[Formerly titled: On Growth and Imperialism]
ECONOMICS CANNOT BE SEPARATED FROM POLITICS
Spoken: August 8, 1961 (at Punta del Este)
Source: Our America — Kennedy and the Alliance for Progress, Ocean Press, © 2005.
Translated: See also: Historical Translation by the OAS
Transcription/Markup: Ocean Press/Brian Baggins
Copyright: © 2005 Aleida March, Che Guevara Studies Center and Ocean Press.
Che Guevara’s speech on behalf of the Cuban government to the ministerial meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES), sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS) at Punta del Este, Uruguay, on August 8, 1961. Head of the US delegation, Douglas Dillon, presented Washington’s recently proclaimed Alliance for Progress for official ratification by the meeting. The conference was presided over by Uruguayan President Eduardo Haedo.
Like all the delegations, we must begin by expressing our appreciation to the government and people of Uruguay for the cordial reception they have given us during this visit. I would also like to personally thank the distinguished presi dent of this gathering for the gift he made to us of the com plete works of Rodó, and would like to explain to him the two reasons why we are not beginning this presentation with a quotation from that great Latin American. The first is that I went back to Ariel after many years, looking for a passage that would express, at the present time, the ideas of someone who is, more than a Uruguayan, a man of our Americas, an American from the Río Bravo to the south. But Rodó expresses throughout his Ariel the violent struggle and the contradictions of the Latin American peoples against the nation that 50 years ago was already interfering in our economy and in our political freedom. And it was not proper to quote this in someone else’s house.
And the second reason, Mr. President, is that the head of one of the delegations here offered us a quotation from [José] Martí to begin his presentation. Well, we will answer Martí with Martí. But with the anti-imperialist and antifeudal Martí who died facing Spanish bullets, fighting for the liberty of his homeland and — as he put it in one of his last letters — trying, with Cuba’s liberty, to prevent the United States from falling upon Latin America.
At that international monetary conference to which the distinguished president of the Inter-American Bank referred in his inaugural address when he spoke of the 70 years of waiting, Martí said:
”Whoever speaks of economic union speaks of political union. The nation that buys, commands; the nation that sells, serves. Commerce must be balanced to assure freedom. A nation that wants to die sells to one nation only, and a nation that would be saved sells to more than one. The excessive influence of one country over another’s commerce becomes political influence. Politics is the work of men who surrender their feelings to an interest. When a strong nation supplies another with food, she requires that the recipient serve her. When a strong nation wants to engage another in battle, she forces those who have need of her to become her allies and to serve her. A nation that wants to be free must be free in matters of trade. It must distribute its trade among nations that are equally strong. If one is to be preferred, give preference to the one who needs it the least. Let there be neither unions of the Americas against Europe, nor with Europe against a nation of the Americas. Only the mind of some university student could deduce an obli gation to political union from the geographic coincidence of our living together in the Americas. Commerce follows the land and sea routes of the earth, going to whatever country has any thing to exchange, be it a monarchy or a republic. Let us be in union with the whole world and not with just a part of it, not with one part against another. If the republics of the Americas have any function at all, it is certainly not to be herded by one of them against the future republics.“
That was Martí 70 years ago, Mr. President. Well, having complied with the elementary duty of honoring the dead and of repaying the kindness that the distinguished delegate has shown to us, we pass on to the fundamental part of our presentation: the analysis of why we are here, to characterize the conference. And I must say, Mr. President, that I disagree, in the name of Cuba, with almost all the statements that have been made, although I do not know if I disagree with all the private thoughts of everyone.
I must say that Cuba’s interpretation is that this is a political conference. Cuba does not agree that economics can be separated from politics, and understands that they always go together. That is why you cannot have experts who speak of models when the destinies of a people are at stake. And I am also going to explain why this conference is political. It is political because all economic conferences are political; but it is also political because it was conceived against Cuba, and because it has been conceived to counter the example that Cuba represents throughout Latin America.
And if there is any doubt about that, on the 10th, in Fort Amador in the [Panama] Canal Zone, General Decker, while instructing a group of Latin American military men in the art of repressing the people, spoke of the technical conference in Montevideo and said that it had to be backed. But that is nothing. In the inaugural message on August 5, 1961, President Kennedy asserted:
”Those of you at this conference are present at an historic moment in the life of this hemisphere. This is far more than an economic discussion, or a technical conference on development. In a very real sense it is a demonstration of the capacity of free nations to meet the human and material problems of the modern world.“
I could continue quoting the prime minister of Peru, where he also refers to political themes; but in order not to tire the distinguished delegates, for I can foresee that my presentation will be a bit long, I will refer to some statements made by the “experts” — a term we place within quotation marks — on point 5 of the draft text.
At the end of page 11, it is stated as a definitive conclusion:
”To establish, on a hemispheric and national level, regular consul tative procedures with the trade union advisory committees, so that they may play an influential role in the political formulation of programs that might be approved in the special session.“
And to drive home my point, so no doubt can remain as to my right to speak of political matters — which is what I plan to do in the name of the Cuban government — here is a quotation from page 7 of that same report on point 5 in question:
”Delay in accepting the responsibility of democratic media to defend the essential values of our civilization, without any weak ening or commitments of a material sort, would signify irreparable damage to democratic society and the imminent danger of the disappearance of the freedoms enjoyed today, as has occurred in Cuba…“ Cuba is spelled out… ”…where today all newspapers, radio, television, and movies are controlled by the absolute power of the government.“
In other words, distinguished delegates, in the report we are to discuss, Cuba is put on trial from a political point of view. Very well then, Cuba will state its truths from a political point of view, and from an economic point of view, as well. We agree with only one thing in the report on point 5 by the distinguished experts, only one phrase, which defines the present situation: “A new stage is beginning in relations between the peoples of the Americas,” it says, and that is true. Except that the new stage begins under the star of Cuba, free territory of the Americas. And this conference, and the special treatment that the delegations have received, and the credits that may be granted, all bear the name of Cuba, whether the beneficiaries like it or not, because a qualitative change has taken place in the Americas. A country can take up arms, destroy an oppressing army, form a new popular army, stand up to the invincible monster, wait for the monster’s attack, and then defeat it. And this is something new in Latin America, gentlemen, and what makes this new language possible and what makes relations easier between everyone — except, of course, between the two great rivals of this conference. At this time, Cuba cannot even speak of Latin America alone. Cuba is part of a world that is experiencing intense anguish because we do not know if one of the parts — the weakest, but the most aggressive — will commit the stupid mistake of unleashing a conflict that would necessarily be a nuclear one.
Cuba is on the alert, distinguished delegates, because she knows that imperialism would perish enveloped in flames, but that Cuba would also suffer in its own flesh the price of imperialism’s defeat, and she hopes that it can be accomplished by other means. Cuba hopes that her children will see a better future, and that victory will not have to be won at the cost of millions of human lives destroyed by the atomic bomb. The situation of the world is tense. We are not gathered here just for Cuba — not in the least. Imperialism has to protect its rearguard because the battle is being fought on all sides, in a moment of great tension.
The Soviet Union has reaffirmed its decision to sign the Berlin peace treaty, and President Kennedy has announced that he might even go to war over Berlin. But there is not only Berlin; there is not only Cuba; there is Laos; elsewhere there is the Congo, where Lumumba was assassinated by imperialism; there is divided Vietnam; divided Korea; Formosa [Taiwan] in the hands of Chiang Kai-shek’s gang; Algeria is bleeding to death, and now they also want to divide it; and there is Tunisia, whose population was machine-gunned the other day for committing the “crime” of wanting to regain their territory. That is the world today, distinguished delegates. That is how we have to see it in order to understand this conference and draw the conclusions that will permit our peoples either to head toward a happy future of harmonious development, or else become appendages of imperialism in the preparation of a new and terrible war. Or they may shed blood in internal strife when — as almost all of you have foreseen — the people, tired of waiting, tired of being fooled once again, set out on the road that Cuba once took: that of seizing weapons from the enemy army, which represents reaction, and destroying to its very foundations a whole social order designed to exploit the people.
