Speech by Miguel M. Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Councils of State and of Ministers, closing the Third Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly of People's Power Ninth Legislature, at Havana’s Convention Center, April 13, 2019, Year 61 of the Revolution
(Council of State transcript / GI translation)
Dear Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee;
Comandantes de la Revolución;
It is impossible to take the floor in this extraordinary session of the National Assembly of People's Power, in which we have focused the debate on economic issues, without making any obligatory and heartfelt reference to the historical significance of the event we experienced just three days ago, in a solemn session of our Parliament.
José Martí, although he did not live the events of April 10, 1869, described them with words that 150 years later still impress. Through him we can better understand the history of that small town where, on that day, the seed of the nation was planted, when its name was inscribed in the memory of the country, to travel, in just one month, from this high point to ashes.
Twenty-three years had passed when he published in the newspaper Patria the following, I’ll quote only excerpts: “Free Guaimaro was never more beautiful than in the days when it entered into glory and sacrifice (...). The families of the heroes, eager to see them, came to where their heroism occurred, by putting themselves into the law, they would be great (...). As brides came the wives, and the children, as when they talk about the supernatural (...). Coming together were Oriente, Las Villas and the center, the injured local souls spontaneously composed the national soul, and the revolution entered the republic.”
There are no words more perfect than those of Martí in this description of how the national soul was composed when “the revolution entered the republic.”
Considering the events and the role of men in them, the Apostle stated in 1892: "Neither Cuba nor history will ever forget that those who came first in the war became the first to demand respect for the law."
Neither Cuba nor history, we can repeat today, will forget the ceremony of last Wednesday the 10th, and its links with the event that defined us as a nation, on April 10, a century and a half ago.
Our Army General, who was first in war, has also been first in proposing, conducting, and demanding the imperative updating of the law, out of respect for the law.
The chroniclers of these times will not have the challenge, overcome brilliantly by Martí, of telling the story of the serious disagreements among our founding heroes. Precisely thanks to 151 years of struggle for our emancipation, today we are not arguing, but rather proclaiming.
Nor are we obliged, as were our founding heroes, to construct a government before winning freedom. Freedom was first rescued and sustained by more than a generation of revolutionaries, over hard years of creation and resistance.
Thus, the Constitution we recently proclaimed has a great history. Its roots lie in the first that was born fighting within the heart of the Republic in Arms, and later reaffirmed in three constitutions during the war, to be reborn in 1901, under the worse circumstances, in an assembly with its hands tied by Yankee intervention.
In 1940, another Constitution, the conquest of several generations of Cubans, was celebrated although not implemented. It was violated and buried by a despot, but its death lit the spark of a Revolution that was destined to fulfill its precepts of fundamental justice.
Many years later, in 1976, the people inscribed their most radical aspirations in another Constitution, the first socialist one, that after a few reforms brought us to this Magna Carta, proclaimed this April 10, precisely in honor of this history.
I always say that the recently proclaimed Constitution is strong because it draws on this history of intense search for a national guide, that we have described briefly, and the more recent, too, and from long months of analysis, debates, and modifications that involved in its construction the majority of the people, who later supported it irrefutably in a referendum.
One parallel between that historic April 10, and the date three days ago, points to other vital links: we do not need to decide on a flag for our ceremony, because in 1869 the red triangle was chosen, which "proudly waved in the fight, / without a childish or romantic boast; / the Cuban who does not believe / should be flogged as a coward,” as we learned with the unsurpassed verses of Bonifacio Byrne.
Nor can it be said that a woman demanded here the place she deserved.
From Ana Betancourt to Vilma Espín, women’s contribution to the Revolution has been boundless. And justice has finally been served. Women are the majority in this Assembly, as is all important matters in our society.
But there are other moments that equal past and present times. All of Cuba, like Guáimaro 150 years ago, has a tenacious and avaricious enemy lurking nearby.
And just as the Spanish army viciously attacked Guaimaro, a month after that beautiful day of the first national Constitution, the neighboring empire threatens, again, to assault Cuba. And in fact it attacks every day with foolish measures that are escalating in hostility and in viciousness.
Guáimaro’s response to the Spanish assault, as Bayamo had before, was to burn everything that could not be defended. And that was also described by Martí as if he had seen it: "The mothers did not cry, nor did the men hesitate, nary a weak heart was to be seen as the cedars and mahogany fell. With their own hands, they lit the bonfires to the holy city, and when the night closed in, the sacrifice was reflected in the sky (...). The people went into the forest (...). And a good hand hid the constitution in the ground. It must be found!”
This is how Martí concludes this beautiful piece of journalism, entitled “El 10 de abril.”
We are passionate about history, it’s true. But if we return to it once and again, it is not only because of the pleasure our national glory provides. We return because within it there are formidable reserves of Cuban morality, always under attack, always ready to turn any material possession to ashes before raising our arms for the adversary to chain them.
What Martí asked us to find in 1892 in this “entry of the revolution into the republic,” will always have a pending task. In our case, it is the permanent battle to maintain our sovereignty and strive for all justice with the greatest degree of prosperity possible.
