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Words at the ceremony unveiling the bust of Simón Bolívar, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Words spoken by Comrade Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, at the ceremony unveiling the bust of Simón Bolívar, Salvador, Bahía, Brazil; December 17, 2008, “Year 50 of the Revolution”.

(Stenographic Versions– Council of State)

Good evening, my dear friends of Salvador de Bahía!

Starting early in the morning tomorrow, I shall be beginning an official visit to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, and when we have concluded this ceremony we shall be going there; therefore, I shall speak very briefly to you; I don’t speak as much as Chávez does, because Chávez is more vigorous, he’s younger.

It is true that I told you, as we were coming up here, that he was in prison at the time the Third Ibero-American Summit was being held in 1993, with Fidel and other heads of state participating.

I came up here for just one reason: to tell Chávez that Fidel was watching him live on TV (Applause.), and, as you saw, he didn’t let me speak to him and so he had me speak.

What is it you say to Fidel when you greet him? (President Chávez answers.) He tells him: “How are you, Fidel? (in English)” (Laughter.) He greets him in English from Venezuela, whenever he is involved in some activity, or on his Aló Presidente programme, really long broadcasts that he organizes every Sunday.

I have a problem with him; I watch him in Cuba, but his lectures are so long that I turn the volume down and keep on working, and later I ask an aide to summarize what President Chávez had said, because he says very interesting things, and even though I am a bit older than him, I always learn something.

He was remembering that he calls me “uncle”, and Fidel “father”, a treatment that embarrasses us, because of our modesty, but we do feel proud. And so one of my granddaughters, a little girl around 12 years old, was telling her mom – one of my daughters – the other day: “Fine, if Uncle Fidel”, – she calls Fidel Uncle – “is Chávez’ dad and grand-dad Raúl is his uncle, that makes me Chávez’ cousin”. (Laughter and applause.) The little girl’s name is Monica, one of the aliases used by her grandmother –she has passed on now –in the underground struggle, in the war of liberation.

I just wanted to give you all a hug, with my words, to all of you; through all of you, to the entire state and to all of Brazil which has more than 190 million inhabitants and more than 8 million square kilometres.

When I was coming here from Caracas, we were flying over the state of Amazonas and it took hours and hours and hours, seeing the giant magnificent green expanse of this important oxygenating lung that belongs not just to Brazil and to the Americas, but to the entire planet.

The people of Brazil and Cuba have the same roots, the same ethnic roots. This large black man you see here (He indicates the translator.) is not Brazilian, he is Cuban. (Laughter.) If I wouldn’t tell you that you might think that he’s Brazilian; he doesn’t dance the samba, even though he likes to watch the mulatas (mulatto girls) dancing the samba. What do you call mulatas over here? Oh, you don´t know! (Laughter.) He dances the conga which is something very similar and very happy.

We have the same cultural roots – as I was telling you – we have a volatile nature, the result of a union between our African branch, our branch that we have in common, and our European branch: in some cases, one is stronger, in others, it’s the other one. The National Poet of Cuba, now deceased, Nicolás Guillén, has a very beautiful and long poem which he dedicated to his two grandparents: to his black grandfather and to his white grandfather.

Therefore, when I was able to briefly spend some time with this gathering of people from Bahía, well, I feel like I am in Cuba; I feel like I am in Santiago de Cuba, which is even more similar: it’s a smaller city, with fewer inhabitants, but they are the same: some speak Portuguese and the others speak Spanish, and in Cuba, many speak “Portuguish”.

We might call “Portuguish” a dialect arising out of the necessity the Cubans and the Angolans had to communicate to one other for 15 years; along with the Angolan patriots, we had the honour of participating with the Peoples’ Movement for the Liberation of Angola, under the leadership of their first President and the founder of the State, founded on November 11, 1975, when from four different directions, at midnight of that day, rather, that night, the new-born State was attacked by all its enemies: the South African racists to the south; the UNITA puppets, an organization established by the Portuguese colonists and later going into the service of the Americans; to the north, Mobutu’s troops and a so-called Angolan National Liberation Front, also puppets, first of the Portuguese colonists, and later of the Central Intelligence Agency, the American CIA.

