Cuba’s Rubicon

CUBA-ARMY-REHEARSAL“We’ve said to the North American government, both privately and publicly, that we’re ready…to discuss everything: human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything…but on equal terms.” – Raúl Castro

Speech by Cuba’s President at the Fifth ALBA Summit in Cumaná, Venezuela, April 16, 2009

English translation by Machetera, revised by Manuel Talens

Raúl Castro (to Hugo Chávez): Remember that you need to give me the floor to thank everyone, especially those who’ve spoken – and I’m not going to exclude Daniel, because he’ll also speak as well, just as he’s done throughout his entire life as a revolutionary – in the name of the Cuban people, all the expressions of solidarity and support for our Revolution, to our people, and I believe, therefore, also the Leader of the Revolution, comrade Fidel Castro, who’s listening to us directly. [Applause]

I’m not going to go on, I’ll speak on the other points.  I have to speak – according to what they tell me – at the mass meeting in the Plaza, don’t I?  I still don’t know how it’ll be.  Are we going to speak there in the Plaza?

Hugo Chávez: Yes.  We’ve asked you to speak in everyone’s name.

Raúl Castro: No, that’s a huge responsibility.  If anything, [it should be] the main host.

Anyway, I think that what we’ve heard here this afternoon, that doesn’t surprise us, the whole world knows it, except the United States, its main ally, Israel, and one country or another that occasionally abstains or has even voted against the United Nations General Assembly, is that the entire planet condemns the blockade.

I don’t want to talk about the OAS, I already spoke in Sauípe, at the Rio Summit, right?  And furthermore, our friend Zelaya will meet with all the delegates at the end of May and the beginning of June; I don’t want to answer what Mr. Insulza recently said, because Fidel already did it some hours ago.

We can talk about many other things besides the OAS.  The OAS, it might be said, has oozed blood since its very creation; Cuba is one example, but before Cuba there were plenty more.  Venezuela, for example; I was in prison for the 1954 attack on the Moncada barracks, when I heard about the intervention in Guatemala.  Why?  Because an honest president, who’d been a colonel in the Guatemalan army, Jacobo Arbenz, once he’d won the presidency, within the rules of the game that the North Americans along with the ruling class in all the world’s countries had imposed on that country, once he’d won, he wanted to return a little bit of land to the indigenous, the Indians, the descendants of the great Mayan culture.  And what happened? Three people: Eisenhower, his Secretary of State, Foster Dulles, and his brother Allen Dulles, who was head of the CIA, and furthermore, its founder, decided to launch that mercenary operation, with Castillo Armas leading it.  That history is known to practically everyone here.  Scarcely seven years later, in 1961, a day like yesterday, the bombardment of the main cities of [Cuba] and two of its airbases began.

A day like today – as I’ve already pointed out here – in the mourning farewell for the victims of those bombings, 48 years ago, Fidel proclaimed socialism, when the aggression was already evident, and a mass of people, among them, normal, everyday citizens, by which I mean workers, students, farmers, the Rebel Army that had overthrown the tyranny of Batista two years earlier, the police, with their rifles held high, supported that decision, and went on the next day to give their blood to defeat that aggression.

Why did they attack us?  This aggression was planned by the same three who went after Guatemala seven years earlier, before the word socialism was even mentioned in Cuba.

It just so happened that four and a half months after the triumph [of the Revolution], on May 17, 1959, the first Agrarian Reform Law was passed in our country; the most important one after the triumph of the Revolution, up until now.  I say that this is our Rubicon, that crossing it meant that those who seven years earlier had decided to invade Guatemala, condemned the Cuban Revolution to death.  Foster Dulles was the attorney for the United Fruit Company, the same company that in Cuba, instead of Fruit, was the United Sugar Company, and part of its lands were affected by that agrarian reform.

