FBIS-LAT-93-232 Daily Report 6 Dec 1993 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Fidel Castro Welcomes Cuban Athletes FL0512203193 Havana Cuba Vision Network in Spanish 0151 GMT 4 Dec 93 FL0512203193 Havana Cuba Vision Network Spanish BFN [Speech by President Fidel Castro at ceremony to welcome the Cuban sports delegation that participated at the 17th Central American and Caribbean Games in Ponce, Puerto Rico, in Havana on 2 December -- recorded] [Text] Now it is my turn to say a few words. Dear athletes and other members of the Cuban delegation to the 17th Central American and Caribbean Games. Can you hear me? I cannot hear myself. It must be the microphone. Today we mark another anniversary of the Granma landing. Those were difficult times. We crossed rough seas, but we made it to the coast. You also crossed stormy waters recently, and you also faced difficult times. What relationship exists between the Granma and sports? What relationship exists between the sea and sports? Once before we threatened that we would reach the coast of Puerto Rico even if we had to swim it. As a colony of the empire they refused to issue us our visas to participate in the event. We had to [words indistinct] and reach the coast and say: You either give us permission to land, or we will swim ashore. They knew we would swim ashore so they gave us permission to enter the country. On this occasion they delayed the issuance of the visas, but finally the visas came and we were able to fly to Puerto Rico aboard our own airline. Once there it was not easy. We received much love from the people and witnessed the hard work done by the enemy. We believe this had been in planning for a long time. They worked hard and used all available means. They made offers, they pressured as hard as they could, and they used every connection they had to hamper our sports victory. They knew it would be a great victory. They were able to tempt certain people. And, indeed, a number of athletes did in fact allow themselves to be dazzled and allowed themselves to be bought off. They abandoned the delegation and abandoned their fatherland. There were 24 athletes; the rest were a few commissioners [comisionados]. What could we expect to have happened when a commissioner is among those who sets the example? Thus, there were commissioners from two or three sports who deserted; and there were a few officials, a few referees, even a journalist, making a total of 35, as Conrado [Martinez Corona] was saying. And that hurt, of course. It was bitter, when one thinks of everything the country, the fatherland, has done for sports; what the nation, the fatherland, has done for the athletes, often from the time they are children, all the way back from the time they were in primary, or secondary school -- with the special schools, the sports schools, with the preoccupation the nation has had for the athletes, giving almost all of them a university education, and even, for those who do not have a university education, the possibility of working as instructors, or trainers, inside or outside the country. But the truth is that these are not the things we think about, nor should it be a reason for you to be sad. The way some people act or the way they handle themselves should not shame you. The fatherland has greeted you. The fatherland can be fully proud of the awareness, dignity, and honor of our athletes. The fact that certain ones were disloyal does not take away from the fact that the immense majority, despite all the promises, offers, and enticements made in these very difficult times, had the dignity and sense of honor to be loyal and trustworthy to the fatherland. [applause] Some of those athletes defected even before competing. Some had already decided to defect when they were competing. An example of this is the basketball equipment. The people were not happy when we lost by one point when we were playing Puerto Rico. The ball was in our court; we had more than enough time to take a couple of shots, easily. We saw that what was being done was not right. What happened was even worse. Everyone was astonished when, with 8 or 9 seconds remaining on the clock, enough time to make a basket and not give the adversary a chance to recover, the player did not pass the ball. All he did was slowly dribble around the court and when he did throw the ball, he did it without even bothering to think. Anyone with the least bit of knowledge of how basketball is played knows that this is not done. All he did was waste the few remaining seconds of the game. I believe someone threw the game. It just happens that the same man who had the ball and did not pass it defected that very night. This makes me think that he sold out. We also lost several medals because of this activity conducted by the enemy. Perhaps we would have received three or four more gold medals. I was also informed of the case of the relay swimmer who defected. He defected before the meet. A younger swimmer took his place and we won the gold medal. We even set a new record. Despite all that the enemy was doing, and even though we lost some medals, they were not able to stop the avalanche of victories attained by our athletes. It is admirable that despite the special period, despite the fact that the USSR and socialist bloc has disappeared, in 1993 we won more medals than in 1990 in Mexico. In Mexico we won 322 medals. In Puerto Rico we won 364 medals. In Mexico we won 180 gold medals. In Puerto Rico we won 227 gold medals, 47 more than in Mexico. I believe that speaks highly of our country's and our athletes' dignity and spirit. I believe that speaks highly of what the Revolution has done for sports. Not even in these difficult times has sports been overlooked. The funds allocated to sports have not been cut back and we have not taken steps backward and renounced the extraordinary