Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC


FL202300 Havana Domestic Service in Spanish 2119 GMT 20 Jan 81

[Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro at ceremony marking the formation
of Granma Province territorial militia units, held in Guisa, Granma

[Text] Dear comrades in the territorial militias; dear comrades of Guisa,
Bayamo, Granma and Cuba: The movement initiated for the purpose of setting
up the territorial militias in the shortest length of time possible is a
new and convincing demonstration of the energy and revolutionary
consciousness of our people, of their will to resist, defend their
conquests and realize their motto: production and defense.

The essence of the complex international situation at present is that it is
precisely today that a new administration took office in the United States,
an administration whose principal members have made statements that
virtually put them at the head of the most reactionary sectors that
encourage retaliation and try to restore imperialist domination over a
world and circumstances that reflect very deep and essentially irreversible
changes. Therefore, today, 20 January 1981, while over there in the United
States a government that represents a threat to peace and to the most vital
interests of the large majority of the U.S. people takes office amid the
pomp and glitter characteristic of decadent empires, notwithstanding the
millions of unemployed and forsaken and of the uncertainty in which many
more millions of persons live at present in that country, here we are
setting up the Bayamo and Guisa territorial militias with the modesty,
austerity, simplicity, human warmth, patriotism and solidary spirit of the
workers, in an atmosphere of effort, toil, creativity, struggle against
backwardness, underdevelopment and the sequels of oppression, moved by a
national awareness that we must make the country go forward for the
well-being of everyone, for the consolidation of our achievements in
benefit of the masses, and determined to preserve what we have, what we
have won and the future we are forging, fully confident in the future, in
the moral forces and reserves of our people, encouraged by the support of
the world revolutionary movement, the socialist community, the best of
humanity. [applause]

Thus from one end of our country to the other, with the patriotic and
revolutionary conviction embodied in the oath which you have taken today,
this process of the territorial militias moves forward to bring more depth
and solidity to our defense system. This is our answer to imperialist
threats. [applause]

Our combat experience and that of other brother peoples are in evidence in
the steps we are taking to organize the militias, especially in determining
their structure, outfitting, appointment and combative missions. In the
report to the second congress of our party, we noted the essential aspects
of the territorial militias. We would like to take this opportunity today
to talk about their organization. We conceive the territorial militias as
one more force, voluntary and selective, comprised by men and women,
workers, peasants, students, by all who are able to fight and are not part
of the regular troops reserves or the civil defense. In forming this force,
the principle that the defense of the fatherland is a right and duty of all
Cubans, men and women, is fulfilled. This is a principle that we can now
see materialized. Young workers, peasants, students who have not yet been
called to active military duty, workers who--because of their role in
production--cannot be away from the factories, and our heroic and spirited
revolutionary women who have always shown their capacity, perseverance and
courage--they too will find a combat post in the territorial troops.

The structure of the territorial militias [applause] is formed on the basis
of small units and units at the level of battalion and regiment in
municipalities and provinces where their officers will be headquartered. So
as to strengthen the work in connection with the territorial militias, FAR
[Revolutionary Armed Forces] officers adjunct to the presidents of the
people's government have been appointed. All the territorial militia units
will come under a single defense plan designed by the armies which will
issue the combat missions.

In some regions of the country, especially in densely populated areas or
areas with special characteristics, units with various designations will be
formed and trained such as groups to participate in the construction of
fortifications, obstacles and other (?related) jobs, communications,
repairs, supply, chemical defense and other combative and protective

As to the heads of regiments, which are more complex structures, their
officers will be FAR officers who have command training and experience. The
rest of the cadres for the territorial militias will be selected from among
the members of the units themselves on the basis of the qualities shown by
the comrades. In all cases, these comrades will receive immediate training
which will be systematized as circumstances permit. In fact, in the [word
indistinct] and other centers for military (?training) of the FAR,
intensive courses have begun which provide basic know-how.

As to the training of units, these will be trained by means of classes on
combative training during free time, study groups and other forms of

The territorial militias come into being in the same manner that the
people's armies created by the Cuban people have historically come into
being. The militias come into being as did the Mambi Army, as did the
detachment that attacked Moncada, as did the rebel army and the militias of
the first years of the revolution. This is the deep political meaning of
the national campaign to collect funds necessary to defray all expenses
without affecting the country's development plans. This process reminds us
of those days when collections were made by different means to acquire
weapons, airplanes and agricultural equipment to implement the agrarian
reform. I also remember the most legitimate militia traditions.

