Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
[In this excerpt from the Book "One Hundred Hours with Fidel,"
the Cuban President talks about the Zapatistas, the indigenous
movements in Ecuador and Bolivia, and finally the riveting story of
the failed 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. -NY Transfer]
Granma International - Jan 9, 2007
There could be more than one revolution in Latin America
Excerpt from "One Hundred Hours with Fidel" by Ignacio Ramonet
Comandante, I would like to ask you a question on Subcomandante Marcos.
January 2004 saw the 10th anniversary of the eruption of the Zapatistas in
Chiapas on the occasion of the coming into force of Mexico's Free Trade
Treaty with the United States and Canada. I would like to know what you
think of that exceptional figure, who has become so popular in the heart of
the alternative globalization movement. Do you know him, have you read his
I cannot judge him, but I have read some of your material on Marcos (1) and
what is said about him is really very interesting, it helps one to
understand his character, including why he was assigned that grade of
"subcomandante." Before that everyone involved in wars or campaigns were
generals. From the Cuban Revolution a custom was established, that the
chiefs were "comandantes." That is the grade that I came with in the Granma
(yacht). As I was the chief of a small Rebel Army and in the Sierra we had
to assume a military organization, we couldn't say "general secretary of
the guerrilla column." Thus I acquired the description of "Comandante en
Jefe." Comandante was the most modest grade in the traditional army and had
one advantage: that `in chief' could be effectively added to it.
Never again, since that era, has any revolutionary movement utilized the
title of general. However, Marcos used that of subcomandante. I had never
properly understood that, I saw it as an expression of modesty.
Yes, he says: "The comandante is the people; I am the subcomandante,
because I am at the orders of the people."
It has to be explained: he is the subcomandante of the comandante pueblo.
Very good. From your book on conversations with him, I learnt many details,
of his ideas, his concepts, his struggle for the indigenous cause. I read
it with much respect, and I am happy to have had information of that kind
on his character and the situation in Chiapas.
That was daring, without any doubt, when he then made that journey. It has
been debated whether or not it was right to do so, but in any case I have
followed it with much interest.
You are referring to the "march for peace" on Mexico that Marcos made in
April 2001. (2)
Yes. I have observed everything with much interest; I see in Marcos an
integrity; it is indisputable that he is a man of integrity, concepts,
talent. He is an intellectual, whether or not he is the person with whom he
was identified when little was known about him. I am not sufficiently
informed, but that is not important; what is important are ideas,
constancy, the knowledge of a revolutionary combatant.
Are you following the battle of the indigenous peoples in Latin America?
With much interest. As you know, I was a great friend of the painter
Guayasammn. I had great admiration for him and conversed a lot with him and
he often talked to me of the problems and tragedies of the Indians.
Moreover, from what one knows from history, there have been acts of
genocide over the centuries, but now a greater awareness is appearing. And
the struggle of Marcos and of the Mexican Indians is yet another testimony
This is what I can say in relation to Marcos. We are observing, with much
respect, the line that he is following, and we respect the line of any
organization, of any progressive party, of any democratic party. I have
never had the opportunity, there has never been any possibility of a
personal conversation with Marcos, I do not know him personally, I only
know him via all the news and references I have read about him, and I also
know of many people, among them many intellectuals, who feel great
admiration for him.
There is also a strong indigenous movement in Ecuador, right?
I admire, naturally, the organization of the Ecuadorian Indians, the
Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAI) and Pachakutik (Our Land),
their social organization, their political organization and their leaders,
both men and women. I have also met very valiant leaders in Bolivia, where
there is a formidable combativeness, and I know the principal Bolivian
leader of today, Evo Morales, an outstanding man, a very outstanding
I imagine that you must have been happy at Evo Morales' victory in the
presidential elections in Bolivia, on December 18, 2005.
Very happy. That election, resounding, indisputable, moved the world, given
the fact that it was the first time that an indigenous president was chosen
in Bolivia, which is extraordinary. Evo possesses all the qualities to lead
his country and his people at this difficult time which is unlike any
Located in the heart of the Americas, Bolivia takes its name from the
liberator Simsn Bolmvar. Its first governor was Marshall Antonio Josi de
Sucre. It is a country rich in its people and its subsoil, but currently
classified as the poorest nation in the region, with a population of close
to nine million inhabitants, distributed throughout an essentially
mountainous territory of more than one million square kilometers.
