In the face of escalating preparations by U.S. imperialism for an invasion of Cuba in the spring and summer of 1962, the Cuban government signed a mutual defense treaty with the Soviet Union. Following the signing of that pact, Soviet nuclear missiles were installed in Cuba.
For more than a year, Washington had been demonstratively preparing for an air and land war aimed at doing the job the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 had failed to accomplish. In November 1961 the Kennedy administration launched a covert action program code-named Operation Mongoose with the goal of crushing Cuba's socialist revolution. Its guidelines explicitly included "decisive U.S. military intervention."
On Oct. 16, 1962, U.S. President John Kennedy was informed that spy flights over Cuba had photographed nuclear missiles on the island. The Cuban government—viewing deployment of the missiles as an international duty, especially in the face of U.S. nuclear bases in Turkey and other countries ringing the USSR—had accepted a Soviet proposal to install the weapons. At Moscow's insistence, and over the Cuban government's objections, the deployment had remained secret.
Washington seized on the missiles as the pretext to step up its attacks on Cuba. On Oct. 22, 1962, in a nationally televised address, Kennedy announced measures aimed at paving the way for the overthrow of the workers and farmers government in Cuba.
A naval blockade (euphemistically called a "quarantine") was placed around the island. Troops on U.S. warships would forcibly stop, board, and inspect all vessels en route to Cuba, turning back those they deemed to be carrying "offensive weapons." The U.S. president announced plans to reinforce the U.S. military base at Guantán-amo, Yankee imperialism's occupied beachhead in southeastern Cuba.
Printed here are major excerpts from a televised address Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro gave on Oct. 23, 1962, in response to Washington's war moves.
Faced with the rapid and determined mobilizations of Cuba's workers and farmers to defend their revolution, the U.S. administration began to back off. U.S. military leaders told Kennedy to expect more than 18,000 U.S. casualties in the first 10 days of an invasion — nearly 4,500 in the first 24 hours alone.
On October 28 the Soviet government —without consultation with Cuba — accepted Kennedy's offer to withdraw the missiles in exchange for a secret understanding that the U.S. government would withdraw its missiles from Turkey. The Cuban government, upon learning of the agreement over the radio, announced a five-point list of demands that included an end to the U.S. economic blockade; the halting of all counterrevolutionary operations carried out from U.S. territory; an end to violations of Cuban sea and airspace; and U.S. withdrawal from Guantánamo.
Commenting on the outcome of the October Crisis in a 1992 NBC television interview with Maria Shriver, Castro said, "Naturally we did not want war. We wanted a solution, but an honorable solution.… We didn't know that the crisis was on its way to being resolved on the basis of the almost unconditional concessions made by Khrushchev. They left everything the way it was. They left the blockade. They left a dirty war. They left Guantánamo Naval Base."
Castro's Oct. 23, 1962, speech will appear in the first volume of a collection of his speeches from the early years of the revolution to be published by Pathfinder. The translation is copyright © by Pathfinder Press and reprinted by permission. Subheadings are by the Militant.
BY FIDEL CASTRO
All these events are really the culmination of a policy pursued by the United States—not the United States, but the imperialists, the warmongers, and the most reactionary circles of the United States—against our country since the triumph of the revolution.
None of these measures surprise us. Measures of this type, and others we have had to endure, are things that were to be expected from a government as reactionary and as irrespectful of the rights of other peoples and other nations as is the U.S. government.
All the people are familiar with this history. Ever since day one, since the very day of triumph, a triumph that cost our people so many sacrifices, our people could begin seeing what U.S. government policy toward us was going to be. This is apart from the fact that our people, or part of our people—that part with the greatest amount of political awareness—clearly knew the history of relations between the United States and Cuba going back to the end of the last century. Our progress, our independence, and our sovereignty were always undercut by the policy of the Yankee governments, that is, intervention for imperialist purposes. Going back to the Platt Amendment1; the successive interventions; the seizure of our country's wealth; the support they gave to the worst, most reactionary, and most thieving governments. And finally, the support given to Batista. For we cannot forget, nor shall we ever forget, that all the bombs they dropped on us, and on the people in the Sierra Maestra, were U.S.-made.
Our people are familiar with the whole process up to the present.
