Speech by Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba during the closure of the Ninth Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power’s Sixth Ordinary Period of Sessions, at the Convention Center, December 17, 2020, Year 62 of the Revolution
Dear Army General Raúl Castro Ruz and compañeros of the Historic Generation;
Compañero Esteban Lazo, President of the National Assembly of People’s Power and of the Council of State;
Cuba is honored to have compañero Gerardo Hernández Nordelo as a member of our Council of State, today, six years since his return to the homeland. (Applause)
A year ago, from this same podium, we said: They threw us to our death and we are alive! We imagined, at the time, that nothing could be worse than that escalation of measures to tighten the imperialist blockade and attack the sources of our energy supply, our medical brigades and any option of financing.
Until 2020 arrived, a year that has been as hard and challenging as few others, a product of the startling COVID-19 pandemic that, suddenly, and for months, closed the doors on our economy and life itself.
Everything was worse, since its impact was universal and reached unbearable levels, with the opportunistic tightening of the U.S. blockade, definitive proof of the maliciousness of our adversaries.
They insisted on trying to kill us; but we insisted on living and winning. Cuba Viva (alive) rose above our own possibilities.
This is the destiny of our people, growing in the face of challenges. This is in the genes of the Cuban nation, forged in the resistance and rebellion of slaves who refused to be enslaved and the will of immigrants full of dreams; this is the legacy of our independence leaders who burned their riches in the fire of Revolution, of the mothers who bore their children amidst the battle, and the strong creole identity that matured over the long years during which the homeland was only free in the scrub. It lies in the successive generations that shed their blood and planted seeds in unequal fights in the streets and mountains, until victory.
There is no way to explain the existence of the Revolution, its victory and survival in the face of appalling attacks and painful abandon, without citing these essences which we are reminded of everyday by a history of so many heroes and heroines per inhabitant that they are difficult to count.
But the example is contagious. Over these months of pandemic, we have witnessed heroic feats on a daily basis by persons of all ages and trades, men and women, young and old. Even our children have responded, becoming exemplary educators of their parents when it came to using a facemask, handwashing and physical distancing, the three pillars of individual responsibility in this common battle.
I would like to say here, today, that every hour of these months of confronting COVID-19 has been one of growth and learning. There were tense, exhausting days, but we never felt discouraged, thanks, above all, to the people.
Discouragement was not an option in the face of such heroism, not on the part of one person or one group, but of an entire nation. And this heroism pulled us along, constantly, inspiring us to give more, do more, ashamed when our bodies demanded rest.
Enduring scarcities of all kinds, weary of long lines, temporarily abstaining from celebrations and sharing an embrace, Cuban men and women faced the most challenging tests in the year 2020.
The new coronavirus was an enormous challenge in the context of the crisis imposed by the blockade. But we faced it without fear. He had less medicine, less food, less transportation, but also fewer infections, less sickness, and fewer deaths. This can only be explained by the fact that we have shown greater political will, more solidarity, and more social justice. More socialism.
In science and medicine, records were set in terms of dedication and both personal and collective sacrifice, which allowed the country to very quickly place itself among those that had gained control of the pandemic
To illustrate this with forceful figures: the country has tested 1,294,052 samples, identifying 9,771 positive cases, which unfortunately led to the deaths of 137 persons, for a mortality rate of 1.40, well below the worldwide rate of 2.25, and also below the region of the Americas at 2.54.
We are among the few countries in the world which have not recorded COVID-19 deaths of pregnant women, children or health workers.
Close to 90% of all those infected have recovered thanks to our strong treatment protocols, which are continually perfected. Intensive care units have not been overwhelmed. And along with providing medical attention, health professionals have worked on more than 800 research projects that have generated hundreds of scientific publications. More than a dozen Cuban bio-pharmaceuticals are used in treatment, while four candidate vaccines are undergoing trials and prototypes have been constructed for three models of ventilators which will be produced by our domestic industry.
Like our history, with centuries of struggle and resistance, our educational work and the model of human development chosen by the Revolution for our children, have placed us ahead of countries with similar or greater development in confronting the pandemic.
