Speech delivered by Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, at the opening of the 105th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in the Havana International Conference Center on April 1, 2001, Year of the Victorious Revolution in the New Millennium
Esteemed Madame President of the Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union;
Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union;
Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations;
Distinguished parliamentarians and guests:
Almost 20 years ago, on September 15, 1981, the 68th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union was held in this very same hall. Many things have happened since then, although nothing has changed, and the situation has in fact worsened with regard to matters vital to humanity.
Perhaps none of you brought a cellular phone then; they barely existed, and our country did not have the technology to use them. There was no communication over the Internet either. This monumental scientific achievement was still not within the reach of parliamentarians. Oil was expensive, but that is nothing new. A large number of conflicts were building up then; today, there are simply more. There were two superpowers back then; today, there is only one but more powerful than those two put together.
I see many young faces, and that is important. As for myself, I am 20 years older now and I may be a bit more even-tempered, but still more radical, because now I know more about the world we live in and the world that may await us all.
I was granted the honor of speaking for 20 minutes at this opening ceremony. Perhaps this is because of my reputation –not always warranted– for making long speeches. But there is no need to fear; I do not plan to subject you to that kind of torture. I can spare half of the time allotted to me.
Perhaps I will be permitted to speak in the coming days, not as the President of the Council of State –who is treated with friendly courtesy, in compliance with the norms of this institution– but rather as the President of the Government, who can be interrupted and subjected to questions and queries, as I have been told. Poor me! But I will better enjoy that experience because it will permit me to talk to you with absolute freedom and frankness about issues of interest to any of you.
There were delegates from the United States at the last conference here, but this time there are none. They do not pay their membership fees, either. (Applause) Two decades have passed, as I said, but along with this prestigious institution, we have survived the terrible sense of nostalgia evoked by the absence of our dear neighbors and colleagues from the North. In that powerful nation’s Congress there are honest, intelligent and realistic legislators, but today they are unfortunately an obvious minority. To paraphrase a historic quote by Lincoln, I could say that some of them may be fools all of the time; all of them may be fools some of the time; but they cannot all be fools all of the time. I believe that perhaps by listening to parliamentarians from over 120 countries, --a great many of them from our long-suffering, impoverished and plundered Third World-- the U.S. Congress would at least have had the opportunity to learn how other people feel.
We all share enormous responsibilities and duties if we hope to win the battle for the survival of our species threatened today by global dangers never before imagined.
Once again, the possibility of a cold war and the breakout of a frantic arms race are looming on the horizon because no large nation or group of nations, with the necessary scientific and technical means within its reach, will resign itself to remaining unarmed in the face of a fearsome, aggressive and insatiable adversary. We are witnesses to the contempt and arrogance with which the dominant superpower is breaking agreements and treaties that are vital not only to the peace and security of all the peoples of the world, but also to the hopes for sustainable development and the preservation of the ecological balance, resources and natural conditions without which life would be impossible on this planet, as we all know.
On behalf of our people, I want to express our most sincere and deeply felt gratitude for the honor it means to our country to have been chosen to host the 105th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which happily coincides, like a symbol of hope, with the beginning of a new century and a new millennium.
We shall exercise our hospitality and full cooperation, and do everything possible, and even the impossible, to deserve this show of confidence.
Thank you very much.