Speech given by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers, at the ceremony marking the birthday of Elian Gonzalez and the fourth anniversary of the Battle of Ideas, held at "Marcelo Salado" Primary School in Cardenas, Matanzas on December 5, 2003, Year of the Glorious Anniversaries of Marti and the Moncada.


Dear students, teachers, families and distinguished guests at this emotional ceremony:

To be able to talk, your throat has to be in good shape, right? And I have had to spend many hours talking over these last few days. Now you, primary school children, want me to talk. Do you know what you are doing? Have you thought it over carefully? What if I talk for two hours? (Laughter)

Tell me something: what do you want me to talk about? (Shouts of "Everything!") Everything? But I am not a universal geography teacher. (The children ask him to talk about how he has felt in the school.) Oh! Well now, it has brought back many memories. I was thinking about this just a few minutes ago: the first time I came to this school was four years ago, less a day, or rather, tomorrow it will be exactly four years.

I was also reflecting on the fact that when I came on that day, on December 6, 1999, four years ago, the children who were in first grade then are now in fifth grade. Let us see, could the children who are in fifth grade please raise their hands? (They raise their hands.) You remember, right? (Shouts of "Yes!") Now raise your hand those who are in sixth grade. (They raise their hands.) Well then, the children who are in fifth and sixth grade were here then. There are many children here who will remember those days.

Almost all of the teachers who worked at the school back then are still here now. There are also about 16 young teachers here now who were not here then. They were grade 12 students in senior high school back then.

Do you know why these young, intensively trained teachers are here? They are the result of the events that led to the visit I made to this school four years ago.

You asked me how I feel; I am comparing it to how I felt on that day, and how the teachers, workers and everyone else who met here that afternoon felt. Perhaps back then we could not even have imagined the enormous historical importance that those events would have, as well as the events that took place later, which we could talk about for days on end.

Tears, sorrow and sadness reigned here back then. And why? Because a great injustice had been committed: one of the children from this school was sadly absent. His father, his grandparents, his relatives were going through terrible suffering because of the events that had led to the absence of that child.

In those days, the school did not look the way it looks today, freshly painted, with a series of improvements that had not taken place then. It was a well-built school, but like many others, it needed to be painted, and to have a few repairs done.

I am not going to explain to you now why this school did not look as nice as it does today, or why many schools were not the way they are now. I am not going to explain this to you, because one day you will know why, you will gradually discover the reasons why our children, the children of Cuba, have been receiving the kind of attention over the last few years that is unlike anything ever seen in this hemisphere, or in any other part of the world.

You have heard about the Revolution. I am not going to explain to you what a revolution is, I am simply going to tell you that when what this thing we call a Revolution triumphed, that is, when it defeated its enemy after a long, hard struggle, there were hundreds of thousands of children in this country who did not go to school. There were a million adults who could not read or write. There were millions of others who did not even make it as far as sixth grade, because the majority of those who had been able to attend school at all only went as far as second, third or fourth grade. No more than one out of every ten could manage to reach or perhaps barely succeed in surpassing a sixth grade education.

The vast majority of children could not make it as far as fifth grade, or sixth grade, because they were the children of workers, of peasants, of humble people who needed them to help the family make a living, to buy food, clothing and shoes, although many of them went around barefoot or dressed in rags, because, like I said, they were very poor.

I never saw schools like this one, or even schools quite as nice as this one, when I was your age. I never saw an afternoon like this. I never saw joy like this. I never saw hundreds and hundreds of children doing what you have done here this afternoon. I never saw such a beautiful ceremony. I never saw so many children performing with such incredible grace. I never saw teachers like the three art teachers who came through here, well-known and famous graduates from our art schools.

Back when the Revolution I was telling you about began, there was nothing even remotely similar to what we call the Higher Institute of Arts. We could hardly have even dreamed that years later, there could be young people like this, so cultured, so well-trained, so skilled, here with you for perhaps an hour, an hour and a half, bringing joy to everyone, to you, to the teachers, to the workers, to the guests, to the journalists –I am sure they also enjoyed what they saw here– and also to the dear group of people here with us who have suffered the tremendous injustices committed against beloved members of their families: sons, fathers, brothers, for whom they have struggled restlessly over these last years.

When I said that a student from this school was absent because of a great injustice, you all know what I was talking about, because you are very smart. But he is not the only example. There is an innocent little girl who is now five years old, here among you this afternoon, who has been the victim of a monstrous crime that she can barely understand. Thousands of children have been the victims of great injustices; thousands of children, mothers and other people have died in those seas as a consequence of a law that we call a murderous law, created to attack the Revolution, created to destroy the Revolution, with no regard for the tears, the mourning, the sadness caused to our beloved and heroic people by that brutal law.

And this is not the only barbaric act committed against our people. It is one of many that have been committed throughout more than half a century, and are still continuously committed.

Just today, a number of news reports arrived from over there. About 10 citizens of our country who recently drowned –including a woman and a child, according to the reports– as a consequence of that murderous law and the policies of the most formidable power that has ever existed in the world and that has been trying, unsuccessfully, to crush this Revolution for the last 45 years.

I use the word heroic when I talk about our people, because never before in history has such an uneven battle been fought, and never before has such a great victory been achieved by such a small country in its fight against the aggressions of such a mighty power.

