Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cuban President Raul Castro Speaks: The Modest Results Reaffirm Our Optimism and Confidence

The modest results reaffirm our optimism and confidence that yes, we can do it!

Speech by General of the Army Raúl Castro Ruz, president of the Councils of State and Ministers, at the central rally commemorating the 56th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons, in the Mayor General Calixto García Plaza, Holguín, July 26, 2009, "Year of the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution."

Combatants of July 26, 1953 (Applause), of the Rebel Army, the clandestine struggle and the glorious internationalist missions (Applause;

Families of the fallen;

Women and men of Holguín (Applause); compatriots:

We could begin by asking a question out of pure personal curiosity. You all know that I am from here (Applause and exclamations), and therefore I have the right to pry in the context of knowing, if possible, which co-province-dweller thought of placing us here with the sun behind us (Laughter), which doesn’t bother me, but I’m sure that none of you can see me; you will see, perhaps, a shadow: that’s me (Applause).

"For those reasons, at this commemoration of the 56th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons, my speech will be very brief, considering the high temperatures that have characterized our summer this year, even though we are beginning earlier than usual — at 7:00 hours — and knowing that all of you have been here since 6:00 a.m, the majority of you have come on foot from your respective homes (Applause), and that last night, as I briefly saw on television, you were precisely celebrating this anniversary. And, moreover, that sun, placed in front of you by who knows who.

For these reasons, I will be brief, I repeat, and in the coming days, very soon, we will be having important meetings that will serve as highly appropriate scenarios for exploring complex questions in depth.

The first is the Council of Ministers, the day after tomorrow, dedicated to analyzing the second adjustment to expenditure in this year’s plan, due to the effects on our economy of the world economic crisis, particularly the significant reduction in income from exports and additional restrictions on access to sources of external financing.

As you all know, for 11 days I was touring several countries in friendly Africa, and participating – until very recently – as president of the Non-Aligned Movement, and handing over that responsibility to the president of Egypt.

The time that I have available is very little and tight on account of these meetings and the important issues that I am informing you about.

The day after the Council of Ministers meeting, on July 29, we will hold the 7th Plenary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, in which, for an entire day, according to the program and agenda to be discussed, we will be analyzing vital issues related to the national and international situation.

And moreover, lastly, the ordinary session of the National Assembly of People’s Power is convened for August 1, when, among other things, the draft Law for the General Comptroller of the Republic will be subjected to debate. That office will contribute to raising exigency in implementation of existing legislation and in terms of control for all structures of the country’s leadership.


This year, the selection of the venue for the central event of the 26th of July did not strictly follow the established indicators. It would have been illogical to base the selection solely on the degree of meeting those indicators, when since September, after the devastating passing of the hurricanes, it was evident that, in a large part of the country, it was simply impossible to meet them.

Do not forget, as we reported in our Parliament at the time, that the destruction — without saying that the figures are all perfectly reconciled or accounted for – totals approximately $10 billion, the equivalent of 20% of the gross domestic product; or in other words, of the value of everything we did in terms of work and production during last year.

For those reasons the Political Bureau, in determining that Holguín should be the venue and naming as "outstanding" the provinces of Villa Clara, Granma and City of Havana, balanced what had been achieved in the first months of the year, in more or less normal circumstances, with – above all – the efforts of the provinces, first to deal with the meteorological phenomena and ensure the fewest human and material losses, and then particularly in the recovery work.

In that, a great responsibility has fallen on Holguín. It is an extensive province, with more than one million inhabitants and a considerable influence on the national economy because of its nickel industry, it being the third largest tourist destination in the country and other important production. It is a reward for the efforts made and the work done.

Therefore, we congratulate the women and men of Holguín (Applause); compañero Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (Applause), first secretary of the Party in the province during that difficult time and in previous years, which were also ones of intensive work. We extend those congratulations to compañero Jorge Cuevas Ramos (Applause) of Las Tunas, another province hit hard by Hurricane Ike; since elected head of the Party in Holguín; he has carried out enthusiastic and active work.

We likewise congratulate the outstanding provinces, without failing to recognize the efforts made by everybody; the compatriots of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth (Applause), in the west, who faced extremely severe damage, and the people of Camagüey and Las Tunas, particularly the inhabitants of Santa Cruz del Sur and Guayabal, towns that were considerably affected, in some cases causing total destruction (Applause).


I have just mentioned some of the places that suffered the greatest damage. There have been really difficult months of arduous work from one end of the nation to the other. All over the country, our people’s capacity for resistance, organization and solidarity has been demonstrated. Examples abound of how work should be undertaken in these times.

That was the conduct of the immense majority of compatriots in this province during the passing of Hurricane Ike and subsequent months. That is how it was everywhere.

Many compañeros have remained mobilized far from their families, even though more than a few of them also suffered serious limitations, often housed in shelters after having lost all or part of their homes.

They trusted in the Revolution and carried out their assigned tasks, conscious of their importance and confident that their loved ones would not be neglected.

