Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-96-190 Daily Report 29 Sep 1996 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Cuba: Castro Addresses CDR Rally

PA3009040496 Havana Radio Rebelde Network in Spanish, 1752 GMT 29 Sep 96 PA3009040496 Havana Radio Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro on the 36th anniversary of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, CDR, at a rally in Sancti Spiritus on 28 September -- recorded]

[FBIS Translated Text] Comrades of the presidency [applause], dear CDR [Committees for the Defense of the Revolution] members of Sancti Spiritus and Cuba [applause]: Do not tell me you cannot hear me. [laughter heard in the background] Oh, well. The fault would not be mine; it would be the people who set up the loudspeakers in this square. [laughter heard in the background] I traveled several hours along this highway and, luckily, it is in very good shape; and it reaches Sancti Spiritus. It should go all the way to Santiago de Cuba. Part of it is already built, but I do not want to stop and explain the factors that delayed the construction. Therefore, it is not so difficult to travel to Sancti Spiritus. I came discreetly; actually, I came in complete silence. I warned no one. [laughter heard in the background] Not even [CDR National Coordinator Juan] Contino or [word indistinct]. [applause] It is not like me to be a conspirator. In recent days, you insisted that I participate in this event. I decided to surprise you -- them and you. [applause]

It is not that my presence is so important [muffled shouts heard in the background], but I wanted to express my feelings of affection and admiration for this province. [applause] I know this is how you see this visit. Sancti Spiritus did not get to host the 26th [July anniversary of the attack on the Moncada barracks] [applause, shouts heard in the background], but it got to host the 28th [September anniversary of the CDR]. [applause] It almost got to host the 26th given its excellent work (in this period). Now it hosts the CDR national ceremony. How could we not exert an effort, how could we not understand the comrades' wish for our presence in this event? I truly believe you deserve every recognition. [applause]

The province deserves it; the CDR deserve it; so this event is a recognition to both -- the CDR and Sancti Spiritus. [applause] It is a pleasure to know how you worked and the results you achieved. The province figured extraordinarily in the sugarcane harvest; it finished the harvest in time, in good time, which has allowed it to work in the crops. The province noticeably increased its tobacco production -- another important product for export and consumption. The province has considerably increased its tubers and vegetables production. The province is considerably increasing the rice production. The province figured prominently in the struggle for efficiency; the struggle for the consolidation of the achievements of the revolution; the struggle to lift the morale and spirit; and the struggle to guarantee the coordination of all the factors dealing directly with the interests of the community and the people. The province has achieved success in so many things that they would be too long to list. [applause]

The province has become the source of inspiration for other provinces and a center of experience that others try to use. The province, it can be said, has been a vanguard during these extraordinarily difficult times. It is proving what can be done in the midst of the special period; and it has bolstered the masses' enthusiasm. This cannot possibly be forgotten on a day like this, and how satisfying it is to be united with the country's recognition for the way in which the party, the mass organizations, and the institutions have worked. In addition, it is such a decisive issue that it cannot be termed otherwise, you achieved first place in this anniversary and you earned the right to host [the event marking] the 28 September [anniversary].

This speech would be too long -- I thought from the beginning that it should be a discreet and brief presentation -- if we listed too many figures, both on the efficient [word indistinct], reflected by the fact that you obtained the highest recovery rate in the last 22 sugarcane harvests, the highest yield in the last (11) harvests, the highest use of the industrial capability in the sugarcane sector -- the highest in the country's history. That is why I say it would be too long to list too many details and figures, the ones Contino talked about when he referred to the statistics, which deal with specific facts.

This vanguard CDR has done a great job nationwide. This is confirmed by the fact that in addition to other provinces Sancti Spiritus is struggling in a very tight competition to be chosen as the site for the main 26 July ceremony.

