A PROLOGUE FOR OUR BOLIVIAN FRIENDS
The book FIDEL,
BOLIVIA Y ALGO MÁS was given me as gift by President of Bolivia Evo Morales during
his last visit to
Both he and Rafael Dausá, Cuban Ambassador to Bolivia, who accompanied him for this visit, informed me that the authors wished to launch a new edition, for the 80th anniversary of Che's birth, which will be in two weeks, this coming June 14. No sooner had I seen the photos, the press clippings, the chapter index and a number of paragraphs than I asked Evo and Dausá to allow me to include an introduction expressing my gratitude to the editors. “That’s what they want from you, as the book’s author,” they replied.
I read the book in one sitting the following day. I
confirmed that they were my words, quoted verbatim. I was anxious to read what
I had said in 1993, now that the things I had then spoken about were
transpiring. I didn’t even remember how I had answered each of the numerous and
serious questions, some of them very clever, put to me on that occasion,
questions which made me externalize many concepts I had kept inside my head, at
the risk of being misunderstood. It was an extremely difficult journey for me.
Che had died in
I recently saw Che’s evocative effigy, cast in bronze, on
its way to
Today, I am duty-bound to reiterate what I said in that country at the time of my visit. Then, I told you that our country had 40 thousand medical doctors and expounded on the ideas that inspired our efforts. I shan’t devote more lines to these, as many are contained in the book and I could not express them better or with more spontaneity.
Eleven years later, the number of medical doctors had nearly doubled and the Latin American School of Medicine, created in June 1999, had an enrolment of over 10 thousand students from the region. We were already working, as part of cooperative missions, in Third World countries, where thousands of health specialists laboured, as we had promised the United Nations in 1979, following the Non-Aligned Movement Summit held in Cuba then.
In August 2005, hurricane Katrina lashed the
I shall limit myself to reproducing what Cuba was forced to explain, days later, on the occasion of a gathering of the ‘Henry Reeve’ Contingent, on September 4 of that year:
“It was clear to us that those who faced the greatest danger were these huge numbers of poor, desperate people, many elderly citizens with health situations, pregnant women, mothers and children among them, all in urgent need of medical care.
“In such a situation, regardless of how rich a country may be, the number of scientists it has or how great its technical breakthroughs have been, what it needs are young, well-trained and experienced professionals, who have done medical work in anomalous circumstances, and that, with a minimum of resources, can be immediately transported by air or any other available means to specific facilities or sites where the lives of human beings are in danger.
“Knowing that I could rely on men and women like you, I took the liberty of reiterating our offer three days later, promising that in less than 12 hours the first 100 doctors, carrying the necessary medical resources in their backpacks, could be in Houston; that an additional 500 could be there 10 hours later and that, within the next 36 hours, 500 more, for a total of 1100, could join them to save at least one of the many lives at risk from such dramatic events.
“Perhaps those unaware of our people’s sense of honour and spirit of solidarity thought this was some kind of bluff or a ridiculous exaggeration. But our country never toys with matters as serious as this, and it has never dishonoured itself with demagogy or deceit (…) in this hall only three days ago we observed a minute of silence for the victims of the hurricane which battered that brotherly people (…) and not with 1100 but 1586 doctors, including 300 additional doctors, in response to the increasingly alarming news that keep coming in. (…) We’ve already announced that we are willing to send thousands more if it were necessary. (…) In just 24 hours, all of the doctors summoned to carry out this mission, coming from all parts of the country, met in the capital. We have shown the utmost punctuality and precision.
“You bring honour to the noble medical profession. With your quick, unwavering response to the call of duty and your willingness to work in uncharted and difficult conditions, you are writing a new page in the history of solidarity among the peoples and are showing a course of peace to the suffering and imperilled human species to which we all belong.
“(…) The average age of these health professionals is 32 years. Most of them had not yet been born when the revolution triumphed and some had not even been born 15 years after the triumph of the revolution, they are the product of these hard years. The average work experience is of no less than 10 years. (…)
“U.S. Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, presently in New Orleans, admitted that “doctors and nurses are doing a great job, but the distribution of medical assistance continues to be a serious problem” and “scores of people die every day”.
