November 25, 2017 - No. 38

One Year Since the Loss of Fidel Castro

Fidel's Revolutionary Example
Inspires Millions to Fight for Sovereignty
and Uphold Principle


¡Fidel Presente, Siempre! Fidel Is Ever Present!
- Isaac Saney, Canadian Network on Cuba -
Revolution Is...
- Yenia Silva Correa -
Cuban People Pay Homage to Fidel on Anniversary of His Death
Fidel Honoured in Washington
Cuban Event on the Thought of Fidel Castro Held in Guantánamo
Every Word a Concept, an Idea
- Marta Rojas Rodríguez -
Fidel Launched Us into Battle
- Alejandra García -
Always Fidel
- Ciro Pérez Hebra -

One Year Since the Loss of Fidel Castro

Fidel's Revolutionary Example Inspires Millions to Fight for Sovereignty and Uphold Principle

In a tribute to Fidel at the time of his death, millions of Cubans sign the oath to the "Concept of Revolution" which concludes "Revolution means unity; it is independence, it is fighting for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism,
our socialism and our internationalism."

On November 25th we commemorate the first anniversary of the physical loss of the historic and legendary leader of the Cuban Revolution, Comrade Fidel Castro. During the past year, the Cuban people have turned their profound sadness at the loss of their beloved leader into greater strength and unity in their fight to defend their independence and sovereignty against imperialist interference. Facing natural disasters, such as the recent hurricanes that have caused great destruction across the island, and the increasingly brutal economic and financial blockade of the U.S., Cubans are united in overcoming all difficulties and safeguarding the revolution. Fidel's revolutionary spirit and profound generosity lives on in the workers, youth and students, health professionals, intellectuals and teachers who have proven that they are ready to make any sacrifice and overcome any difficulty to continue building the socialist economy so no one is left behind.

Fidel's example and fidelity to principle continue to inspire the Cuban people on the path of independence, self-determination and human dignity. One year ago, millions of Cubans in tribute to Fidel signed the oath to the "Concept of Revolution" which Fidel declared on May 1, 2000. The oath concludes; "Revolution means unity; it is independence, it is fighting for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism."

It has been shown in deeds in this past year that the life and work of Fidel Castro also live on in the hearts and minds of  millions of people throughout the world who are fighting for justice, dignity and freedom. The recent vote at the United Nations against the illegal U.S. economic and financial blockade of Cuba once again confirms that the world stands with Cuba and it is the U.S. which stands alone, not Cuba.

As President Raúl Castro pointed out at the mass tribute to Fidel in Santiago de Cuba one year ago, after Fidel passed away: "The permanent teaching of Fidel is that yes, we can; that man is able to overcome the harshest conditions if his will to win does not yield, he makes an evaluation of each situation and does not renounce his noble and just principles."

It is this revolutionary spirit that continues to guide the Cuban people on the road to guarantee their sovereignty and independence.

¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre, Comandante! ¡Venceremos!

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¡Fidel Presente, Siempre! Fidel Is Ever Present!

Today, November 25th, 2017, marks one year since Fidel Castro, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, took his physical leave of us. As he desired and wished, no statues have been erected in his honour; no streets, buildings or plazas carry his name.

Fidel requires no physical monuments. He is present in every struggle against imperial domination, oppression and exploitation. His ideas resonate and pulsate in the efforts to transform into reality the deepest aspirations of the peoples of the world to create societies founded on justice and human dignity.

It is profoundly fitting that as the world marks the first anniversary of Fidel's passing the people of Cuba are poised once again before the ballot boxes in another reaffirmation of their determination to continue along the road that Fidel forged. On January 1, 1959, the Cuban people under the leadership of Fidel took control of their country and destiny. Their successful resistance of the empire is the concrete reflection of the principled and dignified politics and leadership of Fidel.

No words can adequately convey the transcendent and singular meaning of Fidel; his significance extends far beyond the geographical boundaries of Cuba. Since its inception, the Cuban Revolution, under Fidel's leadership, has established an unparalleled legacy of internationalism and humanitarianism.

José Martí declared, "Trenches made of ideas are stronger than those made of stones" and "a just cause -- even one buried in the depths of a cave -- is mightier than an army."

