Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-WEU-94-157-S Daily Report 3 Aug 1994 CUBA

3 Aug ANPP Session Held on Taxation Issues

Fidel Castro Addresses Evening Session

FL0508182094 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks in Spanish 2240 GMT 3 Aug 94 FL0508182094 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks Spanish BFN [Address by President Fidel Castro at the evening session of the National Assembly of the People's Government, ANPP, at the Convention Center in Havana -- recorded]

[Text] Everything we discussed deals with defense. If we do not solve this we will not solve the defense issue. I believe we are also under pressure concerning time. We had all calculated that the issue of this discussion on Granma would be more brief. We have the other issue, which does not seem complicated but it deals with everything, meaning all the problems that have been brought up here and are linked with the situation that currently prevails in the finance sector. We must begin to solve them. A tiger is loose and a bell must be tied to the tiger's tail. I think this is a difficult task for the assembly. [chuckles] A bell must be tied to the tiger's tail. I worry because we must also discuss that problem and if we extend the discussion on this issue, we might run out of time to discuss the other topic. It deals a lot with the solution of problems here because I have said, for example, that the child mortality rate might be influenced -- I did not mean only Granma because this may occur in many places -- by the absence of nurses or auxiliary hospital personnel. It deals with the problems that are being discussed here.

I believe that important lessons can be learned from this discussion about Granma's progress report. It cannot be like other progress reports. We can dream all we want but the current situation in no way resembles the one which prevailed when we discussed what each province did. That was like a competition to see who could do more when the resources were truly fabulous. Today we know how fabulous those resources really were. We currently face a situation that is totally different from that one -- it is the antithesis of that one.

Our problem now is to know what we can do, what we must do amid this special period, which is also a unique historical episode. No other country in the world has even seen itself immersed in a test like the one we face; and no other country has ever faced such a challenge or the need to carry out such an enormous feat. I therefore believe that many things will be left without a solution if we do not at least decide what attitude we must assume concerning problems -- because the objective problems are many and huge. However, the problem is not simply stopping to analyze the objective problems. We must also decide what we must do concerning those objective problems.

Some of the figures do not surprise me that much. Lazaro Barrero reviewed some 1984 productivity indexes and current indexes. Of course, they cannot possibly be compared. That is undeniable. We had 14 million tons of fuel for anything we wanted -- to use it or squander it -- enormous amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, grains, everything. Logically [chuckles] if, for example, you do not water the sugarcane, if you do not fertilize it, if you do not weed it, the sugarcane will yield less. If a cutter has to chop a cane this skinny instead of a thick one, then the cutter will produce less and the crane operator, the mill, the trucks, everything will produce less. Our problem is not to ignore this reality. Instead, despite this reality, we must manage to provide solutions to this monstrous problem -- reduction of productivity.

We must make sure that not a single hectare of land is fallow; it must produce something; and all those that are tilled must produce something. If the sugarcane lacks fertilizer and water, then it should at least be clean of weeds; and the sugar mills should grind as they should, and extract all the sugar they can from the sugarcane. Our task is solving our difficulties under the current, current [repeats] circumstances. That is the key. Other times will come when we will focus on productivity. Our task is to ensure that not a single sugarcane field is left unweeded due to a lack of workers, or not planting yucca, or plantains, or any of these crops.

This is why the essential thing is the attitude we adopt concerning problems. When I heard the reply from the comrade president of the Granma assembly, I was truly worried. I was deeply concerned by the idea that he argued about the need for a great effort to produce the same amount of sugar we produced this year. I say that the country cannot continue to produce the same amount of sugar we produced this year.

In 1992, we produced 7 million tons of sugar. In 1993 it dropped to 4.2 million tons. In 1994 it has dropped to 4 million tons. He even said that they had enough sugarcane to produce the sugar needed but were unable to grind it.

What is happening or will happen with that sugarcane? Is it going to be a surplus? What are they doing about it? What are the Basic Cooperative Production Units [UBPC] doing? How are the UBPC's performing? How are the UBPC's doing in sugarcane planting? Can we afford the luxury of allowing a single UBPC to not meet sugarcane planting goals?

This is not encouraging. We have dropped from 7 million tons to 4.2 tons. How will Cuba manage to buy all the fuel it needs since it does so, primarily, on the basis of sugarcane. What about any supplies, any steel to repair the mills, or raw materials to build batteries, tires, and everything else? How do we keep the light bulbs burning? How do we import those food items?

