Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-95-049 Daily Report 4 Mar 1995 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Fidel Castro Women's Congress Address

FL1103002395 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks in Spanish 0212 GMT 4 Mar 95 FL1103002395 Havana Tele Rebelde and Cuba Vision Networks Spanish BFN [Address by President Fidel Castro to the closing session of the Sixth Cuban Women's Federation (FMC) Congress at the Havana Convention Center on 3 March -- recorded]

[FBIS Translated Text] Distinguished guests, female and male -- there are some, you know. FMC comrades who have just concluded the sixth FMC congress:

I do not have to tell you how much we have always appreciated the revolutionary role of Cuban women and the FMC's work. This is practically a unique institution in light of its characteristics. It was created by the Revolution and, together with the rest of the social forces, has waged the long and heroic struggle of these years.

Although I have not participated in the debates as at other times, I made every possible effort to closely follow your debates and discussions. I did not hear the debates this time, but I read about them. Even though it was in a summarized form, I was truly able to discern the content of everything discussed in this congress. I even reached the conclusion that a similar effort should be carried out with all the discussions. The newspaper did not carry everything, although the newspaper dedicated two full pages mainly to explain the plenary debates. I also got information from the newspapers, but my main sources were the summaries. If possible, I think it would be a good idea to gather into a brief memoir rather than a big book -- not only because of the amount of paper needed but also because people tend not to read large volumes -- the main subjects discussed and the basic arguments used in the debates. I believe that would help to create or, rather, reinforce, refresh the people's awareness. It would help bring to people's attention the many ideas and arguments which might be forgotten in the hard, daily struggle.

It would be unfair, extremely unfair if we did not always keep in mind, under the special circumstances we are experiencing, during this special period, the essential weight of the sacrifices being shouldered by the women. Nothing has happened, nothing has collapsed...[pauses as crowd laughs] in other words, the burden carried under normal conditions, which already required special efforts from working women, their work load, and the extreme load of their traditional contributions at home. We have talked about this many times. On certain occasions we even said that equality was not even a goal but that we should try to give women more rewards, more rights.

Who has more experience than us in the struggle for equality? The experience of these years is a truly history struggle, a hard, extremely hard struggle. I have repeatedly told reporters who interview me how hard the struggle has been to change the mindset of mankind. I have explained many times why there are not more women in the National Assembly or among the district delegates, etc., and many other such examples of the real fact that women have less representation in a series of activities despite their outstanding qualities.

Many things have been accomplished. We could not say at all that progress has not been attained. I believe that we have made great progress from the start. We have achieved great accomplishments in which the FMC has played a decisive role, as well as the efforts of the Cuban Communist Party, the government, and the other mass organizations. Where would our Revolution be without the FMC? How could we speak of attained social rights, of accomplishments, of righted wrongs. Some indexes are used to support this, for example the percentage of women who are technicians and professionals, many more than the percentage of men. We can boast of something of which no other country can boast, namely that inequality in salaries does not exist in our country.

Reports from around the world reveal that despite the fact that women are a very important segment of the production sector, their salaries abroad are way below that of men. Such is the case in South Africa. During our trip to attend Mandela's inauguration, I spoke with a hotel manager of German descent who had learned perfect Spanish in Chile. We discussed the number of employees. I heard for the first time, despite all the terrible things I had heard about apartheid, that the salaries for whites and blacks were different. Blacks were paid much less than whites. So much had been said about apartheid and this specific fact was missing. I even asked him how the workers managed to keep their jobs. He explained that he gave them some personal incentives -- perks. If a relative passed away, he would help cover expenses. He was creative in trying to keep the peace among his employees. However, it was already an accepted habit to pay a man so much if white and so much if female.

Women have been living under an apartheid system in this world. This still exists in the many discriminatory practices used against women. These things, of course, could not exist in the Revolution and, thus, disappeared in the Revolution. Other things are discussed nowadays: the level of responsibility, the level of management women are attaining without being discriminated against simply for being women -- that is, for generally being in charge of family affairs or taking care of a sick child or all the ailments experienced during pregnancy for which men are not discriminated against. We have yet to hear of any such case in Cuba...[pauses as crowd laughs] of a man taking sick leave due to pregnancy. Men might get drunk now and then and have other reasons or are just plain lazy or miss work as the result of a lack of discipline, but this is not the case with women.

All these objective problems burden society and are a difficult struggle even in normal periods. We must not forget that this was the case even in periods when it was easier to implement party and state discipline, to implement norms and regulations, and to take measures to prevent discrimination against women. This was the case even when the work force shortage was acute, when we had to struggle to keep so many jobs open for women, when orders were given to enterprises and others to reserve this or that job for women without ever being opposed to women doing many of the jobs which men have traditionally performed. We had to confront economic criteria and interests and those forms of discrimination. How many measures did we take regarding even the home? We issued the Family Code. Some might say it was the right thing to do, others that is was a dream or a fantasy. It was not wrong, or a dream, or a fantasy. I believe it helped increase awareness because we know of many cases, countless cases where men help women today, unlike in the past, when men did not help women at all. I know of many such cases, as well you do, of couples who share duties at home: One cleans, while the other cooks and takes care of the children and takes them to the doctor. The Family Code helped to create an awareness. It was not a coercive code. It did not force anyone to wash dishes at home. However, it taught many that you must help wash the dishes.

