Key Note Address given by General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, at the ceremony celebrating the 56th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks, at Major General Calixto García Square, Holguín, July 26, 2009, "Year of the 50th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution"
Combatants of July 26th of 1953 (Applause), of the Rebel Army, the clandestine struggle and the glorious internationalist missions (Applause);
Families of the fallen;
Men and women of Holguín (Applause); Compatriots:
We might well begin by asking a question, purely as a matter of personal curiosity. You all know that I come from these parts (Applause and exclamations), and so I have the right to wonder, to want to know, if it is possible, which fellow citizen of this province had the idea of having us standing with the sun right behind us (Laughter), it doesn’t bother me, but I’m sure that none of you can see me; if anything, a shadow: that’s me (Applause).
For such reasons, during this commemoration of the 56th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks, my speech will by very short, keeping in mind the high temperatures that have been a feature of our summer this year, even though we are starting earlier than usual –at 7:00 a.m. – and being aware of the fact that all of you have been here from six in the morning, that most of you walked here from your homes (Applause), and that last night, as I saw briefly on TV, you were celebrating exactly this anniversary. Besides, that sun over there, we don’t know who it was that placed in front of you.
Again, for such reasons, I shall be brief. Very soon, in the next few days, we shall be having important meetings that will serve as more fitting scenarios to delve into complex matters.
The first of these will be the Council of Ministers, the day after tomorrow, dedicated to the analysis of the second adjustment to the planned outlays for this year, as a result of the effects of the world economic crisis on our economy, especially the significant reduction of income from exports and the additional restrictions to gain access to foreign funding sources.
As you know, for 11 days I have been on a tour of friendly countries in Africa. Also, until just recently, I chaired the Non-Aligned Movement. I have handed over that responsibility to the president of Egypt.
I have very little available time for I am bound by these meetings and the important subjects about which I am informing you.
The day after that Council of Ministers’ meeting, on July 29th, we shall be holding the seventh Plenary of the Party Central Committee, during which, for an entire day, according to the agenda, we shall be making a deep analysis of some crucial issues related to the national and international situation.
Furthermore, the ordinary session of the National Assembly of the Peoples’ Power has been called for August 1st. There we shall debate, among other issues, the draft legislation on the Comptroller General of the Republic. That entity will contribute to raise the demands on compliance with legislation in effect and on matters of control by all the leadership structures in the nation.
AWARD FOR EFFORT AND WORK ACCOMPLISHED
This year the choice of the location for the central ceremony for July 26th did not strictly follow the established indicators. It would have been illogical to base ourselves only on the level of fulfillment of those indicators when, since September, after the devastation caused by the hurricanes, it became clear that in much of the country it would simply be impossible to attain them.
Don’t forget that the damages, as we then informed in our parliament --without saying that they are all perfectly settled or accounted for-- reached the figure of approximately 10 billion dollars, the equivalent of 20% of the Gross Domestic Product; in other words, the value of everything we did in terms of work and production during that past year.
Therefore, when the Politburo determined that Holguín would be the venue and awarded the position of “outstanding” to Villa Clara, Granma and Ciudad de La Habana, it considered all that was achieved during the first months of the year in more or less normal conditions, and above all the efforts made by the provinces to face up to the meteorological phenomena with the least possible number of lives and material resources lost and particularly in the work of recovery.
Holguín played a major role in all of that. It is a large province, with more than one million inhabitants and a remarkable share of the national economy because of the nickel industry, the third tourism development area in the country and other important productions located there. It is an award for effort and for work accomplished.
Therefore, we congratulate the men and women of Holguín (Applause); comrade Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (Applause), first party secretary in the province at that difficult time and in previous years, which were also years of intense work. We extend our congratulations to comrade Jorge Cuevas Ramos (Applause), coming from Las Tunas, a province that was also heavily battered by Hurricane Ike and who, since his election to lead the Party in Holguin, has displayed an enthusiastic and active work.
We also congratulate the “outstanding” provinces, without forgetting to recognize the effort made by all others, that is, by the compatriots in the western part of Cuba, in Pinar del Rio and on the Isle of Youth (Applause), who faced up to extremely serious damages, as well as the people of Camagüey and Las Tunas provinces, especially the people of Santa Cruz del Sur and Guayabal. These towns were severely affected and in some cases sustained almost total destruction (Applause).
A PEOPLE EDUCATED IN GENUINE SOLIDARITY
I have only mentioned a few of the places that suffered the greatest destruction. These have really been difficult months of hard labor from one end of the country to the other. In the entire country we have seen our people’s capacity to resist, organize and show solidarity. The examples abound of how we should work in such times.
That was the conduct of the vast majority of the compatriots in this province as they were hit by Hurricane Ike and in the following months. Everywhere else, people followed suit.
Many comrades stayed mobilized far from their families, even when more than a few of them were also suffering from limitations, very often put up in shelters because they had totally or partially lost their homes.
They trusted the Revolution and carried out the assigned task, aware of its importance and confident that their loved ones would not be left helpless.
Likewise, the massive willingness to give shelter in their homes to neighbors whose homes were unsafe, an attitude that has become a daily occurrence before different kinds of adversities, speaks volumes of our people’s humane quality.
