Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-94-104 Daily Report 26 May 1994 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Fidel Castro Varadero News Conference

FL2805005194 Havana Tele Rebelde Network in Spanish 0035 GMT 26 May 94 FL2805005194 Havana Tele Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [News conference by President Fidel Castro with participants in the 15th International Tourism Convention in Varadero on 20 May -- recorded]

[Text] [Castro] [passage indistinct] What is better? To have them speak first?

[Unidentified speaker] Commander, I suggest that you answer some of their questions.

[Castro] This is like arriving to take a test without having studied the subject.

[Unidentified speaker] Professors do not have to study the subject.

[Castro] That is so for professors, but I have been a student all my life and have always felt like a student whenever I have been before an audience.

[Unidentified speaker] Commander, I am from Argentina's Tele-C News...

[Castro, interrupting] Yes, but the question from Argentina was left unfinished. [laughter]

[Unidentified speaker] I am always on the way. Commander...

[Castro, interrupting] Let me stand. I cannot see who is speaking. [applause]

[Unidentified speaker] Commander, I wanted to ask for the [words indistinct] of Argentina: What role do you believe tourism plays for Cuba at this historic junction?

[Castro] I believe that for everyone [words indistinct]. I hope it will play a special role and must say sincerely that we are prioritizing it while maintaining other sectors, despite everything bad and good tourism is said to bring. I say, as some say, because we do not know anything about it. We are now beginning to learn. In general, I must stress that I have seen good things. I do not know if tourism is categorized as very good, outstanding, good, regular, fair, or bad. I have yet to see the bad tourism category. Rather, I have seen tourists falling into the outstanding and good categories.

Anything that helps the economy today is enormously important to Cuba. This is one of the most influential sectors. This sector has maintained a growth rate of a little over 30 percent annually. Our future success will depend heavily on our ability to work and, particularly, on our ability to attain your cooperation worldwide.

I believe we have the potential. I believe we have great tourism potential and an educated people. We have a highly developed spirit of hospitality, as well as the will to do things right.

However, I will answer your question specifically by saying that tourism occupies one of the topmost places at this historic junction in the country's life and finances.

[Unidentified speaker] Thank you.

[BBC correspondent Rose Hays, in English with passage-by-passage translation into Spanish] I have been at the Varadero convention for a week now. There have been many debates on tourism industry profits. It is said that right now it has probably reached a phase where tourism profits are surpassing sugar industry profits. It has been predicted that the tourism industry will surpass sugar as Cuba's main source of revenue. Do you agree?

[Castro] Yes, at least that is our hope. We hope the tourism industry will overcome the sugar industry. I have been pondering this. The large-scale sugar industry and tourism seem to be two difficult things to reconcile. We have almost 11 million people and a little over 110,000 square kilometers of land. I believe we can do both things right. We have hundreds of kilometers of beach and thousands of kilometers of coast, some of it nestled between the sea and the mountains. In other words, we have great tourism potential. However, we still have great sugar potential.

Other industries certainly tend to surpass the sugar industry in modern times. For example, Puerto Rico produced 1 million tons of sugar about 30 years ago yet does not produce enough sugar today to satisfy national demand. Many sugar fields were used to grow other crops, to meet urban growth demands, or to establish industrial parks. Above all, the sugar industry is very difficult and entails extremely hard work.

The introduction of slavery in the Caribbean was followed by the development of the sugar industry in the tropical heat. It is such hard work that the native population was practically unable to do it. This is what gave rise to the macabre idea of enslaving Africans to make them work in the fields here, in the tropics, because they were better suited to that hard work in sugarcane, as well coffee, although coffee is not as hard. Sugarcane was the hardest crop because the harvesting and weeding had to be done by hand. However, the sugarcane harvest demands great effort even if you improve working and living conditions. Also, it has a cyclic nature. It does not guarantee year-long jobs for everyone. This results in a large emigration of the labor force from the sugar fields to other activities.

Slavery was allegedly abolished at the turn of the century, yet tens of thousands of Caribbean people emigrated from Jamaica, Haiti, and other Caribbean islands following the great boom the sugar industry experienced after the U.S. intervention, when hundreds of millions of dollars -- which had a greater value then -- were invested to develop the sugar industry. A new form of slavery ensued because the Jamaicans and Haitians who came to Cuba to work in the sugarcane lived under similarly harsh conditions. It is very hard work.