The history of the Cuban revolution is short in years, Mr. President, but rich in accomplishments, rich in positive accomplishments, and rich also in the bitterness of the aggressions it has suffered. We will point out a few of them so it may be well understood that a long chain of events leads us here.
In October 1959, the only fundamental economic measure that the revolutionary government had carried out was the agrarian reform. Pirate planes coming from the United States flew over Havana’s airspace and as a result of the bombs that they dropped and the fire of our antiaircraft batteries, two people were killed and 50 were wounded. Then there was the burning of the sugarcane fields, which constitutes economic aggression, an aggression against our wealth. The United States denied all responsibility until a plane blew up — pilot and all — and the origin of those pirate craft was indisputably demonstrated. This time the US government was kind enough to offer apologies. The España sugar mill was also bombed in February 1960 by these planes.
In March of that year, the steamship La Coubre, which was bringing arms and munitions from Belgium, exploded at the Havana docks in an accident that the experts said was intentional and that killed 100 people.
In May 1960, the conflict with imperialism became direct and sharp. The oil companies operating in Cuba, invoking the right of force and scorning the laws of the republic, which clearly specified their obligations, refused to refine the crude oil that we had bought from the Soviet Union, in the exercise of our free right to trade with the whole world and not with just a part of it, as Martí said.
Everyone knows how the Soviet Union responded, by sending us, in a real effort, hundreds of ships to annually transport 3.6 million tons — the total of our crude oil imports — to keep our whole industrial apparatus moving, which today runs on the basis of oil.
In July 1960, there was the economic aggression against Cuban sugar, although some governments have not yet recognized it as such. The contradictions became sharper and the meeting of the OAS took place in August 1960, in Costa Rica. There — in August 1960, I repeat — it was stated:
The intervention or threat of intervention by an extra-continental power in the affairs of the American republics, even when it is invited, is strongly condemned. It is declared that the acceptance by an American state of a threat of extracontinental intervention endangers American solidarity and security, which obligates the Organization of American States to condemn and reject it with equal energy.
In other words, the sister nations of the Americas, gathered in Costa Rica, denied us the right to be defended. It is one of the strangest denials in the history of international law. Of course, our people are rather disobedient to the dictates of technical assemblies and they gathered in a great assembly of Havana, approving unanimously — with more than a million hands raised to the sky, one-sixth of the total population of the whole country — what was called the Declaration of Havana, one of whose points states:
The National General Assembly of the People of Cuba — confident that it is expressing the general opinion of the peoples of Latin America — reaffirms that democracy is not compatible with financial oligarchy, with discrimination against Blacks and outrages by the Ku Klux Klan, or with the persecution that drove scientists like Oppenheimer from their posts, deprived the world for years of the marvelous voice of Paul Robeson, held prisoner in his own country, and sent the Rosenbergs to their deaths against the protests of a shocked world, including the appeals of many governments and of Pope Pius XII. The National General Assembly of the People of Cuba expresses the Cuban conviction that democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians, but rather it lies in the right of the citizens to determine their own destiny, as this assembly of the people is now doing. Furthermore, democracy will come to exist in Latin America only when people are really free to make choices, when the poor are not reduced — by hunger, social discrimination, illiteracy, and the legal system — to the most wretched impotence… To sum up, the National General Assembly of the People of Cuba condemns: the exploitation of human by human and the exploitation of the underdeveloped countries by imperialist finance capital.
This was a declaration of our people made before the whole world, to show our resolve to defend with arms, with our blood, and with our lives, our freedom and our right to determine the destiny of our country in the way our people think best. There followed many skirmishes and battles, verbal at times, with deeds at others, until December 1960 when the Cuban sugar quota in the US market was cut once and for all. The Soviet Union responded in the manner that you know. Other socialist countries did likewise and contracts were signed to sell to the whole socialist area four million tons of sugar, at a preferential price of four cents. That naturally saved the situation for Cuba, which unfortunately is still today as much of a one-crop country as are the majority of the countries of Latin America, and as dependent upon a single market, on a single product — at that time — as the rest of her sister countries are today.
It seemed that President Kennedy was initiating the new era that has been so talked about. And in spite of the fact that the verbal battle had been so intense between President Kennedy and the prime minister of our government, we hoped things would improve. President Kennedy in his speech issued some clear warnings on a range of Latin America issues, but he appeared to publicly accept that the case of Cuba must now be considered as a fait accompli.
We were mobilized at that time, but the day after Kennedy’s speech, demobilization was ordered. Unfortunately, on March 13, 1961 — the day President Kennedy announced the Alliance for Progress — the pirate attack on our refinery at Santiago de Cuba took place, endangering the installations and taking the life of one of those defending it. We were thus again faced with an accomplished fact.
In that speech, which I have no doubt will be remembered, Kennedy also said that he hoped the peoples of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, for whom he felt great sympathy, could join the community of free nations. Within a month there was Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs invasion], and a few days later President Trujillo was mysteriously assassinated. We were always enemies of President Trujillo; we merely take note of the bare fact, which has not been clarified in any way up to the present time.
Afterward, a true masterpiece of belligerence and political naiveté was prepared, called the White Paper. According to the magazines that chatter so much in the United States — even provoking the ire of President Kennedy — its author is one of the distinguished advisers of the US delegation that is with us today. It is an indictment filled with distortions about Cuban reality, and was conceived to prepare for what was coming. “The revolutionary regime betrayed their own revolution,” said the White Paper, as if it were the judge of revolutions and of how to make revolutions, the great appraiser of revolutions in the Americas.
“The Castro regime offers a clear and present danger to the authentic revolutions of the Americas.” The word revolution also needs the barnacles scraped off it now and then, as one of the members presiding here said.
“The Castro regime refuses to negotiate amicably.” This in spite of our having said many times that we will sit down on an equal basis to discuss our problems with the United States. I take advantage of the opportunity now, on behalf of my government, Mr. President, to state once more that Cuba is ready to sit down to discuss as equals everything that the US delegation wishes to discuss, but on the strict basis that there be no prior conditions. In other words, our position is very clear on this matter.
The White Paper calls the Cuban people to subversion and to revolution “against the Castro regime.” Yet, in spite of this, on April 13 , President Kennedy once more spoke and affirmed categorically that he would not invade Cuba and that the armed forces of the United States would never intervene in Cuba’s internal affairs. Two days later, unmarked planes bombed our airports and reduced to ashes the greater part of our ancient air force, the remnants of what Batista’s men had left behind when they fled.
In the UN Security Council, Mr. Adlai Stevenson gave emphatic assurances that they were Cuban pilots, from our air force, “unhappy with the Castro regime,” who had carried out such a deed. And he stated he had spoken with them. On April 17, the unsuccessful invasion took place. Our entire people, united and on a war footing, once more demonstrated that there are forces stronger than widespread propaganda, that there are forces stronger than the brutal force of arms, that there are higher values than the value of money. They threw themselves in a mad rush on to the narrow paths that led to the battlefield, many of them massacred on the way by the enemy’s superiority in the air. Nine Cuban pilots were the heroes of that struggle, with the old planes. Two of them gave their lives; seven of them are exceptional witnesses to the triumph of freedom’s weapons.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was over, and — to be brief, for there is no need to offer proof when the guilty party confesses, distinguished delegates — President Kennedy assumed full responsibility for the aggression. Perhaps at that time he did not remember the words he had spoken a few days before. You might think that the history of aggressions was over. Nevertheless, I’ll give you a scoop, as the newspaper people say. On July 26 of this year, armed counterrevolutionary groups at the Guantánamo naval base were waiting for Commander Raúl Castro at two strategic places in order to assassinate him. The plan was intelligent and macabre. They would fire upon Commander Raúl Castro while he was on the road from his house to the mass meeting at which we celebrate the date of our revolution. If they failed, they would dynamite the foundation, or rather, they would detonate the already dynamited foundations of the stand from which our compañero Raúl Castro would preside over that patriotic meeting. And a few hours later, distinguished delegates, US mortars would begin firing from Cuban territory against the Guantánamo naval base. So the whole world would clearly understand the matter: the Cubans, exasperated because in the midst of their personal quarrels one of those “Communists over there” was assassinated, were attacking the Guantánamo naval base, and the poor United States would have no recourse but to defend itself.
