Speech given by Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, at the Plenary Session of the 105th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in the International Conference Center, Havana,
April 5, 2001
Due to time constraints, we are publishing the following text as it was written, without including the reflections, additions and comments made during its presentation.
Madame President and other members of the Presidency;
When I spoke at the 68th Inter-Parliamentary Conference in 1981, after mentioning a number of figures and statistics that illustrated the growing gap separating the developed, wealthy world from the countries that were formerly its colonies and domains, victims of relentless plunder for centuries, I made a statement that might have seemed excessive: "If the present is tragic, the future looks dismal."
Let nobody try to fool or confuse us with the new terminology spawned by the hypocritical propaganda of specialists in deception and lies, working in the service of those who have subjected humanity to an increasingly unequal and unfair economic and political order, one that is completely devoid of solidarity or democracy or even an iota of respect for the minimum rights owed to human beings.
I was not exaggerating when I made that statement. The Third World’s foreign debt, which totaled some 500 billion dollars in 1981, had reached 2.1 trillion dollars in the year 2000. The share corresponding to Latin America was 255.188 billion dollars in 1981; by 2000, it was 750.855 billion.
The servicing of the Third World debt, which amounted to 44.2 billion USD in 1981, had reached 347.4 billion USD in 2000.
The per capita gross national product (GDP) in the developed countries was 8,070 USD in 1978. Twenty years later, in 1998, per capita GDP in those countries had grown to 25,870 USD. In the meantime, the per capita GDP in the countries with the lowest incomes, which was 200 USD in 1978, had risen to only 530 USD by the year 1998. The abysmal gap had grown even wider.
The number of undernourished people, almost all of whom live in Third World countries, rose from 570 million in 1981 to 800 million in 2000.
The number of unemployed grew from 1.103 billion in 1981 to 1.6 billion in 2000.
Today, the wealthiest 20% of the world’s population accounts for 86% of all spending on private consumption, while the poorest 20% accounts for only 1.3%.
In the wealthy countries, per capita electricity consumption is 10 times higher than in all the poor countries combined.
According to United Nations figures, in 1960 the income of 20% of the world population living in the wealthiest nations was 30 times that of the poorest nations; by 1997 it was 74 times greater.
Studies carried out by the FAO between 1987 and 1998 reveal that two out of every five children in the underdeveloped world suffer from growth retardation, while one out of every three is underweight for his or her age.
There are 1.3 billion poor people in the Third World, that is, one out of every three lives in poverty. The World Bank, in its latest report on poverty, predicts that the number of people living in absolute poverty could reach 1.5 billion as the New Millennium begins.
The wealthiest 25% of the world’s population consumes 45% of all meat and fish; the poorest 25% consumes only 5%.
In sub-Saharan Africa, infant mortality rate is 107 per 1000 live births during the first year of life, and 173 per thousand live births before the age of five. In South Asia, the rates are 76 and 114, respectively. In the case of Latin America, according to UNICEF, infant mortality before the age of five is 39 per 1000 live births.
More than 800 million adults remain illiterate.
More than 130 million school-age children are growing up without access to basic education.
The truth, which cannot be hidden, is that there are currently over 800 million people suffering chronic hunger while lacking access to health care services, which is why it is estimated that 507 million people living in the Third World today will not live past 40 years of age. South of the Sahara, almost 30% of the population will die before they are 40.
In 1981, climate change was seldom mentioned, and very few people had ever even heard the word AIDS. Today these are two harrowing threats that have been added to the calamities already mentioned.
In 1981, the world population had surpassed four billion; 75% of them living in Third World countries. Today, in 2001, there are already more than 6.1 billion of us on the planet. In just 20 years, the world population grew by 1.7 billion, more than it had grown since the emergence of the human species until the beginning of the 20th century.
In short, the world income share of the countries that now constitute the Third World has shrunk so much that a century and a half ago it was 56%, while today it is only 15%. This is truly a peculiar way of expressing the real meaning for the Third World and the immense majority of humanity of capitalism and imperialism, with their crises, chaos, economic anarchy and selfish and inhuman value system.
