Raul Castro Speaks on Cuba’s Economic Reforms

President Raul Castro and First VP Machado Ventura at the Cuban parliament session. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 19 — President Raul Castro addressed the Cuban parliament on Saturday at the closing of a session dedicated to discuss the economic reforms the government has begun to implement that include the laying off of some 500,000 public employees by the end of March and expand the possibilities for self-employment and small business.

Castro acknowledged errors committed in running the country’s economy and said the reforms to be approved at the Communist Party Congress to be held April 16-19, “mark the beginning of the road to rectification”, noted IPS.

The president assured that the reforms are geared to moving the country towards greater socialism and not to the contrary as adversaries of the Cuban Revolution would prefer.

The following is the complete text (official government translation) of the speech by Cuban President Raul Castro.


Comrades all:

We have been meeting for several days now discussing extremely important matters for the future of the nation.  This time, in addition to our customary work in commissions, the deputies have met in plenary with the purpose of analyzing the details of the current economic situation, as well as the budgetary proposals and the economic plan for the year 2011.

The deputies have also devoted long hours to the thorough evaluation and clarification of some doubts and concerns about the Draft Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.

Our media has given a broad coverage to these discussions in order to make it easier for the general public to receive this information.

In spite of the impacts of the world crisis on the national economy, the irregular rainfall patter during the last 19 months -from November 2008 until June this year-, and without excluding our own errors, I can affirm that the performance of the 2010 economic plan could be deemed as acceptable considering the times we are living.  We will attain the goal of 2.1 per cent growth in the Gross Domestic Product, better known by its acronym (GDP); exports of goods and services have increased.  The annual forecast figure of foreign visitors has already been reached when the current year is not yet at a close.  Although once again we will not be able to meet the planned revenues goals, we have strengthened the domestic financial balance and, for the first time in several years, we are beginning to see a favorable dynamic, still somewhat limited, in work productivity as compared to average salary.

Withholdings of foreign transfers or, what amounts to the same thing, the restrictions we were forced to impose at the end of 2008 on payments from Cuban banks to foreign suppliers -which shall be totally suppressed next year- have continued to decrease.  At the same time, significant progress has been achieved in the rescheduling of our debt with our principal creditors.

Once again I would like to thank our commercial and financial partners for their confidence and understanding; I confirm to them our most steadfast intentions of punctually honoring our commitments.  The Government has given precise instructions to not take on new debts without guaranteeing their payment within the terms agreed upon.

As was explained by the Vice President of the Government and Minister of Economy and Planning, Marino Murillo Jorge, next year’s plan foresees a 3.1 per cent GDP growth, which should be reached in the midst of a scenario that is not any less complicated or tense.

The year 2011 is the first of five included in the midterm projection of our economy.  During this period we shall be gradually and progressively introducing some new structures and concepts in the Cuban economic model.

During the coming year, we shall decisively move on to reduce superfluous expenses, thus promoting the saving of all types of resources which, as we have said on several occasions, is the quickest and safest source of income at our disposal.

Likewise, we shall not overlook in the least the social programs in the areas of health, education, culture and sports; we would rather raise their quality, since we have identified enormous reserves of efficiency through a more rational use of the existing infrastructure.  We shall also be increasing exports of goods and services, while continuing to concentrate investments in those areas showing the quickest return on those.

Raul Castro, top, Parliament Chair Ricardo Alarcon left. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños Hernandez

Regarding the economic plan and the budget, we have insisted that the old story of non-compliances and overdrafts must come to an end.  The plan and the budget are sacred.  And I repeat, from now on, the plan and the budget will be sacred; they were drafted to be complied with, not to make us feel content with justifications of any sort or even with imprecisions and lies, whether deliberate or not, when the goals previously set are not met.

At times some comrades, although without a fraudulent purpose, contribute inaccurate information received from their subordinates without previously checking them and so they fall into unconscious lying.  But these false data could lead us to make wrong decisions with major or minor repercussions on the nation.  Whosoever acts in that manner is also lying, and whoever these persons may be they must be definitively and not temporarily removed from the position they hold and, after the analysis of the corresponding bodies, they must also be removed from the ranks of the Party, should they be a member of it.

Lies and their harmful effects have accompanied mankind since we learned the art of speech in ancient times, motivating society’s condemnation.  We recall that the eighth of the Ten Commandments of the Bible reads:  “Thou shalt not bear false witness or lie”.  Likewise, the three basic moral ethical principles of the Inca civilization stated as follows: do not lie, or steal, or be lazy.

We must struggle to eradicate, once and for all, lies and deceit from the cadres’ behavior at all levels.  No wonder Comrade Fidel in his brilliant definition of the concept of Revolution, pointed out, among other things: “…to never say a lie or violate ethical principles”.

