Notes on Fidel Castro's Speech to the Cuban People
by Walter Lippmann, CubaNews, March 17, 2005
(A selection of other Cuban and foreign media coverage is included below.)
Through the miracle of the Internet anyone with a computer can now listen to major speeches of the Cuban leadership live as they're given. Tonight Fidel Castro spoke for just under three hours to a meeting of leaders of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Young Communist League, and the various mass organizations. His remarks were broadcast live on Cuban television and radio, within the country. There will be more detailed reports in the Cuban media tomorrow, but a few items were of particular interest from what I heard of the remarks, which covered a wide range of issues. When I left Cuba on March 5th, it seemed the most hopeful thing which could happen was a positive turnaround in the island's economic situation.
That's what's reflected in tonight's speech by Fidel Castro. Given the timing and the buildup, I'd wondered if the speech was in some way a response to the UN Human Rights Commission and the political battle being waged there. The US State Department and the media which cooperate with it did their best in this regard by making a statement (the US government made a statement, the US media wrote long articles about the Cuban opposition, though they had to admit that the opposition is sharply divided among themselves. Fidel even alluded to them at the start of his remarks by humorously mentioning Marta Beatriz Roque and Oswaldo Paya, Washington's favorite Cuban oppositionists. These are people who are mentioned rarely or never in Cuba's media. Fidel even laughed and wondered how it would all be reported in the MIAMI HERALD the next day.
Among the most important was his announcement of a revaluation UP of the regular Cuban peso, which is referred to on the island as Moneda Nacional (National Currency or "MN"), as distinguished from the Cuban Convertible Pesos (often referred to simply as "Convertibles" or "CUC". Convertible pesos, which are pegged on the island as equivalent to the United States dollar, have long been referred to in Cuban slang as "chavitos". ("Chavitos" is the term Cuban children use to refer to Monopoly money.)
Effective tomorrow, the price for buying convertible pesos will drop from 27 to 25 pesos, while the price for selling regular pesos to exchange for convertibles will drop from 26 to 24, an effective 7% increase in the price of the regular Cuban peso.
Fidel explained that while the value of national currencies everywhere are dropping, Cuba's is increasing. Readers will recall that last fall Cuba removed the US dollar from regular business transactions on the island. Ownership of the dollar remains legal, but there's nothing you can spend it on in a Cuban store. But the island went from three to two currencies at a stroke, and the dollar is more or less forgotten by now by most Cubans. The increase in the value of the regular peso seems clearly (to me) a step along the road of establishing a single national currency, though how long that will take is a matter for specialists and crystal ball readers to determine.
This change is one of the consequences of Cuba's strategic alliance with China and Venezuela, which have given the island a level of economic stability it hasn't had since the fall of the Soviet Union and its allies.
Long parts of tonight's address, which was, by the way often punctuated by laughs from the crowd as Fidel cracked various jokes, as well as various friendly interruptions from people in the audience raising one or another questions, were given over to continuing discussion of the pressure cookers and the rice cookers which Fidel spend to much time discussing on March 8, International Women's Day. Hundreds of thousands of these devices will quickly be made available to the Cuban population, particularly through its Social Security system.
While the US President, George W. Bush is pushing to privatize the US Social Security System, Cuba's government is expanding its activities. During the Special Period, which is the period since the fall of the USSR and its allies, this system has taken on greater importance. While there's certainly been a social differentiation process which has taken place among those who have and haven't access to dollars through working in tourism or receiving remittances, homelessness and hunger have not been much in evidence. For those who have the lowest incomes, the government has special dining halls. For those on pensions above a certain age, there are special diets and special allowances through the rationing ("libreta") system. It's this system through which the rice cookers and pressure cookers will be made available to Cubans who need them most.
Fidel also spoke about the steps taken to expand and secure the island's electrical system, which are aimed at reducing blackouts. Cuba is nearly entirely wired for electricity at this time, but there are parts of the country where natural gas for cooking is not available to everyone, and there are areas where people use kerosene for cooking. Kerosene is a lot more expensive than gas. Through the rice cookers, which are manufactured in China, one of the most important parts of Cuban cuisine can now be made available and at a lower expenditure cost (cooking via electricity rather than by kerosene).
