Monday, December 5, 2016

Fidel Castro Ruz, the undefeated Comandante

The extraordinary significance of the life and work of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz for Cuba and the world, was highlighted by various heads of state and dignitaries invited to attend the massive posthumous tribute to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, in Havana’s historic José Martí Plaza de la Revolución, November 29

November 30, 2016 16:11:23

The extraordinary significance of the life and work of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz for Cuba and the world, was highlighted by various heads of state and dignitaries invited to attend the massive posthumous tribute to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, in Havana’s historic José Martí Plaza de la Revolución, November 29.
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans gathered, together with Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, to honor the indisputable world leader.


During his remarks honoring the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa Delgado stated, “Peoples of Our America and the world: Fidel is dead. He died undefeated. Only the inevitable passing of time could defeat him. He died on the same day as he and 82 other patriots departed from Mexico to make history. He died honoring his name. Fidel, worthy of faith. The faith bestowed in him by his people and all of the Greater Homeland. The faith that was never disappointed, and least of all betrayed.”
After highlighting the importance of uniting the people of Our America, Correa said that with Fidel “with Camilo Cienfuegos, with Che, with Hugo Chávez Frías, we learned to believe in the new Latin American man, able to carry out, through organization and conscience, the constant struggle of liberationist ideas to build a world of justice and peace.”
We will continue struggling for these ideas. We swear. Hasta la victoria siempre Comandante!” concluded the Ecuadoran leader.


Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, stated that the passing of Fidel “is a painful loss for the South African people. He stood with us in solidarity, supporting our struggle including the international campaign to isolate the apartheid regime. We knew that we could rely on Cuba, a trusted friend and ally of the oppressed.
“…the deep and undying special relationship between Cuba and Africa was cemented by the blood of heroic Cuban soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice for their belief in anti-imperialism, freedom and justice.
“Cuba deployed close to half a million soldiers and officers in Africa, to support the struggles for national independence or against foreign aggression, over 30 years. 
“Cuba was not looking for gold, diamonds, or oil in Africa.
The Cubans only wanted to see freedom, and an end to the treatment of Africa as a playground of powerful nations while people suffered.”


Roosevelt Skerrit, Primer Minister of Dominica and President Pro Tempore of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) described Fidel as a true friend who reached out “to newly independent countries across Latin America and the Caribbean to assist in areas where Cuba was relatively strong. This was especially evident in the training of medical doctors and other health care workers, and the granting of scholarships in other disciplines.
“CARICOM will be forever grateful to Fidel and to you, the Cuban people for the great sacrifices you have made, against great adversity, in annually sustaining the training of our professionals for decades on both a bilateral and multilateral basis.
“Cuba now mourns the loss of a great leader, teacher and father; we share the pain and emptiness that you feel, for we have lost a faithful and valued friend. His memory lives on in our mission to provide for our people and to build a world in which justice, fairness and peace prevail.”


Salvador Sánchez Cerén, President of El Salvador noted that Fidel had a special appreciation and respect for the Salvadoran people. “Like thousands of Salvadoran youth, I came to know of Fidel through Radio Rebelde. For us, listening to him, signified the awakening of our political consciousnesses and the decision to change the sad reality of our country, the victim of a cruel military dictatorship.
“I remember that feeling of solidarity and support for the struggle in the Sierra Maestra and later with the triumph of the Revolution, a humanist project admired for its resistance and dignity in the face of constant U.S. aggression.”
He went on to note that tributes by “the Cuban people and the entire world, this immense affection, shows us that Fidel and his ideas live in the hearts of millions of people following his example of tireless struggle for the good of humanity.”


Meanwhile Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of the Republic of Greece stated in the Plaza de la Revolución, “As befits this great 20th century revolutionary, today we bid farewell to Comandante Fidel. We say goodbye to an international symbol of struggle and resistance who, through his example, inspired the struggles of peoples across the world for independence, liberty, justice and dignity.
“We bid farewell to the Fidel of the poor, the humble, the oppressed, and those who never give up, your Fidel, our Fidel, the Fidel that belongs to all corners of the world, the Fidel that belongs to history.
“It is a great honor to be participating in this historic moment on behalf of the people of Greece, a people that live in a corner of the planet very far away from you geographically, but close in regards to the values and ideals for which you have struggled and continue to struggle.”


