Granma International
October 11, 2002

The October Crisis is a lesson for the present-day international community

                   • Fidel participates in opening session

                   BY MARELYS VALENCIA (Granma International staff writer)

                   FORTY years after the most dramatic episode of the Cold War, the
                   October Missile Crisis of 1962, when the world was on the brink of a
                   nuclear war, some of the protagonists are meeting in Havana, from
                   this Friday through Sunday. President Fidel Castro attended the
                   session this Friday.

                   Conceived of and convened by Cuba, the aim of the conference is to
                   "contribute to a debate that gives continuity to the process of
                   establishing the historical truth," as Cuban Vice President José Ramón
                   Balaguer announced prior to the encounter.

                   However, in addition to shedding light on the episode, both Cuban
                   and U.S. participants are agreed on highlighting the crisis’ vital lessons
                   for humanity.

                   For Robert McNamara, defense secretary in Kennedy’s government,
                   his motive for being in Havana is to discuss how the world came so
                   close to war, how a nuclear conflict can be initiated, and what
                   lessons can be learnt to prevent such a risk in the future.

                   The U.S. representatives, also including Thomas Blanton, director of
                   the National Security Archives, a select group of academics, three of
                   President Kennedy’s advisors and the widow of Robert Kennedy, one
                   of the main actors of those 13 days that frightened the world,
                   expressed satisfaction at this opportunity to discuss the episode in an
                   civil and respectful environment.

                   As Blanton stated to the press in the pre-meeting, the conference is
                   a major act of diplomacy, a demonstration of faith in dialogue. And
                   he added that each time the crisis has been analyzed something has
                   emerged that the policy makers were unaware of at the time and
                   which is of great significance for lives and governments.

                   Blanton affirmed that if we fail to learn from history, we might well be
                   condemned to repeat it.

                   In four plenary sessions, representatives from both countries plus
                   academics from the former Soviet Union will retrace the events prior
                   to October 1962, from the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and
                   Operation Mangosta — both programs aimed at the destruction of
                   the Cuban Revolution — which led Cuba into the position of taking
                   legitimate self-defense, and thus the so-called Missile Crisis.

                   Hundreds of documents declassified by the three parties involved are
                   providing material for those addressing the conference, under the
                   heading: "The October crisis: a political vision 40 years on."

                   According to Fernández, an interconnection is being sought among
                   those events, the subsequent development of the conflict, the points
                   of greatest tension, the outcome and its impact on Havana,
                   Washington and Moscow. Hence the singularly significant lessons for
                   the present-day international community.

                   This Sunday there will be a visit to historical sites related to the
                   episode: the San Cristóbal silo in Pinar del Río; the installations in the
                   colonial fortress of La Cabaña, the location of a replica Soviet R-12
                   missile; and the offices where president Fidel Castro met with U
                   Thant, then UN secretary general, at key moments in the crisis.