Cuban union leader answers head of French labor federation

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Fri May 16 22:24:37 MDT 2003


>From Comrade Pedro Ross Leal (CT Cuba) to Thibault (CGT)

Havana, May 8, 2003

Mr. Bernard Thibault, Secretary General of the CGT
[Confédération Générale du Travail] - France

Dear Thibault,

We have received the letter signed by Joel Decaillon
addressed to the National Board of the CTC [Central de
Trabajadores de Cuba (Central Organization of Cuban Trade
Unions)], which speaks of the punishments recently applied
to a group of Cuban citizens.

We have also learned that this letter was sent to various
Federations and Departmental Unions that have gone so far as
to cancel trips to our country.

We are quite astonished at the reaction of the leaders of
the CGT, an organization with which we have had relations of
friendship and solidarity for forty years.  However, we have
noticed during recent years that these relations have been
cooling, notably at the level of the CGT's leadership.

We of course respect completely the right of each
organization to choose its own path, and we do not consider
ourselves qualified to question any decision that you make
concerning your national or international activities.  We
sincerely believe in the right of peoples to untrammelled
self-determination, and, therefore, in the same right for
organizations that represent these peoples.

I feel obliged to respond to your delcaration while taking
into account the fact that, on the one hand, the CGT had
never been been on the side of the enemies of the Cuban
Revolution.  On the other hand, I think that what your
statement says does not reflect the reality of what is
happening here.  Thousands of labor leaders and French
workers who have visited us over the past few years know
what is really going on.

In your statement you affirm that we convicted this group of
persons for the crime of having a different opinion and for
having exercised their right to criticize.  This is far from
the truth.  Those who were judged and sentenced, as was
demonstrated during the presentation of the spoken verdict,
were not convicted for their political ideas or for having
expressed their opinion, but for crimes of conspiracy
against the nation or for being in the service of a foreign
power at the diplomatic headquarters of that foreign power
in Cuba, [where] they were receiving money and equipment,
and were preparing and promoting campaigns full of calomnies
and lies that, in the interests of serving and applying the
Helms-Burton Act, violate Cuban laws.

In any country of the world those who are in the service of
a foreign power against their own country are considered
traitors, and if in addition they are being paid, they are
considered as mercenaries.  Mercenaries and traitors are
judged and sentenced in every penal code in the world.

You say, and it is true, that you condemn the blockade
against Cuba.  You have always done so and we are grateful
to you for it.  You must recognize the enormous cost that
this blockade has had for our people, faced with permanent
aggression from the United States, but in spite of all that
we have accomplished humane work that is without precedent,
in comparison to the poor countries of the planet.  Perhaps
no other country has, as much as Cuba, realized the premises
of EQUALITY, LIBERTY, FRATERNITY, which were proclaimed by
the French Revolution.

Here are the results, as recognized by every agency of the
United Nations: all children can go to school; all Cubans
have a genuine and effective right to be fed and to the best
medical care, there is employment and social security for
all workers and retired persons; there is access to sport
and to culture, as well as many other accomplishments of
which the great majority of peoples of the world dream.

What our country has succeeded in doing in these last years
in the area of social justice has been accomplished despite
the intention of the government of the United States and its
domestic and foreign allies to destroy the Cuban Revolution.

The Cuban people has wept for the loss of more than three
thousand of its children who have been the victims of
invasions, terrorist attacks, airplanes blown up in
mid-flight, and biological and bateriological wars.

Never has such a long and intense aggression been waged
against so small a country.  Only the unity of the people
rallied around its Revolution has been able to achieve the
miracle of this resistance.

Perhaps you, being from Europe and plunged in the struggle
for the social Europe to which you legitimately aspire, do
not realize the great danger now weighing on Cuba.

First the war against Yugoslavia, then against Afghanistan,
and, at present, against Iraq -- these wars should open the
eyes of those who do not yet understand that the beast is
loose and that if the peoples of the world are not able to
defend themselves, nothing will remain of the concepts of
sovereigny and independence.