Abdelkader Bensalah, president of the Council of the Nation of Algeria, expressed to the Cuban people and government “our sincere condolences on the loss of one of the best sons of this land of kindness, the island of liberty, Cuba,” on behalf of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Algeria, Abdelaziz Buteflika, and the Algerian government and people.
At another point in his speech he emphasized, “The leader Fidel Castro lived like a giant, and will remain after his departure as a legend and a highly valuable legacy for generations that will be inspired by his thinking to erect solid foundations in the interest of building a world where justice, dignity and freedom prevail; while his struggle will enlighten them in the forging of virtues such as self-denial, sacrifice, honesty, loyalty to others, and adherence to principles at any cost.”


Li Yuanchao, vice president and member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, said that during his life, Fidel was devoted to the friendship between Cuba and China: “He followed very closely and highly valued the progress of our development. With his personal attention and support, Cuba became the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Fifty-six years have passed since then, and Chinese-Cuban relations are advancing considerably, providing fruitful results of practical cooperation in various fields.”
The Chinese leader added that the friendship between the two peoples grows every day and is inseparable from the commitment and concern of Fidel. He noted that the Chinese people would miss Fidel deeply, and that this was an enormous loss for Cuba and the Latin American peoples.
Speaking to those gathered in Havana he stated, “It is not only you who lose a preeminent son, but the Chinese people also lose a dear comrade and sincere friend.”


During his tribute to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Majid Ansari, vice president for Legal Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, noted that what had united “this multitude of people and heads of state, special envoys from dozens of countries, and organizations from all over the world, is the tribute to one of the most outstanding revolutionaries of the day, the late Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz. Someone whose name is recognized across the world not only as a Cuban fighter and independentist, but as a revolutionary thinker and a liberator for all the peoples of Latin America and the oppressed of the world.
“A person who dedicated his life to the efforts to defend the rights of the oppressed and the fight against colonialism, for which his name, together with those of the great liberation leaders of history, will be eternally engraved in the memory of humanity.”


Referring to the significance of the figure of Fidel Castro Ruz, Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, stressed that the Cuban leader dedicated his life to the struggle for the freedom and independence of his country: “He loved his country and his people infinitely; his life has been the example of a true patriot. They could not break his will, nor that of the Cuban people.”
Continuing his speech, he highlighted that Fidel Castro became a symbol of the Cuban struggle, a struggle that was crowned with successes. “We have a duty to remember that it is thanks to him that Cuba has managed to preserve the most valuable thing that any state can have: its independence. Even today his ideas and dreams are dear to many peoples, therefore his cause will triumph.”


Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Chairwoman of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, stated that with the departure of comrade Fidel Castro, the Party, the state and the Cuban people have lost their historic, legendary leader. “The international communist and revolutionary movements have lost a firm, audacious, and experienced leader. The Communist Party, the state and the people of Vietnam have lost a very dear, beloved comrade and brother combatant.”
She noted that the Vietnamese people “always have engraved in our hearts the immortal phrase that comrade Fidel dedicated to us: For Vietnam, we are ready to give even our own blood.
“We have full confidence that comrade Fidel will live forever in the just cause of the Revolution of the heroic Cuban people, and in the hearts of the brotherly peoples of the world.”


Speaking on behalf of the State of Qatar, HH the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, said, “We have today attended the memorial service of a great leader, an exceptional revolutionary, a firm militant, an inflexible fighter, a symbol of resistance, who reached every corner of the globe, and was present in the minds of all.
“Fidel Castro was a giant of the struggle for national liberation. He maintained an unshakable faith in the right of the peoples to self-determination, at a time when most of the world’s peoples were subjected to colonialism. He fought for the causes in which he had faith, inspired millions of human beings who lived under the yoke of colonialism in different parts of the planet. He occupied a crowning place among the great heroes of liberation movements in the twentieth century.”
He concluded by stating, “His legacy, his struggle, his steadfastness in the face of challenges will always be a source of inspiration for this generation and future generations.”


