Dear friends,

Do not be surprise if along with this olive green uniform and the ranks of Army General I’m carrying a ‘mambí’ hat (Applauses), since this army was born from the ‘mambí’ army; and dark glasses although I like to look my interlocutors clearly in the eyes.

Distinguished guests,

Men and women from Santiago,

People from Oriente,

Cuban people,

We have listened attentively to the generous and fraternal words of the heads of State and Government of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America, and also the President of Uruguay, who is in Cuba. Actually, José Mujica had been here in the 1960s, when this fortress was turned into a school. He was then a young dreamer, just like today but without rheumatism. (Applauses and laughs)

We’d also like to express our appreciation to outstanding personalities from other countries that are here with us today.

We salute the members of the 24th Caravan of U.S.-Cuba Friendship (Applauses) organized by the interreligious group Pastors for Peace (Applauses), which has persevered in the solidarity effort of the unforgettable Reverend Lucius Walker.

The presence of all of these friends in this commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks is a clear expression of support to and solidarity with the Cuban Revolution showing the changes Our America has gone through since the challenging and bleak days of 1953.

At that time we, but mostly Fidel, had read about Bolívar’s exploits and those of other national heroes of the struggle for independence in our region, and we all realized the importance of a united and independent Latin American and Caribbean region.

In his transcendental court appeal known as “History Will Absolve Me”, Fidel anticipated, and I quote: “[...] the Cuban policy for the Americas would be one of deep solidarity with the democratic peoples of the continent, and those subjected to political persecution by the bloody tyrannies that oppress our sister nations would find in Martí’s homeland not persecution, hunger and treason but generous asylum, brotherhood and bread. Cuba should be a beacon of freedom and not a disgraceful link to despotism.”

Martí’s premature death in combat had thwarted his yearnings, expressed in an unfinished letter to his Mexican friend Manuel Mercado, “[...] to opportunely prevent with the independence of Cuba that the United States expand throughout the Antilles and fall, with that additional force, on our lands of America.”

The Cuban Revolution has been faithful to that legacy and offered its solidarity, even during the hardest times, despite attempts at isolating it and starving it into submission with a criminal blockade that has been in place for over half a century, and efforts to destroy it through all kinds of aggressions.

We shall never forget that after our release from prison Mexico gave us shelter, and after the victory its government was the only one in Latin America that refused to turn its back on us.

The support and solidarity of the peoples of every continent has never failed us, particularly of the peoples in this region, which have always perceived Cuba as an inseparable part of Our America, the same that united in its diversity moves forward with determination towards its second and final independence.

Twenty years after the triumph of January 1st, the Sandinista Revolution attained its own victory. Just last week, Nicaragua, always youthful, celebrated that event under the leadership of Commander Daniel Ortega. (Applauses)

Two more decades would pass before our dearest brother Hugo Chávez embodied Bolívar’s ideals, and today, multiplied in his people he moves along with his Revolution under the steady guidance of comrade President Nicolás Maduro. (Applauses)

The unstoppable processes of Bolivia’s Democratic and Cultural Revolution advance headed by Evo Morales, a symbol of the vindication of the original peoples (Applauses); like the victorious Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador led by President Rafael Correa (Applauses), represented here by his Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, with wide popular support, and the great social progress experienced in Uruguay under the leadership of comrade José Mujica (Applauses), a Tupamaro guerrilla incarcerated for fourteen years. Similar processes take place in the Caribbean region, where nations strive for sustainable development, justice and sovereign equality, and whose prominent leaders, Prime Ministers Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominique, Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Kenny Anthony of Saint Lucia are also here with us today. (Applauses)

Despite attempts at causing divisions that facilitate plundering, the integration of our nations keeps strengthening through such mechanisms as Alba, Caricom, Mercosur, Unasur, and others.  Likewise, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Celac, which Cuba is honored to preside, moves onward with its consolidation.

I avail myself of this opportunity and, on behalf of all Cubans and particularly of the victims of hurricane Sandy in the provinces of Guantánamo, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba, express our deepest gratitude to all the governments and peoples that have generously supported, and are still supporting, our reconstruction works. (Applauses)

Nine months ago that hurricane hit land in this city, and for five hours fierce winds of approximately 125 miles/hour lashed the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Holguín and Guantánamo causing the death of eleven people. The effects of that meteorological phenomenon also impacted on the central provinces with intensive rains and floods.

