Speech given by the Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the May Day rally held in Revolution Square.
Havana, May 1, 2003
Dear fellow Cubans:
Our heroic people have struggled for 44 years from this small Caribbean island just a few miles away from the most formidable imperial power ever known by mankind. In so doing, they have written an unprecedented chapter in history. Never has the world witnessed such an unequal fight.
Some may have believed that the rise of the empire to the status of the sole superpower, with a military and technological might with no balancing pole anywhere in the world, would frighten or dishearten the Cuban people. Yet, today they have no choice but to watch in amazement the enhanced courage of this valiant people. On a day like today, this glorious international workers' day, which commemorates the death of the five martyrs of Chicago, I declare, on behalf of the one million Cubans gathered here, that we will face up to any threats, we will not yield to any pressures, and that we are prepared to defend our homeland and our Revolution with ideas and with weapons to our last drop of blood.
What is Cuba's sin? What honest person has any reason to attack her?
With their own blood and the weapons seized from the enemy, the Cuban people overthrew a cruel tyranny with 80,000 men under arms, imposed by the U.S. government.
Cuba was the first territory free from imperialist domination in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the only country in the hemisphere, throughout post-colonial history, where the torturers, murderers and war criminals that took the lives of tens of thousands of people were exemplarily punished.
All of the country's land was recovered and turned over to the peasants and agricultural workers. The natural resources, industries and basic services were placed in the hands of their only true owner: the Cuban nation.
In less than 72 hours, fighting ceaselessly, day and night, Cuba crushed the Bay of Pigs mercenary invasion organized by a U.S. administration, thereby preventing a direct military intervention by this country and a war of incalculable consequences. The Revolution already had the Rebel Army, over 400,000 weapons and hundreds of thousands of militia members.
In 1962, Cuba confronted with honor, and without a single concession, the risk of being attacked with dozens of nuclear weapons.
It defeated the dirty war that spread throughout the entire country, at a cost in human lives even greater than that of the war of liberation.
It stoically endured thousands of acts of sabotage and terrorist attacks organized by the U.S. government.
It thwarted hundreds of assassination plots against the leaders of the Revolution.
While under a rigorous blockade and economic warfare that have lasted for almost half a century, Cuba was able to eradicate in just one year the illiteracy that has still not been overcome in the course of more than four decades by the rest of the countries of Latin America, or the United States itself.
It has brought free education to 100% of the country's children.
It has the highest school retention rate -over 99% between kindergarten and ninth grade- of all of the nations in the hemisphere.
Its elementary school students rank first worldwide in the knowledge of their mother language and mathematics.
The country also ranks first worldwide with the highest number of teachers per capita and the lowest number of students per classroom.
All children with physical or mental challenges are enrolled in special schools.
Computer education and the use of audiovisual methods now extend to all of the country's children, adolescents and youth, in both the cities and the countryside.
For the first time in the world, all young people between the ages of 17 and 30, who were previously neither in school nor employed, have been given the opportunity to resume their studies while receiving an allowance.
All citizens have the possibility of undertaking studies that will take them from kindergarten to a doctoral degree without spending a penny.
Today, the country has 30 university graduates, intellectuals and professional artists for every one there was before the Revolution.
The average Cuban citizen today has at the very least a ninth-grade level of education.
Not even functional illiteracy exists in Cuba.
There are schools for the training of artists and art instructors throughout all of the country's provinces, where over 20,000 young people are currently studying and developing their talent and vocation. Tens of thousands more are doing the same at vocational schools, and many of these then go on to undertake professional studies.
University campuses are progressively spreading to all of the country's municipalities. Never in any other part of the world has such a colossal educational and cultural revolution taken place as this that will turn Cuba, by far, into the country with the highest degree of knowledge and culture in the world, faithful to Martí's profound conviction that "no freedom is possible without culture."
Infant mortality has been reduced from 60 per 1000 live births to a rate that fluctuates between 6 and 6.5, which is the lowest in the hemisphere, from the United States to Patagonia.
