Cuba's Defeat Of Yankee Attack At Playa Giro'n
Extracts from a speech by President Fidel Castro, from the Militant, Vol. 62, no. 15, 20 April 1998
Below we print excerpts from "Angola: African Giro'n, April 19, 1976" in Fidel Castro Speeches: Cuba's Internationalist Foreign Policy, 1975-80. This speech was given in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Cuban victory at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giro'n). On April 17, 1961, 1,500 U.S.-based Cuban-born mercenaries invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast. The action, organized by Washington, aimed to establish a "provisional government" to appeal for direct U.S. intervention. However, the invaders were defeated within 72 hours by Cuba's militia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces. On April 19, the last invaders surrendered.
African Giro'n refers to the battle on March 27, 1976, in which the apartheid South African army was pushed out of Angola. Shortly before Angola's independence from Portuguese colonial rule was to be formally celebrated on Nov. 11, 1975, the country's new government was attacked by South African and Zairian troops. After the Angolan government requested aid, Cuba sent more than 300,000 volunteer troops. Later, in 1988 combined Cuban, Angolan, and Namibian liberation forces dealt a decisive military defeat to South Africa's invading troops at Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola. Copyright (c) 1981 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted with permission.
Precisely fifteen years ago, at this very hour, you could still hear the echoes of the last shots of the battle that smashed one of Yankee imperialism's most sinister and traitorous actions against a Latin American people. Giro'n went down in history as the first defeat of Yankee imperialism on this continent.
It would be useless to try to find the slightest ethical principle in a system whose every act is characterized by exploitation, plunder, deceit, and crime....
By these treacherous means, it seized the wealth of all America, imposed a relentless system of exploitation on our peoples, and initiated neocolonialist methods of domination in this continent, for the first time ever in the world.
Everything concerning the Giro'n episode was treacherous, a flagrant violation of international law, a perfidy, and a crime. The sinister CIA invested tens of millions of dollars to recruit, train, and equip mercenaries: landowners, bourgeois elements, traitors, war criminals, drug addicts, common criminals, and lumpen. Its strategy was accompanied by hair-raising plans to assassinate leaders of the Cuban revolution, in which they did not hesitate to use known Mafia leaders, poison, bacteria, explosives, and the most refined criminal methods. Beforehand, at every hour of the day and night, in planes or boats, scores of agents and thousands of arms were systematically brought in. They established their training bases in one Central American state and the embarkation points and air bases in another.
One quiet, clear dawn, on April 15, 1961, Yankee bombers bearing Cuban insignia attacked our air bases where a few rickety old planes, with barely half a dozen pilots, constituted our air forces. With unparalleled cynicism, the United States representative declared in the United Nations that those planes were part of our own air force that had rebelled....
The United States has established throughout the world a system of military pacts, bases of aggression, centers of corruption, bribery, subversive propaganda and espionage, overt or covert actions, terror, and threats, which imperialism, because of its rapacious and exploitative nature, cannot do without....
The option between the past and the future, reaction or progress, treason or loyalty to principles, capitalism or socialism, imperialist domination or liberation, was what was decided at Giro'n on April 19, 1961. Three days earlier, at the grave of the first martyrs of that brutal aggression, the people proclaimed the socialist nature of our revolution, and the men and women of our homeland expressed their readiness to die for it. No one knew how many mercenaries there were; no one knew how many Yankee marines and soldiers would come in after them, how many planes, how many further bombings it would be necessary to bear. Never, as at that moment, was the slogan of "Patria o muerte" [Homeland or Death] more dramatic, real, and historic. The decision to win or die, embodied in a whole people, was stronger than all the risk, suffering, and danger. This made that day doubly historic, because our Marxist-Leninist party was really born at Giro'n; [Applause] membership in our party is recognized from that day on, from that day on, socialism was cemented forever with the blood of our workers, peasants, and students; from that day on, a new and completely different destiny opened up before the people of this continent because of the liberty and dignity that one of them had conquered in the face of aggression from the powerful empire that subjected all. Because, say what you will, after Giro'n, all the peoples of America were a little bit freer....
In commemorating this, the fifteenth anniversary of the heroic, glorious victory at Giro'n, our people have an additional reason to be proud, which constitutes their finest expression of internationalism and transcends the boundaries of this continent: the historical victory of the people of Angola, [Prolonged applause] to whom we offered the generous and unlimited solidarity of our revolution.
At Giro'n, African blood was shed, that of the selfless descendants of a people who were slaves before they became workers, and who were exploited workers before they became masters of their homeland.... Those who once enslaved man and sent him to America perhaps never imagined that one of those peoples who received the slaves would one day send their fighters to struggle for freedom in Africa.
The victory in Angola was the twin sister of the victory at Giro'n. [Applause] For the Yankee imperialists, Angola represents an African Giro'n. At one time we said that imperialism had suffered its great defeats in the month of April: Giro'n, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.(1) This time the defeat came in March. On the twenty-seventh of that month, when the last South African soldiers crossed the Namibian border, after a retreat of more than 700 kilometers, one of the most brilliant pages in the liberation of Black Africa was written.
1. National liberation forces defeated U.S.-backed regimes in both Vietnam and Cambodia in April 1975.
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