Victor Sheiman, special envoy from the Republic of Belarus, explained that, in his country, highly valued is the enormous contribution of Fidel Castro to the development of friendly relations between countries.
"As Aleksandr Lukashenko, President of the Republic of Belarus, said, the luminous name of the audacious Comandante is written in gold letters in the history of establishing strategic collaboration between Belarus and Cuba.
"I am sure that the immortal work of Comandante Fidel will continue its victorious path. His legacy will be a symbol of hope for a more just and happy life among humble people. Over the decades, Belarus has been a loyal friend and trustworthy partner of our sister Cuba, and it will be so in the future.
“Fidel has not gone, Fidel remains. The clear image of the invincible Comandante, his political legacy, with be with us forever."


Evo Morales Ayma, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, emphasized his admiration for the unity and strength of the Cuban people, "A few hours ago, I heard the pro-imperialist bourgeois press say: And now, what will Cuba do without a leader? And we are seeing, the entire world is seeing the Cuban people more united, stronger than ever, to continue defeating imperialist domination.
"Fidel has been a true father to the excluded, to the marginalized, the discriminated, to the poor of the earth. Fidel teaches us that the only road of our peoples is that of unity and integration. Fidel is a true builder of peace with social justice.
"We would like to tell you, brothers and sisters, Fidel has not died, because the peoples don't die, at least not those who struggle for their liberation; this is Fidel."
At another point in his remarks, Morales said, "Fidel is greater than his own life; he is installed forever in the history of humanity."


Hage Gottfried Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, after highlighting the Namibian people's love for Fidel and the importance of Cuba's internationalist missions in Africa, said, "Fidel sent thousands of troops to Angola and Namibia to free these countries from South African oppression. Cuito Cuanavale was a milestone in the history of Southern Africa. In particular, the battle made possible the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 435, and that led to the independence of Namibia in 1990.
"We still have much to learn from a man who lived and died on his own terms."
The Namibian leader likewise emphasized that Fidel's lessons will continue to be "a guide in our struggle for a new world order. We must remain united, despite colonialism, and always stay united until victory."


Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto evoked "the memory of a man who made history," recalling that on November 25, 1956, the same date he died, Fidel and 82 brave compatriots departed from the banks of the River Tuxpan, on the coast of Veracruz, aboard the Granma. The mission they had charted was to construct a new government to be at the service of the Cuban people, guided by the ideals of liberty, justice, and equality. Since then, the Republic of Cuba and the Cuban people have provided an "example of dignity and perseverance," Peña Nieto said.
"No doubt, Fidel Castro was the constructor of revolutionary Cuba, but even more, he was an emblematic figure of the second half of the 20th century.
"Cuba and Mexico are friends and neighbors, our countries are joined by deep, irreplaceable ties. The waters of the Caribbean Sea have linked our history for centuries; the language and culture we share remind us that Cuban and Mexican hearts beat in solidarity and friendship."


Daniel Ortega Saavedra, President of the Republic of Nicaragua, referred to the help the Cuban Revolution has provided the Nicaraguan people in difficult times, and added, "Just as Fidel is held more firmly than ever in the hearts of this people, he is firm in the hearts of Latin American and Caribbean peoples, in the hearts of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and in the hearts of a good part of the U.S. people, a good part of European peoples…," saying that Fidel had understood these new times, not any easy task, and was able to adapt to changes, while he held a conception that was repeated only once, in Nicaragua. Ortega said, "It was Fidel and Raúl, and this people, who entered Managua triumphantly on July 19, 1979. (Applause) That was the last victorious revolution of the 20th century.


Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela spoke to the huge crowd, emphasizing the strong ties between the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions, referring to Fidel's lifelong devotion he said, "He went beyond fulfilling his mission on this earth, beyond the greatest expectations there could have been. Few lives have been so full, so luminous. He goes undefeated, this is better, as you say, he is not gone, he remains undefeated among us, absolved, absolutely absolved by the great history of the homeland."
At another point, Maduro said, "It is up to us now; it is up to you, women; it is up to you, students, youth, workers, professionals, campesinos, patriotic soldiers; it is up to us, men and women, it is up to us today to raise the banners of dignity and freedom for the peoples."

