Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Fidel Castro Speaks at Immunology Center

FL091639 Havana Tele-Rebelde Network in Spanish 0100 GMT 9 Sep 87

[Speech made by President Fidel Castro Ruz on inaugurating the Immunology
Research Center in the Siboney neighborhood in Havana on 7 September --

[Text] Distinguished guests, comrade ladies and gentlemen: It seems to me
that my first duty on this occasion is to ask you to forgive us for the
time that we have had you waiting here in this small plaza, this yard.  The
ceremony was scheduled to be held at 1830 and the tour began a little after
1730.  However, because of the great interest that I and the newsmen
accompanying me had in this center, the visit to each of its laboratories,
and the talks with each of the technicians and scientists, the tour lasted
almost 2 hours.  Do not think that it was a lack of consideration, or
forgetfulness, but we were faced with that dilemma, and after all, we were
gathering information and details that will be of great interest to all the
people, so we felt that you would understand if we completed the tour, even
if we arrived a little late for the ceremony.

I think that today is a day of happiness for the family of scientists in
our country.  I believe that in addition, it should be a day of happiness
because this center represents an important advance, because we are
marching with firm steps along the paths of science toward the achievement
of great benefits for our country, which could also be very useful for
other countries.

Last year, on I July, I believe, we inaugurated-[unidentified speaker
interrupting suggests another date] Not when it began.  Last year we
inaugurated the Genetic Engineering Center.  I remember that on that same
day, the land was being leveled for this Immunology Research Center.

This center has a history.  The first time that I had contact with the
teams that were involved, the team of comrades from the CENIC [National
Scientific Research Center], a very small team, they had an exhibition in
the Palace of the Revolution, in one of the halls of the Palace of
Revolution.  It was an exhibition of a number of pieces of equipment that
had been developed in our hospitals and research centers.  I think that the
date is recorded somewhere, it might have been 29 July, 29 July 1981.  It
was also the year of the hemorrhagic dengue epidemic.  At that time, it was
already being noted.  The epidemic, around that time -- well, this is not
easily read -- I don't know if it was on that occasion, or when, I spoke of
something [speaker says: At the Cienfuegos Hospital.] It was at the
Cienfuegos Hospital that we spoke of the construction of equipment and
other things.  We expressed great confidence in what we would be able to do
in the future.  At that time, we asked them to do...[changes thought] When
they explained the tests that were being done -- they had begun the tests
of alphafeto protein [alfafeto proteina], or rather to discover certain
congenital malformations through the use of alphafeto protein -- I asked
them to begin to organize a national program to carry out that research.
However, at the time, their equipment was very rudimentary.  It was not
automatic; it was manual.  Nevertheless, with that first scanty equipment,
they began to carry out their tests, and they completed a total of 50,000

In the first place, they had developed the reagents [reactivos]; they had
isolated the reagents.  They had produced them, and the combination of the
reagents, using that rudimentary equipment, made it possible to begin
testing.  And, as I said, they did a total of some 50,000 tests, which is a
considerable number.  However, they took on the task of working intensively
to improve that equipment, develop the techniques, and carry out more
research to obtain more reagents.  Thus, they worked rapidly, until the day
came in which we realized the importance of creating a center essentially
for that work -- because they were at the CENIC, in some homes, and in some
areas.  The team had grown because, as a result of that program, they began
recruiting specialists in electronics, computer science, and other
sciences.  The team had grown and with this, there emerged the idea of
building this center.  I believe that this decision was reached on 22
January 1986 and construction began -- I think that the architect said 10
months ago.  On what day did you actually begin to build here? [Man
answers: Precisely on 30 June.  Yes, on 30 June, I believe I saw the
bulldozers begin to clear the land there.  And, well the center was built
in less than a year. [as heard] There were some final details, and then the
center went into operation.  We are inaugurating it today, 7 September, but
the center has been in operation for some weeks.

Here, of course, we can say that the builders did excellent work, but I
think that it would be better to speak of this later, and continue on what
we could call the scientific aspect of the center.  Today, we have a true
jewel here.  I call it that.  I think it was a very good idea to create a
center for research as well as for production, and to produce not just
prototypes, but also some huge equipment.

This center... [changes thought] Here I have to mix what Fernandez Hierro
said with what has not been said, in order to decide what is to be said
with regard to this center.  I believe that he said that it has three [as
heard] basic tasks: obtaining reagents, preparing computer programs,
developing and producing equipment, and also training personnel.  This does
not say it all.  It has to carry out research for new applications of this
equipment, new applications of immunology techniques, and new health
programs.  The personnel are marching or a path, a road that is really
very promising.  In general, in the past few decades, science has been
characterized by great advances in all areas.  Genetic engineering is very
new, and is very promising, but these immunology research techniques are
also very promising.  They are not so new, but I believe that they have
taken on a very accelerated pace in the past few years.  An immunology
technique is vaccination, something so ancient -- if something that is
about 100 years old can be called ancient.  Vaccination is an immunology
technique, because they innoculate with a particular product.  They produce
antibodies and work with antibodies, those antibodies that the body
produces when faced with aggression from a virus, or from bacteria.  We
could say that the body produces weapons to defend itself and vaccination
was an extraordinary step forward in the struggle against disease.  It has
resolved problems that had no other solution.  Humanity was actually
impotent in the face of each of those plagues and epidemics, until
vaccination was developed.  So we can say that vaccination is a technique,
is that right, Fernandez Hierro?  Can we say that vaccination is an
immunology technique?  Is that the basis of it? [Man says: "It is the
antecedent."] It is specifically the antecedent of this.

This has developed from a very interesting natural phenomenon, which is the
natural defense mechanism of the organism, of organisms in general.  It is
on this basis that these new techniques have been developed, techniques
that have an immediate practical application.  You can see that they began
with a technique to discover congenital malformations, some of the most
terrible congenital malformations.  They developed the reagent.  It is true
that a reagent may have been developed in other places, but this team
developed the Ultra Micro Analytic System [Sistema Ultra Micro Analitico --
SUMA].  Its main advantage is that it does analyses utilizing 5 percent of
the reagents that are used by any other equipment, the traditional
equipment that was on the market of the (Elise) System.  They achieved this
with a minimum quantity of reagents, and reagents are very expensive.
Minimum quantities.  How much?  Between 3 and 5 percent of the reagents
used by traditional equipment.