I have noticed that sugar production declines as tourism develops in the Caribbean islands. The work force transfers to tourism. There are islands of every size, from 400 square kilometers to 1,000 square kilometers and every other size in between. I have noticed the incompatibility of these industries. Boosting the tourism industry has resulted in a decline of the sugar industry in those countries.

Cuba should be able to maintain a highly vital sugar industry through mechanization and chemical resources once we are again under normal conditions and given the available land area, population, machinery, herbicides, and automation processes at sugar mills. This is what we plan to do. However, there is a sugar mill nearby which is about empty of personnel. Almost every worker is here, in Varadero. Tourism work is not as hard and is more appealing than agriculture and sugarcane. Yet, I believe we have a large enough population to maintain both industries. However, tourism's potential, keeping in mind that we have thousands of kilometers of virgin beaches, is much higher than the sugar industry's potential.

If we fully develop our tourism potential, undoubtedly, apart from other factors, the tourism industry will render much higher revenues to Cuba than the sugar industry, even if this incompatibility did not exist between both sectors. In addition, the tourism market is growing much more than the sugar market. I have yet to hear anyone say that sunshine makes you fat. [laughter]

Unfortunately, people are going around saying that sugar is fattening and all those kinds of things, all those calumnies against sugar. [laughter]

However, tourism is healthy and has great prestige. It seems that tourism is the faster growing industry in the world. I have heard many people say this.

[Unidentified speaker] Once again, for Argentina: Regarding the U.S. blockade, is the Clinton administration as severe as previous administrations?

[Castro] I would have to ask you to define severity.

[Unidentified speaker] Argentina is well aware of the U.S. position, which is not fair to the Cuban people. This is why I ask the question. You raised this issue last year, when I had the opportunity to meet you and the Council of State. I would like to know your thoughts on this today.

[Castro] I could say that Clinton maintains the same severity, because he maintains the blockade, the Torricelli Law, everything. However, he does so in a softer manner and with less threatening and less bellicose words. But the severity of U.S. policy toward Cuba has not changed. It remains the same.

[Rene Capriles, correspondent for Brazil's ECO RIO magazine] Commander, I had the pleasure of hearing you at the Rio summit. Your address was the most applauded, even by President Bush, which was a surprise, as you might remember.

You just came from a conference on island-states and biodiversity. Biodiversity plays an important role worldwide when it comes to genetic patents, on which Cuba has broad experience. What are Cuba's prospects in this regard, considering tourism, island-states, and the creation of the Caribbean common market in the future?

[Castro] The analysis of environmental problems was good at the Barbados meeting. Both the environment and sustainable development were discussed. We noticed in Rio that island-states are highly anxious about this. I noticed that many countries are highly anxious about the prospects that global...[pauses] changes in weather patterns and the greenhouse effect. Changes in weather patterns mean more droughts, more intense hurricanes, and other climate phenomena which are generally disastrous for those small nations.

While a hurricane in Florida damages a very small portion of the territory, a hurricane on St. Vincent or on any other small Caribbean island -- such as St. Lucia or Jamaica -- covers 100 percent of the island's territory and can destroy everything. The rest of the nation can help Florida repair the hurricane damage. Islands face territorial limitations and serious communication problems. A man from Santiago de Cuba was complaining because there are no direct flights between Mexico and Santiago de Cuba. Yet, there are no flights between many Carribean islands. There are no flight routes. Sea transportation is also very difficult. These countries experience diverse difficulties for their development.

They are affected the most, environmentally speaking. Many of those islands, particularly those in the Pacific, would disappear if the water were to rise four meters. It would be a global disaster because it would affect every port's infrastructure. However, certain countries would disappear altogether. Certain countries, such as Bangladesh, with a population of over 100 million people, would disappear almost completely, despite being one of the most densely populated countries.

Of course, this explains the high anxiety experienced by these states and why it was decided at the Rio summit to hold an international conference of small island-states. There was an increased awareness of the problem in Barbados, more of an awareness than in Rio. However, the Rio summit and the efforts of the nongovernmental organizations were extremely significant in creating an awareness of this problem. I dare affirm 90 percent of the governments of the world were not aware of ecological problems.

