Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-96-100 Daily Report 22 May 1996 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Cuba: Castro Discusses Camping in Pinar del Rio Province

PA2105201796 Havana Cubavision Network in Spanish at 0105 GMT 17 May 96 PA2105201796 Havana Cubavision Network Spanish BFN [Speech by President Fidel Castro at the ceremony commemorating the 15th anniversary of the National Parks and Recreation Program at the Dos Hermanas Camp, Vinales, Pinar del Rio Province -- recorded]

[FBIS Summary] Cuban President Fidel Castro closes the ceremony with a speech in which he discusses camping in Pinar del Rio and recalls that in the past he and some friends would go camping whenever he had two or three free days on the weekend. He says: "Because we did not know very much about geography," we would ask our way around.

Castro says the idea to build hotels for national tourism came from camping. Los Jasmines, in the mountains, and La Hermita, in the valley, were the first hotels the revolution had built, he says: "The idea of popular camping had not risen yet; that came later," Castro says. He says he visited Pinar del Rio often and realized its economic potential in "rice, wood, and tobacco in particular," adding that it was "a poor, exploited province." Castro says that large landowners owned the valleys and the peasants had to pay "one-third or 40 percent of their harvest" to the landowners. He says one of the provinces that would benefit the most from the agrarian reform was Pinar del Rio.

Castro says international tourism was not promoted for 12 or 14 years due to the lack of experience in that field. Says he: "We discovered that everyone wanted to go to Varadero Beach for vacations." Castro adds, however, that there were very few accommodations in beach areas, and even if more accommodations were built, they could never accommodate everyone. "I always have believed it was necessary to develop other alternatives," Castro says, remarking that new roads have made forests and landscape accessible and put to use rivers not fit for producing energy but good for rowing, sailing, and other recreational activities. There had to be a way for every citizen to rest in these surroundings, but how could it be done at a low cost, says Castro. He says it was decided to use tents, because Poland sent a number of tents every year in trade exchanges, and rubber rafts were received from another socialist country.

Castro says food was another difficult problem, because there was no food supply available in these areas. "The food industry was asked to develop products for camping; thus, the camping movement was born."

Castro says the transportation issue also had to be resolved. He recalls that there was a Giron automobile plant in Cuba at that time and that many buses were assigned to be used for camping purposes only. Approximately 251 buses out of 500 are reserved for this service to this day, but they consume too much gasoline and spare parts, because the buses came from the USSR, he says. The special period affected the camping movement, because fuel was restricted, Castro adds, stating: "The Soviet Union would supply us buses, and the tankers followed behind them." "One of our priorities was to re-motorize these buses." Castro says this "new word re-motorize" means to replace Soviet-built motors with other ones, because Soviet-built motors use too much fuel. He said new motors use 75 percent less fuel than Soviet-built motors.

Returning to the subject of camping, Castro notes the type of facilities existing at camping installations and says they have been improved. Castro says foreign tourists have become interested in visiting camping areas. He then discusses the existence of prehistoric sites in the area of Vinales and says Earth has existed for billions of years. Castro says the camping sector is nonprofit, adding that the savings and efficiency of the camping institution are praiseworthy. He says: "We were the first country in the world to truly establish eco-tourism and on a large scale." He says nature is the first consideration in constructing any installation.

"This ceremony is to honor this province, which has worked hard in all fields," Castro says, stating that Pinar del Rio Province, burdened by problems raised by heavy rains, has, nevertheless, been able to save harvests; this was true last year and also this year, he says.

Castro says that the province this year produced 5 million more bundles of tobacco, "25 percent more than last year, and it is said that this tobacco is of better quality and that this country can export all the tobacco it produces," the Cuban President says.

Says he: "Hundreds of thousands of workers" are working on sugar and tobacco fields right now. "It is appropriate," he says, "for us to remember them in an afternoon such as today and that we point out their heroism, honor, patriotic spirit, and the manner in which they are working with the passion growing throughout the country."

"I believe," Castro says in concluding his speech, "I have forgotten no one, least of all you, but it is raining harder, and we have to work very much these days, and it is not good for you to get too wet. I congratulate all of you and will finish by saying: Socialism or death! Fatherland or death!"