Likewise, it says a lot about the human quality of our people how they were massively willing to welcome into their homes neighbors whose houses were unsafe, an attitude that has become everyday in the face of adversities of every type.

It is in these values that our people are educated, in genuine solidarity; they share what they have with their brothers and sisters, be they Cuban or from other lands, not what is left over, and here nothing is left over, usually just problems (Applause).

In that same measure, the Cuban people are grateful for the help, gestures of generosity and support received from many places all over the world. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the noble and honorable work of the interreligious foundation Pastors for Peace (Applause), and its leader, the Reverend Lucius Walker (Applause), and the members of the 20th U.S.-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, as well as the Venceremos Brigade that is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and its representatives who are here with us at this rally (Applause).


The damage to housing is a very serious matter. In Holguín alone, almost 125,000 homes were affected, about half of which have been restored.

Nationwide, if we combine the damage from these three hurricanes with that still pending solution from previous years, above all at the beginning of the century for similar reasons of hurricanes, at the end of 2008, these added up to more than 600,000; that is why I warned then that time would be needed to radically turn around that situation.

An effort has been made that is worthy of being recognized, by agencies, workplaces and residents themselves. It is significant that as of July 20, some 43% of damages had been resolved; that is, more than 260,000 homes.

Nevertheless, there is a great deal of work to be done, and moreover it is necessary to avoid such enormous figures accumulating again in the future, taking into account that, due to climate change, many scientists are predicting that hurricanes may become more intense and much more frequent.


Likewise, work is underway to be in a position to anticipate and deal with the effects of recurrent periods of drought, increasingly long and intense, via different measures, including water pipelines, even from one province to another.

Remember the three difficult years of drought from 2000 to 2005 when, it was necessary to transport water all over the country — even on trains and in every kind of vehicle and container — to close to 3.5 million Cubans (Applause).

That is why we are constructing those strategic water pipelines in different places, which will enable us to maneuver with that vital liquid from one province to another.

As everybody knows, this monumental project began here in Holguín, where the paradox is presented of two regions side by side: one of the highest rainfall on the island — there on the outskirts of Baracoa, Guantánamo province — and one of the driest, which a few years ago endangered the water supply of this well-populated city.

In the coming days — we were going to do it today after this rally, but because of the previously stated reasons at the beginning of my remarks, we will do so during the course of August, later on — we will formally inaugurate the first stage of the East-West pipeline (Applause), which includes the pipeline from the Nipe Reservoir — there near the river of the same name in Mayarí municipality — to the Gibara Reservoir, not in the vicinity of the city of Gibara, but more to the north, one that is here, closer to the city of Holguín, east of it.

Or, in other words, Nipe Reservoir to Gibara; from there, downstream, via the river which I believe has the same name, to the Colorado Reservoir, which is further north, and from this Colorado Reservoir, it goes back, but through the north, via another pipeline that has been constructed, to the El Naranjo Reservoir, with a capacity of about 11 or 12 million cubic meters, but which is often dry, and which supplies that area and the Guardalavaca tourism complex, where during those years of drought it was necessary to close down some hotels.

Once finished and in use, this costly project — and this is just the beginning —will ensure a stable water supply for northern Holguín, including its capital.

The continuation of the project, which is in an advanced stage, includes the construction of a reservoir called Melones, which, to be more exact, I propose calling Mayarí, after the river that feeds it (Applause), whose curtain — the only one of its type built in Cuba with that technology — will be closed by April 2011, although it will begin storing water next year, 2010.

The Nipe Reservoir, with about 130 million cubic meters, was under construction for 25 years without giving it any use value.

At the time of the aforementioned inauguration of the first stage in August, which I already mentioned to you; that is, of the East-West pipeline, the television will broadcast an extensive report on this large-scale and extremely important project, which moreover will explain the entire system of interprovincial water pipelines under construction.

It is a program for the present and above all for the future, when water will be an increasingly scarcer resource, above all on a long, narrow island like ours, where the precious liquid is lost in rapid flows into the sea.

I have only mentioned one stage of this program, which covers a large part of the country, from Sancti Spíritus, in the center of the island, to Guantánamo. In the first semester of next year, this latter province, concretely the fertile valley of Caujerí, will begin receiving water by gravity via tunnels bored through the mountains — in this case built by the armed forces — which will imply considerable fuel savings by eliminating its costly pumping.

Work is also underway to rebuild this province’s aqueduct and sewer systems, including the municipalities of Cacocum and Urbano Noris, and specific actions in Frank País, Gibara and Banes. In the city of Holguín, 114 km of lines have been laid, with 21,620 pipes feeding houses and a benefited population of 86,400 inhabitants.

With the arrival of new equipment in the coming months, the pace of this work will be stepped up in Holguín, the location of one of the three factories that produce the necessary pipes of different sizes. As is known, another costly investment is underway to definitively solve the water supply problem in Santiago de Cuba, and which should be finished in 2010. And in 2011, work is should be completed on the El Cristo and El Cobre aqueducts in that Santiago municipality, and the one in Palma Soriano is now being studied.


