Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-94-155 Daily Report 11 Aug 1994 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro 8 Aug Solidarity Group Speech

FL1108133194 Havana Cuba Vision Network in Spanish 0027 GMT 11 Aug 94 FL1108133194 Havana Cuba Vision Network Spanish BFN [Speech by President Fidel Castro at a meeting with Cuban solidarity groups in Santa Fe de Bogota, Colombia, on 8 August -- recorded]

[Text] Dear Colombian brothers and sisters: I have been wondering what to say in the midst of so many feelings and emotions. Of course there is much I can say, but not everything should be said. [laughter, applause]

Talking to you, among friends and brothers, and knowing the sentiments that are in your minds and hearts, there is a lot I can say. As a guest, however, as a guest of this marvelous Colombian representation, I find it necessary to bear in mind the nature of this meeting, which as you said is a multiparty one. If I could only enter the hearts and minds of each of you. So many things are probably in your minds and in your thoughts, and you are probably wishing many things.

For me, however, the most important aspect of this meeting, the most valuable and the most meaningful aspect is the fact that people with different criteria, different opinions have gathered here to express the sentiments of friendship, support, and solidarity for our country and our revolution, our fatherland and our struggle, and for the efforts of our people. That shows us what the Colombian people are all about. That is what gives this meeting its meaning. If were to I conduct a poll I can imagine what the great majority of you would like to do, but we must respect the opinions of those who do not think quite like we do. [applause]

That is why I was glad the senator spoke... [applause] and expressed his ideas and his thoughts. They differ from those of a great majority of you here today, but he has made a significant contribution. Now they cannot say later that this was just a meeting of troublemakers... [applause] sectarians, extremists. Do you have any idea how many adjectives they use nowadays to refer to the noble and good people, the best people? Now, no one will be able to use any of those adjectives in discussing our meeting. It just gives our meeting more beauty, more radiance, and more sincerity.

The values that all of us here share, regardless of ideologies or philosophies, as was said, are supreme, sacred values. They are the values of homeland, independence, freedom, justice, solidarity, fraternity, companionship, and love for causes we regard as just. I am sure all of these values unite all of us here today. While listening to the speakers, who spoke so beautifully, enhancing the Spanish language with the best of their words, my thoughts turned to the first time I had the privilege of visiting Bogota. I was a 21-year-old third-year student. I do not think that ideals and the spirit of struggle vanish with the passage of time. [applause]

Many illusions, purposes, and dreams came to my mind. At the time, we used to say, and still do, that Puerto Rico is Latin American, that it is ours, and that it must be independent. At the time, we said that the Panama Canal belonged to the Panamanian people and that it must be returned to them. We spoke about the terrible situation in Central America, a situation created by the Somozas and Trujillos -- all those genocidal people whom the empire placed there to defend its interests. We even said that the Malvinas [Falkland] Islands belonged to Argentina. We said that there should not be any colonies in this hemisphere. We mentioned the need for Latin America's unity and integration. Our program was not Marxist-Leninist. We cannot say it was a socialist program because at the time we did not even know what socialism was. We are living in a time of crisis. Many people in the world still do not know what socialism really is.

We were already walking down this path. Well-oriented and with good leadership, people march forward, even reach goals. If someone defends just ideas he can go as far as -- respecting beliefs -- Christ did, even though he was crucified; and Marx did, even though they are crucifying him now. [applause]

My own thoughts evolved rapidly. My contact with revolutionary literature made me a revolutionary. I remember that, by that time, I had read more about the French Revolution than about Marx. I confess that I liked it very much. I used to read, well past midnight, any and all books I could find about the French Revolution and all the ideas that all revolutions have contributed to mankind. Each new revolution contributes new ideas.

I had all this in mind when I arrived in Bogota.

And of course, we wanted to hold a student congress, because we thought that we students should be united. And there was no Latin American student organization. And a group of Cubans, including me, met with Venezuelans and Panamanians -- at that time there was great agitation in Panama because of the Canal, because of the massacres that had been perpetrated there by the occupation troops in the country, and there was the revolution of Venezuela with Romulo Gallegos, who had been elected president.

