SPEECH BY COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF FIDEL CASTRO TO THE MASS RALLY AT MANDELA PARK, KINGSTON, JAMAICA, JULY 30, 1998
The Honorable Prime Minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson;
Honorable Mayor of Kingston;
People of Jamaica:
I must try-although I do not always succeed-to be brief (Laughter) but after such beautiful songs, such excellent dances, such friendly words offering me the key to the city, and then the warm and generous speech of our brother Patterson, considering the time and the hour, I should reduce by about four-fifths the things I would like to say here. (From the crowd someone shouts "All night!") (Laughter.)
First of all I would like to say that I am really moved. In the first place, I am impressed by the noble person whose picture presides over this rally, that brilliant and extraordinary leader, a real fortress who in 27 years never surrendered and never wavered, a symbol of freedom for Africa and the world: Nelson Mandela (Shouts and applause).
I am also moved by the noble words expressed about our people and their selfless and altruistic efforts in the struggle against apartheid.
Things were said here about our nation and our people inspired by this struggle which really accelerated, let us say, hastened the end of apartheid. I say this because apartheid could not last forever, and it would not have lasted forever. But it had to be contended and it had to be defeated as soon as possible (Applause), as one of the greatest outrages inflicted on humanity.
Cuba's efforts have been mentioned but there are many other things I must say about Jamaica's efforts.
I would like to recall that Cuba was the last Spanish colony to obtain its independence at the end of the past century; furthermore, we were not able to really obtain that independence because, after our heroic 30-year struggle, the country had to suffer the intervention of a powerful neighbor which interfered when the colonial troops were exhausted and occupied it for four years. When they finally conceded us our alleged independence, they imposed an amendment to our Constitution-known as the Platt Amendment- giving the United States the right to interfere with Cuba's internal affairs and the right to possess coal bases; finally, they occupied one of the major bays in our country-almost facing Jamaica-and they turned it into a naval base: the Guantánamo Naval Base, a portion of our land and our waters they still occupy, as of this year, precisely a century later.
Jamaica and Cuba have waged very similar struggles. The first to arrive in both Cuba and Jamaica were the Spanish. The Spanish occupied this island about 140 or 150 years. You might still be speaking Spanish, which would be better for me, to be able to speak to you in the same language (Laughter); but the English stayed here about 300 years, so the language they left you was English. That's not bad, it's not bad that Jamaica and Cuba can speak Spanish and English, English and Spanish. It shows that languages do not separate and cannot separate peoples (Applause).
I can cite an example: our South African brothers asked us to send a few hundred medical doctors and now there are about 400 Cuban doctors there. They studied English and they were tested in English but they were sent to the villages of South Africa where the doctors who graduated under apartheid do not go with their medical knowledge and nobody speaks English in those villages. So our doctors quickly learned the dialect and they understand each other perfectly, they and those citizens who know no language other than their own dialect.
The difference in languages does not prevent cooperation as shown in Patterson's remarks about the cooperation you provide us, and in a sense we also provide you, in the field of dancing. The possibility of cooperation exists in many fields, independent of language.
I was saying that our histories have been very similar. When the indigenous population was exterminated working in the gold mines or as slaves in the fields, the colonialists, in their insatiable greed, went after the Africans whom they captured and transported to this hemisphere to be enslaved. Such a horrible crime: fathers taken away from their children, from their wives; children forcibly separated from their parents, human beings violently torn from their families and villages to carry them in shackles thousands of miles away. That was what slavery meant.
In other words, the discovery of America and the conquest of this hemisphere was accompanied by the revival of slavery, something which belonged to centuries past, to Greek and Roman times.
Twelve million Africans, according to conservative estimates, were snatched from that continent and used here as slaves, doing the hardest, most unbearable work and in the most inhumane conditions conceivable. They were brought mainly to the Caribbean, the southern United States and Brazil, twelve million of them.
Now, what does history tell us? That the first to fight for freedom and independence in this hemisphere were the African slaves (Applause).
It is well known in history that the first independent nation in the years following the French Revolution was Haiti, the result of a slave uprising; Haitian slaves defeated one of the best military leaders and one of the boldest armies of Napoleon Bonaparte. But, in 1760, even before the slave uprising in Haiti-more than thirty years earlier-there were slave revolts in Jamaica.
I don't remember any similar episode in history, and it is very good to recall it to understand the sources of the independence and freedom we defend today. (Applause).