The Comandante was in a great mood tonight, telling people he wouldn't go on too long so they wouldn't miss tonight's baseball game (which went on as soon as his speech was over). He didn't mention it, but for those who aren't interested in baseball, were able to tune right in to the Cuban telenovela which also begins weeknights at 9 PM.
New Exchange Rate in Cuba Beginning Tomorrow
Havana, Mar 17 (AIN) As a demonstration of the strengthening of the Cuban peso, starting Friday, March 18, a new official exchange rate will take effect in the country.
The resolution by the Central Bank of Cuba, announced by President Fidel Castro during a special presentation Thursday evening, states that the rate will now be 24 pesos for selling operations and 25 pesos for buying in convertible currency.
The document notes that the measure is in line with the
strategic course set by Cuba to firm up its national currency.
President Fidel Castro Recaps Rising Living Standard
Havana.- Cuban President Fidel Castro reiterated the Revolution´s commitment to
comply with several decisions recently announced to improve people´s standard of
living. The leader said that the government will comply with the decision to
sell rice and pressure cookers to every family at highly subsidized prices --
some households still unable to afford them due to their very little income will
get them free -- and announced that further benefits will follow. Addressing a
special public meeting on Thursday night, he assured problems with power
shortages will definitely be solved in the near future, announced a
revalorization of the Cuban peso, a raise in pensions and referred to a future
wage hike and program to improve housing. Fidel Castro also announced the
distribution of different types of food and consumption items, and said
currently basic food needs are rationed but the day will come that no product
will be rationed.
Prensa Latina - Synthesis Daily Report - March 18, 2005
This was the first detailed report from the Cuban media in
English after the speech was given:
Cuban President Announces Increase in Value of Cuban Peso
Havana, March 17 (RHC - Late Edition)--Cuban President Fidel Castro announced a major economic change for the country in a special meeting Thursday evening in Havana with the nations principal leaders and representatives of political and grass roots organizations present.
Reading from a Cuban Central Bank proclamation, the country's leader announced that the exchange rate of the Cuban peso to the Cuban convertible peso - which is on a par with the US dollar - will drop from 26 to 24:1. This represents a 7% increase in the value of the Cuban peso which is the currency most people receive as salary in Cuba. Buying convertible pesos with Cuban pesos will now be 25:1 in lieu of 27:1.
The announcement was received with cheers and loud applause followed by an obviously pleased Fidel Castro saying that the measure gave him tremendous satisfaction and that the strengthening of the nation's currency rewards the extraordinary confidence in the economy demonstrated by the people of Cuba, along with the discovery of oil on the island. The proclamation goes into effect when the banks open Friday.
"Let's see what they make of this now," mused the Cuban leader about the likely handling of the news by the United States. In light of Cuba's recent rejection of the US dollar as legal tender in Cuba, Fidel Castro then opined on the disasters that have become nations whose economies have been artificially linked to the dollar, such as Argentina, or have taken the dollar as their main currency, such as Ecuador. The opposite has happened in Cuba, he said.
Prior to making the announcement of the strengthening of the peso, the Cuban president had responded to criticism by the population of his announcement last week on International Women's Day that rice and pressure cookers would be made available to the entire population in an effort to save on energy.
Before beginning to respond to a selection of some 26,000 opinions that had been presented to local authorities across the country in response to his speech, Fidel Castro, himself a baseball fan, reassured those present that he would be sure to finish before an important baseball game this evening.
One of the greatest concerns among the comments collected was where the energy resources would be coming from to support the use of some seven million electric cookers. Fidel Castro responded that the savings of energy by using these efficient cookers would far exceed the energy needed to use them. Inefficient cookers, kerosene and gas would no longer be used for cooking rice and beans, so the saving would be immediate, he said.
Others asked: How are we to cook using electricity with constant black outs? A good question, responded the Cuban president. Extensive measures have been taken to prevent further problems with the national grid. A total of $34 million had been spent upgrading one electrical plant alone, he said, and there would be major changes before the end of the year in terms of electric generation. By the second quarter of 2006, Fidel Castro promised that baring unforeseen circumstances such as accidents, there would be no more black-outs in the country.