I believe that this is measured in microliters.  It seems that the
traditional equipment uses between 200 and 300 microliters, and the SUMA
uses 10 microliters.  And while we are talking about measures, I read
something in a report about a measure that is called a picogram.  I asked
myself: What is a picogram?  I began to see: zero point zero, zero, six
zeros and then another zero.  I don't know if I am right, but I began to
use my mathematics, which I believe are somewhat outdated, [laughter] and I
got the impression that a picogram is something like a millionth of a gram.
Is that right? [Man answers: Yes] Like a millionth of a gram.  And they say
that this immunology testing system can detect quantities of certain
proteins or products, even if they appear in quantities as small as a
picogram.  In other words, even if they appear in quantities like one
millionth of a gram, this system can detect the presence of that substance.
These possibilities are fabulous and they demonstrate...[changes thought]
Who knows how many applications this equipment may have?

Well then, the basic contribution of this group of young researchers was to
develop this analytic equipment that uses such minute amounts of reagents.
To have an idea of what that means, the hundreds of thousands of tests that
they have done -- of which 350,000 I believe were of the alphabeta [as
heard] protein -- in some 500,000 tests, and calculating the cost of the
reagents, they have spent some $4 million.  The cost of those reagents is
about $4 million, and a little more, $4 million and a fraction.  If they
had imported those reagents to carry out those programs -- which are no
more than initial programs, and if they had used the equipment that is on
the market today, they would have had to spend or import between $80 and
$100 million in reagents.  It is clear that we would not have been able to
carry out a program like this one without producing the reagents in the
country, or without producing the equipment in the country, or without
having produced equipment like this one, because one has to consider what a
huge quantity of reagents we would need -- from 20 to 13 [as heard] times
more reagents to do the same thing with other equipment.

In other words, they have created the conditions that make it possible for
our country to carry out this program, which is a part of the prenatal
genetics program.  It is a part of this, because the prenatal genetics
program has a separate laboratory and does other research that is placing
our country in a very prominent, perhaps unique, position in the world, as
regards these prenatal genetics programs and programs for the prevention of
diseases of this kind.  They began by discovering one: the congenital
malformation of the spinal cord [tubo neural].  These are the truly cruel,
mercilessly cruel cases that occur, in which a family has a child born with
a deformity of this kind.  It becomes a tragedy, the cause of bitterness,
sorrow, and unhappiness.  One has no idea of what this means, in addition
to the uncertainty felt by every pregnant mother about what could happen,
although these possibilities are relatively slight.

The early detection of a congenital malformation of this type makes it
possible to simply interrupt the pregnancy.  It avoids the tragedy of the
birth of those children, and it avoids an increase in the infant mortality
rate, because many of them are born, cannot adapt to life, and die in their
1st or 2d year, or at some other time.  Above all, it brings uncertainty to
all families, to all family units, to all mothers who are going to have a
child, to all grandparents who are going to have a grandchild, to every
child who is going to have a sibling, to every aunt or uncle who is going
to have a niece or nephew.  This examination gives them complete certainty
that the child will not have a congenital malformation of that type, and it
is not the only type.

Moreover, it is a fail-safe examination.  All the tests and diagnoses that
have been made have been strictly accurate.  Of course, no one is forced to
interrupt the pregnancy, but in those cases in which the malformation has
been diagnosed, it has occurred mathematically, with absolute precision.
Therefore, as the people realize this and have trust in it, we will be able
to avoid the cases of congenital malformations.

I asked how the mechanism worked, and they explained in detail.  This
protein appears in a very high level, higher than normal in the blood of
the mother, I believe.  The antibodies appear in very high quantities and
make it possible to diagnose the illness with absolute certainty.  They
began with this; it was the first effort.  Of course, this is a part of a
prenatal genetics program that includes other analyses that are not exactly
done by the SUMA, at least not yet, like the genetic (lesito), I think it
is called.  It can identify (?glycemia); I think it can also identify
Down's Syndrome, isn't that right?  I believe it also identifies
(phenylcetonuria), which is another congenital disease.  I believe that it
also identifies other metabolic diseases, etc.

The prenatal genetics program is broader.  It has enormous value, because
it warns of a number of diseases.  It warns of a number of illnesses.  It
can provide early detection of a number of congenital diseases or some that
are not prenatal, but perinatal.  Well then, the area of what I imagine
would be called perinatalogy, is added to another very important task,
which is the detection of hypothyroidism in the newborn.  Fortunately, the
number is not large, but according to research on 35,200 newborn infants
examined in the capital over a year and a half -- in Havana, there are not
so many births as 32,000 [corrects himself] 35,200 in a year...[changes
thought] They take a small piece of the umbilical cord; send it to the
laboratory, and also through the technique of immunology, using the sum, it
is perfectly possible to detect hypothyroidism.  If this disease is not
diagnosed and treated in time, it results in mental retardation.  There
must be 1 in every 7,000.  For example, they discovered 7 cases.  It is 1
in every 7,000, which is not a very high number, but I think that it is
very humane to save seven family units, and save seven children from mental

It does not just save seven children from mental retardation; it also gives
the other 35,193 the certainty that they will not have that problem.  The
SUMA, through the same procedure, with the same little piece of umbilical
cord, and using techniques developed by this group of companeros and
reagents produced by them, can determine if the child has a propensity
toward allergies, whether the child is allergic.  And in this case, it is
no longer a question of 1 in 7,000, but a case of 13 in every 100.

Because of erroneous information that I had received, yesterday I said at
the ceremony at the Julio Trigo Hospital that it was 20 in every 100.  It
is not 20 in every 100; it is 13 in every 100, but 13 in every 100 is quite
a lot.  This is more than 4,000 of the 35,200.

