Speech by the President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel M. Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, during his inauguration for this position, in the Fourth Extraordinary Session of the IX Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, in Havana’s Convention Center, October 10, 2019, Year 61 of the Revolution
(Council of State transcript - GI translation)
Dear Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee;
Dear comrades of the historic generation;
Compañero Esteban Lazo, President of the National Assembly of People’s Power and the Council of State; members of the Council of State;
People of Cuba:
Today is October 10 and we Cubans must congratulate each other. "…the first day of Cuba’s freedom and independence," as Carlos Manuel de Céspedes said, is by all rights one of the most celebrated on our national calendar, given its powerful resonances, from that minute in 1868 until this one, as we have reaffirmed our oath of unconditional service to the homeland.
Although the nation would later go on to experience legendary episodes, the first inspiration came from that day, when the shackles were broken and the flag made by a woman waved in new hands.
Together embracing an ideal, for the first time, blacks and whites, women and men, almost all young people, and as the protagonists, the youngest Cubans. This was the first October 10, full of transcendental meaning.
They say that a 20-year-old boy named Emilio Tamayo was the first to wave the flag made by Cambula, in the camp erected at La Demajagua. And that the Father of the Homeland said, as he admired it unfolding, "Die before you see her dishonored." It is also said that the plantation’s bell was rung by another very young man from Bayamo, Manuel García Pavón, who would be the last survivor of the historic uprising.
What do I intend by evoking these memories? In the first place, of course, to pay due tribute to history and its eternal links with the present, challenging and full of threats and risks, like that first day at La Demajagua, and every day in Cuba's 151 years of struggle to maintain our independence.
I am especially interested today in highlighting the episodes that place Cuban youth at the center of these struggles for something that, almost a century after October 10, 1868, in July 1962, in Santiago de Cuba, Fidel told students and professors at the University of Oriente:
“The Revolution is not a struggle for the present, the Revolution is a struggle for the future; the Revolution always has its sights set on the future and the homeland of which we are thinking, the society we conceive as a just society, worthy of men, the homeland of tomorrow...”
The Revolution is a struggle for the future. It has always been and is now.
For the Council of State, its President, Vice President, and the remaining 19 members who have just been reelected or elected this October 10; for the Vice President of the Republic and for its President, the number one task must be the future. We appreciate your confidence in choosing us for these responsibilities, which, united together, we will perform in the name of this future.
That is why we have put defense and the economy in the first place and at the same level. We have not forgotten, for a second, that a Revolution is worth defending and those who forget this lesson do not live to talk about it. The economy, as the basis and sustenance of the social superstructure, is the great determinant of the future.
Recently on the Presidency’s website, we made the call to “Think as a country,” and after carefully reading the more than 1,200 responses, we found a great deal of optimism and confidence in the future, although also, in some cases, expressions of concern.
Logical and revolutionary concern that we share, facing a world crippled by imbalanced economic relations, without "buffers" in less developed nations, and in which global financial institutions have made a practice of bailing out banks, but never peoples.
A world dominated by disrespect for international legality, led by a hegemonic power and the imposition of its demands through threats and sanctions.
A world manipulated by pernicious media campaigns against a solidary and peaceful nation like Venezuela, while insisting on legitimizing as "President" an imposter without any popular support.
A world in which the podium of the United Nations General Assembly has been used to dismiss, belittle, threaten, and deny social systems and sovereign governments and lie shamelessly in an attempt to promote interventions of all kinds, including military.
A world in which global agreements, cooperation projects, and health programs, that brought hope to excluded majorities, are broken.
A world in which the judiciary is used to imprison progressive leaders and persecute and murder social activists with impunity.
A world in which those who build walls, separate families, imprison migrant children, prohibit exchanges between peoples, and block access to development of other nations, putting the human species in danger when they ignore climate change and dismiss scientific warnings, while the Amazon and other lungs of the planet burn.
Such a world really alarms us all. At the First Earth Summit, in 1992, Fidel delivered his jarring speech warning of "an endangered species."
Thus no one should be surprised that a teenager cries in front of those responsible for the disaster. The tears of Greta Thunberg are the tears of the future.
"To govern is to foresee," Martí said. And the Cuban Revolution owes much to the brilliant foresight of Fidel and Raúl. This is our political school.
Those who doubt it, can just look at 60 years of revolutionary history: beginning with the literacy campaign and education of our people, the basis for forging the valuable human capital that distinguishes us, and promoting the development of science and medicine to international cutting-edge levels, even the early warnings and preparations that have now allowed us to confront the brutal tightening of the blockade by this U.S. administration, with less damage than our adversaries had calculated.
The commitment we make before you today is to maintain and strengthen this practice, take advantage of the invaluable human capital that we have trained and the contributions of academia and science to increase the efficiency of government management, as a result of the foresight generated by knowledge.
The country has the commitment to nurture the talent developed by the Revolution, produce and contribute internally without closing the door to cooperation and learning beyond our borders. The export of Cuban products and services must be expanded and diversified.
When we decide to increase salaries in the budgeted sector, three to five times over; when we promote accelerated computerization of society; when, despite the limitations imposed by the blockade, we defend the strengthening of education and ties between universities and production at all levels, we are working for the future.
This year and, in particular, the last few months have tested our ability to resist without foregoing development. And more has been demanded from the people, but also from ministers and state administration cadres. The requirements of the days and months to come will be no less demanding. Under the conditions of a prolonged and total blockade, it is up to us to combine efforts and support each other in existing structures and the new responsibilities we have acquired.
