They are examples, but they are not exceptions, since millions of
Cuban men and women are not intimidated by danger or hardship.
The exploit occurs daily in every corner of this land, as our brave
athletes are demonstrating at the Panamerican Games.
And so it has been during the more than 16 years of the Special
Period, of sustained effort by the entire country to overcome the
difficulties and press onwards –and so it must still be, since we have
not yet come out of the Special Period.
Thus, it is twice as commendable that a province attains the status
of Outstanding, which as we all know is bestowed after evaluating the
results obtained in the main fields.
This year, the provinces of Ciudad de La Habana, Granma, Villa
Clara and Camagüey attained this distinction, and we congratulate them
on behalf of the Commander in Chief, of the Party and of all the
people, for having reached this important triumph. Also to Cienfuegos,
Matanzas and Sancti Spiritus for the acknowledgement received, and to
Las Tunas for displaying heartening advances.
In order to decide which of them would be the venue of this main
celebration, the Political Bureau especially considered the day-to-day
efforts, silent and heroic in the face of difficulties. And in this
way, the people of "El Camagüey", as the Mambi used to call it,
achieved these results.
The advances are the fruit of the efforts of hundreds of thousands
of comrades; of the laborers, peasants and the rest of the workers; of
the indispensable contributions of intellectuals, artists and workers
in the cultural sector; of the heroic housewives and retirees; of the
student members of the Middle-level Education Students Federation and
the Federation of University Students; of our children; of the Cuban
Women Federation, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution,
the Association of Combatants and the community Party cells who make
such an important contribution to society.
Without them, without the daily work, study and sacrifice of so
many men, women and children, the bugle of the Agramonte cavalry would
not be resounding anew on these great flatlands.
Well then, it should not happen as it does in baseball, where the
victories go only to the players and the defeats go to the team
manager. It would not be fair to fail to publicly acknowledge the
important role played by the leaders of the Party, the Government, the
UJC and the mass and social organizations at every level, as well as
the numerous administrative cadres to attain this success.
In particular, I should like to stress the good work of comrade
Salvador Valdés Mesa, the current Secretary General of the Workers
Union Central, who for a long time and up to 13 months ago, was the
First Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee, and the excellent
relief provided until the present by comrade Julio César García
It is only fair and necessary to acknowledge what has been achieved
in recent years, in these provinces and in the rest of the country,
but with a clear conscience about our problems, our inefficiencies,
our errors and our bureaucratic and/or slack attitudes, some of which
gained ground in the circumstances deriving from the Special Period.
Pointing out the important results attained in these provinces does
not mean that we ignore that the rest of the country is working. In
the eastern provinces, for example, it has been necessary to do this
under very difficult conditions, with a shortage of resources
resulting from both objective and subjective reasons.
Nevertheless, efforts do not always bring the results hoped for.
Efficiency largely depends on perseverance and good organization,
especially of systematic controls and discipline, and in particular on
where we have succeeded in incorporating the masses to the struggle
We need to bring everyone to the daily battle against the very
errors which aggravate objective difficulties derived from external
causes, especially those induced by the United States' economic
blockade which really constitutes a relentless war against our people,
as the current administration of that country is especially bent on
finding even the slightest of ways to harm us.
One could point to a myriad of examples. I shall limit myself to
mentioning the obstacles to the country’s commercial and financial
transactions abroad, often directed at the purchase of food, medicines
and other basic products for the people, and the denial of access to
banking services through coercion and the extra-territorial imposition
of its laws.
There are also the almost insurmountable obstacles imposed by that
government that goes to ridiculous lengths to prevent its people from
traveling to Cuba and also on the Cuban residents there coming to
visit their relatives; the denial of visas not just to our officials,
but to artists, athletes, scientists and, in general, to anyone who is
not willing to slander the Revolution.
As our Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently denounced, we can add
to all of this the obstacles to the fulfillment of what is established
in the migratory agreements with regards to the minimum number of
visas to be granted annually.
This policy encourages those who turn to illegal emigration and are
received there as heroes, often times after endangering the lives of
children, and in spite of the fact that such an irresponsible behavior
puts at risk not only the safety of Cubans, but also of Americans, the
ones who the government constantly claims to be protecting, since
whoever risks trafficking with human lives for money, would probably
not hesitate in doing so with drugs, arms or other such things.
Cuba, for her part, will continue to honor her commitments to the
migratory accords, as she has done until today.
The past twelve months have constituted a remarkable example of our
people’s maturity, steadfast principles, unity, trust in Fidel, in the
Party and above all in themselves.
