Compañero Army General Raúl Castro Ruz;
July 26 combatants and members of the Granma expedition;
Families of our heroes and martyrs;
Guests joining us;
Men and women of Pinar del Río;
July 26, a transcendental date in the nation's history, provokes in us a particular mix of emotions, feelings, and ideas, in which our pride as children of this people is combined with an eternal commitment to Fidel and to all who sacrificed their lives so that the name of Cuba is always associated with freedom, justice, and dignity.
This is the first time we commemorate an anniversary of the assaults on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons without the physical presence of Fidel, but this does not mean that his image, work, and example do not remain alongside our heroic people, committed, in their daily work, to upholding the concept of Revolution he bequeathed us.
Seventeen years ago, compañero Fidel reminded us that when the Revolution triumphed, this province was the most abandoned, to the extent that many described it as a Cinderella, despite the important contribution its campesinos and workers made to the country's economy, above all in tobacco production and mining.
A few numbers are enough to illustrate the contrast between that sad reality and the present.
More than 85% of Pinar del Río's farms did not belong to those who worked them.
In health, only 16 assistance centers existed, and some 100 private doctor's offices. There were a total of 248 doctors, 25 dentists, 50 nurses and assistants. Today there are 626 family doctor's offices, 19 polyclinics, and five hospitals. In these, 4,577 doctors offer their services, and the nursing staff includes 5,635 professionals, 112 times the number existing back then.
In remote rural areas, where the presence of a doctor, or even a nursing assistant, was a pipe dream, functioning today are 24 expanded emergency service centers that save lives.
The dreadful figure of 60 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births, reached 1.7 during the first half of 2017, a figure which is truly extraordinary, I believe, the lowest in Cuba at this time. (Applause)
And from a life expectancy of 53 years in 1958, the average today is 79, statistics which are also among the best in the country, common only in very developed nations.
More than 3,000 healthcare collaborators from Pinar del Río are making a contribution of solidarity in 43 countries, fundamentally in the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
In education, from 30% illiteracy to a rate of practically zero, for some years now. In terms of the numbers of teachers and professors, educational centers, and the portion of the budget devoted to this decisive sector, the figures are so distant from before that making comparisons is not even worth the time.
Unemployment is practically non-existent, reduced from 30% to 1.3%.
Although far from satisfied, Pinar del Río's men and women have worked hard to ensure that every family has a decent home. In this effort, homeowners' personal efforts have played an important role, along with the provision of subsidies to those without sufficient economic resources.
It is important that the province's progress in the social arena be accompanied by greater economic results, especially in production, in accordance with agreements approved by the 7th Party Congress.
As compañero Raúl has indicated on many occasions, the economy is the essential task, since it is the base upon which all the Revolution's conquests are sustained.
The tobacco sector, decisive not only for Pinar del Río, but for the national economy as well, has made gains in this year's harvest, which must be consolidated definitively.
Other crops are also increasing, like root vegetables and greens, although insufficiently. And rice, this time the weather has favored Pinar del Río more than other provinces, where the drought has caused considerable losses and prevented new plantings.
Also making progress, as compañera Gladys specified in her remarks, are fishing, mining - which is beginning to recuperate its former weight in the economy - industry, and services like tourism, with 5% growth in visitors during the first half of the year, as compared to the same period in 2016.
For these and other reasons, the Political Bureau decided to designate the province as the site of the central commemorative event for July 26. (Applause) In the name of its members, and especially First Party Secretary, compañero Raúl Castro Ruz, I deliver to the workers, campesinos, students, that is all in Pinar del Río, well deserved congratulations and recognition from your compatriots. (Applause)
We especially congratulate First Party Secretary Gladys Martínez Verdecia, and the President of the Provincial Assembly of People's Power, Ernesto Barreto Castillo, for having been capable of leading, with organization and effectiveness, the enthusiasm, the commitment, and unwavering willingness to struggle of your fellow Pinar natives. (Applause)
You better than anyone know that much remains to be done to reach a definitive takeoff of the economy, and thus meet the needs of our people.
In this long, difficult battle, we are convinced that the children of this indomitable land will continue to take the front lines, as did your parents and grandparents, who were never resigned to the marginalization to which the oppressive colonial regime sought to condemn them, firstly, and subsequently a republic subjected to imperialist designs.
This land saw the birth of Isabel Rubio, the Liberation Army's brave Captain of Health, a rank conferred on her by Maceo himself, in recognition of her significant contribution to the independence cause; and of Colonel Manuel Lazo, who made an outstanding contribution to the success of the invasion, one of the most brilliant feats in our history.
More than 50 years later, more than 40 youth from the former province of Pinar del Río participated in the actions of July 26, fundamentally from Artemisa (no longer within the province), but also from other municipalities, including this city. Three of them fell in battle, and another 13 were victims of the crimes ordered by the dictator after the assault.
Living and dying at only 17 and 18 years of age, in San Juan y Martínez, were the brothers Sergio and Luis Saíz Montes de Oca, paradigms and symbols of the thousands of young Cubans who died in the struggle for a future of justice and dignity for the homeland. This coming August 13 will see the 60th anniversary of that unforgettable crime.
Natives of this province, like those of all Cuba, fought tirelessly to win the definitive victory, as did the guerillas of the Pinar del Río Front and underground combatants in rural areas and cities.
This is the land of the Malagones, 12 humble campesinos who became the prototype for our popular militias, carrying out an order from the Comandante en Jefe.
There were countless men and women from Pinar del Río who joined the ranks of literacy teachers, militias, combatants in the struggle against bandits, and internationalists - that is in every battle that has been unleashed over these many years.
Just as those today who in the fields, mines, trenches, classrooms, and other no less important fronts, contribute with the sweat of their brows to the construction of a better future for the homeland.
Compañeras and compañeros:
As Army General Raúl Castro Ruz has said, on more than one occasion, the direction of the Revolution has been charted. In accordance with agreements reached at the 7th Party Congress, we have been working on, and today have, the programmatic documents that establish the direction and scope of changes which we will continue to make with the purpose of achieving a prosperous, sustainable socialism.
All of this amidst a complex international situation, to which compañero Raúl accurately referred, during the closing of the Ninth Ordinary Session of the National Assembly of People's Power, this past July 14, and I quote his comments:
“Today, we reiterate the Revolutionary Government’s condemnation of measures to tighten the blockade, and reaffirm that any attempt to destroy the Revolution, whether through coercion and pressure, or the use of subtle methods, will fail,” end of quote.
In recent weeks, the interventionist and destabilizing actions perpetuated against the Bolivarian, Chavista government led by the constitutional President Nicolás Maduro Moros, to whom we reiterate our invariable solidarity, have increased.
Adding to the unconventional war, which the civic-military union of the Venezuelan people has exemplarily resisted for several years, are recent threats by the U.S. government to impose unilateral economic sanctions.
In turn, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) continues his despicable performance at the service of imperialism, appearing before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere of the United States Senate in support of the application of sanctions.
Just days ago, an influential U.S. daily speculated on the possible involvement of our country in eventual international negotiations relating to the situation in Venezuela.
Cuba roundly rejects such insinuations and demands absolute respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Applause).
Those who from abroad attempt to lecture on democracy and human rights, while encouraging coup violence and terrorism, must take their hands off that nation.
It is up to the Bolivarian people and government, alone, to overcome their difficulties, without foreign interference in their internal affairs.
We reaffirm, once again, our unwavering solidarity with the Venezuelan people. (Applause)
Before our people, in memory of our heroic dead, let us reaffirm that we will never betray the glory and the infinite pride of having served with modesty the country and the Revolution, under the ideas and steadfast guidance of Fidel and Raúl (Applause).
Eternal glory to our heroes and martyrs! (Shouts of “Glory!”)
¡Viva la Revolución! (Shouts of “Viva!”)
¡Viva! (Shouts of “Viva!”))
!Viva Cuba Libre! (Shouts of “Viva!”)