I was talking about a little girl –I will not say who it is– who also came here today with other relatives of victims of equally monstrous acts. They said to me, "Look, do you see that little girl over there? That is so-and-so, she is five years old now." The little girl is here, and so is her mother. And you would be astonished if I told you that this little girl has never been able to meet her father, that her mother is prevented from visiting her husband, who is over there, inside that powerful empire, for having fulfilled the sacred duty of warning about the plots organized against our people by terrorist mobs. Terrorists organized, directed and paid from the United States to plant bombs in our hotels; terrorists who came here to shoot at tourism facilities, where thousands of citizens of Cardenas and Matanzas work, in order to destroy the country’s economy; the same terrorist groups who once blew up a Cuban plane in mid-flight, with 73 people on board; the same murderers who were recruited, trained and armed by that powerful nation to murder men, women and children in our country, just as mercenary forces backed by warships, planes and modern weaponry supplied by the U.S. government invaded our country through Playa Giron, or the Bay of Pigs, here in this province of Matanzas.

Well then, for attempting to obtain information that would help to expose and prevent bloody terrorist plots, five genuine heroes, whose conduct will eternally serve as an example for our young people, are locked up over there, in high-security prisons, each one in a different state of that country, isolated from all the others, because they will not even allow them to be together. One has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, one has been sentenced to 19 years, two have been given life sentences, and another has been given two life sentences. If any one of them were to live 100 years more, he would spend those 100 years in prison. If he lived 200 years, he would live them in prison. If he lived 1000 years, he would still be in prison.

You can understand how much suffering this terrible injustice brings to us. And I have mentioned just a few unjustifiable and monstrous injustices.

All of this makes us suffer, but it does not discourage us, because we have spent the last 45 years fighting back with unshakable dignity, honor, courage and determination against the government of that superpower, which has only achieved one defeat after another in its actions against Cuba.

Today, coincidentally, a wire story brought news of a mob made up of unscrupulous and shamefully dishonest high officials. They were gathered in the White House –that is what they call the place where those who rule the empire gather– for a commission has been created for no other purpose than to think up and implement actions to destroy the Revolution, after 45 years of futile attempts and failures.

Those with some knowledge of political affairs could really get a laugh out of imagining the spectacle of that cabal gathered there, and seeing the press agencies reporting on the magic formulas they are going to implement to terminate the Revolution. I think that even the youngest children here today can understand what this means.

I can assure you that repugnant plans like these are being elaborated for a very simple reason: it is because they do not want justice. They hate justice, they hate the independence of the peoples, they hate freedom, and they hate the poor. They want to bring back what there used to be here, and I started out by telling you what there used to be here.

If you go to that country, you will find tens of thousands of people living under bridges, sleeping under newspapers. If you go to that country, you will find that although it is the richest and most powerful country in the world, there are more than 40 million people who have no access to health care services, millions who are illiterate, who live in poor neighborhoods without sufficient and adequate schools, where people are discriminated against because of skin color, or because they are immigrants who have escaped from hunger. And these people are mercilessly exploited because there is no spirit of brotherhood or solidarity whatsoever. There, you will never see a school like this one, where all of the children have the same opportunities to study, even if their parents are poor, or they suffer from some mental or physical disability. They do not have, and never could have, a school like this one, with one teacher for every 20 students, or less than 20 students.

The children in efficiently run schools are the children of the rich, because they go to the best, most luxurious schools, where they pay thousands and thousands of dollars every year. They do not have schools where education is free for all children, without exception, just as they do not have medical care or hospitals and health care services free for all children without exception. The good hospitals are exclusively for those who are very, very rich, who can pay any amount of money necessary in order for their children and families to receive medical care.

You know that there is nothing more repugnant than these differences and discriminations. How does this show? I will give you an example. In that country, in any poor neighborhood where Mexican immigrants live, or immigrants from Haiti or other Latin American countries, out of every 1000 children born, 20 or 25 or 30 or even more die before their first birthday. The children of the rich have three, four or five times less chance of dying than the children of the poor.

In that very wealthy country, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year on weapons to destroy and to kill, more children die in their first year of life than in Cuba.

In no other country in Latin America is there free education for all children. In no other country in Latin America is there free medical care for all children equally. In Cuba, a revolution has brought justice, equality and dignity for all citizens without exception. This is a country where you will never see school-aged children wandering the streets or begging. This is a country where 100% of the children, who are your age, primary-school age, attend school and graduate from sixth grade. This is a country, the only one in this hemisphere, including the United States, where 100% of children go on to seventh grade. It is a country where 99.5% of teenagers graduate from ninth grade. This is a country where practically 100% of children under five years of age receive the benefits of an educational plan through the "Educate Your Child" program. This is a country, the only one in this hemisphere, where all children, from the moment they are born, have the possibility of growing up healthy and sound, of having a liter of milk a day, and the food they need, and in terms of education, to go from kindergarten up to becoming a PhD without spending a penny.

I see the little first grade students there, and I want to ask them a question. How much do you pay to study at this school? (They answer, "Nothing.") Is there anyone who pays a penny, who is charged anything at all? (They say no.) Is there anyone here who pays a penny for the school lunch? (The say no).

This is the country that that monstrous empire wants to destroy, wants to wipe off the map, because this country, these people, all of you, have become an example for the rest of the countries of Latin America that face ever greater poverty, greater problems, and fewer resources for education and health care. And they, who do not want life to change in all of our sister countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and do not want the governments of those countries to be able to say no to any of the empire’s demands, do not want Cuba to continue to exist as a beacon of hope, as a star.

