The 70th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War will be commemorated the day after tomorrow, May 9. Given the time difference, while I write these lines, the soldiers and officials of the Army of the Russian Federation, full of pride, will be parading through Moscow’s Red Square with their characteristic quick, military steps.… Lenin was a brilliant revolutionary strategist who did not hesitate in assuming the ideas of Marx and implementing them in an immense and only partly industrialized country, whose proletariat party became the most radical and courageous on the planet in the wake of the greatest slaughter that capitalism had caused in the world, where for the first time tanks, automatic weapons, aviation and poison gases made an appearance in wars, and even a legendary cannon capable of launching a heavy projectile more than 100 kilometers made its presence felt in the bloody conflict.
Our country did not hesitate one minute in responding to the request made by international bodies for support to the struggle against the brutal [ebola] epidemic which has erupted in West Africa.… This is what our country has always done, without exception. The government had already given pertinent instructions to immediately mobilize and reinforce medical personnel offering their services in this region on the African continent. A rapid response was likewise given to the United Nations request, as has always been done when requests for cooperation have been made.
Thoughts by Compañero Fidel regarding an article published in the Sunday edition of the the New York Times, which evaluates the path the country should follow in relation to its policy toward Cuba, in the opinion of the newspaper.
If today it is possible to prolong life, health and the productive time of persons, if it is perfectly possible to plan the development of the population in accordance with growing productivity, culture and development of human values, what are they waiting for to do so?
I have asked the editors of Granma to relieve me of the honor of publishing what I write on the front page of the official organ of our Party, since I am thinking of expressing personal points of view on issues which, for obvious reasons of health and time, I have not been able to present in the collective leadership bodies of the Party or state, such as Party Congresses or pertinent meetings of the National Assembly of People’s Power.
Maybe the empire thought that we would not honor our word when, during days of uncertainty in the past century, we affirmed that even if the USSR were to disappear Cuba would continue struggling.
World War II broke out on September 1, 1939 when Nazi-fascist troops invaded Poland and struck like a lightning over the heroic people of the USSR, who contributed 27 million lives to preserve mankind from that brutal massacre that ended the lives of 50 million persons.
War, on the other hand, is the only venture that the human race throughout history has failed to avoid, leading Einstein to say that he did not know how World War III would be like but most certainly the fourth would be fought with sticks and stones.
Added up, the means available to the two most powerful powers–United States and Russia—amount to 20,000 (twenty thousand) nuclear warheads. Mankind should know that three days before John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency of his country on January 20, 1961, a US B-52 bomber, in a routine flight, carrying two atomic bombs with a destructive capacity 260 times that of the bomb dropped in Hiroshima, had an accident and the aircraft crashed. For such cases sophisticated automatic equipment are in place to prevent the bombs from exploding. The first bomb landed without risks. In the case of the second, three of the four mechanisms failed, and the fourth, in very critical conditions could barely function. The bomb did not explode by mere chance.
There is no present or past event I remember or have heard of that has impacted world public opinion so much as the death of Nelson Mandela, and not because of his wealth, but for his human quality and the loftiness of his ideas and feelings.
Throughout history and barely one and a half century ago—before robots and machines took over our modest tasks with a minimum energy cost—none of the phenomena that today shake mankind and inexorably rule each and every person—men and women, children and elders, young and adult, farmers and factory workers, manual workers or intellectuals—existed. The prevailing trend is to move to the cities, where the creation of jobs, transportation, and basic living conditions demand huge investments to the detriment of food production and other more rational ways of life.
Three powers have landed in our planet’s Moon. The same day Nelson Mandela, covered with his country’s flag, was buried in the backyard of the humble house where he was born 95 years ago, a sophisticated module from the Peoples Republic of China descended upon a bright spot in our Moon. The coincidence of both events was purely by chance.
Millions of scientists are studying earth and outer-space matters and radiations. Through them we now know that Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, accumulated 40 times more oil than the existing amount in our planet when oil extraction began 125 years ago and which will last barely one more century at current consumption rates.
The fraternal feelings of profound brotherhood between the Cuban people and Nelson Mandela’s homeland were born out of an event that has never been mentioned and about which we have never said a word during all these long years; Mandela, because he was an apostle of peace and did not want to hurt anyone; Cuba, because we have never done anything for the sake of glory and prestige.
Since the very triumph of the Revolution in Cuba we extended our solidarity to the Portuguese colonies in Africa. Liberation movements in that continent had colonialism and imperialism on the rack after World War II and the liberation of the Peoples Republic of China—the most highly populated country in the world— following the glorious triumph of the Russian Socialist Revolution.
