Remarks by Army Gen. Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, at the mass rally in tribute to Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution, Nov. 29. Translation is by the Militant.
Esteemed heads of state and government; Gentlemen, leaders of delegations; Outstanding figures; Friends all; Dear people of Cuba:
It will be my responsibility to present the final speech Dec. 3, when we gather in Antonio Maceo Plaza of the Revolution in Santiago de Cuba. But I wish to express now, in the name of our people, party and government, as well as our family, our sincere gratitude for your presence here (Applause), for the moving words you have expressed, and also for the countless extraordinary, demonstrations of solidarity, affection and respect received from around the world in this hour of pain and commitment.
Fidel dedicated his life to solidarity. He led a socialist revolution “of the humble, by the humble, for the humble” — a revolution that became a symbol of the anti-colonial, anti-apartheid and anti-imperialist struggle for the emancipation and dignity of the people.
His vibrant words echo in this square today as they did when peasants gathered here July 26, 1959, in support of the agrarian reform — a moment, like crossing the Rubicon, that earned the revolution a death sentence. Here Fidel reaffirmed, “The agrarian reform is moving forward.” And we carried it out. Today, 57 years later, we are honoring the person who conceived it and led it.
At this site, together with him, we voted to approve the First and Second Declarations of Havana, in 1960 and 1962. (Applause) Faced with aggression backed by the Organization of American States, Fidel proclaimed that “behind the homeland, behind the banner of freedom, behind this emancipatory revolution … stand a people with dignity” ready to defend their independence and “the common destiny of a liberated Latin America.”
I was with Fidel in the building now housing Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, (alongside the Plaza) [in 1960], when we heard the explosion of the French ship La Coubre — the vessel that brought the first and only weapons we were able to buy in Europe.
We went to the docks to help the victims. We knew the explosion could only have come from the ship where those weapons were being unloaded. Then a few minutes after our arrival, like a lethal trap, a second explosion occurred. The two together caused 101 deaths, with many wounded.
Here, with Fidel, in December 1961, we declared Cuba to be a Territory Free of Illiteracy — at the conclusion of the literacy campaign carried out by more than 250,000 teachers and students, a campaign that did not stop.
That same year veterans of the Rebel Army and the emerging units of Revolutionary National Militias battled the mercenaries at Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs] while, in mountainous areas they fought armed bands, infiltrated from abroad, that carried out many vile acts, including the murder of 10 young literacy teachers. A victory was won at Girón. At the same time we fulfilled the commitment that the entire country would learn to read and write (Applause), to ensure, as Fidel said at the time, that “the young have a future in their hands.” (Applause)
With great emotion, right here, we heard the Commander in Chief, here in this square, during the solemn commemoration of October 1967 to pay tribute to the unforgettable Commander Che Guevara. We returned here 30 years later, during the most difficult moments of the Special Period [of economic hardship Cuba faced after the collapse of the Soviet Union], to commit ourselves, before his remains, to follow his immortal example.
Moved and filled with outrage, we attended the memorial ceremony for the 73 persons murdered by state terrorism in the [October 1976] bombing of the Cubana Airlines airliner over Barbados. Those who died included all the young winners of gold medals in the Fourth Central American and Caribbean Fencing Championships. On that occasion we repeated with him, “When an energetic and virile people weeps…” (shouts of “Injustice trembles!”) Exactly, “Injustice trembles!” (Applause)
This Plaza is the home of important May Day marches in the capital.
In 1996, against the [U.S.] blockade and the Helms-Burton Act, which are still in effect. The enormous march of 1999. And the Open Platform of Youth, Students and Workers of 2000, when Fidel presented his view of revolution — a conception millions of Cubans have made their own, with their signature, over the last few days in a sacred act of commitment [see the pledge below]. (Applause)
This is the place where we have come to support the agreements reached at our congresses of the Communist Party of Cuba.
In this same spirit, the people have come during these last few days, with large participation by young people, to pay heartfelt tribute and pledge loyalty to the ideas and lifework of the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution. (Applause)
Alongside the monument to José Martí, our national hero and intellectual author of the assault on the Moncada Garrison, we have gathered for more than half a century in moments of extraordinary pain — or to honor our martyrs, proclaim our ideals, celebrate our symbols, and consult the people regarding important decisions.
Precisely here, where we commemorate our victories, we say to you, alongside our self-sacrificing, fighting, heroic people: ¡Hasta la victoria siempre! Ever onward to victory! (Shouts of ¡Siempre! Applause. Shouts of “¡Viva Fidel! ¡Viva Raúl!”)
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