This was the first time that dozens of heads of state had a chance to think about these problems and were compelled to think about them. The representatives of the most industrialized nations also had to speak and explain things in Rio. Consumerist societies are the main culprits of the destructive phenomena that has ravished the environment in past decades. They consume an overwhelming majority of energy and fossil fuel and have poisoned the rivers, lakes, and seas the most. They have poisoned the air, have created acid rain, and have increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They are creating serious, real problems, including extremely serious problems with weather pattern changes.

This awareness is somewhat late. Certain damages are already irreversible. The amounts of fluorocarbons released have damaged the ozone layer and will continue to do so for a long time. We must ask ourselves if there is still time to reverse this trend. However, since we cannot afford to be pessimistic, the least we can do is fight hard to increase awareness so that measures are adopted as soon as possible to solve these problems.

You might remember from Rio that the U.S. Government objected and put up the most resistance to the accords. It was practically isolated. I must add that this is not the case with the current administration. This administration is more concerned with environmental issues. The U.S. vice president has a book out on the environment. I believe he is quite committed to environmental issues. The United States, the number one consumer of energy and natural resources, is called upon to play a very important role here.

This is why any change in the U.S. Government's position must seen as positive. This had not taken place yet at the time of the Rio summit but was hinted at in the U.S. representative's address in Rio and noticed again during the Barbados conference.

We must fight harder and harder and harder if we want to avoid the catastrophe of incalculable magnitude toward which we are heading right now. This is an issue that can be discussed at length. A great many variables enter into play because the development of various countries can differ so greatly. I pointed out in Barbados that Bangladesh's per capita income is $220, while Switzerland's is $34,000. [Words indistinct] 1 billion tons of carbon is consumed. How much more do the Chinese people need to attain a gross income 10 times higher? India has similar problems. These are very complex, acute problems. How will global resources be distributed? How will development be apportioned? Will we just decide to leave developing nations as they are while developed nations continue to develop?

Mankind must exert great effort and revise certain theories. I hinted at this in my 15-minute address on the problems of inequitable worldwide development. What does the future hold for a society that can only survive by growing and can only grow by depleting the world's natural resources? That question has no answer. They are condemned to grow. This is why when one speaks of sustainable development, no one knows what one is talking about. We ought to speak of societies that can sustain themselves or that can survive as they are by recycling and reducing levels of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases and not by continuing to deplete natural resources.

Neoliberalism is in vogue today. However, we are not talking politics here, nor do we want to discuss politics. Yet, it is in fashion. Neoliberalism is based on the concept of continuous growth to prevent a disaster. However, continuous growth will result in a bigger disaster. We must focus primarily on the growth of those countries further behind, the poorest nations. We must do a better job distributing the world's natural resources. We must distribute the world's wealth better and more equally. Otherwise, the problems will not be solved. Yet, we cannot discuss this further here nor turn this into a conference on extremely complex philosophical issues. We risk missing the mark regarding tourism.

[Faustino Castilla, director of Spain's VIAJE Y TOURISMO magazine] How can capitalist and socialist views coexist in the tourism industry? Unfortunately, I remember what the Cuban tourism industry had to endure in the '50s. That was not like tourism today but was tourism, nevertheless. How can both doctrines coexist today?

I would also like to present to you an example of Habanera, a typically Cuban-Spanish form of music that symbolizes Cuban-Spanish unity. [applause]

[Castro] He asks: How can the two views coexist? That of tourism and what else? Within tourism? You refer to joint investments, right?

Unfortunately, I do not have Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, or Vladimir Ilich Lenin by my side to help me answer your question. Yet, I believe, referring even to the founders of socialism, Lenin for example, at the time of the famous Bolshevik revolution, had even considered the idea of establishing capitalism under the control of the proletariat. Lenin's original idea was to establish socialism in that country, which was one of the most industrially backward, a country besieged and blockaded. Lenin finally came up with the idea of developing capitalism in Russia, not under the control of capitalists but under the control of workers. There were other ideas among the political leaders of that era: The impossibility of establishing socialism in only one country. This was discussed extensively.