Social revolutions were shaking the pillars of the old world order. In 1960 the inhabitants of the planet amounted to three billion. Along with this, the power of big transnational companies –almost all Americans—was growing and the American currency, underpinned by US gold monopoly and its intact industry so far removed from the battle fields, took control of the world economy. Richard Nixon unilaterally abolished the backing of US currency in gold and his country’s companies took control over the main resources and raw materials in the planet which they bought with paper bills.
Nothing I have said till now is new.
But why do they try to hide the fact that the Apartheid regime—that brought so much suffering onto Africa and aroused so much indignation in most nations throughout the world—was the fruit of European colonial powers and was turned into a nuclear power by the United States and Israel, something Cuba, who supported Portuguese colonies in Africa fighting for their independence openly condemned?
Our people, handed over to the United States by Spain after 30 years of heroic struggle, never reconciled with the slavery regime imposed during almost 500 years.
In 1975, racist troops supported by light tanks equipped with 90-millimeter guns set off from Namibia –then occupied by South Africa— and penetrated more than one thousand kilometers into Angolan territory up to the vicinity of Luanda, where an airborne battalion of Cuban Special Troops and several Cuban crews for Soviet tanks with no crews, succeeded in delaying their advance. This happened in November 1975, 13 years before the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.
I’ve already said that we have done nothing for the sake of prestige or seeking benefit of any kind. It is a fact that Mandela was an upright man, a profound revolutionary and a radical socialist who endured with great stoicism 27 years of solitary confinement. I could not but admire his honesty, modesty and enormous merit.
Cuba was strictly fulfilling its internationalist duties by defending key positions and training thousands of Angolans in the use of weapons every year. The USSR was providing the weapons. At the time, however, we disagreed with the idea of the main advisor of the suppliers of military equipment. Thousands of young and healthy Angolans were constantly joining the units of their then incipient army. Their main adviser, however, was not a Zhúkov, Rokossovski, Malinovsky or any of the many men that brought so much glory to Soviet military strategy. His obsessive idea was to send Angolan brigades carrying the best weapons to the territory where the tribal government of Savimbi – a mercenary serving the United States and South Africa—was supposedly located, which was tantamount to sending the troops fighting in Stalingrad to the border with the Falangist Spain that had sent over hundred thousand troops to fight against the USSR. That year a similar operation was going on.
The enemy was advancing behind several Angolan brigades severely hitting them near the place they had been sent to, approximately 1,500 kilometers away from Luanda. They were returning from there, pursued by South African troops en route to Cuito Cuanavale, a former NATO military base, located some 100 kilometers away from where a Cuban Tank Brigade was stationed.
At such a critical point, the President of Angola requested the support of Cuban troops. The commander of our troops in the South, General Leopoldo Cintra Frías, sent us the request as usual. Our firm reply was that we would provide such support provided that all Angolan troops and equipment would be under the Cuban command in South Angola. Everybody understood that our request was a requirement to turn the former base into the ideal battle field to hit the racist South African forces.
There was a positive response from Angola in less than 24 hours.
It was decided that a Cuban Tank Brigade would be immediately sent there. Several other were in the same line towards the West. The main obstacle was the mud and humidity due to the rainy season and the fact that every stretch of land had to be checked for anti-personnel mines. The military personnel to operate the tanks and guns without crews were also sent to Cuito.
To the East, the base was separated from the territory by the large and fast- flowing Cuito River over which there was a solid bridge under the frantic attack of the racist army. A radio-controlled airplane full of explosives was hit, brought down on the bridge and put out of action. The retreating Angolan tanks still moving were crossed more to the North. Those that were not in good conditions were buried with their weapons facing East; a thick strip of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines turned the line into a mortal trap on the other side of the river. When the racist troops renewed their advance and ran into that defensive wall, the artillery and tanks of the revolutionary brigades came down on them shooting from their positions in the Cuito area.
The Mig-23 fighters had a special role to play. Flying at a speed of almost 1,000 kilometers per hour and 100 (one hundred) meters altitude they were able to distinguish if the artillery personnel was black or white and began firing relentlessly against them.
When the battered and immobilized enemy began to withdraw, the revolutionary forces began to get ready for the final combats.
Numerous Angolan and Cuban brigades began moving quickly and keeping proper distance to the West towards the only wide routes from which South Africans always began their military actions against Angola. The airport, however, was approximately 300 (three hundred) kilometers from the border with Namibia, which was totally occupied by the Apartheid army.