There was also the measure involving fathers having to take children to pediatric hospitals. We corrected that absurd measure, which prevented women from entering hospitals. We had seen cases where many mothers would have to wait outside to hear about their children on the fourth or fifth floor. That was eliminated way back then for humanitarian reasons and for the well-being of the mother and the child, who felt better with their mothers by their side. Thus, we implemented the principle of having the mother accompany her children in the hospitals. We saw the importance of the mother's presence during the infamous dengue epidemic, when there were hundreds of children in the hospitals hooked to IV bottles. No nurse, no matter how good, could take the place of a mother. A nurse can provide technical assistance, but the mother provided the love, trust, and peace of mind. No other country had ever done this. We may have broken some canons and dismissed old-fashioned criteria -- we did not know from where it had come -- but they were inhumane and impractical. It was perhaps the result of the belief that doctors and nurses knew what was better. Mothers do not write prescriptions, although they might provide information to the doctors on allergies to antibiotics, etc., which in a rush the doctors did not have time to find out. What role did the mother waiting outside the hospital play? Following this change, the wisdom of also having the fathers present was also seen. A father can play the exact same role. It was later suggested that not only women but also men played a role in keeping an ill person company. As we learn from experience, changes were made to give women the role they deserve within society. In other words, we have fought prejudice, tradition, and facts that implied true discrimination. Yet, as everyone knows, the final victory has yet to be won.

If there were objective difficulties to conduct daily affairs then -- back then, we had up to 30,000 bus trips -- what about today, when the number of trips is highly reduced despite some accomplishments in the last few years such as larger buses and certain other measures implemented to increase discipline among transportation workers? We all are aware of the immense difficulties faced by the transportation sector. We are aware that many people have to get by without using public transportation and that many use bicycles. We see many women using bicycles in Havana streets to get to work. They are exposed to danger and at times also have to bring along their children. They then run home and do more chores. We have objective difficulties which burden everyone but affect women, in particular.

There is more: We can discern from your debates at the economic commission, as well as certain measures being taken and certain economic developments -- such as tourism -- the new problems emerging, the new concerns introduced. Likewise, the difficulties are greater nowadays in the community and everywhere. In other words, to the objective problems we all have, now we add the specific problems faced by women. We run the risk of losing part of the progress already made.

It has been stressed that the essential tasks are the defense of the fatherland, the Revolution, and the accomplishments of socialism. Following the collapse of the Socialist bloc and the appalling disappearance of the Soviet Union -- when, as we have said so many times, Cuba lost its markets, lost everything, and saw its imports drop by 70 percent -- and in light of today's world outlook, it was not realistic to say that we would build socialism here. We were courageous and said that to save the fatherland, which has been historically very closely tied to socialism....[pauses] Historically, because as Alarcon explained here in his 24 February address, there was one single idea, expressed so clearly in that phrase in Marti's letter to Juan Gualberto Gomez: We will achieve total justice.

The Revolution began to achieve justice from the start. That phrase by Marti reflects it all. We will achieve total justice. What does the concept of achieving total justice refer to if not to socialism? What other interpretation is possible? Alarcon explained in his address the historic continuity of that thought, all along in our struggles for independence and justice. That is what we sought, to achieve total justice. That is what it is all about, justice in every aspect. This means justice for the farmers, the workers, the portion of the population discriminated against because of the color of its skin and because of other awful things. The Revolution has sought total justice. However, we must preserve our independence under these circumstances. Our independence has always been tied to the idea of justice: Preserve the Revolution, which stands for justice; preserve the accomplishments of socialism, which means saving everything attained thus far.

While we have not achieved total justice, we must preserve all the justice that we have achieved. That is what it is all about. However, this is difficult. There is likely to be some setbacks in certain aspects. This is unavoidable under our circumstances. Therefore, unavoidably, some of the justice achieved, some of the levels of opportunities, equality accomplished, will be lost due to diverse economic factors. Yet, everything we can preserve -- and that means almost everything -- must be preserved. Many things will begin to conspire against all the justice achieved. In the case of women, this is seen clearly in the same measure that market elements and capitalistic elements are introduced into our society. It is something that we cannot avoid. In the end, certain imperative changes and reforms are introduced to preserve the fatherland, independence, the Revolution, and the accomplishments of socialism -- the goal sought by our Revolution right now. The Revolution is doing this in a courageous, valiant manner in the midst of circumstances which could not be more difficult. We face a unipolar world and the gigantic hegemonism of our neighbors, who have always sought to destroy this Revolution and now feel more emboldened by the idea of asphyxiating it, giving it the final blow, because their minds cannot tolerate the existence of the Revolution and what it has meant for this hemisphere, in their backyard, which today they seek more than ever to secure.

Many people in the world can tell that this is completely illogical. Yet, in an illogical manner, they stick to the blockade, strengthen it, and try to intensify it even further if it were possible. Under these conditions, we must carry out the immense deed of preserving this project which has been under construction for a long time, since the last century, since 1868.

Some things pain us, but we must do them. The presence of foreign investment is imperative. We have no other sources of capital or technology for development or even markets, because one of our main problems is not only production but also finding markets for our products since the largest market in the world is closed to us; the market to which other countries export billions of dollars every year. They are not happy with just denying us access to that market, they also try to force others to close their markets to our products. It is not a limited effort but an all-out effort which seeks to destroy, damage, and prevent our economic development. We cannot make due without foreign investments. I believe everyone of our compatriots understands this.