We import many foods. Over half the rice we eat is imported. I am referring to the state produced rice, I am not including the rice produced by farmers in Pinar del Rio and many other places, which is not included in any statistics. Almost all the beans we eat are imported. Of course, all the wheat flour we consume is imported. Many essential food items are imported. The food consumed in tourism is also imported, or at least the raw materials in order to specifically produce foods for tourism.

These are problems, this is the reality we are facing. We do not have enough resources. It is impossible with 4 millions [tons of sugar], no matter how much tourism, and other things, might develop. Not everything is growing. It does not make up the difference. Hundreds of millions, thousands of millions are needed. We have to estimate $1 billion less, in hard currency, between 1993 and 1994 from sugar alone. How can we resist this? Are we ourselves going to destroy the revolution? We are going to create conditions where it will be impossible to save it. And in 1995, are we going to continue with 4 million in addition to the decreases in vegetable and tuber production?

Therefore, it is clear there is a patriotism that no one can doubt. Only truly patriotic and heroic people can do what we are doing, but our problem is that we ourselves, the cadres, have not provided solutions. Many things have been done and many initiatives have been submitted, and I do not question in the least the Granma people's merit, patriotism, and spirit. What I think is that we must redirect the patriotism and spirit of our people toward more efficient solutions.

We gain nothing by managing to better our education, and we should feel proud that the education is better. In fact, we gain nothing if we solve these problems that turn up in Granma's health sector. We gain nothing if... [rephrases] we need resources to achieve this. Food is also needed, and it must be very well distributed. We gain nothing by winning more medals than ever in the sports sector. I believe feats are being carried out in the transportation sector where solutions are being sought. We will not underestimate those efforts, nor will we understimate the people's initiatives, the heroism of our people, or the way they face things, the spirit with which they face things, the courage with which they face things.

While great powers have collapsed and knelt, we have not collapsed nor knelt and we continue with what we have and what we have done, which has not been done by anyone else. Nevertheless, it is not enough. Our struggle is not enough. Our results are not enough. Our attitude must be different because we must find a solution to these problems now.

We are not in the 10 year war. The 10 year war was a tough war. It lasted 10 years, but it ended in a [words indistinct]. We must struggle for as long as necessary, but to finish with the victory. That is the great challenge. I ask myself if all our cadres are up to this challenge and if they understand it well. If for a second we could imagine ourselves not winning the food battle, the improvement of the food... [changes thought] We know that we cannot produce it all. If we do not win the battle of the sugar harvest which up until now has been the most important source of income for the country... [changes thought] other sectors are emerging, but for now and for some time the sugarcane battle will be of great importance.

How will we win the battle of the special period if we do not stop the fall in production, if we do not start increasing our production as we did in the tobacco industry, where this year we experienced an improvement in quality? There is growth in other ares, such as in the tourism industry. I ask myself, how could we solve these problems without these two things?

If Granma's discussion were to end here -- and it has to end here -- and it were to end without all of us having an awareness, not only of Granma, but of the whole country of the importance of the sugar industry and even more important, the great importance of food production, these foods which are essential for the population.... [changes thought] We cannot produce everything. I will not say that we will magically produce hundreds of thousands tonnes of meat and other foodstuffs. But we can produce vegetables, tubers, and all foods that are possible for us to produce. All of them.

I know of some UBPC's that are producing mushrooms which are very rich in protein. Many people are doing many things. But if we do not generalize everything, if we cannot keep a single cadre from being negligent, indifferent, and indolent; a UBPC from being irresponsible; or a cooperative from being irresponsible then the problem will be much more difficult to deal with.

The problem of independent producers is another story in itself because there are all kinds. There are those who form part of the National Association of Small Farmers [ANAP], there are those who cultivate gardens in their back yard, and there are others who cultivate gardens in flower pots. We cannot control the ones who cultivate in flower pots. We will have to seek formulas, and mechanisms to control all these situations and small farmers in general because they are varied.

Much has been said about peasants, cooperativist peasants, and others who are in the UBPC's. In fact, the state is no longer in charge of the essential activity concerning the production of many of these foodstuffs. Instead, this has been turned over to the workers. How can we win this battle if we cannot ensure that no single UBPC strays, and if the issue of attitude, in the party and the cadres at national and provincial levels, and the attitude of the government at every level... [pauses] this attitude must change. If we want to get something useful out of this discussion then we must make conclusions on the attitude that we should adopt, we the cadres. Because no one will doubt the attitude of the masses, the people, or the attitude of the people in Granma. We could not and we are discussing Granma, but similar situations exist in the other provinces.