Life expectancy has increased by 15 years.
Infectious and contagious diseases like polio, malaria, neonatal tetanus, diphtheria, measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough and dengue have been eradicated; others like tetanus, meningococcal meningitis, hepatitis B, leprosy, hemophilus meningitis and tuberculosis are fully controlled.
Today, in our country, people die of the same causes as in the most highly developed countries: cardiovascular diseases, cancer, accidents,
and others, but with a much lower incidence.
A profound revolution is underway to bring medical services closer to the population, in order to facilitate access to health care centers, save lives and alleviate suffering.
In-depth research is being carried out to break the chain, mitigate or reduce to a minimum the problems that result from genetic, prenatal or childbirth-related causes.
Cuba is today the country with the highest number of doctors per capita in the world, with almost twice as many as those that follow closer.
Our scientific centers are working relentlessly to find preventive or therapeutic solutions for the most serious diseases.
Cubans will have the best healthcare system in the world, and will continue to receive all services absolutely free of charge.
Social security covers 100% of the country's citizens.
In Cuba, 85% of the people own their homes and they pay no property taxes on them whatsoever. The remaining 15% pay a wholly symbolic rent, which is only 10% of their salary.
Illegal drug use involves a negligible percentage of the population, and is being resolutely combated.
Lottery and other forms of gambling have been banned since the first years of the Revolution to ensure that no one pins their hopes of progress on luck.
There is no commercial advertising on Cuban television and radio or in our printed publications. Instead, these feature public service announcements concerning health, education, culture, physical education, sports, recreation, environmental protection, and the fight against drugs, accidents and other social problems. Our media educate, they do not poison or alienate. They do not worship or exalt the values of decadent consumer societies.
There is no cult of personality around any living revolutionary, in the form of statues, official photographs, or the names of streets or institutions. The leaders of this country are human beings, not gods.
In our country there are no paramilitary forces or death squads, nor has violence ever been used against the people; there are no extrajudicial executions or torture. The people have always massively supported the activities of the Revolution. This rally today is proof of that.
Light years separate our society from what has prevailed until today in the rest of the world. We cultivate brotherhood and solidarity among individuals and peoples both in the country and abroad.
The new generations and the entire people are being educated about the need to protect the environment. The media are used to build environmental awareness.
Our country steadfastly defends its cultural identity, assimilating the best of other cultures while resolutely combating everything that distorts, alienates and degrades.
The development of wholesome, non-professional sports has raised our people to the highest ranks worldwide in medals and honors.
Scientific research, at the service of our people and all humanity, has increased several-hundredfold. As a result of these efforts, important medications are saving lives in Cuba and other countries.
Cuba has never undertaken research or development of a single biological weapon, because this would be in total contradiction with the principles and philosophy underlying the education of our scientific personnel, past and present.
In no other people has the spirit of international solidarity become so deeply rooted.
Our country supported the Algerian patriots in their struggle against French colonialism, at the cost of damaging political and economic relations with such an important European country as France.
We sent weapons and troops to defend Algeria from Moroccan expansionism, when the king of this country sought to take control of the iron mines of Gara Djebilet, near the city of Tindouf, in southwest Algeria.
At the request of the Arab nation of Syria, a full tank brigade stood guard between 1973 and 1975 alongside the Golan Heights, when this territory was unjustly seized from that country.
The leader of the Republic of Congo when it first achieved independence, Patrice Lumumba, who was harassed from abroad, received our political support. When he was assassinated by the colonial powers in January of 1961, we lent assistance to his followers.
Four years later, in 1965, Cuban blood was shed in the western region of Lake Tanganyika, where Che Guevara and more than 100 Cuban instructors supported the Congolese rebels who were fighting against white mercenaries in the service of the man supported by the West, that is, Mobutu whose 40 billion dollars, the same that he stole, nobody knows what European banks they are kept in, or in whose power.
