Speech delivered by Army
General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and of Ministers,
during the closing ceremony of the Sixth Session of the Seventh Legislature of
the National People’s Power Assembly at Havana’s Conference Center.
(Stenographic versions – Council of State)
This time the closing speech will be a little longer than on former occasions, but this has been indeed an exceptional session, because of the issues that have been discussed, the opinions that you have expressed and the documents that have been approved.
On my way here to attend this
Assembly session, when I looked at the newspaper’s date, December
It was already dark when we met. After the initial hug the first question he asked me was: “How many rifles are you bringing?” “Five”, I answered. And then he said: “Five plus the two I got make seven. Now I am sure we will win this war!” (Applause).
And it seems he was right.
This is a happy coincidence. That is why I wanted to begin my closing remarks by evoking such a nice memory.
We have been meeting for several days now discussing extremely important matters for the future of the nation. This time, in addition to our customary work in commissions, the deputies have met in plenary with the purpose of discussing the details of the current economic situation as well as the proposed budget and economic plan for the year 2011.
The deputies have also devoted long hours to the thorough evaluation and clarification of some doubts and concerns about the Draft Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.
Our media has broadly covered these discussions in order to make it easier for the general public to receive this information.
In spite of the impacts of the world crisis on the national economy, the irregular rain pattern during the last 19 months -from November 2008 until June this year-, and without excluding our own errors, I can affirm that the performance of the 2010 economic plan could be deemed as acceptable considering the times we are living. We will attain the goal of 2.1 per cent growth of the Gross Domestic Product, better known by its acronym (GDP); exports of goods and services have increased. The annual forecast figure of foreign tourists has already been reached even when the current year is not yet at a close. Although, once again, we will not be able to meet the planned revenues goals, we have strengthened the domestic financial balance and, for the first time in several years, we have begun to see a favorable dynamic, still somewhat limited, in work productivity in relation to the average salary levels.
Withholdings of foreign transfers or, what amounts to the same thing, the restrictions we were forced to impose on payments from Cuban banks to foreign suppliers at the end of 2008 -which shall be totally suppressed next year- have continued to decrease. At the same time, significant progress has been achieved in the rescheduling of our debt with our principal creditors.
Once again I would like to thank our commercial and financial partners for their confidence and understanding and I reassure them of our most steadfast determination to punctually honor our commitments. The Government has given precise instructions not to take on new debts without guaranteeing their payment within the terms agreed upon.
As was explained by the Vice President of the Government and Minister of Economy and Planning, Marino Murillo Jorge, next year’s economic plan foresees a 3.1 per cent GDP growth, which should be reached in the midst of a scenario that is not any less complicated or tense.
The year 2011 would be the first of the five covered by the midterm projection of our economy. During this period we shall be gradually and progressively introducing some new structures and concepts in the Cuban economic model.
During the coming year, we shall decisively move on to reduce unnecessary expenses, thus promoting the saving of all types of resources which, as we have said on several occasions, is the quickest and safest input of revenues at our disposal right now.
We shall do likewise in the areas of health, education, culture and sports, without neglecting in the least - but rather raising- the quality of our social programs, where we have identified enormous reserves of efficiency through a more rational use of the existing infrastructure. We shall also increase the exports of goods and services, while continuing to concentrate investments in those areas providing the quickest returns.
Regarding the economic plan and the budget, we have insisted that the old story of non-compliances and overdrafts must come to an end. The plan and the budget are sacred. And I repeat: from now on, the plan and the budget will be sacred; they are drafted to be complied with, not for us to be contented with justifications of any sort or even with imprecisions and lies -whether deliberate or not-, whenever the goals previously set are not met.
At times there have been some comrades who, without pursuing a fraudulent purpose, convey the inaccurate information reported by their subordinates without previously checking them and so they unconsciously fall into lying. But these false data could lead us to make wrong decisions with major or minor repercussions on the nation. Whoever acts in that manner is also a liar, and regardless of whom these persons may be they must be definitively -not temporarily- removed from the position they hold and, after an analysis by the corresponding bodies, they must also be removed from the ranks of the Party, should they belong to it.
Lies and their harmful effects have accompanied mankind since we learned the art of speech in ancient times, motivating society’s condemnation. We should recall that the eighth of the Ten Commandments of the Bible reads: “Thou shalt not bear false witness or lie”. Likewise, the three basic moral ethical principles of the Inca civilization stated as follows: do not lie, do not steal and do not be lazy.
I am going to repeat these three principles that are still observed by Inca descendants today: do not lie, do not steal and do not be lazy. Those are correct principles, aren’t they? Let us try to bear them in mind.
We must struggle to eradicate, once and for all, lies and deceit from the cadres’ behavior at all levels. No wonder Comrade Fidel in his brilliant definition of the concept of Revolution, pointed out, among other things: “... not to ever say a lie or violate ethical principles”. These are concepts that appear on the first page of the booklet containing the Guidelines that we have been discussing.
After the publication of the
Draft Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy on November 9th
last, the train of the Sixth Party Congress has taken on steam. The true congress will be the open and honest
discussions –as is being the case- of said Guidelines by Party members and the
entire people. This genuine democratic
exercise will allow us to further enrich that document and, without excluding
divergent opinions, we intend to achieve a national consensus about the need
and urgency of introducing strategic changes in the way the economy operates,
so that Socialism in
We should not be afraid of opposing criteria. This instruction, which is not new, should not be construed as one applicable only to the discussions of the Guidelines. The differences of opinion, preferably expressed in the proper place, time and way, that is, at the right place, at the right moment and in the correct form, shall always be more desirable than the false unanimity based on pretence and opportunism. Moreover, this is a right nobody should be deprived of.
The more ideas we are capable of inspiring in the analysis of any given problem, the closer we shall come to its appropriate solution.