Commenting that he enjoyed receiving the opinions of Cubans - critical or not - the President read out another comment that said he had only made the announcement about the distribution of pressure and rice cookers to ingratiate himself with the country's women just before municipal elections. Well, he answered, if that's true he was ingratiating himself in a manner that was just, and in an attempt to solve major problems of cooking for the people and energy for the country. Kerosene, for example, is used by a large number of people in Cuba and is dangerous and its smell enters the food it cooks. It is also an inefficient use of energy. And this has nothing to do with the elections, added Fidel Castro. In Cuba nobody buys votes - tell that to the rest of the world.
As to those who would not be able to afford the very low price of the cookers, the Cuban president said that all people on social assistance will be given one for free. They will thus be within the reach of everyone on the island, regardless of income.
After reading the Cuban Central Bank resolution, with everyone
in a good mood and in time for the baseball game tonight, Fidel Castro then led
everybody in singing The International.
Posted on Fri, Mar. 18, 2005
Castro gives upbeat portrayal of future
Cuban leader Fidel Castro warned compatriots against the black market and said better times are ahead.
By NANCY SAN MARTIN
In a highly anticipated speech, Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Thursday again spoke against corruption, reminding citizens the socialist state was reining in control and promising it would respond to basic needs of the population.
Reflecting continuing reports of an economic strengthening and the weakening of the U.S. dollar on the island, Castro said the Cuban peso would strengthen today from 27 to 25 to the dollar. The increase -- a 7 percent gain by the peso -- is the first since 2001.
''With this measure, we move in the strategic direction of strengthening the national currency and continue to boost the extraordinary confidence of our population,'' Castro told a large audience of Communist Party leaders, military and Interior Ministry officials and members of the federation of Cuban women.
''The currency of a Third-World country, a blockaded country, begins its upward journey and will go, in a consistent manner, as far as it's necessary,'' said Castro, 78. ``. . . The fate of the empire's currency is to devalue; the fate of the currency of Cuba, the blockaded country, the currency of the revolution, is to gain in value.''
During much of the nearly three-hour address, aired live on Cuban television and radio, Castro stressed a need to rid the country of the black market, saying illegal sales compromised a system meant to benefit all Cubans.
''We must do away with the scheming,'' Castro warned. ``We have the most just cause, the best [political] system and we are squandering it. . . . The state has to guard and educate.''
Castro also said an energy shortage that has triggered lengthy and frequent blackouts would be remedied by early next year. ''There will be no shortage of electricity,'' Castro told a crowd estimated at about 2,000. ``By the first quarter of next year, you can all sleep peacefully.''
But even as he promised better times, Castro said patience was needed.
''Let's not create illusions. Let things mature,'' he said. ``Trust, trust the country; it has a serious perspective.''
Herald translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.
SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL
Cuba revalues peso 7%
Decision makes currency stronger vs. the U.S. dollar.
By Vanessa Bauza
March 18, 2005
HAVANA · In a speech meant to convey growing economic optimism, President Fidel Castro announced a 7 percent revaluation of Cuba's currency, which will make the Cuban peso slightly stronger against the U.S. dollar beginning today.
The currency revaluation comes as the government has reasserted control over the economy, returning to greater centralization of a variety of industries, from tourism to state-run companies. It also follows the elimination of the U.S. dollar from circulation in November.
Castro said Cuba's peso had grown stronger thanks to economic growth spurred by accords with Venezuela, which provides about half of Cuba's daily oil consumption under preferential terms, and China, which is investing in the island's lucrative nickel industry.
Beginning today, the rate for exchanging Cuban pesos into a currency known as the convertible peso, which is printed in Cuba and has the same value as the dollar, will be 25 to 1 rather than 27 to 1. Cuba has two currencies -- the peso with which most Cubans are paid -- and the convertible peso, which is used for sales of most consumer goods.
"With this measure, we are moving in a strategic direction to strengthen the national currency and continuing to increase our population's extraordinary confidence in [the peso]," Castro said in a televised speech Thursday.
The Cuban peso's value has fluctuated widely since the fall of the Soviet Union, which caused a near-paralysis of the island's economy.
