Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 21:09:07 -0600 (CST)
Fidel Castro speech on 40th anniversary of Cuban revolution
Santiago du Cuba, 1 January 1999
Speech given by Fidel Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and president of the Councils of State and Ministers, at the main ceremony for the 40th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution, in Santiago de Cuba, on January 1, 1999, Year of the 40th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution (Translation of the transcript of the Council of State)
People of Santiago: Compatriots in all of Cuba:
I am trying to recall that night of January 1, 1959; I am reliving and perceiving impressions and details as if everything were occurring at this very moment. It seems unreal that destiny has given us the rare privilege of once more speaking to the people of Santiago de Cuba from this very same place, 40 years later.
Before dawn on that day, with the arrival of the news that the dictator and the main figures of his opprobrious regime had fled in the face of the irrepressible advance of our forces, for a few seconds I felt a strange sensation of emptiness. How was that incredible victory possible in just over 24 months, starting from that moment on December 18, 1956, when - after the extremely severe setback which virtually annihilated our detachment - we managed to gather together seven rifles to resume the battle against a combination of military forces which totaled 800,000 armed men, thousands of trained officers, high morale, attractive privileges, a totally unquestioned myth of invincibility, infallible advising and guaranteed supplies from the United States? Just ideas which a valiant people claimed as their own worked a military and political victory. Subsequent vain and ridiculous attempts to salvage what remained of that exploiting and oppressive system were swept away by the Rebel Army, the workers and the rest of the people in 24 hours.
Our fleeting sadness at the moment of victory was nostalgia for the experiences we had lived through, the vivid memory of the comrades who fell throughout the struggle, a full awareness that those exceptionally difficult and adverse years obliged us to be better than we were, and to transform them into the most fruitful and creative ones of our lives. We had to abandon our mountains, our rural life, our habits of absolute and obligatory austerity, our tense life of constant vigilance in the face of an enemy that could appear by land or air at any moment of the 761 days of the war; a healthy, hard, pure life and one of great sacrifices and shared dangers, in which men become brothers and their best virtues flourish, together with the infinite capacity for commitment, selflessness and altruism that all humans carry within them.
The enormous difference in equipment and strength between the enemy and us forced us to do the impossible. Suffice it to say that we won the war with rifles and anti-tank mines, in every important action always fighting against the enemy's artillery, armored vehicles and, in particular, airplanes, which were always immediately present in any military action.
We seized rifles and other semi-automatic and automatic light infantry weapons from the enemy in combat, and the explosives with which, in rustic workshops, we manufactured the shells we used against armored vehicles and their accompanying infantry always came from the rain of bombs which they launched against us, some of which failed to explode. The infallible tactic of attacking the enemy when it was on the move was a key factor. The art of provoking those forces into moving out of their well-fortified and generally invulnerable positions became one of our commands' greatest skills.
Enemy operations units and their garrisons were besieged, their reinforcements were destroyed or they were forced to surrender out of hunger and thirst, under constant fire from our marksmen, who tightened their circle every day avoiding frontal attacks, which cost many lives when adequate equipment and weapons are unavailable. What we learned in the mountains and dense forest areas was applied there in the lowland areas, on paved highways, under cover of citrus plantations, fruit orchards and even cane fields, which served to conceal our troops, generally rookies, given the accelerated growth of our ranks as arms were acquired, although always under the command of more experienced comrades, mounting surprise attacks on reinforcements. The same method wound up being applied within the cities, isolating the garrison's various positions.
That was how the city of Palma Soriano was taken in just three days, and that was how the plan was conceived to attack and take control of the garrison of 5000 men in the Santiago de Cuba plaza, with the deployment of 1200 rebel troops. Previously, 100 of the weapons taken in Palma had been brought in through Santiago Bay to start the uprising, five days before the start of operations where the four battalions defending the periphery gradually moved in to encircle the city. I am omitting more precise details of the plan conceived. I will simply note that there was one rebel fighter for every four enemy soldiers. We had never had a more favorable balance of forces.
The battle was initiated in Guisa, a few kilometers from Bayamo, by 180 men, who were to fight against reinforcements sent on a paved highway and other routes from that city, where the enemy army and thousands of its best soldiers were located, with backup from heavy tanks. After 11 days of intensive combat, in which our forces were growing with the arms taken and some small reinforcements, Guisa fell into our hands on November 30, 1958.
