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Socialism Against the Siege

An old poster for a collective stand at the Havana Book Fair, designed by Raúl Martínez.
The image was sent to us by the Center for Cuban Studies/Cuban Art Space.
Photo: Sandra Levinson.

An old poster for a collective stand at the Havana Book Fair, designed by Raúl Martínez. The image was sent to us by the Center for Cuban Studies/Cuban Art Space. Photo: Sandra Levinson.

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez is the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and president of the Republic of Cuba.

This article was originally published by Granma on October 29, 2021, and adapted for this special issue.

It is my responsibility to close the Ninth Legislature’s Seventh Ordinary Period of Sessions and, at the same time, I come before you, the highest representation of our people, to comply with a legal mandate: to render accounts and report on my administration as president of the republic. I will do so by sharing some assessments of the situation we have faced in this period, the issues on which we have focused our work, and the issues toward which we must direct our principal efforts. I do so on a day of special significance for all Cubans, the day on which the always loyal Camilo Cienfuegos disappeared, a symbol of Cuban citizenship, of courage, an eternal hero of Cuban youth, and, like them, joyful and profound.

By speaking these words publicly, I will surely be able to count not only on your opinions, but also on those of our people. We will rely on them to improve our work, with the responsibility that comes with being a public servant.

First, I must emphasize the very complex world context, rocked by multiple crises created by the unjust global order, which have worsened because of two long, hard years of pandemic. Less than a week ago, deaths due to COVID-19 worldwide numbered around 5 million and the number of infected persons exceeded 243,700,000. The World Health Organization estimates that, if we consider the level of mortality directly or indirectly linked to the new coronavirus, the pandemic’s toll could be two to three times higher than official records indicate; but the real impact on all aspects of life on a planetary level is yet to be known. What no one doubts is its high cost for the world economy, already impacted by the prolonged prevalence of unsustainable consumption patterns, which have increasingly narrowed the zones of luxury and comfort while the world of the excluded dramatically expands.

Despite Cuba’s advantages—due to its free, universal public health system and its capacity for rapid scientific development, which put us at the forefront in research and vaccine production globally—we were unable to escape the pandemic’s blows.

As has been addressed in this assembly’s sessions, since 2019, the economy has functioned under exceptional conditions. The combined effects of the tightening of the blockade and the escalation of the pandemic led the country to lose more than $3 billion in revenue during this period. In addition, significant non-budgeted expenditures were made to confront COVID-19, to protect workers and the population in general. All this has limited our capacity to assume indispensable expenditures to sustain state supplies, fundamentally of food and medicines, as well as the resources needed to maintain the national electric system. This difficult situation provokes dissatisfaction and unease within the population. To give you an idea: some $300 million were needed just for health services and disposable supplies to treat COVID-19 patients, while the operation and maintenance of the national electric system requires at least $250 million a year.

The failure to complete regular maintenance in a timely fashion and our inability to acquire the necessary resources to guarantee electric service caused the aggravating power outages that we have experienced since June 21, 2021. Although the limitations have not disappeared, fuel for the generation of electricity is available, and a certain level of financing was secured (under very difficult conditions), which will allow the recovery of 608 megawatts of power generation capacity before the end of 2021, thus gradually improving service across the country.

In this context, conditions that favor inflation have emerged due to the existence of a demand that is much higher than supply, making it the principal priority of the government’s work. One solution would be to increase supply through greater participation by national producers in our domestic market.

Thanks to the sustained control of COVID-19, a gradual process of economic and social recovery has begun, contributed to by measures approved for greater autonomy for socialist state enterprises and the improvement and diversification of economic actors.

The plan of the economy and state budget for 2022, which we will evaluate next December, will be directed at projecting the recovery of fundamental levels of activity, achieving greater autonomy in administrative management at the territorial level, prioritizing compensatory measures to assist the most vulnerable, and consolidating the implementation of the Tarea Ordenamiento [economic reforms process], among other priorities.

