Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC



Source:  Revolucion (Revolution), 16 November 1960

Prime Minister Dr. Fidel Castro met with the workers at the Caimanera
naval base during a visit which he paid last Sunday to the city of
Guantanamo and he had a nice friendly chat with them.

The Prime Minister arrived at Guantanamo, accompanied by his brother,
Major Raul Castro, Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces; the military
commander of Oriente, Major Calixto Garcia; his secretary, Mrs. Celia
Sanchez, Mrs. Vilma Espin de Castro, and other officials of the Rebel Army.
Here is the text of the speech by Major Dr. Fidel Castro:

"Good evening, comrades:

"I have been thinking of meeting with you, the workers at the Caimanera
naval base, for quite some time.  But as you know, I have been very busy,
and the months flew by, and I was unable to make this visit so far.
Finally, I made an effort to find some time and I would now like to ask
your forgiveness for the late hour at which I have arrived here; but I
wanted to hold this meeting with you here in a rather informal fashion.  I
did not want any agitation in connection with my visit and this meeting.  I
wanted to have a quiet get-together such as the kind we are having here
tonight, because I have very few opportunities to do so due to the
tremendous work load I have.

"I would like to take up some interesting topics with you.  You will
certainly be very much interested in knowing what this is all about.  Well,
I want to take up two fundamental questions.  First of all, the government
believes that it has the obligation to take action in connection with this
entire problem pertaining to the base -- although this action must be a
very careful one.  First of all, you already have had an opportunity to
hear our statements to the effect that we want to inform everybody
continuously, including the United Nations, as to what we propose in this
connection.  I think that some of you have heard things along these lines.
Our main concern here is that somebody might want to take this base as a
pretext for creating conflicts with the revolutionary government; in other
words, we were worried that this might be a place where some kind of
provocation might be caused.

"I want to tell you quite frankly that the reactionary and backward
elements, who run the United States -- in other words, the economic
interests which control the entire life of the nation there, from
newspapers all the way to the banks, including all of the big companies and
corporations -- are capable of the worst kind of things. A handful of
gentlemen there dominate the life of that country and they have always been
men without scruples. But we here have always been sincerely preoccupied
with the possibility that they might someday cause some kind of
provocation. This is why we have taken all measures necessary and this is
why we have always warned the people. This also included those occasions
when the people, in the course of demonstrations, began to chant "bing,
bang, bo -- Caimanera base has got to go!" And you know how the people are.

"In its revolutionary fervor, in its unlimited enthusiasm, in its
patriotic spirit and above all in its fighting spirit, the people of course
tends to get excited and on these occasions our job is to see to it that
the people does not get too excited; on the contrary, we have to explain
these problems just the way they are, above all those issues which are very
delicate, because it is our duty and the duty of the people to exhibit
sufficient valor and also sufficient intelligence so that we can go forward
with our great work and so that the day will come when all of our goals and
desires have been achieved -- without any factor, any enemy, having been
capable of destroying that work.  We, the leaders of the revolution, and
the people likewise, want this very much.

"Perhaps, because of our spirit and temperament, many of us would prefer
a fight to a tranquil life, perhaps many of us would prefer danger over

"You all know that we all have our way of behavior, our own
personality, and I myself are quite familiar with these questions of
temperament.  However, when we deal with men of responsibility, men who
hold responsibility such as we do, then we must be above all passions and
we must be above all temperamental inclinations; we must be firm and calm
and we must be guided only by our responsibility; and we want to
communicate this spirit of responsibility to our people, as we march on to
victory, so that we may turn our fatherland into the reality which we want
it to be; this is not just a dream, these things are beginning to turn into

"But many things still remain to be done; we might say that we have
still many years of effort left before we can succeed in changing our
country the way we want to change it.

"However, all of this is going to take time.  Each and every one of the
things that yet remain to be achieved or resolved of course are very much in
our minds; I can still see many Cubans who do not have jobs; I can still see
much poverty and many hovels -- but we are working hard to make all of this
disappear and we are sure that poverty and misery will vanish someday.

