After 60 years of struggle, sacrifices, efforts and victories, we see a free, independent country, the master of its own destiny
Speech by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, at the central act to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution, in Santiago de Cuba, January 1st, 2019, “Year 61 of the Revolution”
SANTIAGO women and men;
Compatriots of all Cuba:
We gather today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the revolutionary triumph of January 1st, and we do so again in Santiago de Cuba, cradle of the Revolution, here in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, where the immortal remains of many of the best children of the nation are venerated, very close to the tombs of the National Hero, of the Father and Mother of the Homeland, and of the Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution.
I do not come here to speak in a personal capacity; I do so in the name of the heroic sacrifices of our people, and of the thousands of fighters who gave their lives over more than 150 years of struggle.
It seems incredible that destiny has reserved us the privilege of being able to address our compatriots on a day like today, commemorating six decades of triumph, an occasion on which, under Fidel’s command, the Cuban people attained political power for the first time, and the Mambises were able to enter Santiago de Cuba victorious, coincidentally 60 years after the establishment of absolute U.S. imperialist domination of Cuba.
A few months ago, in La Demajagua, we gathered to remember the 150th anniversary of the beginning of Cuba’s independence wars, October 10, 1868; a date that marks the beginning of our Revolution, which survived moments of bitterness and disunity, like the Pact of Zanjón, and brilliant episodes like that carried out by Antonio Maceo in the Baraguá Protest.
The Revolution was revived, in 1895, thanks to the genius and ability of Martí to bring together the best and most experienced leaders of the Ten Years’ War, and prepare the “Necessary War” against Spanish colonialism.
When the colonial army was practically defeated, with little combative morale, besieged by the Mambises across almost all of the island and depleted by tropical diseases which, in 1897, to mention just one example, caused 201,000 losses among its troops; the victory was usurped by the U.S. intervention and the military occupation of the country, which gave way to a long period of oppression and corrupt governments, subservient to its hegemonic designs.
Not even in these difficult circumstances was the redemptive fire of the Cuban people extinguished, manifested in figures of the stature of Baliño, Mella, Villena, Guiteras and Jesús Menéndez, among many others who did not resign themselves to living in dishonor and ignominy.
Nor was the Centenary Generation, which under the leadership of Fidel assaulted the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes barracks on July 26, 1953, willing to tolerate, 100 years after Martí’s birth, the crimes and abuses of a bloody tyranny, completely subordinated to the interests of the United States.
Moments of profound pain and sadness ensued, after the setback and the vile assassination of many of the revolutionary fighters participating in these actions, powerfully denounced by Fidel in his historic defence “History will absolve me,” which became the program of the Revolution. A few meters from here lay the remains of the fallen on that July 26, and other martyrs of the insurrectional feat, including also the brave young Santiago people of the clandestine struggle, and the children of this city who fell in glorious internationalist missions.
In the hard years of imprisonment and ill-treatment, the fervor and commitment to recommence the struggle did not falter; the prestige and authority of the revolutionary leader grew to join new forces against the dictatorship.
There was no rest during exile in Mexico; it served to prepare the next and decisive stage of battle that brought us on the Granma yacht to Las Coloradas on December 2, 1956. The delay in arriving to Cuban coasts, due to the hazardous voyage, prevented the scheduled synchronization with the Uprising of Santiago de Cuba, on November 30, organized by the bold and courageous young leader of the July 26 Movement, Frank País García, who had not yet turned 22, his age when brutally murdered by the henchmen of the tyranny, July 30, 1957.
Neither could the disaster of Alegría de Pío, which almost annihilated the expeditionaries, extinguish Fidel’s optimism and faith in victory, convictions that led him to exclaim on December 18 when we were reunited, with just seven rifles: Now we have won the war!
Months of incessant fighting ensued, first in the Sierra Maestra, and then the struggle spread to other regions with the opening of new fronts and columns, and with the defeat of the great offensive of the Batista troops against the First Front led by Fidel, which marked the beginning of the strategic counter-offensive and the radical turning point of the war that led to the defeat of the regime and the seizure of revolutionary power.
