Fidel Castro Casts Ballot in Cuban Election

cubaelection

“Elections here are not like those in the United States, where only a minority votes. We can never allow that to happen, because here the people lead.”


Amaury E. Del Valle

SHORTLY before 5:00pm on February 3, the applause and cheering of people gathered at Electoral College No. 1, Area 13, Constituency 13 in Plaza de la Revolución, announced the arrival of the leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro, the Comandante en Jefe, walking slowly and carefully but with his characteristic smile and good humor, ascended the access ramp to the voting area, his two ballots in hand, and exercised his right to vote in Cuba’s general elections.

Registered as No. 28 in the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution No.1, Fidel joked affectionately with members of the electoral board about the time of his arrival, noting that when he was reminded of the elections, he asked to attend in person to vote.

“This has changed a bit since I was last here,” he recalled, his memory as acute as ever, upon asking permission to deposit his two ballots: one for delegates to the Provincial Assembly of People’s Power and the other for deputies to the National Assembly.

As always, he captivated the children guarding the ballot boxes, asking their ages, where they went to school, and where they lived. Then, seeing the television cameras, press photographers and journalists, the conversational and media conscious Fidel was reborn, having first asked the permission of electoral personnel to speak with them.

Despite the lateness of what was a chilly day, Fidel spoke with the press and the hundreds of neighbors who arrived, having heard the rumor of his presence, for more than 90 minutes.

With his prodigious memory, he recalled anecdotes, information and even historic dates; at times the interviewer and, at others, the interviewee. He spoke about the Cuban and global economy, national and international politics, the past and recent history of Latin America, and the challenges of contemporary Cuba. He also referred to the role of the press; the need to avert wars; even agriculture and how to achieve better results in this sector.

Fidel who, as he has stated on many occasions, has survived many assassination attempts, when asked about the elections, joked that he could not reveal who he voted for so as not to violate the law.

“I will just tell you, that I voted for the women and, of course, for one man on the slate, so that the men wouldn’t be offended,” he said mischievously.

“Women are taking more and more of a leadership role in Cuba and in the world,” he reflected more seriously, seeing a number of women journalists there. “And that’s the way it should be,” he emphasized.

Returning to the subject of the elections, the leader of the Revolution quickly changed roles and asked about the number of people who had voted at the precinct, how many still had to do so, how many nationwide and how many precincts and, noting the time, acknowledged the high degree of participation.

“Elections here are not like those in the United States, where only a minority votes. We can never allow that to happen, because here the people lead,” he stressed.

In response to a question on the current changes taking place in Cuba, he emphasized, “The greatest change of all has been the Revolution itself. But, of course, nothing is perfect, many things that we know today, we didn’t know then, and we need to work on continuing to improve the country. It is our duty to update the Cuban socialist model, modernize it, but without committing errors.”

Looking to the future, Fidel went on to talk about the current world situation, the crisis in Europe and the United States, high unemployment rates and wars, one of the problems to which he acknowledged dedicating much study and reflection.

“Now that I have a little more time to read, watch television, to reflect, I am using it to study, to think about these problems, because people, with their many daily concerns, sometimes don’t think about them.”

“I am more and more convinced that, as history demonstrates, wars are almost inevitable, due to egotism, ambitions, this natural and savage instinct within human beings,” he observed.

“We were at the point of being involved in a world conflagration on many occasions, as happened with the Crisis of October, or having nuclear weapons used against us, as was the case when we were fighting in Africa. But wars are very different when they are fought for a just cause, for freedom or in solidarity, and we were prepared to run those risks.”

Following this same line of thought, Fidel, who loves to return to history for its lessons, noted how many great historical figures became famous as a result of the wars of conquest they led, such as Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte.

“Only one man in history became famous for undertaking great military campaigns, but to liberate peoples. That man was [Simón] Bolívar,” he affirmed. He then emphasized, “Bolívar, but Martí and Chávez have also been very important for Latin America.”

Asked about his close friend Hugo Chávez , who is recovering from surgery in Cuba, he acknowledged that he is informed of the Venezuelan President’s condition every day.

“He’s much better, recuperating. It has been a difficult battle, but he has been improving. We have to cure him, Chávez is very important to his country and to Latin America.”

In response to questions from other journalists, the issue prompted the leader of the Cuban Revolution to discuss the recent Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, “a very important step in the context of unity, of which Hugo Chávez has been one of the major architects.”

