July 26: Cuba’s Revolution, Morality and Solidarity

Ron Ridenour

Fifty-eight years ago, on July 26, 1953, 160 Cuban rebels attacked Moncada Barracks near Santiago de Cuba. Had the rebels been able to take the fort with 1,000 troops—a good possibility—it would have started a revolution that might well have defeated the dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista within a short time.

Fidel leading the revolutionaries

Fidel, the leader

The main cause for failure was a missing vehicle with their heavy weaponry. Nevertheless they were able to cause three times the numbers of casualties that they suffered. Nearly one-half of the rebels were killed but most of them died under or following torture.

After being held for 76 days in isolation without access to reading material, Fidel Castro, the 26-year old leader, came into a courtroom filled with 100 soldiers. He gave a rousing defense of the need for revolution to topple the dictator and change the corrupt and brutal socio-economic system so that all could be fed, obtain education and health care, so that farmers could own land and all have a voice.


Fidel leads the revolutionaries

In his five-hour speech, Fidel said,

“The right of rebellion against tyranny, Honorable Judges, has been recognized from the most ancient times to the present day by men of all creeds, ideas and doctrines.”

Instead of asking for acquittal, he demanded to be with his brother and sister rebels in prison. “Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me!”

Fidel Castro considers ethics and morality to be essential for revolutions. In My Life: Fidel Castro, the 2006 interview book with Ignacio Ramonet, Fidel speaks of these highest principles on numerous occasions. He asserts that “especially ethics” is what he learned most from the national liberation hero, José Martí.

After following liberated Cuba for half-a-century, having lived and worked there for eight years, I find that during its guerrilla struggle, from December 2, 1956 to January 1, 1959 the revolutionaries acted in a moral manner. Cuba’s revolutionary armed struggle was exceptional in this way. As Fidel told Ramonet, “We did not kill any prisoners”, “not even one blow” was dealt. That is “our principle”; “All revolutionary thought begins with a bit of ethics.”

Che in Congo

Che Guevara in Congo

I think that is also the key reason why so many millions of people the world over love and respect Che Guevara: his moral stance, his example as a just revolutionary leader. This from “Socialism and Man:”

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love…Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, the most sacred cause, and make it one and indivisible…one must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme dogmatism and cold scholasticism, into an isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.”

I agree with Fidel and Che. Revolutionaries must be ethical in vision and use morality in practice, both at home and in solidarity with the oppressed everywhere. As Fidel told Lee Lockwood in Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel:

“Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies…Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.”

I define ethics in this way: Life shall not be abused or destroyed by our conscious hand—without being attacked or oppressed beyond limits of toleration. A moral person, organization, political party or government acts in daily life and in the struggle for justice with that ethic in mind. These are my thoughts on morality:

1. We act so that no one person, race or ethnic group is either over or under another.

2. In combat against oppressors and invaders, we do not kill non-combatant civilians nor forcefully recruit them, or use them as hostages.

3. We struggle to create equality for all.

4. We abolish all profit-making based upon the exploitation of labor or the oppression of any person, group of people, class or caste. Instead, we build an economy based upon principles of justice and equality, one in which no one goes hungry, sharing equitably our resources and production.

5. We struggle to create a political system based upon participation where all have a voice in decision-making about vital matters with relation to local, national and international policies.

6. We struggle to eliminate alienation in each of us.

Ethics and Sri Lanka Tamils

True, solidarity activists have no choice. We must support a people under attack by aggressors wherever in the world. That is what I see as our task as anti-war activists concerning Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine…just as we did in the wars against Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia and the South Africans…

For us solidarity activists, and governments viewing themselves as progressive-socialist-communist-revolutionary, I believe our task must be to press for the very lives and rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka where governments have systematically oppressed and repressed them for half-a-century.

As a solidarity activist—who advocates the right to resist and the necessity to conduct armed struggle once peaceful means fail to change oppressive governments from terrorizing us—I denounce all perpetrators of terrorism, no matter the party or cause, and demand they change tactics to ones that are morally in accordance with our ideology embracing fellowship with justice and equality.

Tamil Rebels

Tamil Tigers

I find that most armed movements commit acts of atrocities, even acts of terror in the long course of warfare. This has sometimes been the case with the Colombian FARC and Palestinian PFLP, for instance. But I support them in their righteous struggle. They are up against much greater military and economic forces that practice state terror endemically. The ANC in South Africa’s war for liberation also committed horrendous acts of ‘terrorism’.

Most of the dozens of Tamil groups that took up arms, at one time or another, considered themselves Marxists, and many looked up to Che Guevara and Cuba’s revolution as an ideal. But they nearly all became terrorists in much of their actions. Hear what Che Guevara meant about the use of violence.

“There are always laggards who remain behind but our function is not to liquidate them, to crush them and force them to bow to an armed vanguard, but to educate them by leading them forward and getting them to follow us because of our example, or as Fidel called it ‘moral compulsion.’” (Speech “From somewhere in the world”)

This Sri Lanka Tamil ‘story’ is a tragedy especially for the Tamils; also for the world of humanity. Most people not directly involved, however, do not react because they don’t know what they can do. There are so many tragedies going on at the same time. Cynical brutality is constantly unleashed by major capitalist enterprises and their governments in the ‘first’ world, much of the former ‘second’ world as well as by national capitalists in the ‘third’ world. We live in what I call the Permanent War Age. Brutality—surveillance—suffering is the norm.

In those countries where there is little brutality, in comparison, and no aggressive war-making (I speak here of the governments of Cuba and other ALBA—Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America—countries) the leaders see the necessity of having political ties with some war criminal governments, such as Sri Lanka. I gather that this leads them to ignore their moral solidarity principles and abandon the oppressed Tamils.

On this July 26 day of celebration, I call upon the Cuban government, as well as all members of the ALBA alliance, to return to the moral principles expressed by Fidel and Che and do the right thing by the Tamil people. Call for an independent international investigation into the war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government, and use your moral clout, your revolutionary record to demand an end to the genocide against this people.

If morality does not become integral to our struggles, I’m afraid we are headed for a worldwide moral collapse, which is already underway due to the intrinsic immorality of capitalism and its imperialism; the foundering of contemporary socialism; and the rise of fascism throughout much of the world.

50 YEARS ON… And the same challenge of making a Revolution

Lázaro Barredo Medina, GRANMA

“THE dictatorship has been defeated. The joy is immense. And yet, there still remains much to do. We won’t deceive ourselves by believing that everything will be much easier from now on; perhaps it will be much more difficult.”

This is what Commander in Chief Fidel Castro told the people on January 8, 1959, the day of his entry into Havana. Many people could never imagine the immense challenge that they would live to experience.

Suffice it to say that just a few days later, Fidel proclaimed the right to self-determination in terms of relations with the United States and immediately, the aggressions, attempts on his life and anger on the part of U.S. politicians began, evidence of which can be seen in speeches and articles of the time, as in an editorial of Time magazine, the mouthpiece of the most conservative sectors, entitled: “Fidel Castro’s neutralism is a challenge for the United States.”

But the Cuban people could not be neutral in the face of the United States. The triumph of the Revolution that January 1959 signified for the Cuban nation, for the first time in its history, the real possibility of exercising the right to self-determination. From that moment on, neither the U.S. president, Congress nor its ambassadors could continue making decisions on what could or could not be done in Cuba. The bitter dependence had been brought to an end; a dependence that saw U.S. governors and ambassadors enjoying a degree of power in Cuba that was far greater than the actual power that they had – with respect to decision-making – within the U.S. federal government or in relation to any of the 50 states that make up the U.S.A.

When full national independence was achieved, the Revolution began to exercise that right by immediately applying the program that Fidel had announced during the Moncada trial of 1953 and which is contained in his historic self-defense speech History Will Absolve Me.

Cuba established the economic and social regime that it believed was most just and established a socialist state with participatory democracy, equality and social justice.

The country’s economy was characterized by limited industrial development, essentially depending on sugar production and a latifundia agricultural economy, where landowners controlled 75% of the total arable land.

Most of the country’s economic activity and its mineral resources were managed by U.S. capital, which controlled 1.2 million hectares of land (a quarter of the productive territory) and most of the sugar industry, nickel production, oil refineries, the electricity and telephone services and the majority of bank credits. Likewise, the U.S. market controlled approximately 70% of Cuban imports and exports, within a system of highly dependent volumes of exchange: in 1958, Cuba exported products worth 733 million pesos and imported 777 million pesos worth of goods.

The prevailing social picture was characterized by a high unemployment and illiteracy, a precarious healthcare, social assistance and housing system for the vast majority of the population, as well as abysmal differences in living conditions between urban and rural populations. There was a high degree of polarization and unequal distribution of income; in 1958, 50% of the population earned just 11% of total income, while a 5% minority controlled 26%. Racial and gender discrimination, begging, prostitution and social and administrative corruption were widespread.

Addressing the social and economic problems in Cuban society could no longer be put off and could only be resolved if the Cuban people had control of their own wealth and natural resources. Thus, using the 1940 Constitution and in line with international law, Cuba exercised its right to take control of these resources and assumed total responsibility for this action. The island paid compensation to all nationals from third countries (Canada, Spain, Britain, etc.) with the exception of U.S. nationals, given that that government rejected the provisions outright and transformed the Cuban government’s decision into a pretext for unleashing a war unprecedented in the history of bilateral relations between the two nations.

