Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Domestic Service in Spanish 0137 GMT 20 Apr 81

[Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro at ceremony marking 20th
anniversary of victory at Playa Giron, held at Havana's Karl Marx

[Text] Distinguished guests, comrades of the party Central Committee,
combatants and compatriots:

The date 19 April is an unquestionably historic date which gains
increasingly more significance within our country, in our continent and in
the revolutionary movement. Giron was not an isolated event. It was
preceded by an infinite number of actions with which imperialism tried to
destroy our revolution.

An entire arsenal of measures was used against our country. They began by
suspending our commercial credits at the beginning of the revolution. Then,
they suspended oil supplies. Later, they took away our sugar quota. And
lastly, they imposed a rigorous and total economic blockade.

All of this was accompanied by a huge propaganda campaign against the Cuban
revolution. Using the exploiting classes that had been removed from power
and all that plague of petty politicians allied with imperialism who had
been plundering our country, they organized hundreds of
counterrevolutionary groups. I repeat, hundreds, they were in the hundreds.

They carried on a methodical plan to eliminate the leaders of the
revolution. They planned the systematic development of sabotage in our
country against industry, transportation and the economy in general.

They systematically organized a plan to deprive the country of doctors,
technicians and skilled personnel in general. By all possible means they
tried to obstruct our acquisition of arms for our defense. They initiated
pirate attacks against our port installations. They promoted the creation
of counterrevolutionary gangs in all the country's provinces, because there
is frequent reference to Escambray. The gangs were organized in all the
provinces, including the old Havana Province.

They introduced dozens upon dozens of tons of arms and explosives by sea
and by air. The CIA pursued our diplomatic officials, seamen, technicians,
foreign trade officials and so forth throughout the world, offering them
huge sums to encourage defection.

They undertook a huge publicity campaign against the revolution throughout
the world by using their powerful mass communications media. They moved
diplomatically to try to isolate us and to impose on other U.S. allies and
friendly countries the blockade against Cuba.

They used our sugar quota, taken away from this country, to bribe Latin
American governments and thereby--and by the promise of credits--to isolate
our country. They expelled us from the OAS. They adopted all types of
agreements against Cuba, basing themselves on the principle that socialism
was incompatible with the American system at a time when the socialist
nature of the revolution still had not been proclaimed and we had limited
ourselves to carrying out the Moncada program.

Giron was the last resort, the final blow with which they thought they
would destroy that revolution which was resisting its destruction so much.
The Giron plan was conceived much earlier, in the times of President
Eisenhower. The operation, which was part of clandestine and all types of
interventionist and illegal actions, was organized in the greatest secrecy.

The detailed plan consisted of a number of actions of a military nature, a
landing operation in the Baracoa area on the night of 14 to 15 April.
Mercenaries forces came very close to our coasts with the fundamental
objective of distracting attention from the principal objective.

These forces did not land when they became aware that our troops had been
alerted and were waiting for them. Otherwise, they would have suffered
their first defeat on the night of 14 April.

The 15 April attack on our air force was for the purpose of totally
eliminating it. They used treason and the element of surprise in the dawn
hours, in the style of Pearl Harbor, and, in general, in a fascist style.

The landing of the principal forces on 17 April, the occupation of a strip
of national territory difficult to retake, the establishment of a so-called
provisional government-- perhaps they even had given it the name of a
revolutionary government--and lastly and by means of this pretext, to
invite the OAS, in other words, to invite the United States to intervene in
our country.

They supported these actions with other maneuvers. There were simulated
landings on Cuba's northern coast late in the afternoon of 16 April. There
were simulated landings north of Pinar del Rio on the night of 17 to 18
April. This was carried out with the U.S. Navy. At the same time, they
surrounded our country in such a way that there were naval and air units,
and 3 miles off Giron they concentrated their warships, their aircraft
carriers with aircraft and Marine infantry abroad.

