Havana. February 26, 2013
Our greatest satisfaction is the tranquility and calm confidence we feel handing over the responsibility of continuing to build socialism to new generations
• Speech given by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, closing the Constitutional Session of the 8th Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, Havana’s International Convention Center, February 24, 2013
COMPAÑERAS and compañeros:
On a day like today, February 24, 1895, the struggle for independence was reinitiated with the fusion of the experienced Mambises of the first war and the nuevos pinos (new guard), under the leadership of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and [José] Martí.
It is once again incumbent upon me to assume before you and all our people the honor of presiding over the Council of State and the government.
In this context, I think it is worth reiterating what I have affirmed twice in this Parliament, and I quote, “I was not elected President to restore capitalism in Cuba, not to surrender the Revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it.”
In accordance with the agreements of the 6th Congress it will be necessary to reconcile the postulates of the Constitution of the Republic with the changes associated with the gradual implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution.
Included in modifications we propose to introduce into the Constitution is one limiting to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms the principal positions of state and government, and to establish maximum ages for occupying these positions.
At the same time, it is not healthy to be continually reformulating the nation’s Magna Carta and, given that effecting a constitutional reform necessarily takes a reasonable time since, while some questions can be modified by the Parliament itself, more important ones require ratification through the favorable vote of the majority of citizens in a referendum; I wish to clarify that, in my case, independently of the date of improving the Constitution, this will be my last mandate.
In this session the National Assembly elected Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez First Vice President of the Council of State and subsequently approved his appointment as First Vice President of the Council of Ministers.
We consider, given the circumstances being experienced by the country, circumstances we have been obliged to live with over the last 50 years of Revolution, that executive unity in the face of any contingency resulting from the loss of the maximum leader must be guaranteed in such a way that the continuity and stability of the nation is preserved without interruptions of any kind.
This decision is of particular historical significance because it represents a definitive step in the configuration of the country’s future leadership, via the gradual and orderly transfer of the principal positions to the new generations, a process that must be implemented over the next five years, acting from now on in a deliberate and farsighted manner, in order to avoid repeating the situation of not having sufficient reserves of cadres prepared to occupy higher positions in the country, and to ensure that the relief of the leaders proceeds in a natural and systematic process.
Compañero Díaz Canel is not a newcomer or an impromptu. He has a work record of almost 30 years, beginning at the base, in the profession which he studied. After completing his military service in the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) anti-aircraft missile units, he taught in the Central University of Las Villas Faculty of Electrical Engineering, where he was proposed as a professional cadre of the Union of Communist Youth. Later, taking into consideration his results, he was promoted to the Party, gradually taking on greater responsibilities, among them first secretary of the Villa Clara Provincial Committee for close to 10 years, and then in Holguín for six years.
He has been a member of the Party Central Committee since 1991 and of the Political Bureau since 2003. He completed an internationalist mission in Nicaragua. He is a graduate of the National Defense College.
In 2009, he moved on to undertake governmental functions, first as Minister of Higher Education and, from 2012, as Vice President of the Council of Ministers responsible for attending to various bodies linked to education, science, sports and culture. On the other hand, he participates on a weekly basis in the government’s Financial Economic Commission, and in the Political Bureau Commission supervising the implementation of 6th Congress agreements.
The conduct of compañeros Machado Ventura and Colomé Ibarra, who took the initiative of offering their positions within the Council of State to promote younger generations, merits special mention.
In the case of Machado Ventura, a man with exceptional qualities as a leader and human being, modesty and dedication to his work, and an outstanding revolutionary for close to 60 years, a combatant in the Sierra Maestra and a founder member of the Frank País Eastern Second Front, from which he created and developed 20 field hospitals and 11 dispensaries distributed across mountainous areas throughout Guantánamo province and in parts of Santiago de Cuba and Holguín, the area covered by this guerrilla front. He took part in multiple combat actions, being wounded in one of them. On the basis of these qualities, and the prestige, training, experience and vitality which he has conserved, as well as his genuine capacity to continue contributing to the direction of decisive activities, the National Assembly has elected him to occupy one of the vice presidencies of the Council of State.
Similarly remaining a member of the Council of State is compañero Abelardo Colomé Ibarra who, from an early age, joined the revolutionary struggle in his native Santiago de Cuba, taking part in the November 30, 1956 uprising under the orders of Frank País, who selected him to enter the first reinforcement of the nascent Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra.
Like Machado Ventura, he is a founding member of the Frank País Eastern Second Front, wounded on two occasions in combat against the dictatorship troops, and outstanding for his courage, for which he was promoted from the rank of solider to that of Comandante.
