Monday, October 30, 2023

 We cannot give up on the dreams of the prosperity possible for our country, our people deserve it like no other (Part 2)

Final part of interview granted by Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, to journalist Arleen Rodríguez Derivet at the Palace of the Revolution on October 12, 2023, "Year 65 of the Revolution

Arleen Rodríguez (AR): I am thinking, there are people who believe that since there is no tourism or remittances, and there is lack of foreign currency, this translates into lack of foreign currency to buy fuel or to make the production lines work.

Miguel M. Díaz-Canel (MDC): There is no way out.

AR: So people say: "I have to leave".

MDC: There is a high migration flow now but this is not the first time we have had these flows of migration.  At various times, especially when we have been under economic crisis, there have been excessive migratory flows.  For example, the migratory flows of the first years of the Revolution, like Boca de Camarioca or Mariel in 1994. These flows occurred cyclically, when the U.S. Government tightens the situation, inducing illegal, unsafe, disorderly migration that costs lives -which is the worst thing.

Let us go back to the pre-Trump period. The situation was different: there were visas for citizens and it was easier to obtain a visa; there were consular services and more possibilities for Cubans to visit their family abroad, and for families abroad to visit their families in Cuba; there were more possibilities for remittances. All that changed with Trump.  At that time, even the repatriation flows were high; there was not only migration but also a lot of repatriation. All brutally altered with Trump's measures, which also aimed at creating an unfavorable situation seeking social upheaval related to migration: consular services in Cuba were cancelled and moved to third countries, and with limitations.  People spent more money to be able to acquire a visa, with more uncertainty whether they would obtain one.  Other measures were taken to close off our income from tourism. They recently adopted measures affecting automatic visa granting to European citizens: if Europeans visit Cuba they are stripped of the visa facilitating their travelling to the US. These measures further impacted the complex economic situation we face causing increased migration.

AR: All this while maintaining the Cuban Adjustment Act in place.

MDC: Yes, Cuban emigrants are favored by the Adjustment Act. So, what are we advocating for?  We want a legal, safe and orderly migration. Our immigration law guarantees that, but the attitude of the US Government does not, provoking hopelessness and insecurity and favoring people embarking on very dangerous, insecure experiences.  Notice that Cuban emigrants leave Cuba legally but join the illegal migration flow in transit to the US. They fall into the hands of coyotes, human trafficking networks and many lose their lives by land, while others lose their lives at sea leaving on unsafe rafts. A situation of bewilderment is created, it is very regrettable humanly speaking.

People say: we are losing young people, professionals, women of reproductive age. Yes, all that is true.  But why don't we talk as well about those who stay in Cuba and find a project here. Talk about the thousands of Cubans we see every time we go to the territories, in the most complicated scenarios, with the same limitations but holding another mindset and a disposition to contribute, those who have life projects matching the social project, those who have very heroic attitudes?

I am certain it will all change again as we overcome our challenges; there should be no rupture with Cubans who leave the country for economic reasons or motivated by speculation made in relation to migration. In fact, we have many Cubans interested in projects in Cuba and who are moving forward, many involved in mutually beneficial projects for themselves or their families and helping Cuba advance. Many Cubans are committed to improve their lives, the lives of their families and of their country. There are also others, unfortunately, filled with hatred.

In this hatred, I believe, there is also a reluctance to admit to their failure abroad. Some of the people who leave -I am not going to speak in absolute terms, fail to find the "American dream" and find themselves in a even more disadvantageous situation abroad than the one they could be in Cuba -with greater social insecurity than they could have in Cuba. Hatred brewed inside them makes them unable to recognize that the country of migration did not welcome them as they expected nor did it provided them with the possibilities they had hoped for. So they turn against Cuba, against the Revolution, as if it was the Revolution what pushed them to make the decision to leave Cuba. 

These are phenomena, in the order of social psychology, social behavior in times of crisis, when relations between Cuba and the US are very asymmetrical and marked (especially on the part of the US Government) with the application of policies of maximum pressure towards Cuba, policies of genocide, strangulation, that provoke all these things.

We need to know the real causes, the origins are; we cannot despair.  We also have to work with intelligence creating the relations we want with those Cuban emigrants. We also have to come up with ways to work with young people so they do not despair. In fact, we have just approved policies for children, adolescents and youth taking into account many of the things that become problematic for young people; I believe these policies will help us overcome these situations.

In truth we have deep fiscal and monetary imbalances causing processes such as inconvertibility of the currency, accelerated inflation, depreciation of informal exchange rate, appearance and development of an informal foreign exchange market; elements present in almost all countries today. I will not focus on the world situation now: we are concerned with our problems.

The most visible element of these imbalances is lack of supply in state markets, with inflation; that is where the criticism of MSMEs we have just seen is reinforced. These non-state forms have also found a space where the State today does not have many supplies and, in some cases, there have been abusive and speculative prices. Both, the dragging effects of the pandemic in Cuba and the intensification of the blockade also factor in.

Fuel shortages, for the reasons explained, particularly hit the country in this situation and time.

Social problems have a lot to do with the situation of our economy. We have taken measures to counter them. There is an Economic-Social Strategy including a program for macroeconomic stabilization which are measures to be gradually and appropriately applied to avoid further complicating our situation as the measure all imply big risks. Reason why we propose, as a principle, that everything we design and apply has a vision focused on people in disadvantaged or vulnerable situations -women, young people, children and adolescents, the elderly, just to mention some sectors. Our analyses are comprehensive; we can manage the risks and complexities.

