Interview with Armando Hart: Fidel is the son of our history

Campaign News | Thursday, 17 August 2006

Fidel is the best disciple of Marti, says long-time friend

Interview by Jorge Smith of Prensa Latina

Havana, Aug 16 (Prensa Latina) Armando Hart, an outstanding personality in the Cuban Revolution and a renowned lawyer and intellectual, said on Tuesday that Fidel Castro, who turned 80 recently, is the best disciple of Cuban National Hero Jose Marti.

A friend of Fidel Castro?s at university and during the struggles against corrupt governments, the Batista tyranny and the blockade the United States has imposed on Cuba for nearly 50 years, Hart is currently the director of the Office of the Marti Program, attached to the Council of State of Cuba.

The former minister of Education and of Culture, who has held high posts in the Communist Party and is a prominent theoretician of the Cuban Revolution, granted an interview to Prensa Latina.

- How did you meet Fidel?

- I have known him since I was 15 or 16 years old, when he traveled to Matanzas to meet my sister Marina, who was a lawyer, during a vote-catching tour. My father, a well-known magistrate, told me after he listened to him: "That young man?s face and discourse seem noble". He was right.

- What do you think is Fidel Castro?s main revolutionary contribution?

- He is a man of thought and action who organizes the attack on the Moncada Garrison, goes to prison, prepares an 82-strong expedition that lands in Cuba and leads a successful war against an army that was supported and financed by the United States. On the other hand, he leads a Revolution that has confronted for 47 years the most powerful empire that has ever existed on Earth. But, for me, Fidel has made other historic deeds, in the first place, he set out, following Marti?s methods, to achieve the people?s unity based on the interests of the vast majority of the people and he did so inspired in universal and Latin American revolutionary tradition. Two men in history made that unity feasible: Jose Marti and Fidel Castro. But it is necessary that young people study the methods and political ways that allow achieving such community of purposes and wills.

- Which were those methods?

- The study must be based on the Culture to make politics. I want to emphasize this aspect because it seems to me that it is the most original and useful fruit of the history of Cuban ideas with Marti and Fidel as their highest expression. I am not referring to political culture only, but to the practical ways of its materialization. I think that these two great men?s contribution begins by rejecting the reactionary "divide and win" concept and the use of another one that would be like "unite to win". In the new situations, the old divide to dominate politics, which characterized the Roman Empire and which Machiavelli retook at his time, is no longer effective. In times of globalization, solidary forces need to be integrated to meet the dramatic challenges of the century that has just begun. There lies the wealth of Fidel?s politics. But there is an essence of this practice?

- How would you define it?

- The essence of Marti and Fidel?s political practice is that Fidel?s is in the following: radical position regarding the defense of Man?s rights all over the world and, at the same time, aspiration to find harmony. Some proclaim themselves radical and are not harmonious, thus creating innumerable problems, and some introduce themselves as harmonious and they are not radical, and they do not solve anything either. Marti and Fidel?s politics is: radical thought and, at the same time, seeking harmony, that is, the maximum participation of everyone in their goals. The other thing is Marti?s concept that Homeland is Humankind, which in Fidel it is expressed by his vocation to "embrace the world", from the expedition to Cayo Confites in 1947, to overthrow the Trujillo tyranny, to the latest international assistance that Cuba granted Pakistan. It is necessary to say that the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity had had a formal expression in Europe; in Latin America and the Caribbean, however, a highly-sensitive culture was created around the relationship between Man and nature. The latter is based on three categories: ethics, education and political practice. Fidel, however, assumes the entire legacy of the democratic thought from 18th-century European revolutions from the prospects of the interests of "the poor of Earth". On the other hand, he assumes the ethics of Christianity in our culture, which did not put itself before science and, thus, it is part of our national awareness. The issue of God, for example, was taken as an affair of individual consciousness.

- Then, how would you describe that entity named Fidel Castro?

- Fidel is the son of a history, of a memory long-embraced by our people. In him, we see a clear sense to distinguish and combine practice and ideal aspirations, always having justice as the highest category.

Giant billboard on side of volcano says thanks to Fidel

Granma International: A billboard with President Fidel Castro’s name has been placed since Sunday, August 13 on the side of Pichincha Volcano, 12 kilometers west of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, as a tribute to the leader for his 80th birthday.

The billboard’s inscription is comprised of giant letters spelling out “Fidel,” and can be seen from a great distance and from various points of the city. Each letter, fashioned in white-colored plastic, is 15 meters high and 10 meters wide, and has been anchored with wood and iron.

