Excerpts From Speech by Comandante Tomas Borge
Extracts from the discourse of Comandante Tomás Borge at the closing ceremony of the Seminar on Human Rights and Racial Discrimination.
We cannot disrespect human rights because that would be to disrespect ourselves; we cannot disrespect human rights because that would be to disrespect the Popular Sandinista Revolution. We cannot disrespect human rights because that would be to disrespect the dreams of Carlos Fonseca.
For us Nicaraguans, to defend the Popular Sandinista Revolution is to defend human rights and to defend human rights is to defend the Popular Sandinista Revolution …
Revolutions have been defined in many ways. It has been quite rightly said that they are the frequently violent substitution of one social class for another in the area of power. Revolution is a profound change, a qualitative change. I don’t know if anyone has said that revolution is the conquest of human rights. In Nicaragua there was a revolution because there was a substitution, not of persons but of classes, in power. The poor took the place of the rich. There was a revolution in Nicaragua because our people won the right to their dignity, won the right to be respected. They also acquired the obligation to respect and the right to be respected. They took by force the right to justice, to liberty and to the defense of human rights.
I remember when we were in jail, when we were fighting in the underground and in the war, how we wove beautiful dreams, among which was the flourishing of the love of people. After the victory we discovered that unfortunately the conquest of human rights is a complicated and difficult process, full of tremendous difficulties and objective limitations. We discovered that to long for the dignity of persons is not enough; the political decision to create a society where the predominant element is fraternity among human beings is not enough; negative habits, egoism, hatred and resentment are not eliminated by decree.
After the victory we discovered that the hatred of the classes who had been displaced from power and their frequently criminal aggressiveness against the revolution and the people was an objective limitation of human rights; that the classes struggle among themselves and many times that struggle has a price of blood and of lives for the social forces who are at odds. We were dreamers when we believed that after the victory there was not ever going to be even one tear or one drop of blood shed again. We have discovered that unfortunately a revolution can only be a revolution if it is defended with sweat, with tears and with blood ….
Discrimination on the Atlantic Coast, and we could add discrimination in whatever part of the world, is closely united to the geopolitics of imperialism. In Nicaragua, imperialism and the counterrevolution want to take advantage of the just ethnic demands of the Atlantic Coast peoples, of their pride in their particular culture, and of their legitimate economic and social claims in order to transform these struggles into a separatist struggle. We cannot get sidetracked with theories such as the self-determination of the indigenous now, with distortions concerning the aboriginal right over the land, or rather the preferential right over the territory, without recognizing the right of the State, without keeping in mind the true content of history, of the reality of our people and of the same ethnic groups: the revolution has recovered the indigenous culture and will pull all the ethnic groups out of backwardness and poverty as it will pull all Nicaraguans out of backwardness and poverty. We are uncompromising defenders of our national roots and of the self-determination of Nicaragua. The Misquitos, the Sumo and the Rama, in addition to being Misquito, Sumo and Rama, are Nicaraguan just as the mestizos, the Blacks and the whites who were born in Nicaragua of acquired Nicaraguan nationality are Nicaraguan.
Minorities emerged in our country tied to the capitalist plan, and therefore their total emancipation must be tied to national liberation. The death certificate of racial discrimination in Nicaragua was signed July 19. That day Nicaragua was liberated, and the Atlantic Coast was integrated forever ….
To speak of human rights is also to speak of justice …. We speak of a very concrete justice, not the justice that Pinochet, Duvalier or Mr. Haig speak of. It is a distinct justice that we speak of: we speak of revolutionary justice. A justice that in defending society, defends each one of its members; a justice that in defending the rights of those who run the jails, defends the rights of the prisoners; a justice that in defending the rights of children, defends their mothers so they do not have to sell their bodies in order to feed them. We speak of the right for campesinos to be something more than just owners of the land, the right of workers not to feel satisfied with the crumbs that the rich or society throw them under the table. We refer to a justice that defends the right of the multiplication of bread, of literacy and of the best qualities of humanity. We refer to a justice that defends the right to truth, to the defense of our historic traditions, to the defense of our national culture and, above all, to a justice which defends the right to defend our country.