“According to the Boston Globe, Louisiana and Mississippi are facing the worst public healthcare disaster the nation has known in decades.
The newspaper published declarations from Dr. Marshall Boulden, Director for Diabetes and Metabolism at the University’s Medical Centre in Jackson, Mississippi, who assistance: “We’re seeing things that we haven’t seen in many years: cholera, typhoid fever, tetanus, malaria. We hadn’t seen such conditions in 50 years. People are crammed together and wander around surrounded by excrement”.
“(…)Our doctors’ backpacks contain precisely those resources needed to address in the field problems relating to dehydration, high blood pressure, diabetes Mellitus and infections in all parts of the body —lungs, bones, skin, ears, urinary tract, reproductive system— as they arise. They also carry (...) painkillers and drugs to lower fever (…) for treating bronchial asthma and other similar complications, about forty products of proven efficiency in emergencies such as this one. (…)
“The ‘Henry Reeve’ Brigade has been created, and whatever tasks you undertake in any part of the world or our own homeland, you shall always bear the glorious distinction of having responded to the call to assist our brothers and sisters in the United States, and that nation’s humblest children especially, with courage and dignity.
“Let’s go forward, generous defenders of health and of life, winners over pain and death itself!” I concluded.
These were my words almost four years ago. The pages the ‘Henry Reeve’ Brigade has written in history wherever it has undertaken or undertakes a mission, have honoured these words.
at times seem handcrafted to illustrate a particular human conviction. Some
days ago, I received a copy of the article the Namibian Minister of Fisheries,
who visited our country recently, published in
"I am a product of the
Cuban Revolution. Namibians are eternally indebted to
“In 1977, I left
“As children, we were educated by the SWAPO leadership in exile, about why Cuban internationalists were in Angola. As children, this made us to think deeper.
“The Cubans had volunteered
to assist a nation in need. They were sacrificing their lives in order to save
our lives and maintain peace in
“While we were in Chibia,
apartheid South African invaded
“I left for
“We flew from
“At the time, Comrade Helmuth
Angula was the SWAPO chief representative to
“When I completed food
chemistry in 1981, I was honoured to have been accorded the position of best
student of the school. (…) I returned to
“I owe my current station in
society to the people of
The April 2008 issue (472) of
New African, a magazine on African
issues edited in Europe, recounts that, in the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba sent 350
thousand patriots, including civilians and doctors, to support Africa's wars of
liberation, particularly to Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape
Verde and Sao Tome e Principe. In the end, Cuba’s efforts hastened the demise
of apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was still in prison when
What should be one of the objectives of these lines I write for my old Bolivian friends? To unmask the empire’s perfidious and hypocritical methods.
The enemy is extremely vile. It rides along on the instincts, ambitions and vanity of those it has never imbued with even a basic moral sense.
In our country, it committed all manner of crimes: it organized armed groups, introduced weapons and explosives into the country on a massive scale, invaded the nation with mercenaries who reached our coasts, escorted by U.S. aircraft carriers, warships and infantry transporters, ready to go into action as soon as the traitors secured a beachhead. It attacked our air bases with bombers marked with Cuban insignias, so as to fake an uprising of our Air Force. Hundreds of young revolutionaries lost their lives or were wounded in their heroic struggle against the mercenaries who arrived by sea or air. Captured en masse, not one of the invaders was killed or tortured.
Then came a long period of
struggle against the empire’s dirty methods, which included an economic blockade,
the eternal threat of a direct military action, attempts to assassinate the
country's leaders, biological warfare and the terrible menace of a
thermonuclear war between the world's two superpowers, a war which nearly did
We do not pretend to be a model for the construction of socialism, but we do hope to set an example in the defence of the right to construct it.
Consider these concrete examples of the empire's cynicism:
A terrorist is sent to jail, the explosives in his possession are confiscated and the needed evidence is gathered for his trial. He is sentenced to a number of years in prison. He declares himself physically unable to move. The Central Intelligence Agency is behind the scheme. They write verses for him, publish a book of poems and present him to the world as a disabled poet denied medical attention. He is such a good faker that he manages to deceive even the jail officials. They confuse and deceive international public opinion through their media, and there is no special envoy representing “Western democracy” who does not call for the release of the disabled poet, even though the medical doctors had assured them there was absolutely nothing wrong with him physically.