Our people are educated with those values, in a genuine sense of solidarity; they share what they have with their brothers and sisters, be they Cubans or from other lands; they share not what they have aplenty, because here there is nothing aplenty but problems. (Applause)
By that same measure, the Cuban people are thankful for the help, the generous gestures and the support received from many corners of the globe. I take advantage of the occasion to acknowledge the noble and honorable work of the Interreligious Foundation Pastors for Peace (Applause), and its leader, the Reverend Lucius Walker (Applause) and the members of the 20th US-Cuba Friendship Caravan (Applause), along with the “Venceremos” Brigade --which has reached its 40th anniversary-- some of whose members are here with us today (Applause).
DAMAGES TO HOMES ARE A VERY SERIOUS MATTER
Damages to homes are a very serious matter. Just in the province of Holguin almost 125,000 were affected; about one-half of them have been restored.
On a national level, if one adds to those damaged by these three hurricanes, those still awaiting solutions from previous years, especially at the beginning of the century for similar reasons of hurricane damage, by the end of 2008 the total came to more than 600,000; that was the reason I warned that it would need time to radically change that situation.
The state entities, labor collectives and even the neighbors have made efforts worthy of recognition. It is significant that up to July 20th, 43% of the problems had been solved, that is, more than 260,000 homes.
Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done. Moreover, it is necessary to avoid accumulation of such enormous figures again in the future, bearing in mind that because of the climate change many scientists are forecasting that hurricanes could be more intense and frequent.
BEING ABLE TO PREVENT AND CONFRONT DROUGHTS
By the same token, we are working to be ready to prevent and to face up to the effects of recurring periods of drought, always more extended and intense, by the means of different measures, among them the decanting of water, even from one province to another.
Let’s not forget the three difficult years of droughts lasting from the beginning of the century until 2005, when it was necessary throughout the country to carry the water even by railways and using all kinds of vehicles and containers to close to three and a half million Cubans (Applause).
That’s why in various places we are building these strategic decanting systems that will allow us to take the precious liquid from one province to another.
As you know, this monumental work began here in Holguin, where we have the paradox of the province with the greatest rainfall on the island –over there on the border of Baracoa, Guantanamo province– neighboring one of the most arid; a few years ago this endangered the water supply to this city’s population.
In the next few days –we were going to start today at the end of this event ceremony but for the reasons I mentioned earlier in my speech, we shall be doing it later in the month of August– we shall formally inaugurate the first stage of the East-West decanting system (Applause) that includes the Nipe dam pipeline –over there by the river of the same name, in Mayarí Municipality – to the Gibara dam – not close to the city of Gibara, further north, but one that is here, closer to the city of Holguin, to the east of that one.
In other words, the Nipe Dam to Gibara and from there, downstream, by the river, I think of the same name, the Colorado Dam, which is further north, and from this Colorado Dam going backwards, but to the north, using another pipeline that has already been built, right up to the El Naranjo dam, with a capacity of some 11 or 12 million cubic meters, which is often dry, and that supplies that area and the tourist resorts of Guardalavaca where in those dry years we were forced to close down some hotels.
This costly work –and it’s just the beginning – already constructed and in use, ensures the steady supply of water to the northern region of Holguin, including its capital.
The construction of the project, now in an advanced stage, includes building the Melones dam which, to be more exact, I propose be called Mayarí, after the river feeding it (Applause), whose levee –the only one of its kind built in Cuba with that technology –will be completed by April 2011, even though it will start storing water from next year, 2010.
The Nipe dam, with about 130 million cubic meters, had been built 25 years ago but was not being properly used.
On the occasion of the inauguration of the first stage I just mentioned that same month, that is, the East-West decanting system, there will be an extensive TV report about this huge work of great significant to us that will also explain the whole water decanting system between provinces that is currently under construction.
It is a program for the present but above all for the future when water will be an ever more scarce resource, especially on an island as long and narrow as ours, where the precious liquid is lost in rapid spillage into the sea.
I have only mentioned one stage of this program which covers a great part of the country, from Sancti Spíritus in the central portion of the island, all the way to Guantánamo. In the latter of these provinces, during the first semester of next year, specifically in the fertile Caujerí Valley, they will start receiving water by gravity via tunnels that cut through the mountains –in this case constructed by our armed forces; this will bring a considerable saving of fuel when the expensive pumping of water will be terminated.
We are also working on the rehabilitation of the aqueduct network and the sewer and drainage systems in this province, among these the municipalities of Cacocum, Urbano Noris and specific actions in Frank País, Gibara and Banes. In the city of Holguín, 114 kilometers of network have been built, with 21,620 connections to homes, for the benefit of 86,400 people.
With the arrival of new equipment in the coming months the pace of work will increase in Holguin where there is already one of three factories producing the necessary pipes in various sizes. As you know, a costly investment is underway that will definitively bring a solution to the water supply problem to the city of Santiago de Cuba; this will be completed in 2010. And in 2011, we foresee the conclusion of the El Cristo and El Cobre aqueducts in that Santiago municipality, while the Palma Soriano aqueduct is under study.