Again, in 1795, important slave uprisings took place in Jamaica. Moreover, the freed slaves of Haiti made a considerable contribution to the independence of South America.
The independence wars of South America began around 1912, led initially by Miranda and, along with Miranda, a brilliant and gifted young man named Simón Bolívar (Applause). Miranda and Simón Bolívar were defeated by the colonial forces, the former sent to England as a prisoner, the latter leaving Venezuela and returning victorious shortly thereafter to re-establish the republic, but the emancipation of slaves had not been decreed yet.
Likewise, in the United States, the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in 1776, as recalled today by a group of friends. In the Constitution it reads that it is a self-evident truth that all men are born with a right to freedom and equality -I'm not quoting literally. We hold, they said, that all human beings are born free and equal, and all are endowed by the Creator with certain rights, etc., etc., etc.
I used this paragraph in my defense at the trial in Moncada to set forth the principle of the inalienable rights of every human being and our right to rebel against oppression and tyranny (Applause.) Nevertheless, it wasn't until 1860, almost a century later, that, in the midst of a violent war, the emancipation of the slaves in the United States was proclaimed. Until then they were not considered free and equal, they were not even considered human beings. And we all know the consequences of slavery which still persist in that country, more than a century after formal emancipation.
Again, I say that the Jamaicans showed the course, and the freed slaves of Haiti helped Bolívar-the Liberator of the Americas. They supplied him with weapons, and moreover, they raised the problem of slavery, they asked Bolívar to free the slaves in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America. This was taking place between 1812 and 1820.
Now, as a result of the struggles by Jamaicans and Haitians, the English, as early as 1807-if my memory doesnt fail me-suspended the traffic, what they called the slave trade, and in 1834 proclaimed emancipation; the same you will be celebrating on August 1, very close to that other historical date, August 6, Jamaican Independence Day (Applause).
But the suspension of slave trade and the emancipation of slavery by the English was no accident, it was related to the heroic struggles of the slaves in Jamaica, and the slaves in Haiti and other Caribbean islands.
I am not going to speak here-for it was already recalled by one of the artists-of what continued to happen after emancipation, but I would like to tell you one thing: while slavery was legally abolished in Jamaica, it remained in Cuba. Do you know when slavery was abolished in Cuba? Half a century after the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, actually fifty-two years later! In our country slavery existed until 1886 when it was abolished, removed, after a long heroic war by Cubans struggling for their independence, a war which began in 1868. During that time hundreds of thousands of white, black and mulatto countrymen died for the cause of independence. The slaves and their descendants played a decisive role.
Then came the century which is now coming to an end. A Revolution took place in Cuba, which brought to the country its final independence while the people of Jamaica continued struggling because they were still a colony although slavery no longer existed. When in the second half of the previous century we were struggling there against colonialism and slavery, here in Jamaica, where slavery no longer existed, there were great anti-colonial revolutionary movements. I am thinking of the rebellions at Morante Bay, so brutally repressed.
The struggle did not cease, however, for more than half of the present century. Neither emancipation nor independence came as a gift to the Jamaican people. In the thirties, when the great crisis in Cuba gave way to the revolutionary struggle of the unions, the workers and all the people demanding their social, political and economic rights, a similar movement took place in Jamaica, under complete colonial domination. After all, we were a semi-colony of the United States and Jamaica was still a British Colony. That situation could not continue, the people of Jamaica were finally able to gain their independence. Then, in the forties, the first Constitution was established, still under a colonial regime. It was not until 1962, that Jamaica could declare its definitive independence.
You can see the historical similarities of Jamaica and Cuba. We are not only linked by geography, but also by history (Applause). That is why yesterday and today we remember the heroes. Patterson mentioned their names: Sharpe, Garvey (Applause), Bogle, Gordon and others, among them an extraordinary woman combatant. This is the history we should teach our peoples, the people of Jamaica, the peoples of the Caribbean, the people of Cuba and the peoples of The Americas (Applause) because, as Patterson said, these are our roots.
Also slavery came at a high price in history; slavery brought about in Cuba a movement for annexation to the United States because the slave holders were for the most part Creoles -we use the word Creole to mean Cuban descendants of Spaniards. Fearful of slave revolts or the abolition of slavery, they wanted to join the slave owners in the United States, who were very interested in this proposal, both for the sake of expansionism and because it would give them two more senators in Congress to support their positions against the abolitionist movement.