Yes, we had natural disasters. Who cannot speak of the natural disasters. Havana's plantain crops were producing more than 300,000 quintals; they were on their way up. The production was reduced to almost zero. This was caused by the phenomena that were out of man's control.

We have lost too much time in trying to rescue those plantain farms and meet the same production level. A lot of grass has grown; many microjets were cut when the grass was being cut. We have had a whole series of subjective problems so we must wage a great battle against subjective problems. We must also wage a great battle, seeking variants, alternatives concerning objective problems. I believe not one of us will leave here satisfied about the meeting if we settle for what we have proposed and what we have discussed so far. We must reach conclusions concerning the attitude we must adopt with these problems. That is why, Alarcon, I propose that following the clarifications I have made, we give the floor to Raul, who has toured the provinces and met with all the comrades, the organizations -- all the factors, we might say -- so that he may expound on reflections that I consider accurate, profound, and that correspond with the situation we face, the problems that lie ahead, and the attitude that we should have to face these problems.

I believe that [words indistinct] we could conclude this point of the agenda, if the comrades do not object, and we can dedicate ourselves to the other point which is not any easier. [Words indistinct] the difficult problem associated with the idea of a tiger on the loose and who will bell the tiger, especially this kind of bell. I can see Jose Luis [Finance Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez] who I believe has high blood pressure and has not yet even had to speak on the matter. He must open the discussion on the other point because it is also a difficult subject.

The other point is also related to this one. Perhaps the problems in Granma are not as serious as in Havana as far as the number of teachers who do not go to work, the lack of teachers, when we used to have a large reserve. Undoubtedly the situation is not the same in all the provinces and the situation is much more difficult in the capital of the republic because people have an excess of money.

And we are faced with the bitter necessity of reducing the money supply and creating a shortage of money if we want to create more favorable conditions for this whole work that we are carrying out, if we truly want to save the fatherland, the revolutions, and socialism, which will not be saved with slogans and words alone. It must be saved with an attitude and behavior in which we the cadres must be the leaders. We must be those capable of directing and leading the patriotic and heroic people, a people who have so many capabilities and merits.

That is why the other point that we are going to discuss is related to this one and perhaps more difficult than this one. I have no doubts that we will solve the problem we having with the rise of the infant mortality rate in Granma or in any other province. I have no doubt that we will remain around 10 as far as the infant mortality rate goes. Much more difficult is how we, under the current circumstances, will increase food production.

The fact people want to return to the countryside is undoubtedly good news because one of our tragedies is that 80 percent of the population lives in the cities, and food must be brought to them there. Twenty percent of the people live in the countryside and the return to the countryside... [pauses] if that phenomenon occurs -- it has started in Pinar del Rio, where land has been distributed to grow tobacco on isolated land, idle land.

We need volunteers, many volunteers to go to the countryside to produce on idle land. That is good news, those are positive factors, and I believe we must always try -- based on the principle of doing things right -- to step up this process of returning to the countryside. People have been coming from the countryside to the city for more than 35 years and if a return from the city to the countryside occurs, it can help us.

We will have to use the unused plots in many different ways so that we can produce food and other things. What else could we have done but to give, as in the case of the sugarcane UBPC's, the land to the sugar workers?

How can we justify that fact that the sugarcane crops are not being weeded? Even if we have to do so barefoot, due to the lack of shoes, this is something we must do or else we will never have shoes. We must ask ourselves: What comes first? The chicken or the egg? Do we first work hard to obtain the products, or are we going to wait for the products to come first to then make an effort? If the latter is the way we are working then we will never accomplish anything.

This is a difficult and complex problem. All this that we are talking about: the food production, the sugarcane crops, and the conditions under which we must work. I remember certain times when we could not prepare the soil due to the lack of fuel. I ask all the comrades who are present: How can we obtain fuel if we do not have sugar? If we did not have sugar we would have greater problems than these, therefore we must work and be capable of finding solutions.

As for the other problem we must also find solutions. We must be brave. The problem refers to reducing the excess currency. We have already obtained some results in this area with the things that we have done so far. But we are far from accelerating this process. We accomplish nothing if we begin collecting money and it takes us 20 or 15 years to do so. We must speed up the process. That is the point we are going to discuss later on. I believe it is a difficult subject. More difficult than this one. The solution to this problem will help us solve the other problems we have been talking about here.

This is what I suggest and I suggest we give the floor to comrade Raul, if there are no objections. [applause]