morale as well as the double trench of stone and ideas that we have built which is unassailable.
“That is why, Mr. Bush, if you finally become the leader of what no longer is and can no longer be called a republic but rather an empire, then, in the spirit of an honest adversary, I suggest that you leave aside the euphoria and fever of your Convention, and reconsider your position in order to avoid the risk of becoming the tenth American president to come and go watching with sterile and unnecessary bitterness a Revolution that will not bow down or surrender and that can never be destroyed.
“I am very much aware of what you have recklessly told your close and indiscreet friends in the Cuban-American mob: that you can solve the problem of Cuba very easily, in clear reference to the methods used in the sinister era when the Central Intelligence Agency was directly involved in assassination plots against our country’s leaders. Because I do not share this narrow view of the role of individuals in history, I urge you not to forget that for every one of the revolutionary leaders you may decide to so remove, there are millions of men and women in Cuba who are capable of taking their places and altogether there are far more of them than you could ever remove, or that your immense political, economic and military power could ever defeat.”
I believe this long reflection is yet another argument in support of what I expounded on in the Manifesto for the People of Cuba.
by Fidel Castro Ruz
June 17, 2007
I hope that no-one says that I am gratuitously attacking Bush. Surely they will understand my reasons for strongly criticizing his policies.
Robert Woodward is an American journalist and writer who became famous for the series of articles published by The Washington Post, written by him and Carl Bernstein, and which eventually led to the investigation and resignation of Nixon. He is author and co-author of ten best-sellers. With his fearsome style he manages to wrench confessions from his interviewees. In his book, State of Denial, he says that on June 18, 2003, three months after the Iraq war had begun, as he was on the way out of his White House office following an important meeting, Bush slapped Jay Garner on the back and said to him:
“Hey, Jay, you want to do Iran?
“Sir, the boys and I talked about that and we want to hold out for Cuba. We think the rum and the cigars are a little better…The women are prettier.”
Bush laughed. “You got it. You got Cuba.”
Bush was betrayed by his subconscious. It was in his mind when he declared what scores of dark corners should be expecting to happen and Cuba occupies a special place among those dark corners.
Garner, a recently retired three-star general who had been appointed Head of the Post-War Planning Office for Iraq, created by secret National Security Presidential Directive, was considered by Bush an exceptional man to carry out his war strategy. Appointed for the post on January 20, 2003, he was replaced on May 11 of that same year at the urging of Rumsfeld. He didn’t have the nerve to explain to Bush his strong disagreements on the matter of the strategy to be pursued in Iraq. He was thinking of another one with identical purpose. In the past few weeks, thousands of marines and a number of US aircraft carriers, with their naval supporting forces, have been manoeuvring in the Persian Gulf, a few miles off the Iranian territory.
It will very soon be 50 years since our people started suffering a cruel blockade; thousands of our sons and daughters have died or have been mutilated as a result of the dirty war against Cuba, the only country in the world to which an Adjustment Act has been applied inciting illegal emigration, yet another cause of death for Cuban citizens, including women and children; more than 15 years ago Cuba lost her principal markets and sources of supply for foods, energy, machinery, raw materials and long-term low-interest financing.
First the socialist bloc collapsed followed almost immediately by the USSR, dismantled piece by piece. The empire tightened and internationalized the blockade; the proteins and calories which were quite well distributed despite our deficiencies were reduced approximately by 40 percent; diseases such as optical neuritis and others appeared; the shortage of medicines, also a result of the blockade, became an everyday reality. Medicines were allowed to enter only as a charitable act, to demoralize us; these, in their turn, became a source of illegal business and black-market dealings.
Inevitably, the “special period” struck. This was the sum total of all the consequences of the aggression and it forced us to take desperate measures whose harmful effects were bolstered by the colossal media machine of the empire. Everyone was awaiting, some with sadness and others with oligarchic glee, the crumbling of the Cuban Revolution.
The access to convertible currency greatly harmed our social consciousness, to a greater or a lesser degree, due to the inequalities and ideological weaknesses it created.
Throughout its lifetime, the Revolution has taught the people, training hundreds of thousands of teachers, doctors, scientists, intellectuals, artists, computer engineers and other professionals with university and post-graduate degrees in dozens of professions. This storehouse of wealth has allowed us to reduce infant mortality to low levels, unthinkable in any Third World country, and to raise life expectancy as well as the average educational level of the population up to the ninth grade.
By offering Cuba oil under favourable terms of payment at a time when oil prices were escalating dramatically, the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution brought a significant relief and opened up new possibilities, since our country was already beginning to produce her own energy in ever-growing amounts.
Concerned over its interests in that country, the empire had for years been planning to destroy that Revolution, and so it attempted to do it in April 2002, as it will attempt to do again as many times as it can. This is why the Bolivarian revolutionaries are preparing to resist.
Meanwhile, Bush has intensified his plans for an occupation of Cuba, to the point of proclaiming laws and an interventionist government in order to install a direct imperial administration.
Based on the privileges granted to the United States in Bretton Woods and Nixon’s swindle when he removed the gold standard which placed a limit on the issuing of paper money, the empire bought and paid with paper tens of trillions of dollars, more than twelve digit figures. This is how it preserved an unsustainable economy. A large part of the world currency reserves are in US Treasury bonds and bills. For this reason, many would rather not have a dollar crisis like the one in 1929 that would turn those paper bills into thin air. Today, the value of one dollar in gold is at least eighteen times less than what it was in the Nixon years. The same happens with the value of the reserves in that currency.
Those paper bills have kept their low current value because fabulous amounts of increasingly expensive and modern weapons can be purchased with them; weapons that produce nothing. The United States exports more weapons than anyone else in the world. With those same paper bills, the empire has developed a most sophisticated and deadly system of weapons of mass destruction with which it sustains its world tyranny.
Such power allows it to impose the idea of transforming foods into fuels and to shatter any initiative and commitment to avoid global warming, which is visibly accelerating.
Hunger and thirst, more violent hurricanes and the surge of the sea is what Tyranians and Trojans stand to suffer as a result of imperial policies. It is only through drastic energy savings that humanity will have a respite and hopes of survival for the species; but the consumer societies of the wealthy nations are absolutely heedless of that.
Cuba will continue to develop and improve the combative capacities of her people, including our modest but active and efficient defensive weapons industry which multiplies our capacity to face the invaders no matter where they may be, and the weapons they possess. We shall continue acquiring the necessary materials and the pertinent fire power, even though the notorious Gross Domestic Product as measured by capitalism may not be growing, for their GDP includes such things as the value of privatizations, drugs, sexual services and advertising, while it excludes many others like free educational and health services for all citizens.
From one year to the next the standard of living can be improved by raising knowledge, self-esteem and the dignity of people. It will be enough to reduce wastage and the economy will grow. In spite of everything, we will keep on growing as necessary and as possible.
“Freedom costs dearly, and it is necessary to either resign ourselves to live without it or to decide to buy it for its price”, said Martí.
“Whoever attempts to conquer Cuba will only gather the dust of her soil soaked in blood, if he does not perish in the fight”, exclaimed Maceo.
We are not the first revolutionaries to think that way! And we shall not be the last!
One man may be bought, but never a people.
Fate decreed that I could survive the empire’s murderous machine. Shortly, it will be a year since I became ill and, while I hovered between life and death, I stated in the Proclamation of July 31, 2006: “I do not harbour the slightest doubt that our people and our Revolution will fight until the last drop of blood.”
Mr. Bush, don’t you doubt that either!
I assure you that you will never have Cuba!
Statement of the Communist Party of Cuba
Vilma’s Struggles, by Fidel Castro Ruz
The builder, from its foundations, of a new society, by Marta Rojas
Statement of the Communist Party of Cuba, June 19, 2007
With profound sorrow, the leadership of our Party and State announce that Comrade Vilma Espín Guillois, a heroine of the clandestine struggle, an outstanding combatant of the Rebel Army and an untiring fighter for the emancipation of women and the defense of the rights of children, passed away in Havana on Monday, at 4:14 p.m., after a long and painful illness.
Vilma was born in Santiago de Cuba on April 7, 1930 in a family that very early on cultivated the values and ethics that would distinguish her. From a young age she assumed political and revolutionary positions, actively participating in student demonstrations following the coup d’etat carried out by Batista in 1952.
From that time, she was an inseparable collaborator of Frank Pais, joining organizations founded by him in the struggle against the tyranny, until the members of what was then called the National Revolutionary Action joined the ranks of the 26th of July Movement.
The doors of her home were opened to protect the comrades who attacked the Moncada Barracks persecuted by troops of the bloody oppressor regime. After finishing a post-graduate course in the United States and as the struggle entered a new stage, Vilma, following the directions of the leadership of the Movement, stopped in Mexico to meet with Fidel, receiving instructions and messages. Under the direct orders of Frank, she took part in the armed uprising of Santiago de Cuba on November 30, 1956, in support of the expeditionary force arriving on the Granma yacht. Following that important action she converted her home into the headquarters of the revolutionary movement in Santiago de Cuba.
A member of the National Leadership of the 26th of July Movement, just before Frank Pais was assassinated, she was named the Provincial Coordinator of the clandestine organization in what was then the eastern province of Oriente, a role that she carried out with particular skill and bravery, facing constant danger and persecution, until she joined the Rebel Army in June 1958, becoming the legendary guerrilla fighter of the Frank Pais Second Western Front and the effective coordinator of the clandestine movement of Oriente.
Upon the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, and immersed in various tasks assigned by Fidel, she headed the unification of women’s organizations and the stetting-up of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). She tirelessly led the organization until the last minute of her life.
She was a member of the Central Committee of the Party from its foundation in 1965, which was ratified in all of its Congresses. At the Second Congress of the Party in 1980 she was elected substitute member of the Politburo. At the Third Party Congress she was promoted as a full member of the leadership, a responsibility she held until 1991. She was a member of the National Assembly since its first legislature and a member of the Council of State since its constitution.
Vilma presided over the National Commission of Prevention and Social Attention from its creation and the Commission of Children and Youth, as well as the Commission on Women’s Equal Rights of the National Assembly of People’s Power.
Her name will be eternally linked to the most significant conquests of Cuban women in the Revolution and as one of the most important fighters for the emancipation of women in our country and throughout the world.
For her merits, she received many awards and national and international orders, among them the honorary title of Heroine of the Republic of Cuba.
According to her wishes, Comrade Vilma Espín will be cremated. Her ashes will be deposited in a ceremony that will be strictly for her family, and burial will be with military honors, at a time that will be announced later, in the Mausoleum of the Frank Pais Second Front, with the remains of other heroic combatants of the Front, in which she was one of is most outstanding members.
In her memory, our people, with profound feelings of sorrow, will render a heartfelt homage at the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana and at the Salon de los Vitrales, at the base of the monument to Antonio Maceo, in her native and heroic city, Santiago de Cuba, beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting until 5 p.m., today, June 19. At the same time, homage will be paid to her throughout the rest of the provinces.
In her honor, the leadership of the Communist Party and Cuban State has decided to observe a solemn ceremony at the Karl Marx Theater, today at 6:00 p.m., headed by leaders, the National Leadership of the FMC and the provincial Secretariats of this women’s organization, as well as women of the capital and representatives of the diverse sectors of Cuban society.
by Fidel Castro Ruz
June 20, 2007
Vilma is dead. Even though the news was expected, it was still an impact. Out of respect for her delicate health condition, I never raised her name in my reflections.
Vilma’s example today is more necessary than ever. She devoted her entire life to the struggle for women’s rights when in Cuba most women were discriminated against as human beings, the same as in the rest of the world, with only the honorable revolutionary exceptions.
It was not always this way throughout the historical evolution of our species, leading her to fulfill the social role befitting her as a natural workshop where life is forged.
In our country, women came out from under one of the most horrible forms of society, that of a Yankee neo-colony under the aegis of imperialism and its system, where everything that the human being is capable of creating was turned into merchandise.
When what has been defined as the exploitation of man by man started far back in history, the mothers and children of the dispossessed bore the brunt of the burden.
Cuban women used to work as domestic servants, or in luxurious shops and bourgeois bars, selected for their good looks. Factories assigned them the simplest jobs, the ones that were the most repetitive and worst paid.