So when Patterson just spoke of our people noble efforts toward the liberation of Africa, I remembered that our struggle in that field began very early. First it was political, along with Nkrumah, Sekou Touré, Nasser and other leaders. Later, as the last colonies were struggling for their independence, it changed into support for the armed movements in those countries which were still colonized, such as Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Angola and Mozambique, although in the latter, farther from Cuba, our support was primarily political. After the assassination of Lumumba, we also supported the armed struggle of the people in Congo against white mercenaries and traitors in the service of colonialism, actions that saw the participation of a small contingent of Cuban instructors and combatants led by our beloved comrade Ernesto Che Guevara (Applause). What did we do but pay our debt to humanity, our debt to Africa and our debt to those who struggled for our dignity, those who struggled for our independence in so many battlefields? This is what we have done. We deserve no special recognition, no special thanks; we were merely fulfilling our duty.
In our struggle against apartheid, or against the soldiers of apartheid who occupied Namibia and constantly attacked Angola, our country ran great risks. However, our support to Angola we did offer on our own, it was a completely spontaneous action by Cuba (Applause); first the instructors, and then, at a given moment, when we had a few hundred instructors there training the young recruits, and the South Africans were rapidly advancing with elite armored troops toward Luanda while the army of Mobutu-a man notoriously famous for his service to imperialism-approached from the north to shatter the independence of Angola, we felt obligated to send complete units, thousands of men, tens of thousands of men.
In 1975 and 1976, 35,000 Cuban combatants were concentrated in Angola (Applause). There was no alternative. Once a struggle begins there is no choice other than victory or death (Applause); hesitation invites defeat. Therefore, without consulting anyone, we sent troops, complete units, as I explained.
The first troops arrived in our planes, old Britannia turboprops with more than 20 years of service and few spare parts, and they stopped the South Africans (Applause). They were stopped, but then they had to be chased out of Angola, since they had penetrated nearly a thousand kilometers into Angolan territory.
The Angolans had no army yet; recently independent, they were still organizing, still training, still preparing for war.
Therefore it was necessary to make a great effort; it was necessary to gain time. Enough troops were gathered to repel the South Africans, forcing them to retreat to the Namibian border. This was in 1976. Yet, when the Cuban troops began progressively withdrawing once the war was over, South African attacks were resumed along the border, including massacres and air raids against Namibian refugee communities. Hundreds of women and children were killed in some of the attacks. One of the massacres that should never be forgotten was at Cassinga, where more than 500 people were slaughtered, mainly children, women and the elderly. The children who survived were later educated in our country (Applause).
Not only did South African troops intervene in Angola, but other forces as well. A dirty war was unleashed and bands were created throughout the country to destabilize the government. I can assure you that those bands murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians, mind you, hundreds of thousands. They would arrive in a village and kill the entire population, men, women and children.
In a territory of more than a million square kilometers those weapons supplied by-and I am going to call a spade a spade-South Africa, Mobutu's Congo and our neighbors to the north were used. Even though I would not like to offend any State with which Jamaica maintains economic and diplomatic relations, I must mention the United States of America (Boos). Hundreds of thousands of mines were planted there by the enemies of the Angolan liberation, and hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on weapons and supplies for the counterrevolutionary bands.
That is the heroic struggle the Angolan people had to wage for 15 years. However, those young combatants who at first were not acquainted with the handling of weapons and the art of war became the excellent unbeatable soldiers that we know so well because we fought shoulder to shoulder with them against the army of apartheid (Applause).
But South Africa continued to intervene and we had a theory, different from that of certain advisors-I won't mention them but you can guess-who were in the headquarters advising offensives against distant targets in the southeast of Angola, against the bandits alleged leadership and their general headquarters, far from all sources of supplies, in sandy soil, such that when the Angolan soldiers advanced a long distance in that direction, using up their fuel and supplies, they ended up exhausting their forces and equipment. Then, the South Africans would close in with their tanks, their planes and their long-range artillery defeating Angolan units in absurdly poorly advised and ill-conceived military operations that we categorically opposed and did not participate in.