That is the framework and within that framework, Evo Morales is planning
for the future as a hope for the majority of his people. He embodies the
confirmation of the collapse of the political system traditionally applied
in the region, and the determination of the large masses to gain a genuine
independence. His election is the expression of the fact that the political
map of Latin America is changing. New winds are blowing in this hemisphere.
Initially, there was no security of Evo's advantage in the December 18
elections, and there was concern because manipulations could have occurred
in Congress. But when he won with close to 54%% of the votes in the first
round, and also won in the Chamber of Deputies, that eliminated any kind of
It has been the miracle election, the election that shook the world, which
shook the empire and the unsustainable order imposed by the United States.
It demonstrates that Washington can no longer have recourse to
dictatorships as in other eras, that imperialism does not have the
instruments of before, nor can it apply them.
Cuba was the first country that Evo Morales visited, on December 30, 2005,
right after being elected president, and even before his investiture on
January 22, 2006. Do you think that that visit has created problems for him
The friendly visit of brother Evo, president elect of Bolivia is inserted
in the framework of the historic and profound relations of sisterhood and
solidarity between the Cuban and Bolivian peoples. Nobody could be annoyed
at that. Nor even on account of the agreements signed (3). They are
agreements for life, for humanity; they don't constitute a crime. How could
the government of the United States be offended by Cuba helping to increase
the life expectancy at birth of Bolivian children? Could the reduction of
infant mortality or the eradication of illiteracy possibly offend anybody?
Do you think that other Latin American countries will now have to take the
indigenous component into account?
There are highly critical social situations in three countries where there
is a great force and large indigenous component: Peru and Ecuador, in
addition to Bolivia. There is also a large component in Guatemala, but the
course there has been distinct from the rest of the countries, in terms of
the indigenous component, of course; the Mexicans have a very large one
too. I can only say that, in this hemisphere, it is perfectly explicable
that there is a Marcos fighting for the rights of the indigenous peoples,
as there might be ten or one hundred. The seriousness of the indigenous
leaders that I know impresses me in particular. I have talked a lot with
the Ecuadorians. They talk seriously. They inspire respect, they inspire
confidence, they have much integrity. And in Ecuador, as in Peru and other
countries, they will have to take them into account.
You have said that you have great admiration for Hugo Chavez, the president
Well, yes, there we have another Indian, Hugo Chavez, a new Indian who is,
as he states "a mix of Indian and mixed-race;" he is really saying a bit of
black, a bit of white and a bit of Indian. But you look at Chavez and you
are seeing an autochthonous son of Venezuela, the son of that Venezuela
which was a mix of races, with all the noble traits and an exceptional
talent. I am in the habit of listening to his speeches and he is proud of
his humble origins and his ethnic mix, where there is a bit of everything,
principally from those who were the autochthonous Indians or slaves brought
from Africa. He could have some white genes, and that's not a bad thing;
the combination of the so-called ethnicities is always good, it enriches
You have closely followed the evolution of the situation in Venezuela, in
particular the destabilization attempts against President Chavez?
Yes, we have followed events with great attention. Chavez visited us in
1994, nine months after leaving prison and four years before his first
election as president. He was very brave, because he was much reproached
for traveling to Cuba. He came and we talked. We discovered a cultured,
intelligent, very progressive man, an authentic Bolivarian. Then he won the
elections. Various times. He changed the Constitution, with formidable
support from the people. His adversaries have tried to sweep him away via a
coup or economic coups. He has been able to stand up to all the assaults by
the oligarchy and imperialism against the Bolivarian process.
During the famous 40 years of the democracy that preceded Chavez, according
to calculations we have made with the help of the most experienced cadres
in the banking system, there was a capital flight of some $300 billion from
Venezuela. Venezuela could have been more industrialized than Sweden and
its people could have the education of that country if there had existed a
distributive democracy, if those mechanisms had functioned, if there was
something certain and credible in all that demagoguery and its colossal
established in January 2003, we calculate that an additional flight of some
$30 billion has taken place. As we stated, all those phenomena make the
order of things in our hemisphere unsustainable.
