Fidel Castro's 1960 Address to the U.N. General Assembly: "The Problem of Cuba and its Revolutionary Policy" - Part 3 of 4
by Ron Kurtus (revised 27 November 2005)
Cuban leader Dr. Fidel Castro spoke before the United Nations on 26 September 1960. We have divided his 2-hour speech into four half-hour segments. This is part 3 of his speech.
Questions you may have include:
- How can I use this speech to improve my writing skills?
- How can I use this address to improve my speaking skills?
- What is the historical significance of the speech?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Audio of address
You can hear an audio of Fidel Castro's speech to read along. Note that it is not Castro's voice but a slightly mechanical computerized voice. Unfortunately, it does not contain the inflection and emphasis of a true orator.
Note: If you want to hear the text being read, click the Play button. It takes a few seconds for the sound to start. The voices are somewhat mechanical for computer use.
Length of speech segment = 30 min. 24 sec. Total length of speech = 1 hr. 55 min. 27 sec.
Since the speech is so long, we have divided it into four 30-minute segments, with a new page for each section.
Continuation - Part 3
And that was not the only aggression. That was not the only time that American infantry forces trod upon Mexican soil. Nicaragua was invaded and for seven long years was heroically defended by Caesar Augusto Sandino. Cuba suffered intervention more than once, and so did Haiti and Santo Domingo. Guatemala also suffered intervention. Who among you could honestly deny the intervention of the United Fruit Co. and the State Department of the United States when the legitimate government of Guatemala was overthrown? I understand fully well that there may be some who consider it their official duty to be discreet on this matter, and who may even be willing to come here and deny this, but in their consciences they know we are simply stating the truth.
Cuba was not the first victim of aggression; Cuba was not the first country to be in danger of aggression. In this hemisphere everyone knows that the Government of the United States has always imposed its own law--the law of the strongest, in virtue of which they have destroyed Puerto Rican nationhood and have imposed their domination on that friendly country--law in accordance with which they seized and held the Panama Canal.
This was nothing new, our country should have been defended, but it was never defended. Why? Let us get to the bottom of this matter, without merely studying the from. If we stick to the dead letter of the law, then we are protected; if we abide by reality, we have no protection whatsoever, because reality imposes itself on the law set forth in international codes, and that reality is, that a small nation attacked by a powerful country did not have any defense and was not defended.
With all due respect to this organization, I must state here that, that is why the people, our people, the people of Cuba, who have learned much and are quite up to the role they are laying, to the heroic struggle they are conducting our people who have learned in the school of international events, know that in the last instance, when their rights have been denied and aggressive forces are marshaled against them, they still have the supreme and heroic resource of resisting when their rights are not protected by either the OAS or the UN.
That is why we, the small countries, do not yet feel too sure that our rights will be preserved; that is why we, the small countries, whenever we decide to become free, know that we become free at our own risk. In truth, when people are united and are defending a just right, they can trust their own energies. We are not, as we have been pictured, a mere group of men governing the country. We are a whole people governing a country--a whole people firmly united, with a great revolutionary consciousness, defending its rights. And this should be known by the enemies of the revolution and of Cuba, because if they ignore this fact, they will be making a regrettable error.
These are the circumstances in which the revolutionary process has taken place in our country; that is how we found the country, and why difficulties have arisen. And yet the Cuban Revolution is changing what was yesterday a land without hope, a land of poverty and illiteracy, into one of the most advanced and developed countries in this Continent.
The Revolutionary Government, in but twenty months, has created 10,000 new schools. In this brief period it has doubled the number of rural schools that had been created in fifty years. Cuba is today, the first country of America that has met all its school needs, that has a teacher in the farthest corners of the mountains.
In this brief period of time, the Revolutionary Government has built 5,000 houses in the rural and urban areas. Fifty new towns are being built at this moment. The most important military fortresses today house tens of thousands of students, and, in the coming year, our people intend to fight the great battle against illiteracy, with the ambitious goal of teaching every single inhabitant of the country to read and write in one year, and, with that end in mind, organizations of teachers, students and workers, that is, the entire people, are preparing themselves for an intensive campaign, and Cuba will be the first country of America which, after a few months, will be able to say it does not have one single illiterate.
Our people are receiving today the assistance of hundreds of doctors who have been sent to the fields to fight against illnesses and parasitic ailments, and improve the sanitary conditions of the nation.
In another aspect, in the preservation of our natural resources, we can also point with pride to the fact that in only one year, in the most ambitious plan for the conservation of natural resources being carried out on this continent, including the United States of America and Canada, we have planted nearly fifty million timber-yielding trees.