Contino referred to the work carried out by the CDRs. He was telling us about the blood donations. More than 500,000 donations! An historic record. As he justly recognized, this was accomplished through the work of many people. We know, however, that the CDRs are basically responsible for the blood donations. He mentioned a figure in his speech. What are 508,000 donations? How much are they worth? We cannot calculate their value. In some countries, a donation is worth $200. This has always been a big problem; obtaining blood for health purposes. What basic price should we multiply by 508,000 to know the value of those donations? By 100? If we want to determine their material value abroad -- taking into consideration the quality of our blood, the measures taken to guarantee its usefulness and its cleanliness to make sure that it is not contaminated -- if we multiply those donations by 200, they would be worth $200 million. That's the value. We are not saying that there is a market. If we multiply them by 100, they would be worth $50 million; if we multiply them by 50, they would be worth $25 million. We cannot, however, measure in millions, or in money, the value of a blood donation.

You have talked about the struggle against vices, tendencies, dangers, and so forth; about the struggle against criminals and thieves. In this case, however, we are talking about the enormous struggle against sickness that takes the lives of human beings. In this case we are not trying to save a television set or a radio or clothing that was stolen. In this case we are trying to save lives, by giving hundreds of thousands of persons the opportunity to recover their health. Our country produces hundreds of thousands, more than 500,000 [units not specified]; I believe that the amount reached 800,000 minor and major operations. There are hundreds of thousands that need donations, in some form or another: concentrated red corpuscles, plasma, or whole blood. Our industry processes a large part of that blood. Concentrated red corpuscles are very important in an operation. Many patients need them when they undergo surgery, and sometimes they need them in large amounts, because without them they would not survive.

Can you imagine how many lives the CDRs save each year through their efforts to obtain blood donations? Our country is among the nations with the highest percentage of donations, and perhaps the highest of all if we take into consideration that our donors do not receive any material compensation, and that their attitude is absolutely voluntary, generous, and fraternal. Think about that. The lives that are literally saved. Some of the products that are made with part of those donations also save lives and difficult situations, and in some cases help many people recover their health. We should not only value lives, but human health as well. This is a reflection based on statistics, which can say more and express much more than simple statistical data. Always bear this in mind every time you are urging, convincing, and persuading our compatriots in that beautiful task.

By the way, I asked until what age people could donate blood. I was told that from 14 [unidentified person corrects him saying: "18 years old"] from 18 to 65. Therefore, I was left out [laughter], but there are blood donations [words indistinct] [applause]. I have not done it faithfully, but I have done it several times. Each time there was a problem, every time there was a major problem somewhere in the world, which made it necessary to start a movement and encourage donations... [pauses] some cases were mentioned here, like the case of Peru, but there were also donations after an earthquake in Armenia; there were donations after the earthquake an Iran; there have been several donations, several special donations, when there have been catastrophes in other countries. Those donations have reflected a high level of internationalism and generosity. I think I was still able to participate in one of the last ones. I had to argue. I said: If my blood is not good it can be discarded, but I want to contribute with a blood donation. [applause]

I do not think it is a matter of whether or not the blood of those who are over 65 is good. I believe it is a matter of [words indistinct] and even those in the CDR should know that it should be in order not to risk lives [words indistinct] if we are told that you are not eligible because your blood is not good after you reach 70, what should a man do? What should he do if his blood is refused? If we do not have good blood, how can we be revolutionaries? [applause]

Because the blood should not only remain unadulterated by a virus or by other elements. It should be ideologically unadulterated. [applause] And it should remain free of idleness, weakness, or weariness. It should have been made immune by the lack of revolutionary resources that should still accompany all of us, the true revolutionaries, to our graves, regardless of how long we may live. [applause]

And these are the (donations) we were talking about. There were 8,000 in 1962. They keep growing in number each year as awareness is being forged year after year. In addition, facilities and blood banks keep increasing as the population increases. The almost steep growth in the number of blood donations is noteworthy, ranging from 8,000 in 1962 to 508,000 in 1996. Nevertheless, there exists a special situation, which Contino was pointing out: [this occurs] during the most difficult days of the special period when our people are lacking the food resources that they had 20, 15, or even 10 years ago. Therefore, this situation should also be greatly taken into consideration. Contino spoke about how surveillance has increased in the struggle to defend the revolution and in the fight against crime. He mentioned the modest drop in crime. However, even though he mentioned a modest drop in crime in the communities, almost 10 percent, which is a true achievement, a great success, and a reason for satisfaction. Nevertheless, he prudently warned us that we should not now rest on our laurels. We must intensify and improve this work. We cannot allow criminals to become stronger and to prevail because of their force. We cannot allow criminals to win the battle against society.

