January 3, 1959
People of Santiago, Compatriots of All Cuba,
We have finally reached Santiago de Cuba. The road was long and difficult, but we finally arrived. It was rumored that they expected us in the capital of the Republic at 2 p.m. today. No one was more amazed by this than I, because I was the first one to be surprised by this treacherous blow, which would place me in the capital of the Republic this morning. Moreover, I intended to be in the capital of the Republic — that is, in the new capital of the Republic — because Santiago de Cuba, in accordance with the wishes of the Provisional President, in accordance with the wishes of the Rebel Army, and in accordance with the wishes of the people of Santiago de Cuba, who really deserved it, Santiago will be the new capital of Cuba.
This measure may surprise some people. Admittedly, it is new, but the revolution is characterized precisely by its newness, by the fact that it will do things that have never been done before.
In making Santiago de Cuba the provisional capital of the Republic, we are fully aware of our reason for doing so. This is no attempt to cajole a specific area by demogogic means. It is simply that Santiago de Cuba has been the strongest bulwark of the revolution, a revolution that is beginning now. Our Revolution will be no easy task, but a harsh and dangerous undertaking, particularly in the initial phases. And in what better place could we establish the Government of the Republic than in this fortress of the Revolution.
So that you may know that this will be a government solidly supported by the people of this heroic city, located in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra — because Santiago de Cuba is a part of the Sierra Maestra — Santiago de Cuba and the Sierra Maestra will provide the two strongest fortresses for the Revolution. However, there are other reasons that motivate us, and one is the military revolutionary movement, the truly military revolutionary movement which did not take place in [Camp] Colombia.
[The Betrayal of General Cantillo]
In Colombia they prepared a puny little uprising against the revolution, principally with Batista’s assistance. Since it is necessary to tell the truth and since we came here with a view to orienting people, I can tell you and I can assure you that the military uprising in Colombia was an attempt to deprive the people in power, to rob the revolution of its triumph and to allow Batista to escape, to allow the Tabernilla to escape, to allow the Tabernillas to escape together with the Pilar Garcias, to allow the Salas Canizares and the Venturas. The Colombian uprising was an ambitious and treacherous blow that deserves the lowest epithets.
We must call a spade a spade and put the blame where it belongs. I am not going to be diplomatic. I will say outright that General Cantillo betrayed us and not only am I going to say it, but I am going to prove it to you.
However, we had always said so. We had always said that there would be no point in resolving this matter at the last moment with a puny little military uprising, because if there is a military uprising, concealed from the people, our Revolution will go forward nonetheless and this time cannot be over the power. It will not be like 1895 when the Americans came and took over, intervening at the last moment, and afterwards did not even allow Calixto Garcia to assume leadership, although he had fought at Santiago de Cuba for 30 years.
Nor will it be like 1933, when the people began to believe that the revolution was going to triumph, and Mr. Batista came in to betray the revolution, take over power, and establish an 11-year-long dictatorship.
Nor will it be like 1944, when the people took courage, believing that they had finally reached a position where they could take over the power, while those who did assume power proved to be thieves. We will have no thievery, no treason, no intervention. This time it is truly the revolution, even though some might not desire it. At the very moment that the dictatorship fell, as a consequence of the military victories of our Revolution, when they could not hold out even another 15 days, Mr. Cantillo appears on the scene as a paladin of freedom. Naturally, we have never been remiss in refusing any offer of collaboration that might prevent bloodshed, providing the aims of our Revolution were not imperiled thereby. Naturally, we have always appealed to the military in our search for peace, but it must be peace for freedom and peace with the triumph of our Revolution. This is the only way to obtain peace.
Hence, on December 24, when we were told of General Cantillo’s desire to meet us, we agreed to the interview. And I must confess to you that, given the course of events, the extraordinary development of our military operations, I had very little interest in speaking of military movements. Nevertheless, I felt that it was the duty of those of us with responsibility not to allow ourselves to be carried away by our feelings. I also thought that if triumph could be achieved with the minimum bloodshed, it was my duty to listen to the proposals made by the military.
I went to meet Mr. Cantillo, who spoke to me on behalf of the Army. He met me on the 28th [December] at the Oriente mill, where he arrived in a helicopter at 8 p.m. We talked for four hours and I will not invent any stories about what took place, since there were several exceptional witnesses to the interview. There was Dr. Raul Chibas, there was a Catholic priest, there were several military men, whose evidence cannot be questioned on any grounds whatsoever. After analyzing all of Cuba’s problems, and underlining all the minute details, General Cantillo agreed to carry out a military revolutionary movement with us. The first thing I said to him was this:
After carefully studying the situation, the situation of the Army, the situation in which it had been placed by the dictatorship, after explaining to him that he did not have to concern himself with Batista, nor with the Tabernillas, nor with the rest of those people because none of them had shown any concern for the Cuban military forces, we showed him that those people had lead the military into a campaign against the masses, a campaign that can never be victorious because no one can win a war against the mass of the population.
After telling him that the military forces were the victims of the regime’s immorality, that the budgetary allocations for the purchase of arms were embezzled, that the soldiers were being constantly defrauded, that those people did not deserve the consideration of honorable military men, that the Army had no reason to bear the blame for crimes committed by Batista’s gangs of villains, I told him quite clearly that I did not authorize any type of movement that would enable Batista to escape. I warned him that if Batista got away afterwards with the Tabernillas and the rest of them it would be because we had been unable to prevent it. We had to prevent Batista’s flight.
Everyone knows that our first requirement in the event of a military uprising — that is, a military uprising in conjunction with our movement — was the surrender of the war criminals. This is an essential condition. We could have captured Batista and all his accomplices and I said it loudly and clearly that I was not in agreement with Batista’s escape. I explained to him quite clearly what course of action would have to be taken and that I did not give any support [to Batista’s escape] nor would the 27th of July Movement, nor would the people support a coup d’etat [on such terms], because the fact is that it was the people who obtained their freedom by conquest and only the people who did it.
Our freedom was taken from us by a coup d’etat but in order to finish once and for all with coups d’etat, it was necessary to achieve freedom by dint of the people’s sacrifice. We could achieve nothing by one uprising today and another tomorrow and another two years later and another three years after, because here in Cuba it is the people, and the people alone, who must decide who is to govern them.
The military forces must unconditionally obey the people’s orders and be at the disposal of the people, of the constitution and of the Laws of the Republic. If there is a poor government that embezzles and does more than four wrong things, the only thing to do is to wait a little while and when election time comes the bad government is turned out of office. That is why in democratic, constitutional regimes governments have a fixed mandate. If they are bad, they can be ousted by the people, who can vote for a better government. The function of the military is not to elect governments, but to guarantee laws and to guarantee the rights of the citizens. That is why I warned him that a coup d’etat was out of the question, but a military revolutionary movement was in order and it should take place in Santiago de Cuba and not in Colombia.