Here again, to discover the matter in time makes it possible to warn [the
parents] and take all the necessary measures to keep the disease from
developing, or at least, to alleviate the symptoms as much as possible.  It
can be an allergy toward different products, different factors.  They
explained to us today what protein, what substance, when present in
quantities above certain levels, indicates that there is a great
possibility that an allergy will develop.  It could indicate, for example,
that the child should be breast-fed, not for 2 or 3 months, but for a year,
when it is a matter of what we could call a medical necessity that would
permit better development of the body and could even provide the conditions
for the child to assimilate milk better in the future.  Measures can be
taken at home, in order to avoid the tragedy of allergies, which can take
various forms, including asthma.

In our country, like all island countries, the rate of asthma is high, so
much so that it affects approximately 10 percent of the population.
Therefore, the possibility of discovering the allergy, the propensity
toward allergies of that child, is very useful, while at the same time, the
mothers of the other 30,500 children can be certain that their children are
not allergic.  Otherwise, they might spend all their lives thinking that
one of those problems could develop.

These are very important services that can be extended to all the people
through these programs.  There are already 14 immunology research centers.
Only 2 or 3 provinces don't have one.  Are there three provinces without
them?  Two provinces do not have immunology research centers, because the
15 centers include one in the CENSA [no expansion given], and another in
genetic engineering.  The ones here are not included, and another is in the
blood bank network of the capital, where new experiences are also being
gained.  There are 14 laboratories.  This service will be available in all
the provinces.  Indeed, this program will be applied to all pregnant women.
All of them will be subjected to the alphafeto protein test.  All newborn
children will be given the test for allergy and hypothyroidism.  This will
be done with the SUMA, in other words, with the techniques developed at
this center, in addition to the other examinations included in the program
of prenatal genetics.

This means that we can already see the concrete, practical results at a
modest cost.  I am not going to say at an insignificant cost, because the
work of the scientists, and investments in equipment, reagents and research
were required.  However, the cost has been truly modest and within the
reach of the economy of a Third World country, within the reach of the
economy of a developing country.

Well then, so as not to depend solely on my memory, here is a list of the
possible uses of this equipment.  You will see what a broad scope it has:
rapid diagnosis of viral, bacteriological or fungus diseases in people,
animals, and plants.  In other words, the applications of this technique
and this equipment transcend the activities related exclusively to human
health, and extend to activities related to animal and plant health.  The
same technique.  Routine clinical laboratory analyses.  Prenatal diagnosis
of congenital diseases--these were the first applications mentioned.
Perinatal diagnosis of meta bolic diseases.  Identification of acute
poisoning--I think that this equipment will even be useful to the police
force, to help in criminology cases, involving not just health, but
diagnosis.  Identification of acute poisoning.  Quantification of drugs in
the blood--this is very important--for the appropriate treatment of cardiac
insufficiency--so as to know what quantity of drugs is in the system, since
it is not enough to give a drug or an injection--or to treat epilepsy,
cancer, or other illnesses.  Evaluation of the level of fetal development
in animals and humans.  Diagnosis of disease in meat used for industrial
purposes.  Quantification of hormones--this makes it possible to determine
the best time for insemination, to cite one example.  Evaluation of the
level of immunological protection of the population from different
microorganisms.  Selection of blood for the production of therapeutic
products against tetanus, rabies, measles, hepatitis, and many others.  You
know that many of these are attacked with gamma globulin, which comes from
donated human blood.  This equipment selects what donations are to be used
in the treatment, because some have a large number of antibodies.
Identification and selection of monoclonal antibodies.  Identification and
selection of mutant microorganisms.  Detection and follow-up on
contaminants in the biological and food industries.

Here is a paragraph that clearly expresses the possibilities of this
technique, of this equipment: Nevertheless, it can be said that the
immunology research techniques have barely been introduced into the field
of contemporary practice.  In the next 10 to 15 years, there should be a
veritable methodological explosion which, in coordination with the
procedures of genetic engineering and electronic devices, will flood many
spheres of science and technology, and be responsible for a large part of
diagnosis and evaluation activities in medicine and biology.

It is necessary to be able to produce the reagents and equipment oneself,
because otherwise, only by spending millions would it possible for this
technology to be introduced locally.

Comrade Fernandez Hierro spoke of the objectives of the center, etc.  He
did not speak of all the programs:  the program of diagnosis carried out by
the network of immunochemical laboratories and the immunology research
center up to 31 August 1987; one program for the diagnosis of congenital
malformations by alphaprotein; the program for the diagnosis of congenital
hypothyroidism in the newborn.  I already spoke about this.  The program
for the prevention of allergies, IGE [no expansion given].  I say this
because one often runs across acronyms and unless one has a dictionary at
hand, one doesn't know what they mean.  This is the program for the
prevention of allergies, IGE.  The other program, the hypothyroidism
program, has another name, but it is not stated here.  It also has an
acronym.  The program for the development of immunochemical laboratories
within the blood bank network.  As we said, this is useful for producing
blood by-products, because it identifies the antibodies in donated blood.
Establishment of new diagnostic techniques with a high rate of reliability
and low cost for the detection of various diseases, such as hepatitis,
syphilis, and AIDS.  Techniques for the detection of tetanus,
meningococcus, and AIDS antibodies.

A study was carried out for the production of specific antitetanus gamma
globulin in over 7,935 donated blood samples, with 1,792 being selected,
because of their high content, which guarantees that they will be useful in
the productive process, by virtue of their specific nature.

Another program that is under way and that will soon produce its first
pilot is: the early diagnosis of leprosy.  This seeks to detect leprotic
antibodies in people who are apparently healthy.  It is carried out through
a technique that utilizes a synthetic leprotic antigen isolated in the
School of Chemistry of the University of Havana.  Testing will begin in
the immunochemical laboratory in Guantanamo, because it is the province
with the highest incidence of the disease.  This work is being done in
conjunction with the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

Diagnosis of the carcinoembryonic antigen.  The objective is to monitor
patients who have undergone surgery for cancer, for incipient tumors.  An
evaluation will be made of its possible use in the early diagnosis of
certain tumors in people who are apparently healthy, but this is still only
research.  This work is being done with the Oncology Institute.

