Putting human life first, Cuba battled the pandemic, while continuing work on hundreds of objectives, on all fronts
If at the end of 2019 a list of challenges to be faced in 2020 had been made, it would not be easy to conduct an accounting of how we had done, since Cuba does not establish ten-point agendas, but rather hundreds of objectives, on all fronts. And this was the year of obstacles.
The speech President Miguel Díaz-Canel presented to the National Assembly of People’s Power, as 2019 drew to a close, identified several priorities that any citizen can use to determine to what extent projected goals were met, during the 365 days of 2020. These include:
-Survive the ferocity and insanity of the economic, commercial and financial U.S. blockade imposed on Cuba.
-Adopt all necessary measures to neutralize interventionist U.S. plans; protect the population’s security and wellbeing; safeguard national unity and defend the country’s sovereignty and independence.
-Maintain solidarity and cooperation with countries on all five continents – especially Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico and Argentina in our region, as well as Russia, China and Vietnam, on the other side of the world.
-Achieve economic growth of 1%.
-Advance in the implementation of monetary re-ordering.
-Make progress on the established legislative agenda.
-Combat disrespect for the law, bureaucratism, accommodation, inertia and apathy.
It was clear then, and is clear now that, although the country has many priorities, defense, the economy and the wellbeing of the people constitute the nation’s vital triad, let’s say its locomotive.
But in 2020 the Cuban economy, which has yet to overcome the impact of the blockade in the previous period, declined by 11%, noticeably evident in the production and sales of food, in the population’s income, the limited fuel supply, empty stores, etc.
The tightening of the blockade reached an exasperating level; the crisis provoked by COVID-19 around the world, with its consequent impact on productive chains that tie nations to each other, along with the spread of the disease on the island, delivered the final blow in a year that we knew would be difficult. No one suspected, however, just how hard it would be.
Nonetheless, the government assumed the challenge of announcing the initiation of the Ordering Task, January 1, 2021, with which important pending agreements reached during the Sixth and Seventh Party Congresses are being implemented, to get the national economy on track.
When addressing the National Assembly this most recent December, the President recalled, “A year ago, from this same podium, we said: They threw us to our death and we are alive! We imagined, at the time, that nothing could be worse than that escalation of measures to tighten the imperialist blockade and attack the sources of our energy supply, our medical brigades and any option of financing.”
Seconds later he added, “Cuba Viva rose above our own possibilities,” insisting on living and triumphing.
This year, amidst so much adversity, meeting any objective required daily feats, especially the most important that became the center and heart of the government’s work: protecting the people’s health.
GOVERNMENT ACTION TO CONFRONT COVID-19
An article on the government’s work and the role of Cuban science in combating COVID-19 was published in the June issue of the Cuban Academy of Sciences’ journal Anales, written by President of the Republic Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez and Jorge Núñez Jover, dean of the Science, Technology, and Society department at the University of Havana.
Noted in the text is that January 30, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus epidemic, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Party Central Committee, called for the development of a national strategy to address the health emergency.
Likewise, the Council of Ministers approved a Coronavirus Prevention and Control Plan January 29, and February 12, the COVID-19 scientific advisory group was established.
The national task force charged with directing implementation of the plan met daily, led by the President and Prime Minister, and on a weekly basis, the country’s leadership met with experts and scientists to evaluate the results of research being conducted and the application of findings.
Provincial Civil Defense Councils were activated and regular daily press conferences were organized to inform the population of the epidemic’s impact and the new Coronavirus Prevention and Control Plan’s implementation.
Also included in the plan were weekly sessions of the Economic Advisory Group, during which issues related to the country’s social-economic development strategy in the new context were addressed, as well as participation by ministers and experts in the Cuban television program
Mesas Redonda, to broadly disseminate information related to the health emergency.
During this stage, also approved and implemented was the post-COVID-19 recovery strategy, and work began on a social-economic strategy for strengthening of the economy to face an extended period of crisis.
As a direct result of this leadership plan and the joint work of the government and health authorities, developed were mathematical models to make projections regarding the epidemic’s evolution, a system of geolocation and mapping of areas at high epidemiological-clinical risk, highlighting the percentage of the population over 59 years of age in different locations across the nation.
The analysis and approval of an average of 8.3 research projects a week; the development of four candidate vaccines; the elaboration and generalization of Cuba’s Model for Clinical-Epidemiological Response and Control of COVID-19; plus the approval and implementation of a protocol for treatment of convalescent patients, also constitute achievements of this comprehensive, well-coordinated strategy.
CUBA’S AGENDA BEYOND COVID-19
Nevertheless, Cuba did much more beyond combating COVID-19. Displaying a praise-worthy ability to extend itself, the country’s leadership maintained the previously established practice of conducting government visits to all of the country’s provinces. Las Tunas, Sancti Spíritus, Artemisa, Cienfuegos and Mayabeque were the first visited by teams led by the President to review progress made in local development efforts and obstacles encountered. The tour of Santiago de Cuba that has been cut short the end of March was rescheduled, with the Council of Ministers visiting every municipality in the province, as reported on the Presidency’s website.
As part of an evaluation of the country’s industrial-productive capacity, government teams additionally conducted visits in Matanzas, the Isle of Youth and Havana.
During the first three months of the year, the President toured important sites including the Varona Metal Works in Havana, the new studios of the multi-national television network TeleSUR in the Cuban capital, and several universities, attending the inauguration of the 29th International Book Fair, as well.
Through September, in an effort to control propagation of the SARS-COV-2 virus, no further government meetings were held, beyond those focused on the pandemic.
But in October, Cuba returned to its intense international agenda, which had been concentrated on maintaining communication with authorities in China and other countries committed to the COVID battle.
President Díaz-Canel participated virtually in the United Nations General Assembly’s 75th period of sessions, and in the December session devoted to the pandemic.
He took part as well in the 38th period of sessions of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); the Climate Summit; the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council Conference; the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-People’s Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) Summit commemorating the 16th anniversary of this bloc; as well as the recently held virtual Cuba-Caribbean Community Summit.
During the closure of the Sixth Ordinary Period of Sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power Ninth Legislature, President Diaz-Canel condemned the markedly aggressive, unilateral foreign policy of the United States which has aggravated threats to peace, security and multi-lateral mechanisms.
He concluded his remarks summarizing, in a few words, Cuba’s great commitment to life:
“Sooner or later, the history of this disastrous pandemic and its global impact will be written. If it is written honestly, it will be impossible to overlook the role of Cuba and the thousands of Cubans who voluntarily traveled to other lands to confront the danger and honor the Hippocratic Code that accompanies our dedicated health workers in their consciences and hearts.”
ATTENTION TO PRIORITIZED PROGRAMS MAINTAINED
According to Presidencia.gov.cu, programs directly addressed by the President of the Republic in 2020 include:
-COVID-19 Prevention and Control Plan
-Historical Memory Program
-Food Sovereignty and Nutritional Education Plan
-Employment, Salary and Social Security Program
-Mother and Child Program (pami)
-Recovery and Development of Railroads Program
-Social Protection for Individuals Prone to Wandering
-National Program against Racism and Discrimination
-National Program for the Advancement of Women
-Strategy for the Development of Cuban Baseball
-Housing Construction Program
-Sugar Industry Program
-Energy and tourism programs
-Water Distribution Development through 2030
-Demographic Dynamics Program
-Program for the Computerization of Cuban Society
-Support for the Capital: Housing construction, the Malecón Plan, and conceptual work on plans for the Comprehensive Development of Guanabacoa’s Central Historical District.