While troops reorganized and rearmed the urgent decision to build a runway for the Mig-23 was made. Our pilots were using the aircraft equipment provided by the USSR to Angola, whose pilots had lacked the time for a proper training. Several aircraft were inoperative sometimes due to the action of our own artillerymen or anti-aircraft weapon operators. South Africans still occupied part of the main road going from the border of the Angolan plateau to Namibia. They began shooting from the bridges over the wide Cunene River –located between Southern Angola and Northern Namibia—with their 140-millimeter guns giving their projectiles a range of about 40 kilometers. The main problem was that the racist South Africans had, according to our estimates, 10 to 12 nuclear weapons. They had even tested them in the frozen areas or seas to the South. President Ronald Reagan had authorized such tests and the device for blasting the nuclear charge was among the equipment delivered by Israel. Our response was to organize the troops in combat groups of no more than 1,000 men, who would have to advance equipped with anti-aircraft tanks throughout an extensive territory at night.
According to reliable sources, South African nuclear weapons could not be transported by Mirage planes; heavy Canberra type bombers were required instead. In any case, our forces’ air defense had many different types of missiles that could hit and destroy air targets located dozens of kilometers away from our troops. In addition, a dam with 80 million cubic meters of water located in Angolan territory had been occupied and mined by Cuban and Angolan fighters. The explosion of that dam would have been tantamount to the explosion of several nuclear weapons.
Nonetheless, a hydroelectric plant using the strong current of the Cunene River, before reaching the Namibian border, was being used by a South African army detachment.
When the racist began shooting with their 140-millimeter guns in this new theater of operations, the detachment of white soldiers was strongly hit by the Mig-23 and the survivors fled the place leaving some posters criticizing their high command. That was the situation when Cuban and Angolan troops marched over the enemy lines.
I learned that Katiuska Blanco, the author of some historical accounts, together with other reporters and press photographers were there. It was a tense situation but everybody kept cool.
It was then that we got the news that the enemy was willing to negotiate. We had succeeded in stopping the imperialist and racist adventure in a continent where, in 30 years time, the population will exceed that of China and India together.
The role of the Cuban delegation on the occasion of the demise of our brother and friend Nelson Mandela will be unforgettable.
I congratulate comrade Raul for his brilliant performance and particularly for his strength of character and dignity when in a kind but firm gesture greeted the United States Head of Government and told him in English: “Mr. President, I’m Castro”.
When my health imposed limits to my physical capacity, I did not hesitate in expressing my criteria on whom, in my view, could assume the responsibility. A life is a minute in the history of the peoples and I believe that whoever holds today that responsibility must have the experience and authority required to choose among an increasing—almost infinite—number of alternatives.
Imperialism will always have several cards up its sleeve to subdue our island even if it has to depopulate it, depriving it from young men and women to whom they offer the scraps of the goods and natural resources it ransacks from the world.
Let the spokesmen of the empire now talk about how and why Apartheid came to life.
December 18, 2013
BARELY three days ago, a high-ranking leader from the Vietnamese Communist Party visited us. Before leaving, he conveyed to me his wish that I write some recollections of my visit to the territory of Vietnam liberated in its heroic fight against the yankee troops in the south of his country.
I do not really have much time available, when a large part of the world is striving to seek a response to the news that a war, with the use of deadly weapons, is about to break out in a critical corner of our globalized planet.
However, recalling antecedents, and the monstrous crimes committed against countries with lesser economic and scientific development, will help all peoples to fight for their own survival.
The 40th anniversary of the visit of an official Cuban delegation to Vietnam falls on September 12.
In a Reflection which I wrote February 14, 2008, I published information about the Republican candidate to the U.S. Presidency, John McCain, humiliatingly defeated in his candidacy by Barack Obama. The latter, at least, could talk in terms resembling those of Martin Luther King, vilely assassinated by white racists.
Obama even proposed imitating the train journey of the austere Abraham Lincoln, although he never would have been capable of delivering the Gettysburg Address. Michael Moore fired at him, “Congratulations, President Obama, for the Nobel Peace prize, now please earn it.”
McCain lost the Presidency of the United States, but fixed things so as to return to the Senate, from where he is exercising enormous pressure on the government of this country.
Now he is happy, moving his forces so that Obama can fire the greatest number of accurate missiles with the capacity to hit with precision the living forces of the Syrian troops.
Sarin gas is as deadly as atomic radiation. Nine countries already have nuclear weapons which are far more deadly than sarin gas. Data published in 2012 notes that Russia possesses approximately 16,000 active nuclear warheads, and the United States around 8,000.
