Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-95-061 Daily Report 26 Mar 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Gives Fifth FEU Congress Address

FL3003014895 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks in Spanish 2200 GMT 26 Mar 95 FL3003014895 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks Spanish BFN [Address by President Fidel Castro at the closing session of the Federation of University Students (FEU) Fifth Congress at the Havana Convention Center on 25 March -- recorded]

[FBIS Translated Text] Distinguished guests, dear comrades: Many things stir in our hearts today, many feelings, and strong emotions. As I heard you bid farewell to Otto [Otto Rivero, outgoing president of the FEU], at times I wondered if I was attending a wake. We are all truly saddened by the change. He is going to discharge other duties. Yes, every time a new task -- always a difficult task -- is assigned a revolutionary, I tease and congratulate him.

Today is packed with memories, history. Today, we commemorate the centennial of the Montecristi Manifesto, one of the greatest political legacies bestowed on a people. We are also commemorating Mella's birthday. We are living a moment that might remind us of his phrase, the most solemn hour of history.

To the guests it might to be easy to understand the closing session since we are all aware of everything that has been discussed and mentioned. I must stress that I have found the capacity for expression, the specific, clear, frank manner with which the participants of these debates have expressed themselves to be truly impressive. It was truly impressive to someone who has had the opportunity to attend many events, particularly many university student congresses. I do not recall if I have missed any; I believe I have attended all five. A change can be observed. However, this change might not be solely the product of the experience gained. I believe it also has a lot to do with the times in which we are living, the awareness of the moment in which we are living. This makes everyone more precise and concrete and speak with a greater sense of responsibility, with greater consciousness.

We have been meditating while you debated. We have enjoyed your happiness and felt the sadness of the things we have not yet been able to do.

The issue of job placement [ubicacion] was new and very important. This is a result of the times, as we mentioned yesterday, because it is truly a novel problem. What can we say? In addition to what has been said here, and the discussion of the commissions, we will do everything possible and the impossible to find fair solutions, reasonable solutions to these issues that today trouble the students, and justifiably so. We will somehow find solutions. This problem was mentioned in several addresses. Much could be said about everything that has been discussed here. I truly endeavored to catch every single word and comma. I had the privilege of hearing many impressive addresses. Some comrades said things that partially summarize our situation today. I particularly remember three or four of the things said by that young man from Matanzas -- Carpio. I listened to his first address, but did not know his name. He reflected some of our problems and contradictions.

Yesterday, we discussed the issue of job placements for English teachers. We heard comments by the comrades. Their concerns are very well grounded, justified. They worry that they might be transferred to other jobs for which they have not been trained. I also wanted to review the situation with other university professionals who, as a result of the current situation, have gone from one sector to another for which they were not properly trained. The problem is old, not new. I believe that teachers were perhaps the first sector involved in transfers [reubicaciones]. Everything happened so quickly. The party, mass organizations, and everyone wanted to get the teachers -- logically, because they were the most highly educated people.

At the time of the triumph of the Revolution there were 10,000 unemployed teachers. That situation was quickly eliminated. A number of them may have gone abroad, but we created 10,000 jobs in one fell swoop, a few months after the triumph of the Revolution. Then it came to pass that we experienced a shortage of university students. At one point, we did not have students entering the universities because most were getting jobs with the government. It was a period of high unemployment. Some were joining the Revolutionary Armed Forces; others were sent to study space rocketry and a number of other technologies for which a minimal level of education was needed, while others were joining the Interior Ministry. It, therefore, came to pass that at a certain point in time we no longer had university students.

We must also remember the students' role in the illiteracy campaign. This was not mentioned. We do not have to be modest about it, although the Cuban Revolution is not given to boasting. However, if we observe what has happened in the world since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, it becomes clear that the most successful battle against illiteracy in the world, ever, was the one conducted in Cuba. This was accompanied by follow-up campaigns. Then all of a sudden there was an boom, not only demographic, but also of sixth grade graduates. We did not have middle schools. Then an enormous number of schools were built. During certain years, more than 100 schools were built in the field. Then there was a boom of teachers; we needed teachers. Once again we called upon the students to quickly train and become teachers, training in the morning and teaching in the evening. Then, tens of thousands graduated from high schools. Next there was a boom in the universities; we did not have enough. It was a constant struggle to keep ahead. There was not a lack of jobs. Miracles had to be performed to conduct all of these programs of the Revolution. Pirating was widespread, of course, because this or that enterprise would attract schools' personnel away. There was a constant drain, but it was not a problem of a shortage of posts.