In education and healthcare — services provided on a small scale — their indispensable cooperation was as teachers and nurses who had only been offered basic training. The country, 2,009.92 miles from end to end, only had one higher education center located in the capital and later, several faculties in university campuses in two other provinces. As a rule, the only young women who could study there were those from the most affluent families. In many activities, the presence of a woman was not even dreamed of.
For almost half a century, I have been witness to Vilma’s struggles. I cannot forget her presence at the meetings of the July 26 Movement in the Sierra Maestra. She was eventually sent by the movement’s directorate to carry out an important mission on the Second Eastern Front. Vilma did not shrink from any danger.
After the triumph of the Revolution, she began her ceaseless battle for the rights of Cuban women and children, which led her to found and lead the Federation of Cuban Women. There was no national or international forum too distant for her to attend in defense of her assailed homeland and of the noble and just ideas of the Revolution.
Her gentle voice, steady and timely, was always listened to with great respect in Party, State and mass organization meetings.
Today women in Cuba make up 66 percent of the technical work force of the country, and they take part, in the main, in almost all the university degree courses. Previously, there were hardly any women involved in scientific activities, since science and scientists did not exist, but exceptionally. In this field as well, today women are in the majority.
Revolutionary duties and her immense work load never prevented Vilma from fulfilling her responsibilities as a loyal wife and mother of several children.
Vilma is dead. Long live Vilma!
The builder, from its foundations, of a new society
By Marta Rojas
Vilma has died. She has moved on to another category of the beloved. We are still struggling with the certainty of her death, after her stoic battle for life – which, in reality, has belonged for many years now not just to her but also to Cuba – and for whatever just idea that appealed to her in any part of the world; a life that she lavished wherever she thought it could be useful.
Vilma Espín Guillois is now a revolutionary icon, something that her simplicity never allowed her to even imagine, because one of her great personal and revolutionary virtues was that: modesty.
An exponent of the valor and intelligence of the vanguard women who emerged in the Centenary Generation has departed this life. One single detail will permit us to discover that her revolutionary activities unfolded during that historic time, the year of the centenary of José Martí. Specifically, when the student Rubén Batista died in Havana from injuries sustained in a student demonstration honoring the bust of Julio Antonio Mella, desecrated with impunity, on January 10, 1953. Like all of those young people who would later follow Fidel, she had spoken out against the perfidious military coup of March 10, 1952 perpetrated by Fulgencio Batista, although it is disagreeable for us, in these initial paragraphs dedicated to Vilma, to mention the name of the individual who led that cruel blow and established a bloody dictatorship.
Vilma, a pleasant and profound conversationalist, recounted one day that after that March 10, the first demonstrations began in the streets of her hometown of Santiago de Cuba — she did not mention that she was one of the organizers; in one of the first, if not the first, she took to the streets to protest the death of Rubén Batista. She told how on that occasion, a symbolic funeral was held in Santiago, and that action ended in a veritable battle against the dictator’s thugs. The idea had been to take flowers to the cemetery, but it ended in the young revolutionaries taking shelter in cafés, throwing sugar bowls at the police.
That episode would be sufficient to include Vilma among the heroic revolutionary combatants of the Centenary Generation. Interestingly, during Rubén Batista’s final moments at the Student Clinic in Calixto García Hospital, another Santiago native, Renato Guitart, met Fidel, and later became one of the advance party of the revolutionary movement that assaulted the Moncada Garrison that year. And during that action, the young Vilma, hearing the shots without knowing what was happening, affirmed to her father in their home on San Jerónimo Street that the Moncada was being attacked. A few hours later, it was confirmed. Later, nothing would intimidate her from approaching one of the garrison’s posts and asking the impossible, to be able to see the heroes. The response left her and the other women with her with no alternative other than to quickly retreat and even so, two of them were arrested. Her intuition and swift reactions allowed her to escape on a city bus and lose herself in the city until she was able to return home without being identified. The heroic clandestine combatant was emerging in the Heroic City.
During those days of horror, Santiago de Cuba took in, with an attitude of solidarity, the combatants pursued by Batista’s soldiers, who had already murdered dozens of young people in the dungeons of the Moncada. Vilma’s house, too, was open to take in and protect any of those heroic participants in the attack who sought refuge.
Acción Revolucionaria Oriental (Eastern Revolutionary Action), an organization created by Frank País, was the first that Vilma joined, as an active founder, after the assault on the Moncada. Later, it became the future 26th of July Revolutionary Movement where she would develop her talents as an organizer and combatant. The M-26-7 carried out the broadest and most daring range of tasks. It was a channel for her deep patriotic, social and humanistic sentiments. She herself reiterated on various occasions that in the initial years of her revolutionary youth, there were two events that deeply moved her: the Moncada attack on July 26, 1953, and History Will Absolve Me, making her realize that Fidel was a valiant leader and a man of ideas, with a consistent political development and great firmness of revolutionary principles.
And she – who was she? A young woman who was capable and educated in the broadest sense of the word. Her vocation and scientific interest, in the service of industrial development, joined with her love for the arts: music, song, painting and ballet, mainly. But she was also enthusiastic about sports, hence her successful performance as volleyball player and captain of the team at the University of Oriente. In addition, she was a fervent follower of José Martí, and she nourished her knowledge, in great detail, of the campaigns of the Mambí forces and the revolutionary intransigence of Antonio Maceo. Conversations with Vilma on these subjects were always marvelous, and not because of any bookish knowledge, but in terms of her sentiment, which was contagious given her communicative style. In her soft tone, with the cadence of her voice, loved and respected, she was capable of providing a fresco of our history, whether of the anticolonial struggles for independence, or as a republic, from the days of Julio Antonio Mella.
Her education began at home. She was born in Santiago de Cuba on April 7, 1930, into a well-to-do family. She could have been a simple “society” girl, but the education she received, together with her own sentiments and personality, made her a revolutionary leader. Her parents were generous and friendly people, understanding with their children —six— and left a trail of affection and respect among everyone from any background who knew them. In Santiago, Espín was referred to as the honorary consul of France, whose home was open to Haitian immigrants, so discriminated against by the elite society of that time. They brought up their children under the influence of their own example of austerity, human sensitivity and respect, without any type of barrier due to social, racial or religious background. Their children grew up according to the way they were and their personal inclinations with respect to choosing higher education, friendships, political positions and social and cultural activities.
For Vilma, once she was a mother, it was not difficult to create a home with similar characteristics, an exemplary one.
Education was always a premise in her home, and Vilma chose to study a scientific discipline in college: chemical/industrial engineering. Very few women were enrolled in that major. She conquered it magnificently, graduating on July 14, 1954, without neglecting her participation in the cultural and sporting events that she enjoyed at the University of Oriente, including her active participation in the University Choir. Upon graduating, she became one of the two first women chemical-industrial engineers in Cuba. That same year, she traveled to the United States for postgraduate study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston. When she finished her course, she asked for instructions from the leadership of the 26th of July Movement, and the response was for her to head for Mexico to meet with Fidel and bring his orders and messages back to Cuba. That was the moment when the Granma expedition was being organized.
That was how Vilma’s student life ended and her complete commitment to the Revolution began, without any time to exercise her solid training as an engineer.
Under the orders of Frank País, she participated in organizing the armed uprising of Santiago de Cuba that took place on November 30. She was a pillar in that essential action, planned to coincide with the arrival in Cuba from Mexico of the Granma expedition under the leadership of Commander Fidel Castro Ruz. Her serenity, courage and movement capability distinguish the role played by Vilma.
In was in January 1957 that the enemy detected her, and her home, which had become the headquarters of the Movement, was searched for the first time. Vilma had led a march of mothers in mourning, protesting the many murders committed by the dictatorship in a face-to-face confrontation with Batista’s thugs, many of whom were the notorious torturers and merciless murderers of the prisoners in the Moncada and whose criminal records had continued to grow.
There is one event in the history of the Revolution that is known all over the world. Vilma is present in it.
It was in February 1957 that Fidel summoned the clandestine leadership of the 26th of July Movement to a meeting in the Sierra Maestra mountains, and drafted a manifesto to the people of Cuba, informing them of the creation of the Rebel Army and the purpose of its struggle. It was also at that time that the transcendental interview of Fidel by U.S. journalist Herbert Mathews took place, demonstrating to the world that Batista government was lying when it said the revolutionary leader was dead. Vilma was present at the meeting and actively participated in carrying out the orders that Fidel gave Frank País; later, she went completely underground.
She was subsequently designated a member of the National Leadership of the 26th of July Movement, and shortly before Frank País was assassinated, the essential “Déborah” [her clandestine name] was appointed as the movement’s coordinator in Oriente province, a task she carried out until June 1958. The danger of her situation as head of clandestine revolutionary missions became unsustainable, requiring a change of location for her struggle, and she joined the Rebel Army, becoming the legendary guerrilla fighter in the Frank País 2nd Eastern Front, commanded by Raúl Castro Ruz.
Déborah, Alicia, Mónica, were the names she used while operating underground, and she became Mariela, the brave and efficient rebel combatant, charged during the month of July 1958 with tasks supporting the leadership, related to the process of returning a group of U.S. citizens who had been kidnapped. Later, she was assigned – among many other responsibilities – with attention to and organization of the clandestine movement in the eastern municipalities located in the vast territorial expanse of the Rebel Army’s 2nd Front. That was essential, given that those areas provided indispensable logistical support for ensuring combat actions. As with every task she carried out in her life, she carried this one out conscientiously.
Builder Of A New Society
In the early days of the triumph of the Revolution, Vilma and Raúl married. At a time like this, 45 years ago, Déborah, their firstborn, was one of the first to enter, as one infant more, the Los Compañeritos Day Care Center on the ground floor of the Ministry of Labor. The Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) had already been created (August 23, 1960) and the task of organizing Day Care Centers was given by the Revolution to the FMC under the direction of Wilma Espín. Prior to that, likewise in the early days of the Revolution—in 1959 – still wearing campaign uniform, as Déborah, Vilma was involved in various tasks as a leader of the 26th of July Movement, and a group approached her with the idea of exchanging ideas and – so as not to left behind – to make Revolution by working voluntarily. She took that concern to Fidel who, with his brilliant vision of the role of women in society and history, saw the importance of a social movement that would include half of the Cuban population.
In 1959, Vilma created and presided over the Auspices Committee in order to participate in the 1st Latin American Congress for the Rights of Women and Children, convened by the International Democratic Federation of Women. This congress took place in Santiago de Chile. It was a platform that would serve as a base for unifying all the existing revolutionary women’s groups at that time.
In Cuba the work never stopped. Vilma knew how to lead and thus created cadres that would form a broad platform to take the organization to the farthest corners of the island and from there be nourished by grass-roots women who, up until then, had never participated in the country’s social and political life.
On August 23, 1960, after intensive preparatory work nationwide – in rural, mountainous or swampy areas – the Federation of Cuban Women was officially created (FMC). During the first 15 months of work, the nascent organization, still embryonic, had mobilized women en masse for the construction of schools and hospitals; to collect up and take care of unsupported children wandering the streets at the triumph of the Revolution; to improve living standards in the so-called “destitute” barrios; and other social tasks.
Vilma was elected president of the FMC by its founding assembly, a position ratified at every FMC Congress, from the first in 1962 to the seventh in 2000.
The history of the FMC is an important part of Vilma’s life. Although she did not exercise her career as an industrial engineer, she had a voice in programs of the Revolution of a technical or economic nature. But her central task was political and social in the widest sense.
The initial tasks of the new organization were to promote educational, ideological and cultural training for women. Campesino women arrived in Havana from the Sierra Maestra and other remote areas and took classes in hairdressing and dressmaking. At least to start off with, every woman would have a sewing machine. There was a meeting in Sports City. The jubilation was extraordinary; it was the incipient beginning of a road that took thousands of campesino women to a different life, one of full participation in the country’s economy.
In the wake of those courses the most humble women were offered other studies as the first forms of participation outside of the home. Those women, who had never left the narrow family environment, discovered a new world. Vilma was one of Fidel’s most enthusiastic collaborators in promoting knowledge and cultural education and, logically, she began with literacy teaching. Thus she was a member of the National Literacy Commission and placed the new mass organization at the center of the colossal battle waged for all the people. With that goal fulfilled, others were taken on, such as the follow-up, battles for sixth and ninth grade and classrooms for adult education, all of them filled with women. Vilma’s work was not passive. Someone like her who, at risk of death, drove all over Oriente province in tasks as a clandestine combatant, or walked through the streets on difficult functions as a member of the M-26-7 National Directorate, couldn’t spend her time behind a desk. Thus Vilma toured the entire country, and took part in mobilizations with grass-roots delegations. She attended to women who were part of the Rebel Army and young people incorporated into defense tasks.
