Raul Castro’s Decrepit Speech at the Panama Summit

Janis Hernández

Raul Castro at the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas in Panama.  Photo: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — Ten days after leaders from the region met at the Summit of the Americas held in Panama, Cuban television is still airing fragments of Raul Castro’s address between different programs.

In recent days, the news announced that “all of the people of Cuba support Raul’s remarks at the Summit of the Americas.” As proof of this, they showed four members of one family watching TV in their living room and very phony-looking images of these individuals reading the front page of Cuba’s official newspaper, Granma, where, of course, an article about this speech appeared.

Since our media will never give voice to a dissenting opinion, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to express my personal opinions about this.

The official Cuban civil society representatives who attended the Summit of the Americas in Panama were not the only ones who revealed the violent nature of Castro supporters. Their leader himself also offered a clear demonstration of their intolerant nature.

The first thing he did was try and steal the show during the first presidential session, speaking, not for the 8 minutes allotted everyone, but for half an hour, saying he could do so because he had been absent from previous summits.

Then came a tedious speech reminiscent of a history lesson that offered a kind of apologetic account of why he and his brother had remained in power for so many years, a speech that, far from making him look good, turned out to be strategically clumsy, bearing in mind his speech came right after the statements made by Barack Obama, who had just said history lessons would not help them overcome current economic, political and social conflicts.

His long sermon was full of silences and attempts to regain his train of thought. He lost his place in the speech several times and it was thanks to his foreign minister, who was sitting next to him whispering him the lines, like in an amateur play, that his speech wasn’t even more embarrassing.

To top things off, the second half of his spiel was devoted to praising the US president, excusing himself for the catharsis and laying the blame for the damage the US embargo has caused Cuba on previous presidents alone.

It was near the end that he seemed to remember where he was and why, and only then did he refer to the matters that are of concern to the summit. He didn’t fail to express his support for the government of Venezuela and, very much in the style of his brother, when he addressed Cuban intellectuals in the 60s, he concluded: “Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing!”

Thus, once fully immersed in the Summit, Raul Castro made perfectly clear that he isn’t willing to make any political concessions, invoking the pretext of self-determination and sovereignty, as well as all of the bad memories surrounding the pernicious damage the United States has caused Latin America.

In a different context, the Cuban president shook Obama’s hand and the tone of their conversation was fairly cordial, because the General knows that a change in relations with the United States is crucial for a country that can no longer hold itself up with banners and slogans.

Personally, his speech reminded me of Fidel Castro’s last public appearances, where a decadent statesman revealed the decrepitude of the system he represented.



Janis Hernández

Janis Hernandez: I don’t seek to change the world, much less give recipes on how it should or shouldn’t be. I don’t have the gift of oratory or that of the letters. I’m not an analyst or a philosopher. I am just an observer of the things that happen around me and I feel obligated to speak about my country without a muzzle, just write and that’s what I do in my diary.

Janis Hernández has 21 posts and counting. See all posts by Janis Hernández

27 thoughts on “Raul Castro’s Decrepit Speech at the Panama Summit

  • There were bombing raids carried out in 1959 & 1960 by Cuban exiles flying their own planes from airstrips in Puerto Rico and Florida. The CIA was not involved with these operations, and the US authorities did move to stop them, although not always vigorously so.

    During the Bay of Pigs, there were a few bombing raids carried out by Cuban piloted planes against several Cuba airstrips. The CIA was involved in training, arming and supporting those missions. There were also few American CIA pilots who were in action during the Bay of Pigs.

    No US Airforce or US Navy airplanes were ever involved in bombing raids against Cuba.

  • Just the reply I expected. Of course, everyone knows that any Joe with a pilot’s license can just drive onto the tarmac of their local airport, load couple 500 pound bombs from their pick-up on to the B-24 they bought at Sears, (this was before Walmart), and go bomb a foreign country, with being noticed by the FFA or anyone else. You must be right. It’s all Castro propaganda.

  • I don’t think that you could have selected a more biased historical account of US/Cuban relations if you had picked one written by Fidel Castro himself. The “bombing raids” alleged to have taken place in 1959 have been disputed from the very first time they were alleged and no one has ever been able to prove CIA involvement. To be sure, the CIA has been behind some sneaky crap in Latin America. But Jane Franklin’s account proves nothing. She is simply retelling the unproven allegations common to Castro propaganda.