On April 11, 2002, there was a coup d'itat in Caracas against Chavez. Did
you follow those events?
When we saw at midday on April 11 that the demonstration called by the
opposition had been diverted by those involved in the coup and was
approaching Miraflores Palace (4), I immediately understood that serious
events were about to take place. In fact we were watching the march on
Venezolana de Televisisn, which was still transmitting. The provocations,
the shooting, the victims, happened almost immediately. A few minutes
later, Venezolana de Televisisn transmissions were cut. News began to
arrive in snatches and via different routes. We knew that some senior
officers had publicly spoken out against the president. It was affirmed
that the Presidential Guard had withdrawn and that the army was to attack
Miraflores Palace. Some Venezuelan personalities were calling their friends
in Cuba by phone to make their farewells, because they were prepared to
resist and to die; they talked specifically of sacrificing themselves.
That night I was in a meeting in a room at the International Conference
Center with the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers. An
official delegation from the Basque Country, headed by Lehendakari, had
been with me since midday and had been invited to a lunch at a time when
nobody imagined what was going to happen on that tragic day. They were
witness to the events from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on April 11.
I was trying to communicate with the Venezuelan president by telephone from
early afternoon. It was impossible! After midnight, at 12:38 a.m. on April
12, I received news that Chavez was on the telephone.
I asked him about the situation at that moment. He replied: "We are
entrenched here in the Palace. We have lost the military force that could
decide things. They've taken away the television signal. I am powerless to
move and am analyzing the situation." I asked him rapidly: "What forces do
"About 200-300 very exhausted men."
"Have you got tanks?" I asked him.
"No, we did have tanks but they were withdrawn from their barracks."
I asked him again: "What other forces can you count on?"
And he replied: "There are others at a distance, but I don't have any
communication with them." He was referring to General Razl Isamas Baduel
and the paratroopers, the Armored Division and other forces, but he had
lost all communication with those Bolivarian and loyal units.
With great delicacy I said to him: "Would you allow me to express an
opinion?" He answered: "Yes."
I added with the most persuasive note possible: "Insist on the conditions
of honorable and dignified treatment and preserve the lives of the men that
you have, who are the most loyal. Don't sacrifice them, or yourself."
He replied with emotion: "They are all ready to die here."
Without hesitating I added: "I know, but I believe that I can think with
more serenity than you can at this point. Don't resign, demand honorable
and guaranteed conditions so that you are not the victim of a felony,
because I think you should preserve yourself. Moreover, you have a duty to
your compaqeros. Don't sacrifice yourself!"
I was very aware of the profound difference between the situation of
Allende on September 11, 1973 and the situation of Chavez on that April 12,
2002. Allende didn't have a single soldier. Chavez could count on a large
section of the soldiers and officers of the army, especially the young
"Don't step down! Don't resign!" I reiterated to him.
We talked on other subjects: the way in which I thought he should
provisionally leave the country, communicate with some soldier who had real
authority in the coup ranks, put to him his disposition to leave the
country, but not to resign. From Cuba we would try to mobilize the
Diplomatic Corps in our country and in Venezuela; we would send two planes
with our foreign minister and a group of diplomats to collect him. He
thought about it for a few seconds, and finally accepted my proposition.
Everything would now depend on the enemy military chief.
In the interview given to the authors of the book Chavez nuestro (Our
Chavez) by Josi Vicente Rangel, then minister of defense and the current
vice president, who was with Chavez at that moment, one can read textually:
"Fidel's call was decisive in there being no self-sacrifice. It was
determining. His advice allowed us to see better in the dark. He helped us
Were you encouraging him to resist with weapons in hand?
No, on the contrary. That was what Allende did, in my judgment correctly in
the circumstances, and paid for it heroically with his life, as he had
Chavez had three alternatives: to dig in in Miraflores and resist until the
death; to leave the Palace and try to rejoin the people to unleash a
national resistance, with negligible possibilities of success in those
circumstances; or to leave the country without resigning or stepping down,
in order to renew the fight with real and rapid prospects of success. We
suggested the third one.
