Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-95-202 Daily Report 18 Sep 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Speaks at Dinner Hosted by Uruguayan President

PA1910022995 Havana Cuba Vision Network in Spanish, 0257 GMT 18 Sep 95 PA1910022995 Havana Cuba Vision Network Spanish BFN [Address by President Fidel Castro at dinner hosted by Uruguayan President Julio Maria Sanguinetti at Independence Hall in Montevideo on 14 October -- recorded]

[FBIS Translated Text] Honorable President Sanguinetti, distinguished guests:

It confuses me to look over in that direction. I was told that we would be in the hall of mirrors and am wondering if the people seated over there are us or somebody else. [laughter]

You might not believe this -- especially with the number of lengthy addresses I have given -- but I have always suffered from stage fright. However, I do not think it will be too difficult for me to deliver a few remarks on this occasion -- even though it has always been difficult for me to deliver just a few remarks.

I am very thankful for the invitation that was extended to me. It has been a very moving experience, returning to this county after 36 years, five months, and 10 days. How time flies! That too was a very brief visit at a catastrophic time that coincided with [words indistinct] there was no presidency at that time. A board was running the government. I did not understood too well, but somehow it worked. The formalities were not like today. The protocol was not as strict and refined as today. I was also much less experienced. I just played along. There was no agenda. The agendas today do not even allow me time to breath.

I am truly happy to be here. Maps can be deceiving: It seems as if Cuba and Uruguay are close neighbors. I did not realize until I was over the Pacific that the flight would be as long as the eight and one-half hour flight I took on my recent trip to Copenhagen. Emotions, and not maps, may be getting the best of me, leading me to think that we are much closer to dear Uruguay than we actually are.

The people back then welcomed me at a great rally, where I had the chance to deliver a long address. I remember what I told them at the time. It was rather curious. The Revolution had just come to power and everyone wanted me to visit and do something on the scale of what Bolivar or San Martin did in freeing the peoples. I flat-out rejected the idea that other countries would experience change in the same way: that is, with soldiers arriving from other countries.

I remember it well. I had just come from the Group of 21 meeting in Buenos Aires, which addressed Latin American development. I was reflecting today on what I had said back then. I cannot believe how much time has flown. It's as if today's problems were being discussed 36 years ago.

We did not have a foreign debt back then. I stand behind what I said back then, despite the fact that so much time has passed: We lacked the resources for development; it was impossible to develop on our own with the resources that we had; there were diverse paths to development. I believed then that the state and resources from abroad had to play a role in development. I compared living standards in developed countries with those in our own countries. I stressed that aid was vital. A U.S. delegation attended the meeting. We had better relations then than now. Everyone was very respectful. I said, then, that we needed $30 billion to develop Latin America. Was I dreaming! I explained that if our countries did not have markets on which to sell their products...[pauses] We were thinking about the resources and money needed to develop and not about technology, globalization, or things like that back then. The United States had those resources. I said then that their living standards were six times higher than those of Latin Americans and that they could give up a bit of what they had and help out. Those were the good old days, when I figured it would cost $30 billion and we had no foreign debt.

I realize how wrong I was when I think that the foreign debt totals $504 billion today. Thirty billion was a drop in the bucket. When I think that international organizations have had to help Mexico to the tune of $50 billion, I realize that I did not know what I was talking about. International aid at that time [words indistinct] Latin America.

My range of experience has widened and my thinking has evolved, as I have grown older. We have had differences [enfrentamiento] with the United States for more than 30 years now. We are proud that we have been able to stand up to such a formidable power for over 35 years. No one thought that Cuba would survive for long after the USSR and the Socialist bloc collapsed. Cuba survived and will continue to survive. Its will and spirit are strengthened, even in the midst of very difficult circumstances. It is difficult when you suddenly lose 75 percent of your imports, lose your markets, lose everything. Our people's unified resistance is rooted in the principles, ideas, and awareness that we have developed over all these years. Our people have been able to pass this very hard test. This also gives you a measure of mankind's potential for miracles, of the development of levels of understanding, unity, and awareness that has helped us resist thus far. We are not a nuclear power nor do we have oil like Kuwait, Venezuela, or other countries. We have had to go back to to bicycles and animal power.