achievements we have made in this field. Our enemies do not want others to know about the extraordinary feat accomplished by our athletes in Puerto Rico. Even though 32 countries -- some of them with approximately 100 million inhabitants and with much more money than Cuba -- participated in the Puerto Rico games, Cuba won 75 more gold medals than all the other participating countries put together. It is hard for others to believe that a country experiencing a blockade, a country under siege, a harassed country has taught all its children to read and write, has taken care of its people's health to the point that their lifespan is above 75 years, and has reduced the infant mortality rate to 10 [presumably per thousand]. Perhaps this year we will set a record and lower the infant mortality rate to less than 10, lower than in 1992. Unfortunately, this is not something that happens in the other countries. This is the example they want to destroy. What kind of attention have those countries given to sports. This is reflected in the results of these competitions. These successes, these extraordinary successes, these incredible successes, have only been possible because of the attention given to sports, have only been possible because of the Revolution. Sports has brought much honor and glory to our country. Sports has given us examples that no one will ever be able to erase. Let them do what they may do, let them invent what they wish. From where I am I can see [boxer] Comrade [Teofilo] Stevenson. We will never be able to forget that he was offered millions of dollars, but all the gold in the world was not enough to destroy Stevenson's firmness, dignity, and patriotism. [applause] From where we are we can also see our baseball players. They frequently travel around the world. They have been offered lots of money. Some of our players have been offered millions of dollars and they, like Stevenson, could not be bought by all the gold in the world. For example, how much did they offer Linares [not further identified]? How much did they offer [name indistinct], Pacheco, and many others? We would have to mention many others. If you are a professional in certain sports you can make alot of money. We also have our female athletes. The female volleyball team just won first place in the world. We have the moving example, the example that made millions of Cubans cry, of Ana Fidelia Quiroz. She demonstrated a supreme will and an unsurmountable tenacity. She participated in that meet despite the fact that her scars had not yet healed. The scaring process still hinders her running ability. It was one of the most impressive feats we have seen in our lives. We saw her run to win the silver medal for track, and the gold for courage and heroism. [applause] Comrades, this is why I say that far from being sad we should be happy. We must be happy because in sports, as in improving our people's health and in fulfilling our internationalist duties, we have enough honor, dignity, and shame [as heard] to share with the whole world. Our athletes are, and will always be an example. What we must do now is prepare for the next competition. We will continue to put forth our best efforts. But not just the state is making an effort. The athletes are also making an effort toward, as Conrado put it, self-financing. Sports no longer needs foreign currency to attend meets abroad, to travel for training purpose, and other expenses they must pay for in foreign currency. Sports, if not yet self-financing, is very close to being self-financing. I am talking about convertible currency. Naturally, in domestic currency, the country invests heavy sums into sports. The country invests heavily in equipment, installations, electricity, services, food. But when it comes to financing themselves abroad, our sports are self-financing. This is possible because of the efforts put forth by our trainers and athletes. I will give you an example. There are hundreds of trainers who are working abroad and who contribute to the self-financing of sports. In how many countries? In some 40 countries. We have more than 400 trainers in approximately 40 countries. We have enough trainers to inundate the world. Yes we do. We have physical education professors and sports trainers working abroad. They have been successful wherever they have gone. We can see this at the international meets. We must not forget the Irish athlete who beat us to the gold medal at the Olympics. His trainer was Cuban. He was doing his duty and fighting for his athlete. That is the duty of every trainer, even though he feels differently inside. His first duty is to his athlete. We saw him do this, felt good about it, and admired him for doing his duty. However, there are also meets where our trainers help train our rivals. We are not going to send Zagarra [not further identified] to train others in other countries. [laughter] (?I joke with him) about this every time I see him. Right? At these games it was proven that the countries that have Cuban trainers have improved. Now we have a triple challenge, a double challenge to confront. We must redouble our effort as compared to other countries and as compared to our trainers who train our adversaries. Despite all this, we continue to win more medals each time we compete. Since I have already mentioned some ways in which sports contributes to the country, I will mention one more. The female volleyball team earned $400,000 with its victory at the international meet. The female team is contributing $400,000 to the sports sector. The male volleyball team came in third and is contributing $100,000 to the sports sectors. I do not have the exact figures, but the amounts won in those two events have practically covered the expenses of the delegation that went to Puerto Rico. We have an admirable example. Sotomayor [not further