SPEECH GIVEN BY DR. FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, AT THE INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ DAY CELEBRATION, HELD IN REVOLUTION SQUARE, MAY 1st 2002
We were condemned in Geneva by those who believe that this sea of people gathered here, which can be seen from every corner of the globe, has been deprived of its human rights. I am certain that not one of those Latin American countries that promoted, co-sponsored or supported this project could gather even 5 % of the number here in their respective capitals.
Are these fanatic, ignorant and uncultured individuals who lack any historical or political knowledge? If we were to ask this mass of people if there were any amongst them who could not read or write; or if there were any functional illiterate people who had never studied beyond grammar school, not one person could raise their hand. But if we were to ask how many of this same mass have the education of a ninth grader or above, more than 90 %, would raise their hands. The only ones who wouldn’t raise their hands would be the students who haven’t yet reached their 15th birthdays.
Our people’s glorious tradition of rebellion and patriotic struggle, to which we must today add a full and profound understanding of freedom, equality and human dignity; their solidarity and internationalist spirit; their self-confidence and heroic conduct; 43 years of tenacious and unrelenting struggle against the powerful empire; a broad and solid political culture and an extraordinary humanism –all of these qualities cultivated by the Revolution-- have made Cuba a unique country.
Wretched indeed is the destiny of hundreds of millions of people in this part of the world who, from a truly human perspective, have been as yet unable to emerge from humanity’s prehistory. And it will not be possible for them to escape such condition while the pillage that slaughtered tens of millions of their native ancestors, successively turning their countries into colonies, neo-colonies and economically dependant and underdeveloped countries, continues to govern their destiny.
Events prior to, during and after Geneva are barely distinguishable from the shameful history with which our people have been more than familiar since the very first days after the triumph of the Revolution on January 1st, 1959.
Cuba was the last Latin American country to free itself from Spanish colonialism after a heroic and lone struggle. Yet, it was unable to enjoy that victory, as it immediately fell in the hands of the fledgling North American empire, from which it once again liberated itself with the same determination and heroism 61 years later although it would be disgracefully abandoned and betrayed by every other Latin American government.
No book by Marx or Lenin could illustrate the anti-national, submissive and treacherous nature of the Latin American oligarchies and the true significance of imperialism for the destiny of our people as clearly as the last 43 years of our Revolution’s history. Every oligarchic and bourgeois government joined in the imperialist policy of isolation, blockade and aggression against Cuba, the sole exception being a country that had experienced its own great social revolution some decades before, the same that brought justice and real progress to the people of a nation mutilated by the insatiable expansionism of its northern neighbor and made the martyr on numerous occasions throughout its hazardous and painful history of foreign intervention and conquest. Tragically, this time the exception has become rule.
Cuba is no longer the illiterate, uncultured and inexperienced country of those early days. Today, the Latin American population, that numbered 208 millions at that time including the English-speaking Caribbean nations, have swelled to 526 millions. They have also had the opportunity to learn firsthand the meaning of imperialist domination, exploitation, injustice and pillage. Despite the deluge of slander and lies against our exemplary people and their admirable struggle, and in the face of countless capitulations across the globe, there are ever more people who realize that Cuba is a powerful moral force, that defends the truth and shows its solidarity with other people of the world.
Our Latin American brothers have repeatedly been told stories as fantastic as those in the “Arabian nights”, in which they believe less and less every day. For 50 years they have been told that the hundreds of thousands of children that die every year due to neglect and hunger; the millions that work for pitiful salaries cleaning car windshields or shoes, or being traded or sexually exploited instead of going to school, represent democracy and respect for human rights. That the hundreds of millions of human beings living in poverty despite the immense wealth and natural resources that surround them; the vast number of unemployed and underemployed people and informal laborers who survive without the slightest aid, social security or protection; the medical neglect of mothers, children, old people and the poor population in general; the marginalization, drugs, lack of security and crime, are called democracy; are called respect for human rights. That the death squads, summary executions, torture, and the vanishing and murder of people; that the bribery, misappropriation, diversion and bare-faced robbery of public funds while schools and hospitals are closed, national assets and resources are privatized or often given away to domestic and foreign friends and partners in crime and corruption, constitute the fullest expression of democracy and human rights. It doesn’t occur to them that the economic, political and social system that they defend is a total negation of all possibility of equality, freedom, democracy, human dignity and justice.
