Speech by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Cuban Military Mission in Angola and the 49th anniversary of the landing of the 'Granma', Revolutionary Armed Forces Day, December 2, 2005
49 years ago today, the 'Granma' yacht arrived on the coast of our homeland. Thus today marks the beginning of the 50th year in the life of the Rebel Army and the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
As is well known, in the
wake of the landing and despite early setbacks, the fight spread rapidly to
every corner of our fields and towns. There was not a moment's truce until the
resounding people's victory of
This magnificent triumph, however, would no be the end of the armed struggle.
For, imperialist treachery,
aggravated by every measure of public benefit or which consolidated national
independence, kept us constantly on guard. Many comrades had to continue
risking their lives in defense of the Revolution, both in
Exactly 19 years after the
'Granma' landing, in November 1976, a small group of Cubans in
The history of imperialist and neocolonial plunder and pillage by Europe in Africa, backed to the hilt by the United States and NATO, as well as the heroic Cuban solidarity with its sister nations, have not been fully known, if only as well-deserved recognition for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who wrote that glorious page of history, which should be an eternal example to present and future generations. That is not to say it does not still need wider dissemination.
In recent days, the subject has also received much attention by television and the rest of the media, and at the ceremonies up and down the country paying homage to the internationalist fighters.
Accordingly, for reasons of time in moments of hard revolutionary work, I shall confine myself to a brief review of certain key events in the writing of that glorious page of our revolutionary history.
As early as 1961, when the
Algerian people were engaged in an astonishing struggle for their independence,
a Cuban vessel carried arms to the heroic Algerian patriots and returned with
some one hundred children, orphaned or wounded in the war. Two years later,
It was at this time also,
when imperialism had robbed the nation of half its doctors, leaving us with
just 3,000, that some dozens of Cuban doctors were sent to
That marked the beginning,
44 years ago, of what is today the greatest medical mission in history to the
peoples of the
This period, from 1965
onwards, was also the setting for our participation in the independence
The disintegration of that
nation's colonial empire, weakened by economic ruin and the ravages of war, had
begun after the 'Revolution of the Carnations' in
Around 60 Cuban
internationalists, including some ten doctors, had stayed with the guerrillas
for ten years, since 1964.
In the case of
thieves and self-confessed racists, without the slightest qualms, swelled the
ranks of the so-called 'free world'. A few years later,
In mid-1975, the
At that time, there were
only 480 Cuban military instructors in
In early November, a small
group of these together with new recruits from the
The South Africans lost six armored cars and other vehicles. They never revealed the numbers of the heavy casualties they sustained.
For the first time, in this
remote corner of
It was at this point that
We took up the challenge without hesitation. Our instructors would not be abandoned to their fate; neither would those selfless Angolan fighters, much less their homeland's independence after 20 years of heroic struggle. Ten thousand kilometers from home, Cuban troops --heirs of the glorious Rebel Army— engaged in combat with the armies of South Africa, the continent's richest and most powerful nation, and of Zaire, Europe’s and America's richest and well-armed puppet state.
Then, the campaign started
known as Operation Carlota, code name for the most just, lengthy, large scale
and successful internationalist campaign undertaken by
The empire could not
achieve its aim of dismembering
We now know much more than
we did then about how
At no time did the
By the end of November,
enemy aggression had been halted in the north and in the south. Complete heavy
armored units, substantial land and anti-aircraft artillery, armored infantry
units up to brigade strength, transported by our merchant fleet, accumulated
The truth is that
On the other hand, the
Soviets, worried about possible
After raising strong objections,
we were obliged to accede, at least partially, to the Soviet demands. Although
not consulted about our decision to send troops to the
In the difficult situation created in 1976, Comrade Raul, Cuba's Defense Minister, traveled to Angola for talks with President Neto about the unavoidable need to start a progressive withdrawal of 36,000 Cuban troops over a three-year period, the time Cuba and Angola agreed would be needed to establish a strong Angolan army.
Meanwhile, we would maintain robust combat units in the uplands of the Angolan plateau, some 250 km from the Namibian border.
Neto understood our
concerns and nobly agreed to the schedule the withdrawal of
Less than a year later, in
March 1977 when I was finally able to visit Angola and personally congratulate
the Angolan and Cuban fighters on their victory, 12,000 internationalists, one third
of our force, had already returned to Cuba, withdrawal operations having gone
according to plan up to that point. But,
Very few people believed we would withstand the US-South African onslaughts for so many years.