Youths who were unemployed, who did not attend school, have been organized by the Revolutionary Government and are today being gainfully and usefully employed by the country, and at the same time being prepared for productive work.
Agricultural production in our country has been able to perform an almost unique feat, an increase in production from the very beginning. From the very start we were able to increase agricultural production. Why? In the first place, because the Revolutionary Government turned more than 10,000 agricultural workers, who formerly paid rent, to owners of their land, at the same time maintaining large-scale production through co-operatives. In other words production was maintained through co-operatives, thanks to which we have been able to apply the most modern technical methods to our agricultural production, causing a marked increase in that production.
And all this social welfare work--teachers, housing, and hospitals--has been carried out without sacrificing the resources that we have earmarked for development. At this very moment the Revolutionary Government is carrying out a program of industrialization of the country, and the first plants are already being built.
We have utilized the resources of our country in a rational manner. Formerly, for instance, thirty-five million dollars worth of cars were imported into Cuba, and only five million dollars worth of tractors. A country which is mainly agricultural imported seven times more cars than tractors. We have changed this around, and we are now importing seven times more tractors than cars.
Close to five hundred million dollars was recovered from the politicians who had enriched themselves during the tyranny of Batista--close to five hundred million dollars in cash and other assets was the total we were able to recover from the corrupt politicians who had been sucking the blood of our country for seven years. It is the correct investment of these assets which enables the Revolutionary Government, while at the same time developing plans for industrialization and for the development of agriculture, to build houses, schools, to send teachers to the farthest corners of the country, and to give medical assistance to everyone--in other words, to carry out a true program of social development.
At the Bogota meeting, as you know, the Government of the United States proposed a plan. Was it a plan for economic development? No. It was a plan for social development. What is understood by this? Well, it was a plan for building houses, building schools, and building roads. But does this settle the problem at all? How can there be a solution to the social problems without a plan for economic development? Do they want to make fools of the Latin American countries? What are families going to live on when they inhabit those houses, if those houses are really built? What shoes, what clothes are they going to wear, and what food are children going toe at when they attend those school? Is it not known that, when a family does not have clothes or shoes for the children, the children are not sent to schools? With what means are they going to pay the teachers and the doctors? How are they going to pay for the medicine? Do you want a good way of saving medicine? Improve the nutrition of the people, and when they eat well you will not have to spend money on hospitals. Therefore, in view of the tremendous reality of undevelopment, the Government of the United States now comes out with a plan for social development. Of course, it is stimulating to observe the United States concerning itself with some of the problems of Latin America. Thus far they had not concerned themselves at all. What a coincidence that, they are not worried about those problems! And the fact that this concern emerged after the Cuban Revolution will probably be labeled by them as purely coincidental.
Thus far, the monopolies have certainly not cared very much, except about exploiting the underdeveloped countries. But comes the Cuban Revolution and suddenly the monopolists are worrying, and while they attack us economically trying to crush us, they offer aims to the countries of Latin America. The countries of Latin America are offered, not the resources for development that Latin America needs, but resources for social development--houses for men who have no work, schools where children will not go, and hospitals that would not be necessary if there were enough food to eat.
After all, although some of my Latin American colleagues may feel it their duty to be discreet at the United Nations, they should all welcome a revolution such as the Cuban Revolution which at any rate has forced the monopolists to return at least a small part of what they have been extracting from the natural resources and the sweat of the Latin American peoples.
Although we are not included in that aid we are not worried about that; we do not get angry about things like that, because we have been settling those same problems of schools and housing and so on for quite some time. But perhaps there may be some of you who feel we are using this rostrum to make propaganda, because the President of the United Nations has said that some come here for propaganda purposes. And, of course, all of my colleagues in the United Nations have a standing invitation to visit Cuba. We do not close, our doors to any one, now do we confine anyone. Any of my colleagues in this assembly can visit Cuba whenever he wishes, in order to see with his own eyes what is going on. You know the chapter in the Bible that speaks of St. Thomas, who had to see in order to believe I think it was St. Thomas.
And, after all, we can invite any newspapermen, and any member of any delegation, to visit Cuba and see what a nation is capable of doing with its own resources, when they are used with honesty and reason. But we are not only solving our housing and school problems, we are solving our development problems as well, because without the solution of the problems of development there can be no settlement of the social problems themselves.
Why is the United States Government unwilling to talk of development? It is very simple: because the Government of the United States does not want to oppose the monopolies, and the monopolies require natural resources and markets for the investment of their capital. That is where the great contradiction lies. That is why the real solution to this problem is not sought. That is why planning for the development of underdeveloped countries with public funds is not done.
