Dear people of Havana who, by your selfless, tenacious efforts and in hard-fought competition with the inhabitants of Villa Clara, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Camagüey and Granma, won the right to hold this official function here in the capital: I congratulate you all.
Fighters of yesterday and today:
Dearest fellow Cubans:
I thank our generous and heroic people for the privilege of commemorating this anniversary of the assault on the “Moncada” and “Carlos Manuel de Cespedes” garrisons when so much time has passed since those events took place. It could be that no one has even received such a great honor. It would be unforgivable not to keep in mind that more than 70 percent of the Cubans who today keep the Revolution alive had not even been born back then. They took the banners which, I think, they will never drop, from those who gave their lives in that action. I dare to say thank you on my behalf and on behalf of all of them, because on my conscience lies the enormous weight of having persuaded them to undertake such a bold action and yet fate has not prevented me from traveling the long, long road of revolutionary struggle down to this emotional moment 52 years later.
The Revolution today is experiencing a moment worthy of that memorable date.
The months preceding the 52nd anniversary of the beginning of our armed struggle for Cuba’s final independence have characterized by an exceptional degree of hostility directed by the Bush administration against Cuba. The Nazi-Fascist extreme right that has taken control of the Empire has not ceased to brood over its powerless hatred of our country. We should remember that May 20, 2002 when, at a meeting with the Miami terrorist mob, Bush demanded with unprecedented insolence that Cuba get a new constitution which would renounce the socialist nature of the Revolution. Those attending that meeting included Orlando Bosch Avila, a bosom friend of that family dynasty, and the main culprit behind the mid air destruction of the Cuban plane just minutes after it took off from Barbados where all of the passengers died.
Cuba’s response to the imperial demand were enormous mass demonstrations all across the country in support of a draft amendment of the constitution, finally passed unanimously by the National Assembly of People’s Power on June 26, 2002, stating that the socialist nature of the Revolution and the political and social system enshrined in the Constitution were irrevocable.
The atrocious September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers had already happened.
Under pressure from that mob which had helped him win the presidency through a scandalous fraud, for more than four years, Mr. George W. Bush and his cronies did not cease for one minute from adopting cruel, hate-filled measures to destabilize and pound on Cuba and to try to do away with its independence and its people’s right to a truly human and fair political system.
Hideous resolutions were passed to tighten the blockade and suffocate Cuba’s economy. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans living in the United States were forbidden to visit their relatives in Cuba; they could only get permission to do so once every three years; family aid was reduced to almost nothing; the agreements on illegal immigration were breached; proposals for cooperating in such crucial areas as drug and persons trafficking and to hinder and prevent terrorist acts were rejected. Also, slanderous allegations rained down. Cuba was labeled a terrorist country. They made up insane lies about biological weapons production, plans to use electronic warfare to interfere with US government communications and other such things, the objective being to find excuses for a genocidal attack against our country, like they one they later launched in Iraq.
It is common knowledge that Bush’s cronies set up a big committee to plan all the details of what they call “transition” in Cuba. This committee drafted a gruesome plan which included vaccination programs and literacy campaigns when the whole world knows that Cuba’s health and education plans are much better than those in the United States and any other country in the world.
I couldn’t help mentioning these things which are only a small sample of the series of attacks on Cuba by US governments and of all these governments, the Bush administration represents the incarnation of the most repugnant, evil hatred for a heroic, decent people which is not cowed nor can be intimidated by the powerful empire’s threats and attacks.
One of Bush’s most cynical measures was to use the Guantanamo naval base, which the Unites States occupies illegally against our people’s will, to set up a concentration camp where he locks up, without trial or any kind of legal process, those whom he kidnaps anywhere in the world. And to top it all, that prison was turned into an experimental center of torture, the same as those later applied in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
An article in the October 17, 2004 edition of The New York Times admitted that abuse of prisoners in the Guantanamo naval base is “generalized and not limited to isolated cases as official versions claim”. Quoting soldiers, secret agents and other officials, the newspaper described “a series of highly abusive procedures which continued over a long period of time”. The world was amazed and shocked to hear about these unbelievable facts.