We received credits from the Soviet Union for many years. The technology was not the best: I have said before that some was relatively good, some more backward. However, we also received essential raw materials, cotton for textile factories, and fuel to make everything run. Trucks, tires, spare parts, and credits were all truly fair and reasonable prices for our products. This allowed us to do what we did for so many years. In Latin America, a school is opened and everybody comes to see it because a school was built. Cuba would not have been able to open all the schools, factories, child care centers, roads, and institutions of all kinds. We were not accustomed to openings because no one had enough time for that kind of thing.

How many things were we able to do? How many have we had to stop? How many programs did we stop when that catastrophe took place? That country was surrendered to imperialism. They even began to side with its policy of blockade against Cuba at a time when all our equipment, machinery, combines came from there, in addition to the financial terms under which we acquired them. This took place in an instant. We were engaged in the rectification process and a boom in construction and development programs. Today, it is imperative to rely on foreign investments. That is what we are doing, but in a rational manner, reasoning and analyzing, and approving carefully each of the foreign capital investments.

We have had to decriminalize the possession of foreign currency, which, as a matter of fact, was already circulating since many people were using it already before the decriminalization. The currency arrived through diverse means: People were purchasing in diverse stores. There were the stores for diplomats, and people figured out ways to buy things there. There were the many stores dedicated to tourists. We had been working to develop tourism, but under these circumstances it became necessary to give it a great thrust, all the possible thrust to exploit the great natural resources of our country. We had to because we are a country that does not have other easy sources of income, such as energy or oil. This is, of course, not the only thing we were developing. We were and are developing greatly in the sciences, technology, and certain other industries which have great prospects. However, we face fierce competition and a series of protectionist measures which many countries have -- either tariff or nontariff -- which affect some of our important developments, depending on the level of training of our population.

We could not ignore our sun, beaches, and seas. It was not a vital necessity at other times for the Revolution, when we also had to seek development in that field and could afford other means when we had more resources and could divide such investments for domestic and foreign consumption. Tourism is a service export to us. A relatively small portion, although still somewhat significant portion, can still be allocated for domestic consumption. We allocate it mainly for workers. The distribution here, with the exception of some violations some managers might incur, of the capacities for domestic tourism is doled out mainly by the work centers.

However, a great portion of our tourism services must be exported; otherwise, we could not afford domestic tourism. We would have to practically close off the hotels because we have to invest hard currency in the portion of tourism allocated for domestic consumption. A portion of the revenues brought by foreign tourism is invested to support the domestic tourism section available today. These are measures we dislike. Many times they are hard to understand and can only be understood well by analyzing the full figure of the nation's resources and annual expenditures to import food, medicines, and certain raw materials and things. If everyone had this picture and exact sum clearly in their minds, they would understand many things better. Some of these figures cannot be said openly. We have to maintain a certain level of discretion because we cannot give the enemy such information just like that. Let them find out if they can. However, some of these things are hard to understand.

Other activities, such as self-employment, are being encouraged, and others will continue to be encouraged. There is a need to rationalize because, above all, we have an imperative need to reduce the money in circulation. The excess money in circulation is a result of the humane measures the Revolution took -- despite the lack of materials and everything -- to preserve as much as possible the jobs and incomes of every citizen and not to go buy at certain new markets but to acquire certain indispensable rationed items they received. The Revolution took those measures, but those measures also implied....[pauses] Exports and imports dropped noticeably. We lack raw materials. Textile factory operations came to a halt. Thanks to associations with foreigners, we have acquired raw materials and maintained certain production levels at these factories. We are doing this with many factories. Rather than halting a factory, it is better to establish an accord with a foreign partner who brings raw materials and finds markets and, thus, saves the jobs and the factories. This can be understood by anyone. It is common sense.

What did these measures promote? They promoted a great surplus of currency in circulation. The surplus currency was already reaching intolerable levels. We began to experience a shortage of basic service workers at hospital and schools. Many people were seeking other sources of income. All that was beginning to affect education, health, all the basic national services, and production. Many people remain at their jobs out of a sense of duty. They came to work on bicycles or are experiencing great difficulties with public transportation -- that is, waiting long hours at the bus stops and taking hours to return home. Yet, many people religiously fulfilled and are fulfilling their social, patriotic, and even social duties every day. What are we going to do with the sick people in the hospitals? Are we going to leave them without the services and care they require? They need the attention and care of doctors and nurses, cooks and dishwashers, janitors and everyone.

The excess currency was in the neighborhood of 12 billion pesos. Certain difficulties were experienced: All you need is for one portion of the population to not do its part to experience dire problems. It was necessary to reduce the excess currency. You have seen the measures taken, how we discussed with the population, with the workers, how to implement them, how to begin to collect the excess. Fortunately, we have begun to collect a certain amount of the excess currency. It is dropping. However, it will take time to reduce that amount of money. If the number of factory workers drops and if we are unable to quickly build many new factories, we need to create jobs and, thus, self-employment. You know how that goes. No one controls that. It is impossible. Some of the things they sell are sold at very high prices, beyond reach. It is a bit like what happens with the farmers markets, unregulated prices. If we allow everything to be sold at unregulated prices, the ration book would become a thing of the past. But what happens then to the people with modest incomes?

The farmers markets are an outlet for individual farmers, farming cooperatives, basic cooperative production units, and the state -- that is, those production units which the state still controls, such as the Youth Labor Army. The state is earning some revenues, but it is simply a transfer of funds. Some are making much more, way more than any worker. The state is also trying to participate in the industrial markets as much as it can so that it can become a competitor in that sector.