  • “Cuba and the United States, a Chronological History” by Jane Franklin

  • Turns out my original reply to you was correct. They were, or some of them were, B28 Marauders. Once again Dan….you’re proven Wrong!

  • Oh don’t be silly. Yes I mistyped the type of airplane. It was a B24 Liberator used during the bay of pigs only to attack Castros Air Force. Que tristesa, que lastima, that they did not succeed. Look at what Cuba has become. Oh well…..to the matter at hand.

    I’m sorry the world, and US society specifically, is not as obsessed with your version of history. Form my perspective, it’s sad the world does not keep in mind the horrors of the Castro regime. Oh well, we can’t have everything.

    Explain to me again why I had to see my father taken to a work camp to cut Sugar cane…was that due to US aggression?

  • Confidence looks like arrogance to the weak. I wish that we lived in a world were all men were free and there was no need for war. But the Fidel Castros of the world who would dominate others for personal gain me the use of force necessary to defend our freedom.

  • The CIA is guilty of having committed or helped to commit some really dastardly deeds throughout Latin America. As a result they are susceptible to accusations of nearly every sort. I have never heard of any US -backed bombing operation in Cuba. Can you cite quality sources?

  • Planes belonging to the CIA were used. They were outfitted in the US, and in many cases, when they didn’t bother to use the cover of take-off from Nicaragua, flew directly from Florida .Does that count ? I love your intransigence and persistence when it comes to ignoring inconvenient fact, though.

  • …and with not a single mention of the US history of aggression anywhere. Notice that ? I shouldn’t have to explain to you that tourist destination pieces do not supplant reporting on a country’s foreign policy record….but what do you care ? You are the same estirpe as Moses, an arrogant, cynical apologist, y nada mas. Like your comment below re B-28’s (sic), they were B-24s, and they were used before Playa Giron – in Havana, and they killed civilians. So what is the relevance of the fact that the planes were 15 years old ?

  • Are you talking about the ancient prop driven B-28s that were used by exiles during the Bay of Pigs invasion. ….Oooooh pleease spare me.

  • There you have it….the average American gives a fig about Cuba! There are more important things going on in the world. That being said, and despite your hyperbole, due to the thaw in relations between our two countries, Cuba has been all over the news lately, even your Walmart workers have seen it. From everything I’ve seen and heard it’s been mostly positive. Conan O, brian even had a show filmed in Cuba, I’m sure the Walmart workers, and even our uninformed president, saw it.

    ….Now tell me again about unfettered access to news and information in Cuba?

  • The US Air Force did not bomb Cuba in 1960 or 61.

  • You who claim to know so much about Cuba, stated once that you never heard of the fact that Cuba was bombed by airplanes from the US. Used to happen all the time in 1960 and 61. You make my point.

  • Harvard Law School educated President Obama was quoted several years ago saying he was “surprised to learn” that Cuba had MDs throughout the 3rd World. This from a US president. And you expect the average Walmart worker to research online the speeches of leaders that they have been taught since birth, eat children and want to destroy the US ? All it would take would be maybe one line from a US media outlet,maybe referencing the fact that some 3,600 Cubans died as a result of US terrorism. Of course, that will never happen, because it is not the interest of those who own the Media.

  • Dan. The majority of Americans have Internet or know where to access it. And to find the speech you need only access google and type in your search query. That’s it. Now explain yo me again how a a Cuban would go about doing the same thing?

    And yes dan there are Yumas who don’t give a fig about Cuba and only think about the Caribbean only if they’re planning a trip there. But don’t confuse lack of interest with lack of information. You forget that in the final analysis, despite our interest in the subject, Cuba is just another island in the Caribbean and figures very little in the lives of Americans

  • What the US “does” is keep the world from collapsing from the weight of over-indulged egos of petty dictators like the Castros.

  • Moses, it’s not about “thinking”, it’s about what happened, what this country did and does, a/k/a history.

  • For those that follow Cuba the speech was “more of the same crappy lies”.
    Irrelevant in history.

