stealing home
Home  |  Sport and Society  |  Castro: 1996 Speech Blaming US for Defections

the debate
cuban national league
cuban baseball yesterday
sport & society
The Pride of Havana
The Diamond in the Rough
American Game, Dominican Dream
'62 to Athletes
'70 to Athletes
'91 PanAmerican Games
'91 Post PanAm Games
'92 to Athletes
'93 to Athletes
'96 Blames US for Defections
'96 to Athletes
'99 Cuban Sports
'99 PanAm Games
'99 to PanAm Athletes
'01 Cuban Sports
the defectors
web resources
Castro: 1996 Speech Blaming U.S. for Defections

Dear comrades: Can you hear me clearly? We will talk as a family, okay? This will not be a speech on occasion of your departure, when there is plenty of love, kisses, good wishes, and patriotism. Talking as a family means analyzing realities, in private, not in front of the stairs as you are about to board the plane. Besides, the sun is very hot, and it is scalding, so it would not be the best place to say a few things.

We have come here to see you off to the Olympic Games. Are these, however, like any other Olympic Games? A simple event? Plain and common Olympic Games? No. These are the most difficult Olympic Games in which we will participate, not only because we are going to compete in sports -- they will be difficult sports-wise -- but because of the conditions and the country where those Olympic Games are going to be held, under [word indistinct] conditions against our country and our delegation. There will be attempts to hurt us as much as possible, and above all to deal moral blows against the country and the delegation. All resources, schemes, tricks, and cleverness will be used against our delegation. For that reason, more than saying that we are sending... [pauses] that we want to send a delegation of athletes, I would prefer to say that we want to send a delegation of patriots.

I would like you to be aware of all this. Wasn't there a sheet of paper? A small piece of paper, over there. First of all, you must be aware of everything the country has done for sports. Every year in Cuba [word indistinct] and currently during these difficult years, not in sports or in the INDER [National Institute for Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation] because this does not include those in the ministry... [pauses] higher education [words indistinct] 115 million pesos. That is the budget we have this year for sports.

There are 100 sports schools in the country, which are attended by 24,000 students. There are 32,000 professors teaching physical education and sports. All those professors have been trained in the sports schools and institutes and the Higher Institute for Sports.

Some 11,000 sports facilities remain operating. Not even during the special period has one professor been dismissed, nor has one single sports school or sports facility been closed. They charge. Yes, they charge peanuts. What we pay at sports facilities is just for fun, nothing else. What we charge for that is minimal compared to what [words indistinct] not for business, nor was it ever a business. This is a noble activity of our people, of our revolution to give the opportunity for our country to occupy fifth place in the world today, and where all children -- without exception, regardless of who their parents are, without discrimination -- have the opportunity to practice sports, and so that the entire people have the opportunity to practice sports.

Who are those 24,000 students? Whose children are they? Where do you come from? From what kind of [words indistinct] from what rich, what landowners, from what owner of sugar complex [words indistinct]. You are simply the sons of the people, and all sons of the people.

No country has done more than our country for the people and for sports, amid threats and blockade, and more blockade, and more laws, and more measures to prevent us from advancing. [13-second passage indistinct] most powerful and rich superpower of the world. Our small country has resisted [words indistinct] to the heart of that empire to compete now. All [words indistinct] with you. Athletes are loved by the people, who offer them support, love, and confidence. Our noble country is entitled to expect from its athletes and all those who have to do with sports exemplary, honest, and patriotic behavior. This conduct has been displayed by athletes throughout the years from the beginning, since the times we had to make threats that we could reach Puerto Rican shores by swimming.

As great examples, athletes continue in the insurmountable process. We are living, however, in a new age during which sports have been commercialized more and more because of great economic powers. Standards and rules have been broken in the Olympics in order to introduce professionalism into sports. Unfortunately, this has brought about some consequences.

I believe that athletes, their trainers, everybody, the elites, and every superior should have a self-critical attitude. They should demand more from themselves. Just as everything else during our revolution, our sports have worked with morality as their foundation, but not upon materialism or money. Never would we use hypocritical words to lure athletes or workers into athletics. If money were the foundation, we would not have the athletic movement that we do today. Neither would we have [words indistinct] so many years. We should accomplish this based upon morality, conscience, patriotism, and integrity, because there have always been athletes who in recent times have been lured by mercenariness, by commercialism, and by greed. These athletes have committed the villainous act of betraying their country.