Unquestionably, they underestimated our people. They tried to surprise our
people and take them unaware, demoralized. I do not believe that they
believed, as it is said, and they would have to be extremely foolish to
believe that there would be an uprising. They could not have been so blind
to realities. In addition, the place selected [for the invasion] was not
appropriate for that type of plan. It was clearly for the purpose of taking
a strip of territory that was very difficult to retake because it was
surrounded by sea and swamps.

It is said that the best strategists of the CIA, Pentagon and so forth were
involved in the plan.

What factors determined the defeat of this entire program, this big plan?
First of all, let us say the spirit of our people. The fact that our people
were prepared to face that aggression. The militia units had been organized
speedily. Our armed forces were being trained in an accelerated manner.
Tens and tens of battalions were organized, more than 50 in Havana City
alone. A rapid and accelerated program to train tank crews, artillerymen,
infantry combatants and so forth was carried out.

Surveillance measures had been taken on all the country's coasts beginning
several days before. Platoons had been deployed wherever there was a
possibility of a landing in the country. We did not know then what strategy
they would finally adopt, whether to attack with all those forces in one
principal direction or to divide them so as to create many fronts.

There were some areas we were especially watching--the Escambray area, the
Trinidad region where they had made so many efforts to develop the gangs.
Forces of a certain strength had been deployed there. Obviously, although
that had been a proper area for their plans, they gave it up.

The Isle of Pines had been strengthened. Precisely because of its distance
from the rest of the island and the lack of a navy at that time, it should
have been the object of attack and occupation, among other things, for the
purpose of freeing the counterrevolutionary elements there, and also to
carry out the same plan of establishing a provisional government.

When all these places were ruled out and the coasts were being watched, we
considered the possibility they would attack through Playa Larga, in other
words, Bahia de Cochino, because of its special characteristics. Platoons
already had been deployed there on the coasts, as had been done throughout
the rest of the country; and instructions already had been given to
mobilize in that direction the battalions that had not taken other

When the 15 April attack came, we then understood that the invasion was
imminent and the country was completely mobilized. They destroyed a few
planes but we still had more planes than pilots, and they were U.S. planes
which the Batista government had received. Therefore, when the attack came,
all our forces were already mobilized. In the first hours of that morning
it was difficult to determine if that was going to be the principal
direction. It was determined that it was the principal direction when they
dropped parachutists at dawn. Nevertheless, forces were being mobilized all
morning in that direction. We succeeded in maintaining one of three access
roads. They had succeeded in occupying the other two at dawn. They were
roads easy to defend if they had artillery, tanks and an alleged air

The counterattack was organized rapidly as soon as it was confirmed that
that was the principal direction to prevent at any cost that they occupy a
piece of our national territory, install their government and request OAS
and U.S. intervention. Actually, the phantom government had not time to
land in Giron.

There was a lightning counterattack and there was fighting day and night
for 68 consecutive hours. Our men actually did not have much experience in
handling those new weapons but they had the determination, the courage and
necessary spirit to face the enemy. They faced the enemy resolutely, then
counterattacked and advanced.

The courage of our combatants was the fundamental factor which in that case
made up for the lack of experience. The role of the small number of pilots
we had unquestionably played a decisive role. [applause] One of the factors
why they were unable to destroy the planes on 15 April was that the air
bases had been reinforced earlier with antiaircraft batteries.

It has been said repeatedly that a plan had been canceled to attack again
on the morning of 17 April, to attack the air bases and to destroy the few
planes that were left or that we had. But the simple matter is that all the
planes were in the air before the dawn of 17 April. Any attack would have
been useless. The planes were in the air and on their way to Giron with a
single objective: to sink the vessels. [applause]

The role of our planes was not to provide ground support to the ground
forces arriving there because at the time the vital and fundamental thing
was to destroy the expedition at sea. For that reason while the enemy
planes were attacking our troops by employing the ruse of coming with Cuban
insignias--the insignias of our Revolutionary Armed Forces and that was the
reason they caused our first losses--our planes were decidedly heading
toward the vessels. By 0500 all the vessels they had brought either had
been sunk or dispersed. [applause]

Air support could be provided only around noon to a battalion so that it
could move the 10 kilometers of road in the middle of the Cienaga.