The Economic Policy Commission of the Party and the 11 groups which make it up, have worked long months to draw up the abovementioned Guidelines which, as we have explained, shall constitute the leitmotif of the Congress, based on the conviction that the analysis of the economic situation is the most important task of the Party and the Government and the basic subject of cadres at all levels.
During the last few years we
have been insisting that we could not let ourselves be carried away by
improvising and haste in this area, considering the magnitude, complexity and
inter-relations of the decisions to be adopted.
For that reason I think that we did the right thing when we decided to
defer the celebration of the Party Congress, even when we have had to patiently
bear with the honest and also the ill-intended protests both inside
Sometimes it seems that their most heartfelt wishes prevent them from seeing the reality. In making their true desires evident, they blatantly demand that we dismantle the economic and social system that we created, just as if this Revolution were willing to submit to the most humiliating surrender or, what tantamount to the same thing, steer its own destiny by submitting to denigrating conditions.
Throughout 500 years, from Hatuey to Fidel, our people have shed too much blood to accept the dismantling of what we have built with so much sacrifice (Applause).
To those who may entertain
those unfounded illusions, we must remind once and again what I said before
this Parliament on
Today, I add that the measures we are implementing and all the modifications that need to be introduced to the updating of the economic model are aimed at the preservation of socialism by strengthening it and making it truly irrevocable, as was stated in the Constitution of the Republic at the behest of the vast majority of our population in the year 2002.
We need to put on the table all the information and arguments behind every decision and also suppress the excessive secrecy to which we became used to during these 50 years that we have lived under the enemy siege. Any State must reasonably keep some matters secret; that is something nobody can deny. But matters defining the political and economical course of the nation shall be no secret. It is vital to explain, provide arguments and convince the people of the fairness, need and urgency of any measure, no matter how tough it appears to be.
The Party and the Communist Youth, as well as Cuba’s Workers’ Central and its unions, along with the rest of the mass and social organizations have the capacity to mobilize the support and the confidence of the people through debate, free from unviable dogmas and schemes that emerge as a colossal psychological barrier that we need to dismantle little by little. Together we can make it (Applause).
That is exactly the fundamental agenda that we have reserved for the National Conference of the Party to be held in 2011, after the Congress, at a date to be fixed later. On that occasion we shall analyze, among other matters, the modifications of the working methods and styles of the Party since, as a result of the deficiencies found in the performance of the Government administrative bodies throughout the years, the Party has had to engage in the exercise of functions outside its duties, which restricted and compromised its role as the organized avant-garde of the Cuban nation and the top leading force of society and the State, as established by Article Five of the Constitution of the Republic.
The Party should lead and supervise; it should not interfere with the activities of the Government at no level. It is the Government that governs. Each body has its own norms and procedures, depending on what their missions are within the society.
It is necessary to change the mentality of the cadres and of all other compatriots in facing up the new scenario which is beginning to be sketched out. It is just about transforming the erroneous and unsustainable concepts about socialism, that have been very deeply rooted in broad sectors of the population over the years, as a result of the excessively paternalistic, idealistic and egalitarian approach instituted by the Revolution in the interest of social justice.
Many of us Cubans confuse socialism with freebies and subsidies; and equality with egalitarianism. Quite a few of us consider the ration card to be a social achievement that should never be gotten rid of.
In this regard, I am convinced that several of the problems we are facing today have their origin in this distribution mechanism. While it is true that its implementation was inspired by the wholesome idea of ensuring people a stable supply of foodstuffs and other goods to counter the unscrupulous hoarding by some for profit, it is an evident expression of egalitarianism that equally benefits those who work and those who do not, or those who do not see the need to work, which generated practices such as bartering and resale in a submerged black market, etc, etc.
The solution to this complex and sensitive matter is not a simple one, since it is closely related to the strengthening of the role of salaries in society. That will only be possible if, at the same time, freebies and subsidies are reduced and the productivity of work and the supply of products to the population are increased.
In this matter, as well as in
the eradication of overstaffing, the
As is known, as from September this year, the cigarette rations were eliminated. This product was being delivered only to a part of the population. Obviously, due to its harmful effects to human health, it can not be considered a basic commodity.
Next year –and we have already discussed that here- we can not afford to spend around 50 million dollars -47, to be exact- to import coffee to sustain the rations that have so far been distributed to all consumers, including newborn children. Since this is an unavoidable necessity, we intend to mix it with peas, as we used to do until 2005, since peas are much cheaper than coffee, whose price is almost three thousand dollars per ton, while the cost of a ton of peas is 390 dollars.
Therefore, if we want to keep
on drinking pure, un-rationed coffee, the only solution is to produce it in
These decisions, and others that we shall have to apply, even though we know they are not popular ones, are a must in order to be able to maintain and even improve the free public health, education and social security services for all of our citizens.
The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Comrade Fidel himself, in his historical speech on November 17, 2005, stated, and I quote: “Here is a conclusion I’ve come to after many years: among all the errors we may have committed, the greatest of them all was that we believed that someone really knew something about socialism, or that someone actually knew how to build socialism”, end of quote. Hardly one month ago, exactly five years later, in his message on the occasion of the International Students Day, Fidel reiterated these concepts which are still fully valid.
I for one remember an idea expressed by a Soviet award-winning scientist who about half a century ago –around the times when the first man ever traveled to the cosmos, who was Gagarin- was thinking that even though the possibility of a manned flight into space had been theoretically documented, it was still a journey into the unknown, the undiscovered.
While we have counted on the theoretical Marxist-Leninist legacy, according to which there is scientific evidence of the feasibility of socialism and the practical experience of the attempts to build it in other countries, the construction of a new society from an economic point of view is, in my modest opinion, also a journey into the unknown –the undiscovered. Therefore each step must be profoundly meditated upon and planned before the next step is taken; mistakes are to be timely and quickly amended so that the solution is not left up to time, which will make them grow bigger and, ultimately, our invoice will be even more costly.
We are fully aware of the mistakes we have committed and the Guidelines we are right now discussing precisely mark the beginning of the road to rectification and the necessary updating of our socialist economic model.
