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7th PCC Congress Central Report, presented by First Secretary Raúl Castro Ruz

Raul CongresoWe open the sessions of the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba on the 55th anniversary of the proclamation, by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, of the socialist nature of the Revolution, April 16, 1961, as we pay our deep respects to those killed the day before during the bombing of Cuban airfields, a prelude to the mercenary invasion of Playa Girón, organized by United States government and defeated in less than 72 hours, thanks to the timely actions of state security forces and the courage of combatants of the Rebel Army, police officers and militia, who fought to defend socialism for the first time, under the direct command of Fidel.

We are meeting here today, exactly five years since the last Congress, in fulfillment of work Objective no.17 approved by the First Party Conference, to continue to hold Party congresses in accordance with the regular timeline established in the Party Statues, except in the case of the threat of war, natural disasters, or other exceptional circumstances.

The 7th Congress, supreme body of the Communist Party of Cuba, brings together 1,000 delegates, nominated and elected in a democratic process, representing over 670,000 party members, affiliated with approximately 54,500 Party units.

As you will see, Party membership has declined, impacted by the negative demographic trends affecting the country, a restrictive growth policy maintained since 2004, and shortcomings in efforts to train, retain, and motivate potential members. It is also true however, that this trend has decelerated over recent years.

Since the last Congress, we have held a minimum of two Central Committee plenums per year to analyze progress made in the implementation of policy guidelines; the fulfillment of the country’s economic plan, the national budget, and related objectives, in fulfillment of Objective no.18 of the First Party Conference. Progress made in the fulfillment of the economic plan and implementation of guidelines has likewise been discussed in the twice-yearly ordinary sessions held by the National Assembly of People’s Power, supreme body of state power.

We arrive at this, the 7th Party Congress, ready to present four important proposals related to key topics, work on many of which began immediately following the 6th Party Congress. These are:

First: a summary of the performance of the national economy over the five year period from 2011-2015. A report on the results of the implementation of the economic and social policy guidelines of the Party and Revolution. Updating of the guidelines for the period 2016-2021.

Second: The fundamental elements of the national economic and social development plan through 2030, the nation’s vision, priorities and strategic sectors.

Third: the conceptualization of Cuba’s socialist socio-economic model of development.

Fourth: Progress made toward meeting the objectives agreed upon by the First Party Conference and directives of the Party Central Committee First Secretary.

These are broad and complex documents which will mark the course of the Cuban revolutionary process, the Party and society, looking toward the future and the construction of a prosperous and sustainable socialism.

All are closely linked and must not be considered finished works or analyzed through a static or dogmatic lens. Following the discussions held during this event, just as we have done since the 6th Congress, they will be submitted to a periodic review process, maintaining a dynamic vision of their content.

Unlike the previous Congress when proposed Guidelines were submitted beforehand to an extensive consultation process involving party members, communist youth, and the general population – and the approved guidelines subsequently ratified by the National Assembly – on this occasion this process was not conducted, given that the work of this Congress is focused on ratifying and continuing to advance along on the lines agreed upon five years ago to update our social and economic model.

The four proposed documents presented at this event are the result of combined efforts, which saw the participation of university professors, academics, economic and social science scholars, as well as government and Party representatives.

The final versions of the proposals to be analyzed by their respective commissions were first discussed in two plenary sessions held by the Party Central Committee last December and January, a process in which over 900 opinions and suggestions were gathered. This led to the creation of new versions of the proposals which were reviewed by delegates to the Congress in meetings held in all provinces at the beginning of March, where opinions and proposals from over 3,500 invited guests representing different sectors of Cuban society, including deputies to the National Assembly, took the total number of contributions to 8,800.

For the first time in a Congress we will present a document related to the conceptualization of Cuba’s socio-economic model, which outlines the theoretical bases and essential characteristics of the social and economic model which we aspire to create through this updating process.

Over the last five years, eight versions of the document have been successively analyzed, first in the Political Bureau Commission for the implementation of the 6th Party Congress agreements, and later during Political Bureau and Central Committee plenary sessions, with the participation of the Council of Ministers.

For its part, the proposal related to the fundamental elements of the 2030 National Development Plan, is the result of over four years of work by academics and experts linked to government organizations and the Policy Implementation and Development Permanent Commission. The document addresses a transcendental issue, the technical complexity of which meant that we were unable to bring a completed version of the 2030 National Development Plan to this Congress, as was the original aim, but rather will present its fundamental elements, that is to say, the nation’s vision, priorities and strategic sectors, providing us with a formidable tool to continue working toward a completed proposal, which we hope will be ready by 2017.

In order to enrich and perfect these documents we propose that both, that is to say, the conceptualization and fundamentals of the National Development Plan, after being reviewed by the Congress, be submitted to a process of democratic discussions by members of the Party and Young Communist League, representatives of mass organizations and broad sectors of Cuban society.

Thus we request that the Congress grant the Central Committee the authority to make any necessary modifications that may result from the consultation process, including relevant adjustments to guidelines that might be approved during this event, as well as final approval of the documents.

We knew that the process of implementing the guidelines approved by the 6th Party Congress would not be an easy task; that we would face many obstacles and contradictions; and the essential transformations required to update our socio-economic model would take more than five years – an assessment which has thus far proven correct.

We have continued to steadily advance in this process, without haste, but without pause, that is, with the necessary speed and perspective to achieve success. The main obstacle we have faced, just as we had predicted, is the issue of out-dated mentalities, which give rise to an attitude of inertia or lack of confidence in the future. There also remain, as was to be expected, feelings of nostalgia for the less difficult times in the revolutionary process, when the Soviet Union and socialist camp existed. At the other extreme there have existed veiled ambitions to restore capitalism as a solution to our problems.

Despite this we have worked systematically and intensely to implement the guidelines, having fully applied 21% of the 313 approved, with 77% currently in the implementation phase, while 2% have not yet been initiated.

These figures do not clearly reflect the extent of efforts or substantial progress made thus far, as demonstrated by the approval of 130 policies and the establishment of 344 new legal regulations, the modification of 55 norms and the revocation of 684. However, above all, the implementation of approved policies has been delayed by the slow rate at which legal regulations have been put into practice and assimilated.

As a result of efforts undertaken in the policy implementation process and new tasks which were incorporated into the process of updating the country’s economic model, a revised proposal for the period 2016-2021 is being submitted to the Congress, with a total of 268 guidelines, 31 of which have not been modified, 193 of which have – with 44 new additions.

When evaluating the pace of transformations underway, we must not loose sight of the fact that in Cuba, we will never allow so-called “shock-therapies” to be applied, frequently used to the detriment of the poorest sectors of society. This premise, which corresponds to our principle that no one will be abandoned to their fate, greatly affects the speed of progress made in the process of updating the country’s economic model, while the impact of the global financial crisis and specifically the effects of the economic blockade against Cuba, are also undeniable.