What is the current situation? The current situation is that this whole struggle has been a useless battle by an empire against a small country. It has been a useless, sterile, and failed struggle by an empire against a revolutionary government and against a revolution that is occurring in a small, underdeveloped country, a country that until recently was exploited.
Why has the situation been sharpened? Why has it reached critical proportions? Simply because the United States has failed in all the attempts it has made against us up until now. In short, they have been defeated....
U.S. governments are accustomed to solving the problems of Latin America by very simple procedures: above all, by coup d'états carried out by reactionary military cliques controlled by its embassies—that is, whenever the embassies could not solve the problems by simple orders through their ambassadors. Other procedures include promoting rebellions, revolutions, interventions, and all these things. The interventions in our continent are also well known—the intervention in Haiti, in Santo Domingo, in Nicaragua, in Mexico2—from which they wrested the part richest in minerals and oil, which the Yankees pirated. The history of Mexico is the history of a country filled with heroism. A good part of that heroism was expended in fighting for its independence against U.S. invasions. This history is well known.
The tactics they used to solve the problem of Guatemala was that of a Playa Girón–type invasion.3 They also employed propaganda campaigns and promoted subversion. In other words, there was no government in Latin America that was able to withstand the opposition of the U.S. government.
Things occurred exactly this way up until the triumph of the Cuban revolution. When the Cuban revolution triumphed, they began to try out all their procedures against us: They began with slander campaigns, attempts to divide the people, to weaken the revolution through division, encouraged by that whole tremendous campaign launched inside and outside our country. They began with those useless campaigns. They continued with maneuvers of a political type in the OAS, in all those countries.4 Useless. They continued with economic aggression. Suffice it to say that this type of aggression—which was one of the weapons I failed to mention: economic aggression as a weapon of pressure to control the situation in a given country.
They continued with economic aggression—with oil, sugar—until they came to a total embargo. But economic aggression also failed.5
They organized a Guatemala-type invasion: the invasion at Playa Girón. That failed too. They organized new maneuvers in the OAS, the breaking of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Punta del Este agreements. Because everything that has happened in Latin America since the triumph of the Cuban revolution is connected precisely to the Cuban revolution.…
Simultaneously with this policy came more economic aggression, a total blockade. Useless. By blockade I mean a complete ban on the purchase of Cuban products and the sale of products to Cuba, despite the fact that all our factories and transportation required spare parts made in the United States.
That was not enough for them. All that was useless. They then began an even more aggressive policy. It was no longer a matter of banning the sale of our products in the United States, but of pursuing our products all over the world, and, at the same time, of attempting to prevent all the capitalist countries from selling to us....
They threaten these countries, the ships of these countries, that they won't be permitted to enter U.S. ports, that they'll be boycotted. That they'll be ruined. Useless attempts, useless. Because it can be said that they have tried every weapon, and every weapon, one after the other, has failed.
They began with La Coubre, in an attempt to prevent us from preparing ourselves.6 With the explosion of the ship La Coubre. The purpose of this was to prevent us from acquiring weapons from Belgium. Later they exerted pressure on Belgium.
They wanted us to be without weapons, at their mercy — naturally so that they could attack us whenever they wanted to. They thought that if we were disarmed, then a little-bitty invasion of the Playa Girón type would resolve everything for them.
This effort culminates now with a new adventure, which is truly dangerous to world peace. They are even trying to prevent us from arming ourselves with the assistance of the socialist camp.
To sum up, this has been the story of an uninterrupted chain of failures leading imperialism—which has not resigned itself and will never resign itself, despite the fact that it has no choice but to resign itself—to a series of steps that are more and more adventurous, more and more aggressive, with the single aim of destroying the Cuban revolution.
But in four years of vigorous and healthy life of the Cuban revolution, they have not been able to make a dent in it. If one analyzes the situation of our country and our people, it's clear that the revolution is stronger than ever at this moment. Failure in their aim of destroying the Cuban revolution is what has led them to this latest step.
What is this latest step? It is an adventure, undoubtedly the most reckless and most dangerous adventure for world peace that has appeared since the last world war.
The people were informed of the declaration Mr. Kennedy made yesterday. During the day we had been receiving a series of reports about unusual meetings, about unusual goings-on in Washington concerning meetings with an officer from the Pentagon, meetings with political leaders of both parties, and meetings of their Security Council, with plane movements, ship movements, a whole series of reports. We knew that it had something to do with us. We knew because of everything that had come before in their policy since the revolution, the warmongering campaign, the hysteria, the Joint Resolution,7 all those things.