Diagnosis of drugs in the blood.  The techniques for the diagnosis of drugs
in the blood have been incorporated into the SUMA equipment, which led to
as much as a tenfold reduction in the consumption of reagents per patient.
There are plans to extend this to the provinces.  It is possible to
evaluate the concentration of antibiotics, and psychotropic,
anti-epileptic, cardiotonic, and other drugs in the blood.  The CENSA is
working to incorporate [words indistinct] in the SUMA for the diagnosis of
disease in plants and animals in the future.  Among those diseases are the
following: bovine leucosis, bovine anaplasmosis, sugarcane mosaic, and

You can see how the field of application of these techniques and this
equipment is broadened.  Now the world is in terror of the plague of AIDS,
we could say the AIDS epidemic, that is going around the world.  Well, this
equipment has great importance in the struggle against AIDS, because it is
an equipment that does 96 simultaneous analyses.  It does the analyses 2 at
a time; there are 48 samples.  It analyzes them twice, to make sure that
there is not the slightest possibility of error.  In other words, it is
ideal for large-scale examination of the blood.  For this reason, it will
be sent to all the blood banks.  Today, we do these examinations with the
other techniques, because we do not have enough SUMAs.  We spend a lot on
reagents; those reagents are expensive.  The reagents for an AIDS test
range from a little over $1.00 to $5.00 for each test.  If a million tests
are given, then it costs millions of dollars.  They had to be imported, but
no longer.

Thanks to the workers of the Civil Defense Laboratory, in cooperation with
other institutions, we now have a Cuban reagent, which is very good and
very efficient for the analysis of AIDS, but large amounts of it are
expended by the old equipment.  When we use those reagents with the SUMA,
we will be able to do 10 million tests with the same amount of reagents
used today to do 500,000 or 600,000 tests.  We would achieve a 15- or
20-fold reduction in the amount of reagents to be used.  Therefore, we will
be in a position to test the entire population if we should wish.  So far,
the tests are given to high- risk cases, and all blood donations are tested
throughout the country.  Now, our society will be in a position to test the
entire society, all the people, at a minimal cost.

In this matter of AIDS, something should be said.  In over a million tests,
which include risk cases and blood donations, we have detected 147
carriers.  This already tells us something about AIDS.  With 147 cases, we
can say statistically that here are no more than a few hundred carriers.
It is a very incipient situation, which has been detected and combatted in
the nick of time.  Primarily, the analysis of blood donations, that is,
those cases that test positive, in addition to the high risk cases--because
of relations with foreigners or because they have traveled--can allow us
to almost mathematically state how many carriers there are in the country.
It is a truly privileged situation.  It is not the case of the United
States, which has over 2 million carriers.  It is not the case of France,
which has over 200,000 carriers.  When there are that many carriers, it is
not possible to take the measures that we have taken.  Some people who have
nothing to do or say have criticized our measures, the necessary,
indispensable measures of isolation that we have taken.  These measures
seek the protection, not only of the healthy population, but also of the
sick people, because it is known that AIDS becomes an illness at particular
times of weakness, malnutrition, etc., and until an effective medication is
discovered that can cure the illness radically, preventive medical
treatment is the basic weapon to preserve the life of a person who has
contracted the AIDS virus.  That is what our country is doing by providing
medical attention and nutrition for the isolated cases.

However, it is possible to isolate 147 cases, or 150, or 300.  A few
hundred cases can be isolated.  When the phenomenon becomes widespread,
isolation becomes impossible.  Isolation is impossible.  Who can isolate
2.5 million people?  Who can isolate 50,000, 40,000, or 100,000 people?
There would be no installations, no possibilities, nothing.

I think the method we are using is the most effective and the most humane.
Of course, we are in a privileged position because the disease is quite
incipient.  Those who cannot do this, simply because the disease has become
widespread, criticize us.  A WHO official who was here praised what we are
doing.  I recently read a news dispatch that criticized this.  The United
States cannot do what we are doing.  France and most of the European
countries cannot do what we are doing.  Some Latin American countries
already have 40,000 or 50,000 carriers.They do not even have the means to
identify the carriers.  We have all the resources, even to carry out a Mass
testing of all the people.  And fortunately, the number of carriers is so
small that we can take measures of this kind, which provide an almost total
guarantee.  If this disease is not transmitted by blood donors, if it is
not transmitted by the carriers, we can give an almost total guarantee, and
we can wait as long as necessary until a medication or a vaccine is
discovered, although we are nevertheless working on this.

Now, what will happen in this matter?  No one knows.  A few days ago, I
read a dispatch about some laboratories, I do not know if they were in the
United States or elsewhere, which stated that they had discovered that the
AIDS virus is even more mutative than that of the flu.  In fact, there was
a statement to the effect that the AIDS virus was 10 times more mutative
than that of the flu, and if the AIDS virus is more mutative than that of
the flu, just consider how much effort has gone into seeking a vaccine for
the flu.  In other words, this complicates the situation.  No one knows
when or where the famous vaccine, or the therapeutical medicine to contain
or cure the disease will appear.  We have hopes that it will appear.  Many
thousands of scientists are working on this.  Even in our country we are
working in that direction.  However, in the meantime, what better thing can
we do than what we are doing?  Protecting the carriers, and protecting the
healthy population.  Could there be a more humane measure than that?

