Remarks by General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba during the public segment of the Seventh Extraordinary ALBA Summit, Cumaná, Venezuela April 16, 2009.
Raúl Castro.-...Remember, you have to give me the floor so that I can thank everyone, especially those who have spoken, –and that includes Daniel, because he will speak likewise, as he has done throughout his life as a revolutionary– on behalf of the people of Cuba, for all the expressions of solidarity and support for our Revolution, for our people, and I think also for the Leader of the Revolution, comrade Fidel Castro, who is listening to us directly (Applause).
I won’t go on for too long, I shall be speaking at other points. I also have to speak –according to what I was told– at the mass rally in the Square. I’m not sure yet how that will be. Are we going to speak over there in the Square?
Hugo Chávez.- Yes. We are asking you to speak on behalf of everyone.
Raúl Castro.- No, that’s a very high responsibility. Perhaps it should be the main host.
At any rate, I think that what we have heard here this afternoon, that doesn’t surprise us; we know that the entire world --except the United States, its main ally Israel and some other country that has occasionally abstained or even voted against at the UN General Assembly-- the entire planet condemns the blockade.
I don’t wish to talk about the OAS, I’ve already spoken in Sauípe, and at the Rio Summit meeting, right? And furthermore, our friend Zelaya will be meeting with all the delegates at the end of May, beginning of June; I don’t wish to answer to what Mr. Insulza recently said because comrade Fidel answered him a few hours ago.
We can say many more things about the OAS. One could say that the OAS has been oozing blood right from its very inception; Cuba is an example, but before Cuba there were many more. Venezuela for example; I was in prison after the attack on the Moncada Barracks, in 1954, and I heard about the intervention in Guatemala. Why? Because an honest president who had been a colonel in the Guatemalan army, Jacobo Arbenz, once he had won the presidency abiding by the rules of the game set by the Americans in that country, and the ruling classes in other countries in the world, he won the elections and he wanted to hand over a little bit of land to the natives, the aborigines, the descendants of the great Mayan culture. And what happened? Three individuals: Eisenhower, his Secretary of State Foster Dulles and his brother Allen Dulles who was the head of the CIA and also its founder, these three decided to launch that mercenary operation, with a certain Castillo Armas as the chief. Almost all of us here today know that story. Just seven years had gone by, no more, when in 1961, on a day like yesterday, the bombings of the main cities in the country and two air force bases started.
A day just like today –as it was already pointed out here– at the funeral of the victims of those bombings, 48 years ago, Fidel proclaimed socialism when the aggression was already evident, and a mass of people, among whom there were regular citizens, simple folk, I mean workers, students, peasants, the Rebel Army which had defeated the Batista tyranny two years earlier, the police, held their weapons up high in support of that decision, and on the following day they went out to shed their blood to defeat that aggression I spoke of.
Why were we attacked? That aggression was planned by the same trio that had attacked Guatemala seven years earlier, before the word ‘socialism’ had even been mentioned in Cuba.
Four and a half months after the triumph of the Revolution, on May 17, 1959, the first Land Reform Law was passed in our country; it was the most important law after the triumph of the Revolution, up to that moment. I say that that is our Rubicon; crossing it meant the death penalty for the Cuban Revolution by those who seven years earlier had decided to invade Guatemala; of these, Foster Dulles was a lawyer for the United Fruit Company, the same one which in Cuba was known as the United Sugar Company, and part of their lands were affected by that land reform.
Now I am very briefly talking about recent history and in Sauípe, Brazil, I mentioned the more than 5,500 dead, more dead than maimed, as a result of the state terrorism unleashed by the United States against Cuba. The list is endless, from the hemorrhagic dengue epidemic that affected hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously, inundating our hospitals all over the country; international health organizations say that’s impossible to have been a so-called ‘normal’ epidemic. I am not going to speak about the plane off Barbados and the 73 victims who died, among them the Cuban youth fencing team who had flown out of Venezuela where they had just won all the gold medals. I’m not going to speak about those who fell at the Bay of Pigs. On a day like yesterday, our comrades were beginning to die in the bombings, starting from the dawn of the next day 48 years ago; dozens of comrades died since we had more casualties than they did.
Fidel ordered us –and rightly so– to defeat this aggression in less than 72 hours; their plan was clear. The Americans had set up a puppet government at the Opa-Locka military base in Florida, with a man by the name of Miro Cardona heading it and the council of ministers headed by him as the appointed prime minister on that occasion. The invasion starts; if they had been able to consolidate that beach head which was protected by the Zapata Swamp, the largest swamp or wetlands in the insular Caribbean, that we could only access walking in line because we had just built a paved road through the middle of that swamp and we couldn’t deploy troops, they had to walk in line… We had more casualties than they did.
Our territorial waters at that time were three miles, today they are 12, and just beyond the three miles lay the American fleet, with Marines, and an aircraft carrier. American combat planes, in pairs, twice flew over the combat areas; they did nothing but they did fly over. And it was very simple. Why did the OAS not do in 1961 what it did in January 1962? They condemned us in Chile, and they condemned us in Costa Rica; they were creating the conditions, naturally, under the baton of those who gave the orders to the OAS right from its founding in 1948. And that’s the reason why they didn’t kick us out earlier, because they were to bring over the puppet government and set it up in Playa Giron or the Bay of Pigs –that’s its real name because Playa Giron was a small village, today a tourist resort– the OAS would recognize that government, which would appeal to the OAS for help and some of the American troops that were a little over three miles away from our coastline would have invaded us.