Already on January 8, 1959, upon his arrival in Havana, the Commander of the Revolution expressed, (I quote): “The tyranny has been overthrown, the joy is immense and yet there is still much to be done. We do not fool ourselves into believing that from now on everything will be easy, perhaps from now on everything will be more difficult.” (End of quote).
It did not take long for Fidel’s premonitory words to become a reality. A stage of struggle began that shook the foundations of Cuban society. On May 17, just four and a half months after the triumph, in the Comandancia de la Plata, in the heart of the Sierra Maestra, the first Agrarian Reform Law was promulgated in compliance with the Moncada Program, an event that upset the powerful economic interests of U.S. monopolies and the Creole bourgeoisie, which redoubled the conspiracies against the revolutionary process.
The nascent Revolution was subjected to all types of aggressions and threats, such as the actions of armed gangs financed by the U.S. government; assassination plans against Fidel and other leaders; the murder of young literacy teachers, many of them still adolescents; sabotage and terrorism throughout the country with the terrible toll of 3,478 dead and 2,099 disabled; the economic, commercial and financial blockade, and other political and diplomatic measures in order to isolate us; the campaigns of lies to defame the Revolution and its leaders; the mercenary invasion at Playa Girón in April 1961; the October Crisis in 1962, when the military invasion of Cuba was being prepared in the United States; and an endless list of hostile acts against our homeland.
No one can deny that the Revolution that was born that January 1st, has not had a minute’s calm over 60 years. We have seen twelve U.S. administrations that have not ceased in the effort to force a regime change in Cuba, one way or another, with varying degrees of aggressiveness.
The heroic people of yesterday and today, proud of their national history and culture, committed to the ideals and the work of the Revolution, which four generations of Cubans have already joined, have managed to resist and win over the six decades of uninterrupted struggle in defense of socialism, always based on the closest unity around the Party and Fidel.
Only thus can we understand the feat of having withstood the tough years of the Special Period, when we were left alone in the middle of the West, 90 miles from the United States. Then, nobody in the world would have bet a penny on the survival of the Revolution. However, the challenge was endured and overcome without violating a single one of the ethical and humanist principles of the revolutionary process, and was worthy of the invaluable support of the solidarity movements that never stopped believing in Cuba.
Now once again, the U.S. government seems to be taking the course of confrontation with Cuba, and presenting our peaceful and solidary country as a threat to the region. It resorts to the sinister Monroe Doctrine to try to roll back history to the shameful era in which subjugated governments and military dictatorships joined it in isolating Cuba.
Increasingly, senior officials of the current administration, with the complicity of certain lackeys, disseminate new falsehoods and again try to blame Cuba for all the ills of the region, as if these were not the result of ruthless neoliberal policies that cause poverty, hunger, inequality, organized crime, drug trafficking, political corruption, abuse and deprivation of workers’ rights, displaced people, the eviction of campesinos, the repression of students, and precarious health, education and housing conditions for the vast majority.
They are the same who declare the intention to continue forcing the deterioration of bilateral relations, and promote new measures of economic, commercial and financial blockade to restrict the performance of the national economy, cause additional constraints on the consumption and welfare of the people, hinder even further foreign trade, and curb the flow of foreign investment. They say they are willing to challenge International Law, to contravene the rules of international trade and economic relations, and aggressively apply extraterritorial measures and laws against the sovereignty of other states.
I reiterate our willingness to coexist in a civilized manner, despite the differences, in a relationship of peace, respect and mutual benefit with the United States. We have also clearly indicated that Cubans are prepared to resist a confrontational scenario, which we do not want, and we hope that the levelest heads in the U.S. government can avoid.
Cuba is accused again, when it has been demonstrated that external debt, uncontrolled migratory flows, the plundering of natural resources, are the result of the domination of transnational corporations in the continent.
The force of truth has thwarted the lies, and history has put the events and protagonists in their places.
All that can be attributed to the Cuban Revolution and the epic written by this heroic people is the responsibility that emanates from their example, as a symbol of full independence, victorious resistance, social justice, altruismand internationalism.
As part of Our America, our respect and solidarity with sister nations has, and will be, invariable; in which more than 347,700 Cuban doctors and health workers have offered their services, many of them in remote and difficult places, and more than 27,200 young people have been professionally trained. This shows confidence in Cuba.