Democratic senator Joseph Biden, of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the Guantanamo naval base had become the “greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world”. Former president Jimmy Carter urged the Bush government to close the prison because the accusations of torture there are a “terrible embarrassment and a blow to the US reputation'.
On September 13, 2004, the British newspaper The Guardian revealed that “the highest levels of George W. Bush’s administration were informed of the bad treatment and possible war crimes at the base in the Fall of 2002”, according to an investigative report by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh included in his book Chain of Command.
When visiting this torture center, a US member of Congress of Cuban descent, known in our country as the Big Bad She-wolf, a friend and defender of Posada Carriles, told the press that “she wished the Cuban people had the rights that the detainees in Guantanamo are given”.
Another of Mr. Bush’s cynical actions is the constant, increasing radio and television attacks on our people that violate the most elementary standards regulating the use of radio and TV frequencies and is in breach of international law.
The US government has invested vast amounts of money to no avail in this crazy, failed exercise.
In addition to its actions from outside, Bush and his mob have invested in excess one hundred million dollars to promote subversion and destabilization inside Cuba. More than any other US administration it has used that country’s Interests Section in Cuba to do this. There was a time, years ago, when subversion and espionage were carried out rather discretely but in Bush Jr. truly gangster-like era, all standards have been thrown overboard. Disgusting characters like James Cason, following the instructions of Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and other unscrupulous officials, have gone beyond the limits of basic decency and carried out unprecedented provocations inside our country.
The heads of the Interests Section have assumed direct leadership of the groups of mercenaries that, by various methods and under various pretexts, are provided with high personal incomes in convertible currency which, in a country like Cuba where services such as healthcare and education are totally free and others like housing, recreational activities, medicines and a significant portion of food cost a virtually symbolic amount in Cuban pesos, means that those who have convertible currency can enjoy a living standard far higher than that of Cubans who are paid their salaries and pensions in domestic currency.
There is no country in the world where the empire’s mercenaries enjoy the privileges they do in Cuba. None of them works or does any useful service whatsoever for society. The US Interests Section offices and residence in Cuba, protected by diplomatic immunity, have become the venues for meetings to organize provocations, facilitate communications and openly give orders to mercenaries inside the country.
And none of this is done surreptitiously. The Interests Section’s diplomatic pouch is brazenly used to smuggle in computers, communications equipment, printed materials, libelous articles and all kinds of objects and goods to give to their hirelings. Never, perhaps, has any government so abused and offended its diplomatic status and immunity as the US government by writing signs and exhibiting offensive placards attacking our country.
When, for some reason or other, they don’t want to be directly involved in this type of activity, they use their Czech or some such lackeys to carry out these extremely rude acts.
Our Interests Section in Washington and our officials have never, ever, used their diplomatic immunity for such illegal and disgusting acts.
In the last few days, while our people were working tirelessly to clean up the damage caused by Hurricane Dennis —tens of thousands of homes fully or partially destroyed, breaks in the electricity transmission and distribution grid, major damage to agriculture and other branches of the economy— the US government stepped up its subversive radio and television broadcasts to Cuba by increasing the frequency of illegal, provocative flights by the EC-130J aircraft which transmits the anti-Cuban radio and television signals.
The first broadcast from a US armed forces aircraft took place on none other than May 20, 2003, a date in history singled out for imperialist interference in Cuban affairs. Later on, from August 2004 onwards, once the loathsome “Transition Plan” allocating millions of dollars for radio and television broadcasts attacking Cuba was approved, the US government began four-hour transmissions from the military aircraft every weekend. In so doing, it has not only interfered with our television broadcasts, but has grossly violated international telecommunication standards while posing a dangerous provocation because of the military nature of the aircraft which has been previously used by the United States in actions against Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
This past July 13, less than three weeks ago, five days after the hurricane had blown through the south, central and western regions of our country with its enormous power of destruction, the US Air Force transferred two EC-130J aircraft from the 193rd Special Operations Wing in Pennsylvania to the Naval Air station in Key West, Florida. One of these planes flew consecutively on Friday July 15, Saturday 16, Monday 18, Wednesday 20, Friday 22 and Saturday 23, broadcasting counterrevolutionary broadcasts in an escalation of provocation and aggression.
It was only six days after the hurricane and information about its devastating effects was still being collected.
