JPRS-TEP-93-025 JPRS Epidemiology WORLDWIDE HEALTH 8 November 1993 Latin America Cuba

Castro Speech at School Inauguration FL2807021493 Havana Radio Rebelde Network in Spanish 0011 GMT 28 Jul 93 FL2807021493 Havana Radio Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro at the inauguration of the Antonio Fernandez Leon Special School for the Blind in Santiago de Cuba on 27 July -- recorded] [Text] Castro: Dear comrades: We have to be brief at all cost because the sun is shining hard today and the cement here where we are seated feels like an oven. [laughter] As I sat there in those chairs, which I think are hotter than those others, I thought I had an ant hill beneath me. [laughter] The truth is that I was going to tell you what I thought about as I listened to the builder, the teacher, and the child speak. Throughout the years of the Revolution, we have inaugurated many facilities like this one -- tens, hundreds; I would say thousands. There were periods when we built over 100 schools in the field in one year. We tried to build everything we thought of and we almost always did so. We had problems with projects that got delayed and certain vices that appeared in the construction sector. There were other problems which we were overcoming. When the process of rectification began, one of the areas where a lot of hard work was done to overcome deficiencies was precisely the construction sector We had made much, much progress. We created the contingents -- a great force once they reach their full strength. There were tens of thousands of construction workers building in every corner of Cuba. We had a great boom. I mentioned that I inaugurated many projects. Every time we inaugurated a project it made me glad, happy, and optimistic. But one of the ones I have found most moving, and perhaps the one that has moved me the most in all these years, is this school. [applause] Unidentified speaker: Fidel, Fidel: It seemed impossible but it is a reality. Castro: Do you want to come over here and deliver my speech or can I speak. Unidentified speaker: You speak. Castro: That is exactly what I was going to say. [laughter] We built childcare centers, polyclinics. In Havana alone, when the process began, over 100 childcare centers were built in two years. All that made us happy, I repeat. It remind us of times when we perhaps were not even aware of how much we had but these hard times of today came along. We have had to practically halt all construction of schools, social projects due to the shortage of fuel, cement, and materials. Of course, materials such as cement, gravel take fuel to be produced. We did not lack the machinery, the manpower, the projects, or the demand but the dramatic situation we have experienced in the last few years forced us to halt so many, many things to focus the few resources we have on priority efforts because they produce export goods, or things we needed urgently and that solve priority problems. This was very painful. This or that hospital had to be completed, a factory, new factories, or certain hotels but no projects of this type. Two schools were planned here. The pain was the greater here because a twin construction project was planned -- the school for children with hearing problems -- deaf, mute children in different degrees -- and this school for children with visual problems or blindness. Side by side. The lot had been selected. The earth was prepared. A portion of the construction had been started. When one came here and saw the beautiful school in operation next door and this one which had been nothing more than a truncated dream, a few walls and columns; the pain was too great to bear. Lazo and I spoke about this and asked ourselves: Could we complete this school despite the special period? We said this around the time of the electoral campaign. Lazo, with his usual enthusiasm and his trust in the workers said: Yes. He said: We do not have to calculate what materials are needed. A certain expense has to be made. Engineering materials that were imported from the Socialist Bloc today have to be bought with hard currency, so is the school equipment, cement, materials, and wood. They told me: We are going to complete this school by 26 July -- knowing all the problems we have: One day we lack fuel, next day the gravel, next day the sand, next day the electricity, next day the cement, next day materials that did not arrive. It was hard to imagine that it was possible to built this in a few months, in five months. It was less than five months because they started checking the situation on 20 [February]. To complete this school was very difficult, almost impossible in such a short span. Comrades, it was truly very difficult; very difficult, almost impossible, to finish this school in so short a time. I am really amazed. I cannot get over it! To see that you, at a time like this and with such great difficulties, have been able to finish the school by 26 July. This shows the potential strength that exists among our people, and how that which one really wants to do can indeed, even under very difficult conditions, be accomplished, through collaboration by everyone, through everyone's support. Everyone, including the people on the People's Council. I think that to have finished this school constitutes a feat, and we cannot help but feel proud. And I think that many of the