The natural talent of the people and Fidel’s visionary statement that we would become a country of men – and women – of science, but above all his idea put into practice with the political will to invest in areas as novel and practically exclusive to the First World, like genetic engineering, the neurosciences and the production of medicines, have allowed us to place ourselves in the vanguard of research on the pandemic, treatment protocols, and follow-up for the infected.
A humanist principle, inseparable from the Revolution, putting human life first in our society, is the foundation of our national strategy to combat the epidemic in Cuba and another 39 countries, where, over these months, some 3,000 Cuban professionals, in 53 brigades from the Henry Reeve Contingent, served.
The harassment, persecution, defamation and crude pressure tactics used by the current U.S. administration against other countries which received or simply requested support from the prestigious Contingent, are unprecedented.
But the Contingent’s work touched the countries where it was received so deeply that their gratitude led to the nomination of the Henry Reeve’s professionals for the Nobel Peace Prize, a candidacy that greatly honors a project of Fidel’s, in a world governed by self-interest and the rules of the market. This is recognition of our health workers’ dedication to saving lives, under the most difficult conditions and in the most remote areas, where no charity from their persecutors will ever arrive.
Without giving in to excessive optimism, always dangerous when it demobilizes action which must be maintained over time, we are passing all the pandemic’s tests, thanks to the people and the precise push of Science, a powerful, four-wheel drive motor, if you can forgive me the analogy.
Because, it must be said that the contributions of collective intelligence are not limited to the vital area of medicine and Public Health services. We are grateful that some of the most brilliant minds in our country remain alert and contributing via digital platforms, with critical insight, to the scientific analyses, which also from the economic point of view, as well as the social and historic sciences, must provide the country with the theoretical body of thought that is indispensable at this time, full of emergencies.
Nothing based on knowledge and commitment to the nation’s destiny that can contribute is insignificant or trivial. This is a sign that distinguishes the many Cubans who support the Revolution in all its efforts and want to help gain the prosperity that is still pending. And this helps those of us responsible for governing to make corrections on the go, something of which we are never ashamed and will never deny. We understand that studying, learning and making decisions based on collective wisdom, always takes us along more secure and just paths.
During the year 2020, we faced exceptional economic conditions. Any adjective would be insufficient to describe the atrocious combination of an ironclad blockade and the pandemic’s impact on the economy and society. We refer to the accumulated effects of the financial persecution and the barriers to any source of income in hard currency that have been opportunistically reinforced during the pandemic and the worldwide economic contraction it provoked, with the consequent interruption of tourist activity, one of the country’s principal sources of income; reduced imports; a decline in productive and service activity, in both the state and non-state sectors; and the additional health expenses beyond those foreseen in the plan: along with increased financing provided by the State Budget, among other factors.
Designing the Economic Plan for the year 2020, we foresaw achieving growth on the order of 1%, even under conditions of strong limitations. As has occurred in practically all regions and countries, COVID-19 obliged us to modify all of our projections.
The fact is that there will be no growth. As has been reported here, there will be a decline of around 11%.
The economy has fallen, but has not come to a halt. We have approved an Economic-Social Strategy and the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030, and studies were concluded on the implementation of monetary re-ordering, which will begin this coming January 1.
Within the worse context, important investments were made in our principal development efforts, including the housing program, with 47,400 dwellings finished; the tourism program, with 2,000 new hotel rooms; the first bio-electric power plant began operating in the country and investments in the water distribution system and food production, among others.
At the same time, 29 foreign investment projects were approved, involving 2.455 billion dollars – five of these in the Mariel Special Development Zone, the country’s important, strategic economic enclave, where companies from 21 countries and 11 multi-nationals operate. Fifty-five businesses have been approved there, involving a committed total of more than three billion dollars, generating 11,763 new jobs.
While insecurity associated with the pandemic’s evolution and its serious impact on the world economy predominated in the period during which the 2021 Economic Plan was crafted, expected next year is a gradual process of recovery, with growth of six to seven percent, which will require intense work by all economic actors. Achieving this objective requires that we control COVID-19, in order to avoid setbacks in the opening we have already begun in tourism and productive activity in general.