Naturally, they had occupied an airfield through which they tried to supply
their troops. But it was a battalion that could not fight because the
vessel in which it was coming received a direct hit. [sentence as heard]
[applause] Nevertheless, they were able to land the tanks, the parachutists
and the rest of the battalions.

The role and participation of the tank crewmen, the artillerymen, the
antiaircraft battery operators and of the infantry, of course, was
outstanding. [applause] They were not intimidated by the presence of U.S.
warships which at times were as close as 2 kilometers off the coast,
[applause] or by the presence of U.S. aircraft. The truth is that the enemy
was not even able to evacuate its mercenaries. [applause]

The entire expedition was taken prisoner and all the arms were seized
[applause] in the brief period of 68 hours, from the moment the first
mercenary arrived on the coast to the moment in which they were removed
from Giron.

Much has been said and written about this and you have enough information
about these factors which, as I mentioned, were of decisive importance. But
international solidarity was also of decisive importance. [applause]

We recall the moving gesture of Gen Lazaro Cardenas who asked to come to
our country [applause] to fight alongside us. But international solidarity
was in evidence earlier than that. When we were trying to purchase arms in
view of the approaching aggression, when our efforts to purchase arms in
some of the so-called Western countries--so that the imperialists would not
have the pretext that we were receiving socialist arms--came to naught, and
when it was absolutely necessary that we purchase arms from other sources,
we received--months, weeks before Giron--the first socialist arms.
[applause] They came from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. [applause]

An important factor in the Giron victory was the change that had taken
place in the correlation of forces in the world. The prestige of the USSR
played an important role at the time. [applause] It had launched the first
man into space around that time: [applause] the unforgettable voyage of the
heroic cosmonaut, Yuriy Gagarin. [applause] The prompt and forceful
statements of the Soviet Government were very important. [applause] They
denounced the aggression and expressed their support and solidarity toward
Cuba. [applause] This helped curb imperialist adventures. This helped curb
the temptation to use their ships, their airplanes, and their navy.
[applause] Of course, it would have amounted to another aggression because
at the time they were discussing whether or not to do it there were no
longer any mercenaries in Giron.

International solidarity with Cuba from communists all over the world and
from all democratic and progressive forces played a very important role,
[applause] because the mobilization of world opinion was also a restraint
for the imperialists. And we cannot forget the massive demonstrations of
the people of Uruguay, Chile and other Latin American countries [applause]
the many demonstrations of solidarity which our people received.

But Giron became an obsession for the imperialists, a trauma from which
they could not recover. They could not resign themselves to accepting
Giron. And they began to harbor plans for direct aggression against our
country. And this is important in understanding some historic episodes. The
news we got and the clear evidence that imperialism did not resign itself
to the existence of the revolution and that it was considering the idea of
carrying out a direct aggression against Cuba was what determined Cuba's
position in the agreements it reached with the Soviet Union to establish in
our country medium-range nuclear missiles. [applause]

We knew that this measure would help put a definite end to the idea of a
direct invasion of our country. The October crisis was indissolubly linked
to the events in Giron. The solution to the crisis was achieved through the
imperialist promise to give up the idea of an invasion of Cuba. [applause]
The crisis was resolved but there was also a compromise on the part of the
imperialists. Of course, the imperialists did not stop making all sorts of
aggressive plans, harassing our country, promoting, as usual, subversion,
sabotage. They continued for a time to plan the assassination of leaders
and we are not yet convinced that these plans have been completely
discarded. At least, we have no evidence nor can we be certain that they
would not be capable of reactivating them at any moment. They intensified
the economic blockade and in some way or another they have tried to forget
or pretend they have forgotten or evade the promises they made at the time
of the October crisis.

