Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

-DATE-
19740714
-YEAR-
1974
-DOCUMENT_TYPE-
CONFERENCE
-AUTHOR-
F. CASTRO
-HEADLINE-
PRESS CONFERENCE IN WHICH CASTRO LAUDS ELECTIONS
-PLACE-
MATANZAS
-SOURCE-
HAVANA GRANMA WEEKLY REV
-REPORT_NBR-
FBIS
-REPORT_DATE-
19740630
-TEXT-
FIDEL CASTRO LAUDS ELECTIONS IN MATANZAS

Havana GRANMA WEEKLY REVIEW in English 14 Jul 74 p 2

[Text] After visiting the polls and other places in the city of Matanzas on
30 June, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro gave a press conference covering
the results of the elections in Matanzas Province. The following is a
comprehensive report of the dialog between Fidel and the journalists.

Commander in Chief Fidel Castro: In fulfillment of the agreements adopted
at the journalists' congress and in keeping with what Armando Hart said
about press information and all that, I am at your service.

[Question] We would like to know, in the first place, what you think about
your visit to the electoral circumscriptions and about these first
elections.

[Answer] We have visited a few electoral circumscriptions. I am really most
impressed with what I have seen this morning. Something really praiseworthy
and in some respects amazing has been taking place. They told me that
practically no one slept last night in the city of Matanzas. They also told
me that some citizens were standing in line at 0400 hours in the morning
waiting for the polls to open. I spoke to a lady who told me that she had
left the hospital today to vote.

Rizo told we that a 90-year-old man was very happy because he would not
miss the elections in the revolution. Everyone is taking part in these
elections, even the Pioneers who are helping those in charge at the polls.

The polling places are very well organized. The people working there are
very qualified and serious about their work. The various persons in charge
at the polls I visited made a very good impression. They looked responsible
and very aware of the job they had to do. And the people were full of
enthusiasm. It really looked like a holiday.

I would like to add some very interesting details before going on to the
next question.

About noon, several of these polling places, all except one, had the vote
of more than 90 percent of those registered. I have the impression at this
time, going by what I saw in the city of Matanzas, that more than 90
percent of the registered voters here have turned out to vote. I gathered
this from what I saw at the various circumscriptions I visited and from the
enthusiasm and the people's interest in the elections.

I do not ever recall an election in the history of Cuba in which 90 percent
of the people turned out to vote. And I think that 90 percent is a
conservative estimate. Let us wait for the results. In several of these
circumscriptions where more than 500 persons were registered to vote, only
from 20 to 24 had not yet voted. By noon, only 5 percent of the voters had
not yet turned up at several of these places.

If we consider the fact that voting is not obligatory, we can see that all
this is truly outstanding. It is the outcome of the enthusiasm of the
people. Let us call it their degree of political maturity. Without a doubt,
the party and the mass organizations have mobilized themselves and have
done a wonderful job.

I am very happy at having visited the city of Matanzas today, because it
makes a difference having seen things personally instead of having someone
tell you about them afterward. Elections have not been held in Cuba for a
long time. But what a difference between these and past elections! These
elections had none of the cheap political campaigning of the past. In these
elections, the candidates were elected by the masses, taking into strict
consideration only the merits of each one of them. The candidate's
biographical account was his campaign poster.

Another curious detail is the number of candidates. Almost all Committees
for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR's) had their candidates, regardless
of the fact that two or three CDR's within one circumscription could have
united to nominate one candidate. But no, each CDR nominated its own
candidate, making the election results very close, of course.

It is very likely that the majority of the circumscriptions will have to
schedule a runoff election, since the representative of a circumscription
must have 51 percent of the votes to get elected. Just think, in the case
of 6, 7 or 9 candidates....

We adopted this procedure precisely, because it is more democratic. The
candidates are directly nominated by the masses. No limit was set as to the
number of candidates that could be nominated. All those whom the masses
wanted to nominate were nominated. We cannot ask for a broader procedure.
We cannot ask for a more democratic spirit in the nomination of candidates
and in the elections. And bear in mind that the delegates at the municipal,
regional, provincial and even national levels--since delegates will be sent
to the National People's Assembly in the future-- will be chosen from these
delegates directly elected by the masses. It is a very democratic process.

