As comrade Fidel alerted us in his fundamental Reflection of last
January 14th, the people’s mandate to this legislature is
very clear: to continue strengthening the Revolution at a historical
juncture which demands from us to be dialectic and creative.
The composition of the State Council, which has just been elected
by this Assembly, raised much expectation both in Cuba and abroad.
The most significant was clarified by comrade Fidel in his Message
of February 18th. There is very little that I can add to
what he said except to express to our people, on behalf of the
Revolution’s Leadership, our appreciation for the innumerable
expressions of serenity, maturity, self-assurance, and the
combination of genuine sadness and revolutionary determination.
I take on the responsibility entrusted to me deeply convinced
that, as I have often said, there is only one Commander in Chief of
the Cuban Revolution.
Fidel is Fidel; we all know it very well. Fidel is irreplaceable
and the people shall continue his work when he is no longer
physically with us; although his ideas will always be with us, the
same ideas that have made it possible to build the beacon of dignity
and justice our country represents.
The Communist Party, a sure guarantee of the unity of the Cuban
nation, is the sole worthy heir to our people’s confidence in its
leader. It is the top leading force of our State and society as
provided in Article 5 of our Constitution approved by referendum by
exactly 97.7% of the voters.
This conviction shall become especially significant when as a
fact of life the generation that founded and forged the Revolution
is no longer present.
Fortunately, it is not that moment we are living today. Fidel is
here, as always, with a very clear mind and his capacity to analyze
and foresee perfectly intact and strengthened now that he can
dedicate to studying and analyzing the countless hours he previously
used to tackle the daily problems.
Despite his steady recovery, his physical condition will not
allow him those endless working sessions --often separated by hardly
a few hours of rest—that characterized his work practically from the
moment he started the revolutionary struggle, the same that grew in
intensity through the long years of the Special Period when he did
not take one single day off.
Comrade Fidel’s decision, a new contribution enhancing his
example, ensures as from now the continuity of the Revolution and is
perfectly consistent with a life guided by Martí’s precept that: "All
the glory of the world fits in a kernel of corn."
Likewise, his determination is unchangeable with regards to his
decision to continue making his contribution to the revolutionary
cause and to the most noble ideas and objectives of mankind, while
he has the strength to do so.
Therefore, with the certainty that I am expressing the will of
our people, I appeal to this Assembly, as the supreme body of the
State power, to allow me to continue consulting with the maximum
leader of the Revolution, comrade Fidel Castro Ruz, the decisions of
special transcendence for the future of our nation, basically those
associated to defense, foreign policy and the socioeconomic
development of the country.
For this and for many other reasons, I shall rather often today
quote some of the fundamental ideas and concepts expressed by him in
his Reflections. I avail myself of this occasion to say that we
should study them for they are educational and they show his
capacity to look into the future. We should always bear in mind
something that Raul Roa liked to say to those close to him: "Fidel
hears the grass growing and sees what is happening around the
I am aware of my responsibility to the people as I take on the
task entrusted to me. But I am also convinced that as it has been
the case until today, I can count on the support of those holding
positions of responsibility at various levels, and even more
importantly, I can count on the support of my compatriots without
which a society like ours could not succeed.
The Assembly, in full compliance with the view of the Party’s
Political Bureau, elected comrade José Ramón Machado Ventura as
First Vice President of the State Council and later approved his
appointment as First Vice President of the Council of Ministers.
As I explained in my proposal to fill that position, it is
convenient that under the present circumstances the same comrade
takes on these two responsibilities in the State and Government, as
it has been the case until now.
Considering his revolutionary life and convictions, his
experience and knowledge, his qualification as a leader and a human
being, there is no doubt that he meets the requirements to carry out
these high duties.
Likewise, the assembly has agreed, in accordance with Article 75
of the Constitution, to analyze the composition of the Government in
a future session later this same year. This is a timely decision,
since we are not dealing only with appointments, but rather with
decisions about which changes might be required in the system of
institutions pertaining to the central administration of the State,
and this needs more time.
During the first 15 years of the Revolution, the State structures
inherited from capitalism were adjusted as we went along to
undertake the tasks imposed by the radical economic, political and
The 1960’s institutionalization process, however imperfect,
enabled us to structure an articulate system corresponding to those
circumstances. We were then able to put ourselves on a level with
the socialist countries, in terms of both good and bad experiences.
