OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Photo: Estudios Revolución

(Council of State transcript, GI translation)

DEAR Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Party Central Committee;

Compañeros Machado and Lazo;

Deputies;

Compatriots:

Our first words on Educator’s Day are to congratulate and recognize Cuban teachers who, more than their time, dedicate their life’s purpose to us.

The year 2018 is almost at an end, and we gather again for the traditional embrace and evaluation of a crucial period in the history of the Cuban Revolution.

The year we bid farewell to today will remain in our national memory as the year in which a new generation, gradually and progressively, in a clear expression of continuity, began to assume the principal leadership tasks, with the good fortune of maintaining the guidance of the Historic Generation, in particular, of Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.

During the months since the Assembly sessions of April, we have relied on that guide in the face of the most difficult and unexpected challenges, and found in his confidence and collective leadership the fundamental resources to arrive here today to render accounts, committed to the solution of the problems that most concern the people, which are those that absorb every minute of our days, and every element of our energies.

On taking stock of efforts and results, I must firstly speak of our deep satisfaction with the popular discussion of the new Constitution approved today.

With that debate, we have not only enriched our political culture, the sense of belonging to a nation and the future of the country. We have come closer to the concerns and demands of our people, a fundamental objective of the Revolution, which our opponents have always tried to distract us from, intent on fracturing and dividing Cuban society, aware that unity is its most valuable strength.

I would like to say that it has been a boom year for electronic government and greater efficiency in economic governance, but this is only the first step in a task of infinite demands that by 2019 should begin to bear its first fruits.

And it must also be said that we faced really hard tests, such as the floods that devastated the central provinces and the fall of an airplane that left a painful toll of 112 dead and a single survivor, who in recent days has sent a beautiful message of thanks to her compatriots, and especially to the medical team that kept her alive.

After the sad task of revisiting the worst news of this year for Cuba, I return to the most stimulating.

This session of the National Assembly concludes with a transcendental decision for the life of the nation: the approval of the new Constitution of the Republic, which in February will be submitted to a Referendum.

We arrive at this point after an extensive process of popular consultation, where citizens, resident inside or outside the country, had the opportunity to freely express their considerations on the content of the draft text, which included, among other relevant aspects, political and economic foundations, rights and duties, and the structure of the State.

Each and every one of the contributions were duly evaluated and resulted in changes to about 60% of the articles of the draft, which enriched its content.

The popular analysis showed the will to improve the Constitution, but it went much further because it provided important elements to take into account in the broad legislative exercise that we must undertake to support, with the necessary laws, compliance with constitutional precepts.

This is a good opportunity, on behalf of the National Assembly, to congratulate those who participated in the assurance and organization of the popular consultation process, including the two-person teams that led the more than 133,000 assemblies held throughout the country, the officials responsible for the collection and analysis of the proposals; the Party Central Committee’s Center for Socio-political Studies and, in particular, the Commission responsible for drafting the proposed Constitution and, as it has been heartfeltly and rightly expressed here, its president, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz (Applause).

The Fundamental Law that we have just approved reaffirms the socialist path of the Revolution, and allows us to steer the work of the State, government, organizations and the entire people in the continuous perfection of society; it reinforces institutionality; the prevalence of the Constitution establishes greater inclusion, justice and social equality in our work, and reinforcement of the empowerment of the people in governing the nation.

This process, which continues with the holding of the Referendum on February 24 of the coming year, is a genuine and exceptional demonstration of the people’s exercise of power and, therefore, of the marked participatory and democratic nature of our political system.

Contrary to what the enemies of the Revolution state, Cuba has once again shown that fundamental decisions and consensus on the issues that define the life of the nation are built with the decisive contribution of all. We could dare our detractors to carry out in their countries a process with similar characteristics to the one we are undertaking.

