Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-96-076 Daily Report 16 Apr 1996 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Cuba: Castro Speaks at Playa Giron Anniversary

PA1804010296 Havana Radio Rebelde Network in Spanish, 2200 GMT 16 Apr 96 PA1804010296 Havana Radio Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [Speech by President Fidel Castro commemorating the 35th anniversary of the Playa Giron invasion at the headquarters of the Central Army in Matanzas Province -- live relay]

[FBIS Translated Text] Dear compatriots: After an afternoon of so many memories and so many emotions, of so many beautiful things, of so many marvelous words, it is difficult to speak here today. It was essential, however, that we meet, because a day such as today cannot be overlooked.

Many things are being commemorated this afternoon, many important things. First, we must remember that the socialist nature of the revolution was proclaimed on a day such as today, on an afternoon such as this one. [applause] We could say that was the first great artillery round in response to the aggression. With great pain and much tradition this afternoon, we remember the comrades who fell in the repugnant, cowardly, 15 April bombing carried out by airplanes that bore the insignias of our Air Force to confuse, deceive, and surprise us.

We recall having spent a sleepless night because a ship was approaching from the east and the comrades there were on alert, especially in the area between Maisi and Baracoa. We saw the planes, which were going to bomb Ciudad Libertad, overflying the command post, which was a house, in Vedado and Nuevo Vedado. They fired almost immediately, but I also recall that not even 20 seconds had passed when our antiaircraft artillery unit was responding to the fire, even though it was made up of young and inexperienced militia men who had had little experience using such weapons.

One of those planes -- and this was a deliberate plot by the ememy -- headed for Miami, landed there, and the pilot claimed to be a deserter of the Cuban Air Force; he claimed that the pilots had rebelled; that they were not Yankee planes with Cuban markings, but pilots that had rebelled. And they proclaimed this wicked lie at the United Nations. Not even the representative of that country at the United Nations was told the truth of what had happened. He was a person known for his relatively decent attitudes and perhaps they thought they could not count on him. Everything they do is like this.

This is how things they have done have been throughout history in each one of their aggressive wars. Those Playa Giron days were difficult. We knew that imperialism would not forgive the revolution we were starting. What was this revolution? It was a revolution of justice. All these laws that were mentioned here and that Fernando mentioned were simply the laws of a subjugated, exploited, and humiliated country, where peasants lacked land; where U.S. companies were the powerful owners of the country's best land; where theft was commonplace; where people were killed, tortured, and murdered; where there was a great number of illiterate people; where approximately 60 out of 1,000 newborns died every year; where there were no schools; where 10,000 teachers were jobless. It was a colony where brave and heroic people lived, people who had fought for a long time so that the great neighbor to the north would not conquer them. Because we made agrarian and urban reform laws and because we started enforcing social justice, they immediately decided to liquidate the Revolution. They first believed that the Revolution would be liquidated by taking away its sugar quota or that by taking away oil supply, by not selling or not allowing others to sell oil to Cuba. There were a number of similar measures, in light of which the Revolution sought formulas to fight and survive. They would not accept this as an example for the Latin American people, who were living under similar conditions as ours. However, they also disdainfully believed that they could crush us. They did not realize it was a different revolution, that it was a people's revolution. It was a revolution of the people, for the people, and by the people that overthrew one of the best organized and trained armies they had here in the hemisphere, a point which they did not understand. They immediately began organizing subversive groups. They were able to organize up to 300 and 200 groups. They supplied these groups with weapons, resources, money, political encouragement, support of all kinds. They began organizing acts of sabotage all over the national territory, aside from the economic blockade in an attempt to starve us to death.

The socialist camp and the USSR still existed then. We all know what happened next. Despite all of that and as evidence of the sentiment of solidarity and internationalism, we were supported and helped. Even though we disagree with the majority, if not all, of what they did later, we are thankful for what they did for us at the time. [applause] At the time, it was important. We did not want to mix the international situation and the Cold War with our Revolution; however, we were not willing to relinquish the Revolution. We did not purchase our first weapons from socialist countries; we went to other Western countries to purchase them. In certain places, we purchased rifles, grenade launchers, spare parts, and modern and automatic rifles by the tens of thousands. We also purchased cannons and ammunition from a European country. What happened? One of the ships, the second ship, blew up while it was unloading in an act of sabotage sponsored from abroad. It blew up twice, because it was rigged to blow up at least twice, and more than 100 workers and soldiers who were unloading this ship died in a matter of seconds.