After the publication of the Draft Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy on November 9th last, the train of the Sixth Party Congress has taken on steam, since now the true congress will be the open and honest discussions of said guidelines by Party members and the entire people.  This genuine democratic exercise will allow us to further enrich that document and, without excluding divergent opinions, achieve national consensus about the need and urgency of introducing strategic changes in the way the economy functions, with the purpose of making Socialism in Cuba sustainable and irreversible.

We should not be afraid of discrepancies of criteria and this instruction, which is not new, should not be interpreted as being limited only to the discussions of the Guidelines; the differences of opinion, preferably expressed in the right place, time and form, at the right moment and in the correct form, shall always be more desirable than the false unanimity based on pretense and opportunism.  Moreover it is a right nobody should be deprived of.

The more ideas we are capable of inspiring in the analysis of a problem, the closer we shall come to its correct solution.

The Economic Policy Commission of the Party and the 11 groups which make it up, have worked long months to draw up the abovementioned guidelines which, as we have explained, shall constitute the leitmotif of the Congress, based on the conviction that the economic situation is the most important task of the Party and the Government and the basic subject of cadres at all levels.

Closing of the parliament session at the Havana Convention Center. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños Hernandez

During the last few years we have been insisting that we could not let ourselves be carried away by improvising and hurrying in this area, bearing in mind the magnitude, complexity and the inter-relations of the decisions to be adopted.  For that reason I think that we did the right thing when we decided to defer the Party Congress even though we had to patiently resist the honest and also the ill-intended protests both inside Cuba and abroad urging us to rush into the adoption of a score of measures.  Our adversaries abroad, as we might expect, have challenged our every step, first by calling the measures cosmetic and insufficient and now trying to confuse public opinion by prophesizing a sure failure and concentrating their campaigns on the extolling of an alleged disappointment and skepticism with which they say our people have welcomed this draft.

Sometimes it seems that their most heartfelt wishes prevent them from seeing the reality.  By making their true desires evident, they blatantly demand that we dismantle the economic and social system that we created, just as if this Revolution was willing to submit to the most humiliating surrender or, what tantamount to the same thing, rule its own destiny by submitting to denigrating conditions.

Throughout 500 years, from Hatuey to Fidel, our people have shed too much blood to accept the dismantling of what we have built with so much sacrifice.

To those who may entertain those unfounded illusions, we must remind once and again what I said before this Parliament on August 1, 2009, and I quote: “I was not elected President to restore capitalism in Cuba nor to surrender the Revolution.  I was elected to defend, maintain and continue improving socialism, not to destroy it”, end of quote.

Today, I add that the measures we are implementing and all the modifications that need to be introduced to the updating of the economic model are aimed at the preservation of socialism by strengthening it and making it truly irrevocable, as was stated in the Constitution of the Republic at the behest of the vast majority of our population in the year 2002.

We have to put on the table all the information and arguments behind every decision and also suppress the excessive secrecy to which we became used to during these 50 years that we have lived under the enemy siege.  Any State must reasonably keep some matters secret; that is something nobody can deny.  But matters defining the political and economical course of the nation shall be no secret.  It is vital to explain, provide arguments and convince the people of the fairness, need and urgency of any measure, no matter how tough it appears to be.

The Party and the Communist Youth, as well as Cuba’s Workers’ Central and its unions, along with the rest of the mass and social organizations have the capacity to mobilize the support and the confidence of the people through debate, free from unviable dogmas and schemes that would put up a colossal psychological barrier that we need to dismantle little by little, and we shall do it together.

That is exactly the fundamental agenda that we have reserved for the National Conference of the Party to be held in 2011, after the Congress, at a date we shall set later.  On that occasion we shall analyze, among other matters, the modifications of the working methods and styles of the Party since, as a result of the deficiencies found in the performance of the Government administrative bodies,  the Party has engaged in the exercise of functions outside its duties, thus restricting and compromising its role as the organized avant-garde of the Cuban nation and the top leading force of society and the State, as established by Article Five of the Constitution of the Republic.

The Party should lead and supervise and not interfere with the activities of the Government at no level: it is the Government that governs.  Each body has its own norms and procedures, depending on their missions in society.

It is necessary to change the mentality of the cadres and of all other compatriots in facing up the new scenario which is beginning to be sketched out.  It is just about transforming the erroneous and unsustainable concepts about socialism, that have been deeply rooted in broad sectors of the population over the years, as a result of the excessively paternalistic, idealistic and egalitarian approach instituted by the Revolution in the interest of social justice.

Many of us Cubans confuse socialism with freebies and subsidies and equality with egalitarianism.  Quite a few of us consider the ration card to be a social achievement that should never be gotten rid of.