Thus, in less than a year, there have been 46 broadcasts from the military aircraft while the daily broadcasts on nine frequencies, from the aerostatic balloon, have continued. These, and transmissions from other counterrevolutionary stations add up to 2,425 hours and 45 minutes of anti-Cuban radio and television broadcasts.
It is significant that, prior to the current escalation, the United States carried out three exploratory flights with RC-135 aircraft on Saturday April 30 and on May 7 and 14, 2005, at the same time the EC-130 was broadcasting to our country, their possible intention being to test the effectiveness and the parameters of our response to this television attack. It had been years since RC 135s had taken any action against our country.
While the US administration, which so furiously imposes the genocidal blockade on our country, in an entirely hypocritical and shameless way “compassionately” offered Cuba 50,000 USD to alleviate the damage caused by the hurricane, the lawmakers who support the Bush government policies, introduced a bill in Congress that would allocate 37,931,000 USD for the fiscal year 2006 and 29,931,000 USD for the fiscal year 2007, for anti-Cuban broadcasts. According to the wording, the purpose of the bill is “to buy, rent, build and improve radio and television reception and transmission facilities and to buy, rent and install the necessary equipment, including aircraft, for radio and television reception and transmission”.
There has even been talk that they might purchase Boeing type aircraft that use technology similar to that of the EC-130J for future broadcasts to Cuba and they also want still more money to buy airtime on radio stations in the area close to our country.
The escalation in anti-Cuban broadcasts is happening in the midst of public disagreement between the Departments of State and Defense over whether to use military aircraft to broadcast to Cuba or to transfer them to the Middle East. The outcome shows that Condoleezza Rice’s position and the aggressive plans of the US administration, which stem from the pressure of, commitments to and influence of the Miami terrorist mob, have prevailed.
Dazed and delirious, a former spokesperson for the Cuban-American National Foundation and also one of Posada Carriles’ defenders has just brazenly announced on Miami television that Venezuela’s solidarity aid to Cuba to alleviate the effects of the hurricane “consists of a few thousand tons of masts to block US transmissions, equipment to rebuild the masts used for this type of jamming and the technology needed to establish repression”.
Such an abhorrent vision prevails in the US extreme right which is now also threatening to begin radio and television broadcasts to Venezuela, as a response to Telesur and to the Venezuelan government’s solidarity with Cuba.
According to Florida Republican Congressman Connie Mack, who introduced an amendment on this, “the Broadcasting Board of Governors could be authorized to initiate radio and television broadcasts similar to Radio and TV Martí’s current broadcasts to Cuba”.
With the same intensity as that shown by the White House in stepping up its electronic warfare, local radio and TV stations in Miami go to a lot of trouble to convey an image of crisis and chaos in Cuba where an unsustainable situation will lead to social upheaval. Whosoever listens to those media terrorists would be inevitably “convinced” that the Revolution has only a few hours left, which shows that these people never learn the lessons of history.
There have also been one or two foreign correspondents in Havana who have been swept up, consciously or unconsciously, by the current of provocation and treachery.
At almost the same time on July 13, only five days after the hurricane, about twenty members of the small groups I mentioned, shouted out insulting slogans as they walked outside the “Hermanos Ameijeiras” hospital. They were using the pretext of the tugboat accident that happened 11 years ago, which caused the regrettable death of a number of people including women and children, for which the Revolution was infamously blamed; the tug had been hijacked by armed persons at the dock where this type of vessel ties up. This provocation elicited an immediate, angry response from those living nearby and from hospital workers, which meant that the provocateurs had to be given protection by the authorities.
I should give a little more background. When the country was involved in a historic battle for justice with the Empire as it denounced the covert entry of Posada Carriles —he and Orlando Bosch were responsible for the deaths of 73 people in the well-known Barbados tragedy— into the United States, under the protection of the Cuban-American mob and US authorities, and demanded his arrest and extradition to Venezuela, the Interests Section was working frantically to organize a so-called Assembly to Promote a Civil Society in Cuba officially convened for none other than May 20, a shameful, ill-starred date in our history. The whole thing was cooked up and funded by the US government.
