Unlike academics and intellectuals who dedicate time to organizing their work, the ideas of revolutionaries with state responsibilities are often dispersed throughout time, among thousands of speeches, interviews, and statements.
It is therefore the researcher’s job to revive this legacy and organize it in such a way as to help one understand the scope of a figure, and the historic moment they were destined to live.
This is precisely what researcher and essayist Abel González Santamaría has done in his book Raúl Castro y Nuestra América. 86 discursos, intervenciones y declaraciones (Raúl Castro and Our America. 86 speeches, remarks and statements) which was presented in the Nicolás Guillén at Havana’s Cabaña Fortress on February 7, as part of activities during the latest edition of Cuba’s International Book Fair.
González Santamaría’s new book is more than a simple historical account, instead offering us Raúl the statesman, whose work – defined by over half a century of revolutionary efforts – stands firm.
With Raúl Castro y Nuestra América the Cuban researcher leaves a tool for present and future generations to continue the journey initiated over 200 years ago toward achieving the unity and integration of Our America.
The book, Fidel Castro y los Estados Unidos: 90 discursos, intervenciones y reflexiones(Fidel Castro and the United States: 90 speeches, remarks and reflections) was presented during the last Havana International Book Fair; while a similar compilation dedicated to Army General Raúl Castro is also being presented this year by Capitán San Luis publishers. What’s the link between the two works?
Both books share a dialectical link, because their authors, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz and Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, are two men who share the same ideas and attitude when it comes to revolutionary theory and practice. The book Raúl Castro y Nuestra América: 86 discursos, intervenciones y declaraciones is like a second edition of Fidel Castro y los Estados Unidos: 90 discursos, intervenciones y reflexiones.
Can you describe the legacy of both leaders in regards to Latin American integration?
For over half a century of intense struggle they have shown that it was possible to integrate all the countries of our Great Homeland into one organization dedicated solely to “Our America” and without the presence of nations from outside the region. Fidel and Raúl, together with other revolutionary and progressive leaders from the continent, made a decisive contribution to the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Don’t forget that in order to do so they (regional leaders) were first obliged to unite to defeat the “Free Trade Area of the Americas” (FTAA) agreement, an imperialist initiative by the United States’ which it attempted to implement in the region in the early 21st century. This victory was decisive toward advancing integration efforts.
How important is Cuba’s role as a key promoter of ‘unity within diversity’ to progress made in regional integration efforts?
Cuba’s continuous efforts to promote unity among nations of the region for over 60 years, and its respect for the political, economic, social and cultural system of each and every country, is recognized within the region. As a nation committed to its principles Cuba was selected to host the Second CELAC Summit in 2014, during which the 33 member-states declared “Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.” This was a transcendental and historic event, and is the most important tool for nations in their struggle against constant acts of aggression and threats to peace, in a world in which the drums of war are sounding.
What role has Raúl’s thought – as presented in the book - played in these processes?
The text includes excerpts of his revolutionary work, from interviews with the press he offered in 1959 during the Meeting of Ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS), in Santiago de Chile, to his 2017 speech at the Fifth CELAC Summit in the Dominican Republic.
The Army General stands out as a statesman with an acute understanding of the social problems affecting our people; he is a tireless promoter of integrationist processes and a staunch anti-imperialist. His revolutionary thought will transcend this era and is a necessary tool to guide youth in these times.
The Cuban Revolution has been a beacon for leftist movements not only within the region but across the entire world. How can the new generation of Cubans carry on the struggle for just causes at an international level?
The best way is to continuously fulfill the concept of Revolution every day. This is the task left to us by the Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution. Remain united and set aside everything that can divide us.
We must learn from our mistakes and failures so as to prevent being misled and divided by the oligarchs. We must remain positive and believe in the betterment of humankind.
I think it’s important that Cuba continues to offer its solidarity to Third World countries, and fulfill its commitment to cooperation based on sharing the modest resources we have and not what we have to spare. We must also preserve the achievements made to date and continue with our policies of development and social inclusion in order to achieve a fairer distribution of wealth and to reduce inequality.
Are gains made by the right wing over recent years only temporary or do they mark the end of an era in the region?
There’s a debate going on about if we are witnessing the “end of the progressive era” in Latin America and the Caribbean, following the “end of history” as proclaimed by the right wing in the early 1990s - a period marked by neoliberal domination.
I’m one of those who believe that the progressive era has not come to an end despite the right wing’s obvious advances in the region, which I believe are only temporary. They are trying to return to neoliberalism and demoralize political forces and parties, social movements, and the working class.
Political processes aren’t linear, they are constantly moving and changing; they are subject to advances, stagnation, and setbacks. What has changed in recent years is that Our America has gained a new consciousness.
What’s your opinion of the Trump administration’s policy toward the region?
There’s a marked intention to return to the failed policies of the past. The new U.S. government’s attitude toward the region closest to its territory is one of disdain and disregard. Once again it is treating us like its “back yard” and vulgar criminals. This is the reality despite the damage control they try to do during their visits to Latin America and the Caribbean; and it's obvious why - the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, is approaching and they need to prepare the ground if they want to achieve their geopolitical interests.
The Trump administration is obsessed with Cuba and Venezuela. There isn’t a single document or speech in which, when referring to the region, they do not mercilessly attack both nations.
At the same time, they continue to adopt more and more measures within the framework of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade to achieve a “regime change.”
Do you believe that Donald Trump’s hateful discourse toward immigrants and lack of respect for the countries of Latin America could help to unite nations of the region?
It is definitely contributing to uniting the region. His attitudes have been widely rejected and have automatically become a key motive behind protests and efforts to unite. Trump is set on implementing an anti-immigrant policy and building a wall on the border with Mexico, who he blames for some of the serious social problems within the United States. However, the wall is in fact a symbolic expression of his xenophobic and hard-line nationalist ideology toward countries south of the Río Bravo.
The history of Latin America has left us with many unresolved issues at a time when solutions are desperately needed. What answers can readers find in your two latest books?
Exploring the continued relevance of their (Fidel and Raúl’s) words was precisely one of my main aims with these two books. I must admit that the years I spent revising and analyzing all the texts for the two volumes (1,546 by Fidel and 1,468 by Raúl) have been the best lesson I have ever had. Their words are an endless source of knowledge on various political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific issues, which motivate you to constantly reflect, to better understand Cuban history and discover the depth of revolutionary thought.
I recommend reading the book’s prologue, which was lovingly written by my friend and teacher Eusebio Leal Spengler, a true gem of Latin American and Caribbean historiography, and to whom the 27th Cuba International Book Fair is dedicated. Leal Spengler is a man whose loyalty and contributions to Cuban culture have seen him win the love and admiration of our people.
I invite readers to continue investigating and debating the prolific works of Fidel and Raúl, two great men, renowned worldwide, who have elevated the thought of Marti’s idea of the Great Homeland to its highest expression, in the belief that “One just principle from the depths of a cave is more powerful than an army.”