That decade saw
intensification of the struggles by the peoples of
Kassinga, Boma, Novo
Katengue and Sumbe are scenes of crimes committed by apartheid against the
The attack on Sumbe is a particularly eloquent example of their criminal intentions. There were no Cuban or Angolan troops there, only doctors, teachers, construction workers and other civilian collaborators, who the enemy tried to kidnap. But these men and women resisted with their militia rifles, beside their Angolan comrades, until the arrival of reinforcements put the aggressors to flight. Seven Cubans were killed in this unequal battle.
This is just one example, of many that could be cited, of the bravery and self-sacrifice spirit of our internationalists, both military and civilian, ready to offer their sweat or their blood, whenever the need arises, beside their Angolan, Namibian, Zimbabwean or South African comrades, or from the whole African continent since Algeria, the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and Ethiopia can also be added to the list.
It was an extraordinary achievement by our people, especially our young people; the tens of thousands on active service and those in the reserves who volunteered to do their internationalist duty alongside the career officers and regular troops.
They add up to millions, the men and women on the home front who supported those successful missions, working overtime to stand in for the absentees and making sure the families of the soldiers and civilian collaborators never went short.
The families of our internationalists deserve special mention. With remarkable stoicism, they bore absence, sent words of encouragement with every letter and kept any difficulties or worries to themselves.
Prime examples include the mothers, sons, brothers and sisters and spouses of our fallen compatriots. All, without exception, have come to terms with their loss. They have been able to transform their profound grief, which was echoed throughout the nation during Operation Tribute, into greater love of the homeland, into stronger loyalty and respect for the cause for which their loved one willingly risked his life.
A people willing to perform such a feat: what would it be capable of if called on to defend its own land!
This is not the right time to discuss the differing strategic and tactical conceptions of the Cubans and the Soviets.
We trained tens of thousands of Angolan soldiers and acted as advisers in the instruction and combat operations of Angolan troops. The Soviets advised the military high command and provided ample supplies of weaponry to the Angolan armed forces. Actions based on the advice given at the top level caused us quite a few headaches. Nonetheless, great respect and strong feelings of solidarity and understanding always prevailed between the Cuban and Soviet military.
The end of 1987 saw the well-publicized last major invasion of Angolan territory by South African forces, in circumstances that threatened the nation's stability.
On that date, South Africa and the United States launched the last and most dangerous attack on a strong contingent of Angolan troops that was advancing through sandy terrain towards Jamba, on the southeast edge of the Angolan border, presumed location of Savimbi's command post, offensives we had always opposed if not actually prevented eleventh-hour attacks by South Africa's air force, its heavy artillery and armored forces.
History repeated itself.
The enemy, greatly emboldened, advanced strongly, towards Cuito Cuanavale, an
old NATO airbase. Here it prepared to deliver a mortal blow against
Desperate calls were received from the Angolan government appealing to the Cuban troops for support in fending off presumed disaster; it was unquestionably the biggest threat from a military operation in which we, as on other occasions, had no responsibility whatever.
Titanic efforts by the
Cuban political and military high command, despite the serious threat of hostilities
which hung over us as well, resulted in assembling the forces needed to deliver
a decisive blow against the South African forces. As in 1975, our homeland rose
to the occasion. A flood of troops and weaponry rapidly crossed the
This time, Cuban troops in
So while in Cuito Cuanavale the South African troops were bled, to the southwest 40,000 Cuban and 30,000 Angolan troops, supported by some 600 tanks, hundreds of pieces of artillery, 1,000 anti-aircraft weapons and the daring MIG-23 units that secured air supremacy, advanced towards the Namibian border, ready to literally sweep up the South African forces deployed along that main route.
A great deal could be said about all the engagements and incidents in that campaign.
Here with us are Comrade
Polo Cinta Frías, the bold commander of the
The resounding victories in
Cuito Cuanavale, especially the devastating advance by the powerful Cuban
contingent in southwest
The enemy had to set aside
its usual arrogance and sit down at the negotiating table. The talks culminated
in the Peace Accords for
The accords were designated
as quadripartite, since the Angolans and the Cubans sat on one side of the
table with the South Africans opposite; the United States occupied a third
side, given its role as mediator. In reality,
The head of the
This Reagan administration
spokesman was well aware that with
There would be no repeat of what happened in Paris in 1898, when the Americans and the Spanish held peace talks without Cuban representation, the Liberation Army and the government of Cuba in arms.