Saturday, August 13, 2016



Fidel at home

“Treat me like one of your own” Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro once told Cuban journalists, on another occasion writing that being among them felt like being among family

Author: Tubal Páez |
GRANMA, August 12, 2016 17:08:30

Fidel in the linotype workshop with then editor of Granma Jorge Enrique Mendoza, June 10, 1970. Photo: Valiente, Jorge

“Treat me like one of your own” Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro once told Cuban journalists, on another occasion writing that being among them felt like being among family. Such statements, made by someone who has always professed an unwavering respect for the truth, and profound distain for demagogy, express a genuine sincerity, especially when we remember that communication and the press were an intrinsic part of Fidel’s political activity, which began at an early age.

This family continued to grow around the revolutionary leader starting with the comrades that worked alongside him on radio broadcasts in his days at Radio Rebelde in the Sierra Maestra, to the revolutionary press which developed after the triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959, spreading to other latitudes with Operation Truth that same year; it also included colleagues who worked in television; strengthened and expanded by the efforts of all to combat U.S. imperialism and the corporative media in Cuba, opposed to the social measures being implemented.

At transcendental moments during Cuba’s revolutionary process, it was however at Granma where Fidel simultaneously conveyed his directives – in the form of editorials, articles and news reports – to the leadership of mass organizations, state institutions, and the people. A former colleague, Juan Marrero vividly recalls one of these moments, which saw him take on a leading role in an intense nationwide mobilization led by Fidel from Granma, in solidarity with the sister people of Peru, victims of a devastating earthquake in 1970.

Fidel entitled one of the two editorials he wrote regarding the tragedy, “Blood needed to help Peruvians.” In the other article published 10 days later, he reported that Cubans had made 104,594 voluntary blood donations. The country’s political leadership also turned to Granma to address other exceptional situations, for example following the events which occurred as a result of the incident at the Peruvian Embassy in Havana in May 1980, which sparked mass protests by the revolutionary Cuban people and ended with the government authorizing citizens to leave the island from Mariel bay.

The Granma family learned many valuable lessons in ethics, history, politics and journalism from the Comandante en Jefe. For me, perhaps the most important of all, given its drama and impact on the nation, and the fact that it constitutes a prime example of Fidel’s strength of character, was when he officially announced that the 10 million ton sugar harvest of 1970 had not been met.

Fidel arrived at the paper at midnight and typed the word “Defeat” in red ink on the back of a press dispatch. This was the headline he proposed for the next edition. Those of us present didn’t share the same view of the day’s top story, having witnessed his colossal personal effort and that of the national campaign involving millions of Cubans who, despite failing to reach the goal, produced the largest sugar harvest in the country’s history.

We disagreed citing various reasons, but he was decided. He argued, with brutal honesty, that the previous day, following the rescue of a group of fishermen kidnapped by a terrorist faction, the almost half-a-page headline on Cuba’s main newspaper had read “Victory.” We hadn’t been able to convince him by the time he left the editing room.

Later that May morning of 1970, Fidel returned and said: “We’re going to change the headline.” The front page of the May 20th edition was informative, bold and fair. The article was appropriately self-critical and defiant: “We will not reach 10 million tons.” “We have worked so hard for this; we have devoted our last atom of energy, thought, and feeling to this endeavor, and the only thing I have left to say to any Cuban, to he or she who feels deeply hurt by this news, is that this pain is the same pain we all feel, and the same pain felt by all our comrades.”

”More courage and bravery than ever!” He concluded with a thought that would guide future actions: “We must have the revolutionary integrity to turn defeat into victory.”

In those years the Granma daily was composed of a larger team than the one we have today, including typesetters, printers and distribution staff, responsibilities which would later be assumed by other entities.

Many members of staff knew Fidel from his former links with important media outlets and presence in the printing press, where the young revolutionary would chose the letter-sizing for the headlines of his articles.