Vilma Espín gave special attention to women’s military training, including their incorporation as professionals in the Revolutionary Armed Forces. No task on that front could be more complex for a woman who did what she did, pursued by the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the unconditional servant of U.S. imperialism.
As a cornerstone of the unity of women all over the world in favor of revolutionary causes, internationalism is fundamental and would find in Vilma a promoter and participant in every action in that context. The revolutionary war in South Vietnam for its liberation and the equally heroic resistance of the then Democratic Republic of Vietnam in defense of its sovereignty in the face of the merciless U.S. aggression, had in Vilma an effective collaborator, as did members of women’s movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. To that end, among other things, she created the Fe del Valle Cadres School, currently the FMC Further Education Center.
Her struggle to attain an understanding of gender equality began in the early days of the triumph of the Revolution. With that objective, she headed the great ideological battle that was being waged in the country to eliminate the retrograde effect of culture inherited from the past on gender roles, with its consequent prejudices, erroneous beliefs, traditional sexual stereotypes and taboos, in order to make real the revolutionary principles that condemn every kind of discrimination of a social, ethnic, gender, religious, sexual orientation origin and any other expression of inequality or pejorative treatment.
The list, still brief, of the values of this revolutionary woman who has just died, demonstrates to us that we should take into account the great loss we have suffered. However, the knowledge of her thoughts, actions and projection will be a school for actively continuing her example.
The organizations, national and international projects in which Vilma personally participated throughout the history of the Revolution are numerous.
Someone like her who was so capable and creative in an underground revolutionary organization was just the same in a legislative organization. It is not about a list of responsibilities.
However important these may have been, the valid point is the work she carried out in her duties, whether as a deputy at the National Assembly and member of the Council of State, the highest governmental organization in the country, or as part of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, of which she was a founding member and at the Second Congress (1980) became a reserve member of the Political Bureau. At the 3rd Congress, she was promoted to effective membership, a responsibility she carried out until 1991.
A special chapter should be dedicated to her duties of a diplomatic nature, or those connected to foreign relations on all continents at different times and at the head of Cuban delegations.
As has been mentioned above, in 1959 Vilma and the then Commander Raúl Castro Ruz, head of the Frank País 2nd Eastern Front and, from October 1959, minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, were married. They raised a family currently consisting of four children and eight grandchildren. Vilma always trusted in the value of setting an example for the education and raising of children, and was consistent with this principle in the education and raising of her own children. She was a mother, friend and comrade. Her children and grandchildren love her and will continue to love her, admire her and will continue to admire her; even more so now, for her legacy: the wisdom she possessed in creating harmony, the most just and humane sentiments, with a steely strength of character and her revolutionary intransigence in the defense of important decisions, in defending the principles and the work of the Revolution, both with respect to great tasks and in important day-to-day work.
Vilma Espín Guillois was an exceptional Cuban woman; a representative of the most elevated human values dedicated with creativity and passion to her homeland, to the Revolution that she lived from her heroic and risky beginnings with Fidel’s leadership; to her family, and to all our people, with the generosity that distinguishes all great men and women.
Hasta siempre Vilma, the builder, from its very foundations, of a new society.
[English translation by Granma International]
by Fidel Castro Ruz
May 21, 2007
The press dispatches bring the news; it belongs to the Astute Class, the first of its kind to be constructed in Great Britain in more than two decades.
“A nuclear reactor will allow it to navigate without refuelling during its 25 year of service. Since it makes its own oxigen and drinking water, it can circumnavigate the globe without needing to surface,” was the statement to the BBC by Nigel Ward, head of the shipyards.
“It’s a mean looking beast”, says another.
“Looming above us is a construction shed 12 storeys high. Within it are 3 nuclear-powered submarines at different stages of construction,” assures yet another.
Someone says that “it can observe the movements of cruisers in New York Harbor right from the English Channel, drawing close to the coast without being detected and listen to conversations on cell phones”. “In addition, it can transport special troops in mini-subs that, at the same time, will be able to fire lethal Tomahawk missiles for distances of 1,400 miles”, a fourth person declares.
El Mercurio, the Chilean newspaper, emphatically spreads the news. The UK Royal Navy declares that it will be one of the most advanced in the world. The first of them will be launched on June 8 and will go into service in January of 2009.
It can transport up to 38 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Spearfish torpedoes, capable of destroying a large warship. It will possess a permanent crew of 98 sailors who will even be able to watch movies on giant plasma screens.
The new Astute will carry the latest generation of Block 4 Tomahawk torpedoes which can be reprogrammed in flight. It will be the first one not having a system of conventional periscopes and, instead, will be using fibre optics, infrared waves and thermal imaging.
“BAE Systems, the armaments manufacturer, will build two other submarines of the same class,” AP reported. The total cost of the three submarines, according to calculations that will certainly be below the mark, is 7.5 billion dollars.
What a feat for the British! The intelligent and tenacious people of that nation will surely not feel any sense of pride. What is most amazing is that with such an amount of money, 75 thousand doctors could be trained to care for 150 million people, assuming that the cost of training a doctor would be one-third of what it costs in the United States. You could build 3 thousand polyclinics, outfitted with sophisticated equipment, ten times what our country possesses. Cuba is currently training thousands of young people from other countries as medical doctors.
In any remote African village, a Cuban doctor can impart medical knowledge to any youth from the village or from the surrounding municipality who has the equivalent of a grade twelve education, using videos and computers energized by a small solar panel; the youth does not even have to leave his hometown, nor does he need to be contaminated with the consumer habits of a large city.
The important thing is the patients who are suffering from malaria or any other of the typical and unmistakable diseases that the student will be seeing together the doctor.
The method has been tested with surprising results. The knowledge and practical experience accumulated for years have no possible comparison. The non-lucrative practice of medicine is capable of winning over all noble hearts.
Since the beginning of the Revolution, Cuba has been engaged in training doctors, teachers and other professionals; with a population of less than 12 million inhabitants, today we have more Comprehensive General Medicine specialists than all the doctors in sub-Saharan Africa where the population exceeds 700 million people.
We must bow our heads in awe after reading the news about the English submarine. It teaches us, among other things, about the sophisticated weapons that are needed to maintain the untenable order developed by the United States imperial system.
We cannot forget that for centuries, and until recently, England was called the Queen of the Seas. Today, what remains of that privileged position is merely a fraction of the hegemonic power of her ally and leader, the United States. Churchill said: Sink the Bismarck! Today Blair says: Sink whatever remains of Great Britain’s prestige!
For that purpose, or for the holocaust of the species, is what his “marvellous submarine” will be good for.
- More than Three Billion People Condemned
to Premature Death (March 29, 2007)
- The Internationalization of Genocide (April 3, 2007)
- An Immediate Energy Revolution Is Essential May 1, 2007)
- The Biofuels Debate Heats Up (May 9, 2007)
More Than Three Billion People in the World Condemned to Premature Death from Hunger and Thirst
by Fidel Castro Ruz
March 29, 2007
That is not an exaggerated figure, but rather a cautious one. I have meditated a lot on that in the wake of President Bush’s meeting with U.S. automobile manufacturers.
The sinister idea of converting food into fuel was definitively established as an economic line in U.S. foreign policy last Monday, March 26.
A cable from the AP, the U.S. news agency that reaches all corners of the world, states verbatim:
“WASHINGTON, March 26 (AP). President Bush touted the benefits of ‘flexible fuel’ vehicles running on ethanol and biodiesel on Monday, meeting with automakers to boost support for his energy plans.
“Bush said a commitment by the leaders of the domestic auto industry to double their production of flex-fuel vehicles could help motorists shift away from gasoline and reduce the nation’s reliance on imported oil.
‘“That’s a major technological breakthrough for the country,’ Bush said after inspecting three alternative vehicles. If the nation wants to reduce gasoline use, he said “the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice.”
“The president urged Congress to ‘move expeditiously’ on legislation the administration recently proposed to require the use of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017 and seek higher fuel economy standards for automobiles.
“Bush met with General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner, Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group chief executive Tom LaSorda.
“They discussed support for flex-fuel vehicles, attempts to develop ethanol from alternative sources like switchgrass and wood chips and the administration’s proposal to reduce gas consumption by 20 percent in 10 years.
“The discussions came amid rising gasoline prices. The latest Lundberg Survey found the nationwide average for gasoline has risen 6 cents per gallon in the past two weeks to $2.61.”
I believe that reducing and moreover recycling all motors that run on electricity and fuel is an elemental and urgent need for all humanity. The tragedy does not lie in reducing those energy costs but in the idea of converting food into fuel.
It is known very precisely today that one ton of corn can only produce 413 liters of ethanol on average, according to densities. That is equivalent to 109 gallons.
The average price of corn in U.S. ports has risen to $167 per ton. Thus, 320 million tons of corn would be required to produce 35 billion gallons of ethanol.
According to FAO figures, the U.S. corn harvest rose to 280.2 million tons in the year 2005.
Although the president is talking of producing fuel derived from grass or wood shavings, anyone can understand that these are phrases totally lacking in realism. Let’s be clear: 35 billion gallons translates into 35 followed by nine zeros!
Afterwards will come beautiful examples of what experienced and well-organized U.S. farmers can achieve in terms of human productivity by hectare: corn converted into ethanol; the chaff from that corn converted into animal feed containing 26% protein; cattle dung used as raw material for gas production. Of course, this is after voluminous investments only within the reach of the most powerful enterprises, in which everything has to be moved on the basis of electricity and fuel consumption. Apply that recipe to the countries of the Third World and you will see that people among the hungry masses of the Earth will no longer eat corn. Or something worse: lend funding to poor countries to produce corn ethanol based on corn or any other food and not a single tree will be left to defend humanity from climate change.
Other countries in the rich world are planning to use not only corn but also wheat, sunflower seeds, rapeseed and other foods for fuel production. For the Europeans, for example, it would become a business to import all of the world’s soybeans with the aim of reducing the fuel costs for their automobiles and feeding their animals with the chaff from that legume, particularly rich in all types of essential amino acids.
In Cuba, alcohol used to be produced as a byproduct of the sugar industry after having made three extractions of sugar from cane juice. Climate change is already affecting our sugar production. Lengthy periods of drought alternating with record rainfall, that barely make it possible to produce sugar with an adequate yield during the 100 days of our very moderate winter; hence, there is less sugar per ton of cane or less cane per hectare due to prolonged drought in the months of planting and cultivation.
I understand that in Venezuela they would be using alcohol not for export but to improve the environmental quality of their own fuel. For that reason, apart from the excellent Brazilian technology for producing alcohol, in Cuba the use of such a technology for the direct production of alcohol from sugar cane juice is no more than a dream or the whim of those carried away by that idea. In our country, land handed over to the direct production of alcohol could be much useful for food production for the people and for environmental protection.
All the countries of the world, rich and poor, without any exception, could save millions and millions of dollars in investment and fuel simply by changing all the incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent ones, an exercise that Cuba has carried out in all homes throughout the country. That would provide a breathing space to resist climate change without killing the poor masses through hunger.
As can be observed, I am not using adjectives to qualify the system and the lords of the earth. That task can be excellently undertaken by news experts and honest social, economic and political scientists abounding in the world who are constantly delving into to the present and future of our species. A computer and the growing number of Internet networks are sufficient for that.
Today, we are seeing for the first time a really globalized economy and a dominant power in the economic, political and military terrain that in no way resembles that of Imperial Rome.
Some people will be asking themselves why I am talking of hunger and thirst. My response to that: it is not about the other side of the coin, but about several sides of something else, like a die with six sides, or a polyhedron with many more sides.
I refer in this case to an official news agency, founded in 1945 and generally well-informed about economic and social questions in the world: TELAM. It said, and I quote:
“In just 18 years, close to 2 billion people will be living in countries and regions where water will be a distant memory. Two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in places where that scarcity produces social and economic tensions of such a magnitude that it could lead nations to wars for the precious ‘blue gold.’
“Over the last 100 years, the use of water has increased at a rate twice as fast as that of population growth.
“According to statistics from the World Water Council, it is estimated that by 2015, the number of inhabitants affected by this grave situation will rise by 3.5 billion people.
