Speech at International Youth Festival on August 6, 1995 (excerpts)

By Fidel Castro, in Granma International and edited by the Militant,
Vol. 59, no. 34. 18 September, 1995.

Excerpts from the speech given by Cuban president Fidel Castro at the closing ceremony of the Cuba Lives! International Youth Festival on August 6. The day before 500,000 people, including festival participants, rallied in Havana in support of the Cuban revolution. This English-language translation appears in the Aug. 23, 1995, issue of the weekly Granma International. Subheadings are by the Militant.

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Challenge to new generations

The approach of the year 2000 and another century is spoken of joyfully. That is only natural; the last thing human beings lose is hope. But as we see things, it seems that the new generations that you represent, in Cuba and the whole world, will have to tackle very serious problems on all fronts. I am not just talking here about environmental issues. Really, for the first time, the possibility of the world surviving the destruction that is taking place in the natural environment and to humanity's ways of living has been questioned, an issue that has been much talked about; however, the effects are becoming increasingly obvious, visible, and worrying.

For example, for a few years now there has been talk about the famous greenhouse effect, the ozone layer, and other such problems; however, we are already experiencing the greenhouse effect, Cuba is experiencing it, we are aware of it, the world is witness to what is happening: terrible heat waves all over the place; nearly 1,000 people died from heat exposure in the United States, as they have in England, in almost all parts of Europe, everywhere.

According to records, the last few years have been the hottest for a hundred years, we are already seeing the consequences of these effects; but they are by no means the worst we are going to see. There are strange atmospheric phenomena of all kinds. We have just had the case of a cyclone or hurricane which, while passing through Florida, caused some extremely heavy rainfall in our country, from hundreds of kilometers away.

We have had recent proof of man's destruction and over- exploitation of natural resources in the conflict which arose between Canada and the European Union over the Atlantic halibut species - we know of it since we have heard a lot about this virtual fishing war during the last few months.

The number of fishing zones, not only there but also in the South Atlantic, are fast being exhausted; and yet the world population is already approaching 6 billion inhabitants. By the famous year 2000 the world population will already have reached the 6 billion mark, if I am not mistaken, because I have three of those devices, given to me as presents, which you can sit in front of and see how the population is growing per second and per minute.

The phenomena of drought is being experienced all over the world, either severe drought or excessive rainfall - tremendous floods in China - that cause so much damage, that kill thousands of people in other parts of the world, or long months without rainfall. It has been confirmed that sea levels are rising every year.

What I want to say is that humanity is clearly starting to experience the effects of the destruction of the environment. It is horrifying to hear of the number of species being destroyed, both from the plant and animal world, every day throughout the world. And it's perceptible, the phenomenon is visible. There is no doubt that this growing population will have to confront massive ecological problems, and you will be witnesses to that.

But I would like to refer fundamentally to another aspect of the issue, the political aspect, the social aspect. Will the coming century, so much talked about, be the century of unipolar hegemony, the domination of world politics by one single country or group of countries? Will it be the century of economic globalization, of the outright triumph of the transnationals, and the imposition of a new world order far worse than the one we have today?

What will be left in this world for the countries that constitute the overwhelming majority of humanity? What guarantees do they have, what security? Will they by any chance be able to compete with the latest and most developed technology? Where will their markets be? What will be the prices of their products? What place will they have in the world? And this issue is not only about the countries formerly referred to as the Third World, it is also about countries which were not viewed as being part of the Third World - the Soviet Union and ex-socialist bloc countries - which have, in effect, now become part of the Third World in terms of their economic indices, gross domestic product, their competitiveness, their ability to find markets, and as such, have increased the number - we could say - of the world's poor.

Growing trade conflict

Agreement has just been reached on the norms that should regulate international trade as laid down in the Uruguay Round, the GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] - currently the WTO [World Trade Organization] - and already, in practice, big powers are beginning to ignore these norms. We have seen the methods used by the United States to resolve its differences with Europe and Japan: threats of trade wars, extremely high tariff barriers, through which it is imposing its conditions on the rest of the world, including the developed world.

New theories have arisen, the order of the day is no longer imperialism, which is almost as old as Methuselah, we could say, in its modern form; although the world has already known an empire in the past which lasted for many years, the Roman Empire whose Capitol, I believe, served as a model for the Capitol of the present-day empire which is the United States.

During the Cuban revolutionary process which began in 1959, people spoke of imperialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism. On the international scene there was much talk about these ideas, these concepts, they were studied, analyzed; now the reference is neoliberalism and some claim that the coming century will be the century of neoliberalism.

In fact, when the socialist camp and the Soviet Union collapsed, all these imperialist theories made great advances; in reality, the time had come to settle accounts, to take control of the world economy, and all the international credit institutions and the developed world imposed neoliberal policies. We are already beginning to see the consequences.

I do not find it very pleasant to mention countries by name, nor do I want to offend anyone of those present here, or the representatives of certain countries. You referred to them this morning. The monstrous consequences of neoliberalism are already appearing in many parts of the world.

Barely two years ago other problems were being discussed: the social problems resulting from neoliberalism. The universal complaint of teachers, doctors, and professionals who attended congresses here in Cuba was the suppression of credits and the budgets allocated to education, health care, social security, social development, for all those activities. But the economic crisis of neoliberalism could still not be seen clearly, that crisis which is now being manifested in the form of high unemployment figures, which in some regions have tripled in scarcely two years, or serious financial problems which could ruin any country overnight. There are also countries with vast natural resources and huge incomes, which are on the verge of a social explosion resulting from daily battles between workers, the police, and other repressive forces, in Central America, in South America, and in other places. We are already seeing the consequences, and there are countries which have clearly stated that they are not going towards neoliberalism, that they are going to avoid it at all cost.

Problems of capitalism

Friends of ours, important figures, have sent messages to us saying: "We do not know where you are headed" - a good question, and linked to some of the concerns raised here - "but we advise you not to go where we are going." These are the words of friends who are caught up in this wave of neoliberalism and are now committed to that policy.

The effects are already such that even international organizations such as the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank are talking of social development and of giving credits for social development. They are beginning to take serious note of the time bomb that is ticking away everywhere and in Latin America in particular. In spite of all this talk of macroeconomic indices, everyday reality is confronting them; it is a terrible and desperate situation.

Everything has to be privatized! Well, they have already privatized almost everything. They solved budget deficits with the revenue from privatizations, but the state's private properties are now gone; properties built up over decades are fast disappearing in the name of that practice and that philosophy. Soon there will be nothing left to privatize.

One of the results of such privatizations - I was reading about it in a recent wire dispatch - in a South American country where an aircraft factory was privatized, was that a transnational came along and its first move was to reduce the number of workers in that industry from 1,200 to 400. It can't be said that they are going to solve the problem of unemployment in this way.