My final words to convince him in that telephone conversation were in
essence: "Save those valiant men who are with you in that battle which is
unnecessary now." The idea came from the conviction that a leader as
popular and charismatic as Chavez, defeated in that treacherous way in
those circumstances, if they didn't kill him, the people- in this case with
the support of the best of their Armed Forces - would reclaim him with much
more force and his return would be inevitable. That is why I assumed the
responsibility of proposing to him what I proposed.
At that precise moment, when there was a real alternative of a victorious
and rapid return, the slogan to die fighting, as Salvador Allende did very
well, had no place. And that victorious return was what did occur, although
far earlier than I could have imagined.
At that time, did you try to help Chavez in some way?
Well, at that point we could only act using the resources of diplomacy. In
the middle of the night we called all the accredited ambassadors in Havana
and proposed to them that they should accompany Felipe (Pirez Roque), our
minister of foreign affairs, to Caracas to peacefully rescue alive Chavez,
the legitimate president of Venezuela.
I did not harbor the least doubt that, in a very short time, Chavez would
be back on the shoulders of the people and the troops. Now, he had to be
saved from death.
We proposed to send two planes to collect him in the event of the coup
leaders accepting his exit. But the coup military chief rejected the
formula, also communicating to him that he would be subjected to a war
council. Chavez put on his parachutist uniform and accompanied only by his
faithful aide, Jeszs Suarez Chourio, went to the Tiuna Fortress, the
headquarters and military command post of the coup.
When I called him again, two hours later, as I agreed with him, Chavez had
been taken prisoner by coup soldiers and all contact had been lost with
him. The television continually broadcast news of his "resignation" to
demobilize his followers and all the people.
Some hours later, now fully into April 12, a telephone call was arranged
and he talked with his daughter Marma Gabriela. He affirmed to her that he
had not resigned, that he was a "president prisoner." He asked her to
communicate that to me so that I could inform the world.
His daughter immediately called me on April 12 at 10:02 in the morning, and
transmitted her father's words to me. I immediately asked her: "Would you
be prepared to inform the world in your own words?" "What wouldn't I do for
my father?" she replied with that precise, admirable and decided phrase.
Without losing a second I communicated with Randy Alonso, journalist and
director of the "Roundtable," a well-known television program. With
telephone and tape recorder in hand, Randy called the cell phone number
that Marma Gabriela had given me. It was almost 11:00 a.m. The clear, felt
and persuasive words of the daughter were recorded, immediately
transcribed, given to the accredited news agencies in Cuba and transmitted
on the National Television News at 12:40 p.m. on April 12, 2002, in
Gabriela's own voice. The tape had also been handed over to the accredited
international television channels in Cuba. From Venezuela, CNN was
gleefully transmitting the news from coup sources; its reporter in Havana,
on the other hand, rapidly circulated the clarifying words of Marma
Gabriela from Cuba at midday.
And what consequences did that have?
Well, that was heard by millions of Venezuelans, in their majority against
the coup, and the soldiers loyal to Chavez, those people who they had tried
to confuse and paralyze with barefaced lies of his alleged resignation.
At 11:15 that night, Marma Gabriela called again. Her voice had a tragic
tone. I didn't let her finish her first words and asked her: "What's
happened?" She replied: "They've taken away my father by night in a
helicopter, destination unknown." "Quickly," I told her, "in a few minutes
you have to expose that in your own voice."
Randy was with me in a meeting on programs of the Battle of Ideas with
youth leaders and other cadres; he had his recorder with him, and the
history of midday was immediately repeated. Venezuelan and world opinion
where thus informed of the strange nocturnal transfer of Chavez for an
unknown destination. This occurred between the night of the 12th and dawn
on the 13th.
On Saturday 13th, very early, an Open Tribunal had been organized in G|ira
de Melena, a municipality in Habana province. Back in the office before
10:00 a.m., I called Marma Gabriela. She said that "Chavez' parents were
anxious;" they wanted to talk with me from Barinas, they wanted to make a
I informed her that a cable from an international press agency had
communicated that Chavez had been transferred to Turiamo, a naval port in
Aragua on the northern coast of Venezuela. I gave her my opinion that based
on the type of information and details, the news seemed accurate. I
recommended her to make as many inquiries as possible. She added that
General Lucas Rincsn, Inspector General of the Armed Forces, wanted to talk
to me, and also wanted to make a public statement.
