Army General Raúl Castro began his closing speech of the Constituent Session of the National Assembly of People’s Power by recalling Cuba’s victory at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) following the U.S.-backed mercenary invasion. He noted the significance of the event and the preceding days, especially Fidel’s declaration of the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution.
He also recognized the work carried out by the electoral and candidature commissions at all levels, as well as all the institutions that collaborated to ensure a smooth electoral process. He also congratulated those elected to head the National Assembly and as members of the Council of the State.
Regarding Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, the new President of the Councils of State and Ministers of Cuba, highlighted his career as an engineer, and his work as an officer of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR). He was later put forward as a professional cadre of the Young Communist League (UJC), from where he gradually worked his way up through the PCC ranks to be promoted as a professional Party cadre.
Raúl noted that during the Special Period and coinciding with the most severe stage, Díaz-Canel was a member of the Provincial Party Committee in Villa Clara, where he spent nine years. He then spent six years representing the Party in Holguín.
“He was born in Villa Clara, where he spent a good amount of time, as it was a territory he knew well; and it was after that that he was sent to one of the great eastern provinces, Holguín, as we did with more than a dozen young people, most of whom arrived to the Political Bureau, but we failed to materialize their training. He was the only survivor, I would say, exaggeratedly,” Raúl explained.
He also stressed that Díaz-Canel has been a member of the Party Central Committee since 1991, and was promoted to the Political Bureau 15 years ago. He fulfilled a mission in Nicaragua and graduated from the National Defense College. In 2009, he was appointed Minister of Education. Five years ago he was elected First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers; and since then “a group of members of the Political Bureau had the feeling that we had hit the nail on the head,” Raúl noted, referring to Díaz’s aptitude to assume the current position, as the basis of which he highlighted his work as in the ideological sphere of the Party Central Committee.
Raúl added: Talking with compañero Machado, I told him that we have to criticize ourselves, because we failed to guarantee the better training of other comrades so that they could occupy leadership positions in the Party and the government. I told him that, at 15 years old, [Díaz-Canel] could have spent 3 years in 5 provinces of the country, so that he would know each better. Thus, we must pay more attention to the training of our cadres.
Raúl immediately pointed out that the election of Díaz-Canel is no accident: “due to his preparation, he is the best, and we know that due to his dedication he will have absolute success in the task entrusted to him by our supreme People’s Power body.”
Comrade Díaz-Canel is not an improvised candidate; over the years he has demonstrated his work capacity, ideological solidity and commitment to the Revolution. His growth has not been the result of haste. His case has not been like others, where we made the mistake of accelerating the process, Raúl stressed.
THE NEW COUNCIL OF STATE
Referring to the composition of the newly elected Council of State, Raúl spoke about Salvador Valdés Mesa, of whom he highlighted his intense career serving the Revolution, and noted how the triumph of 1959 caught him by surprise, working on an agricultural farm. He was one of the young people who participated in the constitution of the Young Communist League, of which he became Secretary General; and he participated in the construction of the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution in several areas of Camagüey.
In 1995, he was appointed Minister of Labor and Social Security. He gradually rose to become Secretary General of the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC), a position he held until 2013, when he was elected a Vice President of the Council of State. He has been a member of the Party Central Committee since 1991 and the Political Bureau for the past 10 years.
Regarding Machado, who has seen more than 60 years of revolutionary struggle, Raúl simply noted that he is an example of modesty and unlimited dedication to his work. “Although he is a little cantankerous as many of you know,” he joked, and added that “in the future he will concentrate his efforts as Second Secretary of the Central Committee.”
Mercedes López Acea deserved a special mention, Raúl noted, who after a commendable 8 years’ work as a member of the Political Bureau and at the head of the PCC in Havana, announced that she would soon take up new functions.
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF PEOPLE’S POWER
A total of 42% of deputies to the newly constituted National Assembly of People’s Power were re-elected. Women represent 48.4% of deputies. Both these details were highlighted by Raúl, who stressed that such achievements must be maintained and advanced, to ensure more women, young people and Black and mixed race Cubans occupy the country’s important decision-making positions.
“This Assembly is an example, we can review the résumé of each one of them, but it cost work. That’s why we can not retreat a single millimeter; and it is a subject that we can not leave to simple spontaneity.”
Raúl also highlighted that the Cuban parliament has been rejuvenated, with the average age of deputies having decreased. “Without realizing it, the years have passed. Three women were elected vice presidents of the Council of State, two of them Black, and not because of their skin color but because of their qualities; and this is part of what was adopted in the Party Congress on the cadre policy.”
“It is up to the Party, the state and the government to fulfill and enforce, with due intentionality, the promotion of young people, women and mixed race Cubans, to posts that guarantee the talent pool of the Revolution, without repeating the mistakes already experienced,” he explained.