Not only did the Revolution hand over land to campesinos who, up until then, had been subjected to semi-feudal conditions of production and forced to live in extreme poverty, but it also determined that that all the country’s resources should be allocated to national economic development and improving the material and living conditions of the population. To give just one example, in the 1980s alone, approximately 60 billion pesos were allocated to the construction of productive and social facilities.

The process of industrialization underway paved the way for economic and productive diversification. Under the Revolution and up until the economic crisis which began with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the East European socialist bloc between 1989 and 1991 – what we in Cuba call the Special Period – the country’s capacity for producing steel grew 14-fold, fertilizer increased six-fold, the oil refining industry quadrupled (not counting the new refinery in Cienfuegos), the textile industry grew seven-fold, tourism three-fold, to mention but a few. The state also created complete ranges and new industries such as machinery, mechanics, electronics, the production of medical equipment, a pharmaceutical industry, construction materials, a glass industry and ceramics, as well as making investments to increase and upgrade the sugar, food and light industries. In addition to these endeavors, we have the development of biotechnology, genetic engineering and other branches of science.

The country has also made great efforts in terms of improving its infrastructure. Electricity generation has risen eight-fold and water storage capacity has increased 310 times, from 29 million cubic meters in 1958 to nine billion-plus cubic meters today. There has been diversification with respect to roads and freeways and modernization of ports and other areas. Social needs have been covered fairly well, except for housing, which has been Cuba’s biggest problem.

The progressive growth and diversification of productive potential and the application of a widespread social program has allowed the nation to confront the problem of unemployment. In 1958, with a population of six million inhabitants, approximately one third of the economically active population was unemployed. Of this figure, 45% of the unemployed lived in rural areas while, out of 200,000 women in work, 70% were employed as domestic servants. Today, with 11 million inhabitants, the number of people in work is in excess of 4.5 million. Over 40% of workers are women and today they represent more than 60% of the nation’s technical and professional sectors.

In 1958, the number of illiterate and semi-illiterate people in Cuba stood at two million. The average academic level of 15-plus year-olds was third grade, more than 600,000 children did not attend school and 58% of teachers were unemployed. Just 45.9% of school-age children were enrolled and half of them did not attend classes. Only 6% of those enrolled finished elementary education. Universities were available to just 20,000 students.

The education sector received immediate attention from the revolutionary government. Its first task was to develop a masse literacy campaign with the participation of the population. An extensive network of schools was constructed throughout the country and more than 300,000 teachers and professors were in fulltime employment in this sector. The average academic level for those aged 15-plus year-olds rose to ninth grade. One hundred per cent of school age children are enrolled in schools, some 98% complete elementary education and 91% complete junior high. One in every 11 citizens is a university graduate and one in eight has technical-professional qualifications. There are 650,000 students in the country’s universities today and all education is free of charge. Education and vocational skills are also guaranteed for 100% of children with physical or mental disabilities, who attend special schools.

The precarious situation in 1958 with respect to public health was characterized by an infant mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births and a maternal mortality rate of 118 per 10,000. The mortality rate for those suffering from gastroenteritis was 41.2 per 100,000, and from tuberculosis, 15.9 per 100,000. In rural areas, 36% of the population suffered from intestinal parasites, 31% from malaria, 14% from tuberculosis and 13% from typhoid. Life expectancy at birth was estimated at 58.8 years.

Around 61% of hospital beds and 65% of the nation’s 6,500 doctors were concentrated in the capital. In the other provinces, medical coverage was one doctor for every 2,378 inhabitants and there was just one hospital for all the country’s rural areas.

Today, healthcare is free of charge and Cuba has more than 70,000 doctors, providing coverage of one for every 194 inhabitants. Almost 30,000 of them are providing services in over 60 different countries. A national network of more than 700 hospitals and polyclinics has been created. Thanks to a widespread vaccination campaign (every child currently receives vaccines against 13 different illnesses) diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, tetanus, rubella, mumps and hepatitis B have been almost entirely eradicated. The infant mortality rate is 5.3 for every 1,000 live births and life expectancy exceeds 77 years.

There is also a series of advanced medical services that are not considered as “basic” in the international arena, and are provided completely free of charge, such as intensive care units in pediatric and general hospitals, cardiovascular surgery, transplant services, special perinatal care, treatment for chronic renal failure, and special services for occupational and physical rehabilitation.

The revolutionary state did not focus its attention solely on economic and social measures. It also embarked on efforts to establish an internal legal system to facilitate the right to self-determination via the population’s direct participation in discussions, analyses and the passing of the country’s principal laws. The most notable of these was the 1976 Constitution, supported by 97% of Cubans aged 16 and over through a referendum, as well as other momentous laws like the Penal Code, the Civil Code, the Family Code, the Children and Young People’s Code, the Labor and Social Security Code and many others.

Likewise, the self-determination of the Cuban people is expressed through the right to defend the nation against foreign aggression. Today, more than four million Cubans – workers, campesinos, and university students – are organized in militia groups have access to weapons in their campuses, factories and in rural areas.

However, since 1959, Cuba has had to confront the hostility of 10 U.S. administrations that have attempted to limit its right to self-determination through the use of aggression and the unilateral imposition of a criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade.

One of the universally accepted principles of international law is that state cannot be allowed to coerce another in order to deny it the right to exercise its sovereign rights. Article 24 of the UN Charter states that, in the context of international relations, nations must refrain from using threats or force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

Over the past 45 years, the United States has prohibited any trade with Cuba, including foodstuffs and medicines; it cancelled the Cuban sugar quota; prohibited its citizens from traveling to Cuba via the imposition of heavy sanctions; prohibited the re-export of U.S. products or items containing U.S. components or technology to Cuba from third countries; prescribed that banks in third countries should maintain Cuban bank accounts in dollars or use that currency in their transactions with the Cuban nation; has systematically intervened to prevent or hinder trade with or financial assistance to Cuba on the part of governments, institutions and citizens from other countries and international organizations.

In the 1960s these reprisals forced Cuba to structurally reconstitute its economic relations when and establish its essential markets in countries in the former East European bloc – specifically in the Soviet Union – which meant that the country had to embark on an almost total re-conversion of its industrial technology, means of transport, and provisions, etc.

When Cuba lost its natural markets in Eastern Europe, the U.S. government intensified its blockade via the 1992 Torricelli Act, which used the pretext of “democracy and human rights” to prohibit U.S. subsidiaries located in third countries and subject to the laws of those nations from engaging in commercial or financial operations with Cuba (particularly in respect to food and medicines), and punishing these by prohibiting the entry into U.S. ports for 180 days of vessels transporting goods to or from Cuba or on behalf of Cuba, measures that – given their extraterritorial nature – do not just prejudice Cuba but also harm the sovereignty of other nations and the international freedom of transportation.

On March 12, 1996, the U.S. government passed the Helms-Burton Ac, further aggravating relations between the two countries and assuming the right to sanction citizens of third countries in U.S. courts, as well as determining their expulsion or denying them and their families entry visas into the United States, with the aim of hindering Cuba’s efforts to recover its economy and hampering its possibilities of securing a greater insertion in the international market. That was also a way of attempting to pressure the Cuban people into relinquishing their efforts of self-determination.

More recently, it has adopted the Bush Plan, an attempt to transform Cuba into a colony through an annexationist program and the sibylline intention to intervene via a pretext of “transition,” a scenario in which the State Department would entrust one of its leaders as “governor,” when the Cuban revolutionary state disappears. This plan, with which George W. Bush decided “to precipitate the day when Cuba becomes a free country,” has intensified the blockade and pressure on the Cuban people by repressing family relations between Cubans resident in the United States and their families on the island; grants million-dollar resources to terrorist groups in Miami, as well as to mercenary subordinates in the U.S. Interests Sections in Havana; and promotes formulas to destabilize the country and redouble international pressure on the island.

That hostility on the part of the U.S. has included other notorious manifestations of aggression, ranging from the military aggression through the Bay of Pigs in 1961, the dirty war carried out by counterrevolutionary gangs heavily supplied by the U.S. CIA, bacteriological warfare on agricultural crops (sugar, tobacco, and citric fruits), animals (swine fever), and humans (hemorrhagic dengue), to sabotage plans, bombings using pirate planes, and assassination attempts on the country’s principal leaders.

The actions of terrorist organizations executing military attacks on Cuba from U.S. territory are notorious, and are publicized and fomented by the Miami media. Groups are constantly recruiting adventurers who are willing to head off to Cuba as agents and saboteurs, who openly declare that they have no fear whatsoever of being brought to justice in U.S. courts.

That is why Cuban patriots have had to leave aside their personal interests to serve those of the nation, even sacrificing their family relationships, in order to infiltrate the ranks of those terrorist groups in order to discover their activities and, with this information, prevent the bloodshed of Cuban and U.S. people. They are willing to pay the price of the political irrationality of the U.S. government, as is the case of the five Cuban heroes unjustly incarcerated in U.S. jails for combating terrorism.

The above is compounded by the heavy military mechanism created by the United States around Cuba and its constant tension-generating activities, as well as the illegal occupation of the Guantánamo Naval Base on Cuban territory (today converted into a horrific prison camp), a part of Cuba rented out by force to the United States in the early 20th century and which the U.S. government refuses to return.

In the early 90’s, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union, isolated and reviled by the international reaction, Cuba absorbed the terrible blow of losing the bulk of its markets in a matter of months and an abrupt descent in its gross domestic product. But the island confirmed that it shone with its own light and that it had never been a satellite of anyone, given that it was able to face that juncture on account of the extraordinary resistance of the majority of Cubans, who have acted on the basis of authentic motivations, values and ethical principles.