Cuba’s denunciation made on April 11 and the meeting in Havana of outstanding people from all over the hemisphere to demand the terrorist extradition to Venezuela and to denounce “Operation Condor” and the monstrous crimes committed by US soldiers with the US government’s complicity —especially when Bush Sr. was head of the CIA and later US vice president coinciding with the dirty war against Nicaragua and the Iran-Contra scandal— put the Bush government and its main accomplices in a tight spot.
Before the Barbados terrorist act, Orlando Bosch and Posada Carriles, who took part in “Operation Condor”, were given the responsibility for planning and organizing serious crimes against well-known Chileans and people from other Latin American countries.
It was obvious that the USINT (US Interests Section) and its hirelings aim was to orchestrate an act of provocation against the authorities of the Cuban Revolution in order to divert international attention from the scandalous conspiracy and complicity between Bush Jr. and the hemisphere’s biggest terrorist that Bush had taken out of jail in Panama and allowed to enter the United States.
This so-called “Assembly to Promote a Civil Society in Cuba” was graced with the presence of the head of the US Interests Section and it even received a personal message from Bush and terrorist groups in Miami. Even Posada Carriles himself, who had not been arrested yet, sent his greetings and support to the “Assembly to Promote a Civil Society in Cuba”. All information on and the impact of this grotesque meeting are on record and in due time will be made available to the public. The fact is that the Revolution’s equanimity and sang froid wrecked this ridiculous maneuver but not without a great effort to contain the anger of the people living nearby who could not understand our tolerance of this mercenary, traitorous meeting.
When, this past July 22, all efforts were focused on rebuilding the country, “civil society’s defenders” —emboldened by the seeming impunity of their adventures, cheered on by the Interests Section and greatly encouraged by the almost daily flights and broadcasts from the military aircraft with their subversive messages, plus the belief spread by the Miami mob that they were on the point of packing their bags because the Revolution was about to collapse— plucked up their courage to orchestrate a new act of provocation. But, this time the people, angrier than before over such barefaced acts of treason, intervened with patriotic fervor and didn’t allow a single mercenary to move. And this is what will happen whenever traitors and mercenaries go a millimeter beyond the point that our Revolutionary people, whose destiny and lives are at stake in this stand-off with the most voracious, most inhuman and most cruel empire in history, is willing to accept.
The much publicized dissidence or alleged opposition in Cuba does not exist except in the overheated imagination of the Cuban-American mob and White House and State Department bureaucrats. They deceive themselves or intoxicate themselves with their own lies. They pay opportunists, people divorced from all productive activity or useful service, often vagrants and frequently underclass or criminals who do not have anyone’s esteem or support. Over and over again situations arise in which the authorities have to protect them when these people try to orchestrate some act of provocation; then the first thing the Interest Section does is to invite the foreign press.
The same thing happened when they invaded the country with armed mercenaries, many of whom were former Batista backers, assuming that the people would instantly rise up against the Revolution. Nobody knows these people in Cuba, they live off publicity abroad. The terrorist mob and the US government shamelessly take advantage of the facilities which Cuba has provided so that many international press agencies and correspondents can live in and send reports from Cuba without any restrictions whatsoever so that they can move around and act with complete freedom. Some in fact do so in total complicity with the US Interests Section in order to misinform and deceive the world about what happens in Cuba. Everyone knows full well that no revolutionary process has ever had the consensus and overwhelming support and trust that the Cuban Revolution has because of its steadfastness and fidelity to its principles and because of the gallantry, internationalist spirit and solidarity of the Cuban people.
It would be much better if the Empire did not allow itself to be carried away by illusions that might lead it to more serious mistakes, because nothing that has happened elsewhere will be comparable to what would happen here to anyone who tries to take control of Cuba.
A long time ago now, more than a century ago, Maceo warned them: “They will only reap her blood-soaked soil, if they do not perish in the strife”. Today we could add: “They would not even reap the dust of her soil, and they would have to shed much more blood than anywhere else on the planet”. This we swear!
I don’t want to let this occasion pass by without raising some other issues of great importance to our people.
During the first six months of this year, the country had to face a complex situation brought about by the drought, the power shortage and, most recently, the consequences of Hurricane Dennis.
The enemies of the Revolution, as I have already explained, have jubilantly tried to use these events to show that Cuba is going through a serious economic crisis. They never learn and are once again underestimating our people’s capacity to resist and struggle.