And with these currents, with these forces we established, in a relatively short time, the bases to create this organization, and we wanted to hold a congress. In those days there was going to be a pan-American meeting. You know what pan-Americanism has stood for. It has been... [pauses] well, bread for the Yankees -- that just occurred to me. [applause] Homeland for the Yankees, continent for the Yankees, which is what they always wanted and now want more than ever.

The foreign ministers met and it occurred to us that the U.S. imperialism's philosophers would say: It is the kind of thing young people do. We wanted to make our student congress coincide with this pan-American congress. They were two very different things. We arrived and met with the students from the University of Bogota, a great majority of whom were very combative and very progressive youths.

I recall that there was great agitation in the country in those days. There was much violence. I remember that the newspapers read: 50 people died in this place, 80 died in that place. I would hold my head in my hands because, although we had had many violent situations in Cuba, we could not imagine this kind of situation would occur there. This is how the students put us in contact with Gaitan's movement and with Gaitan. They offered to ask him to help organize our congress. We visited him and he was quite willing, even very enthusiastic, and he wanted to hold a ceremony to inaugurate or close the congress. On the 7th [April 1948] we held a meeting between him and the students at his office. He gave us material and leaflets, among them, I still remember a flier entitled: A Prayer for Peace. It caught my attention very much because that was not the language used in Cuba. In Cuba there was much rhetoric and diatribe, each word said was very harsh. I marvelled at the elegance and skill reflected by those words, such as the ones in the famous March of Silence. That is what we were involved in. I have already told you how I felt a few minutes ago.

Who could have predicted the tremendous developments that occurred only hours later? We were going to visit Gaitan at 1400. We were waiting at the hotel and were on our way to his office when we heard people everywhere shouting: Gaitan has been assassinated, Gaitan has been assassinated. There was a really big explosion. We experienced it; it was not something that could be organized: the just people exploded.

Well, Alape knows more than I do about that. Alape is aware of what I saw. I told him in a lengthy early morning interview. [applause] But Alape knows what dozens and hundreds of people have reported and he has been able to reconstruct the general situation or the main developments, because I have learned much from Alape's book on the situation which occurred. In fact, our life here became dramatically (?intertwined) with the lives of the Colombian people. What did we do, when our heads were full of patriotic ideas, revolutionary ideas, progressive ideas?

We began living the experience, from what we read in books, and partly also from what we had read in our own country.

I remember well that my first efforts in the street to try to persuade people, the crowds, not to smash shop windows, not to destroy anything. I already had some idea on how to start a revolution and more or less what should be done.

So many things happened to me in 48 hours -- things that I believe have never happened to anyone during a whole lifetime. I only know that I joined the first advance column and ended up at a police station. [laughter] The column was unarmed, and there were many policemen. We had no weapons, but the police did not fire on us. I know this is a delicate topic, but practically the whole police force joined the popular movement. Who can be a better witness than someone who got hold of a rifle? Well, what I managed to get hold of was not even a rifle. It was more like a tear gas shotgun with a bunch of big wooden bullets. [laughter] They looked more like cannonballs. A lieutenant told me: You will explode with all that! He gave me his rifle and I was delighted. [laughter] That is how I managed to get hold of a rifle and 14 rounds. I won't tell you the other things because Alape has already told them, more or less.

Everything happened to us; this all occurred in a matter of hours. But I can say that one of the best things that I have done in my life, the purest and most unselfish things, is what I did during those days when I joined the people and ran all sorts of risks thousands of kilometers away from my homeland; my family didn't know anything. I went through so many adventures that I ended up in the Fifth Precinct, but not as a prisoner, no. I ended up in the Fifth Precinct with about 400 policemen who had rebelled.

I won't tell you why I ended up there, but three students had already... [pauses] Since I had a rifle I can tell you that there is nothing worse than having the only rifle in a group of many people without rifles. [laughter] They all want you and you alone, with your rifle and 14 bullets to win the battles of Boyaca, Junin, and Ayacucho, all at once. [laughter] The students even asked me to take over the police garrison because we had already made a foiled attempt at the university to rescue some students who were cornered after they had taken over a police station. In all we had one rifle and 14 bullets. We all went to take it over, unlike the first time, when we went in a great column of students and me with one rifle to take over the police station. The lucky part was -- I was very lucky during those days -- that when we got there the station had already been taken over. [laughter, applause] Let me tell you, on Seventh Avenue, which I will never forget because of the many episodes we experienced there, we met up with a whole battalion. What we did not know was the battalion's position -- it had tanks up front!