people who will visit Santiago de Cuba in the future will have to come here to these two schools. Because both are also excellent educational institutions! I know a good bit about the other one, for I have visited them more than once. I have seen the equipment, the techniques used to teach the children there. Here, we do not have the students yet, but all the facilities are already ready. They are very modern, very comfortable. And the equipment is here too. We were able to see proof of what these schools do upon hearing this little boy read, with a correctness and precision better than that of many of us, with or without glasses -- not even with 20-20 vision! This child, with his fingers and his marvelous sense of touch, was able to read the speech he was to make here without a single fault, impeccably. The things Man can accomplish, through will, is amazing; and the way he can face up to limitations! Before coming here, I went to the library. I tried to run my fingers over the books that are written in braille. Braille is what the system is called, right? I was trying to see if I could understand a letter, a period, anything. It seemed to me so difficult, that one has to marvel at the fact that a child can learn all that. Later, we looked at the machinery where they learn to type. Imagine how perfect they must be, because a person who can see can correct his errors, but imagine how perfect a child has to be to write both normally and in braille. I was told there are six points, and from those all combinations for reading are made. At least, that is the case in our language. I do not know how the braille system works in other countries and other languages. Is the system the same? [Unidentified person: "It is universal."] Is it universal? How about in China, for example, is it used with Chinese letters or with just six points? [Unidentified person: "It is learned the same way."] So it is a universal language. It is learned according to the language. I look at the Chinese language, which has so many characters, and I wonder how the system can be applied in that language, and how it could be understood. This shows that everything is possible. All of those things, the school, the times, the moment in which they are done, the emotion that they evoke in us, the merit of you builders are motives for pride. I believe there is no better tribute to the 40th anniversary than these projects that we have seen. First, there is the retinitis pigmentosa center. What an institution! What a great number of people condemned to blindness, whose sight can now be saved, thanks to the efforts of our scientists, primarily Dr. Orfilio Pelaez [applause], who has been an indefatigable worker. He has organized this service throughout the country. He has trained the personnel. This is the only country in the world that has this service, the only country with the technology to treat retinitis. We have reached a decision. It is true that many people come here to be treated, but there are millions of people the world over who need this technique. Dr. Orfilio Pelaez and I have been talking about this for some time and we have reached the decision to make this technology available to the entire world, so that millions of people may benefit. I have had the opportunity in some international meetings organized by Dr. Pelaez to meet with presidents and representatives of associations of families that are afflicted with this disease. As it is hereditary, there are cases in which six out of seven members of a family are afflicted with it. I said: It would be impossible for us to keep this knowledge to ourselves, to have a monopoly on it. It is an ethical, moral duty to disseminate it. In any case, many people will continue to come here, because we will continue to be the most expert, the most advanced in this area. However, it will now be possible for thousands of doctors and ophthalmologists to learn this technique. I asked myself what prize humanity will give to Dr. Orfilio Pelaez. I think that if there is a prize that truly recognizes man's greatest merits, Orfilio Pelaez deserves such a prize. [applause] However, neither he nor Cuba aspire to prizes. It was a question that I asked myself, because the benefit that this technique gives to mankind, the tranquillity that it provides to millions of people is incalculable. This technique was totally developed in our country. These schools are very humane, the most humane. I believe this is not the only school inaugurated today. Lazo told me that in another neighborhood, another special school for behavioral disorders has been inaugurated, all of this in a special period. That is of great merit. If we are talking about schools, one very important thing remains to be mentioned: the personnel who work in these schools. I admire the dedication, the love with which teachers and workers teach and handle these children. We have to come to these schools and observe how they work. Where there is a humane quality, where there is nobility, generosity, conviction, and love for others, these things are possible, men and women like these are possible. These examples would have been enough in themselves for us all to feel satisfied with the work of the Revolution. Let none of us doubt that, for an accomplishment as humane, generous, and noble as this one, it is well worth giving one's life for.