Neoliberal policies which encourage the accelerated privatization of state property and social services, such as health, education and social security, will never be applied under Cuba’s socialist model. Even with its current economic limitations, Cuba has preserved and perfected social services for the population in the spheres of Education, Health, Culture, Sports and Social Security. However, we must continue to stress the importance of progressively improving the quality of these services.

Transformations made following the reorganization of these sectors, despite initial grievances and misunderstandings which were duly rectified with adjustments being made where necessary, have contributed to raising the quality of these services at a minimal cost, as demonstrated by health indicators, such as, to cite only one example, the country’s infant mortality rate of 4.2 for every 1,000 live births, a figure similar to that achieved in only a few of the most developed countries.
The number of educational centers has been reduced with almost 250,000 fewer boarding school students, due to the reorganization of the school network, while increasing enrollment in technical-professional schools has led to the successful restructuring of training systems for mid-level technicians and skilled workers.

A program to renovate facilities and equipment is currently underway in education.

In the national Public Health system, a series of measures designed to reorganize, rationalize and regionalize services is being carried out, with the aim of improving the health of the population, the quality of patient care and satisfaction, and the efficiency and sustainability of the sector, while also ensuring its continued development.

The perfecting of management structures and adjustments to staff rosters led to a reduction of 152,000 positions and over 20,000 doctors reallocated. These decisions, in addition to others geared toward ensuring a more rational use of resources, saw the Health budget decrease by more than two billion pesos.

Meanwhile, problems have been identified in regards to pharmacy supplies of imported and nationally produced medicines, while the existence of hygienic-sanitary conditions which contribute to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera, dengue, chikungunya and most recently the Zika virus, continue to persist. An action plan is currently being carried out to combat illnesses transmitted by the Aedes mosquito which must not be regarded as simply another health campaign, but must be sustainable over time.

Decisions made with regard to the Cuban economy will never, under any circumstance, mean a break with the ideals of equality and social justice of the Revolution and much less rupture the strong union between the majority of the people and the Party. Neither will we allow such measures to generate instability or uncertainty within the population.

This is why I insist on the need for much sensitivity and clear political vision in order to move forward in the process of implementing the Guidelines. It is important to ensure that the population is kept informed, to work with greater discipline and rigor, and a greater and closer monitoring transformations. As we have already said, our ears and feet must be firmly planted on the ground.

The most eloquent example of the complexity of the process is the country’s dual currency and exchange system, an issue which we have being working on continually for the last four years, and the solution to which will be found as soon as possible, given that, although it doesn’t represent the magic answer to the structural distortions of our economy, it will have an important impact on moving forward with the rest of the tasks related to the updating of the Cuban economic model.

The reorganization of the country’s currency system will contribute to establishing the necessary conditions to overcome the damaging effects of egalitarianism and fulfilling the socialist principle: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work.”

Following this precept it will be possible to rectify the so-called “inverted pyramid” situation, which does not allow work to be compensated in a fair manner, in accordance with its quantity, quality and complexity, or that living standards reflect citizens’ legal income, generating an unmotivated workforce and cadres, which also discourages employees from seeking out positions of greater responsibility.

Today is a fitting occasion to ratify, once again, the decision to protect bank accounts in international currencies, in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and Cuban National Pesos (CUP), as well as cash held by the population and national and foreign incorporated entities.

The state enterprise system, which constitutes the main management mode in the national economy, finds itself in at a disadvantage when compared to the growing non-state sector which benefits from working in monetary system with an exchange rate of one CUC to 25 CUP, while the state system operates on a basis of one CUC to one CUP. This serious distortion must be resolved as soon as possible and a single currency reestablished.

This anomaly in addition to the modest performance of our national economy, has prevented us from making substantial progress in the implementation of guidelines linked to the gradual elimination of unnecessary gratuities and excessive subsidies, bearing in mind that a general salary increase for all workers has still not been achieved, nor has the stable supply of certain goods in the unregulated market.

Despite the reduction or elimination of certain subsidized basic family goods, that is, from the famous ration book, which are now available in the unregulated market at non-subsidized prices, a high number of basic products and services continue to be subsidized.

On the other hand, Cuba’s increasingly aging population and high number of people migrating from the countryside to the cities, due to a series of socio-economic and cultural factors which are difficult to reverse, represent a strategic problem to the nation’s development. A policy to combat this situation was created, which included 76 measures and 252 actions, to be implemented gradually and in accordance with the performance of the economy with results seen over the long-term.

The Foreign Investment Policy was approved, recognized as important and necessary to the development of the country, and a new law put into effect, which while offering incentives and legal protection to investors, also preserves national sovereignty, ensures the protection of the environment and rational use of natural resources.

The Mariel Special Development Zone was built and offers additional incentives to attract national and foreign investors. The Zone also benefits from a legal framework and the necessary infrastructure to establish and expand production with the aim of generating exports and substituting imports; promoting exchanges of technology and management systems about which the country knows practically nothing; creating jobs and long-term sources of financing; and developing logistics to facilitate high levels of efficiency.

Without underestimating in the slightest the obstacles presented by the U.S. blockade and its extraterritorial application, we must do away with archaic prejudices toward foreign investment and continue to advance with the formulation, design, and establishment of businesses.

The destination of investments has changed substantially, if we consider that five years ago the production and infrastructure sectors received 45% of investments, which had risen to 70% in 2015. Furthermore, greater rigor and control in ensuring that investment plans are successfully carried out has also been seen, with an overall improvement seen in relevant indicators. However, issues still remain with regard to quality assurance and availability of a suitably qualified and motivated work force, while poor planning and a lack of comprehensiveness persist, the result of inadequate training, which leads to deadlines not being met and problems with the quality of work.

In an effort to strengthen the role of the socialist state enterprise and its autonomy, we have advanced in the separation of state roles from those of enterprises, gradually modifying relations between government bodies and enterprises, with directors afforded greater faculties in order to successfully carry out their responsibilities.

None the less, this process will not be completed in a matter of days, weeks or months, but will continue over the medium and long term at the rate at which organizational conditions are consolidated, workers adequately trained, and the habit of waiting for instructions from above is overcome, replaced by an attitude which encourages the use of one’s initiative and an enterprising spirit.

At the same time the processes to perfect Central State Administration bodies and national entities has also continued to advance, including the first stage in global organizations and the productive sector. The process was concluded in four: four entities have either been liquidated or combined; while similar measures are currently being initiated in another 13. Work with organizations linked to providing key services to the population continues.