Chavez' mother and father talked with me: everything normal in the state of
Barinas. Chavez' mother told me that the military chief of the garrison had
just spoken to her husband, Hugo de los Reyes Chavez, governor of Barinas
and Chavez' father. I transmitted as much calm to them as I could.
The mayor of Sabaneta, the town in which Chavez was born, in Barinas, had
also been in touch. He wanted to make a statement. He related in passing
that all the garrisons were loyal. His great optimism was perceptible.
I talked with Lucas Rincsn. He affirmed that the Parachute Brigade, the
Armored Tank Division and the F-16 hunter bomber base were against the coup
and ready to act. I dared to suggest to him that he should do everything
possible to seek a solution without fighting among soldiers. Obviously the
coup was defeated. There was no statement from the Inspector General,
because the call was interrupted and could not be reestablished.
A few minutes later, Marma Gabriela called again: she told me that General
Badual, chief of the Parachute Brigade, needed to get in touch with me and
the Maracay loyal forces wished to make a statement to the people of
Venezuela and to international opinion.
An insatiable desire for news prompted me to ask Baduel three or four
details on the situation before continuing the dialogue. He satisfied my
curiosity in the right way; he exuded combativeness in every sentence.
Immediately I told him: "Everything is ready for your statement." He said:
"Wait a minute; I'll put you on to Divisional General Julio Garcma Montoya,
permanent secretary of the National Council of Security and Defense. He has
arrived to offer support for our position." This officer, an older man than
the young military chiefs from Maracay, did not have command of the troops
at that time.
Respectful of the military hierarchy, Baduel, whose Parachute Brigade was
one of the fundamental axes of the powerful force of tanks, armored
infantry and hunter bombers located in Maracay, state of Aragua, put
General Montoya on the line. The words of this high-ranking officer were
really intelligent, persuasive and appropriate to the situation. In essence
he stated that the Venezuelan Armed Forces were faithful to the
Constitution. With that he said it all.
I had turned into a kind of press reporter who received and transmitted
news and public messages via the simple use of a cell phone and tape
recorder in Randy's hands. I was witness to the formidable counter-coup of
the people and the Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela.
The situation at that moment was excellent. The April 11 coup didn't have
the most minimal chance of success. But a terrible risk was still hanging
over the sister country. Chavez' life was in extremely grave danger.
Kidnapped by the coup forces, the oligarchy and imperialism, the person of
Chavez' was all that was left in the hands of the fascist adventure. What
would they do with him? Would they assassinate him? Would they quench their
thirst of hatred and revenge on that rebel and daring Bolivarian fighter,
the friend of the poor, the unbowed defender of the dignity and sovereignty
of Venezuela? What would happen if, as was the case in Bogota on account of
the death of Gaitan, the people received the news of the assassination of
Chavez? I couldn't get the idea of a similar tragedy and its bloody and
destructive consequences out of my head.
During the midday hours, after the abovementioned communications, news of
popular indignation and rebelliousness was coming in from all sides. In
Caracas, the main center of events, a sea of people was advancing along
streets and avenues on the Miraflores Palace and the central installations
of the coup organizers. In my desperation as a friend and brother of the
prisoner, a thousand ideas were running through my head. What could we do
with our little cell phone? I was at the point of calling General Vazquez
Velasco himself (5). I had never spoken to him nor did I know where he was.
I didn't know if he would respond or not, or how he would do so. And for
that singular mission I couldn't count on the valiant services of Marma
Gabriela. I thought more about it. At 4:15 p.m. I called our ambassador in
Venezuela, German Sanchez. I asked him whether he believed that Vazquez
Velasco would respond or not. He told me that he might.
"Call him," I asked, "use my name, express to him my opinion that a river
of blood could run in Venezuela derived from the events. That only one man
could avert those risks: Hugo Chavez. Exhort him to release him immediately
in order to prevent the probable course of events."