  • You are confusing the role of the media with that of a history teacher. CNN reports the news that its viewers want to see. Well-paid consultants organize focus groups that help CNN anticipate what is newsworthy. At the same time Raul was drooling on his chin giving his speech, the Ayatollah in Iran was speaking too. Guess who got the coverage? You anti-US guys really don’t get it. No one cares what you think until you have a nuclear weapon or really big boobs.

  • José,

    Yes, yes, yes, USA is a horrible place to live. That’s why half the world and 80% of the Cubans want to go to live there.

    Isn’t it interesting that so many Cubans want to abandon their workers egalitarian paradise? And that they flee not only to USA, but to Angola, Ecuador, Perú, Argentina, and even Haití?

    No doubts these Cubans are nuts.

    Isn’t it interesting that Cuba was a immigrant receptor before 1959 an that now it is producing emigrants? Probably people love living in bad conditions, and that explains it.

  • You can find it, if you have internet, know where to look for it, and want to look for it. You won’t find it any where in any Western media. So for the average Joe, it doesn’t exist. I bet that there are more Cubans that spend their 5 fulas to surf the internet, than there are Yumas who ever read anything Castro, Maduro. or the official enemy de jour ever say. If US media were anything close to objective, they could at least sprinkle in a tiny bit of facts regarding America’ s history of aggression against Cuba. So deja la boberia asere.

  • Not true. No president’s speech was reported in its entirety in the US media including President Obama. However, all speeches are easily available online for anyone interested. In Cuba only Castro and Maduro’s speeches are available, unless you are willing to spend a week’s wage to go online for an hour.

  • Your criticism of the US is mostly valid. But this is HT. Problems in the US do no give the Castros a free pass to run roughshod over the basic human rights of Cubans. I would encourage you to seek another blog to air your grievances or work harder to stay on topic.

  • Hernández’s comment is infantile. Raúl Castro tried to “steal the show” by … giving a long speech? Did Hernandez miss the beginning of the speech, where he said he will speak for longer and is greeted with applause and smiles of assent, including from the Panamanian president?

    It appears Hernandez is unfamiliar with the meaning of “stealing the show” in idiomatic English. It is used in reference to theatre, the movies and similar, and it does not mean to take more time or space than you’re supposed to, but, as a minor player, overshadowing the major ones by your performance.

    The history lessons was quite cogent and necessary … as is shown by Hernandez’s own criticism of Raul Castro for not being “willing to make any political concessions” saying “self-determination and sovereignty” are just a pretext.

    But Cuba offered no concessions to remedy her mistreatment of the United States because she doesn’t have any to make. She can’t lift the blockade on the United States she doesn’t have. She can’t abandon a policy of driving the United States out of diplomatic forums because she never had such a policy. She can’t remove military bases she doesn’t have from U.S. soil. And she can’t repeal a law trying to dictate what the United States’s government should be like because she never approved one.

    Undoubtedly Hernandez means concessions about Cuba’s internal political arrangements. But why should Cuba make concessions about its internal political structure to the United States? Is the United States willing to also do so? Leave aside the long list of international issues, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, drones and so on to focus on the United States’s domestic political arrangements.

    The United States is a plutocratic dictatorship, a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. For poor people, it is a police state where the cops kill more than a thousand people a year, which has 4% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners, where “justice” is negotiated as if courtrooms were street markets, virtually doing away with the right to a trial, which holds untold thousands in solitary confinement for years, which refuses to allow United Nations human rights officials access to its jails and prisons, which runs a concentration and torture camp openly in another country’s territory against that country’s wishes, which has even officially recognized the widespread and systematic practice of torture there and elsewhere in a U.S. Senate report and yet not one –not one!– of those responsible has even been charged with a crime, never mind put in prison, and the report itself remains secret.

    The FBI just admitted that in the few cases that actually go to trial, during a 20 year period now being reviewed, its “forensic scientists” presented false testimony against the accused that lacked proper scientific backing 96% of the time. This included dozens of death penalty cases including 13 persons that have already been executed. With the advent of DNA testing, hundreds of people falsely accused of rape and murder have been freed, sometimes after decades in prison. But many, many more have been exonerated as frame-ups by police and prosecutors unravelled. As the scandals multiplied, Dallas created a “Conviction Integrity Unit” that’s cleared more than 30 people who had been wrongfully imprisoned. The City of Chicago just set up a multi-million dollar fund to compensate victims of a torture center run by a high-ranking police official there. From 2009 to 2014, New York City had to pay more than $400 million in 12,000 cases of police or official misconduct.