Thanks to our system, to the integration of all forces in pursuit of an objective—that is, thanks to unity around the party—Cuba found immediate answers to the unforeseen pandemic and, at the same time, the reprehensible tightening of the blockade. It is necessary to point again to the contemptible opportunism of our adversary. Precisely during the months when the pandemic peaked in our country, power outages became frequent and the supply of goods and services declined significantly, creating a favorable climate for exasperation and discontent. The historical enemy of the Cuban nation, the United States, understood the importance of the moment and launched attacks on our economy with even more viciousness. In direct contradiction to president Joe Biden’s recent declarations before the United Nations General Assembly supporting multilateralism and cooperation in the struggle against the pandemic at a global level, the blockade on Cuba was tightened, new sanctions were imposed, and a new destabilization plan was set in motion, following their “soft coup” manual to the letter.

We have never sat back waiting for change in a policy that for over sixty-two years has shifted only to tighten the siege. The enemy’s formula is based on the idea that our great material difficulties will weaken the resistance of the people and finally bring us to our knees. Against a socialist project like ours, violent or military actions, invasion, occupation are never ruled out; but the first bet is on demoralization, on surrender. This is why the message of hatred of communism, the antisocialist emphasis, the persecution of every possible economic solution—in short, the blockade—continue, no matter how much they damage, how much they erode the faith of a people in its own strengths.

However implausible and immoral it may seem, this is the imperialist plan for Cuba. The hypocritical cover-ups and deceptions about an alleged revision of the policy, which the current government repudiated during the electoral campaign that brought Biden to power, are no longer believable. Fraudulent justifications touting the supposed intention to support the Cuban people, and only deny the government any help, are no longer valid.

The evidence is there for all to see that the objective has been, from the beginning, to provoke economic hardship, punish the people, erode their standard of living, restrict their sources of income, limit consumption, and undermine social services on which much of their well-being, and the meeting of basic needs, depends. The goal is to condemn the Cuban population to the role of hostage in a genocidal policy with hegemonic designs.

This is why Washington is so annoyed by Cuba’s success in confronting the pandemic, in particular the outstanding results of our vaccination program, developed with ingenuity, effort, and our own resources. It explains the determination to disparage our public health system and deny this extraordinary achievement of Cuba, which exposes the deceitful portrayal they want to impose on our reality. Every vaccine created and administered, every immunized compatriot, every infection avoided, and every life saved are victories for the national cause and defeats of the imperialist aggression against our country. It may seem incredible to describe it this way, but there is no other way to describe the shameless use of a pandemic, with cold political calculation, against an entire people.

As I recently pointed out during the closing of the last plenum of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee, in the current climate of our bilateral relations with the United States, that country’s embassy is playing an increasingly active role in political subversion efforts. In contrast, I can categorically state that our embassy in Washington has never conducted any activity meant to subvert the established order in the United States, or undermine its political, legal, or constitutional foundation. Our diplomatic mission in that country is limited to an intense effort to favor bilateral relations, to lift the economic blockade, and to counteract slander campaigns against Cuba and the revolution.

The record of our diplomatic representations in the United States has always been absolutely spotless, despite our genuine concerns and legitimate opinions on the unjust nature of the U.S. political system and the political, economic, and legal abuses committed there on a daily basis. The U.S. government shamelessly uses the privileges enjoyed by its embassy in our country. U.S. diplomatic officials frequently meet with counterrevolutionary leaders, providing them guidance, encouragement, logistical support, and direct and indirect financing. On their communication platforms, including digital networks, they issue offensive statements on a daily basis that constitute open interference in the internal affairs of our country.

It is only fair to ask what the U.S. government’s response would be if any embassy accredited in Washington engaged in instigating, guiding, motivating, and financing any of the multiple extremist groups whose illegal activities threaten the stability, life, and public order of that country. It would be good to know how the U.S. government would respond to an embassy accredited in its territory that publicly engages in promoting civil disobedience, political demonstrations, and massive marches against the established legal order.