Since the triumph of the Revolution he has undertaken – with success, humility and loyalty – the tasks assigned to him, among which I must highlight the fulfillment of delicate internationalist missions. He undertook the development of the always-competent Military Intelligence; made a decisive contribution to the first victory over the invading forces in Angola, at the head of the Cuban Military Mission, from 1975-1977; and has served as First Deputy Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, and Minister of the Interior, among other positions.
The attitude of Machado Ventura and Colomé Ibarra is not fortuitous, nor should it surprise anybody, it is a concrete demonstration of their genuine revolutionary fiber, with no room for vanity or personal interest, and far less for clinging to any position. This is the essence of the founding generation of this Revolution. That is how Fidel acted five years ago, providing a praiseworthy example.
Speaking in this context, it is appropriate to recall what Fidel stated, exactly 15 years ago, addressing the National Assembly on February 24, 1998, in relation to the first rule or trait which must characterize a revolutionary cadre. I quote, “No ambitions to occupy any position, people should reach the positions they hold on the basis of their merits, their work, their virtues and their patriotism…”
The Council of State elected in this session of our Parliament is a reflection of how we are beginning to make real the agreements of the 6th Party Congress in relation to the cadre policy. Of its 31 members, 41.9% are women and 38.6% are Black or mixed race. The average age is 57 and 61.3% were born after the triumph of the Revolution.
We already have two women vice presidents of the Council of State and we will persevere with the will to continually increase the number of women representatives in this body and in all the country’s institutions.
Similarly, the National Assembly was renewed by 67.26%, women’s participation has risen to 48.86% and that of Black and mixed race Cubans to 37.9%. Of our deputies, 82.68% completed higher education and the average age is 48 years.
In the country’s 15 provinces, women were elected as presidents of the Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power in 10; the average age in these positions is 47 years and all are university graduates.
This data corroborates the quality of the Cuban electoral process and the potential of the People’s Power bodies and this Assembly as the highest body of state power, executing the important powers established in the Constitution.
Fruitful and intense legislative work on the strengthening of our institutionality is precisely the responsibility of this legislature, particularly in the face of the implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Revolution and the Party, a process which has first priority and in which, as I explained in the last session of the National Assembly, we are beginning to advance toward questions of greater scope, complexity and profundity.
It fills us with healthy pride and satisfaction that the Cuban Parliament is headed, as of today, by compañero Esteban Lazo Hernández, member of the Political Bureau, a Black man of humble origins, from a very early age a cane cutter, worker in the mill and rice dryer in Jovellanos, where he was a member of the Municipal Committee of the Party. With enormous effort and without neglecting his Party responsibilities, he obtained a degree in Economics.
He subsequently occupied the position of first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in Matanzas and then in Santiago de Cuba and City of Havana.
The same can be said in the cases of the new vice presidents of the Council of State, Díaz-Canel; Mercedes López Acea, the efficient first secretary of the Party in the capital; and Salvador Valdés Mesa, direct representative of the working class who, as a member of the Political Bureau, will move on to attending to the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC), in addition to other functions to be assigned by the Party.
All of them came from the people and, like the rest of the members of the Council of State, they constitute an irrefutable example of the putting into practice of Fidel’s words on April 16, 1961, on the eve of the mercenary Bay of Pigs invasion, when he said, “This is the socialist and democratic Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble.” Today, we are demonstrating that this is how it will continue to be for ever.
At the same time, having youth who identify with the ethical values and principles of social justice, who are prepared in all senses, including militarily, to defend and maintain on high the flags of the Revolution and socialism, is a motive for legitimate joy.
It is a fact that those of us who had the honor of accompanying Fidel in the early stages of the revolutionary undertaking and in the insurrectional struggle against the dictatorship, have had the privilege, together with the heroic people, of seeing with our own eyes the consolidation of the Revolution; however, the greatest satisfaction is the tranquility and calm confidence we feel upon gradually handing over the responsibility of continuing to build socialism to younger generations and with that, ensuring independence and national sovereignty.
We do so having defined in the Party Congress the direction to be taken in updating the Cuban economic model and attaining a prosperous and sustainable socialist society, a less egalitarian society, but a more just one, these being principles which will serve as a foundation for drafting the development program through 2030, currently being prepared.
This will be possible because the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines are, in the first place, the fruit of wide-ranging and democratic discussion with the people, which made them theirs, reformulating 68% of the initial proposals as a result of popular consultation.