“The United Nations celebrated World Water Day on March 23, and called to begin confronting, that very day, the international scarcity of water, under the coordination of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with the goal of highlighting the increasing importance of water scarcity on a global scale, and the need for greater integration and cooperation that would make it possible to guarantee sustained and efficient management of water resources.
“Many regions on the planet are suffering from severe water shortages, living with less than 500 cubic meters per person per year. The number of regions suffering from chronic scarcity of this vital element is increasingly growing.
“The principal consequences of water scarcity are an insufficient amount of the precious liquid for producing food, the impossibility of industrial, urban and tourism development and health problems.”
That was the TELEAM cable.
In this case I will refrain from mentioning other important facts, like the melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic, damage to the ozone layer and the growing volume of mercury in many species of fish for common consumption.
There are other issues that could be addressed, but with these lines I am just trying to comment on President Bush’s meeting with the principal executives of U.S. automakers.
The Internationalization of Genocide
by Fidel Castro Ruz
April 3, 2007
The Camp David meeting has just come to an end. All of us followed the press conference offered by the presidents of the United States and Brazil attentively, as we did the news surrounding the meeting and the opinions voiced in this connection.
Faced with demands related to customs duties and subsidies which protect and support US ethanol production, Bush did not make the slightest concession to his Brazilian guest at Camp David.
President Lula attributed to this the rise in corn prices, which, according to his own statements, had gone up more than 85 percent.
Before these statements were made, the Washington Post had published an article by the Brazilian leader which expounded on the idea of transforming food into fuel.
It is not my intention to hurt Brazil or to meddle in the internal affairs of this great country. It was in effect in Rio de Janeiro, host of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, exactly 15 years ago, where I delivered a 7-minute speech vehemently denouncing the environmental dangers that menaced our species’ survival. Bush Sr., then President of the United States, was present at that meeting and applauded my words out of courtesy; all other presidents there applauded, too.
No one at Camp David answered the fundamental question. Where are the more than 500 million tons of corn and other cereals which the United States, Europe and wealthy nations require to produce the gallons of ethanol that big companies in the United States and other countries demand in exchange for their voluminous investments going to be produced and who is going to supply them? Where are the soy, sunflower and rape seeds, whose essential oils these same, wealthy nations are to turn into fuel, going to be produced and who will produce them?
Some countries are food producers which export their surpluses. The balance of exporters and consumers had already become precarious before this and food prices had skyrocketed. In the interests of brevity, I shall limit myself to pointing out the following:
According to recent data, the five chief producers of corn, barley, sorghum, rye, millet and oats which Bush wants to transform into the raw material of ethanol production, supply the world market with 679 million tons of these products. Similarly, the five chief consumers, some of which also produce these grains, currently require 604 million annual tons of these products. The available surplus is less than 80 million tons of grain.
This colossal squandering of cereals destined to fuel production —and these estimates do not include data on oily seeds—shall serve to save rich countries less than 15 percent of the total annual consumption of their voracious automobiles.
At Camp David, Bush declared his intention of applying this formula around the world. This spells nothing other than the internationalization of genocide.
In his statements, published by the Washington Post on the eve of the Camp David meeting, the Brazilian president affirmed that less than one percent of Brazil’s arable land was used to grow cane destined to ethanol production. This is nearly three times the land surface Cuba used when it produced nearly 10 million tons of sugar a year, before the crisis that befell the Soviet Union and the advent of climate changes.
Our country has been producing and exporting sugar for a longer time. First, on the basis of the work of slaves, whose numbers swelled to over 300 thousand in the first years of the 19th century and who turned the Spanish colony into the world’s number one exporter. Nearly one hundred years later, at the beginning of the 20th century, when Cuba was a pseudo-republic which had been denied full independence by US interventionism; it was immigrants from the West Indies and illiterate Cubans alone who bore the burden of growing and harvesting sugarcane on the island. The scourge of our people was the off-season, inherent to the cyclical nature of the harvest. Sugarcane plantations were the property of US companies or powerful Cuban-born landowners. Cuba, thus, has more experience than anyone as regards the social impact of this crop.
This past Sunday, April 1, the CNN televised the opinions of Brazilian experts who affirm that many lands destined to sugarcane have been purchased by wealthy Americans and Europeans.
As part of my reflections on the subject, published on March 29, I expounded on the impact climate change has had on Cuba and on other basic characteristics of our country’s climate which contribute to this.
On our poor and anything but consumerist island, one would be unable to find enough workers to endure the rigors of the harvest and to care for the sugarcane plantations in the ever more intense heat, rains or droughts. When hurricanes lash the island, not even the best machines can harvest the bent-over and twisted canes. For centuries, the practice of burning sugarcane was unknown and no soil was compacted under the weight of complex machines and enormous trucks. Nitrogen, potassium and phosphate fertilizers, today extremely expensive, did not yet even exist, and the dry and wet months succeeded each other regularly. In modern agriculture, no high yields are possible without crop rotation methods.
On Sunday, April 1, the French Press Agency (AFP) published disquieting reports on the subject of climate change, which experts gathered by the United Nations already consider an inevitable phenomenon that will spell serious repercussions for the world in the coming decades.
According to a UN report to be approved next week in Brussels, climate change will have a significant impact on the American continent, generating more violent storms and heat waves and causing droughts, the extinction of some species and even hunger in Latin America.
The AFP report indicates that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forewarned that at the end of this century, every hemisphere will endure water-related problems and, if governments take no measures in this connection, rising temperatures could increase the risks of mortality, contamination, natural catastrophes and infectious diseases.
In Latin America, global warming is already melting glaciers in the Andes and threatening the Amazon forest, whose perimeter may slowly be turned into a savannah, the cable goes on to report.
Because a great part of its population lives near the coast, the United States is also vulnerable to extreme natural phenomena, as hurricane Katrina demonstrated in 2005.
According to AFP, this is the second of three IPCC reports which began to be published last February, following an initial scientific forecast which established the certainty of climate change.
This second 1400-page report which analyzes climate change in different sectors and regions, of which AFP has obtained a copy, considers that, even if radical measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that pollute the atmosphere are taken, the rise in temperatures around the planet in the coming decades is already unavoidable, concludes the French Press Agency.
As was to be expected, at the Camp David meeting, Dan Fisk, National Security advisor for the region, declared that “in the discussion on regional issues, [I expect] Cuba to come up (…) if there’s anyone that knows how to create starvation, it’s Fidel Castro. He also knows how not to do ethanol”.
As I find myself obliged to respond to this gentleman, it is my duty to remind him that Cuba’s infant mortality rate is lower than the United States’. All citizens —this is beyond question—enjoy free medical services. Everyone has access to education and no one is denied employment, in spite of nearly half a century of economic blockade and the attempts of US governments to starve and economically asphyxiate the people of Cuba.
China would never devote a single ton of cereals or leguminous plants to the production of ethanol, and it is an economically prosperous nation which is breaking growth records, where all citizens earn the income they need to purchase essential consumer items, despite the fact that 48 percent of its population, which exceeds 1.3 billion, works in agriculture. On the contrary, it has set out to reduce energy consumption considerably by shutting down thousands of factories which consume unacceptable amounts of electricity and hydrocarbons. It imports many of the food products mentioned above from far-off corners of the world, transporting these over thousands of miles.
Scores of countries do not produce hydrocarbons and are unable to produce corn and other grains or oily seeds, for they do not even have enough water to meet their most basic needs.
At a meeting on ethanol production held in Buenos Aires by the Argentine Oil Industry Chamber and Cereals Exporters Association, Loek Boonekamp, the Dutch head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s commercial and marketing division, told the press that governments are very much enthused about this process but that they should objectively consider whether ethanol ought to be given such resolute support.
According to Boonekamp, the United States is the only country where ethanol can be profitable and, without subsidies, no other country can make it viable.
According to the report, Boonekamp insists that ethanol is not manna from Heaven and that we should not blindly commit to developing this process.
Today, developed countries are pushing to have fossil fuels mixed with biofuels at around five percent and this is already affecting agricultural prices. If this figure went up to 10 percent, 30 percent of the United States’ cultivated surface and 50 percent of Europe’s would be required. That is the reason Boonekamp asks himself whether the process is sustainable, as an increase in the demand for crops destined to ethanol production would generate higher and less stable prices.
Protectionist measures are today at 54 cents per gallon and real subsidies reach far higher figures.
Applying the simple arithmetic we learned in high school, we could show how, by simply replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones, as I explained in my previous reflections, millions and millions of dollars in investment and energy could be saved, without the need to use a single acre of farming land.
In the meantime, we are receiving news from Washington, through the AP, reporting that the mysterious disappearance of millions of bees throughout the United States has edged beekeepers to the brink of a nervous breakdown and is even cause for concern in Congress, which will discuss this Thursday the critical situation facing this insect, essential to the agricultural sector. According to the report, the first disquieting signs of this enigma became evident shortly after Christmas in the state of Florida, when beekeepers discovered that their bees had vanished without a trace. Since then, the syndrome which experts have christened as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has reduced the country’s swarms by 25 percent.
Daniel Weaver, president of the US Beekeepers Association, stated that more than half a million colonies, each with a population of nearly 50 thousand bees, had been lost. He added that the syndrome has struck 30 of the country’s 50 states. What is curious about the phenomenon is that, in many cases, the mortal remains of the bees are not found.
According to a study conducted by Cornell University, these industrious insects pollinate crops valued at anywhere from 12 to 14 billion dollars.
Scientists are entertaining all kinds of hypotheses, including the theory that a pesticide may have caused the bees’ neurological damage and altered their sense of orientation. Others lay the blame on the drought and even mobile phone waves, but, what’s certain is that no one knows exactly what has unleashed this syndrome.
The worst may be yet to come: a new war aimed at securing gas and oil supplies that can take humanity to the brink of total annihilation.
Invoking intelligence sources, Russian newspapers have reported that a war on Iran has been in the works for over three years now, since the day the government of the United States resolved to occupy Iraq completely, unleashing a seemingly endless and despicable civil war.
All the while, the government of the United States devotes hundreds of billions to the development of highly sophisticated technologies, as those which employ micro-electronic systems or new nuclear weapons which can strike their targets an hour following the order to attack.
The United States brazenly turns a deaf ear to world public opinion, which is against all kinds of nuclear weapons.
Razing all of Iran’s factories to the ground is a relatively easy task, from the technical point of view, for a powerful country like the United States. The difficult task may come later, if a new war were to be unleashed against another Muslim faith which deserves our utmost respect, as do all other religions of the Near, Middle or Far East, predating or postdating Christianity.
The arrest of English soldiers at Iran’s territorial waters recalls the nearly identical act of provocation of the so-called “Brothers to the Rescue” who, ignoring President Clinton’s orders advanced over our country’s territorial waters. Cuba’s absolutely legitimate and defensive action gave the United States a pretext to promulgate the well-known Helms-Burton Act, which encroaches upon the sovereignty of other nations besides Cuba. The powerful media have consigned that episode to oblivion. No few people attribute the price of oil, at nearly 70 dollars a gallon as of Monday, to fears of a possible invasion of Iran.
Where shall poor Third World countries find the basic resources needed to survive?
I am not exaggerating or using overblown language. I am confining myself to the facts.
As can be seen, the polyhedron has many dark faces.
An Immediate Energy Revolution is Essential
“It hurts to think that 10 billion tons of fossil fuel is consumed every year. This means that each year we waste what it took nature one million years to create.”
by Fidel Castro Ruz
From Granma, May 1 2007
I hold nothing against Brazil, even though to more than a few Brazilians continuously bombarded with the most diverse arguments that could well confuse even people who traditionally have been friendly to Cuba, we might sound callous and careless about hurting that country’s net income of hard currency. However, for me to keep silent would be to opt between the idea of a world tragedy and a presumed benefit for the people of that great nation.
I do not blame Lula and the Brazilians for the objective laws that have governed the history of our species. Barely 7,000 years have passed since human beings left their tangible mark on what has come to be a civilization immensely rich in culture and technical knowledge. Advances have not been achieved at the same time or in the same geographical latitudes. It can be said that due to the apparent enormity of our planet, quite often the existence of one or another civilization was unknown. For thousands of years human beings never lived in cities with 20 million inhabitants such as Sao Paulo or Mexico City, or in urban communities such as Paris, Madrid, Berlin and others who see trains speeding by on rail and air cushions at speeds of more than 250 miles an hour.