We then realized that anything could occur from one moment to the next. As for us, they will never catch us unprepared and by surprise. They have not caught us by surprise up to now, nor will they ever catch us by surprise. When Girón occurred, they did not catch us by surprise, nor at any moment will they catch us unprepared and by surprise. When we realized that a series of movements were occurring and that some sort of action was imminent—we did not know concretely what it was going to be or from where it would come—then we came to the conclusion, after discussing the situation with the compañeros, to put our forces on alert.
That is why yesterday, at 5:40 p.m., the order was given sounding the combat alarm. The combat alarm is the highest degree of alert and readiness in the armed forces. We wanted to avoid having to take this measure unless we were facing a very clear danger, because naturally all our efforts, the efforts of our country, have for many months been devoted almost exclusively to increasing production and solving problems of an economic character. And our country really had progressed and is advancing very much in this field.
Naturally, every time a mobilization of this type is made, it implies sacrifices in the field of production, no matter how much one tries to reconcile one thing with the other. And even though we have much more organization and much more experience, it of course affects us in any case. In face of this situation, the order was decreed, and naturally all instructions related to the combat alarm were carried out, in anticipation of an aggression and against the danger of a surprise attack. At this moment, therefore, they cannot catch us by surprise.
And since we must always distrust these gentlemen, the same thing might occur here, we felt, in line with the movements they have been carrying out. That is, the military landing maneuver—supposedly a maneuver—on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, might be redirected against Cuba, we felt, as in fact was done.8 They suspended the maneuvers, and we were on alert, because one of the methods they can utilize is to simulate a maneuver and launch an attack, to try to obtain their proposed objectives through surprise.
The maneuvers were in progress, and in anticipation that something might occur, such as a sudden surprise attack, the combat alarm order was given. Later, Kennedy's statement [of October 22] was published, which simply confirmed and justified the measures we had taken. Why was this? Simply because an imperialist adventure of this type implies such dangers that it is necessary to be in a complete state of alert.…
To me and to our people, [Kennedy's statement] is not the declaration of a statesman, but of a pirate. There is the following fact to be considered: The measure he is taking as a result of all this is a complete violation of international law. No state can do that. No state can stop the ships of another state on the high seas. No state can blockade another state. It is as if we were to send our ships with the following aim: "The United States cannot send such-and-such arms to Guatemala or Venezuela." Or as if any country were to place its warships around another country and blockade it. That goes against every international law, and it also goes against the ethics of international relations, against the most basic right of the peoples.
In the first place, it is a flagrant violation of law. Two violations are committed: one, against our sovereignty in that it attempts to blockade our country; and, second, against the rights of all countries because it says that ships "from whatever nation" can be searched. Where? In North American waters? No. On the high seas; that is to say, in international waters! A violation is committed here against the rights of all other nations, not just Cuba.
Of course, this is a deed that will very soon begin to have repercussions throughout the world, because every country sees what it means when one nation assumes the right to blockade another nation.
And the more than 100 independent nations—and even those that are less independent—have to view with justified fear the fact that one country assumes the right to blockade another nation, to prevent that country from freely acquiring and receiving the arms or the products it believes are necessary.
So the U.S. government violates the sovereign right of our country and it violates international law. That is to say, it violates the right of all nations and establishes a precedent that has to be alarming to all the peoples of the world.
That, first of all, is what Mr. Kennedy's act involves
Second of all, they list another series of measures, and I am going to examine how they are going to carry these measures out. Because it is one thing to do x, and another thing to do y. They raise here the support of the OAS. In other words, they seek the complicity of the governments of Latin America to commit a crime against a Latin American country.
The governments that have let themselves be dragged along by that policy are undoubtedly committing the greatest act of betrayal any government of Latin America could commit. To lend oneself to an aggression like that against our country, to serve as puppet of the imperialists to commit this crime against a sister Latin American country, is the greatest act of betrayal that a government could commit.
This is a betrayal that the peoples will never commit. The imperialists want Latin American soldiers to come along with them to fight their Cuban brothers, to fight men who have the same problems, the same traditions, the same culture, and the same language. The imperialists do not want to come alone. In their adventure they want to make cannon fodder of the peoples of Latin America—peoples who will never be in agreement with this aggression.