In the next few days, there will be a wide discussion at the world level on
television.  I believe that there is a world conference, and our country
will be represented there.  Actually, we have the best program for our
circumstances.  In addition, it is known that in our country, there is no
prostitution, which has been one of the focuses of the multiplication of
AIDS in the heterosexual population.  Well, if we had had brothels as we
did in the past, I do not know what would have happened in Cuba.  A
fraternal neighboring country has some 50,000, not to mention Haiti;
everyone knows how many it has.  It is a terrible situation.  We are in the
privileged position of having discovered the virus in time, and of having
taken truly effective measures.  As soon as this center produces the first
few dozen pieces of equipment, they will be sent to the blood banks.  We
will be in a position, if necessary, to carry out a total mass test, and
thus know exactly who the carriers are.  Therefore, we are truly in a
privileged position.  That is how we could describe our situation with
regard to AIDS: a privileged position.  Now, let those who cannot do what
we are doing refrain from envying us.  Let them respect what we are doing.
We are doing the most humane and scientific thing that can be done, and the
most useful thing, both for the patient and for the entire healthy

I see here the faces of many known and beloved comrades who are working in
the fields of science.  I also see the faces of comrades who work in other
research centers; the comrades who work at the Tropical Medicine Institute
and, I believe that the comrades who are responsible for developing
vaccines are also here.  Yesterday I mentioned that these comrades have
worked hard to come up with a vaccine against meningococcal meningitis and
the results are very promising.  We will be receiving the final results of
the tests in the next few months, and we are ready to begin the mass
production of this vaccine.  We are not going to wait for the new vaccine
factory to be completed because it will not be ready until 1989.  We expect
to have the final results of the tests by the end of the year, and if the
tests prove positive, then we will be able to produce millions of units of
the vaccine to fight that terrible disease.  This disease not only affects
approximately 1,000 people each year and kills approximately 200 people,
mostly children, but it also represents a threat; it is the sword of
Damocles that hangs over the heads of all the people.  This vaccine will
help us protect our people and it will, undoubtedly, be useful for other
countries.  We are waiting for the results of the tests but we are also
ready to begin production.  It has been an excellent and very promising
piece of work.  However, the last word will be said after the statistics
are received.  This will be in 4 months--September, October, November--in 3
or 4 months we will have much more information.  We are not far away from
the day when we will be able to say that we are ready to begin the
production of the vaccine against meningococcal meningitis.

However, many things can happen.  Only recently we read an international
dispatch reporting that, for the first time in the world, mass testing of a
vaccine against Type B meningococcal meningitis was being done in Iquitos,
Chile [as heard].  We are talking about the Type B meningococcal
meningitis, because vaccines for the control of Type A and Type C
meningitis have already been developed.  However, there is no vaccine
against Type B meningococcal meningitis.  But those people are just now
beginning to test their vaccine and we have already tested our vaccine on
tens of thousands of people.  A whole province has already been vaccinated
against meningococcal meningitis.  I am talking about Ciego de Avila
Province where everyone, within a specific age limit, has been vaccinated
against this disease; 162,000 persons have already been vaccinated.  This
can no longer be described as comparative testing.  We are no longer
comparing results between a user and a non-user because everyone has been
vaccinated.  In some cases two doses of the vaccine have been given.  We
are speaking of a whole province, yet we read about this type of testing
being done for the first time ever.

However, a very reliable U.S. magazine is now carrying an article on the
testing we have been doing for many months.  The same magazine carries an
article on the SUMA--the reporter who visited our country must have liked
the SUMA.  A U.S. magazine is carrying articles on the tests we are doing
and on our SUMA equipment.  This will protect us from another person who
may try to announce that he invented the SUMA somewhere else--in Honolulu,
Los Angeles or any such place.  That is the way things are; they even try
to steal the humble scientific achievements of our people. [Passage
indistinct] this center is still under construction but they are already
producing animals--and other centers are present here today.  Comrades from
our oncology and other science centers are also present here today.  I feel
that these comrades, who are qualified to understand what we are talking
about today--and I hope that our people will also be able to understand all
this--will consider the work done here as an important achievement and step

This is a research center; therefore, many research groups will be found
working here.  For example, the genetic engineering group and the CENIC
[National Scientific Research Center] can be found here.  This group, and
other outstanding groups of researchers, came from the CENIC.  In this area
we also find the small center where we first started to develop our
insemination process.  Today we are inaugurating this center.  Our School
of Biology will be built near here.  Currently, the School of Biology is
located in the old School of Medicine building at the Calixto Garcia.  We
realized that it would be best to put the School of Medicine back where it
had been--those installations were built to house a School of Medicine and
not a School of Biology--and build the new School of Biology here where the
CENIC, genetic engineering laboratory, and immunoassay laboratory, are
located.  I mentioned earlier that we are already building the new
installations for the Institute of Cuban Tropical Medicine.  Not far from
here we are also building a research center that will be used by our
pharmaceutical industry.  Several research centers; some of our best
hospitals; the Victoria de Giron School of Medicine; the Frank Pais
Hospital, currently being expanded and soon to be a great hospital; the
CIME [Metallurgical Research Center]; an obstetrics hospital; the Carlos
Finlay Hospital, also being expanded; the Pando Ferrer Ophthalmology
Center; the new pediatric hospital that is being built near the obelisk;
are all located in this area.  We are also building an avenue that will
link the obelisk with the (?Mediodia) freeway and we have areas set aside
to build between 2,000 and 3,000 homes for the scientific-technical
community that will be working in this area.  Specific, solid, and
promising steps are being taken in this field.  We are doing this with
seriousness, with a large number of experienced cadres, and with a larger
number of youths who are dedicated to their work and who are very capable.
From all that I have heard here today, I gather that we can all participate
in this scientific-technical task and that we do not have to be a
superindustrialized country in order to do this kind of work.  It also
proves that at times we can occupy first place in this field.

I feel that very promising work is being done in the fields of medicine and
research.  Our centers have become models of organization, productivity,
and efficiency.  With less than 100 workers, with approximately 90 workers,
this center will produce millions of pesos.  A single piece of equipment
you see here cannot be bought for less than 130,000 or 140,000
pesos--excuse me, I meant to say dollars--especially today because of the
devaluation of the dollar.  We expect to produce at least 100 such machines
a year.  This center will produce millions of dollars in reagents.  Most
important, research work will be done at this center and all the
immunochemistry laboratories in this country will be run from this center;
it will be the general staff of the scientific-technical directorate--not
the administrative directorate but the scientific-technical directorate.
The programs for the training of personnel will be drafted here.  The
directorate will be set up here.  How many men are currently working here?
One.  Later we will have two men working here.  They will use computers to
receive all the information being provided by the various laboratories.