This experiment is really interesting. We call it an experiment precisely
because we are trying to test these ideas and observe the results so that
we can come up with the best possible procedure for setting up the People's
Government structure.

Did you have another question?

[Question] Commander, taking into account these positive experiences we are
seeing here in Matanzas, are the elections in the remaining provinces up to
the establishment of the national assembly already programmed?

[Answer] We have not yet scheduled the elections in the other provinces,
since we need a period of time for examining this experience. Of course,
the elections are just a part of an entire process.

Now Comes the Process of Establishing People's Government at the Municipal,
Regional and Provincial Levels

Now comes the process of establishing People's Government at the municipal,
regional and provincial levels. It will be a process of transferring
functions and activities from the central power agencies to the People's
Government bodies and of testing the functioning of these bodies by means
of numerous activities and tasks so that we can come up with an experience
we can evaluate at the party congress. I think this policy will probably be
put into effect in the rest of the country after the party congress, when
we have had time to analyze thoroughly the results of this experience.

I do not mean that the countrywide application of this policy depends on
the outcome of this experience. We have the firm purpose of applying it to
the whole country. I do not mean experience in the sense of whether it will
be applied or not; I mean experience in the sense of deciding how the
process will be carried out and organized. Of course, we can clearly see
that this is the correct way of developing a socialist democracy.

[Question] Commander, aside from talking about the broadly democratic
character of this process, I would like to ask your opinion about granting
the vote to armed forces personnel and to 16-year-olds. Could you discuss
this a little?

[Answer] Well, a citizen asked me whether or not I thought it extraordinary
that the members of the armed forces were also able to vote. I replied that
no, I did not think so. I thought that it was something normal, since in
the revolution and in socialism there is a complete identification between
the armed forces and the people. We are all members of the armed forces.

In times of peace, a number of comrades keep themselves armed and ready
because a permanent guard in defense of the revolution must be maintained.

In times of war, all citizens can become members of the armed forces that
will defend the country.

Within a society of classes, exploiters and exploited, in which, generally
speaking, the army is assigned the role of gendarme of the society and
becomes a separate group within the society and in charge of maintaining
order, the bourgeois constitutions, in keeping with their conceptions, have
established 'that soldiers abstain from voting. This is the usual
procedure. I think there are some exceptions. There must be some country
with a liberal constitution in which some members of the armed forces are
allowed to vote. I am not sure, but I think there might be some bourgeois
country where the armed forces are granted the right to vote, as an
exception.

But traditionally in Latin America and in Cuba, of course, this concept is
something completely different. The participation of soldiers in the
elections is a normal procedure, just as they participate in productive and
all kinds of other activities. We cannot conceive of a member of the
military without the right to vote. It would mean depriving him of a right
that all citizens in a workers' society should have.

As far as the young people are concerned, it is a very interesting case.
Granting voting rights to young people has been everyone's demand for a
long time. At the beginning, voting was very restricted within liberal
processes. Only those earning above a certain income and paying a certain
amount of taxes could vote. Later, women demanded their right to vote
within the bourgeois process itself. That was a historic conquest--women
getting their right to vote--and a long struggle in the bourgeois
countries.

After that, the voting age and whether or not young people could vote were
topics discussed many times. I think that recently some countries have
lowered their voting age to 18. The traditional age for exercising one's
voting right was 21.

In Cuba the voting age is 16, because if a 16-year-old is old enough to
join the military service, fight and shed his blood in the defense of his
country, then why should not he be old enough to vote? If our students,
including those younger than 16, from 12 up, are studying and working at
the schools in the countryside, and a 16-year-old student takes part in
productive activities, then why should not this student have the right to
vote?

We think that 16-year-olds are sufficiently mature, and politically,
intellectually and culturally capable of exercising their right to vote.

We Are Very Happy and Satisfied To See This Dream of the Young People
Become a Reality

We are very happy and satisfied to see this dream of the young people be
come a reality by means of their exercising the right to vote.

Of course, there are those who do not vote, like the Pioneers who are
helping out in the elections. They do not vote, but they helped out in the
voting.

[Question] It was a very impressive sight to see the children beside the
ballot boxes, very beautiful.