But even though I am telling the story very briefly, I should not omit one detail necessary for a better understanding (Laughter). The advisors, in case you did not guess, were Soviets who thought they were waging the Battle of Berlin, with Marshal Zhukok in command, thousands of tanks and 40,000 cannons. An academic mentality trained in the purest form of conventional warfare. They did not understand, nor could they understand the problems of the Third World, the setting of the struggle and the type of war that must be waged in that setting. When in 1976 the war was won, and the South African army was driven away from Angola, since victory has many fathers, then our Soviet friends became interested and decided to generously support the Angolans and supply them with weapons for the armed forces they were building.
Of course, we could use our army s weapons, but we had no way of supplying those needed by the Angolan army, and they needed many. We agreed that they would advise the Angolan General Staff. We trained combatants in schools, trained officers and defended with our troops-by then reduced to less than 20,000 men-the vast southern border from any attacks by South Africa. But whoever advises the General Staff and provides the weapons wields a lot of influence.
Today, at this meeting, I must say that we used to tell the Soviets: "If you want to advise the Angolans to carry out those offensives, you must forbid South Africa's interference." This we said over and over for three, four or five years, until there was a serious military crisis.
At that moment the South African army did not limit itself to attacking to destroy the offensive troops under Soviet advisory but decided to penetrate deeply into the territory and destroy the Republic of Angola. It was counting on the support of the bandits organized within the country for more than 12 years and this created a very complex situation.
It was at that moment that we had to make the most difficult decision, practically risking the life of the Revolution. We estimated what was necessary to stop South Africas interference and to finally defeat it. The decision was made to send from Cuba all troops and the equipment required. It was then that the famous battle of Cuito Cuanavale took place.
In that distant place, far from the supply bases and the positions defended by our forces deployed far in the West, Cuban reinforcements sent by air and land entered into action. They joined the Angolan troops who, in a very difficult and unequal battle but offering desperate resistance, were re-deploying towards the area where South Africa was trying to take control of an old strategic air base built by the Portuguese. We had to gain time to allow for the arrival of the equipment and weapons from Cuba in order to organize the main blow from the Southwest of Angola, in the direction of Namibia.
We had analyzed how many cannons were needed, how many tanks, soldiers, weapons, especially anti-aircraft weapons, including complete groups of ground-to-air rockets and fighter planes. Actually, many of the best weapons we had to defend Cuba from any attack were sent to Angola. They were sent in our ships, we used our merchant marine that was applied in those days to transporting weapons and troops. The total number of Cuban troops in Angola reached the figure of 55,000 in those critical months. Cuba was to be defended by our people and the rest of the weapons and units available. It still had millions of men and women ready to fight. But the internationalist troops in Angola would not be exposed to defeat nor would we let South Africa occupy the country.
We were monitored by our neighbors from satellites so we had to move the units by night, take them to the ports and ship them to Angola, a country farther from us than Moscow: 14 hours by plane to Luanda and at least 15 hours by plane from Havana to the south of Angola. But all the men were gathered, the Cuito Cuanavale trap had been set, and the racist troops were smashed against the Angolan and Cuban defense. While with our jabs-to use a boxing term-we kept them at a distance (Laughter), with our right uppercut we threatened to annihilate them.
How many men participated in the counter offensive on the border with Namibia, where the main South African barracks were located? Approximately 30,000 Angolan troops and 40,000 Cubans, 1,000 anti-aircraft weapons-we had to guarantee control of the air-hundreds of pieces of artillery, hundreds of armored vehicles and trucks, 600 tanks and all the combat planes available.
To this were added thousands of courageous and tireless combatants from Namibia.
The troops advanced. Our friends from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries refused to supply the ancillary fuel tanks for the Mig-23. In just weeks a new military airport had to be built near the Namibian border to expand the range of our planes and attain air supremacy, thanks to the expertise of our pilots who could fly at very low altitude. Under these conditions we took control of the water, with the dams that were on the border between Angola and Namibia and that supplied the enemy troops. A few short battles and a limited air strike were sufficient. The army of the apartheid regime did not take up the challenge.
We were happy with that, for a large battle could have cost thousands of casualties. But the accumulation of forces was so great; the defeat suffered in Cuito Cuanavale where the South African troops were smashed and demoralized before this unconquerable bastion was so huge; Angolans, Namibians and Cubans inspired so much respect with their heroic and resolute actions that peace negotiations were finally initiated. (Applause) Based on them, United Nations Resolution 435 was implemented acknowledging the independence of Namibia thus dealing the army of apartheid a stunning political, military and moral blow. This is the history I can relate to you. (Applause.)
