2021 was just getting started when headlines full of red alerts warned about highest ever recorded numbers of infections and deaths. We were not fully aware of a situation that was described in printed and virtual letters, or aired by microphones. But we never came close to what we actually lived later.
Then, the first sheet of the almanac, shiny and hardly marked or folded, was seen by eyes that would not look back at it afterwards, or seen by eyes that even smiled, trusting that the year to come should be better, and yet those same eyes cried later, for them, for others —friends and strangers, for us and for everyone.
That is why, faced with this yearly overview I have been entrusted with, I try to deviate from dramas, but it is only the beginning and some words are hovering around my mind: pandemic, Covid-19, contagions, deceased, suspects, quarantine, confinement, oxygen...
The truth is, although windows, doors, streets are already being opened, and the lights are cautiously returning to their places, this will forever be the worst year of Covid.
You don't even need to say 19, or write it with a capital letter, much less write the complicated Sars-Cov2, just say Covid, or coronavirus, and everyone knows, everyone crosses their fingers.
Luckily, everyone knows that here in Cuba —which is a unique world— this is the year of vaccines. People talk about vaccines and you know they are not referring to vaccines against tetanus or meningococcal or measles, or any other of the more than ten that all Cubans get as a usual fact, which does not occur in other latitudes.
Today, addressing vaccine in Cuba is talking about Soberana 02, Soberana Plus, Abdala, Soberana 01, and Mambisa, vaccines and vaccine candidates that were produced this year as a result of the work of several scientists who strove to achieve it against all odds. They sacrificed their sleeping hours, their time with their respective families, or their walk with the dog, and the cleaning the house; or reading a book to their children or even celebrate their birthday. But they did it and saved our lives.
Years will pass, and Cubans who now go to the Elementary school or even the kindergarten, will one day remember Dr. Duran and they will know exactly who he is, even when all involved grew older.
Because those television appearances, every day at 9 o’clock in the morning for several months of anguish in which the word “regretfully” piled up, will also be one of the things that we will not forget and that were a hallmark of this 2021, which is about to end.
A lot of people want this year to end. To such an extent that many have stated this year there will not be any Christmas Tree, nor dinner, nor celebration.
But looking at it from a positive approach, it must be said we learned a lot during these 12-month span. A lot of people proved their human values, a lot of people helped others. But this year also showed a well-designed strategy, backed with science, led by the leadership of our nation.
It was the coordination of wisdom and determination, led by the Temporary Working Group, the one that implemented, managed, and controlled the Plan for the New Coronavirus Prevention and Control. It all allowed us to foresee the risks, rule out improvisations and, simultaneously, keep it running the main economic and service activities of the country, despite the very complicated epidemiological panorama.
All this would not have been possible, of course, without the will and commitment of so many, starting with the Health personnel and scientists, without the discipline and involvement of a large part of the Cuban people, which allowed us to recover, little by little, from the havoc of Covid.
In the future, several stories will be written. A lot of films will be produced, and who knows how many other alternative will be thought to perpetuate so much greatness and human solidarity, so much love for the neighbor, so that future generations of Cubans know about these encouraging hours, and about those who did not make it to the new year. And they all deserve a monument to heroism.
Start over with a Clean Slate
2021 also began with the famous “zero-day”. This was the name given to the moment in which the “Ordering Task” would be launched and whose date, top secret until the last moment, kept many in suspense, making predictions, doing their math…
The truth is that we continue to do the math.
In order to reordering, as the name indicates, the battered Cuban economy, battered by internal flaws in the form of bureaucracies, inefficiencies, excessive centralisms, inconsistencies, distortions in the relations between state entities and the non-state sector, chaos and other handicaps, and hit with particular cruelty by the strengthening of the blockade imposed by the United States government, with the application of 243 new measures to suffocate Cuba economically and financially, the Ordering Task kicked off on January 1st. and did so, among other things, with the process of monetary and exchange rate reform.