What was the meaning of Giron? What was the meaning of that experience?
First of all, it uncovered all the immorality and illegality of imperialist
policy--how it was capable of resorting to all sorts of maneuvers, lies,
intrigues, illegal actions against a small country to destroy its
revolution. In recent days we talked about all that was published
throughout the world following the shelling of the 16th, the notion that
the airplanes were Cuban planes, that the pilots belonged to our armed

They said this at the United Nations. They spread this all over the world.
In the subsequent days, there were some people who became alarmed by the
news reported by international agencies: Successful landing, militias
uprising, forces closing in on Havana. They even talked about that. And
Havana was never farther then. [laughter, applause] Except that now it is
even farther away. [applause] They said these things around the world. It
showed us how dirty, how unscrupulous and immoral the imperialist system

It showed us what a people can do when they know how to use available
means. [applause] We had few airplanes and even fewer pilots. In fact those
planes lacked parts. [laughter] This showed what the men were capable of
doing, how they mounted the bombs, how they kept the plants flying. It is
unbelievable what men can do when they use well the arms they have.
[applause] They show that people who are determined to fight back cannot be
defeated. Giron shows that as long as there is a single man or woman
[applause] with a rifle in hand, the country cannot be occupied. [applause]

We know that the imperialists have many airplanes, many B-26's, many
destroyers and aircraft carriers, many bombs, a lot of technology and even
nuclear weapons. But I say: As long as there is a single man or woman with
rifle in hand [applause] none of that matters because we know what a
determined man or woman with a rifle means. [applause]

And we say that a just idea is still more powerful when it is defended by a
man holding a rifle in his hands. [applause] And that is who we are,
millions of men defending a just idea and holding many rifles in our hands.
[applause] For the first time in the history of U.S. imperialism, at Giron
it was unable to impose its will on a nation of our continent.

Until that date our continent had experienced aggressions, intrusions,
interventions, coups d'etat, imposed governments every time U.S. interests
were affected. They dominated our continent through all those direct or
indirect forms of intervention. They were unable to repeat the Guatemala
action, the one they have used against many other countries. They did not
resort to the coup d'etat because here we had a people's army. [applause]
In short, they were unable to impose their will. And that was the first
time in the history of our hemisphere, a history which is known and which
deserves to be remembered because that history began when they took away
more than half of Mexico's richest territories [applause] and has continued
for decades with all types of aggressions in the Caribbean and Central
American areas and in the rest of the hemisphere in a direct or indirect

All that history of domination, without exception, ended at Playa Giron. At
last, a nation, no matter how small, no matter how poor it was next to a
powerful neighbor, was able to defend its sovereignty and independence,
which was what the revolution meant to us. [applause] For the greatest
glory of that small country, at the very moment the aggression began, the
socialist nature of the revolution was proclaimed [applause] so that no one
could say later on that it was a case of a betrayed people fighting against
imperialism's mercenaries. And those were the worst kind of mercenaries.

That expedition represented a course in sociology and in Marxism-Leninism.
[applause] If we wanted to know the role of the classes and the interests
that were being defended, we could find in the [expeditionary] group the
sons of the main landowners, property owners, bourgeoisie, leaders of their
no-good political parties allied with the tyranny's torturers, henchmen and
criminals. They had no hesitation in joining hands at Giron, and the
statistics so demonstrate. On our side were workers, peasants, students and
humble people. We should ask if there were any landowners, or property
owners, or exploiters of the people among those who fell at Giron. But
those differences mean a lot.