Confronted with the truth, a
video recording of his intense, daily exercises in places that had gone
unnoticed by the prison wardens, before the request advanced by a powerful
European country could be replied to, he sprung up and twenty four hours later
caught a plane, and walked, accompanied by the last European emissary to meet
with him, towards the paradise of democracy and abundance. A position as a
public official of the empire, at an international human rights institution,
awaited him. That was the price
Cubans have the privilege of being born in a country which, thanks to the Revolution, was the first to reach the Millennium Development Goals in the area of education: everyone knows how to read and write. There are no children with disabilities, no deaf-mutes, visually impaired or blind people, who are denied medical assistance. Educational and health services combine to protect and encourage them to overcome the challenges with which they were born.
An alleged counterrevolutionary author with narrative and communication skills need not go to the trouble of getting books printed or looking for a market. For the imperialist intelligence agencies, it is enough that he invents any dramatic thing and blame the Revolution for it. He will have money and fame. His works will earn him awards and will be divulged ad libitum. It is a gross insult to our intelligence.
Cuba trains athletes, earns more gold medals per capita than any other nation in the world, makes sports accessible to everyone to promote the health of its citizens. Wealthy countries hunt down these athletes and offer them all the money in the world, to gather players and fill their teams with naturalized athletes with native, mixed blood or black skins which in no way recall their supposedly superior races.
Her request to travel abroad was turned down. We cannot give in to blackmail, that was our decision.
Che was to enrich revolutionary thought with a strategic principle when, frowning and pointing to the little finger of his right hand, during a speech before the United Nations, he stated: "We cannot afford to yield even this little to imperialism!"
He was about to travel, with a handful of Cuban internationalists, to the former Belgian Congo, where Lumumba had been murdered by imperialism under the UN troop's very noses, to be replaced by a corrupt puppet. His ideas about the world would be put to the test.
One day, at a mass rally held at Revolution Square on October 18, 1967 to pay tribute to Che, who had been wounded in combat and put to death by a murderous charge some days before, moved by the news, before the people, I expressed a number of key ideas I want to quote here:
“(…) It was a day in July or August of 1955 when we first met El Che. And in one night, as tell in his accounts, he became a future Granma expeditionary. But at that time that expedition had neither ships, weapons, nor troops. And this was the way El Che, together with Raul, joined the first two groups on the Granma list.
“(…) he was one of the most familiar, one of the most admired, one of the most beloved, and, without any doubt, the most extraordinary of our comrades of revolution (...)
“Che was one of those persons whom everybody liked immediately because of his simplicity, because of his character, because of his naturalness, because of his comradeship, because of his personality, because of his originality (…)
"He was soon to be impregnated with a profound spirit of hatred and contempt for imperialism…he had had the opportunity to witness in Guatemala the criminal imperialist intervention through the mercenary soldiers who overthrew the revolution in that country.
“(…) The idea that men are of a relative value in history may have profoundly influenced his conduct; the idea that causes cannot be defeated when men fall and that the irrepressible march of history does not stop nor will it stop because the commanders fall.
“(...) I would say that he is the type of man who is difficult to equal and practically impossible to improve upon.
“(…) when we think about El Che, we are not thinking basically about his military virtues. No! For war is a tool of revolutionaries. What is important is revolution, what is important is the revolutionary cause, the revolutionary ideas, the revolutionary objectives, the revolutionary sentiments, the revolutionary virtues.”
“(…) Che was not only an incomparable man of action, but a man of profound intellect, of visionary intelligence, a man of profound culture. I mean to say he was a man of ideas and a man of action.
“(…) he had the virtues which could be defined as the most full-fledged expression of the virtues of a revolutionary, and integral man in the fullest sense of the word, a man of supreme honesty, of absolute sincerity (…) a man in whose conduct practically no fault can be found.
“(…) A tireless worker in the years that he was at the service of our country, he did not know one single day or rest.
“(…) he studied all the problems. He was a tireless reader. His thirst for knowledge was practically insatiable, and the hours he did not sleep, he studied. He dedicated regular days off to volunteer work. He was the inspiration and the top promoter of that work (...)