In this regard, I am convinced that several of the problems we are facing today have their origin in this distribution mechanism.  While it is true that its implementation was inspired by the wholesome idea of ensuring people a stable supply of foodstuffs and other goods to counter the unscrupulous hoarding by some for profit, it is an evident expression of egalitarianism that equally benefits those who work and those who do not, or those who do not need it, thus generating bartering and resale in a submerged black market, etc, etc.

The solution to this complex and sensitive matter is not that simple since it is closely related to the strengthening of the role of salaries in society.  That will only be possible if, at the same time, freebies and subsidies are reduced and the productivity of work and the supply of products to the population are increased.

In this matter, as well as in the reduction of overstaffing, the Socialist State shall not leave any citizen unprotected and via the social welfare system it shall ensure that people who are unable to work will receive the minimum required protection.  In the future there will be subsidies, but not to products, but to Cuban men and women who for one reason or another really need them.

As is known, as from September the cigarette rations were eliminated.  This product was received only by part of the population. Obviously, due to its harmful effects to human health, it can not be considered a basic commodity.

Listening to President Raul Castro. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños Hernandez

Next year we can not afford to spend around 50 million dollars to import coffee, which has so far been distributed in rations to all consumers, including newborn children.  Since this is an unavoidable necessity, we intend to mix it with peas, as we used to do until 2005, since they are much   cheaper than coffee, whose price is almost three thousand dollars per ton, while the cost of peas is 390 dollars.

If we want to keep on drinking pure, un-rationed coffee the only solution is to produce it in Cuba where it has been proven that all the required conditions for its cultivation exist, and where we can produce enough quantities to satisfy the demand and even to export it with the highest quality.

These decisions, and others that we shall have to apply, even though we know they are not popular ones, are a must in order to be able to maintain and even improve the free public health, education and social security services for all of our citizens.

The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Comrade Fidel himself, in his historical speech on November 17, 2005, stated, I quote: “Here is a conclusion I’ve come to after many years: among all the errors we may have committed, the greatest of them all was that we believed that someone really knew something about socialism, or that someone actually knew how to build socialism”, end of quote.  Hardly one month ago, exactly five years later, in his message on the occasion of the International Students Day, Fidel confirmed these concepts which are still fully valid.

I for one remember the idea of a Soviet award-winning scientist who about half a century ago was thinking that even though the possibility of a manned flight into space had been theoretically documented, it was still a journey into the unknown.

While we have counted on the theoretical Marxist-Leninist legacy, according to which there is scientific evidence of the feasibility of socialism and the practical experience of the attempts to build it in other countries, the construction of a new society from an economic point of view is, in my modest opinion, also a journey into the unknown.  Therefore each step must be profoundly meditated upon and planned before the next step is taken; mistakes are to be timely and quickly amended so that the solution is not left up to time, which will make them grow and will and finally send us an even more costly invoice.

We are fully aware of the mistakes we have committed and the Guidelines precisely mark the beginning of the road to rectification and the necessary updating of our socialist economic model.

Nobody should claim he or she has been deceived: the Guidelines signal the road towards a socialist future, adapted to Cuba’s conditions and not to the capitalist and neo-colonial past which was defeated by the Revolution.  Planning and not free market shall be the distinctive feature of the economy.  As was outlined in the third general guideline, the concentration of ownership shall not be allowed.  This is as clear as glass, but there is no one as blind as the one who doesn’t want to see.

The building of socialism should be according to the special features of every country.  It is a history lesson that we have learned very well.  We do not intend to copy from anyone; that brought about enough problems to us because, in addition to that, we also copied badly; but we shall not ignore the experiences of others and we shall learn from them, even from the positive experience of capitalists.

Speaking about the necessary change of mind, I shall mention one example:  we have arrived at the conclusion that large numbers of self-employed persons are one more employment opportunity for working-age citizens with the aim of increasing the supply of goods and services to the population which could rid the State of those so that it could focus on what is truly decisive, what the Party and the Government should do is facilitate their work rather than generating stigmas and prejudices against them.  Therefore it is fundamental that we modify the existing negative approach that quite a few of us have towards this form of private employment.  When defining the features that ought to characterize the building of a new society, the classics of Marxist-Leninism stated, among other things, that the State, on behalf of all the people, should keep the ownership over all the basic production means.

We turned this precept into an absolute principle and almost all the country’s economic activity started to be run by the State.  The steps we have been taking and shall take in   broadening and relaxing self-employment are the result of profound meditations and analysis and we can assure you this time there will be no going back.

Cuba’s Workers’ Central and its respective national unions are currently studying forms and methods to organize the provision of assistance to this labor force, promote full compliance with the Law and the payment of taxes and  encourage these workers to eschew illegalities.  We should defend their interests just as we do with any other citizen, as long as they observe the approved juridical norms.

The introduction of the basic concepts of the taxation system at different levels of education becomes very important, since younger generations will become permanently and concretely acquainted with the application of taxes as the most universal form of redistribution of the national income, in the interest of covering social costs.