Fidel is still with us in the trenches, shoulder-to-shoulder with us in our struggle to bring into being a better world, demonstrating what can be achieved by holding aloft the banners of Justice, Peace, Socialism, Internationalism and Human Dignity. His legacy continues to be a living testament and inspiration.

In this spirit, we declare along with the peoples of the world:

¡Fidel Presente, Siempre! Fidel Is Ever Present!

On behalf of the Canadian Network On Cuba

Isaac Saney
CNC Co-Chair and National-Spokesperson

Excerpt from Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro as
Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, to the
34th UN General Assembly, October 12, 1979

"I speak in the name of the children in the world who do not have a piece of bread. I speak in the name of the sick who do not have medicine. I speak on behalf of those whose right to life and human dignity have been denied...I am here to warn that either injustice and inequalities are solved peacefully and wisely, or the future is going to be apocalyptic. The sound of weapons, of threatening words and hegemony in the international arena must cease. Enough of the illusion that the world's problems can be solved with nuclear weapons. Bombs might kill the hungry, the sick and the ignorant, but they cannot kill hunger, disease, ignorance and the people's just rebellion. In the holocaust, the wealthy will also die. They are the ones that stand to lose the most in this world. Let us say farewell to arms and concentrate in a civilized manner on the most urgent problems of our time. This is the responsibility and most sacred duty of every statesman in the world. Furthermore, this is an indispensable requirement for humanity's survival."

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Revolution Is...

Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz announced his concept of Revolution
on May 1, 2000. 

One year after Fidel Castro Ruz passed away, Cuba remains a country in revolution.

A year after the death of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz, the Cuban people remain loyal to the ideas expressed in his concept of Revolution, announced on May 1, 2000 in Havana.

The many lessons of his legacy have proven vital at a time when the country is facing adverse weather events, undergoing necessary transformations, and working hard to build the kind of future to which we aspire.

From the most common to the most difficult situations, the twelve key points of Fidel's Concept of Revolution continue to mark the country's course as it looks to the future.

A Sense of the Historic Moment

This year Cuba paid well-deserved tribute to a figure whose example has transcended the limits of time and space: the Argentine-Cuban guerilla Ernesto Guevara de la Serna.

Homage to Che Guevara in Villa Clara, October 8, 2017.

At a time when right-wing forces are reclaiming positions in regional governments, returning to the ideas and experiences left to us by Fidel helps us to understand the history Cuba shares with the people of the Americas and the threat imperialism poses to the region.

Changing Everything that Must Be Changed

This principle is exemplified by improvements being made to the national education system (the third process of its kind to be undertaken in the country).

With well-defined objectives (raising the quality of the teaching process, putting a greater emphasis on the role of students in the learning process, and recognizing the figure of the teacher), Cuban schools are aiming to transform themselves into the most important educational centers in the community and continue to fulfill their responsibility of training the new generations.

Cuban schools, faithful to the Revolution and ideas of Fidel, are "changing everything that
must be changed" in order to improve.

Full Equality and Freedom

These are rights that are being legitimized and defended in the country's 2017-2018 general elections, a genuine expression of citizen participation. Cuba is one of just five countries worldwide where the minimum voting age is 16, while individuals are eligible to hold a position in Parliament once they reach 18 years of age.

The 2017-2018 general elections are a genuine expression of the principles of full equality and freedom expressed in Fidel's concept of Revolution.

However, the years of struggle that it has taken to reach these achievements for present and future generations have been far greater; and must be preserved and protected.

Being Treated and Treating Others Like Human Beings

This is a principle which has been present in the humanist character of Cuban medicine, the most obvious examples being the doctors and nurses, who since the earliest years of the Revolution, have offered their solidarity and assistance in the most difficult circumstance all over the world.

The internationalist work of Cuban doctors is one of the clearest examples of what Revolution means to the people of the island.

On January 31, 2017, the World Health Organization awarded the Dr. Lee Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health to Cuba's Henry Reeve medical brigade -- created by Fidel -- in recognition of their work combating natural disasters and serious epidemics around the world.

Emancipating Ourselves on Our Own and Through Our Own Efforts

For almost 60 years of Revolution, Cuba has invested a great amount into training highly-qualified human resources, committed to the principles of socialism and the country's development.