The Cuban people have made a conscious decision to support the country’s leadership, not only because they identify the system with their own interests, but also because of the responsible manner in which the state took on the crisis, reorganized its forces and designed a recovery strategy, despite the U.S. blockade and conditions imposed by its European allies.

The sacrifices provoked by that situation have been hard, but it has been possible to endure them because of the undisputed social advances attained, because of the confidence deposited in the country’s leading institutions and because of people’s appreciation that their government is not a decadent one or one that is in management crisis or lacking in strategies, but has confirmed that the population has remained at the center of all its work, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Fifty years have gone by and the liberation process has reached this point following the same direction indicated that night, 50 years ago, when Fidel, speaking to the huge crowd awaiting him in what was the dictatorship’s headquarters, affirmed that everything could be more difficult in the future, because we would have to fight to make the Revolution.

That is the challenge of the struggle currently underway to eradicate vices and exalt virtues, with Fidel as a soldier of ideas serving as a compass in the fight for freedom and independence.

Cuba’s enemies are backing their all on the opposite of that. In this world, where politics is a caricature, they cannot comprehend that, in its thinking and action, this Revolution is a process of continuity, and that Fidel will continue to be the leader of the Revolution of today and tomorrow, because, beyond responsibilities and titles, he will continue to be the counselor of ideas to which we will always have recourse, because he has transcended political life to insert himself in an intimate way in the family life of the vast majority of Cubans.

Courtesy: GRANMA

Fidel Reflects on the Elections

Our elections are the antithesis of those held in the United States, not on Sundays but on the first Tuesday of November. Being very rich or having the support of lot of money is what matters the most there. Huge amounts are later on invested in publicity, specialized in brain washing and the creation of conditioned reflexes.

With honorable exceptions, no one can hope to be appointed to an important post without being backed by millions of dollars.

Being elected President in the US requires hundreds of millions, which come from the coffers of big monopolies. Elections can be won by a candidate earning a minority of votes.

Less and less citizens are going to the ballots; there are many who would rather go to work or spend their time doing anything else. There is fraud, tricks, discrimination against ethnic minorities and even violence.

Having more than 90 per cent of all citizens voting in the elections and school children guarding the ballots is an unheard of experience; it’s hard to believe that this occurs in one of the “dark corners of this world”, a harassed and blockaded country named Cuba. That is how we exercise the vigorous muscles of our political awareness.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 19, 2007
6:12 p.m.

Fidel reflects: They will never have Cuba

I hope that no-one say that I am gratuitously attacking Bush. Surely they will understand my reasons for strongly criticizing his policies.

Robert Woodward is an American journalist and writer who became famous for the series of articles published by The Washington Post, written by him and Carl Bernstein, and which eventually led to the investigation and resignation of Nixon. He is author and co-author of ten best-sellers. With his fearsome style he manages to wrench confessions from his interviewees. In his book, State of Denial, he says that on June 18, 2003, three months after the Iraq war had begun, as he was on the way out of his White House office following an important meeting, Bush slapped Jay Garner on the back and said to him:

“Hey, Jay, you want to do Iran?”

“Sir, the boys and I talked about that and we want to hold out for Cuba. We think the rum and the cigars are a little better…The women are prettier.”

Bush laughed. “You got it. You got Cuba.”

Bush was betrayed by his subconscious. It was in his mind when he declared what scores of dark corners should be expecting to happen and Cuba occupies a special place among those dark corners.

Garner, a recently retired three-star general who had been appointed Head of the Post-War Planning Office for Iraq, created by secret National Security Presidential Directive, was considered by Bush an exceptional man to carry out his war strategy. Appointed for the post on January 20, 2003, he was replaced on May 11 of that same year at the urging of Rumsfeld. He didn’t have the nerve to explain to Bush his strong disagreements on the matter of the strategy to be pursued in Iraq. He was thinking of another one with identical purpose. In the past few weeks, thousands of marines and a number of US aircraft carriers, with their naval supporting forces, have been maneuvering in the Persian Gulf, a few miles off the Iranian territory.

It will very soon be 50 years since our people started suffering a cruel blockade; thousands of our sons and daughters have died or have been mutilated as a result of the dirty war against Cuba, the only country in the world to which an Adjustment Act has been applied inciting illegal emigration, yet another cause of death for Cuban citizens, including women and children; more than 15 years ago Cuba lost her principal markets and sources of supply for foods, energy, machinery, raw materials and long-term low-interest financing.

First the socialist bloc collapsed followed almost immediately by the USSR, dismantled piece by piece. The empire tightened and internationalized the blockade; the proteins and calories which were quite well distributed despite our deficiencies were reduced approximately by 40 percent; diseases such as optical neuritis and others appeared; the shortage of medicines, also a result of the blockade, became an everyday reality. Medicines were allowed to enter only as a charitable act, to demoralize us; these, in their turn, became a source of illegal business and black-market dealings.

Inevitably, the “special period” struck. This was the sum total of all the consequences of the aggression and it forced us to take desperate measures whose harmful effects were bolstered by the colossal media machine of the empire. Everyone was awaiting, some with sadness and others with oligarchic glee, the crumbling of the Cuban Revolution.

The access to convertible currency greatly harmed our social consciousness, to a greater or a lesser degree, due to the inequalities and ideological weaknesses it created.

Throughout its lifetime, the Revolution has taught the people, training hundreds of thousands of teachers, doctors, scientists, intellectuals, artists, computer engineers and other professionals with university and post-graduate degrees in dozens of professions. This storehouse of wealth has allowed us to reduce infant mortality to low levels, unthinkable in any Third World country, and to raise life expectancy as well as the average educational level of the population up to the ninth grade.

By offering Cuba oil under favorable terms of payment at a time when oil prices were escalating dramatically, the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution brought a significant relief and opened up new possibilities, since our country was already beginning to produce her own energy in ever-growing amounts.

Concerned over its interests in that country, the empire had for years been planning to destroy that Revolution, and so it attempted to do it in April 2002, as it will attempt to do again as many times as it can. This is why the Bolivarian revolutionaries are preparing to resist.

Meanwhile, Bush has intensified his plans for an occupation of Cuba, to the point of proclaiming laws and an interventionist government in order to install a direct imperial administration.

Based on the privileges granted to the United States in Bretton Woods and Nixon’s swindle when he removed the gold standard which placed a limit on the issuing of paper money, the empire bought and paid with paper tens of trillions of dollars, more than twelve digit figures. This is how it preserved an unsustainable economy. A large part of the world currency reserves are in US Treasury bonds and bills. For this reason, many would rather not have a dollar crisis like the one in 1929 that would turn those paper bills into thin air. Today, the value of one dollar in gold is at least eighteen times less than what it was in the Nixon years. The same happens with the value of the reserves in that currency.

Those paper bills have kept their low current value because fabulous amounts of increasingly expensive and modern weapons can be purchased with them; weapons that produce nothing. The United States exports more weapons than anyone else in the world. With those same paper bills, the empire has developed a most sophisticated and deadly system of weapons of mass destruction with which it sustains its world tyranny.

Such power allows it to impose the idea of transforming foods into fuels and to shatter any initiative and commitment to avoid global warming, which is visibly accelerating.

Hunger and thirst, more violent hurricanes and the surge of the sea is what Tyranians and Trojans stand to suffer as a result of imperial policies. It is only through drastic energy savings that humanity will have a respite and hopes of survival for the species; but the consumer societies of the wealthy nations are absolutely heedless of that.

Cuba will continue to develop and improve the combative capacities of her people, including our modest but active and efficient defensive weapons industry which multiplies our capacity to face the invaders no matter where they may be, and the weapons they possess. We shall continue acquiring the necessary materials and the pertinent fire power, even though the notorious Gross Domestic Product as measured by capitalism may not be growing, for their GDP includes such things as the value of privatizations, drugs, sexual services and advertising, while it excludes many others like free educational and health services for all citizens.

From one year to the next the standard of living can be improved by raising knowledge, self-esteem and the dignity of people. It will be enough to reduce wastage and the economy will grow. In spite of everything, we will keep on growing as necessary and as possible.

“Freedom costs dearly, and it is necessary to either resign ourselves to live without it or to decide to buy it for its price”, said Martí.

“Whoever attempts to conquer Cuba will only gather the dust of her soil soaked in blood, if he does not perish in the fight”, exclaimed Maceo.

We are not the first revolutionaries to think that way! And we shall not be the last!

One man may be bought, but never a people.

Fate decreed that I could survive the empire’s murderous machine. Shortly, it will be a year since I became ill and, while I hovered between life and death, I stated in the Proclamation of July 31, 2006: “I do not harbor the slightest doubt that our people and our Revolution will fight until the last drop of blood.”

Mr. Bush, don’t you doubt that either!

I assure you that you will never have Cuba!

Fidel Castro Ruz
June 17, 2007
2:03 p.m.

Fidel reflects: Nobody wants to take the bull by the horns

May 22, 2007

On March 28, less than two months ago, when Bush proclaimed his diabolical idea of producing fuel from food, after a meeting with the most important U.S. automobile manufacturers, I wrote my first reflection.

The head of the empire was bragging that the United States was now the first world producer of ethanol, using corn as raw material. Hundreds of factories were being built or enlarged in the United States just for that purpose.