This was discussed yesterday. The young man from Matanzas spoke about this problem. He mentioned the case of the biology teacher who moved to Varadero. Quite a few have moved to Varadero. It pained him to mention this. He was not being critical; he said he understands that every man is a world. He said something that truly hurts. He said that the biology teacher was building a home, but lacked the materials to complete it and had children, but could not provide for them, that he did not make enough to provide for his family and had to go find some lowly job in Varadero. That made me remember the efforts we had been conducting up to a few years ago to ensure that no one lacked materials -- gravel, cement, sand, bricks, or everything else -- to build a home. We had created the framework to build 100,000 [homes a year]. We had the construction workers, the contingents, and no one had to abandon a teaching job and go work in Varadero. We had economic resources -- clothing, shoes, food in greater amounts than today. No one had to make much of a change. However, that is not the case of one single teacher, but the case situation of hundreds of thousands. We could say that it is truly the situation of millions of people, people experiencing all types of needs. These situations generate events of that nature.

He also spoke about other very current problems. He spoke, for example, about the discussions and work conducted by the Student Labor Brigades. He stressed the importance of their being well trained, of having good arguments because some come and say: Sure, education and health care! The argument of education and health care is one of the most perfidious arguments used by the enemy to dismiss everything the Revolution has done. Yet, if any other political process were to have done what the Revolution has done in education and health, it would be considered one of the greatest political processes in history. [applause] There is no comparison, not even in the developed world. I mentioned some facts that I capitalized on during my trip to Europe -- the number of teachers, doctors, and nurses per capita. We could mention the number of foreign students per capita whom we have trained in Cuba, as well as the number of gold medals per capita, sports trainers per capita, and art teachers per capita. Cuba not only made great strides in education and health care, we are admired worldwide for our sports accomplishments. You have no idea how greatly admired Cuba is abroad for what it has accomplished in sports, or how much the world admires the fact that this tiny, blockaded island placed fifth in the Olympics.

How can a country that has been subjected to pressures and threats for over 35 years be fifth in the Olympics, and place better than any Western European country? China, with its 1.2 billion people, placed ahead of us. The former Soviet countries still have good athletes -- despite the fact that everything has been razed -- and won more medals than we did. The United States did, too. Did I forget one? Ah yes, Germany. Therefore, I cannot say we did better than the Western European countries. However, we will try. They are going to have to deal with us again. We can also say that Cuba has more sports trainers working abroad than any other country. We have hundreds of trainers abroad. We are actually helping others win medals away from us.

What about Cuba's accomplishments in culture? Can anyone doubt the world's admiration of our painters, our musicians and artists? This cannot be doubted. I am speaking of social development, not education and culture alone. Can anyone doubt Cuba's accomplishments in science? Among all the Third World countries, Cuba is unquestionably first. Does any other country have a movement like the Science and Technology Movement, in which over 1 million people participate, and create results such as those extolled in your addresses?

Has any other country developed the level of scientific research we have attained in our universities, particularly over the last few years, and in the midst of a special period? We could also ask: Has any other country demonstrated more solidarity, or sent more doctors, teachers, technicians, or soldiers to the Third World than Cuba? Let that country raise its hand.

Has any other country done more for women's rights, or against racial discrimination, than Cuba? Has any other country done more for human dignity, or to safeguard children, the handicapped, to provide social security for the elderly, or the sick, or those who found themselves alone in this world? I wonder if any country has done more with less. No other country has done more to provide equal opportunity for all its citizens. Just think for a moment. Where do you come from? Did your family own sugar mills, large stores, or factories? Who are your parents, uncles, relatives? Yet today you are here, discussing something as important as the education and lives of the students, the youth, the future, without needing to be rich.