Many issues were covered in the close to 90-minute conversation, during which he asked how long the tape recorder batteries lasted and noted the use of cell phones for recording his words. He commented that he frequently used one, “with a bit of help because sometimes the key letters are very small.”

This curiosity about everything around him led Fidel to the subject of new technologies, the recent discovery of the human species being far older than thought, exploratory voyages to Mars, attempts to colonize this planet. “These are issues to which I devote a lot of time, because I believe the most important thing at the moment for anyone is to be well informed.”

“That is why the role you are playing is so important,” he stated to journalists present. “It’s about constant study in order to better inform, and I am not saying this as a criticism, because I have much respect for the work of the press, but because I am convinced that journalists are a strength for the country and for the Revolution.”

Two sentences swept away any doubt that, as Raúl said, Fidel is still Fidel.

The first was in response to being asked if he could give any message to the Cuban people. He looked directly at the journalist, and after barely a second’s thought, affirmed, “…This is a valiant people. We do not have to prove that. Fifty years of blockade and they have been unable to defeat us… Just say, that the people are everything, without the people, we are nothing, without the people there would be no Revolution.”

The other, upon insistently asking him to say something directed at young people, he looked at me mischievously, as if he knew that some historic phrase was expected of him, and said, “Just tell them that I am very envious of them.”

Literacy: A Human Right

Nuria Barbosa León

THE Cuban literacy program Yo sí Puedo, (Yes, I can) has, in just over a decade, helped some 6.5 individuals learn to read and write and is currently being used in 30 countries, with the participation of more than 100 million people in all aspects of its implementation.

The program’s roots date back to 1961, when Cuba became a territory free of illiteracy. Some 269,723 teachers and instructors taught 60% of the population, 707,212 people, to read in just one year.

The literacy campaign in Cuba allowed both teachers and students to develop their potential, doing something extraordinary, and the effort became a social event of great importance in the country’s revolutionary history.

The Yo sí Puedo program was conceived to support literacy instruction for all regardless of disability, race, national origin, language, religion or political affiliation.

The pedagogical approach is based on a short term process, involving the association of letters with numbers, and requires limited human and material resources for its implementation, making it appropriate for remote areas, with local volunteers trained as ‘facilitators’ leading classes.

Dr. Zoila Benítez de Mendoza, a literacy instructor in the 1961 campaign, went on to become a teacher and served as an advisor to government efforts in 2000, in Michoacán, México, where 3,184 residents were taught to read and write, reducing illiteracy to 3.8%, from an initial level of 17%.

She reports that high school and university students were mobilized as instructors and that, during the teaching/learning process, an important cultural exchange between different ethnicities, population sectors and communities took place.

Dr. José Ricardo del Real, head of the Adult Education department of the Latin American and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute in Havana, commented that Cuba’s literacy instruction approach is based on an educational process meant to change lives, both for students, but also for facilitators who become educational advocates in their communities.

He adds that the Yo sí puedo seguir program, designed as a follow-up to initial instruction, is being implemented in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Colombia, thus assuring the advancement of students to higher levels of education, while providing more practice to consolidate literacy skills. “Today more than a million people, who were illiterate just a few years ago, have reached the sixth grade level,” Del Real reported.

Cuba’s solidarity and collaboration in promoting literacy, to broaden participation in society, has represented a revolutionary step forward for many peoples, banishing ignorance and sensitizing both those who teach and those who learn.

Fidel Castro In Good Health

Fidel Castro Ruz

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A message to the first graduating class from the Victoria de Girón Medical Sciences Institute was enough to prompt imperialist propaganda to go into overdrive and news agencies to voraciously launch themselves after the lie. Not only that but, in their cables, they attributed the most unheard of nonsense to the patient.

The ABC newspaper in Spain reported that a Venezuelan doctor from an unknown location revealed that Castro had suffered a massive embolism in the right cerebral artery; “I can state that we are not going to see him again in public.” The alleged doctor who, if he is, would first abandon his own compatriots, described Castro’s health as “very close to a neural-vegetative state.”

While many persons in the world are deceived by information agencies which publish this nonsense – almost all in the hands of the privileged and rich – people believe less and less in them. Nobody likes to be deceived; even the most incorrigible liar expects to be told the truth. In April of 1961, everyone believed the information published in the news agencies that the mercenary invaders of Girón or Bay of Pigs, whatever one wants to call it, were approaching Havana, when in fact some of them were fruitlessly trying by boat to reach the yanki warships escorting them.