It is absolutely certain that the other countries will change. Some are already beginning to carry out profound changes, and that is why the current masters of the world do not want to see the fulfillment of that dream of Jose Marti, who said that he was willing to die without a homeland –which he did not have, because it was occupied by the powerful Spanish colonial army– but then without a master, and to have on his grave just a bouquet of flowers and a flag. Today, we Cubans have a homeland; if we must die defending it, we will die with a homeland and without a master. (Applause and shouts.)

That little group of idiots who met yesterday in the White House will die of bitterness, they will die of frustration, they will die of astonishment when they see how this country has endured 45 years of blockade. Now, they are promising to adopt a series of magic measures to defeat the Cuban Revolution; in other words, to destroy the work that the Revolution has carried out over these 45 years, to destroy this freedom, to destroy this joy we saw here today, to destroy this future, to destroy this marvelous and ever increasing culture that all of the children of Cuba enjoy today and will continue to enjoy to an increasingly greater degree, with fully equal opportunities to develop their minds, their talents and their vocations to the greatest extent possible.

This struggle for the independence and the future of our people has been going on for a long time and different stages, throughout the course of almost a century, from the beginning of the first war of independence in 1868 up until the final battle when full independence was achieved, on January 1, 1959. And it achieved the greatest freedom ever achieved by any people in the world, because no other people in the world has been able to say "No!" throughout 45 years; no other people in the world has been able to defy that monstrous power and say "No!" to it for 45 years, to say "No!" to it today with even greater force and certainty than on the first day, and to be in a position to say "No!" for another hundred years if necessary. But it will not be necessary for that much longer, because those who manage that insatiable and unsustainable monster are meeting with growing opposition from the peoples of the world, and even more importantly, from the people of the United States itself, whose ancestors proclaimed that the "Creator" had endowed all human beings with sacred rights.

When we talk about the imperialist aggressor, the imperialist superpower, the monster, we are not referring, and never will, to the people of the United States. The United States is made up of tens of millions, hundreds of millions, almost 300 million people, who are just like you: children, teachers, mothers and fathers, people capable of having noble sentiments. Nobody can blame them for the system they live in. This system is a product of history, a product of the historical evolution of human society which, over the course of thousands of years of injustice, has degenerated into the current globalized imperialist system, ever more unsustainable, which is imposed on the world today.

You will ask yourselves, why is it that in other countries in this hemisphere, there are so many millions of children without schools, and so many tens of millions of poor children? Why do so many dozens of children die for every 1000 children born every year? Why is there so much hunger? Why is there so much poverty? Why is there so much discrimination? Why are there so many social problems? Why are there barefoot children? Why are there armies of children who go out every day, in any capital city, to clean windshields, polish shoes, beg for money, when they are still at an age when they should be in school, in fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth grade? Quite simply, it is because of this system of exploitation that plunders the peoples, so that a tiny minority can enjoy enormous privileges.

You will ask yourselves, and will it always be like this? The answer is no, because time is increasingly running out for this system of domination, because the peoples are becoming ever more aware of these injustices, because the peoples are rebelling against them more and more, and overthrowing governments, with growing frequency, oftentimes without firing a single shot.

In our sister country of Bolivia –you have heard a lot about Bolivia, because it was precisely there that Che was fighting for justice, and fighting to change the atrocious lives of the peoples of Latin America– a government fell without a single shot being fired against it. The governments are now so weak, and in such critical condition, that it takes just a breath to topple them.

As a result of these conditions of injustice, two consecutive governments fell with just a breath in Argentina. As a result of these injustices, in another large country, a workers movement leader, a laborer who had run for president on three previous occasions, achieved a wide victory, when a considerable majority of the people gave him their votes. We have the example of our sister nation of Venezuela, where a profound revolutionary process is now underway.

There is instability in almost all of the countries of Latin America. This is why they are plotting crimes against Cuba over there in the White House, resorting to the ways of gangsters. They are nervous, they are fearful, they are desperate in the face of the reality of over 500 million inhabitants of this hemisphere who are rebelling to a greater extent every day against the intolerable living conditions they endure.

I can assure you that this system of plunder will not last much longer. And what has the terrorist imperialist mob decided to do? To desperately search for any means possible of wiping out the example of Cuba, a beacon of dignity, of unshakable determination, an inextinguishable light of heroic resistance.

Today, our country already has the best system of education among all the countries of the world. It has the largest number of teachers per capita, and the lowest number of students per classroom. There is no longer a single primary school with more than 30 students in a classroom. The national average is less than 20, and in the capital itself, where just two years ago the average class size was 37, today it is 18. And all of this was done in spite of the ‘special period’ and the blockade.

Today, in our secondary schools, where an extraordinary and novel educational process is being implemented, we now have one teacher for every 15 students. In the past, one teacher taught a single subject to several groups of 40 or 50 students each; they ended up teaching a total of 200 or 300 students in all. They did not even know the names of all their students, because it would have been impossible. They did not have any relationship with the students’ families that can contribute and are, in fact, contributing so much to their children’s education.

New methods are being implemented with the use of the most modern technology, which can vastly expand the knowledge acquired by students every year.

Presently, our children begin studying computers right from kindergarten. Today, our primary school children, who are in school for the full day everywhere in the country, and who are already ranked at the top worldwide in both language and mathematics, will acquire three times as much knowledge every year. Our secondary school students, who used to only attend school for half the day, will acquire four times as much knowledge.

I am going to tell you something now, and you are not going to believe me. Quite often, in the early hours of the afternoon, when I have the time, I watch the classes broadcast on television, and I remember what they taught me when I was in second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade, in language, mathematics, geography, history, and so on, and I am amazed at the things that can be learned in half an hour.

