‘There hasn’t been a day in my life in which I haven’t learned something’

The following note and message from Fidel Castro was sent to President of the Cuban National Assembly Ricardo Alarcon on Dec. 27, 2007. It was then sent out to press outlets via e-mail.

Dear comrade Alarcón:

Please read the following message, addressed to the National Assembly, when you open the morning session.

A heartfelt embrace,

Fidel Castro Ruz

Comrades of the National Assembly:

You have no easy task on your hands. On Jan. 1, 1959, [the date of the Cuban revolution] we were surrounded by the accumulated and deepening grievances that our society had inherited from its neo-colonial past when it was under U.S. domination. Many of us dreamed of creating a fully independent nation where justice prevailed, but during the difficult and uneven struggle, there came a time when we were left completely alone.

Nearly 50 years after the revolution

Today, nearly 50 years since the triumph of the revolution, we can justifiably feel proud of ourselves. We have held our ground for almost half a century in the struggle against the most powerful empire ever to exist in history. The year 2006 was both difficult and promising for the revolution. The unity of the people, the party and state were essential to continue moving forward. They were essential to face up to the threat of a military action by the United States.

None of you saw signs of nepotism or an attempt to usurp parliamentary powers in the proclamation I signed on July 31, 2006.

This past Dec. 24, Raúl visited the various districts of the municipality which honored me by nominating me to represent them in parliament. This is a district famous for its militancy, but it has a low educational level. Raúl noted that all of the numerous candidates proposed by the people of that district had nevertheless completed their higher education. This, he said on Cuban television, profoundly impressed him.

Party and government cadres [activists] and grassroots organizations face new challenges in their work. Cubans are an intelligent, watchful and educated people who detest bureaucratic hurdles and red tape. Deep down, every citizen wages an individual battle against humanity’s innate tendency to limit itself to its survival instincts, a natural law which governs all life.

We are all born marked by that instinct, an instinct that science defines as primary. Coming face to face with this instinct is rewarding. It leads us to a dialectical process and to a constant and altruistic struggle bringing us closer to José Martí and making us true communists.

Duty to fight on

What the international press has emphasized most in its reports on Cuba in recent days is the statement I made on Dec. 17, in a letter to the director of Cuban television’s Round Table program. I said that I am not clinging to power. I could add that at one time I did. This was due to my youth and lack of awareness, without any guidance, moved from political ignorance, to becoming a utopian socialist. At that stage in my life I believed I knew what had to be done and wanted to be in a position to do it!

What made me change? Life did and I delved more deeply into Martí’s ideas and those of the classics of socialism. The more deeply I became involved in the struggle, the more strongly I identified with those aims. Well before the victory of the revolution I was already convinced that it was my duty to fight for these aims or to die in combat.

Danger of greenhouse gases

Today we also face great risks that threaten the human species as a whole. This has become more and more evident to me since I predicted, for the first time in Rio de Janeiro — 15 years ago, in June 1992 — that the destruction of any species’ natural habitat threatens it with extinction. Today, the number of people who understand the real danger to our species grows every day.

A recent book by Joseph Stiglitz, former vice-president of the World Bank, offers up-to-date and irrefutable facts on the subject. Stiglitz was President Clinton’s chief economic advisor until 2002, and a Nobel Prize winner. He criticizes the United States for being the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide, a gas that disrupts the very atmosphere which makes life possible. The United States produces annual emissions of 6 billion tons of this gas. The United States, which did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, is also the largest producer of other greenhouse gases.

Few people are aware of these facts. The same economic system which forced this unsustainable wastefulness on us impedes the distribution of Stiglitz’ book. Although an excellent work, only a few thousand copies have been published, enough to guarantee a margin of profit. This responds to a market demand, which the publishing house cannot ignore if it is to survive.

To have a clear sense of this phenomenon, suffice it to say that the world produces an average of 4.37 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita. In the case of the United States, the average is 20.14, nearly 5 times as much. In Africa, it is 1.17, while in Asia and Oceania it is 2.87.