Also underway is the experimental project in the provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque, with a view toward their subsequent generalization, which, among other aspects involves separating the functions of the Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power leadership and those of the Administration Council, allowing the Assemblies to focus their attention on their work with delegates, people’s councils, and the work of commissions responsible for supervision and fiscal control.

The application of the new local administrative model has seen a notable reduction in positions within these bodies at a provincial and municipal level, without disrupting their functioning, but rather strengthening their ability to carry out the state role assigned to them.

Just as was expressed in the conclusions of the proposed report regarding the results of the Guideline implementation process, there continue to exist shortcomings and deficiencies in state organizations and entities, including by the Policy Implementation and Development Permanent Commission itself, causing delays in the application of certain measures, drawing up of incomplete proposals or of limited scope, above all regarding risk assessment, and the accurate determination of cost-benefit relations for certain measures.

Problems with the implementation and supervision of approved policies, and the dissemination and training at different levels of leadership have also been identified. In regards to the latter aspect, it was discovered that certain individuals believed that the problem would be solved by simply creating a document and sending it from one end of the country to the other, and requesting that cadres study it. In the follow up, we saw that everyone had applied the policy in its own way; such as the case of Resolution no.17 of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which I will speak about briefly later.

In some cases there has been a complete lack of a sense of urgency to deal with undesired results which, in certain instances, have even gone against the spirit of the measures adopted, meaning that if the digression is not combated when it is still small, as it is generalized, finding an adequate solution then becomes a political problem.

A clear example of this is the increase in prices for agricultural products, a phenomenon which has seen the resurgence of a trend of speculation and hoarding, benefiting the few and negatively impacting the majority of the population.

Although we understand that the fundamental factor in the rising prices resides in insufficient production levels unable to satisfy demand, with progress made in this area affected by objective and subjective factors, we can not remain unresponsive to citizen’s frustration at the unscrupulous manipulation of prices by intermediaries whose sole consideration is to make more money.

Recognizing the market in the functioning of the our socialist economy does not mean that the Party, government and mass organizations are no longer fulfilling their role in society – which is to combat any situation which may harm the population, nor must we adopt the attitude that “it’s a government matter, so I can’t get involved.” We must remember that I, the party, I, the government, at any level, I, a member of a mass organization am involved in solving any problem that might affect our people (Applause).

You, and above all the deputies present here will remember that this issue was barley discussed in Parliament and we took a long time to react, which is why I immediately supported Second Party Secretary, compañero Machado Ventura, when he took off around the country to confront this problem (Applause).

The conclusion we should draw from this event, and many others, is that the worst that could happen, the worst thing a revolutionary or simple honest person, Communist or not, could do is fail to react to a problem. We do not have the right to remain unresponsive, especially given the times in which we are living and the changes we are introducing. This is an experience worth remembering, as it is one of hundreds, if not thousands of similar examples seen in the enormous task which we are undertaking to improve our country and our socialism.

The introduction of the rules of supply and demand is not at odds with the principle of planning. Both concepts can coexist and complement each other for the benefit of the country, as has been successfully shown by China’s reform process and the renovation process in Vietnam, as they call it. We have used the term updating to describe our process as we are not changing the fundamental objectives of the Revolution.

Positive aspects of this process are the experiences seen in several provinces with the recent adoption of a series of organizational measures, among them, an increase in stockpiling in order to guarantee products in state markets, prompting a reduction in supply and demand chain prices: a matter which requires constant monitoring by all institutions involved.

In these circumstances, wages and pensions are still unable to satisfy the basic needs of Cuban families. Although the average wage increased by 43% in the period 2010-2015, this was concentrated in the last two years, a result of decisions benefiting Public Health workers, foreign investment, the sports sector and through the decentralization of state enterprise sector payment systems. However, it has not been possible to extend wage increases outlined in the approved policy to the majority of budgeted activities.

Although the implementation of the new payment system linking wages to results established in Resolution no.17 of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which I referred to a moment ago, did on the whole contribute to motivating workers and increasing productivity, which I was personally able to observe while visiting different factories and speaking with workers, it is true that multiple deficiencies were also identified, fundamentally linked to inadequate preparation of the prerequisite conditions, including training of enterprise managers and follow-up.

Additionally, in regards to this question, delays in correcting conceptual incongruencies, revealed once systems were applied, were noted.

These experiences teach us that the creation of well-crafted normative documents is not enough, that those directly responsible for the implementation process must be adequately prepared and must periodically receive training updates in order to successfully apply these important actions, their understanding of the regulations must also be verified while managers must ensure that these norms are systematically put in to practice, and must be able to react in a timely fashion to digressions, so as to prevent them from escalating into a greater political problems.

Our National Hero, José Martí, asserted that “to govern is to foresee.” What simple words, only three! Is it possible that some of our officials really find it that difficult to learn these three words from Martí’s teachings? I mean, truly “to govern is to foresee.” We must learn to anticipate in order to avoid a plethora of problems. I must point out that, in general, during the implementation of the Guidelines we have not anticipated enough, or reacted quickly enough to rectify shortcomings.

In addition to not foreseeing, later we began to think about how to resolve the problem that was created, and we do not have the necessary agility to immediately confront the problem. I am speaking with all frankness, as appropriate in a congress of our Communist Party and in all meetings of Communists.

The expansion of the non-state sector of the economy has continued, as state employment was reduced from 81.2% in 2010 to 70.8% in 2015. Just over half a million Cubans are registered as self-employed; they provide services and generate much-needed production. An atmosphere that does not discriminate against or stigmatize duly authorized self-employment is being defined; however there have been cases of corruption and illegalities, the confrontation of which has proved, once again, to be too little too late, as is the example of evasive behaviors in terms of tax payments and illegal exercise of prohibited activities.

We reaffirm the socialist principle of the predominance of the ownership of all the people over the basic means of production, as well as the need to relieve the State of other activities not decisive to the development of the nation.

Just as we aspire to greater efficiency and quality in state sector production and services, we also favor the success of non-state forms of management, on the basis, in all cases, of strict compliance with current legislation.

The creation and operation of non-agricultural cooperatives continues in an experimental phase, mainly in trade, gastronomy, technical services, mini-industry and construction.

Within this activity, some achievements have also been made, but deficiencies have likewise been revealed, which stem from insufficient preparation and dissemination of the approved policy and regulations issued – to which we have referred on various occasions in this report – inadequate organization and accounting control, price increases and limited access to supplies and services in the wholesale market.

At the same time, the management and control of this experiment by the corresponding bodies has been unsuitable, which is why we decided to focus efforts on consolidating already created cooperatives and to advance gradually.

Amid an unfavorable international environment, characterized by the global economic crisis that began at the end of the last decade, in the five-year period between 2011-2015 the gross domestic product of our country grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%, not enough to ensure the creation of the productive and infrastructure conditions required to advance development and improve the population’s consumption.