Combatants in the first militia units [applause] armed themselves at first
as best they could. Those first groups exemplified the gamut of light arms
production. At the beginning the militias procured their weapons as best
they could. Uniforms and regulation arms followed. Legislation on arms
possession was issued. At present, the possibility that each individual
might obtain them on their own no longer exists. We do not have arms for 10
million Cubans at present. Nevertheless, we must all prepare, organize and
train ourselves as the rebel army did [applause] because though there are
not enough weapons today, there may be more than enough tomorrow, because
the enemy brings them in and we shall know how to wrest them away from the
enemy. [applause, chants of "Fidel, for sure, hit the Yankees hard."]

Actually, all indications are that the money collected, because of the
systematic way that the committees carry out these drives, and because of
the emulations between municipalities, will enable us to fulfill the
expectation of total self-financing for the militias which, in addition to
weapons, need places to train and educate personnel: firing ranges, testing
grounds, warehouses, training material and camp equipment in general.

Among the main missions of the territorial militias both in peacetime and
time of war, is the mission to replace and complement the FAR's regular
units whose combat readiness so requires. Because of their knowledge of the
terrain and their mobility, the territorial troops units will be especially
helpful against paratroop landings, in dealing with diversionist groups, in
participating, along with regular troops, in combative actions, insuring
FAR units movement itineraries, guarding and protecting factories, work
centers, bridges, railways, crossroads and installations of all kinds, and
carrying out irregular war missions in the case of occupied territories.

Militias are as old as wars of aggression. [applause] They are the
resources par excellence to which peoples resort to face these wars. They
are an especially appropriate force for defense. They are workers fighting
for their factories, residents defending their neighborhood, citizens
guarding their property--the property of the people--and making their
convinctions and ideals prevail. The strength of the revolution--it is
fitting that we repeat this--lies above all in the people, in the fact that
we can count on a firmly established party with close ties to the people,
with mass organizations capable of achieving their aims, with prestigious
government institutions whose capacity systematically improves, with a
developing economy and with modern armed forces and reserves which, because
of their number, organization, level of equipment, campaign training,
efficiency and combative experience, are a force to be feared.

The territorial militias are called upon to support and guarantee
[applause] the missions assigned to our glorious and undefeated
Revolutionary Armed Forces [applause, indistinct slogans followed by
"vivas" and chanting] Our military doctrine prepared during years of
intensive work responds to the demands of contemporary fighting, to the
probable nature of the enemy's actions and to the characteristics of the
theater of operations. The organic structure of the FAR is suited to this
doctrine as is the concept behind our entire defense system. We are a
threatened country, and an island to boot. Hence, from the viewpoint of the
country's defense, we define defense against landings as the most important
thing. This defense is foreseen as resistant, active, echeloned throughout
the nation and skillfully combined with vigorous and timely offensive
actions. Land troops, the navy and the DAAFAR [Antiaircraft Defense and
Revolutionary Air Force] have the necessary means and training to carry out
the combative operations and actions assigned to them. The territorial
troops units are the ideal complement to this system, which ensures the
country's defense from the least accessible places to points in the
interior. There will be no unprotected corner. There will be no place where
the enemy will not find tenacious and firm resistance. There will be no
fronts. For a combatant, whether in the regular troops, civil defense or
territorial troops, the front will be there where the enemy is. [applause]

But the defense of the country is not exclusively military. It is above all
a series of political and economic measures designed to create the
conditions necessary to face all dangers and obtain victory. Among these
measures, increasing production is of vital importance to give the country
all that is necessary and to set up reserves of food, fuel and raw
materials. Producing and saving make us stronger. The conditions for
greater security are created. To produce more now will enable us to better
face, if the need arises, the stages during which production will
inevitably drop as a consequence of aggression. It will help to fulfill the
motto that--in case of aggression--would constitute the bases, the basic
task, of all the country's institutions and all Cubans: production for
defense and work for victory. [applause]

So that this process, under such circumstances, will take place
successfully, many factors must be favorable. Firstly, [we must have] the
cooperation of the state's central administrative organs, the people
government's organs, the mass organizations, which must play an important
role in the location of labor resources to replace the mobilized personnel
in production, and, above all, the party, which will direct all the
activities and resolve innumerable practical problems on the spot. At this
time. [applause] When we are involved in the process of forming the
territorial militias, we want to emphasize that it is necessary to continue
to give full attention to the regular units of our armed forces and their
reserves, which are the fundamental nucleus of the country's defense
potential. We must continue to strengthen [applause] combative training and
readiness, the training of their members and the advanced training of their
cadres. Should it be necessary, we would first have to complete the regular
units, assign to them the economic resources needed, and then complete the
remainder. [applause]