That was the plan our security forces, which are much more efficient than you might imagine, discovered a few days ago. All that I have just told you is why I believe the Cuban revolution cannot come to this conference of illustrious experts to speak about technical matters. I know that you think, “It is because they do not know about these things.” And perhaps you are right. But the fundamental thing is that politics and facts, so obstinate, which are constantly present in our situation, prevent us from coming here to speak about numbers or to analyze the perfections of the CIES specialists. There is a series of political issues that are circulating. One of them is a political-economic question: the tractors. Five hundred tractors is not an exchange value. Five hundred tractors is what our government estimates would allow it to repair the material damage caused by the 1,200 mercenaries. They do not pay for a single life because we are not accustomed to placing a dollar value on the lives of our citizens, or a value on equipment of any kind. And much less on the lives of the children who died there, of the women who died there at the Bay of Pigs.
But we want to make it clear that if the exchange of human beings — those we call gusanos [worms] — for tractors seems to be an odious transaction, something from the days of piracy, we could make an exchange of human beings for human beings. We direct our remarks to the gentlemen from the United States. We reminded them of the great [Puerto Rican] patriot Pedro Albizu Campos, on the verge of death after being in a dungeon of the empire for years and years, and we offered them whatever they wanted for the freedom of Albizu Campos. We reminded the nations of the Americas who might have political prisoners in their jails that we could make an exchange. No one responded.
Naturally, we cannot force that exchange. It is simply up to those who think that the freedom of those “valiant” Cuban counterrevolutionaries — the only army in the world that surrendered in its entirety, with almost no losses — whoever thinks that these individuals should be set free, let them set free their political prisoners. Then all the jails of the Americas will be resplendent, or at least their political prisons will be empty. There is another problem, also of a political-economic nature. This is, Mr. President, that our air transport fleet is being brought, plane by plane, to the United States. The procedure is simple: a few ladies enter a plane with guns hidden in their clothing, they hand them over to their accomplices, the accomplices murder the guard, they put a gun to the pilot’s head, the pilot heads for Miami, and a company, legally of course — because in the United States everything is done legally — files a suit for debts against the Cuban government, and then the plane is confiscated.
But it so happens that among those many Cuban patriots — and in addition there was a US patriot, but he is not ours — there was a Cuban patriot [in the United States]. And he, all by himself, without anyone telling him anything, decided to better the record of the hijackers of the two-engine planes, and he brought to Cuban shores a beautiful four-engine plane. Naturally, we are not going to use this four-engine plane, which is not ours. We respect private property, but we demand the right to be respected in kind, gentlemen. We demand an end to shams; the right for there to be organizations in the Americas that can say to the United States: “Gentlemen, you are committing a vulgar outrage. You cannot take the planes of another country even though it may be opposed to you. Those planes are not yours. Return those planes, or sanctions will be imposed against you.”
Naturally we understand that, unfortunately, there is no inter-American body strong enough to do this. Nevertheless, in this august conclave, we appeal to the sense of fairness and justice of the US delegation, in order to normalize the situation with regard to the hijacking of our respective planes. It is necessary to explain what the Cuban revolution is, what this special event is that has made the blood of the world’s empires boil, and that has also made the blood of the dispossessed of the world, or of this part of the world at least, boil with hope. It is an agrarian, antifeudal and anti-imperialist revolution that under the imperatives of its internal evolution and of external aggressions became transformed into a socialist revolution, and that declares itself as such before all the Americas: a socialist revolution. A socialist revolution that took the land from those who had plenty and gave it to those who used to be hired to work that land, or distributed it in cooperatives among other groups of people who had no land on which to work, even as hired hands.
It is a revolution that came to power with its own army and on the ruins of the oppressor’s army; a revolution that looked around when it came to power and dedicated itself to the systematic destruction of all the old forms of the structure that upheld the dictatorship of an exploiter class over the exploited class. It destroyed the army completely, as a caste, as an institution — not as men, except for the war criminals who were shot before a firing squad; this too was done openly before the public opinion of the continent and with a clear conscience. It is a revolution that has reaffirmed national sovereignty and that, for the first time, has called in its own name and in the name of all the peoples of the Americas and of the world for the return of all territories unjustly occupied by foreign powers.
It is a revolution that has an independent foreign policy, that comes here to this meeting of American states as one more Latin American country, that goes to the meeting of the Nonaligned nations as one of its important members, and that participates in the deliberations of the socialist countries and is considered by them to be a fraternal nation.
It is, then, a revolution with humanist characteristics. It is in solidarity with all the oppressed peoples of the world. It is in solidarity, Mr. President, because as Martí also said: “Every true human must feel on their own cheek every blow dealt against the cheek of another.” And every time that an imperialist power subjugates a territory, it is a blow against every inhabitant of that territory.
That is why we struggle for the independence of other countries, for the independence of the occupied territories, indiscriminately, without asking about the political regime or about the aspirations of those who fight for their independence. We support Panama, which has a piece of its territory occupied by the United States. We call the islands near the south of Argentina the Malvinas and not the Falkland Islands. And we call the island that the United States snatched from Honduras and from which it is insulting us over radio and telegraph, Swan Island.
Here in the Americas we are constantly fighting for the independence of the Guianas and the British Antilles. We accept the fact of an independent Belize because Guatemala has already renounced its sovereignty over that piece of its territory. And we also fight in Africa, in Asia, in any part of the world where the strong oppress the weak, so that the weak may achieve independence, self-determination, and the right to self-rule as a sovereign state.
Permit us to say that when the earthquake struck Chile, our people came to her aid to the extent of our resources, with our only product, sugar. It was a small amount of aid, but nevertheless it was a type of aid for which nothing was demanded in return. It was simply handing over to a sister nation some food to tide her over those anxious hours. Nor does that country have to thank us, and much less does she owe us anything; it was our duty to give what we gave.
Our revolution nationalized the domestic economy; it nationalized basic industry, including mining. It nationalized all foreign trade, which is now in the hands of the state, and which we proceeded to diversify by trading with the whole world. It nationalized the banking system in order to have in its hands the efficient instrument with which to exercise the function of credit in accordance with the country’s needs. It provides for the participation of the workers in the management of the planned national economy. It carried out the urban reform just a few months ago, through which every inhabitant of the country was made the owner of the home they occupied on the sole condition that they continue to pay the same rent that they were already paying, in accordance with a table, for a set number of years.
It instituted many measures to affirm the dignity of the human being. Among the first of these was the abolition of racial discrimination, which existed in our country, distinguished delegates, in a somewhat subtle form, but it existed. The beaches of our island were not for Blacks or the poor to swim at because they belonged to some private club visited by tourists who did not like to swim with black people. Our hotels — Havana’s great hotels, which were built by foreign companies — did not allow black people as guests, because tourists from other countries did not like it. That is the way our country was. A woman did not have anything approaching equal rights; she was paid less for the same work; she was discriminated against, as she is in the majority of our countries.
The city and the countryside were in perpetual conflict, and from that conflict imperialism drew a work force, which was paid poorly and denied steady work.
In all these areas we carried out a revolution, and we also carried out a true revolution in education, culture, and health care. This year illiteracy will be eliminated in Cuba. Some 104,000 literacy volunteers of all ages are spread throughout the Cuban countryside teaching reading and writing to 1.25 million illiterates, because in Cuba there were many illiterates. There were 1.25 million illiterates, many more than the official statistics used to report.