Despite our deep sorrow, no task was left undone. There is order in
the country and a lot of work. The Party and the Government bodies are
functioning on a daily basis in the collective search for the most
effective response possible for every problem.
There is not one issue pertaining to the development of the country
and the people’s living conditions that has not been dealt with
responsibly, working to find a solution. There is no task in the
Battle of Ideas, the Energy Revolution and others promoted by the
Commander in Chief that is paralyzed. As it is always the case in
matters of such magnitude, we have had to make adjustments and
postponements, and others might be needed in the future, due to
material imperatives and the threats we are all aware of.
At the same time, our people have continued since then, with
serenity, discipline and modesty, to prepare themselves to face up to
any enemy military adventure.
Hundreds of thousands of militiamen and reservists of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces, together with officers, sergeants and
soldiers in the regular army have carried out Operation Caguairán,
allowing for a substantial increase in the country’s defense
capability, attaining levels of combat readiness that are superior to
those of any other period.
It is a great effort in moments when our resources are scarce, but
it is simply essential. It shall continue, as it has up till now, with
the greatest of rationality, both from the material point of view as
well as in the use of our people’s time.
We cannot fool around with defense! The Commander in Chief directed
and reaffirmed it yet once again just a few days ago. For us, as I
have said so many times, avoiding a war is tantamount to winning it,
but to win it by avoiding it, we must sweat a lot and invest quite a
The resounding popular response to the Proclamation of the
Commander in Chief threw all the enemy plans into crisis mode; but the
enemy, far from evaluating the reality and correcting its errors,
insists on stubbornly crashing into the same rock. They speculate
about an alleged paralysis in the country and even about a "transition"
in progress. But no matter how hard they close their eyes, reality
shall take care of destroying those stale, old dreams.
As the press has reported, Operation Caguairán will carry on in the
next months. It will allow us to train about a million compatriots and
will have as its crowning glory the Bastion 2008 Strategic Exercise
which will take place at the end of the year.
By that date, therefore, we shall be better prepared to resist and
win on all fronts, including defense.
By that time the elections will also have taken place in the United
States and the mandate of the current president of that country will
have concluded along with his erratic and dangerous administration,
characterized by such a reactionary and fundamentalist philosophy that
it leaves no room for a rational analysis of any matter.
The new administration will have to decide whether it will maintain
the absurd, illegal and failed policy against Cuba or if it will
accept the olive branch that we offered on the occasion of the 50th
anniversary of the landing of the Granma. That is, when we reasserted
our willingness to discuss on equal footing the prolonged dispute with
the government of the United States, convinced that this is the only
way to solve the problems of this world, ever more complex and
If the new United States authorities were to finally desist from
their arrogance and decide to talk in a civilized manner, it would be
a welcome change. Otherwise, we are ready to continue confronting
their policy of hostility, even for another 50 years, if need be.
Fifty years seem like a long time, but soon we will be celebrating
the 50th anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution and the 55th
anniversary of Moncada, and among so many tasks and challenges those
years have gone by and we have hardly noticed. Furthermore,
practically 70% of our population was born after the blockade was
imposed, and so we are well trained to continue resisting it and
finally defeating it.
Some who have been influenced by enemy propaganda or are simply
confused, do not perceive the real danger or the undeniable fact that
the blockade has a direct influence both on the major economic
decisions as well as on each Cuban's most basic needs.
Directly and on a daily basis, it weighs heavily on our food supply,
transportation, housing and even on the fact that we cannot rely on
the necessary raw materials and equipment to work with.
The enemy established it half a century ago for this reason, as we
were saying, and today it still dreams of forcing us to submit to its
will. President Bush himself insists on repeating that he will not
allow the Cuban Revolution to continue. It would be interesting to ask
him just how he intends to do that.
How little they have learned from history!
In his Manifesto published on June 18, Fidel said to them once
again what every revolutionary on this island is convinced of: "They
shall never have Cuba!"
Our people will never give an inch of ground under the attempt of
any country or group of countries to pressure us, nor will it make the
slightest unilateral concession to send any kind of signal to anybody.
With respect to the economic and social tasks ahead of us, we know
the tensions that Party cadres are subjected to, especially at the
base, where there's hardly ever a balance between accumulated needs
and available resources.