Then, after four centuries of Spanish colonial domination and 57 years as a United States colony, our country, a poor nation, has been subjected to a brutal economic blockade from the very moment that, for the first time in history, we achieved our double freedom, for we freed ourselves from both the tyrany and the empire.
This small and blockaded Third World country, against which the United States has used all of its resources in terms of subversion, destabilization, sabotage, pirate attacks, hundreds of plots to assassinate the Revolution’s leaders, a dirty war, economic warfare, biological warfare, a military invasion using personnel recruited, paid, supplied, escorted by U.S. naval units and directed by the U.S. government, and ultimately the very real threat of nuclear extermination, has succeeded in honorably withstanding all of the blows dealt to it by the major superpower in history, a Rome multiplied by a thousand, given its political, economic, military and technological power.
This merciless economic war and the blockade have now lasted 42 years. In addition to this, we have endured ten years of a special period, after the collapse of the socialist camp and disintegration of the Soviet Union left us devoid of markets and sources of supplies. And it was under these circumstances that the United States even further tightened the blockade with the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts. No country has ever withstood such a trial.
Many believed that we were but a simple satellite of a great power. The fall of the Revolution was expected within a matter of weeks, or months at the most. But the satellite proved that it had its own light, and its own extraordinary power, like a small sun of true freedom, sovereignty, patriotism, social justice, real equality of opportunities, solidarity within and beyond its borders, and unshakable ethical and human principles.
Did this power, this enormous prestige, this strength and unity of the people, achieved through the Revolution, serve to satisfy personal vanity, or greed for power or material goods? No, it served to heroically withstand the assault launched by the empire at one of the most dangerous and difficult moments in the history of our country.
Let no one even try to give us lessons on history and politics, treating Cuba’s leaders like preschool children. It is even possible that Cuban preschool children know more about these matters than some well-known politicians.
Under horrendous circumstances, a social project has been carried out that is overwhelming, irrefutable, insurmountable. Illiteracy was eradicated in just one year, in a country where almost a third of the population between the ages of 15 and 60 could not read and write. At the same time, thousands of classrooms were created in isolated places and almost inaccessible regions. Medical services were also established in the countryside and the cities, despite the fact that the United States had taken away half the 6000 doctors in the country at the time and over half of the medical school professors, with visas and promises of a better material life. Thousands of schools were built, and teachers and professors were trained for elementary school, junior and senior high school education, polytechnic institutes, training centers for teachers and professors of music, dance, art, physical education, sports, and other subjects. Dozens of higher education institutions were established throughout the country, where there had previously been only three. These included 21 medical schools – which now total 22, with the creation of the Latin American School of Medical Sciences --and 15 university level teacher-training schools.
In less than 30 years, Cuba became the first country in Latin America and the Third World to reduce infant mortality to less than 10 per 1000 life births in the first year of life, achieving a rate of 6.4, and life expectancy of 75, in the very midst of the special period. Cuba has brought free medical care to all its citizens; raised the average educational level to the ninth grade; graduated over 700,000 university-trained professionals; developed a powerful artistic and cultural movement; and placed among the top ten countries in the Olympics, winning more gold medals per capita than any other. In regional competitions and international events, Cuba has garnered thousands of medals, occupying second place in this hemisphere, behind the United States. Its children achieve top scores in mathematics and science competitions.
According to UNESCO research, our primary school students have almost twice as much knowledge as the average student in the rest of Latin America. Today our country is first among all countries in the world, both developed and underdeveloped, in terms of the number of professors and teachers, doctors, and high-level physical education and sports instructors. These are three decisive areas for the wellbeing and social and economic development of any nation.
In all, we have 250,000 educators, 67,500 medical doctors, and 34,000 physical education and sports professors and technicians.
Presently, we are sharing this immense human capital with our sister nations of the Third World, without charging a cent. (APPLAUSE) Our cooperants working overseas boast not only extensive technical and scientific capacity, but also the most important traits of all: extraordinary human solidarity and an unsurpassed spirit of sacrifice.