Today, we know that life on Earth has been protected by the ozone layer, located in the atmosphere’s outer ring, at an altitude between 15 to 50 kilometers. This region, known as the stratosphere, acts as the planet’s shield against harmful solar radiation. There are greenhouse gases which widen the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. This layer above Antarctica loses as much as 70 percent of its volume every spring. The ozone layer protects us from ultraviolet and heat radiation which affect the immune system, sight, skin and life of human beings. Under extreme conditions, the destruction of that layer by human beings would affect all forms of life on the planet. This phenomenon, is taking place, gradually. Its impact is humanity’s responsibility.

Remembering Indonesia

Other problems, though foreign to our nation and others under similar conditions, also threaten us. A victorious counterrevolution would spell a disaster for us, worse than the tragedy in Indonesia in 1967. In that year, Sukarno, a nationalist leader loyal to Indonesia was overthrown. Sukarno had headed the guerrillas who fought the Japanese [occupation in World War II].

General Suharto, who overthrew Sukarno, had been trained by Japanese occupation forces. At the conclusion of World War II, Holland, a U.S. ally, re-established control over Indonesia. Indonesia was distant, but it encompassed extensive territory and had a large population.

Suharto hoisted the banners of U.S. imperialism. He committed atrocious acts of genocide. Today we know that, under instructions from the CIA, he not only killed hundreds of thousands of Indonesians, but also imprisoned a million communists and deprived them and their relatives of all properties or rights. Suharto’s family amassed a fortune of 40 billion dollars —in today’s money this would be equivalent to hundreds of billions of dollars — by handing over the country’s natural resources and the products of the sweat of Indonesians, to foreign investors. The West paid up. Texan-born Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s successor, was then the president of the United States.

Nuclear danger
The news on the events in Pakistan we received today also highlight another danger that threatens our species: internal conflict in a country that possesses nuclear weapons. This situation is a consequence of the policies and wars unleashed by the United States aimed at securing the world’s natural resources.

Pakistan, involved in a conflict it did not initiate, faces the threat of being taken back to the Stone Age.

The extraordinary situation faced by Pakistan had an immediate effect on oil prices and stock exchange shares. No country or region in the world can disassociate itself from the consequences. We must be prepared for anything.

There hasn’t been a day in my life in which I haven’t learned something.

Martí taught us that “all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn.” This phrase, carries in eleven words a veritable school of ethics.

Cuba’s five heroes

Cuba’s Five Heroes, imprisoned by the Empire, must be held up as examples for the new generation.

Fortunately, such exemplary conduct will continue to flourish along with the consciousness of our peoples as long as our species exists.

I am certain that many young Cubans, in their struggle against the Giant in the Seven-League Boots, would do as Cuba’s Five Heroes did. Money can buy everything but not the soul of a people who has never gotten down on their knees.

I read the brief and concise report which Raúl wrote and sent me. We must not waste a minute as we continue to move forward. I will raise my hand, next to you, to show my support.

From the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo editorial board:

We suggest to our readers that to mark the end of this year, the ninth year in prison for the Cuban Five, you write letters of solidarity to five Cuban men unjustly persecuted for combating U.S. terrorist attacks against the Cuban people. Below are their prison addresses.

Additionally, we suggest you observe the onset of a new year by resolving to keep on writing them and involving yourself more deeply in the worldwide campaign to free them. For more information, search Cuban Five on www.pww.org, or visit or .

Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez
No. 58741-004
USP Florence
PO Box 7500
5880 State Hwy. 67
South Florence CO 81226

Fernando González Llort
(to write to Fernando González, the envelope should say Rubén Campa, but the letter itself may be addressed to Fernando)
Rubén Campa #58733-004
F.C.I. Terre Haute
PO Box 33
Terre Haute IN 47808;

Gerardo Hernández Nordelo
(Manuel Viramontes)
No. 58739-004
U.S.P. Victorville
PO Box 5400
13777 Air Expressway Road
Adelanto CA 92394;

Ramon Labañino Salazar
(to write to Ramón Labañino, the envelope should say Luis Medina, but the letter itself may be addressed to Ramón)
Luis Medina
U.S.P. Beaumont
PO Box 26030
Beaumont TX 77720-6035;

René González Sehwerert
No. 58738-004
FCI Marianna
3625 FCI Road
Marianna FL 32446.