While they were already preparing the aggressive plans against Cuba, they wanted to prevent us from purchasing weapons. At the time, we did not even maintain relations with the Soviets; we did not maintain diplomatic relations. However, they were determined to defend us, to fight. So the first Soviet-made weapons were received, but some of these weapons came from somewhere else. Some came from Czechoslovakia; others were weapons the Germans had used in World War II; yet others were Soviet-made weapons that reached us through Czechoslovakia. In a short time, we had a large amount of weapons. Possibly thousands of ships had brought weapons to us. Not a single ship ever blew up again. We performed all possible tests; we even launched boxes of ammunition and grenades from thousands of meters away, and not a single box or bullet blew up. It could not have been an accident.

We had weapons, but people were not trained to use them. We had learned to use some of the cannons and tanks that had arrived in Cuba when the Revolution succeeded. This is how we started getting armed. We had to organize the cadres here. This is why what Fernando was explaining to us was important. We had to train thousands of cadres in a matter of weeks or months.

We did not know how much time we had.

When imperialism noticed that the Revolution was resisting, it sped up the plans on the mercenary invasion.

We knew, after all the measures that had been adopted against Cuba, in every aspect -- subversion, sabotage, armed clashes -- that as soon as they had the first opportunity, the first organized force, they would engage in sabotage operations to produce in Cuba something similar to what was done in Guatemala.

Nobody knew how or when. We did believe imperialism would use this factor. In the meantime, we feverishly got organized throughout the country. The first Fal rifles we received, we sent to the mountains. We were getting ready to fight in the mountains in the event of an aggression. The concept of what we did later in a larger scale was already present. We knew that even if the Yankee army were to arrive here, the Cuban people, possessing thousands of rifles would be able to fight and to resist. No one ever doubted this. But then we received flows, we could say, of other types of weapons: Hundreds of antiaircraft guns, hundreds of artillery weapons, hundreds of tanks. At least we thought we had hundreds of tanks. I do not know exactly how many tanks we had on 17 April 1961, but I can tell you we had enough to crush 10 Giron-type invasions, simultaneously. We had a bit over 100.

The population was mobilized throughout the country, especially in the capital. We concentrated many weapons there, because it is logical to expect that the invading enemy would try to seize the country's capital.

We mobilized thousands of militiamen. We had a few Czechoslovak and Soviet instructors. When they saw what was going on they said: This is an impossible mission. We need at least two years to train all these people. We said no. We have to stop them, and we must do it quickly.

We asked the militia to practice in the afternoon everything they learned in the morning about tanks, artillery, and antiaircraft weapons. This is what the group of instructors did. They realized that this way it was possible to train hundreds of thousands of people.

We recruited people in the universities, at work centers, everywhere; many young people for the artillery and antiaircraft pieces and for the battalions.

Meanwhile, we sped up the training of the official troops, people who were Sierra Maestra fighters who had been joining the struggle throughout the country. The personnel was trained very quickly.

We can say that the weapons we had at hand had arrived a few weeks, perhaps a few months, before the Giron invasion.

But Cubans, as you know, learn quickly, and we learned how to operate these weapons. With regard to the Air Force, we had been left a few old planes, jet fighters whose names I do not remember at this moment, some B-26's and three training jets. But the fact is that many of our pilots were from a small group of pilots who had been imprisoned because they refused to bomb Sierra Maestra peasants. Our Air Force had more planes than pilots, and it takes time to train pilots.

The training of cadres is very important. Companero Fernandez helped us a great deal in this regard. He is the one who taught everybody here how to march, because he studied in an academy. Our Sierra Maestra rebels did not know how to stand or how to salute or how to march. This veteran helped us a lot with aviation, with the formalities of military life, with the organization of platoons, a company, a battalion. We had platoons, companies, battalions, and columns in Sierra Maestra, and some of them were large and others small. Many recruits were trained as volunteers.