Are all the efforts to promote human dignity and justice worth nothing? What country has done more for social justice than we? What small country, left alone against the most powerful empire ever, has been able to resist? What small country would have been able to withstand the collapse of the socialist bloc and the USSR, or the abrupt loss of its export markets, basic sources of energy, food, and raw materials? What country did more in less time, not only in terms of social development, but also in terms of sustained economic development for over 30 years, changed life in the fields, and turned all the indentured, exploited peasants into owners?

Cuba brought modern technology to farming. Cuba dignified the workers, those workers who had to make do during the off season, unemployed, without access to medical services or social security, or aid for their family, and without hope.

What country has done more to humanize labor? Having put an end to manual sugarcane cutting alone classifies as an achievement of the Revolution. More than 300,000 men would stand in line in the sugarcane fields hoping to get a job for a few months. They were constantly in debt. That inhuman work was performed by slaves in earlier times. To quote that comrade -- I cannot call him a foreigner -- but the Cuban comrade who was born abroad and spoke here: Those men uprooted from Africa to cut sugarcane and harvest coffee. Then came the immigrants from the Caribbean, former slaves who found themselves without land or jobs or anything.

In Cuba, rice was harvested with a sickle, which has been eliminated from the flag of the USSR. It was removed, right? I no longer look at flags because I have seen so many people changing coats that I no longer care to memorize flags. I prefer to wait until the sickle and hammer reappear in the flags of many countries. [applause] Or until new ones appear.

All transportation had been mechanized, made more humane. Construction work was humanized. Dock loading was humanized. That entailed a great material and economic investment by Cuba, to eliminate having workers carrying 350- or 325-pound sacks. It was all mechanized.

The country was crisscrossed with highways and roads. I do not know if anyone has the exact figure. but I believe we built somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 km of highways and roads. Dams and irrigation channels were also built nationwide. Irrigation systems were established, as well as fertilization programs, and mechanical milking. Practically all of the hardest tasks performed by our people where humanized by the Revolution. Rural fences were electrified. In Cuba, a country without large rivers to produce electricity or large oil deposits, electricity reached over 90 percent of the population. Everyone had a job. The cities were expanded.

Before, there was one single university in the capital, and dreams for some others. Now every province has a medical school, and some more than one. Every province has the capability to train many different specialists. The same happened with vocational schools and science and technology institutes. We have research centers in every corner of the country. The towns went from small villages to what you find today. The change is enormous. Hundreds of factories were built.

All this was done despite the ever-present threats of imperialism and having to conduct yearly mobilizations, having to maintain hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Armed Forces year after year. We have had to defend ourselves not only from the blockade but also from dirty wars, mercenary invasions, sabotage. Do not think for even a moment that these are things of the past. The plots to assassinate Revolutionary leaders, carry out sabotage or armed incursions, and the efforts to destroy our key industries or harm our economy are not a thing of the past. Imperialism has active and current plans, in addition to the blockade. All these things were done in the material and economic sphere. This shows the influence of the mercenary, enemy propaganda that seeks to negate all the accomplishments of the Revolution. The wealthy, developed world should be ashamed of not having solved problems that we solved long ago.

The comrade from Matanzas said other things, but if I were to relay to you my every thought on everything discussed, we would never get to the end. He said other things: He said they lament not having experienced the era of the Moncada, or Granma, the Sierra Maestra, or the internationalist missions, and all that. Yet he rightly said that this was one of the hardest, most difficult times.

At noon I was asked some questions as part of a television documentary regarding the cadres that have played a role in the youth movement all these years of the Revolution. I was asked to say something, my opinion about the youth, the pioneers. I [chuckling] mentioned that some of them, many perhaps, regret not having experienced those times. I said I regretted not having your age in this period, regretted not being one of you, one of the delegates to this congress. [applause]

I also was a university student. I remember how much the youth suffered, how divided and fragmented they were, how disoriented and confused by a media in the service of imperialist interests. The entire media was in the service of the exploiters, landlords, multinationals, and the interests of the United States. They were oozing out venom at all hours in order to maintain that system. I remember the students from those few universities. Havana University had basically one single campus. The one in Santiago de Cuba was beginning to develop. There was also some effort to establish one in Camaguey and one in Holguin. How could the students back then have held a congress such as this, or played such a role, or had such participation? Would they have been allowed to discuss today's problem in front of the entire country and world?