No one should claim they have
been deceived: the Guidelines will signal the road towards a socialist future,
The building of socialism should be according to the specific features of every country. That is a History lesson that we have learned very well. We do not intend to copy from anyone again; that brought about enough problems to us because, in addition to that, many a time we also copied badly, as we said yesterday. However we shall not ignore others’ experiences and we will learn from them, even from the positive experience of capitalists.
Speaking about the necessary change of mind, I shall mention one example: we have arrived at the conclusion that self-employment is one more alternative for working-age citizens, aimed at increasing the supply of goods and services to the population, which could rid the State of those tasks so that it could focus on what is truly decisive, what the Party and the Government should do is, first and foremost, facilitate their work rather than generate stigmas and prejudices against them, much less demonize them. Therefore it is fundamental that we modify the existing negative approach that quite a few of us have towards this form of private job. When defining the features that ought to characterize the building of a new society, the classics of Marxist-Leninism –particularly Lenin- stated, among other things, that the State, on behalf of all the people, should keep the ownership over all the basic production means.
We turned this precept into an absolute principle and almost all the country’s economic activity started to be run by the State. The steps we have been taking and shall take towards broadening and relaxing self-employment are the result of profound meditations and analysis and we can assure you this time there will be no going back.
Cuba’s Workers’ Central and its respective national trade unions are currently studying the forms and methods to organize the provision of assistance to this labor force, promote full compliance with the Law and the payment of taxes and encourage these workers to eschew illegalities. We should defend their interests just as we do with any other citizen, as long as they observe the approved juridical norms.
The introduction of the basic concepts about the taxation system at different levels of education becomes very important, since younger generations will become permanently and concretely acquainted with the implementation of taxes as the most universal form of redistribution of the national income, in the interest of covering social costs, including the assistance to persons in greatest need.
From the point of view of the society as a whole, we have to encourage among all taxpayers the civic values of respect for and compliance with tax payments; we should educate people in that discipline and culture, reward those who comply and sanction tax evaders.
Another area where there is still much to do, in spite of the advances made, is the attention to the different production modalities in agriculture to remove the existing obstacles that hinder the promotion of productive forces in our rural areas so that, depending on the savings obtained by reducing the import of foodstuffs, farmers could receive just and reasonable revenues for their hard work. However this does not justify the fixing of extremely high prices to the commodities consumed by the population.
After two years since we started to distribute idle lands in usufruct, I think we are now in the position to evaluate the allocation of additional land plots, above the limits regulated by Decree-Law 259 of July 2008, to those agricultural workers who have achieved outstanding results in the intensive use of the lands they have been tilling.
I think it timely to clarify that the ownership of the lands distributed in usufruct continues to belong to all the people. Thus, if for any reason these lands are required for uses different from these in the future –namely, the construction of a social facility, a highway or whatever- the State shall compensate beneficial owners for their investments and would pay to them the value of the benefits created.
In due time, once we conclude the studies based on the experience we have been accumulating, we shall submit the corresponding proposals to modify the abovementioned Decree-Law to the Council of State, where farmers have their own representative, who is comrade Lugo Fonte, the chairman of the National Association of Small Farmers.
One of the most difficult barriers to overcome in the effort to create a different view -and we should publicly recognize that-, is the lack of knowledge about the economy among the people, including quite a few cadres who, giving clear proof of a supine ignorance on the subject, adopt or propose decisions while facing customary problems without stopping for a single minute to evaluate their effects and costs, or without knowing whether there is a budget or resources assigned to that end according to a plan.
I am not announcing any new discovery when I state that improvisation in general, particularly when it comes to the economy, leads to a sure failure regardless of the lofty ends one intends to attain.
On December 2 last, on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the landing of the Granma, the official newspaper of our Party published an excerpt of the speech delivered by Fidel on that same date in 1976, when we were celebrating the twentieth anniversary of that historical event. Given its validity and relevance I find it appropriate to quote it. Thirty four years ago Fidel said: “The strength of a people and a revolution lies precisely in its capacity to understand and cope with difficulties. Despite everything, we will move forward on numerous fronts and we will struggle tirelessly to increase the economy’s efficiency, save resources, reduce non-essential costs, increase exports and raise economic awareness in every citizen. I said earlier that we are all politicians; now I add that we should all be economists, and I repeat, economists, not economic reductionists. A mindset oriented to saving and efficiency is different from that oriented to consumption”, end of quote.
To become an economist does not mean that we should now try to get a degree in Economics –we have enough of those. It means to have a domain of the main principles of Economics, not to pursue a PhD in Economics.
And Fidel continued to say: “…now I add that we should all be economists, and I repeat, economists, not economic reductionists. A mindset oriented to saving and efficiency is different from that oriented to consumption”, end of quote.
That is the essence of the Guidelines you have in your hands and of the precise instructions oriented to promote economic development right now, which is about producing whatever can be exported, reduce imports and invest in those areas that could yield the quickest returns. It is also about increasing economic efficiency, saving resources, reducing unnecessary costs –we have discussed all that in these days-, increasing exports and raising an economic awareness in every citizen. And I repeat: “economists, not economic reductionists. A mindset oriented to saving and efficiency is different from that oriented to consumption”, end of quote. This was said on December 2, thirty four years ago.
Ten years later, on December 1 of 1986, during the deferred session of the Third Party Congress, Fidel stated, and I quote: “Many do not understand that the Socialist State, just as any other State or system, can not deliver what it does not have. And it will have much less if it does not produce, if it gives away money without any production backing. I am sure that overstaffing, excess money paid out to people, idle stocks and wasting of resources are all linked to the great number of unprofitable companies that we have in our country...” end of the quote.
After 34 and 24 years respectively from the time when these two ideas that I have just quoted were expressed by the Leader of the Revolution, these and many other problems are still with us.