General Vazquez Velasco responded to the call. He affirmed that he had
Chavez in his power and was guaranteeing his life, but that he could not
accede to what was being asked of him. Our ambassador insisted, he argued,
he tried to persuade him. Annoyed, the general broke the communication. He
I immediately called Marma Gabriela and told her what Vazquez Velasco had
said, particularly the part related to his commitment to guarantee Chavez'
life. I asked her to put me on to Baduel again. Contact was made at 4:49. I
related to him in detail the German-Vazquez Velasco exchange. I expressed
my opinion on the importance of the fact that Vazquez Velasco acknowledged
having Chavez in his power. Those were circumstances propitious for
pressuring him to the maximum.
At that moment, it was not definitively known in Cuba if Chavez had been
transferred or not, nor to what point. The rumor had been circulating for a
few hours that the prisoner had been sent to the island of Orchila. When I
spoke to Baduel, at almost 5:00 p.m. the brigade chief was selecting his
men and preparing helicopters for the rescue of President Chavez. I
imagined how difficult it would be for Baduel and the parachutists to
obtain the precise and exact data for such a delicate mission.
During all the rest of the day up until midnight of the 13th, I devoted my
time to the task of talking to as many people as I could on the issue of
Chavez' life. And I spoke to many people, because during that afternoon,
the people, with the support of the chiefs and soldiers of the Army, were
setting about controlling everything. I still do not know at what time and
in what way Carmona el Breve (6) left Miraflores Palace. I knew that, under
the direction of Chourio and the members of the Presidential Guard, that
the guards had already taken and occupied strategic points of the building
and Rangel, who stood firm the whole time, had returned to the Ministry of
I even called Diosdado Cabello (7) right after he had taken possession of
the Presidency. Due to the communication being lost because of technical
problems, I transmitted a message to him via Hictor Navarro, minister of
higher education, suggesting that in his condition of constitutional
president he should order Vazquez Velasco to release Chavez, warning him of
the grave responsibility he would incur if he disobeyed that order.
I spoke with almost everyone, I too felt part of that drama into which I
was introduced by Marma Gabriela's phone call in the morning of April 12.
Only when all the details of Hugo Chavez' Calvary were known, from when he
was taken to an unknown destination during the night of the 12th, could the
incredible danger to which he was exposed be confirmed, and into which he
put into play all his mental acuteness, his serenity, sang-froid and
revolutionary instinct. More incredible still is that, until the last
minute, the coup members kept him uninformed of what was occurring in the
country, and up until the last minute insisted on him signing a resignation
that he never signed.
A private aircraft, said to be owned by a known member of the Venezuelan
oligarchy, whose name I will not mention for lack of total certainty as to
the information, was waiting to transfer him to who knows where and in the
hands of who knows who.
I have narrated to you everything that I know; one day other hands will
write this history with all the details that are missing.
Chavez is a representative of progressive military officers, but in
Europe, and also in Latin America, many progressives reproach him precisely
for being part of the military. What is your opinion on that apparent
contradiction between being progressive and the military?
Omar Torrijos, in Panama, was an example of a military officer with a
profound consciousness of social justice and his homeland. Juan Velasco
Alvarado (8), in Peru, also carried out important actions for progress. It
should be recalled, for example, that among Brazilians, Luiz Carlos Prestes
was a revolutionary officer who made a heroic march from 1924 to 1926, as
did Mao Zedong from 1934 to 1935.
In one of his magnificent literary works, Jorge Amado (9), wrote a
beautiful account of Prestes' march, El caballero de la esperanza (The
Cavalier of Hope). That military feat was something impressive; it lasted
more than two-and-a-half years, covering immense territories of his country
without suffering a defeat. Important revolutionary deeds emerged from the
military in the recently-concluded 20th century.
Among those are the names of illustrious officers like Lazaro Cardenas, a
general of the Mexican Revolution, who nationalized oil, carried out
agrarian reforms and won the support of the people forever.
Some of the first rebels in Central America in the 20th century include a
group of Guatemalan soldiers in the 1950s, who together with Jacobo Arbenz,
a high-ranking officer in the Guatemalan Army, participated in historic
revolutionary activities, including the noble and valiant agrarian reform
that led to a mercenary invasion that, like the Bay of Pigs Invasion and
for the same reason, was launched by imperialism against that government,
which legitimately deserved to be described as progressive.
