Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-96-143 Daily Report 21 Jul 1996 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Cuba: Castro Closes Youth Congress 20 Jul

PA2407001096 Havana Cubavision Network in Spanish, 1722 GMT 21 Jul 96 PA2407001096 Havana Cubavision Network Spanish BFN [Speech by President Fidel Castro Ruz to the closing ceremony of the Second Pioneers Congress on 20 July at the Conventions Palace in Havana -- recorded]

[FBIS Summary] After greeting the pioneers, teachers, guides, guests, and comrades who participated in congress, Fidel Castro begins his 95-minute speech by saying that it is not easy to address children and youths at an event like this after seeing what they have done and are capable of doing. He praises their work, and notes how much they can encourage and influence their elders.

He then expresses his satisfaction for the way in which talents, abilities, knowledge, character, organizational spirit, awareness of what they represent, what they are, and will be, have been developed among pioneers. Stressing this point, he says: "You are aware that you are the future, and the future will not be easy at all. You admire us, who were pioneers of this revolution, but we admire you more [applause] because your generation will have more difficult tasks than those we had. A pioneer girl mentioned things you were not involved in, and things in which you are involved now. You are the pioneers of the special period, and we are encouraged and motivated by the behavior of the pioneers of the special period.

"It is one of the most difficult periods in the history of our fatherland; the fatherland you would never think of losing [1-minute break in reception] and we say to ourselves: What a wonderful generation this is, which tomorrow will face such difficult tasks. I say difficult tasks because we have an idea of the situation in the world we live in, and we know very well that the problems in the world are worsening."

"In addition to our separate battle as a nation in our struggle against the imperialist monster -- which has not given up its attempts to destroy our fatherland, our independence, and our revolution, which would be destroying everything -- aside from that struggle we are waging, which we are waging successfully... [pauses] Everybody thought that the Cuban revolution would fall one week after the disaster that occurred in the socialist bloc and a few days after the disappearance of the USSR.

"We were alone, alone, pioneers, against the blockade, threats, attacks, against the most powerful imperialist power that has ever existed in history. That power has enormous resources -- economic, political, technical resources -- it practically owns the most important mass communications media in the world. Nonetheless, no real Cuban revolutionary ever doubted we were capable of resisting or struggling. That is why the world increasingly supports and admires our people, who are fighting in every line and on every front. They want to crush us with the blockade and with the enormous difficulties that losing the allies of our revolution has meant for us."

Castro explains the economic difficulties the country has gone through and the way in which people have faced those difficulties. Then he says: "A revolution that has men and women like you, who have the convictions you have expressed here today so enthusiastically and intelligently will never be defeated! [applause] The world in which you will live -- not when you are my age, or the age of the comrade invited by the leaders of the congress, not when you are 50 or 40 years old -- but right now, you are practically facing [10-second break in reception] with more problems every day." Castro compares socialism and capitalism, criticizes the media in the west, saying that it serves the particular interests of the rich and powerful.

He compares health and educational services in both systems, praising the achievements of the revolution despite the blockade.

With regard to sports, Castro says: "Today, we watched here some images of the Olylmpic Games. How is one to explain that Cuba can be there with such a large delegation? [applause] It is considered among the top five or six delegations of those attending the Olympic Games, despite the effort by imperialism to turn our athletes into professionals, to buy athletes by investing millions and millions, since it cannot defeat Cuba in the field, in the struggle."

Noting the importance of security institutions, Castro stresses: "An army without people can be defeated, but people who become an army will never be defeated!" [applause] He says that they must be prepared for the great challenges that lie ahead in the future, but not only with rifles, as today they have shown that they have a more powerful weapon: awareness, patriotism, pure ideas, and strong values.

He encourages them to increase their knowledge to face the future world, which will be a scientific and technological challenge, noting that Cuba is an exception in the Third World in scientific development. He stresses the importance of mastering computers, electronics, and the media.

Castro then deplores the fact that there is a shortage of some school supplies, but says that the state has made this a priority. Castro then praises the delegates' ability to speak and express themselves, says they have discussed problems intelligently, and says that they have confirmed the importance of the Pioneers organization in Cuba and that the Second Pioneers Congress will become history. Castro says he is proud of them and thanks them for the great present this congress has given his generation.

Castro's words are followed by rhythmic applause, chants, and slogans. Children shout and blow whistles. They chant, "Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!" and other slogans.