In 1989, the peso was valued at 7-to-1 against the dollar. Five years later it tumbled to 95 pesos to the dollar, said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a leading Cuba expert and professor emeritus of economics at the University of Pittsburgh.
"Really a reduction from 27 to 25 is not a big deal because [the Cuban peso] has essentially been fluctuating two or three points [in recent years]," Mesa-Lago said. "This is sort of symbolic."
In the early 1990s, when Cuba's economy crashed, Castro was forced to implement modest reforms, from legalizing limited self-employment to luring foreign investors and tourists. But as the economy has gradually recovered, many reforms have been turned back.
Mesa-Lago said Castro feels emboldened because he is backed by his close ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
"He's depending on Chávez and the question is how long can he continue doing this?" Mesa-Lago said.
Castro's announcement will give Cubans slightly more buying power for their peso.
Vanessa Bauza can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2005,
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
New Social Measures in Cuba on
Sound Economic Footing, Says Fidel Castro
Havana, 17 March (AIN) The Cuban revolutionary government reiterated its determination to work hard to provide ever more goods and resources for the population and to distribute them in a spirit of justice, through socialist concepts.
Addressing a crowd of young people, workers and military officers at Havana's Convention Center on Thursday evening, President Fidel Castro stressed the relevance of the notion of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their work."
The Cuban leader expanded on the recently announced measures of a social character outlined on March 8, like replacing kerosene as a domestic fuel, and said that there has already been a growth in power generation.
Blackouts will soon be history, he noted, adding that the necessary investments are being implemented so that there will not be a repeat the electricity crisis experienced last summer.
By next year, "we will be at ease concerning power generation, because the generation capacity will have been increased, and we are well prepared," he emphasized.
Fidel Castro, who had commented on the great sense of expectancy that his announced speech had caused in the world, ended up his address by reading a Central Bank of Cuba resolution that revalued the Cuban peso in relation to the US dollar.(More to follow)
Fidel Castro Announces Solution
to Energy Shortages in Cuba
Havana, Mar 18 (Prensa Latina) Cuban president Fidel Castro announced Thursday that energy shortages will be solved definitely in the next 18 months.
The head of state assured that from the second half of next year onward people will be able to sleep peacefully without unpleasant blackouts, as the generation capacity will be so big there will be no risk of shortages.
When he addressed an audience of political organization leaders, military and social entities gathered at the Convention Palace, the Cuban president discarded false expectations on putting an immediate end to blackouts, but he did assure that solutions were to be achieved soon.
He said a lot is bound to change before the end of this year when new extremely economical generating capacities come into operation in the national power grid.
The Cuban president said the plan did not depend on miraculous formulas, but based on a series of investments to improve the performance of several thermoelectric plants in the island.
He said to be confident that soon the country will have reserve capacities, even to come into operation during peak consumption hours.
He also advanced the possibility of having around 300 thousand kilowatts in several plants, destined to guarantee the operation of the water system, hospitals and other important facilities in case any unexpected deficit in power occurs.
Only something crazy could provoke a very complicated situation, he said, referring to possible plans of aggressions against Venezuela or magnicide attempts against the president of that country, Hugo Chavez were carried out.
We are well prepared for everything, stressed finally Fidel Castro, projecting security about a problem that has worried the majority of Cubans.
Among the topics he approached in his speech was the housing situation, the plans for a significant increase in home construction, the improvement of life conditions in general for the people and the progressive recovery of the value of the national currency.
He denied the measures announced had anything to do with the coming parliamentary elections. The leader of the Revolution pointed out to tose who think the measures are being taken due to the oncoming elections are wrong.
The Cuban president discarded the idea the measures are aimed to increase popular attendance to the polls to elect local government organs next April 17. He affirmed that in spite of persisting diffiulties, local elections usually have an attendance rate of 95 per cent of all the citizens in capacity to cast their votes.
President Fidel Castro Recaps
Rising Living Standard
Havana, Mar 18 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Fidel Castro reiterated the
Revolution´s commitment to several decisions recently announced to improve
people´s standard of living.
The leader said that the government will comply with the decision to sell rice and pressure cookers to every family at highly subsidized prices -some households still unable to afford them due to their very little income will get them free- and announced that further benefits will follow.