It is impossible to be here in this place with you, the combatants of the
603d Regiment and the combatants of the Guisa Battalion, both men and
women, to meet with the people of Guisa in this historic place near the
Sierra Maestra, and fail to recall past history. [applause]

From the birth of the nation, from the first struggle for independence in
1968 [as heard] to the present, our fatherland's experience in the course
of more than 100 years shows that a nation cannot neglect its defense.
[applause] That is the most consistent lesson from our history. In 1868 we
were unable to defeat the enemy after 10 years of fighting although our
people did not achieve victory then fundamentally because of subjective
factors: the unfortunate divisions in the ranks of our Mambi Army and our
incipient republic. As Marti said [applause]: The divisions defeated us
more than did the enemy. And divisions have defeated us more than once in
our history, except in this final stage of our revolution. [applause]
History taught us another lesson: The need for unity above all--the second
lesson. And it was the unity of the revolutionary forces and our people
which gave our revolution its characteristic invincible force from Moncada
and, especially, from 1 January 1959 on. [applause]

Again in 1895 our people launched another war for our fatherland. And if
they did not obtain full victory then it was because of external factors.
[shouts of "long live free Cuba", "long live the armed forces", "long live
Fidel" answered by "viva" each time;, applause] The metropolis [Spain] was
bent on recognizing its defeat and paved the way for U.S. intervention.
Then almost 30 years of heroic struggle were thwarted by the presence of a
foreign, imperialist power that was able to afford the luxury of directly
occupying this country for 4 years and then leaving behind a puppet
government in place at the service of its own interests. The imperialist
power imposed navy bases on us in addition to a constitutional amendment
which gave it the right to intervene here whenever it felt like it. In
other words, every time that its interests were threatened by the people's
struggles. In the course of these 50-odd years of false republic, they
controlled our lives, our destiny, our economy. They were the masters. By
directly or indirectly intervening or by participating in the political
processes of the country, they prevented victory in 1933. They imposed
tyrannies, crimes and corruption on us.

They supported with all means possible the henchmen of the various
tyrannical governments, the last of them being Batista's. This forced us to
the struggle once more. This forced us to repeat the history of 1868, of
1895 and of 1933. This led us to the armed and people's struggle to attain
once and for all--and we say it in this manner, once and for all and
forever--our definitive freedom, our definitive independence [applause],
the freedom and independence that our people needed to build their future,
to work as owner of the land and owner of the natural resources, of the
factories, owner of their work, and for a better future.

In those days of 1959 our generation had the privilege to see the fruits of
all those dozens and dozens of years of struggle. The Yankees did not even
allow Calixto Garcia the right of entering the city of Santiago de Cuba
with his troops. Our rebel army had the privilege of entering the city of
Santiago de Cuba and all other cities of the country. [applause] This
placed on our shoulders an extraordinary responsibility. How were we going
to use that opportunity? And how were we going to defend it? The struggle
did not end in 1959. It is well known by all of you the actions of
imperialism in all fields to stabilize--as it is called today--the
revolution. To promote subversion, the sabotage production.

We know all the crimes perpetrated by them from the very beginning,
starting with the first teachers who were murdered, those teachers who were
teaching how to read and write in the fields and mountains where for
centuries no teacher had ever visited. The piratical attacks, the mercenary
invasions such as Giron, the uprising of criminals, the threats of direct
intervention and other activities by imperialism forced us from the very
first day of the revolution's triumph to prepare ourselves.

We soon found out that the arms we seized from the Batista army, which were
some tens of thousands, perhaps 70,000 or 80,000--they had sufficient for
what they were using them for, because they were not at war against any
superpower but against the people--we soon found out that those arms were
not enough when our country had to face up to an enemy as mighty as the
United States. From the very beginning we had to purchase weapons. In that
manner, for example, we had arms arriving from Europe, one of which was
sabotaged, the case of the freighter La Coubre in which nearly 100 soldiers
and workers were killed. Of course, once our arms began coming from the
socialist camp and the Soviet Union [applause], no other vessel exploded.
Since then, quite a few vessels have arrived to our coasts loaded with

Our country not only was capable of defending itself, the development of
our combat capability and our awareness made it possible in certain
instances even to fulfill brilliant internationalist missions, such as
Angola and Ethiopia. [applause]

Can we neglect our defense now? Precisely now [shouts of "no" in the crowd]
when reactionary elements and elements of the extreme right have assumed
power in the United States? When they have talked about, stated and uttered
threats against our country throughout the electoral campaign and in
publications, declarations, studies and writings, and have talked about
possible blockades, not only economic but even military. They have talked
about possible interventions here. Are we going to neglect our defense? No.
[shouts of "no" in the crowd]