The blood of Cuban instructors was shed while training and supporting the combatants of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, who fought under the command of Amilcar Cabral for the liberation of these former Portuguese colonies.
The same was true during the ten years that Cuba supported Agostinho Neto's MPLA in the struggle for the independence of Angola. After independence was achieved, and over the course of 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Cuban volunteers participated in defending Angola from the attacks of racist South African troops that in complicity with the United States, and using dirty war tactics, planted millions of mines, wiped out entire villages, and murdered more than half a million Angolan men, women and children.
In Cuito Cuanavale and on the Namibian border, to the southwest of Angola, Angolan and Namibian forces together with 40,000 Cuban troops dealt the final blow to the South African troops. This resulted in the immediate liberation of Namibia and speeded up the end of apartheid by perhaps 20 to 25 years. At the time, the South Africans had seven nuclear warheads that Israel had supplied to them or helped them to produce, with the full knowledge and complicity of the U.S. government.
Throughout the course of almost 15 years, Cuba had a place of honor in its solidarity with the heroic people of Viet Nam, caught up in a barbaric and brutal war with the United States. That war killed four million Vietnamese, in addition to all those left wounded and mutilated, not to mention the fact that the country was inundated with chemical compounds that continue to cause incalculable damage. The pretext: Viet Nam, a poor and underdeveloped country located 20,000 kilometers away, constituted a threat to the national security of the United States.
Cuban blood was shed together with that of citizens of numerous Latin American countries, and together with the Cuban and Latin American blood of Che Guevara, murdered on instructions from U.S. agents in Bolivia, when he was wounded and being held prisoner after his weapon had been rendered useless by a shot received in battle.
The blood of Cuban construction workers, that were nearing completion of an international airport vital for the economy of a tiny island fully dependent on tourism, was shed fighting in defense of Grenada, invaded by the United States under cynical pretexts.
Cuban blood was shed in Nicaragua, when instructors from our Armed Forces were training the brave Nicaraguan soldiers confronting the dirty war organized and armed by the United States against the Sandinista revolution.
And there are even more examples.
Over 2000 heroic Cuban internationalist combatants gave their lives fulfilling the sacred duty of supporting the liberation struggles for the independence of other sister nations. However, there is not one single Cuban property in any of those countries. No other country in our era has exhibited such sincere and selfless solidarity.
Cuba has always preached by example. It has never given in. It has never sold out the cause of another people. It has never made concessions. It has never betrayed its principles. There must be some reason why, just 48 hours ago, it was reelected by acclamation in the United Nations Economic and Social Council to another three years in the Commission on Human Rights, of which it has now been a member for 15 straight years.
More than half a million Cubans have carried out internationalist missions as combatants, as teachers, as technicians or as doctors and health care workers. Tens of thousands of the latter have provided their services and saved millions of lives over the course of more than 40 years. There are currently 3000 specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine and other healthcare personnel working in the most isolated regions of 18 Third World countries. Through preventive and therapeutic methods they save hundreds of thousands of lives every year, and maintain or restore the health of millions of people, without charging a penny for their services.
Without the Cuban doctors offered to the United Nations in the event that the necessary funds are obtained -without which entire nations and even whole regions of sub-Saharan Africa face the risk of perishing- the crucial programs urgently needed to fight AIDS would be impossible to carry out.
The developed capitalist world has created abundant financial capital, but it has not in any way created the human capital that the Third World desperately needs.
Cuba has developed techniques to teach reading and writing by radio, with accompanying texts now available in five languages -Haitian Creole, Portuguese, French, English and Spanish- that are already being used in numerous countries. It is nearing completion of a similar program in Spanish, of exceptionally high quality, to teach literacy by television. These are programs that were developed in Cuba and are genuinely Cuban. We are not interested in patents and exclusive copyrights. We are willing to offer them to all of the countries of the Third World, where most of the world's illiterates are concentrated, without charging a penny. In five years, the 800 million illiterate people in the world could be reduced by 80%, at a minimal cost.