And, well, what did we do back then? Why weren’t the instructions given by the Leader of the Revolution complied with? We applaud every speech; we shout Long Live the Revolution! And afterwards things remain just the same.
He did his part, and now, trying to find an explanation, I express that Fidel, with his genius, was blazing a trail, showing the way, and the rest of us didn’t know how to ensure and consolidate our march forward to pursue those goals.
The truth is that we lacked cohesion, despite this people’s unity around its Party, its leaders and its Government, which has been our main strategic weapon for surviving more than five decades, inside a fortress under siege, facing the most powerful empire that has ever existed. But lacked cohesion, organization and coordination between the Party and the Government. In the midst of the threats and the daily emergencies we neglected mid and long-term planning; we did not act strongly enough against the economic violations and the errors committed by some leaders and we also stalled in correcting decisions that didn’t have the effect we expected but managed to survive.
On more than one occasion –right here, before this Parliament- I have referred to the fact that in this Revolution almost everything has been said and that we should check which of the instructions given by the Leader of the Revolution have been fulfilled and which have not, ever since he made his vibrant statement “History Will Absolve Me” during the trial against the Moncada attackers until the present. We will retake Fidel’s ideas, which continue to be valid even today, and will not allow the same to happen to us again. That is the reason behind the instructions oriented and the main line traced by the Party and the Government regarding errors, violations, etc. If we want to save the Revolution we have to comply with whatever we may agree. We should not allow that, after the Congress is over –as has been happening so far in many very eloquent cases- documents go to desk drawers to sleep the eternal sleep, just as we have been explaining in these days of fruitful, democratic and truly profound discussions. That is how we want the people to continue discussing those Guidelines. We have almost 100 days for that. We either rectify –because we no longer have time to keep on skirting around the precipice- or we will sink, and, as I said before, we will also be sinking the efforts made by entire generations since the times of Hatuey, the American Indian who came from the territory that is today the Dominican Republic and Haiti –the first internationalist in our country- until Fidel, who has brilliantly led us through these so complex situations since the triumph of the Revolution (Applause).
Those of us who are not so young, or those who, being older, are still feeling young and ready to keep up in the struggle (Applause), as well as those who belong to the younger generations –some of whom spoke eloquently yesterday- should never forget the words pronounced by Fidel in his first speech after coming into the capital, at the Batista’s military headquarters, the former ‘Columbia’, which is today the school named “Ciudad Libertad”. From that place he said: “The Revolution has triumphed and there is an immense happiness, but there is still much to do. We should not make the mistake of thinking that from now on everything would be easier. From now everything would be perhaps more difficult”. And that precise and visionary advice has become true all along these more than fifty years.
We did not expect this to be a bed of roses; we knew the power we were going to challenge, for which we only counted on the people and the weapons that we grabbed from Batista’s army. Later on we continued to acquire as many weapons as we could until the present, while we continued to further develop –and Fidel also taught us that- the great unity of our people, which we should always protect, as much as if it were the apples of our eyes or our own lives. But that unity can not be achieved by decree. We will have more unity because it will be everybody’s domain, if we apply absolutely democratic methods to political work in the entire nation, with patience, from the Party’s grassroots cells to the supreme organ of the State, which is this Assembly gathered here.
We have a cultured people that have attained a high educational level, and we have many other positive things. Huge advances have been made, but this is not the right occasion to list up all of them; you already know about them. Our media talks a lot about them, about the achievements of the Revolution. In our speeches we also expand on that. But we must go to the core of the problems, just as we have done in this Parliament session.
What I mean is that the issues that we have discussed and the errors that we have criticized can not happen again because it is the life of the Revolution what is at stake.
Errors, if they are just analyzed with honesty, can become experiences and lessons that could teach us how to eradicate them and avoid its replication. Haven’t you heard the proverb saying that the human being is the only animal that stumbles more than once against the same obstacle? I have known some who have stumbled five, six, even ten times, and if we don’t stop them they will continue to stumble. And we will not because they may injure an ankle or the tip of their toes; it is because the mistakes they make cost millions. You heard what was read by the Vice-President himself, the Minister of Economy and Planning, Murillo; or what was just read by the President of the Commission on Economic Affairs of the Parliament, comrade Osvaldo Martínez. We stopped receiving some millions because of the low prices of sugar; throughout all these years sugar prices have been at rock bottom. And now, when sugar prices are up, we stopped receiving some millions because, for some reason, we did not meet the sugar production plan. In such and such economic activity we stopped receiving so much because we did not meet the production plans.
I was telling Machado –I was making some comments while they were speaking; just some comments, right there by his side- that if you add up all the millions that we have failed to receive for not meeting our production plans, just imagine how many problems we could have solved.
And so it happens in every other area.
That is why I am a staunch advocator of the eradication of excessive secrecy, although some secrets must be kept. Yesterday we talked about some of them, which I do not intend to publish. You may have noticed that nothing, almost nothing, has been published by the press about my interventions at the Assembly. I asked for this to be done this way, so that I could speak straight. The session was held behind closed doors so that we could discuss things as we commonly say here, stripping ourselves to our underclothes, although it was not necessary to take off so much clothes. But we discussed what we had to discuss. That is the way it should be.
And I am very much in favor of the struggle against excessive secrecy, because our failures as well as those who are interested in leaving things as they are so that they continue to be just the same, are all hidden under that well-decorated carpet. And I remember some of the criticisms that were made: “yes, let such and such criticism be published by the press”, I myself said in the past, many years ago. And, of course, no specific reference was made to any entity, but to a product, and so on so forth.
All of a sudden the big bureaucracy began to mobilize: “Those things are not helpful; they demoralize workers”, they said. What workers were going to be demoralized?
So it happened once at the big State-run dairy enterprise named ‘El Triángulo’. It was quite big then and continues to be so. I believe it is now a genetic centre… (Someone reminds him that the center’s name is ‘Triunvirato’). That’s right, Triunvirato. ‘Triángulo’ is the one in Camagüey. It had been weeks since one of the trucks of that dairy farm, a small truck, had been out of order. Therefore, all the milk produced by the dairy farms of that region –not only by that enterprise- was being used to feed some pigs they were raising.