The current U.S. administration that dismisses multi-literalism and has decided to return the world’s to its worse times, shamelessly making threats of insolent intervention, and constant ultimatums, including the invasion option, has publicly stated, more than once, its intention to destroy any development alternative apart from the savage capitalism it attempts to promote in the region.
Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba are nations with political projects that do not accept the version of the Monroe Doctrine followed by the Trump administration, which, unable to keep its election promises of industrial recovery and national greatness, is sinking into a morass of ridiculous lies to assert that three Latin American nations, struggling to overcome the underdevelopment they inherited, threaten the powerful empire.
They have been busy working against Venezuela, repeating the same script used in criminal aggressions against Cuba since the first years of the Revolution, including state terrorism and pressure on other countries to break regional unity.
The novelty is in non-conventional war tactics that range from the symbolic to very real, from fake news, lies wrapped in novel false trappings, to sabotage of computer networks that sustain the country’s functioning. The empire literally cut off Venezuelans’ lights and water. At the same time their spokespeople and latest puppet seethe before the world because the Bolivarian government rejects false humanitarian aid.
Hypocrites, criminals, thieves of Venezuela’s national treasury: there is no other way to describe those attempting to defeat the courageous people with hunger and deprivation, stealing their financial resources, while sharpening their teeth to devour the riches nature has given this sister nation in abundance, which Bolivar and Chávez raised to a place of honor on the map of America, with their contribution to the continent’s independence.
We cannot underestimate the escalation of this aggression. Beyond the threats, typical of these political merchants, with the rise to decision-making positions of deceitful, mediocre, criminal politicians, financial persecution has increased and the blockade of Cuba tightened.
They have pushed the precarious relations with our country back to the lowest level, fabricating false acoustic incidents, channeling millions of dollars to the counterrevolution and political subversion, issuing dishonest, spurious lists, and trying to activate the hateful Helms-Burton Law, in an attempt to return us to the beginning of this story, when we were a slave nation of another empire.
This year, they have focused on giving us deadlines for the possible implementation of Title III of this slave law, which is what it should really be called. They have done so year after year since 1996, in the style of capital pardons. Now they are putting it off for a month, a few days, with arrogant threats, like someone holding a sword over our heads, ready to cut them off, if we don't surrender.
What is the entire Helms-Burton, if not the 60-year blockade made law?
What more can they do after 60 years of persecution, aggression, and threats?
This past April 10, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, said here:
“We have been warning of the aggressive actions unleashed by the U.S. government against the Latin American and Caribbean region. It does so in the name of the Monroe Doctrine, with an arrogant McCarthyist contempt for socialism, for the self-determination of peoples, and the sovereign rights of countries in the region.”
As he has alerted us, all indications are that the blockade is being tightened around Cuban sovereignty, reinforcing the blockade, especially the financial persecution. Pressure from the United States is creating obstacles to financing and credit from third countries; while internally we are still held back by administrative inefficiency, an importing mentality, the lack of conservation, and insufficient income from exports, among other evils, from which we cannot exclude cases of corruption and illegalities, unacceptable today, as always, in the Revolution.
Faced with this map of tremendous challenges, we run the risk of believing that there is no way out. But history has something to tell us. Fidel, Raúl, Almeida, Camilo, Che, the generation of our parents and grandparents, with less experience and even fewer resources, confronted more serious, darker moments, and emerged victorious.
History shows us that when we have a correct strategy, when there is unity of objectives, and a sense of nationhood, all obstacles can be overcome.
The difficult present panorama, that has been described, imposes two absolute priorities: preparation for defense and the economic battle, at the same time.
The strategy is to work without rest on alternatives, already designed, without abandoning a single one of our objectives directed toward greater wellbeing for our people.
To those who arrogantly and disdainfully ignored the call made for the world to be open to Cuba, we will respond by showing that, yes, we heard the appeal and are opening ourselves even more to those who act sovereignly in the interest of promoting and developing common policies to support the survival of the human species, as Fidel said at the Earth Summit in 1992.
This philosophy moves us when we call for reflection and discussion of economic issues.
Today we have evaluated progress on the implementation of the Guidelines. And it is very important that this information has been shared, because it clarifies for us just how intense and complex the work has been, and above all, what remains to be done.
What has been implemented over the last decade is no small thing: 206 policies, at the rate of 20 per year. In 2018 alone, 47 were approved and the rate of implementation rose, thanks to our greater experience, organization, and participation from Central State Administration bodies.
The government and Party's constant monitoring of the implementation, through its fundamental programs, has allowed us to note negative outcomes and experiences. And this differentiated analysis has not only facilitated corrective action, but also helped avoid the repetition of errors, as the Party's First Secretary has noted. Needed is more attention to detail in preparation, organization, and training in every process, experiment, and procedure, for every person involved in these.
We likewise advocate the incorporation of jurists, from the very conception of policies, in the design of legal norms, so that they are coherent with the fundamental objectives and protect our state apparatus from distortions that could be generated by volunteerism and improvisation.
Last but not least, we are obliged to speed up the process as much as possible, carefully defining the route in timelines for implementation. Thus far, we have not been able to achieve this.
With equal emphasis, we have analyzed the elaboration and advances of the National Social and Economic Plan through 2030.