An illiterate person or one whose education barely surpasses 4th grade, or one who lives in poverty or extreme poverty, or is unemployed or lives in shanty towns where the most unimaginable conditions are rife, or a person who wanders the streets exposed to the constant poison of commercial advertising sowing the seeds of fantasies, illusions and the desire for impossible consumption, a person such as this, that indeed could include vast numbers of people in the desperate daily fight for survival, could be the victim of every kind of abuse, blackmail, pressure and deceit and could lack any representative organization or see these crushed. It is certainly unlikely that such a person could be in a position to understand the complex problems of the world and the society in which they live. They are in no position to exercise their democratic rights, nor decide which is the most honest or demagogic or hypocritical candidate, this under a torrent of propaganda and lies where those with the most resources spout the most lies and deceit.
No freedom of expression can exist where the principal and most effective media are an exclusive monopoly in the hands of the richest and most privileged sectors, sworn enemies of any economic, political or social change. The enjoyment of wealth, education, knowledge and culture are the preserve of those who, accounting for a tiny fraction of the population, receive the larger part of the goods produced in their countries. It is no coincidence that Latin America exhibits the greatest differences between the richest and the poorest.
What kind of democracy and human rights could exist in these conditions? It would be like trying to grow flowers in the middle of the Sahara desert.
On the other hand, when the total stripping of natural resources and the appropriation of human labor is presented as the ideal social and development model and the FTAA, i.e. the annexation and absorption of Latin America by the United States and dollarization are offered as the only way, it is clear that the prevailing political and economic system is approaching total crisis.
Events in Argentina, that is today embroiled in an unbelievable economic and political chaos that has reduced the country to hunger, with more than 20% unemployment among the working population and where the people’s bank savings --especially those of the middle and lower income classes– have been practically confiscated, point to nothing less than the swan song of neoliberal globalization. Such a crisis inevitably produces a complete lack of ethics and values.
The behavior of many leaders as they watch their model economies collapse like so many houses of cards is truly obnoxious.
People’s protests are crushed with amazing violence. Tear gas, people dragged through the streets, brutality exercised against masses by the police armed with shields and swathed in the strangest helmets and outfits giving them the appearance of recent arrivals from a distant planet, are the methods used to defend that democracy and their citizen’s human rights.
Similar scenes have never been witnessed in our country. Never, over more than four decades, has force been used against our people. The revolutionary process grows out of the closest unity and cooperation of all our people, under a consensus without precedent in any other country in the world, unworkable and even unimaginable in a society of exploiters and exploited.
A cultured, rebellious, brave and heroic people such as the Cuban could never be ruled by force, nor a force exist that would rule it because the Cuban people is the force. Never would our people stir up rebellion against themselves because they are the revolution, they are the government, they are the power. It is with their courage, intelligence and ideas that they have defended themselves from the most powerful empire the world has ever known.
Such a political phenomenon had never before occurred in our hemisphere.
Force has always been used by the oligarchs and the empire against the people.
Each and every one of the Latin American countries that condemned us in Geneva or co-sponsored the draft resolution against Cuba are well below achieving the educational, cultural and social rates that are essential for a healthy, decent and just life of their citizens. Not one can match Cuba in a single one of these rates.
For the sake of time, I will outline just a few figures for Latin America as a whole as compared to Cuba.