Here, as at the genetic engineering and biology centers, we practice the
idea of multi-assignment and irregular work schedule.  This is a new idea
and these comrades work 13 and 14 hours a day.  They do not do this
everyday, they only do it when it is necessary.  We are not asking for a
specific number of work hours, what we ask for is dedication.  A center
like this one can send a scientist home.  He does not have to be at the
center; he can go home if he has a thesis to present, a course he wishes to
attend, or if he has to study.  We want something more than a formal work
schedule; we want men who are dedicated to their work.  We want a communist
society work system.

I know the kind of workers that we have at these centers.  It is a real
pleasure to come here and visit them.  We have young and qualified
scientists working at this center.  The workers receive excellent
attention.  They get very good food and enjoy all the comforts.  Their
wages are a bit higher because of what they do.  However, no amount of
money is enough to compensate them for the kind of work they do.  There are
many scientists who spend the night at the genetic engineering
laboratory--they are doing the work previously done at the biology
laboratory--because they live too far away to go home.  They sleep on a cot
in order to be at work very early.  They have breakfast, lunch, and dinner,
at the center.  I have visited the workers at this center on various
occasions and have always found them in a good mood.

What is most interesting is the fact that the young people want to work at
the center.  Only recently several new groups of young people came to work
here.  When I met with them I said: Well, you are now members of the
religious order of science.  I also told them that place could be compared
to something like a convent with the difference that marriage is not banned
here.  I have observed determination on their faces when they come to work
at this center.  However, it will not always be this way.  We are not
looking for a formal work schedule system, we are looking for workers with
dedication.  They will not have to be at the center all the time; they will
be able to stay at home and work from their home.  They will soon be living
near here.  At home they will have their families.  There are several
married couples who are scientists.  A scientific-medical community is
going to be created here.  These centers have become the vanguards of a new
work style.  I feel that this is praiseworthy.  All the new centers are
developing around this system.  We no longer have to preach this new

Cenpalap, the Center for the Production of an Animal Free of Parasites
[paratogenos], was created under this new system.  The work done at this
center will be of great value for our hospitals and our research in
general.  These centers have become the perfect example of what a center
should be, and the workers have become excellent examples of dedication and
work spirit.  They are becoming an example for all of our people.

It is only fair to say that this center has received help from many
sectors.  The list may be a little long, but it is my duty to mention the
names of the enterprises and institutions that have worked closely in the
construction of this center and have help in the work done here.  Here I
have the list of the enterprises and institutions closely involved in the
production of the SUMA equipment, reagents, and in the drafting of new
diagnostic techniques.

Some of the enterprises are: Copestel [expansion unknown]; the military and
industrial enterprises; the MINAZ [Ministry of the Sugar Industry]
industrial automation enterprises--a tiny MINAZ plant in Villa Clara has
designed the plates on which the electronic components are placed; the
Ministry of the Fishing Industry shipyards; the Reinaldo Gutierrez Medical
Supply Enterprise; the Carlos J. Finlay Biological Products Enterprise; and
the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture's Institute of Veterinary Medicine.

Some of the institutions are: the Cuban Institute of Endocrinology; the
Cuban Institute of Tropical Medicine; the Civil Defense Laboratory; the
Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology; the Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology Center; the Animal Laboratory Center; the National
Biochemical Products Center; the School of Chemistry of the University of
Havana; the Ministry of Agriculture's animal health center; the Clinical
Genetics Reference Center; the blood by-product plant; and the Provincial
Blood Bank.

Some of the supply enterprises are: the Council of State's Servicec
[expansion unknown]; the CEATM [State Committee for Material and Technical
Supply]; the Ministry of Public Health's MEDICUBA [Cuban Enterprise for the
Import of Medical Products]; and the MINCEX' [Ministry of Foreign Trade]
CUBAEQUIPO [expansion unknown].

No institution advances without the help of another institution.  This is
why we must struggle against such negative tendencies as working
separately.  We must seek a very tight cooperation among the institutions.
This will allow us to advance quickly.  This center is an example of this.
This center has received help from many other institutions.  It is an
example of the way we must work in order to advance in socialism.

The construction of this center must also be an example for everyone.  The
construction of the Genetic Engineering Center gave us many headaches.
When we inaugurated the Genetic Engineering Center we mentioned that 95
percent of the center--the exact percentage is not known--had been
completed.  Much hard work had to be done following the inauguration.  The
P-3 and P-4 laboratories had not been finished.  The pilot plant had not
been completed.  The P-3 and P-4 laboratories--where the animals are
kept--had not been completed, and the installation of the water tanks and
filters gave us many headaches.  There were many things to be done that
forced us to work very hard after the center had been inaugurated.

This year, today, approximately 15 or 18 months after its inauguration, we
can say that the center has been completed.  It was a lesson for us to
learn from.  As a result of this experience we decided that it was
necessary for us to study the organization of our construction enterprises,
the mistakes made and decide what mistakes should not be repeated, the
phenomenon of the last minute race to complete the work, etcetera.  This is
why we decided that the construction of this center called for hard work
from the very first day.  We decided that it was necessary to demand good
quality, seriousness, and hard work from the day the construction work
began.  I am not trying to say that the construction of the Genetic
Engineering Center was lacking in good quality.  It is of good quality, but
much of the construction was still lacking its final touches.  The Genetic
Engineering Center could not be used as an example of what construction and
building should be.

Since that time, much progress has been made.  Measures were taken to
improve the system.  The same crew that built the Genetic Engineering
Center built this center.  The same brigade, I meant to say that it was the
same enterprise that built this center; however, this time they formed
their construction brigades.  The work was done by the No 6 Architectural
and Construction Enterprise and Brigade No 3. The comrade architect who
spoke here today was responsible for Brigade No 3--the head of the brigade
is an architect.  This architect not only knows how to build but he can
also speak.  In very clear and simple words he expressed his appreciation
to all the people of the brigade who helped in the construction of this
center and also expressed pride in the completion of this work.  He added
that his plans are to continue working in this manner.