The Comprehensive Reform of Salaries, Pensions and Social Assistance Benefits was implemented, by the end of September 2021, the average wage in the country was 3,768 CUP, a reality not without frustration. As part of this process, benefits were increased in the form of social assistance, prices and various tariff varied, including electricity services, legal service, so a new price-salary-pensions relationship emerged. The socialist state company and self-employment were also subject to modifications. The Cuban government confirmed that "no one would be left helpless."
Almost one year after the implementation of the Ordering Task, the Prime Minister of the Republic, Manuel Marrero Cruz, in his Accountability Report to the National Assembly, recently released in full, recognizes that "the goal of the Monetary Ordering, referring to giving the CUP the role that corresponds to it as the centerpiece of the Cuban financial system, by eliminating the monetary and exchange duality, transforming the income of the population and gradually eliminating excessive subsidies and undue gratuities, has not been fully achieved. Therefore, it is imperative to rectify and adopt new decisions on various elements of its early design, in correspondence with the changes in circumstances that have taken place."
Marrero Cruz’s thoughts on this matter: “the difficult situation of the world economy and that of the country in particular, in the midst of which this process was implemented, together with the design problems and the difficulties in its implementation, have triggered, in some areas, unwanted results and multiple dissatisfactions among the population.”
Among the main problems detected, which have been affecting this year, the Prime Minister mentions:
“The expected positive effect of the increase in income, from the application of the general reform of salaries, pensions and social assistance benefits, has been lessened by the sustained growth of prices, which affects the purchasing power, with greater impact on people with lower purchasing power.”
As a prospect for the upcoming 2022 in this vital area, Marrero Cruz states in his report that “With the deactivation of the Permanent Commission for Implementation and Development, the MEP carries out actions to achieve the fulfillment of the goals of the Ordering Task, for which a schedule has been drawn up containing 33 activities to be completed between November and February 2022.
“The proposed objective of giving the Cuban peso its role as the center of the Cuban financial system is maintained, for which a set of measures must be adopted with a view to stopping the inflationary spiral and achieving the macroeconomic stabilization of the country,” added Marrero.
On the other hand, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil Fernández, when analyzing the increase in prices that the country is experiencing in the recently held 3rd Plenary of the PCC, announced that Cuba is in a position to face the inflationary process and gradually curb it down in 2022. "It is not easy, but it is not impossible though. It is up to us and we will achieve it," he said with conviction.
8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba: Milestone Event of the Year
One of the most important events held this year was the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, held April 16th-19th, where Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez was appointed as its First Secretary of the Central Committee.
Moreover, the 14 members of the Political Bureau were also appointed, as well as the members of the secretariat.
Analysts, historians, leaders, Party members and the people all agreed to label the event as "The Congress of the historical continuity of the Cuban Revolution." Its in-depth, resulting analysis, central report and guiding documents marked and will mark the life of this nation.
The event gathering the Cuban political vanguard put the assessment and projection of decisive issues for the Cuban present and future at the center of the target, including the updating of the Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development, as well as the evaluation of the results and updating the implementation of the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.
They also analyzed the work of the PCC, its connection with the people, its ideological activity and assessed the situation of cadres’ politics within the Party, the Youth Communist League of Cuba, Mass Organizations and the Government. It was one of the best scenarios to update the resistance and development strategy of this country.
On that occasion, Díaz-Canel stressed that “Socialism is worth defending because it is the answer to the need for a more just, equitable, balanced and inclusive world; it is the real possibility of designing with intelligence and sensitivity a space where everyone belongs, not only those who have the resources. It is directed, like no other system, to concretizing Marti's call to conquer all justice.”
The Communist Party of Cuba also held by the end of the year, the 3rd Plenary of the Central Committee, which focused, among other issues, on assessing the fulfillment of the agreements derived from the second plenary session of the organization.