Castro goes on: "Would we have liked to live through what you are living through today when we were students, when we were in school? Would we have liked to have the knowledge you have today, the personality you have today? Yes, we would have. We would have liked that very much. In that case, however, we would feel happy, and not sad [words indistinct] [applause]. Is this envy for your future? Yes! How we would like to be your age, to keep on struggling, or to begin the struggle you are just starting [applause] in order to participate physically and mentally in that struggle.

"We have told you we will always accompany you with the ideas and the influence that we, and those who came before us, can have in our youth. We can only regret not having done more, or not doing better the things we have done. We can categorically say that the men and women of my generation did our part with all the love a human being is capable of feeling. Truly, we did it with infinite love. Today, you do not have to thank us. We are the ones who must thank you. [applause] In addition, you have been so affectionate and loving toward us, you have had such fraternal and gentle expressions toward us, that we are really moved. You have delivered speeches. Many of you congratulated me on my 70th birthday.

"In reality, we have never celebrated birthdays, not even in the newspapers. Only in recent times, some people have taken the liberty, sometimes indirectly, of mentioning the birthday of one of us. We have always been against celebrating, and there will be none this time either. There are expressions from friends, abroad and here. Some friends have even sponsored international contests, and have given that date a high importance. I assure you that I never imagined [12-second break in reception] that self- sufficiency that young people have. They believe that life is eternal. They believe that there is plenty of time ahead to do things.

"Now all of a sudden we find out that almost everything is behind, and that life has its limits. Believe me, it is not easy to adapt mentally to the idea of being 70. I remember that many times when I heard that someone was 70, I thought: What an old man! He is really old! And not only those who were 70, but also those who were 60 or 50. There were times when someone who was 30 seemed old to us.

"When we began the armed revolution, and before that, all of us were very young; we were very young when the Moncada Assault took place. We must adapt our minds, and should not forget that we are not your age. Now, with so many things you have said about my 70th birthday, I will really adapt. [applause] [1-minute break in reception] first of all, for you, for the great many well-educated and intelligent young people the revolution now has."

Castro praises the work carried out by teachers, doctors, and nurses, who made it possible to maintain a low child mortality rate during the special period.

Castro says: "Our child mortality rate is lower and there is greater life expectancy in our country than in the U.S. capital. [applause] I feel happy -- personally, since we are discussing my birthday -- I must add that I feel happy, as we all do, that a considerable number of new cadres have replaced the first generation of this phase of the revolution. We feel happy because you are in solid and firm hands: the party and the state's leadership, which is basically responsible for the country's destiny. We are happy about the human and revolutionary quality of the immense majority of our people. We are happy because the seeds we have planted have fully borne fruit. [applause] Men are transitory, the people remain; men are transitory, but ideas remain; men are transitory, but the sense of justice, of brotherhood, and equality among human beings, the right to defend their values, their hopes, their happiness [15-second break in reception] We will be ready for the future. They will not defeat us, as you said, today, tomorrow, or ever. [applause, shouts, whistles]"

Later on, Castro says: "The methods imposed in this unipolar world by U.S. hegemonism worsens the situation everywhere. They have forced governments to sell all the people's properties, state properties; they have nothing left, many states have sold everything and are now in hands of large private corporations. We have had to adopt measures to [12-second break in reception] have had to do things we did not like, some of which have had consequences you have mentioned here [25-second break in reception] We will never stop defending our ideas or our system. I have insisted on this, because I want you to be aware of this."

Castro adds that countries are trembling today not because of the situation in Cuba, but because of what can happen to them, when they see the United States acting as moral judge and giving certificates of good conduct that create problems in other countries. He says: "They forbid entry to the United States to heads of state; Yankee ambassadors act more and more like proconsuls, meddling in the internal affairs of all countries. They create brutal laws such as the Helms-Burton law that has startled the world, that has even created fears, as it is a flagrant violation of the sovereingty not of one country -- they have acted against our sovereignty for more than 35 years [40- second break in reception] it worries us when we look at the international outlook. That is why I want you to be aware of these things. You will remember. You can see these things.

"You will hear about a so-called neo-liberalism [words indistinct] the state sells everything, pure capitalism, not a single people's property, everything is owned by the multinationals and private interests. Unemployment is increasing, budgets for social security, schools, and hospitals are being reduced. All these changes are taking place, and we can see it every day."

Castro ends his speech by saying: "We leave this congress with an infinite confidence in the revolution, an infinite confidence in the people, an infinite confidence in the future, no matter how difficult it may be, and an infinite confidence in victory. Thank you pioneers! [applause] Thank you! Fatherland or death! [crowd replies: We will win!] No, I forgot to say socialism or death! socialism or death, fatherland or death! [crowd replies: We will win!] We will win!"