Speech made by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the Open Forum of the Revolution in Batalla de Guisa, Granma Province. November 25, 2000
Compatriots from Guisa, Granma and all of Cuba:
When that battle was waged here from November 20 to 30, forty-years ago, we could not realize the full meaning of the bravery displayed by our comrades. Actually, only 13 kilometers of paved road separated us from Bayamo, the headquarters for the enemy’s army operations. Still, one hundred and eighty inexperienced fighters, most of them young men just out of our draftees’ school, were challenging five thousand elite enemy troops.
In those unforgettable days we were constantly attacked by the aviation, from sunrise to sunset. Our forces, distributed in small units, covered a wide range of positions, most of them along the main road from Bayamo to Guisa where they successfully ambushed all the reinforcements sent by the enemy to assist a company besieged in the small town. Thus, such reinforcements were cut off and harassed from the rearguard although at times our own positions risked being encircled by the overwhelmingly larger enemy forces.
A whole battalion, which was moving on 14 trucks protected by two light tanks, was completely encircled the second time it attempted to support their forces stationed in Guisa. Later, a powerful column sent by their high command with heavy air support and tanks could rescue them, but only after 30 hours of continuous fighting and many casualties. At that moment, we had approximately 250 fighters armed with weapons taken from the enemy; we then kept the 14 trucks, one of the two tanks and over thirty thousand bullets, all this when our usually scarce ammunition reserves were already running dangerously low.
It was really decisive to seize that height over there to prevent the arrival of reinforcements. Actually, it was defended by no more than thirty men, constantly bombed by the enemy aviation, who had to abandon their positions three times but who always recovered them; the last time they were reinforced with two squads of women who neither took a step backward nor abandoned that position even when a precision shot from a heavy tank killed their brave leader, captain Braulio Coroneaux, a purposeful and unbeatable fighter who operated the only .50 caliber machine-gun we had during that disputed battle.
On November 30, we fought intensely all day long. The enemy had been able to pool together almost all of its forces and then, in a last attempt to have us displaced from our positions, it attacked from every possible direction only to be defeated and to withdraw in the evening to Bayamo. That same night our forces occupied Guisa.
The battle of Guisa was one of those events that proved that nothing was impossible for that small army which resumed the struggle with only seven weapons as it recovered from the very hard setback sustained after the landing of the Granma yatch, a direct consequence of our initial inexperience.
The actors of that exploit that we are commemorating today were the children of workers and farmers; most of them could not even read or write and in their tough training they had hardly made real shots. They had only learned and practiced shooting theoretically. I will forever be proud of them and feel gratitude and admiration for them! Unfortunately, many have already passed away but I should say that those youths that joined our ranks learned fighting in combat and winning in victory.
Today, the struggle is different but no less heroic. Today, our invincible army is made up by millions of highly educated men and women who have long been literate. We have an endless source of ideas for this battle we are involved in now. We learn history by making history; we strengthen our revolutionary ideas of justice by tearing to pieces those of our adversaries; and we consolidate our truths by destroying their lies.
Our people could see the depth and nature of our present struggle during the 10th Ibero-American Summit. As you already know, men who are responsible of obnoxious crimes, who have been trained by the CIA and who have been used, either directly or indirectly, by U.S. administrations in actions against Cuba for over forty years, were concocting a terrorist action in Panama that could have taken the lives of several heads of delegations and that, in the cruelest variable, could have taken the lives of hundreds of University students among the over one thousand who met with the Cuban delegation at the Main Hall of the University of Panama. That seems to have been the place chosen to carry out the massacre.
Now, it is definitely known that the terrorists had studied the facilities where the enthusiastic and active students had organized a fraternal meeting with us on Saturday night of November 18. It is the kind of meetings we have had, almost without exception, during our travels in Latin America to attend conferences of Heads of States or Governments.
