Speech by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, a member of the Party Central Committee Political Bureau and first vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers of Cuba, during the act commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Che in Bolivia, in Santa Clara, October 8, 2017, “Year 59 of the Revolution.”
(Council of State transcript – GI translation)
Compañero Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Party Central Committee and President of the Councils of State and Ministers;
Family members of the fallen;
People of Villa Clara;
It is with deep emotion that we gather here today at this sacred site of the homeland to pay tribute to the protagonists of one of the most important internationalist feats, an example in the history of struggle for the liberation of the peoples subjected to imperial domination.
The effort undertaken by Comandante Ernesto Guevara and a small but brave army during an 11 month campaign in Bolivia, moves caring men and women around the world.
Recalling the landscapes where he struggled between life and death, firm in his redemptive commitment, we witness his altruism, the depth of his convictions, his legacy, his revolutionary and internationalist dimension.
Today, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of his fall in battle, on October 8, 1967. Without surrendering, after putting up an heroic resistance, wounded, with his gun rendered useless, they were able to capture him.
His captors cared nothing for the dignity and etiquette his revolutionary legacy demanded, and he was vilely assassinated; but history only remembers the cowardice of those murderers, while the colossal example of Che lives on and is multiplied day after day.
On announcing the bitter and painful news, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz accurately described Che as “…the most extraordinary of our compañeros of the Revolution.” (End quote).
To his personal qualities must be added convictions and values forged in the struggle, which saw him become, without idealizing him, an exceptional revolutionary, a special man, with a very unique outlook on life.
Fidel, Raúl, Almeida, Camilo, Ramiro, and other compañeros from the guerilla struggle and efforts to build the Revolution, as well as the Cuban people, saw and recognized in Ernesto his modesty, authenticity, sincerity, camaraderie, stoicism; his immediate willingness to perform the most difficult tasks; his prestige as a leader, teacher and artist of the revolutionary war; tireless in his commitment and willingness to struggle until victory or death, for the freedom of the peoples.
Che has not died like his murderers wanted, his figure continues to grow with time as new generations of Cubans - raised under his example and that of his legacy - discover, recognize, and assume his paradigm as a revolutionary, making their own his eternal call for the sanctity of study, work and fulfilling one’s duty.
His model of an altruistic man and conscious revolutionary is an example to follow.
As a leader and Minister, Che was able to apply new management methods in industry, while his example and rigorous system of control and discipline instilled commitment in his subordinates. He was also constantly concerned about the training and professional development of cadres and workers.
As a director he founded factories and trained revolutionaries. His vital bond with the grassroots, and open, fluid conversations with the workers, developed in Che a strong ability to observe, analyze, and condense. He constantly sought truth and reason to defend and advance the construction of socialism.
As well as a leader and guerilla, he was also a revolutionary thinker, a humanist, an intellectual who understood the need to reflect on the Revolution, socialism, society, and the individual in Cuba; noting that the path of production and construction of socialism in our country are the responsibility of all.
He goes down in our history as a hero of the Granma expedition, the Sierra, the invasion and battle of Santa Clara, as one of our most illustrious and sacred leaders, as well as a chronicler and researcher of history, because he understood that history is a great teacher.
Che warned us that the present cannot become a return to the past and that in order to construct the future we must always remain united, because if we are to strike the enemy we must strike together, with the entire force of the people.
He was a model man, of firm ideological principles, who had a special relationship with books and literature. He was a lover of poetry, who through his writings left us his truths and motivations, his analyses, reflections, opinions, experiences, concerns and calls to struggle.
With his attitude and resolve to act in accordance with his feelings, to say what he thought and do what he said, the Latin American homeland expanded.
It is true that today Che is a moral giant for people of different ages and for youth across the world who find in his unwavering example, his faith in humanity, his sense of honor and dignity, in the bravery and austerity which characterize him, the inspiration to build a better world.
This is why Fidel, in the solemn wake held in honor of his death, described Che as a true example of a revolutionary, as the new man to which we must aspire.
Continuing his legacy through assuming his example, making his absence purely physical, that was the right thing to do! We were called to find inspiration in his way of being.
This made us committed revolutionaries and motivated us to show that we could overcome enormous difficulties and challenges. There is no reason to regret, it is something that marked our lives, although as Fidel warned: “His example is difficult to match and virtually impossible to surpass.” (End of quote).
It was right that the people assumed this task and if they didn’t achieve it completely, history will show how each one of his children bettered themselves; here are the values, the deeds, the accomplishments, and the feats of the people to prove it.
What we cannot allow is for this to become an empty slogan, a routine, a simple repeating of words; it must be assumed through commitment, through inspiration, through conviction.
We must give true substance to the call to be like him, in order to face all life’s challenges.
We grew up knowing that he had been murdered, of his heroic death, always fighting, dignified, and unyielding before his captors, with his last thoughts for Fidel and this people that love him like a son and who didn’t know where he was, but held on to the hope that he would one day return.
And he did return! After an intense, emotional search by a formidable team of scientists, his remains were found and brought to the homeland on July 12, 1997.