This year primary education has been made compulsory through the ninth grade, and secondary education has been made free and compulsory for the whole school-age population. We have converted the fortresses into schools. We have carried out university reform and have given the whole people free access to higher culture, to science and modern technology. We have greatly promoted national values to overcome the cultural deformation produced by imperialism, and our art receives the applause of the peoples of the world — not all the peoples, since in some places they are not allowed to enter. We have promoted the cultural heritage of Latin America through the awarding of annual prizes to writers from all latitudes of the Americas — and whose poetry prize, Mr. President, was won by the [Uruguayan] poet laureate, Roberto Ibañez, in the last contest. We have extended the social function of medicine to benefit the peasants and the poor urban workers. All the people have access to sport, to the extent that on July 25, 75,000 people marched in a sports celebration given in honor of the world’s first cosmonaut, Commander Yuri Gagarin. Popular beaches have been opened to all, of course, without distinction of color or ideology, and free besides. And the exclusive social clubs of our country, of which there were many, were transformed into workers’ social clubs.
All right, gentlemen experts, fellow delegates, the time has come to address the economic section of the text. Point 1 is very broad. Prepared by very brainy experts, it aims at planning the social and economic development of Latin America. I am going to refer to some of the statements of the gentlemen experts in order to refute them from the technical point of view, and then present the Cuban delegation’s viewpoint on what development planning is.
The first incongruity that we observe in this work is expressed in this passage:
“Sometimes the idea is expressed that an increase in the level and in the diversity of economic activity necessarily results in the improvement of sanitary conditions. Nevertheless, the group is of the opinion that the improvement of sanitary condi tions is not only desirable per se, but that it constitutes an indispensable prerequisite to economic growth, and that it should therefore form an essential part of the programs for the development of the region.”
On the other hand, this is also reflected in the structure of the loans granted by the Inter-American Development Bank, for in the analysis that we made of the $120 million loaned in the first period, $40 million, in other words one-third, corresponds directly to loans of this type; for housing, for aqueducts, for sewers.
It is a bit like… I do not know, but I would almost classify it as a colonial mentality. I get the impression they are thinking of making the latrine the fundamental thing. That would improve the social conditions of the poor Indian, of the poor Black, of the poor person who lives in subhuman conditions. “Let’s make latrines for them and after we have made latrines for them, and after their education has taught them how to keep themselves clean, then they can enjoy the benefits of production.” Because it should be noted, distinguished delegates, that the topic of industrialization does not figure in the analysis of the distinguished experts. Planning for the gentlemen experts is the planning of latrines. As for the rest, who knows how it will be done!
If the president will allow me, I will express my deepest regrets in the name of the Cuban delegation for the loss of the services of such an efficient specialist as the one who directed this first group, Dr. Felipe Pazos. With his intelligence and capacity for work, and with our revolutionary activity, within two years Cuba could have become the paradise of the latrine, even if we did not have a single one of the 250 factories that we are beginning to build, even if we had not carried out the agrarian reform.
I ask myself, distinguished delegates, if they are not trying to make fun of us — not Cuba, because Cuba is not included, since the Alliance for Progress is not for Cuba but against her, and since it is not established to give one cent to Cuba — but if they are not trying to make fun of all the rest of the delegates. Do you get the impression, just a little, that your leg is being pulled? You are given dollars to build highways, you are given dollars to build roads, you are given dollars to dig sewers. Gentlemen, what do you build roads with, what do you dig the sewers with, what do you build houses with? You do not have to be a genius for that. Why do not they give dollars for equipment, dollars for machinery, dollars so that our underdeveloped countries, all of them, can become industrial-agricultural countries, at one and the same time? Really, it is sad. On page 10, in the part about development planning under point 6, it is made evident who the real author of this plan is. Point 6 says: “To establish more solid bases for the granting and utilization of external financial aid, especially to provide effective criteria to evaluate individual projects.” We are not going to establish the most solid foundations for granting and utilization because we are not the ones granting; you are the ones who are receiving, not granting. We, Cuba, are watching, and it is the United States that is making the grants. This point 6, then, is drafted directly by the United States. It is the recommendation of the United States, and this is the spirit of the whole abortive scheme called point 1.
But I want to impress upon you one thing. We have spoken a good deal about politics. We have denounced what is a political plot here. We have emphasized in conversations with the distinguished delegates Cuba’s right to express these opinions, because Cuba is directly attacked in point 5. Nevertheless, Cuba does not come here to sabotage the meeting, as some of the newspapers or many of the mouthpieces of the foreign information agencies are claiming. Cuba comes to condemn what is worthy of condemnation from the point of view of principles. But Cuba also comes to work harmoniously, if possible, in order to straighten out this thing that has been born so distorted, and Cuba is ready to collaborate with all the distinguished delegates to set it right and make it into a beautiful project.
The honorable Mr. Douglas Dillon in his speech cited financing; that is important. We must speak of financing if we are all to get together and speak of development, and we have all assembled here to talk with the one country that has the capital for financing.
Mr. Dillon says: “Looking at the years to come and at the sources of external financing — international entities such as Europe and Japan as much as the United States; new private investments and investments of public funds — if Latin America takes as a precondition the necessary internal measures, it can logically expect that its efforts…” He does not even say, “if it takes these measures this will happen,” but only “it can logically expect”! He continues, “…will be matched by an influx of capital on the order of at least $20 billion in the next 10 years, with the majority of these funds coming from official sources.”
Is this how much there is? No, only $500 million are approved; this is what is being talked about. This must be emphasized because it is the nub of the question. What does it mean? And I assure you that I’m not asking this for us, but for the good of all. What does it mean, “if Latin America takes the necessary internal measures”? And what does “it can logically expect” mean?
I think that later in the work of the committees or at a time that the representative of the United States deems opportune, this detail should be cleared up a little, because $20 billion is an interesting sum. It is no less than two-thirds of the figure that our prime minister announced as necessary for the development of the Americas; push it a little more and we arrive at $30 billion. But that $30 billion has to arrive in jingling cash, dollar by dollar, into the national coffers of each one of the countries of the Americas, with the exception of this poor Cinderella who probably will receive nothing.
That is where we can help, but not as part of a blackmail, such as is foreseen. It is said: “Cuba is the goose that lays the golden egg. Cuba exists, and while there is a Cuba, the United States will continue to give.” No, we do not come here for that reason. We come to work, to try and struggle on the level of principles and ideas, for the development of our peoples. Because all or nearly all the distinguished representatives have said it: if the Alliance for Progress fails, nothing can hold back the wave of popular movements — I say this in my own words, but that is what was meant. Nothing can hold back the wave of popular movements if the Alliance for Progress fails. And we are interested in it not failing, if and insofar as it means a real improvement for Latin America in the standard of living of all its 200 million inhabitants. I can make this statement honestly and with all sincerity.
We have diagnosed and foreseen the social revolution in the Americas, the real one, because events are unfolding in a different way, because there is an attempt to hold the people back with bayonets, and when the people realize that they can take the bayonets and turn them against the ones who brandish them, then those who brandish them are lost. But if the road the people want to take is one of logical and harmonious development, through long-term loans with low interest, as Mr. Dillon said, with 50 years to pay, we also are in agreement. The only thing is, distinguished delegates, that we all have to work together here to make that figure concrete, and to make sure that the US Congress approves it. Because do not forget that we are faced with a presidential and parliamentary regime, not a “dictatorship” like Cuba, where a representative of Cuba stands up, speaks in the name of his government, and takes responsibility for his actions. What is said here also has to be ratified over there, and the experience of all the distinguished delegates is that many times the promises made here were not approved there.
Well, what I have to say on each of these points is very long, and I’ll shorten it so that we can discuss them in the commissions in a fraternal spirit. These are simply some general facts, some general considerations.
The rate of growth presented as a most beautiful thing for all Latin America is a 2.5 percent net growth. Bolivia announced 5 percent for 10 years. We congratulate the representative of Bolivia and say to him that with just a little effort and the mobilization of the popular forces he could say 10 percent. We speak of 10 percent growth with no fear whatsoever; 10 percent growth is the rate that Cuba foresees for the coming years. What does this indicate, distinguished delegates? That if each country maintains its current course Latin America as a whole — which today has a per capita income of approximately $330 and a 2.5 percent annual growth rate — by around the year 1980 will have a per capita income of $500. Certainly for many countries that is quite phenomenal.
