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Students Debate With Castro

FL100500 Havana Television Service in Spanish 0100 GMT 10 Jan 87

[Text] With the presence of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, first secretary of the
party Central Committee and president of the Councils of State and Ministers, the Third
Congress of the Federation of University Students [FEU] continues meeting in the FAR
Universal Hall.

The meeting is attended by more than 800 delegates and guests. The debates continue at
this moment and they are characterized by a high content of criticism and

The afternoon session began with a debate on the need to improve the selection of
students who join the Manuel Ascunse Domenech teaching detachment.

In view of the students' concern on the quality of future professors, Comrade Fidel
referred to the need to increase the number of pre-university students to have a
breeding ground to choose from. The head of the revolution also expressed his opinion
on undertaking this career:

[Begin recording] [Video shows Castro speaking] I say all this to defend the opinion
that we reduce the number of students who join to those who truly have an interest, a
vocation, capacity, and a level [as heard] to be teachers. [applause] [end recording]

Also discussed was the problem of the 5,600 basic secondary teachers who work on
contract and who are not graduates of the teacher-training institutes. The majority
are pre-university students who could not study any career because of their low
grade-point average. Comrade Fidel proposed that those who have several years
experience as teachers can join the teacher-training institutes and complete all the
requirements established including social service.

The topics discussed at this congress have been many. Some have been of great
importance while others have not been so far-reaching but all have found the frank
desire for solutions. Nevertheless, it has been seen that there is a need to improve
those mechanisms that can make it possible for students to relieve their concerns in a
systematic form without having to wait for a congress.

During this morning's session, dialogues were held between our Commander in Chief Fidel
Castro and the delegates to the important student meeting.

[Video cuts to several unidentified student delegates speaking at the congress and then
shows a dialogue between Cuban President Fidel Castro and the students.]

[First student] The first agreement of this congress should be the delegates' total,
courageous, and decisive support for the measures adopted by the party, government, and
state because of the country's economic situation.

[Second student] Each university student, each youth, each student has made a
commitment to the rectification process and when we speak about the functioning [of the
teacher-training institutes], it is one of the things that we have to make a greater
effort to rectify with the optimism, confidence, and depth required by the moment.

[Third student] We say, yes, we support the measures, but then we ask, well, why are
we taking them? No, we don't support them if we are not aware, of course, that after
these measures are taken, we have to take them to the students, and they have to [word

[Castro] I have the impression that the comrade and the students support the measures
because they have confidence in the revolution. They have confidence in the party and
it is possible that they think the measures are necessary, that they were taken for
some reason.

But, listening here to this debate, I am not convinced. For some time now, you have
been insisting that this first point become an agreement. However, I have the
impression that the students did not study this in depth.

It is possible that in regard to other topics they have been thinking, analyzing but
perhaps as one of those things that they accept as a need, as a just thing, when they
have been taken for powerful reasons -- since you always try to avoid taking any
measure that in one way or another affects the population.

They have not sufficiently studied in depth the factors, the causes for taking those
measures. That is the impression one can get from listening to the comrades' speeches
and their insistence and mostly your insistence [as he says this, the camera shows
Castro touching the arm of FEU President Maria de Jesus Calderius stated on his right]
but if you are going to vote, they are going to vote, because they support the measure.

But it seems to me that they are doing it on the basis of trust, support, solidarity
with the revolution, rather than because they have had a chance to think too much about
the matter.

[Calderius] Well, rather, we...

[Castro, interrupting] Check on that.

[Fourth student] The students do not agree with one measure, a single measure, and
that concerns the scholarship holders. They say that this increase in the
interprovincial bus fares affects them. I receive a stipend of 15 pesos and you can't
travel home with 15 pesos every 6 months or as you regularly do. That is why I think
that if the decision of the state and the rest is to stop them from traveling, the FEU
should be told how we are going to explain this to the students, how we are going to
convince them that this measure is necessary, because we explain it to them and they
don't understand.

[Castro] Are you talking about scholarship holders?

[Student] Scholarship holders.

[Castro] Those who have no scholarship are also affected.

[Student] Yes, but the ones who don't have a scholarship live in Havana.

[Castro] You are talking about interprovincial transportation, right? How much cash
are the scholarship holders getting?

[Student] Fifteen pesos.

[Castro] Which ones? All of them? All? My understanding is that there are various

[Fifth student] I feel that it is a very specific case that has occurred in that
institute, and I also feel you can attribute it to the lack of information, the lack of
debate with the students. I really don't believe there is any university student in
our country who, if things are explained to him in detail, if comparisons are made...
[changes thought] it is not that so far we have had a certain status and that now,
because of our situation, it is going to change. It is true that it is going to
change, but we continue to be privileged with the present status. And that is what we
have done, explained to the students, and we have had no problems. I believe that in
this case previous statements are valid in the sense that, as our command in chief
said, we first have to convince ourselves. After we are convinced and the nature of
the problem is clear, let's sit down with the students and let's explain the problem to
them. I am convinced, as are all the students of Santiago de Cuba -- they are
supportive, not paying lip service, they are convinced, there will be no rejection.
Those measures, the urban and interprovincial fares, will meet with no problems among
our country's students, if the right analysis is made.