We were bombed daily and lacked cigars, shoes, clothes, and food. Many of the recruits went back home, because Cubans are courageous but they also more readily engage in heroic actions and combat than work methodically and with discipline. No one could stand those cold days and not because of the cold, because it was hot there almost every morning; we had the daily visit of the planes.

We had to start from scratch to train the Army. We had help also from other officers who had been in prison because of their rebellion againts the tyranny or because of the way they acted, or because they had joined us, but they were too few, and Fernandez was tasked with directing the School of Cadets. He blames [words indistinct], something that many people do not find funny. We had the Turquino Peak fever; we believed that whoever had not climbed the Turquino a thousand times would never make a good revolutionary. I think Fernandez holds the record.

Those who went to the school of cadres to become cadres had to go through these tests.

There was the first course, as he explained, and the second course. We considered the forces in Matanzas good forces, shock forces. They are in the central region, not in the capital. We began getting ready at a good pace. When would they come? We did not have then the intelligence we would develop later. We picked up news reports, we read. But they control the media. The U.S. media was ordered not to report on the organizing of the expedition, but there were leaks. What are their plans? Will they try to form guerrilla groups in the various regions of the country? They had already formed groups in Escambray, and Escambray had been cleaned out more than once. They introduced weapons throughout the country. We wondered: What do they plan? Generalized guerrilla warfare? It is more difficult to capture small groups than troops. We wanted them to send them all together. What would they do? We adopted measures. We placed a militia platoon on each small beach of the country. No place was left uncovered. Meanwhile, all the provinces get their forces ready. If they chose to go for one location, what place would they pick? We thought about the Isle of Youth, where they could have planned to create some sort of Taiwan. There were thousands of counterrevolutionary prisoners and war criminals.

We then sent there tanks, infantry, cannons, and turned the Isle of Youth into a fortification.

Could it be Escambray? This was a logical place. They had organized many groups there. At one point, they had up to 1,000 armed men in Escambray. They were experts in evading our forces. I am not going to call them cowards. There may have been mistaken, very mistaken people who were personally courageous. I am not talking about personal morals. We must not underestimate the enemy.

These people were the opposite of what we were in the hills. When we were in the hills, we were always on the offensive, organizing ambushes, raids. Those in Escambray were always running away from revolutionary troops. They had some peasant support, it was a minority support, but nevertheless it was support. Perhaps 10, or 15, or 20 percent of the peasants supported them; no one can say exactly how many. There, the war was waged in a different fashion.

There was none of the intense political work that was conducted in the eastern provinces. In fact, some of the groups there had committed abuses. Escambray was weak from a political standpoint. The counterrevolution began there. Some former Batista army members went there. I repeat, on occasions, they were able to group up to 1,000 men. We conducted sweeps and reduced their numbers to 70 or 80. After a few months, with encouragement from abroad, they would rise up again. They always had the same concept, being on the defensive, trying to escape, waiting for the invasion to come, the Yankee invasion. So you can get an idea of their strength, there was a time in which the revolution deployed 50,000 men in Escambray from all the provinces and most of them from the capital.

The whole Escambray was divided and surrounded; it was divided into four parts and we began to put a squad on every house. At one time, Escambray was possibly their favorite site. It was mountainous, one had to advance along the coast, it had an airport, and they had some degree of internal support. But Escambray turned into another impregnable fortress. We kept thinking we had Giron left, and there was nothing in Giron. From the first year of the revolution, we began to build highways, improve the living standard of coal workers, families. The revolution built three highway or three fundamental roads; one from Australia to Playa Larga, the other from Yagujai to San Blas, and there is another place, Almeida must remember it [Unidentified speaker whispers: "Covadonga"] from Covadonga to San Blas. That one had a V shape, two roads.

We were building two tourist centers, and the work was pretty advanced. We were building schools. We built an airfield. The enemy needed the airfield for his weapon deliveries and to bring in the provisional government, which was the true plan that was organized already. Those days drew close with great activity in the revolutionary field, with the activities I explained to you earlier: Sabotages, armed groups, bandits in the countryside. But they were waiting for the main thing and the corresponding unknowns, how and where, whether they should subdivide the force they were training or amass it.

