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December 2001 • Vol 1, No. 7 •


• Oil production, which totaled 500,000 tons at the beginning of the special period, has now risen to the equivalent of 3.6 million tons, between oil and natural gas. We will not hesitate to invest in this area. Next year we will surpass the figure of four million tons. For each ton of Cuban oil and natural gas used in electrical power production and other industries, the country saves 60% of the price in convertible currency.

• Production levels today are the same or much higher in comparison with 1989 in sectors like tourism, manufacturing for the domestic convertible-currency market, electrical power generation, nickel, vegetable crops, citrus fruits, pharmaceuticals, cigars for export, and others. The same holds true for results in education, health care, culture, sports and science.

• The daily per capita calorie intake rose from 1948 calories in 1994 to 2578 last year, while the protein intake went from 47.7 grams to 68.3 grams in the same period.

• The average monthly salary, which was 185 pesos in 1994, should reach 242 pesos by the end of the year, while the average income, which includes monetary incentives and other forms of payment in kind, will reach 373 pesos.

• In the state-funded public sector, 82% of workers, or 1,091,200 workers in all, have received raises in their salaries.

• In the self-financing enterprise sector, 73.3% of workers, or 1,322,000 workers, are paid according to performance.

• Over 1.2 million workers are eligible for performance-based incentives in convertible Cuban pesos or their equivalent.

• The farmers markets, from their emergence in 1994, reduced their prices by 84%. The state-run farmers markets, which now extend throughout the country, and charge lower average prices than the regular farmers markets, have served to curb price increases in the latter.

• Unemployment, which rose to 8% in the worst years of the special period, was reduced to 5.4% in 2000. The differences among regions in this regard are a focus of special attention.

• In 1994 there were power cuts on 344 days, almost every day of the year, and 1.2 million MW of energy were not provided due to a power deficit; last year, there were power cuts on only 77 days, with 64,000 MW not provided.

• Residential power consumption grew by 16% in the last few years. That growth could have been 25% if the energy-saving program had not been implemented.

• There is greater protection of the environment today, with a decrease in all types of pollution (of the soil, water and air). Economic growth has not been achieved at the cost of destroying the environment, but instead has contributed to improving it, in line with sustainable development.

• The percentage of the population with access to drinking water rose from 82% to 94%, with over 1.2 million people benefiting from the construction of water supply systems in 2454 rural communities. Almost all of the country’s water is chlorinated.

• A natural gas program is underway, and since the end of 1998, it has benefited over a million people in 268,209 households, who can now cook with bottled gas instead of kerosene.

• The telephone expansion program that began in 1999 has provided 146,750 new telephone lines so far.

• All public telephones have been changed to digital phones. In 1999, there were 11,860 public telephones, and that number had risen to 18,000 by the end of the year 2000. A further 4700 will be installed this year.

• Some 320,000 new homes have been built in the last five years, benefiting over 1.2 million people.

• Social security and social protection services have been guaranteed for the most vulnerable sectors.

• During these 10 years of the special period, over 17 billion pesos have been paid out in pensions.

There is no need for me to talk about the battle of ideas and the colossal social project that you all know about, which is leading us towards a much more fair and improved socialism, and towards the goal of becoming the most educated and cultured people in the world. Suffice it to say that it encompasses 70 programs and hundreds of tasks, with several of the most important already completed.

Some future dreams will have to wait, but these will be fulfilled.

The most important investments have already been made, and were minimal. The fundamental role has been played and will continue to be played by the immense human capital of our people.

Today we are politically more united and stronger than ever.

We are much better prepared to confront this situation.

Our social justice will allow us to protect all our people.

There is greater organization in our political and grassroots institutions, our State and our Government.

Our enterprise sector is improving; we have learned to produce with fewer resources, greater efficiency and greater discipline.

We are aware of what has been happening in the world to those who have renounced socialism and implemented neoliberal policies.

We have a people who are steadily becoming ever more cultured, more conscientious, and better prepared in every sense.

At the beginning of the special period, our socialist ideology had suffered a terrible blow. Today, the terrible blow has been dealt to the ideology of our adversary, through a profound economic and ideological crisis.

I noted earlier that before concluding, I would return to the issue of terrorism, the war and the international economic crisis.