A few weeks ago, thousands of Cuban doctors who offered their services in Brazil returned, with dignity, with the recognition and affection of millions of patients, especially from rural areas and indigenous populations, whom the new President slandered and condemned, in order to destroy that social program and with it fulfill the directions of the extreme right in Florida, which has hijacked United States policy toward Cuba, to the pleasure of the most reactionary forces of the current U.S. government.
Sixty years after the triumph, we can affirm that we have seen it all before; we are not intimidated by the language of force or threats, they did not intimidate us when the revolutionary process was not yet consolidated, they will not even remotely achieve it now that the unity of the people is an indestructible reality; because if yesterday we were few, today we are an entire people defending their Revolution (Applause).
On July 26, here in Santiago, I explained that an adverse scenario had formed, and again the euphoria of our enemies had resurfaced, and the haste to materialize their dreams of destroying the example of Cuba. I also pointed out the conviction that the imperialist blockade of Venezuela, Nicaragua and our country was tightening. Events have confirmed that assessment.
After almost a decade of practicing unconventional warfare to prevent the continuity, or impede the return of progressive governments, Washington power circles sponsored coups – first a military coup to overthrow President Zelaya in Honduras, and later they resorted to parliamentary-judicial coups against Lugo in Paraguay, and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.
In this way, they succeeded in imprisoning compañero Lula da Silva, and deprived him of the right to be the Workers’ Party presidential candidate, to avoid his certain victory in the recent elections. I take this opportunity to appeal to all the honest political forces of the planet to demand his release, and an end to the attacks and judicial persecution against former presidents Dilma Rousseff, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Those who entertained the illusion of the restoration of imperialist domination in our region should understand that Latin America and the Caribbean have changed, and so has the world.
For our part, we will continue to actively contribute to the processes of consensus and integration in the region, based on the concept of unity in diversity.
We have contributed to the peace process in Colombia, at the express request of its government, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and the National Liberation Army, and we will continue to do so, above all risks, grievances and difficulties.
The political and moral authority of Cuba is based on the history, conduct and united, conscious and organized support of the people.
Therefore, no threat will make us withdraw our solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The aggressive actions against this sister nation must cease. As we warned some time ago, the repeated declaration of Venezuela as a threat to the national security of the United States, the open calls for a military coup against its constitutional government, the military training exercises undertaken in the vicinity of Venezuelan borders, as well as tensions and incidents in the area, can only lead to serious instability and unpredictable consequences.
The region resembles a large prairie in times of drought. A single spark could cause an uncontrollable fire that would damage the national interests of all.
It is equally dangerous and unacceptable that the United States government unilaterally sanctions and also proclaims the Republic of Nicaragua a threat to its national security. We reject the attempts of the discredited OAS, Organization of American States, to interfere in the affairs of this sister nation.
Faced with the Monroe Doctrine, the principles of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed in Havana by Heads of State and Government, which some allies of the United States now seek to disregard, must be applied and defended, for the good of all.
The greatest lesson that revolutionaries and progressive movements can draw from the situation that has shaped is that of never neglecting unity with the people, and not desisting in the struggle in defense of the interests of the oppressed, however difficult the circumstances.
For us, in the complex international situation, the words of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution remain entirely valid, on presenting his central report to the First Party Congress, in 1975, when he said: “As long as there is imperialism, the Party, the State and the people, will pay maximum attention to defense services. The revolutionary guard will never be neglected. History teaches all too eloquently that those who forget this principle do not survive the mistake.” (End of quote).
Correspondingly, we will continue to prioritize defense training tasks, at all levels, in the interests of safeguarding independence, territorial integrity, sovereignty and peace, based on the strategic concept of the War of the Entire People, as is reflected in the recently approved Constitution of the Republic.
It is our duty to meticulously prepare ourselves for all scenarios in advance, including the worst, not only on the military level; so that we leave no room for the bewilderment and improvisation that flourishes in those with scarce will when the time to act arrives, but with the optimism and confidence in victory that Fidel bequeathed to us, and in close contact with the people, we can find the best solution to any challenge that may arise.
Specifically, one challenge that we will face in the year that begins today is the economic situation, hard-pressed by the external finance strains, due to the losses of export revenues, and the tightening of the U.S. blockade and its extraterritorial effects.