The sound growth that our economy has started to display since last year has increased during the first half of 2005, as I can show with some irrefutable figures which confirm this and I will now read out:
During the first half of the year the Cuban economy grew by 7.3% and an increase of around 9% is expected by the end of the year, as a result of the positive tendencies that have been observed.
This performance, recorded up until June, is based on the increase of 13 of the 22 sectors of the industry, among which ferrous metallurgy stands out with 15.5%, non-ferrous metallurgy with 9.2%; printing with 21.7%; the garments industry with 7.0%; the food industry with 3.6% and the beverage and tobacco industry with 4.4%.
Construction work increased by 8.2%, the communication sector by 7.1%, commerce by 10% and the public service sector by 13.3%.
The equivalent production of national crude oil and gas turns out around one million 900 thousand tons, that is to say, four times more than what was produced at the beginning of the special period. At the moment, a significant effort is being made to drill and set underway new oil and gas wells that will put the country closer on its way to self-sufficiency in terms of the energy sector.
Crude refining increased by 9.2%, making way for a saving of 29 million 700 thousand dollars on the total amount of refined products, when compared to their international prices. Fuel consumption, on the other hand, stayed at similar levels to the year before.
The production of electricity fell by 4% due both to the breakdowns in the electricity generating plants, and to the extension of their maintenance periods, which affected production and service, as well as the population.
In order to maintain these plants, the hard currency resources to be invested until December 2005 have doubled, exceeding the sum of 100 million USD.
A program is underway to improve the country’s power supply, with an additional 50 million USD to be invested in this program, 34% of this investment has been made in the first five months.
This program will make it possible to reduce the total loss in power distribution from approximately 16.5% to 11%, and increase the quality of the service.
A profound revolution is underway with respect to the concept of production and the use of electricity. Equipment and material worth 282 million 100 thousand USD have been bought and are currently being installed, which, within a year, will provide us with a million more kilowatts of electricity.
I am using the US dollar here so that it is easier to understand the cost in convertible pesos. This aforementioned figure of new capacities of electricity production will be supplemented by 200 thousand kilowatts generated by a new combined cycle plant and a currently out of use thermoelectric plant adapted to consume accompanying gas. This new capacity, on top of the saving of no less that one million kilowatts which will be made possible by investing more than 250 million USD, will make available to production, services and family units twice the electricity they have now, starting on the second semester of 2006.
Along with the problem of electricity, it has been necessary to resolve the need for domestic fuel. Personally, as President of the Council of State and of the Government, I dedicate a significant part of my time to this problem, so what I said is not an exaggeration, as rather I speak with circumspection, keeping some things up my sleeve.
More that 3 million 100 thousand pressure cookers, 3 million 500 rice steamers, 3 million 100 thousand electric pressure cookers, 3 million 800 thousand electric hobs and one million 100 thousand 12-inch fans have also been purchased.
More than 5 million 300 thousand gaskets for refrigerators, 650 thermostats and 7 million gaskets for coffee makers have also been bought. This range of equipment and accessories, which are already being distributed in a gradual and attentive manner, will continue to be handed out during the second half of the year, as planned.
More than 100 million USD are being invested in the pharmaceutical industry. Production in this sector is steadily growing.
Work is underway to expand and remodel the factories producing soy bean yogurt, gradually increasing its production capacity to one million liters a day.
Work is being done and money invested in order to process 25 thousand tons of drinking chocolate a year. It is estimated that the level of production for the remainder of the year is 12 tons to be distributed among the population.
As part of the program of quality coffee production, 30 packaging machines, 2 new roasters and the replacement of 7 mills, which have already been ordered, are to be introduced and assembled in the plants currently functioning. In August distribution will commence in some provinces, in accordance with the established capacity.
In order to expand, guarantee and ensure the storage of cereals and legumes, the construction of capacities is underway for half a million tons of top quality metallic silos.
Work is also underway to expand the production capacity of pasta.
The current industries pertaining to the People’s Power will be expanded in order to produce noodles and 15 similar new factories will be constructed.