Now neoliberal theoreticians are trying to work out how to combat unemployment in the same way that the large banking institutions are discussing what to do in terms of social development. But the fundamental problem is this: capitalism and social development always have been, always are, and always will be irreconcilable. [Applause] Capitalism and plunder, plunder within and outside the country, are inseparable. Capitalism and unemployment are inseparable; try to tell Europe it's any different.

There are countries in Europe with more than 20 percent unemployment and the famous industrial restructuring as a means of increasing competitiveness has brought further unemployment. Certain countries in Europe have been forced to uproot thousands of olive trees, producing an excellent cholesterol-free oil, something the rich are very concerned about these days; the poor virtually lack those cholesterol problems.

Millions of grapevines, millions of hectares of land left uncultivated; subsidies given to campesinos [peasants] so that they do not produce food; millions of heads of cattle sacrificed to increase the milk prices; FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] statements on the fall in cereal production, implying an increase in the prices of all the cereals bought by Third World countries, because as is well known, wheat is not grown in tropical countries. Corn is also produced under very different conditions, that is nothing new for Cubans, we have to cope with cyclones, droughts, plagues, etc. Cereals are mainly produced in temperate climates. Only rice, which is low in protein, grows easily in the tropics.

Slaughtering animals means starving people to death. Destroying plantations, limiting and subsidizing the nonproduction of grains - where is the logic behind all this in a growing world which is enduring increasingly greater food problems? This is not good news for the poor countries of the world.

What would happen if NAFTA covered all the Latin American countries, if they were yoked to the economy of the United States? No one knows the consequences that could have! But there are countries that historically have cultivated corn, which will no longer be producing it, because now the crop is produced more cheaply in the United States, and they can't compete with U.S. corn. In this way, a whole series of mechanisms and plans are being interlinked, designed to serve the interests of the world's most developed nation, which already has a hundred times greater development than the other countries of the world, opportunities to compete, the experience to compete, ultramodern technology, financial resources to offer credits, which all the other countries lack. This is a problem which they will have to confront in the near future; they are already facing it.

In the information field, as you mentioned in one of the commissions, the production of audiovisual material for the entertainment industry is currently monopolized almost exclusively by the United States, which has practically taken over the European market and that of the rest of the world. Some of their productions, as we know, are good, but there is a huge volume of poison in every shape and form.

Many U.S. citizens are becoming alarmed at the quantity of violence being generated, inspired by those television programs containing violence and sexual abuse, as has already been said. Legislation is being discussed and technical mechanisms are even being invented to oversee the selection of films, and how to create a system in every household so that certain movies can't be viewed - it must be very complicated. I believe the television networks can do this with the sole aid of electronics and computers, they have an extraordinary technical advantage at their disposal.

They're worried, but who's worried about us, what they transmit to us, what they sell us?

Now there's talk of information highways, new aspects that, through their propaganda and influences on the human mentality, will serve to prop up the economic order they want to impose on the world. These are important changes that have taken place which we have had the privilege of observing during these 36 years of Revolution.

A world entering into crisis

But it is a real fact that solid foundations do exist to support the conviction that the world that is being designed for us in the next century has no future whatsoever. It will enter into crisis, it will have to enter into crisis, and it will be in that world where you will have to try to take forward the ideas contained in the commission reports on education, health, the environment, women, children, culture, employment, democracy, and participation. And I'm not telling you these things to discourage you, far from it, but to give you full credit for the questions you have raised here. Because it can safely be said that in this International Youth Festival you have drawn up a program of work and struggle, and an inventory of the problems in the world today.

Added to this, there are clear indications in certain important countries of a political shift to the right, a turning towards reactionary positions, not everywhere, but in a few very important countries, among them the United States, which plays a decisive role in the world of today and will inevitably play it in the world of tomorrow. There is a tremendous shift which has shocked those who at some time or other received news and information on the big crisis of the '30s, Roosevelt's efforts of the time to save capitalism, the socially oriented measures to reduce unemployment, to improve people's living conditions, their education and health care.

It must be said, there have been struggles within the United States itself, over several years, which led to a series of social conquests: the Black population's battle for their rights, a historic battle; the national minorities' struggle, and the struggles of the unemployed, of the poor, and of women to win a series of advances. Today, all this is clearly in danger as a consequence of the shift to the right in U.S. politics, to the extent of reaching really extreme right-wing positions.

Every day wire dispatches report on an agreement in the U.S. Congress to overturn some measure, some act, some budget, or resources across the board. Nobody knows how long the U.S. population will stand for this, but a war is being waged against social gains; even the affirmative action programs, measures adopted to protect the weakest and most vulnerable sectors in society, so that they could obtain jobs and certain benefits, they also want to do away with those affirmative action programs.

This would need a lengthy explanation, but super- reactionary forces, spawned throughout the cold war period, have emerged, with a very reactionary political thinking which has tremendous force and tremendous resources, and this explains those phenomena taking place in the United States, which today is not a model to follow, far be it, but which could be far worse than it is. This is the country that has blockaded us over all these years.

The extreme right could come to have almost total control of power in the United States. This is a factor which is very important to keep in mind, because the world situation could worsen and U.S. imperialism could become more aggressive and much more dangerous for the world.

Suffice it to say that, in relation to the United Nations, there are currently two theories: one held by those who want to use the United Nations as an instrument to "sanctify" their interventions in any part of the globe and their foreign policy, but hiding behind a fig leaf, which is the United Nations - it's now called the United Nations but it wasn't always like this - and those who want to make it disappear so as to exercise direct power in the world, those who want to get rid of the stumbling block in the United Nations. [Applause] These are two schools, I repeat: one, those who want to use it as an instrument; the other, those who want to make it disappear because they see it as a stumbling block. These are the theories that are being discussed.

Two theories about Cuba

In relation to Cuba, two political theories are also under discussion: the one of those people who wish to destroy us from outside - that is to say, with more hostility, with more threats of aggression - and that of the "noble and generous gentlemen" who want to destroy us from within, but both of them using the blockade; both theories are supported by the blockade.

However, some people think: this blockade is enough, but we have to add this and that to destabilize and destroy the Revolution; as if we were fools or sucked our thumbs, because the famous Torricelli Act's "track two" could have some potentiality and some effect on stupid people. You don't even have to be a genius to know that we can't be caught by that policy, and in the same way we have to have sufficient serenity to resist the other variant.

If we found out tomorrow that the extreme right had conquered not only the U.S. Congress, but also the U.S. government, this wouldn't scare us, we have already been through similar periods, although it could be worse in terms of hostility and threats from abroad. And, as Vicky said, none of those factors dishearten us; but they remain theories; there are theories for the world and theories for Cuba.

It seems Cuba has become important, given that we are the only country to be blockaded by the United States. In relation to our country the harshest restrictions are being maintained. They can have completely different ideas on any other country, but as far as Cuba is concerned they are not giving in yet. Because of this we have been resisting for 35 years, and I also said that we have to be prepared to resist for another 35 years or longer. Really, our country has fought for almost 130 years in defense of its independence, and I believe that the values handed down to us by our forebears are very present in our people.