From the point of view of the society as a whole, we have to encourage among all taxpayers the civic values of respect of and compliance with tax payments; we should educate people in that discipline and culture, reward those who comply and sanction tax evaders.

Another area where there is still much to do, in spite of the advances made, is the attention to the different production modalities in agriculture to remove the existing obstacles to the promotion of productive forces in our rural areas so that, depending on the savings from saving on the import of foodstuffs, farmers can receive just and reasonable revenues for their hard work.  However this does not justify the fixing of extremely high prices to the commodities consumed by the population.

Raul Castro addresses the Cuban parliament. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños Hernandez

After two years since we started to distribute idle lands in usufruct, I think we are in conditions to evaluate the allocation of additional areas, above the limits regulated by Decree-Law 259 of July 2008, to those agricultural workers who have achieved outstanding results in the intensive use of the lands they are responsible for.

I think it timely to clarify that the ownership of the lands distributed in usufruct belong to all the people.  Thus, if these are required for uses different from these in the future, the State would compensate beneficial owners for their investments and would pay to them the value of the benefits created.

In due time, once we  conclude the studies based on the experience we have been accumulating, we shall submit to the Council of State the corresponding proposals to modify the abovementioned Decree-Law.

One of the most difficult barriers to overcome in the effort to create a different view  -and  we should publicly recognize that-, is the lack of  knowledge about the economy among the people, including quite a few cadres who, giving clear proof of a supine ignorance on the subject, adopt or propose decisions while facing customary problems without stopping for a minute to evaluate their effects and costs, or without knowing whether there is a budget or resources  assigned to that end according to a plan.

I have not made any discovery when I state that improvisation in general, particularly when it comes to the economy, leads to a sure failure regardless of the lofty ends one intends to attain.

On December 2 last, on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the landing of the Granma, the official newspaper of our Party published an excerpt of the speech delivered by Fidel in 1976 on that same date when we were celebrating the twentieth anniversary of that event.  Given its validity and relevance I find it appropriate to quote it:  “The strength of a people and a revolution lies precisely in its capacity to understand and cope with difficulties.  Despite everything, we will move forward on numerous fronts and we will struggle bravely to increase the economy’s efficiency, save resources, reduce non-essential costs, increase exports and create economic awareness in every citizen.  I said earlier that we are all politicians; now I add that we should all be economists, that the mindset of saving and efficiency is different from a consumer mindset”, end of quote.

Ten years later, on December 1 of 1986, during the postponed session of the Third Party Congress, Fidel stated, and I quote: “Many do not understand that the Socialist State, just as any other State or system, can not deliver what it does not have. Much less is it going to have that which it does not produce if it gives away money without having a productive backing.  I am sure that overstaffing, excess money paid out to people, idle stocks, and wasting of resources are all linked to the great number of unprofitable companies that we have in our country…” end of the quote.

After 34 and 24 years respectively, from these instructions given by the Leader of the Revolution, these and many other problems are still with us.

With his genius, Fidel was breaking through, showing the way, and the rest of us didn’t know how to ensure and consolidate the march forward to pursue those goals.

We were lacking cohesion, organization and coordination between the Party and the Government.  In the midst of the threats and the daily emergencies we neglected mid and long-term planning; we did not act strong enough against the economic violations and the errors committed by some leaders and we also stalled in correcting decisions that didn’t have the effect we expected.

On more than one occasion I have referred to the fact that in this Revolution almost everything has been said and that we should check which of the instructions given by the Leader of the Revolution  have been fulfilled and which have not, ever since he made his vibrant statement “History Will Absolve Me” until the present.  We will retake Fidel’s ideas, which continue to be valid, and will not allow the same to happen to us again.

Errors, if they are just analyzed with honesty, can become experiences and lessons that could teach us how to eradicate them and avoid its replication.  That is precisely the great usefulness of a thorough analysis of errors.  That should become a permanent rule of conduct for all leaders.

The reality of figures prevails over all our hopes and dreams.  Since our early years in first grade, when we studied elementary arithmetic, we learn that two plus two makes four, not five or six.  You don’t have to be an economist to understand that.  Therefore, if at any given time we have to do something in the economic and social field whose cost can not be covered by the resources available, we should do that bearing in mind the consequences and knowing, ahead of time, that, ultimately, bare facts shall irremissibly prevail.

Cuba has tens and tens of thousands of professionals graduated by the Revolution in the specialties of economy, accounting and finances, just to mention some, which we haven’t known how to make a proper use of their knowledge in the interest of the nation’s orderly development.

We have something that is very precious, which is human capital.  We must further unite it, with the help of the National Association of Economists and Accountants (ANEC) to take up the task of constantly and systematically instructing our educated public and their leaders at all levels in this subject.  A large number from the ANEC National Board took part in the first seminars that we organized to analyze these guidelines and many of their members are immersed in the process of discussions under way.