On a date as dear as February 24, 124 years after the resumption of the independence struggle led by National Hero José Martí, Cubans of today, faithful to the traditions of struggle, will go to the polls to approve the Constitution, as an expression of resolve, loyalty to the legacy of the Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution, compañero Fidel Castro, and we will say with our vote: Yes to the Revolution, to the sovereignty and independence of the Homeland, to unity. Yes for socialism and for the commitment to heroes and martyrs in more than 150 years of struggles for freedom.

Dear compañeras and compañeros:

The debate in the ten standing committees of this Assembly has been intense and productive. In addition to the constitutional text, we have discussed two priority issues in plenary: fulfilment of the plan and budget for this year, and your proposals for 2019.

With discrete 1.2% Gross Domestic Product growth – which while limited, is no less encouraging, in the midst of so many adverse factors – economic performance closes the year on a positive note.

So that it is not underestimated, I would like to review some decisions favored by this discreet, but real growth:

In November of this year, the increase in the minimum pension for retirees was put into effect, rising from 200 to 242 pesos for almost 300,000 people.

In addition, all the monetary benefits received through social welfare were increased by 70 pesos, benefiting 99,000 households.

These increases, which have an annual cost to the State Budget of 224 million pesos, are aimed at modestly improving the income of individuals and households with lower purchasing power, and are a partial advance of the measures that will be adopted to put in order the situation of salaries, pensions, social welfare benefits, subsidies and free services.

One of the sectors that contributes the most is communications, thanks to the growth of connectivity and Internet access in state entities, as well as in the services demanded by the population, with the increase of 700,000 mobile phone lines, for a total of 5,300,000 in service.

Public access points via Wi-Fi have also grown by more than 300, and there are already 60,000 homes connected to the Internet.

The major impacts on Gross Domestic Product were concentrated in the sugar industry and, more moderately, in the agriculture and livestock sector. However, it is right to highlight the increase in the production of rice and beans that allows us to substitute imports.

Despite the impact of Hurricane Irma, which severely affected the marketing of Cuba as a destination in the 2017-2018 high season, and the measures adopted by the U.S. government to deter travel to our country, tourism will end this year with growth and a new record number of international visitors.

No less relevant is the fact that in the midst of so many adverse factors, social services have been guaranteed to the population in Education, Health, Culture and Sports. It is expected that the year 2018 will close with an infant mortality rate of 4, similar to the previous year, which is the lowest in history.

A program that had a significant boost was that of housing, which allowed for the completion of more than 29,000 homes through the state plan, while those built through the efforts of the population will reach about 11,000. The housing policy that was recently approved by the Council of Ministers and of which deputies were informed in this parliamentary session, will contribute to this effort.

Similar levels of economic growth are expected for the coming year: 1.5% in Gross Domestic Product, with a recovery of the sugar industry, and increases in activity in other sectors such as construction, transport and communications.

But this growth, while reflecting the country’s progress in certain sectors, does not allow us to achieve the levels of development required to meet the ever-growing needs of the population. For this reason, within the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030, a group of objectives has been defined toward which economic performance for the period 2019-2021 should be directed. Among these, the increase in export revenues and the capacity to increase national production will be vital, through an investment process that requires more efficiency.

Non-state forms of management contributed 12% of total revenues to the State Budget in 2018, which should also grow slightly next year. Almost 600,000 self-employed workers contribute 5% of the Budget income.

Compañeras and compañeros:

The country continues to suffer from a strained external finance situation, due to non-fulfillment of planned revenues from exports, tourism and sugar production, in addition to the damage caused by a prolonged drought, followed by the destruction of Hurricane Irma, and subsequently the occurrence of heavy rains, all of which has affected the arrival of raw materials, equipment and supplies.

Only thanks to additional control measures over the main financial resources allocated in the 2018 Plan, aimed at working with greater precision in decisions regarding imports and other foreign currency expenditures in the second half of the year, was growth achieved, with a positive trade and current account balance.

We have stated that the economic battle remains the fundamental, and also the most complex task. This is the task that today demands the most from all of us, because it is what our people anticipate most.