This battle was yet another example of the exceptional fighting capacity acquired by our soldiers and of their swift action. Five months previously, in June of the same year, the enemy had launched its last and apparently unbeatable offensive against the general command in La Plata, in the Sierra Maestra. But we were no longer the greenhorns who disembarked on December 2, 1956. Neither were we so numerous. The defense was initiated with approximately 170 men, with the combined and still very limited number of troops commanded by Che, Camilo, Ramiro and Almeida, who had received instructions to move towards Column No. 1's positions, the strategic objective of the enemy offensive. Thus, we had all our columns except the 2nd Eastern Front commanded by Raúl, which was too far away in the northeastern mountains to support our front. Four weeks later, we totaled around 300 fighters. Furthermore, hundreds of young unarmed volunteers were training in the Minas del Frío recruitment school.
CAMILO AND CHE'S MARCH FROM THE SIERRA TO THE ESCAMBRAY
After 74 days of intense fighting, the enemy battalions had suffered close to 1000 casualties, including deaths, wounded and prisoners. We were holding over 440 prisoners and we handed them back a few days later through the International Red Cross. I have written what I remember. Perhaps historians can be more precise concerning this data, based on our documents, which have been preserved, and those that were later discovered in enemy archives. What I can confirm is that over 500 weapons were captured and as they were seized from the army they were used to arm the trainees. Without wasting any time, when the fighting was over, the rebel columns, comprising no more than 900 armed men, moved into the territory dominated by the army towards the center of the country, with the exception of the extensive eastern zone already under the firm control of the Frank País 2nd Eastern Front. Those rebel columns advanced in different directions, creating new war fronts that were rapidly developed. I remained in the command post with a few men. While carrying out those operations, Che and Camilo, the first with approximately 140 men - according to my recollection, without consulting any records - and the second, with around 100, carried out one of the greatest feats among the many I know from history books: they advanced more than 400 kilometers from the Sierra Maestra to the Escambray mountain range - in the wake of a hurricane - through low-lying swampy areas, infested with mosquitoes and enemy troops, under constant aerial vigilance, without guides, without food, and without the logistical support of our underground movement, which had a weak organization in the area of their long march. Outwitting sieges, ambushes, successive lines of contention and bombardments, they reached their goal. Such was our confidence in the fighters who routed the enemy offensive and, most important of all, such was their infinite confidence in themselves and their legendary leaders. They were men of iron. I recommend that young people read and reread the beautiful descriptions contained in Che's Pasajes de la guerra revolucionaria (Episodes of the Revolutionary War).
And as I have almost involuntarily fallen into these reflections of our battles in the Sierra Maestra, to complete the history of the events which led me once again to this beautiful city on that January 1st whose 40th anniversary we are celebrating today, I will tell you that I left La Plata with 30 armed men and 1000 unarmed recruits on November 11. Those valiant and selfless young men had more experience with hunger, bombardments and a lack of everything than they did with arms, given that there wasn't even a spare bullet for real shooting practice. They arrived in enthusiastic waves at the school, from all over, but at that time only one out of every 10 was able to endure those conditions. They nourished our ranks, they were more daring than our older fighters. Inspired by the traditions and stories they heard, they wanted to achieve in one day what others had done over several years.
Collecting small rebel units along the march, plus the weapons from two enemy detachments that came over into our ranks, persuaded by then Commander Quevedo, our worthy and valiant adversary in the battle of Jigüe, and on the understanding that they would not fight against their former comrades in arms, our large column constituted an advance guard of 180 men with weapons of war. In Guisa, Baire, Jiguaní, Maffo and Palma Soriano, scenes of numerous actions, and with the support of other forces as we advanced, the recruits more than realized their dreams of fighting. Partially taking into account losses through the death, injury or illness of already-equipped fighters, and with the arms seized with the taking of Palma, which I estimate at around 700 all together, all the recruits that left La Plata with me six weeks earlier were armed and constituted a formidable force. In Palma alone, 350 weapons were taken.
I should point out that not all the arms that contributed to converting the youth at our Minas del Frío school into front-line soldiers were exclusively the fruit of our triumphs. In mid-December we received what in my judgment constituted the most valuable arms aid from abroad: 150 semiautomatic weapons and a FAL automatic for me, dispatched in the name of the Venezuelan people by Rear Admiral Larrazábal and the revolutionary junta which had assumed power in Venezuela some months before the Cuban triumph. As you can imagine, those arms rapidly went into action and participated in the Jiguaní, Maffo and Palma Soriano combats.