In this regard, we should emphasize the decisive contribution made by thousands and thousands of accountants to recover the place they deserve in economic management which, as we well know, is an indispensable condition to ensure success and order in everything that we intend to accomplish.

Listening to Raul. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños Hernandez

In these circumstances, nobody should lose sight of the relevance of keeping a differentiated approach to the youth.  I should emphasize the decision to exempt new graduates fulfilling their Social Service from any overstaffing reduction process.

Now then, we are not trying to assign them to jobs that have nothing to do with their professional profiles, as it has occurred in the past, when they were even employed as doormen at some work places, because that period is precisely designed to train them in production and the provision of services, so that they could complement the theory they learned in school with practice and cultivate in them the love for work.

No less important is the work to be carried out by cadres and specialists involved in the drafting and review of legal documents, along with the modifications that are being implemented. For example, the issuance of almost 30 provisions -including decree-laws, Government agreements and resolutions from  various ministries and national institutes-  have been required to create the legal framework for two guidelines (158 and 159), referring to self-employment, its taxation regime and the reduction of overstaffing.

Just a few days ago, a resolution issued by the Ministry of Finances that modified the prices set by redistribution centers for a series of agricultural products had to terminate another 36 resolutions of that same body, issued on different dates in previous years, but all valid.

These facts give you some idea of the work facing us in the area of juridical organization for the purpose of reinforcing the institutionality of the country and eliminating so many irrational prohibitions that have been on the books for years, without bearing in mind existing circumstances, creating a true breeding ground for multiple barely legal actions that frequently give rise to corruption in different degrees.  One can arrive at a life-tested conclusion: irrational prohibitions lead to violations and that in turn leads to corruption and impunity; that is why I believe that the population is right in its concern over the mind-boggling procedures associated with housing and automobile sales between individuals, just to mention two examples that are currently under study for an orderly solution.

At the right time, we must simplify and group together legislation in effect which is generally rather spread out.  The guiding documents are drawn up to be mastered by those responsible for their fulfillment, not just to be filed away.  As a result, we have to educate all cadres and demand that they work with legal provisions that govern their functions and monitor that this complies as a requisite for suitability in occupying a determinate position.

It is worthwhile remembering, once again, that ignorance of the law is no excuse for not following it and that, according to the Constitution, every citizen has equal rights and responsibilities, therefore whoever commits a crime in Cuba, regardless of the position he or she holds, whoever they may be, shall have to face up to the consequences of their mistakes and to the weight of justice.

Moving on to another matter, also part of the Guidelines, in next year’s plan, we have excluded 68 important investments for the country because they have not followed the established requirements, among them funding definition, technical and project preparation, the definition of building forces capable of undertaking them in the set terms and evaluation of feasibility studies.  We shall not allow the wastage of resources destined for investments resulting from spontaneity, improvisation and superficiality which, in more cases than not, has characterized the investment process.

In dealing with these subjects I must refer to the decisive role corresponding of Party cadres, the Government, mass and youth organizations in the coordinated and harmonious management of the process of updating the Cuban economic model.

In the course of the gradual decentralization that we are putting forth, we have adopted different measures in favor of increasing the authority of administrative and business executives on whom we shall continue to delegate powers.  Simultaneously we are improving control procedures and raising to higher levels the demands to confront manifestations of negligence, apathy and other behaviors incompatible with public positions.

Likewise, we are fully aware of the harm caused by the “upside-down pyramid” to the cadres policy during the years; I mean, when salaries are not paid in relation to the importance and hierarchy of leadership positions, nor is there adequate differentiation between some and others, all of which works against motivation for promoting the most capable workers towards senior level responsibilities in the companies and in the ministries themselves.  This is a basic matter that must be resolved according to what is indicated in guidelines number 156 and 161, referring to salary policy.

The sixth Party Congress should be, as a fact of life, the last to be attended by most of us who belong to the Revolution’s historical generation.  The time we have left is short, and without an ounce of immodesty or conceit, I think we have the obligation of taking advantage of the power of the moral authority we enjoy among the people to trace out the route to be followed.

We don’t think we are more intelligent or able than anyone else or any of the like, but we strongly believe that we have the elemental duty to correct the mistakes that we have made all along these five decades during which we have building socialism in Cuba.  To this Endeavour we will devote all the energy we have left, which fortunately is not just a little.

We will increase our perseverance and our intransigence against wrong.  The ministers and other administrative and political leaders know they will count on our full support when, while performing their duties,  they educate and the same time are demanding with their subordinates and are not afraid of running into trouble.

Running into trouble for confronting the wrong is right now one of our main tasks.