Yesterday, in fact, at around 2:00 in the afternoon, I was watching a television class on geography, and I can assure you that in barely half an hour, I learned quite a few things about the planet, about the Earth: what it was like 350 million years ago, what it was like 300 million years ago, what it was like 250 million years ago, and so on. The first thing that appears is a mass, as if someone threw a handful of ink on a piece of paper, and a compact spot was made. All of the Earth, all of it, was like that spot 350 million years ago. Then they went on to explain and to show images of what happened in successive stages, how this mass separated and the current configuration of the planet emerged, the map of all the continents that you see today.

Then they talked about the Earth’s crust, which covers the entire planet under the seas and on dry land, what it was like, how the shapes of all of the continents were formed, how mountain ranges were created, and how they can use technology today to map out the ocean floor, its valleys, its mountain ranges, how the movement of this crust is produced as a result of something called magma, which makes up the bulk of the volume of the planet, or how the Himalayan mountains were formed through these movements, how volcanoes are made, what factors lead to earthquakes. And during this time, I was able to see dozens of images in color, in full detail, with clear explanations, and it made me think just how much I would like to be in seventh, eighth or ninth grade today.

Once again I was amazed, once again I felt so happy to see for myself the prospects of the methods we are implementing for the education of almost half a million students in our junior high schools. We will continue to actively work in order to gradually extend the provision of a heavy midday snack to all of the junior high schools in the country. We hope that this goal will have been reached by the beginning of the next school year in September of 2004, that is, within eight or ten months: a snack that contains 41% of the protein required by children of that age, and free of charge, as well.

What could an honorable, serious, decent person think when reading a news report on those bandits, discussing and dreaming up formulas to further strangle Cuba, to tighten the blockade, to prevent all of this, to prevent Cuban children from having access to more books, more educational resources, more and better food?

Perhaps they were totally unaware of the fact that two days before the grotesque and shameless meeting of that vaunted committee, I took part in a constructive meeting with more than 600 students and professors from 239 American universities. I can assure you that those young people, participants in a program called Semester at Sea, which takes place twice a year, truly impressed me with their humane attitude and their decency. These are undoubtedly young people who will leave university with greater knowledge of the world and greater political awareness. In the last few years, I have met and spoken with more than 4000 of them.

Among the various presidents who have governed the United States during the years of the Revolution, there was one who bragged about the fact that he had only read one book in his entire life, and there might be another who has only read two or three. What is perhaps most strange about this situation is that individuals with the power to destroy the world in a matter of hours –just imagine– with the power to destroy all of the nations of the world in a matter of hours, have less political culture –and I am not talking about sentiments now– than the students here at the "Marcelo Salado" Primary School. (Applause) And this is no exaggeration, nor am I including the teachers, because our teachers, in this regard, are absolute geniuses compared to those who wield such monstrous power. On the other hand, they totally lack any moral or ethical principles. The difference between the truth and lies does not even exist for them.

That is the reality of this world: a globalized and unsustainable system of exploitation and plunder of all the peoples of the Third World, governed by barbaric and totally unscrupulous norms. That is why, when I recall my meetings with those young students from the United States, I say that the executioners plotting a genocide against Cuba will not only have to confront the courage of our people, their determination to triumph or to die, their determination to keep up the struggle to defend their homeland and their Revolution with greater will, determination and experience than ever before; they will also have to confront the people of the United States itself, for whom we feel growing affection.

It is worth remembering the great battle that began on that December 5, because I came to this school on December 6, and the day before, the struggle had been launched outside the U.S. Interests Section by a thousand young people from the scientific brigades; after finishing a meeting, they marched on the U.S. Interests Section and made the first denunciations from the top of a jeep.

We cannot forget the many months that battle lasted, and how in the end, 80% of the American people had become aware of the great injustice being committed, and supported the return of that little boy, whose absence caused everyone, and the whole people of Cuba, so much sorrow and such determination to struggle.

We launched a difficult battle amidst the lies and slander against our country; but we were determined to win that battle, and we would have won it, let no one doubt that. Our people would have won that battle without violence, with the truth, with arguments, with reason, using the possibility of transmitting the truth to the world. And not only the majority of U.S. public opinion was on our side, but also the majority of world public opinion.

Oh! But a battle had begun, and it was obvious that we could not give it up when that particular injustice had been repaired, because what was important, what was essential, was all of the causes that had brought so much hurt on our people, the loss of so many lives of men, women, teenagers, children and old people; the abuses, the crimes, the threats, the blockades, the mercenary attacks, the sabotages, the war waged by the richest and mightiest power in the world against a small island 90 miles away.

They could neither halt the progress of the Revolution, nor thwart a human undertaking, which has no parallel in history. This is a country bound by honor, by a sense of dignity, whose loyalty to the lofty principles with which it undertook its struggle has been unwavering since the first battle against the tyranny. This is a nation that, in the course of 25 months of fighting, never once humiliated a prisoner that had laid down his arms, never once mistreated him or showed him the slightest disrespect; that never once denied the wounded the care they needed, at times even prioritizing the care of a wounded enemy in cases of serious injury. We would give them medical supplies, despite the fact that we were blockaded in the Sierra Maestra.

Morals and principles cannot be forgotten. Our principles have remained unshakable to this day.

If you watch a TV news broadcast from Europe, whenever there is a strike or a social conflict you never fail to see men dressed in what looks like diving suits releasing tear gas or launching powerful jets of water, enormous horses rushing against the crowd and the beating of all sorts of citizens who are protesting against old and new abuses. Our country can call things by their rightful name, whether it is the bandits who have committed countless crimes against Cuba or the hypocritical European governments that are accomplices of the United States in its aggressions against Cuba and that threatened to withdraw a "humanitarian assistance" that never existed, that was no more than a shameful lie, and that was offered like a petty handout.