It is appropriate for our friends throughout the world to know that, and also that our people know it, and our people do know it. And since we are optimists, I am certain that there are reserves within the people, reserves within the country, it is possible for our country to resist, and to even continue to move forward. When I say we have to resist, examples of what has happened in some other countries always come to mind, and I am going to recall one, making an exception; what happened in Guatemala in 1954, already 41 years ago.

Guatemala had a revolutionary political movement, which represented a hope for Latin America and Central America; the Guatemalan people had hope through an agrarian reform law and certain social measures, and a mercenary expedition like that of the Bay of Pigs was immediately organized in the United States.

The country was invaded, the Guatemalan revolutionaries had no chance to defend themselves and to crush that invasion. A representative government was established, organized and created by the CIA and the U.S. government. During these 41 years, in that country of less than ten million inhabitants - there may be that number now, the population must have doubled in 41 years - an incredible total of over 100,000 persons have disappeared. That was the result of the mercenary victory.

What would have happened to Cuba if the Bay of Pigs invasion had been successful in 1961? What would have become of this country if we'd had to endure a victorious counterrevolution? The history of the Paris Commune would be tame in comparison. All Cubans know what ceasing to fight, ceasing to resist would signify, and we know perfectly well what it would mean. I think that yesterday was an objective proof of that, the spirit shown yesterday by our people here in the capital, where we have greater difficulties.

Helms-Burton bill threatens Cuba

Now think about it. And this is no secret, because the famous Helms-Burton bill, yet another on the list, aggressive, repugnant, is so brutal that it virtually threatens our country - as [Ricardo] Alarco'n [president of the National Assembly] has explained on various occasions - with depriving the people of everything they have. They will be left with virtually no schools, no day- care centers, no special education centers, no hospitals and no family doctors. When they come to apply the measure they have demanded of other countries, it is possible that 100 percent of family doctors will be jobless, because how and for what will they be paid?

Practically all the agricultural workers of this country would lose their lands, except some who already owned land, since the overwhelming majority own land because the Revolution gave it to them. All the UBPCs [Basic Units of Cooperative Production], all the cooperative workers would lose everything they have.

n a country such as Cuba, where 85 percent of families own their homes, by virtue of the Revolution's laws and work, all those families would lose their ownership. The whole thing is so ludicrous that we were almost at the point of sending a telegram of thanks to [U.S. congressmen] Helms and Burton saying, "Oh, by the way, thanks very much, just look how you are helping us."

According to the Helms-Burton bill, as Clinton himself has said, compensation payable by Cuba on former U.S. properties would amount to more than five or six billion dollars. It would have to be argued, moreover, as this is not our figure. And even if we were to accept it, it does not take into account the tens of billions of dollars they owe us in compensation due to the blockade. [Applause] If we received compensation, we would even be prepared to pay out on U.S. properties. I was going to tell you that, according to Clinton's calculations, this bill demands payments of $100 billion, taking into account properties belonging to Cubans who subsequently became U.S. citizens, and according to the bill, the blockade will continue until the $100 billion are paid. It seems that they're realizing this and some people are beginning to talk of a few modifications being made to its monstrous contents; but for us the result is exactly the same. We are fully aware of what it would signify if this country were to fall once again into the hands of the United States, with or without the Helms-Burton bill. Reports of what happened in Indonesia would pale into insignificance, and in Guatemala, not worth thinking about.

However, the ultimate, the inconceivable, is to believe that Cubans would act like the slaves who were taken to the Roman circus and who shouted: "Long live Caesar! We who are going to die salute you!" As if one Cuban here would be prepared to say: "Long live the emperor" or "Long live the empire! We who are going to die are going to bow down our heads so that you can wipe us out!"

They have to know that everyone here would take up arms and fight until the death, until a truly glorious death. What is ignominious is for someone to place their head on the chopping block for the United States to cut it off. [Applause] They realize that this cannot and will never happen, despite the idiotic things they say - so contemptuous! - they should have learned something from all the years of Cuban resistance and struggle, because we will never accept that fate.

A worthwhile flight

You, our friends, can understand that we have solid and profound reasons for thinking as we do; but if it wasn't a question of defending the lives of the citizens of this country, if it was only about defending the ideas that the Revolution defends, it would be worthwhile to fight once and a thousand times to the death. [Applause]

At a certain point in history the Christians were the first communists - because, as the Bible tells us, the early Christians, as we have read and were told so many times, were sent to the circus, to be devoured by the lions - they allowed themselves to be devoured without renouncing their Christian faith. We will not be lesser than them, because we believe that the values signified by the ideas that we are defending are comparable to the best ideas for which people have been prepared to die, and we will always prefer to die rather than to renounce our revolutionary faith. [Applause]

The Revolution is our religion, which does not exclude anyone, including revolutionaries, from holding another. We are not expecting any reward, because I believe that being a revolutionary - as Che said - is the highest level humanity can attain. [Applause]

Revolutionaries do not expect anything in return, which means that revolutionaries have to dedicate themselves totally to a cause, to their ideas, to their noble objectives, without expecting anything in return. I would say without in any way diminishing any other conviction, that this is really what makes a genuine revolutionary conviction, the noblest and deepest conviction which has ever existed. I'm referring to the revolutionary and communist conviction, I'm not talking about other convictions. [Shouts and prolonged applause] I am genuinely talking to you from the heart.

This leads on to some of the issues which have been mentioned here and which have worried you, which I partly covered on July 26, concerning what we are doing and how we are doing it.

Comrade Jose' Luis [Rodri'guez, minister of the economy and planning] had the disagreeable and difficult role of explaining what we are doing and how we are going about it, in the economic terrain, in order to move forward.

Vicky told me that many of our visitors were anxious about the risks inherent in the measures that we are taking. This concern is expressed clearly in a paragraph in one of the resolutions.

Justifiable worries

I believe that those who are worried have reason to be, in the first place because it is a worrying issue. What effect will these market openings, these measures we are taking, have on the future of the Revolution? As a consequence of all this, are we going to be different in the future, are these measures going to corrupt us?

I have said that we are introducing elements of capitalism into our system, into our economy; this is a fact. We have also discussed the consequences we have observed from the employment of those mechanisms. Yes, we are doing this.

I have already spoken to you about the world we are living in. Don't forget that we are an island surrounded on all sides, even from above, by capitalism; let's say from outer space, which is full of satellites and goodness knows what else, over which we have absolutely no control. You can be sure that if a dog goes to the park to do its business, the U.S. satellites will be aware of the fact, will observe it and take photos of it. [Laughter and applause]

They have the world surrounded by satellites spying on everything; of course, this makes them the masters of the communication systems. If we talked over the telephone with some country and said things that shouldn't be said over the phone we would be big fools. There is no official telephone call from this country that isn't picked up by them; the same applies to conversations with political leaders or with important companies. They monitor everything, because the blockade is much more than a prohibition on buying and selling, you can't possibly imagine the extent of it. The blockade is a never-ending persecution levied against any commercial activity the country attempts to engage in.

