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July/August 2003 • Vol 3, No. 7 •

A Message to the Venezuelan President On Literacy

By Fidel Castro

Dear President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chávez Frías:

I have viewed with contempt and repugnance, the dirty campaign against your noble proposition to eradicate illiteracy in Venezuela.

The most employed pretext is the modest cooperation in this effort on the part of Cuba, which is being unmercifully attacked and slandered. Such cooperation is based fundamentally on details of a technical nature linked to the use of audiovisual methods in education, whose results are amazing.

Cuba was the first country in the hemispheres to eradicate illiteracy. It did so through the mass mobilization of hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and other citizens with a certain education level. It took one year. The cost in terms of economics and human energy was high. Although its efficiency was satisfactory, it cannot compare with what you (the Venezuelan people) will achieve in just three months.

It is worthwhile recalling that Cuba’s literacy campaign was carried out when our countryside and mountains, where 30% of totally illiterate citizens lived, were being subjected to a dirty war unleashed on Cuba from abroad. Bandit groups killed teachers and literacy workers. In April of that same year, 1961, Playa Girón was invaded by a mercenary contingent brought to our country from Central America, and supported by U.S. aircraft, ready to intervene.

After repelling that attack, the first decision taken was not to halt the literacy campaign.

Despite actions against the Bolivarian Revolution that the whole world is aware of, I envy the peace and order that Venezuela is now enjoying after the events of April 11, 2002, and the serious and dangerous attempt to stop the process of change in December and January, and that will enable it to speedily promote the fast-track literacy program. Nothing could be more strategic.

Throughout history, ignorance has been the inseparable and essential ally of exploiters and oppressors.

Martí’s phrase; “To be educated is the only way to be free,” is more relevant than ever in our era, when deception and lies are the chosen weapons of those who pillage and enslave the peoples.

Cuba would never have been able to resist more than 40 years of blockade, aggression and death threats without education. This constitutes our invincible weapon. After the literacy campaign came the follow-up courses, similar to those that you are proposing.

Today we can proudly affirm that there is not one single illiterate person in Cuba, one single child without a school, anybody who cannot continue schooling up to ninth grade, and nobody in need of special education is unable to enroll in the pertinent institutions. Perhaps the most outstanding aspect is that today, university education is occurring all over the country in 169 municipalities, something that we could not even dream of when we began to make changes in our homeland.

How can we speak of freedom and democracy when millions of people are total or functional illiterates? What criteria and elements of judgment can we employ to analyze political programs and adopt decisions on vital questions whose essence and content are completely unknown?

The privileged persons and masters of the world vehemently wish for masses of illiterate and semi-illiterate people.

Those affirming that teaching reading and writing is to Cubanize Venezuelans are not offending Cuba; on the contrary, they are honoring it; as is the case with those who label as indoctrinators our selfless doctors battling to bring health care and life to many parts of the world, or our sports trainers. This is the equivalent of saying that to save a life or contribute to a young person obtaining a gold medal for his or her homeland is to Cubanize the Venezuelan people.

We should thank those stupid people for such a great honor.

I tell you, Hugo, with my hand on my heart, that Cubans are willing to give their lives for Venezuela, the Venezuela of Bolívar, Sucre and Simón Rodríguez.

I especially congratulate you, on a day like today, for the immense wisdom and courage to initiate the fight to bring million of men and women out of the darkness. In 10 or 15 years, Venezuela can reach what has taken Cuba 44 years to achieve. Your effort and its results will have an impact on the hemisphere and the world. Many other countries will imitate Venezuela’s example. It will be the best favor that you and Bolívar’s homeland can do to help the world.

As you like to do, recalling a giant of our America, I bid you farewell with a ¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Fidel Castro

—Granma, June 23, 2003





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