The country will continue working on our development. The investment plan has been increased by 22% as compared to the year 2020, with 60% of the resources concentrated in priority sectors: food production, medications; defense, tourism; renewable energy; the housing program, as well as cement and steel production plants.
Despite the contraction that this year has left us, we do not renounce achieving the projected growth in the second stage of the National Economic and Social Development Plan, which is the period from 2022 until 2026.
To do so, it is imperative to continue advancing more rapidly and with clear priorities in the implementation of the Economic-Social Strategy, and maintain control of inflation, to avoid its development beyond levels projected in monetary re-ordering plans; encourage the generation of new jobs, fundamentally in productive activity, which necessarily requires increased local development; prioritizing tourism, to support its gradual recovery and with an emphasis on supplying the retail sales market in national currency, especially high-demand products.
Likewise prioritized is the promotion of investments in the Mariel Special Development Zone and increased sales by domestic entities to the Zone, beyond what has been projected in the Plan, and the participation of domestic industries as suppliers for retail and wholesale sales in hard currencies.
In this context, it will be necessary to reduce the fiscal deficit projected, on the basis of greater efficiency in public spending and increased income for the State Budget.
With the beginning of monetary re-ordering, the year 2021 will be decisive in the economy’s gradual recovery, as we are able to create more favorable conditions for the development of the national productive sector.
These priorities are related to some of the advances achieved during this difficult year, such as territorial development programs, the management of science and innovation, the network of molecular biology labs, new authorities granted to the (state) enterprise system, the program for the advancement of women, the agricultural sales policy, the creation of technological poles and mercantile associations to serve as interfaces between universities and enterprises.
The direction of the economy has been designed on the basis of the principle of ensuring, as essential objectives, access to food, fuel, fertilizer and pesticides, medications, meeting the demands of defense, as well as the priority of obtaining financing for domestic industry, making a reality of our intention to avoid importing what we can produce efficiently within the country.
The guiding principle has been to introduce modifications to achieve greater flexibility, objectivity, and innovation in response to problems and the search for solutions.
Compañeras and compañeros:
The challenges of the time period we have evaluated today have been greater than any other, but we proposed, in the very year of the pandemic and the tightening of the blockade, to begin the implementation of monetary re-ordering and meet the intense legislative timeline established to give our Constitution practical strength.
The Ordering Task is, no doubt, the most complex economic task undertaken in recent years. But postponing it would be even more costly over time.
We follow carefully, with interest and respect, the concerns of the population, whose wellbeing we are working to construct. In an effort to respond to these concerns, ministers and specialists have explained, and will explain, more than once, in detail, the issues that may generate doubts, almost all as a result of the novelty of the process.
Concerns exist related to salaries and also regarding the cost of electricity. We could give a single answer, limiting our explanation to the maintenance of large subsidies for those sectors that consume less, but in the monetary ordering process no measure can be viewed without considering the national and global context, in which prices and access to fuel oblige less developed countries to adjust their consumption. We can state categorically that this not about a policy of shock therapy, or the freezing of bank accounts, that some insist on projecting. What needs to be reviewed will be reviewed, and what needs to be corrected will be corrected.
The Revolution insists on its unyielding principle that no one will be left unprotected.
It is true that we were obliged to resort to measures like the freely convertible currency stores, much-questioned but necessary to encourage remissions, channel them and resolve a contradiction repeatedly noted and criticized by economists and other experts, that is the escape abroad of hard currency through private buyers, that was draining the country’s limited income.
The solution was to attract these resources to the internal market and use the freely convertible currency income gained to cover the country’s expenses for food and fuel, at a time when we could not count on the arrival of tourists and the pandemic was taking an enormous toll on the meager capital available.
This has been explained more than once by Deputy Prime Minister Alejandro Gil Fernández: The vitality of our national electrical energy service and the minimum number of items included in the basic regulated basket, which no one can do without, could not be guaranteed without hard currency from national production and exports – that will not be recovered any time soon.
