Speech by Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the closing of the Fifth Ordinary Period of Sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power’s Ninth Legislature, at the Convention Center, October 28, 2020, Year 62 of the Revolution
(Transcript: Presidency of the Republic/Translation: GI)
Dear Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee
Compañero Esteban Lazo Hernández, President of the National Assembly of People’s Power and the Council of State
On a day like today, it is especially inspiring to remember Commander Camilo Cienfuegos, the man with the broad smile, the man of the people, plain and simple, who defined loyalty to the country and to Fidel, like few others, when he wrote to the leader of the Revolution that it would be easier for him to stop breathing than to stop being faithful to his confidence. Our recollection of and tributes to the Hero of Yaguajay are sentiments that continue to permeate deeply into the soul of our people and will be eternal.
For the first time in the history of the National Assembly, we have met with some members of our legislature participating from a distance. The pandemic could not paralyze us to the degree of further compromising the long legislative agenda that has been addressed with the approval of four important laws during this session.
More legislation will be proposed during the upcoming session of this Assembly next December.
Our people have been able to appreciate, by different means, the level of the discussion of these laws evident in the valuable comments made by deputies. It should be added that the legislative work involved the extensive participation of specialists from various institutions, including university professors, and the population, which had access to the proposals through various channels. This is an experience that we must continue and perfect.
The approval of laws on the President and Vice President of the Republic, as well as the Organization and Functioning of the Council of Ministers, together with those approved in previous periods, ensure the normative development of Constitutional premises regarding the superior organs of the state and the government. This should allow for greater functional delimitation of these and strengthen the institutional order of the country.
The Foreign Service Law perfects and consolidates its organization and the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in implementing the state’s foreign policy, based on principles enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic.
The Law of Revocation of those Elected to People’s Power Bodies develops one of the imperatives of socialist democracy in compliance with provisions of the new Electoral Law. In line with the Constitution, it establishes the new authorities subject to recall and procedures for revocation.
These sessions have also allowed us to complete pending tasks, including settlement of the 2019 Budget, which has been sufficiently debated previously, although I am interested in highlighting the timely adjustments that allowed us to implement a partial salary increase in the budgeted sector and Social Security pensions, which required more than 4 billion pesos.
A year like 2019, marked by severe financial tensions due to the tightening of the blockade, imposed the need to further boost tax revenues, based on increasing the results of our enterprises and discipline in paying contributions in all sectors of the economy.
This will require a rigorous confrontation with non-compliance and tax evasion; measures that, along with more rational use of budgetary resources and an increase in the efficiency of their use, should guarantee the gradual reduction of the fiscal deficit and, consequently, allow for the sustainable management of public debt to achieve the macroeconomic balances that are indispensable to consolidation of our economic and social model.
Compañeras and compañeros:
In July, the Council of Ministers approved the Economic and Social Strategy to address the complex situation imposed by COVID-19 and the continual escalations of the blockade, which has been criminally tightened under conditions of pandemic.
Let us not forget that we have borne the effects of this prolonged economic war over decades and that between 2019 and 2020 alone more than 130 measures against our nation were adopted, with the deliberate purpose of stifling the economy, creating discontent and despair in the population and blaming all our difficulties on the alleged «inefficiency of the Cuban economic model.»
The panorama could not be more challenging. The profound effect on our income from tourism, as a consequence of worldwide paralysis of the leisure and travel industry, was joined, from the beginning of the year, by an increase in health expenses to control the pandemic, decreased employment in productive activities, as well as closures and reductions in non-state activity, among other factors.
Conscious that everything will depend on our efforts, exemplary work has been done to confront the pandemic and the difficult economic situation, by the Party and government leadership at all levels and also by mass organizations, without renouncing the country’s fundamental programs, as established in the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030.
The government is determined to move forward, during the remaining two months of the year, to reach the highest level of implementation possible within 2020 itself.
As we have stated on other occasions, we must accelerate the pace and the profound transformations that we owe ourselves through innovation. This is why we insist so much on the role of our universities and scientific centers, which accompany us in the analysis and development of proposals.
Without neglecting health measures to confront the pandemic, for even a moment, it is essential for the enterprise system to implement recently agreed-upon measures, which create a different environment, with greater autonomy and responsibility.
Along with this, the ability to export and import, and transformations that will be introduced for non-state forms of management, as well as the implementation of territorial development policy and monetary re-ordering, will have at our disposal a more productively interconnected, more integrated, innovative and capable enterprise system.
Implementing the economic-social strategy and acheiving results is the highest priority task in the economy at this time.
Taking this path, we will demand that all levels of government and enterprise leadership carefully supervise the implementation of measures related to this strategy, within their areas of competence, giving top priority to food production and distribution, increasing savings, especially in foreign currency and energy, and focusing on national production; designing solutions and expediting processes, making administrative procedures simpler and more transparent; promoting productive links between state and non-state sectors, and updating regional development strategies in accordance with approved policy.