With the capitalists who visit us here - as I recently said some come with their corrupting habits, but many are serious capitalists. I mean that they don't try to bribe or cheat people; they argue, you have to argue a lot with them because, logically, it is the law of capitalism, every business deal is tightly argued - you have to speak softly and whisper in their ears and say: "Listen, don't talk on the telephone to another country about this."

I don't know to how many people we've given this advice and they don't take any notice, they make a phone call, send a fax, etc., and a few days later the U.S. ambassador, or the consul, or an official is paying them a visit; usually it's the ambassador.

When they are aware of any negotiations we're having, don't think for one moment that it's easy. Pay no heed. It wouldn't be so easy for us to take the capitalist road because the Yankees would take it upon themselves to prevent us, they don't want that. [Laughter and applause] When I say Yankee I am using the word in a pejorative sense, referring to those who wish us harm, never as a means of describing the U.S. people. [Applause]

They do not want us to do any business, nor invest in anything, nor have access to credits, nor to privatize anything, they don't want any of that - we are perfectly aware that all they want is our head and they've not even bothered to discuss the price, [laughter and applause] but the blockade is very serious, it is an unending persecution which makes everything more expensive. We have to look for merchandise thousands of miles away; the ships cannot make stopovers in any U.S. port, so transportation is more expensive; short-term commercial credits are extremely expensive, everything is difficult for Cuba. This is what the blockade means, really it is much more than it seems. And, of course, it is putting obstacles in the way of these measures which we are taking and which we have to take.

Actually, if we were one of those countries with abundant natural resources, and they do exist, and which have millions or billions of dollars in the banks of the developed countries, because they have easy access to capital....

For example, we know what it is to produce one ton of sugar, when you have to sweat to do it. Of course, when the Revolution triumphed, one ton of sugar bought - I don't want to get this wrong - about seven or eight tons of oil at least. So that means that, at the price sugar had at the triumph of the Revolution, we could satisfy the country's entire oil requirements, from the sale of one million tons.

Special period in peacetime

Now, during these years of special period, sometimes we have only been able to buy 1.4 tons of oil for one ton of sugar; that's almost putting sugar and oil on a par, and look at the hard labor that goes into producing one ton of sugar! In many places, including at sea, the transnationals arrive and succeed in setting up oil production at really low costs in areas of high yields.

The oil crisis has affected very few countries in the world to the extent that it has affected Cuba, and today the bulk of the country's exports are devoted to buying oil; that's to say, circumstances are not easy for us: we are putting a lot of effort into exploring for oil, we are looking for national sources.

The special period came about as part of the country's defense plans for war situations: what to do if there was a total blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States and nothing could enter, how we could survive under those conditions? It is called special period in wartime; but the collapse of the socialist camp and the USSR obliged us to experience the special period during peacetime, because, abruptly, almost overnight, all trade with the socialist bloc and with the Soviet Union disappeared.

Prior to this, they were paying us reasonable prices for our sugar and they were not the only ones. Even the Lome' Convention does not pay for sugar at the world market rate, it pays at a much higher rate. We call the world sugar market the sugar waste bin, where all sugar is sold very cheaply. The United States itself previously used to buy Cuban sugar, and then, as a reprisal, they reduced to zero the three million or so annual tons they bought from us. They pay for their sugar quotas at a slightly higher price. We have to sell our sugar at world market prices.

From one day to the next we lost all our oil supplies, all our supplies of raw material, of foodstuffs, of spare parts for our factory machinery which came from the socialist bloc. This has happened to us twice in our history: when the U.S. blockade started nearly all our machinery and motor transport were of U.S. origin, and now the same thing is happening again, because what we have suffered is a double blockade. U.S. pressure on the former socialist countries was such, that it has resulted in trade being suspended almost 100 percent.

We had to cope with this overnight, by ourselves, without a single cent from any world banking institution such as the Inter-American Bank, the World Bank, or the IMF. Absolutely no one! We had to manage with what we had.

As was said a short while ago: we lost 70 percent of the country's imports, and a country that had supplied electricity to over 90 percent of the population was suddenly left with 40 percent of our fuel requirements.

I don't know if there is any other country in Latin America or in the world that could have resisted the massive blow that Cuba received, and this with an intensified blockade, because, while we had good economic relations with the socialist camp and with the Soviet Union we were able to defend ourselves much better against the blockade, producing sugar and various other products in a context of increasing trade with those countries, which was abruptly lost.

Can you believe that the people of any Latin American country, or anywhere in the world, could have survived such a blow? For how many days, or weeks, if at all? Could a different kind of society be able to do so? This is also related to another question on political themes approached in the commission on democracy and participation.

Could Cuba have resisted without its socialist system, without the political and economic system existing in our country when this occurred?

I talked to you before about the economic question, so it's better to continue on this theme.

Loss of markets

We lost all opportunity for obtaining capital for investments, technology, our markets; we lost all our markets. In fact, what would a genuine revolution have done under those circumstances? What should a Marxist-Leninist revolution have done? We have no fear of pronouncing this word. [Applause]

We could ask ourselves: what would Marx have said? It's almost certain that he would have said: "Listen, don't take it upon yourselves to make a socialist revolution in a Third World country, wait until capitalism has been fully developed and then, when the forces of production and all the rest have been developed, the moment will come for making the socialist revolution." This is perhaps what Marx would have said to us. Of course, we would have to see what he would have said if we'd asked him what to do, after we'd already made a socialist revolution here, right on the doorstep of the United States. I believe he would have said: "Fine, I'm happy to have had such outstanding disciples over there in the Caribbean." [Applause]

You are all aware that the whole question of whether socialism in one country is possible or not has been amply discussed, or if it is possible once the revolution has broken out in the most industrialized countries; in relation to Germany, England, or in the European nations. This was discussed over many, many years, but Marxism didn't stop with Marx, and the doctrines of socialism moved on from Marx and Engels. Other great figures came along, great personalities in political and revolutionary thinking, there was Lenin, and it has to be said that Lenin and those who made the October Revolution all believed that the European revolution was a prerequisite for creating socialism. When the European revolution didn't take place, there came the moment when they took the decision that had to be made: "Well, we can't surrender, we have to create socialism in one country."

Of course, talking of one country is relative, given that it was one country of 22 million square kilometers - we are one country of 111,111 square kilometers, according to a geographer, so that the young people will remember Cuba's land surface area in square kilometers - and the construction of socialism was begun, in the midst of a blockade, the enormous historic feat of building socialism in one country. But Lenin was already thinking of the revolution in China, and revolution in the colonized countries. Marxist thought gave him a tremendous impetus and enrichment. And indeed, a force was created which fulfilled an extraordinary role in the world, and served as a balance.