"We also believe that what we have accomplished over the past 2 years
should have been accomplished in our country 20 years ago; and if this had
been done 20 years ago, then our people would certainly live a much better
life -- that is, if the rulers during those past 20 years had worked
honestly to bring justice to the people, to develop our country's wealth;
if manpower was all we needed, then the problem would be the opposite; if
that was all, then we could certainly develop our industrial and economic
capacity to the fullest and we could also develop our country's resources
to the fullest extent.

"This is why I can tell you this, as I address you here informally:
our concern has been to bring this country to victory, never to stop in
the face of the enemy who wants to defeat us.  Above all, we must overcome
the enemies of our fatherland and our people; we must never in any way
jeopardize that victory because we must never allow ourselves to be
provoked or to do what the enemy wants us to do.

"And we certainly want to do everything necessary in order to bring
victory to our country; our country is involved in a hard struggle, an
important struggle, it plays a very important role in America and in the
world.  This certainly should be an element of pride for all of us;
everybody all over the world today looks to us with genuine admiration and
recognition simply because our people has tackled this tremendous job and
simply because our people is advancing in the face of all these obstacles,
in a country which used to be a colony, in a country which was subjected to
the rule of imperialism and foreign exploitation, a country which
nevertheless has stood up on its own feet, a country which although it is
small has continued to win against the powerful resources, against the
propaganda threats and economic aggression from the enemy; and so we are
going to keep on marching forward.  We must have a correct understanding of
what we have accomplished so far, and how we did it, and we must continue
on this road because in this way imperialism becomes each day more
powerless as it faces the revolutionary government.

"We are winning this struggle and we are going to go on winning it and
the other side could not possibly ever prevent us from going on
victoriously.  (Ovation)

"But, of course, this triumph cannot be achieved in a casual fashion or
by chance, nor is it a matter of luck.  It is above all a question of doing
things the way they should be done and this is the spirit in which we must
analyze this problem of Caimanera; this is a military base which has been
forced upon our country here in a humiliating manner by force, as a result
of the Platt Amendment.  They simply came over and they said:  "All right,
you either accept the Platt Amendment or there will be no independence."
Of course, in this way they contradicted their own promise, their own
declaration in the Congress of the United States to the effect that Cuba
should be an independent country.

"After the Cubans had been fighting for 30 years -- your ancestors and
parents, because most of you are from Oriente and came from this area and
this area lost tens of thousands of patriots -- and after all of this
struggle, we found ourselves in a sad situation and our country still was
not independent; and so we had a United States ambassador here who brought
us the Platt Amendment, which included the right to intervene, that is to
say, they chopped off the dream of our people, the dream of becoming an
independent people which is the desire and the right of all peoples.

"And we had to take the same thing that our ancestors had to take.
First of all, they disarmed them and after they had disarmed them they came
up with this Platt Amendment and they said:  "either you accept the Platt
Amendment or there will be no independence."  And we had to accept it.
And then they utilized this political control in order to control the life
of our country.

"They did not do this to help us; they did not do this to help the
peasants and the workers; they did it in order to make millions and more
millions and this explains this heritage of poverty, slums, and illiteracy;
you go to any part of the rural areas of our country and you will find that
out of 100 boys between the ages of 16 and 18, 80% are illiterates.

"The same is true of the cane fields and all of the areas which we are
today beginning to change, because all of the people who live on that land
now know that this is their land; they know that nobody can take that land
away from them and they work extra hard to produce on that land; and they
know that all of the wealth they produce here belongs to them.  Those who
have come here for the purpose of plundering us, did indeed plunder us for
50 years and we have the results right before us:  just look around; we
still have a base here, a military base that was forced upon us and that
has been maintained here by force; you have also seen how they engage in
maneuvers and war exercises against a supposed attack; you have seen
aircraft violating our territory, ready for action -- something which did
not frighten us at all, something which only made us laugh.

"It is really ridiculous what they are doing here; our position on this
base is the legal position; we must not give them any pretext for creating
a conflict, we must not give them a chance to attack us.

