Cuba's foreign minister tells Castro admirers that communist system will survive

Campaign News | Saturday, 2 December 2006

From the International Herald Tribune newspaper

HAVANA: The unity of the Cuban people will guarantee the island's communist system remains after its aging leaders are gone, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Thursday amid 80th birthday celebrations for ailing President Fidel Castro.

"The enemies of the Cuban revolution ... are counting the minutes, waiting and hoping for Fidel's death," Perez Roque told hundreds of foreign supporters who traveled here to belatedly fete Castro, whose birthday was Aug. 13.

Castro announced July 31 that he had undergone intestinal surgery and was temporarily ceding power to his brother Defense Minister Raul Castro. He asked that his birthday festivities be postponed to Dec. 2 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces.

The bearded guerrilla leader has not appeared in public since then and his medical condition remains a state secret, sparking continual speculation about his health.

The leader's enemies "don't understand that ... Fidel is the people and that Fidel is, in the end, every man and woman in the world who is willing to struggle because a better world is possible," said Perez Roque,

"Convalescing, recovering and returning to combat, (Castro) will deliver a new defeat to those enemies wallowing in hate and mediocrity," said the foreign minister, who previously served for years as the leader's personal secretary.

"We promise that we will continue struggling for the ideas and the dreams that Fidel has dedicated his life to," Perez Roque added. "When he and the men of his generation are no longer with us, we have the conviction that our people will have made those ideas and principles theirs for ever."

Perez Roque's words echoed those pronounced earlier in the day at a military review in eastern Cuba by Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes, a key rebel commander during the nation's 1959 revolution.

Since Castro stepped aside, "our people have been Fidel, an invincible Fidel," Valdes told several hundred thousand people at the event in Santiago, 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Havana.

The gathering was part of five days of events this week to celebrate Castro's birthday and mark the armed forces anniversary. Festivities culminate Saturday with a massive military parade in Havana, featuring tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and Soviet-made fighter jets.

In Santiago, Valdes called on government loyalists to unite behind Raul Castro in the face of unspecified new "harassment" from the United States. Raul Castro, however, was not at the event.

Many Cubans have had high expectations for an appearance by Fidel Castro during the week's events, but he did not show up Tuesday night for a gala event with visiting admirers.

Cuban officials insist Castro is recovering, but U.S. officials say they believe he suffers from some kind of inoperable cancer and won't live through 2007.

More foreign luminaries traveled Thursday to Cuba for the festivities, with Haitian President Rene Preval arriving with his wife.

Of Castro, the Haitian leader said, "I want to give him a hug."

Bolivian President Evo Morales and Nicaraguan President-elect Daniel Ortega were also expected.

More than 1,000 foreign admirers were already in town for a three-day academic forum dedicated to Castro that began Wednesday. They included Nicaraguan politician Tomas Borge, Argentine human rights activist Hebe de Bonafini and a host of writers and artists.

Message from Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz to participants in the celebration of his 80th birthday

Dear compatriots and dear friends from all over the world:

I have worked intensively all this time to ensure the objectives set for our country in the Proclamation of July 31st.

Currently, we are facing an adversary who has dragged the United States to such a disaster that the American people are almost sure to prevent him from completing his presidential term.

Intellectuals and prestigious personalities from the world:

As I reflected on this address, I found myself in a dilemma, since I could not find a small meeting room to accommodate you all. It was only in the Karl Marx Theater that all guests could be seated but, according to the doctors, I was not yet ready for such a challenging engagement. Then, I chose this way to address you all.

You are well aware of my identification with Marti’s ideas about honor and glory, when he said that all the glory of the world fits in a kernel of corn.

Your generosity to me is really overwhelming. There are many people whose names I would like to mention here but I choose to avoid the recitation and decide on bringing up only one name, that of Oswaldo Guayasamin, since he embodied many of your greatest virtues.

He painted four portraits of me; the first in 1961. That one is lost. I looked it up everywhere possible but it could not be found. It was particularly painful as it became apparent to me what an exceptional person Guayasamin was. The second one, which he painted in 1981, is preserved at Guayasamin’s House in Old Havana. The third one, painted in 1986, is kept at the “Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation of Man and Nature”. When we met, we were very far from even imagining that his fourth portrait would be his birthday present to me on August 1996.

His words were inspirational when he said: “In Quito or any other corner of the Earth leave the lights on, as I will be coming back late.”

At the inaugural ceremony of the Man’s Chapel, I said about Oswaldo Guayasamin: “He was the noblest, most honorable and humane person I ever met. He created his work at light-speed and his human dimension defied all limits.”

The work of creators will never be lost while this planet exists and human beings can breathe.

Today, thanks to technology, the works and knowledge created by man in thousands of years are within everybody’s reach, even if the impact of radiation from billions of computers and cell phones is still unknown.