Moving onto another subject, of the few that I plan to touch on this morning, on July 26, 2007 in Camagüey, I referred to the pressing need for us to return to the land, to make it produce more. At that time, almost half the arable area was idle or under-exploited. We called at the time for generalizing – with the greatest speed possible and without improvisations – every experience of outstanding producers in the state and campesino sector, and to stimulate their hard work, as well as to definitively resolve the state’s damaging failure to make payments in that sector.

The handover of land in usufruct is progressing satisfactorily, although shortcomings persist, in some municipalities more than in others. Of the 110,000-plus applications made, close to 82,000 have been approved to date, covering 690,000 hectares; in other words, 39 percent of idle land.

I believe that it is little. It is not a question now of rushing to distribute it without control; it is doing so more efficiently, it is doing it in an organized way, and it is a task of top strategic priority. One of the speakers who preceded me referred to the fact that it is a matter of national security to produce the products used in this country and on which we spend hundreds and thousands of millions of dollars — and I am not exaggerating — transporting them from other countries.

The land is there, here are the Cuban people, let us see if we work or not, if we produce or not, if we keep our word or not! It is not a question of shouting ‘Homeland or Death!’ ‘Down with imperialism!’ ‘The blockade is hurting us!’ while the land is there, waiting for our sweat. Despite the increasingly greater heat, we have no choice but to make it produce. I think we agree (Exclamations of "Yes!" and applause)

Flying, mostly by helicopter, all over the country, I sometimes order the pilot to take a detour and fly over any town, city, etc. I can assure you that in the majority, there is an abundance of land, and good quality land, right outside our backyards, which is not being cultivated; and that is where a plan is being made to advance, with intensive crops, irrigating wherever possible, where there is water and the resources to do so. If one day there is no fuel left in this crazy, changing world, we should have our food close by, to be able to bring it in a cart with horses, an ox, or pushing it ourselves (Applause).

Of the land distributed, close to half has been declared free of marabú and other undesirable plants, and almost 225,000 hectares have been planted — that is, one-third.

We cannot be satisfied as long as a single hectare of land exists without being usefully employed, and while a person willing to make it produce is waiting for an answer.

Land that is no good for producing food should be used for planting trees, which are, moreover, a great resource. And the person who is talking to you has experimented for many years, especially in recent years, with planting small forests, and I have had the pleasure and satisfaction of watching them grow, and according to the type of tree, sometimes, within five years, I have formed a small forest with several hundred different types (of trees); but every time we talk about this subject, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture appear — the current one, and all the previous ministers of agriculture — with an endless list of millions of pesos or foreign currency requested for the task assigned, and if a little plastic bag doesn’t appear, the planting can’t be done. I don’t know what the hell our grandparents planted with (Laughter and applause), but there they all are, and we are eating the mangos that they planted (Applause).

We are not educating children to love trees, and that they should plant some— where there is land, of course — over the course of their years in elementary and high school. Some of the youth leaders are hearing me here; but planting trees can be done by young people of the third age, like me; in other words, it is not just a task for the young (Applause).

There are encouraging results for the milk distribution process, which has grown by more than 100 million liters annually in the last two years, given that from 272 million in 2006, it went up to 403 million in 2008, and this year everything seems to indicate that the increase will be higher. I spoke about this in 2007 in Camagüey, on a day like today.

I have very briefly addressed two aspects of the decisive issue of food production, which holds great importance in replacing imports, as I was saying to you, and in reducing the country’s hard-currency expenditure.


The progress ratified, despite the shortages in material and financial resources, while insufficient, confirm the enormous potential that we have yet to exploit in agriculture and in all sectors of the economy.

The modest results reaffirm for us once again the optimism and confidence that yes, we can do it! And that our heroic people are capable of overcoming all difficulties, no matter how large (Applause).

It is without any doubt an enormous challenge in the midst of an economic blockade and many other aggressions conceived of precisely to prevent the nation’s development.

Our people have never failed when the country has called. Invariably, they have said "Present!" from the times when the Mambí troops of Calixto García, the general of three wars, with his star on his forehead, committed suicide before letting himself be taken prisoner; the son of a heroic mother, he faced in these lands many thousands of soldiers with far superior weapons, far more, in the largest army sent by the Spanish colonial power to the Americas.

And together with the Liberation Army, the population withstood, stoically and without ceasing the struggle, the countless hardships caused by the war and the cruel repression of the colonial authorities. That was our lineage and we will continue to be true to their legacy (Applause).

With the monolithic unity of our people, its most powerful weapon, forged in the crucible of the struggle under the guidance of the leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz (Applause), no matter how great the difficulties and dangers may be, we will continue forward! (Applause)

Glory to the country’s martyrs! (Exclamations of "Glory!")

Viva Fidel! (Exclamations of: "Viva!")

¡Viva Cuba libre! (Exclamations of: "Viva!")


Translated by Granma International

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