"But if they do try to make trouble here, they are going to run into
very serious opposition.  (Ovation)

"And these are not just words; we know very well what the mood of the
people is and we also know that the people is each day better prepared to
resist any aggression. And we count not only on strength but we also count
on the solidarity of the world. And so we feel secure in our people's
capacity to resist; we simply contemplate this problem like any other
problem, a delicate one at that, a rather ticklish point, and above all, a
point where we must take action with the highest degree of intelligence.
This is a legal problem, a problem of law, a problem of ethics -- not a
problem of force. And we are sure that this right of ours, this moral
reason will triumph in the long run.

"But above all, we must be very careful with respect to the policy
that we should pursue, so that we will not make it easy for them to launch
an aggression and so that we will not give them a pretext for attacking
Cuba; this policy must involve a very straight line and a very patriotic
posture on the part of the workers at the base, the Cuban workers, in the
sense that they must cooperate with the revolutionary government in
following a policy such as it must be implemented here, with respect to the
Caimanera base.

"Now, what does this mean?  As far as you are concerned, this means
that you must make every effort to contribute to the policy of the
revolutionary government and this will include sacrifices, sacrifices of a
sentimental type.  This is a very special situation; you are Cubans and
Cubans know the truth about the problems of their country; you are the same
as we are, and yet, you work over there, at that base; this has been your
way of life for many years; our country is not yet sufficiently developed
for an industrial viewpoint to call upon you to offer you better jobs and
better pay here, in Cuba; the day when we can resolve the problem of all
those who do not have jobs has not yet come; but when that day comes we
will issue a call to you and you will gladly come over to make a living
here.  (Ovation)

"You are our people and we belong to you; here are your relatives and
family members, here we understand each other, here we talk the same
language, here we have the same feelings; nevertheless, you have found
yourselves forced to make your living doing that work over there; you even
work in fortifications and these fortifications today constitute a threat
to our country; this of course is a bitter thing and we understand it
perfectly well; we understand the devotion of the workers at the base,
Cuban workers, who have this devotion for their country and the revolution;
we perfectly well understand your situation and, in the view of this
situation, we will certainly know what to do.

"We are going to handle this the way we handled other issues, the way
we coped with the embargo, the way we faced their aggressive and truly
provocative policy against our people.

"But, in saying all this, we know very well why we are doing this; we
know that it is our duty to make these statements -- but that is not all.
In other words, we know that we are telling you something that we must tell
you; and we are very much concerned with making sure that the workers who
are employed over there will not create the slightest pretext in any way.

"We are quite aware of your importance, all of you who have joined the
militia; and we are profoundly pleased by this proof which you have given,
we are profoundly moved; nevertheless, we must draw a line and we must
discuss these things, so that we can be sure that you will understand,
because in doing all this, you are rendering your fatherland a service.
You can serve the fatherland but that does not mean that you always have to
serve with a rifle in your hand.

"Many times, this service can be performed better by doing other
things, even though it may be tough to do that; it is tough for me to have
to tell you that you should not wear the militia uniform.  I could come
here and make an inflammatory address which would be more in keeping with
my indignation and my contempt for this hateful imperialism which keeps its
claws on a piece of our soil; but then each and every one of you would be
subjected to humiliation and persecution within the base over there and the
enemy would have more ingredients for preparing its dish of aggression.

"And we, who are prepared to defend the territory of our country inch
by inch, and we who are prepared to carry out the slogan to the effect that
nobody shall abandon his post in combat and that everyone shall convert his
trench into a tomb rather than yield one step -- we are in this position
quite firmly, but this does not blind us in any way, this does not weaken
us, this does not cause us to renounce the intelligent policy which we must
pursue, the way in which we must act, precisely in order to win.

"What are they going to do over there?  They have a situation which is
much more difficult than ours; they do not attack us and the revolution
will continue victorious, furnishing an example for all of the peoples of

"But if they do attack us then the alternative would be even worse for
them:  I hope they won't be so foolish as to do this because we do not want
them to do that sort of thing, we do not want them to perpetrate the kind
of folly that could cost our people many lives; but if they do commit this
folly, thus would mean their definitive destruction.  We know that this is
the situation and we must act without renouncing our intelligent approach
to this problem, without renouncing our belief in victory and in the
triumph which we can certainly be assured of in the end.