What would have happened if American troops had invaded Cuba in 1961? I shall make a comparison. How many died in our sister republic of Guatemala as a result of that 1954 intervention, also organized by the Yankees, also directed by the same three persons I mentioned before, also supported by the OAS? Why didn’t the OAS condemn it?
According to contemporary historical accounts, because of that intervention and the dictatorships that followed and that later ravaged the sister republic of Guatemala, between 250,000 and 300,000 Guatemalans died. Is that correct or not? It’s that number; is it more? Is it less? There were hundreds of thousands of victims. Who is responsible? Who accused them? Just the peoples, the honest folks, and a government or two.
How many would have died in Cuba, a country with a larger population, with many more weapons, even at that time, and with a tradition of struggle, recently revived by the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, and with hundreds of thousands of armed Cubans at that time? Can anybody calculate that?
Now then, would imperialism have swallowed that defeat, with that involuntary humiliation caused by a small Caribbean country and on our continent? Would it permit that to happen? On January 2, in commemoration of the second anniversary of the Revolution celebrated on the 1st of January –a holiday– the day after, Fidel spoke at the Revolution Square, that is, on January 2, 1961 –the Bay of Pigs happened in 1961. With 17 days left in office, Eisenhower breaks off relations with Cuba on January 3 of that year, 1961. The OAS kicks out Cuba on January 31, 1962. And so why hadn’t it done that in 1961 before the Bay of Pigs? Because the puppet government that they were going to set up there was to ask the OAS for help; it was an OAS member country. Why do they kick us out then, separate us, or suspend us, the same thing, in this case in the year 1962? Because, this time it would not be a mercenary invasion, this time it would be an American invasion. And that situation –not much has been written about this, next to nothing– was what caused the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba and what prevented that invasion.
It has now been proven through documents declassified by the CIA and the Pentagon and, in fact, by the U.S. administration –documents which are declassified with quite a few crossed out lines– that that was the plan. They didn’t do it because they used the crisis solution, in the middle of which we had serious discrepancies with Soviet Prime Minister Khrushchev for the way in which he handled things, ignoring us; and nobody can ignore us, not the largest country in the world or a group of countries even though they may be the largest in the world, not the G-7, not the G-20 (Applause).
And that’s the sad reality. First, they just sanction us; they condemn us in several meetings, creating the atmosphere, but they do not separate us from the OAS, for the request of help, and later they do separate us. They even hurried up with the Bay of Pigs [invasion] when they knew about the amount of weapons that had already been contracted, the pilots we were training abroad, etc.
And at times, --what Evo and other comrades were saying a while ago, about democracy, freedom, human rights-- we have let the American government know both in private and in public that the rights are there whenever they want to talk about them: human rights, the freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything, everything, everything they would like to talk about, but on an equal footing, with absolute respect for our sovereignty and for the right of the Cuban people to their self-determination (Applause).
I don’t understand that democracy in the United States, I just don’t get it; I have even told some Americans that in the United States there is one political party, just one party; I urge you to study the history of the two parties, their behavior and their way of acting every time they have had to make an important decision. Surely, what they have is a perfectly well-oiled system, the press; it could be that a publisher or a group of newspapers, as it happens in the United States and in Europe, belonging to one single enterprise, open up a larger space and say to the press: you can write what you want about this but when it comes to the rest of the problem, you can only write what the owner of the paper, the radio or television station wants. That’s the way it is, and if that’s not right, someone should show me otherwise.
But I was saying that they only have one political party. “How is that?” they say. “That’s it,” I say. “Do you want an example?” How is it possible that a Republican government, under Eisenhower, organizes an expedition against Cuba and three months after a Democrat takes office the invasion is authorized? That’s the reality of it; I could be saying a lot more here.
We might be wrong, we admit it, we are human beings; we are ready to sit down and discuss –as I said– whenever they like; what happens is that now –and I conclude– it is evident that they have to create this atmosphere and whoever disagrees with something, right away they come out saying something or other about democracy, about freedom, about prisoners.
The other day after a meeting with President Lula in Brasilia, an insolent and provocateur journalist asked me: “How many dissidents have you executed?” You could hardly hear him and he started shaking when I answered him, the way I know how to answer. He was shaking! And then I told him: “Yes, those dissidents, the ones on the American payroll; just look at the last budget approved by Congress, those 57 million dollars funding for all those ‘patriotic’ dissidents, ‘independent journalists’, etc. So why don’t they release our five heroes, the heroic young men who haven’t done any harm to the United States, who were not looking for any information against the United States but against the terrorists who were attacking and have been attacking my country with greater or lesser intensity for these past almost 50 years?”
Then, I said there and I reiterate it here today: if they would like the freedom of those alleged ‘political prisoners’, among whom there are some self-confessed terrorists, --Guatemalans and Salvadorans, who were tried in Cuba, sentence was passed, even the death penalty, which we still maintain but we have not been applying it for a while now, and was commuted to life imprisonment-- they should release our prisoners and we will send them –along with their families and anybody else– those so-called dissidents and patriots (Applause).
Along these lines, we could say quite a few things, just that, Evo, if after what you have said here today they force you out of the OAS that is incompatible with Marxism-Leninism, Bolivia and Cuba could set up something else that wouldn’t even remotely be called the OAS and we would let in everyone who wishes to accompany us (Applause).
Well, Chavez, forgive me for the time I have taken and the informality with which I have spoken; I was coming to apologize to Daniel and I have prevented him from speaking. It’s been an abuse of power, apparently it’s because I’m wearing my uniform (Laughter).
Thank you, very much (Applause).