Now, there is a detail, a very important thing that has yet to be investigated, and I say this today in Jamaica: South Africa had seven atomic bombs at that time.
We suspected as much. We were not sure but we took due precautions. Our troops advanced at night, with a large amount of anti-aircraft weapons, opening underground shelters in the sands of Southwest Angola and were solidly entrenched. They would advance in tactical groups of no more than 1,000 men, heavily equipped with different types of weapons, in different directions, at a convenient distance, always on the lookout for the enemys use of the nuclear weapon. Not long ago, after the demise of apartheid, the South African military admitted that at that moment they had seven nuclear bombs that we assume had about the same destructive capacity as those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
What does this mean? That in spite of their nuclear weapons, apartheid was defeated. This actually resulted from the combination of the struggle by the heroic people of South Africa, the spirit implanted by Mandela, the support of world public opinion and, in no small measure, the noble and altruistic actions of Angolans and Cubans. Those actions that today the Western world, so often complacent about apartheid, would not even like to remember.
We had reached a conclusion: since there were no large concentrations of troops and based on the measures taken and the high morale of these men, if they used nuclear weapons against Angolan and Cuban troops, even if their planes were able to make it through and hit with certain precision some targets, the damage would have been considerably reduced. And what was apartheid to do afterwards with their nuclear weapons? Would they be used against the African people in South Africa? Not even with those weapons could apartheid be sustained!
Scientists have confessed to other horrible violations before the commission investigating the truth about crimes committed in South Africa. Something we would have never imagined: the apartheid scientists were developing biological weapons, diseases that would affect the black population but would be harmless for the white population of South Africa. We really would never have been able to imagine anything like this and we would never have known if the scientists had not confessed that they were conducting this research to annihilate the black population.
Apartheid was much worse, much crueler, much more reactionary, much more racist and much more fascist than what has been said. That is the truth.
Everything happened as I have said. I must add, Jamaican brothers, that for 15 years more than 500,000 Cuban combatants fulfilled internationalist missions, mostly in Africa, given that the troops rotated. This is proof of the spirit of solidarity of our people. We stood to gain in conscience, in spirit as we had not gone there for economic gains.
Amilcar Cabral, who as many of you might remember was the leader of PAIG -the Independence Party of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau- assassinated by mercenaries, he said something that greatly honors our people: When the Cubans return home they will only take with them the remains of their comrades killed in combat.
We do not have a single investment, a single factory there; we did not go after mean economic interests. That is what happened (Applause) and if we have felt in the need to talk about it its because this subject was touched upon here with extraordinarily generous words for Cuba. I must confess that I was moved as I listened to this tribute to our dead.
Comrade Patterson, we have fulfilled our duty and we are the ones who must thank our African ancestors, those who struggled here in Jamaica as well as in Cuba where there were also significant slaves revolts at the beginning of the past century.
We are the ones who must thank the world, and Africa, for what they have done for us.
It is good to know, and to be able to declare it today, that the best friends of Cuba are the Caribbeans and the Africans (Applause). They are Cuba's best friends! Many are the demonstrations of friendship and solidarity they have shown us!
I must recall-I cannot but do this- that when all Latin America, except Mexico, severed relations with Cuba and became accomplices to all the aggressions against our country and to the economic blockade-all this happened before the independence of Jamaica and before the independence of the other CARICOM nations-our country was totally isolated in this hemisphere.
I repeat, with the exception of Mexico and the also honorable exception of Canada, every other government had severed relations with Cuba, supporting the isolation, the blockade and the economic aggressions against Cuba. They were accomplices of those who tried to, literally, destroy us. It was in the Caribbean region where the initiative to struggle against this isolation and blockade was born.
Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana were the first in this offensive (Applause), to which we must add the Panama of Omar Torrijos who was then struggling for the return of the Canal. That movement led the way, long before the defeat of apartheid. That is, the Caribbean solidarity with Cuba is not related to the history I have just recounted to you, all that would come later. Much earlier, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries had undertaken to put an end to Cuba's isolation and today the great majority of Latin American countries have consular or diplomatic relations with Cuba.
That is another reason, Comrade Patterson, why we should thank Jamaica and the CARICOM nations.