“(…) this is the weak side of the imperialist enemy. Thinking that, along with the physical man, it has liquidated his virtues; thinking that, along with the physical man, it has liquidated his example.
“(...) we are absolutely convinced that the revolutionary cause in this continent will recover from the blow, that the revolutionary cause in this continent will not be defeated by that blow.
“(…) from the hearts, I say that the model, without a single blemish in its conduct, without a single blemish in its attitude, without a single blemish in its actions – that model is Che. If we want to know how we want our children to be, we should say, with all our revolutionary mind and heart: We want them to be like Che.
“No man like him in these times has raised the spirit of proletarian internationalism to its highest level.
“In his mind and in his heart, the flags, the prejudices, the chauvinisms, the egoisms had disappeared. He was willing to shed generously his blood for the fortune of any people (...)
“His blood was
“(...) That is why we should look to the future with optimism (...)"
After the memorable night in which I spoke those words, the Cuban Children’s Organization, grasping their essence, coined a new slogan: "Pioneers for communism, we shall be like Che!”
Our Rebel Army had
risen from the ashes of the detachment that had arrived on the Granma yatch and won the war with the
weapons it took from the enemy in combat. Che was a privileged witness of and
actor in the counteroffensive that, led by the ‘José Martí’ Column Number
It was as a result of those first combats, during that unequal battle, that, seeing the enemy bombs fall on peasant homes, I realized that the struggle against the empire was to become my true destiny.
I recalled the martyr of Dos Rios, our national independence hero, José Martí, and I recalled Che when, in recent days, I read a cable published by the special envoy of NOTIMEX, dated May 26, which quoted the declarations of a young Cuban who had requested permission to travel and collect one of the many awards imperialism hands out to keep the waterwheel turning:
“(…) If Cuban authorities thought that denying me permission to travel to receive the award was some kind of punishment, I must say it has been far from dramatic.
“I spent that day here at home, with my family and friends, who awarded me a symbolic scroll I had made myself (...)
“I buy an Internet card, which costs between 5 and 7 dollars, to send out my texts (...)
“I am not in the opposition, I don’t have a political program, I don’t have a political hair in my body, and that is a characteristic of my generation and today's world: people no longer define themselves as left or right. These are increasingly obsolete concepts.
“I do not belong nor have I ever belonged to a political organization. I was never a member of the Young Communists League, I never tried to join the Communist Party. I was a Pioneer because all of us, until the age of 16, had no choice but to be a Pioneer (...)
“My blog has a record of horrifying comments that startle me (…)
“I won’t enjoy social insurance or a pension when I'm old, but this gives me economic independence. I give foreigners Spanish lessons and work as a tourist guide in my city. I speak German very well. That's how I make a living".
Comments of this nature, which are immediately spread by the imperialist media, are not the true danger. What's dangerous is to make slogans out of generalizations, or, what's worse, that there are young Cubans who think this way, special envoys who weaken Cuba internally, whose journalistic work recalls the neo-colonial press of the old Spanish metropolis, which today awards these efforts.
Party members are
the ones who have assumed the greatest number of sacrifices, both inside and outside
Further proof of the confusion and the deceit sown by imperialism was the declaration of a renowned Brazilian singer, made the same day the above cable was published:
"If we speak
about how rights and the questions of freedom and respect towards individuals
are observed in the two countries, I am one hundred percent on the side of the
A European news agency
reported that the musician justified the inclusion of a new piece, Bahia de Guantánamo, in his live
repertoire, which he performed in
"Were I a
typical pro-Cuban and anti-US leftist, I would feel no disappointment about
what happened in the jails of
In a nutshell: the Brazilian singer asked the empire to forgive him for criticizing the atrocities perpetrated in that naval base that operates on occupied Cuban soil.
The month of June has just begun. Uncertainty and insecurity are in the air.
I ask Bolivian readers to show the same patience and sense of humour they evinced in those days, when I spoke to them 15 years ago. To continue impelling their educational and health programs. You can always rely on our support.
Were it not for the new edition of this book, this long prologue would have no reason to be.
Fidel Castro Ruz