Fidel Castro at Workers Congress in Cuba
Amid chants of “Fidel is here” the 19th Congress of the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) opened its final two days of plenary sessions with marked enthusiasm over labor’s resurgence as the leading force posed to lift the country out of a 15-year period of resistance and gradual recovery.
President Fidel Castro would no doubt have wanted to be on hand in person but since the Cuban leader is on doctor’s orders to continue his recuperation from surgery, the dais of the Havana Convention Center was headed by First Vice President Raul Castro, CTC General Secretary Pedro Ross Leal and several top brass of the government and Communist Party.
A standing ovation was given at the entrance of 85-year-old Melba Hernandez, heroine of the 1953 attack on the Moncada Garrison in Santiago de Cuba led by Fidel Castro, which marked the beginning of five and a half years of struggle that ended with the fall of the Batista dictatorship.
Pedro Ross Leal gave the morning’s keynote address to the over 1,500 union representatives and guests. The CTC general secretary said the congress is the perfect time for the Cuban labor movement to analyze its strengths and weaknesses and determine what must be done.
Speaking on one of the forum’s most debated issues, inefficiency and a lack of discipline in the workplace, Pedro Ross said: “We workers must fight the brunt of the battle against our own insufficiencies and incompetence by facing, in an organized and determined manner, everything that puts the country’s socialist system at risk.”
“Everything that puts the revolution in danger is on the table. Now its in the workers hands,” he added.
While the CTC Congress has concentrated on the internal challenges, the union leader also warned of the stepped up threats and aggressions from the United States around the globe and specifically against Cuba, expressed in a detailed Bush administration plan to destroy the revolution. Ross said worker readiness to defend the country continues to be of maximum priority.
Ross went on to cite as advances in the nation’s economy last year’s 11.8 percent growth rate and the perception that the significant increases in the Gross Domestic Product will continue in the years to come.
Greater efficiency by making optimum use of the country’s resources, more effective accounting and controls at work centers, increased worker participation in production plans and the evaluation of the results, are themes that permeate the central CTC report.
Ross noted that salaries, retirement and social security benefits have been gradually increasing in recent years on the path to raising workers’ living standards, which he said will lead to the steady recovery and development of Cuban society.
Ross suggested that the delegates pay special attention to what is known in Cuba as the Energy Revolution, which combines unprecedented savings at the workplace and in homes with decentralized generating capacity and the maximum use of alternative renewable energy sources.
Advances in the participation of women within the Cuban labor movement was noted with pride by the general secretary. He said that in 1985, women totaled 16.5 percent of the union professionals and today they are at 58.9 percent.
Earlier Tuesday morning, delegates cast their ballots for a new CTC Secretariat, and Ross pointed out that 45.8 percent of the candidates are women.
According to the program, the voting results will be made known late Wednesday afternoon and the congress closing ceremony is set to be broadcast on national television and radio on Wednesday evening.