We stepped aside, near the War Ministry, in a pretty park where I believe there are a still a few trees left. [laughter] We stood near some benches. Fortunately, the battalion paid us no attention. We then crossed where there was a big building with railings. I stood on top of a bench as if I were possessed by Don Quixote, as if I were crazed by the French Revolution, haranguing the troops to join the revolution, but without realizing that I was in front of the War Ministry! [laughter] At last we saw a bus had been brought to help the students, and we went over there.

We did not even realize that a patrol had gone out to look for us. We did not even notice. Well -- to think I promised I would not tell you much -- we ended at the Fifth Precinct but for me that was an exceptional evening because all night long the station was waiting for the attack. Garrisoned troops are a waste.

I made a suggestion to the chief of the troops: Go out on the streets; let the troops loose on the streets so they can pursue targets; avoid getting cornered and destroyed -- but he followed the old tactics. What you do most often in a war is make mistakes. There they were waiting for the attack. I was there, all by myself. I thought about my family. I remembered everything. In times like this you must adopt a decision. I knew the tactics [words indistinct] were wrong. Many people wanted my rifle. I wondered if I should leave. I reasoned with myself and said: Well, I am here but no one in my family in Cuba knows where I am. I was alone; I was completely alone at that moment.

I wondered about the causes which lead these people to struggle, to rebel, following the leader's assassination. The causes are the same, the righteous causes. My internationalist judgment is that they are the same causes in any part of the world. There is no reason to defend each noble cause, each righteous cause only in the fatherland. One needs to know how to defend these causes anywhere in the world one might happen to be. [applause]

I decided to stay, and I did until the end because the actions had ended, the fighting had ended, and there was a truce. Since two Cubans had been seen there they were being blamed for everything. [laughter] It was said there were some Cubans, some foreigners, who had organized themselves. This was a difficult and miraculous situation. It was a young people's thing. When we arrived in the hotel, which was small and hospitable... [changes thought] it was the Claridge Hotel. It no longer exists. There is now a parking lot there; cars are destroying everything. [laughter]

Everyone told us: They are looking for you, and we went to a boardinghouse where two other Cubans were lodged. Curfew was at 1800. At 1750 there was an argument with the boardinghouse owner. He started to say horrible things. He had the wrong ideas and, instead of being discreet and prudent for once in my life, I started to argue and won what I won: We were asked to leave. It was 1755. We left. It was a miracle that we were able to reach the Granada Hotel. There we were able to ask a diplomat to take us to -- he was a daring diplomat. He was an Argentine and he had even been helping [words indistinct]. He met us with these words: You have certainly gotten yourselves in a predicament! Alape here may say that I certainly have a memory. It is not memorizing information, Alape, it is love for Colombia. [applause; someone in the crowd shouts: "Our friend, Colombia is on your side."]

I cannot not forget because we used to be young and most of you are young. One could not remember many telephone numbers, but when a pretty girl gave hers one did not forget. [laughter] One did not even need [chuckles] to write it down; it was memorized. It is impossible to forget those exciting, tremendous, dramatic days that were in the memory of people of our age at that time. I have not forgotten anything. It cannot possibly be forgotten. I forget nothing, nothing, nothing -- absolutely nothing. That is why I protest. I don't have a bad memory yet, and I hope to keep my memory for as long as possible. Those are exceptional things; they are exceptional and are never forgotten.

That was 46 years ago. They amaze me and make me wonder: have I lived that long? [laughter] Has it been that long? Forty-six years without coming to Bogota. Forty-six years. There have been changes of all kinds in the world. Good and bad. More bad than good especially in recent times.

[Text] There have been changes in Latin America, changes in Latin America's attitude toward Cuba. There is no longer a total blockade. All Latin American countries are not pledged to the U.S. blockade against Cuba. They began to move away -- starting with the Caribbean countries. They slowly [words indistinct] regardless of the political differences.