Being here and listening to your discussion is our duty. Nothing could be more important. Not even a lowly councilman or the media or anybody came to our student meetings. Yet they came out to witness the students taking to the streets to protest injustice, with the police aiming their water cannons at them and beating and repressing them. Then the students were news. Unfortunately, this is still happening in many parts of the world. Yesterday, as we left the evening session, we heard on the news that five students had died in Santo Domingo, students who were protesting against certain measures -- five deaths. Seldom does a day go by without news of a student being murdered by repression.

It is so different here; everything is truly so different. We never had your level of training, education, culture, and unity. The number of students and teachers back then was very small, unlike the tens of thousands we spoke about yesterday. Yes, we did wage that fight. We had many things to accomplish and only a few to defend. It is true that we got to fight against corrupt and tyrannical governments, and all that. However, we envy not your lives in comparison with the lives we lived, but the times it has been your lot to live in: your struggle as your country faces -- I repeat -- the mightiest imperialist power and the most inhuman and cruelest of blockades. The flag of the solitary star remains aloft and refuses to become a star in another flag. Cuba cannot conceive of relinquishing the place of honor the world bestows on her today.

I am fully convinced that our flag has never been so respected, and our country has never been so admired. This is not hearsay. I have talked with many people in my travels, with many politicians and heads of state and governments. If you had lived my experiences, you would have come to the same conclusion: Cuba has never been less alone. It has never had so much prestige, nor were more hopes ever cast on her.

This hurts our enemies deeply. You have no idea. It drives them mad. It moves them to try more and more things against us. They cannot resign themselves to the fact that we have resisted. The blockade is not enough for them. Now they are seeking to strengthen it even more, even to the point of madness.

Let me tell you something else. Parallel to the increase in prestige of Cuba, the world is becoming more and more convinced that the U.S. policy on Cuba is sheer madness. We see this at the United Nations, which cast 101 votes against the blockade, and two votes in favor -- one from the United States. Many countries manage to be absent at voting time and many others abstain. When one participates in a conference like the Copenhagen Summit, where one meets ministers, vice ministers, and government officials from across the world, or one visits UNESCO, which has workers from every corner of the globe, one encounters a support and an attitude that is even more amazing than that seen at the United Nations. All this, despite the lies levied against Cuba. It is incredible.

It is a miracle that they did not have a heart attack as a result of the trip to France. I did not know we were a reason for heart ailments in some people. That is new. There was talk of cardiac arrests, fainting, and who knows what else. You probably hear it all. There was a true rage. They are incapable of tolerating and coexisting, that kind of thing. Such behavior by such a mighty and influential power! This is why the world has such a poor opinion of their policy toward Cuba, and yet, they are trying to promulgate further laws against Cuba.

There are two governments in the United States right now. That is the most complex part of all. There is the administration, known by all, and a Congress in the hands of the opposition and extremely reactionary sectors. They are filled with hatred toward Cuba. Now, they even want to prohibit anyone who does business with Cuba from visiting or doing business with the United States. They are now talking about keeping the blockade in place even if the Revolution were to collapse. That is a new twist in thet bill proposed by one of them. They are demanding compensation not only for the U.S. properties nationalized by the Revolution, but also compensation for the properties of all the landlords, latifundium masters, and rich people who left Cuba and became U.S. citizens. This means we have to pay compensation for every one of your homes, [chuckles] for the bit of land worked by the humblest of Cuban farmers. We would have to pay compensation for everything. It is one of the most absurd and monstrous inventions in the world. It is not too strange that in the United States they do not have enough jails for criminals, drugs, etc; what is strange is that they do not have more loony bins. [applause]

Such bills are being presented, when 101 nations voted against the blockade in the United Nations, and only two voted in favor! Of course, following the collapse of the socialist bloc, and as a result of their calumnies, they have a mechanical majority on some of the UN committees, where some nations dutifully do the U.S.'s bidding. Before, Cuba always had a majority against the U.S. allies. They were unable to pass resolutions against Cuba. Now one of the very first was the USSR. No, not the USSR, I am reminiscing here. Russia. Russia has taken two different positions. It voted this year against the blockade bill, but it voted against Cuba in a meeting of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

This made me think of Chechnya. Strange things happen in this world! Let me be clear: I am against the disintegration of any country. I agree. However, the dispatches carried news of who knows how many thousands of cannons shelling the region, hundreds of planes and helicopters bombing the region, tens of thousands of soldiers fighting, and civilian casualties. Yet, they voted against Cuba at the Human Rights Commission, against a country that has never had a single missing person, where never in 36 years of Revolution has there been a political crime, where no one is tortured.