You know what betrayal is. It goes back to Jesus Christ's days when, as the Bible tells us, Judas Iscariot betrayed him. There have been Judases throughout history. We met many during the revolution. On the days of our clandestine fight, there were Judases who sold their fighting comrades. There were Judases who were in exile. We met Judas in the Sierra Maestra. This individual was in such a position that he was unable to stand the hardships of that fight. Therefore, they quit socialism and left, they left.

Throughout the revolution, we have had Judases in all sectors, including in the sports sector, where it possibly hurts people the most [words indistinct], and inflicts on them an enormous damage. That there are Judases among the athletes, when the people puts all their trust in them, all their love, all their support, freely, because they enjoy sports, because of the pride they feel for sports [words indistinct] some go to stadiums. Millions who participate in the thrill of sports through television and radio [words indistinct] this is something that hits very close to home, our country's most sensitive cords.

Those who betray the warmest and purest sentiments of the people, are not just hurting those sentiments, they are hurting the country. They are encouraging the enemy who wants to destroy us, who is blockading us, harassing us. It encourages the enemy to continue onward with all his misdeeds against our fatherland. They betray the prestige of the country. They betray the country's sports. They betray their comrades. They betray everything! That is why if we recall the history of our sports, the heroic history that has given prestige to the world [passage indistinct] they betray the nation. They betray the nation, the loftiest sentiments of the nation. That is why more than gold medals [word indistinct] or a bronze plate we are interested in moral medals that the athletes can win. The honor of our athletes interests us more than medals, the concept of self an athlete may have, and I cannot imagine what concept of self a traitor can have.

The enemy taps on those weak points. That is why the development of the muscles of the soul is more important than the development of the body's muscles. That is a task not just for athletes. It is the task for instructors, coaches, and all. And history will never forgive a traitorous athlete, trainer, coach, or manager.

I think I could not bid you farewell today without saying this. There will be no attempts made to bribe athletes from any of the other 100 countries that will participate in the Olympics. They will not be asked to betray their fatherland, their sports, and their comrades [words indistinct] mostly because very few of them have the quality of our athletes. The majority of the countries do not even have the resources and their governments do not bother to develop sports. What they have is [words indistinct] The idea is to overwhelm our athletes with the ostentatious wealth they have accumulated at the expense of the world's exploitation.

They want to daze them by showing them a marvelous world with more money. In the sports market that has been developed in recent times, certain sports have more commercial potential while others practically do not have any. These sports are not profitable.

While our country was preparing for the Olympic Games, they were drafting plans and more plans to see how they could get the athletes to desert and how they could deprive us of the best athletes. One of their strategies was to deprive our baseball team of its best players as they could not defeat our team under any circumstance. They wanted to strip our team of pitchers. They knew they could not defeat us in any other way. Thus, they bribed more than just one pitcher. They bribed the team's best pitcher. He was a person who was well respected and (?considerate). We are talking about pitcher Rolando Arrojo, who disappeared. He was bribed and we know who participated. They were scared because they could not defeat our baseball team and they bribed (?Osvaldo), they bribed (Livan), and they bribed Arrojo.

It reminds me of the years in which they tried to leave us without doctors. We had 6,000 doctors and they took 3,000. We now have 70,000 doctors.

We have had our share of Judases [words indistinct], who were bribed even before the Olympic Games started because their market value would have gone up after the games. They could have been paid a lot more afterward, but it happened before the Olympics. The idea was to demoralize the team, which of course, has had a worthy reaction. They have not hesitated in condemning the action, the act of treason.

They also bribed boxers before the games. They knew they could not defeat us in baseball, they could not beat us in hitting homeruns, doubles, and triples. They want to defeat us by investing millions. They want to defeat us with their millions. We only have one weapon against that, men like Teofilo Stevenson. There was no money capable of bribing him. Men like Omar Linares. There was no money capable of bribing him. [Words indistinct]. Men like Felix Savon [words indistinct] in sports such as baseball, boxing, or women's volleyball in which we have clear superiority. [Words indistinct] to deprive us of a medal, to deprive us of victory, to demoralize our athletes, to demoralize the country, and to get the enemy to threaten us and harass us even more.