It is good that this be stated frankly, because, after all, we the underdeveloped countries, are a majority in this Assembly--in case anyone is unaware of this fact--and we are witnesses to what is going on in the underdeveloped countries.
Yet, the true solution of the problem is not sought, and much is said about the participation of private capital. Of course, this means markets for the investment of surplus capital, like the investment that was amortized in five years.
The government of the United States cannot propose a plan for public investment, because this would divorce it from the very reason for being the Government of the United States, namely the American monopolies.
Let us not beat about the bush, the reason no real economic plan is being promoted is simply this: to preserve our lands in Latin America, Africa, and Asia for the investment of surplus capital.
Thus far we have referred to the problems of my own country and the reason why those problems have not been solved. Is it perhaps because we did not want to solve them? No. The Government of Cuba has always been ready to discuss its problems with the Government of the United States, but the Government of the United States has not been ready to discuss its problems with Cuba, and it must have its reasons for not doing so.
The Government of the United States doe not deign to discuss its differences with the small country of Cuba.
What hope can the people of Cuba maintain for the solution of these problems? the facts that we have been able to note here so far conspire against the solution of these problems, and the United Nations should seriously take this into account, because the people and the Government of Cuba are justifiably concerned at the aggressive turn in the policy of the United States with regard to Cuba, and it is proper that we should be well informed.
In the first place, the Government of the United States considers it has the right to promote and encourage subversion in our country. The Government of the United States is promoting the organization of subversive movements against the Revolutionary Government of Cuba, and we wish to denounce this fact in this General Assembly; we also wish to denounce specifically the fact that, for instance, a territory which belongs to Honduras, known as Islas Cisnes, the Swan Islands, has been seized "manu militari" by the Government of the United States and that American marines are there, despite the fact that this territory belongs to Honduras. Thus, violating international law and despoiling a friendly people of a part of its territory, the United States has established a powerful radio station on one of those Islands, in violation of international radio agreements, and has placed it at the disposal of the war criminals and subversive groups supported in this country; furthermore, military training is being conducted on that island, in order to promote subversion and the landing of armed forces in our country.
Does the Government of the United States feel it has the right to promote subversion on our country, violating all international treaties, including those relating to radio frequency? Does this mean, by chance, that the Cuban Government has the right to promote subversion in the United States? Does the Government of the United States believe it has the right to violate radio frequency agreements? Does this mean, by chance, that the Cuban Government has the right to violate radio frequency agreements also? What right can the Government of the United States have over us over our island that permits it to act towards other nations in such a manner? Let the United States return the Swan Islands to Honduras, since it never had any jurisdiction over those Islands.
But there are even more alarming circumstances for our people. It is well known that, in virtue of the Platt Amendment, imposed by force upon our people, the Government of the United States assumed the right to establish naval bases on our territory, a right forcefully imposed and maintained. A naval base in the territory of any country is surely a cause for concern. First of all, there is concern over the fact that a country which follows an aggressive and warlike international policy has a base in the heart of our country, which brings us the risk of being involved in any international conflict, in any atomic conflict, without our having anything to do with the problem, because we have absolutely nothing to do with the problems of the United States and the crises provoked by the Government of the United States. Yet, there is a base in the heart of our Island which entails danger for us in case of war.
But is that only danger? No. There is another danger that concerns us even more, since it is closer to home. The Revolutionary Government of Cuba has repeatedly expressed its concern over the fact that the imperialist government of the United States may use that base, located in the heart of our national territory, as an excuse to promote a self - aggression, in order to justify an attack on our country. I repeat: the Revolutionary Government of Cuba is seriously concerned--and makes known this concern--over the fact that the imperialist government of the United States of America may use a self-aggression in order to justify an attack on our country. And this concern on our part is becoming increasingly greater because of the intensified aggressiveness that the United States is displaying. For instance, I have here a United Press cable which came to my country, and which reads as follows:
"Admiral Arleigh Burke, United States Chief of Naval Operations says that if Cuba attempts to take the Guantanamo Naval base by force we will fight back" In an interview for the magazine U.S. News and World Report (please excuse my bad pronunciation), Admiral Burke was asked if the Navy was concerned about the situation in Cuba under Premier Fidel Castro.
"Yes, our Navy is concerned--not about our base at Guantanamo, but about the whole Cuban situation," Admiral Burke said. The Admiral added that all the military services are concerned.
"Is that because of Cuba's strategic position in the Caribbean?" he was asked.
