Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-96-084 Daily Report 29 Apr 1996 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Cuba: Fidel Castro Remarks at CTC Congress 28 Apr

PA3004013996 Havana Tele Rebelde Network in Spanish, 0130 GMT 29 Apr 96 PA3004013996 Havana Tele Rebelde Network Spanish BFN [Discussion between Cuban President Fidel Castro; Felipe Ramon Perez Roque, a member of the Cuban Council of State; and (Argelio Quevedo), secretary of the Havana branch of the Cuban Construction Workers Union, during the afternoon session of the 17th Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) Congress in Havana on 28 April -- recorded]

[FBIS Translated Text] [Castro] Next door there is a construction site. The building is being expanded to turn it into a hotel to serve this Conventions Palace. The people at the Councils of State are often informing me of the construction speed of this work next door. It will have 180 rooms, rated at four stars. It is being built in 14 months. I wonder what the monthly production is; I guess it must be high. There are 100 or so men working there at a good pace. Perhaps Felipe can give us some idea, if he has visited this site. Is Felipe here?

[Perez] I am here.

[Castro] Do you know? It is a 14-month project?

[Perez] It is a 180-room, four-star hotel. Initially the comrades had estimated that it would take 16 months to build. But afterward, we realized that it was possible by working hard to complete it in 14 months. This work began in May 1995, and it one one year's work will be completed the first days in May. It will be about 63 percent complete by the end of April. By 30 May, it should be 75 percent complete. The cost is just under 12 million pesos, taking into account both currencies. More or less 11.6 million pesos.

[Castro] What was the productivity value?

[Perez] I do not have the exact figure. Here we are dealing with various construction forces. Here we have city Micons [Ministry of Construction] workers from (Majalacoa); workers from Cubanacan's [Cuban Tourism and International Trade Corporation] construction brigade, who have been at the site since the work began. The other day it seems that the Cubanacan construction workers had mentioned an April productivity figure close to 4,000 pesos, I believe. I do not have the exact figure with me.

[Castro] How long will it take to recover costs taking into account the number of international events that take place here?

[Perez] It is estimated that the hotel will have a high occupancy rate when one takes into account that every year the Conventions Palace receives between 13,000 to 15,000 foreigners who take part in events held here. In addition, we expect tourists who have no connection with the Conventions Palace and who will have one more hotel option in this part of the city.

[Castro] There is news everywhere about new technology, ideas, equipment, and so forth that with organization and discipline, plus a series of additional concepts, can revolutionize construction work and the productivity of workers. There are plenty of new things. In Cayo Coco, an aqueduct is being built using many new materials. The pipes can be carried by two men as if they were as light as a handkerchief. It is calculated that those pipes can last 60 years. They are made of fiber optics... [pauses] what is the name? Fiberglass, that's it. It is expensive, but the work itself turns out less expensive because it is done very rapidly. This can solve many of our problems that we come across in all the buildings on the coast. We can take there all the best quality water. Construction is at a tremendous pace. Materials are having a big impact on construction. We are going to have to study costs, but the difference it will make is tremendous. The hardness is adequate. From what I hear from many people, the outlook is great. Those people in Cayo Coco are very good people. The same goes for the people in Ciego de Avila and Santiago de Cuba. They only turn bad when they come here to Havana. [laughter] People in Ciego de Avila, Cayo Coco, and all those places... [pauses] it is strange. These people make an excellent impression and they are also advancing very quickly. In a matter of months -- 18 months, 20 months -- they are building a hotel there, which, in its initial stage, will have 500-odd rooms, and afterward, it will have up to 700 rooms. Things there have changed incredibly. That could well set a construction workers' standard. There was nothing there before; only an embankment. The embankment had to practically be built clandestinely. I asked myself whether I had anything to do with this business. [chuckles] I got them a bunch of trucks because we wanted to know how many rocks were needed to build 1 km of embankment. How much gasoline would be used, how much oil, wages. We began the first embankment. Nearly all the country's embankments have been completed. Who would have thought they could be built in that place where there was nothing. A road was also built. There is also a water desalination plant, which is a magnificent solution in many places where a pipe cannot reach, such as in Cayo Largo. There the problem has to be solved with a desalination plant, which is inexpensive and produces water cheaply. They have the plant there until they find water in Moron.

That is growing at an amazing rate. There still are many people there who have been unable... [pauses] they are not yet putting the most modern methods into practice, but they are producing and are performing quality work. It is something extremely serious, serious. I do not have any doubt that you are going to prove what you are capable of given the current conditions. We have taught many methods, and we did not lack a labor force because of the excess of men and because of a lack of production [words indistinct] went up, because we did not have enough builders [words indistinct] this capital. This capital does not want to build [words indistinct] theaters, too much development [words indistinct] finding builders in this capital is difficult. There are builders in Las Tunas and even Camaguey, from eastern Cuba [words indistinct] problems here, especially in this city. There is not enough water; we have to seek formulas, because there are cities that have grown a great deal. The need for aqueducts and sewage is very big.