The need to deploy them on enemy objectives in a question of minutes imposes procedures for their use.
A third power, China, the most solid economically, already has the capacity for mutual assured destruction with the United States. For its part, Israel exceeds France and Britain in nuclear technology, but has not allowed one word to be spoken on the fabulous funds it receives from the United States and its collaboration with the latter country in this area. A few days ago, it dispatched two missiles to test the response capacity of U.S. destroyers in the Mediterranean pointed at Syria.
What then is the power of such a small, advanced group of countries?
In order to extract the enormous energy derived from a hydrogen nucleus it is necessary to create a gas plasma of more than 200 million degrees centigrade, the heat needed to force the atoms of deuterium and tritium to fuse and release energy, according to a BBC dispatch which seems to be well informed on the subject. This is already a scientific discovery, but how much will need to be invested to transform these objectives into reality?
Our suffering humanity is waiting. We are not a mere handful; we already total more than seven billion human beings, the vast majority children, adolescents and young adults.
Returning to the recollections of my visit to Vietnam which prompted these lines, I did not have the privilege of meeting Ho Chi Minh, the legendary creator of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the country of the Annamites, the people of whom our National Hero José Martí talked in such a praiseworthy fashion in 1889 in his Golden Age children’s magazine.
When I visited the country in 1973, the first day I stayed in the residence of the former French governor in Indochina, arriving there September 12, after the agreement between the United States and Vietnam. Pham Van Dong, then Prime Minister, put me up there. That hardened combatant, alone with me in the old mansion built by the French metropolis, began to weep. Excuse me, he said to me, but I am thinking of the millions of young people who have died in this struggle. It was at that very moment when I perceived in its full dimension how hard that battle had been. He also complained of the acts of deception the United States had used against them.
In a brief synthesis, I shall use the exact words which I wrote in the abovementioned Reflection of February 14, 2008, as soon as I had the possibility of doing so:
“The bridges, without exception, throughout the journey, visible from the air between Hanoi and the South, were effectively destroyed; villages devastated, and every day, splinter bomb grenades –dropped with that objective – exploded in the rice fields where children, women and even old people of advanced age, were working to produce food.
“A large number of craters could be observed at every one of the entries to the bridges. At that time, far more precise laser directed bombs did not exist. I had to insist in order to make that tour. The Vietnamese feared that I might be the victim of some yankee adventure if they knew of my presence in the area. Pham Van Dong accompanied me the entire time.
“We flew over the province of Nghe-An, where Ho Chi Minh was born. In that province and that of Ha Tinh, two million Vietnamese died of hunger in 1945, the last year of World War II. We landed in Dong Hoi. One million bombs were dropped on the province where this destroyed city is located. We crossed the Nhat Le on a raft. We visited an aid post for the wounded in Quang Tri. We saw countless captured M48 tanks. We toured wooden roads of what had been the National Route, destroyed by bombs. We met with young Vietnamese soldiers who covered themselves in glory in the battle of Quang Tri. Serene, resolute, weather-beaten by the sun and war, a slight tic was reflected in the battalion captain’s eyelid. No-one knows how they were able to resist so many bombs. They were worthy of admiration. That same afternoon of September 15, returning by a different route, we picked up three wounded children two of them seriously so; a girl aged 14 years was in a state of shock with a metal fragment in her abdomen. The children were working the land when a hoe made a chance contact with a grenade. The Cuban doctors accompanying the delegation gave them direct attention for hours and saved their lives. I have witnessed, Mr. McCain, the results of the bombing of North Vietnam, of which you are so proud.
“In those September days, Allende had been overthrown; the government Palace was attacked and many Chileans tortured and murdered. The coup was promoted and organized from Washington.”
Lino Luben Pérez, an AIN journalist, quoted in an article published December 1, 2010, the words stated on January 2, 1988 at the event for the seventh anniversary of the Revolution: “We are prepared to give Vietnam not only our sugar, but our blood, which is worth far more than sugar!”
In another part of his article, the AIN journalist wrote, “For years, thousands of young Vietnamese studied in various specialties in Cuba, including the Spanish and English languages, while another considerable number of Cubans learned their language there.
“At the port of Haiphong, in the north bombarded by the yankees, Cuban ships docked loaded with sugar, and hundreds of technical personnel worked during the war in that territory as constructors.
“Other compañeros founded poultry farms for the production of meat and eggs.
“The first merchant ship from this nation to enter a Cuban port was a tremendously significant event. Today, state or business collaboration and the political understanding between the two [Communist] parties and their relations of friendship have been maintained and are increasing.”