The amount of explosives introduced by the terrorists in Panama, and their destructive power, exceeded the requirements to destroy the whole place. Some accomplices hid such means and the necessary devices to make them operational in a remote place in the countryside as soon as their ringleaders were arrested in the comfortable apart-hotel where they were staying. There is no way to prevent the details from being known.
The Panamanian law enforcement agents, their commanders, officers and other members of these forces acted with courage and efficiency. They dismantled the plot in less than two hours after our timely exposure and the accurate information provided by our country. Again, Cuba proved that it is serious and truthful.
That event, however, gave rise to a harsh exchange during the Summit when a biased and non-inclusive draft resolution against terrorism was introduced by the President of the country which has been used by the United States as a basis for counterrevolution in Central America and as a safe haven for the most hateful terrorist in this hemisphere who, from El Salvador and employing mercenaries, has organized and perpetrated countless crimes against Cuba and other nations in the region. The Salvadoran President, who was caught aback and in fraganti by Cuba’s denunciation, reacted with unrestrained hysteria claiming that I was accusing him of being an accessory in the assassination plot.
I did not accuse him of being an accessory in the sinister plot. I simply said that the terrorist ringleader lived, hatched his plans and operated from El Salvador and that the Salvadoran government was aware of it, tolerated it and concealed it. Yes, I do accuse him of this which he cannot deny, not only because several members of the previous government headed by President Armando Calderón Sol, as well as other accomplices and collaborators of Posada Carriles, keep working with his government --their names were given by Cuba to President Calderón Sol who reported them to the President elect-- but also because after Mr.Flores was inaugurated as President I sent him a special envoy with the relevant information about Luis Posada Carriles’ life and whereabouts, his activities and his sinister terrorist plans. That information was delivered to him on October 5, 1999, at 4:00 p.m. He did absolutely nothing about it. Perhaps, he could not do it because he lacked the authority or the courage. He lied shamelessly when he rent his mantles before the Summit as if he were the victim of an atrocious slander.
Of course, his dishonest presentation on terrorism had been previously worked out with the government of Spain, that emerges as an European economic power in Latin America, sometimes useful in the struggle against the voracity of the North but whose political leadership shows an obvious penchant for arrogance. He was immediately seconded by the President of a different Mexico, one that is today guided by the interests, the rules and the commitments imposed by the NAFTA. Then, by neoliberal affinity or because the issue can be deceitful, the others supported the proposal. It is no secret that almost all of those attending the meeting have political, economic and social ideas that are quite different from our heroic people’s revolutionary and ethical thinking. Nevertheless, we did not hesitate to sustain our position, even if we knew before hand what they would do.
President Chavez, a sincere revolutionary who believes in Bolívar and in unity, found himself in an embarrassing and bitter dilemma. His Majesty, the King of Spain, a noble man always friendly with Cuba, was rather puzzled.
Actually, they were all safer that day because the fearful terrorist who was putting everybody at risk with his plans had already fallen in his own trap thanks to the statement made by Cuba which was in turn left unprotected without the support of an opportunistic and discriminatory anti-terrorist resolution.
The enraged and inexperienced person who had provoked the incident then called for a truce and asked to discuss the issue bilaterally, although the issue is far from being bilateral. Nevertheless, as politeness is not a sign of weakness --like the old proverb goes-- we said that we were willing to discuss it that way. We shall see how such a discussion proceeds and if it is of any use.
At the moment we are quite busy; among other things we should prevent that his "distinguished guest", the terrorist ringleader, and his henchmen can avoid justice with the support of their friends in the North.
There is still much that our increasingly united, better-educated and stronger people can do. We will not rest in our heroic and worthy struggle. We will honor every objective we sworn in Baraguá. We will win the epic battle of ideas. Just like in Guisa, we will show many times over that nothing is impossible.
Glory to those youths who died in their prime for the revolution in this sacred part of our Homeland!
We will be faithful to their memory right to the end!
Homeland or Death! We will overcome!