Years later, as President, he continued to visit this important which no longer exists due to modern technology; where he would greet old acquaintances and ask them about their working conditions and health, speaking with them at length, just like old friends. I remember Silvio Rayón who came from Alerta, a daily that published important works by Fidel; and also the editorial staff, who were his colleagues at Radio Rebelde, such as Jorge Enrique Mendoza, editor of the paper, Ricardo Martínez and Orestes Valera. Other witnesses to those nights and early mornings, such as copy editors, photographers, cartoonists, correctors, designers, managers, secretaries and archive staff have special stories, anecdotes and memories of their encounters with this exceptional man, leader of the people and one of the greatest revolutionaries in history, who on his 90th birthday remains faithful to his principles, ideas and an example of someone committed to working for the benefit of others.

PHOTOS: Fidel Castro at 90

PHOTOS: Fidel Castro at 90

This file photo taken on may 1963 shows Cuban First Secretary of the Cuban Communist party and President of the State Council Fidel Castro(L) and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during a four-week official visit to Moscow.(AFP PHOTO)

Tribute to Fidel Castro on His 90th Birthday


AUGUST 12, 2016

On Saturday, August 13, the world will celebrate the 90th birthday of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro Ruz, the only individual ever to be acknowledged by the UN as a “World Hero of Solidarity.” It is very hard to think of a more important world leader than Fidel. The contribution he has made to the world socialist movement, to the Third World liberation struggle and to social justice has been monumental – especially when one considers that he has been the leader of a tiny country with roughly the same population as New York City.
At the current time, the Colombian government and leftist FARC guerillas are engaged in a peace process in Havana, and are very near to reaching a final peace accord, in large part due to Fidel’s efforts.
As Nelson Mandela himself has acknowledged, South Africa is free from apartheid in no small measure due to Fidel’s leadership in militarily aiding the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, especially in Angola and Namibia, against the South African military which was then being supported by the United States.
In addition, The Latin American Medical School (ELAM) in Cuba, which trains doctors from all around the world, but particularly from poor countries, was Fidel’s brainchild. Today, 70 countries from around the world benefit from Cuba’s medical internationalism, including Haiti where Cuban doctors have been, according to The New York Times, at the forefront of the fight against cholera.
As we speak, Cuba has hundreds of doctors working in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela where Venezuelan doctors fear to tread. There are Cuban-trained doctors in remote parts of Honduras which are otherwise not served by the Honduran government. Patients from 26 Latin American & Caribbean countries have traveled to Cuba to have their eyesight restored by Cuban doctors. Among this list is Mario Teran, the Bolivian soldier who shot and killed Che Guevara. The Cubans not only forgave Mario, but also returned his eyesight to him.  Cuba even offered to send 1,500 doctors to minister to the victims of the Hurricane Katrina, though this kind offer was rejected by the United States
As Piero Gleijeses, a professor at John Hopkins University, wrote in his book Conflicting Missions about Cuba’s outreach to Algeria shortly after the Cuban Revolution:
It was an unusual gesture: an underdeveloped country tendering free aid to another in even more dire straits. It was offered at a time when the exodus of doctors from Cuba following the revolution had forced the government to stretch its resources while launching its domestic programs to increase mass access to health care. It was like a beggar offering his help, but we knew the Algerian people needed it even more than we did and that they deserved it,’ [Cuban Minister of Public Health] Machado Ventura remarked. It was an act of solidarity that brought no tangible benefit and came at real material cost.

These words are just as true today as they were then, as this act of solidarity is repeated by Cuba over and over again throughout the world. And, it has been done even as Cuba has struggled to survive in the face of a 55-year embargo by the United States which has cost it billions of dollars in potential revenue, and even as it has endured numerous acts of terrorism by the United States and U.S.-supported mercenaries over the years.
Just recently, I was reminded of the fact that, for the past 25 years, Cuba has been treating 26,000 Ukrainian citizens affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident at its Tarara international medical center in Havana. Cuba has continued to do so, it must be emphasized, though even the potential for any help for this effort from the Soviet Union passed long ago.
According to Hugo Chavez, when he came to power in Venezuela in 1999, “the only light on the house at that time was Cuba,” meaning that Cuba was the only country in the region free of U.S. imperial domination. Thanks to the perseverance of Fidel and the Cuban people, now much of Latin America has been freed from the bonds of the U.S. Empire.
That Cuba not only stands 25 years after the collapse of the USSR, but indeed prospers and remains as a beacon to other countries, is a testament to Fidel’s revolutionary fervor and fortitude. Indeed, Fidel’s very life at this point – one that the U.S. has tried to extinguish on literally hundreds of occasions – itself constitutes an act of brave deviance against wealth, power and imperialist aggression. Incredibly, Fidel has survived 12 U.S. Presidents, a full quarter of all the U.S. Presidents since the founding of our nation.
I join the world in honoring Fidel Castro Ruz on his birthday, and hope that he continues to live and to lead for some time to come.