For that reason, after Palma and Maffo fell under our control, there were more than sufficient weapons for our unarmed fighters, and we were able to send the aforementioned 100 troops for the Santiago uprising and a significant number to Belarmino Castilla, with instructions to cut off the retreat of the battalion located in Mayarí.
Since I mentioned the Venezuelan aid, I should state that in our revolutionary struggle we didn't receive arms and ammunition supplies from abroad, except in very exceptional cases, of which, out of the rest I recall or heard about, the Venezuelan consignment was by far the largest. Over 90% of the arms and ammunition with which we armed ourselves and won the war were seized from the enemy in combat. They only amounted to a few thousand but, on an inviolate principle, absolutely all of them were always used on the front line. The events that I have recalled only partially have been commemorated throughout the year that has just ended.
Honor and eternal glory, infinite respect and affection to those that died then to make possible the country's definitive independence; for all those who wrote that epic in the mountains, the plains and cities; to the underground guerrillas and fighters; to those who, after the triumph, died in other glorious missions or loyally gave up their youth and energies to the cause of justice, sovereignty and the redemption of their people; to those who have died and to those who are still living; because, if that January 1 could be spoken of as the triumph attained in five years, five months and five days starting on July 26, 1953, on this anniversary - taking the same starting point - it is accurate to speak of a heroic and admirable struggle of 45 years, five months and five days. (APPLAUSE)
FOR THE YOUNGEST GENERATIONS THE REVOLUTION HAS BARELY BEGUN
Even today, the Revolution has barely begun for the youngest generations. A day like this would have no meaning if I do not speak for them.
Who are those who are present here? In their overwhelming majority they are not the same men, women and young people of that time. The people I am addressing are not the people of that January 1. They are not the same men and women. It is another, distinct people and, at the same time, the same eternal people. (APPLAUSE)
Of the 11,142,700 inhabitants that constitute the country's current population, 7,190,400 had not yet been born; 1,359,698 were under 10 years of age; the overwhelming majority of those then aged 50 and who would now be at least 90 have died, even though those living beyond that age are constantly more numerous.
Of those compatriots, 30% were unable to read and write; I believe that a further 60% never reached sixth grade. Only a few dozen technical colleges and high schools existed, not all of them within the reach of the people; the same with teacher training colleges, plus three universities and one private one. Professors and teachers amounted to 22,000. Possibly 5% of adults, that is, 250,000 persons, could have had more than a sixth-grade education.
There are some statistics I remember.
Today, much better trained teachers and working professors total over 250,000; doctors, 64,000; university graduates, 600,000. Illiteracy has been eradicated, it's extremely rare to find a person who hasn't reached sixth grade. Education is obligatory up to ninth grade; without exception, everyone who reaches that level can continue high-school level studies free of charge. There's no need to refer to absolutely accurate and absolutely exact data. There are facts that no one would dare to deny. Today, with pride, we are the country with the highest per capita indices of teachers, doctors and physical education and sports instructors in the world; and we have the lowest infant and maternal mortality rates in the Third World.
Nonetheless, I don't propose to talk of these and our many other social achievements. There are far more important things than these. What is an absolute reality is that there is no possible comparison between today's people and yesterday's people.
The yesterday's people, illiterate and semi-illiterate, and with really only a minimal political awareness, were capable of making the Revolution, of defending the nation, of subsequently achieving an exceptional political consciousness and initiating a revolutionary process that is unparalleled in this hemisphere and in the world. I do not say that out of any ridiculous chauvinistic spirit, or with the absurd pretension of believing ourselves better than others; I am saying it because, as a result of fate or destiny, the Revolution that was born on that January 1 has been subjected to the hardest trial faced by any revolutionary process in the world.
With the participation of three generations, our heroic people of yesterday and today, our eternal people, have resisted 40 years of aggression, blockade, and economic, political and ideological warfare waged by the strongest and richest imperialist power that has ever existed in the history of the world. The most extraordinary page of glory, and of patriotic and revolutionary determination has been written during these years of the special period, when we were left absolutely alone in the middle of the West, 90 miles from the United States, and we decided to carry on.
