CONTINUITY is probably the word that best summarizes 2018, as each and every one of its days can be interpreted as an example of such. It was a historic year, full of symbols and complexities.
We are accustomed to the challenges, as we have experienced and suffered many. Some continue, while others have been overcome.
Regarding the symbolic nature of 2018, I echo the words of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, in his closing speech of the Second Ordinary Session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, in its Ninth Legislature: “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.”
The year that recently ended saw the election of a new Cuban president, and that act was as significant as it was natural. It marked the transition from one historic generation to another, which was not forged in the Sierra, but which has been raised to defend the Revolution, and to continue advancing.
The year 2018 also closed with the approval of a new Constitution by the Cuban Parliament, arising from the broadest collective consultation process of which we have memory.
And that popular consultation process also resulted in collective growth, as we grew in legal awareness, in political maturity... and we arrived at necessary consensus, despite our differences. The National Assembly’s unanimous “Yes” to the modified constitutional text was a glimpse of the future “Yes” of the population in the referendum on the new Constitution this February.
In the economic and social order, it was again a year of financial strains, which will be no less in 2019; and in the quest for essential restructuring, several new regulations aimed at the implementation of the Guidelines emerged.
As the months passed by, we came closer to a form of governance that is being constructed hand in hand with the people, because that’s what those who governed before accustomed us to. At the same time, the progress of electronic government and computerization became visible, as well as the importance awarded to communications.
The Housing Policy, the reordering of self-employment, and attention to social security and welfare needs were also part of the course.
But what has been done thus far is just a part of the efforts that we will continue to build on. The year 2018 left us on the threshold of a new beginning.
The migratory measures approved in October 2017 came into force, as part of the continuous and irreversible updating process undertaken in this area since January 2013.
The elimination of the “Habilitación” (authorization) of passports previously required of Cuban émigrés traveling to the country, and the authorization of the entry and exit of Cuban citizens residing abroad on recreational vessels, formed part of the new regulations.
Likewise, permitted was the entrance to the country of Cuban citizens who left illegally, with the exception of those who did so via the illegal United States Naval Base in Guantánamo, as well as the elimination of the requirement of “avecindamiento” (residence in Cuba for 90 days) for children of Cubans residing abroad, who were born outside the country, to obtain Cuban citizenship and identification documents.
In compliance with the approved policy to improve the productive base of the agricultural sector, issued was Decree-Law No. 351 “On the Special Social Security Regime for Members of Basic Units of Cooperative Production.”
This legislation corresponds to Guideline 140 of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, on reducing the relative share of the State Budget in social security financing, and the application of special tax regimes in the non-state sector.
The regulations maintain basic principles such as the protection of cooperative members in the event of ordinary or work-related illness or accidents, total temporary or permanent disability, in old age, during maternity; and protection for families in case of death, as regulated in the general regime for state sector workers.
Cuba’s general election process concluded with the election, by deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power, of the members of the Council of State and of its President, the Political Bureau member Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez. With this election, full of symbolism, continuity was secured.
In order to improve the exercise of self-employment, 20 legal regulations were issued, grouped into five decree-laws and one decree, as well as 14 complementary resolutions involving the ministries of Labor and Social Security, Finance and Prices, Economy and Planning, Public Health, Industries, Transport and the Institute of Physical Planning.
The content of these regulations responded, on the one hand, to requests from self-employed workers and, on the other, incorporated regulations to improve the exercise and control of activities in this sector, as well as operational control at all levels: from the municipality up to the national level.
As these entered into force in December, several other modifications were published, according to which the limit to a single license was eliminated; as was the capacity limit of 50 in gastronomic establishments; the minimum bank account balance of three monthly tax installments was reduced to two; and the cash fund not required to be deposited in said bank account increased to 35%.
With the aim of streamlining the negotiation process of foreign investment projects, by means of the simplification of the steps to be followed by investors during the stage of presenting the business proposal, and the reduction of the volume of previous studies, the following legal regulations were issued:
- Decree No. 347, 2018, amending Decree No. 325, Regulations pertaining to Law No. 118 on Foreign Investment.
- Resolution No. 206, 2018, of Mincex, that repeals Resolution No. 128, and establishes the functioning of the Commission for the evaluation of foreign investment businesses.
- Resolution No. 207, 2018, of Mincex, that repeals Resolution No. 129, and updates the Methodological Bases for the presentation of financial information.
- Resolution No. 14, 2018, of the MTSS, that repeals Resolution No. 16, and modifies some aspects of the Foreign Investment Labor Regime.
GRANTING OF IDLE LAND
New modifications were approved to the policy on the granting of idle state lands in usufruct, by means of Decree-Law No. 358 and its regulation, Decree No. 350. The measures consolidate the process and grant greater guarantees to usufructuaries, while allowing greater state control over the efficient and rational use of land, in order to develop agricultural and forestry production in the country.
