Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz delivered last Saturday the closing speech at the Fourth Regular Session of the Eighth Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, attended by the Cuban Five, three of whom were recently released.
The Cuban ex-prisoners were greeted with a standing ovation by the deputies, who also applauded the presence of young Elián González and the Hero of the Republic of Cuba Orlando Cardoso Villavicencio, who served more than 10 years in prison in Somalia.
Raul devoted much of his words to refer to the events of Wednesday, December 17 and welcomed the decision by US President Barack Obama to take together the first steps towards the re-establishment of bilateral relations.
In his speech, he stressed that Cubans “do not ignore the virulent criticism Obama has had to endure after the aforementioned ads by forces opposed to the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba.”
The also First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba welcomed the new chapter in bilateral relations that “was growing with discretion” and reiterated his gratitude to Pope Francis and the Canadian government for their participation in the dialogue. He further stressed that no progress had been possible without the profound changes occurred in Latin America and the support of Latin American presidents.
In this regard he thanked Juan Carlos Varela, president of Panama, for the invitation to the Seventh Summit of the Organization of American States and confirmed his participation to it, to “express our positions with sincerity and respect by all Heads of State and Government, no exceptions “.
Raul expressed optimism for Obama’s future actions in the interest of easing the blockade and remove Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. He said it will be a long struggle, which will need the involvement of the international community, especially the US citizens.
Raúl reiterated his willingness to discuss “any topic from here, but also from the United States.” He further stated that “it should not be expected that to improve relations with the United States, Cuba should give up to the ideas for which its people have fought for over 100 years.”
“It is necessary to understand that Cuba is a sovereign state, which people, in free referendum to approve the constitution, decided its socialist course and political, economic and social system. In the same way that we have never suggested that the United States to change its political system, we will demand our respect, “he added.
The Cuban president noted the need for both governments to adopt mutual measures to prevent events affecting progress in the bilateral relationship, but based on respect for the laws of each country.
He referred also to the interest in multi and bilateral cooperation in all aspects, with emphasis on the fight against Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
The Cuban president said that “for our part a prudent, moderate, flexible but firm behavior will prevail and it is only possible to progress from mutual respect.”
About updating the economic model
A substantial part of the speech by Raúl Castro was on the update of the Cuban economic model and its challenges and the need to “gradually moderate changes to avoid making mistakes.”
Raul strongly criticized the decrease of the gross domestic product this year with a growth of only 1.3 percent, while noting that the conditions are created to grow just over 4 percent in 2015.
He also announced a rearrangement of the Cuban debt and efforts to make payment to creditors and restore confidence internationally.
The Cuban president also criticized business inefficiency and advised leading efforts to “foster a culture of tax compliance” between natural citizens and legal persons, so that the redistribution of resources to benefit the people to be guaranteed.
As for monetary unification, he explained that “we have progressed from a conceptual point of view, to avoid damage to the national economy and population.” In this regard, he noted basic issues to consider in this process: firstly he stressed that “monetary unification is not the universal and immediate solution to the economic problems of the country”, and secondly he assured that “bank deposits in different currencies will be guarantee to all national and foreign legal persons “.
Regarding the sensitive issue of wages in Cuba and its possible increase, Raul ruled out the possibility of doing it while not having a backup in production, as this would constitute a “serious mistake, with disastrous consequences for the economy and the citizens.”