On July 26, the Cuban people celebrated the 52nd anniversary
of the failed attack on Moncada Barracks, an attack led by a 26-year-old
lawyer named Fidel Castro.
The 1953 attack was designed to inspire Cubans to rise up against the
US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, and restore the 1940
constitution, which guaranteed land, education, democracy and hope to
the Cuban people.
Neither the failure of the attack, nor the subsequent torture and
imprisonment of those involved, broke the spirit of the mostly young
rebels, who remained dedicated to liberating their people from the
terror of Batista's regime. In January 1959, as a general strike broke
out, Batista fled, and the Cuban Revolution triumphed, much to the
chagrin of the US and its clients.
Washington has never stopped trying to roll back the Cuban
Revolution, through assassination, invasion, terrorism, chemical and
biological warfare, and by waging a constant propaganda war against the
small Caribbean island.
On July 25 and 26, 2005, the 11 million inhabitants of Cuba again
celebrated their freedom, with parties and small rallies across the
country on the night of the 25th, and music blaring until well into the
The celebrations came at a hard time for Cuba. Between July 7 and 9,
the island nation was lashed by Hurricane Dennis. While the Cubans'
much-praised evacuation and high-level emergency provisions minimised
the damage, 16 Cubans were killed, thousands of homes were destroyed,
electricity infrastructure was badly damaged and some crops were lost.
On July 26, foregoing the traditional mass rally, Cuban President
Fidel Castro addressed a crowd of about 5000 assembled guests at a
formal ceremony in Havana's Karl Marx Theatre, and outlined both the
challenges facing the Cuban Revolution, and the gains that it has made
so far this year.
Packed to the ceiling, with some people standing, Cubans joined with
members of international solidarity brigades and delegations, as well as
a large contingent from the Pastors for Peace US Friendshipment, an
organisation that deliberately breaks the US trade and travel ban to
Cuba to bring in donations of medicine, computers and other items scarce
The mood of solidarity and hope permeated the event, vividly
illustrating Castro's comment:
"No other revolutionary process has been
able to count on as much consensus and overwhelming support as the Cuban
At the end, the singing of the "Internationale" brought tears to many
eyes, as the importance of this country — run by the majority, in the
interests of the majority — was brought home.
Castro began his four-hour speech by making a piercing attack on
those who have taken money from the US Interests Section in Havana, to
fund a campaign aimed at destablising the government.
Pointing out that
access to convertible pesos, in a country where education and health
care are free, and housing, medicine, recreation and "a significant
portion of food" is extremely cheap, access to convertible pesos gave
these "mercenaries" a much more comfortable standard of living.
Castro also condemned the US administration, which uses Guantanamo
naval base, illegally on Cuban territory, to torture people it kidnaps
from around the world in the name of the "war on terror".
In an indirect answer to those who have accused the Cuban government
of persecuting Washingon's agents in the country, Castro detailed how
Washington's propaganda war on the nation has been stepped up. US
Congress recently requested US$37 million for anti-Castro television and
radio transmissions into Cuba.
This contrasts with the $50,000
Washington offered in (strings-attached) aid to Cuba in the wake of
Hurricane Dennis. Cuba survives a total 2425 hours and 24 minutes per
week of radio and television interference, Castro added.
Castro saved particularly harsh words for Juan Posada Carriles, the
Cuban-born terrorist who destroyed a Cubana airliner in 1976, killing 73
people. Mass demonstrations in Cuba in May brought to the world's
attention that Posada was in Miami, and, after a worldwide outcry, he
was eventually arrested — but only on an immigration charge.
Castro also condemned US intervention in Latin America, singling out
the US naval base at Manta in Ecuador — the Pentagon's key military post
in the region, used to implement the horrific Plan Colombia, which
involves spraying defoliant over the crops and houses of poor Colombian
peasants, killing their crops, and often their children.
Castro also made special mention of the US military exercises taking
place in Paraguay. Four-hundred US troops are now posted just hours away
from gas-rich Bolivia, which has just overthrown a president for
offering too many concessions to US multinational companies. Pointing to
Washington's "interventionist mentality", Castro said he would not rule
out the possibility of US intervention in Brazil, governed by the
left-wing Workers Party, from Paraguay.
However, most of Castro's speech emphasised the good news. After 15
years of economic struggle, the Cuban economy grew at a rate of 7.3% in
the first half of 2005, and is expected to reach 9% by the end of the
year. Castro pointed out that claims that the revolution is in a
terminal economic crisis have never been less true.
This result comes
despite an historic drought that has caused $1.2 billion in damage,
electrical shortages that have plagued the country, and a 46-year
economic blockade by the US, which includes prosecuting companies that
trade with Cuba.
Another highlight was the 1.9 million tonnes of crude oil and gas
production — quadruple what Cuba produced in the early '90s. Down 4%
earlier this year, electricity production is now expected to reach more
than a million kilowatts within a year, and more than double by the end
of 2006. Further, Cuba has made significant progress in exploring for
oil and gas, with new finds off the coast in the past year.
This, combined with cheap oil from Venezuela, is expected to help
solve the energy crisis on the island. At the heart of this is the
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez's plan, centrally supported by Castro, to further integrate
Latin American economies as a way of providing an alternative to
Washington's drive for bi- and multi-lateral trade deals in the region,
which simply further the economic dependence of these Third World
Other increases in income include nickel, of which Cuba is a major
exporter, and tourism, which increased 11.5%, with an expected record
2.3 million foreign visitors to Cuba by the end of the year. Other
areas, such as the pharmaceutical industry and soy, chocolate, coffee,
pasta and eggs production, have also experienced substantial increases,
and look set to continue to grow.
Castro pointed out that proof of Cuba's economic strength was the
recent round of wage rises, and increases to pensions. The minimum wage
was doubled, and: "In July wages rose in the health care and education
sectors, which benefited 857,400 workers, at an annual cost of more than
523 million Cuban pesos.
"In the social security sector the pensions of 1,468,000 people went up, just over 97% of the total number of pensioners.
"In the area of social assistance, 476,512 people benefited from an
increase of 50 pesos monthly. Both measures annually cost 1.19 billion
"These actions have benefited 4.4 million people, which accounts for
30.9% of the population, at an annual cost of 2.78 billion Cuban pesos.
Wages continue to increase gradually in other sectors."
A record 100,000 new homes are scheduled to be built in 2006.
Castro peppered his speech with positive references to Venezuela, and
that government's support for Cuba. He pointed out that one of the
reasons for Washington's recent increase in propaganda into Cuba was to
counter the development of Telesur, the Venezuela-initiated Latin America-wide television broadcast.
Castro made it clear that Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution has
reinvigorated socialism within the continent, and made a better future
for all more possible. He emphasised the importance of the two nations'
"The agreement between the Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela and the Republic of Cuba, signed in accordance with the
principles of ALBA, means a considerable step forward on the way to
unity and the true integration of the peoples of Latin America and the
"The Petrocaribe agreement is another extraordinary advancement and a
true example of fraternal solidarity among peoples. The commercial
exchange between Venezuela and Cuba has already risen this year to no
less than $3 billion. Both countries will undoubtedly be the two that
experience the most economic growth in the hemisphere this year.
"Because of these noble, constructive and peaceful efforts, the
imperialist government is accusing Venezuela and Cuba, Chavez and
Castro, of destabilising and subverting other countries in the region.
"Faced with such accusations against Venezuela and Cuba, and if
President Chavez agreed, a day like today would be most opportune to
reply: Condemn us, it doesn't matter, history will absolve us!"
First published in Green Left Weekly, August 3, 2005.