We must add that among the CPSU's founding concepts was the idea that the revolution was going to take place simultaneously in every industrialized nation. History has still not proven that that was wrong. Although, I will keep my opinion regarding what has happened in those countries, there is no doubt that building socialism in one single country, entirely surrounded by industrialized capitalist countries [words indistinct]. Their accomplishments were, in my opinion, truly extraordinary. They will be praised someday once this contemporary period is over. They conceived with a highly dialectic sense and flexibility how to build socialism.

We have not relinquished the idea of building socialism. We have not relinquished our goals. We are simply adapting to our current reality and acknowledging that under such exceptional circumstances, following the collapse of the socialist bloc and the disappearance of the USSR, our goals cannot be the building of socialism but the defense of the fatherland, the revolution, and accomplishments of socialism.

The development of any country requires capital, technology, and markets which we do not have at this time. These are far from ideal conditions. We are no longer dealing with building socialism in a single country but on a tiny island lost somewhere in the Caribbean, lost geographically but not politically.

Tourism provided the first opportunity to create joint associations and to introduce foreign capital in Cuba. We need all three things -- capital, technology, and markets -- to develop tourism in Cuba. We did not hesitate on the need to promote its development. We have been talking about tourism, which is a very typical example. There are many other fields where the same is happening or could be happening, like the oil sector.

We will never exploit the oil beneath the Varadero peninsula. We do not want to...[pauses] A well had already been drilled nearby, but we closed it. Estimates have been made on the amount of fuel underground, but Varadero's tourism development and oil extraction are incompatible. Developing Varadero's tourism will yield much more than the extraction of the oil underneath it.

There are diverse positive indicators regarding the presence of oil. However, we need seismological research with advanced technology, well-drilling, and capital investment. We do not have the capital or the technology to exploit these resources. How could we do this if not by associating with foreign companies and capital? It would not be socialist but stupid to turn a blind eye to this reality. Nothing would be accomplished if we did that. We would be left stranded, would fail to fulfill the goal of defending the fatherland, the revolution, and the accomplishments of socialism. I have given two examples.

As we set off down this path -- free of dogma, armed with flexibility, and keeping clearly in mind our goals and the means to attain them -- we have been making this overture, which continues to expand. I believe our goals and the means being used to attain them are perfectly in keeping with one another. The goals we are seeking are perfectly in keeping with the means we are using to achieve them.

To tell the truth, it is very important that there be trust. We have taken great pains to ensure that we have created trust among those who invest in Cuba and are giving investors advantages they do not get in many other parts of the world so as to make investing here truly attractive.

[Words indistinct] show that those first experiences were successful. We must calculate how much the capital yields in each European country. How much in Italy? How much in Switzerland? How much in France? How much must be paid in rent? How much does capital invested in Costa Brava, Spain, yield? How much in the Canary Islands? We must find ways to make capital yield more in Cuba than it does in Costa Brava, the Canary Islands, or any other country.

All in all, it is a competition. I believe that we are in a position to compete and that Cuba has some advantages. As the managers of this hotel can attest, cooperation between the population and the investors is high because we have persuaded the population of the need to take these steps, these measures, and to make these investments.

I want to stress to you that our people are socialist. Harbor no doubts: Our people cannot return to capitalism. However, they understand perfectly well all the measures we are taking in this sphere and that the associations with capitalist companies are in response to the reality of today's world. Thus, we have growing ties with multinationals. We do. This is a reality and a power in today's world. No one in today's world can do without multinationals, because their power continues to increase. They have more power, even more than governments. The power of governments is declining and that of multinationals increasing. We are surrounded by capitalists in this world.

We are told in geography class that an island is a piece of land surrounded by water on all sides. If someone were to ask us at present to define socialism in Cuba, the answer would be: A noble, courageous, heroic effort surrounded by capitalism on all sides. [laughter]

We cannot ignore capitalism any more than we can ignore the sea around us. Besides -- and this was pointed out by Marx -- capitalism has made significant contributions to mankind's economic development, such as technological and scientific contributions and a great development of the productive forces. We could add other things that were unknown at Marx's time: management capability, [words indistinct], use of computers in administration and management. We could add many other contributions capitalism has made to mankind.