Although we have made our stance known, I think it would be worthwhile to recall that on September 11, just hours after the events, and having expressed our total condemnation of the brutal attack and our sincere and selfless solidarity with the people of the United States—since we never asked for nor expected anything in return—we expressed a conviction that we continue to hold today, with more strength and certainty than ever: “None of the present problems of the world can be solved by force. [...] The international community should build a world conscience against terrorism. [...] Only the intelligent policy of seeking strength through consensus and the international public opinion can decidedly uproot this problem [...] this unimaginable event should serve to launch an international struggle against terrorism. [...] The world cannot be saved unless a path of international peace and cooperation is pursued.”

A week later, in San Antonio de los Baños, I declared on behalf of our people, “Whatever happens (that is to say, whether or not there is a war), the territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the American people.”

I added something else: “We will do everything within our reach to prevent such actions against that people. Today we are expressing our solidarity while urging to peace and calmness. One day they will admit we were right.”

A week later, on September 29, at the Revolutionary Mass Rally held in Ciego de Avila, I continued to stress our points of view: “Nevertheless, no one should be misled into thinking that the peoples of the world, and a number of honest political leaders, will not react as soon as the war actions become a reality and their horrific images start to be seen. These will then take the place of the sad and shocking images of the events in New York at a time when forgetting them would bring irreparable damage on the spirit of solidarity with the American people that is today a primary element towards the eradication of terrorism, without the need to resort to a war of unpredictable consequences and avoiding the death of an incalculable number of innocents.

“The first victims can already be seen. They are the millions trying to escape the war and the dying children with ghastly appearance whose images will move the world to pity without anyone being able to prevent their dissemination.”

The events that have been taking place make it increasingly clear how right we were.

An editorial in Granma, the official newspaper of our Communist Party, published on October 8, just hours after the war had been unleashed, stated: “It is not a war against terrorism; [...] it is a war in favor of terrorism, since the military operations will make it more complicated and difficult to eradicate it. It is like pouring oil on the flame.

“From now on, there will be a real avalanche of news about bombs, missiles, air strikes, the advance of armored vehicles with troops of ethnic groups allied with the invaders, the dropping of paratroops or the ground advance of elite forces of the attacking countries. Rather soon, there will be news about occupied cities, the capital included, and TV images of whatever censure permits or escapes control. The fight will be against the people of that country and not against the terrorists. There are no battalions or armies of terrorists. This is a sinister concept and an insidious method of struggle against a ghost.”

After 26 days of relentless bombing, those who have been following events from day to day can see that what has happened up until now is exactly as we predicted.

The war began inexorably. We knew that it was extremely unlikely, practically impossible, that it would not happen. Nevertheless, this has not led us, either before or after, to become discouraged or renounce our stance.

We insisted that it was necessary to fight against terrorism and against the war. A spirit of revenge or hatred against America never led us. It was with sadness that I meditated on the mistake that, in my view, was being made but I never uttered an insult or a personal offense. I have often said to those involved in this battle of ideas that there is no need to personally offend anyone. I rather enumerate facts, avoid adjectives, and analyze with cool head and wage arguments. That preserves our moral authority and prevents anyone from questioning the strength and sincerity of our position.

Presently, I am afraid that if the possibility existed to defeat terrorism without a war, through cooperation and with the unanimous support of all the international community leading to truly efficient measures and to the building of a strong moral conscience against terrorism, that possibility tends to fade away with every passing day.

The worst would be to come to a point when it would no longer be possible to find a solution that way because I see it ever more clearly that it is absurd and impossible to try to resolve this through war. I try to imagine what was going through the minds of the American political and military strategists; maybe they thought that a colossal deployment of forces would crush the will of the Taliban; perhaps, they were hopeful that an initial devastating blow would attain that objective.

Everybody knows the estimates made by NATO during the war against Yugoslavia. The idea was that the objectives would be accomplished in 5 days, but almost 80 days passed and it had not happened. It is also a known fact that despite the extraordinary display of technology and means, the Serbian army was practically intact. The envoys of Russia and Finland had to weigh heavily to “persuade” the adversary through diplomatic channels when the time had come to fight on the ground, something that the members of the coalition were not particularly fond of.

