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