Also, it would be stupid of me not to make use of any useful experience capitalism can contribute. This is how we see what we are doing, without relinquishing our principles, goals, or ideals. I believe Cuba is not the only country doing this. The Chinese people are doing it and have been doing it much longer than we. The Vietnamese people are doing it and have had very significant successes. However, history will have the last word. New paths are always strewn with obstacles, problems, and difficulties. Our intelligence and wisdom should help us overcome all these difficulties.

There are many other difficulties. There are difficulties that are not political, ideological, or philosophical in nature. Other difficulties could be of a moral nature.

I was explaining to the comrades and have at times explained to the Cuban people that we cannot afford to be pure within a glass case. Purity is not as praiseworthy if one is alone, isolated, unpolluted, free of contact with any virus, germ, or bacteria. Virtue blooms in the struggle against vice. These methods or things we are introducing might bring with them certain vices, yet this can serve to develop our virtue.

Many have questioned the influence tourism might have upon the minds of our people, upon their basic traits. These matters have come up. However, experience is teaching us that we can develop our country perfectly well. Cuba's ties, culture, and contact with the world are growing. We will be all the more pure if we are able to preserve our virtues amid the contamination certain things might bring with them. I believe we will do so in this effort we are making. It will be, above all, a test.

I once used a metaphor but later had to recant because it was wrong. I said that virtue could not be preserved in a cloister, a convent. Several nuns immediately wrote me and told me the remark was unfair. I agreed with them and no longer speak of cloisters or convents. I speak of ivory towers. [laughter, applause]

[Unidentified speaker] [Words indistinct]

[Castro] From what magazine?

[Unidentified speaker] (SUARA), a magazine with a circulation of over 300,000 and [words indistinct]. I will not ask any questions because my questions were answered by the minister. I asked if Cuba was ready to welcome tourists and so on. As you have said...

[Castro, interrupting] What did he answer? Yes?

[Unidentified speaker] Yes.

[Castro] He lied to your readers. [laughter]

Did he say we were ready or learning?

[Unidentified speaker] No, no. This is my first trip to Cuba. I want to take this opportunity to do something very personal or my daughter will never forgive me: I must tell you that she admires you greatly. She is 15 years old, and we have explained to her that Cuba is the only socialist country left in the world. She asked me to tell you that she is at your service for whatever you might need and that you can always count on her help. [applause]

She has written many letters to you that remain on her desk. I have explained to her that it is not easy to reach you. However, I will not leave Cuba without asking you to please sign this for her and to take our picture. Otherwise, she would never forgive me. I am sorry, but this is my only chance. I hope the others will forgive me. [applause]

[Castro] I will take a chance and honor your request, although I can foresee about 350 more like them...[pause]

Those noble feelings of solidarity encourage us along, in this struggle. Our struggle is not easy. Not everyone understands it. I have wanted to talk about it. The fact that there are so many good and noble people in the world fills us with energy and is an extraordinary boost to continuing to struggle, resist, and triumph. Thank you very much. [applause]

[(Pablo Amalce), Spanish national radio editor and deputy director of VIAJEROS magazine's Cuba section] [Words indistinct] in the world, the matter of image as regards tourism. A country's image is vital. You know that it is oversimplified sometimes. There is also the pitfall of putting forth an image currently being used by several other countries, resulting in a failure to present the unique characteristics of a destination.

What do you -- the president of the Republic of Cuba, a great communicator, and someone who knows how to rouse and motivate diverse audiences well -- think Cuba's tourism image ought to be?

[Castro] I do not know what a communicator is. That is a technical term used nowadays regarding television, radio, and other such resources. I have always relied on the same thing: speaking very frankly and trying to explain things as I see them. If I do not understand something, I do not attempt to explain it. I have endured enough of that in school already. I had teachers who explained things in the books that they did not understand, could not understand either.

