Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-94-237 Daily Report 6 Dec 1994 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Castro Construction Workers Day Address

FL0812120194 Havana Radio Rebelde Network in Spanish 0000 GMT 6 Dec 94 FL0812120194 Havana Radio Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [Address by President Fidel Castro at the Construction Workers Day ceremony and inauguration of Molecular Immunology Center in Havana, on 5 December; from the "Exclusivo" program -- recorded]

[FBIS Translated Text] Distinguished guests; comrades of the construction sector: I am not going to give an address as I have on other occasions. I do not mind coming to these ceremonies; I am invited to many. The problem is that everyone wants me to speak no matter what, to speak on anything, no matter the hour, and on any subject. [applause] That is what I fear. [chuckling] Besides, the most important, significant details have been mentioned already about the construction, the congress, and all the accomplishments attained, the new leadership, et cetera, et cetera.

The only thing left for me to do is to express my highest admiration for all this, for the construction workers' efforts, for their growing efficiency as reflected by the figures mentioned here. For example, in 1992, subsidies totalled 260 million pesos, and we appraise pesos more or less the same as the dollar -- this is not the case on the black market -- in order to keep our accounting. [laughter] This year, construction sector subsidies dropped to 800,000 pesos. This is a truly extraordinary drop. If we were to do the same in every sector, then that infamous currency excess, so touted, and the source of so many headaches... [pauses] Because we did not want to do in Cuba what is done in those countries mentioned, the countries mentioned by the comrade [Jose Luis Rico Montalban, president of the Latin American Federation of Construction Workers] who spoke on behalf of Latin American construction workers. In those countries, hundreds are laid off without any support or safety net. When the special period began, we did not wish to do that. It was not right to do that because if we want to consider ourselves a socialist state, the socialist state really exists to support, help, and protect the people under any circumstances. [applause]

Under socialism, man is not merchandise one buys and sells. We endeavor to protect everyone and to not close down a single school, or hospital, or to forsake anyone. We sought ways to provide labor welfare to everyone, relocation, transfers, and job swaps because there are areas where we have too many workers, and others where we have a shortage. In the sugarcane industry, as you are quite aware, we have a labor shortage. There are many agriculture jobs where we need workers. Cuba had developed mechanization to such a point during the Revolution that 80 percent of the population became city dwellers, and only 20 percent remained in the countryside. It is not like in other countries -- I have mentioned the examples of the PRC and Vietnam, where the case is the opposite. Eighty percent of the population live in rural areas and 20 percent in urban areas. It is easier to feed the urban population, only 20 percent, with the labor of 80 percent. Here, it is the opposite. We have to feed an 80- percent urban population with the work of a 20-percent rural population. Also, not everyone in that 20 percent works in agriculture.

There are sectors where we lack a labor force, but we have not forced anyone to move to the countryside. We have used persuasion and voluntary methods, and above all, have not forsaken anyone. This resulted in an accumulation of money as the years passed. We got to a point where the excess currency reached 11 billion pesos. This resulted in many people underestimating the importance of work, losing interest in working, and turning two-income households into single-income households because one salary was enough to purchase ration items. We had problems with hospital and school workers. We had problems with nurses, teachers, and problems of every kind.

We knew this was going to happen and that it had to be tackled. This is what we are doing through the same revolutionary and democratic methods and by debating with the workers. We have held efficiency assemblies, but prior to the efficiency assemblies, we held tens and tens of thousands of workers' parliament meetings. Figures show how good the results are and that we are making progress through these humane methods by giving everyone an opportunity. We have had to do things, implement changes and reforms, et cetera, to adapt to the conditions imposed by today's world, but always defending our principles and the accomplishments of socialism, our ideals, fatherland, independence, and the Revolution. This is the way to do things in hard times. This is what we are called to do to win the battle against an empire at the apex of its might, at its most powerful ever, an empire that seeks to do as it wishes in this unipolar world. Yet, here we are.