[Answer] Right. I only visited the city of Matanzas. I imagine the
situation in the countryside was similar. Other comrades went to the
countryside and covered other cities. But the enthusiasm in the city of
Matanzas was really unbeatable; it could not be topped. We could not ask
for more.

[Question] As we see the tremendous enthusiasm here in Matanzas, we would
like you to say more about this electoral process, because there are many
young people who have no idea what elections were like. I think they should
be told about the troubles their parents went through in past eras.

[Answer] The elections became a tragedy amidst that climate of personal
ambitions, individualism, corruption, politicking, buying and selling of
votes, cliques involved in power struggles in order to get rich by being in
power, etc. Elections were always a particular tragedy for the public
employee: he was forced to join the party in power and had to hustle votes
for the party in power; he had to buy and sell votes and do all sorts of
terrible things. It was a climate of repulsive corruption. That is the only
way I can describe it. It was repulsive politicking. The situation now is
the absolute opposite to all that. The most extraordinary thing is the
purity of these election's and this process, which is how things should be.

This shows that new things are possible in human society. This is a great
lesson. People almost hated the words election or vote or electoral. They
hated them. They were instruments of lies, deceit, slavery, corruption,
intimidation and pressure.

[Question] I think the people of Matanzas must be quite amazed, especially
the older ones. It is a new and exciting experience for young people, but
the older ones who lived under capitalism must be impressed. I think that
is why there are so many old people in the streets. We have seen old people
going by who were almost unable to walk, and they were determined to go and
vote. That impressed us the most during this tour.

Today the People Handle and Must Handle Their Affairs. Everything Concerns
Them; They Are Interested in Everything; Everything Matters to Them

[Answer] In the past, with that vile method of bourgeois politics, after
every election the victorious parties would fire all public employees, and
the jobs were divided up among the electoral cliques. There was terrible
insecurity as a result of the dictatorship of the exploiters, the
landowners, the bourgeoisie and the capitalists. What could these people
give? What could they produce? What could they offer? Today the people
handle and must handle their affairs. Everything concerns them; they are
interested in everything; everything matters to them. They cannot be left
out of anything. In the past, the people were left out of everything.

It is interesting; for me it is very interesting. I witnessed something....
I am not precisely of Pioneer age. (laughter) I lived through some things.
I witnessed some things, not very much, but practically ever since I can
remember I saw what politics were like, especially what elections were
like. Those were the elections of the 1930's, of 1936 and 1940. Those
elections were frequently carried out at bayonet point, with armed soldiers
in the schools, shots fired into the air, robbery of ballot boxes and
large-scale fraud and all those things.

The people are aware of some of these things. You know why? There is a
popular TV program that deals with that period, and possibly many young
people know more about the political corruption of the past that way than
through any life experience, because they did not live through it. They
must also be familiar with it from what their parents tell them. Anyway,
the revolution is not so old: a little over 15, and there are many
30-year-olds in this country.

The last elections took place in November of 1958: Batista's electoral
fraud, which took place when we were in the Sierra Maestra.

Of course the people have also acquired experience in the collective
electoral process. Here we have the trade unions, the mass organizations,
especially the party, which have already passed through the experience of
how a real selective process is set up, because of the revolutionary
quality of the men and women who are elected by the masses. Socialism must
be a process of selecting the best by virtue of their revolutionary
quality. That is the only guarantee.

[Question] Would you clear that up a little? Will those who are elected as
delegates live on the same block with their electors?

[Answer] Yes, they will be in contact with them. Besides, there will be
very few professionals in all those organs of People's Government--minimal
at the municipality level. The delegates will continue being what they are
now, especially maintaining their constant ties with those who elected
them, although they will represent the circumscription and then the
municipality, the region and the province and not just the group that
elected them. They will represent all the voters of the collective, where
there are several. They will represent those who voted for them and the
others.

[Question] Commander, will they have to give a periodic rendering of
accounts?

[Answer] Of course. We will have more to say about that on 26 July, and a
lot has already been said. In this present stage of the process the accent
is on the elections, but there are other very interesting things,
especially on the work content of the People's Government bodies. They will
handle a number of jobs that are now done by the central government.

[Question] This will lead to a decentralization of economic activity.