In the same way, these were supported by Parliament, in its twice yearly sessions, used to report on the progress of the economic plan and the implementation of the aforementioned guidelines.
A similar analysis is undertaken in the plenary sessions of the Central Committee and the provincial and municipal committees of the Party, with the participation of local administrative leaders.
These methods of direct consultation with the population, which have developed over more than 50 years of the revolutionary process and which will continue to be perfected before, during and after adopting more highly significant decisions for the country’s future, constitute an additional factor contributing to the tranquility and hopes for the future which we experienced as members of the historic leadership of the Revolution, given that, in addition to constantly strengthening the unity and support of the people, they will guarantee the timely rectification of errors which we might commit.
In Cuba, nobody will ever be permitted to sidestep what is clearly expressed in Article No. 3 of the Constitution, and I quote, “Sovereignty resides in the people, from whom all state power is derived.”
To those within or outside of the country who, with good or bad intentions, are encouraging us to move faster, we say that we will continue without haste, but in a measured way, with our feet planted firmly on the ground, without shock therapies against the people and without leaving any citizen unprotected, overcoming the barrier of immobility and obsolete mentality in favor of untying the knots holding back the development of the productive forces; in other words, economic advances, as the essential cement for ensuring, among other spheres, the social gains of the Revolution in education, public health, culture and sports, which should be fundamental human rights and not private businesses.
At the same time, we propose to continue confronting indiscipline and illegalities of every kind, including combating manifestations of corruption which attack the very bases of our social system, on the principle that, without establishing an environment of order, discipline and rigor in society, any result will be ephemeral. In the meeting of this Parliament in the first half of July, we shall deal in depth with this shameful matter of indiscipline and illegalities.
Moving on to issues of an international nature, I cannot fail to mention that, on January 28, the 160th anniversary of the birth of José Martí, Cuba assumed the presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and will have the responsibility of organizing its next summit in our country in 2014.
This is an event of particular relevance which vindicates the struggle of the Cuban people for their sovereignty and self-determination. It demonstrates how much Latin America and the Caribbean have advanced toward their definitive independence and exposes the isolation and failure of the policy of the United States’ economic and media blockade of our nation.
The Cuban presidency of CELAC will act with prudence and determination to promote what unites us on the shared road to peace, development, social justice, democracy with the genuine participation of the people, the guaranteed exercise of all human rights for all the people, sovereignty over natural resources and the reduction of social inequality and poverty.
We must nurture our unity within diversity and prevent attempts to divide us. We know that the consolidation of this organization will confront difficult obstacles derived from the unjust and unsustainable international order, the global economic crisis, aggressive NATO policies, the threats and consequences of its non-conventional wars and the attempt at a new division of the world; the existence of enormous nuclear arsenals and ingenious weapons, as well as climate change.
Inequality in the distribution of wealth on the continent is the principal weakness and, at the same time, the greatest challenge that we face. In a Latin America with more unity, integration and social justice, nothing will be able to hold us back.
I take advantage of this occasion to reiterate, in the name of this Assembly and the Cuban people, congratulations to President Rafael Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution which he leads on their resounding electoral victory last Sunday (Feb 17).
We send President Hugo Chávez Frías a fraternal embrace and best wishes for his recovery. We confirm the solidarity of this National Assembly and that of our compatriots with the Bolivarian Revolution, the Venezuelan people and their leaders.
More than a month after they went into effect, the new migratory and travel regulations have been fully implemented without setbacks, with a favorable reception on the part of the population and the overwhelming majority of the Cuban émigré community.
We shall continue demanding the liberation and return to the homeland of our Five Heroes, to whom we convey fraternal greetings, the recognition and commitment of this Parliament and all of the people.
To end my words, and above all thinking about the future of the homeland, I believe that the best way of doing so is with the brilliant definition of the concept of Revolution formulated by its Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, on May 1, 2000, in Plaza de la Revolución. I quote:
Revolution is a sense of the historic moment;
it is changing everything that must be changed;
it is full equality and freedom; it is being treated and treating others like human beings;
it is attaining emancipation by ourselves and through our own efforts;
it is defying powerful dominant forces within and outside of the social and national sphere;
it is defending values in which we believe at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism;
it is fighting with courage, intelligence and realism; it is never lying or violating ethic principles;
it is a profound conviction that there is no force in the world able to crush the force of truth and ideas.
Revolution is unity; it is independence, it is fighting for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism.” (End of quote) (Applause)
May this masterly definition forever serve as the guide for all generations of Cuban patriots and revolutionaries!
Thank you very much (Ovation)
Raul Castro speech at the National Assembly 2013