identified] received an award in a European country, in Spain. He received $40,000 in prize money and he gave the $40,000 to the sports sector. That is the kind of people we have. He also received a super car [preceding words in English], designed especially for Sotomayor. They probably did it because of his height. He was willing to trade it in as well but was not able to do so because the factory conditions the prize by having the winner use it for a certain length of time. So if you see Sotomayor in a good looking car do not think he has changed or that someone bribed Sotomayor. He simply cannot trade it in. In Sotomayor's case, the National Institute for Sports [INDER] set aside some of the money to cover Sotomayor's family expenses. The INDER also set aside some of the money that the male and female volleyball teams won for their family expenses. This was done in recognition for what they are doing for sports. Some of you contributed some money after yesterday's game. Well, we will have to remember you as well. It was not much, but it was something; it was your grain of sand to the sports sector. It is a pity you did not win the gold medal, but that is alright, we understand. We imagine how the others must feel when we do what they did to us yesterday--a homer [Castro chuckles] in the last inning and leaving the other team out on the field. We are so accustomed to winning that it hurts when we lose a game like the one we lost yesterday. However, we knew that we could win that game. We had practically won it, but luck was not on our side. That bunting attempt by, who was it, Prada [not further identified] or German [not further identified] was perfect. Victor Mesa could taste victory. He had almost reached home when he was sent back to third base. The ball had decided to go in another direction. [Castro chuckles] It would have been a tremendous win. We have shown everyone that we can play against that team and win. I believe special recognition must be given the people of Puerto Rico because of the love shown our delegation even though we were competing against them on several ocsasions. During the boxing finals, we had to compete against five, yes I think it was five, Puerto Ricans. I kept thinking. Our relations with the Puerto Rican people are going to be affected. [Words indistinct] contradiction of seeing that generous and caring people applauding our delegation. No other delegation received such a warm applause. Of course, the television did not show too much of that. It was too bitter a pill to swallow for those who did not want the Cuban delegation to get such a warm welcome from the Puerto Rican people. You could sense the people's feelings during the various events. It was something tremendous. I believe sports helps nourish the Puerto Rican people's patriotic spirit. For many years now the empire has been trying to put an end to that country's culture and even language. This has been going on for approximately 100 years; however, it has been unable to destroy the culture and patriotic feelings of the Puerto Rican people. As Conrado said, Puerto Rico has, throughout history, been linked to Cuba. Our flags are quite similar. We are happy when Puerto Rico is successful. I remember a couple of occasions when they beat us playing ball. The only times we did not get very upset was when the Puerto Rican team beat us. That is because of that special feeling of solidarity and caring we have toward the Puerto Rican people. On a day like today we must thank them for all they did. They are not to blame for some of the trashy things that went on during the games, the actions of the bribed people, or the power that the enemies of Cuba have in that territory occupied by the empire. They are not to blame for that small plane that was flying around carrying signs. The Puerto Rican people are not to blame for those things, so we cannot hold a grudge against them. I am told that they have invited you to return to Puerto Rico. You can go there or they can come here. We would love to see a game played here as well if they want to come. I also want to express our appreciation to the press because they relayed the games efficiently and made us experience all together, with the information they provided, all the emotion of the competitions. Everyone here kept an eye on what was happening in Puerto Rico. There were many broadcasts of many events on television, radio, and also there was news in the papers. The population was very well informed on everything. Therefore, our people very much enjoyed these Central American and Caribbean Games, almost to the degree as if they were the Olympic Games. In a certain sense, the Olympics were held there, the Olympics of dignity, honor, and patriotism in which you earned the gold medal. [applause] We must recognize the efforts made by the trainers, doctors, and masseurs. I can see here a doctor that does not miss a single competition. Comrade Alvarez Cambra does not miss a single competition. You were there, were you not? Dr. Alvarez Cambra, did you get offers? [laughter] We wish to thank all those who in one way or another contributed to this success and to the great victory achieved during these games. I do not want to make this ceremony too long. However, I do wish to tell you that the workers at the [word indistinct] organized a reception for you. They were told that athletes have a very big appetite. [laughter] The reception will be a modest one, in keeping with our times. However, I do not think you will go hungry. I was told there would be lots of rice and beans. [laughter] It may be bothersome, but it is a way for them to show their admiration, love, and respect. You have been greeted with [word indistinct] and we all celebrate the great victory you achieved in Puerto Rico. Socialism or death; fatherland or death; we will win! [applause]