Why am I saying this to you? You come from every corner of Cuba. You are aware of the behavior of our forces. You have an elevated opinion of our Armed Forces and Interior Ministry personnel, in light of their behavior, high ethics, and chivalry. Never in all the internationalist missions carried out by our Armed Forces was a single prisoner murdered. This is so uncommon that it is a rarity in this world. We are aware of what generally happens in the world. Hundreds of thousands of our soldiers have served internationalist tours of duty, yet no one can say that a prisoner was ever murdered, beaten, or abused. That is the tradition we inherited from the Rebel Army, that was also our behavior during the Bay of Pigs invasion. They surrendered en masse, yet not a single one was beaten. Search all you want through Miami and the entire globe, you will not a find a single person who can say that when taken prisoner, in the heat of battle, despite the many casualties we had sustained, a single mercenary soldier was beaten.

Our knowledge of the history of mankind and revolutions allows us to affirm that there has never been a more humane, cleaner revolution than the Cuban Revolution. [applause] This is a truth they have not been able to destroy despite their huge propaganda apparatus. We have seen this in the contacts we have made with people worldwide. We are the only blockaded country.

The PRC is a large and powerful country. It is not blockaded, for which we are happy. Vietnam is not as big, but its population is much larger than ours. It is an important country and is not blockaded. The DPRK is a country which until not long ago had tense relations with the United States. Today they are discussing nuclear issues and supplying reactors and fuel. Yet with Cuba, the policy is another: More laws! More blockade measures are being proposed! Within the chaos that is U.S. politics, no one can predict the course of events. It is a dangerous thing when the most reactionary, fascist sectors in the United States grow more powerful. It is dangerous. It is a real danger. It deserves to be followed very closely.

However, this does not scare us, nor is there anything to fear because nothing scares us. [applause] Nothing can scare us anymore. [applause] How can it scare us after everything we have been through? We no longer even mention the missile crisis; it is just one more episode, although it was a nuclear crisis. Nothing could have been more catastrophic than the disappearance of the socialist bloc and the USSR. We were left alone to confront an empire that had become a global, unipolar, hegemonic power. It could not scare us, just as we are not scared by the news of the things they are doing or the plans they draft. However, that is the reality. We are not going to relinquish our ideals. We are not going to fold our flags. Surrender? We will never surrender! [applause]

Their hatred is a measure of our merit and of the greatness of our people. Their hatred and threats are a measure of the moment in history you are living. Yes, this is our lot. No one even imagined that we could resist; yet we have resisted. Somebody reminded me earlier that the USSR still existed during the previous congress. That was December 1990. December 1990? What happened? Was this one delayed? [indistinct remarks by unidentified speaker]

It has been more than four years, right? You see. Where is that comrade who was arguing. What do you call him? Juanchi? Juanchi! [applause] Four and a half years have passed. The congress kept getting postponed. In the last four and half years, the USSR disappeared. However the FEU has not disappeared. [applause] The Revolution has not disappeared. [applause] Cuba has not disappeared. [applause] This angers many.

I was telling a comrade that I did not know how old your T-shirts or shirts are. If you need any I can lend you some because lately the fashionable thing is to give me shirts and suits. [applause] I can donate them to the FEU for a future congress.

You all look good. The mood is happy and pleasant. I am referring to the physical aspect. I see energy, strength, vigor, and talent. This does not negate the enormous sacrifices made by our people. Yet despite that, you are here. I get the impression you are more resolute everyday. I get the impression you are more committed. I get the impression you are more willing to win. [applause] [Crowd chants: Fidel, friend, the FEU is with you!]