AR: President, I wanted to stop for a moment here. When you talk about policies against racism, policies for the advancement of women, policies for the youth, for the elderly, etc., sometimes it seems that it is a political discourse, but they have concrete content in reality. Let us say, is it to facilitate housing? What does the change in policy consist of?

MDC: They all deal with different problems.  First, it is ideal to think that in 60 years of the Revolution, with all the social work and enormous dimension the Revolution implies, all vestiges of colonialism -including patriarchy and racial discrimination, have been solved. We are courageously recognizing the work ahead creating programs to end discrimination as much as possible, programs that include legal aspects protecting the dignity of people affected and ensuring they do not suffer disadvantages.

In the case of the National Program for the Advancement of Women, we not only increase possibilities for the advancement of women but also are in an iron fight against gender violence, an issue that you know is very complex to deal with because women at risk of gender violence do not always report it; thus, there must be social support, comprehensive work, education work.

Soon we are going to apply measures related to subsidizing people rather than products; we will doing gradually by calculating/measuring the subsidy they will receive. We are proposing alternatives for Cuba's development. The promotion of territorial development and the generalization of existing good experiences.  We have good experiences in Cuba that need to be expanded. 

AR: Which are held via...?

MDC: By videoconferences as I will explain more later.  We are strengthening local productive systems because they are essential to ensure municipalities are able to exercise autonomy and become the source of development.  We are looking on local development projects, for example, where several municipal companies have been created -like in food production.

We have a whole group of proposals to promote the development of companies through market exchange -in both state and private sectors with a focus on fundamental productions. We are taking, in particular, private companies from the illegal foreign currency market to operate with an exchange rate that can facilitate better prices. We are limited, however, by availability of foreign currency for that market...

We have analyzed how to face wage-price relationship -when to raise wages, minimum pensions and minimum wages as it must be linked to a greater supply of goods and services to ensure increase in wages is not merely followed by increases in prices. We apply alternatives for people with lower incomes prioritizing their access to food modules coming to us by donation.

We have given more powers to state-owned companies, broaden their objectives, to protect companies currently facing fuel or financing problems and not having all the conditions required to fulfill their main functions. Our focus is for companies to be able to favor their workforce by creating goods and offering services improving the life of the population and guaranteeing better performance of the company.

All these issues are part of the daily debate of the Government's agenda and the Party's agenda.  There are many people working to move forward, including groups of economists and jurists.

AR: Many of them are here and  I know because I see them. 

MDC: This is a science palace, sometimes people criticize when we resort to science and hold so many meetings but I do believe science and innovation are going to provide our country with solutions. Arleen, there are no magic solutions. People say: Why don't they apply the measures of the Special Period?  Everything we had during the Special Period has already been applied: decriminalizing foreign currency, opening foreign investment, opening tourism and stores in foreign currency. We have to create material wealth and, in the current conditions, we have to be able to produce and distribute the little we have with the greatest possible concept of equity and social justice while maintaining unity. This is how we are going to get ahead and how to find ways to to get out. It is not going to be fast. 

AR: President, these meetings mentioned with local governments,  provinces by videoconferences, and what you were saying just now, do they mean that the solution could be at the local level?

MDC: These meetings with the provincial bureaus of the Party in each province, by videoconference, were to be held face-to-face during a tour...but given the situation as it was an expense we decided not to waste time and to do it virtually, through a secure videoconference system we have.  We have done it province by province and this has not affected quality at all, we have been able to make very deep analyses.

We have insisted on the demand and fulfillment of the functions of state institutions in all areas because at times like these we observe cracks that have nothing to do with the blockade or economic problems but with malfunctioning of state entities or institutions.

We highly value the fight against corruption and crime. We analyzed the fight against the enemy's plans of political and ideological subversion. We proposed to work in an organized way from the community, from the municipality to promote development. When municipalities are able of producing, developing and overcoming problems then the provinces and our country will overcome them too. It does not mean we are leaving the municipalities alone or that now municipalities are to be blamed. We have to produce, to expand the offer so prices decrease, to continue with social transformation programs in neighborhoods and attending to the most disadvantaged people.

The entrepreneurial system has to take advantage of all its potentialities, not hide behind lack fuel or financing, do everything else it can do without limitations: If I can no longer do this, what about everything else I can do?  Many companies have forces that can repair schools, school furniture, polyclinics, hospitals, participate in the housing program, produce food to change the food situation of their workers and their families. How many services they could provide to the people, how many things can be done that are not being done.  Food production is crucial in achieving food sovereignty at the municipal level -what needs to be done in each community, municipality and how to control land use and use idle land. the midst of all this situation I have come to rural communities where there is not a banana plantation, there is not a grove of fruit trees, you do not see a chicken, you do not see a cow or a pig, and you say: what are they waiting for?  They should be producing for themselves and to contribute to others.  So, we have to see all this, this is part of the process of analysis of insufficiencies, errors we are developing to later share publicly and debate publicly...

We have talked a lot about the work systems. The Party has to take care of everything with the Party's methods and style, without supplanting functions; in taking care of everything, it is also necessary to ensure the Government rules, the administration does it job, the enterprise, economic actors of the non-state sector, and social organizations play their role in society.  For this we must make rigorous and demanding analyses and there must be a strong link with the people...a constant debate with the population. We must continue designing spaces through which the population can present its problems, propose solutions, and be receptive to incorporate all this. We need coordinated work between the Municipal Assembly of People's Power (made up of district delegates, nominated, postulated and elected by the people) which is the highest body of the State and Government at the municipal level; and, the Administration Council (the executive, operative and administrative body in the Municipal Assembly of People's Power for the implementation of everything it approves).