I told him quite clearly that the only way of forming a link with the people and joining them, of uniting the military and the revolutionaries was not a coup d’etat in the early hours of the dawn in Colombia — at 2 or 3 a.m. — about which no one would know anything, as is the usual practice of the gentlemen. I told him it would be necessary to arouse the garrison at Santiago de Cuba, which was quite strong and adequately armed, in order to start the military movement, which would then be joined by the people and the revolutionaries. Given the situation in which the dictatorship found itself, such movement would prove irresistible because all the other garrisons in the country would certainly join it at once. That was what was agreed upon and not only was it what was agreed upon but I made him promise it. He intended to go to Havana the next day and we did not agree with this. I said to him, “It is risky for you to go to Havana.” And he replied, “No, no there is no risk in it.” I insisted, “You are running a great risk of arrest because if there is a conspiracy, everyone knows about it here.”
“No, I am sure they will not arrest me,” he replied. And, of course, why would they arrest him if this was a “coup d’etat of Batista?”
My thoughts were, “Well, all this seems so easy that it might well be a suspicious movement,” so I said to him, “Will you promise me that in Havana you will not be persuaded by those interests which support you to carry out a coup d’etat in the capital? Will you promise me that you will not do it? His reply was, “I promise I won’t.” I insisted, “Will you swear to me that you won’t?” And his reply again, “I swear I won’t!”
I believe that the prime requisite for a military man is honor, that the prime requisite of a military man is his word. This gentleman not only proved that he is dishonorable and that his word is worth nothing, but that he also lacks intelligence. I say this because a movement which could have been organized from the start with the support of the whole population, with its victory assured from the outset, did nothing more than dive into space. He believed that it would be only too easy to fool the people and to mislead the Revolution. He knew some things. He knew, for instance, that when we told the people that Batista had got hold of a plane the people would flock into the streets, madly happy. They thought that the people were not sufficiently mature to distinguish between Batista’s flight and the Revolution. Because if Batista goes and over there Cantillo’s friends assume command, it is quite likely that Dr. Urrutia would also have to go within three months. Because just as they were betraying us now, so would they betray us later and the truth of the matter is that Mr. Cantillo betrayed us before the Revolution. He gave signs of this and I can prove it. We agreed with General Cantillo that the uprising would take place on the 31st at 3 p.m. and it was agreed that the armed forces would give unconditional support to the revolutionary movement. The President was to appoint the revolutionary leaders and establish the positions to which the revolutionary leaders would assign the military. They were offering unconditional support and every detail of the plan was agreed upon. At 3 p.m. on the 31st the garrison at Santiago de Cuba was to rise in revolt. Immediately after several rebel columns would enter the city and the people would fraternize with the military and the rebels, immediately submitting a revolutionary proclamation to the country as a whole and calling on all honorable military men to join the movement. It was agreed that the talks in the city would be placed at our disposal and I personally offered to advance toward the capital with an armed column preceded by the tanks. The tanks in the city would be placed at our disposal and I personally offered to advance toward the capital with an armed column preceded by the tanks. The tanks were to be handed to me at 3 p.m., not because it was felt that any fighting would be necessary but only against the possibility that in Havana the Movement might fail, making it necessary to place our vanguard as close as possible to the capital and to prevent any such occurrences in Havana.
It was evident that with the hatred for the public forces created by the horrendous crimes committed by Ventura and Pilar Garcia, Batista’s fall would create considerable upheaval among the people. Moreover, the police force would inevitably feel that it lacked the moral strength to contain the populace, as in fact happened. A series of excesses were recorded in the capital. There was looting, shooting, fires, and all the responsibility for it falls on the shoulders of General Cantillo, who betrayed his word of honor, who failed to carry out the plan which had been agreed upon. He believed that by appointing police captains and commanders, many of whom had already deserted when they were appointed — proof that they had a guilty conscience — would be enough to solve the problem. How different things were in Santiago de Cuba! How orderly and civic-minded! How disciplined the behavior of the masses! There was not a single attempt to loot, not a single example of personal vengeance, not a single man dragged through the streets, not a single fire! The behavior of the population of Santiago de Cuba was admirable and exemplary despite two factors. One of these was that Santiago de Cuba was the city which had suffered the most, where there had been the greatest terrorism and where, consequently, one would expect the people to be indignant. Moreover, despite our statements of this morning that we were not in agreement with the coup d’etat, the population in Santiago de Cuba behaved in an exemplary fashion…. [A typing error makes the translation of the next two lines impossible]…. One can no longer say that revolution is anarchy and disorder; it occurred in Havana because of treason, but that was not the case in Santiago de Cuba, which we can hold out as a model every time the Revolution is accused of anarchy and disorganization.
It is well that people should know of the negotiations between General Cantillo and me. If the people are not too tired, I can tell you that after the agreements were made, when we had already suspended operations in Santiago de Cuba, since on the 28th our troops were quite near to the city and had completed all the preparatory work necessary for the attack on it, according to the interview we were to make a series of changes, abandoning the operation at Santiago de Cuba. Instead, we were to direct our troops elsewhere, in fact, to a place where it was believed that the Movement might not be victorious from the outset.
When we had completed all our movements, the column which was to march on the capital received the following note from General Cantillo, just a few hours before it was due to leave. The text of the note read as follows: “Circumstances have changed considerably and now are favorable to a national solution, in accordance with all desires for Cuba.” Yet, the major factors could not be more favorable and every circumstance pointed to triumph. It was therefore strange that he should come and say that circumstances had changed greatly and favorably. The circumstances were that Batista and Tabernilla had agreed and the success of the coup was assured. I recommended that nothing should be done at the moment and that we should await the course of events over the next weeks, up to [January] 6th. Obviously, given the indefinitely prolonged truce while they were taking care of everything in Havana, my immediate reply was as follows: “The tenor of the note is entirely in contradiction with our agreements. Moreover, it is ambiguous and incomprehensible and has made me lose confidence in the seriousness of the agreements. Hostilities will break out tomorrow at 3 p.m., the date and time agreed upon for the launching of the movement.”
Something very curious happened immediately thereafter in addition to the receipt of the very short note. I advised the commanding officer at Santiago de Cuba, through the bearer of the message, that if hostilities were to break out because the agreements were not fulfilled and we had to attack the first at Santiago de Cuba, they could do nothing other than surrender.
My phrase was that we demanded the surrender of the town if hostilities were to break out and if we were to initiate the attack. However, the bearer of the note did not interpret me correctly. He told Colonel Rego Rubido that I demanded the surrender of the town as a precondition to any agreement. He did not add that I had said, “in the event of our launching an attack.” However, I had not said that I demanded the surrender of the town as a condition from General Cantillo. As a result of this message, the commanding officer at Santiago de Cuba sent me a very enigmatic and punctilious reply which I will read to you, indicating, naturally, that he felt very offended with what had been said to him in error. It read as follows: “The solution found is neither a coup d’etat nor a military revolt and yet we believe that it is the most advisable solution for Dr. Fidel Castro, in accordance with his ideas and one which would place the destinies of the country in his hands within 48 hours. It is not a local but a national solution and any indiscretion might compromise or destroy it, leading to chaos. Therefore, we hope you will have confidence in our decisions and you will receive the solution before the 6th. As for Santiago, owing to the note and to the words of the messenger, it will be necessary to change the plan and not enter the city.”
