The complex task of leading a people is valid when it includes the conscious practice of taking the nation’s pulse when strategic issues are at stake, never losing a connection to the daily lives of citizens.
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, learned this from Fidel and Raúl.
In the days leading up to his first trip to the province of Holguín as President, locals could not help but recall his work as first secretary of the Party’s Provincial Committee between 2003 and 2009.
Every encounter was like one of old friends, filled with affection and sincerity among Cubans.
“A project you have to love,” was how Díaz-Canel described the Antilla tourist pole construction effort currently underway in this municipality, summarizing his reaction after a work meeting during which progress was analyzed. He arrived by air accompanied by Ernesto Santiesteban Velázquez, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in the province, along with other local and national leaders.
Upon reaching the construction workers’ base camp, Díaz-Canel spoke with Freddy Blett Gómez, president of People’s Council No.3 in Ramón de Antilla, noting growing employment opportunities in the area as a result of the project.
What is being done here, he said, will change the lives of many people, opening up personal and family development. This observation was backed by extensive information presented to him by those in charge of the effort, and by others he interacted with on the job.
Pavel Rodríguez Rodríguez, director of the provincial Highway Department, explained that the works being completed are part of a larger plan involving more than 700 kilometers of highways and roads that will improve tourist operations in the province.
In terms of what has been finished, he emphasized the Banes-Nipe highway, stating that the first 31 of its 35.6 kilometers have been paved. He also detailed progress on the Santa Lucía-Cortadera-Antilla road, vital to developing future tourist destinations in the area and to the population.
The President called for attention to the issue of climate change and the extreme weather events it produces, to ensure planning for possible damage to roadways. He suggested reviewing the designs of all drainage systems and prefabricated components, to make sure they can withstand periods of heavy rain, recalling recent events in the center of the island which confirmed that such weather can cause as much damage as hurricanes.
Addressing the issue of the tourist pole’s water supply, Díaz-Canel noted that the issue cannot be considered apart from the longstanding problem faced by the population of Antilla in this respect, calling for a review of the history of measures taken and studies done previously.
Among the variety of topics discussed was revitalization of the Antilla port, an installation that must not be left out of development plans, the President said, noting its importance to tourism and the economy in general. He likewise insisted on taking advantage of the area’s cultural assets, in particular those of
Antilla where the people keep many traditions, stories, and legends alive, and emphasized the importance of conducting objective evaluations and including related measures in development plans for the municipality and the province.
The impact of the construction project on the environment was also analyzed during the visit, since the pristine area merits carefully planned, sustainable development, Díaz-Canel noted. He commented on the importance of waste management plans for the future hotel zone, which include thus far a modern plant with a compact design.
From Antilla, the President moved on to the municipality of Mayarí. What is happening here, he noted, is promising for the entire province.
The first stop of his tour was in the Guaro People’s Council, at the Mario Martínez pork feedlot, affiliated with the Guatemala agricultural state enterprise. The bays were renovated at the end of last year, when the first 500 animals to be fattened arrived, which have now been sold. Díaz-Canel learned that that the facility’s livestock capacity will gradually increase to 2,000 heads every five months, with the goal of reaching 100 kilograms per animal. The average for the first delivery was 90.
Staff member José Ruiz Gómez answered the President’s question about salaries, saying that the monthly average is above 2,000 CUP, and added that working conditions are good.
Díaz-Canel likewise confirmed progress in rice production at the Humberto Estupiñán Basic Unit of Cooperative Production (UBPC), near the Manacal 2 settlement, where he held a lively conversation with Domingo Colón Quiala. The young farmer is working six hectares of land he was awarded in usufruct, and said that his first harvest was a disaster, which didn’t dissuade him, reporting that since then his harvests have reached an average of over four tons per hectare.
Also addressed during their conversation were problems facing usufruct farmers, including delays in preparing the land, a service provided by state enterprises with the needed equipment, and challenges in acquiring quality seed.
After telling Domingo Colón that it had been a pleasure to meet him, Díaz-Canel stopped in the small town to dialogue with the population, in another brief but warm conversation.
Progress made in rise production in the municipality was also confirmed in the area around the Nipe-Ayúa People’s Council, where a mini-processing plant started up in 2014 has handled more than 2,000 tons through July 31 this year.
The President also visited the “40 aniversario de la FMC” UBPC with 660 hectares under cultivation. While checking out domestically manufactured irrigation machinery, Díaz-Canel heard a report on yields, with boniato and plantains reaching 16 and 15 tons per hectare, respectively, while milk production is increasing as well. The cooperative members’ economic situation is improving and the UBPC’s bank loans are being paid off as planned.
At his next stop, Díaz-Canel said, “This is a sacred place for the homeland,” referring to the Birán Historical Site, the Castro Ruz family home in the municipality of Cueto, which he visited to check on progress being made on restoration efforts, vital to the preservation of the buildings here.
His tour included the family gravesite, and the rural school where Fidel studied, as well as the first floor of one of the houses, where the majority of staff members are based.
He took advantage of the opportunity to ask about life in the community of Brián, specifically the functioning of the cultural center and the school, the condition of roads and public transportation.
The President asked about summer recreational options, recalling the river swimming holes and other bounties of nature in the area, like a friendly neighbor who knows the region.
Díaz-Canel continued his working government visit across Holguin, including stops at a number of sites such as the Valle de Mayabe tourist complex near the provincial capital; the Pedro del Toro clinic; a construction materials plant; and several commercial sites that have recently been remodeled.