NO CAUSE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE CAUSE OF HUMANITY ITSELF
Our people aren't any better than other peoples. Their historic greatness is derived from the singular fact of having been put to the test and having been able to withstand it. It's not a great people in and of itself, but rather a people, which has made itself great, and its capacity to do so is born out of the greatness of the ideas and the righteousness of the causes it defends. There are no other causes like these, and there have never been. Today it's not a matter of selfishly defending a national cause; in today's world an exclusively national cause cannot be a great cause in and of itself; our world, as a consequence of its own development and historical evolution, is globalizing quickly, unhaltingly and irreversibly. Without abandoning national and cultural identities and even the legitimate interests of the peoples of each country, no cause is more important than global causes, that is, the cause of humanity itself.
Nor is it our fault or our merit that for the people of today and tomorrow, the struggle begun on January 1, 1959, has inexorably turned into a struggle along with other peoples for the interests of all humanity. No country on its own, no matter how big or rich - not to mention a medium-sized or small country - can solve its problems on its own. Only those with limited vision, those who are politically shortsighted or blind, or who are completely devoid of concern and sensitivity toward human destiny, could deny that reality.
But the solutions for humanity will not come from the goodwill of those who rule and exploit the world, even though they can't conceive of anything except what constitutes heaven for them and hell for the rest of humanity, a real and inescapable hell.
The economic order, which dominates the planet, will inevitably fall. Even a child in school who knows how to add, subtract, multiply and divide well enough to pass an arithmetic test can understand that.
Many take recourse in the infantile practice of calling those who talk about these subjects skeptics. There are even those who dream of establishing colonies on the moon or Mars. I don't blame them for dreaming. Maybe if they achieve that, it will be the place where some can take refuge, if the brutal and growing aggression against our planet is not halted.
The current system is unsustainable because it is based on blind and chaotic laws which are ruinous and destructive to society and nature.
The very theoreticians of neoliberal globalization, that system's best academics, spokespersons and defenders are unsure, hesitant, contradictory. There are a thousand questions which cannot be answered. It is hypocritical to state that human freedom and the absolute freedom of the market are inseparable concepts, as if laws of this kind, which have emerged from the most selfish, unequal and merciless systems ever known, were compatible with freedom for human beings, who the system has turned into mere commodities.
It would be much more exact to say that without equality and fraternity, which were the sacrosanct watchwords of the bourgeois revolution, there can never be liberty, and that equality and fraternity are absolutely incompatible with the laws of the market.
The tens of millions of children in the world who are forced to work, to prostitute themselves, to supply organs, to sell drugs in order to survive; the hundreds of millions of unemployed, critical poverty, the trafficking of drugs, of immigrants, of human organs, like the colonialism of the past and its dramatic legacy of underdevelopment today, and all of the social calamities in the world today, have arisen from systems based on these laws. It is impossible to forget that the struggle for markets led to the horrific butchery of the two world wars of this century.
We cannot ignore the fact that the principles of the market are an inseparable part of the historic development of humanity, but any rational person would have every right to reject the presumed perpetuation of such social principles as the foundation for the subsequent development of the human species. The most fanatical defenders of and believers in the market have converted it into a new religion. This is how the theology of the market emerged. Its academics, more than scientists, are theologians; for them, it is a question of faith. Out of respect for the genuine religions practiced honestly by billions of people throughout the world and out of respect for genuine theologians, we could simply add that the theology of the market is sectarian, fundamentalist and not ecumenical.
For many other reasons, the current world order is unsustainable. A biotechnologist would say that its genetic map contains numerous genes that lead to its own destruction.
New and unsuspected phenomena are emerging, ones which escape the control of governments and international financial institutions. It is no longer merely a matter of the artificial creation of fabulous wealth with no relation to the real economy. Such is the case of the hundreds of new multimillionaires who have emerged over recent years through the growth in the price of shares on the U.S. stock markets, like a giant balloon that inflates to absurd proportions with the serious risk that it will explode sooner or later. That is what happened in 1929, setting off a deep depression which lasted a decade.
In August of last year, the simple financial crisis in Russia, which produces on 2% of the world's gross domestic product, caused the Dow Jones industrial average, which is the New York stock market's top indicator, to drop 512 points in one day. Panic set in, threatened to cause a crisis like that of Southeast Asia in Latin America and thereby seriously threatened the U.S. economy. They have barely been able to hold off disaster until now. The stocks traded on these stock exchanges include the savings and pension funds of 50% of U.S. citizens. At the time of the 1929 crisis, those figures were only 5%, and there were numerous suicides.