Recent provocations have made clear that a concerted operation against Cuba, based in the United States, is underway, involving millions of dollars directed toward generating an image of Cuba as a failed state, where citizens’ rights are trampled. The plan also includes efforts to recruit other countries to join the economic aggression, and to pressure the United States itself to take even more punitive action on a larger scale.

The truth always prevails, no matter how powerful the tools are today to hide or distort it. Lies may spread as fast as the COVID-19 virus and have the power to confuse and infect many, but they will not be able to break the will of this heroic people, tested so many times. Despite the plans of imperialism, we are defeating the pandemic, as we have defeated and will defeat their aggressive plans, no matter how vicious the campaigns or the slanders. The blockade is and will continue to be, in the foreseeable future, a fundamental obstacle to our strategies and potential for economic growth and development, but it is not an insurmountable impediment. We will continue to struggle against it tirelessly, with the support of the international community.

Our development and the people’s well-being necessarily depends on the effort we make and the intelligence we bring to the task, aware that the cruel U.S. war will persist as long as that country’s desire to control Cuba’s destiny persists. The blockade is not only meant to punish us for our resistance. It is an everyday part of the effort to prevent socialism from being associated with growth, progress, or prosperity. No! Socialism is not to blame for our problems. Only socialism can explain the fact that we have survived this ferocious, genocidal siege, without renouncing development. As I expressed a few days ago at the Central Committee plenum, a worthy response to this undeserved punishment depends on us alone. Our originality must be as great as the malice of those attempting to subjugate us. The revolution has been, and will always be, distinguished by the capacity of our people to resist and create.

Our economic and social strategy for boosting the economy and confronting the global crisis caused by COVID-19 was the first response. It adjusted the country’s projections given the new situation without renouncing our development program through 2030. It is a revolutionary response with the flexibility and capacity to adapt to the complexity of absolutely new and unpredictable situations, such as the pandemic itself. It is a response based on our strengths and takes into consideration existing limitations.

Promoting the development of a government management system based on science and innovation, we created the National Innovation Council, to provide specialized advice that will have an impact on decision-making and our most pressing problems. Among the actions taken to complement the economic and social strategy, more than sixty measures have been approved to stimulate the production and distribution of food, along with others meant to increase the efficiency of state enterprises, encourage the activity of new economic actors (the so-called mipymes [small and medium businesses]), remove obstacles in processes, and create production chains.

At the same time, during a year of so many limitations, our state has undertaken an intense international effort of dialogue, exchange, and cooperation with other nations and their leaders, participating in summits—virtually and, to a lesser extent, face to face—which have allowed us to maintain solid relationships with the international community and, in particular, with friendly nations. As an expression of Cuba’s unchanging commitment to solidarity, recognized with gratitude throughout the world, some fifty-seven medical brigades from the Henry Reeve contingent have directly confronted COVID-19 in forty nations.

I have allowed myself to insist on external factors that aim to weaken us because, under the fireworks of nonconventional warfare and the deafening racket that professional haters produce on the Internet, we could fall into the error of not recognizing our own strengths, of not appreciating our indisputable progress during these last two years plagued by challenges and uncertainty worldwide. Let us begin with the legislative work, which should contribute much to the country’s institutionality.

During this Period of Sessions, complying with the agreed schedule, we have approved four important laws that represent a transcendental reform in the country’s judicial and procedural order. It is only fair to recognize the effort made under the conditions imposed by the pandemic. These norms concretize the content of Cuba’s Constitution and reinforce the rights of citizens, in harmony with society as a whole. They are the result of a broad, creative, and participative process, to which directors and specialists of the courts, the Attorney General’s office, collective legal teams, and university professors contributed, in addition to a segment of our people.

We must continue to perfect this practice in the drafting of legislation, to ensure that each law we approve is the result of the contributions of all those linked to the issue at hand and, when appropriate, consulted with the people through various means. The normative provisions approved place the country at the forefront of the most advanced and modern legislation in this field, and reflect a spirit of renewal, reaffirming access to justice for all, expanding due process, and thus helping to concretize the concept of the socialist state of law and social justice, recognized in Article 1 of the Magna Carta.