Cristina Barrera, president of a committee of parents whose children are scholarship students in Cuba, told the Associated Press that this was an initiative by young Ecuadorians studying on the island, who together with their families, wanted to “celebrate his birthday and express the immense gratitude that they feel for having provided the opportunity to study in Cuba.”

Barrera added that “this message also expresses our solidarity with the Cuban people in response to any foreign attempts to attack Cuba’s sovereignty and independence.”

In Santiago de Chile, the solidarity movement and Chilean social and political organizations celebrated the Cuban president’s 80th birthday with a seminar titled “Fidel and the anti-imperialist struggle,” which took place with a full house at the Victor Jara Hall, and speakers included Guillermo Teillier, president of the Communist Party; socialist Senator Alejandro Navarro; Manuel Cabieses, editor of Punto Final magazine; and Cuban Ambassador Giraldo Mazola.

Participants all pointed out the trajectory, leadership and role played by the leader of the Cuban Revolution in emancipation struggles that have taken place and are taking place in Latin America, Africa and other Third World countries.

“Because of his ideas and action, he is one of the most outstanding figures of the 20th century in Latin America and the rest of the world,” affirmed Cabieses, as he opened the discussion, which was moderated by Miraya Baltra, former minister of labor under the Salvador Allende government.

“It is of that country, that leadership, and the reality that it represents in the world that we are talking about when we pay affectionate tribute today, with love, admiration and respect, to Fidel Castro as he celebrates his 80th birthday,” emphasized the Punto Final editor.

In the U.S. city of Miami, celebrations for Fidel’s birthday were also held, and contrary to the acts of ill will held by Cuba’s enemies, organizations in solidarity with the island such as Alianza Martiana, Los Maceitos, the ATC, the José Martí Brigade and the Bolivarians of Miami spoke out and even trailed a large banner behind a small airplane that flew over the city bearing the inscription: “Fidel, Congratulations for your 80 years of life.”

The day before, a march was organized in Buenos Aires by Argentine political and social organizations (PCA, the FJCA, the Territorial Liberation Movement and groups of friendship and solidarity with the island), which went to the Cuban embassy in that city to express support for Cuba and wish good health to President Fidel Castro.

Carrying a large white banner with the slogan “Hang in there, Fidel!” in red and blue letters, along with the Cuban and Argentine flags, demonstrators shouted “Vivas!” for Cuba and the Revolution, as slogans for the liberation of the Latin American peoples.

In response to a call by one of the organizers, Alejandro Forni, general secretary of the Communist Youth Federation of Argentina (FJCA), participants sang “Happy Birthday” to the Cuban leader.

The youth leader expressed Argentine wishes for a speedy recovery of the Cuban leader, and noted that they are on Cuba’s side at this time, when its enemies in the United States are advocating intervention to overthrow the Revolution, and urged the Revolution to stay firm and defend its conquests.

Forni gave Cuban Ambassador Aramís Fuente a mural tapestry as a gift “to reach the hands of compañero Fidel, whom we hope will get well soon.”

“This is a painting by the Jorge Calvo Muralist Brigade, of the Communist Party of Argentina (PCA), with artistic representation of the presidents of Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela - Fidel Castro, Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez, vanguards of Latin American unity and integration,” he said.

The tapestry, several meters long, was unfurled in Córdoba during the MERCOSUR Summit attended by the three leaders, and during a public event at the university where the Venezuelan and Cuban presidents spoke.

They also presented a wooden carving of Fidel Castro with the slogan “Hang in there, Fidel!” which was used as a model by a youth brigade that painted it in streets all over Buenos Aires.


“Hang in there, Fidel!” shouted some of the young people who attended the concert by French/Spanish singer Manu Chao two weeks ago in Los Angeles, California.

The artist, a symbol of the anti-globalization movement, is on tour in the United States, and attracted more than 4,000 people to a performance where he criticized Washington’s policies and honored the undocumented immigrants who die while crossing the border.

“Enough of the White House’s bombs!” exclaimed the singer of “Me gustas tú” (I Like You) adding “The terrorism problem is solved by culture and education.”

Cuba airs video of Fidel talking with Chavez


Havana 15 August: Cuban state television showed a video on Monday of Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader, with Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, at his bedside.

The video showed Castro talking, smiling, writing and eating yogurt during the visit from Chavez on his 80th birthday on Sunday.