A few days ago, the prominent organization World Wildlife Foundation, based in Switzerland and considered the most important NGO in the world to monitor the global environment, acknowledged that the set of measures implemented by Cuba to protect the environment made it the only country on Earth to meet the minimum requirements for sustainable development. This was for our country an encouraging honor, albeit one of limited world impact due to the low significance of its economy. Therefore, last November 23, I sent a message to President Hugo Chavez that read:

“Dear Hugo:

“The adoption of a Comprehensive Energy-Saving Program will make you the most prestigious world advocate for the environment.

“It is most significant that Venezuela is the country with the largest oil reserves, so this will turn you into an example and act as a magnet for all the other energy consumers to do the same, thus saving incalculable sums in investments.

“Just like Cuba, a nickel producing country, can mobilize resources amounting to billions of dollars for its development, Venezuela, a hydrocarbons exporter, could mobilize trillions.

“If the industrialized and wealthy countries succeeded in operating the miracle of reproducing solar fusion on the planet, within various tens of years, devastating before then the environment with their hydrocarbon emissions, how could the poor peoples that make up the immense majority of mankind live in this world?

“Ever onward to victory!”

Finally, dearest friends who have honored us immensely with this visit to our country, it is with great sorrow that I bade you farewell for not being able to personally thank you and embrace every one of you.

It is our duty to save our species.

Fidel Castro Ruz

November 28, 2006

Colloquium for Fidel begins

Havana's International Convention Center hosts official celebration of Fidel's birthday

Havana, Nov 29.- Over 1 600 renowned internacional figures from more than 80 countries inaugurated on Wednesday the colloquium "Memory and Future: Cuba and Fidel.

Sponsored by the Guayasamin Foundation, the intellectual exchanges are part of the activities which kicked off on Tuesday in Havana for the 80th birthday of Fidel Castro and which was postponed on August 13th due to the Cuban leader's emergency surgery.

Artists, writers, scientists, economists, attorneys, former government officials, singers, social and human rights activists are meeting at Havana's International Convention Center.

The forum will run in three commissions dedicated to solidarity, achievements of the Cuban Revolution and development of technology.

The President of the Guayasamin Foundation, Pablo Guayasamin, said that one of the forum's objective is to discuss the Revolution's achievements and victories and its behavior in an atmosphere of solidarity as an example for the Third World and other capitalist nations.

The son of renowned Ecuadorean painter, Oswaldo Guayasamin, close friend of President Fidel Castro and promotor of the activities outlined that the Cuban leader has great vision and has projected humanism through a Revolution that has had precedent among the international community.

The festivities in honor of the Cuban leader began on Tuesday at the Guayasamin House located in Old Havana with an exhibition of 60 graphic pieces donated by the Foundation to enrich the institution.

And the Colegio San Gerónimo University also in Old Havana, place where Cuba's first university was founded in 1728 was inaugurated Tuesday and a cultural gala was held on Tuesday night where Cuban artists performed and welcomed the guests to the festivities.

According to the program, a concert entitled "Todas las Voces Todas" or All Voices Together will be held on Thursday at Havana's Jose Marti Anti Imperialist Tribunal and an exhibition of some 100 original pieces by Oswaldo Guayasamin at the Fine Arts Museum.

Cuba looking at possible reappearance by Fidel Castro

From the Dominican Today newspaper

HAVANA.- Under a cold drizzle, tens of workers gathered in Plaza de La Revolution (Revolution Square) yesterday and started the regressive count of one week for the military parade that commemorates the 50th year since the disembarkation of the yacht Granma (Start of the Revolution) in which Fidel Castro may reappear to conjunctly celebrate his 80th birthday.

"Nobody has said it, but we hope that Fidel will come and sit at ease in the bleachers without doing much, because he himself has said that his recovery will be long", said one of the workers without stopping his work.

It will be the first military parade in 10 years. The previous one commemorated in 1996, marked the 40th anniversary of the Granma’s disembarkation, the yacht where the insurgent Castro traveled in 1956 with 81 men, to initiate the armed warfare against Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship (1952-58).

Castro’s birthday celebrations were moved from August 13th by Castro him self due to his illness that has forced him to relinquish power to his brother Raul in hopes of returning on December the 2nd and celebrate his 80th birthday along with the revolution’s 50th.

About 1,500 personalities from 76 countries will attend the celebrations. Although officially no activities have been planned for Castro’s birthday, musicians, sportsmen and film directors are ready to offer and dedicate activities for such event.

Some Cuban leaders have said to the press that Castro’s participation will depend on doctors’ opinion and that of the commander.

Nevertheless, a strong rumor that circulates in Havana indicates that Fidel Castro, dressed in olive green, will be present in Plaza de La Revolucion next Saturday.

Cuba's vice president says he remains optimistic about Castro's recovery

From the International Herald Tribune newspaper

HAVANA: Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage said he remains optimistic about the recovery of ailing leader Fidel Castro, and another senior Cuban official also said Castro was getting better after intestinal surgery four months ago.