In this complex context, a series of measures aimed at the reorganization of the external finances of the country and in particular the restructuring of debt were implemented, an area in which significant results have been achieved which, together with the fulfillment of financial commitments made, contributes to restoring the international credibility of the Cuban economy and favors greater possibilities for trade, investment and financing for development.

We can not pull back in this sphere and with this aim we must ensure a proper balance in the taking of loans and their structure, the payment of restructured debts, the current debt, and compliance with the plan. We must never again fall into debt.

Furthermore, a set of measures are being introduced designed to remove obstacles that discouraged the different productive forms of our agriculture, but these have not yet matured and the growth rate of agricultural production is still insufficient, while, on average, each year the country must spend approximately two billion dollars on food imports, half of which we could produce in Cuba and even export the surplus.

The export of medical services and tourism continue to expand, contributing more than half of the hard currency earnings of the country, while the influence of traditional exports, hit by falling prices, is reduced.

This reality confirms the benefit in continuing to diversify our sources of income, in order to never again depend on a single market or product, and to develop mutually beneficial trade and cooperation relations with all countries, setting a proper balance in this sphere.

The undeniable international prestige of Cuban medicine, a genuine product of the Revolution and the untiring efforts of compañero Fidel, holds huge potential which is still not exploited in all its dimensions, for example the provision of medical services to foreign patients in Cuba, for which investments are being made which will also ultimately benefit the Cuban population, which accesses public health care free of charge.

In regards to tourism, in the years since the 6th Congress, more than 10,900 new rooms were put into operation and a further 7,000 were renovated, complemented by an increase of over 14,000 rooms rented in CUC by self-employed workers, and the deployment of additional hotel facilities and services, which have facilitated the continued upward trend in this important branch of the economy, which has great potential to promote the development of other sectors and generate production linkages.

The hotel investment program in the country’s major destinations is running smoothly and the construction of iconic luxury hotels in the capital has resumed to address the accommodations deficit. Each hotel inaugurated is another factory that generates within our borders much needed export income for the country.

Last year for the first time the figure of three and a half million visitors was surpassed. The competitiveness of the Cuban tourist product has been consolidated in several source markets, without ignoring the present deficiencies that conspire against the quality of services.

Conditions are being shaped to ensure that in the period 2016-2020, we obtain better results and the foundations are created in our economy for sustainable economic-social development.

In the introductory part of this report we explained that for the first time a Draft conceptualization of the Cuban economic and social model is being presented to the most important event of our Party.

The main objective of this document is to clearly present and establish the core features of the model, to serve as a theoretical and conceptual guide to the construction of socialism in Cuba, in line with our own characteristics and efforts, on the basis of the history of the nation and the revolutionary process, national culture, domestic conditions and the international situation, as well as the experiences of the processes of socialist economic and social development in other countries.

The principles underpinning the conceptualization are based on Marti’s legacy, Marxism-Leninism, the thought of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, and the very achievements of the Revolution.

As I explained, the theoretical and practical complexity of this draft document and its momentous implications looking to the future, suggest that it should not be approved within the framework of this Congress. Instead, we propose to delegates that the debate continue and that this draft is adopted in principle, to serve as a basis for the profound and democratic process of analysis by the Party and Young Communist League ranks, as well as by broad sectors of our society, the results of which will be submitted for final approval to the Central Committee. In other words, for the above reasons, to continue discussion in municipalities, and with the democratic participation of the entire Party, youth, representatives of mass organizations, etc., in order to complete its elaboration, and that the Party Central Committee be authorized to approve it. In addition, it will be presented to the National Assembly, the supreme organ of state power, responsible for providing it with it legal validity.

One of the novel aspects that has attracted the most attention and even some controversy, is the question of property relations, and logically so, as depending on the predominance of one form of ownership over another, a country’s social system is determined.

In socialist and sovereign Cuba, the ownership of the basic means of production by all the people is and will continue to be the main form of the national economy and the socio-economic system and therefore constitutes the basis of the actual power of workers.

The recognition of the existence of private property has generated more than a few honest concerns from participants in the discussions prior to the Congress, who expressed concerns that on doing so we would be taking the first steps towards the restoration of capitalism in Cuba. In my role as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party, I have the duty to assert that this is not, in the least, the purpose of this conceptual idea.

This is precisely about, compañeras and compañeros, calling things by their name and not hiding behind illogical euphemisms to mask reality. The increase in self-employment and the authorization to contract a workforce has led in practice to the existence of medium, small and micro private enterprises which today operate without proper legal status and are regulated under the law by a regulatory framework designed for individuals engaged in small business conducted by the worker and his/her family.

Guideline No.3 approved by the 6th Congress and which we intend to maintain and strengthen in the updated draft categorically specifies that “In the forms of non-state management, the concentration of property shall not be allowed” and it is added “nor of wealth”; therefore, the private company will operate within well-defined limits and will constitute a complementary element in the economic framework of the country, all of which should be regulated by law.

We are not naive nor do we ignore the aspirations of powerful external forces that are committed to what they call the “empowerment” of non-state forms of management, in order to create agents of change in the hope of putting an end to the Revolution and socialism in Cuba by other means.

Cooperatives, self-employment and medium, small and micro private enterprise are not in their essence anti-socialist or counter-revolutionary and the enormous majority of those who work in them are revolutionaries and patriots who defend the principles and benefit from the achievements of this Revolution.

The fourth draft of the aforementioned documents submitted to the 7th Congress is the one referring to the work of the Party in fulfilling the objectives approved at its First National Conference. On this point I think there has been progress in overcoming methods and work styles that fostered supplanting and interference by the Party in functions and decisions which are the responsibility of the state, government and administrative institutions. Instead the exercise of party leadership and supervision of the implementation of the agreements of the 6th Congress have been systematically developed, while acting in conjunction with the authorities in the direct response to situations that affect the population, as we have noted.

The moral authority of the Party requires of its members, particularly those who hold leadership responsibilities, exemplary behavior; combativeness; preparation; demonstrated ethical, political and ideological qualities; and close and permanent ties with the masses.

The Party has continued to promote the participation of collectives of workers, students and the people in the implementation of the policies and measures relating to the process of updating the economic model, helping to transform the actions of militants, Party units and cadres, by systematically taking advantage of the opinions and proposals of the masses.

Likewise, a greater link and attention from the Party to the Young Communist League, student organizations and youth movements, has been achieved with the aim of strengthening its role and developing political-ideological work with members and the youth, which presupposes the defense of their organizational independence and encouraging their initiatives.