The context we have described demands mobilizing planning, aimed at preventing bureaucracy from immobilizing the performance of the main economic actors.

It is necessary to strengthen our leadership and economic management structures and teams, with the contributions of Economic Sciences specialists and experts, in particular, and others in general. We can not tire of hearing from those in the know, assessing their proposals and coordinating them with what we set out to achieve.

We need a more proactive, intelligent and precise attitude from leaders, promoting — not holding back or delaying — safe and specific solutions to problems, with the continuous and intense search for timely and efficient responses.

It is necessary to be more consistent with the Conceptualization of the Economic and Social Model, and more systematic and precise in the implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Revolution, approved by our Party.

It is time to act without dogmas and with realism, addressing the priorities, facilitating the real strengthening of state enterprise and its productive links with foreign investment, joint ventures and the non-state sector of the economy.

We must also put in order the activity of the private sector of the economy, but without impeding or slowing down its performance, stimulating best practices until ensuring that those working within it move away from illegalities. The challenge is to integrate all the actors, forms of property and management present in our social economic environment into the battle for the economy that, I reiterate, is today the fundamental battle.

As the results of the year tell us, it is imperative to boost foreign investment, foster an environment of confidence and security for investors, export more, protect revenues, close export cycles with timely collections; comply with what was repeatedly noted by Army General Raúl Castro – not to spend more than what we have as income, and not to assume commitments that we can not honor. Also, to halt and solve the chain of defaults.

Investing efficiently and enforcing the provisions of feasibility studies after the launch of investments is as important as awarding all possible attention to their execution, guaranteeing supplies and the labor force in a timely manner, avoiding surprises and improvisation.

At the same time, we must be familiar with and manage all financing possibilities, use credits more efficiently, and be responsible with payments.

Making efficient use of the valuable human resources and qualified and scientific workforce that we have attained with the great educational work of the Revolution; defending national production, mobilizing all our potential to produce more and efficiently, is the only thing that will allow us to grow, beyond climatic effects and financial stains.

We must also prevent superfluous spending on government activity, achieve real control over resources, and take advantage of the experiences of other socialist nations such as China, Vietnam and Laos.

Government management should be directed with greater impetus toward the demand for quality services, and to avoiding shortcomings that cause inconveniences and irritation among the population. Never forget that as public servants, our greatest objective is the people’s wellbeing.

Addressing the current situation in a realistic and objective manner is what allows us to determine a sustainable economic plan for the year 2019, based on solid foundations that, despite the difficulties, favor development in the priority activities for growth, and contribute to the gradual restoration of the nation’s financial credibility.

Compatriots:

2019 will be a year of order. The plan will be based on the country’s hard currency income and payments, paying more debts than outstanding credits, and complying with the maximum punctuality possible in the payment of commitments.

There is no other way to draw up the plan; otherwise, it would be to propose something that will not be fulfilled and that would become unmanageable.

I must emphasize that what is foreseen in this plan is the minimum to be achieved. We must generate wealth to have more. Its execution must be supported by an adequate administration of the budget, in which we must promote all income possibilities, the reduction of budgetary expenses in the enterprise sector, and the greatest possible reduction of the budget deficit.

Achieving the proposed objectives requires an in-depth process of discussing the plan, a high level of control, and involving everyone to defend it among all.

The sugar harvest, an important economic activity not only for the production of sugar, but for its ability to generate liquid income, its contribution to electricity generation from biomass, the production of animal feed and derivatives, has started by surpassing the main indicators. The important thing now is not to let problems accumulate that undermine a good performance in what remains of the campaign.

As part of the process of computerization of society, the digitalization of television advances, and mobile phone Internet service was launched, a new possibility for citizens and a clear expression of the government’s political will to carry out this program with our own efforts and talent, with no space for the interference that some disguise with perverse offers and colonizing plans.