Daniel Kovalik lives in Pittsburgh and teaches International Human Rights Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Fidel, History Absolves You

By R Arun Kumar
People’s Democracy, August 07, 2016                                         

THIS 13th August, we will be celebrating the 90th birthday of one of the living legends of our times – Fidel Castro Ruz. Fidel Castro was born on August 13, 1926 in a relatively well-to-do family and studied in various religious schools for the wealthy, before graduating in law from the University of Havana. For many, this would have provided the perfect platform to pursue conservative politics. But not for Fidel, as he is fondly called. He chose a different path, to become one of the greatest and finest revolutionaries. He not only challenged the imperialist hegemon, the US, from what it considered was its 'backyard', but stood up to it without flinching. All the attempts of the US to bring down Cuba to its knees have spectacularly failed. Instead of Cuba getting isolated in the region and the world, it is the US, which is getting increasingly alienated from the people of the world. And Fidel Castro had a major role to play in all these developments.

Fidel took an interest in student activism while studying law and was attracted to Left, anti-imperialist politics. He was a voracious reader, a trait we observe in many of the leading revolutionaries. Though he was aware of the writings of Marx and Lenin, having read them, it was Marti who had a tremendous influence on him, whom he read and re-read extensively. Taking inspiration from Marti, he joined the rebellions against right-wing governments in Dominican Republic and Colombia, apart from protesting the dictatorial rule in his own country. During his early days of activism, he joined the Party of the Cuban People (Partido Ortodoxo) led by Eduardo Chibas, attracted by its slogans for social justice, honest government and political freedom. It is during this time he started publishing a clandestine newspaper El Acusador (The Accuser), exposing the corrupt and anti-people Batista regime. It is during this time, that he started mobilising people against the Batista government. As a part of these efforts, Fidel and his group planned to attack the Moncada garrison on July 26, 1953. Though this attack failed and many of the participants, including Fidel were captured, it marked a significant turning point in the history of Cuban revolution.

In a speech he gave enthusing the participants in the attack on Moncada garrison, he stated: “In a few hours you will be victorious or defeated, but regardless of the outcome – listen well, friends – this Movement will triumph...If we fail, our action will nevertheless set an example for the Cuban people, and from the people will arise fresh new men willing to die for Cuba”. These words are indeed prophetic, because Moncada attack had failed, but the 'Movement' lived. People began organising under the banner of 26 July Movement, which played an important role in the overthrow of Batista government and success of the Cuban Revolution. The speech Fidel gave in defence of his activities, during his trial in the court, 'History will absolve me', became very famous and was considered as an exposition of the ideals for which the fight should be carried on.

After being released from imprisonment due to popular pressure, Fidel once again plunged into mobilising people against the Batista government. Announcing that he was “leaving Cuba because all doors of peaceful struggle have been closed...I believe the hour has come to take our rights and not beg for them, to fight instead of pleading for them”, he left for Mexico, where he organised a group of revolutionaries. It is here that he had met Che Guevara, who joined the Castro brothers – both Fidel and Raul – along with other Cuban revolutionaries in the famous Granma expedition. They started with 82 people on board but many lost their lives immediately in the attack that followed on their way towards the Sierra Maestra mountains. According to Fidel, the fight resumed “with seven armed men, who managed to reunite on December 18”. After the addition of some more members of Granma yacht who joined the group, “A small force of no more than 18 expedition members and a number of young campesinos from the Sierra achieved the first victories on January 17 and 22, 1957”. It is because of this heroism and never-say-die attitude even in the face of fierce repression that Fidel Castro became famous.