We are trying to construct a just society, that is to say, a society in which human rights will not be a placard, a demagogic instrument, a political sham, nor just another lie to deceive the people, but rather that human rights will have an extensive and profound meaning that is projected to each and every person and will be the highest expression of international solidarity ….
It is not true that all persons are born free and equal in dignity and rights, as is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. Understanding the spirit of what that says, we feel obliged to affirm that this equality ends when one child receives a specialized diet and another is the victim of malnutrition. In Nicaragua now all children are born free, but they are still not born equal. They will only be equal when they have the same opportunity to live; when 100 of each 1000 children who are born do not die; when linen diapers and rag diapers do not exist at the same time, when mangers and cradles of gold do not exist at the same time ….
We have tried to contribute to the development of human rights in the world. I believe that our principal contribution is having made a revolution without a death penalty, without teargas, but with habeas corpus; without weakness, but with firmness. We have grabbed the reins of the revolution and have firmly taken up rifles. That there is no death penalty and that there are no teargas bombs does not mean that we are going to abandon the rifles that we have taken in hand with determination ….
In our judgment there is nothing that can move the sensitivity of revolutionaries more than to know that a woman has to sell herself to feed her children. When we can say to you, esteemed delegates, that in Nicaragua there is not one woman who sells herself, nor one child who goes hungry or who has to use his small hands to support himself, then and only then we will have conquered human rights in Nicaragua….
I am also not going to speak about the struggle that we undertook, the first day of the victory, against certain tendencies toward physical and verbal mistreatment of the Somocista prisoners, which we were the first to denounce and punish, do you remember? But yes, I am going to point out one more time the sacred commitment of our Revolution to eliminate, at their roots, torture and mistreatment of prisoners. It can be said with total responsibility that we have eliminated torture and physical and verbal mistreatment. Only cowards torture and the Sandinistas are courageous.
Before the delegates of the United Nations, in the face of the historic prestige of our Revolution, we commit ourselves to remain uncompromisingly faithful to the political desire that Nicaragua be an example in its respect for the physical and moral integrity of those who for one reason or another fall into the hands of revolutionary justice ….
Compañeros, we have the right to speak about human rights. We have the right because we do not exploit, nor will we ever exploit other peoples; because we do not manufacture, nor will we ever manufacture neutron bombs; because we do not intervene, nor will we ever intervene in the destinies of other peoples, except by our example; because we are not, nor will we ever be aggressors; because we do not speak of peace while we prepare ourselves to wage war on other countries; because we do not support genocidal and inhuman regimes; because we do not torture, nor will we ever torture; because we do not discriminate against Blacks and Indians; because we are not an international police force; because we do not have the Ku Klux Klan in our land; because we do not threaten anyone; because we never assassinate men like Martin Luther King; because we will never have a Luther King who says that “one hundred years later, the life of the Black is still bound by the handcuffs of segregation and by the chains of discrimination; one hundred years later, the Black lives in a solitary island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and he feels an exile in his own land”. Never is anyone going to accuse us as Martin Luther King accused his own government. They may be able to accuse us of other things, perhaps they will accuse us of being poor. They may say that we are too proud and too dignified but no one is ever going to accuse us of being racist. They may accuse us of being dreamers, of not fearing the powerful, but no one will ever be able to accuse us of being conscious violators of human rights. If sometime they want to call us on the carpet, they can say to us, “You are guilty of loving your country more than life, of loving the people, of being uncompromising with that war cry that made the invaders tremble with panic and the Nicaraguans tremble with just anger and dignity.” They may accuse us of everything except being cowards or traitors. And they are never going to accuse us of mistreating anyone, of violating human rights …. Free Homeland or Death!