In a globalized world, what happens in any one place has immediate repercussions on the rest of the planet. The recent scare was considerable. The resources of the world's wealthiest countries, summoned together by the United States, were mobilized to head off or attenuate the disaster. Nevertheless, they want to maintain Russia on the brink of the abyss, and are demanding unnecessarily tough conditions from Brazil. The International Monetary Fund has not moved a millimeter from its fundamentalist principles. The World Bank has rebelled and denounced the situation.
Everyone is talking about an international financial crisis; the only ones who haven't caught on are the citizens of the United States. They are spending more than ever, and their savings are less than zero. They're not concerned that their transnationals invest other people's money. Nor does it matter that the trade deficit continues to grow and has now reached 240 billion. They enjoy the privileges of the empire that prints the currency of the world's reserves. The speculators seek refuge in their treasury bonds en masse when there is a crisis. Because the domestic market is large and more money is being spent, the economy appears to be in good shape, although the profits of the corporations have decreased. Megamergers, euphoria; stock prices rise once again. They've gone back to playing Russian roulette. Everything will continue to go well eternally. The system's theoreticians have discovered the philosopher's stone. All points of access are intercepted to keep out the ghosts that could destroy the dream. It is no longer impossible to square the circle. There will never be a crisis.
But is the balloon that continues inflating the only threat and the only speculative gamble? Another phenomenon that is reaching ever more fabulous and uncontrollable proportions is that of speculative operations involving currencies. These operations now represent a minimum of a trillion dollars a day. Some claim it to be 1.5 trillion. Scarcely 14 years ago, this figure was only 150 billion dollars a year. There could be confusion regarding the figures. It is difficult to express them, and even more so to translate them from English to Spanish. What we call a billion in Spanish, that is, a million million, is a trillion in North American English. On the other hand, a billion in North American English is a thousand million in Spanish. Now they have come up with the milliard, which means a thousand million in both Spanish and English. These language difficulties demonstrate how difficult it is to follow and comprehend the fabulous figures that reflect the degree of speculation in the current world economic order. The immense majority of the world's nations pay for it with the perennial risk of ruin. The slightest carelessness can lead the speculators to attack, devaluating the currency in any one of these nations, and liquidating their hard currency reserves, built up over decades perhaps, in a matter of days. The world order has created the conditions for this. Absolutely no one is or can be safe. The wolves, grouped in packs and aided by computer programs, know where to attack, when to attack and why to attack.
THERE ARE WORDS THAT CANNOT BE PRONOUNCED IN THE TEMPLE OF THE FANATICS OF THE IMPOSED WORLD ORDER
Fourteen years ago, when this speculation was 2000 times less, a Nobel laureate in economics proposed a 1% tax on every speculative operation of this kind. Today the total that would have been generated through this 1% would be sufficient to develop all of the countries of the Third World. It would be a way of regulating and holding back this harmful speculation. But, regulate? This would clash with the purest fundamentalist doctrine. There are words that cannot be pronounced in the temple of the fanatics of the imposed world order. For example: regulation, public enterprise, economic development program, any minimal form of state planning, influence or participation in the economic area. All of this disturbs the idyllic dream of the free market and private enterprise paradise. Everything should be deregulated, even the labor market. Unemployment benefits should be reduced to the bare minimum, so as not to support "bums" and "freeloaders." The pension system should be restructured and privatized. The state should only concern itself with the police and the army, to maintain order, represses protest and wage war. It is not even permissible for it to participate in any way in the monetary policies of the central bank; this must be absolutely independent. Louis XIV would truly suffer, because if he said, "I am the state," today he would have to add, "I am absolutely nothing."
Apart from the frightful speculation with currencies, there has been an accelerated and unbelievable growth in so-called hedge funds and the derivatives market, another rather new term. I won't try to explain it. It's complicated. It would take a lot of time. I'll simply say that it is an additional system of speculative gambling, another enormous casino where the players bet anything and everything, based on sophisticated risk calculations generated by computers, high-level programmers and economic experts. They exploit insecurity and use the money in the banks' savings accounts. They have practically no restrictions, make huge profits and can provoke disasters.
The fact that the current economic order is unsustainable is evidenced by the very vulnerability and weakness of the system, which has turned the planet into a gigantic casino, and turned millions of citizens and sometimes even entire societies into gamblers, adulterating the function of money and of investments, given that they pursue neither the production nor the growth of the world's wealth, but rather a means to make money with money. Such a deformation will inevitably lead the world economy towards disaster.