There to be coordinated work between the president of the Municipal Assembly of People's Power, the mayor, the governor of the province (who promotes the articulation of all national, provincial and municipal policies without taking away from the autonomy of the municipality) and Provincial Council of Government where the president and vice president of the municipal assemblies and the mayors of all the municipalities are present.

All the processes we are dealing with: food production, crime fighting, adequate relations between the state and non-state sectors, territorial development, innovation management, attention to people who have certain disadvantages, attention to social programs, search for endogenous development potential, strengthening of local productive systems, are generated in the municipality and are done in the municipality.  We have to ensure territorial management is strong to make progress in everything we want.

AR: President, I would like to go into the subject of your trips abroad, which also seem to me to be of great interest, but I would like to close this subject of the national dynamics and the most recent problems. My colleagues tell me: the most serious problem is communication. I know that you give a lot of importance to that as well, but they talk about one, meeting-ism, too many meetings in the News, in our media, and that the value of those meetings is little seen. Another phenomenon, recent, a rumor, fake news, saying that the availability of fuel was going to be zero. The Minister of Energy and Mines and the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Planning appeared on television. The Minister of Energy and Mines convinced us that this was not going to happen and announced a date: "By October 3rd Energas must begin operation, we are going to have a better situation."  Many people ask why are dates given if we depend on so many external factors -afterwards there were some of the strongest blackouts we have ever had.

MDC: Before we get to that, I would like to talk about some elements of your question.

An excess of meetings but you can say encounters, workshops, still a group of people have to agree and have to build consensus to face a situation. We do that even in families...It seems to me reality is being distorted a little, without objecting that there are things done in an improper way and need to be improved. Now, you were referring to the Round Table where Alejandro and Vicente, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Mines, respectively, reported...We are not telling lies, the information we had and the perspectives we had at the time was reported. In life, unforeseen events also happen: the fuel ship came in and there was not all the foreign currency available to make the payment so the fuel delivery was withheld, thus the fuel deficit was extended a few days. Vicente did not tell a lie but the information he had that day, situations change. Every morning we explain the energy and power situation. We do this because this is what learned, not to tell lies no matter how difficult situations are, we face them with the truth.

We always defend ethics in doing politics, work on the truth. There must be law (the defense of what is fair) and there must be culture and history which are antecedents and answers to solutions to our problems.

We are also going to overcome this situation, we work to ensure fuel shipments needed, maybe not abundance but levels needed to return to our normal -or the one before this month of October. We are working to ensure stable supplies for November and December.

Under conditions of pressure.  For example, US agency tried to pressure a Mexican company because this company was "giving away" oil to Cuba. Pressure appears everywhere and everywhere it is followed. One often sees posts and news in the cables (from the haters) where they are saying: a ship from such and such a country is entering Cuba with fuel, in other words, there is follow-up on energy persecuting our country, all with the evil, perverse objective of denying our country the fuel it needs to live. What can one expect from people who act in this way, condemning a people to a life with limitations?

AR: Those same haters, every time you make a trip abroad, a visit to another country, even in your capacity as the head of a state temporarily leading the Group of 77, for example, or to a meeting as crucial and important as the BRICS meeting in South Africa, they speculate while the less aggressive ones say: "What are the benefits of these trips?”

MDC: Negotiations and agreements of mutual benefit are reached in these trips, investments are unlocked, payment facilities for debts are obtained and a level of international relations is achieved that avoids the isolation they want to provoke in relation to our country.

This year there have been many trips motivated by our responsibility at the head of the Group of 77, and we have not gone just as Cuba but on behalf of the Group of 77, and there is a number of international events in which the Group of 77 has to be present requiring our attendance.

There have been political results, we have to see the opinion on Cuba's participation in the Summit of the 77, in the BRICS Summit, in the UN General Assembly.  In all those trips, agreements were signed and almost unanimous support for the condemnation of the blockade and the demand to remove Cuba from the spurious list of countries sponsoring terrorism was achieved.

Concrete investment and trade agreements derived from those trips, which can only be achieved at high-level meetings. The implementation of these agreements requires the work of technical teams, diplomatic teams, and negotiations can take months. We have achieved much in the last trips and there is a group of things that are in process, to be implemented in the medium term.

We cannot make public all that was achieved in these trips as the enemy is behind us trying to destroy everything we do.  We know of places where we have gone, achieved an important negotiation and behind us the enemy has been pressuring the country in case to not carry out its agreement with us.  

 AR: On the basis of these pressures or harassment, this unleashed wickedness, on your recent trip to New York you had private meetings with American political personalities, to which the press, not even your press, had access,. What understanding did you find towards the situation in Cuba?

MDC: These meetings were an opportunity to talk, explain, put forward points of view and remove doubts these personalities had about certain events in Cuba -due to propaganda, disinformation or discrediting campaigns against the Cuban Revolution. I believe we achieved that, There was understanding and there were people who even embraced us. I believe we achieved understanding of the situation in Cuba, admiration for what the Cuban people have been able to resist and under what conditions we have done it and, above all, sensitivity for Cuba's problems, a tremendous willingness to do everything possible within their reach to achieve a change in the policy of the United States Government towards Cuba and to get Cuba removed from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Several people shared having felt pity for our people and shame for the government actions towards our country.