Two new pasta factories will be built on the sites of the former mills “Noel Fernández” in Camagüey and “Marta Abreu” in Cienfuegos. A new pasta production line will be installed in the Vita Nuova factory, producing 750 kilograms an hour, and the Buona Sera factory in Santiago de Cuba will be subject to modernization.
The total capacity will be 70 thousand tons of different varieties of pasta.
The purchase of two new cocoa processing plants is anticipated, each with a capacity of 25 thousand tons.
Besides satisfying national needs, this decision will allow us to produce high quality cocoa butter for export, as well as other cocoa derivatives.
As part of the policy to improve our people’s diet, a program is implemented to increase egg production. The aim is to reach an output of more than 2.2 billion eggs by 2006.
A series of investments has been decided upon to increase the availability of pork meat. Work is being done to recover the capacity of pork production, with a view to reaching a total production of 80 thousand tons of meat, in live animals, by 2006 and to preparing conditions to reach 100 thousand tons by 2007.
The areas of protected and semi protected crops will be considerably expanded in order to produce high quality vegetables for both national consumption and export.
During the first half of the year, nickel production reached 38 thousand 200 tons, which is an increase from the year before. This export was the most important source of income for the country in terms of the export of goods, amounting to 545 million USD in the first half of the year.
The number of people visiting the country until June 30 had increased by 8%, and it is anticipated that this year the number of bookings will reach 2 million 300 thousand.
The income from the tourist sector increased by 11.5% compared with the year before, with a linear occupation level of 66.9%.
During 2005, 4 new hotels are scheduled to begin operations, which will contribute one thousand 921 rooms to the international tourist sector.
The electronics industry is doubling its production of software and televisions.
In this half of the year, the production of cement and steel rods increased by 20.8% and 5%, respectively.
With a view to responding to the most urgent needs to increase our building capacity, investments have been approved which are now being made to the tune of 62 million USD, which will increase the production of sand by 51%, stone by 74%, blocks by 59% and floor materials by 49%.
Currently, 7 thousand 300 homes have been completed in 2005. During the remaining months of this year the majority of homes partially affected by Hurricane Dennis will be repaired; no less than 10 thousand of the homes destroyed will be built again as new and the plans to finish and construct new homes to cover the most urgent requirements will continue, up to at least 30 thousand additional housing.
The material required to build a total of 100 thousand new homes in 2006 has already been or is in the process of being ordered, which will be by far the highest number in our history. This figure does not include a high number of repairs. Everything will depend on our efforts.
From 2003 until May 2005, the country was in the grip of the worst drought on record. The economic impact of this is estimated at more that 1.2 billion USD.
To deal with this, until 2004, 183 million USD were invested in hydraulic works, and this year it is calculated that an additional 60 million will be used.
It has also been necessary to invest more than 70 million USD in current expenditure, which includes 28 thousand tons of diesel and 14 thousand tons of gasoline, with the specific aim of taking water to the affected population, which exceeded 2 million 500 thousand people at the most critical times, distributing water by trucks to almost 2 million people.
In order to keep the economy healthy, it is essential to revitalize railway transport, which was seriously affected during these years of the special period. The special period and the blockade imposed by the United States dealt a harsh blow to railway transport, close to the point of collapse.
This year around 40 million USD are being urgently invested in railway freight transport. Actually, 32 freight cars have been repaired, while 18 locomotives and almost a thousand more cars should be restored to working order in the next few months to transport dry goods and cement for the works of the Battle of Ideas and the program for the construction of housing.
Presently, 12 new locomotives were bought from China that will arrive this November.
The amount cargo transported by railway rose by 47,900 tons in comparison to the first half of last year.
As for freight transport by motor vehicle, 486 trucks that were out of service have been repaired and are up and running.
In the first half of the year, the Ministry of Transport vehicle fleet transported 66 thousand 100 tons more than in the same period of 2004.
Port equipment, metal for railway tracks and equipment and spare parts for trucks have been purchased or are in the process of being purchased for 15 million USD.
One thousand modern busses for long distance transport, with fuel efficient engines have been ordered from China. 200 have already arrived in the country and are being used in areas where they are most needed. It is calculated that this year busses will transport almost 3 million more passengers than anticipated.
Inevitably, it will be imperative to review the fares, since the high cost of fuel and equipment will make it impossible to provide this service at the historically charged prices.