Surely many of you have noted the increasing manipulations and pressures employed to accuse Cuba of falling behind or stopping work on our legislative timeline. Some attempt to get ahead of the leadership of the Revolution, disregarding more than 60 years of struggle for the rights of women and against all types of discrimination and abuse, against violence and the exclusion of social sectors that before 1959 had no place in national politics.
During this session, in accordance with the Constitution’s transitional stipulations, two important laws have been approved, which will establish the norms required for the organization and functioning of local People’s Power bodies.
We appreciate that the two normative regulations are the product of the demanding work done by those charged with their elaboration, especially given the attention afforded the large number of opinions expressed during the consultations conducted both within the government and among municipal and provincial leaders, as well as deputies and academics.
As stipulated in both bodies of law, their contents will be evaluated by the National Assembly one year after their effective dates. Experience gained during implementation will allow us to make adjustments that may be needed, given the novelty of the institutions established.
With these laws, a total of six have been approved this year, meeting the agreed-upon legislative timeline, that we have now been obliged to re-adjust, and are a reflection of the effort made to comply in the difficult circumstances imposed by COVID-19.
Legislative activity, and in particular the work groups charged with crafting the draft proposals, have not been interrupted. In some cases, as a result of the complexity of the norms, expanded consultation was required and several items were corrected.
Normative creation, as you know, is not limited to laws. As has been discussed here, the Council of State this year approved 25 decree-laws, 11 of which were mandated in the established timeline, also a demonstration of the effort made in this regard.
The re-adjustment we have just approved is evidence of greater objectivity, a product of the experience acquired since the timeline’s approval by this Assembly.
In the case of the Family Code, we maintain the effort to make progress on all that is needed, despite the current circumstances. This norm, as we know, has broad impact in society and requires significant preparation, education and social consensus.
The work group, which is coordinated by the Minister of Justice and includes specialists in Family Law, psychologists, and researchers from various institutions, has conducted an arduous effort to define the fundamental policies.
Likewise, we have found ourselves obliged to re-schedule other norms, including some outlined in the Constitution’s transitional stipulations and others governing areas of interest to the population.
We want to reaffirm the firm intention of preserving the objective of having available all the legal norms necessary to implement the new Constitution and avoid any future legal vacuum.
Under the exceptional conditions imposed on us by the pandemic, we have worked hard to advance the discussion and approval of laws directed toward deepening social justice and strengthening our State of Law. And we will demand more intensity in order to comply with the mandate to put the Constitution into effect.
With the constant insistence of Army General Raúl Castro Ruz leading this process, our Party and government have given the greatest priority to completing the tightly scheduled, complex program, on which we will work until there are no more consultations to be conducted and all points of view have been considered, the opinions and assessments, often contradictory, of the majority of the population. This is not something we take lightly, since we would be violating the spirit of our Magna Carta.
Legislating is a very serious act, a determining factor in the destiny of all citizens. It is up to us to do so in the least amount of time possible, but always, in the first place, based on the premise that we are an assembly free of pressure from lobbyists. We are the Assembly of the Cuban people and are bound by their demands and their timetables. No one else.
Moving to issues on the international agenda, we must also emphasize the singular, unexpected impact of the pandemic, which exacerbated the contradictions already existent in the world and the tensions of a global economy tending toward deceleration of production and commercial activity.
As has occurred in similar historical conjunctures, the weight of the crisis was borne by the most disadvantaged and dispossessed, who, in the majority of countries, have suffered a worsening of their difficulties, while poverty in general increased, along with inequality and social polarization.
Incredibly, the largest fortunes on the planet, enjoyed by a very few, have obtained unprecedented profits. And, as opposed to the majorities, their prospects for the coming year are no less promising.
The general impact of the readjustments already experienced will continue worsening, raising broad questions about when and how manufacturing production and the provision of services in large economic centers and developing countries will recover, with uncertainty regarding commercial trade, employment and financial stability.
The markedly aggressive and unilateral foreign policy of the United States in recent years has aggravated threats to peace, security and multilateral, regional and international mechanisms, which for decades, despite limitations, had sustained a system of international relations with cooperation and international law as reference points for interaction between nations.