"No, not particularly,' Admiral Burke said. 'Here are a people normally very friendly to the United States, who like our people and were also like by us. In spite of this, an individual as appeared with a small group of fanatical communists, determined to change all that. Castro has taught his people to hate the United States, and has done much to ruin his country.'
"Admiral Burke said 'we will react very fast if Castro makes any move against the Guantanamo base.'
"If they try to take the base by force, we will fight back", he added.
Asked whether Soviet Premier Krushchev's threat about retaliatory rockets gave Admiral Burke 'second thoughts about fighting in Cuba' the Admiral said:
"No, because he is not going to send his rockets. He knows quite well he will be destroyed if he does."
He means that Russia will be destroyed.
In the first place, I must emphasize that for this gently man, to have increased industrial production in our country by 35 per cent, to have given employment to more than 200,000 more Cubans, to have solved many of the social problems of our country, constitutes the ruination of our country. And in accordance with this line of reasoning they assume the right to prepare the conditions for aggression.
So you see how conjectures are made--very dangerous conjectures, because this gentleman, in effect, thinks that in case of an attack on us we are to stand alone. This is just a conjecture by Mister Burke, but let us imagine that Mister Burke is wrong, let us suppose for just a moment that Mister Burke, although an admiral, is mistaken.
Than Admiral Burke is playing with the fate of the world in a most irresponsible manner. Admiral Burke and his aggressive militarist clique are playing with the fate of the world, and it would really not be worth our while to worry over the fate of each of us, but we feel that we, as representatives of the various peoples of the world, have the duty to concern ourselves with the fate of the world, and we also have the duty to condemn all those who play irresponsibly with the fate of the world. They are not only playing with the fate of our people; they are playing with the fate of their people and with the fate of all the people's of the world or does thus Admiral Burke think we are still living in the times of the blunderbusses? Does he not realize, this Admiral Burke, that we are living in the atomic age, in an age whose disastrous and cataclysmic destructive forces could not even he imagined by Dante or Leonardo Da Vinci, with all their imagination, because this goes beyond the imagination of man. Yet, he made his conjectures, United Press International spread the news all over the world, the magazine is about to come out, hysteria is being created, the campaign is being prepared, the imaginary danger of an attack on the base is beginning to be publicized.
And this is not all. Yesterday a United States news bulletin appeared containing some declarations by the United States Senator Styles Bridges who, I believe is a member of the Armed forces Committee of the Senate of the United States. He said:
"The United States should maintain its naval base of Guantanamo in Cuba at all costs"; and 'we must go as far as necessary to defend those gigantic installations of the United States. We have naval forces there, and we have the Marines, and if we were attacked I would defend it, of course, because I believe it is the most important base in the Caribbean area."
This member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee did not entirely reject the use of the atomic weapons in the case of an attack against the base.
What does this mean? This means that not only is hysteria being created, not only is the atmosphere being systematically prepared, but we are even threatened with the use of atomic weapons, and, of course, among the many things that we can think of, one is to ask this Mister Bridges whether he is not ashamed of himself to threaten a small country like Cuba with the use of atomic weapons
As far as we are concerned, and with all due respect, we must tell him that the problems of the world cannot be solved by the use of threats or by sowing fear, and that our humble people, our little country, is there. What can we do about? We are there, however much they dislike the idea, and our Revolution will go ahead, however much they dislike that. And our humble people must resign themselves to their fate. They are not afraid, nor are they shaken by this threat of the use of atomic weapons.
What does all this mean? There are many countries that have American bases in their territory, but they are not directed against the governments that made these concessions--at least not as far as we know. Yet ours is the most tragic case. There is a base on our island territory directed against Cuba and the Revolutionary Government of Cuba, in the hands of those who declare themselves enemies of our country, enemies of our revolution, and enemies of our people. In the entire history of the world's present-day bases, the most tragic case is that of Cuba; a base imposed upon us by force, well within our territory, which is a good many miles away from the coast of the United States, an instrument used against Cuba and the Cuban people imposed by the use of force, and a constant threat and a cause for concern for our people.
That is why we must state here that all these rumors of attacks are intended to create hysteria and prepare the conditions for an aggression against our country, that we have never spoken a single word implying the thought of any type of attack on the Guantanamo base, because we are the first in not wanting to give imperialism an excuse to attack us, and we state this categorically. But we also declare that from the very moment that base was turned into a threat to the security and peace of our country, a danger to our country, the Revolutionary Government of Cuba has been considering very seriously the requesting, within the framework of international law, of the withdrawal of the naval and military forces of the United States from that portion of our National territory.