It was Castro's first appearance on video since the July 31 announcement saying that he had undergone intestinal surgery and that he had ceded power to his younger brother Raul.

The video is further evidence that Castro is recovering from surgery for intestinal bleeding.

Cuban media ran the first set of photographs of Castro recovering from surgery on Sunday. They were accompanied by a message from Castro urging Cubans to remain optimistic but also to be prepared for possible bad news.

Eight photographs taken on Sunday were published on Monday. One of the photos printed in the state-run Granma daily show Castro receiving a birthday present from Chavez. In another he is seen posing beside a portrait of himself that Raul gave to Chavez.

The newspaper said it was "an unforgettable afternoon between friends" and that Castro and Chavez spent three hours sharing "anecdotes, smiles, photos, gifts, a frugal snack and the joy of an intimate friendship".

Granma quoted Chavez as saying: "This is the best of all the visits I made in my life."

Chavez expressed admiration at Castro's recovery.

"What human being is this? What material is he made of? It is...the copal tree," he said in reference to a hardwood tree that grows in Cuba.

Chavez gave Castro a cup and a dagger that once belonged to the South American liberation hero Simon Bolivar.

Chavez visits Fidel on his birthday

Havana 13 August: AS he announced on Saturday at the launch of his presidential candidacy, Chávez came to Havana to celebrate Fidel’s 80th birthday with the Cuban president. Raúl received him at the airport and gave him the affectionate embrace of a people grateful to the friendly leader for his human grandeur and attitude of solidarity.

Fidel was awaiting Chávez in the bed in which he is recovering and they spent more than three hours of emotive conversation, recounting anecdotes, laughing, photos, gifts, a light snack and the joy of a close friendship. “This is the best visit that I have made in my whole life,” affirmed the Venezuelan president who, impressed at the president’s capacity for recovery, exclaimed:

“What kind of human being is this? What material is he made of? As you say, he is like the caguairán (hardwood tree).

Chávez confessed to Fidel that, to surprise him, he had spent a week trying to paint his portrait, but finally abandoned it in the early hours of August 13, dissatisfied with his profile of the president’s nose, so that, in addition to the cup from Napoleon’s dinner service that Bolívar kept and the liberator’s dagger, he decided to bring him a painting by José Antonio Quintero, a new generation Venezuelan artist.

For his part, Raúl gave the Bolivarian leader a portrait of Fidel painted in 1959 by the eminent Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, which was hung for a long time in his office at the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

It was an unforgettable afternoon, shared by brothers in blood and cause, which brought new strength and encouragement to the warrior Comandante of a thousand battles in a new victory for life.

This article and pictures of encounter at:


Chavez calls for support for Cuba

Washington is stepping up the pressure

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said that his countrymen must be ready to help Cubans in any way.

The statement comes as Washington renews calls for a transition to democracy on the island while Fidel Castro recovers from surgery.

"Our Cuban brothers, we have to look after them, protect them and always talk with them, supporting them in whatever they may need, said Chavez, an outspoken critic of Washington's stance following Castro's illness.

Speaking at the presidential palace yesterday, Chavez applauded Cuban doctors working in Venezuela for having left their families at home and "giving everything for us."

"We can give everything for them too. Love is paid with love, as Jose Marti tell us," said Chavez, referring to the Cuban poet and independence hero.

The Venezuelan leader said Thursday that Castro, his close ally, was in a "great battle for life" after temporarily transferring power on July 31 to his brother Raul, citing surgery to repair intestinal bleeding.

But Chavez expressed faith yesterday that the Cuban leader would recuperate.

US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon said yesterday that Castro's prolonged disappearance from the public indicates he is confronting "serious" health problems and that an attempt to turn over power to his brother is likely to fail. (AP)

US speeds up plans for post-Castro Cuba

by Antonio Rodriguez of Caribbean Net News

WASHINGTON, USA (AFP): The United States said Tuesday it had stepped up planning for a Cuba without President Fidel Castro, steering a careful political course as intrigue deepened over the communist icon's fate.

"There are drafts and people are trying to think about what is going to happen should there be a change in the political situation in Cuba," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

"If there is a change, a dramatic change in the political situation in Cuba, there may be adjustments in US policy," Snow told reporters in Crawford, Texas, near President George W. Bush's ranch.

