Key address by Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at a mass rally in the "José Martí" Anti-imperialist Square, on November 27, 2001
It was through the American TV networks and press agencies that we first learned that 30 Cubans, 13 of them children, had perished in a human traffic operation on a fast boat registered in the United States, coming from that country and funded by people living there.
It was not the first time, since similar events have occurred a thousand times before as a sinister consequence of the murderous Cuban Adjustment Act.
Whenever something like this happens, the U.S. authorities fail to provide us with information on the names, places of residence, age, sex or any other data on the victims they identify through information offered by survivors or by other means. The Cuban authorities are thus forced to look for a needle in a hay stack, that is, going through lengthy and complicated procedures to find the relevant data to inform families, schools, health and social security centers and other institutions on the situation of people who suddenly vanished without previous notice.
It is through close contacts made easier by personal and family visits, to and from the United States authorized by our country, that unscrupulous merchants arrange costly and risky illegal journeys for groups of people from different towns who endanger the lives of many children by irresponsibly taking them along.
This time, our own authorities have already identified almost half of the 13 children mentioned in the press dispatches, who were taken from their classrooms and schools where they were studying, completely unaware of the horrible death they would encounter out in the sea where their remains could not even be found.
For many years we have been advising the U.S. Administrations that the Cuban Adjustment Act, in force since November 2, 1966, and the incentives to illegal migration are the cause of great hazards and take a high toll in human lives.
From day one of the revolutionary victory our country has never set obstacles to the legal emigration of Cuban citizens to the United States or to any other country. At the time of the triumph of the Revolution many people in Cuba, like in the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America, who endured poverty and underdevelopment, wanted to migrate to seek for better paid jobs and better living conditions than they could find in their countries subjected to centuries of exploitation and plundering. Until 1959, an extremely limited number of visas were issued to Cubans. After that, for obvious reasons, the gates were wide opened and that is how an important number of Cubans began settling in the United States.
The overwhelming majority of those made the necessary arrangements and traveled legally. Despite the increasing conflicts, on several occasions the two countries have signed agreements, which for over four decades have made possible the safe and orderly transportation of hundreds of thousands of Cubans to the United States without any loss of life of either children or adults.
Actually, thanks to the Revolution’s programs the Cuban emigrants are generally people with a high technical or professional training.
In compliance with the latest agreements signed on September 1994 and May 1995, a total of 132,586 Cubans had traveled to the United States until November 9, 2001, with the corresponding visas and through absolutely safe means.
The politicization of the migratory issue by the United States, particularly as it relates to Cuba, is at the source of this and many other similar tragedies. It is in their Interests Section that they choose the prospective travelers, demanding health and education certificates and personal life records, as well as other documents, which are often used to select highly trained professionals or people particularly relevant in their communities thus depriving our country of medical doctors, engineers, architects and other university graduates who have been educated here, absolutely free of charge. This way, the United States does not need to invest the tens and hundreds of thousands that it would take to train any of them over there while Cuba has been forced to set a number of restrictions as to the time of departure of people in some technical categories in order to avoid the damage caused to important services.
It is a tradition with Cuba to abide by the agreements it signs, but the same cannot be said of our counterpart. It is a known fact that due to pressures and issues associated with domestic politics, the United States repeatedly and systematically fails to meet its obligations --or meets them only half-way-- regarding the measures it should take with those who break the law to emigrate to that country or are intercepted at sea, or they reduce to a minimum the efforts made to accomplish that interception.
To make things worse, those who set foot on their coasts are automatically welcomed and not asked to meet any requirements. Individuals with tainted personal records, who would never receive a visa if they applied, then get the right to immediately start working and living in that country. Thus, the spirit and letter of the Migratory Agreements are breached and the assets and safety of Americans are placed in jeopardy.
Many of these rough individuals with the worst criminal records, who are admitted into the United States when they travel illegally, later show up as part of drug and human traffic networks.
The U.S. authorities possess information on those involved in human traffic. In the last four years we have seized in our country more than 110 of those smugglers who live in the United States. They travel by sea on fast boats to fetch their human cargo, but the U.S. authorities do not accept to receive them to take them to court since it is from there that they come, where they live, where they have their boats, and it is also from there that they make the arrangements and get paid for their operations.
Our country makes great efforts to fight this grave international crime; in the United States they do nothing about it.
If it were all the way around, if American children were dying almost constantly due to human traffic on boats coming from Cuba, registered in Cuba, with crews made up by people living in Cuba, if this were the case, the American people would react with deep and legitimate indignation. Why, then, can this be done to Cuba?
Due to pressures by the Cuban terrorist Mafia in Miami, and the erratic behavior and arbitrary interpretations of U.S. officials and authorities, every year, every month, every week, almost every day during four decades, ever since that ill-fated and insane Cuban Adjustment Act was passed in 1966, that is, 35 years ago, it has never been restricted or abrogated but rather more and more privileges are granted to those who submit to it.