The peoples are learning and resistance is growing, faced with the crisis of capitalism which is recurring with greater frequency; no lies, repression or new weapons will be able to prevent the collapse of a production system which is increasingly unequal and unjust.

A few days ago, very close to the 50th anniversary of the October Crisis, news agencies pointed to three guilty parties: Kennedy, having recently become the leader of the empire, Khrushchev and Castro. Cuba did not have anything to do with nuclear weapons, nor with the unnecessary slaughter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki perpetrated by the president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, thus establishing the tyranny of nuclear weapons. Cuba was defending its right to independence and social justice.

When we accepted Soviet aid in weapons, oil, foodstuffs and other resources, it was to defend ourselves from yanki plans to invade our homeland, subjected to a dirty and bloody war which that capitalist country imposed on us from the very first months, which left thousands of Cubans dead and maimed.

When Khrushchev proposed the installation here of medium range missiles similar to those the United States had in Turkey – far closer to the USSR than Cuba to the United States – as a solidarity necessity, Cuba did not hesitate to agree to such a risk. Our conduct was ethically irreproachable. We will never apologize to anyone for what we did. The fact is that half a century has gone by, and here we still are with our heads held high.

I like to write and I am writing; I like to study and I am studying. There are many tasks in the area of knowledge. For example, never before have the sciences advanced at such an astounding speed.

I stopped publishing “Reflections” because it is definitely not my role to take up pages in our press, dedicated to other tasks which the country requires.

Birds of ill omen! I don’t even remember what a headache is. As evidence of what liars they are, I present them with the photos which accompany this article.

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Cuba’s May Day Celebration: 1,000 Paricipants, 62 Countries

Granma Internacional

As of the final week in April, more than 1,000 representatives from 162 trade unions, social organizations and Cuba solidarity groups from 62 countries on all continents, have confirmed their plans to participate in the national May Day march culminating in Havana’s José Martí Plaza de la Revolución, May 1.

Of this group, 453, to date, are trade union leaders from about 50 countries, with the largest portion from Mexico, the United States and Costa Rica, who have chosen to celebrate the day with the Cuban people, representing 27 solidarity organizations such as the May 1 Brigade, which for years has participated to express its support of the Cuban Revolution and, in particular, opposition to the blockade and the unjust incarceration of the Cuban Five in the United States.

Additionally 102 delegates from 37 countries have confirmed their participation in the 2nd International Conference of Young Workers, called by the World Federation of Trade Unions, April 29-30 at the Federation of Cuban Workers (CTC) headquarters, where they will be joined by young Cuban workers as well. (Susana Lee)

Activities begin for May Day International Brigade

“We came to Cuba to celebrate May Day as it should be celebrated, to re-energize and return to our countries committed to fighting for a different kind of nation, with more solidarity,” said Odette López, one of the Chilean members of the May 1 International Brigade, which every year brings together activists from many countries to celebrate the workers’ holiday in Cuba.

López recounted that when she first participated in the Brigade six years ago, she was so moved that she convinced several of her compatriots to make the trip with her and, this year, there are 23 activists from the Chilean city of Iquique participating in the Brigade.

Arriving along with this group at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, located in Caimito outside of Havana in the western province of Artemisa, were 215 Brigade participants from more than 20 countries, who will join the march and, over a two week period, engage in agricultural work, hear reports on Cuba’s current economic and political situation and learn about Cuba first hand.

“In my country, May Day is not what it is here. Celebrating the day among Cubans and participating in the march is a great event for me,” said Ariat Shmanov, from Kazakistan.

“I grew up during the Soviet era and always heard news about Cuba,” Shmanov recalled, “but with the disappearance of the socialist camp, many of us lost our ties to the country. So this trip will allow me to see how the Cuban Revolution has managed to defend its values.”

Many young people on the Brigade are seeing Cuba for the first time. The majority live a very different reality in their countries of origin and say that their stay in Cuba will help them see the world from a fresh point of view.

The Julio Antonio Mella International Camp was inaugurated by Fidel and several international brigades and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Castro: Washington Promotes Overthrow of Venezuelan Government

Fidel Castro Ruz

What Obama Knows

The most demolishing article I have seen nowadays about Latin America was written by Renán Vega Cantor, full professor at the National Pedagogical University of Bogotá, which was published three days ago by the website ‘Rebelión’ under the title “Ecos de la Cumbre de las Américas” (Echoes of the Summit of the Americas).

It is a brief article and I should make no versions.  Those who specialize on the subject can look it up at the aforementioned website.