That was of key importance. For that reason it was very significant, although these things are always explained and much has been written about them, although key aspects remain to be written down, that we work out the problem and be prepared for the two variations, if it consisted of small groups we had to resist all the groups, or if consisted of marshaling their forces, we had to have sufficient force to destroy them. We were doing that, waiting for the invasion at any time, when they began bombing on 15 April in the early morning hours. That was a monumental mistake on the part of the enemy. When they attacked us the morning of the 15th, fabricated the story about being defectors' airplanes, used a considerable force as an air attack, we immediately realized that the invasion would be coming in 24 hours or 48 hours.

Although part of the country was mobilized, we immediately mobilized the whole country, all the forces. On the 16th, approximately at this time, 35 years ago, after we buried our comrades, a big rally was organized with tens of armed militiamen on the corner of 2d and 23d Street. The crowd filled up 23d Street for many blocks. The sentiment of outrage was tremendous, as one can imagine. The people were outraged. The revolution had advanced a great deal. We knew that that was the price they wanted to make us pay for the revolution. Although many of our measures, were merely based on social justice, they could be accurately called socialist measures. That means that the whole process of aggression against Cuba accelerated revolutionary changes.

Socialism had to come one day, but many things remained to be done first. We had not considered it the moment to talk of the socialist nature. Many battles were waged against anticommunism... [pauses] anticommunism was imperialism's main ideological weapon in the midst of the Cold War. We were not talking of socialism, however. On that date, based on the facts, the acceleration of that process, based on the enormous number of social justice measures we had implemented, we considered ourselves entitled to proclaim the revolution was socialist.

That was hailed all over the country by tens and hundreds of thousands of armed men. If in Sierra Maestra we fought to topple dictatorship and for social justice and the liberation of our country, starting 17 April, with their weapons in hand and willing to pay with their blood the people clamored for socialism. [applause]

That was truly the moment to give a strong, courageous, and defiant response, because Giron occurred when we were surrounded by U.S. squads and we sort of told them: If you wish to land, go ahead and land, because we do not fear you, we do not fear you. This was our idea and our determination.

This incident preceded the battle. We will not repeat it. Our comrades wrote one detail more and less; one more tank, one less tank. I requested two tanks [chuckles] replicas of one I boarded with five projectiles [words indistinct] this is history, anecdotes. I did not see them fire one single cannon and when they saw a few tanks advancing at full speed, the antitank units parted before Jimenez. This was at the north. Advance was occurring mainly through the west and also through the east [words indistinct] in Playa Larga.

And another one was called Stalin, the big ones equipped with 120-mm cannons that we drove along the border of Giron toward the east when our men ended up clashing with those of Cienfuegos, despite all warnings, but without any tragic consequences [words indistinct] but each party gives a different account on the hour, the place, the minutes; whatever happened on every moment [words indistinct] the developments, the facts, the details.

This is why one detail or another is missing everytime there is a book or a declaration. There could be a detail that time has distorted a little [passage indistinct] [chuckles] everything has been published. Many comrades participated and in a very courageous manner, in a heroic and unselfish manner, with total commitment. All kinds of forces participated: Cadets, those responsible for [word indistinct] militiamen, policemen, who engaged in very tough combat in western Giron, and peasants. The aviation played a very prominent role. The Navy did not participate more because our ships were in Havana. We loaded those frigates with [words indistinct] in case they were taken out by air the frigates of Havana were there. We did not have military bases in the south.

Regular troops from (Banagua) and other units from the capital had an outstanding participation. They brought the first tanks and artillery. This led to decisive developments. First, the attack was advanced 48 hours [words indistinct] explain how they did this. And they wanted to carry out a second attack but they could not fly more planes, because there were antiaircraft units protecting the three airports. This is why all the planes were not destroyed. The airports were reinforced. They talked about and thought about a second aerial attack on the morning of 17 April. They did not carry it out, but it was useless, because at dawn on 17 April all our planes were in the air heading for Giron to attack the enemy squad, the troops the invaders brought. This was a decisive factor.