But as I said, a lot was learned at Giron and we mentioned Marxism-Leninsm
and sociology. That was what our people learned. [talking to himself, Fidel
says: "I have lost track of my idea," he mumbles something as he reads his
notes] [applause and shouts of "Fidel"] I am returning to the essential
idea. [laughter]

At Giron, the socialist nature of our revolution was proclaimed. At Giron,
our party was practically forged. During those days we were trying to find
a way to unite the revolutionary forces into a single organization, under a
single leadership. Because of that, we can say that coinciding with that
effort our party was forged. [applause] That is why 16 April is considered
to be the anniversary of the proclamation of the socialist nature of our
revolution and the founding of our party. [applause]

The advances made by our revolution and people since then have been great.
We talked about it on 16 April. We mentioned how much our party has grown
and developed over the past 20 years. The party now has more than 400,000
militants. Its youth organization now has more than 400,000 members. Our
mass organizations--peasants, workers, women, students, Pioneers--have
greatly grown, strengthened, developed and consolidated. Our glorious
Revolutionary Armed Forces have greatly grown and developed. [applause] Our
combative Interior Ministry has gained a lot in experience. [applause]

Our people's achievements in the social and economic fields have been
extraordinary. [applause] I am not going to repeat facts, because we spoke
of them on the 16th. However, if what we have achieved has raised our
hopes, what the future has in store for us is much more promising.

During these years, our people have been able to fulfill internationalist
missions. [applause] We have helped other peoples attacked by imperialism,
as in the cases of Angola and Ethiopia. [applause] However, during these
years there has been a constant change in the balance of forces in the
world. [applause] It has changed more and more in favor of socialism.
[applause] Despite some betrayals and some defeats, no one can deny that
the change has been continuously in favor of socialism. There have also
been changes within our hemisphere. Other peoples have begun the path of
revolution. We have, for example, the case of the Sandinist triumph in
Nicaragua. [lengthy applause] It is especially recalled by the presence of
the dear companero, Daniel Ortega, coordinator of the Junta of the
Government National Reconstruction. [applause]

Today, imperialism has begun using against Nicaragua the same tactics it
used against us, beginning with sabotage of the economy, suspension of
credits, anti-Nicaragua propaganda campaigns, the deployment of Somozist
mercenaries around Nicaragua and the establishment of Somozist training
camps on U.S. territory.

At the same time, imperialism is arming and supporting the genocidal
governments of El Salvador and Guatemala which have murdered tens of
thousands of the best sons of those countries. Imperialism is again
threatening our fatherland. Once again it is talking about naval blockades,
it is talking about possible military aggressions against our country,
forgetting Giron and forgetting the October crisis, [applause] and trying
to avoid unavoidable international commitments.

That is why we are preparing. That is why we are obliged to make great
efforts and to devote our multiple energies to production and defense.
[applause] That is why these past few days, 20 years later, remind us of
the days of Giron, when we were hastily organizing and training our
fighters, our militia and our soldiers.

However, we have the experience of Giron clearly in mind. No one will be
able to catch our country with its guard down or unprepared. [applause] As
we said during the second congress, Cuba is a bone that is very hard to
crack [applause]--that may become mortally stuck in the throat of the
aggressors. [applause]

Also mistaken are those who imagine that socialism in our country can be
weakened [applause], that we can be softened [applause], that we can be
destroyed from within. [applause] The history of 20 years demonstrates the
socialism is increasingly strong [applause] and that we will know how to
learn from the experience of others: [applause] the experience of those who
began by attacking the USSR, who began with anti-Sovietism and fell, hands
and feet, into the arms of imperialism, [applause] or the experience of
those who neglected the principles of Marxism-Leninism. [applause]

We who have over 20 years of frontline struggle against imperialism know
what internationalism means and what the friendship of the socialist camp
has meant, especially what the friendship of the USSR [applause] has meant.
[prolonged applause and cheers for the USSR]

In contrast to the history iniquities, aggressions, hostilities, blockades
and so forth and the threats from imperialism, we have the beautiful
history of our relations with the USSR, of the support received from the
first moment, of the economic support, of the magnificent trade relations
between our two countries. There has not been a single time in these 20
years in which we have needed something, in which we have requested
something from the USSR and failed to obtain it. [applause]

In any terrain--for example, I mentioned that one of the first imperialist
measures was to suspend our petroleum supply. They thought that with this
they could strangle us. For more than 20 years, in spite of the energy
crisis, the increasing fuel costs and the distances involved, we never had
to stop a single machine for lack of Soviet fuel. [applause]