We are going to apply the lessons learned from history. We are going to
apply the lesson that a nation can never neglect its defense. And the 112
years of struggle of our people have taught us that lesson, that the
defense cannot be neglected. On the other hand, we do not like to be
threatened. We do not like it one bit. That is the truth. I do not know who
they are attempting to frighten with this. I believe that today it is a bit
difficult to try to intimidate the Cuban people. That policy of threat
against Cuba that has been proclaimed is what has led us to the need to
doubling our defensive effort, doubling it or triple it. [applause]

We are going to prepare ourselves to defend the country. When we say to
defend the country, we are not fooling around. We know what it is to defend
the country. We know that if we are determined to defend the country, no
one will ever become owner of this land. No aggressive force will ever be
owner of this land. [applause] The cities might disappear, might be
destroyed, but never taken as long as there is a single combatant.
[applause] Our fields, our mountains could be invaded, but never occupied
as long as there is a single combatant. In any of these hills, under any of
these trees, or even in places where there are no trees--the people of
Western Sahara are struggling in the midst of the desert where there is not
even a patch of grass--as long as we have these mountains, as long as there
are combatants, our country will not be occupied. [applause]

But this willingness is not enough, we have to prepare ourselves for such a
possibility. Do we lack a tradition of struggle? Have we not accumulated a
considerable amount of experience throughout the history of our people? Is
it not true that the men making up our more experienced cadres, whether in
the armed forces, party and the state, know what struggle means. When we
speak here, we do so with great assuredness and we base ourselves on our
own experience, on our own history.

In very few places such as this, in very few provinces such as this one can
we talk with such propriety regarding that experience. [applause] It was in
Granma itself that the struggle began for independence in 1868. In 1895,
this was one of the first places where the fighting began. The landing of
the yacht Granma took place in Granma Province and, with it, the 82 members
of the expeditionary force.

Our first battles took place in Granma. We had our first setbacks and our
greatest difficulties in Granma. In Granma we had the support and
encouragement of the people. But we were very few. I do not know what would
have happened and how long Batista's army would have lasted if we would
have had these troops standing here in the Sierra Maestra. [applause] If we
would have had those thousand and more automatic weapons you have. Perhaps,
we would have had to set the rifles to shoot single shots because I believe
we would have run out of bullets.

But we were very few. As we recently said in Manzanillo, we had seven
rifles at the beginning. Among all of us there was not a single automatic
weapon. We had a submachine gun. No, no even that. That submachine gun we
found months later. We had seven bolt-action rifles. I say it because I am
convinced that what is important is the basic idea of a combatant, the
objectives of a combatant, the combatants' ties with the people. The enemy
was very powerful, extremely powerful. They had some 70,000 to 80,000 men.
We had to live those 25 months of war with seven rifles at the beginning to
3,000 armed men at the end.

Little by little we trained. Little by little we gained experience from
each day of struggle. From the beginning, when we did not have any
experience and at the end we were playing games with the enemy troops.

We were forcing them to do what we wanted them to do in order to defeat
them. At the end they were behaving that way. They were doing what we
wanted them to do. They moved toward the areas we wanted them to move to.
They would move when we wanted them to move and through the area we wanted.
[applause] A very interesting characteristic of our revolutionary history
is this one. I said we had some 3,000 men with arms of which very few were
automatic. Of those weapons, which some day the historians will be able to
determine the exact number, of those weapons, 90 percent were taken from
the enemy in the battle. We received some small shipments of weapons, very
small. Perhaps the largest one amounted to 150 rifles, which arrived after
the battle of Guisa, during the last 3 weeks. By then our troops were
already in Santa Clara, dividing the island in two. The offensive was
developing very vigorously. The exact number is not very far off, that is
90 percent of the weapons we had at the end of the war was taken from the
enemy in battle. This is very important.

We knew the price of the weapons. Our philosophy was always that the enemy
army had the weapons. That was the Moncada philosophy. We went there to
seize the weapons of one regiment. Throughout the war of liberation that
was the principle. Many times we engaged in combat not to kill soldiers but
to seize weapons. Our objective was to arm ourselves. That was the
fundamental objective. While doing that, enemy soldiers were also being
killed. That was not a bad thing. In the end they had to die. [applause]
There was no other way out.