After the demise of the USSR and the socialist bloc, nobody would have bet a dime on the survival of the Cuban Revolution. The United States tightened the blockade. The Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts were adopted, the latter extraterritorial in nature. We abruptly lost our main markets and supplies sources. The population's average calorie and protein consumption was reduced by almost half. But our country withstood the pressures and even advanced considerably in the social field.
Today, it has largely recovered with regard to nutritional requirements and is rapidly progressing in other fields. Even in these conditions, the work undertaken and the consciousness built throughout the years succeeded in working miracles. Why have we endured? Because the Revolution has always had, as it still does and always will to an ever-greater degree, the support of the people, an intelligent people, increasingly united, educated and combative.
Cuba was the first country to extend its solidarity to the people of the United States on September 11, 2001. It was also the first to warn of the neo-fascist nature of the policy that the extreme right in the United States, which fraudulently came to power in November of 2000, was planning to impose on the rest of the world. This policy did not emerge as a response to the atrocious terrorist attack perpetrated against the people of the United States by members of a fanatical organization that had served other U.S. administrations in the past. It was coldly and carefully conceived and developed, which explains the country's military build-up and enormous spending on weapons at a time when the Cold War was already over, and long before September 11, 2001. The fateful events of that day served as an ideal pretext for the implementation of such policy.
On September 20 of that year, President Bush openly expressed this before a Congress shaken by the tragic events of nine days earlier. Using bizarre terminology, he spoke of "infinite justice" as the goal of a war that would apparently be infinite as well.
"Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen."
"We will use every necessary weapon of war."
"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
"I've called the Armed Forces to alert, and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act."
"This is civilization's fight."
"...the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time --now depends on us."
"The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain ... and we know that God is not neutral."
Did a statesman or an unbridled fanatic speak these words?
Two days later, on September 22, Cuba denounced this speech as the blueprint for the idea of a global military dictatorship imposed through brute force, without international laws or institutions of any kind.
"The United Nations Organization, simply ignored in the present crisis, would fail to have any authority or prerogative whatsoever. There would be only one boss, only one judge, and only one law."
Several months later, on the 200th anniversary of West Point Military Academy, at the graduation exercise for 958 cadets on June 3, 2002, President Bush further elaborated on this line of thinking in a fiery harangue to the young soldiers graduating that day, in which he put forward his fundamental fixed ideas:
"Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."
"We must uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries..."
"...we will send you, our soldiers, where you're needed."
"We will not leave the safety of America and the peace of the planet at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants. We will lift this dark threat from our country and from the world."
"Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. ... We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it."
In the speech I delivered at a rally held in General Antonio Maceo Square in Santiago de Cuba, on June 8, 2002, before half a million people of Santiago, I said:
"As you can see, he doesn't mention once in his speech (at West Point) the United Nations Organization. Nor is there a phrase about every people's right to safety and peace, or about the need for a world ruled by principles and norms."
"Hardly two thirds of a century has passed since humanity went through the bitter experience of Nazism. Fear was Hitler's inseparable ally against his adversaries... Later, his fearful military force [led to] the outbreak of a war that would inflame the whole world. The lack of vision and the cowardice of the statesmen in the strongest European powers of the time opened the way to a great tragedy.
"I don't think that a fascist regime can be established in the United States. Serious mistakes have been made and injustices committed in the framework of its political system --many of them still persist-- but the American people still have a number of institutions and traditions, as well as educational, cultural and ethical values that would hardly allow that to happen. The risk exists in the international arena. The power and prerogatives of that country's president are so extensive, and the economic, technological and military power network in that nation is so pervasive that due to circumstances that fully escape the will of the American people, the world is coming under the rule of Nazi concepts and methods."
"The miserable insects that live in 60 or more countries of the world chosen by him and his closest assistants --and in the case of Cuba by his Miami friends-- are completely irrelevant. They are the 'dark corners of the world' that may become the targets of their unannounced and 'preemptive' attacks. Not only is Cuba one of those countries, but it has also been included among those that sponsor terror."