Addressing a special public meeting on Thursday night, he assured problems with power shortages will definitely be solved in the near future, announced a revalorization of the Cuban peso, a raise in pensions and referred to a future wage hike and program to improve housing.
In an optimistic speech on International Womens' Day last March 8 he said the country is recovering from the economic crisis called Special Period.
Last night, the Cuban leader revealed, among other encouraging news, that the bothersome and frequent electricity shortage will gradually disappear as the national power generation system is enhanced.
Fidel Castro also announced the distribution of different types of food and consumption items, and said currently basic food needs are rationed but the day will come that no product will be rationed.
The Cuban president reiterated that people will receive more benefits to be distributed with justice and through socialist formulas according to the principle, "from each according to ability: to each according to need."
The president advised protection of markets (bodegas), especially when stocked with new products, and regarding transportation, housing and food, Fidel Castro said these problems are being considered on a State level. In the case of housing, new construction projects will soon be underway.
Havana. March 18, 2005
What we’re doing is
giving more to the people
and sharing more equally
• Fidel affirms during his special TV appearance yesterday
• Announces more good news for everyone next week
• Purchasing power of peso increases
BY MARIA JULIA MAYORAL —Granma daily staff writer—
FROM today, the purchasing power of the Cuban peso is to increase by 7%, thanks to new exchange rates for purchase and sales operations in the network of exchange outlets (CADECAS), affirmed President Fidel Castro yesterday during a special address at Havana’s International Conference Center.
The leader of the Revolution maintained that this step in the area of finance is highly satisfying given that it signifies the beginning of the long and upward path of the peso. It is the first time in history that the currency of a blockaded and Third World country has been able to set out on the road of systematic revaluation that will carry it forward in a consistent manner, as far as necessary, he confirmed.
THERE WILL BE ENERGY STABILITY
Clarifying doubts expressed by citizens over the last few days, Fidel specified that there will be many changes before the end of the year with respect to the availability of electricity thanks to the incorporation of two combined-cycle units in Varadero, whose capacity is slightly higher than two plants like the Antonio Guiteras, and with the advantage of possessing more modern, efficient and economical technology.
He noted that the island also has generators with a total capacity of 200,000 to 300,000 kilowatts in order to guarantee the functioning of aqueducts, hospitals and other important installations in the case of a power deficit in the National Electricity System. He clarified that the intention is not to put that equipment into use except in the case of unforeseen breakdowns, when it could offer the necessary security so as not to damage essential services to the population.
In August, he confirmed, the Antillana de Acero will be producing steel rods 24 hours a day, while the quarries used for building materials will be working with greater intensity in order to fulfill the new plans for the construction and reparation of homes, likewise thanks to an increase in energy recovery.
The president of the Council of State and Ministers explained that many business, state and government teams are currently occupied with the issue of reinstating programs for the reparation and construction of homes as soon as possible.
"I will be bold enough to say," he affirmed, "that from the second semester of 2006 the generative capacity will be so large that there will not be the slightest risk, if the normal course of events is maintained, something that could be disturbed in the case of war – an imperialist aggression against Cuba – or if there was a US invasion of Venezuela, or an assassination attempt on Hugo Chávez, which could provoke very complicated situations; and nobody can guarantee today that incidents of this kind will not occur.
"In the case of Cuba," he reiterated, "we are well-prepared from a military point of view, and to be prepared in all areas is our duty and the rightful thing for us to do," he commented.
The president went on to say that there are no plans at present to increase electricity prices, although the idea of introducing modifications in the future for large scale consumers, including citizens with workshops or other private businesses in their homes, who consume much more electricity in comparison with the average family, is being floated
NEW PRODUCTS AND THE BATTLE AGAINST RACKETEERING
The president of the Council of State and Ministers explained that the country spends $1 billion per year on the purchase of foodstuffs, and what is paid for those products in the bodegas (neighborhood stores where people buy rationed goods) is equal to less than one thirtieth of what the state invests.
He also noted that the provinces affected by the intense drought are still receiving tens of thousands of tons of additional food with respect to the basic quota delivered to the rest of the country. These regions, he explained, will also be the first to have access to new supplies of wheat and corn flour announced on March 8.