This time the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the legitimate representation of Revolutionary Government of Cuba were present together with the Angolan Government.
The internationalist mission was fully accomplished. Our troops came back to the homeland with heads held high, taking with them only the friendship of the Angolan people, the weapons they had wielded with honor and bravery thousands of miles away from their homeland, the satisfaction of duty done and the glorious mortal remains of our fallen brothers and sisters.
Their contribution was
decisive in consolidating
Rarely in history has war, the most terrible, heartrending and difficult of human actions, been accompanied by such humanism and humility on the part of the victors, despite the near-total absence of these values in the ranks of the vanquished. Firmness of principle and purity of aims explain the complete transparency of every campaign undertaken by our internationalist fighters.
Beyond doubt, a decisive ingredient is the tradition established by our freedom combatants in the epic struggles for independence, reinforced by rebels and fifth-column fighters during the War of National Liberation and carried on by the militia, by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, since the Revolution, against enemies abroad and at home.
That heroic saga has never
been told in full. On its 30th anniversary, American imperialism
went out of its way to prevent any mention of
That is an insult to the
The absurd attempt by the
Americans to ignore the honorable role played by
Prestigious researches make
great efforts in seeking information.
This noble tradition is now being carried on by tens of thousands of doctors and other professionals, as well as health workers, teachers, sports coaches and other specialists who express their solidarity often by working in difficult, including war-zone conditions, as in the case of the celebrated ‘Henry Reeve’ Contingent.
The name of that operation is both symbolic of and homage to the thousands of slaves who perished in combat or were executed during the early uprisings.
Those brought to the fore
women such as Carlota, a lucumi African
from the slaves at the Triunvirato refinery in
Independence fighters, rebels, clandestine fighters, combatants in Giron, the October crisis and the campaign against bandits and internationalists, militiamen, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, all in all, the combative people, are the fruit of the productive tree that grew in this land from African and Spanish roots.
Hundreds of Cubans left for
Forty years later, Cuban
fighters arrived in
Without brushing off the dust of the road, as Marti did before the statue of Bolivar, the members of the last internationalist contingent to return to the homeland, together with the leaders of the Revolution, paid homage at the tomb of the Titan to all those who died in the struggles of our people.
Once again, we reaffirm an eternal commitment to our glorious dead, to carry forward the Revolution and to be always worthy of their example; to the Cubans, past and present, ready to fight and die with honor in defense of justice; and to the men and women who, like Maximo Gomez, Henry Reeve and Che Guevara, have done so much to show us, here in our homeland and throughout history, the immense value of solidarity.
Present and future generations of Cubans will continue to advance however difficult the road ahead, fighting restlessly to defend the Revolution, keeping it as impregnable politically as it is militarily and as it soon will be economically.
We shall redouble our efforts to remedy our shortcomings and correct our mistakes. The fight will go on. We shall always resist.
We shall continue to defeat every act of imperialist aggression, refute the lies of its propaganda and expose its political and diplomatic chicanery.
We shall continue to withstand the effects of the embargo, which will be defeated one day by the dignity of the Cuban people, the solidarity among the peoples, the near total opposition of the international community --as was demonstrated yet again by the voting at the UN-- and by growing opposition on the part of the American public to an absurd policy that flagrantly violates their constitutional rights.
Just as the imperialists and their lackeys suffered in Angola the consequences of a Giron multiplied several times over, those who land here to wage war will face thousands of Quifangondos, Cabindas, Ebos, Meduna Morros, Cangambas, Ruacanas, Tchipas, Calueques and Cuito Cuanavales. (Applause)
Our internationalists, like the rest of the Cuban fighters, which means the entire Cuban people, know that in the event of military aggression, we shall defeat the invader. And you, veterans of our homeland's history, will be among the heroes of that victory!
Long live internationalism! ([Shouts of "Long live!")
Long live the Revolution! (Shouts of "Long live!")
Long live socialism! (Shouts of "Long live!")
Ever onwards to victory!