"He continues to recover, his health continues to improve," Lage said Tuesday in a news broadcast on Cuban state television.

"We are very optimistic about his recovery," Lage added in comments to reporters during a visit to the eastern province of Holguin.

The exact nature of Castro's ailment and the operation he underwent in late July remain a state secret.

On July 31, Castro announced in a statement read on Cuban television that he was temporarily ceding power to his brother, 75-year-old Defense Minister Raul Castro, while he recovers from his surgery.

In Panama, Cuban Parliament leader Ricardo Alarcon said Tuesday that U.S. officials wrongly assume Castro's government is based on one person and that it will collapse when he dies.

"The distortion comes from the United States' political intent," said Alarcon, without mentioning Castro by name.

Alarcon, a key figure in the communist-run government, said it was wrong to suggest that "the Cuban revolution is reduced to one person and when that person dies the Cuban revolution is over."

Alarcon also was optimistic about Castro's convalescence, telling reporters that the leader "is fulfilling his obligation to get better."

There has been no official word on whether the elder Castro will participate in a Dec. 2 military parade celebrating the 50th anniversary of communist Cuba's armed forces.

The parade will also belatedly mark Castro's 80th birthday, which was on Aug. 13. A concert, an academic gathering and an art exhibit are also being held in late November and early December as part of the festivities.

Fidel may not be back in December, says Foreign Minister

Perez Roque steps back from earlier statement

Cuba's foreign minister stepped back Monday from an earlier assertion that Fidel Castro would return to power in December and declined to say whether the ailing Cuban leader would be well enough to attend next month's celebration of his 80th birthday.

Less than two months after telling The Associated Press he expected Castro to be fully back at the helm in early December, Felipe Perez Roque said he could not discuss when Castro will return.

"It's a subject on which I don't want to speculate," the minister told the AP in an interview. Castro's return "will come when it's the right moment."

Perez Roque said he meets with Castro frequently and the Cuban leader is steadily recovering from his intestinal surgery.

"He looks good. I see that his recovery is advancing," he said. "We are optimistic, and happy. The only ones who are sad are our enemies, who were all prepared to celebrate (his death)."

Up until his illness, Castro was known for micromanaging projects, leading massive marches along the Malecon coastal highway and giving hours-long speeches. Perez Roque declined to speculate on whether the Cuban icon would ever be such an active leader again.

"Whether things will be like before is a very difficult topic," the minister said. "And I don't have the information, or the capacity, to say."

Castro has not made any public appearances since July 26, when he announced he would undergo surgery and temporarily transferred power to his younger brother Raul. The Cuban government has treated Castro's ailment as a state secret, releasing only sporadic videos and photographs to prove he is recovering.

A video released late October on state-run television showed the Cuban leader defiantly denying rumors that he was on his deathbed. Yet some Cubans say they were surprised to see how frail he still was.

Castro turned 80 on Aug. 13. But when he announced his surgery, he said celebrations would be delayed until Dec. 2.

Perez Roque told the AP in New York in September that he expected Castro to be back by early December.

"I have no questions in my mind that we will be able to celebrate his birthday in December as he deserves," he said at the time.

On Monday, he refused to speculate on when Castro might return, saying only: "The important thing is his recovery, which he's doing in a serious and persistent manner."

The transfer of power to Raul Castro went smoothly, and while many Cubans grumble about economic struggles on the island they have seemed to accept the younger Castro as their leader, albeit temporarily. Perez Roque acknowledged that the Cuban government faces some discontent, and even said some changes could be on the horizon.

"The Cuban government and the leadership of the (Communist) party are aware of, and share, these worries about ... difficulties with the quality of life of the people," he said. "All of our efforts are focused in the direction of finding solutions to these problems."

While Perez Roque said the U.S. trade embargo is first to blame for scarcity of goods and lack of economic opportunity on the island, he also acknowledged Cuban "errors" and "insufficiencies."

"Does our economy require that we make decisions to change some things, to fix what is wrong? Yes," he said. "And it can be done, in the right moment."

Observers have speculated that, under a more permanent leadership by Raul Castro, Cuba might adopt an economic model based on China, which is also communist but has increasingly opened markets.

"In Cuba, there will always be a Cuban model," Perez Roque said. But he did not explicitly reject the possibility of some openings in the island's economy.

The foreign minister is among half a dozen officials granted special responsibilities by Castro when he transferred power. This collective leadership, led by the 75-year-old Raul Castro, has been functioning well, Perez Roque said.

"For us young ones, it has not only been a privilege but also more schooling," said the 41-year-old, who was put in charge of monitoring the budgets for Cuba's health, education and energy programs along with Central Bank (other-otc: CHPA.PK - news - people ) President Francisco Soberon and Vice President Carlos Lage, who is 55.

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