Fidel’s enduring lesson is that, yes, it is possible
Remarks by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, during the political posthumous tribute to Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, in Santiago de Cuba’s Plaza Mayor General Antonio Maceo Grajales, December 3, 2016, “Year 58 of the Revolution”
Compatriots here today in representation of the eastern provinces and Camagüey;
People of Santiago de Cuba;
Dear people of Cuba:
This afternoon, upon arrival to the heroic city, the funeral procession transporting Fidel’s ashes, which retraced in reverse the route of the Caravan of Liberty of 1959, and visited emblematic sites in Santiago de Cuba, birthplace of the Revolution where, just as in the rest of the country, it was met with demonstrations of love by the Cuban people.
Tomorrow, his ashes will be laid to rest in a simple ceremony in the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, located very close to the Mausoleum of National Hero José Martí; his compañeros in the struggle at Moncada, from the Granma, and Rebel Army, from the clandestine campaign and internationalist missions.
The tombs of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, father of the homeland, and the legendary Mariana Grajales, mother of the Maceo brothers and, daring to improvise in this act, also the mother of all Cuban men and women, are located just a few feet away. Also close by is the pantheon where the remains of the unforgettable Frank País García rest; a young man from Santiago, murdered by Batista’s henchmen at only 22 years of age, one month after his younger brother Josué died fighting in an operation in this city. Frank’s age didn’t stop him from accumulating an exemplary trajectory of resistance against the dictatorship, in which he stood out as leader of the armed uprising in Santiago de Cuba, on November 30, 1956, in support of the landing of the Granma expedition, as well as his decisive role in organizing the sending of weapons and combatants to the nascent Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra.
Ever since the news of the passing of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, late on the evening of November 25, pain and sadness have overwhelmed the Cuban people who, deeply moved by his irreparable physical disappearance, have shown integrity, patriotic conviction, discipline, and maturity by attending, en mass, the tribute activities organized, and swearing to uphold the oath of loyalty to the conception of Revolution, articulated by Fidel on May 1, 2000. November 28 and 29, millions of compatriots signed their names in support of the Revolution.
Amidst the pain of these days we have once again felt pride and comfort in the outstanding reactions of children and young Cubans, who reaffirm their willingness to be committed continuators of the ideals of the leader of the Revolution.
On behalf of our people, the Party, State, government, and family members, I reiterate our most heartfelt thanks for the innumerable displays of respect and affection toward Fidel, his ideas and his work, which continue to arrive from all corners of the globe.
Faithful to Martí’s philosophy that “all the glory in the world fits into a kernel of corn,” the leader of the Revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality, and remained true to this position until the last hours of his life, insisting that, after his death, his name and likeness never be used to designate institutions, plazas, parks, avenues, streets, or other public spaces, nor monuments, busts, statues, and other such tributes be erected.
In accordance with compañero Fidel’s decision, during the next period of sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power, we will present necessary legislative proposals to ensure his will is upheld.
Our dear friend Bouteflika, President of Algeria, rightly said that Fidel possessed the extraordinary ability to travel into the future, return, and explain it. On July 26, 1989, in the city of Camagüey, the Comandante en Jefe predicted, two-and-a-half years in advance, the disappearance of the Soviet Union and socialist camp, and stated before the world that if this were the case, Cuba would continue to defend the banner of socialism.
Fidel’s authority and his close relationship with the people were key to the country’s heroic resistance during the dramatic years of the Special Period, when the nation’s Gross Domestic Product fell 34.8% and the Cuban people’s food situation deteriorated significantly, we suffered blackouts lasting 16 to 20 hours a day, and a good part of our industry and public transport was paralyzed. Despite this however, we were able to safeguard public health and education for the entire nation.
I recall the Party meetings in the different regions: east, in the city of Holguín; central, in the city of Santa Clara; and west in the capital of the Republic, Havana, held in July 1994 to analyze how to tackle, with greater efficiency and cohesion, the challenges of the special period, the growing imperialist blockade and media campaigns geared toward sowing despair among citizens. We all left theses meetings, including the one held in the western region, presided by Fidel, convinced that with the combined strength and intelligence of the masses under the leadership of the Party, it would, and was, possible to transform the special period into a new victorious battle in the country’s history.
At that time few in the world would have bet on our ability to resist and overcome in the face of adversity and the intensification of the enemy blockade. Our people, however, under the leadership of Fidel, provided an unforgettable lesson in resolve and loyalty to the principles of the Revolution.
