Granma International

Raul speech July 2014

Speech by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, on July 5, 2014, Year 56 of the Revolution, during the National Assembly of People’s Power 8th Legislature’s third period of ordinary sessions, in Havana’s Convention Center

Compañeras and compañeros:

Over the last few weeks, we have held important meetings, among them the June 21 Council of Ministers and the 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, last Thursday. Information about both events, especially the Council of Ministers, has been broadly reported in the media.

Likewise, since Wednesday, deputies have discussed in depth, in their respective commissions, the principal issues affecting the nation’s work. My remarks will therefore be brief.

As has been reported, during the first half of the year, the Cuban economy continued to grow modestly; the Gross Domestic Product (GNP) increased by 0.6%, indicating a deceleration in the growth rate as a result of shortfalls in external income; the negative effects of weather conditions; as well as the persistence of internal economic management deficiencies.

Despite growth in the areas of transportation, communications, agriculture, the sugar industry and tourism, decreases were registered in mining and industrial production, the latter as a result of difficulties with financing and the consequent late delivery of imported raw materials.

Likewise, the negative effects of the world economic crisis continue, while the U.S. blockade has been tightened, especially with respect to the persecution of financial entities which maintain ties with our country, a topic I will address again later.

In these undeniably difficult circumstances, we have met in a timely fashion our financial obligations resulting from the restructuring of debts with our principal creditors, a fact which favors the continuing recuperation of our economy’s international credibility.

At the same time, internal monetary equilibrium has been maintained, both within the population’s sector and in the economy as a whole. The tendency toward recovering financial discipline, in terms of accounts payable and receivable, has been consolidated, as well.

To achieve a growth of 1.4% in the GNP by the end of the year, more and better work is required during the second semester, and the utilization of untapped sources of efficiency must be strengthened.

We are not satisfied with the results achieved, but neither are we discouraged, in the least. Faced with these difficult circumstances, our spirit of struggle, determination and optimism must prevail, to reverse the situation and regain the rate of growth needed to assure socialist development, based on sustainable and irreversible foundations.

Toward this end, and as part of the implementation of Guidelines adopted by the 6th Party Congress, the Council of Ministers approved the bases for the country’s long-term economic and social development plan, with a vision through 2030, which will serve as the basis for the elaboration of five-year plans.

Among this development plan’s principles is the continued social ownership of the fundamental means of production, and the forging of a development model with efficiency in all spheres, directed toward assuring social well-being, equity and justice for Cubans.

In terms of the updating of our economic model, we are in a qualitatively superior phase, in which decisions of greater complexity and reach are being considered; among them, conditions are being prepared to assure the success of the process of monetary unification, which, as has already been explained, is not the magical solution to all problems present in the economy, but rather a decisive factor which should contribute to a substantial increase in efficiency and the productivity of labor, while at the same time promoting a more just distribution of wealth created.

On this subject, it is worth reiterating that bank deposits will be fully protected, in foreign currencies, in convertible pesos (CUC) or Cuban pesos (CUP), as well as cash in the hands of the population, domestic and foreign incorporated bodies.

This past Saturday, June 28, the new Foreign Investment Law, approved by the National Assembly March 28 in an extraordinary session, went into effect along with complementary regulations, providing a legal framework which offers greater incentives and guarantees to potential investors. It is the responsibility of bodies and enterprises to update the portfolio of opportunities, in the interest of concretizing, as soon as possible, on the basis of mutually advantageous precepts, the acquisition of investments of foreign capital called upon to energize the development of production and services.

At the same time, the perfecting of Central State Administration bodies and other national entities’ structures and functions has advanced, and implementation is currently underway in the first group of 20 of these.

Progress is being made in the separation of state functions from those of enterprises, and implementation has begun with a series of measures designed to provide socialist state enterprise more autonomy and broad authority.

In this respect, I believe it is necessary to emphasize that this process, in order to be successful, must be undertaken at an appropriately gradual pace, as was said this morning, and including constant supervision by various Party structures and the government at every level, as well as systematic efforts to train leaders and functionaries who assume new responsibilities in a less centralized and more flexible management environment.

At the same time, the tendency toward growth in self-employment and non-agricultural cooperatives continues, the latter still in the experimental phase.

During the last meeting of the Council of Ministers, approved was the updating of policies to be implemented related to non-state management of restaurant, technical and personal services, all of which should contribute to offering better quality and variety to the population, while also reducing losses and theft which have been so common in these sectors, allowing the state to concentrate on issues of greater scope and importance to the nation’s development.

In this process, neither should we leave the door open to precipitous decisions or improvisation. The gradual pace is not a whim, much less indicative of a desire to slow changes we must make. To the contrary, it reflects the need to assure order and avoid vacuums which could lead us directly to errors, discrediting the proposed objectives.

Next I will additionally address foreign policy questions.

Despite the growing international condemnation, in particular in Latin America and the Caribbean, and even within the United States itself, of the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba, far from rectifying this policy, it continues in full force, in open violation of the principles established in the United Nations Charter.