After a thorough study it was determined that total economic losses amounted to nearly seven billion pesos, most of these due to devastation of houses and public buildings although farming and crucial infrastructure like utilities, communication and roads sustained considerable damages.

The trajectory of hurricane Sandy brought the greatest damage to the province of Santiago de Cuba, particularly to its capital, where 50 percent of houses were smashed and the power grids and telephone lines collapsed.  For days the trees fell by the winds and the debris stood in the way of traffic in the streets of the second largest city in the country, with one and a half million people.

In the province of Holguín, the northeastern municipalities were the most severely damaged by Sandy’s assault. Coincidentally, these same areas had endured the ravaging of the powerful hurricane Ike as it made landfall in Cuba four years before, on September 2008.  There, 19.3 percent of the houses sustained damages as well as a large part of the crops, including sugarcane.  Up until the present, 52 percent of the housing problems have been solved.

The western municipalities of the Guantánamo province were also impacted by the same hurricane but less severely, and have since then recovered.

In the case of Santiago de Cuba, first of all with the efforts of its own people and with the resolute support of the rest of the country, including the contribution of the combatants from the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, as well as brigades of electricians and telephone workers from every province, minimal living conditions were reestablished in a few days. The largest contribution to palliate the situation in Santiago, and one of the first to arrive, was sent personally by comrade Hugo Chávez. (Applauses)

In the months following the event, the recovery work has not ceased, consequently, 42 percent of the housing problems have been resolved. At the same time, a construction program is underway in the province leading to the eventual relief of the tense situation in that area.

On the other hand, the government has subsidized 50 percent of the price of the construction materials assigned to the repair of the damaged houses, and with the same end it has offered bank credits at lower interest rates and with a longer period for repayment. Likewise, in the cases of full house collapse the State Budget has taken on the payment of the interests and subsidized the lowest income families. Progress has also been made in the recuperation of healthcare, education and culture facilities, and of transportation.

Additionally, the investment process undertaken in 2004 has continued with the rehabilitation and expansion of the provincial capital aqueduct, allowing a steady and daily supply of water to 30 of the 32 hydrometric segments of the city, although this service is yet to be ensured to the areas of Altamira and Litoral which are presently receiving water every other day. It is the responsibility of the provincial authorities and enterprises to secure the sustainability of the system.

These works regularly monitored by the Central government have yet to be completed. Let me assure the women and men of Santiago that, foremost with their direct involvement, we shall build an ever more beautiful, hygienic, orderly and disciplined city that will live up to its condition of Heroic City and birthplace of the Revolution. May no one forget that Santiago (Exclamations of “Santiago is still Santiago”) is still Santiago.

It seems miraculous that 60 years after that 26 of July some of us involved in those events are still alive, particularly when the dictatorship unleashed its thirst for revenge on many combatants who were tortured and murdered.

We also wanted to take heaven by assault. It was a dream, we tried and couldn’t make it, but exactly five years, fives months and five days later, on January 1st, 1959, we came through that main gate to demand, on behalf of Fidel, the unconditional surrender of the city garrison with its over 5000 troops. (Applauses)

Fidel’s determination and decorum, that turned him from accused into accuser in the trial to which we were submitted, led to our first victory, followed by a fruitful imprisonment and exile in Mexico; the rearrangement of the revolutionary forces and the preparations for the Granma expedition, whose delayed arrival in the Cuban coasts prevented the synchronization with the heroic uprising in Santiago de Cuba organized by that young leader Frank País, on November 30, 1956 −he was not 22 years old yet, and the following year, before his 23rd birthday, he was cowardly murdered by the tyranny’s henchmen.

There was the setback in Alegría de Pío and the reunion with Fidel in Cinco Palmas two weeks later; the liberation war, first in the Sierra Maestra and later in other mountainous regions; the decisive victory, in 74 days of ceaseless and intensive combats, against the great offensive launched by Batista’s forces on the territory of the I Front in the Sierra Maestra, where the Rebel Army’s General Staff was located. As Che [Guevara] indicated, that victory “broke the backbone of the tyranny” and marked the onset of the strategic counteroffensive of the insurrectional Movement.   