Finally, in 1994, the most critical moment of the Special Period,
considerable adjustments were made leading to the reduction and
merging of institutions as well as to the redistribution of the
tasks previously entrusted to some of them. However, these changes
were undertaken with the rush imposed by the necessity to quickly
adapt to a radically different, very hostile and extremely dangerous
In the fourteen years that have passed since then, the national
and international scene has noticeably changed. Today, a more
compact and operational structure is required, with a lower number
of institutions under the central administration of the State and a
better distribution of their functions. This will enable us to
reduce the enormous amount of meetings, coordination, permissions,
conciliations, provisions, rules and regulations, etc., etc. It will
also allow us to bring together some decisive economic activities
which are presently disseminated through various entities, and to
make a better use of our cadres.
In summary, our Government’s work must be more efficient.
The Assembly has been renovated in a higher proportion than the
previous legislature. The number of women deputies has grown over
seven percent; they now make up almost half of the legislature, over
43%. There is also an increase from 23 to 36 in the number of those
between 18 and 30 years of age, that is, the youngest, although we
also have a higher number of deputies who are over sixty.
It is very significant that a higher number of deputies are
directly linked to production and services, that is, workers,
farmers and other laborers. The same applies to members of the armed
institutions, sportsmen, artists, writers, journalists and other
professionals who, together with the student leaders and the
comrades working in the people’s councils make up over fifty percent
of the Assembly.
These data and the simple enumeration of the tasks discharged by
every one of you –from national cadres to retirees and religious
leaders-- allow us to say that those meeting here are a small-scale
sample of the Cuban society.
This is a basic premise albeit it cannot by itself guarantee the
fulfillment of the Parliament’s mission. First and foremost an
intelligent, organized, creative and strong performance is required
from all members, particularly while working in the commissions
where there is more time to focus on certain issues and to study
them listening to a greater number of comrades.
In my visit last December to the Santiago de Cuba district that
elected comrade Fidel a deputy, I said that the massive support
enjoyed by the revolution demands from us that we question
everything we do in order to improve on it.
I also said that if the people are firmly united behind a single
party, this must be more democratic than any other, and so must be
the entire society. This society, of course, can be improved, as any
other human work, but it is undoubtedly full of justice and
everybody in it has the opportunity to express their views and,
better still, to work for the materialization of whatever we all
There is no reason to fear discrepancies in a society such as
ours, where its very nature precludes the existence of antagonistic
contradictions, since the social classes that make it up are not
antagonistic themselves. The best solutions can come from a profound
exchange of differing opinions, if such an exchange is guided by
sensible purposes and the views are uttered with responsibility.
That’s how the majority of Cubans have acted, from our best
scientists, intellectuals, workers, farmers and students to the most
At different stages of the Revolution, including the present,
when objectively assessing both the strategic issues and the
difficulties of their everyday lives, they have all set an example
of political maturity and awareness of realities. Meanwhile, they
are increasingly convinced that the only source of wealth for the
society rests with the productive work, above all when man and
resources are efficiently employed.
The international doomsayers forecasting the death of the
Revolution tried to capitalize on the criticisms made during the
study and discussion of the speech made on July 26th in
Camagüey. They overlooked the fact that it was debate and criticism
within socialism. This was confirmed way over, a few months later,
by the results of our electoral process which concluded last January
It is also true that some people are inclined to talk before
being properly informed. These make demands without thinking whether
they are talking rationally or irrationally. As a rule, they agree
with those who claim rights without ever mentioning duties. As Fidel
put it in his Reflections of January 16th: "…they expect
miracles from our determined and dignified Revolution."
We do not deny their right to expression, provided they do it
with respect for the law. In the face of such an expression we can
neither be extremists nor naives. When the motivation is despair due
a personal problem or the lack of information, we should be patient
and offer the necessary arguments.
But if anyone intends to put pressure motivated by their wishes
to be in the limelight or by ambition, demagoguery, opportunism,
simulation, arrogance or any other human weakness of a similar
nature, we must face them resolutely, avoiding offense but calling a
spade a spade.
We should never forget that the enemy never sleeps, that it is
always willing to use our carelessness to do us harm, even if some
are bent on ignoring it.