TURNING TO THE LAND TO MAKE IT MORE PRODUCTIVE
On another subject, --one of the few I’m planning to deal with this morning-- on July 26, 2007, in Camagüey, I referred to the overriding necessity of turning to the land to make it more productive. At the time, almost half of the arable land was either idle or underexploited. At that time we made a call to generalize as quickly as possible and in an organized way every experience of the outstanding producers in the state and private sectors, and to stimulate their hard work, along with solving once and for all the harmful State defaults in this sector.
The leasing of lands is advancing at a satisfactory pace, even though there are still shortcomings in some municipalities. Of the more than 110,000 applications filed, close to 82,000 have been approved up to the present, covering some 690,000 hectares, which is 39% of the fallow land.
It seems too little to me; and I’m not talking of rushing out to distribute land without any controls. But it should be done more efficiently, in an organized way, for it is a task of prime strategic priority. One of the speakers preceding me here already said that it is a matter of national security to produce everything that can be grown in this country and that we are spending hundreds of millions and billions of dollars to bring from other countries –and this is no exaggeration.
The land is right here! Here are the Cubans! Let’s see whether we can work or not, whether we produce or not, whether we keep our word or not! It isn’t a matter of shouting “Patria o Muerte!”, “Down with Imperialism!” (Applause); the blockade is battering us and the land is there, waiting for our sweat. Even though the heat is ever more intense, we have no other option than to make it produce. I think we all agree on this (Exclamations of: Yes!” and applause).
Flying over the length and breadth of this country, especially by helicopter, sometimes I order the pilot to go off course and circle over some village, city, etc. I can assure you that in most of them, there is more than enough land, and it is good soil, right by our front doors, and it is not being farmed: and that’s where we are making the plan to move forward, with intensive farming, irrigating wherever possible with the water we have and where there are resources to do so. If one day there is not enough fuel in this quickly changing and crazy world, let’s make sure that our food is at hand, that we can bring it in a wagon drawn by horses or oxen, or even pushing it along with our own hands (Applause).
Almost half of the already leased lands have been declared free of marabú and other undesirable plants and weeds and nearly 225,000 hectares have been planted, that is, one third.
We cannot rest while there is one single hectare of idle land while somebody willing to make it produce is awaiting an answer.
The land that is not good to grow food must be used to plant trees, something that is also a great wealth. I have personally experimented for many years, especially in the last few years, planting small forests, and I have had the pleasure and the satisfaction of seeing them grow; and, depending on the type of tree, sometimes in five years I have created a small forest with several hundreds of different kinds of trees. But every time we speak of this subject, the officials from the Ministry of Agriculture –of this one and all the other preceding ministers of agriculture– come up with an unending list of millions of pesos or hard currency they request for the task, and say that without a plastic bag nothing can be planted. I don’t know what the devil our grandfathers planted trees with (Laughter and applause), and here they are, and here we are eating the mangos that they planted (Applause).
We are not educating children to love trees and to plant some –wherever there is land, of course – in their journey through primary, secondary and pre-university schools. Some youth leaders are listening to me here today; but trees can be planted by “golden age” youth like myself, I mean, it’s not just a job for the young (Applause).
The results of milk stockpiling are encouraging; it has grown by more than 100 million liters annually in the last two years; from 272 million in 2006, to 403 in 2008, and this year everything seems to point to an even greater increase. I spoke about this subject on a day like today at Camagüey, in 2007.
I have touched very briefly on two aspects of the crucial subject of food production which is extremely important for the replacing of imports, as I was saying, as well as the reduction of expenses in the country’s hard currency.
OUR PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF TRIUMPH OVER ALL DIFFICULTIES
Although still insufficient, the progress made despite the deficit in material and financial resources confirms the enormous potential that we still have to exploit in agriculture and in every area of the economy.
The modest results confirm, once again, our optimism and confidence that “Yes, we can!”, and that our heroic people are capable of triumph over all difficulties, no matter how great (Applause).
This is a undoubtedly a huge challenge, in the midst of the economic blockade and many other aggressions conceived precisely to prevent the development of the nation.
Our people have never faltered when the Homeland has called on them. They have always said “Present!” from the days of the Mambi troops of Calixto Garcia, the general of the three wars; the one with the star on his forehead who chose to take his own life rather than falling prisoner; the son of a heroic mother; the man who fought many thousands of much better armed soldiers on these lands; and much more than that, the man who fought the best army ever sent by the Spanish metropolis to the Americas.
And along with the Liberation Army the population endured, stoically and without letting up in the struggle, the countless hardships caused by the war and the cruel repression by the colonial authorities. That is our lineage and we shall continue being faithful to its legacy (Applause).
With the monolithic unity of our people, its most powerful weapon forged in the crucible of struggle under the leadership of the Chief of the Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz (Applause), no matter how great the difficulties and the dangers: We shall carry on! (Applause)
Glory to the martyrs of the Homeland! (Exclamations of “Glory!”)
Viva Fidel! (Exclamations of “Viva!”)
Viva Cuba Libre! (Exclamations of “Viva!”)