But, there is still more. Why do we belong today to the Association of Caribbean States? Thanks to Jamaica (Applause), to Michael Manley (Applause) whose memory we shall always cherish with gratitude because they struggled hard to defeat Cuba's isolation and they made it possible for us to become members of the Association of Caribbean States, made up of 34 states.
Something else: it was precisely thanks to Jamaica and the Caribbean countries that Cuba was able to take part in the meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, with 71 member states, parties to the Lomé Convention.
The 71 ACP countries signatories to the Lomé Convention supported the presence of our Minister of Foreign Affairs at a meeting held recently in Barbados where we were accepted as observers and where this was debated with the Europeans. Also, a number of European nations, among them Spain, France and Italy, together with the Caribbean countries, persuaded the rest of the European Union to accept Cuba as an observer in the proceedings for a new Lomé Convention.
And these are not the only reasons: There, in that famous [Hemispheric] Summit, who were the ones that spoke most emphatically and resolutely against the isolation of Cuba, against Cuba's absence from the Summit held in Santiago de Chile? The Caribbean countries. They raised their voices without hesitation and in the purest of English.
Who were the ones who, in a meeting with the President of the United States-I think it was in Saint Lucia-strongly protested against the cruel blockade of our country that seeks to kill our people through hunger and diseases and tries to prevent our development? The Caribbean countries were the ones who in English, in perfect English worthy of the Jamaican girl who was among the first in the international English language contest, spoke to Clinton. And who spoke to him in Africa? Many Africans did. But, who was it that face to face with him pointed an accusing finger, full of prestige and fairness, to the President of the United States of America while criticizing the policy of blockade against Cuba? It was Nelson Mandela.
That is why we feel this sisterhood with the Caribbean and African nations, that is why we feel so grateful. But we also feel this brotherhood with the rest of the countries of the world, especially with the people of the Third World. And still much earlier we had politically backed for many years and supported with supplies from our sugar production and the training of technicians and doctors, the heroic people of Vietnam in their exemplary struggle against the unjustifiable aggression of the United States.
We have in much the same way backed other peoples in the world, and even though we may have bitter complaints about the behavior of many Latin American governments-not the peoples that have always showed solidarity towards Cuba-we also defend their cause as exploited countries, as countries that were kept in poverty and underdevelopment, that were plundered. We forget our grievances, and in the United Nations and the international fora, we also defend the interests of Latin America in the same way that we firmly uphold the right of Caribbean countries to participation because, all throughout history in this century, there have been attempts to ignore these countries and the Caribbean countries cannot and will not be ignored in this hemisphere, or in Europe, or anywhere in the world.
Jamaica and the Caribbean can rely on Cuba in every battle waged for their legitimate rights to prosperity and development. We are among the first to oppose any measure within the World Trade Organization aimed at suppressing the preferential rights and privileges that certain small countries, such as the Caribbean, have acquired to allow them to progress amidst their geographic dispersion and difficulties.
I shall not talk about these problems today. I have taken too much of your time. But I do say here, Comrade Patterson, and I say this today to my Jamaican comrades, brothers and sisters, that wherever this country or any Caribbean country defends a just cause, Cuba will stand by them! (Applause.) We shall never agree to deprive the Caribbean countries of the preferences they enjoy in the Lomé Convention, the right to receive these preferences and favorable conditions, in compliance with their natural difficulties, levels of development and their aspirations for a better future.
It is not a contradiction between Cuba and the Latin American countries. It's just that it seems unfair to us to try to snatch away modest quotas and markets that hardly amount to one percent of the world market from small islands growing only a few hundred and, in some cases, a few thousand hectares of banana devastated every time they are hit by a hurricane, and hurricanes are frequent in our region. All this for the benefit of two or three big and rich American transnationals that monopolize the banana market.
If we want a fair world, if we want a just international economic order, those preferences must be maintained. Countries with different levels of development can't be given the same treatment. Such concept is unacceptable. It's not fair.
It's not humane. There are dozens and dozens of countries struggling to develop in very difficult conditions and they should be given preferential treatment. There shouldn't be and we shouldn't allow tabula rasa.
When all is said and done, if we look at the statistical data and analyze it in depth, we can see a lot of things related to specific international agreements.
For example, for the Caribbean countries, the international agreements of NAFTA have already meant the loss of more than 100,000 jobs and over 150 factories of manufactured goods. This is a reality. Now they want to remove the preferences I mentioned. They also want to unilaterally change the telephone charges. Whatever crosses their minds, they try to apply to the detriment of our peoples. That is why we are in favor of the Caribbean, Central America and Latin America-including Mercosur and the Andean Pact-grouping together, uniting to defend their interests in every the international forum. (Applause.)
