Letter from Fidel to his compatriots

Campaign News | Monday, 25 October 2004

‘My profound appreciation of the demonstrations of affection and solidarity I have received’

Dear compatriots,

Yesterday, October 20, at the end of my speech during the event in Santa Clara, I suffered an accidental fall. Certain cable agencies and other media channels have circulated various versions of the cause of the accident. As the protagonist and witness affected, I can explain to you precisely the cause of what took place.

I had concluded my speech to the art instructor graduates at around 10:00 p.m. Several comrades from the Party and the government came up on stage to greet us. Among them was Elián, as is the case at certain events. We were there for a few minutes and then immediately came down the same small wooden staircase that we used to reach the stage, moving quickly across the granite-colored paving and heading for the same seat they had assigned to me before my turn in the tribunal arrived. I was walking across the granite paving and at the same time, occasionally waving at the enthusiastic instructors and the more than 25,000 residents of Villa Clara province invited to the event.

When I reached the concrete area, some 15 or 20 meters from the first row of seats, I didn’t notice that there was a relatively high sidewalk between the paving and the crowd. I took a step with my left foot into the space created by the difference in height between the area where the participants were located in their respective seats. Impulse and the law of gravity, discovered a long time ago by Newton, meant that the false step I had taken precipitated me forwards, in a fraction of a second, onto the paving. By pure instinct, my arms went out in front of me to cushion the blow; otherwise, my face and head would have hit the ground.

No one is to blame for what happened. It was totally my responsibility. It would seem that the emotion of that day so full of creation and symbolism explains my carelessness.

What occurred in the minutes after the fall is widely known. The greatest pain I felt at that instant was the notion of the suffering of that mass of young graduates and residents of Villa Clara who had been invited to such a beautiful and emotional event.

I could hardly move. And after many obstacles, in the midst of all the consternation, I was put into the back seat of the car in which I had been traveling and not the jeep I had asked for. Not a single one appeared. We headed to the house that had been assigned to me for an initial investigation into the damage caused by the fall; at the end of the day, there was little that could be done there.

An ambulance appeared and we decided to use it to transfer me to the capital. Evidently, the pain and symptoms indicated the need for comprehensive analyses and possible surgery straight away. Lying on a stretcher they took me by ambulance to the capital.

I have to say that, together with several very competent doctors and other comrades, such as Carlitos, cramped together in that ambulance, and despite a few potholes, the journey was comfortable and agreeable. Some analgesics had been applied and in a way, they alleviated the patient from acute pain.

We set to work along the way. We called our office and various comrades so that they could supply information on the international reactions, and accurately communicate what had occurred. They were given instructions, technical resources, while medical personnel were mobilized in order to prepare the required conditions for the various treatment options considered possible.

Even President Hugo Chávez called shortly after receiving the news. He spoke to Felipe and asked to speak to me, which was possible thanks to cellular communication, and despite the difficulties in this type of communication: they are difficult and are frequently interrupted for technical reasons.

By the same means, I was able to talk to the comrade art instructors gathered in Santa Clara. I insistently urged them not to suspend the party organized for after the ceremony. By utilizing a cell phone placed in front of a microphone where they were assembled, I talked to them directly and transmitted the message.

We left Santa Clara at around 11:00 p.m. and reached the Palace of the Revolution (in Havana). Carried on a stretcher and on the shoulders of various comrades, I was immediately taken to the same hospital installation, fitted with the minimum equipment necessary to attend to emergency cases. Immediately: clinical examinations, X-rays, blood tests and other investigations. It could be ascertained that the most important complications were in my left knee and the upper part of my right arm, where the humerus presented a hairline fracture. The kneecap was broken into eight pieces. I was able to observe all the X-rays and examinations. By common accord between the specialists and the patient, we decided to proceed to an immediate operation on the knee and immobilize the right arm with a simple sling.

The operation process lasted three hours and 154 minutes. The orthopedics devoted themselves to rejoining and placing every fragment of the kneecap in its right location and, like weavers, proceeded to solidly reunite them, sewing them together with a fine thread of rustproof steel. A labor of craftsmanship.

The patient asked the doctors not to use any sedatives and they utilized an epidural anesthetic. This anesthetic technique totally numbs the lower part of the body, while maintaining the rest of the organism intact. I explained to them that, given the current circumstances a general anesthetic had to be avoided so that I was in a condition to attend to many important matters. For that reason, during the hours of the operation, the patient was in contact with his chief office aide, who was also in the vicinity of the operating room and wearing a sterile surgeon’s gown. Thus, for the duration, he was constantly receiving information and giving instructions on handling the situation created by the unforeseen accident.

When the surgical part was completed, my left leg was put in plaster while they simultaneously proceeded to immobilize my right arm.

Really, compatriots, this has been an unforgettable experience. The specialists and the patient discussed and coordinated perfectly well what had to be done in the concrete circumstances the country is experiencing without losing a single minute.

From the very moment of the fall, I have continued to attend to the most important tasks that fall to me, in coordination with all the other comrades.

I wanted to transmit this news to you tonight. I am progressing well and will continue to communicate with you. I would like to express my most profound appreciation of the demonstrations of affection and solidarity that I have received from you at this time.

Every Cuban revolutionary knows what he or she must do at any given point. Let’s do it!

Please accept my apologies for such a long message.

Fidel Castro

October 21, 2004

7:35 p.m


I'm still in charge says Fidel - while Bush regime shows poorest of taste

HAVANA October 22: Demonstrating he is still able to work as normal after fracturing his knee and arm in an accidental fall, President Fidel Castro has told the people of conducting government business by cellular phone during the ambulance ride to hospital and later of refusing general anesthesia.