We could also send a message to Senator Helms: Hey, we are still here! And we will still be here regardless of any laws. [applause]

It is not that easy for them to carry out their Machiavellian plans. Right now they are enjoying a honeymoon with the public. However, the honey is getting watered down and might end up turning into vinegar. The polls are beginning to show that the people are not that happy with what they are doing because, among other things, they want to eliminate all the social advances, all the measures to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, etc., implemented in the United States since the Roosevelt era. Some social programs needed by millions of people are being eliminated. Everyday they present a new bill to eliminate social measures in what they call a New Contract, with which they want to replace Roosevelt's New Deal [last two words in English]. They are taking very harsh measures, measures benefiting the rich and reducing aid to the poorest sectors of the American population.

We must not forget that in the last presidential elections, the majority of women, Hispanics, blacks, youths, and the unemployed voted against neoliberalism in that country. They voted against the Bush government and voted for Clinton because he had offered a series of measures, including a health plan that would cover all Americans, because there are tens of millions of North Americans who do not have access to health care. He offered a series of social measures, and it was those people who represented the majority, which gave Clinton the electoral victory, apart from the fact that they were divided.

Only half the people voted. If there are three candidates, the elections are decided with only 30 percent of the votes. That produced a strong reaction by the adversaries who began to work hard, and it is they who are promoting all these measures or trying to implement them.

But they find growing opposition by the U.S. press. Since the famous rafter crisis, more than 300 editorials have been written in the main U.S. newspapers criticizing the U.S. policy against Cuba. Many U.S. press agencies and many U.S. businessmen watch as investors from Europe and from all other parts of the world come to Cuba; but they cannot come because they have been forbidden to do so. They are not allowed to trade or invest in Cuba. It is not that Cuba is a big or gigantic market like China, which by itself attracts investments. But it is a matter of honor and principle. Businessmen do not like to be excluded from anywhere.

The number of businessmen who oppose that policy grows; the number of North Americans who oppose that policy also continues to grow; the number of North Americans who oppose the reactionary programs promoted by these ultra-rightist groups in the U.S. Congress also continues to grow; and the amount of international opposition to this type of policy also grows. With this I want to point out that it will not be so easy for them to do it. But they continue to move with amendments and no one can disregard the possibility of one of those measures being applied, even though it will not be easy for them because of the reasons that I previously explained.

Nevertheless, we must be ready to struggle even in case a law is applied, just as we are ready to fight on all fronts. On the defense front, we make enormous efforts to strengthen our defense and to strengthen the work of the Ministry of the Interior, with less expense each day.

Here, we could see the analysis that you made in the Defense Commission and the ideas that were expressed on how to perfect the participation of students in that effort. But we must continue defending ourselves. No one can think that we can forget all about this.

If I were not obliged to be discreet, I could tell you a few things that would amaze you: The plans they elaborate and some of the things they have in their heads. One might ask oneself: Who comes up with these ideas? One can be sure that it is a conspiracy by these extremist groups in Congress.

Sectors of the administration, or some sectors, are promoting all this -- because the very administration is divided. What role does the infamous CIA play in all this? But we gather information, we accumulate data, we accumulate proof. No, we do not sit with folded arms.

We are very discreet and we observe everything. One must observe everything because today one must have more tact than ever, more calm than ever, more level-headedness than ever, and more patience than ever. Even to speak, one must be discreet. And the things that need to be reported -- one must know when to report them and how, and what to do because they do not ignore the fact that we know. As a matter of fact, we have let them know on a number of occasions that we know. We say: Hey, this is going on; this other thing is also going on. We accomplish nothing by immediately reporting it in the press. Now we are learning to manage secrets effectively. Before we would manage them well, but I believe today we know how to manage them more effectively and more politically. But, it is a tough battle. One must never underestimate. Great are the obstacles and one must not underestimate.

Today, it hurts me deeply to hear that at times we lack pencils in the classrooms, or notebooks. It made me remember those times when we printed college textbooks by the thousands and sold them at very low prices so that graduates could have their own copies. This is hard, sad. It is the truth. We get some notebooks here and there, and distribute them in primary and middle schools. We even struggle to figure out how many square yards of fabric we need for middle and high school uniforms. It hurt us so much to see that the many things we did for a long time now experience such problems and difficulties. It hurts deeply to have stopped so many programs. It is sad, truly sad for those of us who have lived so many years of Revolution, so many different experiences. How hard it is! As we listened to the comments about the pencils and notebooks, we thought and we have to continue thinking. This congress has proven one thing: The possibility of doing things. Great examples were given, such as the one of the students from Yaguajay, or the ones from Sancti Spiritus who took responsibility for a hospital, or those who solved the problems of the mountain regions with the resources available. You can see how much we have advanced in many sectors despite the incredible material limitations from 1994 to today. Human creativity will and heroism is truly capable of performing miracles.