However, there are new techniques on which we have fallen behind, techniques that we did not even know: Construction means, materials, small equipment. I criticized builders, but included everybody in this category. I spoke mainly about tourism, because there was a big boom in the tourism sector. People did not fit in it. There were huge opportunities. We have to build at least 4,000 to 5,000 rooms a year, several thousand a year... [pauses] in Varadero, last year, a hundred and something rooms had been built in Varadero alone; everybody was demanding this.

On the other hand, when one travels, one realizes the country is talking about the sugarcane [words indistinct] last tour of Esmeraldas, all these places, Jobabo, Peru, and we... [pauses] it seemed to me that we were in the PRC and Vietnam. This country has experienced a population explosion. If it is not the entire country, at least many communities of this country.

The PRC has a great deal of land, but agricultural land comprises only 100 million hectares. Vietnam has... [pauses] the PRC has 1.2 billion inhabitants, and you see [words indistinct] houses and people. The number of people is amazing, and then you go to Esmeraldas. What there is in Esmeraldas is [words indistinct]] Brazil, Esmeraldas sugar mills. I was pleased that we built the embankment in Cayo [word indistinct] 21 km of beautiful beaches. This area is going to be developed. Ciego de Avila is developing with all those things in Cayo Piedra, Caibarien, all the region, and I was wondering where that many people are going to work.

I was attending the event at the Peru Sugar Mill [words indistinct] there were thousands and thousands of people in the Peru Sugar Mill. I was telling myself that it was impossible for all these people to live off a relatively small industry. Of course, we have the countryside, which can employ a large force, many people, and it is employing them through different means. We have to introduce technological innovations into the agriculture sector. We are producing strawberries for Varadero tourists, high quality strawberries with new technology. We have to produce tomatoes and others products in the summer, in the year's many seasons. Agricultural work could pay off; it could be a large source of jobs for the country. I was pleased to realize that tourism could create many jobs for many people in all these places.

In a multitude [words indistinct] everywhere [words indistinct] people, we cannot live by working 90, 100, 120 days; it is not enough. In addition, you have to take care of this labor force. We have certain activities in which stability is a phenomenon, a relative phenomenon.

We need to see how we solve the sugarmill workforce stability problem. Now it is increasing and new phenomena have taken place in connection with many of the problems Ross mentioned in his speech this morning. There is a slightly greater need for money due to all these things; there is a new spirit, a different attitude by the people. We need to find solutions to many of these problems. Trained men in sugarmills who are lost are not easily replaced. There is no estimate on how much this costs. We need to see what duties, what tasks, what things can be found that are enjoyable by the people doing the work and convenient for those doing these tasks. This will allow us to find stability in the sugar industry, which will allow a greater participation by those people living in the area, while at the same time guaranteeing that one can count on that worker. One of the problems that has not been mentioned [words indistinct] plenty of times, is that the sugarmills have lost qualified workers, and many of the problems there were operational in nature. This makes me wonder a lot. It was once said that it was quality, or whatever. [chuckles] I believe that this is why some of the sugarmills had a performance yield of eight or nine, instead of 11 or 12. We only need to ask why sugarcane has not improved with all the scientists we have. I say that there has practically been no improvement at all. Some may argue that this is not true, that new varieties exist, which I may not be familiar with. But I do not see any new varieties such as the 43-62, which we mentioned was lost. The [word indistinct] 60-5, I believe it was the Eliseo brothers in Camaguey. Either that one or the 87-51, one of the two. That man was in search of a sugarcane, which who knows how we would make out without it. Nevertheless, it is a variety threatened by certain plagues, certain pests. This country has so many scientists and laboratories and no new varieties have been created, which can give a yield of 15 or more and resist plagues. There have been sugarmills with a performance yield of 14 [words indistinct]. I do not know if they used honey [laughter] to get such a figure. We need to see what [words indistinct] to see what yield it has had, which is a big sugarmill. We have not advanced and we need to improve our technology, science, and all these things much more.

This also holds true for construction work. We need to solve the problems. Havana cannot continue to bring construction workers from Oriente Province, Camaguey, and those places. It is amazing how many illegal workers we have in the old part of Havana. This cannot be resolved by anyone unless there are other formulas, a different alternative, which will somehow allow people to work where they live. The revolution has done plenty. [Words indistinct] is new. Who says that today Las Tunas should not be a place where not too long ago one rode a bus [guagua] or visited a coffee shop, and I do not know what else they had. Today, Las Tunas has super hospital so and so, the (Salpito Asylum), and a pedagogic university. Many cities in the country's interior have developed with only an elementary school nearby. Every time I mention the word interior I remember a comrade who said in an assembly: Listen to me, if the other people are from the interior, who are we? Foreigners? [laughter] He reacted to the word interior.