Meanwhile, the computerization of Cuban society, the policy for which was approved this past February by the Council of Ministers, is one of the most important processes currently being carried out on the island. It is among the efforts undertaken by the country's leadership to emancipate "ourselves on our own and through our own efforts," by prioritizing Information and Communications Technologies as a strategic sector closely linked to the island's economic growth and social development.

Challenging Powerful Dominant Forces In and Beyond
the Social and National Arena

For almost 60 years Cuba has resisted aggression by the United States, which has used a wide variety of methods in an effort to crush the spirit of the Cuban people and eliminate its principal leaders.

In order to emancipate "ourselves on our own and through our own efforts," the
country is undertaking a process to computerize Cuban society and has the
highly-qualified human resources to do so.

The continued application of the economic, commercial and financial blockade; attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the country; efforts to isolate Cuba politically within the international community; the development and implementation of subversive programs; as well as the refusal to return territory illegally occupied by the Naval Base in Guantánamo, are only a few examples of the struggles Cuba faces, which have been, and will continue to be, difficult.

Defending the Values in Which We Believe at the
Cost of Any Sacrifice

The U.S. should not expect Cuba to "make concessions inherent to its independence, or accept preconditions of any sort," according to a Statement by the Revolutionary Government issued in June this year. This followed the announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump of the elimination of individual people-to-people travel, the prohibition of economic, commercial and financial transactions between U.S. companies and Cuban entities affiliated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces or intelligence and security services.

Modesty, Selflessness, Altruism, Solidarity and Heroism

A prime example of such principles are the tireless efforts of Cuban doctors and teachers, who even under difficult conditions, ensure that the people enjoy their rights to health and education.

So too is the resolve with which Cubans face daily challenges caused by the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the United States, the way in which we share what we have and not what's left over; our composure as we prepare to face the future with the banner of socialism held high.

Fighting with Courage, Intelligence and Realism

The fact that Cuba is an island is an irrefutable reality which makes the nation more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Last May, the Council of Ministers, approved the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment's Tarea Vida (Life Task) project which -- as part of the government's strategy to combat climate change -- features measures to preserve the life of people in vulnerable areas, food security, and the development of tourism.

Not only are human, material, and natural resources important to the country's development, but so too is knowing how to use them wisely.

Never Lying or Violating Ethical Principles

The well-founded response by Cuban authorities to allegations of "sonic attacks" against diplomats from the United States Embassy on the island, not only confirms the seriousness with which Cuba complies with international agreements on the safety and integrity of diplomatic personnel, but also features scientific arguments proving the existence of a campaign aimed at reversing advances made in the normalization of relations between the northern country and Cuba.

A Profound Conviction that There Is No Power in the World that Can Crush the Power of Truth and Ideas 

The mass marches held across towns and cities nationwide as part of May Day celebrations, demonstrate how important defending the truth and our ideas are to the Cuban people.

On the principle that "Cuba will not renounce its ideas of independence and social justice," hundreds of thousands of workers, with their families and friends from all over the globe, came together at the place where Fidel announced his concept of Revolution 17 years before.

Unity; It Is Independence, It Is Fighting for Our Dreams of
Justice for Cuba and for the World, Which Is the Foundation of
Our Patriotism, Our Socialism, and Our Internationalism

This premise alone encapsulates the unconditional support shown by Cuba in international forums for the most noble causes, including the struggle against illiteracy; training foreign students on the island; its opposition to all the forms of colonialism which still exist in the world today: and its solidarity with progressive and legitimately elected governments, and the oppressed classes. It is the humanist essence that has characterized this almost 60-year process, which would not have been possible without Fidel.

May Day 2017 in Havana. Fidel's image was present in plazas across the country during
May Day celebrations.

(Granma, November 23, 2017. Edited slightly by TML for style and clarity. Photos:, Jose M. Correa, Emmanuel Vigil Fonseca, Yaimí Ravelo, Leidy María Labrador Herrera)

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Cuban People Pay Homage to Fidel on the
Anniversary of His Death

A Cuban youth places a rose at Fidel's tomb, Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in
Santiago de Cuba, November 23, 2017.