No more forgetting the Caribbean!
There will soon be an important meeting of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, which will be chaired by that outstanding personality of our history, Nelson Mandela. And there, the Third World countries parties to that Movement, that amount to more than 100, will have to discuss these issues in order not to be deceived, so as to really know what will the use be of the WTO, if it is only to defend the patents of the United States and of the richest countries which have stolen the world's best minds; to remove all the customs barriers and abolish the preferences of countries suffering from different conditions of a natural or historical nature and from different levels of development. All these questions must be clearly answered for the benefit of our peoples, of this generation, but above all, for the benefit of future generations.
Those of us who were slaves, those of us who were colonized have to continue fighting and fighting together for development, for peace. We don't want a war against anybody, but rather war against inequality, war against injustice, peace among all nations and all the peoples of the world.
In this struggle proposed by comrade Patterson, we will be in the front line, because we are well aware of the sufferings human beings have had to endure throughout history, of the abuse, and the injustice.
We are against the injustice of the past, of the era of Greece, Rome and the Pharaohs. We are against the injustice of the Middle Ages and we are against the injustice and the abuses committed during the conquest of this continent, practically exterminating the indigenous population and enslaving millions and millions of Africans. We are against the injustice of the past but we must also be, and we are, against the injustice of the present and there is much of it. And we must never accept the injustice of the future.
Because we believe in mankind, we are certain to achieve our goals. As we know the truth, we will know how to defend it and we will also ask, for example: What has happened with the Caribbean Basin Initiative? What's left of it? What are we going to export? Products that need a lot of cheap labor and a lot of sweat while paying low wages? What are we going to keep importing? Commodities that require a high investment rate of capital, technology and know-how? Why? Why is it that, while the exports from the Caribbean come to approximately 2.5 billion dollars-I'm talking about the exports from CARICOM-the imports reach a volume of almost twice as much? To be more exact, what the
United States imports from CARICOM comes to approximately 2.5 billion while its exports to those countries amount to almost four billion. There is a deficit that grows in their favor every year. Why are our products cheaper and cheaper and the goods that we import more and more expensive? Why the preeminence of such unequal terms of trade? We have to fight against that-and we will fight with growing force.
Yesterday, in Montego Bay, we said this: "Yesterday's slaves will be the models for the peoples of tomorrow." And you are proving that by building a country like this, which is facing difficulties, just like other countries, as our own country. But we marvel at the organization, the education, the culture, the dignity of this country.
I have been able to observe the same thing in other Caribbean countries. In the future, let them come here to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries, not just to lie down under the sun, or swim in the beaches but to get to know peoples with a great sense of honor and dignity, with extraordinary talents in every field and with a goodness that emanates from every pore of their bodies. Let them come to our countries so that they can get an idea of what a more fraternal and dignified world could be. Whatever problems there still are, whatever inequalities there might still be, what is clear to us are the efforts of the leaders in these countries to provide enough schools for all children, to have hospitals, to create jobs, to have social justice prevail, to have a fairer distribution of wealth.
I'll give you an example: Latin America has been independent for 200 years. However, the CARICOM countries, which have had barely 30 or 35 years of independence, have better education and health rates than the rest of the Latin American countries.
In one year, Cuba eradicated illiteracy. (Applause) It then continued with its program to upgrade education. Presently, we have no illiterates. (Applause.) Now, our peoples level of schooling is higher than the 10th grade. Now, Cuba has 600,000 university-graduate professionals. In our country today, despite poverty, the blockade and the special period, there are schools for all children and hospitals and doctors to care for every patient. (Applause.) That is the country some try to isolate! Those are the people enduring a blockade!
No, they never blockaded those who caused the disappearance of more than 100,000 citizens in one Central American country and tens of thousands in other countries. No, they did not blockade apartheid. The apartheid regime could trade and purchase weapons and technology. And that racist minority enjoyed every privilege while tens of millions of Africans were going hungry. They blockade Cuba because it wanted to be free, completely free, because it wanted social justice.
Thank you once again, brother Patterson, for the various occasions in which you have denounced the blockade, for the various times our Caribbean brothers have denounced the blockade! Nothing can divide us!