In the healthcare sector, investments received a significant boost during the first six months, which could never have happened in the past. The 448 rehabilitation wards that the country required were all completed.
Major repairs have been made to 123 polyclinics. Of the 444 existing polyclinics, almost all are now equipped with electrocardiographs, 396 have, for the first time, been given ultrasound equipment with three transducers, and 115 have new X-ray equipment. All of them will be equipped with endoscope facilities; every one of them now has 4 computers and a library, and 368 are connected to the Internet.
Since January 2004, 118 intensive therapy wards have been created in the municipalities that did not have it, where until February 2005, 42 thousand 561 patients had been provided care, the lives of 13,025 of whom were saved, that is to say, 92% of those who were at risk of death.
The dental clinics have been equipped with 851 new dentists’ offices.
More than 50 hospitals are currently being renovated, expanded and equipped to offer excellent services to both national and foreign patients. The program began in 2004 with an estimated cost of 835 million USD, which includes the latest equipment valued at approximately 400 million USD.
Among the high-tech equipment that we now have at our disposal, is the 27 one-slice CT equipment, with which all the provinces of the country are now equipped, 9 other 64-slice equipment, 8 of magnetic resonance imaging and 8 of three-dimensional ultrasound, which are being used for the first time in Cuba.
This program comes hand in hand with the construction of 44 buildings offering hospital accommodation, which will provide a total of 6,886 rooms. Numerous three and four-star hotels will also be used in the provision of an international health service.
The country is now able to operate and provide services in all branches of ophthalmology to hundreds of thousands of patients. One hundred thousand Venezuelan brothers and sisters will receive theses services this year, in which, until yesterday, July 25, 25,024 patients from said country and a similar number of Cubans had been operated on.
No less than 15 thousand citizens of the Caribbean community will receive this form of medical care between the second half of June 2005 and June 2006. Venezuela and Cuba have offered to provide another 100 thousand Latin Americans with this service within the same period. This is a feat of solidarity and humanity unprecedented in the history of the world.
The educational revolution that our country has been carrying out in the heat of the Battle of Ideas has brought about an increase in quality that is also unprecedented in the educational and learning process.
In this sector, major repairs have been made to 111 large schools and work continues on 56 more, as well as on 5 Pedagogical Institutes.
Major repairs also began on 25 polytechnics for computer sciences, with a capacity for 40 thousand students, as well as 15 senior high schools in the province of La Habana, of the 40 that will receive this repair work. The cost of these programs amounts to more than 120 million USD.
Additionally, 118 Youth Computer Clubs were completed in the first six months of this year, at a cost of 21 million USD.
At the end of the present academic year, 1,197 works had been completed by the program for the Battle of Ideas, which benefit 503,174 students. Major repairs are being made to 16 Special Sport Schools, at a cost of over 14 million 600 thousand USD; one has already been completed, while work is still underway in another 113.
Meanwhile, 20 more university chapters were established in prisons, with some 590 students.
As proof of the potential of our economy, in May the minimum wage went up from 100 to 225 pesos, benefiting 1,657,191 workers that account for 54% of state employees, costing an annual total of 1.06 billion Cuban pesos. At the end of the first half of the year the average wage rose to 334 pesos, from 282 at the end of 2004.
In July wages rose in the healthcare and education sectors, which benefited 857 thousand 400 workers, at an annual cost of more than 523 million Cuban pesos.
In the Social Security sector the pensions of 1,468,000 people went up, just over 97% of the total number of pensioners.
In the area of Social Assistance, 476, 512 people benefited from an increase of 50 pesos monthly. Both measures annually cost 1.19 billion Cuban pesos.
These actions have benefited 4.4 million people, which accounts for 30.9% of the population, at an annual cost of 2.78 billion Cuban pesos. Wages continue to increase gradually in other sectors.
The export of goods and services grew by 26.3% in the first six months of the year as compared to the same period in 2004.
The favorable balance in the trade of services managed to compensate for the imbalance of the exchange of goods, resulting in a modest positive balance in the trade figures, even higher than the year before.
With regard to the export of goods, nickel stands out for its importance, as do generic and biotechnological medication, tobacco and raw sugar, insofar as the services sector, medical and tourist services play a decisive role.