A recent incident, which took place in the United States, has been the source of scandal and profound concern. One of the hedge funds that I mentioned and tried to explain in essence, precisely the most famous one in the United States, Long Term Capital Management, which has two Nobel laureates in economy and some of the best computer programmers in the world, and annual profits of over 30%, was on the verge of bankruptcy, which would have had, it would seem, incalculable consequences.
Backed by the prestige it had acquired and depending blindly in the infallibility of its famed programmers and Nobel Prize winners in economics, with a fund of only 4.5 million dollars, it mobilized funds from 75 different banks, totaling 120 billion dollars, for its speculative operations; that is, it obtained over 25 dollars in savings for every dollar of its own funds. That procedure broke all the parameters and supposed financial practices. The calculations and the programs failed. The losses were considerable; and bankruptcy - which is a dramatic word in this sphere - was inevitable. It was just a matter of days. The U.S. Federal Reserve System went to the rescue of the hedge fund, contradicting all the tenets of the United States and neoliberal philosophy, given that this was considered irresponsible behavior on the part of that kind of institution. According to established principles, the hedge fund had to go bankrupt, the law of the market would teach it a lesson by imposing the relevant corrective. A scandal broke out. The Senate summoned Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board; he was called on to make a statement. This senior official, who came from Wall Street, is seen as one of the most expert and eminent figures in the U.S. economy. The principal merit for the current administration's economic success is attributed to him and he is currently enjoying special praise in financial and press circles as the man who halted the stock market crisis in the United States, by lowering interest rates three times in succession. After the president, he is viewed as the most important person in the country. Well, this famous and esteemed chairman of the Federal Reserve System informed the Senate that, if the hedge fund wasn't saved, it would lead to an economic catastrophe which would affect the United States and the entire world.
Where is the solidity of an economic order in which the action, qualified as adventurous and irresponsible, of a speculative institution which possessed a mere 4.5 billion dollars could lead the United States and the world to an economic disaster?
When a weakness and an immunological failure of such magnitude is perceived within the system, it could be diagnosed as suffering from something very similar to AIDS.
I don't wish to put forward any more arguments. Many other problems exist within the world economy. The prevailing order flip-flops between inflation, recession, deflation, potential overproduction crises, and sustained slumps of basic products. Countries as immensely rich as Saudi Arabia now have budget and trade deficits, even through every day they export eight million barrels of oil. Optimistic growth forecasts are evaporating. No one has the slightest idea of how to solve the problems of the Third World. What capital goods, technology, distribution networks, export credits do they have to seek markets, compete and export? Where are the consumers of their products? How are the resources to be found for health care in Africa, where 22 million HIV-positive persons would require, at current prices, 200 billion dollars every year to control one sole disease? How many will die before a protective vaccine or a medicine is found to eliminate the disease?
HOPEFULLY SOLUTIONS WON'T BE FOUND AS A RESULT OF ECONOMIC CRISES
The world needs some leadership to confront its current realities. There are already six billion inhabitants on the planet. It is virtually certain that in just 50 years' time there will be 9.5 billion. Guaranteeing food, health care, education, employment, clothing, footwear, homes, drinking water, electricity and transportation for such an extraordinary number of persons who will be living precisely in the poorest countries will be a colossal challenge. First, consumption standards will have to be defined. We cannot continue introducing the tastes and ways of life inspired by the industrialized societies' wasteful model, which would be suicidal in addition to being impossible. The world's development must be programmed. That task cannot remain in the hands of the transnationals and left up to the blind and chaotic laws of the market. The United Nations is a good basis for this task, since it has a lot of information and experience; we must strive to make it more democratic, to put an end to the Security Council's dictatorship, and the dictatorship within the Council itself, or at least to increase the number of its permanent members so that the Third World is properly represented, with all the prerogatives enjoyed by the current members and changing the rules on decision making. Furthermore, the functions and authority of the General Assembly must be broadened.
Hopefully solutions won't be found as a result of economic crises. Billions of people in the Third World would be affected. An elemental awareness of the technological realities and the destructive power of modern weapons obliges us to think about the duty to prevent the inevitable conflicts of interest from leading to bloody wars.
