Castro hails US House vote to ease blockade
by Susan Webb In his July 26 speech marking the 49th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada barracks, that launched the Cuban revolution, Cuban president Fidel Castro hailed the US House of Representatives' overwhelming approval of measures easing the blockade Washington has imposed on the island for more than 40 years. Addressing more than 150,000 people in the province of Ciego de Avila, Castro said the US Representatives "made an important gesture" in "voting with determination and courage for three amendments that bring glory to that institution". He was referring to the House vote July 23 to ease restrictions on travelling to Cuba and sending money there. "It does not matter if the executive, as was already announced, vetoes them, nor does it matter if new ruses and provocations are invented to annul them, Castro said. "We shall always be grateful for that gesture. I would like to express our people's gratitude to both the Democratic and Republican legislators who on that day acted intelligently and strongly, following their own beliefs." He added, "We shall always be on the American people's side in its struggle to preserve the lives and interests of its citizens, who might become innocent victims of criminal terrorist attacks." Castro pointed out that 12 years ago, many in the world expected to see Cuba, the last socialist state in the West, collapse. Today, he said, "quite a number of us on this earth are waiting to see how the developed capitalist world, led by the United States, disengages from the colossal and chaotic economic mess in which it is enmeshed. "Those who yesterday talked so much about the end of history might be wondering if this profound crisis is not the beginning of the end of the political, economic and social system it represents." There is no place in Cuba, he added, "for murky businesses, the plundering of public funds, money laundering, drug trafficking or any other similar situations". Castro said Cuba is "a modest example of what could be done with a minimum of resources". Cuban children, he said, don't go barefoot or panhandling. Thirteen vaccines protect their health. The infant mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world. All get immediate free medical care. All complete their sixth grade and almost 100 percent their ninth grade. Their diet has improved and Cuban young people "are guaranteed the continuation of their studies and a job when they turn 16". Castro described Cuba's progress in providing jobs, improving medical care and social services, and expanding higher education and technology. "The social and humane advantages of our system are infinite", he said. "We are well ahead of many industrialised nations in many of the most important areas of life and ahead of all of them in some areas, such as education, culture, scientific knowledge for the masses and other fields." In the battle of ideas, he said, no one can defeat the intelligent and ever-more-educated Cuban people. "We have unity, a political culture, cohesion and strength", he said. The Cuban people are committed to defending "our socialism, which we think is the most just, humane and decent society that can be conceived of", Castro declared. The Cuban President said he believes "the American people, idealistic by nature, due to its ethical values and its traditions of love of liberty, will be one of the Cuban people's best friends when it learns the whole truth about Cuba's honest and heroic struggle. It showed this in an impressive way with its support for Elian's return".
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