Compañeras and compañeros:
During the current year, under the extraordinary, harsh conditions imposed by the pandemic, imperialism has chosen to tighten the blockade in an extreme and unprecedented manner.
Although our work confronting this affliction has been successful, we faced serious difficulties during the period in obtaining the high-tech equipment that would allow for greater precision in diagnosis and treatment to ensure the recovery of patients. The damage not only impacted commercial operations associated with the battle against the pandemic, but also the arrival of solidarity and humanitarian aid from various countries.
This is a reality that Cubans cannot forget.
The United States increased, precisely in this period, the persecution of our financial transactions and continued its intense efforts to prevent delivery of fuel supplies, with unconventional methods inappropriate in peacetime.
The U.S. government directly attacked the travel industry, even before we were forced to close our borders as a protective measure. To do so, it imposed unilateral and unjustified restrictions on air travel between the two countries and went so far as to instruct its citizens where, and where not, they could stay in Cuba.
As part of its goal of eliminating the arrival of any foreign exchange to our country, in recent months the U.S. has managed to severely limit the sending of remittances. Just a few days ago, new measures were announced that in practice deny those living in the United States the ability to send remittances to their relatives in Cuba through legitimate, safe, institutional channels.
The pretexts and lies used by the U.S. government to justify this action are ever more cynical and shameless. No one can be deceived; this is an action that affects a considerable number of compatriots and their relations with relatives and close friends living in the neighboring country.
We have insisted and it is worth emphasizing: the economic blockade lacks political, legal and moral justification and continues to be the main obstacle to advancing Cuba’s bilateral relations with the United States.
The damage caused to the well-being of the population, to the country’s capacity to meet many needs and guarantee basic services is undeniable. It affects the lives of all Cubans in one way or another.
The U.S. government must face the indisputable reality that the blockade harms the Cuban people as a whole, but it is incapable of breaking our capacity to resist.
It punishes families, Cubans living abroad, violates human rights, makes communication, travel, visas and family reunification difficult; but it does not and will never succeed in subjecting the Cuban nation to imperialist domination.
The hostility of this government toward the island, in such a difficult period for the international community, has included unbridled attacks on the international medical cooperation provided by Cuba. The threats and pressure on numerous countries to forego requesting or accepting Cuban help reached shameless unprecedented levels.
Given the general crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its longer term effects, countries of the South are facing a very unfavorable international economic situation.
Fully perceiving its impact on economic and productive stability at a global level is difficult, on patterns of trade and supply, technological advances, the structure of communications and transportation.
The effect on prospects for international tourism and travel, the energy use patterns of many countries, prices and availability of commodities, food, raw materials and advanced technologies has yet to be estimated.
These are all realities that have an impact on Cuba and other nations. It is difficult for any country to face them alone.
We have strongly defended our commitment to preserving and promoting multilateralism, especially by strengthening the central role of the United Nations and fostering international cooperation, which is essential to addressing global challenges and threats.
Our record of promoting and supporting multilateralism is well known and respected. The brutal pressure exerted by the United States to prevent Cuba from being elected to the Human Rights Council once again failed to overshadow the recognition our country enjoys in the international community.
With the support of 88 percent of UN member states, Cuba was elected, testimony to its constructive contributions to the body, of which we are founders, and to the prestige we have achieved in the defense and promotion of human rights.
Just a few days ago, the requirements that ensure the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which will become effective on January 22, 2021, were met. This is an event of great importance to world peace and stability.
This accomplishment confirms the success of the efforts of many countries of the South which tirelessly advocate nuclear disarmament, efforts in which we played an active part. It also represents the realization of a dream of Comandante en jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, who with the strength of his ideas was an invincible fighter for disarmament and world peace.
In our immediate environment, the resurgence of the Monroe Doctrine is an affront to all of the hemisphere’s sovereign states, whose right to self-determination is clearly challenged by imperialist ambition.
The Venezuelan people are facing this threat, waging a heroic battle against aggression, interference in their internal affairs and a relentless economic war. I reaffirm that Cuba’s solidarity and support for the Bolivarian Chavista Revolution, for the civil-military union of its people and for President Nicolás Maduro Moros, who heads the constitutional government of that sister Republic, remain unwavering.
A few days before the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Cuba-Venezuela Cooperation Agreement by Comandante en jefe Fidel Castro Ruz and Comandante Hugo Chávez Frías, I reiterate that, despite pressure and threats from the United States, Cuba will not forego its cooperative relations with our Venezuelan brothers.
The Bolivian people’s resounding victory electing compañero Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca in the country’s elections demonstrates that there was no vote fraud in 2019, but rather a coup against compañero Evo Morales, orchestrated by the United States in collusion with the OAS and the local oligarchy.
Heartfelt congratulations to MAS for this triumph. We share the joy that hope is returning to recover the social conquests taken from the Bolivian people.
The people of Chile achieved a great popular victory that contributes a great deal to the struggle for the social demands of millions of Chileans and of the region.