Likewise, they submitted for discussion the draft modifications to the organization's regulations from the base to the Central Committee level, as well as other issues of internal life, and assessed how to revitalize and update the functioning of the Defense Committees of the Revolution and the Federation of Cuban Women.
They also discussed the ideological work, fundamentally with the research, teaching and dissemination of History and Marxism-Leninism, as well as the proposal of the national program for the study, investigation, and dissemination of the thought, life, and work of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz.
This 3rd Plenary session approved measures to save the sugarcane sector, born from a proposal by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz to the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.
On Subversions and Other Nonsenses
“The blockade has been strengthened with 243 additional measures, in the midst of a pandemic with chilling peaks of infected and deceased, overcrowded hospitals, scarce availability of medicines and high therapeutic oxygen deficit; problems in electricity generation; shortages of staple products, high prices, global crisis in the transportation of goods; Fourth Generation War, supported by a vile and slanderous discredit campaign against the heroic medical brigades, against current laws, against every measure or action of resistance, against the revolutionary leadership, against Cuban families; and campaigns to provoke a social outbreak and the attempt to use art as a weapon of destruction for the Revolution, to break the sacred national unity.”
This is how the Cuban President described —at the closing of the last III Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Party— the context in which subversion attempts have taken place this year that took place this year have taken place.
"Trying to break up a society that owes its existence to unity. They have done their best to rip the soul out of the Homeland, harassing artists and selling their soul to the devil,” he stated.
“Believing that the accumulation of these factors would be enough to bring about the desired social outbreak, a destabilizing plan was launched that has not stopped yet.” This year had one of its peak moments on July 11th and then, they foresaw the plan “should reach its climax on November 15th. Some digital platforms even spoke of the last day of the Cuban revolution; however, it was the last day of a highly rehearsed play that was never released.”
Díaz-Canel declared in this regard: “The articulators of the campaigns against Cuba are determined to transform certain dates chosen into fabricated symbols against the Revolution. The narrative around social unrest is exalted and the narrators are generously rewarded, while the goal is to condemn Cuba for imprisoning and prosecuting those who participated in vandalism, which their own networks spread throughout the world, believing they were leading something that never came into fruition.”
My Neighborhood, Yours, Ours
Neighborhoods in Cuba have a different meaning to those worldwide. Abroad, many times, those living next close to each other do not even know their names. Perhaps the person living next door gets married, graduates, or falls ill and the closest neighbor do not know about it, nor is it interested.
Cuban neighborhoods, for better and for worse, are like living organisms fueled by the cup of coffee from window to window, sales of brooms, the purchasing of broken clocks, bembes, domino, and endless lines. Everyone knows each other in Cuban neighborhoods, which smell, yell, dance, and even roar, marking the existence of their inhabitants.
Knowing the importance of the neighborhoods, the Cuban government this year has focused on the revitalization of many of these neighborhoods, where people do not live properly.
“…The situations we are facing have a lot to do with cumulative problems that were not properly addressed by a group of institutions that are in the neighborhoods, and which, at first, have almost been forced to do the same they should have done before.”
Díaz-Canel highlighted it in an exchange on the transformation actions underway in 60-plus vulnerable neighborhoods in Havana, where several heads of agencies of the Central State Administration attended.
“Congratulations, dear Silvio. That tour you started years ago traveling around the humblest communities of Havana, became a lesson for everyone," the Cuban president wrote on Twitter.
Disadvantaged, vulnerable, underprivileged neighborhoods..., several have been the adjectives saddled on those neighborhoods being transformed. The description does not matter too much, but what is being done does because it is known that living in unfavorable conditions, very unfavorable in some cases, as the documentary "Canción de Barrio" showed, is accompanied by not only material but also spiritual deterioration, with everything that this entails for personal and civic projection.
For this reason, some very good experiences have been happening this year in the transformation of neighborhoods, which is, basically, improving social work and boosting the actions of residents, raising their self-esteem and showing them how important they are.