Hundreds of thousands of our compatriots have discharged internationalist missions in many Third World countries, particularly in Africa, as technical personnel and especially as combatants against colonialism and the racist, fascist apartheid system.
You may be wondering why I am elaborating so much on these facts.
Firstly: Because I wonder if this is why some try to condemn us every year in Geneva.
Secondly: Because I wonder if this is why we have been subjected to harassment, economic warfare and a blockade for 42 years now.
Thirdly: Because I wonder if this is why some want to destroy the Cuban Revolution.
I should add something else. In 42 years of Revolution, not once has there been a case of tear gas used against the people, or the spectacle of police with riot gear, horses or armored cars suppressing the people, things that are seen very frequently in Europe and the United States. There have never been death squads in our country, nor a single missing person, nor a single political assassination, nor a single victim of torture, despite the thousands of brazen lies disseminated by a frustrated and unscrupulous empire that would like to wipe the image and example of Cuba off the face of Earth.
You may travel around the country, ask the people, look for a single piece of evidence, try to find a single case where the Revolutionary government has ordered or tolerated such an action, and if you find them, then I will never speak in public again.
Only a fool would believe that the Cuban people could be governed by force or in any way other than through the consensus that arises from the work achieved, the elevated political consciousness of our people and the enviable relationship between the masses and their leadership. In the elections for the Assemblies of People’s Power, over 95% of the country’s eligible voters willingly and enthusiastically cast their ballots.
The ethics and politics of imperialism are quite a different matter.
When Cuban troops were fighting in Angola, in 1988, at a time of the decisive battle against the South African troops was being waged in Cuito Cuanavale and 40,000 Cuban soldiers and 30,000 Angolans were marching on the Namibian border in southwest Angola, the racist South Africans had seven nuclear warheads similar to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. NATO knew it, the United States knew it, but no one said a word about it, in the hopes that they would be used against the Cuban-Angolan forces.
During the 15 long years we were in southern Africa, mounting the guard against the forces of apartheid or actively fighting them, the major capitalist countries had large investments in South Africa and their trade with this racist regime amounted to billions of USD every year. The U.S. investments in South Africa at that time totaled three billion USD and their annual trade six billion, while an additional three billion USD in bank credits were granted to that country.
It is common knowledge that the United States was a military ally of South Africa – could this possibly be forgotten? -- and that through South Africa it supplied UNITA with copious sums in weapons, including portable anti-aircraft missiles and millions of anti-personnel mines, which it planted throughout Angolan territory. UNITA wiped out entire villages and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, including women and children. I am not exaggerating in the slightest.
Once Cuba’s internationalist mission had been concluded with honor, and an agreement had been reached that led to the implementation of UN resolution 435, and to Namibian independence, we rigorously complied with the commitments made by the parties involved and withdrew our forces. And when our forces left Africa, they took nothing with them but the remains of their comrades who had fallen in combat. We did not own a single square meter of land there – as I said a few days ago – or a single screw in a factory. No Western country had shed a single drop of blood there. Only one country had done this, a small and faraway country, located 10,000 kilometers from Africa: Cuba. (APPLAUSE)
And now, added to everything I said at the beginning of this speech about the dramatic economic and social situation currently facing the peoples of the Third World, there are the arrogant steps taken by the new U.S. administration in the international sphere. These could create serious complications at a moment when the international economy, and above all the U.S. economy, is facing a serious threat of stagnation, recession and crisis. The effects of this are already beginning to be felt around the world, in the form of drops in the volume of exports, falling prices for basic commodities, a fall in stock prices, and massive layoffs and downsizing everywhere.
The most serious events have taken place over the course of just a few weeks.
First: The decision to create a nuclear missile shield, which would unilaterally break the commitments entered into under the ABM Treaty, and inexorably lead to an arms race.
Second: The decision to veto the draft resolution proposing the establishment of an observer force for the protection of the Palestinian people (APPLAUSE), which was backed by China, Russia and seven other members of the Security Council, with four abstentions, including two other permanent members.
Since May of 1990, the United States has exercised its right to veto on five occasions, four of them in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The last time the United States applied its veto was on March 21, 1997, in support of Israeli interests and to the detriment of the Palestinians, against a resolution demanding that Israel stopped the building of a settlement in East Jerusalem.