The fight against crime goes hand in hand with the fight for legality and for respect for law because it actually hurts to see what a certain number of people are doing with the resources that the revolution has given them, like the homes the revolution has provided them, which is not done elsewhere in the world. More than 80 percent of the population have become home owners because of urban reform laws. There are circumstances in which generosity, as a paradox, harms because the revolution provides basic services ranging from national defense, obviously with all of the people's assistance, to public health, which is tragically not provided everywhere in the world, including the United States despite its wealth. In spite of all of the limitations and thanks to the human efforts you are making along with our doctors, nurses, and health personnel, our country... [pauses] We do not charge a single penny for all of these services.

Neither do we do charge anyone for an education, which demands so many resources and efforts from our country. Our people receive a great deal! For this reason, there are some individuals who take advantage by not working because their basic needs are guaranteed. In addition, there is a social security system to protect any helpless child, any elderly person, anyone, or any family who is in need. Those irregularities are not going to discourage the revolution. On the contrary, they will serve to raise the level of political education and social awareness of our citizens. That is why the struggle for legality, in which the CDR plays a vital role, is so important. What services are not rendered by the CDR to the country? The CDR is present in all fields: in the mobilizations to pick coffee, or to support the harvest, or to clean sugarcane and other crops, which are activities that require a good dose of effort and personal sacrifice.

What Contino was mentioned here previously is the struggle for food and production during the special period, the development of centers for fish production, and the planting of trees for timber and vegetables. There is not a single activity that can be carried out without the CDR's. Our electoral process is so democratic that it cannot be found elsewhere in the world, ranging from the very important way in which candidates are nominated to the way in which authorities are elected at the various municipal, provincial, and national levels. How could this be achieved without the CDR's, including the fight against natural disasters, and particularly, the political struggle to defend the revolution and to create awareness?

When I observe you here today and watch how you react to each idea and lofty thought, believe me, I am proud to see what you have become today. As a necessity, this crowd should remind us of that month of January after the victory of the revolution, when we went through Sancti Spiritus. Maybe this huge crowd today does not know where it occurred or in which park or which plaza. We must remember that on 28 January, 36 years ago, the need to create this organization was proclaimed. We must also remember the fervor it exemplifies. Today we may describe as impressive the nearly total awareness that exists amid an organization to which approximately 90 percent of this country's adult or young citizens belong. This total awareness can be observed in these people here who represent the results of education, not only of general education, but also of political and revolutionary education.

This awareness, which can be felt here, is perhaps one of the most wonderful fruits of the revolution, regardless of the things we have yet to perfect, regardless of the defects we may still have, regardless of the work that lies ahead. This awareness is needed today more than ever. There was talk here about the 100th anniversary of the fall in combat of Antonio Maceo, the 100th anniversary of the fall of (Trasintan), as has been said, a patriot who participated in the three wars of independence that took place last century.

That obedience that Contino recalled when ordered to continue, we can say that Sancti Spiritus has continued the path of (Trasintan). [applause] But the people of Cuba have continued the path of (Trasin), Maceo, Marti, Agramonte, of all those great and illustrious men whom we remember with pride and constantly. [applause] We also remember that we will continue the path of those who throughout this century fought, sacrificed, many of whom gave their lives in fulfilling their duty to defend the fatherland and the revolution. In sad times, many of them fell without seeing the country totally free, during both last century and this century.

[words indistinct] January have fought and have fallen and have paid the ultimate sacrifice for a completely free and independent fatherland, so free, so independent, and so strong that the revolution was capable of withstanding the catastrophes that affected and destroyed the Socialist bloc, including the Soviet Union. And we have demonstrated that we were capable of resisting that, which joined the merciless imperialist blockade, which has lasted as long or longer than when the first CDRs emerged. By that time, we were already facing strong hostility. We were under tremendous pressure that included economic measures, subversive plans, counterrevolutionary actions, bomb explosions. These actions have continued, in some form or another, these past years.