At the time of Christopher Columbus, barely 500 years ago, some of these cities did not exist, or had populations that did not exceed several tens of thousands. Nobody used one single kilowatt to light his/her home. The population of the world at that time was probably no more than 500 million. We know that in 1830, world population reached the first billion mark; 130 years later it had multiplied by three; and 46 years later the total number of inhabitants on the planet had grown to 6.5 billion, the immense majority of whom were poor, having to share food products with domestic animals and from this time onward, with biofuels.
At that time, humanity did not have all the advances in computers and means of communication that we have today, even though the first atomic bombs had already been detonated over two large human communities in a brutal act of terrorism against a defenseless civilian population, for reasons that were strictly political.
Today, the world has tens of thousands of nuclear bombs that are 50 times as powerful, with carriers that are several times faster than the speed of sound and have absolute precision; our sophisticated species could destroy itself with them. At the end of World War II, fought by the peoples against fascism, a new power emerged that took over the world and imposed the absolutist and cruel order under which we live today.
Before Bush’s trip to Brazil, the leader of the empire decided that corn and other foodstuffs would be suitable raw material for the production of biofuels. For his part, Lula stated that Brazil could supply as much biofuel as necessary from sugar cane; he saw in this formula a possibility for the future of the Third World, and the only problem left to solve would be to improve the living conditions of the sugarcane workers. He was well aware – and he said it – that the United States should in turn lift the custom tariffs and the subsidies affecting ethanol exports to that country.
Bush replied that custom tariffs and subsidies to growers were untouchable in a country such as the United States, which is the first world producer of ethanol from corn.
The large U.S. transnational producers of this biofuel, which are investing tens of billions of dollars at an accelerated pace, had demanded from the imperial leader the distribution in the U.S. market of no less than 35 billions (35,000,000,000) of gallons of this fuel every year. The combination of protective tariffs and real subsidies would raise that figure to almost one hundred billion dollars every year.
Insatiable in its demand, the empire had launched into the world the slogan of producing biofuels in order to free the United States, the world’s supreme energy consumer, from all external dependency on hydrocarbons.
History shows that sugar as a mono-crop was closely associated with the enslavement of Africans, forcibly uprooted from their natural communities and brought to Cuba, Haiti and other Caribbean islands. In Brazil, the exact same thing happened with sugarcane cultivation.
Today, in that country, almost 80% of sugar cane is cut by hand. Sources and studies contributed by Brazilian researchers affirm that one sugarcane cutter, a piece-work laborer, must produce no less than12 tons in order to meet basic needs. This one worker needs to perform 36,630 flexing movements with his legs, make small trips 800 times carrying 15 kilos of cane in his arms and walk 8,800 meters in his task. He loses an average of 8 liters of water every day. Only by burning cane can that productivity per person be achieved. Cane cut by hand or by machines is usually burned to protect people from nasty bites and especially to increase productivity. Even though the established norm for a working day is from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, this type of piece-work cane cutting tends to go on for a 12-hour working day. The temperature sometimes rises to 45 degrees centigrade by noon.
I have cut cane myself more than once as a moral duty, as have many other comrade leaders of the country. I remember August of 1969. I chose a place close to the capital. I went there very early every day. It was not burned cane but green cane, an early variety and high in agricultural and industrial yield. I cut for four hours non-stop. Somebody else was sharpening the machete. I consistently produced a minimum of 3.4 tons per day. Then I would shower, calmly have some lunch and take a break in a place nearby. I earned several coupons in the famous harvest of 1970. I had just turned 44 then. The rest of the time, until bedtime, I worked at my revolutionary duties. I stopped that personal effort after wounding my left foot. The sharpened machete had sliced through my protective boot. The national goal was 10 million tons of sugar and approximately 4 million tons of molasses as by-product. We never reached that goal, although we came close.
The USSR had not disappeared; that seemed impossible. The Special Period, which took us to a struggle for survival and to economic inequalities with their inherent elements of corruption, had not yet begun. Imperialism believed that the time had come to finish off the Revolution. It is also fair to acknowledge that during the years of bonanza we wasted resources and our idealism ran high along with the dreams accompanying our heroic process.
The great agricultural yields of the United States were achieved by rotating gramineae (corn, wheat, oats, millet and other similar grains) with legumes (soy, alfalfa, beans, etc.). These contribute nitrogen and organic material to the soil. The corn crop yield in the United States in 2005, according to UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data, was 9.3 tons per hectare.
In Brazil they only obtain 3 tons of this same grain over a similar area of land. The total production registered by this sister nation that year was 34,600,000 tons, consumed internally as food. It cannot contribute corn to the world market.
Prices for this grain, the staple diet in numerous countries of the region, have almost doubled. What will happen when hundreds of millions of tons of corn are redirected toward the production of biofuel? And I would rather not mention the volumes of wheat, millet, oats, barley, sorghum and other cereals that industrialized countries will use as a source of fuel for its engines.
Add to this that it is very difficult for Brazil to rotate corn and legumes. Of the Brazilian states traditionally producing corn, eight are responsible for 90% of production: Paraná, Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina y Mato Grosso do Sul. On the other hand, 60% of sugarcane, a grain that cannot be rotated with other crops, is cultivated in four states: Sao Paulo, Paraná, Pernambuco and Alagoas.
The engines of tractors, harvesters and the heavy machinery required to mechanize the harvest would use growing amounts of hydrocarbons. The increase of mechanization would not help in the prevention of global warming, something that has been proven by experts who have measured annual temperatures for the last 150 years.
Brazil does produce an excellent food that is especially rich in protein: soy, 50,115,000 tons. It consumes almost 23 million tons and exports 27,300,000 tons. Could it be that a large part of this soy will be converted to biofuel?
As it is, the producers of beef cattle are beginning to complain that grazing land is being transformed into sugarcane fields.
The former agriculture minister of Brazil, Roberto Rodrigues, an important advocate of the current government position – and presently a co-president of the Inter-American Ethanol Commission created in 2006 following an agreement with the state of Florida and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to promote the use of biofuel on the American continent – announced that the program to mechanize the sugarcane harvest will not create more jobs but, on the contrary, would produce a surplus of non-qualified manpower.
We know that the poorest workers from various states are the ones who gravitate toward cane cutting out of necessity. Sometimes, they have to spend many months away from their families. That is what happened in Cuba until the triumph of the Revolution, when the cutting and lifting of sugarcane was done by hand, and mechanized cultivation or transportation hardly existed. With the demise of the brutal system forced on our society the cane-cutters, massively taught to read and write, abandoned their peregrinations within a few years and it became necessary to replace them with hundreds of thousands of voluntary workers.
Added to this is the latest report by the United Nations on climate change, which affirms what would happen in South America with water from the glaciers and the Amazon water basin as the temperature of the atmosphere continue to rise.
Nothing is preventing U.S. and European capital from funding the production of biofuels. They could even send the funds as gifts to Brazil and Latin America. The United States, Europe and the other industrialized nations would save more than $140 billion every year without having to worry about the consequences for the climate and the hunger which would affect the countries of the Third World in the first place. They would always be left with enough money for biofuels and to acquire the little food available on the world market at any price.
It is imperative to have an immediate energy revolution that consists not only of replacing all the incandescent light bulbs, but also of massively recycling all domestic, commercial, industrial, transport and social electric appliances that require two and three times more energy with their earlier technologies.
It hurts to think that 10 billion tons of fossil fuel is consumed every year. This means that each year we waste what it took nature one million years to create. National industries are faced with enormous challenges, including the reduction of unemployment. In that way, we could gain a little time.
Another risk of a different nature facing the world is an economic recession in the United States. In the past few days, the dollar has broken records in losing value. On the other hand, every country has most of its reserves in convertible currencies precisely in this paper currency and in U.S. bonds.
Tomorrow, May Day, is a good day to bring these reflections to the workers and to all the poor of the world. At the same time we should protest against something incredible and humiliating that has just occurred: the release of a terrorist monster, precisely on the 46th Anniversary of the Revolutionary Victory of the Bay of Pigs.
Prison for the assassin!
Freedom for the Five Heroes!
The Biofuels Debate Heats Up
by Fidel Castro Ruz
May 9, 2007
Atilio Borón, a prestigious leftist intellectual who until recently headed the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), wrote an article for the 6th Hemispheric Meeting of Struggle against the FTAs and for the Integration of Peoples which just wrapped up in Havana; he was kind enough to send it to me along with a letter.
The gist of what he wrote I have summarized using exact quotes of paragraphs and phrases in his article; it reads as follows:
Pre-capitalist societies already knew about oil which surfaced in shallow deposits and they used for non-commercial purposes, such as waterproofing the wooden hulls of ships or in textile products, or for torches. Its original name was ‘petroleum’ or stone-oil.
By the end of the 19th century –after the discovery of large oilfields in Pennsylvania, United States, and the technological developments propelled by the massive use of the internal combustion engine– oil became the energy paradigm of the 20th century.
Energy is conceived of as just merchandise. Like Marx warned us, this is not due to the perversity or callousness of some individual capitalist or another, but rather the consequence of the logic of the accumulation process, which is prone to the ceaseless “mercantilism” that touches on all components of social life, both material and symbolic. The mercantilist process did not stop with the human being, but simultaneously extended to nature. The land and its products, the rivers and the mountains, the jungles and the forests became the target of its irrepressible pillage. Foodstuffs, of course, could not escape this hellish dynamic. Capitalism turns everything that crosses its path into merchandise.
Foodstuffs are transformed into fuels to make viable the irrationality of a civilization that, to sustain the wealth and privilege of a few, is brutally assaulting the environment and the ecologic conditions which made it possible for life to appear on Earth.
Transforming food into fuels is a monstrosity.
Capitalism is preparing to perpetrate a massive euthanasia on the poor, and particularly on the poor of the South, since it is there that the greatest reserves of the earth’s biomass required to produce biofuels are found. Regardless of numerous official statements assuring that this is not a choice between food and fuel, reality shows that this, and no other, is exactly the alternative: either the land is used to produce food or to produce biofuels.
The main lessons taught us by FAO data on the subject of agricultural land and the consumption of fertilizers are the following:
- Agricultural land per capita in developed capitalism almost doubles that existing in the underdeveloped periphery: 3.26 acres per person in the North as opposed to 1.6 in the South; this is explained by the simple fact that close to 80 percent of the world population live in the underdeveloped periphery.
- Brazil has slightly more agricultural land per capita than the developed countries. It becomes clear that this nation will have to assign huge tracts of its enormous land surface to meet the demands of the new energy paradigm.
- China and India have 1.05 and 0.43 acres per person respectively.
- The small nations of the Antilles, with their traditional one-crop agriculture, that is sugarcane, demonstrate eloquently its erosive effects exemplified by the extraordinary rate of consumption of fertilizers per acre needed to support this production. If in the peripheral countries the average figure is 109 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare (as opposed to 84 in developed countries), in Barbados the figure is 187.5, in Dominica 600, en Guadeloupe 1,016, in St. Lucia 1,325 and in Martinique 1,609. The use of fertilizers is tantamount to intensive oil consumption, and so the much touted advantage of agrifuels to reduce the consumption of hydrocarbons seems more an illusion than a reality. The total agricultural land of the European Union is barely sufficient to cover 30 percent of their current needs for fuel but not their future needs that will probably be greater. In the United States, the satisfaction of their current demand for fossil fuels would require the use of 121 percent of all their agricultural land for agrifuels.
Consequently, the supply of agrifuels will have to come from the South, from capitalism’s poor and neocolonial periphery. Mathematics does not lie: neither the United States nor the European Union have available land to support an increase in food production and an expansion of the production of agrifuels at the same time.
Deforestation of the planet would increase the land surface suitable for agriculture (but only for a while). Therefore this would be only for a few decades, at the most. These lands would then suffer desertification and the situation would be worse than ever, aggravating even further the dilemma pitting the production of food against that of ethanol or biodiesel.
The struggle against hunger –and there are some 2 billion people who suffer from hunger in the world– will be seriously impaired by the expansion of land taken over by agrifuel crops. Countries where hunger is a universal scourge will bear witness to the rapid transformation of agriculture that would feed the insatiable demand for fuels needed by a civilization based on their irrational use. The only result possible is an increase in the cost of food and thus, the worsening of the social situation in the South countries.
Moreover, the world population grows 76 million people every year who will obviously demand food that will be steadily more expensive and farther out of their reach.