Today, November 25, and in the days leading up to the first anniversary of the death of their leader, Fidel Castro Ruz, the Cuban people are paying tribute to Fidel with activities that express their profound commitment to the revolutionary outlook that he epitomized and that continues to inspire them.

Cuban publications issue special editions to mark this anniversary, including a special 100-page volume by CubaDebate compiling articles on Fidel it published November 26-29, 2016.
To download the book, click here.

The CubaDebate website includes a page where Cubans can leave their personal
tributes to Fidel. To view, click here.

Youth and students pay tribute to Fidel at his alma mater, the University of Havana,
November 25, 2017 in an event called "Cantata por Fidel" (Song for Fidel).

Tribute to Fidel at the Cuban Embassay in Ottawa, November 26, 2017. Such tributes are held at Cuban diplomatic offices worldwide and in the many places were Cuban personnel are present as part of its internationalism.

Tribute to Fidel at the Cuban Embassy in Uruguay, November 25, 2017.

Tribute to Fidel at the Cuban Embassy in Uruguay, November 25, 2017.

Cuban collaborators in Angola hold a tribute to Fidel, November 25, 2017.

Youth in Las Tunas setup their tribute to Fidel in the centre of the city, November 25, 2017.

In Pinar del Río, a colloquium on the mark Fidel left on Pinar del Río province,
November 25, 2017.

Workers at the V.I. Lenin Hospital in Holguín pay tribute to Fidel, November 25, 2017. 

The Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC) pays tribute to Fidel on November 24, 2017 with the inauguration of a photo exhibit entitled "Fidel Among Us" at its headquarters in Havana. The photos document 64 of Fidel's visits to the CTC at decisive points in the country's history
and that of the CTC. 

In Havana on November 24, 2017, an exhibit of paintings by the young artist Reinier Saavedra Sotolongo in tribute to Fidel, titled "Semblanza" (Semblance), opens at the José Martí Memorial in Revolution Square. At left, Cuban hero René González.

A workshop on "The Strategic Thought of Fidel Castro Ruz: International Relations and Foreign Policy," November 23, 2017.

Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López Rivera, comes to pay his respects on
November 21, 2017, accompanied by Cuban hero Fernando González Llort, President of the
Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

Cuban singer-song writer Raúl Torres debuts a new song written in memory of Fidel, titled "Laureles y Olivos" (Laurels and Olives).

(Photos: Granma, CubaDebate, Telepinar, Trabajadores, ACN, Haciendo Radio, Y. Perez, I. Ojeda Bello, E. Fernandez Brizuela, A. Oliva)

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Fidel Honoured in Washington

The willingness of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, to improve relations with the United States while preserving the island's sovereignty was highlighted during a panel discussion in honour of the first anniversary of the revolutionary leader's death, November 25, 2016.

Renowned researcher Julia Sweig speaking during a panel dedicated to Fidel. On the left are activist Gail Walker and Cuban Ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas; on the right is Cuban-American lawyer José Pertierra. 

The panel was moderated by Cuban Ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas and featured U.S. experts who discussed Fidel's continual efforts to improve relations with the northern neighbour and strengthen ties with U.S. citizens.

Before diplomats from various countries and friends of Cuba, Executive Director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace Gail Walker highlighted the altruistic essence of the Cuban Revolution and the support offered by the island to many countries around the world.

The activist noted that Cuba extended its solidarity to the United States following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Fidel offered to send over 1,500 doctors to treat victims of the disaster, a proposal that was rejected by then President George W. Bush.

Panel discussion dedicated to Fidel at the Cuban Embassy in Washington.

Walker also mentioned the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, where 170 U.S. citizens from underserved communities have been trained to date, as part of an initiative set up by the Comandante en Jefe.

Meanwhile, Latin American studies expert Julia Sweig, recalled seeing Fidel debate issues related to Cuba with some of his strongest critics. According to the former member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, the Caribbean leader held open discussions with U.S. economic, cultural, and political figures, in which he encouraged the strengthening of ties between the two countries.

Speaking to Prensa Latina, Sweig pointed out that although the U.S. public is very diverse, the vast majority support the normalization of relations with Cuba, and noted Fidel's contribution to achieving this goal.

Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project with the George Washington University's National Security Archive, explained that the Comandante en Jefe was well aware of the difference between the U.S. government and the people.