``I have not stopped attending to the tasks that I am responsible for, in coordination with the other comrades,’’ the 78-year-old Fidel wrote in a lengthy note read Thursday night on state television.

Meanwhile in Washington the Bush regime showed the poorest of taste by flatly refusing to wish the Cuban leader well in his recovery.

"We heard that Castro fell," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday.

Asked whether the United States wished Mr. Castro, 78, a speedy recovery, he replied: "No."

"You'd have to check with the Cubans to find out what's broken about Mr. Castro," Mr. Boucher said. "We, obviously, have expressed our views about what's broken in Cuba."

Cuba's representative in Washington said a State Department spokesman's comments proved the immoral nature of the Bush regime.

"These statements reflect to a large extent the low humane, ethical and moral standard of a terrorist regime - pardon me, warring regime - such as the United States," Dagoberto Rodriguez told a group of reporters.

Fidel said he underwent a 3 hour, 15 minute operation to repair his left knee, which was broken in eight pieces, and the immobilization of his right upper arm, which suffered a hairline fracture.

He said he remained awake the whole time, anesthetized only from the waist down, so he could ``attend to numerous important issues’’ with his chief of staff, who dressed in surgical scrubs.

Fidel said earlier he remained in contact with his office via cellular phone during the ambulance ride back to Havana from Santa Clara, the central city about a three-hour drive away where the accident occurred.

Fidel’s message was aimed at clearing up any doubts about his ability to lead the nation of 11.2 million people after 45 years in power.

Fidel's advancing age-and ultimately his mortality-were brought home when he was injured Wednesday night when he tripped and fell after a speech at the Santa Clara graduation ceremony.

But Fidel has fought to dispel concerns about his health and his ability to keep governing. ``I’m all in one piece,’’ Castro declared on state television Wednesday just minutes after he fell. A medical examination early Thursday confirmed Fidel suffered a broken left knee and a fracture in his upper right arm, according to an official notice carried by state media.

``His general health is good, and he is in excellent spirits,’’ it said, adding that Fidel hoped to be ``back in place’’ soon. Fidel’s health has long been closely watched-particularly by his political enemies in Miami, home to a large Cuban exile community.

``Sometimes, people have this idea that he’s some sort of god, that he’s omnipotent,’’ said Yanisset Rivero, spokeswoman for the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a Miami group that supports dissidents on the island. ``It’s a sign ... that he’s human.’’ In Washington, the State Department declined to wish a speedy recovery to Fidel, who has remained in power during 10 American administrations.

``We, obviously, have expressed our views about what’s broken in Cuba,’’ said spokesman Richard Boucher. Rights activist Elizardo Sanchez of Havana predicted the incident would not immediately affect government policies, but it ``does put on the agenda the theme of the advanced age of various leaders.’’

Average Cubans did not seem as alarmed Thursday as they were three years ago, when Castro fainted in the scorching Caribbean sun during a live televised speech before a crowd of thousands.

Raul Castro is first vice president of both the government’s ruling Council of State and of the Communist Party - directly after his brother and will mopst liekly succed immediately after Fidel's demise. In the longer term, a new younger generation will take over.

The constitution does not specify a No. 3 in the presidential succession. Also mentioned as possible successors have been Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, 39, a former personal secretary to Castro, and Vice President Carlos Lage, 53, who as Cabinet secretary has broad experience in helping oversee the economy and government.





Cuban President Fidel Castro in good condition after accident

Santa Clara, October 21 - Cuban President Fidel Castro is in good condition after suffering an accidental fall Wednesday night.

The Cuban leader had just finished delivering an address to graduates of the island's schools of the arts and was returning to his chair when he apparently stumbled and fell.

A medical examination showed that Fidel Castro fractured his left knee and suffered a fissure in the upper part of the humerus of his right arm.

An official note released early Thursday morning said that the leader of the Cuban Revolution is "in a good general state of health and his spirits are excellent."

After falling, Fidel Castro got up quickly and asked for a microphone. He apologized for having fallen and said he would be fine. The Cuban leader jokingly assured the crowd that he was "in one piece."

The note released Thursday morning says that Fidel Castro's injuries will receive the appropriate treatment and that the Cuban people will continue to be updated on his condition.

Fidel Castro Delivers Graduation Address to Instructors of the Arts

Santa Clara, October 21 (RHC)-- Cuban President Fidel Castro delivered the main address to more than 3200 graduating instructors of the arts Wednesday evening in Santa Clara. The Cuban leader noted that this was the first graduating class and recalled that four years ago, an ambitious cultural program was initiated with the establishment of 15 schools of the arts.

With the goal of graduating 30,000 instructors over the first ten years, Fidel Castro said there are now a total of 16,168 students registered at the schools located across the island. Finishing four years of study, the newly graduated instructors will teach dance, music, theater, painting and sculpture.

Before beginning his speech, the leader of the Cuban Revolution personally awarded diplomas to 15 of the top graduates -- one from each of the schools. He also paid homage to Ernesto Che Guevara, whose remains are buried at the mausoleum in Santa Clara along with those of many who fought with the revolutionary guerrilla leader in Bolivia.

The Cuban president said the contingent of graduating students was like a cultural army, with its theater of operations in the island's schools. Fidel Castro noted that in September, when the new school year got underway, the graduates began working at primary schools, high schools and other special education centers.

The leader of the Cuban Revolution said that positive reports of their work are already coming in. He said that in one municipality of the province of Sancti Spíritus where there is no real tradition of cultural work, it was decided that 183 graduates would work in the community to build up a cultural base. Fidel Castro noted that while conditions are difficult, local residents say that a great deal of progress is being made.

The graduation ceremony ended with a cultural presentation headlined by a guitar orchestra, young ballet dancers and popular singers.


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