Another important factor was to quickly understand [words indistinct] in the newspaper, because you referred to the paratrooper. They started to drop paratroopers very early because they [words indistinct] we learned very early that paratroopers were being dropped. They dropped paratroopers, and when they dropped the paratroopers there, we immediately realized that was the main direction. When the paratroopers arrived it was clear to us that if they were being dropped in Covadonga, San Blas, Aguaramas, (Palpite), and [words indistinct] on this side. They wanted the paratroopers to occupy and seize the three roads by dropping them on both sides of the Zapata Swamp. That swamp cannot be crossed or bordered, because anyone going through it would sink. They had tanks and antitank... [pauses] they had nearly 100 antitank [words indistinct] it would have been difficult to recover that position, very difficult and if we had tried to recover it by foot through the swamp, it would have been very costly. Thus, when at dawn we received news that landings were taking place, we started to make immediate mobilizations.

The most experienced unit we had at that time was the one of Matanzas. We asked Fernandez [not further identified] to deploy it to the operations zone; to the zone of Playa Larga, which was the closest one. But at that time all tanks were mobilizing in Havana. All cannons and all the antiaircraft forces, all battalions. Everyone was mobilized. The ships also because everyone had to be ready to advance.

There were only five [words indistinct] and there was no highway. They left at full speed, but the problem was that the presence of the enemy aircraft was active and numerous. We did not know how many planes they had; there was no way for us to determine if there were 20, 30, 40, or 100, and who were piloting them, because when they ran out of Cuban pilots they started to use U.S. pilots.

All that armament including tanks, artillery, and infantry was accompanied by antiaircraft units; there was a lot of that. And they had instructions to advance up to Jovellanos. Given that we did not know how many planes were in the air we could not risk deploying those troops in daytime beyond Jovellanos toward Giron. They were urged to camouflage themselves as best they could and to wait.

The aircraft attacked the squad. Our soldiers endured air attacks. We did not have more planes, but the important thing was to leave us without the squad. This is why we sustained casualties; because of this and because of the deceit of bearing Cuban insignias. As it was darkening the torrent of tanks, artillery, and everything else advanced in that direction while those in Villa Clara also mobilized; in other words, what the Central Army is today or already was, because it was founded on 4 April. They mobilized with all means to attack the area of Covadonga and Aguaramas.

In fact, we fought without respite, because I think that what was important is that we did not give them one minute of respite. The idea was to bring a provisional government, call on the OAS to organize an intervention involving four soldiers of each Latin American countries and the rest of them North Americans. We could not give them time to land their provisional government. That was the reason we did not give them one minute of respite during the combat [words indistinct] without communications. Communications between towns via telephone had been disrupted. Nothing could be spoken over the radio; we did not even have radios. We had some tanks, trucks, and some communication devices, but the swift movements that we had to make along the highways... [pauses] those civilian vehicles did not have but internal communications, they had not communications with the exterior.

They should have resisted 44 hours [words indistinct] it was a maneuver we should have carried out but we were deceived twice. I am talking about the Americans, not the mercenaries. During the burial, as I was speaking and about to end when we received news that a squad was approaching through western Havana [words indistinct] I thought this was strange, they want to start in Havana. The landing in Playa Larga had not yet occurred. I recall that I ended that activity quickly [passage indistinct] and on the evening of 17 April in that area in (Palpite) I learned about a landing through western Havana. I asked, is that confirmed? I was told: Yes, confirmed; contact was made with the [word indistinct] I was completely resigned. I was awaiting some tanks for that maneuver [words indistinct] Playa Larga to continue advancing through the west toward Giron before dawn. Those in Giron encountered our tanks and could not flee [words indistinct] lost its importance. I said all this is very strange. I arrived in Havana and learned there had been no landing. All this was very disappointing [words indistinct] most of our means were in Havana.