The historian, who recently traveled to Cuba to visit the place where Fidel Castro's remains are interred at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, in Santiago de Cuba, spoke about the various occasions on which the revolutionary reached out to the U.S. government.

Kornbluh, co-author of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, stated that Fidel was always willing to engage in dialogue, only asking that the island's sovereignty be respected.

This was reaffirmed by Cuban-American attorney José Pertierra, who noted that the only thing Fidel was unwilling to accept was the imposition of conditions.

Unlike the U.S. government, Fidel was willing to maintain good relations from the start. It was the United States that presented the problem, not Cuba, Pertierra asserted.

(Prensa Latina, November 22, 2017. Slightly edited by TML for grammar and style.)

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Cuban Event on Thought of Fidel Castro
Held in Guantánamo

The University of Guantánamo (UG), from November 16 to 18, hosted Cuba's First National Scientific Event on Fidel Castro's Thought in Contemporary Times, to promote scientific exchange on the life of the Cuban leader and his international significance. The event was sponsored by the Ministry of Higher Education, the José Martí Cultural Society, the Association of Pedagogues of Cuba and also the Honorary Chair for the Study of the Thought and Work of Fidel Castro Ruz and the AfroCaribbean Studies Department of the UG, among other institutions.

The event took place almost a year after the death of Cuba's Commander in Chief and more than 150 professors and university students from almost the entire country attended, Elcira Favier Pereira, president of the organizing committee, told the Cuban News Agency.

Featured participants included leading national experts from the field, such as Francisca López Civeira, prestigious researcher at the University of Havana; Katiuska Blanco, journalist and student of Fidel's life; and René González Barrios, President of the Institute of History of Cuba.

The opening day of the event began with the keynote speech titled, "Being Marxist-Leninist Like Fidel Castro," delivered by Dr. Rafael Cervantes Martínez, Director of the Department of Marxism and History of the Ministry of Higher Education.

The program also included seven symposiums. Their themes covered the foundational thinking of the ideology of the Cuban Revolution and its impact on the revolutionary work of Fidel Castro; the influence of José Martí, Ernesto Guevara and Marxism-Leninism in the praxis of Fidel Castro; the scope of Fidel's actions in the international context; the Concept of the Revolution articulated by Fidel as the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable socialism; and the transcendence of Fidel's thought in Cuban university students, a discussion reserved for students.

Among the other activities at the event was the planting of a caguairán tree at the Raúl Gómez García headquarters of the UG to commemorate Fidel's life and work. This tree, whose wood is of exceptional hardness, is considered by Cubans a symbol of the moral firmness of the leader of the Cuban Revolution.

(Juventud Rebelde)

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Every Word a Concept, an Idea

Fidel presents his "Concept of Revolution" during 2000 May Day speech in Havana.

The first time I read "Every word an idea" on the poster of the Concept of Revolution expressed by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, the first word that struck me was "modesty." I thought back to a time as long ago as 1955 when, as everyone would agree, Fidel was already considered to be a knowledgeable man. Upon graduating from the Belén school, the lofty praise of the Jesuit priests left no doubt that he was, and would later become even more so.

By 1955, the young lawyer had already given his indisputably rich and eloquent self-defense known as History Will Absolve Me.

However, the word "modesty" made me think back to a passage from a letter or document -- I can't remember exactly which -- that Haydée Santamaría gave me to read in May 1955: "Read this passage by Fidel, you're going to like it." It was just a section that could have been from some document about his plans, a letter to a friend or to Haydée and Melba [Hernández] about their revolutionary plans,[1] which, logically, were of the utmost discretion. I read the passage marked. I was at Melba's parents' house on Jovellar Street where, after the two women were released from Guanajay prison, they had set up an office to receive everything sent by Fidel while he was in prison on the Isle of Youth, following the Moncada attack.

I took the piece of paper, which was folded to show just the passage and dated May 19. I read in Fidel's handwriting:

"I'm obsessed with [the novel] Cecilia Valdés by Villaverde. It hadn't interested me for years but now I'm in a hurry to read it. I have lived happy days, enthralled, oblivious to everything, practically transported to the last century, in the pages of this formidable history of Cuba.