A new spirit has developed over these years. Sancti Spiritus is not what it used to be, Holguin is not what it was, or Bayamo. Unfortunately, this does not hold true with other provinces. Santa Clara or Pinar del Rio are not what they were. Despite this all, this trend has not been as great as the rest of Latin America. All these sights we see on television is the cost of a lack of a national planning policy. These are some of the problems that we are facing today and which force us to build so much and makes us think. This will require us to search for solutions to many of these problems. I will tell you the truth, I prefer those little economic houses rather than those apartment buildings that all look alike. Some of these houses were not built by those living in them, and they are -- they are supposed to be good. [chuckles] But [word indistinct] listened to the comrade who spoke about the ecological communities. Statistics were presented that were somewhat [words indistinct]. Pretty houses can be built in nice communities, where it will be better to live than in an apartment on a fifth floor in the (Alamar). I remember when the (Alamar Segundo) was being built and many people moved there. Transportation and other problems ensued. Many people prefer to live in one of these houses they occupy illegally with another 20 families rather than live in an apartment. I say that these situations must lead us to find solutions. I repeat, construction work will revolutionize things; will save effort. Not so as to have people without work, but to enable people to do more things faster.

Because in this country... [pauses] you saw the sewer lines I was telling you about. And that is something else.

We are facing the main problems with tourism here in the capital. If you go by Cayo Coco, or the future (Cayo Sabinal), (Cayo Club), you will see that problems in those places are completely different from the ones we have in some hotels here. There is a type of person that is not known: Prostitution in general, as they say. And I say prostitution in general because the Cuban Women's Federation gets angry if I use the word prostitute alone. Vilma gets angry because she says we discriminate against women and that there are male and female prostitutes.

They don't walk on the embankment [words indistinct] that type is not known in Cayo Coco or in (Cayo Guillermes). This may be one of the awards we may offer -- not many because we must save foreign exchange. We can take some people there so that they can see some of those places. That is advisable. [applause]

And you are the ones who must build all that.

[(Quevedo)] With regard to your concern on bringing workers from the interior, there was a time here when Micons had approximately 9,000 workers from the interior.

[Castro] What was that?

[(Quevedo)] There was a time here, I don't know, perhaps four or five years ago, when Micons had approximately 9,000 workers from the interior who get free room and board in the capital.

[Castro] More than that.

[Perez] More than that, (Quevedo).

[(Quevedo)] Yes. Today, Micons must have approximately 4,000 workers from the interior who get free room and board in the capital. And the number of construction workers in the capital is increasing. Moreover, the labor force today has more stability than before the the special period in peacetime. Although the revolution has dignified construction workers, the special period in peacetime made us think about seeking solutions to the needs of the population, recognizing the population, and giving them social recognition. This has resulted in greater stability for workers.

[Castro] But this came from way before, because the concept of looking after the population improved when the contingents were created. Those words, looking after the population, were their motto. Obviously, they also had salary incentives, an extended working system, and high productivity. Unfortunately, we did not know how far it went, but with the new things that are appearing out there... [pauses] There is nothing special about this hotel. They have the materials, they have the input, [words indistinct] attention, looking after the population. But there is nothing special about construction workers here, those I mentioned. There is nothing special about those who will build the hotel next to the convention center.

[(Quevedo)] The country has to pay for construction workers from the interior here. Those workers must be given food, clothing, supplies.

[Castro] If he comes from here, we must give him the same things. We must give them clothing, supplies.

[(Quevedo)] But we must provide full board to construction workers who come from the interior.

[Castro] Those from the interior come with a bunch of people to settle here. [laughs] If he came alone to stay here, there would not be a problem. They come accompanied by several people, with 13, 14, 15 people. That is intolerable. There is no one to grow coffee beans in the mountains, in spite of the [words indistinct] which has improved, the exodus has stopped.

But here one sees a demographic explosion in Cuba. [words indistinct] China, we have the same number of residents per square kilometer as China does. The only thing is that we have more per capita farmland than China. If they can grow crops in 10 percent of their country's geographical area, we can grow crops in approximately 25, 30, 40 percent of our geographical area. It is variable.

They have an area of 100 million hectares to grow grains, rice, food, and they lose arable land every year with the construction of factories, roads, railroads, all that. The same holds true in Vietnam. You travel on a 100- km road and you see housing areas along the entire 100 km. You get a sense of what the demographic explosion is when you visit those countries.