I do not share the view that the United States’ main pursuit in Afghanistan was oil. I rather see it as part of a geo-strategic concept. No one would make such a mistake simply to go after oil, least of all a country with access to any oil in the world, including all the Russian oil and gas it wishes. It would be sufficient for the U.S. to invest, to buy and to pay. Based on its privileges, the United States can even purchase it by minting reserve bonds on a 30 years maturity span. That is how, throughout more than 80 years, it has bought products and services accounting for over 6.6 trillion dollars.

Military actions in Afghanistan are fraught with dangers. That is an extremely troubled area where two large countries have fought several wars. There are profound national and religious antagonisms between them. The population of the disputed territory is mostly Islamic. As the tempers grow frail, a war might break out; and both countries have nuclear capability. That risk is as serious as the destabilization of the Pakistani government by the war. That government is being placed in a highly complicated position. The Taliban emerged there, and they share the same Pashtun ethnicity with an undetermined number of Pakistanis, in fact, no less than 10 million; and I have chosen the most conservative figure among those that have been mentioned. They also share with fanatic passion the same religious beliefs.

The U.S. military are usually well versed in their trade. I have met some when, after retirement, they have visited Cuba as scholars. They write books, tell stories and make political analyses. I was then not surprised by the information released by The New Yorker magazine of October 29 in the sense that there was a contingency plan to seize the Pakistani nuclear warheads, in case a radical group took over the government of that country.

It was absolutely impossible for the American strategists to overlook that substantial risk. Every bomb dropped on Afghanistan, every picture of dead children or people dying or suffering from terrible wounds, tend to compound that risk. What is hard to imagine is the reaction of those responsible for protecting those weapons, to a plan that is by now of public domain as much as “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Gabriel García Marquez.

I am not aware of something the U.S. Special Services should know only too well, that is, where and how those nuclear warheads are kept and the way in which they are protected. I try to imagine—and it is not easy—how such an action could be conducted by elite troops. Perhaps, one day someone might tell how it could be done. But, still, I find it hard to imagine the political scenario in the aftermath of such an action when the fight would be against over 100 million additional Muslims. The U.S. government has denied the existence of such contingency plan. It was to be expected. It could not do otherwise.

The most logical question that crosses my mind is whether the heads of governments and statesmen who are friends of the United States and have a longstanding political and practical experience did not see these potential dangers, and why they did not warn the United States and tried to persuade it. Obviously, America’s friends fear it but do not appreciate it.

It is always difficult to try to guess when it comes to these issues. But, there is something of which I am absolutely certain: It would be sufficient if 20 or 30 thousand men used clever methods of irregular warfare, the same that the United States wants to use there, and that struggle could last 20 years. It is completely impossible to subdue the Afghan adversary in an irregular warfare on that country’s ground with bombs and missiles, whatever the caliber and the power of these weapons.

They have already been through the hardest psychological moments. They have lost everything: family, housing, and properties. They have absolutely nothing else they can lose. Nothing seems to indicate that they will surrender their weapons, even if their most notable leaders were killed. The use of tactical weapons, which some have suggested, would have the effect of multiplying by one hundred that mistake and with it unbearable criticism and universal isolation. Therefore, I have never believed that the leaders of that country have seriously considered such tactics, not even when they were most enraged.

These are simply my thoughts that I am expressing to you. I think the way to show solidarity with the American people that lost thousands of innocent lives, including those of children, youths and elders, men and women to the outrageous attack, is by frankly speaking out our minds. The sacrifice of those lives should not be in vain, but rather it should be useful to save many lives, to prove that thinking and conscience can be stronger than terror and death.

We are not suggesting that any crime committed on Earth should be left unpunished, I simply do not have elements of judgment to accuse anyone in particular. But, if the culprits were those that the U.S. government is trying to punish and remove, there is no doubt that the way in which they are doing it will lead to the creation of altars where the alleged murderers will be worshiped as saints by millions of men and women.

It would be better to build an enormous altar to Peace where Humankind can pay homage to all the innocent victims of blind terror and violence, be it an American or an Afghan child. This is said by somebody who considers himself an adversary of the United States’ policies but not an enemy of that country, one who believes to have an idea of human history, psychology and justice.

Having come to this point there is only one more issue left to discuss.