AR: President, Cuba has just been reelected, well, not reelected, but elected, but for the sixth time, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It has irritated many because there was a huge campaign against that possibility. How do you see the issue, an issue that has been a hot topic inside and outside Cuba?

MDC: We are talking about human rights, an issue that has been manipulated for many years, with an ill intention and a discourse of double standards by the so-called "international community" and the supposed leaders of that international community. Let us not forget that we have lived through many events in which 50 States of that community of more than 190 countries, support something and that something is legitimized as if it were approved by the majority of them because everything is manipulated.

Cuba, a country with a humanist vocation, a calling of solidarity, a calling of service to the world, sharing what we have, not what we have too much to spare and they have wanted to put us in the dock. The same Cuba sending doctors, not bombs. Cuba sending teachers where others send soldiers. Cuba that does not intervene but cooperates in solidarity when others "support" with interventions and aggressions. Cuba facing the pandemic inside and outside the country under principles of human solidarity that cannot be renounced even under the worst circumstances. That is the Cuba they want to condemn.

I ask, with all logic and I believe also with all right as a Cuban: When is the international community going to put the Government of the United States in the dock for violating human rights? When is the United States going to have to answer for the violation of human rights constituted by the genocidal blockade it has applied for more than 60 years against Cuba?  When is the United States going to answer for stirring up international conflicts as it stirred up the European conflict? And when is the United States going to be held accountable as a violator of human rights when it has violated the rights of the peoples of the Middle East, of Palestine, of the Syrian people, who have constantly lived under attack and bombing by Israeli troops supported by the Government of the United States? Why has the United States never been accused of violating human rights, when it is probably the government that has violated the most human rights in the world, of its own people and of other peoples of the planet?

I believe that the election of Cuba again to the Human Rights Council is, above all, recognition of the coherence, of the courage, of the way in which we have firmly defended our principles, and also recognition of the solidarity with which Cuba has supported others in the world. It is an expression of recognition and I would also say admiration, respect for Cuba and support, therefore this election is a political and diplomatic victory for the Cuban Revolution, a victory for the Cuban Revolution!

AR: Well, several victories in a row, which I think are the ones that have made some people uncomfortable.

MDC: Summit of the Group of 77, United Nations General Assembly.

AR: The Summit of the Group of 77 helped us to see this world with its complexities.

MDC: And it built a consensus within the countries of the Group of 77 in the UN General Assembly.

AR: Exactly, and Cuba's participation in the United Nations, I know, because I saw it and I saw two opposing worlds, some servants "of the past in a new cup," as Silvio Rodríguez would say, trying to demonstrate against their own country of origin and absolutely in the minority there, recognizing it themselves, and the North American people in solidarity with Cuba.

MDC: I will never forget: on a Saturday night, in a public institution, more than 900 young Americans supporting Cuba and Venezuela.

AR: It was really impressive and moving. I am done now, I will not take any more time from your family and your rest, but I will come back to the subject of communication. Will we have to wait for another interview you can grant to the communication team or to any Cuban media facing situations like this one?

MDC: I am always ready to communicate and I have demanded it from the comrades of the Party leadership, the comrades of the Government leadership, all of us who have responsibilities, we are public servants -servants of our people. We have to systematically inform the population about the matters within their scope; and not only to inform and communicate but to be accountable. Our dynamic these days: moving around problems we face and doing it in complex moments and as it flows on a daily basis.

There is also a responsibility of the media, press media, to communicate with mastery, with professionalism, because people need to receive information in an attractive way. I make the commitment that we have disposition to do it.  The Presidency's Press Team has been considering the idea, and I am willing to cooperate, of looking for more systematic spaces so we constantly provide information to the population.

AR: You have asked your team, I am aware of that.

MDC: I have asked the Team, and let the Team design it because they are the experts and I have great confidence in my Team, which is young, talented, innovative and very enthusiastic and also puts much energy in their work, and feels our country's challenges with us, constantly searching for what can be done, to improve communication. I am very grateful for all the support they provide me. 

AR: Well, it is leaked that there is going to be a space, which may come out of the networks.

MDC: And how shall we name it?

AR: You name it, you are going to be the Director, I think. I have been told that you are going to be the Director.

MDC: I think it is too much to expect me to be Director, I could be a participant.

AR: What name would you give it if you are going to give information?

MDC: Give me a hint.

AR: You are going to give information.

MDC: Is it official?

AR: Well, who knows if that is where the name comes from.

First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, President of the Republic, who was preceded by heroes of this country such as Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, when he wakes up every morning knowing that the world is not better because bombs are falling on Gaza, or the issue of prices, food, climate change, etc., is still shaking, where does he find the energy to get up and go out to fight?

MDC: In the people, Arleen, in our heroic people. This interview or this meeting cannot pass without having the opportunity to always thank our people for their heroism, support, understanding and contribution. This is the reason why our Revolution is invincible: our people!

AR: Thank you.

MDC: Thank you.

Translated by ESTI  (excerpts of Shorthand Versions - Presidency of the Republic)


We cannot give up on the dreams of the prosperity possible for our country, our people deserve it like no other (Part I)

Interview granted by Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, to journalist Arleen Rodríguez Derivet at the Palace of the Revolution on October 12, 2023, "Year 65 of the Revolution".