In The Globalist Perspective, Lester Brown predicted less than a year ago that automobiles would absorb the largest part of the increase in world grain production in 2006. Of the 20 million tons added to those existing in 2005, 14 million were used in the production of fuels, and only 6 million tons were used to satisfy the needs of the hungry. This author affirms that the world appetite for automobile fuel is insatiable. Brown concluded by saying that a scenario is being prepared where a head-on confrontation will take place between the 800 million prosperous car owners and the food consumers.
The devastating impact of increased food prices, which will inexorably happen as the land is used either for food or for fuel, was demonstrated in the work of C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer, two distinguished professors from the University of Minnesota, in an article published in the English language edition of the Foreign Affairs magazine whose title says it all: “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor”. The authors claim that in the United States the growth of the agrifuel industry has given rise to increases not only in the price of corn, oleaginous seeds and other grains, but also in the prices of apparently unrelated crops and products. The use of land to grow corn which will feed the fauces of ethanol is reducing the area for other crops. The food processors using crops such as peas and young corn have been forced to pay higher prices in order to ensure their supplies. This is a cost that will eventually be passed on to the consumer. The increase in food prices is also hitting the livestock and poultry industries. The higher costs have produced an abrupt decrease in income, especially in the poultry and pork sectors. If income continues to decrease, so will production, and the prices of chicken, turkey, pork, milk and eggs will increase. They warn that the most devastating effects of increasing food prices will be felt especially in Third World countries.
Studies made by the Belgian Office of Scientific Affairs shows that biodiesel causes more health and environmental hazards because it creates a more pulverized pollution and releases more pollutants that destroy the ozone layer.
With regards to the argument claming that the agrifuels are harmless, Victor Bronstein, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires, has demonstrated that:
- It is not true that biofuels are a renewable and constant energy source, given that the crucial factor in plant growth is not sunlight but the availability of water and suitable soil conditions. If this were not the case, we would be able to grow corn or sugarcane in the Sahara Desert. The effects of large-scale production of biofuels will be devastating.
- It is not true that they do not pollute. Even if ethanol produces less carbon emissions, the process to obtain it pollutes the surface and the water with nitrates, herbicides, pesticides and waste, and the air is polluted with aldehydes and alcohols that are carcinogens. The presumption of a “green and clean” fuel is a fallacy. The proposal of agrifuels is unviable, and it is ethically and politically unacceptable. But it is not enough just to reject it. It is necessary to implement a new energy revolution, but one that is at the service of the people and not at the service of the monopolies and imperialism. This is, perhaps, the most important challenge of our time, concludes Atilio Borón.
As you can see, this summary took up some space. We need space and time; practically a book. It has been said that the masterpiece which made author Gabriel García Márquez famous, One Hundred Years of Solitude, required him to write fifty pages for each page that was printed. How much time would my poor pen need to refute those who for a material interest, ignorance, indifference or even for all three at the same time defend the evil idea and to spread the solid and honest arguments of those who struggle for the life of the species?
Some very important opinions and points of view were discussed at the Hemispheric Meeting in Havana. We should talk about those that brought us real-life images of cutting sugarcane by hand in a documentary film that seemed a reflection of Dante’s Inferno. A growing number of opinions are carried by the media every day and everywhere in the world, from institutions like the United Nations right up to national scientific associations. I simply perceive that the debate is heating up. The fact that the subject is being discussed is already an important step forward.
by Fidel Castro Ruz
May 22, 2007
On March 28, less than two months ago, when Bush proclaimed his diabolical idea of producing fuel from food, after a meeting with the most important U.S. automobile manufacturers, I wrote my first reflection.
The head of the empire was bragging that the United States was now the first world producer of ethanol, using corn as raw material. Hundreds of factories were being built or enlarged in the United States just for that purpose.
During those days, the industrialized and rich nations were already toying with the same idea of using all kinds of cereals and oil seeds, including sunflower and soy which are excellent sources of proteins and oils. That’s why I chose to title that reflection: “More than 3 billion people in the world are being condemned to a premature death from hunger and thirst.”
The dangers for the environment and for the human species were a topic that I had been meditating on for years. What I never imagined was the imminence of the danger. We as yet were not aware of the new scientific information about the celerity of climatic changes and their immediate consequences.
On April 3, after Bush’s visit to Brazil, I wrote my reflections about “The internationalization of genocide.”
At the same time, I warned that the deadly and sophisticated weapons that were being produced in the United States and in other countries could annihilate the life of the human species in a matter of days.
To give humanity a respite and an opportunity to science and to the dubious good sense of the decision-makers, it is not necessary to take food away from two-thirds of the inhabitants of the planet.
We have supplied information about the savings that could be made simply by replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones, using approximate calculations. They are numbers followed by 11 and 12 zeros. The first corresponds to hundreds of billions of dollars saved in fuel each year, and the second to trillions of dollars in necessary investments to produce that electricity by merely changing light bulbs, meaning less than 10 percent of the total expenses and a considerable saving of time.
With complete clarity, we have expressed that CO2 emissions, besides other pollutant gases, have been leading us quickly towards a rapid and inexorable climatic change.
It was not easy to deal with these topics because of their dramatic and almost fatal content.
The fourth reflection was titled: “It is imperative to immediately have an energy revolution.” Proof of the waste of energy in the United States and of the inequality of its distribution in the world is that in the year 2005, there were less than 15 automobiles for each thousand people in China; there were 514 in Europe and 940 in the United States.
The last of these countries, one of the richest territories in hydrocarbons, today suffers from a large deficit of oil and gas. According to Bush, these fuels must be extracted from foods, which are needed for the more and more hungry bellies of the poor of this Earth.
On May Day 2006, I ended my speech to the people with the following words:
“If the efforts being made by Cuba today were imitated by all the other countries in the world, the following would happen:
“1st. The proved and potential hydrocarbon reserves would last twice as long.
“2nd. The pollution unleashed on the environment by these hydrocarbons would be halved.
“3rd. The world economy would have a break, since the enormous volume of transportation means and electrical appliances should be recycled.
“4th. A fifteen-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants could be declared.”
Changing light bulbs was the first thing we did in Cuba, and we have cooperated with various Caribbean nations to do the same. In Venezuela, the government has replaced 53 million incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent in more than 95% of the homes receiving electrical power. All the other measures to save energy are being resolutely carried out.
Everything I am saying has been proven.
Why is it that we just hear rumors without the leadership of industrialized countries openly committing to an energy revolution, which implies changes in concepts and hopes about growth and consumerism that have contaminated quite a few poor nations?
Could it be that there is some other way of confronting the extremely serious dangers threatening us all?
Nobody wants to take the bull by the horns.
Declaration of the International Campaign against U.S. and Zionist Occupation, 5th Cairo Conference (March 29-April 1, 2007)
(For a report on the Cairo Conference see Socialist Voice #122)
The fifth Cairo conference is held at a time that is full of potential, but also full of challenges. The war launched by the Zionist military artillery against Lebanon with the support of the U.S. and Europe ended with an unprecedented defeat of the Zionist entity by the hands of the heroic resistance of Hezbollah. However, the battle is not over yet and the siege, which the Zionists and the U.S. administration are trying to impose on the Lebanese resistance with the help of their local agents and their use of the weapon of sectarianism after failure of their planes and tanks, means that we are facing major challenges that call upon all of us for the highest level of resistance and conscious struggle against sectarianism.
In Iraq, the fierce resistance against the American occupation has pushed the U.S. administration into a hopeless swamp. There, too, the occupation is using its final card by trying to turn the battle against the occupation into an ugly sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. The resistance will not be able to liberate Iraq except through failing the trap of sectarianism and turning the resistance into a unified national one, that unites Shiites and Sunnis against the American occupant.
And in Palestine, where the resistance, under the leadership of Hamas, has survived the siege of starvation, without giving up to the American, Zionist, and Arab pressures to surrender to the Zionist entity and the Oslo agreements, there too the enemy and its local agents have tried to impose a civil war in order to deviate the resistance from its path and spill Palestinian blood by Palestinian hands. Despite recent agreements and despite the awareness of the resistance to stand up to those attempts, still the challenge facing the resistance is a major one. The lifting of the siege calls for a revival of the Intifada and the weapon of resistance.
Today we also witness the escalation of military threats against Iran and the widespread mobilization by the American administration to launch a fierce air strike against Iran. It is obvious that the deeper the losses of the U.S. administration in Iraq, the more the talk about the Iranian danger and the need to face it. As usual the “moderate” Arab regimes play their role in this agenda, both on the logistic military level and on the level of a media campaign that targets the isolation of the Iranian regime.
A crazy war launched by Bush against Iran will lead to the fall of hundreds of thousands of victims and the region, and probably the whole world, will enter a long period of unprecedented wars and tensions. We have to join our efforts to stop this crazy war by organizing protests, demonstrations and campaigns all over the world.
While imperialism and its allies are using sectarianisms as a weapon to split and weaken the resistance, European and U.S. governments are using the weapons of racism and Islamophobia as a weapon to justify their colonial aggression and the division of the antiwar movements. It is therefore that the struggle against anti-Moslem racism is an integral part of out struggle against war.
In Arab countries, it is no longer possible to separate the struggle against despotism from the struggle against war and the U.S. and Zionist colonialism in the region. Regimes allied to imperialism, especially the Egyptian, Saudi, and Jordanian regimes, are playing a crucial role in attempting to strangulate and besiege the Palestinian, Lebanese, and Iraqi resistance in exchange for the U.S. support for their despotism. It is therefore that any action taken in Arab countries for freedom and justice should be considered an asset to armed resistance; and every victory achieved by the resistance is at the same time an earthquake that shatters the thrones of despotism and corruption in our region.
Also, it is no longer possible to separate between the starvation and impoverishment policies imposed by those regimes on the Arab peoples in the name of capitalist globalization and neoliberalism on the one hand and the regional role played by those regimes on the other. The same regimes that open their territories and waters and airspace for the colonial U.S. army are the same ones that impose economic policies that serve nobody but the giant multinational companies and a small group of local, corrupt businessmen. The price is paid by the majority of the people.
We are facing major challenges. We hope that our conference would constitute a qualitative step forwards on our path to unite efforts between the resistance movements and the national Arab opposition movement, including Islamists, socialists, Arab nationalists and the global antiwar movement.
Facing all those challenges the 5th Cairo conference has concluded with the following recommendations:
I. Supporting the resistance in Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon
A- Linking the antiwar struggle in occupying countries (U.S., UK, etc.) and occupation supporting countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) and strengthening the pressure on those governments with the aim to:
Closing military bases.
Ending logistic support to U.S. forces.
Closure of ground, naval and aviation passages to U.S. forces.
Call for the formation of a unified national front against occupation and sectarianism.
Strengthening the call for impeachment of the puppet Iraqi government (closure of embassies, banning visits, demonstrations against visits by Iraqi officials).
Call for stopping all forms of collaboration in training of Iraqi military and police under occupation.
Organization of humanitarian aid (food, medicines, etc.) to Iraqi people inside and outside Iraq (Organization of ongoing solidarity missions).
B- Organization of an annual demonstration in March against U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Revival of and networking between movements against the wall of racial discrimination.
Organization of campaigns to break the siege imposed on the people and resistance in Palestine.
Organization of demonstrations worldwide against visits by Zionist officials (Bush, Cheney).
Strengthening and linking boycott movements in Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Gulf).
Organization of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
Development of a website of Boycott of Zionist entity, in both Arabic and English languages to introduce and link between committees and organizations working on boycott worldwide.
Organization of an international campaign for the boycott of Israel and organization of an annual demonstration in September in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.
Considering the UN forces in Lebanon as occupation forces and supporting popular movements in the respective countries to withdraw those troops.
Exposure and isolation of Lebanese forces in alliance with the U.S. and Israel and the role of Arab regimes in supporting them.
Joint preparation for strengthening of widest popular movements in case of a new Zionist attack on Lebanon aiming to destroy the resistance.
Supporting the Lebanese resistance against the U.S.-Zionist project.
Organization of an annual international demonstration in July against the aggression against Lebanon.
II. Facing the war threats because of nuclear energy (Iran – Korea)
Uniting positions and efforts against a U.S. attack on Iran, and organization of campaigns against ongoing escalation and siege imposed on Iran. In the case of U.S. war against Iran organization of an international demonstration against this aggression.