His words caused a certain amount of bad feeling among the key personnel. It was argued that no arms would be surrendered without fighting, that arms are not surrendered, that arms are not surrendered to an ally, that arms cannot be surrendered without honor. All of which are very beautiful phrases when spoken by the commander of the garrison of Santiago de Cuba, if he has no confidence in us; or if Santiago de Cuba is attacked, they will regard it as equivalent to breaking the agreements, which will interrupt the negotiations for the solution offered, thereby formally absolving us from any compromise. It was our hope that, given the time required to act in one way or another, the reply would arrive in time to be sent to Havana by the Viscount flying out in the afternoon. My answer to Colonel Jose Rego Rubido’s note was as follows:
[Fidel’s answer to Colonel Jose Rego Rubido’s note]
“In liberated Cuban Territory, 31 December 1958.
Dear Colonel, a regrettable error has occurred in the transmission of my message to you, due perhaps to the haste with which I replied to your note. This is what I surmise from the conversation I have since held with its bearer. I did not tell him that the conditions we established in the agreement entered into encompassed the surrender of the garrison of Santiago de Cuba to our forces. This showed a lack of courtesy to our visitor and would have constituted an unworthy and offensive proposal to the military forces who so cordially sought us out. The question was entirely different. An agreement was reached and a plan adopted between the leader of the military movement and ourselves which was to go into effect as from 3 p.m. on 31 December. The plan included details established after careful analysis of the problems to be faced, and was to begin with the revolt of the garrison at Santiago de Cuba. I persuaded General Cantillo of the advantages to be derived from beginning at Oriente rather than in Colombia because the mass of the people greatly feared any coup starting in the barracks in the Capital of the Republic, stressing how difficult it would be, in that case, to insure that the people joined up with the movement. He stated that he was in full agreement with my viewpoint on the matter and was only concerned with maintaining order in the Capital, so we jointly agreed on measures necessary to avoid that danger. These measures involved the advance of our column toward Santiago de Cuba, to be exact. It was to be a combined effort of the military, the people and ourselves, a sort of revolutionary movement which, from the outset, would be backed by the confidence of the whole nation. According to what was established, we suspended the operations that were underway and undertook new displacements of our forces in other directions — such as Holguin, where the presence of well-known figureheads practically insured resistance to the revolutionary military movement. When all our preparatory tasks were completed, I received yesterday’s message, indicating that the plan of action agreed upon was not to be fulfilled.”
“Apparently there were other plans but I was not to be informed of them because, in fact, the matter was no longer in our hands. Therefore all we could do was wait because one party was changing everything. Our own forces were being endangered, although according to our understanding and what was being said they were being sent off on difficult operations. And we remained subject to the outcome of the risks which General Cantillo took on his frequent trips to Havana. Militarily, these trips might well prove to be a disaster for us. You must realize that everything is very confused at this moment and Batista is an artful, crafty individual who knows only too well how to make the best use of a risk that can prove dangerous to others. All that can be asked is that we renounce all of the advantages gained during the past few weeks, and stand by, waiting patiently, for events to take their due course. I made it quite clear that it could not be an operation on the part of the military alone. We didn’t have to undergo the horror of two years of war for this, and then stand with our arms crossed, doing nothing, at the most critical moment. They cannot expect this of men who have known no rest in the struggle against oppression. This cannot be done even though it is your intention to hand over the power to the revolutionaries. It is not power that is important to us, but that the Revolution should fulfill its destiny. I am even concerned by the fact that the military, through any unjustifiable excess of scruples, should facilitate the flight of the principal criminals who would be able to escape abroad with their vast fortunes, and then from some foreign country do all the harm possible to our country. [Translator’s Note: This text involves some typographical errors. A rendering compatible with the argument has been given.]
“I should add that, personally, I am not interested in power nor do I envisage assuming it at any time. All that I will do is to make sure that the sacrifices of so many compatriots should not be in vain, whatever the future may hold in store for me.
“In all my dealings, I have always acted loyally and frankly. One should never consider what has been obtained underhandedly and with duplicity as a triumph and the language of honor which you have heard from my lips is the only language I know. Never in the course of the meetings with General Cantillo did we refer to the word ‘surrender.’ what I said yesterday and what I repeat today is that, as of 3 p.m. of the 31st [December], the date and time agreed upon, we could not cut short the truce with Santiago de Cuba because that would have been exceedingly detrimental to the people.
“Last night, the rumor circulated here that General Cantillo had been arrested in Havana and that various young men had been found murdered in the cemetery of Santiago de Cuba. I had the feeling that we had been wasting our time most unhappily. And yet today, luckily enough, it seems certain that the General is at his post. What is the need for such risks? What I said to the messenger about surrender, and which was not communicated literally — as would appear to have been confirmed by the terms of his note today — was the following: that if hostilities were to break out because the terms of the agreement had not been fulfilled, we would be compelled t attack the garrison at Santiago de Cuba. This would be inevitable, since that was the objective of our efforts over the past few months. In this case, once the operation was under way, we would have to demand the surrender of those defending the garrison. This does not mean to imply that we think they will surrender without fighting because I know that even when there is not reason to fight, Cuban military forces will defend their positions adamantly and this has cost me many lives.
“All I meant was that once the blood of our forces had been shed in the attempt to conquer a given objective, no other solution would be acceptable. Even though the cost be extremely heavy, in view of the present conditions of the forces defending the regime, and since these forces cannot support the garrison of Santiago de Cuba, the latter must inevitably fall into our hands.
“This was the basic objective of our whole campaign over the past two months and a plan of such scale cannot be held up for a week without giving rise to grave consequences, should the military movement fail. Moreover, it would mean losing the most opportune time — which is the present — when the dictatorship is suffering severe losses in the provinces of Oriente and Las Villas. We are faced with the dilemma of either waiving the advantages gained by our victory or exchanging an assured victory for one that is otherwise. Do you believe that in the face of yesterday’s ambiguous and laconic note, containing a unilateral decision, I could hold myself responsible for delaying the plans?
“As a military man, you must admit that too much is being asked of us. You have not stopped digging trenches for a single moment and you could well make use of those trenches against us… Some one like Pedraza, or Pilar Garcia or Canizares… and if General Cantillo is relieved of his command, and if his trusted lieutenants go with him, you cannot expect us to remain idle. You see, they have promised us the absurd and although they defend themselves valiantly with their arms, we have no alternative but to attack, because we also have very sacred commitments to fulfill. We desire that these honorable military men be much more than mere allies. We want them to be our companions in a single cause, the cause of Cuba. Above all, I wish you, yourself, my friend, not to misinterpret my attitude. Do not believe that I am being overly rigid as regards the tactics involving the holding off of an attack in the Santiago de Cuba area. In order that no possible doubt whatever may persist, I will confirm that although at any time before the fighting begins we can renew our negotiations, as of today it must be made clear that the attack will take place momentarily and that nothing will convince us to alter the plans again.”