Greetings and questions:

Miguel M. Díaz-Canel (MDC) and Arleen Rodríguez (AR) exchanging greetings.

AR: It’s late at night here at the Palace of the Revolution. Are all days this long?

MDC: Every day, there are longer days and there are shorter days, but I have a full agenda every day.

AR: I have had the opportunity to take part in your agenda sometimes and to me, it seems to be a little tight, isn’t it abusing too much of your energy?

MDC: Arleen, we are talking about time, about temporality at work, which is a very important variable in the life of a revolutionary. Times are complex, there is a lot of news coming out in this world full of uncertainty and we do not live in a bubble. That is, we are constantly following what is happening in the country and what is happening in the world, and how global problems also influence our realities.

In these conditions it is not possible to have an empty agenda. There is a full agenda and I would say it is a demanding agenda because there is a lot to do. I do not consider the agenda to be overloaded; it is full and I have gotten used to work with it in all these years. This agenda specially responds to a planning concept that systematizes the moments of work in a way that allows me, in the course of a month and through different forms of action and participation, to tend to each of the pressing problems of the country.

AR: That is to say, do you design your agenda yourself?

MDC: I design it myself; I plan it myself.

AR: How do you do it?

MDC: I already have a work system I came up with years ago, when I started working for the Party; I have been adjusting it to the varied responsibilities I held. My system prioritizes visits, to the provinces, to be in contact with the people so I  schedule a group of meetings.

People say meetings can be bad habit, but there are reasons that make necessary to meet. Excess of meetings can be a bad thing, but without involving the people relevant to an issue and sitting down to analyze, review progress, project what to do and work together around the table, everything would be improvised. At times I am interested in reaching a particular group in a certain place to see things as lived. One plans activities daily, some things one plans weekly, other things one plans every ten days, every two weeks, monthly, this is possible only thanks to a work system. I believe a work so systematic accumulates results and quantitative and qualitative values.

I believe in daily work. I do not believe these are times for an unloaded or easy agenda. It takes energy. As long as I have energy, I will do systematic work this way.  Energy lies first in the challenge ahead and in how one feels challenged; energy comes from commitment and will to face challenges and find answers leading us, as a country and as a people, to a better situation than the one we are living. I make the most of every minute of my work.

In this planning I need space for my personal life. I do not believe that a revolutionary can deny the need of having time to share with his wife, children, grandchildren, grandmothers at home, family and close friends who are part of the family, as it completes the life of a revolutionary.

AR: In any case, we are living in very difficult times. There are many people who tell me: "The President looks exhausted, he looks tired," because they see him with dark circles under his eyes, or sweating in the middle of a neighborhood in Havana or in a province, or in his home province, for example. There are others who tell you: "He has bad luck, he has gone through everything bad that has happened: a tornado, a plane crash, the fire at the Supertanker Base." 

And I ask: Does Díaz-Canel think he has bad luck?

MDC: I think those who talk about luck have to take into consideration the world we are living in, more than anything we should say: this era is bad luck! It is a turbulent time; the world is coming out of a pandemic causing the loss of so many lives. When we all aspire, at least those of us who have a humanist way of thinking, to a world with more solidarity, cooperation, peace and working for the benefit of people, instead  of a world embroiled in wars, conflicts, where unilateral coercive measures are increasing to pressure those who think differently, with walls rather than bridges built, where often the poorest countries are targeted to be crushed; a world increasingly unequal, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the poor have less access to development. Living in these times is really bad luck!

And yet, I believe luck is not the problem…the problem is how we face adversity, misfortune and those extreme and complex situations.

In Cuba, we have historically developed a way to face challenges, we do face the challenge! And proof of that is Fidel and Raúl and their generation, the generation that made the Revolution. They attacked the Moncada barracks, they were taken prisoners, a prison that they described as a fruitful time for them. Look it is a lofty concept for facing challenges: the fruitful prison! In prison they studied, prepared themselves and grew as people.

AR: They did not see it as a misfortune.

MDC: They did not see it that way.

The voyage and landing of Granma with all its vicissitudes and difficulties; the battle of Alegría de Pío and the meeting in Cinco Palmas, when the few remaining finally met, Fidel said: "Now we have won the war!” He defied adversity.

Later, in the years of the Revolution, especially in the early years, there were the events of the blowing up explosion of the French freighter La Coubre, the invasion of Playa Giron, the Escambray mountains and other mountains where the gangs of enemies of the Revolution roamed and murdered peasants and committed misdeeds; the rupture in the early years with the United States and the beginning of the blockade; the October Crisis, which put the world on the brink of a world war; hurricane Flora which hit the country in the early years of the Revolution, when we did not have the current levels of organization our Civil Defense system and our risk and disaster reduction system have, which also caused material losses and the loss of many human lives.

If Fidel would have thought he had bad luck while living those moments in the early years of a thriving Revolution, the Revolution would not have lasted as it has until these days. Especially with all the things the Revolution has gone through in all its years; we lived a Special Period once, and we are living a very complex situation right now.

I do believe in the possibility of turning setbacks into victories, a way of overcoming adversity, of overcoming challenges, that is in our history, in Cuban history. I believe in our history built, written by a people determined to make their dreams come true, a people who has never given up on making their dreams come true. It is so engaging and encouraging to face it, Arleen.