The existence of a single superpower, of a global and asphyxiating economic order, makes it difficult - perhaps impossible - for even a revolution such as ours to survive, if it had been born today instead of when if could count on a source of support, in a world which was then bipolar. Because of that support, our country had the necessary time to develop an invincible capacity for resistance and to make known, in the international arena, the strong influence of its example and heroism, in order to carry out a great battle of ideas in all forums.
Peoples will keep on struggling, the masses will play an important and decisive role in those struggles, which in essence will be their response to the poverty and suffering to which they have been subjected, and thousands of creative and ingenious forms of pressure and political action will emerge. Economic crises and the absence of solutions within the established international economic system will destabilize many governments.
We are living though a stage in which events move more quickly than consciousness of the realities under which we suffer. We must sow ideas and unmask deceit, sophism and hypocrisy, using methods and means, which counteract the disinformation and institutionalized lies. The experience of 40 years of slander falling upon Cuba like torrential rain has taught us to trust the people's instincts and intelligence.
The European countries have given the world a good example of what can be achieved through the use of reason and intelligence. After centuries of internecine wars, they understood that even though they were wealthy industrialized countries, they couldn't survive isolated from one another. Soros, a well-known personality in the world of finance, and his group, in a speculative assault, brought Britain to its knees, despite the fact that Britain was once the head of a great empire, the undisputed queen of finances and the former ruler of the world's reserve currency, a role now played by the dollar and the United States.
The franc, peseta and lira also suffered the damage wrought by speculation. The dollar and the euro are keeping watch over one another. The dollar now faces a prospective adversary. The United States is anxiously wagering that the new currency will struggle and fail. We are keeping a close eye on events.
Anguish, uncertainty and doubt lead some to seek out eclectic alternatives. The world, nevertheless, has no other alternative to neoliberal globalization, which is dehumanizing, morally and socially indefensible, and ecologically and economically unsustainable, than a fair distribution of the riches that human beings are capable of creating with their dedicated labor and fertile intelligence. May there be an end to the tyranny of an order that imposes blind, anarchic and chaotic principles, that is leading the human species towards the abyss. May nature be saved. May national identities be preserved, and the cultures of all nations protected. May equality, fraternity, and with them, true liberty, prevail. The unfathomable differences between the rich and poor within each country and between countries cannot continue growing. They must, on the contrary, progressively diminish until they disappear someday. May merit, capacity, creative spirit, and what each individual actually contributes to the welfare of humanity, as opposed to theft, speculation, and the exploitation of the weakest determine differences. May humanism be genuinely practiced, with concrete actions and not hypocritical slogans.
TODAY'S STRUGGLE IS TOUGH AND DIFFICULT
The nation that is waging the heroic battle of the special period to save the homeland, the Revolution and the conquests of socialism is advancing irrepressibly towards its goals, in the same way that the fighters led by Camilo and Che advanced from the Sierra Maestra to the Escambray. As Mella said, the future must always be better. Let's confirm this with the goals we have set ourselves for 1999. Let's consolidate and strengthen, work, struggle and fight with the spirit with which our heroic compatriots fought in Uvero, in the glorious days of the major enemy offensive, in the battles and the events we have recalled today. We have left behind the setback in Alegría de Pío, we have passed through Cinco Palmas, we have gathered forces, and now we are capable of triumph, just as 300 triumphed over 10,000; we are now much stronger, and certain of victory. (APPLAUSE)
To all of our compatriots, and especially the young, I assure you that the next 40 years will be decisive for the world. Before you there are tasks that are incomparably more complex and difficult. New glorious goals await you; the honor of being Cuban revolutionaries demands it. We will struggle for our nation and for humanity. And our voice can reach and will reach very far away.
Today's struggle is tough and difficult. In the ideological war, as in armed battles, there are also casualties. Not everyone has the courage to withstand these tough times and difficult conditions.
I was recalling today that in the midst of the war, in the midst of the bombings and countless deprivations, of all the young volunteers who entered the school, one in ten was able to withstand it; but that one was worth ten, a hundred, a thousand. By strengthening awareness, forming character, educating the young in the difficult school of life in our era, sowing solid ideas, using arguments that are irrefutable, preaching through example and trusting in the honor of humankind, we can ensure that for every ten, nine remain in their battle posts alongside the flag, the Revolution and the homeland. (APPLAUSE)
Socialism or death! Patria o muerte Venceremos! (OVATION)
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