Recalling these difficult moments, I think it right and fitting to return to what I said about Fidel on July 26, 1994, one of the most difficult years, on the Isle of Youth, over 22 years ago, I quote: “The most illustrious son of Cuba this century, he who showed us that the attempt to capture the Moncada Garrison was possible; that we were able to turn that loss into a victory,” which we achieved five years, five months. and five days later, on that glorious January 1 of 1959 – this last comment added to the words I spoke on that occasion (Applause).
He showed us, “Yes, it was possible to reach the coast of Cuba in the Granma yacht; that yes, it was possible to resist the enemy, hunger, rain and cold, and organize a revolutionary army in the Sierra Maestra following the Alegría de Pío debacle; that yes, it was possible to open new guerilla fronts in the province of Oriente, with ours and Almeida’s columns; that yes, it was possible to defeat the great offensive of over 10,000 soldiers with only 300 rifles,” after which Che wrote in his Campaign Diary, that with this victory the backbone of the army of the tyranny had been broken: “That yes, it was possible to repeat the feats of Maceo and Gómez, extending with Che and Camilo’s columns the struggle from the east to the west of the island; that yes, it was possible to defeat, with the support of the entire people, the tyranny of Batista, backed by U.S. imperialism.
“The man that showed us that yes, it was possible to defeat in 72 hours,” or even less, “the mercenary invasion of Playa Girón and at the same time, continue the campaign to eradicate illiteracy in one year,” as was happened in 1961.
“That yes, it was possible to proclaim the socialist character of the Revolution 90 miles from the empire, and when its warships advanced toward Cuba, following the brigade of mercenary troops; that yes, it was possible to resolutely uphold the inalienable principles of our sovereignty, without fear of the threat of nuclear aggression by the United States in those days of the October 1962 missile crisis.
“That yes, it was possible to offer solidarity assistance to other sister peoples struggling against colonial oppression, external aggression and racism.
“That yes, it was possible to defeat the racist South Africans, saving Angola’s territorial integrity, forcing Namibia’s independence and delivering a harsh blow to the apartheid regime.
“That yes, it was possible to turn Cuba into a medical power, reduce infant mortality first, to the lowest rate in the Third World, then as compared with other rich countries; because at least on this continent our rate of infant mortality of children under one year of age is lower than Canada’s and United States (Applause), and at the same time, significantly increase the life expectancy of our population.
“That yes, it was possible to transform Cuba into a great scientific hub, advance in the modern and decisive felids of genetic engineering and biotechnology; insert ourselves within the fortress of international pharmaceuticals; develop tourism, despite the U.S. blockade; build causeways in the sea to make Cuba increasingly more attractive, obtaining greater monetary income from our natural charms.
“That yes, it is possible to resist, survive, and develop without renouncing our principles or the achievements won by socialism in a unipolar world dominated by the transnationals which emerged after the fall of the socialist camp in Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
“Fidel’s enduring lesson is that yes it is possible, that humans are able to overcome the harshest conditions as long as their willingness to triumph does not falter, they accurately assess every situation, and do not renounce their just and noble principles,” end of quote.
These are the words that I expressed more than two decades ago about a man, who, following the first disastrous battle at Alegría de Pío – which the day after tomorrow will celebrate its 60th anniversary – never lost faith in victory, and 13 days later, already in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, on December 18 of the aforementioned year, with seven rifles and a fist full of combatants, stated: “Now we have won the war! (Applause and shouts of “Fidel, Fidel! That’s Fidel!”).
This is the undefeated Fidel that brings us together through his example and demonstration that, Yes, it was possible, yes, it is possible, and yes, it will be possible! (Applause and shouts of “Yes, we can!”). So, I repeat that he demonstrated that yes, it was possible, yes, it is possible, and yes, it will be possible to overcome any obstacle, threat or disturbance in our resolute effort to build socialism in Cuba, or in other words guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the homeland! (Applause).
Before Fidel’s remains, in the Plaza de la Revolución Mayor General Antonio Maceo Grajales, in the heroic city of Santiago de Cuba, we swear to defend the homeland and socialism! (Shouts of “We swear!”) And together we all reaffirm that expressed by the Bronze Titan: “Whoever attempts to conquer Cuba, will gather the dust of her blood-soaked soil, if he does not perish in fight! (Shouts)
Fidel, Fidel! ¡Hasta la Victoria! (Shouts of “¡Siempre!) (Shouts of: “Raúl is Fidel! and “¡Raúl, tranquilo, el pueblo está contigo!” (Raúl, don’t worry, the people are with you!).