"This is why I am very much concerned with having your approval and
your understanding.  What is more, I am sure that you have understood me;
it would be impossible for anybody to come here and talk the way I have
talked today and not to be understood; everybody is bound to realize that I
am right in doing this.  And this is not just my opinion; this is not just
an interpretation of the opinion of the comrades who hold responsible
positions in the government, the comrades who hold responsible positions in
the revolution, in the army, in the militia, in the government in general.

"This is the very first thing I have come here to ask you and this is
the very first thing which I hope that all of you without exception will
accept.  Now you have the word on this first request.

(After a short exchange of views, all of the workers at the base, both
militia men and those who have not yet joined, agreed on this and accepted
the request of the prime minister, Dr. Fidel Castro, who then continued his
address as follows):

"Many thanks, comrades.

"I want to make sure that you, over there, will not be the object of
arbitrary acts and persecutions; as I told you before, the policy which we
must pursue is a policy which requires sacrifices of a sentimental nature;
and this is why I said this:  you, for example, have the problem of the
militia; many of you are militia men and I am worried that this might serve
as a pretext of persecutions of Cubans and mistreatment of Cubans at the
base over there.

"And I want to ask you whether you are capable, out of love for your
country and for the good of the country, I want to ask you whether you are
capable, you the workers at the base, to resign yourselves to a situation
in which you will not be a member of the militia; this is precisely the
sort of thing which I have come to ask you here although I am very much
aware of what you really want, and I know that it is asking a lot of you
workers at the base not to belong to the militia; but I don't think anybody
would be taking a risk in coming here and asking you this.

"I have always had one basic principle and that is to tell the truth
always and to describe things the way they are and this is my duty here as
your compatriot; I want you to be sure that I have a very firm line on all
this and that I am very much prepared to give my life a thousand times for
my fatherland and I am sure that my fatherland will triumph against all
enemies; and this is why I am asking you this, with all of this moral
emphasis.  In other words, this is probably the most difficult problem I
could pose for you; however, I have come here to ask you this, in the
certainty that you will understand what this is all about and that you will
agree with this solution, that you will agree with us, now that you know
what the background is, in other words, now that you know that this will
help us in making sure that the enemy will not have any pretexts for
persecuting the Cuban workers who are employed at the base; in other words,
we want to deprive the enemy of any pretext along these lines; but this
does not mean that, if our country were attacked, each one of you would not
have a rifle in his hands to defend his fatherland.  (Ovation)

"This means that we must pursue a policy which requires sacrifices; for
example, it is a great sacrifice for us to have you working over there at
the base; it is very painful to us to know that you are working over there
at that base; however, we have to accept this situation so long as we are
not able to do anything else.

"And this is what we are going to do; we are going to accept this
situation and we are not only accepting it but we are also very much
preoccupied with your situation and we are concerned with making sure that
you will not be persecuted.

"But they, over there, would like to have lots of pretexts for creating
a difficult situation; I am sure they are going to hold a meeting for all
of the workers at the base and this is something which I would like to
discuss with you here; everybody will agree that this line of
accommodation to a monetary-type situation, which implies the exchange of
dollars into pesos, means a 100% or sometimes even 200% increase in the
income of poor families which have children and dependents and who do not
need much; but this should not be a circumstance that should cast any
reflections on the integrity of our workers.

"The revolutionary government could not stop this; it has no control
over there; it could not do the same thing here in changing our currency
and it could not go against the law in order to find a solution to this
difficult problem; it is much more convenient for you to exchange that
money over there and I am going to explain to you right away why this is

"The government could not offer the same thing which the speculators
and the exploiters offer you over there; these are the people who have
robbed you, who have plundered our people, who take their money away, and
who keep exchanging this money at the base and then take it with them.
This was an immoral procedure; we could not devaluate our currency and go
against the law in order to find a solution to that difficult problem.

"And now comes the second question which involves another problem, a
problem of a moral type concerning you and us.