Since 1972, the United States has used its veto on 23 occasions against resolutions aimed at solving the Palestinian issue.
The complicated situation in the Middle East has been further aggravated by this latest U.S. veto, when an extreme right-wing government has just taken power in Israel.
Third: The equally unilateral decision to break the commitments made at the third session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Kyoto in late 1997, when 34 industrialized countries agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% by the year 2012 – a goal that is crucial for humanity. The United States had committed itself to reducing those emissions by 7%. This was a real blow to world public opinion, especially to the European countries which had made the greatest contributions to this Convention for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Fourth: Official statements that are insulting and humiliating for Russia and China, using typical cold war language, a reflection of the mentality clearly surfacing in many of the members of the team surrounding and advising the current president of the United States.
Fifth: Tangible contempt, which cannot be disguised, towards Latin America, in proposing as the new administration’s assistant under-Secretary of State for Latin American affairs a sinester individual, with a fascist mentality. That man is notorious for his participation alongside Oliver North as a special public opinion advisor to the Secretary of State during the Reagan administration, at the time of the scandal involving the sale of weapons to raise funds for the dirty war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. These arms sales were in fact prohibited at the time by agreements adopted by the U.S. Congress itself. He has published documents and statements that he had signed with the name of Nicaraguan counterrevolutionary leaders, some of whom could neither read nor write, he has broken the law, and showed a total lack of ethics. Quite a number of U.S. press agencies have harshly criticized this decision, and many Latin American leaders are not at all happy about it.
In any event, these steps clearly reflect the traits and personality of the new occupant of the presidential throne in the United States of America.
None of this comes as a surprise to Cuba. We are well aware of Mr. Bush’s close ties with and commitments to the Cuban-American National Foundation, a terrorist mob – I repeat, a terrorist mob -- that financed the planting of bombs in hotels in Havana, several of which went off, with the aim of destroying the Cuban tourism industry. This same Foundation organized the plot to assassinate yours truly at the Margarita Island Summit. The would-be perpetrators of the plot were accidentally picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard – perhaps they believing they were carrying drugs -- off the coast of Puerto Rico, on the way to fulfilling their mission. They themselves have declared what they planned to do and who had organized the plot, but despite all irrefutable proof, they were acquitted.
The Foundation’s latest major misdeed was the assassination plot against my modest person organized on the occasion of the Ibero-American Summit in Panama last November. This time they used the most notorious terrorist in the hemisphere, the author of the blowing up of a Cuban plane in mid-flight on October 6, 1976. A total of 73 people were killed, including the entire Cuban juvenile fencing team, returning home from Venezuela after winning all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Games. This time, powerful explosives were brought from El Salvador, to be set off in the University of Panama while I was speaking to the students there. The plot was timely exposed leading to the arrest of the group leader and three other Cuban-born terrorists members of the Miami mob with a long and bloody history in the service of the U.S. special agencies. The U.S. authorities and government are fully aware of the truth of what I am saying.
This past January 3, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee by Representative Bob Barr. The aim of the bill is to overturn an executive order issued by the Ford Administration on February 18, 1976, concerning U.S. intelligence activities overseas. Section 5, paragraph g) of this executive order expressly states that no employee of the U.S. government is to participate or conspire to participate in political assassinations.
Who is Bob Barr? A Republican representative for the state of Georgia. He worked for the CIA and in 1986 was appointed byReagan U.S. district attorney for northern Georgia. He is a life member of the National Rifle Association and a member of its board of directors. He has been honored as the Congressional Leader of the Year by the U.S. Shooting Sports Council; Legislator of the Year by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (the same ones used by children to kill each other in school after being bombarded with violent messages by the mass media); and New Legislator of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Committee.
The Miami terrorist mob and extreme right in the United States are feverishly at work drafting plans, bills and repressive measures against Cuba. These machinations openly include direct ties with the so-called Cuban opposition and the allocation of millions of dollars to finance subversion and destabilization in our country. Let no one be mistaken: Cuba will adopt the necessary measures to respond.