For Cuba and most countries, possibilities for direct interchange were reduced. International meetings were obliged to resort to virtual deliberations, with the use of communications technologies, which introduced a novel way to conduct bilateral diplomacy, but limited the irreplaceable effect of personal interaction in developing mutual understanding, building trust, and the possibility of thoroughly discussing sensitive issues.
In this challenging context, without setting aside any of our priorities, the country continued strengthening and developing our relations with the international community, on the basis of the principles contained in the United Nations Charter, struggling in support of peace and protection of the environment; promoting the postulates of the Non-Aligned Movement; and untiringly committed to unity and integration of Latin American and Caribbean peoples.
We demonstrated the capacity to sustain and take to new regions our solidary cooperation, a cornerstone and distinguishing characteristic of our foreign policy.
Sooner or later, the history of this disastrous pandemic and its global impact will be written. If it is written honestly, it will be impossible to overlook the role of Cuba and the thousands of Cubans who voluntarily traveled to other lands to confront the danger and honor the Hippocratic Code that accompanies our dedicated health workers in their consciences and hearts.
Additionally, we adopted measures to protect and support Cuban citizens who found themselves abroad. Toward this end, and given the need to respect rigorous preventative protocols and physical distancing, we promoted the completion of consular processes virtually. Despite the necessary cancellation of flights over a period of approximately seven months, the organization of 94 charter flights was supported, which allowed for the return to Cuba of more than 5,000 compatriots from 56 countries, while at the same time exceptional measures were adopted including the automatic extensions of stays outside the country.
The will to continue strengthening ties between Cuba and our citizens abroad is
A few days ago, December 8, we held the Seventh Caricom-Cuba Summit, confirming the consolidation of the close relations we share with our Caribbean brothers, based on mutual support, cooperation and solidarity in the face of challenges we must confront in the unjust, unequal international system.
In these times, when cooperation is even more necessary, we proudly share the willingness and dedication of our doctors and health professionals who have offered services in all nations of the Caribbean Community and, for the first time, also in five non-independent territories. We are grateful for the solidarity and respect the Caribbean has shown Cuba and staunchly defend the mutual friendship.
Some days later, we held the XVIII ALBA-TCP Summit, where we reaffirmed our rejection of imperialism’s interventionist conduct in the hemisphere and attempts to impose the Monroe Doctrine, while at the same time we confirmed our support for the Bolivarian Chavista Revolution and the government of the sister nation of Nicaragua, while also celebrating the return of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to this organization.
The current U.S. administration – the twelfth since the triumph of the Revolution – is about to reach its fourth and final year. Committed to the country’s most rabid sectors of anti-Cubans, this government has unleashed a sordid war against Cuba during this period, with the absurd pretension of bringing us to our knees, breaking the Revolution’s resistance, and obliging us to make concessions both in our foreign policy and our internal reality. Its failure has been complete and obvious.
Nonetheless, the consequences for our economy and its impact on daily life and the wellbeing of millions of Cubans have been far-reaching. The economic war has been maliciously directed against out fuel supply, with measures of a non-conventional nature, inappropriate in peacetime. The objective of strangulating the country’s economic performance has been clearly stated and there were individuals openly counting our days.
Additional measures adopted increased the already devastating impact of the blockade to a qualitatively higher level.
The use of the Helms-Burton Act’s Title III to punish and threaten those who legitimately traded with or invested in Cuba; the attacks on remissions; the elaboration of spurious lists to apply additional restrictions on the Cuban enterprise system; added limitations to the already reduced options for travel; the criminal persecution of our fuel suppliers; the disruption of our financial transactions in any corner of the world; and the campaign pressuring third countries to refrain from seeking our medical cooperation, even when they truly needed it, are actions that bear the stamp of Trump and the cohort of extremists who unscrupulously govern that country today.
In our national news media and multilateral forums, we have explained in great detail what this war has cost the island, a war which the United States has purposefully and brutally escalated within the context of the pandemic.
As we have said, this is something Cubans cannot forget. The truth cannot be concealed: the economic blockade is morally and legally unsustainable. This is understood by numerous politicians in the United States with whom we have interacted over the years, and we are surprised that anyone can still argue to the contrary.