During those days, the industrialized and rich nations were already toying with the same idea of using all kinds of cereals and oil seeds, including sunflower and soy which are excellent sources of proteins and oils. That’s why I chose to title that reflection: “More than 3 billion people in the world are being condemned to a premature death from hunger and thirst.”

The dangers for the environment and for the human species were a topic that I had been meditating on for years. What I never imagined was the imminence of the danger. We as yet were not aware of the new scientific information about the celerity of climatic changes and their immediate consequences.

On April 3, after Bush’s visit to Brazil, I wrote my reflections about “The internationalization of genocide.”

At the same time, I warned that the deadly and sophisticated weapons that were being produced in the United States and in other countries could annihilate the life of the human species in a matter of days.

To give humanity a respite and an opportunity to science and to the dubious good sense of the decision-makers, it is not necessary to take food away from two-thirds of the inhabitants of the planet.

We have supplied information about the savings that could be made simply by replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones, using approximate calculations. They are numbers followed by 11 and 12 zeros. The first corresponds to hundreds of billions of dollars saved in fuel each year, and the second to trillions of dollars in necessary investments to produce that electricity by merely changing light bulbs, meaning less than 10 percent of the total expenses and a considerable saving of time.

With complete clarity, we have expressed that CO2 emissions, besides other pollutant gases, have been leading us quickly towards a rapid and inexorable climatic change.

It was not easy to deal with these topics because of their dramatic and almost fatal content.

The fourth reflection was titled: “It is imperative to immediately have an energy revolution.” Proof of the waste of energy in the United States and of the inequality of its distribution in the world is that in the year 2005, there were less than 15 automobiles for each thousand people in China; there were 514 in Europe and 940 in the United States.

The last of these countries, one of the richest territories in hydrocarbons, today suffers from a large deficit of oil and gas. According to Bush, these fuels must be extracted from foods, which are needed for the more and more hungry bellies of the poor of this Earth.

On May Day 2006, I ended my speech to the people with the following words:

“If the efforts being made by Cuba today were imitated by all the other countries in the world, the following would happen:

“1st The proved and potential hydrocarbon reserves would last twice as long.

“2nd The pollution unleashed on the environment by these hydrocarbons would be halved.

“3rd The world economy would have a break, since the enormous volume of transportation means and electrical appliances should be recycled.

“4th A fifteen-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants could be declared.”

Changing light bulbs was the first thing we did in Cuba, and we have cooperated with various Caribbean nations to do the same. In Venezuela, the government has replaced 53 million incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent in more than 95% of the homes receiving electrical power. All the other measures to save energy are being resolutely carried out.

Everything I am saying has been proven.

Why is it that we just hear rumors without the leadership of industrialized countries openly committing to an energy revolution, which implies changes in concepts and hopes about growth and consumerism that have contaminated quite a few poor nations?

Could it be that there is some other way of confronting the extremely serious dangers threatening us all?

Nobody wants to take the bull by the horns.

Fidel reflects: The English Submarine

May 21, 2007

The press dispatches bring the news; it belongs to the Astute Class, the first of its kind to be constructed in Great Britain in more than two decades.

“A nuclear reactor will allow it to navigate without refuelling during its 25 year of service. Since it makes its own oxigen and drinking water, it can circumnavigate the globe without needing to surface,” was the statement to the BBC by Nigel Ward, head of the shipyards.

“It’s a mean looking beast”, says another.

“Looming above us is a construction shed 12 storeys high. Within it are 3 nuclear-powered submarines at different stages of construction,” assures yet another.

Someone says that “it can observe the movements of cruisers in New York Harbor right from the English Channel, drawing close to the coast without being detected and listen to conversations on cell phones”. “In addition, it can transport special troops in mini-subs that, at the same time, will be able to fire lethal Tomahawk missiles for distances of 1,400 miles”, a fourth person declares.

El Mercurio, the Chilean newspaper, emphatically spreads the news.

The UK Royal Navy declares that it will be one of the most advanced in the world. The first of them will be launched on June 8 and will go into service in January of 2009.

It can transport up to 38 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Spearfish torpedoes, capable of destroying a large warship. It will possess a permanent crew of 98 sailors who will even be able to watch movies on giant plasma screens.

The new Astute will carry the latest generation of Block 4 Tomahawk torpedoes which can be reprogrammed in flight. It will be the first one not having a system of conventional periscopes and, instead, will be using fibre optics, infrared waves and thermal imaging.

“BAE Systems, the armaments manufacturer, will build two other submarines of the same class,” AP reported. The total cost of the three submarines, according to calculations that will certainly be below the mark, is 7.5 billion dollars.

What a feat for the British! The intelligent and tenacious people of that nation will surely not feel any sense of pride. What is most amazing is that with such an amount of money, 75 thousand doctors could be trained to care for 150 million people, assuming that the cost of training a doctor would be one-third of what it costs in the United States. You could build 3 thousand polyclinics, outfitted with sophisticated equipment, ten times what our country possesses.

Cuba is currently training thousands of young people from other countries as medical doctors.

In any remote African village, a Cuban doctor can impart medical knowledge to any youth from the village or from the surrounding municipality who has the equivalent of a grade twelve education, using videos and computers energized by a small solar panel; the youth does not even have to leave his hometown, nor does he need to be contaminated with the consumer habits of a large city.

The important thing is the patients who are suffering from malaria or any other of the typical and unmistakable diseases that the student will be seeing together the doctor.

The method has been tested with surprising results. The knowledge and practical experience accumulated for years have no possible comparison.

The non-lucrative practice of medicine is capable of winning over all noble hearts.

Since the beginning of the Revolution, Cuba has been engaged in training doctors, teachers and other professionals; with a population of less than 12 million inhabitants, today we have more Comprehensive General Medicine specialists than all the doctors in sub-Saharan Africa where the population exceeds 700 million people.

We must bow our heads in awe after reading the news about the English submarine. It teaches us, among other things, about the sophisticated weapons that are needed to maintain the untenable order developed by the United States imperial system.

We cannot forget that for centuries, and until recently, England was called the Queen of the Seas. Today, what remains of that privileged position is merely a fraction of the hegemonic power of her ally and leader, the United States.

Churchill said: Sink the Bismarck! Today Blair says: Sink whatever remains of Great Britain’s prestige!

For that purpose, or for the holocaust of the species, is what his “marvellous submarine” will be good for.

Fidel Reflects: The unanimous opinion

May 16, 2007

At the 6th Hemispheric Meeting in Havana, when the discussion turned to the subject of production of biofuels from foodstuffs, which are constantly getting more expensive, the huge majority voiced their opposition with indignation. But it was undeniable that some individuals with prestige, authority and good faith had been won over by the idea that the planet’s biomass would suffice for both things in a relatively short time, mindless of the urgency to produce the foods, which are already scarce enough, that would be used as raw material for ethanol and agridiesel.

On the other hand, when the debate on the Free Trade Agreements with the United States began, several dozen people took part and all of them unanimously condemned both the bilateral and multilateral forms of such agreements with the imperialist power.

Taking into account the need for space, I shall return to the method of summarizing in order to present three eloquent speeches made by Latin American personalities who expressed extremely interesting concepts with great clarity and distinctiveness. As in all the summaries in previous reflections, the authors’ exact manner of presentation is respected.

ALBERTO ARROYO (Mexico, Red mexicana de Acción contra el Libre Comercio- Mexican Action Network against Free Trade).

I would like to share with you the new plans of the empire and attempt to alert the rest of the continent about something new which is on the upswing or that is coming forward as a new strategy for a new phase of the United States’ offensive. NAFTA or the FTA of North America was merely the first step of something that it wants for the entire continent.

The new attempt does not seem to take into account the defeat in the implementation of the FTAA, which even in it’s Plan “B” recognizes that it cannot implement what it calls the comprehensive FTAA simultaneously in all the countries of the continent; it will try proceeding, piece by piece, negotiating bilateral Free Trade Agreements.

It succeeded in signing with Central America, but Costa Rica has not ratified it. In the case of the Andean nations, it has not even succeeded in sitting down at the bargaining table with all the countries, but only with two of them; and with these two it has not been able to conclude negotiations.

What is so new about the SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America)? I see three fundamental issues:

First: To strengthen military and security structures in order to confront the resistance of the peoples is precisely its reaction to the triumph of the movement that is jeopardizing its plans.

It is not a question of simply stationing military bases in danger zones or in areas with a high level of strategic natural resources, but trying to establish a close coordination, with plans concerted with the countries, in order to improve the security structures which are a way of confronting the social movements as if they were criminals.

This is the first novel aspect.

The second element, which also seems new to me: the principal actors in this entire neoliberal scheme were always directly the transnationals. The governments, particularly the United States government, were the spokesmen, the ones who formally carried out the negotiations, but really the interests that they were defending were directly those of the corporations. They were the great actors hidden behind the FTA and the FTAA project.

The novelty of the new SPP scheme is that these actors come out of the blue, take the foreground and the relationship is inverted: the corporate groups directly talking amongst themselves, in the presence of the governments that will then attempt to translate their agreements into policies, rule changes, changes of laws, etc. It was not enough for them now to privatize the public corporations; they are privatizing policy per se. The businessmen had never directly defined economic policy.

The SPP starts in a meeting, let’s say it’s called, “A meeting for the prosperity of North America”; they were tri-national meetings of businessmen.