I was asked some questions during my brief trip to Mexico. They asked me: What do you think about Cuba's absence from the Miami summit? I answered: A great honor. [applause] To another I answered: Well, look here, we are rebels and this is not a summit for rebels. [applause] I kept answering in the same manner. [applause]

I read a report this morning that stated Miami has the highest crime rate in the United States and that in Florida, four cities were among the top ten highest on crime. Of course, if they would have invited us, we would have had no other choice but to have gone. If not, they would have thought we were scared of that mafia, that fascist mafia. [applause] We are happy to hold a meeting such as this one here, so pure, so clean, and admirable. This meeting is worth 100 Miami summits [applause] even though you have made me give a mini speech here. That's life, you must learn how to recognize where true honors, true dignity, and true glory lie. Glory which can never be individual, but collective. No one man alone could have accomplished something like this.

Here builders and scientists came together, and one is hard pressed to tell who is who.

[Indistinct remark by unidentified speaker]

Ah! They are not wearing the tee-shirts. We could have also given them those pullovers. [applause] But you have them, at least as a keepsake. [Indistinct remark by unidentified speaker] Fine. [Indistinct remark by unidentified speaker] I see. I see. Well, keep them on, and wear them at least once a week. [applause]

I was pointing out the importance of the figures mentioned here regarding the drop in subsidies. This and other measures we have taken, have been discussed with the entire people, and keeping in mind the people's opinion. Those abroad who speak of democracy do not even listen to the people, and never include the people in anything. They never ask a worker's opinion. We spend months doing this. We do not care how long it takes. We hold meetings of this and that kind, polling the workers' opinions, explaining and reexplaining things, persuading, clarifying things not clearly understood. We seek a consensus on the action to take. This is how we do it. The excess currency has dropped by over 1 billion pesos. Our humble peso has begun to regain some value, and the highly touted dollar is beginning to lose some of its strength, although the amount of dollars coming in during this period dropped following the crisis [rafters exodus]. Dollars find their way in on their own. They were already here. [chuckles] These guys would travel to Cuba and we could not tell if they were very fat or were wearing money belts. These people come up with all kind of things. Then one day we decriminalized the possession of dollars and now they are the ones having headaches and implementing measures and trying to halt the flow of dollars. We are winning the battle of the dollar [chuckling] and despite having a little less, the value of the dollar has dropped.

This is the result of the group of measures we have been implementing and will continue to implement. These figures truly show significant progress. This is praiseworthy. Another figure mentioned here, the 300 kg of cement used per cubic meter of concrete is amazing, particularly if we remember that in the years of fat cows -- described in a Bible story everyone is familiar with -- 704 kg of cement was used to make a cubic meter of concrete. We built many, many things, but were investing approximately 4 million tons of cement. I believe we were using just cement and water, no sand or gravel, in order to use 704 kg of cement. That is past history. However, this gives us an idea of the efforts toward efficiency made during the special period.

This project, which earned you the right to host this ceremony here today, is truly a great endeavor. This cannot be seen from the outside. You have to build it yourself in order to know what it entails. However, we cannot tour the interior either because everything would get full of dust. So, no longer can it be toured. [laughter] We were among the last people who had the privilege of touring the facility. In order to enter some of these areas -- well, no one except the people working there will enter some areas -- you have to become a cosmonaut. You have to put on uniforms and headgear, and I forget how many other things in order to not contaminate the facilities. The problem with this project is not its size, but its complexity, its quality.

Some might feel proud of a construction as large as our Capitol building. Of course, the Capitol was not designed to be microbe-, contamination-free. It was a building to house bacteria, contamination, infection, and all those kinds of things. [applause] We turned it into a science academy, a science and technology library, and there are about 10 bidders vying for that building. Since we are downsizing and there is more surplus building space, the number of candidates is large. However, the science academy does not want to let go. They have requested other buildings as well as keeping the Capitol. Comrade Rosa Elena [Simeon] will have to choose between several, but she cannot keep everything. The science academy and library have priority. However, [Eusebio] Leal also wanted it as a Habana Vieja Museum. Undoubtedly the building would make a great museum because it was already a museum. Only in Cuba when seeking to build a parliament building, you copy Washington's Capitol down to the last detail. Whose idea was that? I know of no other country to have done so. That is how strong the Platistas, advocates of the Platt Amendment, were; how strong the advocates of greed were -- they profited from everything. Can you imagine, to recreate the U.S. Capitol here!

If we let them, even the National Assembly would like to get hold of the Capitol building, although they would not fit. They do fit in the Convention Center.