Cuban theatre production based on classic novel Cecilia Valdés by Villaverde.

"For quite some time now I have wanted to know more about our past, our population, and the people of yesterday. My enthusiasm, interest, and passion in everything I'm reading about helps me. This time I want to talk about the work of the person who superbly painted that period, some aspects of which are still alive in the Cuban mentality, above all in regards to that interesting problem of slavery, because I'm realizing that it is the cause of a great part of the enormous confusion and vacillations which characterized Cuban political thought through 1868.

"When it comes down to it, reading a novel is a method I like because it allows me to take a rest from study while redoubling my interest. I often feel a little tempted to break into the field of fiction; although luckily, history occupies me, and even more so, when it's in this form, when it's not just political, economic, socio-cultural history, but the broadest and deepest history you could ask for.

"I commemorated December 7 by reading, full of profound veneration, Maceo's letters and documents in the volume I have from the Cuban Society of Historic Studies. Days earlier I spent charming moments with Zweig's biography, indisputably superior to that of Rourke. So that's how the days go by, quite easily in fact."[2]

What modesty and an interest in history!

Further down, almost at the end of the now historic Concept of Revolution according to Fidel, I read: "Fighting for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism." I was struck by more than just a word, and just like that, I began to recall more of Fidel's remarks. It was almost like I was hearing him speak, just like I had during the Moncada trial when he referred to the revolutionary program led by the July 26 movement, and which would soon become a strategic victory and definitive triumph of the Revolution.

At that time (1953) he said, "We also declare that Cuba's policy in Latin America will be one of close solidarity with the peoples of the continent and those politically persecuted by bloody tyrannies..."

Thus just like Martí, whom Fidel proclaimed as the intellectual author of the Moncada assault, every word, speech, or concept, outlined in brief passages by Fidel, is an eternal expression of his sense of the historic moment.

Fidel Castro (centre) and other Moncada rebels released from prison, May 1955, following a failed attempt to overthrow U.S.-installed puppet dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista on July 26, 1953.

Marta Rojas Rodríguez is a Cuban writer and journalist. Freshly graduated from journalism school in Havana in 1953, she covered the events of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, including the trial of Fidel Castro, although the reports she submitted were censored. She joined Granma in 1965. In 1997, she was awarded the José Martí National Prize for Journalism in recognition of her life's work.


1. Haydée Santamaría and Melba Hernández were both veterans of the attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953, and went on to take part in the Cuban Revolution.

2. After the triumph of the Revolution, documents and letters written by Fidel from his cell on the Isle of Youth were published, including the one referencing Villaverde's novel.

(Granma, November 22, 2017. Slightly edited by TML for grammar and addition of information on author and first note.)

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Fidel Launched Us into Battle

Youth honour guard at University of Havana, November 28, 2016, following Fidel's death.

November 17, 2005, was a hectic day at the University of Havana (UH). Celebrations for International Students' Day, at that time commemorating 60 years since the Commandeer in Chief first entered this higher education institution, had attracted thousands of university students from all across the city, impatiently waiting for Fidel to arrive.

That day changed our lives forever, recalls Dr. Elier Ramírez Cañedo speaking to Granma International, who despite being President of the UH's Federation of University Students at the time, almost couldn't get into the Aula Magna [Great Hall] where Fidel was scheduled to speak. Once inside, however, he noted that such an atmosphere of intimacy was created that every student felt as though Fidel was speaking directly to them.

Fidel began with words of gratitude to the youth gathered there, and a sort of apology.

"You have been very kind in commemorating a very special day today: the 60th anniversary of my timid start at this University [...] Not to have attended, at this time, a ceremony in the Aula Magna, invited by you all, would have been the greatest sorrow of my life," stated Fidel.

This encounter was Fidel's return to the starting point, explains the young historian. It was his return to the place where "this island, this small island's concern" began, at a time when "there was still no talk of globalization, television didn't exist, there was no Internet or instant communication from one side of the planet to the other, when telephones hardly existed [...]," as the leader of the Revolution explained to the youth assembled there that November afternoon.

According to Ramírez, "He spoke with the university students, in whom he always had trust, in order to tell them things that perhaps he might not have felt as comfortable or encouraged to address in other settings." This was an important speech.