The Law of Courts strengthens judicial functioning in the country, reinforcing the independence of the judiciary and the role of judges in society, adjusting its structure and operations to current requirements. It recognizes essential principles in judicial matters, including the supremacy of the Constitution, impartiality, equality, free access to justice, and popular participation. The criminal process, in accordance with the law, is endowed with greater guarantees for all those involved. Notable elements include the strengthening of rights and guarantees recognized in the Constitution and international treaties, the recognition of victims and injured parties as procedural subjects, anticipated forms of solution in processes, treatment of persons between 16 and 18 years of age who are charged and prosecuted. Also significant are provisions guaranteeing legal assistance from the beginning of any process, along with court control of the precautionary measure of pretrial detention at any stage of the process, issues raised during the popular consultation of the Constitution’s text.

The Administrative Process Law, in addition to making this matter independent for the first time in procedural norms, will guarantee citizens the possibility of filing claims in court if they believe their rights have been violated by the public administration. Finally, the Code of Processes standardizes procedures for civil, commercial, family, labor, and social security matters. It reinforces the protection of people in vulnerable situations and establishes measures to enforce judicial decisions, among other relevant issues.

The four laws approved pose a challenge for those responsible for the justice system, given the need for training and guaranteeing their adequate implementation to safeguard prompt and effective justice. We reiterate the will to continue meeting the legislative timeline approved by this parliament and, with it, developing the contents of our socialist Constitution.

The Eighth Party Congress opened valuable debates and offered fundamental directives that serve as references and the driving force in what we do. Addressed during the event were the most challenging problems of our reality: the gaps, failures in communication, need to promote dialogue, participation and popular control, life in our neighborhoods, work of mass and social organizations, attention to vulnerable sectors of the population, knowledge of the problems and the interests of our youth, bureaucratization of community work, but, above all, the effects of the blockade on the daily lives of all Cubans and the high level of political sensitivity demanded by the implementation of the Tarea Ordenamiento. The reform process was carried out in difficult circumstances, as it was considered a non-postponable step in increasing enterprise efficiency, but it had an undesired impact on the lives of citizens, which today is expressed, above all, in severe inflation.

Deputy prime minister Alejandro Gil explained the causes and possible solutions to this problem at length in his report, so I will not attempt to do the same, except to say that we are aware of its severity and it is the government’s priority to address it and support vulnerable people. Several elements of its initial design have been rectified, taking into account the people’s opinions. We are not going to lie and say that this will be solved with the stroke of a pen; I can only say that the revolution will never do anything against the interests and demands of the people. And I am personally confident that we will meet this challenge, just as we have overcome other seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The guidelines updated at the Eighth Party Congress and what pertains to this five-year period in the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030 constitute the foundations of the strategy to boost the economy, which we have decided will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Economy and Planning, through its macroeconomic and other programs.

For ten years now, the Permanent Commission for the Implementation and Development of Policy Guidelines has worked on updating the economic and social model of socialist development, but we decided that it is time to deactivate the Commission and transfer its main functions to the Ministry of Economy and Planning. Today we are in a better position to improve government work in close alliance with people’s power bodies, which have much untapped potential. I can imagine no better place than this to reflect on what we expect from our people’s power. People’s power—genuine and innovative people’s power, and thus also questioned and attacked by those who do not recognize it or fear its example—constitutes the foundation and essence of the Cuban political system. To strengthen it is to empower the initiative and direct action of our people in the consolidation of socialism.

This very session of the assembly has given us good reasons to propose a critical and reflective discussion of participation and popular control, and its various forms, mechanisms, and procedures. But I also point out the importance of conducting these analyses in all social environments, all state institutions and bodies at all levels, to encourage creative and responsible action in the revolutionary socialist process.