I speak now, very briefly, of recent history, and in Sauípe, Brazil, I spoke of the more than 5,500 dead, more dead than maimed, a consequence of all the state terrorism of the United States against Cuba.  The list is interminable, from the epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever, where hundreds of thousands of people, all at once, filled our hospitals throughout the country, something that international health organizations say is impossible for a so-called normal epidemic.  I’m not going to speak of the airliner at Barbados, and the 73 victims that died, among them, Cuba’s junior fencing team, that had come from Venezuela, where they’d won all the gold medals.  I’m not going to talk about those who died at Girón.  On a day like yesterday, our comrades began to fall beneath the bombings; starting at dawn tomorrow, it’ll have been 48 years since scores of comrades began to fall, because we had more casualties than they did.

Fidel ordered us – and he was right – to liquidate the aggression within 72 hours, [for] the picture was quite clear.  The North Americans had formed a puppet government at the Opa-Locka military base in Florida, with Miró Cardona leading it, and a council of ministers headed by the prime minister called for the occasion.  The invasion took place, and if they managed to consolidate their beachhead, protected by the marsh and the largest wetland in the Caribbean, the Ciénaga de Zapata, which had to be crossed single file, because we’d had to build a road in the middle of that swamp, and troops could not be spread out, the only way across was by single file.  We had more casualties than they did.

Territorial waters at that time were three miles out, today they’re twelve, and therefore, just beyond the three miles there was a North American fleet, with marine infantry, including an aircraft carrier.  Twice, North American combat aircraft passed in pairs above the spot where the combat action was taking place, they didn’t do anything, but they passed overhead. And it was very simple.  Why didn’t the OAS do in 1961 what it did in January of 1962?  They condemned us in Chile, they condemned us in Costa Rica, they were creating the conditions, naturally, under the leadership of those who’ve directed the OAS since its founding, in 1948.  And it is here that you find the reason we were not expelled earlier, because if they brought a puppet government and consolidated themselves at Playa Girón, or at the Bay of Pigs, which is its real name, because Playa Girón is a little spot, a tourist attraction today, the OAS would have recognized that government, the government would have asked the OAS for help, and part of those North American forces that were barely three miles off our shores, would have invaded us.

What would have happened if North American troops had invaded Cuba in 1961?  I’ll just make this comparison: How many deaths did our sister republic of Guatemala suffer as a consequence of that 1954 intervention, also organized by the Yankees, also directed by the three people previously mentioned, also supported by the OAS?  Why did the OAS not condemn that?

According to certain contemporary historians, as a consequence of that invasion and the dictatorships that went on to victimize that sister republic of Guatemala, between 250,000 and 300,000 Guatemalans have died.  Is it, or isn’t it so?  Is it that figure, is it more, is it less?  There were hundreds of thousands of victims.  Who was responsible for it [the invasion]?  Who accused them?  Aside from the people, the honest people, the odd government.

How many deaths would Cuba have had, with a far greater population, with many more weapons, even at that time, and with a tradition of struggle, recently confirmed by the triumph of the Revolution, in 1959, and with hundreds of thousands of Cubans already armed at the time?  Could anyone calculate it?

Well then, could imperialism reconcile itself to that defeat, with that involuntary humiliation, of course, brought on by a tiny country in the Caribbean and our continent?  Were they going to allow it?  January 2nd, in commemoration of the second anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution, which was January 1st – a holiday – the next day Fidel speaks at Revolution Plaza, January 2nd, 1961 – Girón was in 1961.  Eisenhower, who had 17 days left in his administration, broke relations with Cuba on January 3rd of that year, 1961.  The OAS expelled Cuba on January 31, 1962.  And why not expel her before, in 1961, when Girón took place?  Because the puppet government they were going to install had to ask the OAS for help, it was a country that belonged to the OAS.  Why then did they expel us, separate us, suspend us, it’s all the same in this case, in 1962?  Because this time it wasn’t a mercenary invasion, this time it was [to be] an invasion by the North Americans.  And that situation, of which not much has been written, or practically nothing – was what brought about the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba and what blocked that invasion.

This has already been proved through documents declassified by the CIA and the Pentagon, and definitively, by the North American government – declassified documents, although with plenty blacked out – that this was the plan.  They didn’t go through with it because a solution to the crisis was reached, whereby we had serious disagreements with Krushchev, the Soviet Prime Minister, for the way in which it unfolded, ignoring us, and as far as we’re concerned, nobody’s going to ignore us, not the biggest country in the world, nor a group of countries, even though they may be the largest in the world, not the G-7, nor the G-20.