We shall not avoid listening to everyone’s honest opinion, which
is very useful and necessary simply because of the sometimes
ridiculous noise made every time a citizen of our country says
something that the very noise makers would pay no attention to if
they heard it anywhere else on the planet.
We are aware that such messages are intended to mislead or at
least to create confusion; but in case anyone has had the outlandish
notion to scare us off with them, I shall say that the reason we are
still here --and we will continue to be here-- is that our people
and its Revolution have always faced up, without fear or hesitation
and with the truth, all sorts of aggressions by the greatest
military and economic power in the world.
Many examples could be offered; suffice it to mention the
incontrovertible dignity of our Five Heroes in their stance before
every attempt at breaking their will during a decade of unjust
I avail myself of the occasion to express my gratitude, on behalf
of our people, for the countless expressions of solidarity, respect,
affection, encouragement and legitimate concern over the leader of
the Revolution conveyed by Heads of State and Government, political
parties, non governmental organizations, outstanding intellectuals
and ordinary people from every corner of the world after the
publication of his Message last Tuesday. We shall never fail their
confidence in us.
At the same time, we take due notice of the offensive and overtly
interfering statements of the imperialists and some of their closest
As could be expected, the State Department hastily announced the
continuation of the blockade in accordance with the policy of the
Others, with certain nuances, are bent on conditioning relations
with Cuba to a "transition" process aimed at destroying the work of
so many years of struggle.
Little do they know our people, so proud of its full sovereignty
The Revolution is the work of free men and women and it has been
permanently opened to debate; but it has never given an inch to
pressures nor has it ever been influenced by them, whether big or
I shall only add that Fidel’s Reflections, published on Friday,
are a masterly response to all of them.
As for the difficulties the country faces domestically, the
decision on their priorities and the pace of their solution will
invariably be linked to the available resources and the deep,
rational and collective analysis made by the corresponding Party,
State or Government institutions. In those cases where it is deemed
necessary, there will be a previous consultation with the people in
the corresponding sector of society, or even with the entire people,
if it were a very transcendental issue.
Some things need time for they should be thoroughly studied since
a mistake brought about by improvisation, superficiality or haste
could have substantial negative consequences. Good planning is most
important for we cannot spend more than we have. Then we should
organize things well, and work in an orderly and disciplined
fashion; this is fundamental.
When discussing these issues we should always bear in mind
Fidel’s deep conviction, reiterated in his Message of February 18th,
that "…the present problems of the Cuban society require more
variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess
game. We cannot ignore one single detail; this is not an easy path
to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary
society is to prevail over instinct."
I insist on the importance of discipline. We must all be
demanding and back up those who are. If it were necessary, we should
help them improve their methods and support them resolutely before
You should understand that I am not talking of acting with
extremism or of accepting abuse of authority or injustices; what I
mean is that we should all do what corresponds in the strengthening
of discipline and social order. If we don’t do it our people stand
to suffer the consequences.
It is true that there are objective limitations; we know them
well and we suffer daily trying to solve them as soon as possible.
We are aware of the enormous efforts required by the strengthening
of the economy, which is an unavoidable premise to advance in any
other area of society, given the real war waged by the United States
administration against our country.
Their intention has not changed from the triumph of the
Revolution, i.e. to make our people suffer as much as possible in
order to force it to abandon its decision to be free.
This is a reality that far from intimidating us should continue
making us stronger. Instead of using it as an excuse for our
mistakes, it should serve as encouragement to produce more and to
offer better services, to make efforts to find the ways and means to
remove any deterrent to the productive forces and to the
exploitation of the significant potential offered by savings and by
the correct organization of labor.
From the days of the independence wars until the present, our
history teaches us that the greater the difficulties the greater the
need for order, discipline and unity. The lacks of cohesion as well
as disorder and impunity have always been among the worst enemies of
a fighting people.
I repeat that the country’s priority will be to meet the basic
needs of the population, both material and spiritual, based on the
sustained strengthening of the national economy and its productive
basis without which, I’ll say it again, development would be
An example of this is the measures proposed to increase the
agricultural and livestock production and to better their marketing,
which have been analyzed in every province by a large representation
of those in charge of implementing them, including the producers
Thus, we shall continue to act with regards to every issue of
cardinal importance for the country.
We are examining, for instance, everything related to the timely
implementation of comrade Fidel’s ideas on "the progressive, gradual
and prudent revaluation of the Cuban peso," exactly as he said it on
March 2005. At the same time, we keep delving into the phenomenon of
the double currency in the economy.