Investments in solar parks and wind farms continue, while those related to power generation from biomass in bioelectric plants have begun, supporting the plans for change in the energy matrix, and the increase in the use of renewable energy sources.

In order to broadly discuss the country’s development projections, we have considered it appropriate to convene an extraordinary session of the National Assembly in the first quarter of next year, which we will devote to analysis of the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030, in its three stages, and the report on the state of implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution.

Moreover, measures related to self-employment activity have recently come into force. The majority of the population accepts them and considers that they are necessary for the organization and control of this process.

In this regard, I want to specify our point of view on this activity.

Self-employed workers are not enemies of the Revolution, they are the result of the process of updating the economic model, they have solved problems that burdened the State and for which it was sometimes inefficient. They have rescued trades that life proved necessary.

We have recognized the non-state sector as a complement to the economy and there is no intention of preventing them from prospering, but their operations must be within the law.

We know that we can rely on most of them to boost and revitalize the economy. We must erase from some minds the prejudices toward their work, which do us as much damage as those inspectors who come to be corrupt and generate distrust and insecurity.

For its proper exercise, we must create conditions that encourage compliance with the new regulations, and contribute to the real order of the activity. The officials responsible for ensuring the application of the rules must act with ethics, rigor and fairness, and erase the bad image caused by the corrupt behavior of some.

Nor do we ignore that private workers of some modalities have expressed disagreement with these regulations, but not from a perspective of cooperation with the population, but because they are against an order that puts an end to illicit enrichment, which will not be allowed.

We know that there are still attempts to turn the non-state sector into an enemy of the revolutionary process, but they will not succeed in dividing us. For this we count on the commitment of our self-employed workers and of state institutions.

Deputies:

It is also necessary to clarify that there are those who try to distort the scope and objectives of Decree 349, associating it with an instrument to exercise artistic censorship. I speak of entities external to our Culture, who have never been concerned with, and have remained silent in the face of the proliferation of banality, vulgarity, violence, rudeness, discrimination against women, sexism and racism present in the most varied expressions that, undermining the cultural policy of the Revolution, are exhibited in state and private public spaces, some of which are not even legally recognized.

We know very well where the instructions come from, with the aim of confusing, dividing, discouraging and demobilizing.

It is evident that the aforementioned Decree, due to its importance, should have been further discussed and better explained. This is evident in the opinions of the greats of our Culture, who have proven and committed work.

I call on them to accompany us in the task of doing now what we should have done before.

In these essential lessons, based on sincere dialogue, we can discover together how to implement this norm, because it was driven by a need and a demand of artists themselves, to prevent the proliferation of disrespect for cultural policy with pseudo-artistic productions that give an image of a country that we are not, nor have we ever been, nor should we ever be.

I can assure you that this Decree has only one objective: to protect national culture from false artists, unqualified professional practice, and the pseudo-culture generating anti-values, issues denounced in multiple spaces by our creators, writers and artists.

Artistic creation in Cuba is free and will continue to be so, as postulated in the Constitution, and cultural institutions have the responsibility to apply this norm with total adherence to these purposes.

Compañeras and compañeros:

The issues debated in this Assembly require priority attention from the Council of Ministers. In this regard, we are developing a work system based on exchanges with the people, visits to territories and communities, links with the collectives that are the protagonists of economic and social development programs.

We approach them to listen, argue, clarify, untangle and solve problems; address complaints, misunderstandings and mistakes.

We are interested in promoting the accountability of those we oversee, favoring direct communication with the people, through the media and on social networks, systematically.

We want to open paths for scientific research to have space in each process and provide innovation, and we need to promote the computerization of society.

We systematized the monitoring and assurance of development programs, promoting a collective direction and leadership style, and defending with discipline and commitment the guidance of our Party.

We have convened and continue an ethical battle against corruption, illegalities, addictions and social indiscipline, manifestations that are antagonistic and incompatible with our present and future.