I already told you about the dollar. I did not finish speaking about the dollar and the hard currencies which were, as a matter of fact, circulating in the tourist stores and the like. Many people would go to the Varadero area and buy a pig with dollars. It was a crime to carry foreign currency back then. Another job for the police, already burdened with fighting other types of crime, was to pursue hard currency carriers. The more practical thing clearly was to decriminalize its possessions. This also implies inequalities, because many people have relatives who send them money but many others do not have any relatives abroad to send them anything. Thus, an inequality is established. Anyone could turn $5 into more than 500 pesos back then, because the going rate was 140 or 150 pesos per dollar. Curiously enough, this has changed. Thanks to the diverse measures implemented, the peso has been revalued and now the rate is not so high. It was sky-high for a while. Some industries -- given their importance, such as the electric industry -- had sought some resources to establish hard currency incentives. We are already talking of the convertible peso. It is already in circulation. I wish it were petrodollars instead. [crowd laughs]

That would mean we are producers and exporters and have petrodollars. What we have right now is sacrifice dollars or revolution dollars...[pauses as crowd laughs] or something like that. Yet, in addition to many facilities and tourism workers who get certain amounts, the number of Cuban workers getting convertible pesos who are entitled to purchase in those stores is on the rise and will remain on the rise for as long as possible. In the end, whenever we get to that point...[pauses] There might be a point when all the currencies are convertible, but that might take a long time. Currently, we have to resign ourselves to the sacrifices that stem from this. This establishes inequalities. Joint enterprises are another factor. They must keep in mind not only Cuba's interests but also the foreign partner's inerests.

Personnel rosters were padded in the past. It was bad, but it was done. Unfortunately, our managers were not too concerned with efficiency or surplus personnel. Every institution in this country, without exception, has ailed from this defect. No one ever asked if the budget allowed for something. Everyone got what they requested. Education needs how much? There you have it. This other one needs how much? There you go, and so on for many years. The budget was made up of the sum of all the requests. Rosters have been padded since the beginning of the Revolution, because unemployment was rampant. Some people were fired, but many more were hired. How many people came down from the mountains? That was the onset of the exodus from the mountain region, particularly because the Revolution's armed struggle took place mainly in the countryside, although also in the cities. Nobody knows how many people followed us down from the Sierra Maestra in 1959 and in the following years. I doubt there is one of you here who does not have a relative in the mountains.

The Havana resident of pure Havana ancestry is a true rarity. He is almost extinct. Well, there is Conchita, who is a pure Havana resident...[pauses as crowd laughs] or, rather, semipure, because she emigrated from further away? But you were born here like me? In Viran Street? At your service! [applause]

Speaking truthfully, we must say that you were born here, in Havana. That is one example. But, as I was saying, the exodus began, and people moved to the cities and doubled the number of people in Havana. That is the cause of many of its problems: It has twice as many people as before. Even though new aqueducts were built in those region, that was not enough, particularly since water meters became a thing of the past. They were removed one day, we could not repair them, they did not work, and in the zest to speed up justice and quickly achieve total justice we made water free. The end result was a significant squandering of water. We must not forget that. Some people would imitate Caruso and sing an entire opera while the water ran. We must have many a frustrated Caruso here.

However, all these things happened. Havana doubled in size, although it was not like in Mexico or Brazil, where cities grew five-fold. That is because the Revolution did much in the countryside: It established universities in every provincial capital city, built schools, and provided everything they might need. The people no longer needed to emigrate to Havana thanks to the development which the Revolution promoted in the rest of the country. We could have wound up with 6 million people in Havana today, this being the narrower part of the island and all that. We do not have any large rivers here to supply us with 500 or 600 million cubic meters of water. The Sasa River can do that. There are other regions which have more and better sources of water. Electricity took a long time to reach the countryside.

Everyone who moved to Havana told a relative to come down, that they had a little cot for them at home. One brother after another moved to Havana. They had plenty of brothers and relatives in Oriente province, where the production of children never dropped. [crowd laughs]

The growth rate was enormous. Everyone came over as part of a contingent because the people of Havana no longer wanted to work construction and needed Third World immigrants. The eastern provinces were our Third World. Just as the developed countries use Mexicans, Latin Americans, and Africans, they used immigrants from Oriente, Pinar del Rio, Villa Clara, and even Matanzas -- despite it being the Athens of Cuba. I have found people from every province in Havana, from Matanzas to Holguin to Granma. Who knows? Half of them could live in Havana.

Many jobs were created, and the personnel rosters were padded. The managers were always caring, noble, and generous. You have no idea how much effort the people made. There is always a story to tell and many times rightfully so. There is this or that problem and many difficulties. You have no idea how many noble hearts are out there. The state manager, in general, since it did not come from his pocket, could afford to be the noblest of all. Remember back then, when so-called free-hiring was established and there were many managers who would take note of the face and figure of the women asking for work? Do you remember that we also had to fight against that because it became a form of discrimination? Many sought youth and beauty. That was another form of apartheid against women -- particularly those without beauty -- although nature has given all women great gifts. [applause]

We must stress that. They were using subjective criteria. All that happened. Humankind is humankind. We had to fight all that. However, the personnel rosters were padded excessively. Now is when we are beginning to understand this. This problem has been there since the beginning of the Revolution. I do not remember how many times I have spoken about padded rosters. They listened to me a little bit, but the truth is that no one heeded my words. The forces padding the rosters were much more powerful. The Revolution also promoted education. Teachers were trained. We sought much justice and culture and rightfully so, in light of the world we inherited, a world filled with children without teachers and schools. We built more schools than any other country. We developed education more than any other country, to the point of having more teachers per capita in the world, as well as doctors and other things.