They would buy around 500 million US dollars worth of goods from us and we would buy over 1.5 billion from them. Making a conservative estimate on the profits they reaped from unequal trade with us, we can say they were getting no less than 400 million US dollars from Cuba in the form of profits. Approval for so-called "humanitarian aid" took years and years of discussion, and the officials who discussed such aid would stay in the best hotels and travel with the best airlines, while a great part of the money was being spent on this as they decided what to do with the aid and how to go about it.

I assure you that, for the most part, we accepted the so-called "humanitarian aid", with which they hope to polish off their dirty consciences for centuries of pillaging the world, out of politeness and courtesy, as we have no need for such aid, miserable sums to be sure, to accomplish everything we have accomplished.

The great feats achieved in this four-year-long battle of ideas stem exclusively from our own resources. They scarcely account for 1% of our annual spending in foreign currency, and we have truly revolutionized many aspects of life, which shall prove significant indeed.

What is it that these criminals, or the ruffians responsible for anti-Cuba policies, many of which exhibit a shameful background of immoral acts and complicity with Miami's terrorist mob, do not want to see?

They simply would not like to see, or are frightened --one cannot account for it in any other way-- by Cuba's growing prestige. They have not the minutest thing to reproach her for. They must justify all of their actions through lies and vicious slander.

They have gone as far as accusing us of manufacturing biological weapons, Cuba, a country whose research institutes are devoted exclusively to studies for the production of medicines that save lives, that have produced vaccines that protect God knows how many people around the world from diseases and death, that develop new means and techniques to confront the serious health problems that weigh heavily on humanity today; a country that reports the lowest rates of the AIDS in the entire world, that seeks medical solutions for the prevention or cure of malignant tumors. A country that is advancing in many different directions, a country that, having healthcare services superior to those of any other country, is modifying, transforming and perfecting these services that, inevitably, shall not only place us ahead of the United States and any other industrialized nation but, in this context, will also give us an extraordinary lead. They won’t be able to catch up with us. This is unbearable for them: their conceit, their pride, their arrogance cannot tolerate it. Well, they shall have to put up with it! I promise you this on behalf of the Cuban people! (Applause).

Oh! They place high hopes --you hear this in the media over there, among many other hypocritical statements-- on an imminent solution for all this. Yes, because the idiots are counting the seconds of life I have left, forgetting that this is a revolutionary leader who has had the privilege of living the years he has lived, despite the innumerable attempts on his life concocted by the United States.

They have had an additional misfortune, as I seem to have been blessed with longevity genes (Applause). I am not worried, nor have I ever been worried, about questions of life or death. It has nothing to do with courage or anything of the sort; I know exactly what it is. I have never written an autobiography, but what I have stored as memories would come close to filling up a building like this one with compact disks (Laughs).

Why do I claim to be at ease and ever more at ease? Some of you might be wondering. Simply because this Revolution does not depend on a single individual, nor two, nor three. In the White House, they speak as though they knew the date on which I am to die. Their talent for killing is well known. Should I be a bit more careful to make it harder for them? No one can say how many they have killed already. Someday the number will be known, when certain documents are declassified or someone reveals the information. But it is best not to waste time in such matters. It has always been like this.

One of the participants of the momentous gathering declared: "We are seeing the regime grow weaker every day. It depends almost exclusively on the personality of one individual. This individual is getting older every day and his health is less than perfect."

It is really funny. To discover, at this point in time, that a person gets older by the minute deserves a Nobel Prize. And what an honor this is, what a flattering distinction! It is far greater than the Statue of Liberty, at the entrance of New York, that gigantic monument. I worry that this distinction will continue to grow until it bumps against the moon, the honor of making one individual responsible for their frustrations, their failures, their defeats, of the unheard-of-fact that the super-powerful empire should have clashed against the supposed attributes of one individual, ascribing to him what stems from the unyielding spirit and extraordinary heroism of his people.

Their arrogance blinds them and their rage prevents them from seeing or understanding what has become of the former semi-colony where 90% of people were illiterate or semi-illiterate and whose levels of culture act today like a barrier against the lack of common sense, the impotence and the ignorance of those who govern the empire.

For over half a century, those Cubans were taught that the independence they had fought so hard to obtain was not the work of Céspedes, Agramonte, Martí, Gómez, Maceo and many dozens of thousands of extraordinary warriors, that it was not the achievement of a people that, scarcely over one million in number --a great part of which was Spanish, and where, in a society based on slavery where the owners of great plantations, of Cuban descent, were pro-Spanish or pro-annexationists-- fought for 30 years against enemy forces whose ranks swelled to 300 thousand troops. I do believe, in all honesty, that no other people have accomplished a similar feat.

Once that decadent Spanish power had been defeated, the US government showed a truly shameless opportunism in establishing, under the pretext of a humanitarian act, a neocolony governed by the clauses of an infamous Amendment imposed on our Constitution, giving them the right to intervene and even occupy a part of our territory and remain in occupation, as they pleased, for an indeterminate period of time, as they occupy our territory now with the Guantánamo base, transformed into a world prison in violation of all law and of what they themselves refer to as human rights. It hurts us when throughout the world people talk about that horrible prison, one that bears no difference with the Nazi concentration camps.

As a result of that intervention, the base has remained there, by force. The United States has millions and millions of square feet in its territory that it could use for that purpose, but they did not build this prison there, they established it here to humiliate Cuba.