And that’s the sad reality.  First they sanctioned us, they condemned us at various meetings, creating the environment, but they didn’t cut us off from the OAS, for the reasons having to do with the request for help, and afterwards, yes, they expelled us.  They moved more quickly, even at Girón, when they knew how many weapons we’d already acquired, the pilots that we were training abroad, etcetera.

And at times, just as Evo and other comrades were commenting a few minutes ago, [they kept going on] about democracy, freedom, human rights. We’ve said to the North American government, both privately and publicly, that we’re ready whenever they are, to discuss everything: human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything, everything, everything that they might want to discuss, but on equal terms, without the slightest infringement of our sovereignty and without the least violation of the Cuban people’s right to self-determination.

I don’t understand this democracy of the United States, I don’t get it; I’ve said, even to certain North American citizens, that in the United States there’s only one party, just one; you just have to analyze how their two parties function, you just have to watch their performance, what they do every time they have to take an important decision.  What they have, for sure, is a well-greased press system; it might be that one publisher or a group of publications, such as exist in the United States and in Europe, are owned by just one company, [who] goes to the rest of the media and says: You may write what you wish about this and that, but as for the rest of the story, the only thing written is that which the publication’s owner, or the radio station’s owner, or the TV station’s owner wants.  That’s how it is, and if it isn’t, someone please show me otherwise.

But I said there’s only one party.  You say, “How is that?”  I say, “Yes.  Do you want just one example?  How is it possible that a Republican government, that of Eisenhower, organizes an expedition against Cuba and three months after a Democrat takes power, the invasion is authorized?  That’s the reality.  We might talk of many other things here.

We might be wrong, we admit it, we’re human – we’re ready to sit down and discuss, as I said, whenever they want, what’s happening is that now – and I conclude – it’s evident that they have to create this climate and whenever there’s a discrepancy on something, immediately they launch into their usual spiel on democracy, freedom, prisoners…

The other day, in Brasilia, after a meeting with President Lula, a journalist with an insolent and provocative attitude asked me in an interview: ‘How many dissidents have you [Cubans] killed?’  He didn’t even hear himself, and he began to tremble when I answered him, in the way that I know how to answer.  He trembled!  And I said to him, “Yes, those dissidents, who are on the United States payroll, go and look at the latest budget approved by Congress, the part that has to do with the $57 million dollars to finance all those ‘patriotic’ dissidents, the ‘independent journalists,’ and so on.  And why do they not release our five Heroes, young heroic men who never inflicted any harm on the United States, nor sought information against the United States, but rather, against the terrorists that attacked and have been attacking, to a greater or lesser degree, my country for nearly 50 years?”

From that, this approach came forth, and I reiterate it here today: If they want these supposed “political prisoners” released, among whom there are a number of confessed terrorists, Guatemalans and Salvadorans, tried and convicted in Cuba, even facing the death penalty – that still exists but we haven’t applied for some time – they were commuted to a life sentence.  Let our prisoners go and we’ll send these there – with their families and whoever they want – those so-called dissidents and patriots.

We might say many other things in the same style, only that, Evo, if after what you said today, the OAS expels you for incompatible Marxism-Leninism, Bolivia and Cuba will form something else that won’t be called the OAS, not even remotely, and then we’ll let those who are with us, enter.

Well, Chávez, pardon the time I took and the informality with which I spoke, I was on my way out [the door].  I came to beg pardon of Daniel, and took away his time.  This was an abuse of power, probably because I’m dressed in a uniform.  [Laughter].

Thank you very much.

Speech by Cuban Armed Forces General, Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, in the public portion of the 5th Extraordinary ALBA Summit, Cumaná, Venezuela, April 16, 2009
(Stenographic version – Council of State)

Machetera and Manuel Talens are members of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. Manuel Talens is also a member of Rebelión. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are cited.

2 responses to “Cuba’s Rubicon

  1. Comandante Gringo

    Very informative. I learned a few things I did not know.

  2. Very interesting speech by Raul. Clearly a different style than Fidel, but very compelling.

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