When Comandante of the Revolution Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, informed the Comandante en Jefe of the unforgettable and moving news that the mission to bring the remains of Che and his fallen compañeros back to the homeland, had been fulfilled, the sacred and long-awaited hope of his return came to an end.
At that time, Aleidita, his daughter stated, “Today their remains come back to us, however, they do not come back defeated, but transformed into heroes, forever young, brave, strong, and daring.”
And that is exactly how it was. This sentiment was reaffirmed by Fidel during the ceremony in which Che and his compañeros were finally laid to rest in this plaza 20 years ago, on October 17, 1997, when he stated: “We have not come to bid farewell to Che and his heroic compañeros. We have come to receive them.
“I see Che and his men as a reinforcement, as a detachment of invincible combatants which, this time, not only includes Cubans but also Latin Americans who have come to fight with us and write new pages of history and glory.”
“I also see Che as a moral giant, who grows taller every day, whose image, strength, and influence have multiplied throughout the world.” (End of quote).
Thus he once again entered Santa Clara, victorious.
Che immortalized this city, liberating it, creating factories, works, schools, hopes and lives, and today he and his compañeros from the Reinforcements Detachment immortalize it once again, because upon returning as survivors of death, victors of life, they found in her a warm and loving place to rest their weary bones.
This commitment, this inspiration grew throughout Cuba; it was the true moral and ideological reinforcement to support what we have experienced since then, what we face in the present, and what is to come in the future.
Today, we are living in difficult times, in a world full of contradictions and uncertainties, at a moment characterized by growing threats to peace, when powerful interests of domination prevail, the survival of the human species is under threat, in the midst of an unjust and exclusionary economic order and a resurgence of destabilization and “regime change” policies against legitimately constituted governments.
Climate change and global warming caused by greenhouse gases of which human activity is primarily responsible, are irrefutable proof of the scourges of so-called capitalist progress.
It is in this current state of crisis that neoliberal capitalism is seeking to expand, to reestablish and broaden its capacity for enrichment, and in so doing destroy the world.
In order to do so, a standardized culture is required, one that enables capitalism to present itself as an unquestionable reality, using pseudo-cultural processes based on manipulative codes, which impose a single vision and way of thinking on the world, turning the values of the people into something out-dated and unnecessary.
The processes underway in Latin America are an example of these colonizing processes and in our case an expression of a marked interest in political and economic re-conquest, opening the door to brutal capitalism.
Political interests in the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are attempting to prevent Venezuelans from freely exercising their right to self-determination, with the United States launching constant threats and applying unjust sanctions.
History has taught us that when a different, just, and more humane revolutionary or social project is set in motion, it immediately encounters enormous difficulties, severe economic and diplomatic pressure, slanderous media campaigns, and even threats and military aggression to punish it for its audacity.
This is the price that is paid for challenging the capitalist system and imperial world order, and for attempting to make the people the owners of their natural resources.
Faithful to our internationalist vocation, we once again reaffirm Cuba’s unconditional solidarity with the Bolivarian and Chavista people, its civic-military union, and the government led by Constitutional President compañero Nicolás Maduro Moros.
Meanwhile, certain spokespeople and media outlets continue to spread bizarre lies, without any evidence, and with the perverse aim of discrediting our country’s impeccable conduct, universally considered to be a safe destination for foreign visitors, including U.S. citizens.
All together, these events are clear proof of what Che said when he warned us that “imperialism cannot be trusted at all, even a little bit!” (Applause).
Che’s example grows bigger, it is multiplied within our people who will not falter, but will forever defend their Revolution. Loyal to his legacy and to that of Fidel, we reaffirm that Cuba will not make concessions inherent to its sovereignty or independence, nor will it negotiate its principles or accept conditions. The changes that need to be made in Cuba are being sovereignly made by the Cuban people. (Applause).
Compañeras and compañeros:
This traditional tribute is being held for the first time without the physical presence of Fidel, whose dimension as a guide and revolutionary leader was recognized by Che when he stated: “If we are here today, and the Cuban Revolution is here, it is simply because Fidel was the first to enter Moncada, because he was the first to disembark from the Granma, because he was the first one in the Sierra, because he went to Playa Girón in a tank, but it was flooded over there, and there was even a fight because they wouldn’t let him in. This is why our people have such immense confidence in their Comandante en Jefe, because he is the only person in Cuba to have all the moral authority…to request any sacrifice in the name of the Revolution.” (End of quote) (Applause).
Fidel and Che will always be present because, as two individuals who share the same ideals, their profound knowledge of the ills of the world, rebelliousness, anti-imperialist and pro-Latin American stance, make them strong and unbreakable examples to guide the battles of these times; the battles for the independence, sovereignty and peace of all the peoples of the world; for the equality of all humans; for a just international economic order; for social justice; for true emancipation and for socialism.
As such, the legacy of their examples is present in our people’s response during Hurricane Irma and the subsequent recovery phase - an expression of the values learned and passed down.
Here today, from this historic Plaza and Memorial - a place for intimate revolutionary reflection, a place to express one’s commitment and honor with results, a must-visit site for those who believe in, aspire to, and struggle for a better world - we can state that his example can strengthen determination and that the future belongs to us.
¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre! (Applause).