The revolution is so strong, so independent, and so firm that it has withstood all that, it has resisted the special period, and it continues to resist. And it is resisting new blockade laws, such as the Torricelli Law, with its two famous tracks. One track aimed to starve us to death and the other aims to force us to nibble around the edges of the contemptuous Yankee imperialism. The revolution is so strong and firm that we are facing that cruel and evil law called Helms-Burton Act, which has elicited so much rejection in the world. This represents an attempt to dictate laws on other countries and seek that these countries observe those laws. We cannot underestimate the harm that all those measures do to us; the obstacles they pose to our development, and the ways and means in which they attempt to hamper the financing that our country needs for economic recovery. We were badly hurt by the disappearance of the Socialist bloc and the Soviet Union, and now we must contend with the pressures exerted on investors, which today we need as part of the revolutionary strategy to preserve the country's independence and the conquests of the revolution.

We have resisted all those measures and we continue to resist because the greater the aggression the greater the creativity from the people and the revolution; the greater the blockade the harder the work done, the stronger the quest for efficiency. That is why we recently said that no country under such difficult conditions could have done what we have done, could have resisted what we have resisted. No country could have done so much with so little. When I say little, I mean the few resources that the country has. And I mentioned that not one single school was closed, but a few more were opened, and [words indistinct] but more jobs were opened, and not one polytechnic school was closed, and not one single doctor was laid off. On the contrary, there were more doctors every year. Just look at the tremendous work being carried out by family doctors, with whom you maintain close cooperation. Today, everyone and every institution is carrying out a great effort to seek more coordination, more cooperation in order to resolve many problems that even during the special period could be resolved. Part of these problems are being resolved and many others must be resolved, even under these circumstances, which makes men of young boys. We have been working with half the fuel we have had historically. We have been working practically with half the equipment we have had historically, namely after the revolution, in the 1980's before this new situation emerged.

The country is carrying out an effort, creating an awareness about unity and cooperation. [words indistinct] not one problem forgotten, not one problem without solution, not one community with specific problems that have to do more with the effort of men. And even the resources we do have are scarce.

It is an objective reality. Resources are scarce, and they will continue to be scarce. However, we will continue our economic recovery. It will take time. Under the conditions in which the country is being forced to work, it would be a mistake to have the illusion that we will progress swiftly in a very short period of time. What kind of country would we have without the blockade, with the virtues we have acquired these many years, particularly in recent years? They have done harm to us, but at the same time we have learned much.

I take advantage of this opportunity to alert you to any tendency to imagine that the difficulties and shortages are over, or that the resources we have are even similar to what we had 10 years ago, or six years ago. Since each international incident affects us, and since, for electoral reasons, more than any other cause, they bomb Iraq and create tension in the Persian Gulf, the price of oil is increasing. It has increased from $16, $17 to $24 or $23. It has increased 20 to 30 percent. Each liter of fuel not produced here must be imported and paid for at those high prices. The price of food in general has also increased, from wheat to rice. Sometimes it is even hard to find a simple bag of rice. That is why your efforts in the southern part of the province are so important. We must feel encouraged and satisfied by what we have been able to recover, because today we are working with more efficiency. At the same time, however, we must beware the tendency to believe that road ahead is coming up roses. There is a strategic path toward the roses [words indistinct] our confidence in victory, or in the verses of that anthem that says that our history will grow. Yes, no one should ever doubt it! [applause] Our history has grown and will continue to grow. Our history will not stop, and it will not be crushed by any means, because we have a force and an extraordinary resource. That force, and that resource is man. [applause] To prevent any misunderstanding, when I say man I also mean women. [applause] I mean citizens, patriots, revolutionaries; people, most of whom are enthusiastic, patriotic, and revolutionary. [applause] We must take care of that resource, the most valuable one. Without our people, this country would not have been able to accomplish the feat it is currently accomplishing. Without our people, five years after the special period, we would not have this enormous, conscious, and courageous massive meeting here in Sancti Spiritus. [applause] Without our conscious, courageous, and [words indistinct] people, the Empire would have destroyed the dreams of those who preceded us, of the illustrious men and the great combatants, the heroic men of [word indistinct] of our struggles and our heroic deeds. They tried to swallow us, but we refused to let them swallow us; they tried to annex us, and we said no. The people those days, who were not yet united, when the revolutionaries were probably not a majority yet, said no, and we did not become an annex. They are still trying to swallow us, they still want to annex us, they still want us to be a property of the Empire. This generation, however, our people who have a high awareness, more awareness than ever, say no, and they will not be able to do it. They will not be able to swallow them, they will not be defeated. I believe that today, Cuba is showing the world today that the power of the Empire is not what counts, nor its sophisticated weapons, nor its wealth. What really counts, regardless of the size -- and we are not that small -- what really counts is the determination to fight, the heroism and awareness of the people.