[A Letter in Reply from Colonel Rego]
Colonel Rego replied in a very punctilious note, worthy of the greatest praise, which reads as follows:
“Sir, I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of today’s date, and believe me, I wish to thank you most sincerely for the explanation regarding the previous message. However, I must confess that I felt some error of interpretation was involved since I have observed your line of conduct for some time and know that you are a man of principle. I ignored the details of the original plan because I was only informed of the first part of it. I might add that I am also not aware of some of the details of the present plan. I believe you are partly right in your analysis of the first part of the original plan. However, I believe that a few more days would be necessary before it could be consummated and we would never be able to prevent some of the major, intermediary and minor guilty parties from escaping. I am among those who believe it is absolutely essential to give an example of Cuba of all those who take advantage of the positions of power they occupy to commit every possible type of punishable offense. Unfortunately, history is plagued with a series of similar cases ad rarely do the criminals fall into the hands of the competent authorities.
“I am fully aware of your concern for the men who have the least responsibility for the course of historical events.”
“I have no reason whatsoever to believe that any person is attempting to facilitate the escape of the guilty, and, personally, I might add that I am opposed to their flight.” That was Colonel Rego Rubido’s view. However, he also added that should such an event take place, the historical responsibility for such an act would fall on the shoulders of those who facilitated the escape, and never on those of anyone else. “I believe,” he said, “that everything will take place in accordance with your ideas, and that it will be for the good of Cuba and of the Revolution of which you are the leader. I heard of a young student who had been murdered and whose body was in the cemetery. Today, I myself made sure that every possible measure be taken to determine who was guilty of those crimes and what the circumstances of his death were, and how it took place, just as I had done a few days ago, not sparing any effort until I am able to put the suspected authors of this crime at the disposal of the competent authorities. Lastly, I should advise you that I sent a message through to the General, letting him know that I had obtained a plane to carry your note to him. Do not be impatient for I feel sure that even before the date established as the maximum limit you will be in Havana. When the General left here, I asked him to let me have the helicopter and a pilot, just in case you might like to fly over Santiago de Cuba on Sunday afternoon.
“With sincerest greetings and my warmest wishes for a Happy New Year, (Signed) Colonel Rego Rubido.”
[Surprised by the Coup in Colombia]
This was the state of our negotiations when Colonel Rego, Commander of the garrison of Santiago de Cuba and I were equally surprised by the coup d’etat in Colombia, which was completely in contradiction with all that had been agreed upon. The first thing done and the most criminal aspect of all was that Batista was allowed to escape, and with him Tabernilla, and the other major criminals. They allowed them to escape with their millions of pesos; yes, they allowed them to flee with the three or four hundred million pesos they had stolen.
This will prove very costly for us because now, from Santo Domingo and from other countries, they will be directing propaganda against the Revolution, plotting all the harm they can against our cause and for a good many years we will have them there, threatening our people, and causing the people to remain in a constant state of alarm because they will be conspiring against us and paying others to do so also. What did we do as soon as we learned of the blow? We heard about it on Radio Progreso and by that time, guessing what their plans were, as I was making a statement I was told that Batista had left for Santo Domingo. Is it a rumor? I wondered. Could it be a trick? I sent someone out to confirm the story and was informed that Batista and Tabernilla had actually gone to Santo Domingo. And the most astonishing thing of all was that General Cantillo declared that this movement had taken place thanks to the patriotic intentions of General Batista, who had resigned in order to avoid bloodshed. What do you think about that?
There is something else I must tell you in order to let you see what kind of a coup had been prepared. Pedraza had been appointed to membership of the Junta and then he left. I don’t think one need add anything else to explain the nature of the aims of those responsible for carrying out the coup. Subsequently, they did not appoint Urrutia to the Presidency, that is, the man proclaimed by the movement and by all the revolutionary organizations. The person they chose is no less than the oldest member of the Supreme Court bench, and all his colleagues are quite old themselves. And above all he is a man who has been a President up to the present time: a President of a Supreme Court of Justice which never dispenses any justice, which never did dispense any justice whatsoever.
What would the result of all this be? Only half a revolution. A compromise, a caricature of a revolution. Mr. Jack Straw, or whatever name you may wish to give this Mr. Piedra who, if he has not resigned by now should be getting ready to do so, because we are going to make him resign in Havana. I do not believe he will last twenty-four hours in office. It will break all records. They appoint this gentleman and, isn’t it perfect, Cantillo becomes a national hero, the defender of Cuba’s freedoms, the Lord and Master of Cuba, and there is Mr. Piedra… It would simply mean getting rid of one dictator to put another in his place.
Every order contained in the documents referring to the movement in Colombia indicated that it was to be a counterrevolutionary uprising. In all the orders, the general trend was away from the aims of the people, and in all the orders there was an atmosphere of something suspect. Mr. Piedra immediately made an appeal, or stated that he was going to make an appeal to the rebels and to a peace commission. Meanwhile, we were supposed to be so calm and trusting; we would put down our guns and abandon everything and go and plead and pay homage to Mr. Piedra and Mr. Cantillo.
It is obvious that both Cantillo and Piedra were out of touch with reality because I believe that the Cuban people have learned a great deal and we rebels have also learned something. That was the situation this morning but it is not the situation this evening, because many things have changed. Given these facts, given this betrayal, I ordered all the rebel commanders to continue marching on toward their targets, and in keeping with this, I also immediately ordered all the columns allocated to the Santiago de Cuba operations to advance against that garrison.
I want you to know that our forces were firmly determined to take Santiago de Cuba by assault. This would have been regrettable because it would have led to much bloodshed and tonight would not have been a night of celebration and happiness, as it is, it would not have been a night of peace and fraternization, as it is. I must acknowledge that if there was not a bloody battle waged here in Santiago de Cuba, it is due largely to the patriotic attitude of Army Colonel Jose Rego Rubido, to the commanders of the frigates Maximo Gomez and Maceo and to the chief of the Santiago de Cuba Naval District, as well as to the officer who was acting as Chief of Police.
[Avoiding a Bloody Battle]
Citizens, it is only just that we should recognize these facts here and now and be thankful to the men responsible for them. They contributed to averting considerable bloodshed and to converting this morning’s counterrevolutionary movement into the revolutionary movement of this afternoon.