"This is the problem of exchanging dollars.  This is a moral and a
difficult problem; first of all, because the revolutionary government does
not have any jurisdiction at the base over there; second, because the rate
of exchange which has been offered over there has implied a constant
temptation to the workers; at the same time we have here a kind of attempt
at subversion and even moral corruption of the workers at the base.

"This has been a weapon of corruption; just imaging the line of least
effort, the line of greatest economic convenience, and you will see that
the increase in incomes would have led to extremes so that only 5% would
exchange their dollars in Cuba; this would have signified almost a
prostitution of the conscience of the Cuban worker.

"It was necessary to confront this problem likewise; and this is one of
the questions which I was thinking about as a I tried to schedule the
proper time for my visit here and for my meeting with the workers.  But I
wanted this to be a rather discrete meeting because of the prevailing
tension; I did not want to give the imperialist monopolies to speculate on
my visit here.

"We had to depend on the revolutionary spirit and the integrity and the
patriotism of the workers to the extreme, to the point where they would
sacrifice these material advantages, which derive from the exchange of
dollars in accordance with the official rate of exchange in Cuba.  For
economic reasons, it is our duty here to find a solution to this problem;
but we must solve this problem even more for ethical reasons; it is very
sad that this system of corruption continues to grow and grow and that it
manages to destroy the morality and integrity of the workers, getting him
accustomed to an immoral solution to his economic necessities; and there is
something else that is even sadder:  getting a higher income, at the
expense of the other workers in Cuba.  Why?  Well, I am going to explain
this to you and you will understand perfectly well.

"You are working at a job which does not produce anything for the
nation; it does not result in any production of goods for the people.  It
is not the same thing as building a school, a highway, a truck, or a
hospital.  They are building fortifications over there; and they pay you
in foreign money; and those workers who exchange 100 dollars for 200, 250,
or 300 pesos, what are they doing?

"They are doing a job which does not in any way benefit the country;
they are getting paid in foreign money and they exchange that money on the
black-market into pesos.  The pesos which they get in exchange for dollars
is money from the evildoers, money which the exploiters have taken out of
Cuba, money which they have robbed the workers of, money which they have
taken from the people.  They could not exchange this money in any other
way.  So they go there and they exchange it for dollars, and what does this
mean for the people of Cuba?  Well, it means that the people of Cuba are
paying for these fortifications.

"Why?  Because this paper money, which otherwise would not be worth
anything abroad, is exchanged from the worker in return for the dollars
which he gets paid at the base; and the worker then comes over and spends
these pesos here for clothing and shoes and nationally-produced goods;
these goods are for the families of these workers and they go on working
over there at a job which does not do anything for the country; this
results in the very sad situation of having our people pay for the
fortifications that are being put up over there.

"To put it very plainly, the fellow who gets paid a hundred dollars
over there and exchanges them for pesos on the black market gets 200, 250,
or even 300 pesos in return; and he spends that money over here, on shoes
clothing, food, meat, in other words, products turned out by Cuba, without
bringing us anything because these people over there would not exchange
their pesos in any other way and these are the pesos which they have robbed
the people of; these are the pesos which they had abroad, this is just
paper money; [passage missing in photostat] ...  Because everything we do
with the workers must be based on understanding and persuasion and on their
good will toward their fatherland and the revolution.  (Ovation)

"And we must foster this spirit in everybody.

"Let us now figure this for the week.  On some occasions, out of
130,000 dollars, only 30,000 were exchanged.  The rest went into the hands
of the speculators and exploiters and thieves who, in return, gave a
quantity that was 2 or 3 times greater than the money which represents
their ill-gotten gains, in other words, those of them who have Cuban
currency.  In this way, the 5 million dollars which on the black market are
exchanged into pesos, mean that our people is paying 115 million pesos for
fortifications which are being put up at the Yankee naval base at

"This is a very clear and undeniable truth; the proportion varies from
time to time but we have to figure out the total amount that is paid out in
dollars over there, and we have to do this in order to try to make sure
that not a single dollar will be converted into money for those who have
robbed our people and we have to make sure that our people will not pay a
single peso for fortifications at a base which is a disgrace and a shame to
our fatherland.