[Castro] Is the students' situation the same? [chorus of "no's"] Now, there may be
students who belong to families with higher incomes. And there are others who belong
to families with lower incomes. It is possible that students in lower income families
may be affected more than students in higher income families. Is that not so?

I remember that I was once visiting an Isle of Youth factory and I asked what the
family incomes were. And I found it [as heard] was rather high. I believe that the
families with incomes that are rather high can very well bear that [as heard]. But
there might be problems with those who have low incomes.

In any case, if the problem arises, we will discuss it. That is one of the missions of
the students, the FEU. If they can find those cases, if they find that they are
intolerably affected, then the solutions can be discussed.

Of course, in the matter of transportation, the measures were basically taken to try to
economize. It was not as the newspaper had it. The newspaper made a mistake. If the
newspaper can be wrong it is not surprising that the students may be too. It was
reported that they were measures to make internal finances sound. And some might have
asked: Well if it's a matter of financing, why don't they raise cigarette prices? And
yet they are reducing the amount of milk given to an intermediate-level student and
they are cutting down on milk in medical diets. That was confusing people. Of course,
we know how much we can earn by raising the price of cigarettes or maybe beer, which is
in demand, because the wheeler-dealers who were buying beer at 60 centavos were selling
it at 90 or a peso or even more.

And there are other things that could also increase earnings but they don't really help
us solve the main problem, the principal cause of these measures, which is the
non-availability of foreign exchange for imports. The drafting of a plan...[changes
thought] I could say that it is a heroic plan, because to draft an economic plan with
$600 million in convertible currency is almost heroic. You can't imagine the
calculations you have to make.

I feel that the remarks made by the comrade delegate were truly correct, well
considered. I am not saying that what the other comrade said was wrong, because I
believe it is his duty to bring this up. He has heard this, and he should inform us
that he has heard it. He must inform us that the students do not understand, and that
explanations are necessary. Of course, the measures do not affect people. Since we do
not have equal incomes, some are more affected than others, and we should acknowledge
this. I recall that just yesterday a similar situation was raised. And I could make
some comparisons. Well, what is going to happen to the recruits? They get 7 pesos.
We said the recruit should have the right to ride the bus, because he is a recruit.
Why? The recruit is doing a great service to the country and he is getting 7 pesos.

Let me ask a question. Regardless of how difficult the situation is for those students
because the inter-provincial fares have gone up, he is studying regularly. Is he worse
off than the recruit?. [background whispers] Is he worse off than the recruit? He is
not worse off. And those are the things that we have to discuss at this congress. I
like this. Let's start the discussion, because we have to start discussing problems.
That is what we have to do. I also understand that at first the congress imposes a
certain psychological pressures, makes us timid, and we speak too formally. I feel
that we should take advantage of these hours to discuss problems of all kinds. At our
universities, everywhere. [applause]

Further on Debates

FL101250 Havana Radio Reloj Network in Spanish 1102 GMT 10 Jan 87

[Text] The thorough analysis of problems and ways of achieving goals in the education
of new professionals, and the active participation of Commander in Chief Castro
characterized the first day of the Third Congress of he Federation of University
students [FEU].

During the meeting attended by more than 500 delegates, our party's first secretary
showed interest in students' concerns and offered his thoughts about measures and tasks
of the first economic and social order.

Among the topics discussed by the students was enrollment in the pedagogical
detachment. In this connection, a Pinar del Rio delegate stressed that the prestige of
the detachment had to be strengthened. Education Minister Jose Ramon Fernandez and the
commander in chief spoke on the subject. The latter noted that we must examine
carefully who is enrolling in pedagogical career courses, with special attention on the
quality and interest of the student.

New construction and extensions at medical schools show deficiencies, and the medical
sciences students are willing to help out during their vacations with volunteer work
days, a Havana delegate asserted. The commander in chief remarked that the student was
correct in his suggestion and stated that we are involved in a serious struggle to
achieve quality in all construction.

Many delegates then spoke about the transition plan in the third and fourth years of
medical school, whose application, according to the students, is deficient.

Fidel and a Havana delegate had a lively exchange concerning the aspiration of the
10,000 medical sciences students to have facilities for their cultural activities.
This was well received and a solution will be sought soon.

The commander in chief explained to the delegates aspects of the world economic
situation in connection with the measures decided at the National Assembly of the
People's Government. We have had to come up with a heroic plan, with only some $600
million, which requires that we be more austere and thrifty, because it is the only way
to deal with the lack of foreign exchange. Referring to the increase in transport
fares, Fidel noted that this measure should have been taken sooner, since the price of
oil and buses has gone up while the prices of our products on the international market
have gone down. The leader of the revolution said this measure also helps to save and
to use transportation more rationally.

The analysis of the main report at the congress, which will close today, raised the
problem of finalism among students and the lack of rigorousness in the education of
future professionals. The delegates came out in favor of stepping up political and
ideological work to achieve the all-around education of the students, as well as a more
active FEU participation in the preparation of the promotion lists at centers and

With Fidel's active participation, the delegates also discussed problems in the medical
schools under construction, owing to delays in execution. The delegates attended a
gala with FEU performers in the evening. Activities will resume today with a special
event to honor Julio Antonio Mella on the 58th anniversary of his assassination. The
debates will then begin anew.