    Using statistical models, it is estimated that about 4% of U.S. death penalty convictions upheld through all direct appeals have been wrong. The academics who did the study noted that the error rate for lesser offenses is likely to be higher. But even assuming it is just half that rate, 2%, that would mean 40,000 people are in prison today for something they did not do, and many hundreds of thousands have had that experience.

    Meanwhile, any high school student knows where to buy drugs but the cops can’t find the dealers. With tens of millions of drug users, anti-drug laws are used not to eliminate the mafias, but to repress young Blacks and Latinos. Most drug users and sellers are white; most of those charged are not. Virtually all the money involved in the drug trade comes from the United States and most of it stays and is laundered in the United States but the authorities claim they can’t detect it. We know the names of all the cartels that get $2,000 or $3,000 a kilo for cocaine or heroin in Mexico, but who winds up with the 40-50 times markup when those drugs are actually sold in the United States? And if nearly a century ago politicians saw after only a few years that alcohol prohibition only fed criminal gangs, why is no U.S. politician today willing to call for an end to the prohibition of drugs?

    The war on drugs is largely responsible for the wiping out any semblance of justice towards people accused of crimes. The laws and penalties have been multiplied many times over, making it possible for one action to lead to many charges. As the war on drugs was starting in 1970, the Supreme Court okayed plea bargaining. Faced with the prospect of decades in prison, even the innocent plead guilty to a lesser charge. Some 97% of federal criminal cases are resolved this way: only 3% go to trial. But those who go to trial receive much harsher sentences.

    The United States boasts of being the world’s greatest democracy, but in the most recent elections, only 36% of those who could have voted did so. Unlike elections in other countries, there is no guaranteed access to the media for candidates. The number of spoiled, blank and annulled votes is never reported in real time, only weeks later, if at all. Rules on who can vote, when, and where, differ from state to state and even within a state. Many people are registered in two or more jurisdictions, as there is no national voter registration.

    There are half a million elected positions in the country, but most candidates run with only token or no opposition at all, even for the national House of Representatives. The multiplicity of governments and overlapping jurisdictions create situations where no one knows who makes what decision, or even what decisions are made. A year ago, the Atlanta area, the biggest metropolitan center in the Southeastern United States, was shut down with hundreds of thousands of people stranded overnight due to a snowfall of only two inches! Why? There are no fewer than 83 governments in this area and no mechanism to coordinate their response. So many governments meant no government at all.

    Election officials are not impartial but partisan, for example, Katherine Harris, who ran Florida’s scandalous election in the year 2000, and halted the recount of votes when George W. Bush led by 500 votes, was also co-chair of his Florida presidential election campaign and the number two official in the state government headed by Jeb Bush, the presidential candidate’s brother. Her move to stop the recount was upheld by the Supreme Court and threw the election to her candidate, who actually had 400,000 less votes than the Democrat Al Gore.

    Asked in the wake of that election whether the Carter Center would agree to send observers to Florida’s next election, President Jimmy Carter said no, because Florida did not meet the minimum conditions necessary for Carter’s people to even consider sending observers, like impartial election officials and media access for all candidates. And that is true for every single state in the United States. Which makes it ironic that Americans are seen as experts in how to run free and fair elections, when their practical experience is exactly the opposite.

    Corruption is endemic in the U.S. political system, with its reliance on private funding of electoral and political propaganda and the extra-official role of lobbyists as the primary drafters of key legislation. Even the feeble reforms enacted after the Watergate scandal have now been reversed by the Supreme Court.

    The combined effect of this system is to drive the vast majority of people out of the democratic process. There hasn’t been an election in living memory … not even Johnson’s 1964 or Nixon’s 1972 landslides … where the number of non-voters was far, far greater than those who voted for the winner.

    Calling this “democracy” might legitimize the regime, but in no way describes it.

  • I’m sorry but I can access the entire speech should I wish too. Can the average Cuban get anything other than the pro-government side? ….pretty weak Dan, pretty weak.

  • Americans, including Obama, badly need history lessons. It was a good speech. It doesn’t surprise me that the capitalist media didn’t dare print it, and referred to historical facts as “anti-American rhetoric.

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