Let nobody be mislead into believing that the development of tourism in Cuba-as some press circles interested in dividing us have been saying-could harm tourism in the Caribbean, in Jamaica. That is as ridiculous as saying that the development of tourism in Spain harmed tourism in France or in Italy. A few decades ago, Spain received three or four million tourists. Now, Spain receives 50 million, France over 60 million and Italy tens of millions.
It is as ridiculous as saying that the development of tourism in Jamaica harmed the development of tourism in the rest of the Caribbean countries. Jamaica was the first and, thanks to its efforts, a whole tourist zone has been created in the Caribbean. The development of tourism in Jamaica did not harm the development of tourism in the Dominican Republic.
What we have proposed is the creation in the Caribbean of the best tourist zone in the world and the most beautiful, the one with the best services, with the greatest cultural wealth, with the best attractions. In this endeavor we are not, and we will never be, competitors. As Patterson says, we will be partners, we will be brothers. Our beaches are there, if the Jamaicans want to invest in those beaches, as some already have, we shall welcome them with open arms. And if one day we can invest in Jamaica, we will also invest in Jamaica or in any other island.
Partners and brothers, not competitors. We have the conditions so that millions and millions, tens and tens of millions of tourists can visit the Caribbean Basin.
The development of Cancun-a large tourist city, also in the Caribbeandid not prevent the development of tourism in Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. The magnificent hotels that we have seen here did not prevent the development of Cuba. On the contrary, more and more people want to go there and we should work together so that the whole world travels to the Caribbean, not just Canadians and Europeans but also Japanese, Chinese and even Russians, because there are now some who have high incomes there after the State was confiscated by those who were running it.
Tourism really does have a great future and it is up to us to take over as much of that market as possible. Cuba will be making that effort too, shoulder to shoulder, alongside the Jamaicans and the Caribbeans.
Another point relating to the Lomé Convention. I want to solemnly declare here, opposite those schemers who assert that Cuba's entry into that convention is going to harm other Caribbean countries, that, above all else, we will always give priority to the interests of these countries. Let me begin by telling you that, for example, we do not export bananas.
We have an 11 million population and the banana we grow, all very technical, goes to our domestic market which is considerable; that if we are not hit by a hurricane that turns down all the banana plantations and leaves us without bananas in some regions for up to two years. And those are bananas grown either under the micro-jet or the dripping irrigation systems, with a good production rate. But still, the eastern winds brought by the hurricanes cause them a lot of damage. And, now, with the climate changes, more and more often winter winds from the west, over a 100 kilometers an hour, are hitting our banana plantations.
But the important thing is: we will never do anything detrimental to the preferences or privileges of the countries that are now parties to the Lomé Convention.
The Caribbeans invited us because they have confidence in Cuba, in Cuba's word, in Cuba's unselfishness and in the honesty of our country. They also did because we see this struggle of yours, of Central America, of South America, of Africa, of the Third World, in the Summits, in Lomé and everywhere, as source of inspiration for our feelings about unity, justice and solidarity.
In conclusion, we very much regret that the Caribbean has no representative among the non-permanent members of the Security Council, an important body of the United Nations. We understand that Jamaica aspires-in all fairness and with all due recognition won in its efforts for unity and integration-to be a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
Let me take this opportunity to say to you that Jamaica can rely on Cuba's total and unqualified support in that endeavor and in whatever else it might need.
I also wonder why there is no Caribbean nation in the Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Why is no Caribbean country a member of it? If any Caribbean country should aspire to be a permanent member of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, it can count on Cuba's total and unconditional support.
We have powerful adversaries, but we have brave friends and we see them there at the United Nations when they vote en masse against the blockade or in Geneva when they vote against the maneuvers so unfairly undertaken against Cuba. Modest countries, poor countries that show political gallantry-like Jamaica before and its Prime Minister today-always excite the world's admiration. I can assure you that not everybody on this planet dares to speak with such independence, with such bravery and with such a noble and constructive spirit as he did yesterday and today.
Our eternal gratitude for your support; our deepest thanks for the lessons we have learned here in Jamaica.
If you could forgive me for taking up so much of your time, even without saying a lot of things that I would like to have said, then I will walk away from this rally the happiest man on Earth.
Long live Jamaica! (Exclamations.)
Long live the Caribbean! (Exclamations.)
Long live justice! (Exclamations.)
Long live humanity! (Exclamations.)