(THE SPEAKER IS INTERRUPTED BY PROLONGED APPLAUSE)
But is is imperative that this Assembly be kept well informed regarding the problems of Cuba, because we have to be on the alert against deceit and confusion. We have to explain these problems very clearly because with them go the security and the fate of our country. And that is why we want exact note to be taken of the words I have spoken, particularly when one takes into consideration the fact that the opinions or erroneous ideas of the politicians of this country as regards Cuban problems do not show any signs of improving. I have here some declarations by Mister Kennedy that would surprise anybody. On Cuba he says. "We must use all the power of the Organization of American States to prevent Castro from interfering in other Latin American countries, and we must use all that power to return freedom to Cuba". They are going to give freedom back to Cuba!
"We must state our intention," he says, "of not allowing the Soviet Union to turn Cuba into its Caribbean base, and of applying the Monroe Doctrine". Half-way or more into the twentieth century, this gentleman speaks of the Monroe doctrine!
"We must make Prime Minister Castro understand that we intend to defend our right to the Naval Base of Guantanamo." He is the third who speaks of the problem. "And we must make the Cuban people know that we sympathize with their legitimate economic aspirations..." Why did they not feel sympathetic before? "...that we know their love of freedom, and that we shall never be happy until democracy is restored in Cuba..." What democracy? The democracy "made" by the imperialist monopolies of the Government of the United States?
"The forces in exile that are struggling for freedom," he says--note this very carefully so that you will understand why there are planes flying from American territory over Cuba: pay close attention to what this gentleman has to say. "The forces that struggle for liberty in exile and in the mountains of Cuba should be supported and assisted, and in other countries of Latin America communism must be confined and not allowed to expand."
If Kennedy were not an illiterate and ignorant millionaire...
...he would understand that is is not possible to carry out a revolution supported by landowners against the peasant in the mountains, and that every time imperialism has tried to encourage counterrevolutionary groups, the peasant militia has captured them in the course of a few days. But he seems to have read a novel, or seen a Hollywood film, about guerrillas, and he thinks it is possible to carry on guerrilla warfare in a country where the relations of the social forces are what they are in Cuba.
In any case, this is discouraging. Let no one think, however, that these opinions as regards Kennedy's statements indicate that we feel any sympathy towards the other one, Mister Nixon...
who has made similar statements. As far as we are concerned, both lack political brains.
Up to this point we have been dealing with the problem of our country, a fundamental duty of ours when coming before the United Nations, but we understand that it would be a little egoistical on our part if our concern were to be limited to our specific case alone. It is also true that we have used up the greater part of our time informing this Assembly about the Cuban case, and that there is not much time left for us to deal with the remaining questions, to which we wish to refer briefly.
The case of Cuba is not isolated case. It would be an error to think of it only as the case of Cuba. The case of Cuba is the case of all underdeveloped countries. The case of Cuba is like that of the Congo, Egypt, Algeria, Iran...
like that of Panama, which wishes to have its canal; it is like that of Puerto Rico, whose national spirit they are destroying; like that of Honduras, a portion of whose territory has been alienated. In short, although we have not make specific reference to other countries, the case of Cuba is the case of all underdeveloped, colonialized countries.
The problems which we have been describing in relation to Cuba can be applied just as well to all of Latin America. The control of Latin American economic resources by the monopolies, which, when they do not own the mines directly and are in charge of extraction, as the case with the copper of Chile, Peru, or Mexico, and with the oil of Venezuela--when this control is not exercised directly it is because they are the owners of the public utility companies, as is the case in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, or the owners of telephone services, which is the case in Chile, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Paraguay and Bolivia, or they commercialize our products, as is the case with coffee in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, or with the cultivation, marketing and transportation of bananas by the United Fruit Co. in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras, or with the Cotton in Mexico and Brazil. In other words, the monopolies control the most important industries. Woe to those countries, the day they try to make an agrarian reform! They will be asked for immediate, efficient, and just payment. And if, in spite of everything they make an agrarian reform, the representative of the friendly country who comes to the United Nations will be confined to Manhattan; they will not rent hotel space to him; insult will he heaped upon him, and it is even possible that he may be physically mistreated by the police.
The problem of Cuba is just an example of the situation in Latin America. And how long will Latin America wait for its development? It will have to wait, according to the point of view of the monopolies, until there are two Fridays in a week.
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Resources and references
Castro Speech Database - Embassy of Cuba and Univ. of Texas
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Fidel Castro's 1960 Address to the U.N. General Assembly: "The Problem of Cuba and its Revolutionary Policy" (Part 3 of 4)
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