I mentioned the idea of a world tyranny for the first time exactly one year, three months and 19 days before the attack on Iraq.
In the days prior to the beginning of the war, President Bush repeated once again that the United States would use, if necessary, any means within its arsenal, in other words, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons.
The attack on and occupation of Afghanistan had already taken place.
Today the so-called "dissidents", actually mercenaries on the payroll of the Bush's Hitler-like government, are betraying not only their homeland, but all of humanity as well.
In the face of the sinister plans against our country on the part of the neo-fascist extreme right and its allies in the Miami terrorist mob that ensured its victory through electoral fraud, I wonder how many of those individuals with supposedly leftist and humanistic stances who have attacked our people over the legal measures we were forced to adopt as a legitimate defense against the aggressive plans of the superpower, located just a few miles off our coasts and with a military base on our own territory, have been able to read these words. We wonder how many have recognized, denounced and condemned the policy announced in the speeches by Mr. Bush that I have quoted, which reveal a sinister Nazi-fascist international policy on the part of the leader of the country with the most powerful military force ever imagined, whose weapons could destroy the defenseless humanity ten times over.
The entire world has been mobilized by the terrifying images of cities destroyed and burned by brutal bombing, images of maimed children and the shattered corpses of innocent people.
Leaving aside the blatantly opportunistic, demagogic and petty political groups we know all too well, I am now going to refer fundamentally to those who were friends of Cuba and respected fighters in the struggle. We would not want those who have, in our opinion, attacked Cuba unjustly, due to disinformation or a lack of careful and profound analysis, to have to suffer the infinite sorrow they will feel if one day our cities are destroyed and our children and mothers, women and men, young and old, are torn apart by the bombs of Nazi-fascism, and they realize that their declarations were shamelessly manipulated by the aggressors to justify a military attack on Cuba.
Solely the numbers of children murdered and mutilated cannot be the measure of the human damage but also the millions of children and mothers, women and men, young and old, who remain traumatized for the rest of their lives.
We fully respect the opinions of those who oppose capital punishment for religious, philosophical and humanitarian reasons. We Cuban revolutionaries also abhor capital punishment, for much more profound reasons than those addressed by the social sciences with regard to crime, currently under study in our country. The day will come when we can accede to the wishes for the abolition of such penalty so nobly expressed here by Reverend Lucius Walker in his brilliant speech. The special concern over this issue is easily understood when you know that the majority of the people executed in the United States are African American and Hispanic, and not infrequently they are innocent, especially in Texas, the champion of death sentences, where President Bush was formerly the governor, and not a single life has ever been pardoned.
The Cuban Revolution was placed in the dilemma of either protecting the lives of millions of Cubans by using the legally established death penalty to punish the three main hijackers of a passenger ferry or sitting back and doing nothing. The U.S. government, which incites common criminals to assault boats or airplanes with passengers on board, encourages these people gravely endangering the lives of innocents and creating the ideal conditions for an attack on Cuba. A wave of hijackings had been unleashed and was already in full development; it had to be stopped.
We cannot ever hesitate when it is a question of protecting the lives of the sons and daughters of a people determined to fight until the end, arresting the mercenaries who serve the aggressors and applying the most severe sanctions against terrorists who hijack passenger boats or planes or commit similarly serious acts, who will be punished by the courts in accordance with the laws in force.
Not even Jesus Christ, who drove the traders out of the temple with a whip, would fail to opt for the defense of the people.
I feel sincere and profound respect for His Holiness Pope John Paul II. I understand and admire his noble struggle for life and peace. Nobody opposed the war in Iraq as much and as tenaciously as he did. I am absolutely certain that he would have never counseled the Shiites and Sunni Muslims to let them be killed without defending themselves. He would not counsel the Cubans to do such a thing, either. He knows perfectly well that this is not a problem between Cubans. This is a problem between the people of Cuba and the government of the United States.