We had no alternative other than to attack because we could not allow the Colombia coup to be consolidated. Therefore, it was necessary to attack. When the troops were already marching out against their targets, Colonel Rego made use of a helicopter to try and locate me. The Navy commanders contacted us and placed themselves unconditionally at the service of the Revolution. Backed by the support of their two vessels, equipped with heavy firing capacity, and by the Naval District and the Police, I called a meeting of all the Army officers stationed at the Santiago de Cuba garrison — and there are over a hundred of these officers. I explained to them that I was not the least worried by the thought of addressing them because I knew I was right, and I knew they would understand my arguments and that we would reach an agreement in the course of the meeting. Indeed, in the early evening, just at nightfall, I went to the meeting at the Escande which was attended by nearly all the Army officers in Santiago de Cuba. Many of them were young men who were clearly anxious to struggle and fight for the good of their country. I met with these military men and spoke to them of our aims for our country, of what we wanted for the country, of the manner in which we had always dealt with the military and of all the harm done to the army by the tyrants. I said I did not think it fair that all military men be regarded equally, that the criminals were only a small minority, that there were many honorable men in the army who I knew repudiated criminal tactics, abuse and injustice. I knew it was not easy for the military to develop a specific type of action.
It was clear that when the highest positions in the army were in the hands of the Tabernilla and the Pilar Garcia, relatives and unconditional supporters of Batista, there was a generalized feel of great fear in the Army. One could not ask an officer individually to accept any responsibility. There were two kinds of military men and we know them well. There were military men like Sosa Blanco, Canizares, Sanchez Mosquera and Chaviano, known for their crimes and the cowardly murder of unfortunate peasants; and then there are military men who have waged honorable campaigns, who never murdered anyone, nor burned down houses, men such as Commander Quevedo, who was our prisoner after his heroic resistance at the Battle of Jibo and who is still an Army officer. Men like Commander Sierra and many other officers who never in their lives burned down a house. However, this type of officer got no promotion. Those who were promoted were the criminals because Batista always made a point of recompensing crime.
For example, we have the case of Colonel Rego Rubido who does not owe his position to the dictatorship since he was already a Colonel when the 10 March coup took place. The fact is that I was given the support of the Army officers in Santiago de Cuba and the army officers in Santiago de Cuba gave their unconditional backing to the Cuban Revolution. When the Navy, Army and Police officers met together, they agreed to condemn the Colombia uprising and to support the Legal Government of the Republic because it has the backing of the majority of the population, and is represented by Dr. Manuel Urrutia Lleo, and they also agreed to support the Cuban Revolution. Thanks to their attitude, we were able to prevent much bloodshed; thanks to their attitude, this afternoon we saw the birth of a truly revolutionary movement. I quite understand that among the people there may be many justifiably passionate feelings. I appreciate the concern for justice evinced by our people and I promise to give them justice, but I want to ask the people, above all and before all else, to remain calm.
At the present moment, power must be consolidated before we do anything else. Before all else, power must be consolidated. After that, we will appoint a commission, made up of reputable military men and officers of the Rebel Army to take the necessary measures. These will include establishing responsibilities where they are due. No one will oppose such measures because it is precisely the army and the armed forces who are most concerned in insuring that the guilt of a few should not be borne by the whole corps. They are the ones most interested in insuring that the wearing of a uniform not be regarded as degrading, and that the guilty be punished in order that the innocent not be charged with the disreputable acts of others. We would ask the people to have confidence in us because we know how to fulfill our obligations. Those were the circumstances surrounding the meeting held this afternoon — a meeting that proved to be a truly revolutionary movement in which the people, the military and the rebels participated.
Words fail us to describe the enthusiasm of the military in Santiago de Cuba. As a proof of their trust, I asked the military to join me in entering Santiago de Cuba, so that here I am with all the Army officers. There are the tanks that are at the service of the Revolution. there is the artillery and the service of the Revolution. And there are the vessels, now at the service of the Revolution. And finally the people. The people who at the outset… I need not add that the Revolution can depend on the people because this is a well-known fact. However, the people, who at the outset had only shotguns, now have artillery, tanks and well-armed vessels, and many trained army technicians to help us handle them. Now the people are properly armed. And let me assure you that if when we were only 12 men, we never lost faith, now that we have 12 tanks there, how are we going to lose faith? Let me tell you that today, tonight, as of this dawn — because daybreak is at hand, the eminent magistrate Dr. Manuel Urrutia Lleo will take over the presidency of the Republic. Does Dr. Urrutia have the support of the people or does he not have the support of the people? What I really mean to say is that it is the President of the Republic, the legal president, who has the support of the people of Cuba and that is Dr. Manuel Urrutia. Who wants Mr. Piedra as President? Then if no one wants Mr. Piedra as President, how are they going to impose Mr. Piedra on us now?
Since those are the instructions given by the people of Santiago de Cuba, and since they represent the feelings of all the people of all Cuba, as soon as this meeting is over I will march with the veteran troops of Sierra Maestra, with the tanks and the artillery, toward the Capital in order to fulfill the will of people. We are here entirely at the request of the people. The mandate of the people is the only legal mandate at present. The President is elected by the people and not by a council in Colombia, meeting at four o’clock in the morning.
The people have elected their President and this means that from this moment on the most powerful legal authority in the Republic has been established. Not a single one, not a single one of the appointments and promotions made by the Military Junta in the early hours of today is at all valid. All the appointments and promotions in the Army are annulled, all the appointments and promotions, I mean, that were made at dawn today. Anyone accepting a commission from the treacherous Junta which met this morning is regarded as adopting a counterrevolutionary attitude, call it by whatever name you wish, and as a result will be branded as an outlaw. I am absolutely convinced that by tomorrow morning all the army commands throughout the country will have accepted the decisions taken by the President of the Republic. The President will immediately appoint the chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Police. Because of the very valuable service rendered now to the Revolution and because he placed his thousands of men at the service of the Revolution, we would recommend that colonel Rego Rubido be made Chief of the Army. Similarly, the Chief of the Navy will be one of the two commanders who first placed their vessels at the orders of the Revolution. And I would recommend to the President of the Republic that Commander Efigenio Almejeiras be appointed national Chief of Police. He lost three brothers in the Revolution, was one of the members of the gamma expeditionary force and one of the most able men in the revolutionary army. Almejeiras is on duty in the Guantanamo operations but will arrive here tomorrow.
[Things Will Be the Way the People Want Them]
All I can do is ask you to give us time and to allow time to the civil powers of the Republic, so that we can do things the way the people want them; but they must be done gradually, little by little. I would only ask one thing of the people, and that is that you remain calm. (A voice is heard shouting Oriente Federal!) No… no, the Republic, above all else, must remain united. What you must demand is justice for Oriente [province]. Time is a highly important factor in all things. The Revolution cannot be completed in a single day but you may be sure that we will carry the Revolution through to the full. You may be sure that for the first time the Republic will be truly and entirely free and the people will have their just recompense. Power was not achieved through politics, but through the sacrifices of hundreds and thousands of our fellows. It is not a promise we make to ourselves but to the people, the whole Cuban nation; the man who has taken over power has no commitments with anyone other than with the people. Che Guevara has been ordered to march on the Capital, not on the provisional Capital of the Republic. Commander Camilo Cienfuegos of Number 2 Column — the Antonio Maceo column — was likewise ordered to march on Havana and to take over command of the Colombia military camp. The orders issued by the President of the Republic were carried out, as is required by the mandate of the Revolution. We must not be blamed for the excesses occurring in Havana. General Cantillo and his fellow-conspirators of this day’s dawn are to blame for those. They believed that they could overcome the situation there. In Santiago de Cuba, where a genuine revolution took place, complete order has reigned. In Santiago de Cuba, the people joined with the military and the revolutionaries in a way I cannot describe. The head of the Government, the head of the Army and the head of the Navy will be in Santiago de Cuba and their orders must be obeyed by every authority in the country. It is our hope that every honorable military man will respect these instructions.