Then I said to one of the secretaries of the Central Committee responsible for supervising agriculture at that time: “Go to the ‘Granma’ newspaper and tell everything that is going on; make a criticism.
I stirred up the hornet’s nest. People did not know I had been the one who had given those instructions. And some approached me and even said to me: “Those things are not helpful because they demoralize the workers”, and so on so forth.
Nearby the city, close to the capital of the province, there were they, throwing away milk, using it to feed their own pigs.
That is why I say: ¿excessive secrecy? No way. Let those wanting to keep their own deficiencies in secret to struggle and devote that huge effort to avoid them –I mean, deficiencies.
That is to say, errors, if they are just analyzed –as we said a while ago- with honesty, can become experiences and lessons that could teach us how to eradicate them and avoid its replication.
If we do not proceed this
way, we will keep on making the same mistakes. That is why I am one of those
who claim that in
Do not forget about another Dominican, a great internationalist, who was the chief commander of our Liberation Army, Generalissimo Máximo Gómez, who knew Cubans too well. He was married to a Cuban; his children were born in the battlefield. Many of them died of poverty. Manana was always behind him; she accompanied him wherever he went. Gómez used to say: “Cubans either fall short of or go over the limits”. Isn’t that so? (The audience says ‘yes’). Let’s see if we can go over the limits, but when it comes to the strict compliance with our duties.
I mean, that is precisely the great usefulness of a thorough analysis of errors. That should become a permanent rule of conduct for all leaders, at all levels. Those who do not proceed this way would be infringing their main duty as leaders.
Besides, the reality of figures prevails over all of our hopes and dreams. Since our early years in first grade, when we study elementary arithmetic, we learn that two plus two makes four, not five or six –as we said once, right here. You don’t have to be an economist to understand that two plus two makes four. On that occasion I added: “…but sometimes, as a result of or own deficiencies, two plus two happen to make three”. That is to say, you don’t have to be an economist to understand that. Therefore, if at any given time we have to do something whether in the economic or social fields, whose cost can not be covered by the resources available, we may do that being aware of the consequences and knowing, ahead of time, that, ultimately, bare facts shall irremissibly prevail, no matter how well-intended we might be.
We have the most precious thing –mentioned by Comrade Fidel on several occasions-, which is human capital. We must further consolidate it, with the help of the National Association of Economists and Accountants (ANEC) to take up the task of constantly and systematically educating our cultured people and their leaders at all levels in this subject. A large representation from the ANEC National Board took part –together with us and several other cadres present here- in the first seminars that we organized to analyze these Guidelines, and many of its members are immersed in the process of discussions under way. The entire National Board attended these seminars and afterwards they took part in the discussions with the members of the Party and the people that were held in different municipalities and provinces.
In this regard, we should emphasize the decisive contribution made by thousands and thousands of accountants to recover the place Accounting deserves in economic management –and you know what I am talking about and how Accounting operates in this country and in almost all enterprises- which, as we well know, is an indispensable condition to ensure success and order in everything that we intend to accomplish.
In these circumstances, nobody should lose sight of the relevance of keeping a differentiated approach to the youth –and here I am dealing with a different issue, related to university graduates and medium-level technicians; that is, they deserve a different treatment and approach, as you saw it was described by the first resolution passed by the Ministry of Labor. I should emphasize the decision of exempting new graduates from any overstaffing reduction process while they are completing their Social Service term. Otherwise they will be the first to be sacrificed.
Now then, we are not trying to assign them to jobs that have nothing to do with their professional profiles, as it has occurred in the past, when they were even employed as doormen at some work places while they were completing their Social Service term, regardless of the title or knowledge they have acquired, because that period is precisely designed to train them in the production and provision of services, so that they could complement the theory they learned in school with practice and cultivate in them the love for work. If we do not do that we will be sacrificing the immediate future, those who will continue after us.
No less important is the work to be carried out by cadres and specialists involved in the drafting and review of legal documents, which are to be in tune with the modifications that are being implemented. For example, in order to create the legal framework –because not a single step should be taken without first taking into account this, the legal framework- for two Guidelines (158 and 159), referring to self-employment, its taxation regime and the reduction of overstaffing, we have had to issue almost 30 legal provisions, including decree-laws –today we adopted those that were proclaimed during this period-, Government agreements and resolutions from various ministries and national institutes.
Just a few days ago –listen to this example-, a resolution issued by the Ministry of Finances that modified the prices set by collecting centers for a series of agricultural products had to invalidate another 36 resolutions issued by that same body on different dates in previous years, but all of them were still in force. Who could control an activity like that, the pricing of agricultural products, when the prices fixed are not governed by supply and demand and there are 36 different documents governing it? No matter how many computers you may have, this is something impossible to do. And so there are many decisions of this sort contained in documents, one after the other; some of them modify the others, the ones that come next, and so on. In this case, one resolution replaced another 36, but all of them were still in force.
These facts give you some idea of the work facing us in the area of juridical organization for the purpose of reinforcing the institutional character of the country -this is not because we like papers; every activity must be regulated in documents and officially approved-, and eliminating so many irrational prohibitions that have been prevailed for years, without bearing in mind the existing circumstances, creating a veritable breeding ground for multiple actions outside the law that very often give rise to different levels of corruption. One can arrive at a life-tested conclusion: irrational prohibitions lead to violations and that in turn leads to corruption and impunity. That is why I believe that people are right –because they have said since they discussed the speech I delivered in 2007, which was not a speech that deserved being discussed by the entire people, but then they were told: “You may say what you want”, and right here I reported the results of that survey. Besides, that was intended to accumulate greater experience for what we are doing right now, and we managed to accumulate important experiences, and many of the statements made then are being repeated now during the discussion of the Guidelines That is, people were right in their concerns over the mind-boggling procedures associated with housing and the buying and selling of cars among individuals, just to mention two examples that are currently under study for an orderly solution. That is why yesterday we remembered, as Marino was saying, that the State regulates its relations with individuals, but the State does not have to interfere in any way with the intention of regulating the relations between two individuals. So if I have a little car, a jalopy or whatever, an “almendrón”, as it is commonly called here, and that car is mine, I have the right to sell it to whoever I want, provided I also observe the regulations established by the owner’s registry.