No government can justify from an ethical point of view that the vast economic and technological strength of a superpower, like the United States, can be deployed over 60 years to subject to economic strangulation a relatively small nation with limited natural resources.
It can be argued that there are political differences between our two governments. and clearly there are. We have extensive differences and concerns about what happens in the United States. But this does not give this country the right to attempt to impose its will by force on this people, in this land. We have shown a singular capacity for resistance and maintain our firm determination to reject this effort.
We insist on our conviction that it is possible to construct a respectful, stable relationship between the two nations, and, as has been stated with sufficient clarity, we are willing to discuss any issue whatsoever. What we are not willing to negotiate, what we will not concede, in the slightest, is the Revolution, socialism, our sovereignty. Our principles will never be on the table!
Surely we will not forget that this complex situation, which we have described, coincided with an election period in our neighbor to the North. And Cuba once again became an issue on the domestic agenda there. Threats rained down; money rained down to promote what many thought would be the final blow for Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela in a presumed second term for the President, still in office. Or a situation of instability and tension that would prevent any return to dialogue in the event of a Democratic victory.
They came at us with everything, provocations by mercenaries related to fake strikes by artists seeking to attract public opinion and the intelligentsia to impose a dialogue camouflaged with this sector’s genuine concerns. But there were more non-artistic demands clearly meant to serve as a platform for confrontational projects previously organized, with the goal of creating a political opposition with no social base.
And as the backdrop, terrorist actions, fake news and threats of violence on the web. This is, in a few words, the outline of a not-so-soft coup, prepared for Cuba as the final reward in a difficult year. This has been explained in our media, courageously and in detail – the reason unsuccessful attempts have been made to discredit them on some platforms funded from abroad.
We have seen projected in real time the old and the new plans of U.S. special services against the Revolution, the product of NED and USAID leadership training courses, including the attention they hypocritically claim to display for the problems that affect and irritate the population, the majority caused by the cruel blockade imposed by the same government that exacerbates them with the goal of fostering discontent, but also by vacuums and errors in our institutions in terms of their indispensable links with those involved in related activities.
This is a disgraceful war, that disregards ethics and principles, and under the umbrella of prizes and other perks, via supposed NGOs and agencies dependent on foreign governments, finances groups and actions meant to vilify and weaken the state.
The “laboratory leaders” make a show of distancing themselves from the violence, disguising themselves as peaceful political negotiators and will try to impose their agendas, betting on a social explosion if their demands are not met. Under fire, meant to distract us from essential tasks, we must continue struggling for a better country, without tiring.
This is not the first time in history that the enemies of the Cuban Revolution attempt to opportunistically deliver blows, at a difficult moment for the economy and society. This is not the first time the wolves have disguised themselves as sheep and attempted to establish a beachhead. This is not the first time they have lied and presented to the world (an image of) our country far removed from reality.
The narrative is practically novel-like and there are plenty of media outlets with broad audiences to amplify it in both Spanish and English. They inflate the events so much that, at a time of so many challenges and emergencies, we run the risk of losing our focus on the issues that affect the very life of the nation, moving to the beat of those who want to destroy us.
This is not a government disconnected from the people, ensconced in offices. We regularly tour the provinces; we visit universities, research centers, factories, schools, hospitals, agricultural poles. There we have conversed with those who think and work as a country, with those who make it possible that, amidst attacks and the most trying difficulties, Cuba lives.
Don’t forget that, for every one person getting together on social networks based on hate, revenge, and the desire to damage a government, even though this means hurting an entire people, there are many more united in the passion to save it, move it forward and bring longed-for prosperity increasingly closer.
For the work of many Cuban structures, institutions and state agencies, this has been a year of crisis, as a result of COVID-19. A sanitary, economic, and productive crisis, but also a time to learn to better use the tools technology provides us and make progress in electronic government, which is still unacceptably slow and necessarily connected the concerns and questioning of citizens.
Also urgently needed is the promotion of deeper change at the structural level, to unleash the productive forces, corral bureaucracy and prevent corruption. It is up to all of us to facilitate the transformations speedily and intelligently. This is a challenge in which multi-disciplinary teams are participating, at this very moment, to ensure that every action is backed and guided by scientific criteria, and unfolds with the least amount of trauma possible.