It will not be we alone—we will defend ourselves on our shores—it will be the peoples who will be charged with punishing the traitors. Because by doing so these traitors only bring closer the hour of revolution in Latin America. With the aggression against Cuba, by serving as puppets of the imperialists against Cuba, the only thing they are doing is bringing closer the day when their respective peoples will settle accounts with them. And the revolution arrives when one least expects it. That's especially the case the more abject, the more servile, and the more sell-out a government may be. So this is what they try.
They also ask the United Nations that we disarm ourselves—with the sending of observers, of course. With regard to this problem, there is something very curious. The imperialists have now invented the terms "offensive" weapons and "defensive" weapons. Which are offensive weapons and which are defensive weapons? The rifles that came to Playa Girón were offensive weapons; the bazookas, the grenades, the mortars, the bullets, the knives they landed at Playa Girón were offensive weapons. But our rifles, mortars, and tanks were defensive weapons. Our tanks were defensive, while the Sherman tanks they landed were offensive.
Because what determines the offensive or defensive character of the weapons is not their shape but their use, their employment. And since our weapons were used to defend ourselves, then our rifles, our cannons, our tanks were defensive. And the rifles, the weapons, the tanks they brought were offensive. That cannot be debated anywhere. Nevertheless, the imperialists have now invented the category of "offensive weapons" and "defensive weapons." That is a pure invention of theirs, with the aim of keeping the people disarmed.…
Do we not have the rights that international norms, laws, and principles recognize for every sovereign state in any part of the world? What part of the world and what country is denied the right to arm itself? What part of the world and what country is asked to give an accounting for the weapons it arms itself with? What part of the world and what country? What makes the imperialists think that we are the only such country, in the only such part of the world? Why, when we are a sovereign state, just as sovereign as they are—and even more so, because we are not the slaves of exploitation, nor of imperialism, nor of the war-making policy they follow! [Applause]
We are not sovereign by the grace of the Yankees, but by our own right. And we are not just sovereign in words, we are sovereign in deeds. And we are true to our status as a sovereign state, so to take away our sovereignty it will be necessary to wipe us off the face of the earth! [Applause]
Our declaration in reply to the Joint Resolution went on to state: "We have not abdicated and we do not intend to abdicate any of our sovereign prerogatives to the Congress of the United States. If the U.S. government did not harbor aggressive intentions toward our country, it would not be interested in the quantity, quality, or type of our weapons. If the United States could give Cuba effective and satisfactory guarantees with respect to our territorial integrity and would cease its subversive and counterrevolutionary activities against our people, Cuba would not need to strengthen its defenses. Cuba would not even need an army, and all the resources this implies we would happily invest in the economic and cultural development of the nation." Is this clear enough? Who are the ones who forced us to arm ourselves?
They do not renounce their policy of hostility. They do not renounce their policy of aggression and subversion. They proclaim it. And while they are proclaiming that they are trying to destroy the revolution, they tell us what measures we should take; what steps we should take to defend ourselves. The victim has to consult the victimizer as to how he is going to defend himself!
That basically is what those super-mistaken gentlemen are suggesting. Because to say it is one thing. But to believe that we are going to pay attention to them—if they believe that, they're crazy.
We said: Cuba has always been ready to hold discussions with the U.S. government and do its share, were it to find a reciprocal stance by the U.S. government of reducing tensions and improving relations. This is what Cuba suggested in all frankness and sincerity.…
Our people will never forget that "friend" Kennedy9 gave the orders for the attack [on Playa Girón], an attack that cost our people so many lives, that left so many widows and so many orphans. It did not cost tens, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives, of course, because it was rapidly defeated.
But what would have happened had they seized the [Zapata] Swamp, that piece of our territory that could be reached only by two narrow roads through marshland? What would have happened had they begun to operate their bombers from there, attacking our cities, our transportation lines, and our factories every night? How much misery, how much destruction, how much killing, how many problems would this have created for the country?
