Excerpts from the speech of Cuban President, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, during the closure of the December 22, 2018 Session of the National Assembly of People’s Power.
DEAR Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Party Central Committee;
Compañeros Machado and Lazo;
Our first words on Educator’s Day are to congratulate and recognize Cuban teachers who, more than their time, dedicate their life’s purpose to us.
The year 2018 is almost at an end, and we gather again for the traditional embrace and evaluation of a crucial period in the history of the Cuban Revolution.
The year we bid farewell to today will remain in our national memory as the year in which a new generation, gradually and progressively, in a clear expression of continuity, began to assume the principal leadership tasks, with the good fortune of maintaining the guidance of the Historic Generation, in particular, of Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.
During the months since the Assembly sessions of April, we have relied on that guide in the face of the most difficult and unexpected challenges, and found in his confidence and collective leadership the fundamental resources to arrive here today to render accounts, committed to the solution of the problems that most concern the people, which are those that absorb every minute of our days, and every element of our energies.
On taking stock of efforts and results, I must firstly speak of our deep satisfaction with the popular discussion of the new Constitution approved today.
With that debate, we have not only enriched our political culture, the sense of belonging to a nation and the future of the country. We have come closer to the concerns and demands of our people, a fundamental objective of the Revolution, which our opponents have always tried to distract us from, intent on fracturing and dividing Cuban society, aware that unity is its most valuable strength[...]
And it must also be said that we faced really hard tests, such as the floods that devastated the central provinces and the fall of an airplane that left a painful toll of 112 dead and a single survivor, who in recent days has sent a beautiful message of thanks to her compatriots, and especially to the medical team that kept her alive[...]
This session of the National Assembly concludes with a transcendental decision for the life of the nation: the approval of the new Constitution of the Republic, which in February will be submitted to a Referendum.
We arrive at this point after an extensive process of popular consultation, where citizens, resident inside or outside the country, had the opportunity to freely express their considerations on the content of the draft text, which included, among other relevant aspects, political and economic foundations, rights and duties, and the structure of the State.[...]
This is a good opportunity, on behalf of the National Assembly, to congratulate those who participated in the assurance and organization of the popular consultation process, including the two-person teams that led the more than 133,000 assemblies held throughout the country, the officials responsible for the collection and analysis of the proposals; the Party Central Committee’s Center for Socio-political Studies and, in particular, the Commission responsible for drafting the proposed Constitution and, as it has been heartfeltly and rightly expressed here, its president, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz (Applause).
The Fundamental Law that we have just approved reaffirms the socialist path of the Revolution, and allows us to steer the work of the State, government, organizations and the entire people in the continuous perfection of society; it reinforces institutionality; the prevalence of the Constitution establishes greater inclusion, justice and social equality in our work, and reinforcement of the empowerment of the people in governing the nation.
This process, which continues with the holding of the Referendum on February 24 of the coming year, is a genuine and exceptional demonstration of the people’s exercise of power and, therefore, of the marked participatory and democratic nature of our political system.
Contrary to what the enemies of the Revolution state, Cuba has once again shown that fundamental decisions and consensus on the issues that define the life of the nation are built with the decisive contribution of all. We could dare our detractors to carry out in their countries a process with similar characteristics to the one we are undertaking.
On a date as dear as February 24, 124 years after the resumption of the independence struggle led by National Hero José Martí, Cubans of today, faithful to the traditions of struggle, will go to the polls to approve the Constitution, as an expression of resolve, loyalty to the legacy of the Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution, compañero Fidel Castro, and we will say with our vote: Yes to the Revolution, to the sovereignty and independence of the Homeland, to unity. Yes for socialism and for the commitment to heroes and martyrs in more than 150 years of struggles for freedom.[...]
2019 will be a year of order. The plan will be based on the country’s hard currency income and payments, paying more debts than outstanding credits, and complying with the maximum punctuality possible in the payment of commitments.[...]
Moreover, measures related to self-employment activity have recently come into force. The majority of the population accepts them and considers that they are necessary for the organization and control of this process.
In this regard, I want to specify our point of view on this activity.
Self-employed workers are not enemies of the Revolution, they are the result of the process of updating the economic model, they have solved problems that burdened the State and for which it was sometimes inefficient. They have rescued trades that life proved necessary.
We have recognized the non-state sector as a complement to the economy and there is no intention of preventing them from prospering, but their operations must be within the law.
We know that we can rely on most of them to boost and revitalize the economy. We must erase from some minds the prejudices toward their work, which do us as much damage as those inspectors who come to be corrupt and generate distrust and insecurity.[...]
We know that there are still attempts to turn the non-state sector into an enemy of the revolutionary process, but they will not succeed in dividing us. For this we count on the commitment of our self-employed workers and of state institutions.[...]
Compañeras and compañeros:
[...]We have convened and continue an ethical battle against corruption, illegalities, addictions and social indiscipline, manifestations that are antagonistic and incompatible with our present and future.
What has been done is still insufficient, and what has been achieved is nothing with respect to our purposes as the Government of the Revolution, but we want to express thanks for the support and understanding of the Cuban women and men who inhabit our geography. We owe ourselves to them.
There are many questions to address and answer. We will provide answers to as many as possible, and for those to which we do not have answers for the moment, we will not cease in the effort to find them.
Cuban women and men:
The year 2018 has been intense, in the midst of a complex international context due to the increase in imperialist hegemony that mutilates multilateralism in international relations.
Latin America and the Caribbean, our Great Homeland, is no stranger to these influences.
Cuba is accused by the empire of being the source of what they consider “the great evils of the region.” The blockade tightens, and financial persecution escalates, to hinder the development of the country.