We used to gauge the success of a battle by the number of dead soldiers.
Once 25 of our comrades ambushed the enemy near Pilon and inflicted 70
casualties, mostly killed. They destroyed trucks full of soldiers, but were
unable to seize weapons in that instance. There were other trucks coming
and they had to disperse. It was a good group of comrades but did not have
sufficient experience. They were unable to seize weapons. We did not
believe it was a victory. The enemy suffered 70 casualties. We had none but
did not seize a single rifle. We used to guage the success of the military
operations by the number of weapons seized. That is the way in which we
were able to arm ourselves.

I mention this because it should continue to be our philosophy. Today we
have weapons, quite a few of them. It can be said that we have more than
enough weapons, good weapons. [applause] But they are not sufficient. There
are not enough so that each Cuban may have a rifle. That is why at the
party congress we said we needed a rifle, a grenade, something in our
hands. Perhaps a machete. A machete used properly can become a powerful
weapon, something to be feared. But the enemy has weapons. We must keep in
mind not only the arms we have but also those we can seize from the enemy.

As long as there are seven armed men in this country, they have to remember
the page of history to which we have just referred. [applause] Not even
seven, as long as there is a single man with a rifle, a submachine gun, he
must remember what I have talked about. A single weapon can become many.
The enemy had much better weapons than we had and an unlimited supply of
ammunition. They had aircraft, artillery and tanks. Of course, they also
had many 50-caliber and 30-caliber machine guns and so forth. They had all
the supplies they needed. In reality all we had was rifles and land mines.
We conducted the war with rifles and land mines. And most of the rifles
were the bolt-action type.

We used to manufacture the land mines with the TNT of the unexploded bombs.
No one supplied us with dynamite or explosives. Maybe we received a few
wires and detonators from outside. That is all we needed because they were
dropping so many bombs and about 10 percent did not explode. I am still
unable to explain how one of those bombs did not explode, because our
people knew nothing about them. The truth of the matter is that they were
digging them out with picks and shovels. They used to disarm them using
hammers. I certainly can say that, with hammers. None of them were
specialists or engineers. They were combatants using their own common sense
and great courage. They used throughout the entire war.

I say this because it is very important to stress the idea that the
patriot, the revolutionary combatant must use not only his weapons but
those of the enemy as well as its resources. [applause] Who can fight in
this area better than you? Those of the battalion. The peasants of this
mountain who even know where the mosquito lays its eggs, as the saying
goes. They know everything, where each rock is. What can the enemy do here
against men and women such as you? What can the enemy do in the town,
outside town or near the town?

The idea is to prepare ourselves for regular as well as irregular war, the
two types. [applause] If they have a way of making the island disappear
from the face of the world, then we will disappear, we will disappear from
the face of the world. But no enemy will ever succeed in conquering us,
subjugating us or making us surrender. Imperialism simply cannot do it.

Precisely this place where we have gathered reminds us of one of the
boldest and rashest actions of our rebel army. At the end of the offensive,
the last one launched against the Sierra Maestra, our own counteroffensive
was initiated. The various columns left from the Sierra Maestra with the
weapons taken from the enemy. These columns were in addition to the ones
that had left earlier to form the second eastern front and Santiago de Cuba
front. We had about 300 weapons when the offensive began. And when the
Batista offensive, that big offensive, ended we had 805 weapons. We had
almost tripled our weapons. This was done in a few days. It was not a long
time; in about 50 days. Actually, the battles of the last offensive lasted
70 days.

All the columns had gone and we were left with a platoon of 30 men and
1,000 unarmed recruits. We began picking up a few platoons. We wanted to
seize the company that was in (Las Minas de Boisito) but they escaped
quickly. They were the only troops [Batista] had near the Sierra Maestra.

Some soldiers--almost a company--of the tyranny rebelled and gave us their
weapons. We told them that we did not want them to fight because they were
not needed. We told them: Give us your weapons. You should not fight
against your former comrades. Leave that task to us.

And they gave us about 60 rifles. We had about 180 men when we arrived in
Guisa. And on this region of Bayamo and surrounding areas, the enemy had
5,000 of its best troops. Therefore, a struggle of a different scope took
place here in Guisa. Our forces were composed mostly of recruits. They were
new personnel. Our more experienced troops had left for the various fronts.
And that was how the combats took place in Guisa. They lasted 10 days. I
believe it is a history known to you.

However, it is worthwhile to note the fact that the battle began with 180
men against an enemy that had around 5,000 soldiers. And what did we have?
Rifles and mines. We had nothing else. It was the first time that we had to
fight along a paved highway. Placing a mine on a dirt road is not the same
as on a paved highway. We also were faced with that annoying bridge, which
is not a bridge but an elevated dirt road. And blowing up a bridge is not
the same as blowing up a dirt road.