Likewise it is very clear to all of us that we are no longer living through the early years after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, when some of those who were appointed to government posts resigned to demonstrate their opposition to the first radical measures adopted by the Revolution.  That behavior was then branded as counterrevolutionary.  Today, the true revolutionary and honest behavior is for any cadre to resign with dignity and without any fear whenever they feel tired or incapable of fully performing their duties.  This will always be preferable to a demotion.

In this regard, I should refer to three comrades who occupied important positions in the leadership of the Party and the Government.  As a result of their mistakes, the Political Bureau asked them to resign to their condition as members of that leading body, the Central Committee and as deputies to the National People’s Power Assembly.  I am referring to Jorge Luis Sierra Cruz, Yadira García Vera and Pedro Sáez Montejo.  The first two were also released from their positions as minister of Transportation and of the Basic Industry respectively.  Sierra took upon himself attributions he was not entitled to, which led him to make serious mistakes in management.  Yadira García’s performance as minister was dreadful, which became particularly evident in the poor control of the resources allocated to investments, which led to a waste of those resources, as it became obvious during the expansion of the nickel factory Pedro Soto Alba of Moa, in the province of Holguín.  Both comrades were severely criticized at the joint meetings of the Political Bureau and the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.

On his part, Pedro Sáez Montejo, evidencing superficiality incompatible with his position as First Secretary of the Communist Party in the City of Havana, infringed upon the party work standards, something that was discussed with him by a Political Bureau commission which was presided over by myself and made up by comrades Machado Ventura and Esteban Lazo.

It is fair to say though that these three comrades the mistakes which of them had made and adopted a correct attitude.  That is the reason why the Political Bureau Commission decided to respect their condition as members of the Communist Party.  Likewise, we deemed it convenient to assign them to tasks related to their respective specialties.

Personally, the three of them will continue to be my friends but my only single commitment is with the people, particularly with those who have lost their lives in these 58 years of continued struggle since the coup d’etat in 1952.  This has been the procedure followed with three high level leaders, so let it be known that this would be the same procedure to be followed by the Party and the Government with every cadre.  We will demand more from them, but at the same time we will war them and adopt any relevant disciplinary measure if any of the established rules are infringed upon.

As was established by the Law to Modify the Country’s Political and Administrative Division, on January next year the new provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque will be created.  Their respective governments will start to world according to the new organizational and structures conceptions, which are far more rational than the ones that exist in the present Havana province.

All functions, structures and payrolls have been already defined.  We are still working of the definitions of their attributions as well as their relations with the Central State Administrative Apparatus, national companies and political and mass organizations.  We will follow very closely this experience so that it could be gradually implemented on all other local government bodies throughout the country in the course of the next five years.  We very much favor the usefulness of continuing to gradually increase the authority of provincial and municipal governments by entrusting them with greater faculties for the execution of local budgets, which will absorb much of the taxes generated by the economic activity aiming at contributing to its further development.

The relations with the peoples and governments of almost every nation move on amidst the convulsive international situation.

The world has known in amazement the scandalous revelations of hundreds of thousands of classified documents of the US government. Some of the most recent are about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; others deal with the most varied topics about the US relations with tens of States.

Although everybody is wondering what is really going on and how could this be linked to the twists and turns of the US politics, what has been revealed so far show that that country, although pretending to practice a kind rhetoric, essentially, it continues to implement the usual politics and acts as a global gendarme.

There isn’t the slightest willingness on the part of the United States to change its policy against Cuba, not even to eliminate its most irrational aspects.  It is evident that a powerful and reactionary minority that props up the anti Cuban mafia continues to have a major influence on these issues.

The United States not only turns a blind eye to the overwhelming call issued by 187 countries asking for an end to the  economic, commercial and financial blockade against our country.  In the year 2010, it reinforced its implementation and once again included Cuba in its spurious lists, whereby they take upon themselves the right to qualify and denigrate other sovereign States to justify punitive actions or even acts of aggression.

The US policy against Cuba does not have an ounce of credibility.  The US has no other choice but to resort to lies to reiterate certain allegations.  Some of them stand out for being scandalously false, as the one asserting that Cuba is a country that sponsors international terrorism, tolerates domestic traffic in children and women for sexual exploitation, violates flagrantly human rights and is responsible for significantly restricting religious freedom.

The US government tries to hide its own sins and attempts to evade its responsibilities when it allows that notorious international terrorists who have been wanted by the legal systems of several countries continue to live with impunity in that country while maintaining our Five brothers unjustly imprisoned for fighting against terrorism.

In its slanderous campaigns about the human rights situation in Cuba, the United States has found the connivance of European countries known because of their complicity with the CIA secret renditions, the creation of torture and detention centers, for placing the burden of the economic crisis on the lowest income workers, violently repressing demonstrators and implementing discriminatory policies against migrants and minorities.

We will continue to struggle, together with all Latin American nations, for an emancipating integration.  In the context of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, we will continue to work to consolidate the solidarity and unity that will make us ever stronger.