A great many countries are voicing complaints that many of their citizens are detained there without trial or guarantees, in violation of the most elementary of international norms.

While all of this is taking place, as I have already explained, five of our comrades, who saw the terrorist activities against Cuba up close and incurred great risks to inform and warn our nation of those criminal designs hatched in and directed from the United States, are now subject to severe and inhumane treatment in high-security prisons, in humiliating and abusive conditions of a completely arbitrary nature, which serve only to increase the admiration and pride felt by our people, who see them uphold, unyieldingly, their revolutionary principles and their dignity.

They should take a closer look at those young men and understand that they shall find millions like them right here. This island could be showered with nuclear weapons, it shall never yield. This country has a heroic background. It is a country where hundreds of thousands of people have worked in internationalist missions and that today have the military training to become an invader's worst nightmare.

We began the struggle against Batista's army and armed forces, a total of 85,000 men, with but a few rifles, only seven. The story is well known: dignity, patriotism, our people's ability to think, meditate, analyze and adapt itself to any kind of war. We even lived through the experience of being in the sights of hundreds of nuclear missiles in 1962. Not one citizen was known to lose sleep over this, or worry in any way.

This country has millions of fighters and millions of weapons, and it knows how to put them to use in case of an aggression. The brainy strategists behind the policy of intimidation, blockade, economic strangulation and aggression against Cuba would do well to sit down and meditate for a few minutes on how things would unfold in this country, which is not an easy target, for several reasons: they know that the price would be impossibly high; they know that the American people would never support such an action because, despite all of the lies and pretexts used for deception, it is ever more opposed to illegalities, arbitrary actions and wars of conquest; they know that the American people are ever more aware of the sheer nonsense and falsity of their government. And let me say I am going easy on them. The condemning evidence that is available to us would be enough to expose them indelibly in the eyes of history. The dead one can still do a few things before giving up the ghost!

But another shameless bit of nonsense has been said. The small clique got together and an imbecile made a public declaration saying that they were doing more than everything needed to bring the quickest possible end to the Revolution, that it was not simply a question of bringing this about, but rather of preventing another revolutionary leader from governing the country at all costs, that they would make sure of this, in clear reference to a military intervention.

It would seem they want to install the Miami mob here, or who knows what scoundrels, what criminals, what degenerates, and hope to govern, thus, this indomitable people. They just do not get it; they either smoke marijuana --I cannot explain it to myself any other way-- or they spend their days knocking back God knows what strange cocktails.

They speak as though they truly believed that, come tomorrow, this Revolution will fall to pieces, that this country cannot put up a fight. They do not realize what cause, what reality and what force move the Cuban Revolution!

We make mistakes in our country, I am not denying this. And I am constantly denouncing, warning, urging people to think, demanding corrections. We know our people very well. The enemy does not know it will find millions of leaders, that it will find an entire people, even children, transformed into leaders; that it will find a political and revolutionary culture with no parallel in any other country. It will find that no political process has ever had more popular support than that enjoyed by this Revolution.

They, the enemies, will finally come to the realization that Cuba does not preserve its peace and tranquility through the use of force, fire trucks, men dressed in diving-suits-like uniforms, tear gas or seven-foot horses, or through violence. Our government can boast the unparalleled record of never once having used force against its people.

They know this to be the case, just as they know that no one has ever been tortured or been the victim of a death squad here, and that such institutions do not exist in Cuba. They know that there have never been illegal executions here, nor any political assassination in the course of 45 years of Revolution; an Olympic record that will be difficult to beat in the coming years. You should know that during the disturbance we had in 1994, that 5th of August, not a single police officer, nor a fire truck or anything of the sort, made a single move on the crowd. I was there personally, in the front seat of a jeep and, having strictly forbidden the nine men that accompanied me from using their firearms, I got off near a group of really disgruntled and marginal people, who had been promised by the official counter-revolutionary radio in the United States that they would all be fetched by boats. They were thirsty for provocation, they were irritated and they began to throw stones. No one made a single move, because the first thing I did was instructing the pertinent authorities not to send in the army or the police. People began to come out from everywhere and the very people who had been throwing stones began to applaud. We walked to the port entrance, it was teeming with people, God knows where they came from, and we walked down the whole length of the seafront area. It is the only disturbance we have had in 45 years. No shots were fired, no tear gas was released, no beatings were given, there were no wounded. This is the strength of morals, the strength of dignity, the strength of principles. This is my first public declaration about my personal involvement in that event.

Perhaps, this is the reason that they believe the Revolution will crumble 15 minutes after my death. They are unaware, or pretend to be unaware, of the millions of knowledgeable people in this country, people who are not illiterate, who know more about politics --much more, infinitely more-- than those gentlemen over there. They forget the people who know of human psychology, who know the tradition of patriotism of our people, who are capable of doing what our heroic comrades --prisoners of the empire-- do in the belly of the beast, who know that this country has hundreds of thousands of men who have participated, of their own will, in dangerous internationalist missions that took them to the most precarious of places, that has 300,000 professors and teachers and dozens of thousands of people who would volunteer to teach in any corner of the world.

When aid was being sent to Nicaragua, we had 30,000 volunteers. When one or two of these volunteers were killed, we had 100,000 volunteers. This is what our people are all about: one Cuban is killed and you have more volunteers to go and fight. One Cuban is killed, or a grave injustice is committed against one Cuban, and you will have millions willing to give their lives, if necessary, to demand justice or rectify the wrong.

