Castro speech in Durban

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Sep 3 11:11:32 MDT 2001

Key address by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of
Cuba at the World Conference against racism, racial discrimination,
xenophobia and related intolerance Durban, South Africa.

September 1, 2001


Delegates and guests:

Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are not naturally
instinctive reactions of the human beings but rather a social,
cultural and political phenomenon born directly of wars, military
conquests, slavery and the individual or collective exploitation of
the weakest by the most powerful all along the history of human

No one has the right to boycott this Conference which tries to bring
some sort of relief to the overwhelming majority of mankind afflicted
by unbearable suffering and enormous injustice. Neither has anyone
the right to set preconditions to this conference or urge it to avoid
the discussion of historical responsibility, fair compensation or the
way we decide to rate the dreadful genocide perpetrated, at this very
moment, against our Palestinian brothers by extreme right leaders
who, in alliance with the hegemonic superpower, pretend to be acting
on behalf of another people which throughout almost two thousand
years was the victim of the most fierce persecution, discrimination
and injustice that history has known.

Cuba speaks of reparations, and supports this idea as an unavoidable
moral duty to the victims of racism, based on a major precedent, that
is, the indemnification being paid to the descendants of the Hebrew
people which in the very heart of Europe suffered the brutal and
loathsome racist holocaust. However, it is not with the intent to
undertake an impossible search for the direct descendants or the
specific countries of the victims of actions occurred throughout
centuries. The irrefutable truth is that tens of millions of Africans
were captured, sold like a commodity and sent beyond the Atlantic to
work in slavery while 70 million indigenous people in that hemisphere
perished as a result of the European conquest and colonization.

The inhuman exploitation imposed on the peoples of three continents,
including Asia, marked forever the destiny and lives of over 4.5
billion people living in the Third World today whose poverty,
unemployment, illiteracy and health rates as well as their infant
mortality, life expectancy and other calamities --too many, in fact,
to enumerate here-- are certainly awesome and harrowing. They are the
current victims of that atrocity which lasted centuries and the ones
who clearly deserve compensation for the horrendous crimes
perpetrated against their ancestors and peoples.

Actually, such a brutal exploitation did not end when many countries
became independent, not even after the formal abolition of slavery.
Right after independence, the main ideologists of the American Union
that emerged when the 13 colonies got rid of the British domination
at the end of the 18th century, advanced ideas and strategies
unquestionably expansionist in nature.

It was based on such ideas that the ancient white settlers of
European descent, in their march to the West, forcibly occupied the
lands in which Native- Americans had lived for thousands of years
thus exterminating millions of them in the process. But, they did not
stop at the boundaries of the former Spanish possessions;
consequently Mexico, a Latin American country that had attained its
independence in 1821, was stripped off millions of square kilometers
of territory and invaluable natural resources.

Meanwhile, in the increasingly powerful and expansionist nation born
in North America, the obnoxious and inhumane slavery system stayed in
place for almost a century after the famous Declaration of
Independence of 1776 was issued, the same that proclaimed that all
men were born free and equal.

After the purely formal slave emancipation, African- Americans were
subjected during one hundred more years to the harshest racial
discrimination, and many of its features and consequences still
persist after almost four more decades of heroic struggles and the
achievements of the 1960's, for which Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Malcolm X and other outstanding fighters gave their lives. Based on a
purely racist rationale, the longest and most severe legal sentences
are passed against African-Americans who in the wealthy American
society are bound to live in dare poverty and with the lowest living

Likewise, what is left of the Native-American peoples, which were the
first to inhabit a large portion of the current territory of the
United States of America, remain under even worse conditions of
discrimination and neglect.

Needless to mention the data on the social and economic situation of
Africa where entire countries and even whole regions of Sub-Saharan
Africa are in risk of extinction the result of an extremely complex
combination of economic backwardness, excruciating poverty and grave
diseases, both old and new, that have become a true scourge. And the
situation is no less dramatic in numerous Asian countries. On top of
all this, there are the huge and unpayable debts, the disparate terms
of trade, the ruinous prices of basic commodities, the demographic
explosion, the neoliberal globalization and the climate changes that
produce long draughts alternating with increasingly intensive rains
and floods. It can be mathematically proven that such a predicament
is unsustainable.