This way, the exercise of the people’s power is also bolstered, the so-called administrative, political and social factors are brought together, and they embrace what state institutions headquartered in those places should have done for a long time.
Repair or construction of housing, roads, parks, schools, clinics, pharmacies, entertaining facilities, water services, and lighting are changing these neighborhoods’ façade and the soul of those who inhabit them.
These improvement works are based on consultation with the residents when defining which things to solve first and also their involvement in solving them.
“Local development has become a public policy of paramount importance, as part of the National Plan for Economic and Social Development 2030; as well as a core and coordinator of public agendas of the governments at the municipality and provincial level. The Government has begun a gradual process of decentralizing powers to the municipalities, so that they are strengthened as a core instance, with the necessary, sustainable autonomy and a strong economic-productive, socio-cultural, institutional, and environmental base…” this way Marrero Cruz summarized this neighborhood revival, one of the defining moments this year, and which should continue in the future.
Improving our Legal System
Another positive outcome resulting from the efforts and discipline was that Cuba was able to carry out in person, after two years of remote sessions, the 8th Ordinary Period of Sessions of the IX Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power and the legal system was one of the so many important issues analyzed.
In compliance with constitutional mandates and guided by the political will to comply with socialist legality, the parliamentary meeting made it possible to verify progress in effective judicial protection, which guarantees everything from access to the courts of justice to the execution of judicial decisions.
In this context, important laws were passed, such as the Law on Military Courts, the Law on Military Criminal Procedure, and the Law on Territorial and Urban Planning and Land Management.
Particularly important was the approval of the Family Code Draft, which will be submitted to popular consultation to continue improving it in order to have a legal provision in tune with the present time and that is a reflection of the socio-cultural reality and the problems that mark the daily life of Cubans.
“Its content is one more sign of the sensitivity that characterizes and defines the Cuban Revolution. It exalts human dignity as a supreme value that supports the recognition and exercise of the rights and duties endorsed in the Constitution. It does not impose models or types of family, but rather recognizes an undeniable reality that must be legally regulated and protected," the Cuban president commented in this regard.
This 2021 is already coming to an end and despite the attempts to sabotaging it, the Havana Biennial was held, the largest event of contemporary arts in Cuba which, conceived this time in three stages, was inaugurated on November 12th and will conclude on April 30th, 2022.
The director of this XIV edition, Nelson Ramírez de Arellano, assures that it continues to be "a success of the Cuban culture, capable of changing the way in which the art of Cuba and the rest of the Third World countries is seen internationally."
The 42nd Festival of the New Latin American Cinema of Havana was held as well, and, generally speaking, it continued to encourage, with increasing vigor, the culture sector, where, painfully, we all regret the loss of very valuable figures this year.
On Thursday, November 25th, the Fidel Castro Ruz Center was inaugurated on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the passing of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution.
In the building with number 707 on 11th Street in Havana’s Vedado, this public institution dedicated to studying and disseminating the thought, work, and life of Fidel rises.
In the sports field, we also have to regret the passing of important figures. At the same time, not a few athletes will feel healthy pride, along with all their people, for the milestones achieved or the rewarding feeling of having given their best.
Among them, wrestler Mijaín López, judoka Idalys Ortiz and runner Omara Durand, were chosen as the best athletes in Cuba in 2021, according to the results of the annual survey carried out by the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) and sportswriters.
This 2021 ends, which will be certainly unforgettable for so many reasons. Despite so many vicissitudes, there are reasons enough to congratulate ourselves because, as the President of the Republic said, at the closing speech of the 8th Ordinary Period of Sessions of the IX Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power: “In taking stock of what the country has experienced, we must highlight our response to the many problems and challenges, which is comparable to an Olympic or world record. That credit belongs to the people, their courage and talent, from which all those who have contributed to the creative resistance of this challenging year rises!”
Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff