Cuban President Raul Castro at the closing session of the Cuban National Assembly
The 8th ordinary session of the National Assembly of PeopleÂs Power which ends today has approved the economic plan and the Budget Law for the year 2012. At the same time, deputies received abundant information on the progress made in the implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the [Communist] Party and the Revolution approved by the 6th Congress.
The President of the Supreme PeopleÂs Court and the Attorney General of the Republic also reported to Parliament.
This session was preceded by the expanded meeting of the Council of Ministers on December 16 and that of the 3rd Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party on Wednesday 21st, as well as the work of the 12 permanent parliamentary commissions since last Tuesday.
Given all of this, I will not go into the issues discussed at length and will only refer to certain basic questions.
In the midst of the ups and downs of the global financial crisis, the Cuban economy has shown an acceptable and sustained performance; the gross domestic product grew 2.7%, less than the 3% planned, basically due to the non-execution of investments and the shortfall of certain agricultural and food industry products and construction materials.
At the same time, the gradual recovery of sugar production was initiated in 2011, the record number of foreign visitors was exceeded, internal monetary balances and a favorable dynamic in the productivity-average wage relationship have been preserved. Structurally, the economy is improving on the basis of better adjusted proportions in relation to investment, prioritizing those of a productive and infrastructure nature.
We are continuing to move forward in reestablishing the international credibility of our economy, strictly meeting financial obligations resulting from debts to principal creditors, a policy which we shall continue to strengthen in the future.
Addressing this Parliament on December 18 of last year, I stated that before the end of 2011 we would end limitations on transfers from Cuban banks to other countries, to the benefit of foreign suppliers.
Today we are in a position to confirm that we have met this commitment and, moreover, procedures directed at avoiding new retentions in the future Â except in exceptional circumstances Â have been put into effect.
The economic plan for next year was drawn up in line with the guidelines approved by the 6th Party Congress and is qualitatively better in terms of the reconciliation of demands between producers and clients. However, financial tensions will be maintained, obliging us to continue reducing expenditures of all kinds, as these potential savings are still one of the primary sources of income at our disposal. The gross domestic product should grow by 3.4%.
Despite a planned increase in national production of foodstuffs, including rice and beans and thus a reduction in quantities imported, as a result of high prices in relation to food imports these will rise to more than $1.7 billion. This reality eloquently demonstrates the need to make significant advances in plans to cultivate all land remaining idle or insufficiently exploited.
The state budget deficit will remain at the same level as in 2011; in other words, 3.8% of the gross domestic product, rationally assuring free services to the population in the areas of health, education, culture and sports, as well as social security, subsidized basic items for families and individuals with insufficient means for the acquisition of construction materials, among others.
Moving on to another issue, very closely linked to the economic functioning of the nation. Despite the fact that this issue has been mentioned on various occasions, including in the Main Report to the 6th Congress, the guidelines themselves, concretely, No. 10, speeches to Parliament and in many Council of MinistersÂ meetings, there has been no appreciable progress toward what is required.
This is the primordial role of contracts in the interrelations of enterprises, budgeted entities and non-state forms of management, reflected in the deficient situation of receipts and payments with the consequent disruption in internal finances and propensity for criminal acts and corruption.
To cite just one example, the former was demonstrated by the fraudulent supply of agricultural produce to markets in the capital, produce which did not exist nor was cultivated, generating an embezzlement of more than 12 million pesos due to the criminal acts of directors, officials and other workers in state marketing enterprises, as well as small farmers who lent themselves as straw men, all of whom are to stand trial for administrative and criminal acts, given the gravity of the crime.
I have brought up this issue to illustrate the imperative need for all of us in leadership roles at different levels, from the grass roots to the highest positions in the country, to take a firm line in the face of indiscipline and lack of control in relation to receipts and payments, which constitute one of the principal causes and requisite conditions for crime.
I am convinced that corruption is currently one of the principal enemies of the Revolution, far more damaging than the subversive and interventionist activities of the United States government and its allies within and outside of the country.
The Comptroller General of the Republic, the Attorney General and the specialized units of the Ministry of the Interior have instructions to combat this scourge with all the severity that our laws permit, as, in its moment, incipient drug trafficking was successfully confronted beginning in January of 2003.
In this strategic battle the levels of coordination, cohesion and rigor in confronting crime have been intensified, and certain results have been seen, both in relation to so-called white collar crime, committed by national directors and officials and outside elements linked to foreign trade and foreign investment, and crimes committed by ordinary criminals in conspiracy with administrative directors and employees in state owned enterprises, in production processes, transportation and distribution units within the food industry, trade, gastronomy, the housing system and the ministries of Basic Industry and Agriculture.
Precisely in the agricultural sector, since August 1 of this year, there has been increased action against the theft and slaughter of cattle and the subsequent selling of beef on the illegal market, a phenomenon which has flourished with a certain impunity over the years, provoking serious affectations to state and private producers, not only from the economic point of view, but also in moral and social terms.
The Revolutionary National Police, in coordination with other Ministry of the Interior agents, and in close cooperation with the political and mass organizations have professionally and systematically taken on the task of definitively eradicating cattle rustling in the Cuban countryside, a crime involving the complicity of slaughterers, directors and specialists in the state sector, persons in the Basic Units of Cooperative Production, small farmers, veterinarians and municipal directors and other officials in the institution supposedly responsible for ensuring the growth of the cattle industry in the country Â I am referring to the Agricultural Control Center, known as CENCOP.
I believe this is an opportune moment to clarify that this is not yet another campaign, as has certainly been the case in the past when, with the passing of time, actions to reestablish order were discontinued and routine and superficiality once again took over, allowing those who were waiting for everything to settle down, and return to normal, to continue prospering at the expense of our peopleÂs heritage.
I can assure you that this time it is going to be all over for the countryÂs rustlers, as it was all over for the drug traffickers, and they will not reemerge because we are determined to ensure that instructions set out by the government and agreements of the Party Congress are fulfilled.
I will say the same in relation to those corrupt bureaucrats, with posts obtained through simulation and opportunism, who are utilizing the positions that they still occupy to accumulate fortunes, betting on the possible defeat of the Revolution.
This Wednesday, in the Central Committee Plenum, we discussed these factors fully and showed a series of documentaries and interrogations of white collar criminals. These will be screened for all of you, comrade deputies, in due time, in the respective provinces, and also to other leaders.
We have very clearly in our minds FidelÂs warning of November 2005 in the Aula Magna of the University of Havana, a little more than six years ago, when he stated that this country could self-destruct; that today, while the enemy cannot destroy us, we can destroy ourselves, and it would be our own fault, the leader of the Revolution concluded on that occasion. For that reason, two days ago, we recalled in the 3rd Plenum of the Central Committee what I have just mentioned, that we are going to do away with that parasitical plague.
In the name of the people and the Revolution we are warning that, within the legal framework, we shall be implacable.
I reaffirm the unchanged will to introduce gradually changes required in this complex issue.
Closely linked to this firm decision to restore social discipline in our homeland is the process of implementing the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Revolution, which was discussed in the current session of the National Assembly, given the panorama I have been presenting to you, it is obvious that it would be very difficult to update our socialism.
The Implementation and Development Permanent Commission has given a full picture of the progress of its work and the adoption of a series of decisions to fulfill the Party Congress agreements. I will not take time to list them; they are only the first steps. The fundamental issues are pending, which does not mean that we are not advancing at the projected rate.
We shall continue making a reality of everything agreed upon, without haste, but without pause, with the comprehensiveness and gradual pacing required, without pressure or improvisation, by contributing to overcoming the old dogmatic mentality and opportunely correcting any errors that we might make.
We shall not neglect Â not for one second Â the unity of the majority of Cubans around the Party and the Revolution, the unity which has served us to reach this point and to continue advancing in the construction of our socialism.
As was to be expected, well- or ill-intended exhortations to hasten our pace have not failed to materialize, as well as attempts to impose the sequence and reach of measures to be adopted as if this was something insignificant and not about the destiny of the Revolution and the homeland.
After the authorization of buying and selling of private motor vehicles and homes, more than a few people are pressing for the urgent implementation of a new migration policy, forgetting the exceptional circumstances in which we live in Cuba under a siege embodied by the interventionist and subversive policy of the United States government, always on the hunt for any opportunity to obtain its well known objectives.
On August 1 in this Parliament, I publicly addressed the issue and stated that we were working toward implementing an updated migration policy and advancing in reformulating and drafting the regulations, in line with present and foreseeable future conditions. Today, I guarantee each and every one of the proposals made on that occasion, while reaffirming our unchanged will to gradually introduce the changes required in relation to this complex issue, while continuing to comprehensively assess the positive and negative effects of each step we take.
I will now devote a few minutes to foreign policy.
This 2011 has been a year of upheaval for the world, constantly more dangerous and reactionary tendencies are currently revealing themselves, on a par with increasing expressions of resistance and popular protest against neoliberal capitalism. The United Nations mechanisms, created to preserve peace and security, have been manipulated in order to impose on the planet the dictatorship of the United States and NATO, which are assuming Âregime changeÂ as a model, violating principles of international law, and using financial-media emporiums to stir up hatred and violence.
Meanwhile, in dozens of U.S. and European cities, there is increasing support for the message of the ÂindignadosÂ, directed at bringing to an end growing inequality in the developed countries.
We call on those governments, which preach so much about democracy, human rights, press freedom etc, etc, to listen to their legitimate demands, to consult with their peoples in the context of economic policies, adjustment measures and to take into account public opinion, without the brutal repression to which they frequently subject demonstrations by students, professionals, workers, immigrants and other minorities.
At the same time, Our America is advancing toward integration and regional sovereignty, one sign of which was the constitution in Caracas, on December 2, of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which represents the institutional event of greatest significance in the hemisphere during the last two centuries of independence.
Cuba received the honor of being unanimously elected to preside over CELAC in 2013 and host its third summit at the end of that year. This will vindicate all of Latin America and the Caribbean, whose peoples have invariably encouraged the heroic struggle of Cubans.
A few days later, at the CARICOM-Cuba Summit in Trinidad and Tobago, our country thanked the Caribbean sister nations for their solidarity.
In a humanitarian and sovereign gesture, the Council of State has agreed to pardon 2,900-plus prisoners.
Before Holy Week, we will be receiving the apostolic visit of His Holiness Benedict XVI, Head of State of the Vatican City and Pope of the Catholic Church.
Our people and government will have the honor of welcoming His Holiness with affection and respect.
We Cubans have not forgotten the sentiments of friendship and respect left in 1998 by the presence on our soil of Pope John Paul II.
At the same time, while our international reputation is growing and there is majority recognition of the Cuban Revolution, there has never been such a degree of discredit of the United States policy toward our region and condemnation throughout the world, within U.S. society itself and in the Cuban Ã©migrÃ© community, of the genocidal economic, political and media blockade of Cuba.
At the same time that we are updating our socialism, changing everything that must be changed, the United States government is still anchored to the past.
Barack Obama, the eleventh U.S. President since 1959, seems not to understand that Cuba made enormous and prolonged sacrifices to win its independence in the 19th century and to defend its freedom at Playa GirÃ³n [Bay of Pigs] in 1961, in the October 1962 Missile Crisis, in the beginning of the Special Period in the last decade of the 20th century and in all these years of the 21st century. At times, he gives the impression of not even being informed of the fact that, faced with this reality, his government has had to renounce its most reiterated pretexts to justify the blockade and invent others which are constantly more unsustainable.
With equanimity and patience, we shall dedicate ourselves to fulfilling the Congress agreements while the U.S. elections are taking place. We know that the blockade will continue and that the financing of and attempts to convert a handful of mercenaries into a destabilizing opposition will increase, but that does not produce sleepless nights for a revolutionary people like ours, educated, armed and free, who will never renounce their defense. (Applause)
Although the immobility of the U.S. government and its lack of political will to improve relations are encouraging the most reactionary sectors to promote new provocations and acts of aggression, Cuba maintains its objective of advancing toward the normalization of relations with the United States and to develop cooperation in all spheres which could be to the benefit of both peoples.
Family ties and the limited interchange which exists between the two countries demonstrate how positive their expansion would be for the well-being of everyone, without the obstacles and conditions imposed by the United States government, which subordinates any progress to its policy of hostility and intervention aimed at reestablishing its dominion over Cuba.
Before concluding, I must inform this Assembly that, in a humanitarian and sovereign gesture, the Council of State has agreed to pardon more than 2,900 prisoners.
These include women, sick individuals, those over 60 years of age and also young people who have raised their educational levels and possibilities of social reintegration.
Not included in this pardon, with very few exceptions, are individuals convicted of crimes of espionage, terrorism, murder, homicide, drug trafficking, pederasty with violence, rape and corruption of minors and robbery with violence in inhabited homes. However, certain individuals convicted of crimes against the security of the state, who have completed a large portion of their prison terms with good behavior, will be released.
In a systematic way and in annual figures higher than those included in this pardon, in accordance with existing legal regulations, the PeopleÂs Supreme Court, the Attorney General of the Republic and the specialized units of the Ministry of the Interior will be evaluating and arranging the early release of prisoners, taking into account conduct, characteristics of acts committed and family and health situation, in addition to many requests from family members and a number of religious institutions, among them the Council of Churches of Cuba and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba, through its president.
The announced visit to Cuba by Pope Benedict XVI and the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, have also been taken into account.
The pardon will become effective in the next few days, as another demonstration of the generosity and strength of the Revolution.
At the same time, we have stated our willingness to grant the early release of 86 foreign citizens from 25 countries, including 13 women convicted in the courts for crimes committed in Cuba, on the prior condition that the governments of their countries of origin accept their repatriation.
Through diplomatic channels, the required information will soon be reaching those governments via appropriate authorities.
Finally, a few days before ending this year of intense work, I send all our people, in the first place our courageous five heroes and their brave families, warm greetings for the New Year and one more anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution.
The 1st National Party Conference is already awaiting us in January, so there will not be much time to rest.
Thank you very much.
December 23, 2011