Speech given by H.E. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, at the official dinner hosted by the President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, on May 6, 2001.
Your Excellency Abdelaziz Bouteflika;
Algerian brothers and sisters:
Something special joins us to Algeria. When we were fighting in the mountains, the Algerians were fighting in the wilayas. When the Cuban Revolution triumphed on January 1, 1959, the heroic people of Algeria had still not achieved victory. They were waging a heroic and unequal battle against the formidable forces of a power that had accomplished brilliant feats in the military history of Europe. We wanted to help them, and in a quiet and modest manner, we sent them a few of the small number of weapons we had at the time.
Cuba was already subjected to a brutal blockade and a merciless dirty war, in which any means possible to crush the Revolution were used without hesitation.
On April 16, 1961, a mercenary force invaded our country with fighter planes, tanks, artillery and infantry, and was defeated in less than 72 hours.
Unwilling to accept the defeats it had suffered, our powerful adversary prepared new and sinister plans against Cuba, leading to a serious crisis that brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war.
Algeria was the country where our internationalist principles were first put to the test. Apart from the modest cooperation mentioned earlier, after that crisis had passed and Algeria’s struggle for its independence had triumphed, there emerged serious threats of foreign aggression. The thousands of kilometers of distance that separate our small island from Algeria did not prevent well-equipped Cuban combatants from urgently crossing the Atlantic to offer their support.
Algeria was also the first country assisted by a Cuban medical brigade, at a time when there were barely 3000 doctors remaining in our country, since the United States had lured half of all our doctors away with promises and high salaries.
Today, fortunately, there are thousands of Cuban doctors carrying out internationalist missions in the Third World, and the total number of doctors in our country is over 65,000.
Algeria is the country where I attended a Summit Conference of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries for the first time, in 1973.
Algeria was the country that offered the greatest support for Cuba to serve as the host country of the 6th Non-Aligned Summit six years later.
Algeria played a decisive role in the struggle for the liberation of countries that were still colonies or were subjected to the hateful apartheid system.
Algeria is the country where I have met so many and such loyal friends of Cuba, some of whom are no longer among us.
Algeria fought tirelessly for African unity. At that time, this continent did not know the tragedy of the division and wars that came later; the wise opinion prevailed that the borders imposed by colonialism should not be changed; the population had not practically tripled; the foreign debt had not multiplied many times over; there were not such high levels of poverty and famine; there were more forests and fewer deserts; development aid had not dropped to 0.24% of the gross domestic product of industrialized countries; AIDS was unknown; the growing destruction of the environment and climate change were scarcely spoken of. Africa was not yet the most forgotten region of the world.
It is painful to enumerate so many tragedies. I am not doing it out of a habit of exaggerating or being dramatic. I am doing it because if there is any worthwhile reason for saying a few words here and taking up your attention, it is in order to urge our African brothers and sisters to undertake a supreme effort for peace and unity among the peoples of this long-suffering continent. A number of distinguished African leaders have been involved in this effort, and we must give them our support, so that new generations of Africans, their children and their children’s children, may have the right to a better future. I know that circumstances and living conditions are not the same in every one of the 54 countries of this continent.
The countries with the most advanced economic and social development, with greater resources and knowledge, have the duty to share their most beneficial experiences and to offer cooperation. To those of you who are here representing other continents and countries, I invite you to meditate and reflect on the fact that Africa – a continent exploited throughout centuries, from which millions of its sons and daughters were torn away to be made into slaves, and where today, as a consequence of exploitation and underdevelopment, there are entire nations in danger of extinction – deserves our most determined support.
Cuba has no connections whatsoever with the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, it is not a financial power, it does not have billions of dollars to offer, but it has demonstrated that it is willing to share its experience, to fight, and to cooperate. It has human wealth honestly created and accumulated throughout 40 years of effort: doctors, engineers, qualified personnel, men and women trained in a spirit of solidarity, prepared to provide their services in the most far-flung corners of the world. What we offer is this human capital. That is the last thing I wanted to say.
Forgive me for taking up so much of your time.
My best wishes for Algeria, for Africa, and for a more just and humane world.
Thank you very much. (APPLAUSE)