Therefore, we will continue to support he sister nation of Haiti where our health staff together with Latin American and Haitian doctors who graduated in Cuba, in a selfless and humanitarian way, are coping with the cholera epidemic, the destruction caused by the earthquake and the sequels of hundreds of years of exploitation and plundering of that noble people that needs the international community to grant resources for reconstruction and especially for a sustainable development.

This is also the right occasion to convey, from this parliamentary meeting and on behalf of all Cubans, a message of support and solidarity to the brother people of Venezuela, who are suffering from the ravages of torrential rains which have great human and material losses. At a very early stage, the tens of thousands of Cuban cooperation workers who are offering their services in that country were instructed to place themselves at the disposal of the Venezuelans and of President Hugo Chavez for whatever might be necessary.

April next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Socialist character of our Revolution.  In the sands of Playa Girón our forced fought for the first time to defend socialism and within hardly 72 hours and led by Commander in Chief in person, they managed to defeat the mercenary invasion sponsored by the US government.

On the occasion of such a relevant commemoration, there will be a military parade on April 16 with the participation of troops and combat equipment, to be attended by the delegates to the 6th Congress of the Communist Party who will gather on that very afternoon to begin their works, which we hope will conclude on April 19, the day when we celebrate the Victory of Playa Giron.  The parade will be closed by tens of thousands of youths representing the new generations, which are the guarantee of the continuity of the Revolution.

This celebration will be dedicated to our youth, which has never failed to be faithful to the Revolution.  Youth were those who died during the attack on the Moncada and Bayamo garrisons; youth were those who rose up in  Santiago de Cuba led by Frank Pais; youth were the Granma expeditionaries who after the fiasco at Alegría de Pío, founded the Rebel Army, and were joined by waves of other youths  from the countryside and the city, particularly by the reinforcement that came from Santiago that was personally organized and sent by Frank himself; youth were those who were members of the powerful clandestine movement; youth were those who courageously attacked the Presidential Palace and  the Radio Reloj radio station  on March 13, 1957, headed by Jose Antonio Echeverría; youth were those  who fought heroically in Girón; youth and teenagers were those who joined the literacy campaign also 50 years ago; youth were most of those who fought against the mercenary bands organized by the CIA; youth were those who wrote beautiful pages of  courage and stoicism in the internationalist missions in several countries, particularly those in support of the liberation movements in Africa; youth are our Five Heroes who risked their lives I the struggle against terrorism and have suffered more than 12 years of cruel imprisonment; youth are many of the thousands and thousands of cooperation workers who defend the human life by curing diseases that have already been eradicated in Cuba, supporting the literacy programs and disseminating culture and the practice of sports throughout the world.

This Revolution has been the results of the sacrifices made by the Cuban youth:  the workers, farmers, students, intellectuals, military, all the youths from all the times when they have lived and struggled.

This Revolution will be carried forward by the youth, full of optimism and with an unshakable faith in victory.

Equally big have been both the challenges and dangers since the triumph of the Revolution, especially after Girón.  But no difficulty has ever bent our spirit.  We are and will be here due to the dignity, the integrity, the courage, the ideological strength the revolutionary spirit and the sacrifice of the Cuban people which since long ago embraced the concept that socialism is the only guarantee to continue to be free and independent.

Thank you, very much.

10 thoughts on “Raul Castro Speaks on Cuba’s Economic Reforms

  • there is bureaucratic madness in every country. not being able to buy train tickets in advance is bureaucratic madness. unrenovated carriages for the tourists is lethagy.

  • Here is a fragment of Fidel Castro speech on June 1961 (I was not even born)

    I believe that this is quite clean. What are the rights of
    revolutionary or non-revolutionary writers and artists? Within the
    Revolution, everything against the Revolution, no rights at all.
    This will not be any law of exception for writers and artists.
    This is a general principle for all citizens. It is a basic principle of
    the Revolution. Counterrevolutionaries — that is, the enemies of the
    Revolution — have no right against the Revolution, because the Revolution
    has a right: the right to exist, the right to develop, and the right to
    win. Who could have any doubt about this right of a people which has said:
    “Fatherland or Death,” that is, Revolution or death?

    from this other words on the same speech

    “Being a revolutionary is also an attitude
    toward present reality, and there are men who are resigned to that reality.
    There are men who are adapted to that reality. And there are also men who
    can not resign themselves to or adapt to that reality and who try to change
    it, and thus are revolutionaries.”

    We can see who are the counter revolutionaries now. None other than those that oppose the necessary change.

    read the full speech here


    it is quite illuminating about the justifications for the elimination of freedom.

    here is in Spanish


  • Raul

    “We should not be afraid of discrepancies of criteria and this instruction, which is not new, should not be interpreted as being limited only to the discussions of the Guidelines; the differences of opinion, preferably expressed in the right place, time and form, at the right moment and in the correct form, shall always be more desirable than the false unanimity based on pretense and opportunism. Moreover it is a right nobody should be deprived of.”