Raúl welcomed the ratification of the presidency of the National Assembly, and Díaz-Canel’s proposal, as allowed by the Constitution, to present the Council of Ministers during the next session of the Assembly, which will take place in July, to allow sufficient time for the movement of cadre.
“As far as I am concerned, I will continue to serve as Second Secretary of the PCC Central Committee, in what is my second and last mandate, which ends in 2021, when we will complete the transfer to the new generations. From then on, I will be one more soldier alongside the people defending this Revolution.”
“So that there is not the slightest doubt, I want to emphasize that the PCC, in the figure of its First Secretary, will continue supporting the president,” the Army General added.
“We feel with the people a deep satisfaction for the work of the Revolution, and we are overwhelmed by the happiness and confidence of seeing with our own eyes the transfer to the new generations of the mission to defend this work,” he stressed.
CUBAN YOUTH AT THE CENTER
Regarding the new generations, Raúl warned that one of the permanent aims of the enemy is to penetrate, confuse and alienate youth from the ideals of revolutionary work and culture, to lead them toward the commodification of sentiments and disengagement with ethics, solidarity and a sense of duty.
THE NEW CONSTITUTION
The updating of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba was another subject of the Army General’s speech. He noted that the changes that will be introduced will be submitted to a public referendum.
“I can reveal,” he clarified, “that in the next Constitution there will be no changes to the strategic objective of the Party, which our people will support as in 1976.” That year Cubans voted in favor of the current Constitution with 98% support.
Raúl pointed out that in the Central Committee Plenary Session held in March of this year, the economic and social state of the nation was analyzed. The new Constitution has lagged behind us, he clarified, because the country’s main problems are not resolved, because the participation of different bodies from the grassroots was not achieved for the adequate implementation of the adopted policies.
We never had any illusions that it would be a short and easy process, because its dimensions reached all sectors of society, and we had to overcome negatives in the national economy, he added.
During the 5th Party Central Committee Plenum, the need to reform the Constitution according to what has happened in the political and social order was noted. For this reason, Raúl informed that, in its next session, the National Assembly will create a Commission of deputies that will present a draft text to be debated by deputies and the Cuban people.
THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC LIFE
In the case of the socioeconomic context of the nation, Raúl assured that the experiment with non-agricultural cooperatives will continue, and with respect to the country’s dual currency system, he explained that it continues to be a serious headache, and needs to be resolved, while also noting the need for wage reform. Raúl also emphasized the need for a coherent communications policy.
He also recalled the difficult circumstances in which the country’s economy has had to develop, and the considerable damages caused by the intense drought of the last 3 years and the recent hurricanes that affected most of the country.
Regarding Cuba’s external debt, Raúl noted that work has been ongoing to renegotiate in this area, which has helped to free new generations of a sword of Damocles, and restored the country’s credit rating. The Army General congratulated Minister of Economy, Ricardo Cabrisas, on his work in this regard.
Raúl also called for financial savings, noting that better planning could assist in this respect.
“Defending unity, resisting and resisting, that is the duty of revolutionaries,” he stated.
8TH SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
Regarding foreign policy issues, the Army General referred to the recently concluded 8th Summit of the Americas, which was marked by the neo-hegemonic attitude of the United States, whose commitment to the Monroe Doctrine was reiterated, especially with the exclusion of Venezuela from the international event.
It was known that they would put on a show, and Cuba went to Lima in its own right and with its head high, which confirms the determination of Cubans to defend their principles and their values, Raúl stressed. The Cuban delegation, together with that of Bolivia and other countries, prevented the formation of a single front against Venezuela. While the speeches by our foreign minister, on behalf of the Cuban government and people, constituted a worthy response to the interventionist discourse of the Vice President of the United States, he added.
“The civil society members defended the voice of Cuba and the peoples of America with spirit. I take this opportunity to congratulate all the members of the Cuban delegation that participated in this event,” he said.
The Army General stressed Cuba’s commitment to ALBA, noting that this continues to be the world region with the greatest inequality in the distribution of wealth; the gap between rich and poor is huge and growing despite the efforts made in past decades, when progressive governments pushed for policies to mitigate this evil, he noted.
He also denounced the arbitrary and unjust incarceration of former Brazilian president Lula, whose freedom we demand, and rejected accusations of human rights violations in Cuba. He highlighted diplomatic relations with the European Union and the progress of ties with China.
“In just 11 days our people will march together united through our streets and squares commemorating May Day and demonstrating the majority support of Cubans to the Party and their Revolution. And although I had a commitment to be in another province, I decided, because of its importance, to accompany the President of the Councils of State and Ministers at that moment. I will later visit other provinces, because I’m supposed to have less work now,” Raúl concluded among smiles and applause.