At the same time the Party has prioritized attention to mass organizations, which in this period undertook considerable transformations in their tasks and held their respective congresses, during the preparation and development of which a broad debate on the functioning of these organizations, the fulfillment of their functions and political-ideological work was generated.

We have noted that the strengthening of ties between the Party and the rest of our bodies and entities with different institutions, religious organizations and fraternal associations in the various facets of national life, has continued, which has contributed to the unity of Cubans, believers and nonbelievers.

It must be fully taken into account that to the extent that the implementation of the new model advances, a different scenario for Party organization will take shape, characterized by the increasing heterogeneity of sectors and groups in our society, originating from differences in their income. All this poses the challenge of preserving and strengthening national unity in different circumstances to those that we became accustomed to in earlier stages.

Article No. 5 of the Constitution of the Republic establishes the Communist Party of Cuba as the highest leading force of society and the state, which organizes and guides the common efforts toward building socialism.

The statutes of the organization define it as the faithful continuator of the Cuban Revolutionary Party founded by Martí to lead the struggle for independence, the first Communist Party symbolized by Carlos Baliño and Julio Antonio Mella and the result of the voluntary union of the three revolutionary organizations that led the struggle against the Batista dictatorship.

In Cuba we have a single Party, of which we are proud, which represents and guarantees the unity of the Cuban nation, the main strategic arm on which we have relied to build the work of the Revolution and defend it from all kinds of threats and aggression. It is therefore no coincidence that we are attacked and demands made of us, from almost all over the planet, to weaken us, to divide us into several parties in the name of sacrosanct bourgeois democracy. These are concepts that should not give rise to confusion, not today, not ever. If they manage some day to fragment us, it would be the beginning of the end, never forget that! If they manage some day to fragment us, it would be the beginning of the end in our homeland, of the Revolution, socialism and national independence, forged with the resistance and sacrifice of several generations of Cubans since 1868.

I think you should allow me a small anecdote, very real, that I tell and enjoy a lot and would like to share with you.

Naturally, I have had to discuss and meet a lot with representatives from different levels of the United States, and some that, although not from the U.S. represent other countries and also the U.S. When we come to discuss human rights, as we have said we are ready to discuss all these issues…They have passed me a note saying: “We are live.” I think that what we are is alive (Laughter and applause).

I enjoy and I want all who are kind enough to watch us live, including from abroad, to enjoy it. We have said we are ready to discuss all human rights.

Reviewing documents the other day about the treaties and conventions in this area, which no one meets in full, it turns out that we are part of 44, and the United States of just 18. I have told you that as long as they intend to continue politicizing human rights, this is not going to advance; for example, for us, equal pay for equal work, whether for a man or woman, is a human right. In other countries, including the United States, it is not, women earn less and thus dozens of supposed human rights can be cited.

Free medical care in Cuba is a human right, in how many countries in the world is it? In many, this is not a human right, it is a business. In our country, education is free, in how many countries of the world is education free? It’s a business, too. That is, we will discuss this issue of human rights with anyone and anywhere whatsoever, and we will recognize those who are in the right.

What I enjoy most, when talking about political rights, is when they say to me that in Cuba there is only one party. And I answer them, “Yes, like you, you have a single party,” and the North Americans answer me: “No, we have two.” And as if I did not know, they tell me their names, “Democratic and Republican.” “Correct, that’s right, it’s the same as if we were to have two parties in Cuba, Fidel would head one and I the other” (Laughter and applause).

Surely Fidel would say: “I want to lead the Communist one,” I would say, “Well, I will lead the other, no matter the name” (Laughter).

As we noted, here there were three organizations: the July 26th Movement, the Popular Socialist Party and the March 13 Revolutionary Directorate. We could have formed three parties; but all agreed on the need to unite to form a single party, and to merge our respective newspapers, to be stronger; all their leaders had a great and decisive attitude in taking that step, why are we going to divide ourselves now? What it must be is a very democratic party, which is what we aspire to, and that any problem can be discussed in depth and completely freely.

The CTC itself – the workers must unite to be stronger – in any Western press agency where you might read something that refers to our Workers’ Federation, they add in parentheses: the only one, as if that were a crime. They want to shape the world – you already know who I mean: the United States and all those accompanying them – to adjust the world to their advantage, that is what they want to do, and that’s why today we must be more alert than ever. They themselves have said: 50 years of blockade did not work and we could not isolate Cuba, on the contrary, we were running the risk of isolating ourselves in Latin America. We must change that. And how are they going to change this? With other methods, more difficult to combat. Hence the importance of these issues which must be sufficiently clear in our minds and in our people.

It is worth reiterating that these are concepts that should not give rise to confusion, not today, not ever. If they manage some day to fragment us, it would be the beginning of the end in our homeland, of the Revolution, socialism and national independence, forged with the resistance and sacrifice of several generations of Cubans since 1868.

The existence of a single party presupposes stimulating the broadest and frankest exchange of views, both within the party organization and in its link to the grassroots with the workers and the population. The Party is obliged to permanently strengthen and perfect our democracy, for which it is essential to definitively overcome false unanimity, formalism and simulation. The Party has the duty to promote and guarantee the increasing participation of citizens in fundamental decisions of society. We have no fear of different opinions or disagreement, as only frank and honest discussion of differences between revolutionaries will lead to the best decisions.

We know that the Party and the Revolution have the majority support of the people, this is a fact that nobody can deny, however, we are aware that in certain sectors of the population there are manifestations of a lack of commitment and interest in the affairs of our political life, and negative opinions remain regarding the merit of some members and cadres, as well as their disengagement from our people.

In the most recent period we have seen an increase in actions aimed at fostering the values of a consumer society; division, apathy, discouragement, alienation, and a lack of confidence in the leadership of the Revolution and the Party, sowing a matrix of opinions that attempts to present us as a society without a future.

Illegal and disorderly emigration of youth and specialists from various sectors is encouraged under the Cuban Adjustment Act, the “wet foot-dry foot” policy and the Parole Program, that is, permission to reside in the United States, granted with absolute speed, for our doctors, who provide services abroad, issues to which I shall refer later.

In these circumstances, it is necessary to strengthen intelligent, solid and systematic preventive work and raise the demands and supervision by the bodies responsible for confronting political and ideological subversion, and increase the combativity of members, vigilance in work places and ideological work with younger generations, strengthening the irreplaceable role of the family and school. I repeat: Strengthening the irreplaceable role of the family and school!

Progress has been made in measures aimed at forging a culture of communication in the country and manifestations of secrecy have declined, however informative gaps and misinterpretations continue to present themselves, as dissemination of progress in the updating and implementation of approved policies is not yet sufficient.