Thus came, in the summer of 1958, the irreversible turning point of the war, that with the operations of the invading columns, which had departed from the Sierra Maestra, and the actions of the combatants in the underground movement led to the military collapse of the regime, the assumption of power by the victorious Revolution and the establishment of the first Revolutionary Government at the University of this city. Then, the general strike −called by Fidel from Palma Soriano, before entering Santiago− with the working class and the support of all of the people, frustrated the U.S. embassy’s scheming to steal victory while Fidel was on his way to Havana. This is brief summary of an intensive story.

At that point, a much more challenging period started, one which shook the foundations of the society as a whole. Four and a half months after the victory, −in the Sierra Maestra itself and the headquarters used by Fidel in the final days of the war− in compliance with the Moncada Program, the first Land Reform Law was enacted. This action placed the Revolution in a confrontational path with powerful foreign economic interests and with the local bourgeoisie, which for several years would fund and encourage the actions of armed gangs and the assassination of young teachers, many of them only teenagers; the Playa Girón invasion in April 1961, on the eve of which the Socialist nature of the Revolution was proclaimed; the Missile Crisis in October 1962, when the United States was preparing a direct invasion of Cuba with its troops, and the incessant aggressions and crimes against our people carried out for decades.

Many years have passed but this is still a revolution of the young, as we were young that July 26, 1953, and also those who fought and died in the streets of Santiago de Cuba on November 30, 1956. Most of those who fought the bandits were young, too, −for five years, from 1960 until approximately January 1965 they fought the bandits that in two occasions during that period had managed to have active gangs of different sizes in every province in the country, including south of the capital− as were young the ones who defeated the mercenaries in Playa Girón, and those youths who joined the literacy campaign −most of them students; the young people incorporated in masse to the Militias, and to the newly formed Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.

Hundreds of thousands of our compatriots who discharged their duty with internationalist missions in other lands of the world −most of them in Angola, as one of guests just said− were young, the same as those who are today offering healthcare and education services in various countries −most of them young women; the scientists, intellectuals, artists and sports people who have brought so much glory to the homeland; those who do their military services, including girls who have volunteered for this task; the middle level education students and our university students who were the successful protagonists of the latest population and housing census; the workers and farmers who in the areas of production and services yield revenues for the economy; our teachers and professors.

This shall continue as the Socialist Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble proclaimed by Fidel on April 16, 1961, at the funeral of the victims of the bombings that preceded the Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs] invasion. This Revolution −and I repeat it because it has proven as much for 60 years− will keep on being a Revolution of the young. (Applauses)

Today, over 70 percent of Cubans were born after the triumph of the Revolution. It could be said that several generations are living in our homeland, each with their own history and merits depending on their times.

The historical generation is giving space to the “new trees”, at peace and with calm confidence, aware of their proven capacity and preparation to uphold the flags of the Revolution and of Socialism for which countless patriots and revolutionaries have sacrificed their lives, from the natives and slaves who rebelled against oppression until today.

As previously informed, the process is underway for the progressive and orderly transference of the main leadership responsibilities of the nation. To ensure the success of this undertaking, we will never lose sight of the strategic importance of preserving, above all −and I repeat it, preserving above all!− the unity of all worthy Cubans, just as Fidel has taught us.

Comrades all,

This is a good occasion to pay homage to all those who fell through centuries of redeeming struggle. And also to Fidel, the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution (Applauses), who with unwavering optimism and alongside our people −capable of enduring so much sacrifice, and the true protagonist of  this epic−  led us to victory and placed our tiny island in the world map as a beacon of social justice and respect for human dignity.

Let’s pay tribute to Cuban women (Applauses) in their roles of mothers, combatants, comrades in sacrifices, struggles and joy (Applauses), and to the new generations that will forever defend the revolutionary ideals.

From this historical place we send a fraternal embrace to the courageous antiterrorist fighters (Applauses) that for fifteen years have been kept unjustly incarcerated in the United States. We will continue striving restlessly for their return to our Homeland.  

At this point, we cannot fail to pay a heartfelt tribute to the unconquered Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution in our sister country Venezuela, the dear comrade Hugo Chávez Frías, an advanced pupil of the national heroes of Latin American and Caribbean independence. (Applauses)

Eternal glory to the martyrs of our Homeland! (Exclamations of “Glory!”)

Long live the Socialist Revolution! (Exclamations of “Long live!”)

Long live free Cuba! (Exclamations of “Long live!”)

Long live Fidel! (Exclamations of “Long live!”)

Ever onward to Victory! (Exclamations of “Long live! Long live!”)