What does Cuba intend to have by the year 1980? A net income per capita of around $3,000; more than the United States currently has. And if you do not believe us, fine, here we are ready for a competition, gentlemen. Let us be left in peace. Let us be allowed to develop, so that we can come together again in 20 years to see if the siren song is revolutionary Cuba’s or someone else’s. But we are announcing, quite responsibly, that rate of annual growth.
The experts suggest the substitution of well-equipped farms for inefficient latifundia and very small farms. We say: Do they want to make an agrarian reform? Take the land from those who have a lot and give it to those who do not have any. That is the way to make an agrarian reform. The rest is a siren song. The way to do it? Whether a piece of land is given out in parcels, in accord with all the rules of private property; whether it is transformed into collective property; whether these are combined, as we have done — all that depends on the peculiarities of each nation. But agrarian reform is carried out by eliminating the latifundia, not by sending people to colonize far-off places.
In the same way I could talk about the redistribution of income, which is a reality in Cuba. Those who have more have it taken away and those who have nothing or very little are allowed to have more. Because we have made the agrarian reform. Because we have made the urban reform. Because we have reduced electrical and telephone rates — which, by the way, was the first skirmish with the foreign monopolies. Because we have made social centers for workers and childcare centers, where the children of the workers go to receive food and stay there while their parents work. Because we have created public beaches. And because we have nationalized education, which is absolutely free. In addition, we are working on an extensive health plan.
I shall speak of industrialization separately, because it is the basic foundation for development and we interpret it as such. But there is one point that is very interesting — it is the filter, the purifier: the experts, I think there were seven — the danger of the “latrinocracy” stuck in the middle of the agreements with which the peoples want to improve their living standards. Once again, politicians in the guise of specialists, saying here yes and here no. Because you have done such and such a thing, yes, but in reality because you are a willing tool of the one who is handing out the favors. And nothing for you because you have done this wrong, but in reality because you are not a tool of the one handing out the favors — because you say, for example, that you cannot accept as the price of any loan that Cuba be attacked.
That is the danger, without mentioning that the small countries, as in everything, are the ones who receive little or nothing. Distinguished delegates, there is only one place where the small countries have the right to “kick up a fuss,” and that is here, where each vote is one vote, and where this question has to be put to a vote. And the small countries, if they have a mind to, can count on the militant vote of Cuba against the measures of the “seven,” measures that are “sterilized,” “purified,” and aimed at channeling credits, with technical disguises, in another direction.
What is the situation that really leads to authentic planning, planning that must be coordinated with everyone, but that cannot be subject to any supranational body? We understand — and we did it this way in our country, distinguished delegates — that the precondition for real economic planning is for political power to be in the hands of the working class.
That is the sine qua non of genuine planning for us. Moreover, the total elimination of imperialist monopolies and state control of the fundamental productive activities are necessary. Having those three points well nailed down, you then proceed with the planning of economic development. Otherwise, everything will be lost in words, speeches, and meetings. Besides this, there are two requirements that will decide whether or not this development makes use of the potential lying dormant in the heart of the peoples, now waiting to be awakened. These are, on the one hand, the rational, centralized direction of the economy by a single authority, which has the ability to make decisions (I’m not speaking of dictatorial powers, but the power to decide) and, on the other, the active participation of all the people in the tasks of planning. Naturally, for the entire people to participate in the tasks of planning, they will have to own the means of production. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to participate. The people will not want to, and it seems to me that the owners of the enterprises where they work will not want them to either. Now, we can speak for a few minutes about what Cuba has achieved by trading with the whole world, “following the flow of commerce,” as Martí said.
To date, we have signed agreements for $357 million in credits with the socialist countries, and we are in negotiations, real negotiations, for a little over $140 million more, which makes a total in loans of $500 million for the next five years. That loan, which gives us the ownership and control of our economic development, comes to, as we said, $500 million — the sum that the United States is giving to all of Latin America — just for our little republic. This, divided by the population of the Republic of Cuba and translated to Latin America, would mean that the United States, in order to provide an equivalent amount, would have to give 15 billion pesos in five years, or $30 billion in 10 years — I speak of pesos or dollars, because in our country their value is the same. That is the sum that our prime minister asked for. With that amount, if there were a proper leadership of the economic process, Latin America in only five years would be quite a different place.
We now pass on to point 2 of the text. And naturally, before analyzing it, we will ask a political question. Some friends of ours at these meetings — of whom there are many, although it might not appear that way — were asking us if we were ready to come back into the fold of Latin American nations. We have never abandoned the Latin American nations, and we are struggling not to be expelled, not to be forced to leave the fold of Latin American republics. What we do not want is to be a herd of cattle, as Martí said. Simply that.
We denounced the dangers of the economic integration of Latin America because we are familiar with the example of Europe. In addition, Latin America knows from bitter experience what European economic integration has cost. We denounced the danger of the international monopolies completely manipulating trade relations inside the free trade associations. But we also announce here, to this conference, and we hope we are accepted, that we are willing to join the Latin American Free Trade Association, like any other member, also criticizing when necessary, but complying with all the rules, as long as Cuba’s particular economic and social organization is respected and as long as its socialist government is accepted as an accomplished and irreversible fact.
In addition, equal treatment and equitable enjoyment of the advantages of the international division of labor must also be extended to Cuba. Cuba must participate actively and can contribute a great deal to alleviate many of the serious bottlenecks that exist in the economies of our countries, with the aid of the centrally managed, planned economy, and with a clear and defined goal.
Nevertheless, Cuba also proposes the following measures: We propose the initiation of immediate bilateral negotiations for the evacuation of bases or territories in member countries occupied by other member countries, so that there are no more cases like the one reported by the delegation from Panama, where Panama’s wage policy cannot be implemented in a piece of her own territory. The same is happening to us, and, speaking from the economic point of view, we would like to see that anomaly disappear.
We propose the study of rational plans of development and the coordination of technical and financial assistance from all the industrialized countries, without ideological or geographic distinctions of any kind. We also propose that guarantees be obtained to safeguard the interests of the weaker member countries; the banning of acts of economic aggression by some members against others; the guarantee of protection of Latin American entrepreneurs against the competition of foreign monopolies; the reduction of US tariffs on industrial products of the integrated Latin American countries. And we state that, as we see it, foreign financing should take place only through indirect investments that fulfill the fol lowing conditions: that they not be subject to political demands or discriminate against state enterprises; that they be allotted in accord with the interests of the receiving country; that they carry interest rates no higher than three percent, with repayment in no less than 10 years, and renewable in case of difficulties with the balance of payments; that the attachment or confiscation of ships and aircraft by one member country against another be banned; that tax reforms be initiated that do not fall upon the working masses and that are protection against the action of foreign monopolies. Point 3 of the text has been treated with the same delicacy as the others by the distinguished experts: they have taken up the matter with two delicate little tweezers, raised the veil a little bit, and let it fall immediately, because it is a tough one.
“It would have been desirable” — they say — “and even tempting for the group to have formulated ambitious and spectacular recom mendations. However, this was not done owing to the num erous complex technical problems that would have had to be resolved. That is why the recommendations that are formulated necessarily had to be limited to what was considered technically feasible.”
I do not know if I’m being too shrewd, but reading between the lines, there do not seem to be any pronouncements. The Cuban delegation therefore proposes concretely that from this meeting we should obtain the following: a guarantee of stable prices, without any “coulds” or “might haves,” without “we would examine” or “we shall examine,” but, simply, guarantees of stable prices; expanding, or at least stable, markets; guarantees against economic aggression; guarantees against the unilateral suspension of purchases in traditional markets; guarantees against the dumping of subsidized agricultural sur pluses; guarantees against protectionism aimed at the production of primary materials; and the creation of conditions in the industrialized countries for the purchase of primary materials with a greater degree of processing. Cuba declares that it would be desirable for the US delegation to answer, in the commissions, whether it will continue to subsidize its production of copper, lead, zinc, sugar, cotton, wheat, and wool. Cuba asks whether the United States will continue to apply pressure against member countries to prevent them from selling their surplus primary products to the socialist countries and thus broadening their market. And now comes point 5 of the text, since point 4 is nothing but a report. This point 5 is the other side of the coin. Fidel Castro said at the time of the Costa Rica conference that the United States had gone there “with a sack of gold in one hand and a club in the other.” Here today, the United States comes with the sack of gold — fortunately even bigger — in one hand, and the barrier to isolate Cuba in the other. It is, anyway, a triumph of historical circumstances.