 Sometimes people say to me: "You look serene in the middle of this complex situation." Actually, I'm boiling inside. Besides, there is also a lot of feelings running underneath, a lot of anguish when I am faced with these problems; but I have to draw strength and transmit this strength to the rest of the comrades I work with and to the people. And then this decision not to give up, not giving room to defeat comes. These convictions are deeply rooted in my life, in my way of being and in my way of thinking.

AR: I have heard you say that you are fueled by history, by the country and by the people. Do you feel how that energy floods you? Honestly, because we are from the same generation, and I have said: the day is too can't be, I can't do so much, and I get done, let's say, half of the stuff I want to do, I can't always keep up with the rhythm you are carrying, and that is when the question that seems rehearsed pops in. That is when anyone can say: "You know each other.” Yes, we have known each other for many years, but the closeness in age makes me feel that I can't keep up sometimes. I mean, it's a schedule where there's no room for a change of program.

In fact, we are doing this interview at this hour because you told us: "When I finish my agenda for the day." Today you had important meetings in your agenda.

Now I want to talk about the critics, about those who say that it is not bad luck, but bad administration of the country: those who said that the Restructuring was done at the wrong time; it is a good measure, but the timing was not the right one. That the bankarization, which is also an excellent measure, is executed at the wrong time.

How would you respond to them (the critics)?

MDC: They have the right to criticize. I believe that there is no perfect work. It would be ideal to think everything has been done well, everything is perfect, we are right about everything. We are living in a situation of maximum pressure. They have put us in a situation of maximum pressure: of economic asphyxiation, to provoke the collapse of the Revolution and to fracture the unity between leadership and people to obliterate the work of the Revolution. This is expressed in the financial persecution, the intensification of the blockade, the enormous, ongoing campaign of subversion. It has recently come to light, you have talked about it in your podcast (Chapeando bajito), the strategy of hatred involving huge amounts of money provided by USAID and NED to other countries and particularly to Cuba -to discredit the Revolution and everything we do.

Now, in circumstances as difficult as these it is impossible to find the perfect time. What is the perfect time? What is the perfect measure?

Let us remember, we were living in a blockade until the first semester of 2019, we were living with other shortages we do not have today; with complex situations, but with other shortages. The economy functions in a very different way to how it works now.  All this began to change in the second half of 2019, when Trump tightens the blockade with 243 measures. Then, at the beginning of January 2021, with only a few days left at the White House, he includes us in a spurious list of countries that supposedly sponsor terrorism, completely cutting off all other forms of financing that we could have, a huge financial and energy persecution.

Biden comes along and maintains those measures with the same intensity.

The pandemic came and affected the whole world causing it to collapse. It lasted three years, the world has not yet recovered from the pandemic, we have not yet recovered from the effects of the pandemic either. It was already complicated times, regardless of whether we had applied measures or not.

Our main sources of income were affected: remittances, tourism, exports. We ceased to have financing to repair electric power plants, buy the oil and food we needed, buy raw materials and inputs needed to provide goods and services to the population, we even lacked money to buy raw materials to produce essential medicines.

There were two alternatives: surrender or fight. Surrender meant applying shock formulas, neoliberal policies and leaving every man or woman for themselves. Fighting meant prioritizing human life, and after we won with the lives of the people, we would continue working to move the country forward.

The fight for people's lives during COVID-19, did we win it or not? I think we won and we did it in a praiseworthy way: the people, our health system, the cooperation of the whole world, human solidarity and our scientists with their vaccines won in a meritorious way. Imagine this country if we had not had the vaccines on time. Imagine if we would have lived through the fire in the Supertankers Base, the gas explosion in the Saratoga Hotel, intense rains, floods and cyclones, as it has happened all this time? The country was saved by the strategy to face the pandemic. The concept is creative resistance, which is not only to resist and endure, but to resist and to overcome situations and adversities to advance as well with your talent, your effort, the effort of the people.

How many countries in the world were able to develop their vaccines like we did? How many underdeveloped countries were able to develop vaccines? How many were able to control the disease through their protocols and their own medicines? I believe that Cuba taught us a lesson in this regard and, moreover, we taught it by sharing it with the world, by expressing solidarity with the world.

In the midst of this situation, we applied a measure such as the Restructuring. There was a group working on it ten years ago but the Restructuring could not even be developed in the most propitious conditions. Now, is the inflation today caused by the Restructuring? I think this is a subject to be discussed. I am not going to say whether more or less, but without the Restructuring there would have been inflation nonetheless.

AR: And why is the outside world discussing it?

MDC: Why is there inflation in the world and they have not undergone the Restructuring? Because, there were fewer supply options than could not meet the demand, due to all these problems. What happened is that it would have been an inflation where the wage-price ratio had the absolute magnitude of that time, which in absolute terms would have been lower than the absolute magnitude it has now; but in percentage terms, the purchasing power of the wage in relation to prices would have been more or less the same, because there would have been the same disproportions between supply and demand.

Recently we have had to apply bankarization. The bankarization is necessary, we are creating the conditions and it has been said that it is a gradual process. What happens is that bankarization also comes at a time when we do not have cash, for other reasons. If we did not apply bankarization the cash deficit would have been greater, with bankarization we immediately obtained a response: more money will start to come in, more cash will be deposited in the Central Bank and it will come out of circulation.

We are not closed-minded or dogmatic, we are making an exhaustive analysis of all the antecedents of the Restructuring, where we could have made mistakes, where we could have done wrong and also what factors influenced negatively on the implementation of the Restructuring even if we had done everything right.

