(Council of State transcript)
DEAR compañero Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers; Compañeras and compañeros:
Honoring the Cuban men and women who on a day such as this, 120 years ago, decided to return to arms to struggle for the homeland’s independence, is the best way to accept the “Hero of the Republic” honorific title, which has generously been awarded to five Cubans of these times whose achievement was none other than that of having fulfilled our duty.
José Martí, the soul of that national uprising of February 24, 1895, stated that the ability to be a hero is measured by the respect shown those who have been heroes. Thus, on a day such as this, our first thought is one of gratitude and loyalty to those who throughout history, with their sacrifice, have made possible that we live in a socialist, revolutionary, victorious Cuba, conscious that it is up to our generation, and those which are to come, to defend the continuity of this work, the dreams and ideals of our liberators.
The first thoughts of the Five today must be for a man whose leadership and strategic vision were decisive to the battle which led to our freedom, and who with his example instilled in us a spirit of struggle, resistance and sacrifice. And who taught us that the word surrender does not exist in the dictionary of a revolutionary, and who, very early on, assured all Cubans that the Five would return to the homeland. Comandante en Jefe: This distinction which we proudly receive today is also yours. (Applause)
To our Army General Raúl Castro, who did not rest until what Fidel had promised was accomplished, to all the men and women who already wear this honorable star on their chests, and were always an example to the Five, we say: This distinction is also yours. (Applause)
To the Cuban people who made the cause of the Five their own, and still today encourage us with their support and affection; to the leadership of our country’s Party and government; to the mass organizations, institutions, attorneys, religious bodies, figures and governments from other countries which stood in solidarity with our cause: This distinction is also yours. (Applause)
We also thank the sisters and brothers throughout the entire world who struggled shoulder to shoulder with us, over 16 years of legal and political battles, and say: This distinction is also yours. (Applause)
To our families, who struggled, suffered, and resisted with firmness for so many years, and to all of the persons who deserve to see this day but are no longer among us: This distinction is also yours. (Applause)
To the faceless heroes and heroines who will never be able to receive a public tribute such as this, but who have dedicated, dedicate, and will dedicate tomorrow, their lives to the defense of the country from anonymous trenches: Know, wherever you may be, that this distinction is also yours. (Applause)
This honor we receive today is, at the same time, a summons which demands that we rise to the occasion to meet the new challenges which the Revolution faces. More than a few times since our return, compatriots have approached us to say that they would have liked to have had the opportunity the Five had to protect our people from aggression. To them, and to all Cuban patriots, we say that our mission has not ended, and that they can join in.
The updating of our economic model in an effort to achieve a more efficient, prosperous and sustainable socialism, as well as the process of reestablishing relations with the United States, create a conjuncture of change, which demands that all of us act with intelligence, professionalism, commitment and conviction, to identify and confront the challenges and new perils which are coming.
There are, and will be, many ways to defend Cuba, and Cuba will always need loyal sons and daughters to protect her. It is encouraging to us to know that in the heart of this revolutionary people there are many “Five” willing to sacrifice all for their homeland.
With Ramón, René, Fernando and Antonio, we accept with pride and gratitude this great honor which the homeland confers upon us. The homeland can count on these five soldiers who today, before our people, reaffirm our commitment to serve you until our final days, and to always be loyal to the ideas of Martí, of Che, of Fidel and of Raúl. Thank you very much. (Applause)