The barbudos, the bearded guerillas, as they were called, were supported by the Cuban people, both in the urban and rural areas. The local leaders of the July 26 Movement were active in the cities and rural areas, supplementing the armed struggle of the guerillas in the mountains. Unable to withstand the increasing popular anger against the regime and having failed to defeat the guerillas led by Fidel, Batista was forced to flee from the country on January 1, 1959. The Revolution triumphed, with a victorious Fidel, accompanied by Che, Raul and Camillo marching into Havana. Fidel served as the prime minster of the country from 1959 to 1976 and then as the president from 1976 to 2008.

The US began its efforts to subvert Cuban revolution, immediately after the decrees passed by the revolutionary government undermined its economic interests in the island. The nationalisation of US companies that were exploiting the Cuban people and resources for many years, had further angered the US corporates and the government. It is then that the US government had imposed its infamous trade embargo, to squeeze and bleed Cuba to submission. The US, all the years hence, instead of withdrawing the embargo, only further tightened its screws through the imposition of Helms-Burton Act and Cuba Adjustment Act. It is undoubtedly to the credit of Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba that they withstood this inhuman blockade without compromising.

Fidel Castro became the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in 1961, after the Revolution declared its socialist characteristics and continued in this responsibility till 2011. In 2002, socialism as an irrevocable characteristic of the Cuban State was enshrined in the constitution. Eight million Cubans have signed the petition for this change to be brought into the constitution, as a response to the threat issued by Bush to 'change the socio-economic, political system in Cuba, in the aftermath of 9/11 (2001). The reasons for people's belief in socialism were not far to fathom, when one considers the transformation achieved in Cuban society. The tremendous advancements made possible by the Revolution, in the fields of education, health, social equality and employment, in spite of the blockade, inspired people to stay true to the cause of socialism. This was also made possible because, Fidel and the Communist Party took the people into confidence in all the decisions that were taken and also admitted frankly before them the mistakes that were committed in the process of socialist construction.

Fidel Castro says: “For a pretty long time, there's been a tendency here to assume that criticism, denunciations of things not done right, play into the hands of the enemy, aid the enemy, aid the counter-revolution. Sometimes there's a fear of reporting on something because people think it might be helpful to the enemy...And we've encouraged a critical spirit. I have been stimulating (that critical spirit) to the maximum, because it's fundamental to perfecting our system. Of course we know that there are drawbacks, but we want responsible criticism. And despite the possible consequences, anything is better than the absence of criticism”. And further, “In this battle against vices there will be no quarter given anyone, we're going to call a spade a spade, and we are going to appeal to the honour of each sector...And a revolutionary's first duty is to be extremely harsh with himself. We are going to fight this battle, and use the highest calibre weapons we have”. It is this brutal honesty with the people that Fidel employed in his communication with them, that had won their trust.

Fidel has enormous confidence in the people. This is reflected in his response to the US efforts to project socialist system as a failed and outmoded concept. He invited the then president of the US, George Bush to come to Cuba and debate with the people. He promised to mobilise people, filling up the Plaza de la Revolucion and also setting up loudspeakers all over the country so that their arguments can be heard by all the people. Fidel confidently states, “the vast majority of the people of Cuba support the Revolution unwaveringly” and that socialism is “not a question of living by dogmas, it is a question of defending what you think on the basis of arguments, reasoning”.

Fidel, is one of the finest orators who is heard in rapt attention, even when he speaks for hours together. He is considered a workaholic, whose day ends at two or three in the early morning. He barely sleeps for more than four hours and he continued to work at this pace till he relieved himself of all his responsibilities. He saw the US governed by ten presidents spend millions of dollars to subvert socialist Cuba. He survived nearly 600 assassination attempts on his life. On another plane, many eminent intellectuals, statesmen, artists, sports personalities expressed their admiration for him. People thronged to see him and hear him speak, not only in Cuba and in Latin America, but in other parts of the world as well.

In spite of all this adulation, he modestly assesses himself as: “I like actions; I am not interested in glory. I'm also witness to the fact that throughout the years, influence, power, rather than gradually making me conceited, vain and all that – every day, I think, I am less conceited, less pretentious, less self-satisfied. It's a struggle against your instincts, you know. I believe that it's education, or sincere and tenacious self-education, that turns a small animal into a man. One thing I see quite often: when men have a little power, they get all puffed up and want to use it; sometimes it's almost like a drug. You see all those things, and it's a constant struggle. And I know that as the years pass, it's possible to have not less enthusiasm, but more; not less energy, but more – energy stems from conviction...I never lose spirit, and I believe in people; I have never had any sense of ingratitude”.