We are doing the same with bankarization almost on a daily basisl; we analyze it every week. This critical analysis will be shared with the population as we have every intention of adjusting, as soon as possible, the deviations that may exist in the measures we apply.

We do that every day with everything that happens, and we are constantly looking at what the economists are proposing, what the people are proposing.

AR: Do you read it?

MDC: We read it, we study it, and I assign it as homework to other people. We do not deny any of it, we agree with most of it, what happens is that many of the things proposed, which we are convinced about and which are part of our Macroeconomic Stabilization (Measures) Program (MSMEs) to be implemented need foreign currency and that is what we do not have today.

For example, we need to expand the foreign exchange market and I agree, but what are we to change without foreign currency to make changes. Today the foreign currency we have is giving us enough to buy a little fuel, which is not enough, and to fractionally distribute the basic commodities and other inputs needed to maintain the vitality and basic needs of the population.

We are willing to make the critical analysis required, rectify errors and analyze specific situations. We are not standing still, but in economy, every time you move a variable, everything changes. I am convinced that wages, the minimum pension and the minimum wage, must be increased. However, if we do so without increased supply, prices will immediately go up even more due to the difference between supply and demand. Thus, after three months we will be in the same wage-price ratio average while losing purchasing power.

There are measures we are convinced need to be implemented gradually, or wait for another moment, because they have to be implemented in conjunction with other measures.

There is talk about why we do not subsidize people instead of products. We are working on that, also in the Guidelines, but it has to be done gradually. Should we take away subsidies from everybody in the midst of this situation? When we talk about vulnerable people, we need to measure vulnerability. We are studying a methodology to not leave anyone behind.

We are willing to subsidize people rather than products, measures may be applied in the medium term on the concept of people or families closer to situations of vulnerability. But we have to do this well, avoiding creating conflicts. In any case, not subsidizing products does not mean to stop importing the levels of food we are importing now. Even if we subsidize people, food has to be available for everybody…

These are complex challenges that require much thought…everything requires a lot of elaboration. Some measures that have been applied were postponed, for example, there is now criticism about MSMEs.

AR: I was going to ask about it.

It is one of the action items included in the documents of Party Congress. However, there are people who said that the MSMEs could be a neo-liberal measure. What would you answer them?

MDC: First, I think it is very offensive to say MSMEs are an expression of neoliberalism…The existence of a non-state sector in the Cuban economy is not new. Most of the land in Cuba is managed and produced by agricultural cooperatives, credit and service cooperatives and mores. In other words, the private and cooperative sector is not unknown in Cuba; it has been in the Guidelines in the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Party Congresses. We reached a moment, due to economic contraction and a worsened blockade; thus, a number of people found an employment option in the MSMEs…

There are private MSMEs and there are state-owned MSMEs. Who works in the MSMEs? Are they enemies of Cuba? Are they not Cubans, people trained in our Revolution…can we say that they are counterrevolutionaries, are they against the Revolution, do they want to overthrow the Revolution? No. Let us not mixed things up.

Who wants this sector to become a sector of fracture with the Revolution? The enemy, the Yankees, they demonstrated it now when a group, with the best of intentions, went to an event in the United States, supposedly a business event, a commercial event, an exchange event, not a political one, but it was politicized. Some of them had a terrorist at a dinner. Who politicized the MSMEs, those who travelled from Cuba to the event or the Cuban Government? No, the United States politicized it.

But they say it shamelessly: "We are going to turn this sector into an opposition sector." They were told that they were going to be "agents of change," and we have seen the reaction of many who have not allowed themselves to be manipulated with these things.

Furthermore, MSMEs have set up productive systems for goods and services. Is everything perfect? No, it is not, it is also a very new phenomenon. They have taken advantage of certain situations in which they are ahead of state enterprises, because many of them go to seek financing in an illegal market in foreign currency that unfortunately has been created due to the lack of foreign currency by the government that would strengthen our legal exchange market to which people would go more to if that possibility existed.

Sometimes it is easier for them to import, they are less blocked than the state is, although they are also blocked. What does the business of many of them consist of?  They import raw materials and chain themselves with capacities that we have idle in Cuban companies, and together they have started up productive systems with efficiency.

MSMEs have also been occupying service spaces in society that the State, in a process of socialist construction, does not necessarily have to assume.

Have there been deviations? Yes, some have sold at very high prices and abused prices, used speculative prices…But there are State entities that have also done it. In other words, these deviations are present within all the actors of the economy.

Now we are making an analysis. Two years after this process became more intense and dynamic, we have the right to make assessments, which we are sharing with representatives of this sector and of the state sector. And we are going to organize or perfect appropriate relations between the state sector and the non-state sector. We want to make clear, precise and coherent rules that do not allow distortions.

Those who accuse us of being neoliberals should inform themselves more. If we had applied neo-liberal formulas we would have solved the problem of 1% of the population, while the rest will be every man for himself. No. We are in a very difficult situation, but we continue to share a basic food basket with everyone, even with those who do not need it.

In addition, in the midst of this entire situation, the country approved a program against racial discrimination. Isn't that attending vulnerability or a group of people who may be at a social disadvantage?

We have implemented a program for the advancement of women, isn't that also addressing situations of social disadvantage?

We have gone through a process of social transformation in the neighborhoods with popular participation and not only with assistance.

We have approved a policy oriented to children, youth and adolescents, which will end with a law.