Because all that was the intention of "friend" Kennedy, like his intention in everything else: to deprive our country of food, of trade, of spare parts, of raw materials. There was the economic blockade. There was the subversion. There were the thousands of weapons dropped into the mountains of our country to organize bands of mercenaries, counterrevolutionary bands.10 There were the pirate attacks they made of all types, beginning with the planes that in the first days of the revolution came here to burn our sugar plantations, to drop incendiary bombs upon our canefields, up to the attack on Havana in the middle of the afternoon during the first year of the revolution, an attack that cost dozens of victims.
Then came attacks like the one on the oil refinery in Santiago de Cuba prior to the invasion of Girón. The treacherous Pearl Harbor-type bombing carried out on April 15,11 two days before the invasion, during which women and children were hurt and there were all kinds of victims.
When you watch the documentaries of those days, you can see the bodies of women murdered by the homicidal bullets of our "friend" Kennedy's bombers.
There were the pirate attacks, of which there were many, such as the last one, in which a small unarmed launch was attacked by one of the U.S.-armed PT boats. And not only was it attacked, but it was sunk, and two of the crew members were captured and taken to the United States.12 These were revolutionaries, from revolutionary families, and they had them there, kidnapped, in a cynical and shameless way. These are all the acts and all the crimes that the imperialists have constantly been committing since the triumph of the revolution, long before we began arming ourselves.
When the CIA agents blew up the ship La Coubre, which was carrying weapons, costing us close to 80 lives, we did not even have relations with the Soviet Union. And we were arming ourselves, because after the agrarian reform law they began to prepare the expedition in Guatemala. When was this? Ever since the first year of the revolution, five months after the triumph of the revolution, simply because the revolution had decreed an agrarian law. For this sole reason they began to prepare the expedition, and they began their war on us.
What were the intentions? To destroy the revolution, to condemn the people once again to the miseries and injustices of the past. Those are the objectives they have been pursuing since the first moment.
What did we do? Defend ourselves. What did we do but defend ourselves exclusively? Or did the imperialists think that after their first attack on us, after their first action they would have a people on their knees, a government on its knees, and a legion of revolutionaries carrying a white flag?
Did they think that we revolutionaries would surrender, that the people of Cuba would surrender? Was that what they were expecting? That apparently is what they were expecting. So what we did was defend ourselves. And for each measure they took against us, we took others. They were the ones who decreed this policy of aggression, of enmity toward us, of breaking relations with our country. They were the ones.
If they failed, the blame is theirs, not ours. They were the ones who time and again rejected the proposals by the Cuban revolution, the words of friendship of the Cuban revolution, the repeated offers to negotiate, from the beginning up until the time of the compañero president's appearance at the United Nations.13 Of course, they could not reply to these words. Why don't they want to negotiate? Why did they not respond to the call for negotiations made by the government of Cuba, presented there before the representatives of all the countries of the world?
Our opinion on arms is clearly set forth. We acquire the arms we want for our defense, and we take the measures we deem necessary for our defense. This is what we have done. What are these measures? We do not have to tell the imperialists what these measures are, nor do we have to tell them what weapons these are. Who says that we are obliged to render accounts to the imperialists, the aggressors, as to the measures and the weapons we have for our defense?
Up until now none of our weapons has been of the offensive type. Why? Because we have never harbored aggressive intentions against anyone. We have never pursued an offensive policy against the rights of any people of any country. We will never change this policy. We will never be the aggressors. That is why our weapons will never be offensive weapons.
We can clearly state that all countries can rest easy, every country in Latin America, every country of America—the United States—because we shall never be the aggressors. We shall never be the ones to take the offensive.
But in the same way as we declare this clearly and honestly, we also declare that neither shall we be easy victims of any aggression. And we also declare, with the same determination and the same certainty, that we will know how to defend ourselves and we will repel any aggressor. That is what our weapons are for.
That is precisely what I said on July 26 in Santiago de Cuba: That we knew the intentions of our enemies, their plans, and that we had to take the appropriate measures, not only to resist, but to repel them. That is simply what has happened: We have taken the appropriate measures to resist and—listen carefully—to repel any direct aggression by the United States. [Applause]
We reject definitively any attempt at monitoring, any attempt at inspection of our country. Our country will not be inspected by anyone. No one will be able to come and inspect our country, because we will never give authorization for that to anyone. We will never renounce our sovereign prerogatives. Within our borders, we are the ones who rule, and we are the ones who do the inspecting. That is all there is to it. We therefore reject definitively any attempt to investigate our country in any way, no matter where it comes from.