First, we could say that Cuba presents the image of a beautiful country. It has the natural, physical conditions. Columbus first took notice of this. It is a proven fact that when he arrived in Cuba, he said it was the most beautiful land human eyes had ever seen. I do not know if Columbus ever said this to a woman, but it is a fact that he said it about Cuba. We have an image as a country of extreme natural beauty. However, its people are more important than the land. Cuba's image is that of an hospitable, warm, generous, fraternal nation. We want the image of a morally and physically healthy nation. We want the image of an organized country, the image of a country which protects the environment, the air, the water, with pure waters, pure air, a welcoming climate. Of course, we are a tropical country. Many visitors come from frigid places, particularly in winter. They come to escape the snow and cold weather or the like.

We do not want to be seen as a country with gambling or drugs or prostitution. We have the image of a country with a high level of culture and capability [words indistinct] and pleasant the stay of our visitors. We want to educate the people on this profession of hospitality so that services can attain levels equal or superior to those found in any other country. We want a tourism of the people. Everyone wants the tourists to pay more money for greater luxury. Of course, we will have some services that will also serve those who can afford higher prices. However, we also want tourism to be a source of knowledge, contact, and brotherly ties among the peoples.

We also want the world to see Cuba as an honest country, a moral country. This is highly cherished by us because we know that in the world such qualities are not abundant. Finally, I will borrow from the Bible and Adam and Eve, who are said to have been very happy in Eden: We want the world to see Cuba as a terrestrial paradise. [applause]

[Ed Caprice, director of Berlin's Tropicana tourist company] Mr. President, it is not always easy for a small tour operator who is not under the German tourism conglomerates' control to bring tourism to Cuba. However, I do not want to dwell on the difficulties but on the happy moments. One such occasion took place recently, when a group of over 40 people came to Santiago de Cuba. All of their misgivings were cleared up by the time they returned to Berlin. Some of them asked before departing Berlin: Can we really travel to Cuba, given the current difficulties in supplying the population? However, they were all very happy and taken by the tropical beauty, the hospitality you mentioned, the revolutionary spirit of the Cuban people [words indistinct]. The oldest in the group -- an 84-year-old man -- said that the trip to Cuba was the happiest time in his entire life.

Mr. President, I would like you to accept the catalog we have put together for Cuba with all our love. Thank you, very much. [applause]

[Unidentified speaker] Commander Fidel, I have come from Bolivia with a friend who works in an enterprise. First, I want to express Bolivia's love and admiration for your efforts on the Cuban people's survival and freedom and for being an example of independence to all Latin American leaders. I do not want to leave Cuba without firmly shaking your hand as a symbol of the struggle against the economic blockade endured by Cuba and its people. [applause]

[Emilio Galdez, sales director of Grupo Sol in Cuba] I do not have any questions because I already have my answers after living in Cuba for three and a half years; I received them on a daily basis from the honest efforts of the Cuban people and the efforts which I have witnessed at all levels day to day in the tourism sector, as well as in the society. I ask that you continue your struggle and your efforts, which in the last three and a half years have yielded results and successes. I ask that you continue to set the example which other countries were, perhaps, not virtuous enough to adopt.

I refer to positive and negative things which have been attained in tourism. For example, in my country -- Spain -- we have had many successes, but we must lament not having been successful in other things and even failures. We have experienced a crisis from which we are now recovering. We will have to make investments to regain the levels of years ago.

Keeping these things in mind, I ask of you to continue this path to attain what I believe everyone augurs for this beautiful country, which has all the right conditions to fulfill its goals. My cooperation with Cuba does not end, but my stay does in two months. I must follow orders. My boss has asked me, and I agree. I must return to Majorca.

However, during my stay in Cuba I have had the great luck of working with and making friends not easily found in other countries, wholehearted friends, true friends to the end. I have had the luck of meeting my wife and having a daughter -- Daria Lucia -- in this beautiful country. She is 44 days old today. Therefore, my wish is that very soon and before she can talk, but when she can understand me I will be able to tell her that Cuba has overcome the very difficult special period because it truly deserves it.

Finally, it is also my wish -- I have asked many friends at work to help me with this -- to take a photo of you with me and my wife and daughter.

Dear friends, I ask you to continue working together and more united and strong each day for the good and future of tourism in Cuba! Viva Cuba! Viva Fidel! Viva the Revolution! [applause, pause]

[Castro] I have been told that you have made a great effort and that it is time to conclude this meeting. I believe you have other things scheduled, including a closing ceremony. Is that right? When? At nine? I imagine you have to go to your rooms and do things. I believe I have tired you enough.