There are a good number of cases of progressive military officers. Juan
Domingo Persn, in Argentina, also had military roots. One must look at the
time when he emerged; in 1934, he was named minister of labor, and made
laws benefiting workers, and, in recognition of that, when he was sent off
to prison, it was the people who rescued him.
Persn committed some errors: he offended the Argentine oligarchy, he
humiliated it; he nationalized the theater and other symbols of the rich
classes, but the latter's political and economic power remained intact, and
at a propitious moment, they overthrew him with the complicity and help of
the United States. Persn's greatness lies in the fact that he appealed to
the reserves and resources of that rich country and did everything he could
to improve living conditions for the workers. That social class, always
grateful and loyal, made Persn an idol of the working people until the end
of his life.
General Lmber Seregni, who until a few years ago was president of the Broad
Front of Uruguay, is one of the most progressive and respected leaders ever
known in Latin America. His integrity, decency, firmness and tenacity
contributed to the historic victory of that noble people, full of
solidarity, who elected Tabari Vazquez, Seregni's successor, as president
of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay and brought the Uruguayan left into
government, when the country was on the edge of the abyss. Cuba is thankful
to Lmber Seregni for the solid bases that, together with many eminent
Uruguayans, he forged for the fraternal and solidarity-based relations that
now exist between Uruguay and Cuba.
We have no right to forget Francisco Caamaqo, a young Dominican soldier who
for months heroically combated 40,000 United States soldiers dispatched by
President Johnson to the Dominican Republican in 1965 in order to prevent
the return of the Constitutionally-elected President Juan Bosch. His
tenacious resistance to the invaders, leading a handful of soldiers and
civilians, which lasted for months, was one of the most glorious
revolutionary episodes ever written in this hemisphere. Caamaqo, after a
truce snatched from the empire, returned to his homeland and lay down his
life fighting for the liberation of his people.
Without a man like Hugo Chavez, born in a poor family and trained in the
discipline of the military academies of Venezuela, where so many ideas of
liberty, unity and Latin American integration were implanted by Bolmvar,
there would not have emerged at this decisive time in Our America a process
of such historical and international transcendence as the current
revolutionary process in that sister nation. I do not see any contradiction
In Argentina, an Argentina where, to a certain extent, in December 2001,
the neoliberal model collapsed with a loud crash, Persn and Peronism
continue to have a considerable political influence. What do you think
about recent events in Argentina?
When the news arrived in May 2003 regarding the election results in
Argentina and the announcement of Nistor Kirchner's victory and the defeat
of Carlos Minem, I felt great satisfaction. Why? There is an important
reason: the worst of unbridled capitalism, as Chavez would say, the worst
of neoliberal globalization in that Latin American country that had become
a symbol par excellence of neoliberalism, suffered a defeat.
The Argentine people, although far from achieving their most desired
objectives, do not realize the service they have done to Latin America and
the world by burying in the deepest basin of the Pacific Ocean - at more
than 8,000 meters - an important symbol of neoliberal globalization. They
have injected tremendous strength into the growing number of people who are
becoming aware, in all of Our America, as to what a horrible and deadly
thing it is that is known by that name.
If you like, we could recall that Pope John Paul II, who enjoyed universal
respect, spoke of the "globalization of solidarity" when he visited our
country in 1998. Could anyone be against that type of globalization in the
fullest sense of the word, which covers not just relations between those
who live within the borders of one country, but also within the sphere of
the planet, and that solidarity should be implemented likewise tomorrow, in
a world of true liberty, equality and justice, by those who today are
wasting, destroying and squandering natural resources and condemning to
death the inhabitants of this planet?
You can't get to heaven in a day, but believe me, the Argentine people have
dealt an uncommon blow to a symbol, and that is tremendously valuable.
Latin America continues to have the problem of the foreign debt.
That debt, in the world, has grown proportionally with the population. Now
the total foreign debt is as high as 2.5 or 2.6 trillion dollars! The
developed countries this year are going to offer Third World countries, as
official development aid, some $53 billion. In exchange, they will charge
them, as interest on their foreign debt, more than $350 billion!