The influence on our reality of the complexities of the world in which we live, the policy of hostility and harassment, the actions aimed at introducing platforms for neoliberal thought and the restoration of capitalism supported by a perverse strategy of political-ideological subversion, which undermine the very essence of the Revolution and Cuban culture, history and the values forged within it, the undeniable existence of accumulated problems in society, to which are added the process of the implementation of the Guidelines itself and the profound changes in which we are immersed, as well as the new scenario of relations between Cuba and the United States, are facts that present greater challenges to ideological efforts. These programs target sectors that the enemy identifies as the most vulnerable and include young people, intellectuals, workers associated with non-state forms of management, and communities with greater material and financial difficulties.

At the same time as we safeguard the historical memory of the nation and perfect differentiated ideological work, with special emphasis on youth and children, we must reinforce anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist culture among ourselves, fighting with arguments, conviction and resolve the attempts at establishing patterns of petty bourgeois ideology characterized by individualism, selfishness, the pursuit of profit, banality, and the intensifying of consumerism.

The best antidote to political subversion is working with integrity and without improvisation, doing things well, improving the quality of services to the population, not allowing problems to accumulate, enhancing knowledge of the history of Cuba, national identity and culture, exalting the pride of being Cuban and fostering an atmosphere of legality, defense of public property, respect for the dignity of people, values and social discipline across the country.

The development of the national economy, together with the struggle for peace and ideological resolve, constitute the main missions of the Party. The economy continues to be the key unresolved task and political-ideological work is a permanent issue intimately linked with the economic battle, as it ensures the conscious, active and committed participation of the majority of the population in the process of updating the economic and social model.

In terms of cadre policy we have also advanced, although we are not yet satisfied. There have been important steps taken in the preparation and retraining of party, state, government and business cadres, although specific preparation for assigned roles must be insisted on.

We do not ignore the negative influence of objective and subjective factors in this area, such as the aforementioned phenomenon of the inverted pyramid, which favor the fluctuation of cadres and the lack of motivation to commit to assigned missions.

Huge potential is lost due to inadequate work with the cadre reserves and the weak influence of those responsible in the process of their selection and training, which favors people without commitment and ethics being promoted to responsibilities linked to the control and supply of material and financial resources, creating a favorable environment for corruption and other illegalities and indiscipline.

At the same time, the promotion of women, young people, Black and mixed race Cubans to senior positions has progressively and steadily increased, on the basis of merit in their gradual transition through different responsibilities and personal qualifications. However, we are not satisfied with the results achieved, as old habits and prejudices persist which conspire against Party cadre policy.

The fight against any trace of racism that impedes or halts the rise to leadership roles of Black and mixed race Cubans, the number of whom in the total Cuban population has continued to rise in census after census, must continue without respite. To consolidate the results in this important and just policy of the Revolution, we must work systematically, with foresight and intentionality. A matter of this importance can not be at the mercy of spontaneity or improvisation.

The number of women in decision-making positions rose – a little, but it rose, in roles in which decisions are made; i.e. there was an increase – but the figures still don’t express the potential we have, as women are 49% of the workforce in the civil sector and 66.8% of the best technically and professionally qualified workforce of the country. However, only 38% of positions in state bodies, government agencies, national entities, Administration Councils and Central Organizations of Enterprise Management, are occupied by women.

I stand by the strictest truth when I affirm, based on my experience in many years of Revolution, that women, generally, are more mature and better managers than men. Therefore, although I recognize the progress made, I believe that under the leadership of the Party, the promotion of our combative females should continue rising, especially to decision-making positions nationwide.

In the Central Report to the 6th Congress I referred to the need to gradually undertake, without precipitation or improvisations, the creation of a properly prepared reserve of cadres, with sufficient experience and maturity to take on the new and complex tasks of leadership in the Party, the state and the government. I also expressed the benefit and need to limit the exercise of fundamental political and state positions to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms, which will be determined by the Central Committee in the case of the Party and mass organizations, and our Parliament as regards the State and government.

I believe that this matter of strategic importance has also advanced, although the next five years, for obvious reasons, will be decisive and we must introduce additional limits on the composition of the higher bodies of the Party, that is to say, the Central Committee, the Secretariat and the Political Bureau, a transitional process that should be implemented and conclude with the celebration of the next Congress. This is a five-year period of transition to avoid doing things in haste. It is not about getting rid of one person to replace them with another who is 10 years younger and so on. We are behind, and what we want to do, precisely, is to ensure that this flows naturally, and it must be well stipulated in the laws or regulations to be established.

We propose establishing 60 as the maximum age to join the Central Committee.

The inclusion of younger alternate members on the Central Committee could also be established at another time. The idea is to have a method, a route, a proposal to ensure that we are never surprised by things, that they evolve naturally. In this case, in the future, new members must be less than 60 years of age. No one should think that if you can’t be at a certain leadership level of the country, you can’t do anything, but the experience of some countries has shown us that this is never positive, and even though it is a well-known secret, never forget, that during the final stage of the Soviet Union, over a short period of time, three First Secretaries of the Party died.

That is why we propose establishing 60 as the maximum age to join the Central Committee, and 70 to assume a leadership position in the Party, which in addition to the limit of two consecutive terms in political positions, will guarantee the systematic rejuvenation of the entire system of Party cadre, from the grassroots. And I repeat that subsequently this will need to be regulated precisely, because there will be those who at 75 or 80 years of age can undertake an important task, but not an important leadership activity, for obvious reasons, and because of the very experience with which we are speaking to you.

As is logical, if this proposal is approved by the Congress, appropriate modifications will be made to the Party Statutes. We believe that this same policy must be implemented in state and government institutions, and in mass organizations.

In my case, it is no secret that my second term as President of the Councils of State and Ministers will conclude in 2018, and I will relinquish these responsibilities to whoever is elected.

These modifications in the area of positions and age limits on the assumption of leadership roles must be established in the Constitution of the Republic, which we propose reforming in the next few years, taking into account the important transformations associated with the updating of our economic and social model, and its conceptualization. Everything we have been doing must be reflected in the Constitution, at the moment that modifications which must be included are ready, and above all, when they have been discussed by the population.

The current Constitution, approved by popular referendum in 1976, 40 years ago, and partially reformed in 1992 and 2002, reflects historical circumstances, and social and economic conditions, which have changed with the passing of time, and the current implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution.

The process of reform, which must be previously approved by the National Assembly, in accordance with its constituent powers, implies broad popular participation, including the holding of a constitutional referendum.

This will be an opportunity to codify in our Carta Magna other issues which require a constitutional foundation.

I must emphasize that within the scope of these constitutional changes, we will propose reaffirming the irrevocable nature of the political and social system established in the current Constitution, which includes the leadership role of the Communist Party of Cuba in our society, (Applause) which is Article 5 in the current Constitution.