There were frigates and ships with all... [pauses] 10 percent, 10 percent of the means we had was mobilized here, if we do not count the air force. Well, whatever landed in... [pauses] they would get beaten up. Of course they would, because these were serious matters. We were here; it was a 4-hour trip by land at high speed. They took four hours from Havana to get here. They carried out two plans. The first one was rather unsuccessful, because [words indistinct] however, the second one was successful [words indistinct] it lasted approximately 68 hours. It must have lasted less than 48 hours; it must have lasted 46 or 44 hours. Sometimes when we remember this, Fernandez; it is painful to us, because if the beating was considerable, we would have liked it to be faster. [applause] These memories are always painful; well, what else could we have asked for? We were in peace [words indistinct] it was logical for our people to attack; they attacked open places and alongside straight roads because they could not flank them; they attacked at a swamp. Airplanes that bore Cuban insignias treacherously betrayed them.

This is how those days went by. We have already explained many times what each one of us, the rebel Army, the Interior Ministry, did. Our armed forces were already formed by everyone who had a weapon. However, we still needed the militia. The armies were organized in all the main provinces and regions; we had nothing beyond the level of battalions. Our highest level during the Playa Giron invasion was the battalion level. I sincerely believe that Playa Giron was a major feat by our people not only because of what they did, but also because of what they were willing to do. We had the confidence that the Yankees were going to be defeated in Cuba, even though the price was very high for us. The first Playa Giron, I mean, the first Vietnam had reportedly been us. [applause]

I was mentioning the hundreds of thousands of weapons we had; we had enough weapons. For each weapon we had, we could take away 10 from the invaders. Since I believe in the fight for the liberation of Cuba, 9 out of 10, it is an estimate, weapons we had had been taken away from the opposing army. Cuba had reportedly resisted, and thanks to its heroism, it prevented that war. This was not the only danger we faced; there were wars against rebels, wars against terrorists, wars against bandits. There were times in which we had groups of bandits in all the country's provinces. There also were mercenary wars and frequent mobilizations, because there were dangerous plans and news. We had to mobilize the entire population.

I believe the October crisis constituted a victory among victories, because the courage the entire nation showed under those circumstances had no equal or precedents. We had pirate attacks for years. We have had to invest a great deal of resources and make many sacrifices to defend this country in all these years of revolution. The U.S. incessant blockade became more rigorous by the day; the USSR and the socialist arena disappeared. I think we won some kind of raffle; we no longer know who to blame: Christopher Columbus, the British [laughs]. They did not leave... [pauses] we are really pleased; this is the place for us. History is the one that made this people. History is difficult, difficult, difficult. First, the European conquest, then the disappearance of almost the entire native population; then slavery came. Hundreds of thousands of slaves went to the provinces. The enslaving society, the U.S. annexation attempts throughout centuries, and our people's struggle in several independence wars to become what we are today constitute the raw materials from which these people were made.

The 10-year war; 10 years fighting [words indistinct] I was remembering that today when the replicas of the machetes [of Antonio Maceo] were handed out. The invasions. When Latin America as a whole, almost at the same time, liberated itself from Spain, that country had in Cuba more soldiers than all it had together in Latin America. Up to 300,000 men in arms fighting against a small country! In my opinion, all those historic factors have made possible what Cuba is today. Those historic factors and the revolution! What did they want to take away from us that 16 April? What did they want to take away from us with that mercenary invasion that they had not been able to take away from us with their blockade of fuel, food, and machinery and their subversive plans? They wanted to take away that by force, through an invasion. They wanted to take everything away from us, everything that is a source of pride for our country.

I was reading a figure. The infant mortality rate was 7.5 percent in the first three months. That is truly unbelievable. I do not expect we can maintain that. We would have to be extremely optimistic. Never on a day like today, however, would we have had an infant mortality rate of 7.5 percent with our health rates. How many rich nations, nations with resources have this rate. In Washington, over 30 infants die for every 1,000 live births. Of course, those who die are chiefly the children of black people. White infants also die. There are many poor whites now, under worse conditions than the others.

Thousands of schools, the more than 2 million children students in primary schools. The almost 9,000 primary schools we have today. The over 150,000 children in day-care and preschool centers. There are hundreds of thousands, over half a million, middle-level students. All the special schools, all the art schools, everything that we watched today. What would have remained of our public health, education, and culture? What would have remained of this country, if they had been able to take over at that time?