These are developments admired by many people. Many people left the countryside. If you went to a primary school in the mountains and asked sixth grade kids what they wanted to be, they would answer a teacher, a nurse, a doctor, and so on. All that they had there were fields and mountains and the land to be planted and the coffee to be harvested. However, everyone in the schools had other goals. Of course, all the revolutionary parents wanted their kids to have a college degree. There was great pressure to have a college degree. More than 500,000 people have graduated from our universities. Others became Armed Forces or Interior Ministry officers. We had all kinds of opportunities for the youth. Most of them came from the countryside.

There is also the case of construction contingents. I always protested when I was told we did not have construction workers. We had to bring construction workers from Las Tunas and Holguin to work in Havana. The people of Havana no longer worked construction. That is the truth. We created the minibrigades and the housing projects tied to work centers and made progress in this manner. Unfortunately, later on, certain ideas became prevalent and the minibrigades were dissolved. They could have built many more homes. The Construction Materials Industry had the capacity to supply resources to build up to 100,000 homes annually. We are not talking low-cost homes here but quality homes of increased value.

It is true that there were many jobs to be had. However, the personnel rosters were heavily padded and there was a labor shortage in areas where we needed more workers. Machines replaced the workers. The ranks of sugarcane cutters began to dwindle from the first years of the Revolution, when we had to begin mobilizing people to carry out the harvest. Thousands upon thousands of workers from Havana participated in the harvest. We mobilized up to 100,000 at some point. The work force was dwindling more and more. However, offices were fully staffed. The rosters were filled to capacity in the city, as well as in the countryside. This is less noticeable during good economic times, when one has more resources. We managed to maintain the financial balance despite everything. Under the current conditions, it was no longer possible to maintain the financial balance. The consequences were very negative. Efficiency was sought: Efficiency means reducing costs, especially on payroll, and seeking out productive activities. The doors were not open to self-employment. The doors have been opened a lot and will be opened more, because we no longer have that situation where we lacked workers in certain areas in the cities. We still have many more workers in the countryside, although some people are joining the farming cooperatives. We are telling the farmers not to expect people from the cities to come down and do part of the work. We are telling them: you must do it; you are the owners of production.

The basic cooperative production units were created not long ago, within the special period, in an effort to bring man closer to labor by stressing that production belongs to him. Therefore, we say: make it produce; take care of self-sufficiency programs; you are the owners of the machinery and production, with the exception of land held in usufruct. There are millions of hectares in usufruct. We lack workers in that sector, although some people have been returning to the countryside, to the cooperatives and the basic cooperative production units -- which is the same thing as a cooperative, except that its members are agricultural workers rather than farmers who have joined their lands as in the case of the farming cooperatives. Certain fallow plots are being doled out to plant tobacco, coffee, and other products. Some people are moving to the countryside. However, Cuba is not like the PRC, where 80 percent of the population is rural and 20 percent urban. Their problems is different. They now have great masses that want to leave the countryside for the city, and they do not have jobs for them. Our problem is that 80 percent of the population is urban and is waiting for the countryside to provide their food or, at least, some of their food. A portion must be imported, anyhow. We do not have the resources to produce that much by tilling the land year after year. We would have to eliminate the sugarcane. That would take too long to explain. However, we need people in the countryside. The main goal is to attain more efficiency by reducing the surplus work force; thus, the rationalization. This has not been rushed. However, we have increased the thrust. This is a difficult struggle, not at all easy because we have to create jobs. Yet, the people do not want the jobs that we have plenty of. To the contrary, we are forced to use machines and everything has to be done mechanically. We are getting some help from oxen to plant and do many things, but, in general, plowing large expanses of land is not possible with oxen. Nor did we have enough oxen or ox drivers. Also, timeframes require the speed of machines to do...[changes thought] For example, all the land plowed to plant potatoes following the yam harvest, and so on, or the sugarcane fields slated to be torn down, tens of thousands of caballerias. It is not possible to do this in a few months with oxen. This is why we use machines as much as we can. Yet, machines force us to have raw materials, metals for repairs, spare parts, fuel, tires. It is a pain year after year, particularly the fuel. The country must invest most of its income in fuel.

The electrical outages were the result of a lack of fuel and a drop in generating capacity. We lacked the resources to repair the system. These problems have been solved little by little. We have been increasing the plants' generating capacity with our heavy fuel. Its high sulphur content makes it necessary to be more vigilant in maintaining the plants' equipment, unlike the lighter fuel used traditionally. Our oil production is growing. Great efforts are being made to explore and search. If there is fuel here, we will find it. However, we must develop other activities and sectors because we cannot put all our trust in finding fuel.

All this also had an impact on our sugar production. Sugar production totalled almost 7 million tonnes in the first year of the special period. It eventually dropped to four or so million tons. We lacked the fuel to irrigate, fertilizers, all the agricultural resources which are so important to obtaining a good yield. We lacked the metals and raw materials for the mills, the tires for the carts and tractors. We are still using the same tractors. We have not bought one more tractor. Some were modified to be pulled by donkeys and have been preserved. We have been using the same tractors for years. However, that is not what limits the number of tractors we use: The number of tires we have to bring over, primarily from the former USSR, limits the number. It is sometimes extremely difficult to complete tire deals and have them shipped. We are never truly sure it will go through. We are trying to get the molds and make the tires here. Be assured that every effort is being made to find solutions to these problems.