Fidel speaking at University of Havana, November 17, 2005.

That November 17, the Commander in Chief expressed an idea which inevitably underlies the rational understanding of any historical process: the possibility that transformations can be undone.

In this sense, Fidel explained that "among the many errors we have all committed, the most important has been to believe that any one of us knew about socialism, or that any one one of us knew how to build socialism."

Later he questioned whether revolutions are destined to fail or, "is it people that bring down revolutions? Can people, or can society stop revolutions from collapsing? [...] This Revolution can be destroyed ... we can destroy it, and it will be our own fault."

However, Fidel was also optimistic, says Ramírez. He trusted in the ability of the people, and above all the youth to whom his comments were directed, to tackle the country's main problems.

"If we are going to wage a battle we must use better quality missiles, there must be criticism and self-criticism in the classroom, in the [Party] nucleus, and then beyond the nucleus, then in the municipality, and then across the country," stated the Commander in Chief speaking from the podium of that magnificent space where the remains of Cuban philosopher and priest Félix Varela lie in a marble urn.

Thus, his words marked a "before and after in the course of the Revolution."

"He focused the lens on our own errors; errors which are more dangerous than the entire machinery of our powerful enemies. I mean, without these problems, which Fidel denounced, such as wastefulness, corruption, bureaucracy, and other ills, no enemy, no matter how powerful, would be able to advance in their plans," explains Ramírez.

This doesn't mean that Cuba should ignore external threats, "but that we should also focus more attention on those internal ills that could destroy the Revolution," he adds.

Fidel couldn't have been any more explicit: "This country can destroy itself; this Revolution can be destroyed. Today, they [the imperialist powers] cannot destroy it; but we can, we can destroy it and it will be our fault."

This doesn't mean that external enemies no longer represent a threat to Cuba, highlights Ramírez, but that Fidel "called on us to broaden our idea of this enemy, because we had allies of the northern neighbour who facilitated its work, right here in the country."

"Fidel revealed that the Revolution can only be sustained by overcoming these internal ills," adds Ramirez, still moved by that fascinating and enlightening celebration in honor of International Students' Day at the University of Havana.

Fidel's words were magical and "we all surrendered before that special ability of his to mobilize us. They were a battle cry," he states.

Fidel pictured among the youth, September 12, 2004.

(Granma, November 17, 2017. Edited slightly for grammar and style by TML.)

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Always Fidel

Cerro Pelado, the ship which carried Cuban athletes to the 10th Central American and
Caribbean Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1966.

This story began months before the 10th Central American and Caribbean Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1966, when the President of Cuba's Olympic Committee, Manuel González Guerra, was informed by the United States State Department that visas for Cuban athletes to participate in the event could not be processed by the Swiss embassy in Havana.

Avery Brundage, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC); General José Jesús Clark Flores member from Mexico; and Felicio Torregrosa, President of the Committee in Puerto Rico discussed the situation and demanded that U.S. authorities approve the visas, but the promised response did not arrive from the State Department. General Clark Flores insisted that Puerto Rico's Olympic endorsement would be withdrawn if Cuba's participation in the Games was not resolved.

State Department director for Caribbean and Mexican Affairs Allen Stewart responded that the athlete's visas would be processed in the U.S. embassy in Mexico, and the IOC recommended that Cuba's Olympic Committee accept the proposal. The process was initiated, but 10 days before the Games were to take place, the State Department announced that visas would not be awarded, that the athletes' passports would be given a special stamp, and it also denied permission for Cubana Airlines craft to land in San Juan.

The Cuban Olympic Committee denounced this aggression and demanded respect for international norms and regulations governing the organization of regional multi-event games. Our right to participate in the Central American and Caribbean Games was defended.

In this situation, the heroic events surrounding the ship Cerro Pelado emerged, June 7, 1966, demonstrating the fighting spirit and commitment of the country's nascent sports movement. With characteristic speed and discretion Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz conceptualized, ordered and directed the battle.

In Santiago de Cuba, the merchant ship was prepared with great care and equipped for the voyage to San Juan, with basic accommodations for the Cuban athletes. The reconditioning included dormitories, a kitchen, massage and dining halls, plus areas for rest and relaxation. Set to travel aboard the ship were the 365 members of Cuba's delegation -- athletes, coaches, medical staff, sports leaders, and journalists.