Cuba has seen its share of bandits, terrorists of every sort, organized by the United States, who cost us thousands of lives, and it was the workers and the farmers in the Escambray mountains, 10,000 workers and farmers, organized into battalions who, in the end, managed to capture every single criminal.

Literacy campaign workers such as Manuel Ascunce, or teachers like Conrado Benítez, were assassinated. The country was invaded, our people were bombed by surprise by planes bearing Cuban insignias while involved in the literacy campaign, the first campaign of this nature seen by the world, which managed to eradicate illiteracy within a year and can boast today, of hundreds of thousands, nearly 800,000 university professionals and intellectuals, as well as millions of pre-university specialists and an entire population engaged in study. We are a nation that has made higher education accessible to all, a nation that strives to give its people the most comprehensive education, a nation whose knowledge base shall procure for it the resources needed for its full development and to aid other nations.

It is a well-known fact that a great number of Cuban doctors are now in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America working in the most precarious places. They know very well that Cuba, for instance, provides healthcare services for three quarters of all Haitians. They have battalions, bombers, tanks and missiles; they --and others-- have invaded that country on more than one occasion. But not one of them has ever sent a doctor there, nor could they send one. Pay what they may, the United States and Europe together will never gather the hundreds of doctors that today look after the Haitian population.

This country has created great human capital in all sectors. I have already mentioned education, I can mention many others. I mentioned the fighters, the hundreds of thousands of fellow countrymen who have participated in dangerous internationalist missions throughout the years of the Revolution.

They know, or should know, what Cuba is all about rather that to go around talking nonsense. They had better go on drinking whisky or mixing their drinks with whatever else they can get hold of, instead of wasting their time in these cute little White House gatherings that do not intimidate us.

They should also know that we have been cautious, that we have steered clear of rhetoric, leaving it all on their side of the playing field, but if it is a debate they want, they would do well to get several special armors, because they have not a single argument, a single idea, a moral bone nor any solid footing for this; this is the truth.

All the fuss now, all of the threats, all of it has to do with keeping Americans from coming here, with keeping them from traveling and visiting Cuba. I am not sure what set them off like this. Did it have to do with the meeting, which was the sixth, with the American students from 239 different universities? And we are speaking of smart youths; do not think for a moment that we are talking about poor families’ kids. Those activities [like the Semester at Sea program] cost money, they pay for them. Creating that program was a great initiative of the Pittsburgh University. And these journeys, destined to get a sense of what is happening around the world, gather together students from hundreds of the best American universities. That is why we need to see the difference, take a closer look. Those people in the White House meeting would not dare meet with these American students.

I suggest that they go and meet with the six hundred and some students and teachers that met with me for four hours in the Convention Center, and discuss with them to learn something about the world, if they want to know what Cuba is about and what their impression is, that this is not a country of fanatics, but rather an educated and civilized nation. That it is quite possibly the only country that has never burned an American flag, one of the ways in which many people vent their passions or frustrations; it has never done this, because this is a Revolution that educates, a Revolution governed by just principles, a Revolution based on ideas that cannot blame the American people for the actions of their government against our country.

They, on the other hand, apparently blame Cuban children, the ill, the elderly and those who suffer; for what are all of these measures that intensify the blockade, and others, aiming at?

I was telling you this: they have not the slightest idea as to the level of popular support enjoyed by the Revolution, while we know it like the back of our hands. We have spent four years gathering opinions every day. We see how our people's knowledge and conscience have evolved in these past years, how all of our programs are prospering, including dozens and dozens of social, cultural, educational and artistic programs.

Four years ago, Cuba had no schools for art instructors. This afternoon as I saw these young art instructors graduated from our schools, --the only place that can produce the sentiments and values that make us human beings, or the knowledge to make us producers or creators-- I thought of the great value of the 16,000 students selected to study in these schools that within the next eight months will be graduating their first art instructors.

We know of the achievements of third year students of that school at the University of Information Sciences, a new university, of the impact they had there. Students there will not have any instructors other than the 20 that worked there with them, and our country will already have around 3,500 of these by next September. Following them, at the time of their graduation, 16,000 will continue or begin their studies. So, we shall be graduating no less than 3500 art instructors a year and enrolling over four thousand, and if some could not complete their degrees we are not going to enroll a mere 4000. We know what resources are available; the school will always be full.

From what we witness today, it is possible to imagine a time when we have 10, 20 thousand graduated art instructors.

And something else, we are supporting and fostering Cuba's Higher Institute of Art. Investments are being made there, the school is very prestigious and it is destined to be one of the best in the world.

Today in Cuba, in the capital for instance, we have the National School of Ballet, and, at the request of their families, 4100 children of humble families are receiving classic ballet lessons there twice a week, with professors who are ranked among the world's best, while nearly 300 students pursue careers there. The school has a capacity of 300 students. Despite the blockade and petty imperialist wiles, a series of buses pick up these children in various parts of the city, following school routes, taking them safely to school throughout the week. Even with the high price of gasoline today, the cost barely reaches the total of 30,000 US dollars a year. Which is to say that giving this opportunity to children of any family, live where they might in Havana, would cost, in terms of transportation, around seven dollars per child a year, and this same school designed to train professionals simultaneously teaches and promotes cultural and artistic knowledge of great significance.

You do not see this anywhere else in the world. This is what those characters should spend time on, and their money should rather finance something of the sort, instead of genocides and invasions in search of oil and other raw materials over which they seek absolute control.

Check it yourselves if they do anything like this. Take a look at what happens with African Americans in the ghettos of New York City, or in cities of Florida, or in California, where dozens of millions of people have no access to educational and healthcare resources.