Cuba is not the Congo. Imperialist forces went to the Congo flying the banner of the United Nations. They assassinated the leader of the Congo. They divided it, they muzzled it, and they killed the independent spirit of that nation.14
Cuba is not the Congo. No one can come under that banner or any other one to inspect our country. We know what we are doing, and we know how we must defend our integrity and our sovereignty. [Applause]
Anyone who tries to come and inspect Cuba should know that he will have to come ready for battle! That is our definitive answer to the illusions and to the proposals for carrying out inspections in our territory.…
What is our principled position regarding the arms buildup or regarding disarmament? We are decidedly in favor of disarmament. What is our policy on military bases? We are decidedly in favor of dismantling all military bases. What is our policy on the presence of troops in various countries? We are in favor of a peace policy. We maintain there should be no troops or military personnel from one country in the territory of another country. That is our principled position. If the United States desires disarmament, that is magnificent. Let us all disarm. Magnificent! Let us all support a policy for the dismantling of bases, of troops throughout the world. Magnificent! We are in agreement with that policy.
But we are not in agreement with a policy that calls for disarming us in the face of the aggressors. That is so stupid, so ridiculous, and so absurd, that it is not worth wasting any more time thinking about such idiocy. [Applause] It's idiocy for one of two reasons, either because they believe it—which isn't possible—or because they think they are going to scare us.
Here we are all cured of fear. It may be—and this is most probable—that they do it as a pretext. All U.S. policies are riddled with contradictions, with lack of sense, lack of principles, and lack of morality. That is what characterizes U.S. policies. That is why it can be said that it is a policy of pirates, of filibusters.…
Very well, this is the situation at the moment: the threats, and the threats of taking measures. Let us look at what these are and how they are to be taken, and what is to happen. Because it is not the same to be surrounded by little ships in the water—there are none as yet—as it is to try and impose those things here in our territory. Threats of new measures. It would not be strange that what they say here in the first part in this gentleman's speech: "This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers." It would not be strange if they tried to extend it at a given moment to other types of cargo, including food and everything. In other words, a total blockade.
We can state that if there is a total blockade, we will be able to resist it.
All these things simply serve to reduce that country in stature, and to magnify in stature the grandeur of our homeland. At this moment a wave of repudiation is sweeping the world, despite the reactionary press and the attempts at appearances. It is clear that they have tried to dress up the doll, but the doll is losing its clothing, leaving only the skeleton.
There are already a few U.S. embassies that have been attacked, among them the one in London. A demonstration of 2,000 persons broke through a cordon of 100 police and penetrated the embassy in London.
In other words, this action has provoked world repudiation—and it will do so more and more. If they add other articles to the blockade and try to starve our people into submission, that repudiation will multiply, and we will see who withstands the most—their shame or our honor, their cowardice or our courage.
If they blockade us, they will magnify the grandeur of our homeland, because our homeland will be able to resist. There is no doubt that we will resist any cowardly blockade. What might happen—a total blockade or a direct aggression? Those are the alternatives. They have already established what they call a quarantine. They are so shameless that they themselves say they are calling it a quarantine even though it is actually a blockade.
The alternatives are a total blockade or aggression. In the face of that, what can we tell the people? We will adopt in a timely manner the necessary measures, and if a total blockade comes about, we will be able to resist it. That will simply sink imperialism into the deepest abyss of discredit, while elevating our country to unimagined heights of heroism and grandeur. We will not die of hunger.
If it comes to direct attack, we will repel it! That is what I can tell you. If there is a direct attack we will repel it. I think that is sufficient. The people should know the following: we have the means with which to repel a direct attack. This is clear as clear can be. [Applause]
So they threaten us with being the target of nuclear attacks? They don't scare us. I would like to know if the senators, the imperialists, the Yankee millionaires possess the frame of mind of our people, the calmness of our people. Because it is not the same thing to be fully convinced you are defending a just cause as it is being a pirate. And they are pirates.
I would like to know if at the present time they are as calm and serene in facing this as we are. We are not intimidated. We are calmed somewhat by knowing that the aggressors will not go unpunished. We are calmed by knowing that the aggressors will be exterminated. Knowing that makes us calm.