I have referred more than once to the infamous agreement that the United States imposed on Latin American and Caribbean countries when the OAS was founded at the foreign ministers meeting held in the city of Bogotá on April, 1948.  Just by sheer coincidence, I happened to be there on that date, helping to organize the celebration of a Latin American students’ congress whose main goal was to struggle against the European colonies and the bloody tyrannies imposed by the United States in this hemisphere.

One of the most brilliant political leaders in Colombia, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, who had managed to unite, with ever growing strength, the most progressive sectors in Colombia that opposed the Yankees’ miscreation, had offered his support to the celebration of the students’ congress.  No one doubted he would win during the upcoming elections, but he was treacherously murdered. His death led to a rebellion that has kept alive for more than half a century.

Social struggles have been taking place throughout millennia, since human beings, by resorting to wars, were able to take hold of a surplus production to satisfy the essential needs of life.

As is known, the years of physical slavery, the most brutal form of exploitation, went on in some countries until a little more than a century ago, as it happened in our own homeland during the final stages of the Spanish colonial domination.

Even in the United States, the enslavement of African descendants continued until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.  That brutal form of slavery was abolished there hardly thirty years before it was abolished in Cuba.

Martin Luther King dreamed about the equality of black Americans until almost 44 years ago, when he was vilely murdered on April, 1968.

The accelerated development of science and technology has been a sign of our times. Whether we are aware of it or not, this is what will mark the future of humanity.  This is an entirely new era.  What prevails in every corner of this globalized world is the real struggle of our species for its own survival.

As for now, all Latin American nations, particularly our own, will be affected by the process that is taking place in Venezuela, the home country of the Liberator of the Americas.

I barely need to reiterate what you already know: the close links that exist between our people and the people of Venezuela and Hugo Chávez, the promoter of the Bolivarian Revolution and the United Socialist Party he founded.

One of the first actions promoted by the Bolivarian Revolution was the medical cooperation with Cuba.  This is an area where our country has achieved a special prestige, which has been recognized nowadays by the international public opinion.  Thousands of health centers equipped with state-of-the-art technology manufactured by the world’s specialized industry have been founded by the Bolivarian government to provide medical assistance to its people.  Chávez, on his part, did not choose to go to expensive private clinics to care for his own health.  He trusted it to the same medical services he was offering to his people.

Besides, our doctors have devoted part of their time to the training of Venezuelan doctors in classrooms that have been properly equipped by the Venezuelan government.  The people of Venezuela, regardless of their personal incomes, began to receive the specialized services offered by our doctors.  It is now among the ones with the best medical care in the world and their health standards have obviously begun to improve.

President Obama knows this only too well and has talked about it with some of his visitors.  He candidly told one of them: “The problem is that the United States sends soldiers while Cuba, however, sends doctors”.

Chávez, a leader who has not had a minute of rest in the last twelve years and enjoyed an iron constitution, was, however, affected by an unexpected illness that was discovered and treated by the same specialized staff that usually assisted him.  It was not easy to persuade him of the need to pay maximum attention to his own health.  Since that moment, with an exemplary behavior, he has rigorously followed the treatment prescribed without neglecting his duties as Head of State and leader of his country.

I would dare to describe his attitude as heroic and disciplined. Not even for a single minute does he forget about his obligations; at times he does that to the point of exhaustion. I can attest to that because I have not ceased to be in touch and exchange with him.  He has not stopped to devote his fertile intelligence to the study and analysis of the problems of his country. He finds the vile remarks and slanders of the spokespersons of the oligarchy and the empire to be amusing.  I never heard him utter any insult or vile remarks when referring to his enemies.  That is not his kind of language.

The enemy knows the features of his character and is multiplying its efforts with the purpose of slandering and attacking President Chávez.  I, for one, do not hesitate in stating my modest opinion –which emanates from more than half a century of struggles- that the oligarchy will never again be able to govern that country.  That is the reason why the US government’s decision to promote the overthrow of the Bolivarian government under such circumstances becomes a source of concern.

Besides, to insist on a slanderous campaign stating that among the top leadership of the Bolivarian government there is a desperate quarrel to assume command of the revolutionary government if the President is not able to overcome his illness, is tantamount to building a gross lie.

Quite on the contrary, I have been able to see the closest unity among the leaders of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Under such circumstances, any mistake made by Obama could provoke rivers of blood in Venezuela.  The Venezuelan blood is also Ecuadorian, Brazilian, Argentinean, Bolivian, Chilean, Uruguayan, Central American, Dominican and Cuban blood.