Anyway, that is an example of a large project. So is the Focsa Building. Some of the buildings we have built are even bigger. Conchita, I do not know about the one we inaugurated. Is it not bigger than this one? No. This one seems bigger because it has two or three stories. It has three -- one is a mechanical story. This project is extremely complex. It has sections that are called clean areas. We read in the brochure that the center has 100,000-, 10,000-, and 100-particle areas. The one with 100 must be the poorest, no? They explained to me that it was the other way around.

When one hears 100,000, one imagines this is the pinnacle of cleanliness. These areas have 100,000 particles per cubic foot. This means that when I do this [inhales], I am breathing in at least 200,000 particles. [laughter] And they tell me there is not pollution! When one reads 10,000 it means there are 10,000 particles per cubic feet, and 100 means there are 100 particles per cubic feet, 1,000 times fewer particles. How is this done? It is achieved through a series of systems, filters, machines, and things. The center meets the highest international standards. This center meets all the most stringent international standards for the production of what is going to be produced there. I must add that there are very few such facilities in the world. This center meets international standards in its construction, cleanliness. It also has the most modern equipment. However, it has something in which I am convinced no one in the world surpasses us -- the quality of the men and women who are going to work or are already working in this center. [applause]

Others might build centers that are its equal in physical plant, but the human factor cannot be compared. Therein lies our advantage over everybody else. Cuba can feel proud of this center, not because of it alone, but because it completes an entire collection of scientific centers. This is the last one to be inaugurated. We have built an entire collection of scientific research centers that have earned Cuba great prestige and strength in this field, and which are already beginning to yield results. They are beginning to yield dividends. They are beginning to produce tens of millions of dollars a year for Cuba. This is a research and production center, so are all the centers we have built. Others are for production alone, such as that construction nearby, which is going to be the most modern medicine pill plant in Cuba. Two other plants were completed recently. They have a large production capacity. This is why during that infamous neuropathy epidemic, we were able to distribute one pill per day to every citizen -- 11 million pills everyday. It is easy to say 11 million, but it is quite a figure. We would not have been able to do this if we had not had the first of those plants. The first plant alone was enough to do this. The second one was completed already, and the most modern will stand near this center. Therefore, our medicine production capability is increasing quite considerably.

We have many medicine production hubs. However, close by we are also building a plant for intravenous medicine production -- another large plant that will help Cuba meet its domestic and export demand. A large insulin plant is also being built in that area.

We continue working in other areas but not at the same rate. This was done in the midst of the special period. Our products are beginning to attain a share of the market, thanks to their outstanding quality despite competition from powerful medicine transnationals, which are already beginning to respect Cuba and acknowledge the great capacity that has been developed in a few years, first in the minds of our people and then in physical facilities. In the future, it will become an extremely important industry and sector for the economy even if we have to open our way, step by step, against a formidable international competition and also against non-tariff protectionism measures, the ones most effective in obstructing trade. They keep establishing more, more, and more requirements to hamper competition with their industries. Some of our products are very effective and in great demand. They therefore invent new stumbling blocks and say: 100 or 100,000 particles? No. It has to be 8,500. One hundred? No. It has to be 85. These are just some examples.

This is why everything we do has to be done at the highest international level, to stop them from coming up with obstacles. Some enterprises come and suggest businesses because we are already a force in many markets. Can you believe it? Our products are a force to be contended with because of their quality. This is one more little gem introducing us to the field of molecular immunology. We could not figure out what to call it, and talking with our scientific Lage, that one over there in the tee-shirt, not the other one in the pullover. He is not one of the builders. Anyhow, what name could we give to it? They produce monoclonal antibodies, and that takes too long to explain. They explained it to me and I think that I understood it. Every so often, I have explained it to others, and perhaps, mistaken or not, I have taught many what monoclonal antibodies are. [laughter/applause]

These people come up with all kinds of things. The genetic engineering field adds genes to cells in others for the cells to produce desired end results. This other field splices cells together, thus producing the famous antibodies. We could call them missiles for diagnosing illness. They produce an illness-seeking missile that goes directly where specific substances are being produced -- for example, a tumor. Then all the studies and analyses can be conducted. This is not only used to diagnose illnesses, but the monoclonal antibodies research now aims to create missiles that not only detect tumors, or certain illnesses, but also fights them. These are already like war missiles to destroy harmful cells.