But point 5 of the text establishes a program of measures for Latin America aimed at the regimentation of thought, the subordination of the trade union movement, and, if possible, the preparation of military aggression against Cuba. Three steps are contemplated throughout the whole document: the mobilization, beginning immediately, of the Latin American mass media against the Cuban revolution and against the struggles of our peoples for their freedom; the formation at a later meeting of an inter-American federation of press, radio, television, and cinema, which would allow the United States to direct the policy of all the organs of public opinion in Latin America, of all of them — there are not many now that are outside their sphere of influence, but they want all of them. In addition, they want to exercise monopoly control over new information agencies and to absorb as many of the old ones as possible.
All this, in order to do something unprecedented, which has been announced here with such tranquility and which in my country provoked deep discussion when something similar was done in only one case. They are attempting, distinguished delegates, to establish a cultural common market, organized, managed, paid for, and domesticated. All the culture of Latin America at the service of imperialism’s propaganda plans, to demonstrate that the hunger of our peoples is not hunger at all, but laziness. Magnificent!
Confronted with this, we reply: a call must be made to the organs of public opinion in Latin America, that they take up and share in the ideals of national liberation of each Latin American people. There must be a call for the exchange of information, cultural media, organs of the press, and the attainment of direct visits without discrimination between our peoples, gentlemen, because today a US citizen who goes to Cuba faces five years in prison when they return to their country. A call must be made to the Latin American governments for them to guarantee the freedoms that allow the working class movement to organize independent trade unions, to defend the interests of the workers, and to struggle for the true independence of its peoples. And we call for a total, absolute condemnation of point 5 as an attempt by imperialism to domesticate the one thing that our peoples had been saving from disaster: the national culture.
Distinguished delegates, permit me to give an outline of the objectives of Cuba’s first plan of economic development for the next four-year period. The overall rate of growth will be 12 percent, that is to say, more than 9.5 percent net per capita growth, transforming Cuba into the most industrial country in Latin America in relation to its population, as the following data indicates:
First place in Latin America in per capita production of steel, cement, electrical energy and, except for Venezuela, oil refining. First place in Latin America in tractors, rayon, footwear, textiles, etc. Second place in the world in the production of metallic nickel (up until now Cuba had only produced concentrates); the production of nickel in 1965 will be 70,000 metric tons, which constitutes approximately 30 percent of the world’s production. In addition, Cuba will produce 2,600 metric tons of metallic cobalt. The production of 8.5 to 9 million tons of sugar. The beginning of the transformation of the sugar industry into a sucro-chemical industry.
In order to accomplish these measures — which are easy to list but demand enormous work and the effort of an entire people in order to succeed, plus a great deal of external financing for the purpose of aid and not exploitation — the following measures have been taken: more than a billion pesos (the Cuban peso is equivalent to the dollar) are going to be invested in industry in the installation of 800 megawatts of electrical generating capacity. In 1960, the installed capacity — not counting the sugar industry, which works seasonally — was 621 megawatts. Building or expanding 205 factories, among which the following 22 are the most important: a new plant to refine metallic nickel, which will raise the total to 70,000 tons; a petroleum refinery with a capacity of two million tons of crude oil; the first steel plant, for 700,000 tons, which in this four-year period will produce 500,000 tons of steel; the expansion of our seamed steel-pipe plants to produce 25,000 metric tons; tractors, 5,000 units annually; motorcycles, 10,000 units annually; three cement plants and the expansion of the existing ones for a total of 1.5 million metric tons, which will raise our production to 2.5 million tons annually; metal containers: 291 million units; expansion of our glass factories to 23,700 metric tons annually; a million square meters of window glass; a new factory for making 10,000 cubic meters of plywood from bagasse; a plant for making 60,000 metric tons of bagasse cellulose, in addition to one for wood cellulose of 40,000 metric tons annually; a 60,000-ton ammonium nitrate plant; 60,000 tons of simple superphosphate; 81,000 metric tons of triple superphosphate; 132,000 metric tons of nitric acid; 85,000 metric tons of ammonia; eight new textile plants and the expansion of the existing ones with 451,000 spindles; a kenaf sack factory producing 16 million sacks. And there are other factories of less importance, for a total of 205 to date.
These credits have been contracted for, up until now, in the following way: $200 million with the Soviet Union; $60 million with the People’s Republic of China; $40 million with the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia; $15 million with the Romanian People’s Republic; $15 million with the Hungarian People’s Republic; $12 million with the Polish People’s Republic; $10 million with the German Democratic Republic and $5 million with the Bulgarian Democratic Republic. The total contracted for to date is $357 million. The new negotiations that we expect will shortly conclude are mostly with the Soviet Union, which, as the most industrialized country in the socialist area, is the one that has offered the most extensive support. In terms of agriculture, Cuba has set itself the goal of reaching self-sufficiency in the production of food, including fats and rice, not wheat; self-sufficiency in cotton and coarse fibers; the creation of exportable surpluses of tropical fruits and other agricultural products, whose contribution to exports will triple the present levels.
As regards foreign trade: the value of exports will increase by 75 percent over 1960; diversification of the economy — sugar and its derivatives will make up about 60 percent of the value of the exports, and not 80 percent as now.
As regards construction: the elimination of 40 percent of the present housing shortage, including the bohíos, which are Cuban huts; the rational combination of construction materials to increase the use of local materials without sacrificing quality. There is one point I would like to spend a minute on: that is education. We have laughed at the group of experts who would put education and sanitation as the condition sine qua non to begin the path of development. This seems to us to be an aberration, but that does not make it less true that once the path of development is taken, education must proceed parallel with it. Without an adequate technological education, development is retarded. Therefore, Cuba has carried out a complete reform of education. It has expanded and improved educational services and has developed an overall educational plan.
At present Cuba occupies first place in Latin America in the allocation of resources to education: 5.3 percent of the national income. The developed nations devote 3 to 4 percent and Latin America from 1 to 2 percent of their national income to education. In Cuba, 28.3 percent of the current expenses of the state are for the Ministry of Education. Including other organizations that dedicate financial resources for education, that percentage rises to 30 percent. Among the Latin American countries, the next highest allocates 21 percent of its budget. An increase in the budget to education, from $75 million in 1958 to $128 million in 1961, is an increase of 71 percent. The total expenses for education, including the literacy campaign and building schools, come to $170 million, 25 pesos per capita. In Denmark, for example, $25 per capita a year are spent on education; in France, $15; in Latin America, $5. The creation, in two years, of 10,000 schoolrooms and the appointment of 10,000 new teachers. Cuba is the first country in Latin America that fully satisfies the needs of primary instruction for the entire student population, an aspiration of the principal project of UNESCO in Latin America for 1968, already achieved today in Cuba.
These really marvelous accomplishments and figures, absolutely true, that we present here, distinguished delegates, have been made possible by the following measures: the nationalization of instruction, making it secular and free, and allowing complete utilization of its services; the creation of a system of scholarships, which guarantees meeting all the students’ needs, in accordance with the following plan: 20,000 scholarships for basic secondary schools from seventh to ninth grade; 3,000 for the pre-university institutes; 3,000 for art instructors; 6,000 for uni versities; 1,500 for courses in artificial insemination; 1,200 for courses in agricultural machinery; 14,000 for courses in tailoring and sewing and home economics for peasant women; 1,200 for the training of rural school teachers; 750 for introductory courses in elementary education; 10,000 scholarships and study stipends for students of technological education; and, in addition, hundreds of scholarships to study technology in the socialist countries; the creation of 100 centers of secondary education, with each municipality having at least one. This year in Cuba, as I announced, illiteracy is being wiped out. It is a marvelous sight. Up to the present moment, 104,500 brigadistas, almost all of them students between 10 and 18 years old, have flooded the country from one end to the other, going directly to the peasant’s bohío, to the worker’s house, to convince the old person who does not want to study anymore, and thus to wipe out illiteracy in Cuba.