I was explaining briefly what forced us to take measures like rationalization. I know that you are worried about the Resolution 18 issue, which the commissions discussed in the plenary sessions. These are new things that have come up. The people naturally resist adjusting to the new rosters. This is a complex problem. It is not that easy. Who knows how many recourses we have tried? We have created commissions and sought to ensure the greatest guarantees within a quick process to solve these problems. I must reiterate that this problem must be tied to the issue of self-employment. We need to increase the number of self-employment options: If there are no jobs in the factories, the people must be given the opportunity to hold some type of job. However, this must be done in an orderly fashion: If they start to make too much money, we will have them pay taxes.

We must get used to taxes. The concept of taxes is completely foreign to this country. We are not used to this because nobody here paid any taxes. Everything came from the state budget, out of the revenues attained by the commercial enterprises, and foreign trade enterprises, and the enterprises that were profitable. In other words, the country had the resources to afford a zero tax system. I remember that when certain taxes were levied on farmers, the cooperative movement and certain other things -- such as the right to retirement pay for farmers -- were established. After a while, so many had retired that their contribution to social security -- which was very little -- was much less than the cost of the payment to the retired farmers.

We must educate the people about taxes. Some self-employed workers have very high incomes. We know of some cart drivers who make 2,000 or 3,000 pesos and already have other people working for them -- one to get the feed, one to take care of the horse and cart, and so on, six or seven people. An income of 3,000 pesos is about seven times higher than the salary of a university professor. A whole sea of money! Such disparity cannot be solved by increasing everyone's salary. The problem is clear. We are fighting the problems of excess circulation to avoid the dilemma of the excess money in circulation and create a better foundation to leave behind the special period and develop the country despite so many objective obstacles. Therefore, it is not feasible to return to salaries. What we can do is reduce the value of the dollar little by little or implement certain material incentives. We cannot turn to a general increase in salaries because we would be deceiving ourselves. We have foreign companies and managers in charge in many hotels because they have more experience and it gives time to our people to learn the trade's modern management techniques. These are new circumstances.

Have no doubt, inequalities and privileges will be unavoidable. Some people will have large incomes, and others will have smaller incomes. This is unavoidable. The number of self-employed workers, as well as self-employment options, certain handmade operations, and small-scale operations, must increase. This must be done. We must consider the prospects for developing small and medium-sized enterprises and the state's role in all of that. However, you must understand that the circumstances are different than those before, when we could develop activities to correct certain injustices.

You also discussed the prostitution problem. Unfortunately, this is a reality. Some people are choosing to live off prostitution. This pains and hurts us. This phenomena is generally connected to tourism. We are concerned with not only the moral aspect but also the health aspect. We have taken great care to protect our public health and not to let anyone mar it or endanger it through such an activity. This can result in an increase in diseases, which have been reduced to a minimum and are tightly controlled. The efforts to contain AIDS, for example, have been great. We have protected the entire population from that great scourge and from other sexually transmitted diseases.

This is a problem that worries us, and rightfully so. It goes beyond the moral aspect, which is perhaps the most important thing. There is also the issue of Cuban image. This forces us to think and rethink and struggle. You also discussed the issue of people who rent rooms or apartments. There are different cases. You acknowledged that it is not an easy struggle, that you have conducted ideological education efforts. We will have to come up with more effective measures or formulas. That is not easy to do. You spoke about studying measures. We will have to analyze what to do. We cannot, in any way, resign ourselves to accepting these emerging phenomena. They are tied to different factors -- such as the development of an activity -- and to economic difficulties. Yet, these factors do not justify it at all. We are not willing to promote that type of self-employment or, as they are called in some places, sexual services enterprises. [crowd laughs]

That term is used in some capitalist countries, but I forget which ones. These problems are connected with the times, which make it harder and more difficult to work and force us to tackle, for example, the problem I am discussing.

You have truly expressed new and old problems: We have been struggling with the old problems for a long time, while the new problems are a result of the special period. You spoke about the measures being taken, about the capitalist elements which we are forced to introduce, these market elements we are forced to introduce and which promote inequalities which pain us, and with which we have no other choice but to coexist because it is preferable to coexist with some of these problems than to lose the fatherland, the Revolution, and accomplishments attained by our country. We must sacrifice something. The struggle against all these problems will be, of course, more meritorious for us, for this generation, for our people today.

A comrade, a medic, who spoke so beautifully, stated that she is proud of being part of this era, experiencing the period. I have said that this is one of the most difficult periods in the history of Cuba, one of the hardest periods which requires more spirit, more merit, more sacrifice. I do not know of any comparable period, although Cuba experienced Weyler's reconcentration, which is what imperialism is trying to repeat today in Cuba, with more, and more blockade, and every possible effort to stop us from taking a breather, an all out effort to asphyxiate us through deprivation, hunger, disease, and everything. Our people are living under new, different conditions, unlike those of 1868 or 1895. Spain was the enemy back then. There is no comparison between Spain's might and the might of the United States today, in terms of economic resources, technology, military might, political might, communications, and all kinds of power. How does it compare? This battle is against a giant. Fortunately, there is solidarity in this world. More and more people are becoming more and more aware.

Many rejoiced immediately after the Socialist bloc, particularly the USSR, disappeared. The euphoria dies down as they learn more and more about what is happening there and begin to understand what that country's disintegration truly means. It was truly incredible that it happened to a country with such enormous resources, energy, mines, credits, everything. They did not have a blockade. Current economic production is at World War II levels. The population is dropping. Health care expenses are out of reach. Pediatric diseases are on the rise. The life expectancy rate is dropping. It is incredible. I do not want to get into it.