I ask you to excuse me for the modest effort of writing these paragraphs in the name of our traditional friendship with Vietnam.
This morning, the risk of conflict breaking out with its disastrous consequences would seem to have been reduced due to the intelligent initiative of Russia, which remained firm in the face of the unheard of pretension on the part of the United States government, threatening to launch a devastating attack on the Syrian defenses which could cost thousands of lives of the people of this country and unleash a conflict of unforeseeable consequences.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke in the name of the government of this valiant country and is possibly contributing to avert, in the immediate future, a world disaster.
For their part, the U.S. people are strongly opposed to a political adventure which would affect not only their own country, but all of humanity.
Fidel Castro Ruz
September 10, 2013
THE human species reaffirms with frustrating force that it has existed for approximately 230 million years. I do not recall any affirmation that it has achieved any greater age. Other kinds of humans did exist, like the Neanderthals of European origin; or a third, the hominid of Denisova in North Asia but, in no case are there fossils more ancient than those of the homo sapiens of Ethiopia.
On the other hand, similar remains exist of numerous species living then, such as dinosaurs, the fossilized remains of which date back more than 200 million years. Many scientists talk of their existence prior to the meteorite which struck the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, provoking the death of these mammals, some of which measured up to 60 meters in length.
Equally known is the prehistory of the planet which we today inhabit, which broke away from the solar nebula and cooled as a compact, almost flat mass, constituted by a growing number of well defined materials which, little by little, acquired visible traits. It is not as yet known how many remain to be discovered, and the previously unknown uses which modern technology can contribute to human beings.
It is known that the seeds of certain edible plants were discovered and began to be used around 40,000 years ago. There is also confirmation of what was a sowing calendar, engraved in stone approximately 10,000 years ago.
Science must teach all of us to be more modest, given our congenital self-sufficiency. In this way, we would be more prepared to confront and even enjoy the rare privilege of existing.
Countless generous and self-sacrificing people, in particular mothers, whom nature endowed with a special spirit of sacrifice, live in this exploited and plundered world.
The concept of fathers, which does not exist in nature, is on the other hand, fruit of social education in human beings and is observed as a norm in any part of the world, from the Arctic, where the Eskimos are to be found, to the most torrid tropical jungles of Africa, in which women not only look after their families, but also work the land to produce food.
Anyone who reads the news arriving every day on old and new behaviors of nature and discoveries of methods for confronting events of yesterday, today and tomorrow, will understand the exigencies of our time.
Viruses are transforming themselves in unexpected forms, hitting the most productive plants or animals which make possible human alimentation, making the health of our species more insecure and costly, generating and aggravating illnesses, above all among the elderly or infants.
How to honorably confront the growing number of obstacles suffered by the inhabitants of the planet?
Let us think that more than 200 human groups are disputing the Earth’s resources. Patriotism is simply the widest sentiment of solidarity achieved. We should never say that it was only a little thing. It evidently began with family activities of reduced groups of people which historians describe as family clans, to explore ways of cooperation among family groups who cooperated with each other in order to undertake tasks within their reach. There was a struggle among family groups in other stages, until they reached higher levels of organization such as, doubtless, tribes. More than 100,000 years went by. Recollections written on sophisticated parchment, however, date back no more than 4,000 years.
The human capacity to think and develop ideas was already notable, and I sincerely do not believe that the Ancient Greeks were less intelligent than contemporary humans. Their poems, their philosophical texts, their sculptures, their medical knowledge, their Olympic Games; their mirrors, with which they set alight enemy ships by concentrating the sun’s rays; the works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Archimedes and others, filled the ancient world with light. They were men of exceptional talents.
After a long road, we arrived at the contemporary stage of human history.
Critical days were not long in presenting themselves for our homeland, at 90 miles from the continental territory of the United States, after a profound crisis struck the USSR.
From January 1, 1959, our country took charge of its own destiny after 402 years of Spanish colonialism and 59 as a neo-colony. We no longer existed as indigenous peoples who did not even speak the same language; we were a mix of whites, Blacks and American Indians who formed a new nation with its virtues and defects like all the rest. It goes without saying that the tragedy of unemployment, underdevelopment and an extremely poor level of education ruled on the island. The people were in possession of knowledge inculcated by the press and literature dominant in the United States, which was unaware of, if it did not scorn, the sentiments of a nation which had fought with arms over decades for its independence and, in the end, also against hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the service of the Spanish metropolis. It is essential not to overlook the history of the “Ripe Fruit,” dominant in the colonialist mentality of the powerful neighboring nation, which made its power prevail and not only refused the country the right to be free today, tomorrow and for ever, but attempted to annex our island as part of the territory of that powerful country.