If the conversations with representatives of diverse organizations and social groups—that is, meetings with sectors and tours of the provinces and neighborhoods—have taught us anything, it is the need to assume new styles of work that better reflect the country’s social heterogeneity, to adequately channel the concerns and contributions of the citizenry, and to respond to every demand received in a timely, pertinent, and well-founded manner within the established time frame and procedure. It is imperative to take advantage of the people’s knowledge, strengths, and initiatives, not in a formal way, but organically, respectfully, aware that in this practice the principle of co-responsibility is accentuated along the path to the greatest possible social justice. When we speak of innovation as one of the pillars of government management, we are also thinking of our people’s power. Socialist democracy demands doing, innovating, changing, and permanently transforming the forms of democratic participation.

The 2019 Constitution and the laws approved by the current legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power provide the legal foundations to support our actions, which we will continue to develop along with the legal system: actions that stimulate, promote, and concretize popular participation have defensive and constructive importance for socialism. Immobility and formalism in government bodies at the local level are as harmful as paternalism, such as in the delivery of goods and resources without considering the importance of social participation.

Participation is the essence and best defense of our socialism. The opposite only serves the enemies of the revolution and their objective of returning to capitalism in Cuba. Freedom of discussion, the exercise of criticism and self-criticism, is vital to continue advancing, to create and love. We must listen, dialogue, attend to the proposals of our people. We must conduct popular consultations on matters of local and national interest, promote participatory budgets to decide, among us all, where and how best to spend public funds, with emphasis on the locality, the neighborhood, the municipality. We reaffirm here the will of the party, the state, and Cuban society to respect, promote, and guarantee constitutional rights, a commitment that was expressed during the process of constitutional reform—that had as its culmination the binding referendum to approve the 2019 Constitution—and in all the actions that are taken on a daily basis to ensure the protection of rights.

These hard pandemic months provide the best evidence of how the state—supported by scientists, health personnel, educators, workers, campesinos, soldiers, youth, and students—has worked hard to reduce infections and fatalities, in communities and neighborhoods, in workplaces, in mass political and social organizations. Citizen participation saves lives! The protagonists of this process are those who construct our sacred unity, those who develop the nation’s capacity for resilience, the guardians of dignity: our people. As we advance in mass vaccination, paying special attention to children and adolescents, we demonstrate our commitment to the comprehensive protection of the rights of the new generation in Cuba. That such efforts are everyday events in no way makes them less extraordinary.

We are committed to recognizing and advancing the rights of families, developing the principles of family plurality, diversity, equality, and non-discrimination. As a result of this intention, we now have a preliminary draft of the Families Code—a solid, rigorous document based on human dignity as the supreme value that sustains the recognition and exercise of duties and rights. We are convinced that, through processes of specialized consultation, popular consultation, and debates in the National Assembly of People’s Power, we will reach the legislative referendum with a draft Families Code that will place Cuba among the most advanced countries in the world on the question. These are just some examples among many, including the National Program for the Advancement of Women, the National Program Against Racism and Racial Discrimination, and the Decree Law on Working Women and Maternity, among others, which show that the revolution respects, promotes, and guarantees equality and democracy.

This assembly recently approved an important declaration denouncing the interference of the U.S. government in our internal affairs and its unacceptable role as instigator and facilitator of current provocations. In this same hall, where the Constitution of 2019 was discussed at length until its approval, I cannot fail to refer to both the subtle and flagrant attempts with which adversaries of the revolution, many of whom attacked the process that led to its approval, today seek to use the rights it guarantees to destroy the work that the Constitution defends and protects. According to Article 56 of the Magna Carta: “The rights of assembly, demonstration, and association, for lawful and peaceful purposes, are recognized by the state as long as they are exercised with respect for public order and compliance with precepts established by law.” The exercise of rights implies the fulfillment of duties, among them, respect for the order established in the Constitution, which is an expression of the principle of popular sovereignty. The law of laws cannot be interpreted at one’s convenience, much less in the interest of those who are the first to disrespect it. The Constitution, in Article 7, stipulates it “is the supreme law of the state. All are obliged to comply with it. The provisions and acts of state bodies, their directors, officials, and employees, as well as those of organizations, entities, and individuals are to abide by its provisions.” Our Constitution consecrates the principles of independence and sovereignty of peoples, recognizes the right to self-determination expressed in the freedom to choose our own political, economic, social, and cultural system, condemns direct or indirect intervention in the internal or external affairs of any state, including armed aggression, any form of economic or political coercion, unilateral blockades in violation of international law, and any other type of interference or threat to the integrity of states.