It is necessary to bear in mind this reality when analyzing the political situation in Venezuela.

Is it now understood why the workers’ anthem is a call to change the world by doing away with the bourgeois empire?

Castro On The Need to Enrich Our Knowledge

Fidel Castro Ruz
Cubadebate

The filmed scenes of the massacre in Libya, starting to be seen, offend for their total absence of humanism and the crass lies that served as an excuse for invading and taking over the natural resources of that country.

With more than 25,000 combat missions, NATO air forces backed up the monstrous crime.

They stated that the Libyan government had funds abroad exceeding 200 billion dollars. At this time, nobody knows where the money is nor what has been done with it.

A fraudulent electoral process ensured the overthrowing of the presidency of the most powerful country on the side of George W. Bush, an alcoholic without medical treatment nor the most basic ethical principles, who ordered West Point graduates to be ready to attack without warning 60 or more dark corners of the world.

Such a deranged person, with the use of a small black briefcase, could decide on the use of thousands of nuclear weapons; with a minimal percentage of these, he could put an end to human life on the planet.

It is sad to remember that on the opposite side of the Yankee super-power, another deranged person, with three bottles of vodka in his stomach, declared the disintegration of the USSR and the dismantling of more than 400 nuclear bases in whose range were all the military bases threatening that country.

Those events did not constitute any surprise. Throughout many years of struggle, experience garnered, contact with events, ideas and historical processes did not come as a surprise.

Today the Russian leaders are trying to rebuild this powerful State which had been created with so much effort and sacrifice.

When Pope John Paul II visited our country in 1998, more than once before his arrival I talked about several subjects with one or another of his envoys.

I especially remember the occasion when we sat down to dinner in a small room in the Palace of the Revolution with Joaquín Navarro Valls, Papal spokesman, sitting in front of me. To the right was a pleasant and intelligent priest who had come with the spokesman and assisted Pope John Paul II at the Masses.

Curious about the details, I asked Navarro Valls whether he thought that the immense sky with its millions of stars had been made to please the inhabitants of the earth whenever we deigned to look upwards on any given night. “Absolutely” ―he replied. “It is the only inhabited planet in the universe.”

I then turned to the priest and said: what do you think of that, Father? He replied: “In my opinion, there is a 99.9 percent possibility of intelligent life existing on some other planet.” The answer did not violate any religious principle. Mentally I multiplied the figure, who knows how many times. It was the kind of answer that I deemed to be correct and serious.

Afterwards, that noble priest was always friendly with our country. Sharing a friendship does not mean you have to share beliefs.

Today, on Thursday, as it happens with increasing frequency, a European entity with well-known solvency in the subject, textually states:

“There could be billions of planets not much larger than the Earth orbiting around weak stars in our galaxy, according to an international team of astronomers.

“This estimated number of ‘super-Earths’ -planets with up to ten times Earth’s mass – is based on detections already made and then extrapolated to include the population of the so-called ‘dwarf stars’ in the Milky Way.”

“‘Our new observations with HARPS show that around 40% of the red dwarf stars have a ‘super-Earth’ orbiting around it in its habitable zone, where there may be water in a liquid state on the surface of the planet’, stated Xavier Bonfils, team leader at the Sciences of the Universe Observatory in Grenoble, France.

‘“Due to the fact that the red dwarfs are so common – there are around 160 billion of them in the Milky Way – this brings us to the surprising results that there are tens of millions of those planets in our galaxy alone’.”

“Their studies suggest that there are ‘super-Earths’ in habitable zones in 41% of the cases, with a range of 28 to 95%.

“‘40% of the red dwarf stars have a ‘super-Earth’ orbiting them in their habitable zone, where water in its liquid state may exist’.”

“That leads to the obvious question about whether any of those planets may not only be habitable but may also have life.”

“But these stars are prone to stellar eruptions, that can wash over the neighbouring planets with X-rays or ultra-violet radiation, making it less likely that life may exist there.

“‘We have an idea about how to find traces of life on those planets’, stated Stephane Udry, researcher at the Observatory of Geneva.”

“‘If we are able to see traces of elements related to life such as oxygen in that light, then we can obtain indications about whether there is life on that planet’.”

Simply reading these news items shows the possibility and the necessity we have of enriching our knowledge which today is fragmented and scattered.

Perhaps it takes us to more critical positions on the superficiality with which we deal with cultural and material problems. I have not the slightest doubt that our world is changing much more quickly than we are capable of imagining.