The Empire wants to govern the world and the world is not theirs to govern. The conflicts and problems that arise everywhere have their origin in the poverty imposed by colonialism. The problems of hunger, sickness, instability, which are seen every day in newspapers and on television, are problems that exist in the world, but that do not exist here in Cuba. These problems show the failure of imperialist policies -- the increasing discontent of the people, the impossibility to make them submit. Cuba's example is like a star high in the sky. Cuba is a brilliant star that cannot be extinguished and that serves as an inspiration and as an example. When we struggle here and resist here, we are struggling and resisting not only for ourselves, but for all the peoples of the world. [applause]

How can one explain that a country, such as the United States, the world's richest nation, reduces the social security benefits to its citizens? How can one explain why tens of millions of people have had their medical benefits reduced? How can one explain reductions to the education budget? How can one explain the drop in social benefits to U.S. workers and the U.S. people, which they gained bit by bit over the past 50 years? How can one explain that this does not mean a failure of the system? The system has created hatred against immigrants and fear of immigrants.

After impoverishing the world, three-fourths of the world -- a fourth of the world has been saved as they are developed countries -- in which hundreds of millions of human beings -- Indians, Africans, Asians -- were sacrificed to be able to amass that wealth, now they are terrified of the poverty they have created.

Even the World Bank talks about social problems, and it is part of the social problems. The IMF does the same thing. The main world financial organizations are controlled by the imperialists who recommend reductions in the health, education, and social security budgets. They impose policies that compound the problems of poverty and unemployment. How are immigration phenomena not to take place? Despite of the fact they talked so much about the Berlin Wall, they are building a similar wall on the Mexican border or, better said, within Mexican territory, because that side of the border was also Mexican territory. It was Mexican territory until they took it away from Mexico in an unjust and cruel war. They are building there a wall 100 times bigger than the Berlin Wall, where every day people who try to cross that border sustain accidents, are mistreated, or are even killed. They come from Central America, South America, and many parts of the world.

They are now terrorized over this phenomenon. A similar situation is taking place in Europe. This situation has given rise to the emergence of feelings of xenophobia, of hatred against immigrants. This is the system that they defend. This is the system to whose principles they would like us to adhere. And it is necessary that each of our compatriots understand this, like the immense majority of the people today understand. Anyone can understand that the most terrible thing that could happen to anyone who knew independence, liberty, justice, and dignity would be to have to live in societies like those, not even societies like those, in poor societies with that philosophy, with that lack of dignity, honor. They have imposed these types of societies on many peoples of the world, societies that are at the very root of the instability and conflict we see all over the world.

Next to this, our country is a sea of peace and union! Our country is a sea of agreement with the objectives that are pursued. We must realize that beyond the material difficulties, there are elements associated to the soul of men, to the conscience of men, to the moral dignity of men that can never be ignored. Those who they force to live like animals or those who resign themselves to living like animals, do not deserve to be called men.

History has known all sorts of injustices for centuries, thousands of years, beginning with slavery, which lasted in Cuba until a little over 100 years ago. Look at how long, how many centuries, even millenniums, injustice prevailed. When one is able to reach this dream of liberty, independence, justice, and dignity, one cannot take a step backward -- never. And I say this with sincerity: It would be 10,000 times better to die. [applause]

Our enemies know that these [words indistinct] people who would rather die than return to the past. And they must know the price they would have to pay if they attempt to make us return to that past. [applause] We carry our difficulties and shortages with honor, with the dignity of those who did not give up. [applause] With the dignity of those who will never kneel. [applause]

This is what I wanted to say to you, my dear CDR members, my dear compatriots from Sancti Spiritus and Cuba. [applause] That is why once more and with pride and with great satisfaction, like the satisfaction we have had this afternoon, I say: Socialism or death. Fatherland or death. We will win!