We are running risks that we have no choice but to run. They are the risks run by humanity. And we, who are part of humanity — and a very worthy part to be sure — know how to run these risks calmly. We have the consolation of knowing that in a thermonuclear war, the aggressors, those who unleash a thermonuclear war, will be exterminated. I believe there are no ambiguities of any kind.
Humanity must face this danger. It must fight for peace. It is not for nothing that peace is a basic aspiration of humanity. That is why humanity must mobilize itself against those who promote war and aggression, against those who place the world on the brink of war, against those who follow this policy of playing with fire, the fire of war and nuclear war, which would cause such frightening harm to all humanity.
We, as part of humanity, run those risks, but we are not afraid. We must know how to live in the era that has fallen to us, and with the dignity required.
Who are the ones who make threats? These gentlemen. But whom do they threaten? Those who cannot be intimidated. It is possible that those who threaten, these gentlemen who threaten us, are victims of fear. What a sad truth it is, incredibly. It turns out now that in their obsession the imperialists have ended up inventing and creating a kind of fear of Cuba. The shark is frightened, and it is calling the other little sardines to try to devour the ex-sardine, Cuba.15
And the others go scurrying. Some governments go and give support. So much more shame and infamy for them, and so much more glory for our people, for our revolution, and for us all. When our country decided to be free and to make a revolution, it knew that it had to face the consequences, to confront many enemies. We were no longer the puppet, no longer the flock of sheep; the sheep following along behind, obedient to the voice and the whip of the master. Not us. And when the reactionaries of this continent unite together against our glorious revolution and our heroic people, this only serves to ennoble our people, to raise the merit, the prestige, and the heroism of our people, who are confronting the reactionaries alone on this continent.
Those agreements do not worry us. We know how they are obtained, how they are demanded, how they are extracted. And we know the infinite amount of mud it involves, mud of which we are clean. These are meaningless agreements, furthermore, since to crush the revolution they would have to come destroy it by force, and they cannot destroy it by force. All the rest is just verbiage.
Against that policy of provocation and violence is our firm and calm position of defending ourselves. What is the position of the Soviet Union? A calm, exemplary position. The Soviet response has been a real lesson to imperialism: Firm, calm, full of arguments, full of reason, which strip the aggressive policy of Mr. Kennedy to its skeleton. History will note this all down, the position of one camp and of the other, the position of the imperialists and of the defenders of peace, of those who fight to prevent for the world the tragedy of a war. History will have to note this down.
Humanity must struggle with the hope of peace. That hope is based precisely on the fact that the imperialists today are not the all-powerful lords and masters of the world. The imperialists cannot launch a war without suffering the consequences of the war they provoke, which is extermination. That is what may stop them. Since they are no longer lords and masters, humanity must maintain the hope that there will be peace. With firmness, with resolution, and with a policy of principles.
That policy of principles gains more sympathizers in the world every day. And that policy of provocation and war, of piracy and arbitrary acts, is repudiated more and more in the world every day. History will note the responsibility falling to each and everyone.
If the imperialists, against the most basic interest of humanity, force things to the point of unleashing a war—an exceedingly painful war for humanity—the historic responsibility will be theirs. And on their shoulders—or better said, on their ashes—they will have to bear the tremendous and staggering responsibility of the harm they may cause the world.
Our policy is one of respect for principles, of respect for international norms, and of peace. We can say this because it is true; we can speak in this way without any ulterior motive. We can speak in this way because we are convinced of the cause we defend, we are convinced that justice and right are on our side, and because we know that our people are running these risks not because we are a corrupt, vile, abject people, or a people who live in the muck of injustice and exploitation. Our people have unfurled a banner of justice. Our people have freed themselves of vice, of depravity, of exploitation, and of the moral and material poverty of the past. And our people are convinced of what they are doing. This is the source of our people's strength. They are convinced of the historic role they are playing, convinced of the prestige they enjoy, of the faith that other peoples of the world have placed in them. And because they are convinced of this, they are able to look ahead calmly.
All of us, men and women, young and old, are united in this hour of danger. And our fate, the fate of all revolutionaries and patriots, will be shared by all of us together. And victory, too, will be shared by all of us together!