We are also aware that, because of the extreme objective
difficulties that we face, wages today are clearly insufficient to
satisfy all needs and have thus ceased to play a role in ensuring the
socialist principle that each should contribute according to their
capacity and receive according to their work. This has bred forms of
social indiscipline and tolerance which, having taken root, prove
difficult to eradicate, even after the objective causes behind them
I can responsibly assure you that the Party and government have
been studying these and other complex and difficult problems in depth,
problems which must be addressed comprehensibly and through a
differentiated approach in each concrete case.
All of us, from the leaders to the rank-and-file workers, are duty-bound
to accurately identify and analyze every problem in depth, within our
working areas, in order to combat the problem with the most convenient
This differs greatly from the attitude of those who use existing
difficulties to shield themselves from criticisms, leveled against
them for not acting with the necessary swiftness and efficiency, or
for lacking the political sensitivity and courage needed to explain
why a problem cannot be solved immediately.
I will limit myself to drawing your attention to these crucial
issues. A simple criticism or appeal will not solve these problems,
even when they are made at a ceremony like this. They demand, above
all else, organized work, control and dedication, day after day;
systematic rigor, order and discipline, from the national level down
to the thousands of places where something is produced or a service is
This is where the country's efforts are headed, as they are in
other areas of similar importance and strategic significance. We are
working hastily but not desperately, avoiding unnecessary public
statements so as not to raise false hopes. And, again, speaking with
the sincerity which has always characterized the Revolution, I remind
you that all problems cannot be solved overnight.
I am not exaggerating when I say that we face a very trying
international economic situation, where, in addition to wars, lack of
political stability, the deterioration of the environment and the rise
in oil prices —apparently an irreversible trend— we now face, like
comrade Fidel has recently denounced, the decision made primarily by
the United States, to transform corn, soy and other food products into
fuel. This move is bound to make the price of these products, and
those directly dependent upon these such as meats and milk prices,
climb dramatically as it has been the case in recent months.
I will just mention some figures. Today, the price of an oil barrel
is around 80 dollars, nearly three times what it was only 4 years ago,
when it was priced at 28 dollars. This has an impact on practically
everything, for, to produce anything or to offer any kind of service,
one requires a given quantity of fuel, directly or indirectly.
Another case in point is the price of powdered milk, which was
2,100 dollars the ton in 2004. This already placed great strains on
our ability to make this product available, as its import meant an
investment of 105 million dollars. A total of 160 million dollars were
spent to purchase the needed quantities in 2007, as prices shot up to
2,450 dollars the ton. In these four years, nearly 500 million dollars
have been spent in these purchases.
Currently, the price of powdered milk is over 5,200 dollars the
ton. Therefore, should domestic production not continue to increase,
to meet consumption needs in the next 2008, we would have to spend 340
million dollars in milk alone, more than three times what was spent in
2004. That is, if prices do not continue to rise.
In the case of milled rice, it was priced at 390 dollars a ton in
2006 and is sold today at 435 a ton. Some years ago, we were buying
frozen chicken at 500 dollars a ton. We made plans on the assumption
its price would go up to 800; in fact, it went up to its current price
of 1,186 dollars.
This is the case with practically all products the country imports
to meet, essentially, the needs of the population, products which, as
it is known, the people purchase at prices which have practically
remained unchanged in spite of the circumstances.
And I am talking of products that I think can be grown here --it
seems to me that there is plenty of land-- and we have had good rains
last year and this. As I drove in here I could see that everything
around is green and pretty, but what drew my attention the most, what
I found prettier was the marabú (a thorny bush) growing along
Therefore, any increase in wages or decrease in prices, to be real,
can only stem from a greater and more efficient production and
services offer, which will increase the country's incomes.
No one, no individual or country, can afford to spend more than
what they have. It seems elementary, but we do not always think and
act in accordance with this inescapable reality.
To have more, we have to begin by producing more, with a sense of
rationality and efficiency, so that we may reduce imports, especially
of food products --that may be grown here-- whose domestic production
is still a long way away from meeting the needs of the population.
We face the imperative of making our land produce more; and the
land is there to be tilted either with tractors or with oxen, as it
was done before the tractor existed. We need to expeditiously apply
the experiences of producers whose work is outstanding, be they in the
state or farm sector, on a mass scale, but without improvising, and to
offer these producers adequate incentives for the work they carry out
in Cuba's suffocating heat.
To reach these goals, the needed structural and conceptual changes
will have to be introduced.
We are already working in this direction and a number of modest
results can already be appreciated. As demanded by the National
Assembly of the People's Power, all debts to farmers were settled; in
addition to this, there has been a discrete improvement in the
delivery of inputs to some productive sectors and a notable increase
in the prices of various products, that is to say, the price the state
pays to the producer, not the price the population pays, which remains
unchanged. This measure had an impact on important production items,
such as meat and milk.