Rights are not unlimited. The limits are also stipulated in the Constitution, and include the rights of others, collective security, general welfare, respect for public order, the Constitution, and laws. A demonstration ceases to be peaceful at the moment when participants seek to alter the normality of community life, social peace, express the intention to subvert the constitutional order and position themselves as the opposition to socialism, and, even more so, when all this is done following a script serving the political interests of a foreign government that has maintained an economic war against our country for six decades.

I would like to particularly express our gratitude to the scientific community, called on to provide us with the tools that only science can and should contribute to economic and social processes in this era. Thanks to Fidel’s visionary policy of promoting science, and the continuity Raúl provided to that work, thanks to the talent, dedication, and commitment with which several generations of Cuban researchers have been trained, our government has been able to face the terrible threat of a pandemic like no other in Latin America or the third world. When we review these years in the not-too-distant future, we will be obliged to speak first of all of the health professionals, the creative scientists, and academics who came out of their classrooms to share knowledge.

And we will also talk about our armed institutions, the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, which made a decisive contribution in supporting efforts to confront the situation and took on the hazardous mission of producing, transporting, and delivering oxygen to hospitals in the country’s most critical hours. I must also acknowledge the Revolutionary Armed Forces enterprise system for its indispensable contribution to the nation’s economy, which has provided us with fundamental resources during emergencies.

Only an organized country with a leadership united in a common purpose—the safeguarding of the nation—can set the highest goals in the most difficult hours. Knowing that our nation, blockaded and without financial resources, could not aspire to protect its population from the threat of the pandemic, we asked our scientific community for a sovereign solution to confront the spread of the disease.

Today, we are the first country in Latin America with three vaccines and two vaccine candidates under development, and the first in the world to begin vaccinating children between 2 and 18 years of age. Along the way we experienced hard blows: peaks in new infections, full hospitals, crises in the availability of beds and oxygen, painful deaths, increased tension with breakdowns at electric plants, limited availability of medications and food. The anti-Cuban mob, calculating that our end was near, went for our throats with demands for a humanitarian intervention and even military invasion. They did not even bother to look at the history of how nations “saved” by Yankee or North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops have ended up in this century. But the Cuban people do know this history, they are informed, and the good people of the world know it too. With this consciousness, solidarity donations were organized, and they continue to arrive in Cuba.

In the last few weeks, the number of new infections and deaths has dropped significantly. Students are getting ready to go back to school and the country is preparing to open borders to oxygenate the economy. We feel like celebrating for our children, doctors, scientists, our vaccines, and our people; for Fidel, who returned again and again to his legitimate faith in human beings to save lives and illuminate the horizon. There is more than one reason that our celebration should be responsible and restrained. In many parts of the world, new outbreaks of the pandemic are occurring amid the crisis caused by the economic slowdown. This is the world we live in and it is up to us to assume the risk. Let us make this success last.

On November 15, 2021, Cuba will reopen its borders, students will return to school; Havana, the capital of dignity, will await its 502nd anniversary, to celebrate as it has not been able to do in the last two years. National life will resume its course, with the greatest joy, but alert. The peace and harmony that distinguish life in our streets will continue to reign. No one is going to spoil our party! We are now vaccinated against COVID-19, and we have always been vaccinated against fear! We have a homeland, and we defend life! And we remain true to “¡Patria o Muerte!” We will win!

2022, Volume 73, Number 08 (January 2022)
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