The Council of State, for example, will function more regularly and with greater impact between sessions of the Assembly. There are many laws, essential to improving government efficiency, which require more expedited ways to review, approve, and implement. This is a commitment we made upon approving the new Constitution.
Municipalities must learn to manage available resources with greater authority, but with greater responsibility, as well.
We are already at the gates of 2020, during which we intend to continue consolidating our economy. Without ever giving up our greatest dreams, which by elementary logic require more resources, we will strengthen areas of work and programs that during 2019 we proposed as priorities, including exports, foreign investment, housing construction, food production, tourism, transportation, and renewable energy.
As we have stated on previous occasions, after the fuel shortage, generated by the intransigence of the United States government, the country will return to normal, but it will not be with the same ways of working. If something good has come from these days of tension, it is that Cuba’s enormous potential for greater efficiency was brought to the fore.
That is why we will place greater emphasis on reducing expenses and saving more; on generalizing the useful solutions that emerged during the toughest years of the Special Period, adjusted to our reality, that is, taking into account technological advances and greater knowledge that can make a working principle, such as conservation, an engine of development.
We insist on the need to work for the good of all, on the political and ideological preparation of cadres, on the involvement of young people who always give us so much energy, and in the participation of the people, in the search for the best solutions, with the certainty that collective intelligence is inexhaustible, as well as the potential of resistance and creativity that the hostility of the adversary always awakens in Cubans.
I said, about a year ago, when I assumed the tasks of the Presidency of what was at that time the Councils of State and Ministers: We did not come to make promises. We come to fulfill the mandate of the revolutionary people.
Today a new stage of work begins for those of us who represent the state and government, which will demand from every leader, cadre, and official at all levels, the willingness to set aside the heavy burden of obsolete practices and cumbersome mechanisms, which delay processes and weaken national self-esteem.
The times in which we live are new, in many ways, and demand different thinking. Change everything that needs to be changed, as Fidel told us, as Raúl showed us during his years at the helm of the Presidency and as our first Party secretary.
When I think of them, I am also thinking about the future, because their generation was a generation of the future, leaving home, studies, and comfort to change this land once and for all. Their hands did not tremble when fighting the worst scourges that sucked the blood of the Republic, or challenging the threatening enemy by raising a new nation from the roots, from the scrub, from the Sierra.
Just as they did not tremble when it came to facing a dirty war that lasted for years, with mercenaries destroying and killing practically all over the island, they did not hesitate to give support to sister peoples who fought against hateful Latin American dictatorships, sustained and supported by the same empire that now labels progressive leaders of the region as dictators.
Of course, this is making the empire look bad, old and demoralized, with its troop of mediocre and duplicitous politicians pulled together in the OAS.
Where are those who continue giving advice on the fate of Venezuela and at the same time take no responsibility for the enormous conflicts and social problems that afflict their peoples? How do you intend to cover up their bungling conspiracies with paramilitary mafias, with their hostility against Venezuela?
If something was never lost on the leadership of the Cuban Revolution, it was the role of morality in history. There they are, undefeated, with no other monument than their own work, to which we have the duty to pay the most just tribute: ensure that it grows and prospers, without fear of threats or danger.
The poor of the earth cannot lose their dignity or give in to threats. This is a conviction made evident many times throughout history, from October 10 in La Demajagua until April 1961, when Fidel on mercenary ships fired from a tank.
In these times, when we have returned to join Comandante Almeida in his cry of principles at the toughest moment, we firmly insist that the Cuban Revolution will preserve intact all our convictions, those that cost the blood of the country’s best sons and daughters. (Applause)
When you have a people of such traditions, like the Cuban, you do not doubt for a second to face the future, aware that you will triumph. Today we repeat the expression we have often heard from the Army General, and that we have learned to value in hard times: What a people we have! (Applause)
Those who create and construct have defeated those who hate and destroy.
The blood of our noble indigenous people, our European, African and Asian grandparents, and that of all men and women of immense courage, who over the centuries created our national being, seethes with rebellion in the face of every threat, and with rage upon every aggression.
The more they attack us, the more they try to intimidate us, the more our national will and strength grows: Unity! (Applause)
October 10 will always inspire us! Like the Mambises, an honorable name for our Creole rebels, we will not hesitate to use a machete if there are no guns. And we will always have dignity as our banner and moral shield.
This people, which has more than once, been the capital of world solidarity, welcoming those who offer it to us and offering it around the world to those who need it most, is now awaiting in Havana, for its 500th anniversary, the arrival of a supportive, anti-imperialist wave, like a cannon shot against the blows of the imperial beast.
In the land of Céspedes, Mariana, Gómez, Maceo, Martí, Mella, Guiteras, Rubén, Camilo, Che, Almeida, Ramiro, Guillermo, Vilma, Celia, Haydée, Melba, in the land of Raúl and Fidel, the Bronze Titan’s warning has not changed a millimeter: "Whoever attempts to take Cuba will collect only the dust from its blood-soaked soil, if he does not perish in the fight." (Applause)
Compañeras and compañeros:
Intense and challenging days await us, but no one is going to take from us the confidence in the future which we owe our children, in the homeland our parents won by standing firm.
Long live free Cuba! (Shouts of: Viva!)
Socialism or death!
Country or Death!