I will devote a few reflections to the issue of defense. In doing so, it is appropriate to recall Fidel’s words in the First Congress Central Report, when he said, “As long as imperialism exists, the Party, the State and the people will pay maximum attention to our defense services. Revolutionary vigilance will never be neglected. History teaches with great eloquence that those who forget this principle do not survive the mistake.”

The doctrine of the whole people’s war constitutes the strategic foundation of the country’s defense, and establishes that every Cuban must know and have access to the means, a place, and a way, to struggle against the enemy, under the direction of the Party, in a single political-military and economic system of preparation and conducting of the war. If aggressors attempt to occupy Cuba, they will be obliged to face millions of Cuban men and women in a mortal wasps’ nest, without a front, rearguard, or flanks, with no respite either, day or night.

As we have done every four years since 1980, we plan to conduct the 2016 Bastion Strategic Exercise in November, with the goal of updating and training directors, chiefs, and leadership bodies and commands, in regards to the conduction of actions included in the country’s defensive plans. As is customary, this activity will conclude with a celebration, a weekend, of two National Defense Days, with massive popular participation.

A few days later, December 2, we will reach the 60th anniversary of the Granma landing, the date which marks the founding of our Revolutionary Armed Forces and which we will commemorate with a Military Review dedicated to compañero Fidel’s 90th birthday (Prolonged applause) and to our courageous youth, who will participate with a compact, impressive bloc which will close the parade, as the heirs and continuators of the Cuban people’s long history of glories in battle.

Compañeras and compañeros:

Since the 6th Congress, numerous events and substantive changes in the international arena have occurred.

Fifteen months have transpired since we announced, simultaneously with President Barack Obama, the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, on the basis of sovereign equality, non-interference in domestic affairs, and absolute respect for our independence. Hours before this speech, Fidel’s promise to the Cuban people was kept, with the completion of the return to the homeland of the Cuban Five. (Applause)

We have reached this point thanks to the heroic resistance and sacrifice of the Cuban people, and their loyalty to the Revolution’s ideals and principles, supported by decisive international solidarity, made clear in multiple events and international organizations, in particular the overwhelming votes in the United Nations General Assembly against the blockade.

The political map of Our America had changed, given the advance of political forces on the left and popular movements, which contributed to progress in regional integration, symbolized by the constituting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in December of 2011.

All of this placed the United States in an untenable situation of isolation within the hemisphere, and put the so-called inter-American system in crisis, as was made evident by the demand to end the blockade and opposition to the exclusion of Cuba from the 6th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, in 2012.

On the other hand, changes have been occurring in U.S. society, and in the Cuban émigré community, in favor of the modification of the United States’ policy toward Cuba.

In April of last year, we attended the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, with our heads held high. Repeating here the opinions expressed on that occasion is not necessary.

Throughout the period which has transpired since December of 2014, concrete results have been achieved in the dialogue and in cooperation between Cuba and the United States. Nevertheless, the economic, commercial and financial blockade, imposed more than half a century ago, remains in force, with unquestionably intimidating, extraterritorial effects, although we recognize the position taken by President Obama and high-ranking administration officials against the blockade, and their repeated appeals to Congress in the interest of eliminating it.

The measures announced prior to his visit to Havana, to introduce some modifications in the blockade’s implementation, on the basis of his executive powers, are positive but insufficient.

As we expressed in the meeting between the two Presidents with the press, to advance toward normalization of relations, it is imperative to eliminate the blockade, which causes our population hardship and constitutes the principal obstacle to economic development of the country; and return the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base against the will of the Cuban government and people.

Likewise, programs directed toward changing the political, economic and social system, which we have chosen sovereignly, must be ended, along with other damaging policies still in effect.

Migratory policy continues to be used as a weapon against the Revolution. The Cuban Adjustment Law, the “wet foot-dry foot” policy, and the Parole program for Cuban medical professionals remain in effect, to encourage illegal and unsafe emigration, and seeking to deprive us of qualified personnel.

These practices do not reflect the stated change of policy toward Cuba, and generate difficulties for third countries.

There are more than a few U.S. government officials who upon recognizing the failure of their policy toward Cuba, make no attempt to disguise their affirmations that the goals remain the same, only the means are being modified.

We are willing to carry out a respectful dialogue and construct a new type of relationship with the United States, one which has never existed between the two countries, because we are convinced that this alone could produce mutual benefits.

However, it is imperative to reiterate that no one should assume that to achieve this Cuba must renounce the Revolution’s principles, or make concessions to the detriment of its sovereignty and independence, or forego the defense of its ideals or the exercise of its foreign policy – committed to just causes, the defense of self-determination, and our traditional support to sister countries.

As the Constitution of the Republic stipulates, “Economic, diplomatic or political relations with any other state can never be negotiated under aggression, threats, or coercion by a foreign power.”

The road to normalization of bilateral ties is long and complex, and we will advance to the extent we are capable of putting into practice the art of civilized coexistence, or in other words, accept and respect our differences which are, and will be, profound; not making them the center of our relations, but rather concentrating on what brings us closer and not what separates us, promoting what is beneficial to both countries.

Relations with the United States have historically represented a challenge for Cuba, given their permanent pretension of exercising domination over our nation, and the determination of Cubans to be free and independent, regardless of the dangers to be faced, or the price we would have to pay. (Applause)

The people’s unity with the Party, its profound patriotism and political culture, which have allowed us to confront the policy of aggression and hostility, will serve as a shield to defeat any attempt to undermine the revolutionary spirit of Cubans. This will be a challenge, especially for the youngest, who the Party recognizes as the continuators of the Revolution’s work and of the patriotic convictions of their grandparents and parents.

We are grateful for the support we have received over many years from the international community, political parties and movements, social organizations, intellectuals, academics, the religious, artists, trade union leaders, farmers and students, friends in solidarity groups, who from all parts of the world have accompanied us in our struggle. We know we can continue to count on them in the battle to construct a better world. To all, we reaffirm that you will always have the unconditional support and solidarity of an eternally revolutionary and internationalist Cuba.

Latin America and the Caribbean find themselves experiencing the effects of a strong, articulated counteroffensive, on the part of imperialism and oligarchies, against revolutionary and progressive governments, in a difficult context marked by the deceleration of the economy, which has negatively impacted the continuity of policies directed toward development and social inclusion, and the conquests won by popular sectors.

This reactionary attack uses methods and technologies specific to the new doctrine of unconventional war, especially in the area of communications and culture, without ruling out attempts at destabilization and coups.

This policy is principally directed toward the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and has been intensified in recent months in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil, as well as Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Recent setbacks for governments of the left in the hemisphere are being used to announce the end of a progressive historical cycle, opening the way for the return of neoliberalism and demoralization of political forces and parties, social movements and working classes, which we must confront with more unity and increased articulation of revolutionary action.