Just as others are finding the genes that predispose certain people to certain types of cancer. Unfortunately, there are many types of cancer. As our scientific Lage explained to me, there are over 4,00 types of cancer. I do not know if some more types have been discovered. This is what you told me, and I have repeated the story to I do not know how many people. [laughter/applause] Has the number changed? About 400 different types of cancer. Of course, not all are alike. Some are extremely rare. Others are very common. Logically, they are first going to work in these centers with antibodies for the most common types. They are not going to begin working on all 400-plus types, but the most frequent types, the ones responsible for the greatest number of cases or deaths.

As part of this process, they create new bacteria that are a combination of two bacteria, in order to produce those antibodies or missiles. At times, they are illumination missiles that show where the illness is located. Their great hope is to turn them into destruction missiles. This is a war against this terrible illness.

However, they are not going to work on this alone, they are going to work in other aspects of biotechnology, together with the other nearby scientific centers and as part of West Havana's scientific hub. They are leaving behind another center. While this one was under construction, they developed a center at the oncologic hospital. I suggested that they become its mentor and exert certain control and supervision over it, that they become the ruling body. They have great faith in the comrades they left behind and the hospital. Anyhow, the hospital does not have the resources this center has, nor the expertise this center has. I believe that even if they are an independent center, they must work together -- the efforts should be mutual because the other center is located in a hospital that puts them close to many cases and problems, everyday. There are several hospitals nearby. That hospital specializes in oncology, and its close cooperation is going to be needed. We do not want them to get angry at you and say: We are so happy the new center was inaugurated, and they all left, so now we can do whatever we wish. I hope this does not happen because at times, even the best of families fight. But, it is essential that there be cooperation in this area, and between this center and the one you leave behind. It may be small, but the equipment and personnel are very good. Constant exchange must prevail.

It makes us proud to inaugurate this center in the midst of the special period, a center that is not a luxury but a promise of health and wellbeing for our people, a promise of revenue for our economy because it has a significant production capability. It also has the advantage of being able to coordinate efforts with all the other research centers. This is why we created the scientific hubs -- to prevent the centers from becoming isolated from what other centers were doing, so that every research center cooperates closely with others.

We could have selected many other projects. I believe today the Union of Caribbean Construction Enterprises [UNECA] finally completed a hotel. I believe this is why the UNECA was given the... [pauses] The Old Man and the Sea hotel -- a little longer and the sea would have finished off the old man before it was completed. Or perhaps a storm surge would take the hotel away. No one knew. It took them a long time. They have to do a critical analysis. It took them three years to remodel the hotel. [Indistinct remarks by unidentified speaker] Ah! There was a storm surge flood. They are defending themselves. They say the sea flooded it and it got damaged and it took three years and tourists are already staying there. Well, I hope they are well protected from storm surges.

There is also a contingent building the ICIT [not further identified], that is building the cabanas. How are they progressing?

[Unidentified speaker: Commander, there are coming along fine.]

That is very important. Today, we were also given the good news that at midnight on 5 December, today, the Melia-Cohiba Hotel is going to be lit up. [applause] That one took a long time because of various problems. First, there were people who were going to invest jointly. Then problems surfaced. The plans had to be redrawn and we had to build it alone. The Cohiba Hotel is 100-percent Cuban. It is a great hotel. It has almost 500 rooms. How many? Four hundred and sixty two. It is going to be lit up tonight. This does not mean tourists are already staying there, but several floors are ready. They say that by January, they expect to welcome tourists. Thus, the Cohiba will light us up and will light up the economy. [applause] We needed to put that hotel in operation. We have to build many others and use all the hotels we have more intensely. We have to increase occupancy, and capacity, and the performance of that capacity.