The objective analysis of the country’s current conditions and the international environment, have led us to propose economic planning in three stages:
2019- 2021, 2022- 2026, and 2027- 2030.
But the current conjuncture requires us, realistically, to focus on the first, fully aware of the additional difficulties we face, which could become worse.
For this, we have identified six strategic sectors that have the greatest impact on the economy, in which efforts and resources will be concentrated, without ignoring others.
These sectors are: tourism; the biotechnology-pharmaceutical industry; the electro-energetic related to renewable resources; food production; the export of professional services; and construction.
To say this is in good Cuban: the difficult situation requires us to set clear, well defined priorities, to avoid returning to the hard times of the Special Period.
Today we have the advantage of a more diversified, internationally integrated economy; tourist development; the biotechnology-pharmaceutical industry; greater potential for exports; more construction capacity, a water distribution system, transportation; communications; and untapped potential for savings and the replacement of imports, which we must take better advantage of.
We are intent on developing government work with more efficient public and enterprise management; with fewer obstacles and less bureaucracy; greater transparency and participation; direct, ongoing links with the grassroots; more efficient social communication; more scientific research and a more active role on the part of universities, based on demand and needs, with greater impact on the economy and production.
With the strengthening of the socialist state enterprise, our greatest productive force; with our ears alert to those with knowledge and experience to contribute; with a constant view toward the provinces and communities; with deep and astute legislative work; with greater autonomy for municipalities; and regular accountability for those assuring development programs.
With no fear of change; chipping away at problems; taking full advantage of our strengths in collective leadership and advocating with discipline and commitment the orientations of our Party.
Unleashing a permanent ethical battle against corruption and illegalities; ordering and strengthening non-state economic management; revitalizing our communities; and promoting beauty and a culture of detail as everyday practices.
Being accountable to the people and encouraging their indispensable participation in the solution of every problem. Generalizing best practices. Overcoming the inertia of the tired. Spreading the enthusiasm and optimism of the committed. Understanding that the beauty of the worst moment lies in the extent of the challenges.
The list of tasks is infinite, but I would like to dwell on those that require more immediate action and I urge everyone to join us in assuming them:
First, the updating of the Economic Plan based on the most difficult scenarios.
We intend to immediately launch pending economic measures related to demands and needs; the reorganization of domestic commerce; the performance of the enterprise system, agricultural and non-agricultural cooperatives and self-employment.
Our government work will be focused on agriculture, export production, tourism, the replacement of imports (with domestic goods), foreign investment and productive linkages with all national industries possible.
Now more than ever it is essential to save and manage resources carefully, fundamentally energy, so that its use contributes to greater productivity; appropriately use credit and different forms of financing, with more emphasis on investment.
Under these circumstances, it is essential to meet and take advantage of all the potential present in human resources and the qualified workforce we have.
We will continue advancing in the process of computerization of society and working hard to improve food supplies, housing, and transportation, the quality of services, even in the midst of asphyxiating financial persecution that makes the importing of goods and resources of primary necessity particularly difficult, and sometimes impossible.
Compañeras and compañeros:
Awaiting this legislature are months and perhaps years of intense work, but we must advance as quickly as possible so that the Constitution is expressed in laws that are more in tune with our times and needs.
And we have no right to delay changes longer than absolutely necessary.
We assume the mandate to change everything that needs to be changed and correct everything that hinders and delays progress toward prosperity in the shortest time and with the highest quality.
What will not change will be our attitude toward those who hold their sword over us.
The answer is: No, imperialist gentlemen, we Cubans do not surrender, nor do we accept laws on our affairs that are not within the bounds of our Constitution. In Cuba, Cuban men, and of course women, govern.
Title III (of the Helms-Burton) is no worse than I or II, they are part of the toolkit used against the entire people of Cuba, simply to rob us of our lands, steal our homes, take possession of the few natural resources, and seduce and buy our people. All this to punish us for the bad example so many oppressed peoples would like to follow.
No one is going to steal from us, not by seduction or by force, "the homeland that our forefathers won on foot", as Rubén Martínez Villena said in his forceful verses.
Cuba continues to have confidence in its strengths, in its dignity and also in the strength and dignity of other sovereign, independent nations. But we continue to believe in the U.S. people, in the homeland of Lincoln, who are ashamed of those who violate universal law in the name of the entire nation.
And take note, if history holds answers, that on a day like this, April 11, 1959, exactly 60 years ago, Fidel said, and with this I will conclude:
"Our people will be greater, the greater the obstacles we face; history will say more of our people, the more difficulties that must be overcome; the future will bring more justice, the more we are slandered today; and all that anyone can say will be that a society was organized here which all the world’s people could visit to learn what justice was, what democracy was, and we were able to defend this and sustain it, and, although we do not know what fate has in store for us, we do have the certainty to say that our Revolution will triumph because we will be able to defend it, and that our people will perish, if we must perish to defend it."
Let us defend these convictions in massive popular demonstrations, in all of Cuba, this coming May Day.
“See you in the homeland’s plazas, because we are Cuba and we are continuity!
Homeland or Death!
We will always triumph!