Yes, we had some mortars. But do you know how many rounds of ammunition? We
had 15 rounds of ammunition for the mortars when we arrived here in Guisa.
They were 81-mm mortars. We had to consider when we should use them because
we could not use this ammunition from the start.

There was a company in this city and it was surrounded. We used minimum
forces to surround the enemy garrison and devoted most of our forces
against the reinforcements. The battle of Guisa, therefore, was not against
the company that was deployed here. It was against the reinforcements from

They controlled two important roads and other secondary roads. It was
necessary to seize all the roads and to deploy our main forces in the
direction from which the reinforcements would certainly be coming. They
used to like the big roads, especially when they had to travel in trucks
and tanks.

The fighting began here against a patrol that came here every day,
[patrolling] from Guisa to Bayamo. Of course, the patrol was eliminated in
a matter of minutes.

The first 23 weapons were taken from that patrol. After that first fight,
we had 203 armed men instead of 180. We began seizing weapons from the
enemy throughout the battles and we even seized a tank intact and in
perfect condition. No one knew how to drive it, to tell you the truth, and
no one knew how to handle its gun. I think that today if you were to seize
a Yankee tank in combat you would not have the problems we had. We had to
carry out tests at night to figure out how to fire the tank's gun. We had
to place a comrade on a white horse in front of the tank to determine
alignment of the gun sight and gun barrel. We had to make some test firing.
And we asked ourselves: Where do we aim it? Well, we said, let us aim it at
the command post and see if the shelling reaches there--that was the Bayamo
command post.

On one occasion, a complete battalion with two tanks was surrounded. The
enemy then not only was faced with the Guisa garrison surrounded but also
the battalion, and it had to send reinforcements to rescue the battalion
that itself had come as reinforcement. It had to send reinforcements to
rescue the reinforcement.

There is an important event. It concerns that hill which had no name and
today is known as Coronu Hill. It played an extremely important role.
[applause] We had about a platoon on that hill which was very close to the
city. Since the infantry could not pass as long as we controlled that hill,
the tanks also could not pass because the enemy knew we had mines and if
the infantry could not move ahead removing the mines, the tanks could not
pass because they would be blown up. The remains of a blown-up tank, the
first one destroyed there, are still there. And from that hill, our
infantry troops with their rifles did not let the enemy infantry pass. And,
of course, the ones handling the mines were able to keep their positions.

Although we had neither rifles nor mines [as heard, presumably not enough
of them], they--with their tanks, artillery and airplanes--could not pass
through that highway. That lasted around 10 days.

Comrade Coronu ordered that 200 foxholes be dug--at least 10 foxholes for
each man he had there--to defend themselves from different positions. At a
certain point, the position was quite difficult and it was necessary to ask
for volunteers. There were more than enough volunteers to defend the
position, and a squad from the Mariana Grajales women's platoon was among
the volunteers. [applause] In other words, a squad of women participated
with the men on that extremely difficult hill, in that difficult position.

They resisted 10 days of bombings because over the 10 days that the battle
of Guisa lasted, the enemy's air force attacked the different positions
from dawn to night. Above all, however, it attacked the position [on that
hill] with explosive and incendiary bombs. The artillery attacked that
position a lot. The tanks, the Sherman tanks, attacked that position
directly. In fact, Coronu was killed by a direct hit from a tank's gun.

However, the position was not abandoned. And, I repeat, most of the
combatants there were recruits. Why did those recruits behave so well?
Because a tradition already existed. The tradition of struggle against
modern weapons, tanks and airplanes was created by the first nucleus of
those who remained from the Granma landing and from those who formed the
first columns.

Above all, we became strong when the men learned to resist from a position,
from a foxhole, the attacks with mortars, artillery and airplanes; when the
men learned to resist such attacks and not to move from their positions. We
then became strong because we learned that a specific and very important
position in a battle could not be taken by the enemy. The infantry could
not take it. And the enemy's use of all its most sophisticated weapons
could not make our men leave their position.

The combatants of the first columns created that tradition. The new
combatants, the ones who went to (Minas del Frio) and the ones who joined
the rebel army were loyal to that tradition. They knew they could hold a
position, which they did, and behaved valiantly.

This is the importance of the study of history and experiences and the
importance of combat traditions because they create a spirit, morale and
conviction. And the new recruits also behaved like the most experienced
soldiers. They did not have the same experience, but they behaved with as
much courage as the veterans did.

