Under the Urban Reform Law, 268,089 families have been made home owners and do not have to pay any kind of rent; the value of that real estate is estimated at 3.5 billion pesos. In the same way, more than 100,000 families in rural areas who before the Revolution had to pay rent for their land have received the lifetime use of that land absolutely free.
The increase in the number of retired workers, free educational services and medical care, and the essential services of the nation’s defense, together with the savings in connection with home and land rentals, have caused the amount of money and savings accounts in the hands of the people to shoot up to 3 billion pesos.
A price policy to compensate for this imbalance—this will help us and also those abroad who are interested in such things to understand the reason for rationing—would have been nothing short of a ruthless sacrifice of those sectors of the population with the least income. This is quite plain: a price policy aimed at evening up the total amount of goods and services that the people have to purchase—the things that are distributed free of charge are not taken into consideration in this—on the one hand, and money, on the other, would have been nothing less than a ruthless sacrifice of that part of the population with the lowest income.
That policy could be employed in connection with luxury and nonessential goods and services, but never for necessities. This is how we feel about this problem, and we believe that the people feel the same way. [Applause]
Devaluation—or rather, the exchange of the currency, which was done in the early years—is a correct measure when applied against the bourgeoisie, but it would be despicable if enacted against the workers’ savings. [Applause] This is how we feel about it, and we believe the people feel the same way. [Applause]
This is just one of the complex problems of our economy that we must solve.
Now, then, how are these problems, such as the population make-up and the increase in essential and necessary services, translated…? Because I don’t believe there is a single person who doubts how essential it was to grant old-age pensions to men and women who had been exploited all their lives. What kind of a people would this be if it selfishly failed to repair such an injustice; what kind of a people would this be if it remained unmoved by the plight of cane cutters who, after laboring for thirty long years, ended up with a pension of only seven pesos a month?
I don’t believe there is a single Cuban who has the slightest doubt about the effort that has been made in connection with the health of the people, to remedy the tragic conditions in which millions of people in this country lived, where scores of thousands of families witnessed the death of their young ones—this could be figured mathematically—and I don’t believe that anybody, much less any of those who have had an opportunity to travel in the interior of the country, has the slightest doubt as to the absolute necessity of the medical services provided by the Revolution, whatever their price.
On the contrary, every time the people discuss this problem, they express the wish to have a polyclinic of such and such a size in the place where they live, or to have a doctor where they work and live, or at least to have one on duty during the night. We must say that, of the thousands of sailors in our merchant marine who traverse the oceans of the world and the thousands of fishermen in our fishing fleet, very few are on ships which we have been able to supply with a doctor to attend cases of accident and urgent sickness. To tell the truth, we are far from having taken care of that need.
We don’t believe there is a single Cuban who has any doubts about the essential and dramatic need of lifting this country out of the state of illiteracy and semiliteracy in which it finds itself. If 30 percent of us were illiterates, 95 percent of us were semiliterates. And we’ll still be paying the price of that illiteracy and semiliteracy for many years to come. We can see this; we have occasion to see this every time we find comrades in posts of leadership, in factories and other activities who, though full of the best intentions in the world, in many instances don’t have any more than a sixth-grade education.
We don’t know of anybody who, when discussing education, has told us that we should have made less of an effort in education, granted fewer scholarships, offered fewer jobs to teachers, and built fewer schools. What we do find all the time throughout the country are thousands upon thousands of persons who say that such and such a school is too small, that it is overcrowded, that a larger one should be built, that a double session has to be established, that a dining room should be provided. There are thousands upon thousands who say we need more and better teachers, more books and more school supplies, and there are towns where the people want to have junior and senior high schools. Moreover, there is a demand for more and more scholarships. This is because already no fewer than 60,000 pupils are being graduated from the sixth grade every year, and in the near future, if we succeed in winning the battle of education, no fewer than 150,000 should be graduated every year.
And I ask myself if the future of the children of this nation is only to reach the sixth grade, if the future of this people in the midst of a world that is undergoing a technological revolution at a terrific pace can be any future at all with a sixth-grade education as an average. Today a sixth-grade education is practically equivalent to illiteracy.
Therefore, despite all our outlays and efforts, what we find today is a tremendous demand for new outlays and new efforts.
And I don’t believe there is a single Cuban—we don’t believe there is a single revolutionary—who thinks that this country should have folded its arms in the face of that most powerful imperialist enemy ninety miles from our shores, an enemy that did not hesitate to use all means and weapons to destroy our Revolution. I don’t believe there is a single Cuban who thinks that, in the face of this enemy’s actions, in the face of every threat and danger, our people should have remained unarmed and defenseless. On the contrary, the vast majority of the people have learned how to use weapons, as they have realized that the number of permanent cadres and men would not suffice for the defense of the country if that enemy attacked.
In that essential task of the Revolution, it has been necessary to employ hundreds of thousands of men—we can say hundreds of thousands, though the number may be under 300,000—and scores of thousands of cadres. It is true that, just like our students, they take part in tasks of production in critical periods—that is, in periods of peak manpower demands in the countryside, as during the sugar harvest—but it is also true that, to the extent that our technological and high-school students have spent long months cutting cane, we’ll have to wait more years to have the technicians we need so urgently. And, to the extent that our soldiers have to spend months in the cane fields, we have had to sacrifice their combat preparation in case of war. Unfortunately, given the low level of our productive forces and our labor productivity, we’ll have to continue doing this.
These are realities imposed on us by the Revolution itself. However, we are not mentioning them as excuses and pretexts or as an explanation or the only explanation of our problems. We mention them simply as facts to serve as the basis for an over-all evaluation.
To all this we must add one more reality—one that weighs rather heavily—which is our own inefficiency, our inefficiency in the general work of the Revolution.
What does this conflict among the various needs posed by development result in? If we want to build a plant such as the one in Cienfuegos, with a capacity to produce half a million tons of nitrogenized fertilizers per year—fertilizers we are now importing, since what we produce here is not actually made here but is rather mixed of various elements we import—we will have to invest more than forty million dollars.
And the same thing is true of every other industrial plant and every item of machinery and equipment this country imports.
The conflicts stemming from the various needs posed by development, together with the supply of those essential resources, considering the age make-up of our population, plus the unquestionable inefficiency of all of us….
We have just finished waging a heroic battle, a battle that can truly be called heroic. The heroes of that battle are represented here. The people were the heroes of that battle, the battle for the ten million tons, both in the planting and in the harvesting. [Applause] And enough cane was cut to produce practically ten million tons, enough to have resulted in ten million tons if the industrial side of the sugar-making process had held up its end.
The people were heroes—not only in fulfilling that task, but even more so in deciding to cut every last stalk of cane, even when they knew that the ten million tons would not be reached. [Applause] And the people followed through on that. There is still a little cane left in Oriente Province, but we decided that it was no longer reasonable, from any point of view, to continue cutting after July 23.
Of course, we achieved a large increase in sugar production: more than four million tons over what was produced last year. This is a production increase that is a true record, one that will be really difficult to surpass—this doesn’t mean that someday we won’t produce more sugar, but it will be difficult to achieve such an increase in production again—especially if we consider what we have said about the age make-up of the population and the shortage of manpower, because there have been not only quantitative increases in our needs but also qualitative changes as well, because, in the past, hundreds of thousands of Cubans in our countryside had to work from fifteen to seventeen hours a day cutting cane with a machete and loading it by hand, hauling it in ox-drawn carts, starting in the wee hours of the morning. Only by working no less than fifteen hours a day could they complete the task.