The capitalist world, terrified by socialist ideas, began to be concerned about social problems, about the situation of the workers, etc., concerns that never troubled them before. The services lent to the world by the existence of the socialist camp, and particularly the Soviet Union, are not known.

Commemorations of World War II

Recently the end of World War II was commemorated and in fact, the whole world should remember and did remember that the Soviet Union lost 27 million people in that war. I will go further and say that, without socialism, the Nazi regime would have taken power in the world within a period of time impossible to precisely estimate - this is for historians to conjecture about; but, really, it was that socialist country which checked them, which destroyed Hitler's best armored and motorized divisions, [applause] and the country that offered resistance - the facts are irrefutable - because when the tanks appeared behind the Soviet lines, the people continued to fight.

In that war, which was initiated with new techniques and tactics, resistance collapsed within a matter of weeks. Let's say that the English resisted the bombings, which were very heavy, and entrenched themselves behind the maritime barrier with its powerful squadron; other countries lacking a natural barrier of this nature and those means of protection were invaded and controlled. Let's mention the noble people of Yugoslavia who also fought so hard against Hitler's divisions, that Yugoslavia which today is destroyed and caught up in an absurd war, incomprehensible, apparently insoluble, victim really of the longing to dissolve everything smelling of socialism.

The Soviet Union resisted, which I believe was a great feat, and we know the story of all the errors and all the barbarities - to put it in strong language - that were perpetrated in that process, ranging from the personality cult to terror, abuses of power, and forced collectivization.

Socialism needed to be perfected, not destroyed; the only countries who stood to gain from the destruction of socialism were the imperialist countries. At first it was a big celebration, but now many western politicians are afraid because they don't know what's going on over there. It's a Third World country, an exporter of raw materials, with extremely powerful nuclear weapons and with great internal risks, as we have seen very recently. For what? I believe that peace and disarmament had been fought for and I think that a wiser world would have sought to achieve via negotiations what could have been attained without the dissolution and disintegration of the Soviet Union.

It was said here that this occurred because of errors within the model. It wasn't only that - it can't be described in one word - they allowed themselves to be infiltrated from within, they allowed themselves to be influenced by the propaganda of the consumer society, forgetting that for centuries this was the fruit of colonialism and the plunder of the peoples. They allowed themselves to be blinded by capitalism, and there were many people who believed that any day they would be living like people in Paris, London, all those places, that's the reality. We are now seeing the results, there was ingenuousness, incompetence, a total recipe for the destruction of that which millions of Hitler's soldiers were unable to destroy, to destroy that which cost 27 million lives in the war. The objectives and ideals for which they fought were well worth saving.

I say that peace was conceivable, but of course there was competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in terms of the arms race. And today everyone knows that Reagan's strategy was to ruin the Soviet Union, by imposing on it an arms race which was beyond its economic potential.

It wasn't only the Soviet leaders who were mistaken, world leaders were also at fault, because they were incapable of fighting for a real peace without breaking up entire countries, the consequences of which are still unknown. For the moment, it constitutes tremendous hardships for the world economy, which has to find tens of additional billions every year to try to salvage the situation there, without anyone knowing exactly what is going to happen.

In the former USSR we now have the situation where an economy, which was being formed over more than 70 years, collapsed. Without doubt it will recover one day. The desire to recreate, albeit only a common market, can be seen in many of the countries that formed part of the Soviet Union, not exactly in all of them - very strong nationalist sentiments and hatred have been unleashed in some of the countries.

But the fact is, as I told you, that we have lost a market, we lost our trade, we lost everything and, in all events, we had to find a solution.

I was speaking of this when I asked how Marx would have responded, and now I'm asking how Lenin would have responded, and I'm sure that Lenin would have said to us: "Do what you're doing, continue doing what you are doing." This is why I said on July 26 that a true Marxist-Leninist will do what we are doing.

New Economic Policy

They had to do it, they had to move towards a new economic policy, the famous NEP, during one historic period. But there is something more, at certain points Lenin also planted the idea of building capitalism under proletarian leadership. For your peace of mind, of course, I can tell you that we aren't thinking doing anything of the kind [applause], and it's not because we are in disagreement with Lenin, but because circumstances are different, since our process, which was able to rely on assistance from the socialist camp and from the USSR, has made great advances, it has very strong forces and does not have to raise the question in those terms.

I have already said, or tried to tell you before, that if we were a country with significant oil or similar resources, perhaps we wouldn't have gone for large-scale tourism development. From experience, we know all the consequences of large-scale tourism development; however, given the existing conditions in our country, we couldn't do without it, since given those conditions we couldn't do without foreign investment.

Although prior to the collapse of the socialist camp we were considering certain forms of foreign investment for joint enterprises in certain sectors where there was no other solution, we are well aware that over several years we fought against foreign investments, that over several years we felt proud of the fact that the people were the owners of all their resources, of all their industries and all the country's wealth. However, given the existing conditions we couldn't do without foreign investment to a larger scale because we needed capital, technology and markets. These are the determining factors; the opposite would be paralysis and stagnation for a very long time.

Investments are costing dearly

All this is costing us dearly. I already told you that any loan we take out is very expensive and we have to discuss everything in very difficult conditions and in the face of very strong resistance from the United States, but we have to do it; there's no alternative.

Some of our friends have advised us to say no, that we are doing this because it's a very good thing. We have to be honest, we have gone down this road basically because it was the only alternative for saving the Revolution and saving the conquests of socialism. [Applause]

We had to establish joint ventures in a relatively short time period, we had to accept foreign investment, we had to do what we did in respect to the decriminalization of convertible currency, and you can be sure that doing the latter pained us greatly, very greatly. We are aware of the inequalities that it created, the privileges it created, but we had to do it and we did it.

Jose' Luis explained that today we are virtually operating in two currencies, that the day will come when we'll be operating in only one currency. There's no need to rush because this day will come, we have to proceed with calmness and patience until only Cuban currency is in operation. We already have the convertible peso, so we are working in that direction. In the existing conditions we couldn't rule out those possibilities.

It really is a great privilege for those who have a family relative abroad who is able to send $500, $1,000, or whatever, to have this available when many humble workers in the sugarcane industry, in agriculture and in other places do not have that possibility. But we had to do it; we had to adopt measures of this kind, which I know trouble you. And we didn't take them as an opportunistic action, we took them as a revolutionary action [applause], as we have explained to our people once and a hundred times.