Our struggle today is even more worthy of merit. We are fighting alone. Before, there was a time in which we were alone but believed we were accompanied. Some lessons [chuckles], such as the October crisis, and others taught us. There is the accelerated withdrawal at full speed ahead of that little brigade that remained here. By that time, that was no secret. A long time ago, we realized that Cubans and Cubans alone had to and could defend the country, using the correct tactics to defend the country. It is not Clausewitz' war games, but the war of the whole people. [applause] That is how we made the revolution, and that is how we have defended it, and that is how we can continue defending it. There is no comparison.

It is a fact that these neighbors of ours are more and more crazy, more and more ungovernable, more and more confused, and slower with each passing day. This can lead them to make mistakes. Major mistakes! We must always keep this in mind. Feel fear? How can we even imagine fear after all we have gone through? Sooner or later they will have their own world, one they are looking for all on their own.

They are seeking a world that will be less governable. I have the conviction that some or all of our municipal governments know more about politics that the U.S. Government. [applause] Our municipalities govern better than the U.S. Government. They have chaos dividing the country between reactionary currents, more liberal currents, division between reasonable and unreasonable people.

They resort to all sorts of resources to encourage ethnic fears, encourage fascist attitude and trends. To begin with, not even they themselves are able or willing to govern themselves. Because that chaos of hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs, a crime wave tragedy that continues to grow each year, that hatred toward the poverty stricken, that desire to eliminate all pensions and social gains which, one way or another, the people of the United States have been entitled to for decades since the time of Roosevelt... [pauses] There is the practice of always wanting to govern the world, or tell each government what it is supposed to do, of insulting presidents [chuckles]. Presidents whom they describe as friends [pauses], or presidents of whom they say they are friends.

We also have the constant barrage of proconsul-like statements usually made by U.S. ambassadors. We have the conduct revealed during the 24 February incident, an incident that could have been prevented, an incident that had been foreseen by us, an incident which we had called attention to on dozens of occasions. On this issue we have some more information. However, sometimes it is always useful to withhold some of the facts. It is quite useful. We must always conduct ourselves as gentlemen, up to the point when we have to deal with indecent people. You have all been able to witness the handling, the countless number of times the airspace was violated, and the ever-growing ventures over our capital city. This is something which no country in the world tolerates.

They have claimed those planes were in international waters. Those planes are designed for war; they were acquired from the U.S. Government, which used them in Vietnam. We have been attacked with light aircraft many times. We have been subject to bacteriological warfare. They have used all means available against our country. Their attempt to condemn us at the UN Security Council [words indistinct] is shameless. Our morale is very high, and we speak with the truth. We always speak the truth and will be invincible with the truth and our morale. We shall win battles in all the fields. [applause] We shall win battles in all the fields we may have to fight. We wait. We are patient. We have learned to be patient, as patient as necessary to the point in which decorum can become reconciled with patience. We are not warmongers or anything of the sort. We are glad to mark here the 35th anniversary that we celebrate today. We are glad for all the lives that were saved. We are glad for our children who have grown healthy, educated, and learned. We are glad for our wonderful youth. We marvel at our heroic people. Yes, may they live and may they live a long life. We know that to live with dignity in this world we have to struggle. You see each day on television what happens in the rest of the world. The other day you saw a video of Mexican immigrants who were brutally beaten; this beating has caused indignation, repulsion. It was a woman! She did not receive one or two blows but, rather, five, six, 10 blows! This beating took place in front of the television cameras, so who knows what happens behind the television cameras. Persecutions, policemen, horses, dogs everywhere. There are strikes every day. People are beaten up every day everywhere. Thefts and more thefts, drugs and more drugs. There is more and more loss of sovereignty. What is happening in the world today is shameful, but it cannot go on forever.