The blockade has been in place for over 35 years. There are fundamentalist groups in the United States that support the notorious Helms-Burton bill, which aims to reinforce the blockade and limit the rights of other nations through truly brutal measures that are all the more absurd considering that the United States is making peace with countries like the SRV and giving nuclear reactors and fuel to the DPRK. Why us? We have not been at war with the United States. Why do they treat us so differently? Why make us the only blockaded country in today's world, when the majority of nations have rejected the blockade? I believe that only one nation sided with the United States in the last UN vote. The blockade is cruel and harsh and targets the people -- men, women, and children. The blockade is a genocidal act that has been in place for over 35 years. I repeat: We know the price of freedom. We do not expect everyone to agree with us or think like us. However, I can assure you that we have been fighting for what we believe to be independence, freedom, dignity, equality, and social justice. We have been confronting a country accustomed to bullying this hemisphere, a country that has kept us divided.

I believe, as I did 36 years ago...[pauses] I also spoke of the need for unity, a common market, and other things that are being discussed in today's world. This is why I truly admire and appreciate Uruguay's invitation: It sends a strong antiblockade message and demonstrates the courage needed to make this visit possible. This demonstrates not only valor but also the spirit of freedom and independence that we, too, hold dear.

President Sanguinetti quoted Marti: We pay a high price for freedom; many have given their lives for it. We have experienced this firsthand, with our own flesh and blood. That is what we have done and are willing to do. We are committed to paying a high price for the independence and freedom of our people and fatherland as we know it.

I will end here. The distinguished guests have eaten dinner and are probably hoping that my remarks will end soon.

I must say that I hold fond memories of my meetings with President Sanguinetti. We have always been good friends. He reestablished relations with Cuba immediately after reassuming the presidency. I had the pleasure of seeing him today. I knew he was coming when the protocol official announced that the labor minister was on his way. However, the ministers' wives arriving ahead of the ministers confused me. I did not know who the lady walking ahead or the man walking behind her were. [chuckles]

Anyway, he returned and reestablished relations. He had established relations earlier in his career. He is back now, and made this visit possible. He and Marta have shown me every possible kindness. You came up with this refined custom of exchanging gifts. I was given great gifts that hold great personal value for me, including a photo of a warship entering the port of Havana -- my guess is that it is a U.S. ship...[pauses for laughter] -- in 1920 and an old cart with a sign that reads: Charge Up With Meat Broth From Uruguay! [laughter]

Truly amazing! I have no idea where she found that old photo, but it was given to me tonight. I guess that back then we were big meat and meat broth buyers. Perhaps that is what gave us the strength to resist everything we have resisted. [laughter]

Great photos! They also gave me something of great cultural and spiritual value: the only copy of an unpublished poem by Guillen that has been edited and everything. Museums and curators of Guillen's works will want this piece of paper as soon as I get to Cuba. This is extremely valuable to us.

Uruguay has always been very supportive of Cuba, and Cuba has always been very supportive of Uruguay. This is rooted in history. The Uruguayan people appointed Marti their consul in the United States in 1894. Marti later resigned because of his involvement in preparing for the uprising in Cuba [words indistinct] in 1891 and appointed him Uruguay's representative to the monetary conference in Washington in 1890. His ties with Uruguay were very dear. He resigned after the Spanish ambassador complained that it was an outrage for a man advocating Cuba's independence to be Uruguay's representative. He did so on his own. He explained why it was his duty to resign. Yet, he always remained Uruguay's most loyal servant. He loved Uruguay dearly.

There has always been a closeness between our peoples. Uruguay was one of the last countries to break relations with us when it was no longer possible to resist. The Uruguayan people have always been very supportive of the Cuban people. My return is a miracle in many respects. I never would have dreamed, 36 years ago, that I would still be around today, irritating you with addresses that are a bit too long.

There is not a whole lot of courage in this world. It is a miracle that I am here today, for it would not be possible without the courage that Uruguay and its government and its president have shown in inviting me here. I am convinced that --in reply to his words -- this will be beneficial in every respect, and that we will corroborate his wishes for peace.

I cannot promise you that we will engage in a market economy...[pauses for laughter] although we have engaged in certain market practices and know the headaches that it causes. I pity you, because directing the economy with macroeconomic measures alone is difficult. We are gaining some experience in market economics. We are doing a few things with the necessary foresight. We have already done many things in the last few years, and the results are already significant.

My dearest friend and Uruguayan president, I will not be able to accommodate you in every way but am sure that I will be able to accommodate you in many ways. Thank you, very much. [applause]