They have to make a big effort. China, with 5 percent of the farmland, has 22 percent of the world's population. They only have 5 percent of the world's farmland, yet you don't see anyone starving. They have achieved an incredible accomplishment. But the feeling one gets when visiting one of these places is that... [pauses] when you go past Argelia Libre and other places you drive for kilometers without seeing anything. But when you get to the communities, towns, you find people coming from everywhere.

They say they cannot keep living off the mills they used to have; they have to seek industrial and other types of development for these areas, for these sectors such as the sugarcane sector. This does not happen to the potato sector, because [words indistinct] sweet potato, other things come. There is a lot of work. The sugarcane is more seasonal; all these harvest activities should not take more than four months. The weather changes a great deal; it used to take five months. When the heavy rains come, it is very incredible. At the Argelia Libre Mill, 23 mm of rain made them stop on 27 April, and we wonder when they are going to start again. They say maybe on Monday, 29 April, and they have 40 million arrobas there.

Mechanization is the only way to have a sugar industry in Cuba, a sugar industry. They can make these mobilizations one day, not every day; they are expensive, and they are hard on men. Without machines, there could not be a sugar industry in Cuba. It also requires other techniques such as the compress [compactacion], what measures to take, all these things, what to do when it rains. There used to be some mills in northern Sancti Spiritus and Villa Clara Provinces, and we said that we have to seek combines similar to the rice harvesters to be able to harvest the sugarcane. They remained halted for a month. Of course, we have built drains and [word indistinct]. It could be improved. The little amount of water it takes to stop the machines and the mills is incredible. The amount of water is more in some mills than in others due to the color of the soil -- red, black -- and whether it more or less has clay. All this has a bearing. I repeat for the third time: The sugar industry's significance is more than economic, much more than economic. We have to think about the development of all these farms.

Aside from what has been done, a sulphating machine [sulfural] was going to be built, one made of wood with bagasse or something similar. We have to create industries and create conditions in these areas around the sugar mills, because we need the stability of this workforce. I believe that it is also an area in which a certain degree of automation is necessary, even though it may be paradoxical. We are trying to seek communications for everyone. The complex, the industry, the fleet of sugar combines, the UBPC's; we want to connect everybody via telephone, a telephone system, radio, and other means. There will come a day when a manager in a mill... [pauses] he now has to send a man running there, because there are certain mechanisms that could give him some information on [words indistinct] the acidity of this or that. The process could be automated in these places; it is much safer, because in a matter of seconds, a team alone can fix this. We at the Central Institute for Digital Research [Instituto Central de Investigaciones Digitales], along with other bodies, can study all these matters pertaining to communications at the sugar mills. Automation involves many processes. It is not a matter of keeping the men, although some need to be kept, and we have to keep them stable. It is a matter of seeking more efficiency in the operation of a mill. Many of these problems are operational problems. There are major prospects in the two sectors: In the sugar sector and... [pauses] It seems to us that, starting with everything that has needed to be thought about the situation we are experiencing and the problems... [pauses] hey, we even had a papaya harvest for 8 million [not further specified} with 4,000 Soviet-made machines. At least we had them; otherwise, we could not have done it. Sometimes they were at the shop all the time; we had to have 4,000 of them. The machines we are manufacturing, as I was saying, are very good, more efficient, stronger. I hope they can cut in places where the soil is more moist.

We are promoting the same concepts in the rice industry. This hard, very hard situation leads us to have to think a great deal about many things we have to do much better than we used to. I hope that in this movement, you will remain at the vanguard.

Sorry Roque, I have taken time away from the Congress.

[Roque] No, you... [pauses] everybody is listening to every single word you say.

[Castro] We have the duty of sharing with you what we see, what we learn, what we think about.

[Roque] Of course.

[Castro] The one who is there... [pauses] what is the name of the town near the Peru Mill?

[Unidentified speaker] Jobabo.

[Castro] He [not further identified] does not even realize what we are realizing in one day. He saw a large crowd in a mill that worked for approximately 60 days. He said: Tell me, Fidel, this crowd...

[Ross, interrupting] Tell me about it. I knew this mill more than 30 years ago.

[Castro] There were fewer people; were there not?

[Ross] Much fewer people. In Las Tunas, the capital, there was not a single high school. There was no junior college [preuniversitario] or a public hospital of any type. There were no children's hospitals or general hospitals. The first hospital that was built in Las Tunas...

[Castro, interrupting] Have you been to Las Tunas?

[Ross] I was the PCC secretary in Las Tunas...

[Castro, interrupting] Oh, it sounds like you are telling us you were born there...

[Ross, interrupting] In 1969. That is the problem. The first hospital was built when Machado was the public health minister. Nowadays it is the children's hospital...

[Unidentified speaker] This Machado, right? [laughter, applause].