We hold the firm conviction that the Venezuelan people will defend the legacy of our beloved compañero Hugo Chávez Frías, and prevent the dismantling of the accomplishments achieved. To the Bolivarian and Chavista Revolution, to President Maduro and his government, and to the civic-military union of the Venezuelan people, we reiterate our solidarity, our commitment, and energetic rejection of efforts to isolate Venezuela while dialoging with Cuba.

We demand that the sovereignty and independence of states be respected, and that interference in domestic affairs cease. At the same time, we reaffirm our firm support to all revolutionary and progressive governments, headed by prestigious leaders, whose economic and social policies have led to justice, dignity, sovereignty, and tangible benefits for the great majority, in the world’s most unequal region.

Also being renewed are efforts by the United States and their allies to undermine unity and the process of regional integration, frustrate the advance of CELAC, ALBA, UNASUR, and others, through a supposed reform of the inter-American system, in particular the OAS, attempting to promote the leading role of other schemes more compatible with their hegemonic interests.

We will never forget that the OAS – the Organization of American States – founded by the United States during the second half of the past century, at the beginning of the Cold War, has only served interests which contradict those of Our America. This organization, rightly described as the “Ministry of colonies” of the United States by the Foreign Minister of Dignity, compañero Raúl Roa García, was the one that sanctioned Cuba, and was ready to offer support and recognition to a puppet government, if the mercenary invasion at Playa Girón had been successful. The list of actions it took against the nascent Cuban Revolution, and other revolutionary and progressive governments, is interminable.

Despite the fact that we have never encouraged other countries to abandon this organization, I must reiterate what was expressed in Brazil, some years ago now, paraphrasing José Martí, that before Cuba returns to the OAS, “the ocean of the North will join the ocean of the South, and a serpent will be born from the egg of an eagle.”

It is imperative to continue moving forward with the consolidation of CELAC as a mechanism of genuinely Latin American and Caribbean joint political action, based on the concept of unity in diversity. The Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by heads of state and government during the Second Summit held in Havana, remains in full force, and its principles should govern relations between our states and also at the international level.

We will maintain our efforts, as we have to date, to encourage the peace process in Colombia.

Cuba’s tradition of support to the Republic of Argentina’s efforts to recover sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands, is unchanged.

We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico, and their aspirations for self-determination and independence, as we likewise reject all forms of colonialism.

We will continue to advocate, currently from the Presidency of the Association of Caribbean States, for full regional integration, and defend the legitimate interests of Caribbean nations in terms of economic and environmental issues, and in support of the just demand for compensation for the terrible consequences of slavery and colonialism. We will continue giving special priority to our cooperation with Haiti.

The sister peoples of the Third World which are making an effort to transform the legacy of centuries of colonial domination, know they can always count on the solidarity and support of Cuba, and that we will continue fulfilling our cooperation commitments, on the basis of sharing what we have, not what we have left over.

A confirmation of this was the heroic participation of Cuban medical personnel in the struggle against Ebola, which received international recognition.

We will continue to prioritize multifaceted development of relations with all the friends and partners who have accompanied us over these years, and we will maintain the exchange of experiences with parties and governments of socialist countries. At the same time, we reiterate the policy of our Party to develop relations with legitimate political forces and movements, regardless of their ideological allegiances.

The upcoming signing of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between Cuba and the European Union, which implies the elimination of the interventionist Common Position, and the positive evolution of bilateral ties with its member states, are factors which contribute to the creation of a climate favorable to the development of a mutually advantageous relationship with this important bloc of nations.

Added to this is the recent agreement reached with the Paris Club, which will allow for the normalization of relations with the international financial community.

The visit to Cuba last year of Pope Francis, his sermons in support of peace and equity, the eradication of poverty, the defense of the environment, and his analysis of the causes of the principal problems facing humanity, contributed to promoting the ties between the Holy See and Cuba, during the 80th anniversary of their establishment.

The historic meeting in Havana between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, this past month of February, was a great honor, and allowed Cuba to reaffirm our commitment to the preservation of peace and the promotion of dialogue at the international level.

Increasingly more serious are threats to international peace and security, as a result of U.S. imperialism’s attempts to impose its hegemonic position in the face of changes in the world’s equilibrium, and of the philosophy of usurpation and control of strategic natural resources, made evident by the increasingly offensive and aggressive military doctrine of NATO; the proliferation of non-conventional wars under the pretext of fighting “international terrorism;” the sharpening of differences with Russia and China; and the danger of a war in the Middle East of incalculable dimensions.

As we warned early on, NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders has created serious threats to peace and stability, which has been aggravated by the imposition of arbitrary, unjust unilateral sanctions on this country.

The situation in Syria, as a result of foreign intervention, has left a balance sheet of hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous destruction. We have confidence in the capacity of the Syrian people and government to find a peaceful solution to preserve the nations’ independence and territorial integrity.

The waves of refugees arriving in Europe have moved the conscience of humanity. They are the consequence of foreign intervention, wars provoked from abroad, and underdevelopment itself, making evident the double standards and hypocrisy prevalent in regards to human rights; the increase in xenophobia, racism, and discrimination against immigrants; as well as the strengthening of neofascist forces.

We maintain our tenacious opposition to all forms and expressions of terrorism, of which we have been victims since the triumph of the Revolution.

We condemn the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and those of other Arab countries, to which a solution is required, if lasting peace in the region is to be achieved.

We reiterate our solidarity with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in its struggle against the occupation of its territory.

The unfavorable international economic situation, characterized by the worsening of the systematic world crisis, and recessionary trends in the world’s principal economies, make the situation in Third World countries even more vulnerable and precarious, accentuating the injustice and irrationality of the international economic order, which must be replaced. The need to construct a new international financial structure is made evident.

We believe that, as long as this continues, the objectives regarding sustainable development and social inclusion, proclaimed in the United Nations Summit for the approval of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, are not viable.

We likewise believe that the cooperation framework agreed upon at the Paris Summit on climate change continues to be limited by the persistence and imposition of irrational patterns of consumption and production which are incompatible with the survival of the human species. The lack of political will on the part of industrialized nations impedes the establishment of effective commitments to financing and transfer of technology, in accordance with the concept of common, but differentiated, responsibility.

Given the complex circumstances in our region and the world, the Cuban Revolution’s foreign policy will remain faithful to its original principles which we have defended in more difficult times, and in the face of more serious threats and challenges.

Finally, compañeras and compañeros, we have before us intense days of work in this Congress, convinced that it will be a historic and productive event, from which the principle lines of our work will emerge, directed toward achieving a sovereign, independent, socialist, prosperous and sustainable nation.

Thank you very much. (Ovation)

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