It is important to remember that primarily the military forces are at the service of law and of authority, not improperly constituted authorities but the legitimate authority. No reputable Army man need fear anything from the Revolution. In this struggle, there are no conquered ones because the only conqueror is the people. There are men who have fallen on one side and the other, but we have all joined together that the victory may be the nation’s. We have all joined together, the reputable military and the revolutionaries. There will be no more bloodshed. I hope that no group puts up any resistance because apart from such an attitude proving foolhardy, it would be overcome in short shift. Moreover, it would be resistance against the Law, against the Republic and against the feelings of the whole Cuban nation. It was necessary to organize today’s movement in order to prevent another war taking place in six months’ time. What happened at the time of Machado’s coup? Well one of machado’s generals also organized a coup d’etat, removed Machado from power and put in a new President who remained in office for 15 days. Then the sergeants came along and said those officers were responsible for Machado’s dictatorship and that they could not countenance them. The revolutionary spirit spread and the officers were ousted. That cannot take place now. those officers have the backing of the people and of the troops. They also enjoy the prestige acquired by having joined a truly revolutionary movement. The people will respect and esteem these officers and it will not be necessary for them to use force nor to go about the streets armed nor to attempt to strike fear in the hearts of the people.
True order is that based on freedom, on respect and on justice, but at the same time that which precludes the use of force. Henceforward, the people shall be entirely free and the people know how to conduct themselves, as they have proven today. We have achieved the peace that our country needs. Santiago de Cuba has paid for its freedom without bloodshed. That is why happiness reigns supreme here. That is why the military, today, condemned and repudiated the Colombia coup, in order to join the revolution unconditionally. Therefore, they deserve our acknowledgment of their motivation, our thanks and our respect.
In the future, the armed forces of the Republic will be regarded as exemplary, given their ability, their training and the manner in which they identified with the cause of the people and because, henceforward, their rifles will be solely and always at the service of the people. There will be no more coups d’etat, no more war, because we have now taken care to prevent a repetition of what happened to Machado. To make the present case — the one that took place at dawn today — resemble Machado’s fall even more closely, those gentlemen put a Carlos Manuel in office, just as a Carlos Manuel had been put in office previously. What we will not have this time is a Batista because there will be no need for a 4 September which destroys the discipline in the Armed Forces. It will be remembered that it was Batista who was responsible for the armed uprising at that time. His policy consisted in cajoling the soldiers in order to disguise the authority of the officers. The officers will have authority; there will be discipline in the Army; there will be a military penal code, in which any violation of human rights, any dishonorable or immoral acts by any military personnel, will be severely punished.
There will be no privileges; there will be no privileges for anyone; and the members of the Armed Forces who are capable and deserving will be promoted. It will not be as it has been in the past — that is, that relations and friends are promoted, regardless of grades. This sort of thing will finish for the military as it will finish for laborers. There will be no more exploitation or compulsory contributions, which for the workers represent the trade union payments and for the military represent a peso here for the First Lady and two pesos elsewhere for something else and so all their pay dwindles away.
Naturally, the whole population can expect it of us and can count on it. However, I have spoken of the military so that they will know that they can also count on the Revolution for all the improvements which have been lacking until now, because if the budgetary resources are not stolen, the military will be in a much better position than at the present. Moreover, the soldier will not be called upon to exercise the duty of a policeman because he will be busy with his own training in the barracks; the soldier will not be engaged in police work but will be busy being a soldier. We will not have to resort to short-wave systems [Translator’s note: It is believed that the reference is to “bugging” devices]. I think that I should add that we rebels make use of short-wave facilities because this is advisable. However, the short-wave facilities have not made reference to assassins, have not involved sudden stopping of cars in front of houses nor ambushes at midnight.
I am certain that as soon as the President of the Republic takes office and assumes command of the situation, he will decree the re-establishment of all rights and freedoms, including the absolute freedom of the press, of all individual rights, of all trade union rights, and of the rights and demands of the rural workers and our own free people. We will not forget our peasants in the Sierra Maestra and those in the interior of the country. I will not go and live in Havana because I want to live in Sierra Maestra, at least in that part for which I feel a very deep sense of gratitude. I will never forget those country people and as soon as I have a free moment we will see about building the first school city with seats for 20,000 children. We will do it with the help of the people and the rebels will work with them there. We will ask each citizen for a bag of cement and a trowel. I know we will have the help of our industry and of business and we will not forget any of the sectors of our population.
The country’s economy will be re-established immediately. This year it is we who will take care of the sugar cane to prevent its being burnt, because this year the tax on sugar is not going to be used for the purchase of murderous weapons nor for planes and bombs with which to attack the people. We will take care of communications and already from Jiguani to Palma Soriano the telephone lines have been re-established, and the railroad is being rebuilt. There will be a harvest all over the country and there will be good wages because I know that this is the intention of the President of the Republic. There will be good prices because the fear that there would be no harvest has raised prices on the world market. The peasants can sell their coffee and the cattle breeders can sell their fat steers in Havana because fortunately we triumphed soon enough to prevent their being ruins of any kind. It is not my place to say all these things. You know that we keep our word, and what we promise we fulfill and we promise less than what we intend to fulfill; we promise not more but less and we intend to do more than we have offered the people of Cuba.
We do not believe that all the problems can be solved readily; we know the road is sown with obstacles, but we are men of good faith and we are always ready to face great difficulties. The people can be certain of one thing, and that is that we may make one or even many mistakes. But the only thing which cannot be said of us is that we have stolen, that we have profited from our position, that we have betrayed the movement. I know that the people can forgive mistakes but not dishonorable deeds, and what we had here were dishonorable men.
In accepting the presidency, Dr. Manuel Urrutia, from the very first moment when he was invested in office, from the moment when he swore his oath before the people as President of the Republic, became the maximum authority in the country. Let no one think that I intend to exercise any power greater than that of the President of the Republic. I will be the first to obey orders issued by the civilian authority of the Republic and I will be the first to set an example. We will carry out his orders and within the scope of the authority granted to us we will try to do the utmost for our people without any personal ambition, because fortunately we are immune to the temptations of such ambitions and such vanity. What greater glory could we have than the affection of our people? What greater reward could we envision than the thousands of arms waving before us, full of hope, and faith in us and affection for us. We shall never allow ourselves to be influenced by vanity or ambition because, in the words of the Apostle, all the glory of the world can be contained within a single ear of corn, and there is no greater reward or satisfaction than to fulfill one’s duty as we have been doing until the present time and as we shall always continue to do. In saying this, I am not speaking in my own name but in the name of the thousands and thousands of combatants who ensured the victory of the people. I speak on behalf of our deep sentiments and of our devotion for our people. I have in mind the respect we owe to our dead, to the fallen, who shall not be forgotten and whose faithful companions we shall always be. This time they shall not say of us as has been said of others in the past that we betrayed the memory of those who died because the years will still be given by those who died. Frank Pais is not physically among us, nor are many others, but they are all spiritually present and the mere knowledge that their sacrifice was not in vain recompenses us in part for the immense emptiness which they left behind them.