Yesterday I spoke of the last minute race to complete construction and said
that we had to put an end to this.  This must be done with a plan and
knowing that hard work must begin the day that construction begins.  If
there is a 3- year deadline and nothing is done during the first 2 years,
then one must rush to do it all in a year.  We have set a very strict
deadline for the completion of these [not further explained] hospitals, and
we will not agree to an extention of the set deadline.  Why?  Building a
hospital is a serious matter.  When a hospital is being expanded, loud
noises are heard, much dust is created, and a certain degree of
disorganization occurs.  We have suffered watching the expansion work being
done at the Frank Pais Hospital.  The expansion work began almost 10 years
ago and it looked like we would have to wait 20 more years to see it
completed.  We know that the work will not be completed by the end of 1987.
The expansion work at the other hospitals should be completed by early
1988.  The work that was not done in years at the Frank Pais Hospital is
being done in a few months.  Much work is being done and it is expected
that the work will be completed on the estimated date.  An industry is
being built at the Frank Pais Hospital; the orthopedic industry.  This
time, next year, that hospital should be in operation, and not a single
straw, speck of dust, or grain of sand will be seen in the area.

Hospitals should be built as quickly as possible.  We are currently
expanding the Albarran Hospital.  Gerardo, that is your name is it not?
[unidentified man heard saying Lazaro] Lazaro.  Yes, Lazaro.  Lazaro heads
the brigade that is working at the Albarran Hospital.  They have quite a
task ahead.  The current capacity of the Albarran Hospital is being
doubled.  This hospital currently has a 350-bed capacity.  How many beds
does the hospital have?  No one here knows.  I know that is is going to
have a 750-bed capacity. [unidentified man heard saying "750 beds"] Seven
hundred and fifty and it currently has [unidentified man heard saying "326
beds"] 326 beds.  This hospital also houses the Institute of Nephrology.
The deadline for the expansion is December 1988, and they are doing a fine
job.  We are not worried about a deadline not being met.

When the expansion work at the Albarran Hospital began, hundreds of piles
had to be built.  Can you imagine what it was like at the hospital with all
the hammering that was necessary to put those piles in their place?  The
hospital is built on low land and a very solid foundation is necessary.  A
deadline was set.  Thinking about the patients, and how the noise affects
the patients, a deadline was set.  Construction noises tend to bother the
patients; therefore, one must make sure that the construction work is done
as fast as possible and not in a 5-or 10-year period.

The Frank Pais Hospital is another hospital that is undergoing expansion
work.  The hospital capacity will be three times its current capacity.
Nine floors are being added to the hospital.  It is a big job.  I visited
the construction site this morning because yesterday I said that they would
be given a deadline to complete the work.  I visited the site and talked to
the people responsible for the construction work and the construction
brigade leader.  I asked about the work they have already completed; the
number of columns they had to build--by the way, I must correct myself
because I said that more than 800 columns had to be built and this is not
true; they had to build less than 800 columns, approximately 750
columns--and learned that they have 30 more columns to go.  They had five
Benotto digging machines there; now they have four.  By the end of the
month they should have completed the digging.  In some areas they are
already working on the foundation and several columns are ready.  We also
met with the planning group and have asked that the plans be made before
the construction work begins rather than the other way around.  I have been
told that if we supply the work forces and the construction material--the
material must be purchased ahead of time because some of the material must
be imported and if we need this material in September then we cannot wait
until February to purchase it--the work will be completed within the
deadline set.  We also talked about the equipment they need.  The air
conditioning system is being built here.  We are buying the material, but
the compressors are being built here.  The elevators are also being built
here.  This means that we are saving much of the money spent on importing
this equipment because our mechanical industry is building all those
systems.  If we cannot get all the power plants we need from the socialist
countries, then we will have to get them from the capitalist countries.
However, we are doing all this by reducing, to a minimum, all purchases
done in convertible currency.

We know the kind of problems that can bring construction work to a halt.
There are times when a little problem can stop the work.  At the School of
Nursing they are having some problems because the white corner tiles had
some small quality defects and this is holding the work up.  They are also
having some problems getting the aluminum casings for the windows.  They
are having problems getting the aluminum casings because the company is
behind in its production.  This aluminum company was damaged recently as
the result of an explosion.  The workers at the aluminum company worked
hard to repair the oven and a second assembly line is almost ready.  By the
end of the year we will be producing twice as many window casings, and we
are making plans to set up a third assembly line because we know that
problems will always be encountered.  We are going to begin a study of each
of the problems that can be encountered at the window casing company and we
will appoint a man who will be responsible for repairs.  I feel that all
works must be planned and completed within a deadline, especially if we are
talking about a hospital.  We are not talking about whims.  We are talking
about a hospital with hundreds of patients.  The noise and dust always
bothers the patients.  It is true that the construction workers are not
inside the hospital, but the construction site is near the hospital and it
is necessary to set strict deadlines.  I know that the deadlines will be
met unless some disaster occurs.

We know what this kind of work entails.  We have the equipment and the
experienced workers.  We have the necessary workers to ensure the
completion of the work.  A study was made to determine how many bricklayers
were needed in each brigade, what each bricklayer needs, and the days that
the bricklayer must work.  The brigades are working with a renewed spirit
and this must be firmly defended.  We cannot accept the past system that
allowed for 6-or 12-month delays in the completion of the work.  In the
past the waiting periods were never ending.  This is all being corrected.
Today we build with a new spirit and new principles.  Today we work with
different goals; productivity, quality, and speed.  We must add that this
center's construction quality is very good.  It is really a pleasure to
come here.  I invite everyone who wishes to have a nice time to come here
and visit the center.  You will be impressed by the building and the
equipment, but above all you will be greatly impressed with the workers at
this center.  There is not a single extra worker at this center.

This center is not like other centers where you walk into the lobby and
find a crowd of people standing around.  In this lobby you never see
people.  The other day I visited the center and saw a young lady sitting on
a bench in the lobby.  I thought this strange.  I approached her and asked
her if she was looking for a job or if she was visiting the center.  I
asked: Are you visiting the center?  I had the feeling that she was a
visitor because she could not be a worker.  Her answer was that she had
come with her boyfriend who is an engineer and who was going to work at the
center.  She added that he had come to the center on that day to register.
Fine.  I asked her what she was studying and she answered that she was
studying to be an architect.  I told her that it was a pity that we did not
need architects at this center, but added that we do need architects in
other areas.  That young lady was sitting in the lobby waiting for her
boyfriend; otherwise, you would have seen no one in the lobby.