As expressed by our Minister of Economy and Planning at the last session of the National Assembly, the cost to Cuba of this arbitrary measure, calculated according to internationally approved methodology, amounted to 4.321 billion dollars last year, equivalent to almost 12 million in damages every day, a fact that is overlooked by analysts who tend to question national economic performance.
Regardless of the blockade and its reinforcement, we Cubans have enormous internal reserves to exploit, without increasing the external debt. For this it is necessary, in the first place, to reduce all non-essential expenses and save more; increase and diversify exports; raise the efficiency of the investment process and enhance the participation of foreign investment, which, as stated in the guiding Party documents, is not a complement, but a fundamental element for development.
In that same scenario, in the National Assembly on December 22, the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, compañero Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, took stock of the state of the economy during 2018, and the plan for this year, where he stressed that the economic battle remains the fundamental and the most complex task, and added that it is that which today demands the most from all of us, because it is the task most anticipated by our people.
With this purpose, he explained that a more proactive, intelligent and concrete attitude is required of leaders, promoting – not hindering or delaying – reliable and specific solutions to problems, with the continuous and intense search for flexible and efficient responses. At the same time, he called for more coherence with the Conceptualization of the Economic and Social Model, and to be more systematic and precise in the implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution.
It is opportune to state that the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba firmly supports the pronouncements and actions undertaken by compañero Díaz-Canel since he took office at the helm of the state and the government, including his work system, based on visits to territories and communities; the link with collectives and direct exchanges with the people; the promotion of the accountability of leaders through the press and on social media; as well as the systematic control of the main development programs and the promotion of a collective leadership and management style in state and government bodies.
Without wishing to make a hasty assessment, I can say that the process of transferring the main responsibilities to new generations is going well. I’d go further – it’s going very well, without setbacks or surprises, and we are confident that thus we will continue. (Applause)
Those of us young people who then had the privilege of fighting under Fidel’s command, more than 65 years ago, from the Moncada, the Granma, the Rebel Army, the clandestine struggle, Girón, the confrontation with counterrevolutionary gangs, the internationalist missions and up to the present, together with the heroic Cuban people, are deeply satisfied, happy and confident to see, with our own eyes, how the new generations assume the mission of continuing the construction of socialism, the only guarantee of national independence and sovereignty.
It is 60 years since January 1, 1959. However, the Revolution has not aged, it is still young, and this is not merely rhetoric, it is historic confirmation, since from the very first moments its protagonists were young people, and this has been the case throughout these first six decades.
The revolutionary process is not circumscribed to the biological lifetime of those who initiated it, but to the will and commitment of the young people who ensure its continuity. The new generations have the duty to ensure that the Cuban Revolution is forever a Revolution of young people, and at the same time, a Socialist Revolution of the humble, by the humble, and for the humble. (Applause)
On this significant date, the fitting tribute to Cuban women can not be absent, from Mariana to today, always present in our struggles for the emancipation of the homeland and in the construction of the society we are building today. (Applause)
Compañeras and compañeros:
The Second Ordinary Session of the current legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power approved the new Constitution of the Republic, which will be submitted to a referendum February 24.
Previously, for a period of almost three months, a broad popular consultation process was undertaken, in which citizens freely expressed their opinions on the content of the draft, leading to the modification of 60% of the articles, in a clear demonstration of the profoundly democratic nature of the Revolution, where the major decisions that define the life of the nation are devised with the contribution of all Cubans. Our media provided detailed coverage of the process, which frees me from elaborating on the subject. In a few days, a tabloid of the definitive text of the new Constitution will begin to be distributed.
I only wish to add the confidence that once again our noble and courageous people will demonstrate at the polls on February 24, the majority support for their Revolution and Socialism, ratifying the Constitution in the year in which we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first Magna Carta of Cuba, approved in Guáimaro by the initiators of the war for independence.
After 60 years of struggle, sacrifices, efforts and victories, we see a free, independent country, the master of its own destiny. On imagining tomorrow, the work done allows us to glimpse a dignified and prosperous future for the Homeland.
Bearing in mind Cubans’ heroic history of struggle, on behalf of our people, with total optimism and confidence in the future, I can exclaim:
May the Cuban Revolution live on forever!