It has been a great pleasure to come to this meeting. We have heard very friendly words and intelligent and interesting questions. We have also experienced moving moments, such as the case of the comrade who spoke just now and introduced his wife and daughter. We have seen a great example of the ties and relations that can be established among the peoples through tourism. He asked us to continue along this path. I can affirm that we will and that we will never betray the trust of those who believed in us. [applause]

Our word and commitments are sacred. In no [words indistinct] of law, or any canon by Osmany, because we have the canon of honor, seriousness, the given word which will always prevail. We follow principles of honesty and good faith. We follow principles of optimism, and that will always prevail.

We only began a short while back and can already see certain results. I believe we can speak of a future, given the efforts we are conducting. You cannot imagine with what difficulties we began to build those renowned causeways. This has helped us gain access to marvelous beaches, as marvelous as this Varadero beach, in other places around Cuba. We will continue working in this manner, with efforts and sacrifice. We cannot nor do we deny that we are working under hard and difficult conditions.

This is why words such as the ones we have heard today are so encouraging; the words of the lady who spoke about her daughter and the faith and trust she has in Cuba; the words, the words by the Bolivian gentleman; those by the German gentleman. I mentioned this because he relayed a message from an 84-year-old man who said his stay had been the happiest days of his life; 84 is a considerable age. Those of us who are a little younger felt it. [laughter]

An 84-year-old man has experienced practically the entire century. He lived through World Wars I and II and has experienced calamities of every kind, hard and good moments in his life. The fact that he felt the happiest here is encouraging and honors us.

I will try to maintain that tradition and set this example for as long as I can. I am sorry not everyone is here, but this hall can only accommodate so many.

As you can see, we have a brand new minister. [applause]

Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself and prompted your generous applause. He has yet to earn that applause. What I should have said is that we have a brand new ministry. We must find out if we have a brilliant minister. [applause]

This has to be seen. However, we have the greatest hope that he will prove so. [applause]

In any case, another will have to if he does not prove so. [laughter]

What is clear is that we need a good ministry and an even better minister. He has many ideas and initiatives that have been warmly welcomed and endorsed. I hope that this will help accelerate the development of tourism in Cuba, which will continue to have the support of our people, government, and everyone.

I want to add: Our people did not understand tourism at first. It was necessary to conduct an educational campaign so that our people, who had been brought up in the strictest ivory tower puritanism, would understand the need for tourism, its portended dangers, what tourism would represent, etc.

I assure you that that struggle is being amply won and that the people's enthusiasm and happiness is immediately recognized anywhere in Cuba today where a new tourist project is announced.

We have had to do difficult things to reconcile certain issues. The people had a hard time understanding the dollar decriminalization issue, which is why we have had to explain every step. We normally explain things to the people. We do not want things to appear by decree but by persuading the population. We had to explain our own difficulties, the excess of currency we have and which any tourist or tour operator understands readily, the approximate value of a peso, a dollar, a pound. This required taking measures to correct the national financial imbalance. However, these measures were not taken by decree or accord of the Council of Ministers but were discussed at the National Assembly of the People's Government. They were discussed at every workplace with millions of workers. A consensus was reached before measures were taken.

We sometimes have difficult tasks. You see this everywhere. However, I believe the essential key is to persuade the people and to attain a consensus among the population for every step taken. This is how our population came to understand the need for tourism and understands it more and more each day. They understood the need for the highly touted decriminalization of dollars and all that.

Our people were brought up in deeply rooted egalitarism, and anytime anything gave the appearance of privilege it upset them. For example, if someone has a wealthy relative abroad who sends things the others did not have, that is still a certain privilege. Our population had a very deep sense of equality. We have explained to them that this is necessary, that it helps the national economy, that it helps those who do not have wealthy relatives abroad and that somehow what is received makes its way back to them. That is the argument we used to persuade our people. I am happy to see how they have come to understand and to support tourism.

I must also add that I am pleased, very pleased to have had the opportunity to meet outstanding people such as you.

Thank you, very much. [applause]