A little further to the north, in an enclave named Cabinda, separated from the rest of Angolan territory by the estuary of the great Congo River – that being the only spot where they had oil at the time; it was being extracted close in the ocean to the coast – four days before independence was proclaimed, it was also attacked, an act of aggression that was repelled by Cuban and Angolan troops.

That gigantic internationalist military operation that began in the second half of 1975, lasted 15 years. During that time, 300,000 Cuban soldiers went to Angola, and tens of thousands of officers: depending on the situation, there were always between 35,000 and 55,000 Cuban soldiers; they lived difficult times through the different stages of those long years, and our people, all those who took part, soldiers, professional soldiers or reservists, went voluntarily to fulfil that dangerous internationalist mission. More than two thousand gave their lives in such a noble mission, until Angola could walk by itself.

We called that operation by the name of Carlota. Who was Carlota? She was a slave, probably Angolan, even though research hasn’t been able to confirm that, who headed a slave rebellion in the nineteenth century. It failed; it happened in an isolated area, in a sugar factory – no, it wasn’t a factory, but I don’t know what it was called -, it was a small factory, it didn’t run on steam yet (Chávez says that Raúl is talking much more than he did) (Laughter.) And Carlota fled to the mountains and joined other slaves who had also fled, those that were called cimarrones (runaways). Some time later she led the revolt of another small sugar factory. This time she was captured. Put on trial by the Spanish colonial powers, she was condemned to be ripped apart by four horses, cruelly torn into four pieces. It was the same thing with Angola: dividing it into four pieces.

When the time finally came for us to leave, we had achieved not only the strengthening of Angola’s independence, from Cabinda in the north all the way to Cunene in the south, and on the border of Namibia which was occupied at the time by the South African racists as well. Angola with its one million and a quarter square kilometres was kept intact and so it remains until the present day.

Moreover, we succeeded in having United Nations Resolution 435 applied, forcing the South African racists to leave Namibia and thus letting that country gain its freedom and independence.

As another by-product of that heroism of the Angolan people and their Cuban brothers and sisters, the disgusting South African system of apartheid was seriously affected and shaken up. Nelson Mandela, that great South African leader, who had by then been imprisoned for almost 27 years, was freed and became the first President of that gigantic and prosperous country after being victorious in the elections.

That is the effort made by the Cuban people, the results of those efforts, of that sacrifice of which we are proud.

We said to the Angolans: “the only thing we will take away from Africa will be the bodies of our dead”, and together we brought them back to all the municipalities in the country, rather, to their hometowns. Cuba has 14 provinces and 169 municipalities and we had casualties, except from two municipalities, from all the rest of them. In a solemn ceremony, one December 7th, at the same time all over the country, we buried all the Cubans who fell in that internationalist mission.

We said to the Africans that we didn’t need for them to express any gratitude to us, quite the opposite, we paid just a small part of the great debt our people has with Africa, because the immense majority of the wealth of my country – at that time it was in coffee, sugar and other things – had been accumulated using the labour of African slaves.

All Cubans feel proud of those missions, and today we continue to collaborate, but through other kinds of civil activities.

I wanted to tell you all about this, because we feel so much at home in a population like this, which is the same as ours.

To all of you, people of Bahía, a strong embrace from Cuba, from the people with me here today, from President Hugo Chávez who has already spoken –lucky for us he spoke briefly –from President Zelaya of Honduras, from President Evo Morales of Bolivia. (Applause.)

I think that at least we four heads of state present here have had the privilege of putting the perfect finishing touch on this short meeting with all of you, the summit meetings we have held these last two days in Sauípe, Bahía.

Muito obrigado. (Thank you, in Portuguese.)


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