We have continued developing and maintaining social programs that were designed by the Commander in Chief in another moment of the Revolution. For example, the programs of the Battle of Ideas, which are well known, and they are still supported by that economy that many times we criticize, oriented to society.

In addition, we have not raised rates. Today we have companies and workers of state-owned companies at a disadvantage for not raising tariffs to the population in the midst of this situation. The electro-energy workers are at a disadvantage as the price of fuel goes up and expenses of companies generating electricity go up; however, electricity tariffs for the population is not raised, therefore these workers earn less and less while continue providing a service to the population, and we all know the heroism of the electro-energy workers in all these times of energy crisis.

Our public transportation companies are almost bankrupt, because we have not raised public transportation fares.

There are luxuries that we will not be able to afford for a while, but we continue being supportive and trying to take care of everyone. We have inequalities, and some inequalities have been generated since the Special Period, they are not new. They have accumulated and perhaps they are observed with greater dimension in complicated moments because we are living a crisis.

In recent times, when there have been hurricanes, when there have been natural disasters, when there have been accidents, what has been done with the people who have been affected by those disasters? There has been solidarity from the state institutions and the people, and work to attend them all. Then, how can we think that what we are applying is neo-liberalism? We apply an enormous desire to continue perfecting socialism. And to build socialism with what we can make possible today in the current circumstances, without denying and without compromising the future of socialist construction that we will reach when we overcome these circumstances.

And the other thing, which is a certainty: the fundamental means of production continue to belong to the people as represented by the State. The main means of production are not in private hands nor are they managed by the private sector. They are managed by state enterprises, they are the property of our people and there will be no privatization of those fundamental means of production. We have to carry out a heroic work of creation. We have to heroically and creatively build the socialism of the 21st century in Cuba. This is what it is all about.

I am willing to discuss these issues and to listen, but not if it is slander. Not always with intention but still insulting -I am not speaking personally, I am speaking on behalf of the Government and the Party- when every day we are attentive to anything about how we can give a little more to the population, how we can improve. We make mistakes? Yes. Those who say that we are neo-liberals are also making a mistake, creating distrust and discrediting the Revolution. We would have to see what they would do if they were in our position, leading, how they would face these challenges: would they have the courage to stand up and face challenges while continuing believing in the dream of socialist construction, continue believing in our people and giving themselves body and soul to the people.

Now, is it the ideal, is it perfect?

Moreover, has the world solved these challenges? The world is complex, people talk about inflation in Cuba, we also have induced inflation. But, Arleen, I do have the conviction that we are going to overcome this for the better, to be better later on and increase our capabilities in the present and the future.

AR: A common friend, Osvaldo Martínez, a great economist, when I once asked him what the Cuban model was, he told me: "The anti-model, because we have never been able to do what we wanted to do,"

MDC: You are right we have always had to face challenges as they have always tried to slow us down and stop what we proposed. We are going to achieve it one day, Arleen; we are going to achieve it one day!

AR: That is to say, we are not giving up the dream of building the Cuban socialism of the 21st century, as you were saying.

MDC: We are not giving up on that.

AR: We are now in the midst of a complicated situation, as you said at the beginning, a situation where, for example, in the energy issue, the availability of foreign currency is again complicated, it has slowed down the processes once again; measures have been taken that have stopped important production processes, science has been affected, strategic sectors, health, the production of medicines. If you had to define it right now, how do you assess, compared to other periods, the situation Cuba is going through now? What would you say to the Cuban people in terms of the need to understand, to comprehend and to contribute to the situation we are going through?

MDC: First, an approach to the problem. For example, in the daily exercises we do to analyze the situation, where we exchange ideas and criteria to understand what we are going through and how to face it, most of our comrades agree that the fundamental problem of the country is the low availability of foreign currency because of levels of exports, because of the things that have been cut in remittances, in credits (we are one of the few countries in the world that works without credits). Other people have observed that the problem is of production. I believe that the two problems are closely related.

It is necessary to produce: if you do not create wealth you cannot distribute wealth. Even worse because we aspire to distribute wealth in terms of social justice, growth, social development, equity. Many of the processes to create wealth in Cuba depend on certain amounts of foreign currency. So, there are two problems: we are living at a time when production is very deteriorated, and we have low availability of foreign currency. You can tell me: "It is impossible, there is no way out of this situation".

Yes, we can get out of it. There are reserves, there are productivity reserves, there are savings reserves, there are things that can be done with a minimum of foreign currency, and others can be done almost without foreign currency. What happens is that we have to believe it. This is a political discussion; we are having it now and systematizing it in exchange meetings held these days with the provincial bureaus of the Party in each one of the territories. What we cannot do is to give up the dreams of possible prosperity for our country, our people deserve prosperity like no one else.

We have to take advantage of the possibilities we have as a socialist state to plan and distribute available resources to prioritize the production that at this moment could give us more possibilities, and also to protect people who may be in a situation of social disadvantage or vulnerability, preserving the greatest possible social justice in these conditions.

We are in a moment of contraction in the availability of foreign currency. It means we buy less food, less inputs, less raw materials. This has an impact on social sectors such as health, education and the production of medicines, which continue to be a priority.

There is a path of remittances that has gone to the illegal foreign exchange market, and that illegal market, due to the inadequacies of the legal market which cannot counteract it, has become a place where illegal exchanges are made, and where they almost fix the exchange rates and fix the prices of the products. All this, undoubtedly, brings imbalances in the economy.

AR: And it causes migration.

MDC: And it causes migration.

Translated by ESTI