Fidel on Reparations

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Wed Aug 21 12:23:19 MDT 2002

A reminder from about a year ago:

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 societies.

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 dire poverty and with the lowest living standards.

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

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.

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