"For every dollar which is exchanged over there, through the
speculators, the nation pays 2 or 3 pesos in terms of goods.

"Now, what does the return of that money in exchange for Cuban currency
mean?  It means that this will save the country tremendous expenditures,
expenditures which the country is making today in order to help build
fortifications for imperialism.  I have had this idea for some time and it
simply is this:  I think that we should always achieve the objectives of
our revolution through the incentive of honesty, through the incentive of
patriotism, and through moral means.

"If the workers takes the dollars which he gets and exchanges them at
the office of the National Bank, and if he then buys food and some of the
daily necessities, that means that the workers who works over there and who
gets 100 dollars in foreign currency, is paying for what he consumes with a
currency that can be exchanged for merchandise from the outside; on the
other hand, in order to purchase the merchandise which can be bought with
the pesos that he gets over there on the black market, forces us to take
dollars out of our dollar reserve, in order to obtains the flour which we
consume, in order to obtain the daily necessities for consumption, in order
to procure medicine and medication which we can then buy at the pharmacy;
in other words, we have to draw dollars out of our reserve, dollars which
come from the work of a nation, or we have to expend goods produced with
the sweat of the people, goods which are then paid for with pesos and those
pesos of course are the money that comes from the thieves, money taken by
the exploiters who have robbed the people and who have no other way of
exchanging this money and who have found a good place here where they can
convert the money they have robbed our people of at a favorable rate.

"And they have also found a way to make our people pay for the
fortifications at the base.  This is very clear; when a worker, on the
other hand, brings these foreign currency amounts over, then what he buys
and consumes -- because he has brought the equivalent over in foreign
currency -- when he buys things from us here, then, even though he is not
doing anything that is of benefit to the people, he is at least consuming
these things here and he makes some kind of contribution and he pays for
these things here; otherwise we would have a very said situation of having
to convert the money that was taken from our people into more money and
this would only mean that our people and our workers are paying for the
fortifications at that base; it would mean that these workers are consuming
things here without doing anything for the country and brining anything in.

"And this is the truth.

"We have tried to institute control measures in this respect.

"And I have still another idea which I would like to present to you
here and which I would like you to pass on to all of the other workers at
the base.  Here is my idea:  something in the way of a bonus for those who
honorably do their duty toward their country and who at the same time help
us resolve some of our problems of unemployment here, for instance; and
this is what my idea is:  build a thousand comfortable homes, build up the
social circles, the school centers, the park areas and all of the other
public utilities, such as water, light, etc. and then give these 1,000
homes free of charge to 1,000 Cuban workers at the naval base, that is to
say, to those who exchange a major portion of what they get paid over there
each week in terms of wages.  (Ovation)

"And this development will house you, and you are going to have a school
center here and a social circle; in addition, it will also mean that we
will someday have factories here and you will have jobs here and you will
have preference in getting these jobs.

"We are going to begin construction of that development immediately and
before the year is over we will have a number of housing units ready there
for those people; but these people are not just going to get a house; this
will also mean that the family that lives there, the children and the wife
and the mothers are the family of a worker whom the fatherland and the
revolution has given this house, not only as a material piece of property
but in recognition of his love for his country, in recognition of his
honesty, in recognition of his integrity -- because we do not only want to
give you an opportunity to live in a pleasant home but we also want to let
you have the honor of what this means to you and to the family of each one
of you, in other words, living in that house, the honor which all of this
means before the entire nation, and the prestige which this development
will have, in other words, the development in which you are going to live;
the eyes of the nation will be upon you; and those who will visit you from
abroad will know that these are not just houses, but that they are more
like medals which the revolution has pinned on the chests of the true
revolutionaries, the true patriots, the true Cubans, who did not build
fortifications for the enemies of the fatherland with money that came from
our people, who did not egotistically abandon the sacred duties which every
Cuban and every worker has, without being specially urged to carry them out
and without talking a lot about them, especially after we have explained to
him the very sad problem which we face here; we know that you will
understand; and I wish that a thousand houses were not enough here; I wish
that we would have to build one house for everyone of the workers who is
employed over there, because every one of these workers will have done his