EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the full text of the “Message from
the Commander in Chief,” a letter from Fidel Castro, as posted on the
Web site of Cuba’s Communist party newspaper Granma.
Last Friday, Feb. 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would
deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots. So this reflection
comes in the form of a message.
The time has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its president, its vice presidents and its secretary.
For many years I occupied the honorable position of president. On Feb.
15, 1976, the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct
and secret vote of over 95 percent of eligible voters. The first
National Assembly was established on Dec. 2 that same year, and it
elected the State Council and its presidency. Before that, I had been a
prime minister for almost 18 years. I always had the necessary
prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support
of the overwhelming majority of the people.
There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition,
thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, from the
position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice
President Raul Castro Ruz, was permanent. Raul, who is also minister of
the Armed Forces because of his personal merits, and the other comrades
of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of
public life despite my precarious health.
It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-à-vis an adversary which
had done everything possible to get rid of me (referring to the United
States), and I felt reluctant to comply.
Later, I was able to recover the full command of my mind and could do
much reading and meditation, required by my retreat. I had enough
physical strength to write for many hours, which I shared with
rehabilitation and recovery programs. Basic common sense indicated to
me that such activity was within my reach.
On the other hand, when referring to my health I was extremely careful
to avoid raising expectations since I felt that an adverse ending would
bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle. Thus, my
first duty was to prepare our people both politically and
psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept
saying that my recovery “was not without risks.”
My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s what I can offer.
To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by
electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should
be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am
saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept — I repeat, I will
neither aspire to nor accept — the positions of President of the State
Council and Commander in Chief.
In short letters addressed to Randy Alonso, Director of the Round Table
program on National Television — letters which at my request were made
public — I discreetly introduced elements of this message I am writing
today, when not even the addressee of such letters was aware of my
intention. I trusted Randy because I knew him well from his days as a
journalism student. In those days I met almost on a nearly weekly basis
with the main representatives of the university students from the
provinces at the library of the large house in Kohly where they lived.
Today, the entire country is an immense university.
Here are selected paragraphs from the letter sent to Randy on Dec. 17,
2007: “I strongly believe that the answers to the current problems
facing Cuban society, which has on average a 12th grade education,
almost 1 million university graduates, and real opportunities for its
citizens to study without facing discrimination, require more variables
for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We
cannot ignore a single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the
intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail
“My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in
the way of younger persons, but rather to contribute experience and
ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional era in which I
“Like (Brazilian architect Oscar) Niemeyer (who turned 100 on Dec. 15),
I believe that one has to be consistent right up to the end.”
Letter from Jan. 8, 2008: “… I am a firm supporter of a unified vote (a
principle that preserves ignored merits), which allowed us to avoid the
tendency to copy what came to us from countries of the former socialist
bloc, including the portrait of the one candidate, as singular as his
solidarity toward Cuba. I deeply respect that first attempt at building
socialism, thanks to which we were able to continue along the path we
I reiterated in that letter that “… I never forget that all the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn.”
Therefore, it would be a betrayal of my conscience to accept a
responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am
physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.
Fortunately, our process can still count on cadres from the old guard
and others who were very young in the early days of the Revolution.
Some were very young, almost children, when they joined the fight on
the mountains and later they filled the country with glory with their
heroism and their internationalist missions. They have the authority
and the experience to guarantee the replacement. There is also the
intermediate generation which learned with us the basics of the complex
and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.
The path will always be difficult and require everyone’s intelligent
effort. I distrust the seemingly easy path of apologetics or its
antithesis of self-flagellation. We should always be prepared for the
worst possibilities. We cannot forget the principle of being as prudent
in success as steady in adversity. The adversary to be defeated is
extremely strong, but we have been able to keep it at bay for half a
This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier
in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the title,
“Reflections of Comrade Fidel.” It will be another weapon you can count
on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.
Fidel Castro Ruz
Feb. 18, 2008