In Latin America, that debt has been growing nonstop, and now totals
approximately $800 billion. Nobody can pay it, and that makes all serious
development policies impossible. Hunger cannot be eliminated in Latin
America while governments have to continue dedicating one-fourth of their
income from exports to paying a debt that they have already paid almost
twice over, and which is now almost double what it was 10 years ago...
Now the United States is proposing the FTAA, Free Trade Area of the
Americas, as a solution. What do you think about the FTAA?
A disaster. But a disaster that can be avoided. Because we were witness to
the battle waged in Mar del Plata on November 4 and 5 in 2005, during the
so-called Summit of the Americas. It was a great fight against the FTAA.
There were two fights, one in the streets and stadium, and the other in the
building where the heads of state were meeting.
In Mar del Plata, the disastrous FTAA project was definitively defeated.
The FTAA means opening up all the borders of countries with a very low
level of technical development to the products of those nations with the
highest technological and productive levels, those that make the latest
models of airplanes, that dominate world trade, that want to obtain three
things from us: raw materials, cheap labor, and customers and markets. A
new form of ruthless colonization.
Do you think that that could increase Latin America's dependence on the
If Latin America were devoured by the empire; if it swallowed us up, like
that whale which swallowed up the prophet Jonah and was unable to digest
him, it would have to expel it one day, and it would be born again in our
hemisphere. But I don't think that it is easy to swallow, and I have hopes
that it cannot be devoured. Events in recent years have been showing that:
the world cannot be ruled with a solider and bayonet in every school, every
home, and every park.
I have always said that the U.S. people themselves must be reckoned with,
the intellectuals and the U.S. people. Those people can be deceived, but
when they learn the truth, as in the case of the child Elian... (10).
Eighty percent of those people supported the return of the Cuban child
Those people today oppose the blockade on Cuba. Those people, in a growing
number, opposed the doctrine of the surprise, interventionist war, despite
the artful attack on the city of New York on September 11, 2001. They
should be reckoned with.
We must also count on the European intellectuals, because men and women
like you have been making enormous efforts to create consciousness, and
have contributed notably to the creation of that needed consciousness.
In addition, there are now several governments, in Venezuela, Brazil,
Argentina, Uruguay and other countries, where progressive measures are
being taken. How do you see what Lula is doing in Brazil, for example?
Obviously, I see what Lula is doing with the greatest sympathy. He does not
have a sufficient majority in Parliament; he has had to base himself on
other forces, even conservative ones, to be able to go through with certain
reforms. The media has given a lot of publicity to a corruption scandal of
parliamentarians, but they have not been able to involve him. Lula is a
popular leader. I have known him for many years; we have followed his
itinerary, we have spoken a lot with him, a man of conviction, intelligent,
patriotic, and progressive, of very humble origins and who does not forget
his roots or the people who always supported him. I believe that everyone
sees him like that. Because it is not a matter of making a revolution; it
is a matter of meeting a challenge: doing away with hunger. He can do it.
It is a matter of doing away with illiteracy. And he can do that, too. And
I think that we should all support him. (11)
Comandante, do you think that the era of revolutions and armed struggles
is over in Latin America?
Listen, nobody can ensure that revolutionary changes are going to occur in
Latin America now. But neither can anybody ensure that they could not
happen at any time in one or more countries. If you objectively analyze the
economic and social situation in certain countries, you cannot be in the
slightest doubt that it is a matter of an explosive situation. The rate of
infant mortality is, for example, 65 per 1,000 live births in several of
those countries; ours is less than 6.5; 10 times more children die in Latin
American countries, on average, than in Cuba. Malnutrition sometimes
affects more than 40 percent of the population; illiteracy and
semi-literacy continue to be too high; unemployment is affecting tens of
millions of adult citizens in Our America, and there is also the problem of
abandoned children, which total in the millions. The president of UNICEF
once told me that if Latin America had the same level of medical attention
and health that Cuba has, 700,000 children would be saved every year.
If no urgent solution is found to those problems -- and the FTAA is not a
solution, nor is neoliberal globalization -- more than one revolution could
happen in Latin America when the United States least expects it. And it
will not be able to blame anyone for promoting those revolutions.
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