Among the operative agreements being taken up by the SPP, one is the creation of tri-national committees by sectors, –what they call “captains of industry”– so that these define a strategic development plan of the sector in the North American region. In other words, Ford is multiplied or divided into three parts: that is, the Ford Corporation in the United States, the subsidiary of Ford in Mexico and the subsidiary of Ford in Canada decide the strategy for the auto industry sector in North America. It’s the Ford Motor Company speaking to a mirror, with its own employees, with the directors of auto companies in Canada and in Mexico, to agree on a strategic plan that they will present to their governments which will translate and implement them into concrete economic policies.

There is a scheme to incorporate the security element; second point, to directly privatize the negotiations; and the third new aspect of this structure is perhaps, remembering a saying of our classic grandparents, that phrase of Engels where he was explaining that when the people are ready to take power through the mechanisms of formal democracy, like the zero on a thermometer or the 100, the rules of the game change: water will either freeze or boil, and even though we are speaking about bourgeois democracies, they will be first ones to break the rules.

The Free Trade Agreements have to go through congresses, and the fact is that it is getting more difficult to have them ratified by congresses, including the Congress of the empire, the United States Congress.

They are saying that this is not an international treaty therefore it doesn’t have to get approved by the congresses. But, as it does touch on issues that disrupt the legal framework in our countries, they will present in bit by bit; they will decide on a modification to legislation in a minute, and another one in the next minute; executive decrees to be implemented, changes in operative regulations, rules for standard functioning, but never the whole package.

Even though they were negotiated behind our backs and behind the backs of all peoples in general, sooner or later the Free Trade Agreements will be translated into a written text that will go to the congresses and then we will know what it was that they agreed to. They would like us never to know what was agreed to, they will only let us see fragments of the strategy, because it is never going to get translated into a complete text.

I shall close with a story so that we can realize the degree of sophistication, with regards to security, that these agreements and operative mechanisms of integration of security apparatuses have reached.

A short while ago, a plane took off from Toronto with tourists headed for a vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. While the plane was on the runway, the passenger list was examined again more carefully, and they discovered that there was someone there from Bush’s list of terrorists.

As soon as the plane entered American air space –when you fly out of Toronto, American air space begins after you pass the Great Lakes and, in a jet, this takes a few minutes– two F-16s showed up flying alongside. They led the plane out of American air space and escorted it to Mexican territory where they forced it to land in the military section of the airport; then, they arrested this man and sent his family back.

You can imagine the impression those 200 poor tourists on the plane had, seeing the two armed F-16s flying alongside and rerouting the plane.

Later, it turned out that he was not the terrorist that they thought, and they said to him: “Sorry, you can carry on with your vacation now, and make sure you call your family to come and join you.”

JORGE CORONADO (Costa Rica, Continental Social Alliance)

The struggle against free trade in the region has various features. One of the most devastating projects that have been proposed for the infrastructure, for the appropriation of our biodiversity, is the Puebla-Panama Plan, a strategy that not only appropriates our resources, but comes out of a military strategy of the empire covering the territory from the south of Mexico right up to Colombia, passing through Central America.

In the struggle against hydroelectric dams which uproot and take by force the indigenous and peasant lands there have been cases where, using military repression, they have uprooted various native and peasant communities in the region.

We have the component of the struggle against the mining industry. Canadian, European and American transnationals have been pursuing this appropriation strategy.

We have been confronting the privatization of public services: electrical energy, water, telecommunications; the struggle in the peasant sector to defend seeds, against the patenting of living beings and against the loss of sovereignty to the transgenics.

We have been struggling against labor flexibility, one of the focuses oriented to the sector and, obviously, against the entire picture of dismantlement of our small scale peasant production.

Also, the struggle against the subject of intellectual property, which removes the use of generic medicines from our security, these being the main distribution focus which our social security institutes have in the region .

A central factor in this struggle against free trade has been against the Free Trade Agreements and, particularly, against the Free Trade Agreements with the United States, passed in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, through blood, sweat and tears. And this is not just a rhetorical expression.

In Guatemala, comrades in the struggle have been murdered while they have gone head to head against the treaty approvals. This struggle has allowed us to ensure a coordinating and mobilizing force for the greatest unity of the people’s movement in the region.

In the case of the Honduran Parliament, the deputies walked out, breaking the minimum framework of institutional legality.

We have stated that, within the heart of the people’s movement, this has not signified defeat. We have lost a battle, but it has allowed us to take a qualitative leap forward in terms of organization, unity and experience in the struggle against free trade.

The Popular Social Movement and the people of Costa Rica, which have prevented Costa Rica’s approval of the FTA up until the present, forging unity with various academic, political and even business sectors to create a great national front of diverse and heterogeneous struggle, till now have succeeded in stopping the Costa Rican government, the right-wing neoliberals, and so they have not been able to approve the FTA. Today the possibility of a referendum in Costa Rica to decide the fate of the FTA is being proposed.

We are on the threshold of a fundamental stage in Costa Rica in terms of being able to prevent the advance of the neoliberal agenda; a defeat of this treaty would symbolically mean that we keep on adding up victories, like detaining and bringing FTA to a standstill.

Today we need solidarity in the popular movement, and we request it of the social and popular organizations which come to Costa Rica as international observers. The right-wing is preparing to encourage, if possible, a fraud that will guarantee it a win in the fight that is already lost, and having international observers from the popular movement will be an important contribution to active militant solidarity with our struggle.

Today, after a year, the FTA has not brought any more jobs, any more investments, or better conditions for the trade balance to any country in Central America. Today, in the entire region, we proclaim the slogan of agrarian reform, sovereignty and food security, as a central focus for our eminently agricultural nations.

Today, not just the United States but also Europe would like to appropriate one of the richest areas in biodiversity and natural resources. Today, more than ever, the coordinating focus of our different movements in the Central American region is to confront free trade in its multiple manifestations; hopefully this meeting will help give us coordinating elements, focuses for struggle and joint action that will allow us in this entire hemisphere to advance as one popular force.

We shall not rest in our efforts of organization and struggle until we reach the goal of a new world.

JAIME ESTAY (Chile, coordinator of REDEM – network of world economy studies – and, now professor at the University of Puebla in Mexico.

This crisis, in short, has to do with a manifest non-compliance with the promises that accompanied a group of reforms that began to be applied in Latin America in the 1980’s.

Under the banner of free trade, we were told that we were going to achieve growth of our economies, that we were going to achieve diminished levels of inequality in our countries, along with diminished distances between our countries and the advanced world and, in brief, that we were going to achieve a move towards development in leaps and bounds. In some countries there was even talk about making those leaps and bounds into the First World.

In the matter of new integration or this open regionalism which took off more than 15 years ago, what was proposed was Latin American integration, or what we call Integration of Latin America, at the service of an opening-up process. A whole debate was set up about how we had to integrate in order to open up, an integration that would not be the old-style protectionist integration, but an integration that would bring us better conditions to include ourselves in this global economy, in these markets which, supposedly, since they operated in a free manner, would produce the best possible results for our countries.

This relationship between integration and opening-up, that idea whose supreme objective of integration had to be the opening up of our countries, took place in effect; our countries effectively opened up and effectively and unfortunately the central theme of Latin American integration consisted in putting it at the service of this opening up.

Some officials were talking about what was called “the pragmatic phase of integration”. We move forward as we are able; that more or less became the slogan. If what we need is to trade more, let us concentrate on trading more; if what we want is to sign a bunch of little agreements among countries, bilateral agreements or agreements between three or four countries, let us go in that direction, and at some point we shall be able to call this Latin American Integration.

The balance is clearly negative. I think that there is recognition, greater on various levels now, that what we have been calling the Integration of Latin America is not integration, it is trade; and it is not Latin American but a tangle of signed agreements between different countries of the region, none of which has lead to a process possessing an effectively Latin American character. The opening-up, at whose service it is supposed that integration must be placed, has not produced any of the results that were announced in terms of economic growth, lessening of inequalities and achieving the sorely desired development that they said was supposed to be coming to us.

What we should point out is that we are witnessing an extreme deterioration of a style of integration that very clearly knew why, how and for whom integration was taking place.

In short, what I am talking about is an integration which was conceived on the foundations of neoliberalism, which has failed, both in terms of its own objectives and in terms of the objectives that we all have a right to demand and to expect in a genuine integration process.

The new Latin American integration was firmly supported by the policies and proposals coming from Washington. To a great extent, those American proposals have become something that will end up devouring its own offspring. Just the act of signing Free Trade Agreements has brought both the Andean community and the Central American Common Market to a crisis point.

An important part of the current crisis in Latin American integration has to do with the advance of the United States hemispheric project, not via the FTAA which managed to be stopped, but via the signing of different free trade treaties.

We can see the appearance of alternatives more clearly in the current panorama of integration. In many ways, ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) is based on principles that are radically different from those belonging to that integration process which is in crisis.

There are many functions left to define and many boundaries to be traced: the meaning of such concepts as “free trade”, “national development”, “market freedom”, “food security and sovereignty”, etc. What we are able to state is that we are witnessing, on the hemispheric and Latin American scene, a growing insurgency regarding the predominance of neoliberalism.

This is where the opinions expressed by these three personalities end, summing up the opinions of many of the participants in the debate about Free Trade Treaties. These are very solid points of view derived from a bitter reality and they have enriched my ideas.

I recommend my readers to pay attention to the complexities of human activity. It’s the only way to see much further.

Space has run out. Today I should not add one more single word.

Fidel Reflects: Lessons we learned from the 6th Hemispheric Meeting in Havana

May 14, 2007

María Luisa Mendonça brought to the meeting in Havana, a powerful documentary film on the subject of manual sugarcane cutting in Brazil.