The developed countries and their consumer societies, presently
responsible for the accelerated and almost unstoppable destruction of
the environment, have been the main beneficiaries of the conquest and
colonization, of slavery, of the ruthless exploitation and the
extermination of hundreds of millions of people born in the countries
that today constitute the Third World. They have also reaped the
benefits of the economic order imposed on humanity after two
atrocious and devastating wars for a new division of the world and
its markets, of the privileges granted to the United States and its
allies in Bretton-Woods, and of the IMF and the international
financial institutions exclusively created by them and for them.

That rich and squandering world is in possession of the technical and
financial resources necessary to pay what is due to mankind. The
hegemonic superpower should also pay back its special debt to
African- Americans, to Native-Americans living in reservations, and
to the tens of millions of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants as
well as others from poor nations, be they mulatto, yellow or black,
but victims all of vicious discrimination and scorn.

It is high time to put an end to the dramatic situation of the
indigenous communities in our hemisphere. Their own awakening and
struggles, and the universal admission of the monstrosity of the
crime committed against them make it imperative.

There are enough funds to save the world from the tragedy.

May the arms race and the weapon commerce that only bring devastation
and death truly end.

Let it be used for development a good part of the one trillion US
dollars annually spent on the commercial advertising that creates
false illusions and inaccessible consumer habits while releasing the
venom that destroys the national cultures and identities.

May the modest 0.7 percentage point of the Gross National Product
promised as official development assistance be finally delivered.

May the tax suggested by Nobel Prize Laureate James Tobin be imposed
in a reasonable and effective way on the current speculative
operations accounting for trillions of US dollars every 24 hours,
then the United Nations, which cannot go on depending on meager,
inadequate, and belated donations and charities, will have one
trillion US dollars annually to save and develop the world. Given the
seriousness and urgency of the existing problems, which have become a
real hazard for the very survival of our specie on the planet, that
is what would actually be needed before it is too late.

Put and end to the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people
that is taking place while the world stares in amazement. May the
basic right to life of that people, children and youth, be protected.
May their right to peace and independence be respected; then, there
will be nothing to fear from UN documents.

I am aware that the need for some relief from the awful situation
their countries are facing has led many friends from Africa and other
regions to suggest the need for such prudence as would allow
something to come out of this conference. I sympathize with them but
I cannot renounce my convictions, as I feel that the more candid we
are in telling the truth the more possibilities there will be to be
heeded and respected. There have been enough centuries of deception.

I have only three other short questions based on realities that
cannot be ignored.

The capitalist, developed and wealthy countries today participate of
the imperialist system born of capitalism itself and the economic
order imposed to the world based on the philosophy of selfishness and
the brutal competition between men, nations and groups of nations
which in completely indifferent to any feelings of solidarity and
honest international cooperation. They live under the misleading,
irresponsible and hallucinating atmosphere of consumer societies.
Thus, regardless the sincerity of their blind faith in such a system
and the convictions of their most serious statesmen, I wonder: Will
they be able to understand the grave problems of today's world which
in its incoherent and uneven development is ruled by blind laws, by
the huge power and the interests of the ever growing and increasingly
uncontrollable and independent transnational corporations?

Will they come to understand the impending universal chaos and
rebellion? And, even if they wanted to, could they put an end to
racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related issues,
which are precisely the rest of them all?

>From my viewpoint we are on the verge of a huge economic, social and
political global crisis. Let's try to build an awareness about these
realities and the alternatives will come up. History has shown that
it is only from deep crisis that great solutions have emerged. The
peoples' right to life and justice will definitely impose itself
under a thousand different shapes.

I believe in the mobilization and the struggle of the peoples! I
believe in the idea of justice! I believe in truth! I believe in man!

Thank you.

Louis Proyect, lnp3 at on 09/03/2001

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