May a message of solidarity reach the land of Sandino and our rejection of the external pressures exerted with the intention of affecting the stability and the social- economic advances of the Republic of Nicaragua, achieved by the government of Reconciliation and National Unity presided by Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra.
The defense of the dignity and the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean have in the governments of Mexico and Argentina faithful exponents.
I reiterate our invariable commitment to the postulates of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
A difficult, challenging year is coming to an end. Some have not hesitated to call it a terrible year.
Over a few months, millions contracted COVID-19, causing the deaths of more than a million worldwide. Many more lost their jobs, their studies or saw other important personal life projects go up in smoke. There is talk of record numbers of unemployment, poverty and extreme poverty and a coming pandemic of hunger.
But the virus that came to cripple the world economy and transform our lives has also shaken inertia, in many cases, and is leaving us lessons, learning and growth that we should not underestimate.
To begin, COVID-19 has come to remind us how interconnected we are in this world, a reality that favors the spread of the virus, but at the same time forced us to confront it in a coordinated fashion, opting for cooperation and solidarity, two practices that the crude pragmatism of neoliberalism almost extinguished.
In Cuba, it must be repeated many times, the epidemic arrived along with a reinforced blockade. Regardless of its illegality and immorality, there has been no truce in this asymmetric, multidimensional war to erase our example of independence and sovereignty from the face of the earth.
But those of us who are members of the band of non-conformists and optimists, like Fidel and Raúl, learned with them and their comrades in struggle that all challenges can be overcome. Cubans are proving, once again, that it can be done. (Applause)
Over these seven months of tireless struggle against the epidemic, we have confirmed the capacity of the planned economy and health system of Cuban socialism to control outbreaks and to provide secure assistance to the entire population, with no differences. And we have cooperated in solidarity with the most affected nations.
While the profound inequality created and exacerbated by the capitalist philosophy is taking a deplorable toll of human lives in many countries, including highly developed ones, Cuba has managed to keep the virus at bay and lower lethality to negligible levels.
Every day our media offer inspiring examples of the daily work in Medicine and Science. A group of experts from various disciplines have laid the foundations for the solid strategy the government developed, not without great effort, to contain and defeat COVID-19.
There is no mystery in this skilled, talented workforce, laboring for the same goal: socialism. A socialism that is still imperfect and weighed down by burdens that we must let go along the way, but one that is essentially humane and just, as no other system in history has been.
The fact that a small country, blockaded and defamed by the greatest power in history, could courageously resist the attacks of its adversary and, moreover, grow, creating, innovating and contributing to collective salvation, within and beyond its borders, can only be explained by the humane orientation of our project, the political will of the Party and the government, and the extraordinary strength of a people who are experts in endurance and winning.
This is not a chance event; it has a cause. There is a component in Cuban DNA, in the magnificent mix of ethnicities and history of continuous resilience, from which emerges from “that sweet word: Cuban.” But there is another factor that is no less important, which is the conscious construction, over more than 60 years, of a work that is larger and stronger than we are, with an authentic leadership, respected and admired in the world, more respected and admired the more it has resisted the blows of the adversary without giving up. I speak, of course, of Fidel, of Raúl, of the Centennial Generation, whom we are honored to follow, with proud dedication to the cause to which they devoted their lives. (Applause)
The pandemic has provoked a confrontation of political paradigms, in which the social and humanist perspective of the Cuban Revolution is undoubtedly winning: look at the exemplary actions of our young people. Today we can see that, despite the damage, the strong impact on our limited resources, COVID-19 obliged us to grow, to rise to the occasion on all levels. It was either surrender, or take a leap beyond our strength. And we leaped.
The chapter the Cuban people are writing right now is heroic, as we simultaneously face the epidemic, the ravages of a tightened blockade, and an unprecedented campaign of hate, manipulation and disinformation on social media, financed from abroad.
How can we define what is being done against a small nation, an island, an archipelago, of barely 11 million inhabitants, by a powerful empire with 30 times that population and almost 90 times its size?
Every day a threat, every day a sanction, every day an act of arrogance and contempt for what humanity has managed to construct to allow nations to understand each other. This is not politics. This is an outrage. This is abuse. This is brutal. This is shameful and infamous! You cannot call economic strangulation, financial persecution, pressure on third parties, the refusal to accept a different way of doing things, politics.
Today we can tell our people and the world that the country is growing, with commitment and determination to move forward despite the circumstances in which a virus has immersed the planet. Those who have insisted on writing the epitaph of this triumphant Revolution will once again be left with only the desire.
Esteemed compañeras and compañeros:
I ask our Assembly, those present here and those participating virtually, to pay a special tribute to our people. May the applause they offer every night, to that noble and devoted part of themselves, be heard loudly in this room and in all of Cuba, for all of Cuba, because without the people’s understanding of every measure, without the massive participation in their implementation, the political ideal would be just that: an ideal.
Thank you, Cuba! It will always be an honor to serve you, beloved homeland!
Socialism or Death!
Homeland or Death!
We will triumph! (Ovation)