Raul: I wasn’t elected to Restore Capitalism in Cuba

News from Cuba | Thursday, 8 January 2009

I wasn’t elected as President to restore capitalism in Cuba or to surrender the Revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it, affirmed Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday.

While closing the ordinary session of the National Assembly of the People’s Power (Parliament), the Cuban head of state responded to recent statements made by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, on the fact that the United States expected essential changes to take place on the Caribbean island.

He reiterated Cuba’s willingness to hold respectful talks with the United States, between equals, “without a single shadow for our independence, sovereignty and self-determination."

“We’re ready to talk about everything, I repeat, everything, but everything about Cuba and the United States, not to negotiate our political and social system. We don’t ask the United States to do that.

We must respect each other’s differences”, he added.

Raul explained that, if we go by facts, the essential one is that the economic, commercial and financial blockade remains intact, as shown by the pursuit of transactions with third nations and the increasing imposition of fines to US companies and foreign subsidiaries.

Likewise, he added, the unjustified inclusion of Cuba on the US State Department’s annual list of the countries promoting international terrorism persists.

He underlined that the measures announced on April 13 on the eve of the Summit of The Americas referred to trips of Cubans, remittances and some operations in telecommunications have not been implemented yet, and it’s important to clarify this because there’s confusion and manipulation in this regard on the part of some international media outlets.

On the other hand, it’s true that aggressiveness and anti-Cuban rhetoric have decreased, said Raúl, and that the talks on migratory issues were resumed and held in a serious and constructive way.

During his speech, the Cuban president warned that as a consequence of the impact of the international crisis, it’s estimated that the national economy will close this year with barely a 1.7 growth in its gross domestic product, which makes it necessary to act with more efficiency and saving.

He informed that the island’s main exports have significantly decreased, due to the fall in prices of items like nickel, while in the tourism sector, despite the 2.9 per cent increase registered in the number of visitors, incomes decreased due to the new exchange rates of the dollar.

Raul described as important for the country the Parliament’s approval on Saturday of two laws, the one on the National System of Museums and that of the Comptroller General of the Republic, the latter essential to increase order, economic discipline, internal control and open confrontation of any sign of corruption.

He said that during the present year measures will be adopted to achieve the institutional nature of the State and Cuban government, whereas the state apparatus has been reduced with the merger of different organizations and the resulting reduction of expenses, transportation and staff.

While tackling other topics of national interest, Raul pointed out that, with a few exceptions, the agricultural livestock and industrial productions are increasing as well as transport as a whole, and social services for the population are guaranteed, particularly in the field of health, education, and cultural and artistic activities.

Cuba is one of the few countries in the world that can affirm it has controlled the pandemic of the A H1N1 virus, he stated, and informed that, until Friday night, there were only 242 confirmed cases, 232 of which had already been discharged from hospital and the remaining 10, also until Friday night, showed favorable signs of recovery, and that no complications or deaths have occurred.

Other examples can be mentioned, said the Cuban president, like the fact that so far the annoying blackouts suffered by the population due deficits in electricity generation have been prevented, except those caused by maintenance in the mains or other reasons. He added that this wouldn't have been possible without the strategy devised by Fidel and the measures taken in electric power generation and saving.

Exceptional measures have been implemented, like power cuts for certain entities that exceeded their consumption according to plans, while some people have been fined for committing fraud in the meters at their homes.

He warned that more severe measures will be applied to recidivists, like power cuts for long periods and even definitively, if necessary. We call the people to save as much energy as possible.

In another moment of his speech, the Cuban head of state announced that more than 7,800 retired teachers have returned to classrooms, while another 7,000 have postponed their retirement.

He explained that these figures, plus that of those who decided to continue working, will allow the country to count on more or less another 19,000 teachers for the upcoming academic year. As it is known, he added, a modest salary increase was recently approved for the educational sector.

In this regard, he stated, ways to reduce the number of boarders and semi-boarders at schools in all levels are being examined, and many of these students will begin to study in the cities as material and organizational conditions are created. He added that this decision will increase saving without affecting quality, and that it will also prevent some 5,000 teachers from spending a lot of time in transportation from and to their homes.

The Cuban president made reference to the experiences of suburban agriculture and the need of taking maximum advantage of plots near the cities for the production of food. He reiterated that food production is a matter of national security, a task that should continue incorporating as many people as possible, by means of all the existing forms of property and with the necessary order.

It wouldn't make sense, he pointed out, to hold a formal congress that doesn’t go into strategic matters in depth and doesn't establish guidelines toward the future. We're talking about identifying the main problems, and this will necessarily take more time, he stressed.

The Cuban President underscored that, as approved during the 7th Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, and as explained on the note published on Friday, it's necessary to conclude the preparation of the whole Party first, and then carry out analyses with the population as a whole, and hold the Congress only when this process had concluded. He said that it's the people, with its Party in the vanguard, the one that decides.

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