When the U.S. Maine battleship exploded in the port of Havana, the Spanish army, comprising hundreds of thousands of men, was already defeated. Just as one day, on the basis of heroism, the Vietnamese defeated the powerful army endowed with sophisticated equipment, including Agent Orange, which affected so many Vietnamese for life, and Nixon, on more than one occasion, was tempted to use nuclear weapons against that heroic people. It was not by chance that he fought to soften the Soviet position with discussions on food production in that country.
I would not be clear if I do not point to a bitter moment in our relations with the USSR. This was derived from our reaction on learning of Nikita Khrushchev’s decision related to the 1962 October Crisis, the 51st anniversary of which is this October.
When we found out that Khrushchev had agreed with John F. Kennedy to withdraw the nuclear missiles from the country, I published a note of five points which I considered indispensable for an agreement. The Soviet leader knew that initially we warned the Chief Marshal of the Soviet rockets that Cuba was not interested in being seen as an emplacement for USSR missiles, given its aspiration to be an example for other countries in Latin America in the struggle for the independence of our peoples. But despite this the Chief Marshal of those weapons, an excellent person, insisted on the need to have some weaponry which would deter the aggressors. Given his insistence on the issue, I stated that if it seemed to them an essential need for the defense of socialism, that was different, because, above all else, we were revolutionaries. I asked him for two hours so that the leadership of our Revolution could make a decision.
In relation to Cuba, Khrushchev had conducted himself with much dignity. When the United States totally suspended the sugar quota and blocked our trade, he decided to buy what that country had ceased to import, and at the same price; when, a few months later, that country suspended oil quotas, the USSR supplied us with the necessities of that vital product without which our economy would have suffered a major collapse. A fight to the death had been imposed, given that Cuba would never surrender. The battles had been very bloody, as much for the aggressors as for us. We had accumulated more than 300,000 weapons, including the 100,000 we had taken from the Batista dictatorship.
The Soviet leader had accumulated great prestige. As a result of the occupation of the Suez Canal by France and Britain, the two powers which owned the canal and, with the support pf Israeli forces, had attacked and occupied the waterway, Khrushchev warned that he would use his nuclear weapons against the French and British aggressors who had occupied that point. Under Eisenhower’s leadership, the United States was not disposed at that moment to involve itself in a war. I recall a phrase of Khrushchev’s at that time, “Our missiles could hit a fly in the air.”
Not long afterward, the world found itself enveloped in extremely grave danger of war. Unfortunately, it was the most serious as yet known. Khrushchev wasn’t just one more leader, during the Great Patriotic War he was outstanding as Chief Commissar of the defense of Stalingrad, now Volgograd, in the hardest battle waged in the world, with the participation of four million men. The Nazis lost more than half a million soldiers. The October Crisis in Cuba lost him his position. In 1964 he was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.
It was supposed that, although at a high price, the United States would keep to its commitment not to invade Cuba. Brezhnev developed excellent relations with our country. He visited us on January 28, 1974, developed the military might of the Soviet Union, trained many officers of our forces in the military academy of his great country, continued the free supply of military armaments to our country, promoted the construction of a water cooled electronuclear power station at which maximum security measures were implemented, and gave support to our country’s economic objectives.
Upon his death on November 10, 1982, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, director of the KGB, who headed the funeral ceremony for Brezhnev and took possession as president of the USSR. He was a serious man, that is my appreciation of him, and also very frank.
He told us that if we were attacked by the United States we would have to fight alone. We asked him if they could supply weapons free of charge as had been the case. He replied in the affirmative. We then communicated to him, “Don’t worry, send us the weapons which the invaders took from us.”
Only a minimum of compañeros were informed of this matter, given that it would have been highly dangerous if the enemy had this information.
We decided to ask other friends for sufficient weapons in order to organize one million Cuban combatants. Compañero Kim Il Sung, a veteran and impeccable combatant, sent us 100,000 AK rifles and their corresponding park without charging a cent.
What contributed to unleash the crisis? Khrushchev had perceived Kennedy’s clear intention to invade Cuba as soon as the political and diplomatic conditions were prepared, especially after the crushing defeat of the mercenary Bay of Pigs invasion, escorted by assault warships from the Marine Infantry and a yanki aircraft carrier. The mercenaries controlled the airspace with more than 40 aircraft including B-26 bombers, air transport planes and other support aircraft.