The world has been put on a war footing and Cuba - which has
been placed by Mr. Bush on the list of countries that
support and protect terrorism - has been the object of
aggression for 40 years, and is now considered to be a
threat to the national security of the United States.
Against Cuba significant plans of aggression are being
prepared and we have the right, and still more the duty, to
defend ourselves, since self-defense is legitimate in a
situation of extreme danger.

It is true that we have applied very harsh measures.  The
history of revolutions shows how violence has been exerted
against them and how violence is necessary to defend them.
The French Revolution is an example.  However, we can affirm
with pride that the Cuban Revolution has been the most open
and transparent of all.  Torture, extrajudicial
assassination, and physical violence have never been used
against anyone.  For more than 40 years, not a single person
has disappeared, not a single person has been condemned
without having had the right to be judged according to the
laws in force.

Anyone in possession of minimum information about the war
waged against Iraq by the great power of History understands
that the existence of laws to protect sovereignty and
independence against an enemy nation - devoting all its
power to destroy it - is necessary.

What we want to avoid today is having to look back in the
future with regret upon a massacre of our people, for in the
United States emergency destabilization plans are being
prepared and a pretext is being sought to justify a direct
aggression against our country.

Though some are cynically saying so, it is not Cuba that,
because of the steps it has taken, has given a pretext to
the United States to intervene in our country.  Plans
already existed for an aggression, and this is regardless of
these steps Cuba has taken.  How else can we understand
their putting Cuba on the list of countries that support

I suppose that the French press, which has received a lot of
information with respect these events in Cuba, has also
reported the declarations of high officials of the United
States who, like Colin Powell, for example, express the
right of their country, through what they call their
struggle against terrorism, to bring down the Cuban

Finally, I would like to refer to a statement contained in
your declaration saying that among those who were punished
there are to be found labor leaders belonging to a
supposedly independent labor organization.  This statement
is very far from the truth and many leaders of the CGT know

The only reason labor unions exist is for places of work.
Outside these workplaces, whatever organizations are, they
are not labor unions.  A labor union cannot be said to exist
if it is not elected by the workers and if it does not have

You, or at least those of you who have visited Cuba, know
that labor elections in the workplaces of our country take
place in a free and open manner.  It is the workers who
nominate and elect according to their wishes, and at present
-- and I am sure this will continue to be the case -- they
have have elected and will elect those who will defend their
interests and their rights and who are intimately linked to
the very existence of the Cuban Revolution.

Those whom you call labor leaders, our own workers -- those
who filled the squares along with their families on the May
1 celebration (more than 7 million) -- call punished
traitors as well as mercenaries, because they received
considerable amounts of money from North American agencies
and other organizations which, like the CNV [Confederation
of Christian Trade Unions] of Holland or the CMT [World
Confederation of Labor], have put their resources and
energies into creating allies in Cuba for the purpose of
destroying the work of the Revolution.

It has been proved in court that those whom you call labor
leaders, as well as the rest of those punished, were
conspiring at the United States Interests Section in Cuba to
crush the Revolution and this is clearly declared to be a
crime under our laws.

We are still proud of the friendship and solidarity of
French workers.  We have stood beside the CGT for years in
the course of our struggles to improve the lot of the
world's workers.  As for us, we shall continue to work in
that direction.  We expect the same from the leaders of the


Pedro Ross Leal
Central Secretary General of the Workers of Cuba

[Translator's note: This is a translation of a letter from a
text provided by David McDonald of Seattle, who requested
that I translate it.  Dated May 8, 2003, it is addressed to
Bernard Thibault, secretary general of the Confédération
Générale du Travail, a mostly Communist French labor union.
The CGT was founded in 1895.  Outlawed by the Vichy régime
in 1940, the CGT was reconstituted in 1943 and played an
important part in the Resistance.  At its height just after
WWII, the CGT was then the largest union in France, with
almost 6,000,000 members; its current membership is about
700,000.  Bernard Thibault, 43 years old, has been secretary
general of the union since 1999, which is still strong in
the public sector, particularly in the transportation and
communications sectors.]

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Chair, Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
E-mail: jensenmk at

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