Ž Illiteracy rate: Latin America, 11.7 %; Cuba, 0.2 %
Ž Inhabitants per teacher: Latin America, 98.4; Cuba, 43, in other words, 2.3 times as many teachers per capita
Ž Primary education enrolment ratio: Latin America, 92 %; Cuba, 100%
Ž Secondary education enrolment ratio: Latin America, 52 %; Cuba, 99.7 %
Ž Primary school students reaching Fifth Grade: Latin America, 76 %; Cuba, 100 %
Ž Infant mortality per thousand live births: Latin America, 32; Cuba, 6.2
Ž Medical doctors per hundred thousand inhabitants: Latin America, 160; Cuba, 590
Ž Dentists per hundred thousand inhabitants: Latin America, 63; Cuba, 89
Ž Nurses per hundred thousand inhabitants: Latin America, 69; Cuba, 743
Ž Hospital beds per 100 thousand inhabitants: Latin America, 220; Cuba, 631.6
Ž Medically attended births: Latin America, 86.5 %; Cuba, 100 %
Ž Life expectancy at birth: Latin America, 70 years; Cuba, 76 years
Ž Population between 15 and 49 years of age infected with HIV/AIDS: Latin America, 0.5 %; Cuba, 0.05 %
Ž Annual AIDS infection rate per million inhabitants, i.e. those who develop the disease: Latin America, 65.25; Cuba, 15.6
Ž The first international study of the Latin American Laboratory of Evaluation of educational quality, carried out in 12 Latin American countries including Cuba, produced the following results. Although these data have been already mentioned, I would like to briefly refer to them in detail:
· In Language, 3rd Grade: Cuba, 85.74 points; the remaining 11 countries, 59.11 points
· In Language, 4th Grade: Cuba, 87.25; the rest, 63.75
· In Mathematics, 3rd Grade: Cuba, 87.75; the rest, 58.31
· In Mathematics, 4th Grade: Cuba, 88.25; the rest, 62.04
What is or will be the future of those countries?
According to these figures, of the seven Latin American countries that voted against Cuba, four --Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay-- that had boasted in the past of being the most advanced in the region, fall well behind Cuban figures. In some of these, they reach or scrape past the half way mark in comparison to Cuba, but in others they are very well below. This is the case of pre-school education for 0-5 year olds, for example, that only reaches 15.8 % of the children in that age group in Chile as compared to Cuba’s 99.2 %.
It requires a truly cynical person to join such a Mafia-style adventure, in which they have been involved at the urge of the imperial overlords.
The response to the emergence of the Bolivarian Revolution in which the people and the military joined together to unleash a revolutionary and democratic process that is also unprecedented, was a fascist coup d’état.
The privileged oligarchy, that enjoys the bulk of the country’s income and owns the most powerful media, set its followers on the Bolivarian people and the headquarters of the President himself under the influence and support of imperialism. Their goal was a bloody encounter that could be used to justify the coordinated actions of a small but extremely well-placed military force. Miraculously a bloody civil war was averted, thanks to the reasonable and sensible behavior of President Chįvez, the support of the Bolivarian people and the loyalty of the vast majority of the officers and men of the Armed Forces in that sister nation. A new page in America’s complex and arduous history has been turned by the very people that began the process of independence from Spain in this hemisphere.
The stripping of Cuba’s right to representation in Monterrey, the fascist coup in Venezuela and the disgraceful behavior in Geneva in the order in which they occurred have exposed and offered evidence of the dirty and hypocritical politics of the empire’s lackeys. I must point out that the Presidents of Brazil, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean countries did not join the celebrations of the coup. In the same way, Bolivia and Colombia joined the above countries in rejecting the deplorable behavior in Geneva.
As for the fascist coup, not one condemned it except for the Argentinean President who was perhaps nervous considering his delicate political situation in which even a police Sargent could easily overthrow him.
One month later, when the scandal broke out after the shameful Monterrey episode, some leaders maintained a decent silence. Not so the distinguished Secretary General of the discredited and repulsive OAS, as if that organization really existed. He threw poison darts with his support for the abuse sustained by Cuba.
What a trash are many of those who pretend to be sovereign governors!
The honorable history of our Motherland, that once stood alone in battle against practically every one of the predecessors to those governments that voted against Cuba, who had allied themselves to the United States at that time in support of the Bay of Pigs invasion; that heroically resisted without a moment’s weakness on the brink of being wiped off the face of the Earth in the October Crisis of 1962; should shame those conspiring with the United States in Geneva, if they still have at least, the freedom to be ashamed of themselves. Neither will they be able to deny without blushing that when the socialist camp collapsed, the USSR disintegrated, the Yankee blockade was tightened to include the sale of medicines and food, classified as a crime of genocide by the 1948 and 1949 Conventions, and all believed that the Cuban Revolution would be on its knees in just a few weeks, our people endured with unprecedented heroism and resilience.