Likewise, top-speed efforts are underway to initiate distributions of pure coffee (not blended with peas) and chocolate with full powdered milk, which will be sold at reasonable prices. Both the coffee and the chocolate, he clarified, will arrive in sealed packages, and the sale of these goods will also begin in the eastern provinces from June.
Opinions raised by the population during March 8-15 include the need to prevent the theft and misdirection of the new appliances, as well as the pure coffee, the chocolate with full powdered milk and the other aforementioned foodstuffs, which will be sold in the bodegas. With respect to that, Fidel urged the mass organizations, UJC members, Armed Forces combatants and the Ministry of the Interior... in short, the revolutionaries of the barrios, to prevent potential racketeering and theft.
As he put it, the principles that should prevail during the process of distribution and sale should be imposed by the people, with due exigency, and without entering into complicity with individuals breaking the law.
All of the measures and results favor success; in two-and-a-half months, the country will have the necessary gaskets for the pressure cookers. The machines industry is charged with supplying them – as well as the pressure cookers, rice cookers and electric stoves – to the bodegas.
In Santa Clara, 70,050 rice cookers have been delivered, as have 44,300 in Cienfuegos, and in neither of those regions has electricity consumption gone up, which illustrates the benefits that both families and the national economy will obtain in that way, Fidel explained.
The president also remarked on the importance of improving attention to low-income sectors of the population, including retirees, persons who have worked their whole lives – some of whom now receive less than 100 pesos monthly – and he affirmed that the moment is not far off when the country will be able to implement wage increases, all of them subject to the people’s qualifications and contributions, in line with socialist principles.
More is being given to the people and it is being distributed better, Fidel summed up, announcing that he would be back next week to report more news.
The meeting, described by the leader of the Revolution as another working session apropos of these times, included leaders of the Communist Party, the Young Communist League, the state, government and cadres from the Federation of Cuban Trade Unions, the Revolutionary Combatants’ Association, the José Martí Pioneers Organization, University and Intermediate Student Federations, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the National Association of Small Farmers and combatants of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.
Per Castro, Cuban economy on
President says blackouts will be a thing of the past
By Mary Murray
Updated: 2:23 p.m. ET March 18, 2005
HAVANA - Cuban consumers are hearing a
bit of good news.
Starting Friday, the island’s national
currency, the Cuban peso, gains seven percent buying power against
the official exchange rate, the first revaluation by the Cuban
Central Bank in four years.
Speaking on national television on
Thursday, Cuban President Fidel Castro said the peso has gained
strength in the local economy as a result of a series of recent
fiscal measures taken by his government.
The measures include strong trade deals
with China and Venezuela, the discovery of petroleum deposits in
Cuban waters, the abandoning of the U.S. dollar, and a boost in
nickel production with both Chinese ventures and the Canadian
company Sherritt International.
According to local sources, two
additional factors have helped inflate national revenues.
Tighter government control over state
companies has centralized profits, allowing for a more rational use
of returns. In fact, some 90 percent of the communist-run economy is
in state hands, according to Reuters.
Also, Cadeca, the Cuban exchange houses,
raked in an estimated $1.2 billion when consumers were forced to
replace their U.S. dollars with a local currency last November.
Good times ahead
Castro stated that favorable economic conditions would help the peso to continue to gain strength.
“These circumstances have created
conditions for a progressive, gradual and prudent revaluation of the
national currency,” according to the Cuban Central Bank.
In addition, new housing and state
salary hikes appear to be on the horizon.
Cuban workers are hard-pressed to make
ends meet on their average monthly wages of 250 pesos. An estimated
60 percent of the population supplements their peso salaries with
hard currency, earned locally or sent from family members living
The rest of the population struggles to exchange some of their peso earnings into the local hard currency that buys imported essentials such as cooking oil and milk.
Blackouts will be 'history'
But, the most welcomed consumer news had to do with Cuba’s critical energy shortages. “Blackouts will soon be history,” Castro stated, pledging an end to power shortages over the next 18 months.