At the same time, we must simplify and group together the legislation in force, which is generally rather dispersed. The guiding documents are drawn up so that they known by those responsible for enforcing them, not just to be filed away. Therefore, we have to educate all cadres and demand that they work with the legal provisions that govern their functions and see to it that this is complied with as a professional qualification requirement to occupy any given post. Yesterday or the day before yesterday we referred to an example which was a sort of common denominator to all provinces regarding one specific fact. It was a usual practice for all to receive documents and immediately put them inside a drawer. And this happened just the other day. And meanwhile life goes on.
It is worthwhile remembering, once again, that ignorance of the law does not exempt anyone from complying with it and that, according to the Constitution, every citizen has equal rights and responsibilities. Therefore whoever commits a crime in Cuba, regardless of the position they hold or whoever they may be, they shall have to face up to the consequences of their mistakes and bear the full weight of the law.
Moving on to another issue, also covered by the Guidelines, we have excluded 68 important investments for the country from next year’s economic plan –as was already informed here-, because they have not complied with the established requirements, among them, identification of funding, technical preparation, streamlining of project, identification of the construction group capable of undertaking such works within the established terms and the evaluation of feasibility studies, among others. We shall not permit the wastage of resources destined to investments due to the spontaneity, improvisation and superficiality that, more often than not, have characterized the investment process. And when this issue was discussed during the last meeting of the Council of Ministers –and many of you heard it- we decided that this will happen no more, and those who infringe upon that decision will have to face the consequences, no matter which.
In dealing with these subjects I must refer to the key role to be played by the Party cadres, the Government, mass and youth organizations in the coordinated and harmonious conduction of the process to update the Cuban economic model.
Now we have a special and well prepared battlefield to show that all of this can be done, that it can be done well, that we will not fall short of or go over the limits, as the Generalissimo used to say.
In the course of the gradual decentralization that we are carrying out, we have adopted different measures to increase the authority of administrative and business executives on whom we shall continue to delegate powers. Simultaneously we are improving control procedures and will adopt a more demanding attitude against any manifestation of negligence, apathy and other behaviors incompatible with public positions.
Right here, sitting on the first row, there is the Vice President of the Council of State, Gladys Bejerano, who –as you know- is an efficient General Comptroller of the Republic.
When that ministry still existed under the name of Ministry for Auditing and Control –that activity is now under the direct supervision of the Council of State and, on behalf of that organ, I personally check its everyday performance, as I do with the Republic’s General Attorney’s work, and I assign them some tasks-, despite the fact that it could not do much because all justifications were accepted and these always had a sort of godfather, comrade Gladys Bejerano was frowned on by some. And very often when she exerted her controls someone, anyone, came to complain: “Well, that does not help.” Some others said: “That is demoralizing” –what on earth was that! They said that “comrade Gladys was very tough, that she said things in a very tough way”. But that is what we want; that is what I always demanded from them.
And then, once –I had not yet been appointed to this post- I said: “I believe we should dissolve this ministry”. I saw some happy faces; they were all looking at each other. The exception was Gladys’ sad face; because apparently we were disregarding her important task. Then I waited for almost a minute, just a few seconds, and afterwards I said: “We are going to dissolve that ministry, because its minister has the same hierarchy as all other ministers, and we are going to create the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, which will be under the Council of State, ad we will propose Gladys as Vice President of the Council of State”. There were faces that saddened and Gladys laughed happily again (Laughter). What I am telling you is no joke (Applause); this is no joke.
I was saying that the authority of administrative executives, ministers, provincial and municipal governments will increase. They will be further supported and their faculties will be decentralized from above.
We have said that municipal governments must have faculties and resources. We also indicated the way to acquire them and added that we will continue to delegate some faculties. At the same time the control mechanisms will be further perfected; we will adopt a more severe attitude against every manifestation of negligence, indolence and other behaviors incompatible with the performance of any public position.
Likewise, we are fully aware of the harm caused by the “inverse pyramid” phenomenon to the cadres’ policy over the years, which means that salaries were not being paid according to the importance and hierarchy of leading posts, nor was there an adequate differentiation between them. This discourages the promotion of the most capable workers to higher responsibilities at the enterprises and even at ministries. This is a basic problem that must be resolved according to what is indicated in Guidelines 156 and 161, related to the wages policy.
The Sixth Party Congress should be, as a fact of life, the last to be attended by most of us who belong to the Revolution’s historical generation. The time we have left is short, the task that lies ahead of us is gigantic, and without an ounce of immodesty, personal vanity or sentimentalism, I think we have the obligation of taking advantage of the power of our moral authority among the people to trace out the route to be followed and resolve some other important problems. (Applause).
We don’t think we are more intelligent or able that anyone else or any of the like, but we strongly believe that we have the elemental duty to rectify the mistakes that we have made all along these five decades during which we have been building socialism in Cuba. To this endeavor we will devote all the energy we have left, which fortunately is not just a little (Applause).
We will increase our perseverance and our intransigence against wrongdoings. Government ministers and other administrative and political leaders know they will count on our full support when, while performing their duties, they educate –they must first and foremost educate- and at the same time adopt a demanding behavior towards their subordinates, and are not afraid of running into trouble. Usually no one is willing to run into that: Do not be afraid of running into trouble for confronting the wrong. Running into trouble for confronting the wrong is right now one of our main tasks aimed at eradicating all those deficiencies that we have mentioned.