The news is worse every day. One ruble is worth $5,000 or $4,500 [figures as heard], or so the students and many visitors tell us. You can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner on one ruble. A total of 80 rubles a month was a good allotment for the students. There were thousands, upon thousands of students. There was security and everything. Today, horrible things are happening. Imperialism imposed all those neoliberal measures and privatization, all at a fast pace. We are not doing any of those things. We would be crazy to do so. We are moving slowly and sensibly. This is why we have been able to resist. We have been at it for several years. Our resistance, what Cuba is doing is admired in the world. These are more difficult times, times of greater sacrifice, more meritorious times. The next generations will admire this period as one of the most meritorious ever in our history. I say this frankly. I think and believe this is so.

We are now dealing with an entire people, the needs of millions of people. In the bush, the Revolution dealt with our own needs alone. We dealt with the needs of our rebel forces. The Mambises dealt with the needs of its ranks. They did not have to deal with the problems and needs of the entire population. We must deal not only with all the needs of the entire revolutionary population but also with those who are not revolutionaries. Medicine at the hospitals, medical care, and education is provided to all. The revolutionaries must take care of all that and struggle to preserve all that since it cannot be any other way.

Certainly, one of the things most ardently admired about our country by foreign investors is the level of education of our people. They cannot find anything like it anywhere in the Third World or developed countries. They admire the speed with which our people learn and assimilate ideas, as well as admire our character, spirit, and honesty. In today's world, where corruption is prevalent among political officials, Cuba is the exception. This used to be common in the Third World but nowadays is common in Europe and more developed countries. People coming to do business in Cuba greatly admire the honesty of the people dealing with them, officials who do not ask for commissions and do not take bribes. This is the result of the efforts being made. We should not regret this. Many envy us for having such education and health care systems. We have kept the infant mortality rate below 10, despite the special period. This, comrades, is incredible, almost miraculous. This is an accomplishment which has remained firm thanks to the efforts of our health care personnel. We have done much. Many abroad do not acknowledge what we have accomplished in many fields, but we have done much in other fields. Yet, this is not so easily understood.

These successes are not mentioned. Yes, Cuba has had successes in health and education! Has it not been successful in vindicating women, in eliminating racial discrimination and many of the vices that were prevalent in our society, in creating values, and in establishing morals and a spirit such as the one the Revolution has engendered in our people? What about the qualities developed in the bosom of our people, the heroism developed in the bosom of the masses? There are many values which they will be unable to understand. What about what we have accomplished in terms of infrastructure, roads, dams, and factories? Factories are not producing as they should because of the lack of fuel, raw materials, and all the things I have explained. This forces us to undertake a colossal effort to some day have every factory working and to modernize those that need it.

Other dangers present themselves under the conditions FMC comrades struggle today. As a result of these circumstances, there is the danger that people will begin to appreciate all that even less. As a result of these circumstances, the awareness of the importance of being fair with women might decline and the awareness of the importance of the FMC's social, as well as political, work might become underrated. The FMC has helped the Revolution, while seeking justice for women. We run the risk of things being underestimated. The people, burdened by their daily problems, might not remember all this. Thus, the guard is let down. I believe we must warn against this and warn you. I believe we also run these risks when confronted with setbacks and all these objective circumstances, which reduce the role of the party and the state. It can no longer afford to simply issue administrative measures -- as we did before -- to solve many problems. We must continue implementing all the measures needed and all the new ones that might be adopted to the new circumstances to prevent from going backward. It is particularly important not to go backward in terms of the mindsets of the population and the mindset of the men. This is a subjective aspect derived from all these circumstances which I have mentioned and which makes the struggle harder.

Yet, I can tell you that the revolutionaries will be beside you, the party will be on your side. In the same way the party manages to ward off negative influences; in the same way the party upholds and even increases its consciousness of the need for this struggle which we have waged and still have to wage under more difficult conditions in this special period; and in the same way the state, ministers, party members, political and administrative cadres, youth cadres, and cadres of the mass organizations are aware that the women have to struggle under more difficult conditions now and need more support, the party will be on your side. [applause]

Another important thing is to understand that women are a tremendous political force. Women need the Revolution's support today more than ever. The Revolution needs the support of women today more than ever. More support is needed as times get harder. We cannot afford women becoming discouraged, to allow them to feel relegated, to let them feel that the zest in the struggle for justice has diminished.

Today, there should be more zeal in the struggle. Today, more than ever, our entire people, all our institutions, party, government, mass organizations, and the youth must remain revolutionary because today, more then ever, many things threaten the revolutionary spirit. What took place globally was an almost absolute demoralization. Some speak of the end of history and socialism and all that. That history has yet to be fully written, what role was played by those who became demoralized, what role was played by those who relinquished their principles before the enemies of socialism. We have not relinquished a single banner of socialism, not a single ideal of socialism, not a single principle, hope, or the spirit of combat it brought to the world, the enrichment brought to the world by Marxism and Leninism.

We are not ashamed of referring to Marxism nor are we ashamed of referring to Leninism. Of course, the principles they developed as great revolutionaries must be adapted to today's world, to the conditions of today's world. There cannot be a dogmatic following. They require interpretation, flexibility. However, the essence, the basic ideas, the basic truths remain. We have seen what is happening everywhere in the world. It is horrifying. I am not going to bore you with details or speak long. However, the more we see happening in the world, the more we appreciate socialism, those of us who are aware of what is happening in the world. The more we see the destruction in the former socialist countries and the USSR, which had attained such great miracles, the more we appreciate the principles of socialism and the more appalling we find the things which capitalism and imperialism have brought to the world.