Fresh flowers will continue to adorn their tombstones; their children shall not be forgotten because assistance will be given to the families of the fallen. We rebels will not ask for retroactive pay over the years during which we struggled because we feel proud not to be paid for the services rendered to Cuba. Indeed, it is quite possible that we should continue to fulfill our obligations without asking for pay because this is immaterial if funds are lacking. What exists is goodwill and we shall do everything necessary. However, I will repeat here what I have already said, “and history will absolve me,” that we shall insure that maintenance, assistance, and education shall not be lacking for the children of the military who died fighting against us because they are not to blame for the errors of the tyrant. We shall be generous to everyone because, as I have said before, here there are no vanquished, but only victors. The war criminals will all be punished because it is the irrevocable duty of the Revolution to do so and the people can be certain that we shall fulfill that duty. The people should also be sure that when justice reigns there will be no revenge because if on the morrow there are to be no assaults made against anyone, justice must reign now. Since there will be justice, there will be no revenge nor will there be hatred.
We shall exile hatred from the Republic, that hatred which is a damned and evil shadow bequeathed to us by ambition and tyranny. The pity is that the major criminals should have escaped. There are thousands of men who would pursue them, but we must respect the laws of other countries. It would be easy for us because we have more than enough volunteers to pursue those delinquents, ready and willing to risk their lives. However, we do not wish to give the appearance of a people who violate the laws of other peoples; we shall respect these laws while ours are respected. notwithstanding, I will issue one warning and that is that if in Santo Domingo they begin to conspire against the Revolution, if Trujillo… makes any mistake and directs any aggression against us, it will be a sorry day for him. (At one time I said that Trijillo had harmed Batista by selling him arms and the harm he did us not so much in selling arms but in selling weapons of poor quality, so bad, in fact, that when they fell into our hands they were no use at all.) However, he did sell bombs and those served to murder many peasants. We have no wish to return the rifles because they are worth nothing, but we would like to reciprocate with something better. In the first place, it is logical that the political refugees from Santo Domingo should have their safest asylum and most comfortable home here and that the political refugees of every dictatorship should find here their best protection, since we, too, have been refugees.
If Santo Domingo is to be converted into an arsenal of counterrevolutionaries, if Santo Domingo is to be a base for conspiracies against the Cuban Revolution and if these gentlemen devote themselves to conspiracies over there, it would be better for them to leave Santo Domingo immediately. We say this, because they will not be very safe there either and it will not be because of us since we have no right to intervene in the problems of Santo Domingo. It will be because the citizens of the Dominican Republic have learnt from Cuba’s example and conditions will be very grave indeed there. The citizens of the Dominican Republic have learned that one can struggle against tyranny and defeat and this is the lesson dictatorships fear the most. Yet, it is a lesson which is encouraging for the Americas; a lesson exemplified just now in our country. All of America is watching the course of the fate of this revolution. All the Americas are watching us and they follow our actions with their best wishes for our triumph as they will all of them support us in our times of need. Therefore, everything is joyful now, not only in Cuba but also in the Americas. They rejoice as we have rejoiced when a dictator has fallen in Latin America, so now they rejoice with the Cuban people. It is assumed that there will be justice, as I was saying, despite the enormous accumulation of sentiments and ideas stemming from the general disorder, commotion, and feelings registered in our minds today. As I was saying, it was a pity that the major criminals escaped. We now know who was responsible because the people know who is to blame for their escape as they know that they also left here not the most unfortunate but the dullest, those who were penniless, the rank and file who took their orders from the major criminals. They allowed the major criminals to escape so that the people might state their anger and their indignation upon those who were least to blame although it is only right that they should be justly punished in order to learn their lesson. The same thing always happens, the people tell this group that the “big shots” will get away and they will be left behind and, nevertheless, though some of them may leave, others remain and must be punished. The top men may go but they will also have their punishment, a harsh punishment, for it is harsh to be exiled from one’s country for the rest of one’s days because they will, even in the best of circumstances, be ostracized for the rest of their lives as criminals and thieves who fled precipitately.
If only one could see Mr. Batista now — through the eye of a needle, as the people say. If only one could see the proud, handsome Mr. Batista, who never made a single speech but that he described others as cowards, wretched villains, etcetera. Here, we have not even used the epithet of “villain” for anyone. Here we do not breathe hatred, nor are we proud or disdainful as are those who made speeches during the dictatorship. Like that man who claimed that he had a single bullet in his pistol when he entered Colombia and who left in the early hours of the dawn, on a plane, with a single bullet in his pistol. And it was proved that dictators are not so frightening nor so likely to commit suicide, because when they have lost the game, they immediately take flight like cowards. The sad part of it is that they escaped when they could have been taken prisoners and had we caught Batista, we could have taken the 200 million from him. But we will claim the money, wherever he is hiding it, because they are not political delinquents but common criminals. And we will see those who turn up in the embassies, if Mr. Cantillo has not already given them safe-conducts. We will distinguish then between the political prisoners but nothing for the common criminals. They will have to go before the courts and prove that they are political delinquents. However, if it should be proved that they are common criminals, they will have to appear before the proper authorities. For instance, Mujal, as big and as fat as he is, nobody knows where he is hiding at the present time. I can’t understand how they got away. Nevertheless you will remember these unfortunate wretches….
[They May Speak Freely, Whether For or Against]
At last the people have been able to free themselves from this rabble. Now anyone may speak out, whether they are for or against. Anyone who wishes to do so may speak out. That was not the case here previously because until the present time, they were the only ones [allowed] to speak out; only they spoke out. And they spoke against us. There will be freedom for those who speak in our favor and for those who speak against us and criticize us. There will be freedom for all men because we have achieved freedom for all men. We shall never feel offended; we shall always defend ourselves and we shall follow a single precept, that of respect for the rights and feelings of others.
Other names have been mentioned here. Those people! Heaven alone knows in what embassy, on what beach, in what boat they now find themselves. We were able to get rid of them. If they have a tiny shack, or a small boat, or a tiny farm somewhere round here, we will naturally have to confiscate it, because we must sound the warning that the employees of tyranny, the representatives, the senators, etcetera, those who did not necessarily steal but who accepted their remuneration, will have to pay back, up to the last penny, what they received over these four years, because they received it illegally. The will have to pay back to the Republic the money they received as remuneration and if they do not reimburse the national coffers, we will confiscate whatever property they have. That is quite apart from what they may have stolen. Those who robbed will not be allowed to retain any of the stolen goods. That is the law of the Revolution. It is not fair to send a man to prison for stealing a chicken or a turkey, and at the same time allow those who stole millions of pesos to spend a delightful life wandering around.