What is happening with the anthrax is absolutely incomprehensible. Real and sincere panic has been created. The stocks of medications to fight that bacterium are being depleted. Many people are buying gas masks and other devices, some of which cost thousands of dollars.

Extravagant behavior can cause more damage than the disease. When there is an outbreak of any disease, whatever the cause, it is essential to warn the people and to provide information on the illness and the measures that should be taken to prevent it, diagnose it and fight it. Diseases are carried from one country to another in natural ways, that is, through people, animals, plants, food, insects, commercial products and a thousand other ways, without the need for anyone to produce them in laboratories. That is how it has been historically. That is the reason for so many public-health regulations.

The chaos and the psychological reaction to anthrax have turned the American society into a hostage of those who want to hurt it, knowing beforehand that they will sow terror. On numerous occasions our country has had to face up to new diseases affecting people, plantations and herds, many of them deliberately introduced. No wonder our country has graduated 67,128 medical doctors and thousands of technicians in plant and animal health. Our people know what should be immediately done in such cases.

No other country in the world compares with the United States in the number of research centers, laboratories and medications, or the capacity to produce them or purchase them, to fight that or any other disease.

In the face of real or imaginary risk, either current or future, there is no other choice but to educate the people to cope with them. This is what the Cubans have done.

The causes that gave rise to panic should be analyzed. Certainly, it could not be said that the United States is not in risk of terrorist actions. However, I do not believe that under the present circumstances of generalized alertness, and the measures taken, any group inside or outside America could come up with a coordinated action, organized in every detail for a long time, synchronized and executed with such precision as that of September 11.

In my view the main risk may lie with individual actions, or actions carried out by very few people from inside or outside America that could cause lesser or greater damage. None can be underestimated. But as important as the preventive measures are that should be taken to tackle such risks, it is even more important to psychologically disarm the potential perpetrators. And these include those who might want to do it out of political extremism, vengeance or hatred, or a significant number of people who are frustrated, unstable or deranged who might feel tempted by the spectacular or by wishes to be the main actors of well-known events. They could drive the American people mad by sending mail with or without anthrax. Everything possible should be done to put an end to panic, extravaganza and chaos. Then danger will be reduced.

In Cuba we have also seen the arrival and circulation of letters and postcards with strange powders and other things. One hundred and sixteen of them were detected from 15 to 31 October. 72 were coming from abroad: 36 from the United States, 8 from Great Britain, 3 from Canada, 2 from the Czech Republic, 2 from Spain, 2 from The Netherlands, 1 from Denmark, 1 from Chile and 1 from the Arab Emirates. Of these letters 25 were addressed to me. I thank the senders for their kindness.

Our laboratory staffs are becoming real experts. Thirty-one originated within the country and circulated here, several were no more than bad jokes. Five were being sent from Cuba to other countries: 2 to the United States, 1 to Pakistan, 1 to Italy and 1 to Costa Rica. In eight cases it has not been possible to determine where they have come from.

Out of the 116 letters that have been examined, except for 24 that are still under analysis, no biological agent has been found. Not one worker in our postal services, the offices in the Palace [of the Revolution] or the laboratories has been contaminated. We are all in good health. There was no sensationalism, no scandal, no alarm or panic. No one purchased gas masks or medications. I am telling you the story simply to illustrate what I said about how incomprehensible it is what has happened with the anthrax in America.

Even if a bacterium had been introduced here, there would be no panic and everybody would know what to do. But it would certainly be very difficult for a letter to go out from Cuba to another country carrying viruses or bacteria. We are pleased to know that the two letters addressed to the United States did not leave our country, neither did the others that were supposed to get to other countries.

And thus we will cooperate with every people in the world. Our doctors and other specialists as well as our technicians, research centers and our modest experience will be available in the struggle against biological terrorism and other forms of terror.

It is clear by now that America’s friends fear it but do not appreciate it. Cuba is not in the least fearful of the enormous power of that nation, but it can appreciate its people.

Thank you, very much.

1. The special period refers to the economic crisis caused when the USSR and Comecon (the economic group of the USSR, the eastern European countries, Mongolia and Cuba, which joined in 1972) suspended aid and favorable trade agreements with Cuba. Fidel Castro used the expression “special period” when he explained the country’s crisis in a speech in September, 1990. Up until that time, 85 to 88 percent of Cuban trade was with the Comecon bloc.





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