These times require us to become more revolutionary and not less. We, at least, have proven that in these very difficult times we have been able to resist, have demonstrated more spirit, and the true revolutionaries have demonstrated our capacity to be more revolutionary. [applause]

True revolutionaries have never moved away from Marti's principles, have never moved away from the ideas of the forefathers of the first revolutions and struggles for our independence. We have always stressed that it was the combination of Marti's ideas, the Cuban revolutionary thought, the principles of socialism, the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin that gave shape to our revolutionary ideology. However, when revolutionaries have to struggle under these conditions, when they have to tackle up close the many manifestations of capitalism -- such as market conditions, inequalities, and the injustices which anger all of us, because mankind, in general, and the Cuban people, in particular, after having experienced many years of revolution, have such an awareness of justice, equality, opportunities for all, nothing angers us as much as privileges -- we have to be more revolutionary to live side by side and remain revolutionary and continue struggling. It would still be better than the conditions experienced by revolutionaries living under capitalism because here the revolutionaries -- not the privileged -- hold the power. We are not going to create a capitalist society. A government of the bourgeoisie or the rich is not going to be set up here. We have advocated a government of workers and for workers, even if we have capitalists in our midst.

There have always been certain forms of private property which were maintained in the countryside. We have more that 100,000 small farmers. Half of them have joined basic cooperative production units which are performing well. The others are still individual farmers, some 70,000. There are many other: Who knows how many have small lots yet do not belong to the National Association of Small Farmers? There are people who have land to produce food for themselves and for the markets and other outlets. I said that we have given some of that land in usufruct for them to work those fallow plots.

The Revolution itself promulgated the Urban Reform Law, which transferred property in usufruct to the residents of the homes. Necessarily, more elements of private property, production, and capitalism and market will be introduced. We must do it. This is what common sense dictates must be done. Yet, given the strength of the revolution, we must not fear this. Of course, capitalists, in general, think that all this will corrupt us. Undoubtedly, all this promotes corruption. There is no doubt about that. However, we must not blame the corruptors but blame ourselves for allowing them to corrupt us. Whomsoever is committed to not let anyone corrupt him, will not be corrupted by anyone. [applause]

One cannot let others corrupt oneself. It is impossible for our people to forget the principles of the Revolution, the principles of socialism, the noble goals, all the justice it brought. It is impossible for our people to wish to return to capitalism, that is the most horrifying of things, it is hell that our people knew, although not so much the youth because they did not experience that era. We must tell them how it all was.

However, our youth have demonstrated extraordinary qualities and extraordinary capacity for sacrifice. They have fulfilled missions of solidarity across the globe unlike any other people, with infinite generosity. Much will depend on us, on how we educate them, on how we teach them essential values, on how well we can relay the revolutionary message. We must be stronger than all these elements tending to weaken or corrupt us. That will be a gauge of our intelligence. The Cuban people are not only courageous and heroic but, above all, intelligent. The people must understand all these things, why they are being done. This is also the work of more than one generation. It involves work which began in 1868 and which we still uphold a century later, at a more difficult time and against an enemy more powerful than ever. However, just as the might of imperialism has grown, so has the capacity for our people's heroism and the revolutionary spirit. They are coming to their wit's end having to face us today, seeing that they cannot crush us. They become desperate and plot ever more absurd, irrational, and bizarre things as they face our people's heart of steel. However, the steel of our hearts has to become harder and harder. [applause]

Changes in the spirit are becoming noticeable. People coming from abroad tell us that so many things have changed, yet we have not noticed that much change. Some things are changing. There are some new things. A heightened spirit is seen following the traumatic blow, just like being hit in the head with a pole, when one's vision is out of focus momentarily until one regains control. We are already recovering from the trauma. The world still has to fully recover from the trauma. It will in time, once it notices the atrocity of the failure of the system they are trying to impose on the world. This will help the world overcome the trauma more quickly.

I do not want to mention examples, but there are several already in this hemisphere on the outcome of the theories which the empire is trying to impose on the world. I do not want to give names, but how different it is from what is happening here! We -- having lost what we lost, without fuel or raw materials, and making due without many things -- have not closed a single school, hospital, or child care center or laid off a single teacher. On the contrary, we are trying to draw teachers and nurses back into their professions so that services remain high at the schools and hospitals and so that they can fulfill their social and human duties. Material rewards or money cannot drive everything: Many things must be done out of a sense of honor, dignity, and humanity. We know very well that these values are needed, particularly in these times, not only because of the elements being introduced but also because the objective difficulties are a petri dish for errors. Crime tends to rise, although this was happening before the special period. We were aware of this trend, a trend against which one must always fight and today more than ever.

These are the ideas I wanted to express. I have thought about everything you have said, everything discussed. I am personally deeply convinced of the enormous importance of this congress, the immense political importance of women, your decisive role in the economy and services in these hard times, and the level of awareness, capacity, and admirable arguments used here, as proof of the great education which the new generations have today to understand, work, and struggle. This is why we have the most absolute tenet that women, in a simple and natural manner, as Marti said, will fulfill their corresponding role in this heroic and glorious period, the most heroic and glorious period ever in our history.

This is why I say with great conviction: Socialism or death! Fatherland or death! We will win! [crowd applauds and shouts: We will win!]