We have indicated and demanded that all bodies and institutions must have – as priorities on their agendas – real, permanent ties with those they serve and the population in general.
Life has shown us many times that poor decisions, and the errors they lead to, can be corrected in a timely fashion if we keep our ears to the ground, which in this era means paying attention to the people’s heartbeat, be it in person, or virtually.
I have said and repeat: This is the synergy that is indispensable to the development of a participative society like ours. It is the contemporary expression of the effectiveness of genuine People’s Power.
Compañeras and compañeros:
Although we have taken more time today than on other occasions, there is one reflection I cannot refrain from sharing with you and our entire people. Beyond the manipulations on social networks, use of the media and formulas that are effective for sensitive, educated audiences, we ask ourselves: Why do they attack our culture?
It is not difficult to solve this mystery. In Cuba, culture and Revolution have been equivalent since the very origin of our nationality. It is enough to recall that October 20 when Perucho Figueredo wrote the words to the Bayamo Anthem on the flank of the horse which he rode into battle alongside Céspedes. Attacking culture, fracturing Cuban culture, is attacking the heart of the Cuban Revolution, attacking our national identity.
Who, if not our great intellectuals and artists, are the creators of the creed of rebellion and anti-imperialism? These are the men and women who always set the limits, with their ideas and works, for any dialogue that emerged, with a very well defined identity, standing up to an empire for independence and to any other for our sovereignty.
From their genius emerged a nation that defined its destiny with absolute loyalty to the political legacy of José Martí: anti-imperialist wherever one reads. A people that has challenged imperial powers and been brutally punished with the longest blockade in history, for their decision to conquer all justice, as a genuine aspiration, and construct socialism, with rifles held high and Fidel and Raúl in the vanguard, only 90 miles away.
The context is more complex and more aggressive than ever and we cannot be naïve. There is an annexionist legion that wants our project to fail, attempting to take advantage of our limitations and stop the transformations underway. The industry of counterrevolution handles lots of money and demands action from those who pay them. This is why the vandals put their violence on display and the terrorists are not ashamed to describe their operations.
The soft coup scenario remains active and the non-conventional war is testing the most diverse arenas as battlegrounds. New provocations are underway and we will again defeat them.
With unity, with coherence, with willpower, without fear, with the people, not waiting for instructions, without delay, with determination, at a firm pace, with intelligence, with decorum, with clarity and in accordance with our Constitution and the principles we defend, we can always triumph, and every day in a more decisive manner.
It is also our responsibility to assess the mistakes, the vacuums, the accommodations, the insensitivity, the formalism, the bureaucracy and inertia entrenched in some institutions.
Let us review, over and again, the concept of Revolution Fidel bequeathed to us, as well as his warning that only our own errors could lead to the self-destruction of the Revolution.
Strengthening the work of our government and institutions in direct interaction with the citizenry is a responsibility that was accentuated with the new Constitution.
Maintaining the living, continuously developing dialogue with youth, in all our institutions and at all levels, is vital for the nation. We have the duty and the responsibility to attract them, promote their personal and professional realization, their participation in important tasks, with respect for and attention to their proposals, as well.
Formality in responses to the population must be definitively eliminated, (we must) get to the bottom of issues and whenever possible, face to face. This is not only about listening and recording every complaint or proposal. It’s about responding effectively, without delay, whenever possible, with a solution.
This obligation must constantly take us to the grassroots, to listen, to attend, to guarantee citizen participation, without which socialist democracy makes no sense. The objective is to facilitate the performance of the essential roles of every entity.
Treating social problems coldly and formally betrays the essence of the popular participation we demand. It should be clear that problems must be faced and resolved by the institutions responsible for the area of action at issue.
Given its impact on the lives of all, and what it contributes to the country’s development, strengthening the economy is a national priority.
We can no longer postpone what the people have mandated during the last few Party Congresses. It is imperative to implement without delay all that remains pending, shake up the enterprise system, assure the (monetary) re-ordering, intelligently address increased prices.