There is a growing number of people whose awareness is being raised, who rebel, who are sickened, and turn adamant when they see a hegemonic world, with a power capable of telling the lies it tells, as it did here in Giron and like the ones it tells all over the world. It would be a never- ending thing to try to list them here, even as an example of the lack of scruples and morals that exist in the heart of that empire. Regardless of what the difficulties may be, they are not greater than that of other countries, when we compare our country's indexes with what is happening in Latin America and Third World countries. They are really subjugated and constantly repressed. Marti said that freedom had a high cost and either one resigned oneself to live without it or decided to pay the cost. That is one idea, I do not know if he uttered those words exactly: Our independence costs struggle, sacrifice, our dignity, our honor, our right to progress, our tomorrow, our future. All those things they want to take away from us have a very high cost. But you and us, all of us, men and women, boys and girls, all of us, those of us who have had the privilege of knowing the pride and sense of what dignity and honor are and what the fatherland is, of all those beautiful things worth fighting for, are determined to pay its cost because we will never resign ourselves to live without them. [applause]

I do not want to take too long. Neither do I want to forget to mention this province that welcomed us here with its customary hospitality, its accomplishments and achievements which we can refer to, for example, in one unmistakable fact. In 1995, the province was able to attain 87.5 percent of the production value it had accomplished prior to the special period. [applause] This is true, progress, work, progress that can be seen. In addition, the province is currently concentrated in a tough battle with the sugar harvest. Unfortunately, the sugar harvest has not always been supported by favorable weather, but always backed by the disposition to grind up to the last sugarcane. [applause]

Currently, we already have nearly half a million metric tons of sugar more than last year. However, we are still not satisfied and we still have go be on the lookout for unfavorable climate. There are days when the climate is nothing less than splendid. Just take a look at today. Heavy clouds since noon up until 1700, and magnificent late afternoon sun, on a special day such as today. [applause]

Let us hope the weather will continue to help us, and for the tremendous forces dynamically unleashed during the past weeks by our compatriots throughout the country to prevail so that we can reach the end of this battle. Without any doubt, this will be a demanding battle, but one that will ultimately demonstrate the progress and improvements we are obtaining despite the difficult moments confronted.

Now, we are facing, not the Playa Giron mercenaries, but another more dangerous kind of mercenaries, who want greater hardships for our people, who want to hamper our path as we are slowly recovering from that major disaster, that tragedy, that the disappearance of the socialist camp entailed and turned us into lonely soldiers as a people. In this case I am not including the hundreds of millions of people who sympathize with Cuba. We were turned into lonely soldiers of mankind's loftiest causes, clean soldiers, and pure soldiers without chains. We will resist despite those adversaries I was alluding to.

They threatened us for so many years. The Helms-Burton law. Perhaps all of you pronounce it as poorly as I do, because, listen to this, we have received so many things in the English language, that we forget good-bye [preceding word in English] even. Although saying good-bye is no bad thing. The peasants there in (Viranto) used to say goor-bye [laughter].

They even threaten us with their weapons. They dare to. We do not want a battle, we do not want war. We do not have to act bravely. I believe that even they do not doubt the courage of our people. We want peace. Again I repeat this idea. We will strive for peace until the limit the honor and dignity of our people and our sense of responsibility allow. We do not want a victory like the one in Giron, nor 100 victories like the one in Giron. What we want is peace, health, welfare, life, things we will only risk without hesitation whenever they become the price of sovereignty, independence, honor, and freedom. I am completely certain that all of you agree with this principle, this idea.

Today we paid tribute to our martyrs. As a companero said, by doing this we have paid tribute to all of those who have fallen before and after the triumph of the revolution. By doing this we pay tribute to the first Mambi soldier who fell in our wars of independence. By doing this we pay tribute to those who have and will have to die. With it we pay tribute to our heroic people.

I try to imagine for one instant that moment in which the responsible militia battalion of this historic school marched to combat in Giron and did not stop until reaching the culminating, key, and decisive point of the battle. Men who were more or less young like the ones who are here. Men and women like you.

They marched to combat. They marched to death. A significant number of them died a short while afterwards and a significant number was wounded in a very short time. If there is something we wish with all our soul in a day like today is that you, and all our fellow countrymen may always be like those fighters, like those men and women.

Those people wrote one of the most brilliant pages in our history for future generations which will not be thinking about the dimensions of the neighbor, but about the dimension of this small country that has been able to resist for 35 years, and that is prepared to resist 35 more years, and 35 times 35 years. [applause]

Today, when we commemorate another anniversary of the day we proclaimed the socialist nature of our revolution let's say this with pride, let's reaffirm now as we did then, certain of our victory: Socialism or death! Fatherland or death! We will prevail!