And precisely here, they were men and women like you. I have no doubt that
many of you have experience. I am not thinking of a 16-year-old student. I
am thinking of the old combatants. I am certain that in these militia units
there are combatants from the struggles for liberation, combatants from the
struggles against bandits and internationalist combatants. Therefore, you
have experience. But to those who are totally new and those who have not
had combat experience, I remind them of this because I know that they will
be as good soldiers as the most experienced. [applause]

At the end of those battles that were waged between 20 and 30 November here
in Guisa, our forces had occupied the city. They had caused the enemy more
than 200 casualties. We had seized more than 100 weapons from the enemy,
including several machine guns, several mortars, bazookas and so forth. We
had increased our forces. When we left Guisa, we were more than 300 men
with weapons of war. The enemy had suffered a very hard blow. It had been
left very demoralized. This made it easy for our subsequent advance along
the central highway, from Jiguani to Santiago de Cuba.

The real fact is that the 1,000 recruits were armed in 40 days. Of course,
some of them were among the casualties--the killed and wounded. In Guisa,
eight comrades were killed and seven wounded or 15 casualties of ours.
However, we dealt the enemy at least 15 casualties for each one of ours.
After the battle against the surrounded battalion, the enemy took trucks
full of dead soldiers. Actually, we caused them a large number of

I like the example of this battle because it is quite instructive for what
we are doing now, which is to prepare ourselves and, above all, not only to
train ourselves militarily but also to create a mentality, a consciousness
of what a revolutionary combatant is capable of doing and what the people
are capable of doing even under very difficult circumstances. [applause]

I brought with me a supplement of the newspaper GRANMA which has published
some materials on those times and those events. The one which most
impresses me after 20 years is a message addressed to the comrades of Radio
Rebelde. They were still over there in the Sierra [Maestra]. We had been
unable to move the station. I sent them a message from Guisa. It reads as

Sierra Maestra, 26 November 1958. To all the boys of Radio Rebelde. I am
here missing all of you. I already have loudspeakers but I do not have
announcers. [Castro stops reading message to say the following] We also
used loudspeakers as weapons of war. When we arrived in the garrisons, we
began to hold meetings with the soldiers so that they would surrender.

[Castro continues reading message] A powerful transmitter plant will arrive
here soon. But nothing works without Eduardo or you. We have a strong line
of defense between Bayamo and Guisa. It is like in Jigue, except that here
it is at the entrance to Bayamo and the fight is against tanks, but already
there is a breakthrough [Boca Arriba]. I do not have the veterans here but
the troops are behaving well. Coronu is a lion. He has dug more than 200
foxholes. Picks and shovels everywhere. The people good. All of us
entertaining idea of buying many things in Guisa. Embraces to all.

And it is true. When we entered Guisa on 30 November, the bourgeoisie had a
few shops here and they had all kinds of knickknacks, very sophisticated
ones. The coffee harvest was ending. And, of course, we did not confiscate
anything. It must be said that we purchased and religiously paid for them.

It was the first time that after a long period of time, practically years
in the mountains, we had taken anything approaching a city. Let us say that
Guisa actually was a city, a small city. It was the first time we had had
that opportunity and the idea was fulfilled because we gave permission to
the troops--we were slightly more than 300--and they went to the shops and
paid for what they bought. They did not loot the shops or anything of the
sort. They bought and paid for everything.

In case of an aggression and the shop were a Yankee one, I would not
recommend to buy and pay. [applause]

Precisely when I was examining these materials, I found a letter written in
the Sierra Maestra regarding the Yankees or the activities of the Yankees.
It was a declaration we made. I am not going to read it all. It was in the
days when Batista was seeking a pretext for a Yankee intervention here. It
was a pretext because they maneuvered and withdrew the garrison from Nicaro
which had a Yankee nickel industry. Our troops entered Nicaro and then they
decided to send troops to Nicaro. They unquestionably wanted to convert
Nicaro into a battlefield.

At the time, [Juan] Almeida's column had captured a jeep in an ambush and
held the occupants for a few days--seven Cubans and two Yankees. I believe
they were from Texaco. Then a State Department spokesman made very
threatening remarks. Those were the days when we were a very small army. In
those days, when those statements were made public, we were some 1,000-odd
armed men. We were afraid--and this was not an unfounded fear--that they
were contriving a pretext to intervene here. Our country did not have the
means it has today, the arms it has today, the millions of educated, aware,
revolutionary citizens that it has today. It did not have the international
support it has today. We were relatively weak. Even so, on that occasion we
warned the Yankees to stay out. And we warned them very categorically.
Those statements aired by Radio Rebelde on 25 October 1958 prior to our
final offensive concluded with these words: It should be made clear that
Cuba is a free and sovereign country. We want to have the best relations of
friendship with the United States. We do not want to get involved in
conflict that cannot be solved through reason and the right of peoples. But
if the U.S. State Department continues to be led by the machinations of Mr
Smith [presumably then U.S. Ambassador Earl T. Smith] and Batista and falls
into the unjustifiable error of involving its country in an act of
aggression against our sovereignty, we will know how to defend it in a
worthy manner. There are duties to the fatherland [applause] that cannot be
set aside whatever the cost. The threats implicit in your latest statements
are not worthy of a big and powerful country like the United States.
Threats are effective against cowardly and submissive people but never
against men who are willing to die in defense of their country. [applause]