Since Moscow stopped shipping oil to the
island almost 15 years ago, Cuba has been plagued with regular
blackouts that make life even harder in this developing nation.
In addition to pumping its own offshore
petroleum, the Cuban government has begun making a major capital
investment in overhauling the country’s feeble power grid.
Recently, the government spent $34
million for spare parts and supplies from Japan just to upgrade one
power plant in central Cienfuegos province. An additional 300
smaller power plants are currently under production.
In the short-term, Castro said his
government plans to put more imported food on the family table and
make scarce consumer products available to every Cuban household,
including three million electric pressure cookers that go on sale
after April first.
Mary Murray is an NBC News producer based in Havana.
Fidel Castro"s Appearance and Speech Reported in Argentina
Buenos Aires, Mar 18 (Prensa Latina) Revaluation of the Cuban peso by 7 percent against the US dollar, announced last night by President Fidel Castro, was published by Argentinean newspaper Pagina 12 Friday.
The statement of the Cuban President said that this measure benefits 100 percent of the Cuban population, since they will benefit in one way or another, or save national currency.
Pagina 12 also noted Castro´s comments that it was a first step for "a progressive, gradual and prudent revaluation of the national currency."
For their part, digital newspaper INFOBAE.COM published the statement, saying that since Friday, the Cuban foreign money exchange houses -known in Cuba as CADECA- would apply an equivalent of 24 Cuban Convertible pesos (CUC) for a US dollar for sale operations, and 25 Cuban pesos (national currency) for a CUC for purchase operations, according to a resolution of the Central Bank of Cuba.
They reported that Fidel Castro read the statement before members of the Government, leaders of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of Interior (MININT) among other entities.
Fidel Castro said that with this measure, Cuba is pursuing a strategy to strengthen the national currency, and to continue to increase the population"s trust in its government, adding that the government had the financial resources to establish such a regulation.
"We have the commitment to dare to get our country"s national currency closer to our foreign exchange currency (CUC) but with different destinations. The US dollar devalued, and the Cuban currency, that of the economically blocked country, valued," INFOBAE.COM quoted Fidel Castro.
Cuban Peso Gains on US Dollar
Havana, Mar 19 (Prensa Latina) Cubans are coming to exchange houses to buy and sell their Cuban Convertible Currency (CUC) as the peso gained strength against the US dollar, after President Fidel Castro announced Thursday night in a special public appearance further economic benefits for the people. President Fidel Castro Recaps Rising Living Standard Fidel Castro Announces Solution to Energy Shortages in Cuba Fidel Castro´s Appearance and Speech Reported in Argentina
CUCs took over the place of the US dollar late last year -- they are at par -- when the State decided to take the US currency out of circulation for business and commercial transactions, though it remains a legal tender in the country and people can have bank accounts in dollars and are free to exchange them.
Fidel Castro told Thursday an audience of Cuban politicians, members of grass-root organizations and military officers, exchange houses would begin buying one convertible peso (CUC) at 24 Cuban pesos, while selling it at 25 Cuban pesos (in parity with the dollar at the official exchange). The previous rate was 26 to one and one CUC for 27 pesos.
This represents a 7 percent increase in the value of the Cuban peso, thus benefiting 100 percent of citizens who get paid or have accounts in the local currency, the president pointed out.
The move aims to make the Cuban peso stronger and increase confidence, as unquestionably corroborated by the 4.8 million saving accounts in local banks, he added.
Fidel Castro recalled that a Parliament session in December 2004 had largely informed on the new prospects for the development of the country´s economy.
Regarding this, he referred to the consolidation of efforts by the Cuban people and important events in the last few months, such as the internal replacement of the dollar by the convertible peso and agreements with China and Venezuela.
The new initiative and others being analyzed will result in stronger support for the Cuban peso, by increasing the volume of goods and services that will be offered in the local currency.
Suitable conditions for "the progressive, gradual, and prudent revaluation of the national currency have been created," the president noted.
In his Thursday public appearance, Fidel Castro assured problems with power shortages would definitely be solved in the near future, announced a revalorization of the Cuban peso, a raise in pensions and referred to a future wage hike and program to improve housing.
He went on to say he would announce further benefits to the people in a week from now.