I can tell you already that I do not feel pessimistic despite the fact that I can foretell even harsher difficulties, given all the things that are happening. We have to work, struggle hard. Diplomacy has to play an important role. However, the decisive factor is our willingness and capability to resist. That is the decisive factor. That is what will decide things. We have not been defending over 30 years of Revolution; we are defending more than 100 years of revolution, almost 130 years of revolution.

Since fate did not give us a chance to chose our neighbors, here we are, next to those expansionists, warmongers, imperialist chaps. However, I am consoled by the idea that they might think that since they did not have a say-so about their neighbor either, and have not been able to devour us, they have no other choice but to accept us.

Until the day there is peace, a peace with absolute respect for Cuba's sovereignty and independence... [changes thought] We will always demand as much respect for our sovereignty as they demand for theirs. There will be peace because there will be change. We are living in a new world. There is no longer justification for Cold Wars or the like, nor are there reasons to extend NATO to the Russian border; that is mad, absurd, incomprehensible.

We have to put our trust in the American people despite all the poison they have been fed -- that is because the more poison you are given, the more immune you become. The human body becomes immune to bacteria, toxins, and viruses. It is said that what is so tricky about the AIDS virus is that it changes constantly. There is no doubt that certain changes are taking place in the mindset of the American people. Many poisonous and toxic products are no longer that poisonous or toxic to the American people. They are seeing this happen before their eyes. I repeat: Many viewpoints are changing. Many mass media outlets are relying on common sense and logic with many problems. Many thinking people are against the upswing of chauvinism and -- what do you call it? -- xenophobia, there and in many other places. There will be changes, and someday this madness will be replaced by peace, but a peace with dignity, respect, revolution, social justice, with the preservation of all the accomplishments of socialism, and our most absolute right to continue building socialism once the objective circumstances allow us to do so. [applause]

This is what is happening in the international arena. However, we are not the first ones to experience this. You know well how much our forefathers endured, from Cespedes to Marti, and for more than 50 years in the false republic, in the neocolony. They must have suffered a great deal. We understand them, we understand why they began the first war for independence, why almost 30 years later they initiated the second, the deceptions, the lies, the intervention, the turning of our country into a colony. This is why we cannot allow anyone to deceive us, to let anyone turn our arguments around. We have millions of arguments to defend the Revolution, the work of the Revolution, and the line of the Revolution. This is why we found the words of our visitors so encouraging, those who spoke here and expressed their admiration, and urged us to continue fighting. This is what the entire world urges us to do. Everybody everywhere keeps saying the same thing: Resist! Resist! Resist! This is what everybody tells us. To resist means victory. To resist means to win this struggle which as I said before, has been going on for more than 130 years, or longer.

The expansionists in the north have wanted to take over Cuba for more than 200 years. They have always dreamt of taking over Cuba. It is our historic privilege to have thwarted their dream of having the ripe apple fall into their lap. It will never fall, not like a ripe fruit, or like a rotten fruit. We have political maturity, revolutionary maturity. Those who with open mouths for the apple to fall will decompose before the apple becomes rotten. [applause] The empire will rot before the Cuban Revolution does. [applause]

This is why, as you have illustrated here with the enlightened thinking of our most illustrious predecessor, we can proclaim [Jose Antonio] Mella's phrase: Let us live the most solemn hour of history. What would Mella say if he was here? Would he counsel us to give up? [Crowd: No!] He said that even after death we are useful because we serve as flags. How much truth is contained in that phrase. [applause] And what a flag is Mella! [applause]

If we are to fall, let our blood show the path to freedom. You are right, Jose Antonio; your blood is showing us the path to freedom! [applause] You are right, Marti, a thousand times right: We will never complain; we will never become discouraged as ahead lies the sacred work of the Revolution! [applause] Socialism or death! Fatherland or death! We will win! [Crowd: We will win!] [applause]