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We are here, and will remain, free, sovereign and independent

Raul Castro A NacionalSpeech presented by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, during the closure of the National Assembly of People’s Power 8th Legislature’s 10th Period of Ordinary Sessions, in Havana’s International Conference Center, December 21, 2017, Year 59 of the Revolution

(Council of State transcript / GI translation)

Compañeras and compañeros:

It is my responsibility to make the closing remarks for this last Period of Ordinary Sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power’s 8th Legislature. On this occasion, I will address several topics of national and international relevance.

Between September 8 and 10, the country was struck by Hurricane Irma, described as the most powerful and violent extreme weather event in the history of the Atlantic Ocean, which impacted, to one degree or another, 12 provinces, with strong winds, heavy rain, and severe coastal flooding.

Despite the enormous effort conducted to safeguard the population, that included the protection of more than 1.8 million persons, we were obliged to mourn the loss of 10 compatriots. More than 179,000 dwellings were affected and significant damage caused to infrastructure, national health system buildings, educational centers, the sugar industry, tourist facilities, and communications. For the first time ever, the national electrical grid was interrupted across the entire country

In summary, damage caused by Hurricane Irma was calculated at 13,000,185,000 pesos, a figure produced on the basis of parity between the peso and the U.S. dollar.

Once again, made evident was the spirit of resistance and victory of our people, who confronted the event and the recovery period with organization, unity, discipline, and solidarity.

Within only 20 days, electrical service and water distribution were restored throughout the national territory, an effort in which, along with specialized forces, standing out were mixed support brigades, organized in every municipality, to undertake clean-up, pruning of trees, opening of trenches, and transportation of utility poles, supporting the workers who took on the task of reestablishing electrical service.

Likewise, in only 62 days, all damage to tourist facilities was repaired, to ensure that they were ready to offer their services before the beginning of the high season.

No one was left to their fate. The revolutionary government took a series of measures to facilitate the acquisition of construction materials and consumer goods of basic necessity by those affected.

We were able to maintain educational and health care services, assuring epidemiological stability.

Advancing are different housing construction programs to build stronger, more resistant dwellings in the most severely affected communities, which will be maintained as one of the principal priorities in the National Economic Plan for next year and in the future. In this sense, local resources available to accelerate a solution to this longstanding problem must be augmented.

To be fair, we must recognize the role played by the strategic regions and their respective chief officers; provincial and municipal defense councils led by high-ranking leaders of the Party and government at these levels, and at the defense zone level; mass organizations; the Revolutionary Armed Forces; the Ministry of the Interior; and other agencies of the Central State Administration.

The results achieved in confronting the hurricane, and the accumulated impact of similar extreme weather events in recent years, confirm the relevance and value of our concept of people’s war, and the organization of the provincial defense system and its systematic improvement, as pillars supporting our ability to resist and overcome any event or threat, regardless of whether it is of natural origin, or any other kind. (Applause).

This is an opportunity to reiterate, in the name of the Cuban people, our deepest gratitude for the help and countless expressions of support arriving from all parts of the planet, from heads of state and government, political organizations, solidarity movements, and friends of Cuba.

Moving on to another issue, I will take advantage of the occasion to mention the successful holding of the first stage of the general elections process, in which delegates to Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power were elected, constituted this p