A prior surprise attack on the principal airbase did not find our aircraft lined up, but dispersed to various points, those which could be moved and those that lacked parts. It affected just a few. The day of the traitorous invasion our planes were in the air before dawn, headed for Playa Girón. Let us just say that an honest U.S. writer described it as a disaster. Suffice it to say that at the end of that adventure only two or three expeditionaries were able to return to Miami.
The invasion programmed by the U.S. armed forces against the island would have suffered tremendous losses, far higher than the 50,000 soldiers they lost in Vietnam. They did not then have the experience that they acquired later.
It will be recalled that, on October 28, 1962, I stated that I was not in agreement with the decision, not consulted with or known by Cuba, that the USSR would withdraw its strategic missiles, for which launch pads were being constructed, to a total of 42. I explained to the Soviet leader that this step had not been consulted with us, an essential requisite of our agreements. The idea can be put in one sentence, “You can convince me that I am wrong, but you cannot say that I am wrong without convincing me,” and I enumerated five points, to remain sacrosanct. 1. An end to the economic blockade and all measures of commercial economic coercion exercised by the United States in all parts of the world against our country. 2. An end to all subversive activities, the launching of landing of arms and explosives by air and by sea, the organization of mercenary invasions, filtration of spies and saboteurs, all of these actions carried out from U.S. territory and some complicit countries. 3. An end to pirate attacks perpetrated from bases in the United States and Puerto Rico. 4. An end to all violations of our air and maritime space by U.S. warplanes and warships. 5. Withdrawal from the Guantánamo Naval Base and the return of the Cuban territory occupied by the United States.
It is equally very well known that the French journalist Jean Daniel interviewed President Kennedy after the October Crisis; Kennedy recounted the very difficult time he had experienced, and asked him if I was really aware of the danger of that moment. I asked the French reporter to travel to Cuba, to talk with me and clarify that question.
Daniel traveled to Cuba and asked for an interview. I called him that night and conveyed to him that I wanted to see him and converse with him about the issue, and suggested that we talk in Varadero. We arrived there and I invited him to lunch. It was midday. I turned on the radio and at that moment a glacial dispatch announced that the President had been assassinated in Dallas.
There was virtually nothing left to talk about. Of course, I asked him to tell me about his conversation with Kennedy; he was really impressed with his contact with the president. He told me that Kennedy was a thinking machine; he was really traumatized. I didn’t see him again. For my part, I investigated as far as I could, or rather, imagined what happened that day. Lee Harvey Oswald’s conduct was really strange. I knew that he had attempted to visit Cuba not long before the assassination of Kennedy, and that it was supposed that he shot at a moving target with a semi-automatic rifle. I am very well acquainted with the use of that weapon. When one fires, the sight moves and the target is lost in an instant; something which does not happen with other types of firing systems. The telescopic lens, of various degrees of power, is very precise if the weapon is supported, but obstructs when used against a moving object. It is said that two lethal shots were fired consecutively in a fraction of a second. The presence of a lumpen, known for his trade, who killed Oswald in no less than a police precinct, moved by the pain that Kennedy’s wife would be suffering, would seem to be a cynical joke.
Johnson, a good oil magnate, lost no time in taking a plane headed for Washington. I do not wish to make imputations; that is a matter for them, but the plans were to involve Cuba in the assassination of Kennedy. Later, after some years had passed, the son of the assassinated President visited and dined with me. He was a young man full of life, who liked to write. Shortly afterward, traveling in a stormy night to a vacation island in a simple aircraft, it apparently failed to find its goal and exploded. I also met in Caracas with the wife and young children of Robert Kennedy, who was Attorney General, and a negotiator with Khrushchev’s envoy and had been assassinated. Thus the world marched on since then.
Very close now to ending this account, which coincides with the 87th birthday of its author on August 13, I ask you to excuse me for any imprecision. I have not had time to consult documents.
News dispatches talk almost daily about issues of concern accumulating on the world horizon.
According to the Russia Today television channel website, Noam Chomsky stated,”the U.S. policy is designed to increase terror.”
“According to the eminent philosopher, U.S. policy is designed so as to increase terror among the population. ‘The U.S. is conducting the most impressive international terrorist campaign ever seen […] that of the drone planes and the special forces campaign…’”
“The drone planes campaign is creating potential terrorists.”
“In his view, it is absolutely amazing that the North American country performs on one hand a massive terror campaign that can generate potential terrorists against oneself, and on the other hand it proclaims that it is absolutely necessary to have mass surveillance to protect against terrorism.”