Patria o muerte! [Homeland or death]
Venceremos! [We will win]
1 The Platt Amendment, named after U.S. Sen. Orville Platt, was a provision imposed on the Cuban government that was established during the U.S. military occupation following 1898. Under the terms of that amendment—incorporated in Cuba's new constitution—Washington was given the "right" to intervene in Cuban affairs at any time and to establish military bases on Cuban soil. These provisions were eliminated from the Cuban constitution in the wake of the 1933–34 revolutionary upsurge there.
2 U.S. military forces had occupied Nicaragua from 1912–25, and again from 1926–33; Mexico from 1916–17; Haiti from 1914–34; and the Dominican Republic from 1916–24.
3 Seeking to crush political and social struggles in Guatemala that accompanied a limited land reform initiated by the regime of Jacobo Arbenz, mercenary forces backed by the CIA invaded the country in 1954. Arbenz refused to arm the people and resigned, and a right-wing dictatorship led by Col. Carlos Castillo de Armas took over.
On April 17, 1961, 1,500 Cuban mercenaries invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast. The counterrevolutionaries, organized and financed by Washington, aimed to declare a provisional government to appeal for direct U.S. intervention. The invaders, however, were defeated within seventy-two hours by Cuba's militia and its Revolutionary Armed Forces. On April 19 the last invaders surrendered at Playa Girón (Girón Beach), which is the name Cubans use to designate the battle.
4 At a meeting in San José, Costa Rica, in August 1960, the Organization of American States (OAS) approved a declaration attacking the Cuban revolution. In August 1961 at a meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay, the OAS approved the U.S.-sponsored Alliance for Progress, which allocated $20 billion in loans to Latin American governments in exchange for their compliance in lining up against Cuba. In January 1962 Cuba was expelled from the OAS and other governments in the hemisphere were urged to cut economic ties and diplomatic relations with Cuba.
5 In June 1960, U.S. refineries in Cuba began refusing to refine crude oil that Cuba had purchased from the Soviet Union. The revolutionary government responded by taking over the management of the Texaco, Esso, and Shell refineries. A few weeks later, in early July, Washington reduced Cuba's sugar quota, which was the amount of Cuban sugar Washington allowed to be sold in the U.S. market. In response, the revolutionary government authorized the nationalization of the holdings of the principal U.S. companies in Cuba. On Oct. 19, 1960, Washington declared a partial embargo on trade with Cuba. A total embargo was imposed in February 1962.
6 La Coubre, a French ship carrying Belgian arms, exploded in Havana harbor on March 4, 1960, under mysterious circumstances, killing eighty-one people.
7 On Oct. 3, 1962, a resolution was approved by both houses of Congress "to prevent by whatever means may be necessary, including the use of arms" the spreading of the example of the Cuban revolution.
8 The U.S. Navy took over the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, at the beginning of World War II to use as a military base. On Oct. 21, 1962, the Washington Post ran a front page story reporting that the mobilization of U.S. troops, planes, and ships south of Florida, allegedly for training exercise in waters around Vieques, was really aimed at Cuba.
9 In his speech, Kennedy had stated to the Cuban people, "I speak to you as a friend."
10 In the early 1960s small bands of counterrevolutionaries armed and financed by Washington—popularly known in Cuba as the bandits—based themselves in the Escambray mountains in south-central Cuba. The bandits carried out sabotage and other operations against the revolution. By the mid-1960s they had been eliminated by a popular mobilization of militia units supporting operations of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
11 As a prelude to the Bay of Pigs invasion, planes attacked Santiago de Cuba and Havana on April 15, 1961, killing 7 and wounding 53.
12 On Oct. 13, 1962, counterrevolutionaries aboard a PT boat opened fire on an small unarmed pleasure craft with four Cuban civilians aboard. Two of the Cubans, who were wounded, were taken to Miami.
13 Cuban president Osvaldo Dorticós addressed the UN General Assembly on Oct. 8, 1962.
14 The Congo won its independence from Belgium in 1960. Patrice Lumumba, principle leader of the independence movement and the Congo's first prime minister, was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup led by army chief of staff Joseph Mobutu in September of that year. In January 1961 Lumumba, while under the "protection" of UN troops, was captured and then murdered by imperialist backed forces.
15 This analogy comes from the book, The Fable of the Shark and the Sardines: The Strangulation of Latin America, by Juan José Arévalo, president of Guatemala from 1945 to 1951.
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