These relations between our countries have been truly fraternal,
internationalist and exemplary. [applause] They have neither asked for
anything in return, [applause]. Nor has the USSR cast the slightest shadow
over the independence, sovereignty and dignity of our country. [applause
and shots] How can we be anti-Soviet? We shall never forget international
solidarity and principle. We shall never forget the strictest application
of the principles of Marxism-Leninism. [applause]

As we said in our main report to congress, if these principles are applied
with zeal, the revolution is invincible. [applause]

We have learned from our own mistakes, but we shall also learn from the
mistakes of others. [applause] Therefore, those who think that socialism
can be weakened in Cuba are dreaming idly. I think that our years of
fighting firmly and with determination, the years we have confronted
imperialism, give us the right to feel assured of the future of
revolutionary ideas in our country. [applause]

In recent days we had to recall events of the past 20 years, and I have
some ideas about them. I even noted them down in a little notebook
[laughter] in order not to forget them. I think that they are important,
because today we must know just how we stand regarding the basic problems
of the world's peace and other things.

It was said that my speech of the 16th was moderate. Yes, it was
deliberately moderate. This one can also be described as moderate.
Imperialism follows hostile policies, weapons races, provocations and
threats, not only toward Cuba but toward the socialist field and all the
revolutionary movements.

However, all conscientious men on earth understand the great problems
threatening the world, the poverty of thousands of millions of persons who
live in parts of the so-called underdeveloped world, the energy and food
crisis, the overpopulation existing in some areas, hunger, disease,
ignorance and the growing environmental contamination of the air, rivers
and waters. No arms policy, cold war and international tension can
establish an adequate framework to solve these problems. As was said at the
United Nations, bombs can kill the hungry, sick and ignorant, but the bombs
cannot kill hunger, disease and ignorance. [applause]

The world more than ever needs peace, detente and international
cooperation. Socialism, which seeks the welfare and progress of mankind,
cannot be aggressive. It does not need an arms race or international
tensions. On the contrary, every resource used to produce weapons must be
taken from development. Those who know that the future belongs to them
completely, cannot desire the destruction and death of humanity. [applause]
We are a revolutionary people. We were not born as a result of submission
or political dealings. We emerged from a struggle. We fought in 1868, 1895,
1933, in the Moncada, the Granma, the mountains and in Giron.

We are a people who owe a lot to internationalism. We also practice
international solidarity. We can say that we are a fighting people, but we
prefer the victories of peace and of creative work to victories of arms.
[applause] We prefer the victories of each new factory that is built
[applause], of each highway, each port, each school, each child center,
each hospital, each polyclinic, each theater, each athletic field, each
family housing building that is built. [applause]

We prefer to shed our sweat rather than to have to shed our blood.
[applause] Giron makes us proud, but at the same time we are deeply hurt by
the lives of over 150 compatriots who died in those days, the mutilated,
the wounded because of the imperialist greed and its insatiable desire for
domination and riches.

That is why we said on the 16th that we do not like to create conflicts or
tensions, but that the United States is mistaken if it is returning to its
old, stupid policy with regard to Cuba, if it believes that it can resolve
its differences with Cuba with threats and aggressions. We do not tremble
in the face of their threats and we do not fear their aggressions.

As revolutionaries, as patriots, as socialists, as internationalists, we
want peace [applause] and we are aware of the need to fight for peace.
[applause] But we are not and we will never be like the Christians of
ancient Rome who meekly gave up their lives to their enemies. [applause] We
are capable of fighting and we will fight with indomitable ferocity to
defend our rights, our achievements, our future [applause], and the lives
of the present and future generations and to defend our land, our skies,
our flag and our freedom. [applause]

The revolution will never be crushed. [applause] It is invincible.
[applause] Its work will be eternal. [applause] This is what we want to
affirm, reaffirm and swear on this glorious 20th anniversary of Giron.
[applause] Fatherland or death, we will win. [applause]