After four-and-a-half decades hoping for the demise of Castro, who turns 80 on Sunday, the United States at first reacted cautiously to his surprise transfer of power to brother Raul, after surgery, announced on July 31.

Washington promised to stand by political activists who want to spark political change on the island, but called on Cubans to stay at home, worried that political tumult could spark mass migration to the coast of Florida.

The State Department has simultaneously warned that the transfer to authority to Raul Castro, 75, must not become permanent, saying that would just mean one dictator swapped for another.

"The Cuban people need to decide the future of their country," Bush said on Monday, in remarks seen as partly directed at the fiercely political Cuban exile community in the United States.

While it wants Cuba to track toward democracy, Washington, beset with a bevy of foreign policy crises, could do without a hard political landing on the island and a resultant humanitarian crisis.

"A wave of refugees towards Florida would not be good politics," Ian Vasquez, of the Cato Institute in Washington told AFP.

"Nobody wants destabilisation in Cuba, especially president Bush because he's get already too many things on his agenda on foreign policy."

The scale of any mass exodus could be immense -- in the last immigration crisis in 1994, a staggering 35,000 people crossed the Straits of Florida from Cuba, 90 miles (150 kilometres) off the US coast.

On that occasion, Cuban authorities did nothing to stem the flow of people leaving the country; analysts fear an even worse situation could arise if order breaks down in a post-Castro Cuba.

In recent days, the White House has been assessing how to prevent any such tsunami of refugees, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Washington is likely to stick with its quota of 22,000 visas given to Cubans every year -- and will give priority to those who already have family members living in exile in Washington, the paper said.

Such a move is designed to strictly control the flow of legal immigrants, to ensure numbers remain manageable.

On the political front, the United States is readying financial aid to help unshackle the Cuban economy after decades of communist control, and will be ready to help bankroll any move toward democracy.

"The United States ... is planning to provide substantial support to help them rebuild their shattered economy," Caleb McCarry, Bush's Cuba transition coordinator, said on Fox News.

Washington would also "help provide specific support for getting to free and fair elections and also to provide specific support, as I said, to help them address the long humanitarian needs," he added.

Snow stressed that so far, there had been no change of longstanding Cuba policy, which stressed opposition to Castro, support for democracy on the island, and includes a trade embargo.

"I daresay if there were changes in Cuba and we had not thought ahead, the question would be, 'why didn't you think about changes that were taking place,'" he said.

Bush, operating in a potentially dicey congressional election year for his Republican Party must walk a fine line, as Cuban exiles form a crucial voting block in Florida -- the state that sent him to the White House after a disputed election in 2000.

His administration is aware Cuban exiles may press hard to tip the balance in Cuba and could spark political instability there -- especially as many want redress for assets seized by the communist government.

Once Cubans form a government, "then Cuban-Americans can take an interest in that country and redress the issues of property confiscation," Bush said in Texas on Monday.

The United States has called on its allies to help press for a democratic transition in Cuba.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday however denied Washington was trying to stoke a crisis in Cuba.

New York Times: White House weighs change in Cuba Policy

Bush is pondering change in immigration laws

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 - With the fate of Fidel Castro still unclear, the Bush administration is looking for ways to prevent a possible surge in illegal immigration from Cuba while perhaps easing the way for some Cuban-Americans to bring their relatives to the United States.

Any effort by Cubans to enter the United States illegally by boat or other means will still be blocked, and officials are considering adopting a policy of rejecting new or pending visa applications for anyone caught trying to sneak in.

But the administration is considering setting up a system that would speed the immigration process for Cubans with close relatives in the United States who have entry applications pending, according to a report on Monday by The Associated Press that was confirmed by two federal officials.

The change would not necessarily increase the number of Cubans annually given permission to enter the United States, which is about 22,000, but it would give people with families here higher priority.

Before the Cubans could come to the United States, however, Cuba would have to grant them exit permits, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because no final policy decisions had been made.

Consideration of policy changes has been accelerated by the recent transfer of power from Mr. Castro to his brother Raúl.

The officials said another possible change would ease immigration for Cuban doctors who have gone abroad as part of a program sponsored by the Cuban government to send physicians to developing nations. But the United States would block immigration for Cubans with ties to the Castro government who have been involved in human rights abuses.

Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, which oversees immigration enforcement matters, said that no changes had been made and that Cubans should not see these discussions as a reason to consider trying to enter the United States illegally.

“The administration continues to urge Cuban people to stay on the island and work for a democratic Cuba,” Mr. Knocke said.

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