These are all very sensitive and complex issues when, as in our
case, there is a firm willingness to protect and to steadily
increase the incomes and savings of the population, particularly of
those least favored.
To avoid traumatic effects or inconsistencies, any changes
related to the currency shall be made with a comprehensive approach,
mindful, among other things, of the wage system, the retail prices,
the entitlements and the subsidies running in the millions presently
required by numerous services and products distributed on an
egalitarian basis, such as those provided by the ration card which
under the present conditions of our economy become irrational and
It is our strategic objective today to advance in an articulate,
sound and well-thought out manner until the wages recover their role
and everyone’s living standard corresponds directly with their
legally earned incomes, that is, with the significance and quantity
of their contribution to society.
As Fidel pointed out in his Reflection of January 16th:
"…nor should we give away anything to those who could be producing
and who don’t produce, or who produce very little. Reward the merits
of those who work with their hands or their minds."
We are simultaneously studying other issues following a priority,
and the pace of progress will depend on their complexity and the
We have the basics to find the best possible solutions within our
material possibilities and organizational capabilities, which shall
continue to grow: an educated people, with a high political culture
and firmly united under the principles summed up by comrade Fidel in
his Reflections of January 24th, when he said:
"For me, unity means sharing in the struggle, the risks, the
sacrifices, the aims, ideas, concepts and strategies assumed after
discussion and analysis. Unity means a common struggle against
annexationists, quislings and corrupt individuals who have nothing
in common with a militant revolutionary," end of quote.
I insist on what I said here during the previous session of this
Assembly: "For the enormous possibilities of this unity to turn into
tangible results, it is indispensable that all the institutions and
organizations work with the necessary integration."
Institutionalization, --I repeat-- institutionalization is an
important support of this decisive purpose and one of the pillars of
the Revolution’s invulnerability in the political field; therefore,
we must work for its continued improvement. We should never believe
that what we have done is perfect.
Our democracy is as participatory as few others are, but we
should be aware that the functioning of the State and Government
institutions is not yet as effective as our people rightfully
demand. This is something we should all think about.
On December, I referred to the excess of prohibitions and
regulations, and in the next few weeks we shall start removing the
most simple of them. Many had had the purpose of preventing the
emergence of new inequalities at a time of general shortages, even
when that meant relinquishing certain incomes.
The suppression of other procedures, even if they might sound
simple to some, will take more time for they require a more
comprehensive study and changes of certain legal regulations, in
addition to the fact that some of these are influenced by measures
taken against our country by successive U.S administrations.
Changing subject, there is also the tendency to apply the same
recipe everywhere. As a result of this --and this is perhaps its
worst consequence-- many believe that the solution of every problem
demands a national measure.
In many respects, local initiative can be effective and viable;
this much has been proven with the direct distribution of milk, as I
said last July 26th. This experience has already been
extended to 64 municipalities from 13 provinces in the country; 40
of them are completely applying this system. We are also advancing
in the remaining municipalities and in the dairy industry.
In addition to ensuring prompt and proper distribution of this
essential product, which is the main objective, in the last few
months of this past year said program allowed us to save more than 6
thousand tons of powder milk whose purchase would have cost in
excess of 30 million USD, at the average price in the period of 5
thousand USD a ton.
Additionally, the hard currency expenses were reduced in 2.6
millions, including in this figure the cost of 600 thousand litters
Other examples could be taken from the most diverse sectors;
therefore, we must continue to think of similar solutions at all
levels of the administration.
On a day like this, in 1895, responding to a call from Martí, the
Old and the New Generations resumed the struggle for the
independence thwarted by the United States military intervention.
Half a century later, we again managed to be united and to fight
against the same enemy.
It was not by chance that this date was chosen, 50 years ago, for
the first broadcasting by Radio Rebelde on the Sierra Maestra, nor
that this was the date in 1976 when we proclaimed our Socialist
On this 113th anniversary of the Necessary War, we are
faced with many really difficult challenges. In order to face them,
let’s bear in mind what Fidel wrote in his Reflections published
last December 10th, when he alerted us:
"For every Cuban, Martí’s frowning countenance and Maceo’s
withering look point to the arduous path of duty, not to a more
Thank you, very much.