There is not a single point of reference, a single example I could offer the world that could serve as the basis of comparison with this Revolution. It would be tantamount to comparing hell with heaven.

It is rewarding to feel that we have been building a heaven for the poor. We can be happy for having saved our fellow countrymen, once and for all, from the torments of hell (Applause). We can be happy for creating a model, we can be happy for demonstrating what man can do, that justice is possible, that the intelligence with which man first enters the world, properly cultivated, could reach heights hitherto considered utopian in the history of humanity. We can be happy for having turned a utopia into a reality.

It is with this spirit that we read the nasty declarations of those repulsive creatures that gather to hatch their criminal designs. When they receive the pleasant news, equally pleasant for me, that the life to which I have devoted my modest efforts has come to an end, millions of Cubans every bit as revolutionary as we are, much better educated and prepared than us, a united and battle-hardened people shall carry on with the work of the Revolution.

I see very clearly, and this shows everywhere, that one cannot but envy children in the first, second and third grades. Time passes, our battle of ideas is merely 4 years old and we need something not unlike a phone book to enumerate all of the things that have been done, the thousands and thousands of tasks and measures saw through to carry out the programs undertaken.

I mentioned the schools where 16,000 well-selected art instructors study. I could mention the schools offering intensive courses in nursing, which responded to a deficit of nurses in the capital; I could mention four new schools designed to graduate 7,200 social workers a year, and the 14,000 of these already at work today. When this battle was undertaken, none of this existed.

I could speak of truly remarkable facts such as having reduced to a maximum of 20 the number of primary school students per teacher; I could have mentioned the 2500 schools that have electricity thanks to solar panels, and that not one of them is short of electricity to operate audiovisual materials, TV sets and computers. I could mention the hundreds and hundreds of works we are completing and, counting the smaller projects, the thousands being developed through health programs we are carrying out at the moment. I could mention the 100,000 students enrolled in comprehensive schools for young people. None of this existed four years ago.

We could speak of having transformed study into a form of employment and having reduced unemployment rates to less than 4%, which is technically equivalent to full employment, at a time when the world reports very high and growing rates of unemployment.

We could mention the number of books that have been printed, the number of painting and other art schools that have been built and continue to be built. We could mention the Educational Channel, which enjoys the highest viewers’ rating in the nation, and that a second Educational Channel shall be in operation for all the country within three or four months.

We could mention University for All programs. We could mention the enrollment of over 100,000 students in higher learning institutions. None of this existed four years ago.

We could mention the fact that today 29,000 doctors are working toward other post-graduate degrees and that thousands of them are involved in internationalist missions and living in precarious and tough conditions, and even under such conditions continue to study through new methods that we have developed, making good use of videos, television, computers and interactive educational programs which serve to enhance their knowledge.

In a not too distant future, we shall no longer speak of a mere 51,000 specialists, 30,000 medical specialists among them, among the 70,000 doctors we have. We will speak of hundreds of thousands of doctors with post-graduate degrees. Our country already has many more doctors, per capita, than the United States although their economic contribution is hardly visible in the country's Gross Domestic Product because theirs is not a commercial product, their services are entirely free of charge.

Recreational, cultural, artistic and sporting activities will also continue to be developed. This country will be filled up with schools and museums.

Today --I am running a little late-- we shall be inaugurating a beautiful museum in the city of Cardenas. Cardenas has a special place in the hearts of Cubans, in all of our hearts, because here began the battle that is bringing so many things to fruition and will be called on to bring numberless new things to fruition in record historical time, as we work toward creating the world's most fair society. The work of the Revolution, forged with so many sacrifices and with the blood of so many noble people, in the course of so many years, tells us without the shadow of a doubt that they may wipe this island and all of its inhabitants clean from the face of the planet, but they will never see us yield an inch before their blackmail, their stupid demands, or their threats.

Let them try, if they dare to! Obliterate us from the face of the planet! (Applause). What is more likely to disappear, much sooner than they think, is this unjust and brutal order with which they oppress and exploit the world with growing intensity, leaving a humanity that has grown six-fold in 150 years, --from 1 billion, according to calculations, to 6.3 billion, and that will grow to 10 billion inhabitants in 50 years-- without any hopes for the future, and this in a world that is destroyed more and more every day, where non-renewable resources are squandered, and the atmosphere, the air and the seas are poisoned. It could be mathematically demonstrated that the human species, with or without the criminal weapons it has developed, with the destruction of the natural conditions needed for life, could conceivably disappear. What shall not disappear as long as conscience and people of conscience exist is the idea of the duty to fight so that the species does not die out and, with it, the marvels that human intelligence can create (Applause).

I have had to express myself in rather complex circumstances, as I am before adults, the press and the children. But, in any event, I take comfort in the fact that each and every one of those children, already in the first grade, can understand many of the things I have told you today.

I hope you can forgive me for having kept you seated there for a long time, while you were anxious to enjoy a little snack, some ice cream and all of the things in store for the children of Cardenas. But, as the lawyer I once was, I want to say in my defense that it was you who asked me to speak (Applause and shouts of: "Fidel, Fidel!"). And I did warn you were taking a great risk.

Long live our nation! (Shouts of: "Long live our nation!")

Long live life! (Shouts of: "Long live life!")

Long live culture! (Shouts of: "Long live culture!")

Long live education! (Shouts of: "Long live education!")

Long live the work and example of our people (Shouts of "Long live the work and example of our people!")

Ever onward to victory!