As I did in my previous reflection, I have written a summary using María Luisa’s own paragraphs and phrases. It goes as follows:

We are aware that most of the wars in the last few decades have been waged over control of energy sources. Both in central and peripheral nations, energy consumption is guaranteed for the privileged sectors, while the majority of the world’s population does not have access to basic services. The per capita consumption of energy in the United States is 13,000 kilowatts, while the world average is 2,429 and in Latin America the average is 1,601.

The private monopoly of energy sources is ensured by clauses in the bilateral or multilateral Free Trade Agreements.

The role of the peripheral nations is to produce cheap energy for the central wealthy nations, which represents a new phase in the colonization process.

It’s necessary to demystify all the propaganda about the alleged benefits of agrifuels. In the case of ethanol, the growing and processing of sugarcane pollutes the soil and the sources of drinking water because it uses large amounts of chemical products.

Ethanol distillation produces a residue called vinasse. For every liter of ethanol produced, 10 to 13 liters of vinasse are generated. Part of this residue can be used as fertilizer, but most of it pollutes rivers and the sources of underground water. If Brazil were to produce 17 or 18 billion liters of ethanol per year, this means that at least 170 billion liters of vinasse would be deposited in the sugarcane field areas. Just imagine the environmental impact.

Burning sugarcane to facilitate the harvesting process, destroys many of the microorganisms in the soil, contaminates the air and causes many respiratory illnesses.

The Brazilian National Institute of Space Research issues a state of emergency almost every year in Sao Paulo –where 60% of Brazil’s ethanol production takes place– because the burning-off has plunged the humidity levels in the air to extreme lows, between 13% and 15%; breathing is impossible during this period in the Sao Paulo area where the sugarcane harvest takes place.

The expansion of agrienergy production, as we know, is of great interest to the corporations dealing with genetically modified or transgenetic organisms, such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Bass and Bayer.

In the case of Brazil, the Votorantim Corporation has developed technologies for the production of a non-edible transgenetic sugarcane, and we know of many corporations that are developing this same type of technology; since there are no measures in place to avoid transgenetic contamination in the native crop fields, this practice places food production at risk.

With regards to the denationalization of Brazilian territory, large companies have bought up sugar mills in Brazil: Bunge, Novo Group, ADM, Dreyfus as well as business magnates George Soros and Bill Gates.

As a result of all this, we are aware that the expansion of ethanol production has led to the expulsion of peasants from their lands and has created a situation of dependency on what we call the sugarcane economy, not because the sugarcane industry generates jobs, on the contrary, it generates unemployment because this industry controls the territory. This means that there is no room for other productive sectors.

At the same time, we are faced with the propaganda about the efficiency of this industry. We know that it is based on the exploitation of cheap and slave labor. Workers are paid according to the amount of sugar cane they cut, not according to number of hours they have worked.

In Sao Paulo State where the industry is most modern –“modern” is relative of course– and it is the country’s biggest producer, the goal for each worker is to cut between 10 to 15 tons of cane per day.

Pedro Ramos, a professor at Campinas University, made these calculations: in the 1980’s, the workers cut around 4 tons a day and were paid the equivalent of more or less 5 dollars. Today, they need to cut 15 tons of sugarcane to be paid 3 dollars a day.

Even the Ministry of Labor in Brazil made a study which shows that before, 100 square meters of sugarcane yielded 10 tons; today, with transgenetic cane one must cut 300 square meters to reach 10 tons. Thus, workers must work three times more to cut 10 tons. This pattern of exploitation has resulted in serious health problems and even death for the workers.

A researcher with the Ministry of Labor in Sao Paulo says that in Brazil, sugar and ethanol are soaked in blood, sweat and death. In 2005, the Ministry of Labor in Sao Paulo reported the death of 450 worker for other causes such as murder and accidents –would this be because transportation to the refineries is very unsafe?– and also as a result of illnesses such as heart attack and cancer.

According to María Cristina Gonzaga, who carried out the survey, this Ministry of Labor research shows that in the last five years, 1,383 sugarcane workers have died in Sao Paulo State alone.

Slave labor is also common in this sector. Workers are usually migrants from the northeast or from Minas Gerais, lured in by intermediaries. Normally the contract is not directly with the company, but through intermediaries –in Brazil we call them “gatos”— who chose the laborers for the sugar mills.

In 2006, the district attorney’s office of the Public Ministry inspected 74 sugar mills, only in Sao Paulo, and all of them were taken to court.

In March 2007 alone, the district attorney’s office of the Ministry of Labor rescued 288 workers from slavery in Sao Paulo.

That same month, in Mato Grosso State, 409 workers were pulled out of a sugar mill that produces ethanol; among them was a group of 150 indigenous people. In Mato Grosso, the central area of the country, indigenous people are used as slave labor force in the sugar industry.

Every year, hundreds of workers suffer similar conditions in the fields. What are these conditions? They work without being legally reported, with no protective equipment, without adequate food or water, without access to washrooms and with very precarious housing; moreover, they have to pay for their housing and food, which is very expensive, and they also have to buy their implements such as boots and machetes and, of course, when work-related accidents occur, which is often, they do not receive adequate care.

For us, the central issue is the elimination of the latifundia because behind this modern façade we have a central issue, and that is the latifundia in Brazil and, of course, in other Latin American countries. Likewise, a serious food production policy is called for.

Having said this, I would like to present a documentary that we filmed in Pernambuco State with sugarcane workers; this is one of the biggest sugarcane producing regions, and so you will be able to see what the conditions are really like.

This documentary was made with the Pastoral Land Commission of Brazil (CPT) and with the unions of forestry workers in the state of Pernambuco.

With this, the outstanding and much admired Brazilian leader concluded her speech.

And now I shall present the opinions of the sugarcane cutters as they appeared in the film shown to us by María Luisa. In the documentary, when the people are not identified by name, they are identified as being a man, a woman or a young man. I am not including them all because there were so many.

Severino Francisco de Silva.- When I was 8 years old, my father moved to the Junco refinery. When I got there, I was about to turn 9; my father began to work and I was tying up the cane with him. I worked some 14 or 15 years in the Junco sugar mill.

A woman.- I’ve been living at the sugar mill for 36 years. Here I was married and I gave birth to 11 children.

A man.- I’ve been cutting cane for many years, I don’t even know how to count.

A man.- I started working when I was 7 and my life is that: cutting cane and weeding.

A young man.- I was born here, I’m 23 years old, and I’ve been cutting cane since I was 9.

A woman.- I worked for 13 years here in Salgado Plant. I planted cane, spread fertilizer, cleaned sugarcane fields.

Severina Conceiçäo.- I know how to do all this field work: spread fertilizer, plant sugar cane. I did it all with a belly this big (she refers to her pregnancy) and with the basket beside me, and I kept on working.

A man.- I work; every work is difficult, but sugarcane harvest is the worst work we have here in Brazil.

Edleuza.- I get home and I wash the dishes, clean the house, do the house chores, do everything. I used to cut cane and sometimes I’d get home and I wasn’t able to even wash the dishes, my hands were hurting with blisters.

Adriano Silva.- The problem is that the foreman wants too much of us at work. There are days when we cut cane and get paid, but there are days when we don’t get paid. Sometimes it’s enough, and sometimes it isn’t.

Misael.- We have a perverse situation here; the foreman wants to take off from the weight of the cane. He says that what we cut here is all that we have and that’s that. We are working like slaves, do you understand? You can’t do it like this!

Marco.- Harvesting sugar cane is slave work, it’s really hard work. We start out at 3 in the morning; we get back at 8 at night. It’s only good for the boss, because he earns more every day that goes by and the worker loses, production decreases and everything is for the boss.

A man.- Sometimes we go to sleep without having washed, there’s no water, we wash up in a stream down there.

A young man.- Here we have no wood for cooking, each one of us, if we want to eat, has to go out and find wood.

A man.- Lunch is whatever you can bring from home, we eat just like that, in the hot sun, carrying on as well as you can in this life.

A young man.- People who work a lot need to have enough food. While the boss of the sugar plantation has an easy life, with all the best of everything, we suffer.

A woman.- I have gone hungry. I would often go to bed hungry, sometimes I had nothing to eat, nothing to feed my daughter with; sometimes I’d go looking for salt; that was the easiest thing to find.

Egidio Pereira.- You have two or three kids, and if you don’t look after yourself, you starve; there isn’t enough to live on.

Ivete Cavalcante.- There is no such thing as a salary here; you have to clean a ton of cane for eight reales; you earn according to whatever you can cut: if you cut a ton, you earn eight reales, there is no set wage.

A woman.- A salary? I’ve never heard of that.

Reginaldo Souza.- Sometimes they pay us in money. Nowadays they are paying in money; in the winter they pay with a voucher.

A woman.- The voucher, well, you work and he writes everything down on paper, he passes it on to another person who goes out to buy stuff at the market. People don’t see the money they earn.

José Luiz.- The foreman does whatever he wants with the people. What’s happening is that I called for him to “calculate the cane”, and he didn’t want to. I mean: in this case he is forcing someone to work. And so the person works for free for the company.

Clovis da Silva.- It’s killing us! We cut cane for half a day, we think we are going to get some money, and when he comes around to calculate we are told that the work was worth nothing.