“According to Chomsky, there are many similar cases. One of the most striking, in his opinion, is that of Luis Posada Carriles, accused in Venezuela of participating in an attack on a plane aboard which 73 people were killed…”
Today, I am especially recalling the best friend I had in my years as a political activist – a very modest and poor man forged in the Bolivarian Army of Venezuela – Hugo Chávez Frías.
Among the many books which I have read, impregnated with his poetic and descriptive language, there is one which distills his rich culture and his capacity for expressing his intelligence and his sympathies in rigorous terms, through the 2,000-plus questions put to him by the likewise French journalist, Ignacio Ramonet.
On July 26th this year, when he visited Santiago de Cuba on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos M. de Céspedes garrisons, Ramonet dedicated to me his latest book, Hugo Chávez Mi primera vida. (Hugo Chávez: My First Life).
I experienced the healthy pride of having contributed to the drafting of this work, because Ramonet subjected me to an implacable questionnaire, which, despite everything, served to coach the author on this material.
The worst thing is that I had not completed my task as a leader when I promised him to revise it.
On July 26, 2006, I fell seriously ill. As soon as I understood that it would be definitive, I didn’t hesitate for an instant to announce on the 31st that I was resigning from my posts as President of the Councils of State and Ministers, and proposed that the compañero designated to exercise this task should immediately proceed to occupy it.
I still had to complete the promised revision of One Hundred Hours with Fidel. I was prone, I feared losing consciousness while I was dictating and sometimes I fell asleep. Nevertheless, day by day, I replied to the devilish questions which seemed to me to be interminably long; but persisted until I finished.
I was far from imagining that my life would be prolonged another seven years. Only in this way did I have the privilege of reading and studying many things which I should have learned before. I think that the new discoveries have surprised everyone.
In relation to Hugo Chávez there remained many questions to answer, from the most important moment of his existence, when he assumed his post as President of the Republic of Venezuela. There is not one question to respond to in terms of the most brilliant moments of his life. Those who knew him well know the priority he gave to those ideological challenges. A man of action and ideas, he was surprised by an extremely aggressive illness which caused him great suffering, but he confronted it with great dignity, and with profound pain for his family and close friends who loved him so much. Bolívar was his teacher and the guide who directed his steps through life. Both of them brought together sufficient grandeur to occupy a place of honor in human history.
All of us are now awaiting Hugo Chávez, Mi Segunda Vida (Hugo Chávez: My Second Life). Without him, nobody could write the most authentic of histories better.
Fidel Castro Ruz
August 13, 2013
Dear Daniel: With great satisfaction I just listened to your excellent speeches at the 8th Petrocaribe Summit. It was very just that the venue of the meeting is Nicaragua, a country that was capable of overcoming the artful blow of the empire under the government of one of the most uneducated and cynical frauds selected by the U.S. oligarchy.
A few days ago I mentioned the great challenges humanity is currently facing. Intelligent life emerged on our planet approximately 200,000 years ago, although new discoveries demonstrate something else.
This is not to confuse intelligent life with the existence of life which, from its elemental forms in our solar system, emerged millions of years ago.
A virtually infinite number of life forms exist. In the sophisticated work of the world’s most eminent scientists the idea has already been conceived of reproducing the sounds which followed the Big Bang, the great explosion which took place more than 13.7 billion years ago.
This introduction would be too extensive if it was not to explain the gravity of an event as unbelievable and absurd as the situation created in the Korean Peninsula, within a geographic area containing close to five billion of the seven billion persons currently inhabiting the planet.
This is about one of the most serious dangers of nuclear war since the October Crisis around Cuba in 1962, 50 years ago.
In 1950, a war was unleashed there [the Korean Peninsula] which cost millions of lives. It came barely five years after two atomic bombs were exploded over the defenseless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which, in a matter of seconds, killed and irradiated hundreds of thousands of people.
General Douglas MacArthur wanted to utilize atomic weapons against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Not even Harry Truman allowed that.
It has been affirmed that the People’s Republic of China lost one million valiant soldiers in order to prevent the installation of an enemy army on that country’s border with its homeland. For its part, the Soviet army provided weapons, air support, technological and economic aid.
I had the honor of meeting Kim Il Sung, a historic figure, notably courageous and revolutionary.
If war breaks out there, the peoples of both parts of the Peninsula will be terribly sacrificed, without benefit to all or either of them. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba has always been and will continue to be with her.
Now that the country has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70% of the population of the planet.
If a conflict of that nature should break out there, the government of Barack Obama in his second mandate would be buried in a deluge of images which would present him as the most sinister character in the history of the United States. The duty of avoiding war is also his and that of the people of the United States.
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 4, 2013