Whatever income the country obtains via any of these routes is not to enrich any individual, nor is it to line anyone's pockets, it is for the people, right to the last cent to buy foodstuffs, and medicaments, to buy fuel for electric power, to buy indispensable raw materials for production, so that the country can advance. [Applause] And whatever the difficulties may be, the country will advance in an orderly fashion. And the people, whatever the sacrifices may be, understand that this was the correct road, that this was the revolutionary road. And, of course, without the blockade, there would have been a lot of investment in Cuba.

Look what has happened in China, look what has happened in Vietnam - there's been a flood of investments. Here there's been a flood of interested people, but there has also been a tremendous barrier of opposition to investment in our country.

Sensitive to inequality

In fact, I believe that it is very important, crucially important, that we have done this, as always, with the consent of the people; it cannot be explained any other way. Everything that displeased us also displeased the people, who are very sensitive, ultra-sensitive to any inequality, any privilege, since the Revolution educated them to think in this way; however, it also educated them in the idea that the nation has to be safeguarded, that the Revolution has to be safeguarded, that the gains of socialism have to be safeguarded, independence has to be preserved, and our rights to a future have to be maintained. That is absolutely irrevocable, and it is really very encouraging for all of us to grasp the extent to which the people have shown their capacity to understand all this. Only a people with a political culture like the one we have in our country today would have been capable of understanding that, and would have been capable of struggling and resisting.

Are we by any chance fooling someone? No, we're absolutely not fooling anyone. What we can state is that all the land in this country is in the hands of Cuban campesinos and agricultural workers. [Applause] What we can say is that every house, almost every factory, every hospital.... Not one hospital, not one single school has been privatized here [applause], and the country owns the overwhelming majority of its wealth. [Applause]

So, what were we to do? We had to choose; before a factory remained shut down, deteriorated completely, or was lost, if some capitalist entrepreneur appeared who was willing to become our business partner it would have been absurd not to have accepted, not to have gone ahead. When the socialist camp collapsed, thousands of factories were without fuel, without electricity, without raw materials, without spare parts. If the opportunity arises, even if only half of this factory stays in our hands - and frequently we retain the factory intact, when the association is commercial in character - we have to take it, it's logical to take it, it's the rational thing to do, and it's beneficial for the people to do so. [Applause]

We cannot let ourselves be guided by what pleases or displeases us, our criterion has to be what is useful or not useful to the nation and the people at this highly decisive juncture in our country's history.

If there are kilometers of beach that can be utilized and we lack the capital to build the hotels we need in those areas, if we can form some kind of joint venture or admit an investment, we'll do it.

The hotels existing in Cuba today are the property of Cuba, or of joint ventures, and there are not many of the latter. It's a fact that the work of our adversaries has influenced the number of joint venture hotels we have; however, in spite of everything, we have been able to build hotels in the special period.

During the special period, using our own resources, we have constructed important scientific research centers, another of the country's economic sectors, and every one of these scientific research centers is the property of the nation. [Applause] The country will preserve everything that can be preserved [applause], and we will negotiate anything that can be negotiated.

The entire banking system in the country is national property. [Applause] As I already said, practically everything is in the hands of the nation. But if we have to introduce a specific amount of capitalism, we'll introduce it; we are introducing it, with all its inconveniences.

I'm going to say one thing here: it could come to the point where we have an investment which is 100 percent capitalist. If some capitalist has all the necessary capital, has the market, has the technology we lack, there can even be cases of a company based on 100 percent foreign capital; in such a case we would be left with the workforce and the taxes payable: we would have to resign ourselves to this.

It is preferable that the factory should remain ours, completely ours; it's preferable that the country reaps all the income, and that ownership remains with the country. We have seen this already, when everything belonged to the country.

At best, 50 years, or 100 years, will have to go by, or however many years, but always, if the country can retain something it must retain it; preserve something, it must preserve it. This is a basic principle; but we're not afraid, and we don't have a complex. I believe that we are doing what revolutionaries have to do at this moment; anything else would be an absurdity, a dream, an impossibility.

Question of power is key

The key, comrades and friends, the key to all this is power. Who holds power, the big landowners, the bourgeoisie, the wealthy? I mention the big landowners at this point because that's what we had before; there are no big landowners here now, the only landowners we have here are the cooperative workers and members of the Basic Units of Cooperative Production, etc., they are the only ones. Together with the tens of thousands of small independent farmers.

Who holds the power? Is the power in the hands of the bourgeoisie, wielded by the bourgeoisie and for the bourgeoisie? [Shouts of "No!"] Is the power in the hands of the capitalists, wielded by the capitalists and for the capitalists? [Shouts of "No!"] The question of power is key.

I must say also that we are doing some of these things to have economic efficiency and to improve our socialism. Obviously, my friends, it's pretty difficult to socialize or collectivize shoe repairers, for example.

There was a time here when there was such a battle, when everything was nationalized; but within society, and this will always be the case, there are several tasks that are really more appropriately carried out by a self-employed individual or various self-employed individuals, rather than the state attempting to undertake them. We have come to this conclusion.

This is in connection with self-employed work, born of specific needs, and not just to create employment or promote additional sources of income for workers, although these are fundamental objectives in the current circumstances.

So, before returning to the earlier theme, I'm going to continue with the question of employment.

In the situation of several factories being without raw materials, or without a domestic or foreign market, a huge number of unemployed people would be the result. What would the theoreticians of neoliberalism have advised? Turn all these people out onto the street, close down those factories and condemn millions of people to hunger, without receiving a cent. We couldn't do that. And not one worker has been left abandoned; they continued to receive their wages, or a percentage of their wages when there was no work available for them. If there was a surplus in one workplace, we tried to relocate them elsewhere. We have jobs, but not everyone is prepared to do just any job; however, we maintained protection for the workers.

When our levels of production abruptly fell, and money continued to circulate and grow in quantity, this led to a very damaging phenomenon for us which could not be allowed to go on indefinitely. In the early stages we applied the principle that nobody should be left unprotected. As a consequence of this we began to swim in money, there were rivers of money in the streets, and we had to begin collecting this money, because although during these years the overwhelming majority of people worked, you could say, from a spirit of patriotism, in fact there's always a certain percentage who doesn't have the same attitude. So when there begins to be a surplus of money coming into the home, over and above need, to buy the products on the ration book, if there are two people working, one tends to give up his or her job. At best, the person might have been a teacher, a professor, a nurse, a skilled technician who was needed in the factory, or in the health services, in the schools, in the hospitals.

Let's suppose that a hospital begins to lose staff: although 80 percent of the personnel continues to work there in a disciplined manner, 20 percent has no need of money, lacks a strong spirit of sacrifice, understanding, or conscience and begins to miss work.

When a hospital begins to be short of nurses, or technical staff, or cleaning workers, that hospital starts to have problems, and the situation is the same in schools or other public services. We confronted all those problems surrounded by those rivers of money, and we had to start collecting that money, applying a large-scale austerity policy, of saving money, reducing the deficit, reducing subsidies, because the situation had reached the point where anybody could get 150 pesos for one dollar.