Likewise it is very clear to
all of us that we are no longer living through the early years after the
triumph of the Revolution in 1959 –the early months after the triumph-, when
some of those who were appointed to government posts, particularly in that
first government that was appointed by Urrutia, except for the Defense and
Agriculture portfolios, were told: “Do not touch that”, because we were
thinking about the agrarian reform and the weapons that we had occupied or we
intended to occupy. I am speaking about
January 2. After Fidel made the speech
at “Céspedes” park, he left for the enemy’s general headquarters to speak to
those soldiers so that they would join him – because there had been a coup
I was the one who carried that
message to Urrutia at dawn on January 2, because the mass rally at the square
had concluded after . So I said to him: “Do not touch that; it is
recommended not to touch the Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of
Defense.” This was the only thing that was said. So when I told him, on behalf of Fidel, to
appoint Colonel Rego Rubido, who had just surrendered to Fidel in an area known
as “Alto del Escandel” on January 1, Urrutia
started to pace up and down the garage of the house in the neighborhood
called ‘Vista Alegre’, where I went to meet him. A crowd had surrounded the patio of the house
and waved hello at me. Discussions went
on for a while: “I can not appoint a
member of Batista’s army as chief commander of the Rebel Army!” he said. “Look
President”, I told him, “Fidel knows what he is doing. There has been a coup d’etat in
So then there was no
choice. There were 5 000 enemy soldiers
in the city and I hardly had two or three bodyguards with me, nothing
else. We founded several columns,
because we prepared a solid force for Fidel.
Lussón, who commanded a more powerful column, to which Colomé belonged,
had departed already. Belarmino was
commanding another column. We placed Efigenio
into some old planes that used to belong to Batista, so that he might arrive in
Luckily, I was captured many days after the repression and the massacre against the comrades who attacked the Moncada had ceased. I was not beaten; I did not go through that experience. Under such circumstances I tried to behave as decently as possible, without insolence. They made me walk along the lines of soldiers who yelled insults at me and asked the captain and the officers who accompanied me: “Give him to me Captain, so that justice is served!”
And then five years, five
months and five days after, on January 1st, we entered the city of
But, what was the meaning of Gerolán? Gerolán was the name of a poor-quality syrup that I believed had some special properties, which was taken mainly by braggers (Laughter).
And then I also said that everybody would be paid that money, but obviously these times are not like those early years after the triumph…
Oh, well! I did not finish
the story about Urrutia, did I? Melba Hernández could bear witness of that –she
is not here today. I had not seen her
since we were in
I said to him a few words. I was being tough on him and I said: “Fidel knows what he is doing and I obey Fidel!” Then he kept on pacing up and down and said: “Well, Commander, we will see a solution; I believe it is reasonable, don’t you think?” And I said: “Yes, that is what I think.” “Well, that’s fine”, he said. After that I kissed Melba goodbye and I left to fulfill my duties.
I was in
You have already seen how we
held our meetings, haven’t you? When I was about to leave, old Urrutia called
me up and said to me: “Commander, I need
you to appoint and aide-the- camp to work with me”. I said: “I will send you one, President”. I began to wonder which person I could send
-I had already figured out the troubles we would have with this man. February, March, four or five months had
hardly elapsed…you know the story- and I ran into Machado Ventura
(Laughter). He was carrying a Thompson;
he was already Commander. And then I
said to him: “Listen Machado –I did not want to tell him about this
incident: I only told that to Fidel and
to no one else when I came to
Urrutia came to
Then I said: “Well, I am going to call my friend Machado to see how things are”. And when I called to the Presidential Palace and asked for Machado I was told: “No, Machado has not been here for such and such a time”. And then I wondered: “Where is Machado?” And I found him working as a doctor in the municipality La Habana, wasn’t it? (Machado says yes). That is to say, I thought he had been the first defector from the modern Revolutionary Armed Forces (Laughter). Hopefully with his work he managed to clear his name.
After laughing a little bit at the expenses of Machado, who is my friend, we shall continue.
We are all clear that these are not like the early days after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, when some who occupied government posts –and that was when I came across the anecdote about that government- resigned to show their opposition against the first radical measures adopted by the Revolution, mainly against the agrarian reform -the first was adopted on May 17 of 1959. That is why that behavior was then branded as counterrevolutionary. That is, they resigned to show their opposition to the radical measures, and we qualified them: “That is counterrevolution”, but then we accepted their resignation. Today, the true revolutionary and honest behavior is for any cadre to resign with dignity and without any fear whenever they feel tired or incapable of fully performing their duties or comply with the new instructions that we are giving. In that case, the right thing to do is to resign, with dignity and without any fear. That will always be preferable to a demotion.
In this regard, I should refer to three comrades who occupied important positions in the leadership of the Party and the Government. As a result of their mistakes, the Political Bureau asked them to resign to their condition as members of this leading body, of the Central Committee and as deputies to the National People’s Power Assembly. I am referring to Jorge Luis Sierra Cruz, Yadira García Vera and Pedro Sáez Montejo. The first two were also released from their positions as minister of Transportation and of the Basic Industry respectively –that is I am referring to Sierra and Yadira. Sierra took upon himself attributions he was not entitled to, which led him to make serious mistakes in management. Yadira García did a dreadful job as a leader of a very important ministry, such as the Basic Industry Ministry, which takes care of oil production, mining, etc., which became particularly evident in the poor control of the resources allocated to investments, that led to a waste of those resources, as it became obvious during the expansion of the nickel factory Pedro Soto Alba of Moa, in the province of Holguín. Both comrades were severely criticized at the joint meetings of the Political Bureau and the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.