Natanael.- The cattle trucks bring the workers here, it’s worse than for the boss’s horse; because when the boss puts his horse on the truck, he gives him water, he puts sawdust down to protect his hoofs, he gives him hay, and there is a person to go with him; as for the workers, let them do what they can: get in, shut the door and that’s that. They treat the workers as if they were animals. The “Pro-Alcohol” doesn’t help the workers, it only helps the sugarcane suppliers, it helps the bosses and they constantly get richer; because if it would create jobs for the workers, that would be basic, but it doesn’t create jobs.

José Loureno.- They have all this power because in the House, state or federal, they have a politician representing these sugarcane mills. Some of the owners are deputies, ministers or relatives of sugar mill owners, who facilitate this situation for the owners.

A man.- It seems that our work never ends. We don’t have holidays, or a Christmas bonus, everything is lost. Also, we don’t even get a fourth of our salary, which is compulsory; it’s what we use to buy clothes at the end of the year, or clothing for our children. They don’t supply us with any of that stuff, and we see how every day, it gets much more difficult.

A woman.- I am a registered worker and I’ve never had a right to anything, not even medical leaves. When we get pregnant, we have a right to a medical leave, but I didn’t have that right, family guarantees; I also never got any Christmas bonus, I always got some little thing, and then nothing more.

A man.- For 12 years he’s never paid the bonuses or vacations.

A man.- You can’t get sick, you work day and night on top of the truck, cutting cane, at dawn. I became sick, and I was a strong man.

Reinaldo.- One day I went to work wearing sneakers; when I swung the machete to cut cane, I cut my toe, I finished work and went home.

A young man.- There are no boots, we work like this, many of us work barefoot, the conditions are bad. They said that the sugar mill was going to donate boots. A week ago he cut his foot (he points) because there are no boots.

A young man.- I was sick, I was sick for three days, I didn’t get paid, they didn’t pay me a thing. I saw the doctor to ask for a leave and they didn’t give me one.

A young man.- There was a lad who came from “Macugi”. He was at work when he started to feel sick, and vomit. You need a lot of energy, the sun is very hot and people aren’t made of steel, the human body just can’t resist this.

Valdemar.- This poison we use (he refers to the herbicides) brings a lot of illness. It causes different kinds of diseases: skin cancer, bone cancer, it enters the blood and destroys our health. You feel nauseous, you can even fall over.

A man.- In the period between harvests there is practically no work.

A man.- The work that the foreman tells you to do, must be done; because as you know, if we don’t do it… We aren’t the bosses; it’s them that are the bosses. If they give you a job, you have to do it.

A man.- I’m here hoping someday to have a piece of land and end my days in the country, so that I can fill my belly and the bellies of my children and my grandchildren who live here with me.

Could it be that there is anything else?

End of the documentary.

There is nobody more grateful than I for this testimony and for María Luisa’s presentation which I have just summarized. They make me to remember the first years of my life, an age when human beings tend to be very active.

I was born on a privately owned sugarcane latifundium bordering on the north, east and west on large tracts of land belonging to three American transnational companies which, together, possessed more than 600 thousand acres. Cane cutting was done by hand in green sugarcane fields; at that time we didn’t use herbicides or even fertilizers. A plantation could last more than 15 years. Labor was very cheap and the transnationals earned a lot of money.

The owner of the sugarcane plantation where I was born was a Galician immigrant, from a poor peasant family, practically an illiterate; at first, he had been sent here as a soldier, taking the place of a rich man who had paid to avoid military service and at the end of the war he was shipped back to Galicia. He returned to Cuba on his own like countless other Galicians who migrated to other countries of Latin America.

He worked as a hand for an important trans-national company, the United Fruit Company. He had organizational skills and so he recruited a large number of day-workers like himself, became a contractor and ended up buying land with his accumulated profits in an area neighboring the southern part of the big American company. In the eastern end of the country, the traditionally independent-minded Cuban population had increased notably and lacked land; but the main burden of eastern agriculture, at the beginning of the last century, rested on the backs of slaves who had been freed a few years earlier or were the descendents of the old slaves and on the backs of Haitian immigrants. The Haitians did not have any relatives. They lived alone in their miserable huts made of palm trees, clustered in hamlets, with only two or three women among all of them. During the short harvesting season, cockfights would take place.

The Haitians would bet their pitiful earnings and the rest they used to buy food which had gone through many intermediaries and was very expensive.

The Galician landowner lived there, on the sugarcane plantation. He would go out just to tour the plantations and he would talk to anyone who needed or wanted something from him. Often times he would help them out, for reasons that were more humanitarian than economic. He could make decisions.

The managers of the United Fruit Company plantations were Americans who had been carefully chosen and they were very well paid. They lived with their families in stately mansions, in selected spots. They were like some distant gods, mentioned in a respectful tone by the starving laborers. They were never seen at the sugarcane fields where they sent their subordinates. The shareholders of the big transnationals lived in the United States or other parts of the world. The expenses of the plantations were budgeted and nobody could increase one single cent.

I know very well the family that grew out of the second marriage of that Galician immigrant with a young, very poor Cuban peasant girl, who, like him, had not been able to go to school. She was very self-sacrificing and absolutely devoted to her family and to the plantation’s financial activities.

Those of you abroad who are reading my reflections on the Internet will be surprised to learn that that landowner was my father. I am the third of that couple’s seven children; we were all born in a room in a country home, far away from any hospital, with the help of a peasant midwife, dedicated heart and soul to her job and calling upon years of practical experience. Those lands were all handed over to the people by the Revolution.

I should just like to add that we totally support the decree for nationalization of the patent from a transnational pharmaceutical company to produce and sell in Brazil an AIDS medication, Efavirenz, that is far too expensive, just like many others, as well as the recent mutually satisfactory solution to the dispute with Bolivia about the two oil refineries.

I would like to reiterate our deepest respect for the people of our sister nation of Brazil.

Fidel Reflects: The debate heats up

May 9, 2007

Atilio Borón, a prestigious leftist intellectual who until recently headed the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), wrote an article for the 6th Hemispheric Meeting of Struggle against the FTAs and for the Integration of Peoples which just wrapped up in Havana; he was kind enough to send it to me along with a letter.

The gist of what he wrote I have summarized using exact quotes of paragraphs and phrases in his article; it reads as follows:

Pre-capitalist societies already knew about oil which surfaced in shallow deposits and they used for non-commercial purposes, such as waterproofing the wooden hulls of ships or in textile products, or for torches. Its original name was ‘petroleum’ or stone-oil.

By the end of the 19th century –after the discovery of large oilfields in Pennsylvania, United States, and the technological developments propelled by the massive use of the internal combustion engine– oil became the energy paradigm of the 20th century.

Energy is conceived of as just merchandise. Like Marx warned us, this is not due to the perversity or callousness of some individual capitalist or another, but rather the consequence of the logic of the accumulation process, which is prone to the ceaseless “mercantilism” that touches on all components of social life, both material and symbolic. The mercantilist process did not stop with the human being, but simultaneously extended to nature. The land and its products, the rivers and the mountains, the jungles and the forests became the target of its irrepressible pillage. Foodstuffs, of course, could not escape this hellish dynamic. Capitalism turns everything that crosses its path into merchandise.

Foodstuffs are transformed into fuels to make viable the irrationality of a civilization that, to sustain the wealth and privilege of a few, is brutally assaulting the environment and the ecologic conditions which made it possible for life to appear on Earth.

Transforming food into fuels is a monstrosity.

Capitalism is preparing to perpetrate a massive euthanasia on the poor, and particularly on the poor of the South, since it is there that the greatest reserves of the earth’s biomass required to produce biofuels are found. Regardless of numerous official statements assuring that this is not a choice between food and fuel, reality shows that this, and no other, is exactly the alternative: either the land is used to produce food or to produce biofuels.

The main lessons taught us by FAO data on the subject of agricultural land and the consumption of fertilizers are the following:

· Agricultural land per capita in developed capitalism almost doubles that existing in the underdeveloped periphery: 3.26 acres per person in the North as opposed to 1.6 in the South; this is explained by the simple fact that close to 80 percent of the world population live in the underdeveloped periphery.

· Brazil has slightly more agricultural land per capita than the developed countries. It becomes clear that this nation will have to assign huge tracts of its enormous land surface to meet the demands of the new energy paradigm.

· China and India have 1.05 and 0.43 acres per person respectively.

· The small nations of the Antilles, with their traditional one-crop agriculture, that is sugarcane, demonstrate eloquently its erosive effects exemplified by the extraordinary rate of consumption of fertilizers per acre needed to support this production. If in the peripheral countries the average figure is 109 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare (as opposed to 84 in developed countries), in Barbados the figure is 187.5, in Dominica 600, en Guadeloupe 1,016, in St. Lucia 1,325 and in Martinique 1,609. The use of fertilizers is tantamount to intensive oil consumption, and so the much touted advantage of agrifuels to reduce the consumption of hydrocarbons seems more an illusion than a reality.

The total agricultural land of the European Union is barely sufficient to cover 30 percent of their current needs for fuel but not their future needs that will probably be greater. In the United States, the satisfaction of their current demand for fossil fuels would require the use of 121 percent of all their agricultural land for agrifuels.

Consequently, the supply of agrifuels will have to come from the South, from capitalism’s poor and neocolonial periphery. Mathematics does not lie: neither the United States nor the European Union have available land to support an increase in food production and an expansion of the production of agrifuels at the same time.

Deforestation of the planet would increase the land surface suitable for agriculture (but only for a while). Therefore this would be only for a few decades, at the most. These lands would then suffer desertification and the situation would be worse than ever, aggravating even further the dilemma pitting the production of food against that of ethanol or biodiesel.