Each time a factory eliminates illiteracy among its workers, it raises a flag announcing this fact to the people of Cuba. Each time a cooperative wipes out illiteracy among its peasants, it hoists the same standard. And the 104,500 young students have as their symbol a book and a lantern, to bring the light of learning to the backward regions. They belong to the Conrado Benítez brigades, named in honor of the first martyr for education in the Cuban revolution, who was lynched by a group of counterrevolutionaries for the grave crime of teaching the peasants in the mountains of our country to read. That is the difference, distinguished delegates, between our country and those who combat us. A total of 156,000 literacy volunteers, who are not full-time since they are workers or professionals, are working in education; 32,000 teachers are leading this army. And only with the active cooperation of all the Cuban people are they able to achieve such significant statistics.
All this has been done in one year, or rather, in two years; seven regimental barracks have been converted into schoolcities; 27 barracks into schools; and all this while facing the danger of imperialist aggression. The Camilo Cienfuegos School-City today has 5,000 pupils from the Sierra Maestra, and units are under construction for 20,000 pupils. The construction of a similar school-city in each province is projected. Each school-city will be self-sufficient in foodstuffs, introducing peasant children to agricultural techniques. Moreover, new methods of teaching have been established. From 1958 to 1959, primary school enrollment increased from 602,000 to 1,231,700 pupils; basic secondary school, from 21,900 to 83,800; commercial schools, from 8,900 to 21,300; technical schools, from 5,600 to 11,500.
A total of $48 million has been invested in school construction in only two years. The National Printing Plant guarantees textbooks and other printed matter for all students, free of charge. There are two television networks that cover the whole national territory, and we use that powerful media for the massive dissemination of learning. Likewise, the entire national radio is at the disposal of the Ministry of Education. The Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, the National Library, and the National Theater, with departments throughout the country, complete the great apparatus for the dissemination of culture. The National Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation, whose initials are INDER, promotes physical dev elopment on a mass scale.
This, distinguished delegates, is the cultural panorama of Cuba at this time.
Now comes the final part of our presentation, the part of definitions, because we want to make our position completely clear.
We have denounced the Alliance for Progress as a vehicle designed to separate the people of Cuba from the other peoples of Latin America, to sterilize the example of the Cuban revolution, and then to subdue the other peoples according to imperialism’s instructions. I would like to be allowed to fully demonstrate this.
There are many interesting documents in the world. We shall distribute among the delegates some documents that came into our hands and that demonstrate, for example, the opinion that imperialism has of the Venezuelan government, whose foreign minister harshly attacked us a few days ago, perhaps because he thought we were violating rules of friendship with his people or his government.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to point out that friendly hands brought us an interesting document. It is a report of a secret document addressed to Ambassador Moscoso in Venezuela by his advisers John M. Cates, Jr., Irving Tragen, and Robert Cox. In one of the paragraphs, speaking of the measures that must be taken in Venezuela to make a real Alliance for Progress directed by the United States, this document states:
“Reform of the bureaucracy: All the plans that are formulated…” They are speaking of Venezuela. “…all the programs that are initiated for the economic development of Venezuela, whether they be by the Venezuelan government or by US experts, will have to be put into practice through the Venezuelan bureaucracy. But as long as the public administration of this country is characterized by incompetence, indifference, inefficiency, formalism, factional favoritism in the granting of jobs, theft, duplication of functions, and the creation of private empires, it will be practically impossible to put into effect dynamic and efficient projects through the governmental machinery. For that reason the reform of the administrative apparatus is possibly now the most fundamental necessity, which is not only directed to correcting basic economic and social injustice, but which also could imply reconditioning the very instrument by which all the other basic reforms and development projects will be molded.
There are many interesting things in this document that we will put at the disposal of the distinguished delegates, in which they speak, also, of the natives. After teaching the natives, they let the natives work. We are natives, nothing more. But there is something very interesting, distinguished delegates, and that is the recommendation that Mr. Cates makes to Mr. Moscoso about what must be done in Venezuela and why it must be done. He says as follows:
The United States will be faced with the necessity, probably sooner than it is thought, of pointing out to the conservatives, the oligarchy, the newly rich, the national and foreign moneyed sectors in general, the military, and the clergy, that they will in the last analysis have to choose between two things: to contribute to the establishment in Venezuela of a society based on the masses, in which they retain part of their status quo and wealth, or to be faced with the loss of both (and very possibly their own death at the hands of a firing squad)… This is a report of the US advisers to their ambassador. …if the forces of moderation and progress are routed in Venezuela.
After this, we are given the complete picture of the whole deception to be practiced in this conference, with other reports of the secret instructions given in Latin America by the US State Department in reference to the “Cuba case.”
This is very important, because it is what exposes the wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is what it says. I am going to read an extract in deference to the brevity that I have already violated, but afterward we will circulate all of it:
From the beginning, it was widely taken for granted in Latin America that the invasion was backed by the United States and, for that reason would be successful. The majority of the governments and responsible sections of the population were prepared to accept a fait accompli, although there were misgivings about the violation of the principle of nonintervention. The communists and other vehemently pro-Castro elements immediately took the offensive with demonstrations and acts of violence directed against US agencies in various countries, especially in Argentina, Bolivia and Mexico. Nevertheless, such anti-US and pro-Castro activities received limited backing and had less effect than might have been expected. The failure of the invasion discouraged the anti-Castro sectors, who thought that the United States should have done something dramatic that would restore its damaged prestige, but it was received with joy by the communists and other pro- Castro elements.
In most cases, the reactions of the Latin American governments were not surprising. With the exception of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the republics that had already broken or suspended their relations with Cuba expressed their understanding of the US position. Honduras joined the anti-Castro camp, suspending its relations in April and proposing the formation of an alliance of Central American and Caribbean nations to deal with Cuba through force. The proposal, which was also suggested independently by Nicaragua, was quietly abandoned when Venezuela refused to back it. Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama expressed a serious concern about Soviet and international communist penetration in Cuba, but they remained in favor of carrying out some type of collective action by the OAS to deal with the Cuban problem. “Collective action by the OAS” — here we enter familiar territory.
A similar opinion was adopted by Argentina, Uruguay, and Costa Rica. Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and Mexico refused to back any position that might imply an intervention in the internal affairs of Cuba. This attitude was probably very strong in Chile, where the government met strong opposition in all spheres to an open military intervention by any state against the Castro regime. In Brazil and Ecuador the question provoked serious divisions in the cabinet, in the congress, and in the political parties.
In the case of Ecuador, the intransigently pro-Cuba position of President Velasco was shaken but not altered by the discovery that Ecuadoran communists were being trained inside the country in guerrilla tactics by pro-Castro revolutionaries.
Parenthetically, I will state that this is a lie.
Likewise, there is little doubt that some of the formerly uncommitted elements in Latin America have been favorably impressed by Castro’s ability to survive a military attack supported by the United States against his regime. Many who had hesitated to commit themselves before, because they believed that the United States would eliminate the Castro regime in the course of time, may have changed their opinion now. The victory of Castro has demonstrated to them the permanent and viable character of the Cuban revolution. This is the report by the United States.
Moreover, his victory has undoubtedly aroused the latent anti- US attitude that prevails in a great part of Latin America. In all respects, the member states of the OAS are now less hostile to US intervention in Cuba than before the invasion, but a majority — including Brazil and Mexico, who together account for more than half the population of Latin America — are not ready to actively intervene or even to join in a quarantine against Cuba. Nor could it be expected that the OAS would give beforehand its approval of direct intervention by the United States, except in the event that Castro might be involved, beyond any doubt, in an attack on a Latin American government.