Approximately 22 years and 3 months have elapsed since this declaration. We
were just a handful of men then. As evidence of the continuity of the
revolution's line and of the revolution's thought, we can repeat word for
word today this declaration we issued on that 25 October 1958. [applause]
Especially these words: There are duties to the fatherland that cannot be
set aside whatever the cost. Threats are effective against cowardly and
submissive people but never against men who are willing to die in defense
of their country. [applause] We should add one word to this: Men and women
who are willing to die in defense of their country. [applause]

This is the spirit we want for the combatants of our armed forces, the
regular troops, the reserve, the territorial militias and for all
revolutionary combatants.

Our force has multiplied extraordinarily since then. And I say this with
complete assurance. There is no force in the world capable of subjecting
our people. The presence of women [applause] is not something political.
Women have enormous combative potential. All the regular troops and much of
the reserves are made up of men. Women have not been included in military
service. And we have an enormous potential in many young women in excellent
physical condition for combat. [applause] The combative capacity of women
was demonstrated in our war. It was not easy. Men were very prejudiced
then. I remember that when I organized the Mariana Grajales Platoon--I even
took part in the training of those comrades--there were rebel combatants
who were furious. They did not like the idea of a platoon of women. We had
a few M-1's and the M-1 was considered a good weapon. But it was a light
weapon. We thought it was an adequate weapon for women. There were some who
asked why should they have Springfields and women get the M-1's. I
sometimes got a bit annoyed and had to tell some: Because they are better
combatants than you are. And the truth was that they showed that they were.

A large number of women participated in the forces that advanced toward
Holguin. Near Holguin, they had a very fierce battle against army troops.
This was the platoon of women. Their chief was seriously wounded. As a
general rule, a patrol or a platoon had the habit of withdrawing when its
chief was wounded. This was not correct but it had become somewhat of a
habit when the chief was killed or seriously wounded.

The platoon had attacked a truckfull of soldiers. And the platoon of women
was not discouraged in spite of the fact that its chief was seriously
wounded. It continued the fight. It destroyed the truck and seized all the
weapons. [applause] It was truly exceptional conduct.

Also here I recall the squad of women that remained in that position under
a terrible bombardment of artillery and airplanes over a 10-day period.

Therefore, it is not a case of a political question or a simple struggle
for equality, although the struggle for equality of course is manifested in
this as it is in many other ways. It is a requirement. We have an
extraordinary force potential in women as combatants for defense of the
country. [applause]

That is why it was decided to have a battalion of women in each regiment of
territorial troops and a company of women in each municipal battalion. In
other words, each province will have its battalion of women and each
municipality will have at least a company of women. [applause]

I sincerely believe that we are establishing a formidable and extraordinary
force which will multiply the combat capability of our revolutionary armed
forces and of our people.

Comrades, this ceremony today and this oath of allegiance have been very
emotional. And the oath has been emotional because of its meaning, its
sincerity and its seriousness.

We would not like to find ourselves someday in the need to use this force.
Instead, we want peace to prevail not only in our country but throughout
the world so that we can devote ourselves to creative work. But there must
not be the slightest doubt that we will employ this force if circumstances
require it, and this is a fearful and invincible force. [applause]

You have received your pennants and your flags. The Bayamo regiment has
received its banner.

From you we expect and we are certain that if someday we find ourselves in
the need to fight, you will be capable of emulating and even exceeding the
extraordinary heroism of those who between 20 and 30 November 1958 fought
in Guisa and liberated the city. [applause] We are certain that you will be
equal to the defenders of that hill which today carries the name of Coronu;
that you will be equal to the spirit, courage and heroism of the platoon of
that captain and of the extraordinary women of the squad that defended that
position. [applause]

I know that our people, our soldiers, our reservists and our combatants
will fight bravely everywhere in our country, on every corner, on every
mountain and in every town and that they will be capable of giving
everything for their country. [applause] And we also know that
you--combatants of Guisa, combatants of Bayamo and combatants of
Granma--will be among the first. [applause]

Fatherland or death, we will win. [shouts of "Venceremos" and applause]