The comrade who spoke on your behalf [words indistinct]. There are many things that attack and offend us and that profane the memory of those who have fought, of those who have fallen, and of those who are fighting. They are offending those who have to be cutting and carrying cane by hand in a harvest such as this one, in which the food for the people and the resources for the athletes are produced. They are offending the teachers who educate our children. [words indistinct]. They are offending those who are saving people's lives in hospitals. They are offending those who work in the heat of the furnaces, all our hardworking people, the fighters who defend the fatherland, the internationalists, who provided so much service to the fatherland, and those who were killed while providing those services.

We must bear these things in mind -- you, the trainers, the athletes, and INDER, because we must gain some experience from all this. You cannot wage a self-sacrificing struggle in this country to train any athlete, or anyone, who is capable of such infamy, such a betrayal of the homeland, because it would be unfair to thus repay the people who have done the most for sports and sportsmen.

It is necessary that each of you think about these things when you are out on the track, the court, the field, or wherever; think about what you are defending; think about the things for which you struggle; and be capable, at that supreme moment of your effort, of giving all that a human being can give -- and what a human being can give in this case is unlimited.

No one who is capable of appreciating these values, this spirit should ever be swayed by the temptation of driving a sharp knife into the backs of their people, who trust you so much. We have done everything possible for the athletes within this difficult special period. No one believed we would be able to support the athletes' movement and all [words indistinct] with everyone's effort. Even the athletes and the instructors, who go to other countries and give INDER part of what they receive, because INDER has no hard currency and has annual expenses. Part of these expenses have been paid by collecting funds that are used for basic expenses [words indistinct] including the teams.

This has served to encourage all the athletes because, although it is true that some teams have a relatively high income, others have no income at all; and no athlete was forgotten when it was time to allocate a larger or smaller incentive. However, everyone made a special contribution to prepare for these Olympiads and to seek food -- for the number of calories and proteins that all the national team needed. [Words indistinct], they should be strong, they should lack nothing with regard to clothes and other material conditions, even during the special period, when there is a shortage of things, and when convertible currency may be needed to buy medicine for a child.

Obviously, we have made sure that no child lacks medicine, but you bear witness, you have lived in one of the most difficult times in this country, in the defense of its independence, in the defense of its integrity, in the defense of its ideas.

We are attacked because the powerful empire regards as enemies those who want justice for the world; they do nothing against those who are dominated, those who do not care about education, health, and sports. Their objective is sweeping from the Earth's surface those who have given an example. While performing your activities, you have witnessed the example our people have given [words indistinct] buying athletes. You have witnessed our support for sports and our country's pride in sports. We must preserve that pride, that honor.

We are human beings, and all human beings have defects, just as we have some virtues. Human beings, however, can be motivated to give the best of themselves, they can make their utmost efforts, and they can appreciate their dignity, their honor, and the love they receive from their people. The love and confidence from the people cannot be shunned.

It is with this spirit that we want you to struggle, all of you, in these Olympic Games that will be so difficult, which will take place in the heart of the Empire that [word indistinct] us, in the heart of the monster. I am not referring to U.S. citizens -- many people have been deceived through vile lies that are written and published -- but to the mechanisms and the system that prevails in that country, a corrupt and corruptive system. I am referring to the extraordinary abundance of resources they have which they use to commit immoralities and injustices, and to continue waging the battle against this small country, which is shameful.

In boxing, it is tantamount to a fight between 20 kg and 100 kg. No, more than that, between 10 kg and 200 kg. This little David, however, of 5 kg or 10 kg, has a spirit of hundreds of kilograms, of thousands of kilograms. They have not been able to bring us to our knees in any field; they have not been able to take over Cuba, thanks to the heroic attitude of our people and our combatants.

Let us despise those who sell themselves for 12 coins, like those coins Judas was said to have received for his treason. Let us vindicate the honor of sports, and let us return as the Spartans did in the old days with the shield or on the shield.

The flag we have given you today is not to sell in pieces or to let anyone tear a single piece from it. The flag we have delivered to you today represents the fatherland, dignity, courage, and heroism. It represents honor. It will be the duty of each one of you, without exception, no matter what happens; it will be your duty to bring back that flag with glory and without stains. Socialism or death! Fatherland or death! We will win! [applause]

back to the top