Let the thieves of yesterday and today beware! Let them beware! Because the Revolution’s laws may reach out to draw in the guilty of every period. Because the Revolution has triumphed and has no obligations to anyone whatsoever. It’s only obligation is to the people, to whom it owes its victory.
I want to conclude for today. Remember that I must leave right away. It is my duty. What is more, you have been standing there for a good many hours. However, I see so many red and black flags on the dresses of our women followers that it is really hard for us to leave this platform, on which all of us here have felt the great emotion in all our lives.
We would not do less than remember Santiago de Cuba with the greatest warmth. The few times we have met here — a meeting on the Alameda and another on Trocha Avenue, at which I said that if we were deprived of our rights by force, we would recover them with our rifles in hand, and yet they attributed the statement to Luis Orlando. I kept quiet and at the time, while the newspapers made it seem as if Luis Orlando was the one who had done the most, although it was I who did the most. Yet I was not very sure whether or not things were well done because at that time there was no… [Translator’s note: The remainder of this sentence and the beginning of the next is missing.]… and the result was that we had to exchange everything, the books and the diagrams for rifles, while the peasants exchanged their farm implements for rifles and we all had to exchange everything for rifles. Fortunately the task that required rifles is done; so let us keep the rifles where they are, far away from their eyes, because they will have to defend our sovereignty and our rights. Yet, when our people are threatened, it will not be only the thirty or forty thousand armed men who will fight, but the three or four or five hundred thousand Cubans, men and women, who can come here for their arms. There will be arms for all those who wish to fight when the time comes to defend our freedom. It has been proven that it is not only the men who fight but that in Cuba the women also fight. The best evidence of this is the Mariana Grajales platoon, which made such an outstanding showing in numerous encounters. The women are as good soldiers as our best military men and I wanted to prove that women can be good soldiers.
At the outset, this scheme gave me a lot of trouble because they were very prejudiced. There were men who asked how on earth one could give a rifle to a woman while there was still a man alive to carry one. Yet on our front, women must be rescued because they are still the victims of discrimination insofar as labor is concerned and in other aspects of their lives. So we organized the women’s units and these proved that women could fight, and when the men fight in a village and the women can fight alongside them, such villages are impregnable and the women of such villages cannot be defeated. We have organized the feminine combatants or militias and we will keep them trained — all of them on a voluntary basis — all these young women I see here with their black and red dresses recalled 26 July. And I ask all of you to learn to handle firearms.
My dear Compatriots, this Revolution carried out with such sacrifice, our Revolution, the Revolution of the people, is now a magnificent and indestructible reality, a cause for no uncertain nor unjustified pride and a cause for the great joy that Cuba awaited. I know that it is not only here in Santiago de Cuba, it is everywhere, from Punta de Maisi to Cape San Antonio. I long to see our people all along our route to the Capital, because I know I will encounter the same hopes, the same faith, a single people, aroused, a people who patiently bore all the sacrifices, who cared little for hunger, who when we gave them three days’ leave for the re-establishment of communications, in order not to suffer hunger, the whole mass of the people protested because what they wanted was victory at any price. Such a people deserves a better fate, and deserves to achieve the happiness it has not had in 56 years of a Republican form of government. It deserves to become one of the leading nations in the world by reasons of its intelligence, its valor and the firmness of its decision.
No one can allege that I am speaking as a demagogue. No one can charge that I am seeking to assuage the people. I have given ample proof of my faith in the people because when I landed with 82 men on the beaches of Cuba and people said we were mad, and asked us why we thought we could win the war, we replied, “Because we have the people behind us!” And when we were defeated for the first time, and only a handful of men were left and yet we persisted in the struggle, we knew that this would be the outcome because we had faith in the people. When they dispersed us five times in forty-five days and we met up together again and renewed the struggle, it was because we had faith in the people. Today is the most palpable demonstration of the fact that our faith was justified. I have the greatest satisfaction in the knowledge that I believed so deeply in the people of Cuba and in having inspired my companions with this same faith. This faith is more than faith. It is complete security. This same faith that we have in you is the faith we wish you to have in us always.
The Republic was not freed in 1895 and the dream was frustrated at the last minute. The Revolution did not take place in 1933 and was frustrated by its enemies. However, this time the Revolution is backed by the mass of the people, and has all the revolutionaries behind it. It also has those who are honorable among the military. It is so vast and so uncontainable in its strength that this time its triumph is assured. We can say — and it is with joy that we do so — that in the four centuries since our country was founded, this will be the first time that we are entirely free and that the work of the first settlers will have been completed.
A few days ago, I could not resist the temptation to go and visit my Mother whom I had not seen for several years. On my return, as I was traveling along the road that cuts through Mangos de Baragua, late at night, the feelings of deep devotion, on the part of those of us who were riding in that vehicle, made us stop at the monument raised to the memory of those involved in the protest at Baragua and the beginning of the Invasion. At that late hour, there was only our presence in that place, the thought of the daring feats connected with our wars of independence, the idea that these men fought for 30 years and in the end did not see their dream come true, but witnessed only one more frustration of the Republic. Yet they had a presentiment that very soon the Revolution of which they dreamed, the mother country of which they dreamed, would be transformed into reality, and this gave us one of the greatest emotions possible. In my mind’s eye, I saw these men relive their sacrifice, sacrifices which we also underwent. I conjured up their dreams and their aspirations, which were the same as our dreams and our aspirations and I ventured to think that the present generation in Cuba must render and has rendered homage, gratitude and loyalty, as well as fervent tribute to the heroes of our independence.
The men who fell in our three wars of independence now join their efforts to those of the men who fell in this war, and of all those who fell in the struggle for freedom. We can tell them that their dreams are about to be fulfilled and that the time has finally come when you, our people, our noble people, our people who are so enthusiastic and have so much faith, our people who demand nothing in return for their affection, who demand nothing in return for their confidence, who reward men with a kindness far beyond anything they might deserve, the time has come, I say, when you will have everything you need. There is nothing left for me to add, except, with modesty and sincerity to say, with the deepest emotion, that you will always have in us, in the fighters of the Revolution, loyal servants whose sole motto is service to you.
On this date, today, when Dr. Urrutia took over the Presidency of the Republic Dr. Urrutia, the leader who declared that this was a just Revolution — on territory that has been liberated, which by now is the whole of our country, I declare that I will assume only those duties assigned to me, by him. The full authority of the Republic is vested in him. And our arms bow respectfully to the civil powers of the Civilian Republic of Cuba. All I have to say is that we hope that he will fulfill his duty because we naturally feel assured that he will know how to fulfill his duty. I surrender my authority to the Provisional President of the Republic of Cuba and with it I surrender to him the right to address the people of Cuba.