These results are achieved in the midst of a process of reorganizing foreign commerce, in which the number of companies authorized to import goods decreased from 192 to 89 and in which 67% of all the country’s imports are concentrated on 23 entities, also reducing the participation of middlemen by 26% over the last two years.
In response to an economic policy which ensures that social interests and the fundamental priorities of the country are met, a set of measures has been adopted in the monetary sector, aimed at strengthening the national currency. By mid 2003 the US dollar ceased being used in inter-company transactions and an exchange control system was established in the Central Bank for external operations. In November of 2004, in response to the threats made by the United States Government, the US dollar was also withdrawn from circulation in the chain of hard currency shops and a fine of 10% was applied to the exchange of this currency, a measure which was instituted offering maximum facilities to the population and without affecting their bank deposits.
At the beginning of this year, these actions were complemented by the act of revaluing the Cuban peso, with respect to the Cuban convertible peso, by 7%, with which the purchasing power of the Cuban peso increased in the chain of hard currency shops. Additionally, the Cuban convertible peso was revalued by 8% with respect to the US dollar and other hard currencies.
These measures have strengthened our monetary sovereignty and have brought about a greater equality between the social strata who receive income in different currencies. Now all currencies in circulation are issued by the Central Bank of Cuba, unlike in the past, when a part of it was issued by the monetary authority of a country that has imposed an iron blockade on Cuba.
Some practical effects of this have been: an increase in savings made in Cuban pesos of 32%, compared to September of last year, which reflects a stronger credibility of the national currency; a rise in the ratio of deposits made in Cuban convertible pesos from the total amount of hard currency savings accounts, going from 20% to 50%; and a significant increase in the hard currency received by the Central Bank.
In this way it was possible to substantially reduce the participation of the dollar in the country’s total inflow of hard currency in cash. In the past, the participation of the US dollar exceeded 90%, whereas now it maintains a rate of around 30%, which basically reduces the risk caused by threats made by the United States Government.
This year a rational centralization of decisions concerning the use of hard currency has been established. Authorization for these transactions must be obtained before obligations are contracted, which has led to a more effective process of contracting and a greater commitment to honoring the payment. Furthermore, this has contributed considerably to the fight against crime and corruption. It has also helped to make important decisions to get rid of the commercial middlemen that are not representative in international commerce, whose activity brought about a disproportioned increase in the prices of the goods and services that the country purchases abroad.
By way of this process, the State’s hard currency income was concentrated in the Central Bank, thus increasing the possibility of using it, which has notably strengthened the negotiating capacity of the socialist State, with the resulting benefits in commercial and financial management. It has also made it possible to rigorously fulfill the obligations created by the new external financial commitments and the renegotiated debt, which has allowed us to access new credit facilities in more favorable conditions.
Finally, as part of the agreements emanating from ALBA, an affiliate of a Cuban bank has been opened in Venezuela and the creation of an affiliate of a Venezuelan bank in Cuba has been given the go-ahead.
For the first time since the beginning of the special period, in 2004 the balance of day-to-day operations was surplus, due mainly to the notable increase in the services exported. A more favorable result drawing from a higher income for services rendered is anticipated for the present year.
It is calculated that by June 30, sales in hard currency shops will have reached a figure 6.1% higher than that of the year before.
The agreement between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Cuba, signed in accordance with the principles of ALBA, means a considerable step forward on the way to unity and the true integration of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Petrocaribe agreement is another extraordinary advancement and a true example of fraternal solidarity among peoples.
The commercial exchange between Venezuela and Cuba has already risen this year to no less than 3 billion USD.
Both countries will undoubtedly be the two that experience the most economic growth in the hemisphere this year.
Because of these noble, constructive and peaceful efforts, the imperialist government is accusing Venezuela and Cuba, Chávez and Castro, of destabilizing and subverting other countries in the region.
Faced with such accusations against Venezuela and Cuba, and if President Chávez agreed, a day like today would be most opportune to reply: Condemn us, it doesn’t matter, history will absolve us!
Dear people of Havana who, by your selfless, tenacious efforts and in hard-fought competition with the inhabitants of Villa Clara, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Camagüey and Granma, won the right to hold this official function here in the capital: I congratulate you all.