    This is exactly what Cuba needs I will write this with only one word.


    Freedom of expression, Freedom of the press, even more the freedom to disent openly and to form other political parties. You want to really be revolutionary?
    Then dismantle the repressive machinery of the revolution. Release all political prisoners. Promise and stamp in the laws that there will not be any more persecution for political reasons in Cuba. You do that and you will go down in the history of Cuba as the person that restored freedom to his compatriots.
    I know this is a giant step I am asking but do not be afraid.

    Do you know of the fear that paralyzed Cubans? The fear of contradicting the official voice? Do you know of the fear of offering different solutions to problems for being considered a counter-revolutionary? Do you know of all this? Do you know of all these terrors that Cuban citizens have endured for half a century?
    It does not have to be that way.
    Let freedom enter Cuba again. I think you know what I am talking about.
    These fears are what make them be unanimous and perform time after time group think that causes so much damage.
    Let freedom enter Cuba. Do it for Cuba.
    I ask you again what is more important?
    A revolution? or Cuba?

  • Well put, Julio. If they didn’t really know the nature of socialism before, and if the statist formula admittedly is not it, then do they know it now?

    Well, at least they admit that they didn’t know before, and that’s a start.

    What is not being addressed, by the Cuban leaders or by the Marxists around the world is the key question you correctly identified: What the hell is “real, workable” socialism?

    Well, you know my answer, and the answer of our movement. Real socialism is not the state monopoly monster of Marx.

    It is the state co-ownership form that respects private property rights, brings the small entrepreneurial sector into the socialist project, and ensures that most of larger industry and commerce is owned cooperatively by the employee associates.

  • I have lots of comments to make on the speech but I do not have time right now maybe later today or later this week if I get time.

    While there is some changes the speech is an unfortunate disappointment for the Cuban people.

    The leadership persists in the graves error of all.

    Dictating from above and not following the will of the people.

    “Here is a conclusion I’ve come to after many years: among all the errors we may have committed, the greatest of them all was that we believed that someone really knew something about socialism, or that someone actually knew how to build socialism”

    The question I have to ask is do they know now how to build socialism?

    It seems nobody have defined clearly what socialism is so with such vague start no wonder they are lost and will continue to be lost.

    Is socialism equivalent to statism?
    Is socialism reduce to

    “that the State, on behalf of all the people, should keep the ownership over all the basic production means.”

    I think they are as blind as ever.
    I guess It is hard to see one own blindness!

  • Raul states:

    “When defining the features that ought to characterize the building of a new society, the classics of Marxist-Leninism stated . . .that the State . . . should keep the ownership over all the basic production means.

    “We turned this precept into an absolute principle and almost all the country’s economic activity started to be run by the State.”

    This is a clear admission of what the modern cooperative socialist movement has been trying to tell everyone through the Havana Times comments forum. The core principle of “state monopoly ownership of all the instruments of production” comes directly from the next-to-last page of the second chapter of the Communist Manifesto, not from some “Stalinist” deviation from the core operating principle of the bourgeois intellectual Karl Marx and the capitalist intellectual Frederich Engels.

    It is fair to ask Raul and all the readers of HT a sincere, comradely question: “If ‘concentration of all the instruments of production in the hands of the state’ is now proved erroneous, then what precisely is the core principle of ‘real’ socialism?

    If there is going to be a revitalization of the socialist movement worldwide, this question must be grappled with.

    Our answer is “direct, Mondragon-type, cooperative concentration of most of the instruments of production in the hands of those who do the work of society, i.e., the the industrial and commercial workers; but with partial, non-controlling co-ownership by the socialist state, in order to avoid a tax-based system of government revenue.”

    This sort of modern cooperative republic would reintroduce private productive property rights and the free but socialist-conditioned trading market. This would allow private ownership of farms, ranches, restaurants, barber shops and beauty salons, et cetera, and respect for the small entrepreneurial sector.

    It would allow a democratic but truly socialist society to function, in Cuba and in every other country in the world.

    Raul’s and the PCC’s answer seems to be a few changes and hope for greater productivity, plus implementation of a capitalist-type tax revenue system of enhanced government revenue. It will not work, Raul, for you still have no idea of what constitutes “real” socialism.

  • Raul’s speech is also, I think, an excellent example of “open-minded writing from Cuba”.

  • This should put an end to the cynical speculation that the Cuban leadership is not serious about acknowledging the errors and “changing everything that must be changed”. Raul also answers leftist critics who think, wrongly, that the changes outlined in the draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines amount to a return to capitalism.

    Marce Cameron
    Sydney, Australia

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