We began to implement measures, but they weren't edicts dictated from above. We had to increase the prices on nonessential products, we had to introduce taxes, to suspend some gratuities. All those measures were discussed in the National Assembly, and subsequently in discussions with all the country's workers, then once more in the National Assembly, then back again to be debated by workers, students, campesinos; in every single sector it was discussed once, twice, three times, up to a fourth time, explaining it all, and a group of measures was adopted, based on discussions with and the consensus of the people.

The measures were applied in various sectors and the results are palpable. In one year, approximately 2.7 billion pesos have been collected, from a total of over 11 billion. People who had left their jobs began to resurface and return to work in the hospitals, the schools, and the public services. We had to create the need for money and a wage; otherwise the service sector and production sectors, all the sectors, would have gone into serious decline. What was important was the method used to collect the money, and the results are those I have just outlined to you.

There is something more: today anyone with a dollar would find it difficult to get much more than 35 pesos for it. We could say that we are one of the few countries in the world whose national currency has gained in value [applause], and we're beginning to benefit from the measures we've been implementing. These measures are stimulating the economy and we are really getting ready to confront the situation. In the name of whom? In the name of the people. For whom? For the people.

That is why I would like to return to the idea that I interrupted some moments ago. This is the key, because if the people have power, if the workers have power, not the rich, not the millionaires, then policy can be made in favor of the people, while respecting the commitments made to specific foreign companies, respecting everyone and the interests of everyone, because we are not thinking of nationalizing anyone.

All our business deals have been decided through a contract which stipulates everything, the number of years, and so on. But while the people have power, they have everything. The one thing that the people should never lose is power, not today, not tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, not in the year 2020, 2050, or 2100. [Prolonged applause]

This key idea is linked to the question of democracy and participation. If we say: "Look, we are of the opinion that our political system is better than in any other part of the world," there are people who would smile to themselves, who would think it was a joke.

They are so addicted to political toxins, like the heavy smoker who gets through four packs of cigarettes or ten cigars a day, gets addicted to the nicotine, or others get addicted to heroin, cocaine, marijuana, or any of those substances. They want to impose a historical system on us in the name of who knows what principle, because until the middle of this century the world was full of colonies, and at that time there was little talk in the West of human rights or representative democracy.

Colonial revolution

I remember a map of the world from when I was a child: Britain's African possessions were highlighted in red, and those of France in another color. France and Britain covered almost the whole continent between them - my apologies to the ambassadors here, both of whom I esteem and respect. I am talking of the past, ambassadors, not the present - and I could see on the map that there was not one independent country, I don't recall any, only the Spanish, Belgian, Portuguese, French and British colors. I then looked at Asia, and it was the same; China had its own colors but everyone knows that it was a semi-colony.

We were all aware of what prevailed in the world 50 years ago, and it was after World War II that the liberation movement in the colonies began. We know what Latin America was, without exception, and I include us, "yes men" or "yes sir," as Robertico was saying this afternoon. The orders arrived and, in general, were respected and complied with without discussion. However, we had our own colors on the map. Afterwards came the cold war and all the demagogy over representative democracy and various theories which emerged from the fight against the Revolution and socialism. Their allies, living under shocking regimes of terror were, of course, excluded.

Now, I am not saying that our model can claim to be the best model for everybody. No, I wouldn't dream of saying that. I believe that our model or many of our experiences could be useful to certain countries. I also believe that every country should create its own model, and should have the right to create its own model, and that no one can come along, in the name of whatever, wanting to impose whatever model they like on any country. [Prolonged applause] It is as if we were to send a message to the Queen of England stating that a republic should be established there, because, if they don't, we'll establish a blockade of Great Britain; or to tell his Holiness, the Pope, that he should establish a house of representatives or a senate, or universal suffrage for all the priests in the world.

I have used these examples because they demonstrate how absurd it is that there are so many people telling us what we have to do. Well, we learned to say: "We'll do as we like, and that's that!" [Applause] Sometimes, it's useless to be reasonable; they keep coming back with the same old tune, over and over again. What we say is that our model is right for us, it is as simple as that, and we are not defending our model, we are defending our right to have a model. Now, if they want to, we can make comparisons and that's that. [Applause]

One of the tragedies of this hemisphere is that during its independence wars models were brought in from Europe and the United States. Here they didn't only bring us the model, but they even brought us the Capitol - I don't know if any of you have passed by there, it was based on the Washington Capitol building - and is now a scientific research Center, because our National Assembly meets in the international Conference Center, or here, not in that Capitol.

The Capitol has become a historic monument, we see it as one of the architectural jewels of Old Havana; it is even a source of hard currency. But it is now a science and technology center, a library, that building which was once full - with all respect to some exceptions - of thieves and bandits of all kinds now has many, many things. [Applause and shouts]

Every day there is a scandal somewhere in the world: in Europe, Latin America, Asia: the political parties have robbed, have received millions, or have bought votes; the transnationals or big business have given that much, or so much. As a general rule, I would say to the world's most splendid representative democracies: "Let he who is free from sin cast the first stone." [Applause]

Now, is there a single assembly within these splendid democracies that does not have just one millionaire, that does not have just one multimillionaire, that does not have a tremendous lobby from big business and the transnationals? Is there one assembly that has not spent one cent on elections; that has not collected funds in some way or another?

How can you be a representative without money? Is there one assembly in the world that can say that not one of its representatives - and we have over 500 of them - did not spend a cent on their election campaign? Is there one among those splendid representative democracies? I don't want to point the finger too much so as not to cause offense.

Elections in Cuba

In our country we have an Assembly with unique characteristics: in our country the Party does not stand for election. Is there any country in the world whose parties don't stand? Yes there is one, it is called Cuba. [Applause] It is the people that stand! The people! Let's say it is a type of Athenian democracy, aside from the fact that in Athens there were patricians and slaves. The patricians had all the rights and the slaves had none, nor did other categories of citizens. For every freeman there were at least two slaves; those with political rights were about 30 percent. A Greek democracy, then, without slaves and without citizens deprived of their civil rights.

It is the people that come together. Flesh and blood, men and women meet in their constituencies and propose the slate for their constituency delegates; it is they who elect them, and it is those delegates from the constituencies that are the members of the municipal assemblies, and they are the ones who elect the deputies to the National Assembly, it is not the Party.

The National Assembly elects the government. The streets are not filled with posters and placards and all that filth that we see in other parts of the world every time there's an election campaign.

In our country the ruling principle is that the people stand and the people elect. There are many countries called democracies where it's the parties that stand for election: they draw up a list, and it's already known from surveys that one, two, or three from the list are going to be elected, and that's it. It is the parties that stand whereas in our country they do not intervene. We do not have a multiparty system, but a millions-party system, because every one of this country's 11 million inhabitants has the right to stand and to elect. [Applause] Nobody tells them: "Propose this one," "Propose that one," "Vote for this one," "Vote for that one"; here, everyone knows it by heart.