On his part, Pedro Sáez
Montejo, evidencing superficiality incompatible with his position as First
Secretary of the Communist Party in the City of
It is fair to say though that the three of them recognized the mistakes each of them had made and adopted a correct attitude. That is the reason why the Political Bureau Commission decided to respect their condition as members of the Communist Party. Likewise, we deemed it convenient to assign them to tasks related to their respective specialties –some of them at the grassroots level. Others, like Sierra, who is a mechanical engineer by profession, is right now working in a little workshop of a general war tanks repairing unit. The workshop has between 11 to 14 workers, and Sierra is the chief of them all.
Personally, the three of them will continue to be my friends but my only single commitment is with the people, particularly with those who have lost their lives in these 58 years of continued struggle since the coup d’etat in 1952. This has been the procedure followed with three high level leaders, so let it be known that this would be the same procedure to be followed by the Party and the Government with every other cadre. We will demand more from them, but at the same time we will warn them and adopt any relevant disciplinary measure if any of the established rules are infringed upon.
As was established by the Law
to Modify the Country’s Political and Administrative Division, on January next
year the new provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque will be created. Their
respective governments will start to work according to the new organizational
and structural conceptions, which are far more rational than the ones that
exist in the present
All functions, structures and payrolls have been already defined. We are still working on the definitions of their attributions as well as their relations with the Central State Administrative Apparatus, national companies and political and mass organizations. We will follow very closely this experience so that it could be gradually implemented on all other local government bodies throughout the country in the course of the next five years. We very much favor the usefulness of continuing to gradually increase the authority of provincial and municipal governments by entrusting them with greater faculties for the execution of local budgets, which will absorb part of the taxes generated by the economic activity aiming at contributing to its further development.
The relations with the peoples and governments of almost every nation are improving amidst the convulsive international situation.
The world has known with
amazement about the scandalous revelations made by hundreds of thousands of
classified documents of the
Although everybody is wondering what is really going on and how could this be linked to the twists and turns of the US politics, what has been revealed so far show that the US, under the pretence of practicing a kind rhetoric, essentially, it continues to implement the usual politics and acts as a global gendarme.
There isn’t the slightest
willingness on the part of the
The United States not only
turns a blind eye to the overwhelming call issued by 187 countries asking for
an end to the economic, commercial and
financial blockade against our country.
In the year 2010, it reinforced its implementation and once again
In its slanderous campaigns about the human rights situation in Cuba, the United States has found the connivance of European countries, characterized by their double standards and their submissiveness to the US imperialism, which became well known for their complicity with the CIA secret renditions, the creation of torture and detention centers, for placing the burden of the economic crisis on the lowest income workers and the students, for violently repressing demonstrators and for the implementation of discriminatory policies against migrants and minorities.
We will continue to struggle, together with all Latin American nations, for an emancipating integration. In the context of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, we will continue to work to consolidate the solidarity and unity that will make us ever stronger.
Therefore, we will continue to support the sister nation of Haiti where our health staff together with Latin American and Haitian doctors who graduated in Cuba, in a selfless and humanitarian way, is coping with the cholera epidemic, the destruction caused by the earthquake and the sequels of hundreds of years of exploitation and plundering of that noble people that needs the international community to grant resources for reconstruction and especially for a sustainable development.
This is also the right
occasion to convey, from this parliamentary meeting and on behalf of all
Cubans, a message of support and solidarity to the brother people of
April next year will mark the
50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Socialist character of
our Revolution. In the sands of Playa
Girón our forces fought for the first time to defend socialism and within
hardly 72 hours, led by Commander in Chief in person, they managed to defeat
the mercenary invasion sponsored by the
On the occasion of such a relevant commemoration, there will be a military parade on April 16 with the participation of troops and combat equipment, to be attended by the delegates to the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party who will meet on that very afternoon to begin their works, which we hope will conclude on April 19, the day when we celebrate the Victory of Playa Girón. We will begin by celebrating the proclamation of the socialist character of the Revolution, the speech delivered by Fidel during the burial of the victims of the bombings, which were launched the day before the attack on Girón, and we will conclude on the day when victory was attained. The parade will be closed by tens of thousands of youths representing the new generations, which are the guarantee of the continuity of the Revolution.
This celebration will be dedicated to our youth, which has never failed to be faithful to the Revolution. Youth were those who died during the attack on the Moncada and Bayamo garrisons; youth were those who rose up in Santiago de Cuba under the leadership of Frank País; youth were the Granma expeditionaries who, after the fiasco at Alegría de Pío, founded the Rebel Army, and were joined by waves of other youths from the countryside and the city, particularly by the reinforcement that came from Santiago that was personally organized and sent by Frank himself; youth were those who were members of the powerful clandestine movement of all the organizations; youth were those who courageously attacked the Presidential Palace and the ‘Radio Reloj’ radio station on March 13, 1957, headed by Jose Antonio Echeverría; youth were those who fought heroically in Girón; youth and teenagers were those who joined the literacy campaign in that same year, also 50 years ago; youth were most of those who fought against the mercenary bands organized by the CIA, until well advanced the year 1965; youth were those who wrote beautiful pages of courage and stoicism in the internationalist missions in several countries, particularly those in support of the liberation movements in Africa; youth are our Five Heroes who risked their lives in the struggle against terrorism and have suffered more than 12 years of cruel imprisonment; youth are many of the thousands and thousands of cooperation workers who defend the human life by curing diseases that have already been eradicated in Cuba, supporting the literacy programs and disseminating culture and the practice of sports throughout many countries of the world.
This Revolution has been the result of the sacrifices made by the Cuban youth: the workers, farmers, students, intellectuals, military, all the youths from all the times during which they have lived and struggled. That is why we will dedicate this fiftieth anniversary celebration to our youth.
This Revolution will be carried forward by the youth, full of optimism and with an unshakable faith in victory.
Huge have also been the
challenges and dangers since the triumph of the Revolution and the proclamation
of its socialist character, especially after victory of Girón. But no difficulty has ever bent our
spirit. We are and will be here thanks
to the dignity, the integrity, the courage, the ideological strength, the
revolutionary spirit and the sacrifice of the revolutionary people of
Thank you, very much (Ovation).