With the aim of raising institutionality and redefining the scope of industrial property as a management tool, two decree-laws, three decrees and five complementary resolutions were published:
- Decree-Law No. 336, On the Industrial Property Contractual Provisions in Legal Transactions.
- Decree-Law No. 337, Protection Against Unfair Practices in the Industrial Property Field.
- Decree No. 341, On the Cuban Office of Industrial Property.
- Decree No. 342, Regulations pertaining to Decree-Law No. 290, 2012, on industrial inventions, designs and models.
- Decree No. 343, On the Industrial Property System.
- Resolution No. 151, of Citma, that updates the application in Cuba of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
- Resolution No. 152, of Citma, on the procedure for the remuneration of authors, inventors and breeders.
- Resolution No. 375, of Minag, that defines Inifat as the established authority center for the examination of plant varieties.
- Resolution No. 60, of Inifat, on the rates that the Institute must apply to national and foreign individuals and legal entities, for the examination of plant varieties.
- Joint Resolution No. 1, of Citma and Minag, regarding the procedure for conducting the technical examination of plant varieties.
Decree No. 345 was also issued, on the principles governing the operation of geological research and the Geological Survey of Cuba; as well as Resolution No. 125, which approves the organization and functioning of the National Geological Information System, and the general framework on the generation, dissemination, access, use and preservation of this information.
Both regulations constitute the legal expression of the National Geology Policy, aimed at systematically generating and providing geological knowledge of the national territory.
The popular consultation process on the draft Constitution began, and lasted through November 15. This was a genuine expression of the democratic and participatory nature of our socialist system, and the broad participation reflected the high degree of cultural and political preparation of the Cuban people, and their commitment and majority identification with the perfecting of the country’s political, economic and social system.
Also outstanding was the transparency, organization, responsibility and rigor with which the preparation and realization of the discussion assemblies on the draft constitutional text were carried out, as well as the collection, processing and analysis of the population’s proposals at all levels.
THE POPULAR CONSULTATION PROCESS SAW:
- 133,681 meetings, of which:
- 79,947 were of the general population
- 45,452 were held among groups of workers
- 3,441 among campesinos
- 1,585 among university students
- 3,256 among high school students
- 8,945,521 people attended these meetings
- 1,706,872 comments were made, of which:
- 783,174 proposals
- 666,995 modifications
- 32,149 additions
- 45,548 deletions
- 38,482 requests for clarification
Also evaluated were 2,125 proposals submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX), received from Cubans residing abroad. Of these, 1,150 were modifications, 350 additions, 406 deletions and 219 requests for clarification.
SOCIAL SECURITY AND WELFARE
Decreed was an increase in social security and welfare benefits and the minimum pension, as a partial advance of the provisions that must be adopted to address the situation of salaries, pensions, and social welfare. Benefits increased by 70 pesos, and the minimum pension was set at 242 pesos.
ANOTHER VICTORY AT THE UN
Again, the United Nations General Assembly voted for an end to the blockade that for almost 60 years has punished the entire Cuban people for the sovereign decision to be the masters of their own destiny.
On November 1st, despite the United States’ attempts to undermine the normal procedure, by submitting eight different amendments to the draft resolution calling for an end to the blockade, the vote was held and confirmed, as it has done in the past 26 years, Cuba’s majority support in the world.
The international community rejected all of the U.S. amendments and almost unanimously condemned the blockade against Cuba. A total of 189 nations voted in favor of the Cuban Resolution, two voted against (the United States and Israel), and there were no abstentions.
Cuba’s Housing Policy was presented to the Council of Ministers, based on the current situation of the country’s housing stock, and aimed at shaping the strategy to halt further deterioration, in the first instance, followed by the recovery and total solution of housing issues.
The forecast for the recovery of the housing deficit is estimated at ten years, giving priority in the first five years to those homes affected by severe weather events and in precarious conditions.
The policy conceives that the largest number of actors participate in housing construction: families through their own efforts; professional state construction organizations; the agricultural and non-agricultural cooperative movement; those work centers with real possibilities of participation; and the country’s state enterprise system.
As part of the process of the computerization of Cuban society, prepaid 3G mobile internet service began.
DEVELOPMENT OF ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
The Correos de Cuba Business Group was also inserted into the Cuban e-commerce market with the national money orders service, in accordance with the country’s strategic guidelines to expand the benefits of computerization. An online sales service offered by the store located on Havana’s 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, was already in operation.
APPROVAL OF THE CONSTITUTION
The National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP), by a roll-call vote, approved the new Magna Carta, the result of a momentous collective exercise that provides Cuba with a modern Constitution, adapted to the country we have, and that which we want. Of the 602 deputies that make up the ANPP, 19 were absent and 583 voted “Yes” to the text, which will be submitted to a referendum February 24.