What has been done is still insufficient, and what has been achieved is nothing with respect to our purposes as the Government of the Revolution, but we want to express thanks for the support and understanding of the Cuban women and men who inhabit our geography. We owe ourselves to them.

There are many questions to address and answer. We will provide answers to as many as possible, and for those to which we do not have answers for the moment, we will not cease in the effort to find them.

Cuban women and men:

The year 2018 has been intense, in the midst of a complex international context due to the increase in imperialist hegemony that mutilates multilateralism in international relations.

Latin America and the Caribbean, our Great Homeland, is no stranger to these influences.

Cuba is accused by the empire of being the source of what they consider “the great evils of the region.” The blockade tightens, and financial persecution escalates, to hinder the development of the country.

The result obtained on November 1, in ten successive votes of the United Nations General Assembly, demonstrated the overwhelming support that Cuba enjoys in its fight against the blockade – an aggressive, anachronistic, failed policy that causes enormous damages to the Cuban people, constitutes the main obstacle to our development, and is a violation of human rights. We are greatly appreciative to all the governments that contributed to the demand for its end.

That same day, the United States National Security Adviser, with extremely aggressive and disrespectful language, announced in Miami new measures that reinforce the blockade, which together with other events and threats, foretell that his government is moving toward a course of confrontation with Cuba.

U.S. imperialism has reiterated the validity of the Monroe Doctrine and attacks progressive governments and processes, attempts to reverse the progress made in terms of integration and social justice in the region; carries out a systematic and enormous communications and cultural manipulation operation; and persecutes and criminalizes leftist political forces and leaders, popular movements and social organizations, with the aim of imposing neoliberalism. It also tries to destroy the genuinely Latin American and Caribbean cooperation and collaboration mechanisms, such as CELAC and UNASUR.

But the peoples do not bow down or abandon the struggle, as demonstrated in the broad and united XXIV Meeting of the São Paulo Forum, held in this city this past July.

I express our deep gratitude to the Commonwealth Caribbean for its encouraging Statement of Solidarity of December 8, 2018, in honor of the celebration of CARICOM-Cuba Day.

The Declaration of the XVI Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA-TCP, held in Havana on December 14, addressed these issues, committed to act decisively in the mobilization and indispensable unity of revolutionary, progressive and popular forces, and expressed full support and solidarity to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Nicaragua in the face of imperialist and oligarchic hostility.

In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador won a historic victory that arouses great sympathy. To him and to the fraternal Mexican people, I thank you for the warm hospitality with which we were received during his inauguration.

In Brazil, the unacceptable conditions and repeated slander by the President-elect of that country to destroy the More Doctors Program, violating the respective agreements with the Pan American Health Organization, have forced us, in defense of the dignity, altruism and recognized professionalism of our health workers, to put an end to Cuban participation, as has been reported in detail to our people and to Brazilian and international public opinion.

Every day, from the remotest corners of the South American giant, messages arrive of gratitude to our doctors, and rejection of the new President’s policy that uprooted them from those places where only they went to save lives.

As Lula expressed in a message to our people: “I regret that the prejudice of the new Government against Cubans has been more important than the health of Brazilians living in the most distant and needy communities.”

History will document the before and after of our cooperation. In the fortieth edition of the Havana International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, a Brazilian documentary maker brought the entire audience to their feet just by mentioning our doctors. Media from all over the world have turned their eyes to our medical collaboration for the first time, as a result of the inappropriate remarks of the far-right Brazilian government.

Our health professionals are the paradigm that contraposes the egotism and commercialization of medical services. They are Cuba, and are the most beautiful monument to Fidel’s internationalist, humanist work in defense of human rights on a universal scale.

In recent months, we have had intense and fruitful bilateral exchanges, in particular during our official visits to the Russian Federation, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, whose warm hospitality we are grateful for, and from which stemmed important agreements, to the fulfillment of which we dedicate all our efforts.

The exchanges sustained during our presence in the French Republic and the United Kingdom were also significant. The visit to Havana of the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, was also beneficial.

The commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and the thirtieth anniversary of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale against the apartheid regime was particularly moving.

Dear Compatriots:

What a tremendous year we are seeing off!

If we were to look to symbols alone, it would be enough to consider the 150 years of intense struggle for our independence that 2018 marks, and the 60 years of combat, resistance and creativity of the final triumph, at the first minute of 2019.

We move from one to the other driven by the stunning feat of those who threw themselves into the scrubland, sometimes with no more weapons than their sense of shame, and who faced limitless hunger and scarcity to make us free.

Men and women of inherited properties and wealth, who renounced them to create a new nation.

This year, a local museum of the former mother country has lent us a chair that belonged to Maceo. The throne of the bravest of our Generals was made from a palm trunk. He did not take an elegant and soft chair from those who then subjected his country. That is why those who, even on killing him, could never overcome our vocation for liberty, kept it as a war trophy.

Exactly 60 years after the death of Maceo, in December of 1956, Fidel, Raúl and their compañeros of the Granma, took up again the spirit of that warrior and set up camp in the mountains. The rebel Command would be as Creole and sovereign as the Bronze Titan’s chair.

Also made of palm boards and a palm leaf roof is Fidel’s house in La Plata, the site never conquered by the army of the dictatorship, guarded as it was and will always be, by the humble inhabitants of those lands, where the brook of the Sierra Maestra flows sonorous and free.

We are a nation marked by such great independence endeavors, that also saved us from egoistic dependencies on material possessions, when the price of obtaining them was freedom.

The symbols to which I referred, those signs and essences that History leaves us, speak to us of a country with character, that always knew that “poverty passes, what does not pass is dishonor,” as the Apostle of the worn frock coat said, who gathered money and wills for the Necessary War, without ever taking a penny.

That character, that comes to us from grandparents and parents, that for the Homeland even brings tears to our eyes, but above all, launches us at full gallop against anyone who wants to harm it, is not, as some believe, the History book that the young generation can not read.

To feel passion and pride for what we are, at the same time as impatience and anguish for what we do not achieve, rather than distress, makes the transition between these two years a triumphal arch, crowned by everything we have devoted, and the certainty that to fight is a victory (Applause).

We always push for more. And with all the living generations together, in tribute to those who sacrificed everything, because the road toward the conquest of that bit more, always pending, was guarded by the peace and unity of all Cubans.

On behalf of a generation proud of being not a replacement, but continuity, I want to express to you the deep commitment that moves us to struggle relentlessly to measure up to history, to our heroes and the people, inseparable in sentiment and fidelity.

Today we have come to render an account of our work and to commit ourselves to more: to promote everything that allows us to move forward and overcome, along with our own limitations and in the face of an economic war, financial persecution and the tightened blockade.

The greatest motivation is provided by the 60th anniversary of the Revolution, with its indelible lessons that it is possible to overcome all obstacles if the people accompany us.

It will be, without doubt, another year of challenges. But, as Martí said on speaking of the soul of the Revolution, and the duty of Cuba: “The Cuban people expect nothing from the revolution that the revolution can not provide.”

We will move forward. And we will continue to be victorious. That’s what the forefathers of the nation taught us. To this the dignified and heroic people of Céspedes, Mariana, Maceo, Gómez, Martí, Mella, Villena, Haydeé, Abel, Celia, Frank, Vilma, Camilo, Che, Almeida, Fidel, Raúl and their comrades in the struggle summon us everyday, who by accompanying us, honor us.

On February 24, in the Referendum to ratify the Constitution, Cuba will be reaching a high point of the 150 years we have celebrated, and the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, the Revolution of Fidel and Raúl, which we will celebrate on January 1st.

We will say yes and we will triumph again. Because we are Cuba.

Congratulations to all our people for the New Year.

Ever onward to victory!

¡Patria o Muerte!

¡Venceremos!

(Ovation.)