Cuba, after withstanding the most unbelievable difficulties and threats, terrorist attacks and risks of all kinds has never and will never put down its flags before the hegemonic superpower that today hands out orders to its lackeys and bootlickers in this unfortunate hemisphere through a terrorist made Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, showing an utter lack of respect by the United States government and an utter lack of modesty by its lackeys.
When Cuba’s honor, morale and credibility were called into question by the disagreement with the host country, it became very clear that hypocrisy and lies are inseparable and almost unique tools of the prevailing political and economic system in Latin America.
My decency and ethics were under question when, placed in the dilemma of being loyal to a lie or loyal to the truth; loyal to deceit and slandering manipulation of the facts, or loyal to our people and all peoples of the world, I was loyal to the truth and to the people. The vestal virgins of the temple of hypocrisy tore their clothes in the name of privacy. Even honest men who had been outraged witnesses in the past to electoral incidents and dishonest traps of political adversaries were led to believe that my behavior was inappropriate.
I did not invent anything, I called no-one nor laid any trap for anyone. I gave as much warning as I could to those who had challenged me for more than a month with their demands for evidence, evidence and more evidence. Although by no means did I feel bound by what was later proved, in the course of events, to be a deceitful trick to force me into silence and confidentiality over such a significant issue, I clearly demanded the cessation of all offences. Then, when the lies, slander and demands for proof continued over several weeks, I fulfilled the warning I had made.
I was also accused of being vengeful because of the unfulfilled promise related to Geneva. All my life I have been a gentleman to my adversaries, even in war situations surrounded by death. I’ve never humiliated, offended nor wreaked revenge on a single prisoner, not even in the case of the Bay of Pigs while my comrades lay mortally wounded or dead around me. But I do know how to distinguish the ethical from the unethical. I delayed presentation of the evidence demanded from me only out of the desire to cause no harm to a sister country I admire and respect. Representatives from some friendly governments that participated in the Summit chastised me for not having presented the evidence in the conference itself.
Lying is and will always be unjustifiable from a political, ethical and religious perspective. From what I remember of the catechism lessons I received in 1st Grade in a catholic school, it violates the eighth commandment of God’s law. One must be honorable.
I did not seek any pretexts, and I did not hesitate in expressing the need and duty to leave a historical record of that conversation which they asked me to keep private only once it had already begun. My personal letter to the President was also private, however, it was published without consulting me 48 hours later, on the very same day I left Monterrey.
I truly regret having to include this issue in my speech, but I felt it was my duty to do so. High raking officials from that country continue to attack us on a daily basis over this subject, which is still too fresh to consign it to the wastebasket of forgetfulness.
To those who so foolishly speak and repeat the imperialists slogan that no democracy and no respect for human rights exist in Cuba, let me repeat: no-one can question the fact that, despite being very small, our country today is the freest, fairest and most supportive country on the planet. It is also by far the most democratic. There is only one Party, but this neither nominates nor elects candidates. This is completely forbidden: it is the citizens from the grassroots level who propose, nominate and elect candidates. Our country enjoys an enviable and ever more solid and indestructible unity. The media is public and does not and cannot belong to private individuals. It carries no commercial advertisements and it does not promote consumerism; it entertains and informs, educates and never alienates.
Cuba already occupies world-wide outstanding and hard-to-surpass positions in a growing number of fields essential to guarantee life and the most fundamental political, civil, social, and human rights to ensure the well-being and future of our people. The mass political knowledge of the Cuban people is unrivalled in any other country. Its cultural and social programs and achievements advance at an unprecedented pace.
Our dreams become reality. A more humane society is possible, lies and slander notwithstanding. History will bear this out.
Long live Socialism!
Motherland or Death!
We shall overcome!