Other priorities have begun governing the treatment Cuba receives from most Latin American countries. All Latin American peoples, except the Mexicans, had broken relations with Cuba and had joined the blockade. This will permit you to understand the importance for our country, especially today more than ever, when we are subjected to a double blockade, because we practically do not have any commerce with former socialist countries and with Russia. Practically no commerce. Our people are going through very difficult times, and they must wage a heroic battle, as you know. We have lost all of our markets, our credits, our trade relations, when 70 percent of imports were lost.

I wonder whether any other country could have been able to resist this. That is why, when you pay tribute of friendship, recognition, and support to our people I am moved, because I am witnessing our people's heroic and valiant effort today more than ever. I am witnessing how our people have been able to resist when they were left alone, when the Socialist bloc collapsed, when the USSR disintegrated, and our entire economy and production were associated with the economy and the production of those countries. We were isolated and blockaded. You may have an idea about our difficult task and struggle and our people's presence of mind. They did not become demoralized. They remained firm, remain firm today, and will remain firm in this struggle, and they will be ready to pay whatever price is necessary. [applause]

This is why we, aside from political and ideological differences, appreciate very much the current drift toward Cuba in Latin America and the fact that we are invited to attend events and are allowed to participate in Latin American summits, which is an important step. The fact that we have been admitted as member of the Association of Caribbean States is another very important step.

You know the Yankees have now called a summit, in Miami no less. No one knows what will be discussed there, because they do not know themselves. They know what they want, but they do not know how to convey the lies they invent, the maneuvers they plan. [applause] Cuba has been excluded. We would be happy if some Latin American countries take the opportunity to tell all of the truths that need to be told at a summit of this kind. They felt envy of Latin American summits and invented this one. Of course, Cuba -- the demon -- could not be there.

Among those who spoke, one mentioned the bucketfuls of infamy, of trash they will likely throw at Cuba. They have been doing this for dozens of years by using the mass media apparatus -- the most powerful one that has ever existed in the world. Ever. Therefore, our small country, your little Latin American brother country, has faced the most powerful imperialist empire in history. What was Rome compared to what the United States is today? What were Nero's torches, as history tells us, compared to the thousands of nuclear weapons the empire has today? What was Rome's money, or any other empire's money, compared with the money, the economic power, the political power, the military power they have.

They have power over the minds and consciences of the people because their mass media sources have been established to plant lies. [applause] They plow the earth and humanity to have a perpetual crop of lies. They tell lies about everything that is good, just, and everything that rebels against their hegemony and control. They have dedicated many years to that particular crop. It would seem that Cuba is the only adversary they have left. They concentrate all of their efforts against Cuba. This is the way it is. Cuba is willing to resist everything and wage this battle with honor and (?dignity). If we were to stress the issue, I do not think any honorable man in the world would rather to be humiliated or subjected to such offensive conditions than to die. To die is a natural law. We all have to die. It is better to die....[pauses] the oppressors, the exploiters will also die, but they will not die with honor. [applause]

I, just like you, have faith and hope in the world and believe the world will change. It has to change once we manage to save it, because not only do these barbarians threaten to do way with everything noble in the world, but they also threaten to destroy it. They threaten to finish off the rivers, the seas, the valleys, the air, with their consumer societies and their barbarian way of life. They live like barbarians, although they believe they are the pinnacle of civilization.

The world will have to be saved. The world has to advance and continue advancing. It is still advancing today because many are returning from the fantasies and deceptions to which they had been led. Many have discovered what a terrible world we have under the hegemony of the United States. However, this world is very difficult to govern. Imperialism wants to dominate the planet, but it will not be able to do so. Everyone knows that sometimes it is difficult to govern even your own house. You can imagine the trouble Mr. Clinton and others will have in smoothing out this world, which is a mountain of problems -- all kinds of problems everywhere. They are facing an ungovernable world and a humanity that cannot be dominated.

Nevertheless, if you represent the symbol of friendship, the solidarity of a large part of humanity with Cuba, and the people who give us support, if you were the only ones, I assure you that the world will not be dominated, and I assure you that our modest revolution, which is the product of our people's heroic efforts, will never be defeated. As long as there are men and women like you in the world, there will be dignity, freedom, and hope in the world. Thank you. [applause]