“Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom? We understand that today the Assembly is not in a position to ask for explanations of these acts. It must be clearly established, however, that the government of the United States is not the champion of freedom, but rather the perpetrator of exploitation and oppression against the peoples of the world and against a large part of its own population”

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On December 11th, 1964, now 50 years ago, Che Guevara addressed the United Nations in New York. His main concern that day was “peaceful co-existence” between various countries, people, economic and social systems. This “peaceful co-existence” was being constantly thwarted by imperialist aggression and these histories remained marred by colonial scars. Evoking apartheid in South Africa, US aggression toward Puerto Rico, events in Congo, struggles in Vietnam, Cyprus, Laos and, of course, several Latin American countries, Che articulated that making way for “peaceful co-existence” was a “burning problem” that the Assembly must deal with. He declared:

We would like to see this Assembly shake itself out of complacency and move forward. We would like to see the committees begin their work and not stop at the first confrontation. Imperialism wants to turn this meeting into a pointless oratorical tournament, instead of solving the serious problems of the world. We must prevent it from doing so. This session of the Assembly should not be remembered in the future solely by the number 19 that identifies it. Our efforts are directed to that end.

However, it is Che Guevara’s criticism against the United States that still resonates today as protests against systemic police brutality spread across the country and even in other parts of the world:

Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom? We understand that today the Assembly is not in a position to ask for explanations of these acts. It must be clearly established, however, that the government of the United States is not the champion of freedom, but rather the perpetrator of exploitation and oppression against the peoples of the world and against a large part of its own population.

The full text of his speech translated from Spanish into English available in the archives of Marxists.org.

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