Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Text of Castro Rally Speech

FL262207Y Havana Domestic Service in Spanish 2105 GMT 26 Apr 78 FL

[Speech by Cuban President and Commander in Chief Fidel Castro at public
friendship rally in honor of Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam and his
delegation at Havana's Plaza de Revolucion--live]

[Text]  Comrade Mengistu Haile Mariam, comrades of the Ethiopian
delegation, comrades compatriots:  Today we are attending a historic
event--the meeting of our people with the great revolutionary Ethiopian
leader Mengistu Haile Mariam and the delegation he heads.  [applause]

Ethiopia has been an independent state for thousands of years.  In the last
century, when all the countries of Africa without exception were occupied
by European colonial powers, the Ethiopian people, through strength and the
traditions of struggle and heroism, remained independent.

The Italians were severely defeated by the Ethiopians in 1896.  Dozens of
years later, in 1935, the fascist Italian troops of Benito Mussolini left
Somalia and the region they were occupying in the northern part of the
country known as Eritrea and invaded Ethiopia with the most modern weapons.
They took over all its territory following a hard and fierce resistance
which did not stop for an instant throughout the occupation, which lasted
only 5 years.  When, after World War II, the African countries, one by one,
liberated themselves from colonialism and many initiated a progressive
path, Ethiopia remained an absolutely feudal state in which even slavery
officially existed.

The Ethiopian revolution was not organized or directed by a political party
or organization.  There was so much injustice, oppression, poverty and
hunger that one day the country exploded.  In this sense, the facts and
circumstances are very reminiscent of the French Revolution of 1789.

The monarchy was abolished.  Slavery was radically suppressed and feudalism
and its production relations were literally swept away from the country's

As the country was completely underdeveloped, the working class was not too
large.  Most of the population--about 90 percent--was composed of peasants.

Naturally enough, the revolution also exploded within the army.  Young
junior officers, sergeants and soldiers swept away the feudalistic senior
officers and took command.  The absence of a political organization of a
national scope determined their decisive role in leading the process.

Ethiopia is a country composed of numerous ethnic groups which speak
different languages and of regions with various national characteristics.
More than a few problems were inherited from the feudal regime.  Poverty
and hunger had reached the extreme.  Oppression by the feudal government
had generated broad discontent and secessionist movements.

To the inherited problems were added new ones.  Everywhere the feudal
elements, deposed from power, and the senior officers from the old regime
repelled.  And to this had to be added a fundamental fact:  Feudal Ethiopia
was imperialism's firmest ally on the African Continent.  As expected, in
alliance with the revolutionary countries of the region, the latter
immediately began to maneuver against the Ethiopian revolution, stimulating
secessionism and the territorial ambitions of the Somalis.  The Somali
state was considered to be among the progressive countries, and even
socialism was advocated as an objective.  Actually, as facts have
demonstrated, the prevailing ideology among its leaders was chauvinism.
The insane idea of a greater Somalia dragged them into the imperialist
camp, thinking that the great opportunity had arrived for realizing it by
crushing the Ethiopian revolution and, at that price, taking over a third
of its territory with the approval and applause of the United States, NATO
and the reactionary countries of the Middle East.  Siad Barre himself
declared that he opportunely communicated to the U.S. Government his
intention of invading Ethiopia.

The Somali aggression, with numerous well-armed forces, became an
extraordinary threat to the integrity, revolution and the very existence of
Ethiopia.  Without the most resolute international support, the revolution
could have been crushed.

When Cuban combatants left for Ethiopia to support its people in the just
struggle against foreign aggression [applause], the governments of the
United States and the NATO countries, which had not said a word during the
long months as the Somali invasion developed, reacted angrily against
Cuba's noble and solidarity action in helping a nation which is among the
world's poorest and most suffering.  In talking with some North American
visitors, I told them:  What would your government's attitude be if Mexico
invaded you, claiming by force the return of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona,
California and other territories which you grabbed from them by force in
the last century and where 10 million Mexicans live?  [applause]  Well,
then, Mexico has much more right to do that than Siad Barre has to claim
the Ogaden territory, which has been part of Ethiopia for hundreds of years
and has never belonged to Somalia.  [applause]

In the same way, Yankee imperialism questions Ethiopia's right to defend
its territorial integrity and its unity against the Eritrean secessionists.
The United States itself had a bitter historic experience with secessionism
when the southern slaveowners tried to secede from the Union in the second
half of the past century.  A true pacifist, noble and of high stature,
Lincoln was forced to resort to arms to prevent it.  [applause]  Now they
want to deny Ethiopia the right to defend the country's integrity.

Cuba decidedly favors the existence of peace between Ethiopia and all
neighboring states, based on respect for the integrity of each nation and
noninterference in each other's domestic affairs.  [applause]  Ethiopia
does not claim the territory of any other state.  Ethiopia also needs
internal peace.  Cuba is, therefore, also an advocate of just political
solutions, based on Leninist principles, to the problem of nationalities
within a revolutionary Ethiopian state which preserves as an irrevocable
right its unity, its absolute integrity and sovereignty.  [applause]

Following the defeat of the aggressors' attempt against the Ogaden,
imperialism and its reactionary allies madly demanded the immediate
withdrawal of Cuban combatants from Ethiopia.  Anyone can understand that
this also means the immediate initiation of new acts of aggression.  We, as
a matter of principle, emphatically refuse to discuss this point with the
United States [prolonged applause] and any other point concerning Cuba's
solidarity with the just struggles of the peoples of Africa.

Would the United States discuss with us the presence of their military
units in scores of countries of the world?  Cuban military personnel will
be in Ethiopia for whatever time is agreed on [prolonged applause] by the
Ethiopian and Cuban governments to support the Ethiopian people against any
foreign aggression.  [applause]  Therefore, it should be very clear that
our combatants will not remain with arms folded if there is a new invasion
of Ethiopia.  [prolonged applause]

We will also cooperate broadly with Ethiopia in the civilian field.  A
large contingent of Cuban doctors and health personnel is already there,
and we will do the same in other areas.  [applause]

What did imperialism and its ally, the feudal regime, leave in Ethiopia?
Some 150,000 lepers, 400,000 suffering from tuberculosis, 6 million with
malaria, 14 million people with various degrees of eye infections, hundreds
of thousands of human beings who died of starvation during droughts, 95
percent illiteracy, just to cite some examples.  These terrifying figures
speak by themselves of the meaning of imperialism for the peoples of the
so-called Third World.

I do not want to speak too long because we must hear Mengistu's speech in
Amharic and Spanish.  [applause]  I do want to point out that we have great
confidence in Comrade Mengistu because of his revolutionary clarity, his
character his boldness and his courage.  [prolonged applause]  Mengistu is,
above all, an honest and revolutionary man.  [applause]  Mengistu is a firm
standard bearer of Marxism-Leninism.  [applause]

Marti said that men do not make nations but that, under certain
circumstances, nations are expressed in a man.  Mengistu is the fundamental
link between the Cuban revolution and the Ethiopian revolution.  [applause]
In the current phase of the revolutionary process, all his authority
courage, intelligence and leadership ability are necessary to lead the
Ethiopian revolution on the hard and difficult path ahead.

With this mass event today, our people and our party express to him their
unlimited confidence and their deepest solidarity.  [prolonged applause]
fatherland or death, we shall win!  [shouts of "Venceremos," prolonged