[Answer] But the ministries will be required to do more work in the field
of norms, because decentralization must go hand in hand with norming.

[Question] You have mentioned the extraordinary enthusiasm of the people of
Matanzas. There is also another reason for the enthusiasm, something to
which the people have responded with great fervor--the news that the main
celebration of the anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Garrison will
be held in this province. Could you discuss the historic links between the
pure ideals for which the Moncada fighters struggled and the process taking
place today, in which the people are electing their delegates?

[Answer] I will be glad to. The revolution is a long path which is not
traveled in a day. On 26 July we began a long journey in every sense of the
word. On that path there have been struggles, setbacks and victories. There
was the victory of the revolution, and now its progress.

This Process That We Are Living Through Now Is One More Victory, One More
Advance for the Revolution

And this process that we are living through now is one more victory, one
more advance for the revolution, one more aspiration, one more dream and
one more step on the revolution's path forward.

This links the celebrating of 26 July in Matanzas with the emphasis that
the party wishes to give this process that is developing, independent of
the province's historic merits, of its work during these years, of its
successes during these years of revolution and the proved enthusiasm of the
people of Matanzas. I have the impression that they are very satisfied,
very happy.

We took some trips around. We went to the stadium, which is coming along
very, very well. We also visited the teacher-training school that is under
construction. We went to the site where the sports school for beginners
will go up, and also to a spot of a certain historic importance: the place
where the first 12-story building in the city of Matanzas is going up.
Unfortunately, many of our cities in the nation's interior still look much
like small towns, with many poor streets. Efforts have to be made in the
field of construction, in the repairing of the streets.

Rizo explained to us how the city has two bridges, and the convenience that
a third bridge would mean. We must study the situation with a view to its
construction.

And the same is true for Santa Clara, where they will also begin work on
the first 12-story structures. The houses are very low. I think that these
new structures.... The minibrigades are working on a number of buildings,
of 5-story buildings. But this will be the first 12-story structure in the
city of Matanzas.

This represents the desire to modernize, the desire to advance. And of
course this is seen throughout the country, above all in the last few
years, because during the first few years everything was very difficult.
Now there are hundreds and hundreds of construction brigades throughout the
country, specialized ones, and you see them in every city. This is
transforming the appearance of the cities.

You can already see the 25,000-seat Matanzas stadium. If you figure on a
per capita basis, the baseball park in Matanzas--a city of 80,000--has
25,000 seats, while Havana, with a population of 2 million, has a stadium
that seats just over 50,000.

What does that mean? That every three inhabitants of Matanzas will have a
seat in the stadium. Of course it is well known that the people of Matanzas
are real baseball lovers. And I have no doubt that, when there are
important games, all those who are voting will attend the game.

Comrade Rizo and I were also talking about other projects for the workers
who are building the stadium, after they finish there. We were thinking
about the idea that they could build a Pioneer's Palace in Matanzas. And
also, following completion of the sports school, they are going to build a
physical education teacher-training school. Later on, in the future, the
province will have to build its own vocational school for 2,500 students. I
think it will be the Karl Marx School.

During the Next School Year Students Will Be Selected for the Vocational
School Here

During the next school year students will be selected for the vocational
school here. Of course they are going to junior high now. I do not know
whether it is one or two Junior highs--two junior highs will be chosen, and
students from them will be selected on the basis of the records.... Since
it will take 2 years to build the vocational school, and it will have a
7-year course, naturally there must be a preselection of the students so
that when the school opens all grades will be full. And there is also a
project here that for some time now we have been thinking of, in the famous
Yumuri Valley. This area has been reserved for a national park. Of course,
it will be first off a provincial park; secondly, a national park. A very
large area has been set aside where some architects have already begun
planning recreational facilities, and it will be very beautiful. Something
like the Lenin Park, but in a much more beautiful and much larger natural
setting, where something extraordinary can be done. But that is a
long-range projection, and we have to go slowly in such things. Right now
we have to hurry along with the teacher-training schools, the polytechnic
and junior high schools, and with the factories. But your turn is coming,
and it will someday be Matanzas' turn for construction of that national
park.