Nuclear disarmament of Israel
Supporting the right of peoples to own nuclear technology for peaceful use.
Exposure of double standards in addressing the nuclear issue (Israel vis-à-vis Iran and Korea).
III. Building bridges between the Left and Islamic movements against Imperialism and Globalization
Widening and deepening of collaboration between Islamic resistance movements and the struggles of the Left in the Arab region and internationally (Studying the different experiences in Lebanon, Egypt, Europe, etc.)
Political advocacy against all forms of racial discrimination against Arab and Moslem minorities in the West and linking that discrimination to the imperialist agenda.
Linking the struggle against colonialism and racism on the one hand and the struggle against capitalist globalization and new liberalism on the other. Challenging the notion of clash of civilizations or religions etc.
Linking the rising movements of the left in Latin America with the antiwar movements on the one hand and the resistance movements and nationalist forces in the Arab region on the other.
Call for the organization of a conference that joins the forces of Arab Left and the Islamic resistance movements in the Arab region to coordinate efforts of their national and democratic struggles.
IV. Concerning divisions among resistance movements
Coordination of efforts against the diversion of Iraqi resistance towards a sectarian civil war and exposure of the attempts by U.S. occupation and Arab regimes to feed sectarian conflicts.
Supporting national unity in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq without compromising the essential basics of resistance. (Rejecting the use of the slogan of national unity to facilitate the U.S.-Zionist agendas).
Rejection of the use of national unity in favor of U.S. and Zionist agendas.
Supporting and strengthening the unity of resistance (Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah against a united imperial project) and organization of worldwide activities to strengthen this unity and call for a joint conference to face sectarian divisions.
V. Building an international alliance of resistance
Developing strategies of continuous coordination between antiwar and resistance movements in the Arab region and Latin America.
Establishing a network for exchange of experience and information and coordination of activities.
Agreement on international days of protest along the lines of the 15th of February 2003.
VI. Supporting the Democratic Struggles of Arab Peoples
Supporting the struggle against freedom restricting laws under the pretext of fighting terrorism, exposing their racist and despotic nature and linking the despotism of international regimes and the struggle for democracy in the Arab region (Gunatanamo, Abu Ghreib, Egyptian and Saudi prisons, and secret detention centers in Europe).
Linking the rising social movements (workers and professional) in the Arab region and their counterparts in the different parts of the world and creation of mechanisms for solidarity and joint struggle.
Exposing the dictatorial Arab regimes and organization of sit ins and demonstrations against visits by symbols of despotic regimes.
Strengthening international solidarity with democratic movements against dictatorship in the Arab region (Organization of demonstrations against military tribunals, detentions, torture) and exposure of the oppressive regimes and the U.S. and European complicity, and organization of an international campaign against referral of civilians to military courts in Egypt.
The Cairo conference organizing committee invites all groups, public figures, popular committees and civil society organizations struggling against Imperialism, Zionism, War and globalization in Egypt, the Arab world and worldwide to the Cairo social forum to be held between the 27th and 30th of March 2008.
The Egyptian organizing committee will form an Egyptian and international coordinating committee to prepare for the event.
Introduction by Phil Stewart Cournoyer
This article was first published in Spanish in the magazine Sin Permiso on March 4 this year. Sin Permiso (www.sinpermiso.info/) is a Spanish-language quarterly socialist magazine and a monthly e-zine published by a multinational editorial team. The article was translated for Socialist Voice by Federico Fuentes.
Hugo Blanco was a leader of the peasant uprising in the Cuzco region of Peru in the early 1960s. His book about the struggle, Land or Death, was published in English by Pathfinder Press in 1972. This mass upsurge, which led to armed clashes with the repressive forces of the regime, eventually led to vast changes in the Peruvian countryside, including an extensive agrarian reform. Here Blanco recounts the story of how the indigenous movement brought about the destruction of the brutal, semi-feudal system of landholding and exploitation of the indigenous population known as Gamonalismo.
The Peruvian socialist leader José Carlos Mariátegui was the first to offer a Marxist appreciation of Gamonalismo and of the vital role the indigenous people had to play in the struggle for national liberation in Latin America. In his 1928 book Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality Mariátegui dedicated a chapter to this question, titled “The Problems of the Indian,” from which Blanco also takes the title of his article. Mariátegui wrote:
“The term Gamonalismo designates more than just a social and economic category: that of the latifundistas or large landowners. It signifies a whole phenomenon. Gamonalismo is represented not only by the gamonales but by a long hierarchy of officials, intermediaries, agents, parasites, et cetera. The literate Indian who enters the service of Gamonalismo turns into an exploiter of his own race. The central factor of the phenomenon is the hegemony of the semi-feudal landed estate in the policy and mechanism of the government. Therefore, it is this factor that should be acted upon if the evil is to be attacked at its roots and not merely observed in its temporary or subsidiary manifestations.” [www.ilstu.edu/class/hist127/docs/jcmindio.html]
Following the military suppression of the Cuzco upsurge, Blanco was imprisoned and tortured. Only a massive international defence campaign, which won the support of such outstanding figures as Ernesto Che Guevara, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean Paul Sartre, saved his life. He was forced into exile, spending time in Mexico and Chile. Fleeing from the Pinochet coup in Chile, Blanco then found exile in Sweden. During that second exile Canadian socialists, who had played a significant role in the international defence campaign of the sixties, organized a successful cross-Canada speaking tour for Blanco in 1976.
Upon his return to Peru Blanco was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1978 and later to the National Parliament under the banner of the United Left movement.
Hugo Blanco remains today an outstanding voice of the campesino and indigenous movements in Peru, and is a leader of the Federation of Campesinos of Cuzco. He is a member of the editorial board of Sin Permiso.
Blanco’s most recent writings have stressed the strategic importance of the rise of indigenous consciousness and militancy to the mounting anti-imperialist struggles in the hemisphere – a question that is poorly understood on the international left.
In a September 2006 article “Progress of the indigenous movement against the system,” also published in Sin Permiso, Blanco explained that “[t]he indigenous movement is in the vanguard, not in the sweeping sense that it must guide the rest of the oppressed people (each social sector will be its own guide, each of them forging its own leadership through its own struggles); it is the vanguard in the narrow sense that it is the most advanced sector in the struggle against the system and in the building of an alternative organization for society. Against neoliberal individualism, the collectivism of the ‘ayllu’” [the indigenous communal form of social and economic organization].
In other articles Blanco has also stressed the critical role of the victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia and the rise of indigenous struggles in Ecuador.
The “Indian Problem” in Peru: From Mariátegui to Today
by Hugo Blanco
March 4, 2007
I was invited last month by a heroic community to the commemoration of a massacre of campesinos [peasants] who were fighting for land, and who, at the cost of their blood, were able to pass it on to those that work it. The recreation of the massacre was very moving.
I recalled the phrase that was stuck in the mind of Mariátegui: “The problem of the Indian is the problem of land.”
That was the terrible truth. Now it no longer is so.
Before the Invasion
Before the European invasion, across the entire continent of Abya Yala (America), individual ownership of land did not exist. The people lived on it collectively.
Unlike in Europe, the development of agriculture and cattle grazing in America did not lead to the emergence of slavery; instead primitive collectivism gave way to other forms of collectivism as privileged layers and privileged people arose. Some forms of slavery may have existed for domestic work, but agricultural production was not based on slavery as it was in Greece or Rome. Rather it was based on collective organization, called by different names in the various cultures (ayllu en Quechua, calpulli en Nahuatl).
The European invasion led to the imposition of semi-feudal servitude. The land was stolen from indigenous communities, and the new owners allowed the serfs to use small parcels of land, who had to pay for that concession by working a few days a week on the best land — on the “property” of the latifundista [large landowner], and for his benefit.
This was the central feature of servitude, but more was involved. The indigenous people also had to “pay” with cattle for feeding on the natural grass that “pertained” to the property. The landowner’s cattle was looked after by indigenous people – in return, as “payment,” they received the right to pasture a few head of cattle of their own. The campesinos were arbirarily sent to go by foot through rain and wind for days, to haul loads of products from the “hacienda” to the cities and returning with urban products for the hacienda. Pongueaje and semanería were terms for the forms of domestic service that campesinos had to carry out in the house of the owner.
There were many other obligations, made up according to the imagination of the master. He was the judge, he owned the jails, he arrested whomever he pleased, he physically mistreated someone whenever he felt like it (Bartolomé Paz, a landowner, branded the backside of an indigenous person with hot iron.) Murders were committed with impunity, and so on.
In Peru, the revolution for independence broke the chains of direct political domination by Europe, but economic dependence was maintained, to the benefit of foreign interests, firstly European and then later Yankee. The latifundio (large estate) system also continued with the implicit suppression of indigenous peoples and the descendents of African slaves.
That oppressive latifundio system, and all the servility it brought with it, began to collapse with the insurgency of the La Convención movement of the 1960s. The indigenous peoples of this country who lived through those times did not struggle in vain; even today, in spite of the many forms of oppression that they still suffer, they can say, “Now we are free!”
End of the Hacienda
The high prices obtained for exportable products from the semi-tropical zone of Cuzco gave an incentive to the gamonalismo serrano [the ruthless landlord system of the mountain areas] to usurp the land from the communities in the Amazon region. Because the people from the Amazon area refused to be forced into servitude, the landlords moved in campesinos from the mountain areas, who were used to such treatment.
The system of oppression was the same as that in the mountains; but it was exercised in a more forceful manner — in this area the “law,” that provided some slight protection in the mountain areas, did not exist.
The immigrant campesinos suffered due to the climate, illnesses, and unfamiliar food. Large numbers died due to malaria. Work was hard, because they first had to clear the forest before they could start their plantations. Unlike products from the mountain areas, their crops — cocoa, coffee, coca, tea, fruit-bearing trees — could only be harvested once a year.
The greedy landowners demanded ever more workdays per month, while the campesinos who needed time to cultivate their own products in order to earn any money, sought to reduce the days spent working for the landowners.
In the mountain areas, centuries of exploitation gave the system some protection of custom, but they were challenged on the edge of the jungle areas where this form of exploitation was new. Unions, organized by the Federation of Workers of Cuzco, demanded a reduction in the obligations of campesinos to their bosses. They used lawyers to present their claims.
There was some push and shove between landowners and campesinos, some pacts were signed in which the landowners ceded a bit.
But not all the landowners accepted the agreements. The most ferocious would say: “Who came up with this crazy idea that I should discuss with my Indians how they will serve me? I am going to boot out the ringleaders and put them in jail!” And that is what they did, using their close ties with the judicial power, the political power, the police, and the media.
The multiplication of unions strengthened the campesinos. By mobilizing they were able to impede “legal” evictions and get their compañeros [comrades] out of jail. When there was no discussion on the list of demands, the campesinos initiated strikes demanding an agreement. The strikes consisted off not working for the landowners and working on their own parcel of land instead. In that way the campesinos did not suffer as a result of the strikes, as workers or employees do, but rather enjoyed it.
In 1962, after 9 months on strike, we unanimously decided in an assembly of unions from Chaupimayo that, since the owner did not want to discuss with us, we would drop our demand for negotiations. On that day, the strike ended and became an “Agrarian Reform.” We decided we would never return to working for the owners, since they had no right to the land — they had not come carrying the land on their shoulders.
The strikes extended across more than 100 haciendas which, though not as explicitly as in Chaupimayo, but rather in an implicit form, produced an agrarian reform in the valleys of La Convención and Lares, carried out by the campesinos themselves.
The landowners went around armed, threatening the campesinos. When the campesinos complained to the police, they responded: “What do you shameless Indians want? You are robbing land from the owner and he has the right to shoot you like dogs!” So the campesinos had to organize themselves into self-defense groups and they selected me to set them up. Afterwards, the government of the landowners ordered repression against us. They persecuted me. They prohibited the assemblies of the federation. And they began to carry out acts of aggression against campesinos, including the gunning down of an 11-year old child by a landowner. An assembly of four unions ordered me to lead an armed group to bring the landowner to account. Along the way we could not avoid an armed confrontation with the police, where a police officer fell. Later two more fell in another clash. The police massacred unarmed campesinos. After a few months our group was dispersed and its members captured.
Nevertheless, the armed resistance alarmed those in the military that were in the government. They thought: “If these Indians have resisted the commencement of the repression with arms, this zone will burn when we try to oblige them to return to work for the landowners, which they haven’t done for a number of months. It would be preferable to legally recognize what the Indians have done, and thereby pacify the zone”.