The struggle against hunger –and there are some 2 billion people who suffer from hunger in the world– will be seriously impaired by the expansion of land taken over by agrifuel crops. Countries where hunger is a universal scourge will bear witness to the rapid transformation of agriculture that would feed the insatiable demand for fuels needed by a civilization based on their irrational use. The only result possible is an increase in the cost of food and thus, the worsening of the social situation in the South countries.

Moreover, the world population grows 76 million people every year who will obviously demand food that will be steadily more expensive and farther out of their reach.

In The Globalist Perspective, Lester Brown predicted less than a year ago that automobiles would absorb the largest part of the increase in world grain production in 2006. Of the 20 million tons added to those existing in 2005, 14 million were used in the production of fuels, and only 6 million tons were used to satisfy the needs of the hungry. This author affirms that the world appetite for automobile fuel is insatiable. Brown concluded by saying that a scenario is being prepared where a head-on confrontation will take place between the 800 million prosperous car owners and the food consumers.

The devastating impact of increased food prices, which will inexorably happen as the land is used either for food or for fuel, was demonstrated in the work of C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer, two distinguished professors from the University of Minnesota, in an article published in the English language edition of the Foreign Affairs magazine whose title says it all: “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor”. The authors claim that in the United States the growth of the agrifuel industry has given rise to increases not only in the price of corn, oleaginous seeds and other grains, but also in the prices of apparently unrelated crops and products. The use of land to grow corn which will feed the fauces of ethanol is reducing the area for other crops. The food processors using crops such as peas and young corn have been forced to pay higher prices in order to ensure their supplies. This is a cost that will eventually be passed on to the consumer. The increase in food prices is also hitting the livestock and poultry industries. The higher costs have produced an abrupt decrease in income, especially in the poultry and pork sectors. If income continues to decrease, so will production, and the prices of chicken, turkey, pork, milk and eggs will increase. They warn that the most devastating effects of increasing food prices will be felt especially in Third World countries.

Studies made by the Belgian Office of Scientific Affairs shows that biodiesel causes more health and environmental hazards because it creates a more pulverized pollution and releases more pollutants that destroy the ozone layer.

With regards to the argument claming that the agrifuels are harmless, Victor Bronstein, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires, has demonstrated that:

·It is not true that biofuels are a renewable and constant energy source, given that the crucial factor in plant growth is not sunlight but the availability of water and suitable soil conditions. If this were not the case, we would be able to grow corn or sugarcane in the Sahara Desert. The effects of large-scale production of biofuels will be devastating.

·It is not true that they do not pollute. Even if ethanol produces less carbon emissions, the process to obtain it pollutes the surface and the water with nitrates, herbicides, pesticides and waste, and the air is polluted with aldehydes and alcohols that are carcinogens. The presumption of a “green and clean” fuel is a fallacy.

The proposal of agrifuels is unviable, and it is ethically and politically unacceptable. But it is not enough just to reject it. It is necessary to implement a new energy revolution, but one that is at the service of the people and not at the service of the monopolies and imperialism. This is, perhaps, the most important challenge of our time, concludes Atilio Borón.

As you can see, this summary took up some space. We need space and time; practically a book. It has been said that the masterpiece which made author Gabriel García Márquez famous, One Hundred Years of Solitude, required him to write fifty pages for each page that was printed. How much time would my poor pen need to refute those who for a material interest, ignorance, indifference or even for all three at the same time defend the evil idea and to spread the solid and honest arguments of those who struggle for the life of the species?

Some very important opinions and points of view were discussed at the Hemispheric Meeting in Havana. We should talk about those that brought us real-life images of cutting sugarcane by hand in a documentary film that seemed a reflection of Dante’s Inferno. A growing number of opinions are carried by the media every day and everywhere in the world, from institutions like the United Nations right up to national scientific associations. I simply perceive that the debate is heating up. The fact that the subject is being discussed is already an important step forward.

Fidel Reflects: The tragedy threatening our species

May 7, 2007

I cannot speak as an economist or a scientist. I simply speak as a politician who wishes to unravel the economists’ and scientists’ arguments one way or another. I also try to sense the motivations of each one of those who make statements on these matters. Just twenty-two years ago, here in Havana, we had a great number of meetings with political, union, peasant and student leaders invited to our country as representatives of these sectors. They all agreed that the most important problem at that time was the enormous foreign debt accumulated by the nations of Latin America in 1985. That debt amounted to 350 billion dollars. The dollar then had a higher purchasing power than it does today.

A copy of the outcome of those meetings was sent to all the world governments, of course with some exceptions, because it might have seemed insulting. At that time, the petrodollars had flooded the market and the large transnational banks were virtually demanding that the countries accept high loans. Needless to say, the people responsible for the economy had taken on those commitments without consulting anybody. That period coincided with the presence of the most repressive and bloody governments this continent has ever suffered, installed by imperialism. Large sums were spent on weapons, luxuries and consumer goods. The subsequent debt grew to 800 billion dollars while today’s catastrophic dangers were being hatched, the dangers that weigh upon a population that doubled in just two decades and along with it, the number of those condemned to a life of extreme poverty. Today, in the Latin American region, the difference between the most favored population and the one with the lowest income is the greatest in the world.

Many years before the subjects of today’s debates were center stage, the struggles of the Third World focused on equally agonizing problems like the unequal exchange. Year after year it was discovered that the price of the industrialized nations’ exports, usually manufactured with our raw materials, would unilaterally grow while our basic exports remained unchanged. The price of coffee and cacao, just to mention two examples, was approximately 2,000 dollars a ton. A cup of coffee or a chocolate milkshake could be bought in cities like New York for a few cents; today, these cost several dollars, perhaps 30 or 40 times what they cost back then. Today, the purchase of a tractor, a truck or medical equipment require several times the volume of products that was needed to import them back then; jute, henequen and other Third World produced fibers that were substituted by synthetic ones succumbed to the same fate. In the meantime, tanned hides, rubber and natural fibers used in many textiles were being replaced by synthetic materials derived from the sophisticated petrochemical industry while sugar prices hit rock bottom, crushed by the large subsidies granted by the industrialized countries to their agricultural sector.

The former colonies or neocolonies that had been promised a glowing future after World War II had not yet awakened from the Bretton Woods dream. From top to bottom, the system had been designed for exploitation and plundering.

When consciousness was beginning to be roused, the other extremely adverse factors had not yet surfaced, such as the undreamed-of squandering of energy that industrialized countries had fallen prey to. They were paying less than two dollars a barrel of oil. The source of fuel, with the exception of the United States where it was very abundant, was basically in Third World countries, chiefly in the Middle East but also in Mexico, Venezuela, and later in Africa. But not all of the countries that by virtue of yet another white lie classified as “developing countries” were oil producers, since 82 of them are among the poorest and as a rule they must import oil. A terrible situation awaits them if food stuffs are to be transformed into biofuels or agrifuels, as the peasant and native movements in our region prefer to call them.

Thirty years ago, the idea of global warming hanging over our species’ life like a sword of Damocles was not even known by the immense majority of the inhabitants of our planet; even today there is great ignorance and confusion about these issues. If we listen to the spokesmen of the transnationals and their media, we are living in the best of all possible worlds: an economy ruled by the market, plus transnational capital, plus sophisticated technology equals a constant growth of productivity, higher GDP, higher living standards and every dream of the human species come true; the state should not interfere with anything, it should not even exist, other than as an instrument of the large financial capital.

But reality is hard-headed. Germany, one of the most highly industrialized countries in the world, loses sleep over its 10 percent unemployment. The toughest and least attractive jobs are taken by immigrants who, desperate in their growing poverty, break into industrialized Europe through any possible chink. Apparently, nobody is taking note of the number of inhabitants on our planet, growing precisely in the undeveloped countries.

More than 700 representatives of social organizations have just been meeting in Havana to discuss various issues raised in this reflection. Many of them set out their points of view and left indelible impressions on us. There is plenty of material to reflect upon as well as new events happening every day.

Even now, as a consequence of liberating a terrorist monster, two young men, who were fulfilling their legal duty in the Active Military Service, anxious to taste consumerism in the United States, hijacked a bus, crashed through one of the doors of the domestic flights terminal at the airport, drove up to a civilian aircraft and got on board with their hostages, demanding to be taken to the United States. A few days earlier, they had killed a soldier, who was standing guard, to steal two automatic weapons, and in the plane they fired four shots that killed a brave officer who, unarmed and held hostage in the bus, had attempted to prevent the plane’s hijacking. The impunity and the material gains that have rewarded any violent action against Cuba during the last half-century encourage such events. It had been many months since we had such an incident. All it needed was setting a notorious terrorist free and once again death come calling at our door. The perpetrators have not gone on trial yet because, in the course of events, both were wounded; one of them was shot by the other as he fired inside the plane, while they were struggling with the heroic army officer. Now, many people abroad are waiting for the reaction of our Courts and of the Council of State, while our people here are deeply outraged with these events. We really need a large dose of calmness and sangfroid to confront these problems.

The apocalyptic head of the empire declared more than five years ago that the United States armed forces had to be on the ready to make pre-emptive attacks on 60 or more countries in the world; nothing less than one third of the international community. Apparently, he is not satisfied with the death, the torture and the uprooting of millions of people to seize their natural resources and the product of their labors.

Meanwhile, the impressive international meeting that just concluded in Havana reaffirmed my personal conviction: every evil idea must be submitted to devastating criticism, avoiding any concession.