With respect to milk production and distribution, we are aware that
the material resources we have managed to secure for the livestock
industry are still very limited. However, in the last two years nature
has been on our side and everything indicates that we will reach the
planned figure of 384 million liters of milk, which is still far lower
than the 900 million we were producing when we had all the fodder and
other required inputs.
In addition to this, since March, an experiment has been underway
in six municipalities —Mantua and San Cristóbal in Pinar del Rio,
Melena del Sur in La Habana, Calimete in Matanzas, Aguada de Pasajeros
in Cienfuegos and Yaguajay in Sancti Spiritus—where 20 thousand liters
of milk have been directly and consistently delivered by the producer
to 230 rationed stores and for social consumption in these localities
In this fashion, we have eliminated absurd procedures through which
this valuable food product traveled hundreds of miles before reaching
a consumer who, quite often, lived a few hundred meters away from the
livestock farm, and, with this, the product losses and fuel expenses
I will give you one example or maybe two in order to mention one
from Camaguey. Currently, in Mantua, one of the western most
municipalities in Pinar del Rio, 2,492 liters of milk, which meet
established consumption needs, are being distributed directly to the
municipality's 40 rationed stores and 2,000 liters of fuel are being
saved every month.
What was the situation until four months ago?
The closest pasteurizer is located in the Sandino municipality, 40
kilometers away from Mantua, the most important town in the area. Thus,
in order to deliver the milk to that plant, a truck had to travel a
minimum of 80 kilometers –because distances are different-- each day
to make the round journey. I say "a minimum" because other areas of
the municipality are even farther away.
The milk that children and other consumers in Mantua receive on a
regulated basis, once pasteurized at the Sandino plant, returned,
shortly afterwards, on a vehicle which, as it is logical to assume,
had to return to its base of operations after delivering the product.
In total, it traveled 160 kilometers, a journey which, as I explained,
was in fact longer.
I don’t know if at the moment this is still the case but some time
ago, as I was touring the southeast of Camaguey and in a place known
as Los Raules –my namesake-- I asked a few questions. It happened that
all the milk produced at Los Raules was brought to Camaguey for
pasteurizing, and the milk assigned to the children at Los Raules had
to be taken back there after that. Is that still the case?
On one occasion, not long ago, less than a year, I asked if that
insane and absurd crisscrossing had been eliminated. I assure you that
I was told it had, and now we are finding out this.
Try thinking about things like these and you’ll see the spending
The commendable aim of all of this crisscrossing was, as we can see,
to pasteurize all milk. This measure makes sense and it is necessary
in the case of large urban centers —even though it is customary in
Cuba to boil all milk at home, whether the milk is pasteurized or not—
and all milk needed to supply cities will thus continue to be stocked
and pasteurized, but it does not prove viable for a truck --or
hundreds of trucks-- to travel these long distances every day to
deliver a few liters of milk, to places which produce enough of it to
As from the victory of the Revolution, the Cubans have learned to
travel from west to east, mostly from east to west really, but our
wishes to travel have led us to make the milk travel as well.
In addition to the municipalities participating in this experiment,
which I mentioned already, another 3,500 rationed stores in other
municipalities and provinces are also directly distributing milk, and
over 7 million liters of milk have already been distributed.
This procedure will gradually begin to be applied in more and more
places, as expediently as possible but without any rash attempts at
making it a general formula. In all cases, its application will be
preceded by a comprehensive study that demonstrates its viability in a
specific place and reveals the existence of the needed organizational
and material conditions.
We will continue to work in this direction until all of the
country's municipalities that produce the needed quantities of milk
become self-sufficient and can complete, within their jurisdiction,
the cycle which begins when a cow is milked and ends when a child or
any other person drinks the milk, to the extent that present
That is to say, the chief aim of these efforts is to produce as
much milk as possible, and I say this is possible in the overwhelming
majority of municipalities, except for those in the capital of the
country, that is, those which are not in the outskirts of the city,
because there they can produce milk too. There are already some
capital cities in various provinces that can produce enough in their
main municipalities; such is the case of Sancti Spiritus. And, we must
definitely produce more milk!
I mean, the main purpose is to produce more milk to first ensure
what we need for our children. We are talking about a basic food for
children, and for the ill people; we cannot fool around with that
either. But we should neither renounce the possibility that others may
also receive it in the future.