Even when the United States might be successful — Which looks improbable — in persuading the majority of Latin American states to join in a quarantine of Cuba, it would not be totally successful. Certainly Mexico and Brazil would refuse to cooperate and would serve as a channel for travel and other communication between Latin America and Cuba.
Mexico’s long-standing opposition to intervention of any kind would not represent an insuperable obstacle to collective action by the OAS against Cuba. The attitude of Brazil, how ever, which exercises a strong influence over its South American neighbors, is decisive for hemispheric cooperation. As long as Brazil refuses to act against Castro, it is probable that a number of other nations, including Argentina and Chile, would not want to risk adverse internal repercussions to accommodate the United States.
The magnitude of the threat that Castro and the communists constitute in other parts of Latin America will probably continue to depend, fundamentally, on the following factors: (a) the ability of the regime to maintain its position; (b) its efficacy in demonstrating the success of its mode of coping with the problems of reform and development; and (c) the ability of the noncommunist elements in other Latin American countries to provide feasible and popularly acceptable alternatives. If, by means of propaganda, etc., Castro can convince the disaffected elements of Latin America that basic social reforms are really being made…” That is to say, if the distinguished delegates are convinced that what we are saying is true…”that benefit the poorest classes, the attraction of the Cuban example will increase and will continue to inspire imitators on the left in the whole region. The danger is not so much that a subversive apparatus, with its center in Havana, could export revolution, as that growing extreme poverty and discontent among the masses of the Latin American people may provide the pro-Castro elements opportunities to act.
After considering whether or not we are intervening, they argue:
It is probable that the Cubans will act cautiously in this respect for some time. Probably they do not wish to risk the interception or discovery of any military adventure or military supply operation originating in Cuba. Such an eventuality would lead to a hardening of official Latin American opinion against Cuba, possibly to the point of providing tacit support to US intervention, or at least giving possible motives for sanctions on the part of the OAS. For these reasons and owing to Castro’s concern with the defense of his own territory at this time, the use of Cuban military forces to support insurrection in other places is extremely improbable.
So, distinguished delegates who might have doubts, the government of the United States is announcing that it is very difficult for our troops to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
As time goes on, and with the absence of direct Cuban intervention in the internal affairs of neighboring states, the present fears of Castroism, of Soviet intervention in the regime, of its “socialist” nature…” They put it in quotation marks… “and of repugnancy for the repression of Castro’s police state, will tend to decrease and the traditional policy of nonintervention will reassert itself.
It says further on:
Apart from its direct effect on the prestige of the United States in that area…
Which undoubtedly has decreased as a result of the failure of the invasion.
…the survival of the Castro regime could have a profound effect on Latin American political life in coming years. Likewise, it prepares the scene for a political struggle in the terms promoted by communist propaganda for a long time in this hemisphere, with the anti-United States, “popular”… In quotation marks.
…forces on one side, and the ruling groups allied to the United States on the other. The governments that promise an evolutionary reform over a period of years, even at an accelerated pace, will be confronted by political leaders who promise an immediate remedy for the social ills by means of the confiscation of property and the overturning of the society. The most immediate danger of Castro’s army for Latin America could very well be the danger to the stability of those governments that are presently attempting evolutionary social and economic changes, rather than to those that have tried to prevent such changes, in part due to the tensions and heightened expectations that accompany social changes and economic development. The urban unemployed and the landless peasants of Venezuela and Peru, for example, who have hoped that Acción Democrática and the APRA would implement reforms, constitute a quick source of political strength for the politician who convinces them that change can be implemented much more rapidly than the social democratic movements have promised. The popular support that the groups seeking evolutionary changes presently enjoy or the potential backing that they normally could obtain as the Latin American masses become more active politically would be lost to the degree that the extremist political leaders, utilizing the example of Castro, can rally support for revolutionary change.
And in the last paragraph, gentlemen, appears our friend who is present here:
The Alliance for Progress could very well provide the stimulus to carry out more intensive reform programs. But unless these are initiated rapidly and begin soon to show positive results, it is probable that they will not be sufficient to counterbalance the growing pressure of the extreme left. The years ahead will witness, almost surely, a race between those who are attempting to initiate evolutionary reform programs and those who are trying to generate mass support for fundamental economic and social revolution. If the moderates are left behind in this race they could, in time, see themselves deprived of their mass support and caught in an untenable position between the extremes of right and left.
These are, distinguished delegates, the documents the Cuban delegation wanted to place before you, in order to analyze frankly the Alliance for Progress. Now we all know the private judgment of the US State Department: the economies of the Latin American countries have to grow because if they do not a phenomenon called Castroism will come to the fore, which will be dreadful for the United States.
Well then, gentlemen, let us make the Alliance for Progress on those terms: let the economies of all the member countries of the OAS really grow. Let them grow so that they consume their own products and not so that they are turned into a source of income for the US monopolies. Let them grow to assure social peace, not to create new reserves for an eventual war of conquest. Let them grow for us, not for those abroad. And to all of you, distinguished delegates, the Cuban delegation says with all frankness: we wish, on our conditions, to be within the Latin American family. We want to live with Latin America. We want to see you grow, if possible, at the same rate that we are growing, but we do not oppose your growing at another rate. What we do demand is the guarantee of nonaggression for our borders.
We cannot stop exporting our example, as the United States wants, because an example is something intangible that crosses borders. What we do guarantee is that we will not export revolution. We guarantee that not one rifle will be moved from Cuba, that not one weapon will be moved from Cuba for fighting in any other country in Latin America.
What we cannot guarantee is that the idea of Cuba will not take root in some other country of Latin America, and what we do guarantee this conference is that if urgent measures of social prevention are not taken, the example of Cuba will take root in the people. And then that statement that once gave people a lot to think about, which Fidel made one July 26 and which was interpreted as an aggression, will again be true. Fidel said that if the social conditions continued as they have been until now, “the Andes would become the Sierra Maestra of Latin America.”
Distinguished delegates, we call for an Alliance for Progress, an alliance for our progress, a peaceful alliance for the progress of all. We are not opposed to being left out in the distribution of loans, but we are opposed to being left out in participating in the cultural and spiritual life of our Latin American people, to whom we belong.
What we will never allow is a restriction on our freedom to trade and have relations with all the peoples of the world. And we will defend ourselves with all our strength against any attempt at foreign aggression, be it from an imperial power or be it from some Latin American body that concurs in the desire of some to see us wiped out.
To conclude, Mr. President, distinguished delegates, I want to tell you that some time ago we had a meeting of the general staff of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in my country, a general staff to which I belong. An aggression against Cuba was being discussed, which we knew would come, but we did not know when or where. We thought it would be very big; in fact, it was going to be very big. This happened prior to the famous warning of the prime minister of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, that their rockets could fly beyond the Soviet borders. We had not asked for that aid and we did not know about their readiness to aid us. Therefore, we met knowing that the invasion was coming, in order to face our final destiny as revolutionaries.
We knew that if the United States invaded Cuba, there would be a massive slaughter, but that in the end we would be defeated and expelled from every inhabited place in the country. We members of the general staff then proposed that Fidel Castro retire to a secure place in the mountains and that one of us take charge of the defense of Havana. Our prime minister and leader answered at that time with words that exalt him, as do all his actions — that if the United States invaded Cuba and Havana was defended as it should be defended, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be slaughtered by Yankee weapons, and the leader of a people in revolution could not be asked to take shelter in the mountains; that his place was there, where the cherished dead were to be found, and that there, with them, he would fulfill his historic mission.
That invasion did not take place, but we maintain that spirit, distinguished delegates. For that reason I can predict that the Cuban revolution is invincible, because it has a people and because it has a leader like the one leading Cuba. That is all, distinguished delegates.
 A few days later, President Kennedy would make another outright deception, stating that The U.S. will not invade Cuba, one day before the invasion.
Copyright: © 2005 Aleida March, Che Guevara Studies Center and Ocean Press. Reprinted with their permission. Not to be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Ocean Press. For further information contact Ocean Press at firstname.lastname@example.org and via its website at www.oceanbooks.com.au.