The result obtained on November 1, in ten successive votes of the United Nations General Assembly, demonstrated the overwhelming support that Cuba enjoys in its fight against the blockade – an aggressive, anachronistic, failed policy that causes enormous damages to the Cuban people, constitutes the main obstacle to our development, and is a violation of human rights. We are greatly appreciative to all the governments that contributed to the demand for its end.
That same day, the United States National Security Adviser, with extremely aggressive and disrespectful language, announced in Miami new measures that reinforce the blockade, which together with other events and threats, foretell that his government is moving toward a course of confrontation with Cuba.
U.S. imperialism has reiterated the validity of the Monroe Doctrine and attacks progressive governments and processes, attempts to reverse the progress made in terms of integration and social justice in the region; carries out a systematic and enormous communications and cultural manipulation operation; and persecutes and criminalizes leftist political forces and leaders, popular movements and social organizations, with the aim of imposing neoliberalism. It also tries to destroy the genuinely Latin American and Caribbean cooperation and collaboration mechanisms, such as CELAC and UNASUR.
But the peoples do not bow down or abandon the struggle, as demonstrated in the broad and united XXIV Meeting of the São Paulo Forum, held in this city this past July.
I express our deep gratitude to the Commonwealth Caribbean for its encouraging Statement of Solidarity of December 8, 2018, in honor of the celebration of CARICOM-Cuba Day.
The Declaration of the XVI Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA-TCP, held in Havana on December 14, addressed these issues, committed to act decisively in the mobilization and indispensable unity of revolutionary, progressive and popular forces, and expressed full support and solidarity to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Nicaragua in the face of imperialist and oligarchic hostility.[...]
Every day, from the remotest corners of the South American giant, messages arrive of gratitude to our doctors, and rejection of the new President’s policy that uprooted them from those places where only they went to save lives.[...]
Our health professionals are the paradigm that contraposes the egotism and commercialization of medical services. They are Cuba, and are the most beautiful monument to Fidel’s internationalist, humanist work in defense of human rights on a universal scale.[...]
What a tremendous year we are seeing off!
If we were to look to symbols alone, it would be enough to consider the 150 years of intense struggle for our independence that 2018 marks, and the 60 years of combat, resistance and creativity of the final triumph, at the first minute of 2019.
We move from one to the other driven by the stunning feat of those who threw themselves into the scrubland, sometimes with no more weapons than their sense of shame, and who faced limitless hunger and scarcity to make us free.
Men and women of inherited properties and wealth, who renounced them to create a new nation.
This year, a local museum of the former mother country has lent us a chair that belonged to Maceo. The throne of the bravest of our Generals was made from a palm trunk. He did not take an elegant and soft chair from those who then subjected his country. That is why those who, even on killing him, could never overcome our vocation for liberty, kept it as a war trophy.
Exactly 60 years after the death of Maceo, in December of 1956, Fidel, Raúl and their compañeros of the Granma, took up again the spirit of that warrior and set up camp in the mountains. The rebel Command would be as Creole and sovereign as the Bronze Titan’s chair.
Also made of palm boards and a palm leaf roof is Fidel’s house in La Plata, the site never conquered by the army of the dictatorship, guarded as it was and will always be, by the humble inhabitants of those lands, where the brook of the Sierra Maestra flows sonorous and free.
We are a nation marked by such great independence endeavors, that also saved us from egoistic dependencies on material possessions, when the price of obtaining them was freedom.
The symbols to which I referred, those signs and essences that History leaves us, speak to us of a country with character, that always knew that “poverty passes, what does not pass is dishonor,” as the Apostle of the worn frock coat said, who gathered money and wills for the Necessary War, without ever taking a penny.
That character, that comes to us from grandparents and parents, that for the Homeland even brings tears to our eyes, but above all, launches us at full gallop against anyone who wants to harm it, is not, as some believe, the History book that the young generation can not read.
To feel passion and pride for what we are, at the same time as impatience and anguish for what we do not achieve, rather than distress, makes the transition between these two years a triumphal arch, crowned by everything we have devoted, and the certainty that to fight is a victory (Applause).
We always push for more. And with all the living generations together, in tribute to those who sacrificed everything, because the road toward the conquest of that bit more, always pending, was guarded by the peace and unity of all Cubans.
On behalf of a generation proud of being not a replacement, but continuity, I want to express to you the deep commitment that moves us to struggle relentlessly to measure up to history, to our heroes and the people, inseparable in sentiment and fidelity.
Today we have come to render an account of our work and to commit ourselves to more: to promote everything that allows us to move forward and overcome, along with our own limitations and in the face of an economic war, financial persecution and the tightened blockade.
The greatest motivation is provided by the 60th anniversary of the Revolution, with its indelible lessons that it is possible to overcome all obstacles if the people accompany us.
It will be, without doubt, another year of challenges. But, as Martí said on speaking of the soul of the Revolution, and the duty of Cuba: “The Cuban people expect nothing from the revolution that the revolution can not provide.”
We will move forward. And we will continue to be victorious. That’s what the forefathers of the nation taught us. To this the dignified and heroic people of Céspedes, Mariana, Maceo, Gómez, Martí, Mella, Villena, Haydeé, Abel, Celia, Frank, Vilma, Camilo, Che, Almeida, Fidel, Raúl and their comrades in the struggle summon us everyday, who by accompanying us, honor us.
On February 24, in the Referendum to ratify the Constitution, Cuba will be reaching a high point of the 150 years we have celebrated, and the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, the Revolution of Fidel and Raúl, which we will celebrate on January 1st.
We will say yes and we will triumph again. Because we are Cuba.
Congratulations to all our people for the New Year.
Ever onward to victory!
¡Patria o Muerte!
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