When lunchtime comes around the production workers do their job in the
dining room.  It is really an excellent dining room, we could describe it
as a small restaurant.  The scientists clean their laboratories.  There is
a family environment at the center and everyone knows what he must do.  As
a result of this, only the number of persons needed to operate the center,
are employed here.  When the center's housing project begins, instead of
planning homes for 300 people, we will only plan homes for 80, 90, or 95
families at the most.  This center has a maximum payroll of 95 employees.
For the time being, I do not think that the center will hire the maximum
number of employees; therefore, as you can see, we have enough space to
expand if this should become necessary.

Now we have to start studying the various markets.  We must study the
markets available for reagents; whether we have fully developed our
production process; whether we dominate the production technique; the kind
of a market available for this product; and the possibilities and
convenience of an industry for the production of reagents.  I know that at
the center they are already working on 41 different types of reagents, and
we must study every aspect of this industry--well semi-industry, this is a
research center but it is also an industry--and reach our own conclusions.
There are many possibilities in this field.

However, for the time being, this center's payroll will remain as is.
With a reduced number of employees it is much easier to handle the needs of
the center.  With rationalization and productivity we can offer the workers
at the center much better wages, food, and living conditions.

Well, we were speaking of the final phase.  We were talking about the
builders and I feel that the builders, the ECOI [Industrial Projects
Construction Enterprise] 6, Brigade No 3, City of Havana Construction
Directorate and the Ministry of Construction must be congratulated for
their good work.  At times I have criticized them, but I also praise them
when they deserve praise.  On this occasion they must be congratulated.  I
think that we will make much progress if we continue to work with this idea
in mind.

Yesterday I also praised the excellent work done at the Julio Trigo
Hospital.  The hospitals that we are now expanding will be our test by
fire.  The pediatric hospital will not be the most difficult to expand.  It
is a big project, but not as big as the Albarran and Miguel Enriquez
projects.  Those two hospitals will be doubling their current capacity.

However, those are not the only hospitals we are expanding.  We are
expanding several other hospitals, but these are the most important.  In a
3-year period Havana will have 5,000 additional hospital beds.  This does
not include the number of beds available in the three new hospitals we will
begin to build in 1989.  In 1989 we will begin to build the new Hospital
del Oeste.  It will be built near here and will be part of this science
complex.  I call this hospital the Ameijeiras of the west.  It will have
900 beds.  In the east we will be building the Ameijeiras del Este and in
addition, we will be building the pediatric hospital in the eastern sector
of the city.  This hospital will be very much like the one we are building
in Marianao.

However, we are not, only building and expanding hospitals.  We are also
building new day care centers and schools that our capital city needs; we
arc building more homes, and appointing family doctors.  The family doctor
will be very involved in the work being done at these centers.  He will be
responsible for educating the people, preventing early pregnancies, and
promoting physical education.  These are some of the things that we are
working on and we consider them very important tasks.  We are doing this
despite our economic difficulties.  We are doing all this at a time when
our convertible currency availability is limited.  However, all this has
led us to find very good solutions to our problems.

In the past we bought the elevators and air conditioning systems we needed.
Today we are building our own elevators and air conditioning systems here.
Much can be learned from experiencing and overcoming difficult times--lean
times.  Our difficult moments have taught us to put what we have to better
use and make greater efforts.  We can say that we made the most progress
during the year of the apocalypse.  It was during the year of the
apocalypse that we made our most important decisions.  We did not measure
our progress in numbers or growth.  One can invest billions in a
construction, but if you do not complete it, you have nothing.  You have
thrown your money away.  You can begin to build a road but if it takes you
30 years to finish it, you are throwing money away.  If you begin to build
a hospital and it takes you 15 years to complete it, then you are throwing
money away.  We are building and completing and we are not measuring our
work in money [valores].  In the past a mechanical industry was measured
for what it was worth and not what it was producing.  The industry was
scheduled to produce 100 assorted products, but only produced 35.  The
other 65 products were never produced.  That is the kind of mistakes made
in the past, but today we are seriously working to resolve them.  We are
resolving important problems and we are finding new solutions to old

I feel that we have earned the right not to rest on our laurels, but to
continue along this same path with more enthusiasm.  This is a promising
path.  We have every right to feel optimistic.  Excellent efforts are being
made and excellent results are being achieved.  We have done this despite
our economic and weather problems.  We are not getting enough rain; someone
in Heaven has declared himself on strike against us. [laughter] However,
despite the critical water situation in our capital city, we are building a
new aqueduct.  This new aqueduct will not resolve all our problems, and
unless we get much rain in the next 2 months, we will be experiencing a
water shortage.  But what would the situation be like without this new
aqueduct?  This new aqueduct can produce 70 or 80 million cubic meters of
water; however, the situation will continue to be a difficult one.  We are
experiencing this same situation throughout the country.  The people are
trying to save water.  We are saving some water in our dams, but we are
facing problems caused by nature and problems that are the result of our

However, we have always been firm when confronting the hostile and terrible
threats of imperialism; we are still here and we are stronger, more
organized and better prepared than ever.  We were also strong when we felt
the apocalypse was near; we were strong and firm when they tried to destroy
our revolution.  We stood up firm and said: we will see if they can destroy
the revolution; we will see if this is possible.  I wonder how they would
go about killing millions of Cubans with a rifle, mine, or grenade, if they
cannot handle 10 or 12,000 Cubans.  How would they do it?  We are prepared
to confront any problem and I think that our people's courage and firmness,
and their determination to defend their homeland and revolution at all
cost, has given us this possibility of creating and producing.  We are not
a warmongering people, we do not want war.  We prefer to work, create, and
make progress, but to be able to do all this, we need independence and
peace.  I think that we have also earned our right to peace and if we
continue along this path, and I am sure we will, we will make much

Fatherland or death, we will win. [applause]