And how can the miracle that 97.1 percent of the population went to the polls be explained? What do we see throughout the rest of the world? No one else has such a figure. There is no fraud of any kind here, and it is the children, the Pioneers who look after the ballot boxes. Is there any country in the world that doesn't have a police officer or a soldier with a fixed bayonet guarding the ballot boxes to ensure that they are not stolen between one point and another, that the voting slips are not switched, that the votes are not changed, that nothing is tampered with? Here, even the foreign press are first in line at the polling stations when they are counting the votes.

Ah! and if a counterrevolutionary slogan should appear, a smile this wide - on the faces of some, not all - they are waiting to see how many blank votes appear, how many counterrevolutionary votes and so on. You should see them there. They go there, they're present, there's no restriction or controls at vote counting.

It's our system and the people turn out to vote. Why don't they turn out to vote in the United States? Only half go. The president is elected with 25 percent of the vote. What a splendid democracy! And from then on, they forget about the citizens; you can get them involved in a nuclear war without them even hearing about it. A U.S. citizen gets up in the morning, reads the paper, and finds out that they are invading some country or another. [Prolonged applause]

Ah! That's how it is, that's it, because the president goes around with a briefcase. Or rather the nuclear powers go around with briefcases. I remember asking myself in the days of the cold war: "What if the moment of crisis caught someone on the toilet?" [Laughter] And if by chance he was attending to his marital duties on that day? [Laughter] Hey! The briefcase and the rapid response. Not even the Roman emperor had that power. A briefcase he uses to trigger off the missile launchers, because he gives the signal. That's a very representative democracy! That's a miracle without any doubt, my friends. That's why nobody goes to vote, or believes in the elections, or the people, or in the politicians.

Elected by majority vote

Throughout the world there is a crisis of confidence in the political parties, and there are many people who are standing as independents, and get results. Now, could a humble farmer, teacher, university professor, without one cent in the bank, be a deputy or a senator, for example, in the United States? Could he or she? What a difference! Here our deputies do not have a single cent, nor do they need any money, and they have to obtain over 50 percent of the valid votes to be elected. So, the people have faith, and they vote.

The last elections were an example. In the middle of the special period, the number of people who voted and the way they voted was really impressive. Why should we change that? Why should we fragment the country into a thousand pieces? To whose advantage is it to fragment the country into a thousand pieces? That is what has happened in the former socialist bloc countries: 25 parties, 35 parties, 45 parties, it makes one want to say: well, that's not the concept of the multiparty system, it's a crazy party system. [Laughter and applause] It's unbelievable.

So, why has Cuba resisted? Because of its socialist system, because of its political system. Those who predicted Cuba's collapse should take a look at what has happened over the last five years. The more Cuba resists the more it is respected, and Cuba is ready to win the respect of the whole world. We will not be ridiculed or be made fools of.

Among the qualities of this people are not only its joyful, humorous, and rebel spirit, but also its acumen. The Cuban people are all an intelligent people. Or it would be better to say a people whose intelligence has been cultivated, because there are many intelligent people in the world who have not had the opportunity to learn to read or write. It is a national characteristic that the people are clever, they think, they reflect. Our people can not be underestimated.

This is our system. Why should they change it for us? I repeat, why should they change it for us? What we have to do is improve it, which is what we are doing and what we've done with the latest reforms of the Constitution.

Some people say: "No, you have to adopt transitional measures." We have already made the transition. We made the transition 36 years ago and all the changes that had to be made. [Applause] A transition to what, towards capitalism? No, there will be no transition towards capitalism. [Applause]

It was said here today that Cuba is neither a heaven nor a hell. So, let's say that it's purgatory [laughter], where they say that people go, and from where with a little patience and the help of a few prayers and whatever else can be done for the poor souls in purgatory they can move on to heaven.

They say that there is a way out of purgatory, but there's never any way out of hell. [Applause] If we are in purgatory, we are not going back to hell, at least we have escaped from Satan [laughter and applause], and are patiently waiting for the moment of reaching heaven. Isn't that the case Robertico, isn't that better? [Laughter] That is more or less what was said in the final declaration: "It is not as good as they say, nor as bad as it's painted."

I'm going to be honest: I think that we are far better than our enemies paint us and not quite as good as our friends say we are; in other words. I totally agree we're not so perfect.

Depends on new generation

In all honesty, I couldn't say that we have reached half way along the revolutionary road in this country, even after the work that has been done by our people, even after the resistance that we have put up over the last five years, even after having stood up to the great colossus to the North, in what has become a unipolar world, even after we were left on our own, that is to say, practically without the support of any other country. I think there is a great merit in that.

If you have a sense of history and I think the youth is sufficiently capable - and will be more than sufficiently capable - then history will have to accredit this great endeavor, the great page that our country is writing in history at this moment. [Applause]

It won't be heaven, but they'll have to give you an Olympic medal, for you, not for us, because it depends on you, above all the new generation, to ensure that our Revolution reaches where it has to go, to that heaven that we were talking about earlier, although I know that Robertico disagrees with that, because he's already said three times that perfection would be the most boring thing in the world; true? [Laughter]

But to think that perfection exists, Robertico, is the most illusory thing in the world, because what is perfected today is no longer perfect tomorrow. Didn't that Greek philosopher say that nobody bathes twice in the same river? [Laughter] So today's perfection is tomorrow's imperfection. It's true, we should be modest, we should be humble, but we should not underestimate ourselves. That is what I believe, and I'm not speaking in defense of my part in this question, I am guilty of many things, or of errors that could have been made, I am defending you. [Applause]

Dear comrades, respected friends:

You wanted me to speak, didn't you? I have spoken. [Applause and shouts of "Fidel, Fidel!"]

I join those who have expressed their deepest and most sincere gratitude for your presence; we truthfully feel honored, we feel happy and we feel encouraged.

We will now continue our fight with greater confidence than ever, knowing that there are so many good and honest people in the world who understand us, who wish us success, who want to help us, and to put a grain of sand here and there.

We won't forget this meeting, and we'll be ready, on the orders of the world's youth, if it's needed, as we said yesterday, to organize not an international but a world festival. [Applause] This time some 1,200 to 1,300 of you have come; with 10,000 it will be a world event. We have the organizational ability to hold it in this country.

We have an excellent youth; you've met with them over the past few days. They have organized everything, really. They sought the help and cooperation of anyone who could provide it; but they were the ones who came up with the idea, and the ones who organized it.

If it's been a success, it is fair for us to recognize our heroic youth's organizational ability. [Prolonged applause and shouts]

After what I have explained to you today, it comes as no surprise that I should also conclude by saying with great conviction:

Socialism or death!

Patria o muerte! [Homeland or death]

Venceremos! [We shall win]

We'll see each other again!