The U.S. government dirty hands have kept busy doing everything possible to provoke conflict and to disrupt this conference. They have even tried to use it to serve their own treacherous purposes.
U.S. embassies around the world weresent letters to an unspecified number of parliamentarians scheduled to participate in this conference. Friendly hands brought them to the attention of our authorities.
One of them reads as follows:
"Your visit to Cuba for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting represents a unique opportunity for you to show solidarity with Cuban democracy and human rights activists.
"As you know, your colleague, Czech MP Ivan Pilip, was arrested and held for three weeks by the Cuban secret police in February for the ‘crime’ of meeting with democratic activists.
"After the intervention of IPU Syg Johnsson (sic) and IPU Human Rights Commission President Letelier, the Cubans decided to release Pilip and his colleague, Jan Bubenik.
"The IPU is thus directly linked to the human rights situation on the island, and has a chance now to send a principled and clear message of the IPU support and that of your parliament for human rights and Cuba by meeting with said activists. During the 1999 Ibero-American Summit in Havana, a number of Latin American leaders similarly reached out to the Cuban activists. This effort sent a clear signal and was a boost to the activists.
"We know that internationally highly-respected activists like Elizardo Sánchez and Marta Beatriz Roque are eager to meet with foreign parliamentarians to express their views on the prospects for democratic and economic opening."
Another letter includes the following statements:
"While many hoped that Cuba’s human rights situation would improve after the January 1998 visit of the Pope, it has actually deteriorated.
"This deterioration has increased over the past six months; hundreds of activists have been detained since December alone."
"Hundreds remain incarcerated, most for innocuous acts, like passing out copies of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
"Cuba recently cancelled a visit by German Deputy Foreign Minister Volmer because he dared suggest that he would raise human rights issues on his trip.
"Cuba lashed out against Argentina in February after an Argentine newspaper claimed that Argentina would support a United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) resolution on Cuba.
"Earlier this year, a Czech member of parliament, Ivan Pilip, and former member of parliament Jan Bubenik, were detained for over three weeks in January, simply for meeting with Cuban activists and independent journalists."
"No U.S. member of Congress has participated in an IPU event in a decade.
"In 1998, the U.S. Congress determined to terminate its IPU membership unless the U.S. contribution to the organization were reduced.
"The contribution was not reduced, so in October 2000, the IPU secretary general was informed formally of U.S. intention to terminate its membership effective immediately."
After reading these documents, there can be no doubt as to who is conspiring, who is organizing, who is lying, who is plotting, who is paying, and who is calling the shots. (APPLAUSE)
It takes no great effort to comprehend the extent to which the arrogance, frustration and endless failures of the U.S. government have led it to disrespect international institutions, provoke conflict and interfere with international organizations and the domestic affairs of other countries.
They have been recruiting mercenaries for four decades now. Today our people are more united and the Revolution is stronger than ever. All of the conspiracies, plots and crimes aimed against our country will simply crash up against this strength. We will continue to expose their maneuvers and denounce their treachery and lies, and we will not hesitate to accuse and expose their accomplices. No one will be exempt from the most fair and appalling censure, no matter how high-placed; no economic interest or threat of reprisal will override our people’s dignity and courage. Thus, we do not hesitate to describe as disgustingly hypocritical the behavior of those who resort to the naïve and ridiculous maneuver of using their condemnation of the blockade as a fig leaf to cover the infamy of accusing Cuba of alleged violations of human rights.
Nothing can ever justify cowardice and lies.
Cuba scorns those who behave this way. We are not interested in the votes against the blockade of those who hypocritically support the arguments with which the empire attempts to justify its crimes.
Nothing ever has or ever will succeed in defeating the dignity, ethics and heroism of a people who have written an indelible page in the history of this era. (APPLAUSE)
I am deeply grateful for the noble company of the many highly worthy parliamentarians who have honored us with their presence and inspired us with their solidarity.
I hope you will forgive me for all the time I have taken.
I am eternally grateful.
I wish this excellent conference all of the success it deserves.
Hasta la victoria siempre!
Thank you very much.