It is very important for the labor force to remain together. Remember, the comrades from the UNECA have their own duties, and many duties. You, members of the contingents in Havana... [pauses] I see that you earned two award banners and have earned Vanguard status six years in a row. These biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry projects have contributed much because they have helped to foster discipline and efficiency, projects that demanded quality. Now we must ensure that all this trained personnel is not dispersed. During the special period, many construction workers have ended up in agriculture and other fields. However, to the extent that the country recovers, it has to build more and more, and there will be a day when the number of construction workers will have to increase significantly; yet, above all, the construction workers' productivity and efficiency, cost-saving measures, and design... [pauses] We have many architects and engineers and yet the design process at times progresses slowly. We should have the design drawn ahead of time in order to avoid what happens many times, raising a structure and drafting plans at the same time. This creates delays and difficulties of all kinds. It is essential to keep those forces we have brought together and trained, together. We need them for new projects, renovations, and maintenance. I was told that 70 of the workers from this project are going to be grouped in a special brigade.

This building has a mechanical floor, quite a mechanical floor on the top. It is on the top because no one can enter the clean areas and do repairs, or change a light bulb, or that kind of thing. The light bulbs are changed from the top. From the mechanical floor, so that they do not have to enter the sterile areas. This building has an entire mechanical floor. It also has an outstanding control room that keeps track of every detail, of the entire process, of every system in the factory, through computers, video monitors, and so on.

It also has a dining room which I believe is a tad small. I counted 14 chairs. The tables are a bit large, you can almost play ball on some of them, but -- as someone mentioned -- not dominoes. The players are too far apart. Perhaps, if they are exchanged for smaller but more comfortable tables, a few more tables will fit and the workers can eat in three or four shifts.

Earlier I was talking with the top man, our scientific Lage. What are we finally going to call you? Agustin! That's it. [laughter] I was talking with Agustin because he was against having a dining room -- correction: He wanted a dining room, but not a kitchen. [laughter] It seems that after he saw all the problems with food supplies at the oncologic hospital, he did not want to hear about it. However, I advised him. Experience shows us that it is an advantage to have a little kitchen. The other one is large. A large kitchen is being built for an entire group of factories, for thousands of workers. This center, like the immunology research [inmuno-ensayo] center, is independent and in this era where so many nations are declaring their sovereignty, immunology research declared its independence and we had to build a little kitchen for them, and they are very happy. If at any time, we want to help a center working on a special project, it is easier to provide food for a kitchen preparing food for 200 or 400 workers, rather than 3,000 or 5,000 workers. [applause] Centers such as genetic engineering have that advantage. They know what can be accomplished and it is easier to help them. It is not the same to help 300 as to help 10,000. We can allocate help for 300 workers engaged in very important work, but not for a kitchen that cooks for 10,000. It is an advantage to have your own kitchen. That little problem is going to be resolved.

There are other outstanding facilities nearby. There is the Ozone Center which has a new technology under development. There is the Medical and Surgical Research Center, one of the best hospitals in Cuba. The Pradera Roja, which was a technical school and is being turned into a medical hotel linked to all these centers, is also nearby. Also close by -- I cannot mention every one -- are many research centers and hospitals. There is the Frank Pais Hospital, the Finlay Institute, the Workers Maternity Hospital down the road, and the Juan Manuel Marques Hospital. There are about seven or eight hospitals nearby, and all these centers do work on medicines. I repeat, their duty is to help the people and the economy. That is the symbolic and moral value of this center. After building a center as technologically complex as this one, the only thing left to do is to build a spacecraft -- but we harbor no such plans at this time. I do not know if ever there will be a time when Cuba gets to enter that field. However, this center proves we could do it. There is the quality of the soldering alone, and the equipment to reduce particles in the air to 100 [inhales] per cubic feet. Therefore, you can estimate the particles of air you breathe everyday. There is a comrade over there smoking and spreading particles everywhere. I can see them. [chuckles] At that precise moment, someone exhaled some smoke, not because of a lack of courtesy, but on the contrary, to help illustrate my explanation about particles in the air. [laughter/applause] This helps to better understand the problems with the environment. The world is finally becoming increasingly aware of this struggle, one of the greatest threats faced by mankind.

It makes us very happy that construction workers honor Armando Mestre on this date with a project like this, that you will conclude your congress and observe your day with such a project and others that represent the efforts being made everywhere. All I can do is urge you to continue endeavoring toward efficiency, toward an efficiency we can express in figures.

I give you my warmest and well-deserved congratulations on Construction Workers Day. When we see projects like this one, we feel fully entitled to say: Socialism or death! Fatherland or death! We will win! [applause]