The policy of the U.S. government is so brazenly provocative that on April 25, Mr. Kevin Whitaker, chief of the Cuban Bureau at the State Department, informed the head of our Interests Section in Washington that the National Security Council's Department of Homeland Security considered the continued hijackings from Cuba a serious threat to the national security of the United States, and requested that the Cuban government adopt all of the necessary measures to prevent such acts.
He said this as if they were not the ones who provoke and encourage these hijackings, and as if we were not the ones who adopt drastic measures to prevent them, in order to protect the lives and safety of passengers, and being fully aware for some time now of the criminal plans of the fascist extreme right against Cuba. When news of this contact on the 25 was leaked, it stirred up the Miami terrorist mob. They still do not understand that their direct or indirect threats against Cuba do not frighten anyone in this country.
The hypocrisy of Western politicians and a large group of mediocre leaders is so huge that it would not fit in the Atlantic Ocean. Any measure that Cuba adopts for the purposes of its legitimate defense is reported among the top stories in almost all of the media. On the other hand, when we pointed out that during the term in office of a Spanish head of government, dozens of ETA members were executed without trial, without anyone protesting or denouncing it before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, or that another Spanish head of government, at a difficult moment in the war in Kosovo, advised the U.S. president to step up the war, increase the bombing and attack civilian targets, thus causing the deaths of hundreds of innocent people and tremendous suffering for millions of people, the headlines merely stated, "Castro attacks Felipe and Aznar". Not a word was said about the real content.
In Miami and Washington they are now discussing where, how and when Cuba will be attacked or the problem of the Revolution will be solved.
For the moment, there is talk of economic measures that will further intensify the brutal blockade, but they still do not know which to choose, who they will resign themselves to alienating, and how effective these measures may be. There are very few left for them to choose from. They have already used up almost all of them.
A shameless scoundrel with the poorly chosen first name Lincoln, and the last name Díaz-Balart, an intimate friend and advisor of President Bush, has made this enigmatic statement to a Miami TV station: "I can't go into details, but we're trying to break this vicious cycle."
What methods are they considering to deal with this vicious cycle? Physically eliminating me with the sophisticated modern means they have developed, as Mr. Bush promised them in Texas before the elections? Or attacking Cuba the way they attacked Iraq?
If it were the former, it does not worry me in the least. The ideas for which I have fought all my life will not die, and they will live on for a long time.
If the solution were to attack Cuba like Iraq, I would suffer greatly because of the cost in lives and the enormous destruction it would bring on Cuba. But, it might turn out to be the last of this Administration's fascist attacks, because the struggle would last a very long time.
The aggressors would not merely be facing an army, but rather thousands of armies that would constantly reproduce themselves and make the enemy pay such a high cost in casualties that it would far exceed the cost in lives of its sons and daughters that the American people would be willing to pay for the adventures and ideas of President Bush. Today, he enjoys majority support, but it is dropping, and tomorrow it could be reduced to zero.
The American people, the millions of highly cultivated individuals who reason and think, their basic ethical principles, the tens of millions of computers with which to communicate, hundreds of times more than at the end of the Viet Nam war, will show that you cannot fool all of the people, and perhaps not even part of the people, all of the time. One day they will put a straightjacket on those who need it before they manage to annihilate life on the planet.
On behalf of the one million people gathered here this May Day, I want to convey a message to the world and the American people:
We do not want the blood of Cubans and Americans to be shed in a war. We do not want a countless number of lives of people who could be friends to be lost in an armed conflict. But never has a people had such sacred things to defend, or such profound convictions to fight for, to such a degree that they would rather be obliterated from the face of the Earth than abandon the noble and generous work for which so many generations of Cubans have paid the high cost of the lives of many of their finest sons and daughters.
We are sustained by the deepest conviction that ideas are worth more than weapons, no matter how sophisticated and powerful those weapons may be.
Let us say like Che Guevara when he bid us farewell:
Ever onward to victory!