We expect to increase construction by 1976. In 1975 it will increase
throughout the country, but by 1976 we will have a new 400,000-ton-capacity
cement plant. We calculate that we can organize 40 to 50 new construction
brigades by 1976, and then it is just a matter of patience. But in 1978 we
will again grow a great deal, because we will have new capacities for
cement. We will have large new plants that will be able to turn out more
than a million tons of cement. And then we will have another great
construction boom.

Then we will be able to forcefully tackle even more problems than
previously, above all in the area of housing.

As We Continue Freeing Workers From Tasks in the Sugarcane, in the Sugar
Harvest, We Will Have an Ever Larger Work Force To Employ in Construction
Work

Of course, as we continue freeing workers from tasks in the sugarcane, in
the sugar harvest, we will have an ever larger work force to employ in
construction work. And, as we continue using more and more machines, we
will be able to raise productivity.

There has been a huge construction boom: the construction boom of
1970-1973. This was followed by a period of lesser growth, which will last
until 1976. There will be another period of gathering our energies in 1977,
and then there will be a great growth boom, a tremendous one, in 1978.

And, if you can see that projects are going up already all over, just
imagine how much we will be building during the next 5-year period and will
everything will be advancing!

There is a group of comrades here--Comrades Risquet, Machadito and
Montane--and they have seen how comrades from the various provinces have
been mobilized to see the experiment in Matanzas.

[Question] You referred to the economic problem.

[Answer] This interview is about People's Government.

[Question] Commander, the sugarcane harvest has just been concluded, and
everybody--old hands in the sugar industry, union leaders from the
ministry--everybody has been speaking well of this sugar harvest. Would you
give us an evaluation of the results of the harvest?

[Answer] Really, the harvest did turn out very well. It was a good harvest.
The cane yields were very high. Sugar output was high, and our use of the
industrial capacity of the sugar mills was greater than in other years. The
productivity of our canecutters was greater than ever before. This
constituted a tremendous advance in the organization and efficiency of this
harvest. The canecutters made a tremendous effort. The brigades that have
cut a million arrobas (250,000 cwt.) of cane or more multiplied, as did the
individual canecutters who cut 100,000 arrobas (25,000 cwt.). Unprecedented
feats, such as that of the 56th Anniversary of the October Revolution
Brigade, were achieved, and there was the Evelio Rodriguez Curbelo Brigade,
that cut 9 million arrobas (2,250,000 cwt.) of cane.

And I am very well aware of the merit of those men who cut 10 million
arrobas (250 million cwt.) of cane. I consider their effort comparable to
that made by the comrades who accompanied the columns of Che and Camilo in
the invasion of Las Villas.

When you think of the sacrifices made by those men; of the days they went
without sleeping; of the days they went without resting; of the physical
feats they scored; of the stick-to-itiveness, determination and tenacity
required to do what they did--when I think of all that, I believe that
those men are like Che and Camilo and that it takes a determination,
tenacity and self-sacrificing spirit of veritable heroes to carry out such
a feat. And that is what I would compare them to.

The others were heroes of war, and these are heroes of socialist
construction, which also calls for a lot of hard work, sweat, sacrifices,
determination and fortitude. These are truly brave men, and I believe that
they deserve the homage and recognition of all the people.

The Sugar Harvest Was a Really Good One, and All the Sugar Industry Workers
Deserve Recognition of Their Work

There is one very good symptom of how we are progressing in all fields: the
sugar harvest was a really good one, and all the sugar industry workers
deserve recognition of their work. And we are already starting to get ready
for an even bigger sugar harvest next year.

[Question] Is there any one province that is particularly outstanding?

[Answer] All were outstanding. All put everything they had into it. Some
greatly overfulfilled their plans--several of them did. Matanzas
overfulfilled its plan. Havana fulfilled its plan. Las Villas
overfulfilled its plan by more than 100,000 tons. There were very high
yields, and it was an excellent harvest.

[Question] Do you have any special message for the province about today's
events?

[Answer] Only to express our admiration to the people of Matanzas for
today's tremendous, revolutionary work and their matchless enthusiasm, and
to express our thanks to them for all the things they have taught us all
today and for the confidence Matanzas gives us and the optimism which their
example inspires in us.

Well, you journalists cannot have anything to grumble about now, in
carrying out the agreements of your congress.
-END-


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