We call, as well, on the very necessary private and cooperative sector. Needed is the uprooting of self-interest and the exclusive search for personal gain that move some to fish in the murky waters of the majority’s needs, abusively raising prices.
This honorable, hard-working people has survived all the empire’s sieges and abuses with an extraordinary dose of solidarity and generosity that are an inseparable part of our national being. Selfishness is not an attitude that prospers in our homeland.
Cuba belongs to everyone, some have declared these days, but it is not fitting to claim possession without attending to her needs. We do not insist that she belongs to us. Let us understand what it means to belong to her. “The homeland is an altar, not a pedestal,” José Martí said, making clear the deep differences between those who are willing to sacrifice to serve her and those who would like to make use of her or surrender her to another.
Political and mass organizations are called upon to be more proactive and inclusive. Never overlooking the important social component of their political-ideological efforts, working with everyone, not only the convinced, but also the apathetic, whose indifference is, to some degree, the responsibility of those of us who have not been able to engage them.
Addressing the debate without taking shortcuts and paying attention to social issues like marginality, dishonesty, vulgarity, addiction, dysfunctional families, the school dropout rate, the situation of the most vulnerable, femicide, discrimination of any kind and other problems that we can come face to face with any day on digital platforms, but not by way of the entities that should be getting their fingernails dirty in the ground.
Organizations are permanently called upon to take action in the streets. Not only to organize events and chant our slogans. You are called upon to work! Visit schools, neighborhoods, interact, get to know the problems and realities of our people.
We cannot allow three or four provocateurs to convert a community of ours into a media garbage dump, owned by those presenting it as the territory of people who hate the Revolution.
Cuban women and men:
Following such a challenging, difficult year, our people deserve to celebrate their accomplishments and their resistance in the best environments possible.
Let us work socially and inclusively on projects with families in our neighborhoods, infusing them with respect, identity and self-esteem, so that all our neighbors feel proud of their piece of the homeland, of their country, their government and their Revolution.
We have demonstrated the capacity to face all tests and challenges. We function in an organized manner and here we are. Once again we have dismantled and defeated the most perverse attempts by the empire to destroy the Revolution.
The people have grown during this so difficult 2020, which put to the test our resistance, our solidarity, our unity, but gave us great lessons. And gave us victory.
With this learning, an intense, challenging 2021 appears on the horizon, as a step toward surpassing our own limits along the path of betterment and continuity.
We must devote ourselves to making a reality of the conviction we share that the social justice project we have undertaken can be best supported by productive, efficient growth on the basis of our own actions.
During these final days of the year, of indispensable reunion to continue together “shoving the country,” as the poet wrote, we feel deeply the absence of beloved voices that for many years added to the Assembly’s analyses and debates the beauty and strength of ideas that are woven in the fabric of Cuban nationality, our sense of homeland, the common interests and dreams.
First of all, we recall Fidel, capable of raising, with his voice and ideas, the irrepressible thought of the nation confronting our adversaries. His chair remains here, immortalizing the unsurpassable legacy of political lessons he left us to be perpetually studied.
And more recently, we have missed one of his closest disciples and collaborators in the mission of talking with the people, in the seat at the side of the hall: Don Eusebio de La Habana, who always brought us the infinite richness of Cuban thought, on which his unforgettable oratory drew.
They remind us that all thinking is a seed. Thinking as a country is sowing and fertilizing the future.
We call on you to continue thinking and acting as a country to strengthen the certainty of victory and the creativity of our Cuba Viva, that has become the basic premise these days.
There continue to be reasons to celebrate – the harder the tests we overcome, the more reasons. Congratulations, Cuban women and men! We are Cuba Viva! We are the country that has toiled to resist and overcome the sieges, the most brutal, perverse attacks. And here we remain, living, resisting, creating, and winning.
Step forward, 2021! Cuba awaits you, alive and strengthened in the battles of the year that is ending. The sons and daughters of the Centenary Generation, with our people, have the duty, the commitment and the honor of giving continuity to the history that has brought us thus far. And our maxim continues to be:
Homeland or death!
We will triumph!
(Transcript: Presidency of the Republic/Translation: GI)