It is his conviction in socialism, equality, social justice, freedom, liberty and belief in people that earned him the admiration of the oppressed people all over the world. Love him or hate him, Fidel is someone, who cannot be ignored.

On his 90th birthday, let us learn from his life and rededicate ourselves to the struggle for a world free of exploitation and discrimination. Hasta la victoria siempre! (Until the eternal victory)

The Cuban People Will Overcome

by Fidel Castro

Remarks by the leader of the Cuban
Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, during
the closing of the 7th Party Congress

It constitutes, compañeros, a superhuman effort to lead any people in times of crisis.  Without them, the changes would be impossible.  In a meeting such as this, which brings together more than a thousand representatives chosen by the revolutionary people themselves, who delegated their authority to them, for all it represents the greatest honor they have received in their lives, to which is added the privilege of being a revolutionary which is the product of our own consciousness.

Why did I become a socialist, or more plainly, why did I become a communist?  That word that expresses the concept most distorted and maligned in history by those who have the privilege of exploiting the poor, dispossessed ever since they were deprived of all the material wealth that work, talent, and human energy provide.  How long has man lived in this dilemma, throughout time without limit?  I know you do not need this explanation but perhaps some listeners do.

I speak simply so it is better understood that I am not ignorant, extremist, or blind, nor did I acquire my ideology on my own, studying economics.

I did not have a tutor when I was a student of law and political science, in which the former is of major importance.  Of course then I was around 20 years old and was fond of sports and mountain climbing.  Without a tutor to help me in the study of Marxism-Leninism, I was no more than a theorist and, of course, had total confidence in the Soviet Union.  Lenin's work violated after 70 years of Revolution.  What a history lesson!  It is safe to say that it should not take another 70 years before another event like the Russian Revolution occurs, in order that humanity have another example of a magnificent social revolution that marked a huge step in the struggle against colonialism and its inseparable companion, imperialism.

Perhaps, however, the greatest danger hanging over the earth today derives from the destructive power of modern weaponry which could undermine the peace of the planet and make human life on earth's surface impossible.

The species would disappear like the dinosaurs disappeared; perhaps there will be time for new forms of intelligent life, or maybe the sun's heat will increase until it melts all the planets of the solar system and its satellites, as many scientists recognize.  If the theories of several of them, of which we laypeople are not unaware, are true, the practical man must learn more and adapt to reality.  If the species survives much longer the future generations will know much more than we do, but first they will have to solve a huge problem.  How to feed the billions of human beings whose realities are inevitably at odds with the limits of the drinking water and natural resources that they need?

Some or perhaps many of you are wondering where is the politics in this speech.  Believe me I am sad to say it, but the politics is here in these moderate words.  Let us hope that many of us human beings will concern ourselves with these realities and not continue as in the times of Adam and Eve eating forbidden apples.  Who will feed the thirsty people of Africa with no technology at their disposal, no rain, no reservoirs, no more underground aquifers except those covered by sands?  We will see what the governments, just about all of which signed the climate commitments, say.

We must constantly hammer away at these issues and I do not want to elaborate beyond the essentials.

I shall soon turn 90.  Such an idea would never have occurred to me and it was never the result of an effort; it was sheer chance.  I will soon be like everyone else.  Our turn will come, to all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain, as proof that, on this planet, if we work with fervor and dignity we can produce the material and cultural wealth that human beings need, and we must fight relentlessly to obtain it.  To our brothers in Latin America and the world we must convey that the Cuban people will overcome.

This may be one of the last times that I speak in this room.  I voted for all the candidates submitted for election by Congress and I appreciate the invitation and the honor of your listening to me.  I congratulate you all, and firstly compañero Raúl Castro, for your magnificent effort.

We will march on and perfect what we should perfect, with the utmost loyalty and united force, like Martí, Maceo, and Gómez, in an unstoppable march.

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