And that is how the law of Agrarian Reform for La Convención and Lares came into being in 1962.
It is true that this helped bring calm to the area, but it lit up the rest of the country, because the campesinos from other zones said: “Is it because we have not taken up arms that they have not given us land?”
Land occupations were initiated in the mountains, including in the department of Lima. The president of the landowners, Belaúnde, responded with massacres like that of Solterapampa, which I mentioned at the start. Those in the military remained worried that the obsolete semi-feudal haciendas would provoke an expansion of the movement. Given the experience that they had in La Convención, they decided to take power and expand to the whole country what they did in that zone. In 1968, Velasco Alvarado took power and extended the Agrarian Reform at a national level. The official lack of respect towards the indigenous community apalled the campesinos, but the latifundio, the feudal landed-estate system imported from Europe, was buried.
That is how the axis of the indigenous problem moved away from being a problem of land. Oppression continued, but in other diverse aspects, which were derived from the land problem.
The indigenous struggle continued and continues combating all forms of oppression and achieving advances:
Education: In the era of the latifundio the indigenous population did not have a right to education, despite what the law said. In the midst of the struggle against the latifundio, schools with teachers paid collectively by the campesinos of an area who also constructed the schools, began to appear. (The landowner Romainville kidnapped a teacher and took her as a cook. The landowner Marques ordered the destruction of a school whilst students where still inside; the children fled frightened). After the victory over the latifundio came the struggle that won the right to have schools paid for by the state, and secondary education was implemented. Now there exist professionals who are children of indigenous campesinos.
Healthcare: In this aspect as well, the indigenous campesino sector created sanitary posts with their own resources, and later managed to get the state to maintain them.
The illiterate did not have the right to vote; now they do.
Municipalities: In the era of gamonalismo, it was unimaginable that there could be an indigenous campesino mayor. Now there are a number of municipalities governed by them, some more democratic than others.
There are indigenous people in parliament.
Public order and justice: in many places there has been a partial substitution of the judicial power and corrupt police by organized campesinos.
There is a permanent struggle against corrupt authorities.
Probably the most important struggle today is against contamination from mining.
Neoliberalism attacks campesino products through low prices. There is a resurgence of huge landed estates, no longer in a semi-feudal form, but rather capitalist, with paid workers. The struggle encompasses all aspects of indigenous oppression: social organization, language, medicine, music, customs, native foods, coca etc.
History, seen with the hindsight of decades, shows us that with the breakdown of the system of semi-feudal servitude denounced by Mariátegui, the floodgates were opened for the indigenous struggle across all fields.
Socialist Voice Introduction
Below is the final declaration of the III Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala — “From resistance to power” — that took place March 26 to 30 in Iximche’, Guatemala. Abya Yala is an indigenous name for North and South America taken from the language of the Kuna people of Panama, and has been widely accepted since first introduced to an earlier continental gathering in 1992.
Iximche’ is a sacred Maya site and main city of the Kaqchikel Maya people. US President George W. Bush visited the Mayan Iximche’ temple during his Latin American tour two weeks prior to the indigenous Summit. Hence, an important aspect of Mayan preparations for the continental gathering was a special spiritual ceremony to drive off his bad spirits and cleanse the site.
Over two thousand delegates from 24 countries (and definitely more First Nations) participated in the gathering. Conference planners launched a bilingual Spanish-English website to help plan and build the conference, and to promote its decisions and campaigns.
The Summit received very little coverage on mainstream wire services and media outlets.
Nor has the press of left, anti/imperialist, socialist, and workers movements in the Americas given it much coverage. This reflects a near chronic and lamentable failure to understand the pivotal role of indigenous struggles in the current anti/imperialist upsurge throughout Latin America, above all in Bolivia.
Many indigenous leaders think the Summit registers an advance for indigenous peoples in the hemisphere because it took on frontally question of political power, as signalled in main theme “From Resistance to Power” and in the following point from the final declaration:
“To consolidate the processes now in effect to strengthen the re-foundation of the government states and the construction of pluri-national states and pluri-cultural societies via Constituent Assemblies with direct representation of the Indigenous Pueblos and Nations.”
This issue is pivotal in at least four countries — Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Guatemala, with Bolivia being the most advanced expression of indigenous power and struggle for liberation.
Of course, the political gains signalled by the third continental Summit build on the achievements of previous discussions and gatherings.
The evolution of this broad and varied discussion shows that indigenous fighters have been grappling with many of the same problems as other oppressed and exploited sectors – questions such as the debate over “from below versus from above” strategies for changing the system; or how to prevent participation in electoral processes from undermining the enduring strength of the movement which is in the streets and the communities, in grassroots mobilizations, and struggles around concrete demands.
Miguel Quispe, a key Summit organizer and representative of Peru’s indigenous nations on the recently created Continental Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Nations and Peoples of Abya Yala, told reporters from the Buenos Aires daily Página 12 that “decisions are not taken in mobilizations, but in governments (states). We must keep in mind that we have to build a different kind of power, an alternative power to confront the crisis in our countries. Linking up with unions, social movements, teachers, students, the Church, will help us to build an all-inclusive political movement.”
And Juana Quispe, a member of the Bolivian parliament for the MAS [Movement for Socialism] reinforced his point, arguing that “participation in politics and becoming authorities is a must. The people must become the government and perform well. Indigenous people are suffering but so are poor people in the cities. We must unite with them against the Yankee military, political and economic apparatus, and the transnationals” (La Cumbre indígena, Diego González and Lucía Alvarez, Página 12, April 1, 2007, SV translation)
Marc Becker, a Latin America historian and a founder of NativeWeb, writes that:
“[f]or an Indigenous summit, the declaration is perhaps notable for its lack of explicit ethnic discourse. Instead, it spoke of struggles against neoliberalism and for food sovereignty. On one hand, this pointed to the Indigenous movement’s alignment with broader popular struggles in the Americas. On the other, it demonstrated a maturation of Indigenous ideologies that permeate throughout the human experience. Political and economic rights were focused through a lens of Indigenous identity, with a focus on concrete and pragmatic actions. For example, in justifying the declaration’s condemnation of the construction of a wall on the United States/Mexico border, Tonatierra’s Tupac Enrique Acosta declared that nowhere in the Americas could Indigenous peoples be considered immigrants because colonial borders were imposed from the outside.” (Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples Meets in Guatemala).
Strong winds from the indigenous victory in Bolivia prevailed at the Iximche’ gathering. This was appreciated not only by delegates from South and Mesoamerica, but also from north of the Rio Bravo.
Joe Kennedy, a delegate from the Western Shoshone Nation (United States), messaged his community that “The III Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala marks a new phase in the relationship between the nations of Indigenous Peoples and the government states of the Americas. One of the most telling examples of this fact is the presence of the minister of foreign relations for the Bolivian government, Mr. David Choquehuanca who on Monday addressed the inaugural session of the Summit Abya Yala in representation of President Evo Morales of Bolivia. President Morales himself is scheduled to arrive at the Summit Abya Yala on Friday to attend the official closure of the five day gathering.” (As it turned out Morales was unable to attend the conference closing rally, as planned, but sent a written message.)
Kennedy, a Western Shoshone National Council member, established a diplomatic precedent for the hemisphere by entering the Maya Territories (Guatemala) using his Western Shoshone passport. (see http://pwgd.mayfirst.org/western-shoshone-at-continental-indigenous-summit/).
Further information about the Summit can also be found on the Tonatierra site.
Phil Cournoyer, Managua
III Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala
Declaration of Iximche’
From resistance to power!
We the children of the Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of the continent, self convened and gathered at the III Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala realized in Iximche’, Guatemala the days of Oxlajuj Aq’abal, thirteen powers of the Spirit of the Dawn (26th of March) to Kají Kej, four powers of the Spirit of the Deer (30th of March, 2007):
We hereby affirm the Declaration of Teotihuacan (Mexico, 2000), the Declaration of Kito (Ecuador, 2004) and ratify our millennial principles of complementarity, reciprocity and duality, as well as the struggle for our territories in order to preserve our Mother Nature and the autonomy and self-determination of our Indigenous Peoples. We announce the continental resurgence of the Pachacutic (the return) along with the closure of Oxlajuj Baq’tun (long count of 5,200 years) and as we approach the door of the new Baq’tun, we journey together to make of Abya Yala a “land full of life”.
We have survived centuries of colonization and now face the imposition of the policies of neo-liberalism that perpetuates the dispossession and sacking of our territories, the domination of all of social space and ways of life of the Indigenous Peoples, causing the degradation of our Mother Nature as well as poverty and migration by way of the systematic intervention in the sovereignty of our Nations by transnational companies in complicity with the government states.
In preparation to face and confront the challenges of the new times upon us, we now determine:
To commit to the process of alliance among our indigenous nations, and among our indigenous nations and the movements for social justice of the continent that would allow us to collectively confront the policies of neo-liberalism and all forms of oppression.
To make accountable the government states for the ongoing dispossession of our territories and the extinction of the indigenous peoples of the continent, due to impunity for the transnational corporations and their genocidal practices, as well as the lack of political will on the part of the United Nations in not advancing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and failure to guarantee the full respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
To ratify the ancestral and historical rights to our territories and the common resources of Mother Nature, reaffirming the inalienable character of these rights as being non-negotiable, unquantifiable, without impediment, and unrenounceable even to the cost of our lives.
To consolidate the processes now in effect to strengthen the re-foundation of the government states and the construction of pluri-national states and pluri-cultural societies via Constituent Assemblies with direct representation of the Indigenous Pueblos and Nations.
To advance in the exercise of our right of autonomy and self determination as Indigenous Peoples, in spite of the lack of legal recognition by the government states.
To ratify our rejection of the Free Trade Agreements (FTA’s) that make vulnerable the sovereignty of our Pueblos and to remain vigilant against similar intentions to implement new commercial agreements.
To reaffirm our decision to defend the nutritional sovereignty and struggle against the trans-genetic invasion, convoking all peoples of the world to join this struggle in order to guarantee our future.
To ratify the struggle for the democratization of communication and the implementation of public policies that contemplate specific applications for indigenous peoples and the promotion of inter-culturality.
To alert the indigenous peoples regarding the policies of the Inter American Development Bank, the World Bank and organizations of the like that penetrate our communities with actions of assistance and cooptation whose aim is the fragmentation of autonomous and legitimate indigenous organizations.
For the well being of the Indigenous Peoples, we now decide:
To demand of the international financial institutions and the government states the cancellation of policies that promote concessions for the extractive industries (mining, oil, forestry, natural gas and water) from our indigenous territories.
To condemn the policies of exclusion of President Bush and the government of the United States demonstrated in the act of construction of the wall along the border with Mexico while at the same time attempting to expropriate the common resources of our Mother Nature of all the peoples of Abya Yala by implementing expansionist plans and acts of war.
To condemn the intolerant attitude of the government states that do not recognize the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular those which have not ratified nor guaranteed the application of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization.
To condemn the imposter and terrorist democracies implemented by the neoliberal governments, which results in the militarization of our indigenous territories and the criminalization of our legitimate indigenous struggle and the movements for social justice throughout Abya Yala.
In order to enact these words and realize our dreams, from resistance to power:
We constitute ourselves as the Continental Coordinator of Indigenous Pueblos and Nations of Abya Yala, creating a permanent vehicle of linkage and interchange, in order to converge our experiences and proposals, so that together we can confront the neo-liberal policies of globalization and to struggle for the definitive liberation of our indigenous Pueblos and Nations, of the mother earth, of our territories, of the waters, and entirety of our natural patrimony in order that we may all live well.
In this process we delineated the following actions:
To fortify the organizational processes and struggle of the Indigenous Peoples with the full participation of our women, children and young people.
To convene a Continental Summit of Indigenous Women of Abya Yala and a Continental Summit of the Children, Adolescents and Youth of the Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala.
To convoke a continental mobilization of Indigenous Peoples to save Mother Nature from the disasters caused by capitalism, manifested by global warming, to be realized on the 12th of October of 2007.
To actively engage the diplomatic mission of the Indigenous Peoples to defend and to guarantee the rights of our Indigenous Pueblos and Nations.
To endorse the candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize of our brother Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia.
To demand the decriminalization of the coca leaf. “We have dreamt our past and we remember our future”
Iximche’, Guatemala, March 30, 2007.