Additionally, this program intends to continue increasing fuel
savings; something very important, too.
This program responds to today’s existing situation, where dreams
of the vast imports of fodder and other inputs of decades past, when
the world was very different from what it is today, are just that:
This is but one example of the abundant resources that become
available when we organize ourselves better and analyze an issue as
deeply as required, mindful of all the involved factors.
I reiterate that our problems will not be solved spectacularly. We
need time and, most importantly, we need to work systematically and
with devotion to consolidate every achievement, no matter how small.
Another nearly endless source of resources —if we consider how much
we squander—is to be found in saving, particularly, as we said, the
saving of fuel, whose price is increasingly prohibitive, and very
unlikely to decrease.
This is a task of strategic importance which is not always
undertaken with the necessary care, and wasteful practices have not
yet been halted. The example with the milk is enough.
Wherever it is rational to do so, we must also recover domestic
industrial production and begin producing new products that eliminate
the need for imports or create new possibilities for export.
In this connection, we are currently studying the possibility of
securing more foreign investment, of the kind that can provide us with
capital, technology or markets, to avail ourselves of its contribution
to the country's development, careful not to repeat the mistakes of
the past, owed to naivety or our ignorance about these partnerships,
of using the positive experiences we've had to work with serious
entrepreneurs, upon well-defined legal bases which preserve the role
of the State and the predominance of socialist property.
We shall step up our cooperative efforts with other nations more
and more, aware that only united, and on the basis of utter respect
for the path chosen by every country, will we prevail. Proof of this
are the steps we are taking forward next to our brothers in Venezuela,
Bolivia and Nicaragua, and our solid ties to China and Vietnam, to
mention but a few noteworthy examples of the growing number of
countries in all continents with which relations of all kinds are
being re-established and extended.
We will continue to make a priority of the Movement of Non-Aligned
Countries and the growing international movement of solidarity towards
the Revolution. We will also continue to work with the United Nations
Organization and other multilateral organizations of which Cuba is a
member, which respect the norms of international law and contribute to
the development of nations and to peace.
Many are the battles we face simultaneously and which require us to
bring together our forces to maintain the unity of the people, the
Revolution's greatest weapon, and to take advantage of the potential
of a socialist society like ours. The coming People's Power elections
will be a new opportunity to demonstrate how extraordinarily strong
our democracy —a true democracy—is.
It is the duty of each and every one of us, of Party cadres
especially, not to allow ourselves be overwhelmed by any difficulty,
no matter how great or insurmountable it may seem to us at a given
We must remember how, despite the initial confusion and
discouragement, we managed to face up to the first, harsh years of the
Special Period early the last decade, and how we managed to move
forward. What we said then we can more justifiably repeat today: Yes,
we can do it!
In response to bigger problems or challenges, more organization,
more systematic and effective work, more studies and predictions on
the basis of plans where our priorities are clearly established and no
one attempts to solve their problems at any cost or at the expense of
We must also work with a critical and creative spirit, avoiding
stagnation and schematics. We must never fall prey to the idea that
what we do is perfect but rather examine it again. The one thing a
Cuban revolutionary will never question is our unwavering decision to
It was with the same profound conviction that, in this very place,
on July 26, 1989, exactly 18 years ago to this day, Fidel historically
and prophetically affirmed that, even in the hypothetical case that
the Soviet Union were to collapse, we would continue to move forward
with the Revolution, determined to pay the steep price of freedom and
to act on the basis of dignity and principles.
History has offered abundant proof that our people’s determination
is as hard as rock. To honor this determination, we are duty-bound to
question everything we do as we strive to materialize our will more
and more perfectly, to change concepts and methods which were
appropriate at one point but have been surpassed by life itself.
We must always remember — and not to repeat it from memory like a
dogma, but rather to apply it creatively in our work every day—what
comrade Fidel affirmed on May 1st, 2000, with a definition which
embodies the quintessence of political and ideological work:
"Revolution means a sense of our moment in history, it means
changing all that ought to be changed; it is full equality and freedom;
it is being treated and treating others like human beings; it is
emancipating ourselves by ourselves, and through our own efforts; it
is defying powerful and ruling forces inside and outside of the social
and national spheres; it is defending values that are believed in at
the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism,
solidarity and heroism; it is fighting with audacity, intelligence and
realism; it is never lying or violating ethical principles; it is the
profound conviction that there is no force in the world capable of
crushing the strength of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity, it is
independence, it is fighting for our dreams for justice for Cuba and
for the world, it is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism
and our internationalism."