The harassment of commercial and banking institutions which have relations with our country has grown to unprecedented levels, often taking on an aggressive, extra-territorial character affecting even U.S, allies such as the 8.97 billion dollar fine imposed on the French bank BNP-Paribas, the largest in France, another violation of the sovereignty of states, the norms of free trade and international law, as was denounced by our Ministry of Foreign Relations, this past July 2.

In an unheard-of action, as a consequence of the financial blockade, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington has been denied bank services, affecting Cubans who live in the United States and complicating family relations and trips to our country.

The United States has not renounced subversion in Cuba, either, employing undercover methods, and using new information and telecommunications technology, as was made evident in recent revelations about the Zunzuneo project, which constitutes a violation of our sovereignty and international law.

It is time for the United States to understand that these policies are condemned to failure, and that it must respect the free will and right of Cubans to build their own future in peace.

Today Venezuela is resisting and defeating the most sophisticated methods of subversion and destabilization, including coup attempts, according to the precepts of non-conventional war which the United States is implementing in several regions. The Bolivarian Chavista Revolution, and the government led by constitutional President Nicolás Maduro Moros, have received broad regional and international solidarity, in support of the Venezuelan people who are defending their conquests.

Recently through a Ministry of Foreign Relations Statement, our nation expressed its solidarity and support for the Republic of Argentina, and President Cristina Fernández, facing attacks by speculative funds supported by unacceptable, interventionist decisions on the part of U.S. courts.

Latin America and the Caribbean have closed ranks in defense of this sister nation, aware that this aggression against the Argentine people is also directed toward regional integration efforts, and the sovereignty of nations of the South.

Also significant are the agreements reached to date by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at the negotiating table. Never before has this country advanced so far in the direction of achieving peace in a conflict which has already lasted half a century. At the request of the two parties, Cuba will continue to function as one of the two guarantor countries, and as the site of the talks, continuing to offer all facilities necessary for their positive development.

We also salute the exploratory process undertaken by the government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), to which we will continue to contribute.

The hosting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Second Summit, in January, coinciding with the 161st  anniversary of the birth of Martí, was a victory for the Cuban people, given the high level of participation by heads of state and government, the importance of topics debated, and the documents adopted, such as the Declaration of Havana and the Action Plan, which reflect our unity within diversity, and the political will to advance in Latin American and Caribbean integration.

The signing by all heads of state and government of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace was a landmark of historical transcendence, establishing respect for the principles and norms of international law and those of the United Nations Charter, as well as an ongoing commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, in an effort to forever eliminate from our region the use, or threat, of force.

The Proclamation likewise establishes our commitment to the strict fulfillment of our obligation to not intervene, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any other country; to honor the principles of national sovereignty, the equality of rights, and self-determination of peoples; as well as full respect – as established in these documents – for the inalienable right of all states to elect their own political, economic, social and cultural system, as an essential pre-condition to peaceful coexistence – the first time that this principle has been established in a document signed by all Latin American and Caribbean heads of state; the promotion of a culture of peace; disarmament, and the promotion of nuclear disarmament, and complete, general disarmament, to promote the strengthening of mutual trust among nations.

Now as part of the CELAC leadership quartet, composed of Costa Rica, holding the pro tempore presidency; Cuba, which held it until the last meeting; and Ecuador, which will succeed the current president; as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, representing CARICOM – that is the Caribbean – our country continues to support efforts to consolidate and strengthen the Community.

In May, the Minister of Public Health Roberto Morales Ojeda, in the name of Cuba, successfully presided the 67th World Health Assembly, a prestigious recognition of the accomplishments achieved in this arena on a national level, and in the international collaboration offered, and being offered, by tens of thousands of compatriots.

The Group of 77 plus China Summit in Bolivia, this past month of June, was evidence of the outstanding popular and international leadership of President Evo Morales Ayma. Important decisions in defense of the interests of countries of the South were adopted, and Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara honored on the day of his birth.

As testimony to our advantageous and growing ties of solidarity, and shared objectives and interests, with the Caribbean Community, of which we are an inseparable part, the diplomatic presence of all member states in Havana was completed, with the opening by Prime Minsiter Denzil Douglas of a St. Kitts and Nevis embassy.

We are working on preparations for the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit which will be held on Cuban soil December 8 of the current year, in commemoration of the day on which Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago simultaneously established diplomatic relations with Cuba, and made an unforgettable contribution to our regional insertion, a step which carried significant weight at a time when very few countries had relations with us. Then it wasn’t only Mexico, the only one which did not break relations, but rather a few more.

With the satisfaction of having René and Fernando in the homeland again, after completing their unjust sentences in full, we reiterate our commitment to never slacken our efforts to secure the freedom of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, a cause to which we will continue to confer the highest priority.

Finally, compañeras y compañeros, this coming July 26 we will commemorate the 61st anniversary of the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes assaults, with the people of Artemisa, in the new province which was the birthplace of many valiant protagonists of that feat. On this occasion, Comandante de la Revolución Ramiro Valdés Menéndez will have the responsibility of presenting the principal remarks.

Let us work to preserve the conquests of the Revolution, for which so many generations of Cubans have struggled, and achieve the construction of a prosperous and sustainable socialism.

That’s all for now. Thank you very much.

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