The latest of such privileges is travelling to American territory, on any airline, with false documents. They only need to identify themselves as Cubans upon arrival and they are accepted with impunity and granted the benefit of residence in the United States. How can anyone speak of protecting the security of the United States and then accept such violations and practices which break their own laws and foster chaos, anarchy and disorder? How can a battle be waged against organized crime, terrorism, drug and human traffic, and other forms of international crime?
Why is it that the Cuban children, whose infant mortality rate in the first year of life has been reduced to less than 7 per one thousand live-births --which is even lower than that of the United States-- must suffer that horrible death due to that Law? Why must the deep sea swallow the Cuban children, none of whom dies due to hurricanes or natural disasters that take the lives of thousands elsewhere for lack protection?
If the Cuban children –everyone of them-- receive prenatal care, are born in hospitals, are provided intensive postnatal care and free medical services all throughout their lives, are given vaccines for 13 preventable diseases and adequate nutrition, have access to day-care centers, kindergarten and grammar schools --even special education schools for those who might need it-- junior high schools from which almost one hundred percent graduate, senior-high and technical schools for those who apply and scores of universities and colleges; if the most prestigious international institutions concede that health services, education, physical and sports training accorded to our children rank among the best in the world, and are provided free of charge; if the highest share of the country’s net revenues and national budget are allocated to children’s programs; if it is for the children, teenagers and youth that over half a million of mostly highly trained workers labor strenuously; if the Cuban children end up among the first in international knowledge competitions; if the Cuban children are not familiar with drug-abuse and do not die in schools victims of firearms and violence; if it is for them that we are involved in an irrepressible movement towards a comprehensive general culture that is called to place our people among the best cultivated worldwide; then, why must they be devoured by sharks off the coasts of Florida?
Why is Cuba the only country on Earth whose children and people must expect such fate due to a law that fails to have any ethical justification, explanation or excuse?
Whatever the number, be it thirteen, six or only one who dies in the dramatic wreckage of a fast boat during a human traffic operation with thirty or more Cubans on board, it is a discredit to the United States in the eyes of the world.
This is not the first or the only group victim of such a tragedy. An incalculable number of people have had a similar fate, but that has not led the U.S. authorities to fight the hateful and repugnant human traffic. We have offered our sincere cooperation in the struggle against drug traffic, human traffic and any other form of international crime. It is simply due to political arrogance that such cooperation has been either refused or limited to a minimum.
Cuba was the first country to voice its support for the American people after the atrocious crime of September 11, advancing the idea of building a universal awareness against terrorism and carrying forward an active international policy of struggle to efficiently and adequately end with the scourge of terrorism, which has caused so much damage to our country throughout more than 40 years.
Cuba was also the first country that, in response to an appeal by the United Nations’ Secretary General to all member states of that world organization, adhered to the twelve international agreements on terrorism.
Now, it is Cuba that is dealt a hard blow with the death of a number of children swallowed by the sea in the fatal wreckage of the early hours of November 17, the result of a repugnant human traffic operation with Cuban emigrants.
For the dead adults, some of them at fault for having for having been lured to the adventure that took their children’s lives, we feel grief and sorrow, and to their relatives we express our sympathy. For the innocent children dragged to such an unfair and unwarranted death, we are truly in mourning. These were creatures snatched from the Homeland that gives them all so much love and care.
We are not blaming the present government for a phenomenon that is the result of scores of years of aggression, hostility and crimes against Cuba, perpetrated by successive U.S. administrations throughout many years. However, we have every right to claim that an end be put to a barbarian and uncivilized policy.
Events like this affect the credibility and morale of the United States as well as its interests while it is involved in a complex and difficult struggle against terrorism in which, one way or another, the whole international community is involved after the tragic and painful events of September 11. No one would understand why that immoral and unfair law stands which cruelly and unjustifiably takes the lives of so many innocent Cuban children.
Millions of people from the Caribbean nations, from Mexico and from the rest of Latin America have every right to ask why they are persecuted and expelled when they travel to the United States illegally while the Cubans receive incentives to do the same thing and are later rewarded. The same question could also be asked by hundreds of millions of Asians, Africans and people from other regions of the world.
The extensive economic crisis and poverty will make the migratory pressures on the United States mount and for those determined to emigrate the Cuban Adjustment Act will become a major irrefutable moral argument.
There will always be people everywhere willing to risk their lives to emigrate illegally, but there will never be any justification to encourage them to do it. That is a crime against humanity and an expression of hateful contempt for human life.
We would not propose an Adjustment Act for the rest of the countries, for it is a murderous law, but we would certainly propose to undertake the development of the Third World in order to prevent that the region’s exceeding population overwhelm the wealthy societies at the expense of the lives of those emigrants who will try to get there by every possible means.
We would propose justice for the world and some light for the blind politicians who are today the leaders of the most developed and rich nations on Earth.
The Cuban Adjustment Act is not only a murderous law but it is also a terrorist law, one that fosters the worst kind of terrorism since it deliberately and remorselessly kills innocent children.
Homeland or Death!
We shall overcome!