Participants today recall much of this as surprising. The days leading up to the Games had been busy ones for those organizing the delegation's participation in San Juan, but many of us were not aware of the details.

The entire group departed from Havana's José Martí International Airport on the Cubana planes we thought would take us to Puerto Rico, but we landed first in Camagüey and then in Santiago de Cuba. Here we learned that the rest of the trip would not be by air, but by sea. From this heroic city we cast off on the Cerro Pelado, with the valuable "cargo" in the hands of a first class crew led by Captain Onelio Pino.

After many hours at sea, drawing close to the shores of Puerto Rico, with athletes exercising and training on deck, a U.S. Coast Guard plane approached the ship flying low, and dropped a note saying that our entry into U.S. territorial waters, San Juan, or Puerto Rico was prohibited. Filmmaker Santiago Álvarez from the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) recovered the note, and cameraman Iván Nápoles, filmed the plane's swoop over the ship to preserve the memory for all time.

Before arriving, assembled on the ship's deck, we unanimously approved the Declaration of Cerro Pelado that outlined the current and future principles of Cuban sports. After it was read aloud by José Llanusa Gobel, director of the Institute of Sports, Recreation and Physical Education (INDER).

Three miles from San Juan on June 10, General Clark Flores and Puerto Rican sports leader Germán Rieckehoff Sampayo boarded the ship, and met with José Llanusa Gobel, head of the delegation, and Manuel González Guerra, President of the Cuban Olympic Committee, to make the necessary logistical arrangements for the delegation's landing. It was a difficult and dangerous operation; the sharks were circling. The ladder of private ship Reacok touched the Cerro Pelado; 100 persons went down the ladder.

We barely arrived in time at Hiram Bithorn Stadium where the inauguration was set to take place. We paraded and the Puerto Rican people greeted us with applause and a group of friends chanted in solidarity, "Cuba, Cuba, Cuba!" The press gave our arrival significant coverage, and the landing was broadcast live on radio.

Despite the difficulties, the Cuban delegation performed with dignity and determination, winning 77 medals -- 34 gold, 20 silver, and 23 bronze -- to take second place in the medal count.

A group of enemies of the Revolution physically attacked and verbally insulted our delegation, but they were never able to undermine the principles, integrity, or dignity of our people.

The return trip to Cuba began. The first several hours at sea went by as we conversed happily on deck. Friend and broadcast announcer Eddy Martin said to me, "What a delegation!" Granma reporter Juan Marrero commented, "A performance that met the demands," and Llanusa Gobel concluded, "A happy ending!"

Fidel boards the Cerro Pelado.

We were drawing close to the Santiago de Cuba coast and I remember, 50 years ago, a small boat approached the Cerro Pelado. The ladder was placed at the ship's side, and with a strong wind gusting, Fidel climbed up, wearing a raincoat, accompanied by other leaders of the Revolution. The emotion brought tears to my eyes, which blended with the rain on my face.

The Commander in Chief greeted us all and said, "I am very proud of your revolutionary attitude and athletic performance," adding, "The homeland salutes your loyalty and determination."

Later would come the events and official reception, June 29, 1966, when Fidel spoke and asked, "Why try to prevent the participation of a country where sports is no longer a privilege for the rich, exploiting few, where sports activity is not only for the children of the rich?..."

He went on to say, "With this event, the Revolution has won one more battle against imperialism." He continued, "What the Cuban Olympic Committee did was denounce the U.S. government's coercion, demanding conditions of a political order that had nothing to do with sports, to allow the presence of Cuba in their colony, Puerto Rico."

At another point during his talk, he said, "Very few times, perhaps never before in any Central American event, has a delegation, such a large number of athletes from the same country, won so many medals." He emphasized, "Perhaps no other delegation from our homeland merits so much gratitude, for the battle waged, for the victories won at the most difficult moments, for the dignity shown at all times."

The Cerro Pelado feat again demonstrated how Fidel was always with us, and has accompanied us to victory.

Ciro Pérez Hebra is a journalist and was member of Cuba's delegation to the 10th Central American and Caribbean Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(Granma, June 20, 2016. Edited slightly for style by TML.)

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